REVIEW: Cash Plays by Cordelia Kingsbridge
Seven Of Spades: Cash Plays – Cordelia Kingsbridge
The Seven of Spades is back with a vengeance—the vigilante serial killer has resumed their murderous crusade, eluding the police at every turn. But a bloodthirsty killer isn’t the only threat facing Sin City. A devious saboteur is wreaking havoc in Las Vegas’s criminal underworld, and the entire city seems to be barreling toward an all-out gang war.
As Detective Levi Abrams is pushed ever closer to his breaking point, his control over his dangerous rage slips further every day. His relationship with PI Dominic Russo should be a source of comfort, but Dominic is secretly locked in his own downward spiral, confronting a nightmare he can’t bear to reveal.
Las Vegas is floundering. Levi and Dominic’s bond is cracking along the seams. And the Seven of Spades is still playing to win. How many bad hands can Levi and Dominic survive before it’s game over?
I know that the things that happened with Levi and Dom here were big, but can we stop first and take a moment to appreciate the bittersweet romance between the Slavic Collective boss Sergei and his boy Rocco? They need their own book!
Also, somebody give Stanton some love. The poor man has a good heart, he deserves an HEA. I liked him since book 1.
So Levi and Dom…
It started very sparkly and lovey dovey with the two men taking a long vacation, flowers and exchanges of I-love-yous, also meeting Levi’s parents. Levi’s mom declared Dom Levi’s bashert which means soulmate. All very squee-tastic and heartwarming. It will lull you into thinking that everything’s coming up roses. But I KNEW!!! Shit’s going down!
Dom landed a case of a missing woman. The investigation took him to a hidden casino and Dom was recovering from his gambling addiction so gadammit Dom, WALK AWAY NOW!!!
Meanwhile, the Seven of Spades was uncharacteristically quiet for weeks but LVMPD is ramping up the investigation by bringing in the Feds. FBI profiler Rohan Chaudhary came in, dazzled Levi with his good looks and put his moves on Dom. He also detailed the profile of the SOS which unfortunately fit Levi to a T. It didn’t help that that Levi’s anger issues were getting harder and harder to control which was obvious to everyone.
“I can’t invite that kind of darkness inside myself. I don’t know what it would do to me, and I can’t risk finding out…”
All in all, they were not in a good place.
But these only made the story so much more compelling and brought out strong emotions that had me hanging on to every word. I love how Cordelia Kingsbridge developed these characters. Levi’s demons, his trauma and Dom’s downward spiral, as cliche as it sounds, their struggles were real. Great representation too, in terms of racial and gender diversity, that was done in a way that was natural and realistic.
I liked how this installment slowly built up all the frustration and tension until it went nuclear. There’s so much anger in this book. Even the SOS was ragey and it showed in their work. The profiler and Levi agreed that the SOS was evolving. It was established that they were connected to law enforcement and had experienced severe trauma in the past which made them go after the bad guys who got away with their crimes. The killer’s vigilante justice earned them many sympathizers even among the police ranks. One significant fact was that many people who joined law enforcement had some past trauma which made them want to bring justice. This made practically everybody in the LVMPD suspects.
Interestingly, the serial killer seemed to have a vested interest in Levi’s love life, offering him comfort when he and Dom had that ugly fight. Theirs was the kind of blow up that caused cataclysmic cracks. And it ended with Levi walking away. Nooo!
The fact that the SOS is too attached to Levi confirmed my suspicions that it’s one of his friends from work. Coupled with the knowledge that Rebel doesn’t react negatively to them, it’s definitely someone he and Dom were close to. I hope I guessed right. I could already imagine how devastated Levi would be.
The SOS is one of those serial killers who has an omniscient presence and they are playing an even bigger game. They were not afraid to take on organized crime. Three major gangs were on the brink of an all-out gang war. This tied together with Dom’s case and his relapse but the SOS had to pull some strings to make Levi see what’s really happening. That shoddy undercover work and not having back-up was foolhardy on Levi’s part but definitely in character. Wen should really give him that talk about his poor decision making skills.
As with the other books, Cash Play is cleverly written. It’s very twisty and suspenseful. Everything came together in the most satisfying way, though in this case, you will end up in a raging fit yourself because THAT CLIFFHANGER. Fuck.
With Levi afraid and needing help and Dom eaten alive by his demons, the cards are stacked against them. It’s one bad hand after another and the SOS is holding all the aces. Time to cut losses and walk away from the game.
Seven of Spades books here
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Soundtrack: Have A Lucky Day
REVIEW: Devour by Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott
Unbreakable Bonds: Devour – Joclynn Drake & Rinda Elliott
Ian Pierce is the chef and part owner of the hottest restaurant in Cincinnati, his chosen family is full of happy relationships, and the scruffy, snarky cop who has been haunting his dreams is one step closer to being in his bed. But everything comes crashing down when the past he narrowly escaped nine years ago comes to a deadly head.
Hollis Banner was enamored of Ian at first sight. He’s kept his distance, knowing the gorgeous, self-confident man is out of his league. Yet there’s no standing aside when Boris Jagger escapes a raid. Jagger’s world has been nearly destroyed and this time, the crime boss is coming after Ian and his friends personally.
Hollis will do whatever it takes to keep Ian safe as they escape to a safe house with a couple of Ian’s overprotective friends. And Ian finds himself in a race to unlock painful memories—memories containing information that could take down the very last of Jagger’s illegal operations forever.
Trigger warning: Flashbacks to abuse could be possible triggers for some.
Unbreakable Bonds is centered around four men who have deep connections with each other. Lucas Vallois, the alpha and the center who holds everything together. Ashton ‘Snow’ Frost, dark and brooding, is a trauma surgeon and the one Lucas considers his brother. Rowan ‘Rowe’ Ward, laid back and goofy, they met him during basic military training. He is their warrior. Their heart is Ian Pierce, a talented chef. He’s adorable, the type you want to put in your pocket to keep safe. Well, I want to put them all in my pocket really. I love these guys! ♡
Devour is Ian fighting not to be consumed by his past.
Ian Pierce has many things in his past he’d rather forget but the ghosts are always lurking. His family has been badly hurt so it’s time once and for all to get rid of the monster who caused them so much pain. Ian has always been protected by Lucas, Snow and Rowe. This time he’s facing Boris Jagger head on.
Hollis Banner fell in love at first sight with Ian but was hesitant to make a move because he thinks the chef is out of his league. In the first book, Shiver, I wasn’t feeling Hollis. He showed up poking around and wasn’t doing anything much. Later on, he still kept showing up and slowly endeared himself to the group because everybody could see, he really cared about Ian. And he was willing to cross the line and sacrifice his career in order to save the kids Jagger abused. What I liked about him was that he knows a good thing when he sees it and stuck to it. The man waited for a year for Ian and accepted him,baggage and all. He deserved all the chocolate cakes in the world.
“Are you thinking about last night?” Hollis asked, his voice low and rumbly.
“How do you know I’m thinking about sex?”
“Because when you do, your eyes go dark, your lids do this sexy, hooded thing, and your mouth slightly parts. It’s hot as hell. You look hungry—like I’m made of chocolate. And everyone knows chocolate is the best thing.”
“Is that right?” Ian chuckled. “The best thing?”
“Chocolate is life.”
Devour is the most gut wrenching of the four books and comes with trigger warnings. They’re taking down Jagger and they had to cut off all his financial sources. Every painful memory came out in the open as Ian tried to remember important clues to the location of the victims based on the codes Hollis obtained. Jagger was also hitting them hard, killing a friend of Ian’s and making Lucas beg for the lives of Snow and Andrei.
Lucas finally threw down the gauntlet in his usual grandiose way. He challenged Jagger to come to him in the guise of announcing a huge charity party in a press conference. The climax had the millionaire fighting for his life but Ian and Hollis’ actual fight with Jagger happened quick. I’m glad they didn’t drag it out but I was kinda hoping for a little bit more.
My favorite scene was that intense moment where the Lucas, Snow, Rowe and Ian had a shouting match regarding how they got Ian from the criminal mastermind. Their boyfriends decided to leave them to it and went for drinks in the kitchen. And then, because Snow’s cat Sargeant was there, Hollis cracked the lamest cat joke ever.
“Do you know how cats keep law and order?” Hollis asked, unable to keep from grinning. “Claw enforcement.”
Of course Jude and Noah had to join in. Andrei’s having none of it…
“What’s wrong, Andrei?” Noah said with a wide grin. “Cat got your tongue?”
“This is a catastrophe,” Jude murmured.
“Hey Andrei,” Hollis drawled. “Knock, knock.”
“Fuck you.” (๑˃́ꇴ˂̀๑)
He and Lucas patched things up and the bodyguard point blank told his boyfriend to marry him. Lucas agreed.
Snow and Jude were on a permanent honeymoon.
Rowe and Noah did their best Rambo impressions. They were very impressive. Rowe laid out his wedding plans.
And Ian is already planning all their weddings. Hollis is moving in with him.
They all had the best Christmas dinner ever. ✩*⋆ ⍋*☪⋆⍋⋆*✩
Devour is a great ending to a fantastic arc. Like the other books, some plot points are weak but I don’t really care. The romance and group dynamics make it so much worth your while. The characters are definitely unforgettable. I’m glad we still have more stories because I rooted hard for Lucas, Snow, Rowe and Ian and I’m not ready to let go of this unbreakable family yet.
The Ward Security bodyguards have their own books. Yay!
Unbreakable Bonds should be read in order (here).
Jocelynn Drake books here
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
REVIEW: Secrets by Jordan Castillo Price
Psycop: Secrets – Jordan Castillo Price
Victor Bayne’s job as a PsyCop involves tracking down dead people and getting them to spill their guts about their final moments. It’s never been fun, per se. But it’s not usually this annoying.
Vic has just moved in with his boyfriend Jacob, he can’t figure out where anything’s packed, and his co-worker is pressuring him to have a housewarming party. Can’t a guy catch a break?
On a more sinister note, Vic discovers there’s absolutely no trace of him online. No trace of anyone else who trained at “Camp Hell,” either. Everyone Vic knows has signed a mysterious set of papers to ensure his “privacy.” The contracts are so confidential that even Vic has never heard of them. But Jacob might have.
What other secrets has Jacob been keeping?
Secrets is notable for the disturbing sexual assault case that affected Jacob badly, Jacob acting cold towards Vic, Vic realizing he doesn’t exist on the internet, him in a jealous rage upon learning Jacob’s secret visits to Crash and then Vic subsequently discovering his own exhibitionist streak. This is also the installment that completely sold me on Vic and Jacob.
While I do like most Psycop characters, it took me a while to be 100% into Vic and Jacob as a couple.
Normally Jacob is all over Vic and is being his Mr. Perfect self. I think this might be the first time I have seen Jacob being distant towards Vic. When Vic stormed in, I was ready to see Jacob lose it but the way he handled it so calmly and showing his vulnerable side I finally understood why they’re perfect for each other. Also Jacob staring at Vic with “goo-goo eyes”.
It never failed to amuse me that Vic is both insecure and strongly attracted to Crash, punk, empath, Jacob’s ex, also potential friend whether Vic wants to admit it or not. Crash, being psychic and audacious, knew all about it and took every opportunity to flirt and shamelessly drop innuendos because he loves to push Vic’s buttons. If this ends up a three way, I’d be the last to complain. I like Crash.
All throughout the series, Vic tries to forget Camp Hell existed because the whole experience was a nightmare for him. This time, he tried doing research about the place, even asking Zigler for help. Vic, not the most tech-savvy person in the house, was shocked to discover that Camp Hell, officially known as Camp Heliotrope, might indeed be a figment of his imagination because he couldn’t find it anywhere online. He was disturbed to know that there was no information about him and his fellow inmates on the internet. He was angry to learn that people never mentioned this to him and he didn’t take it well. My dear Victor, why didn’t it ever occur to you to google your name all these years?
The series is from Vic’s POV and we, more or less, know how he thinks by now. However he has always been hazy about his past and there were only tidbits of information to explain why he is the way he is, most of which is related to some trauma regarding mental institutions and psych wards. There were also hints that Vic might be a more powerful medium than his current level 5 category and I wouldn’t be surprise if he is indeed more powerful because he is the type who will intentionally half-ass his tests. This is a pretty exciting development! It’s about time Vic face his past and learn how to properly use his abilities rather his usual “hit-or-miss style”.
It’s time to resurrect deeply buried ghosts. Yep, Camp Hell is next. Hey! Ho! Let’s go!
Review of Psycop books here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Soundtrack: All Secrets Known
Artist: Alice in Chains
Album: Black Gives Way to Blue
Psycop: Body and Soul – Jordan Castillo Price
Thanksgiving can’t end too soon for Victor Bayne, who’s finding Jacob’s family hard to swallow. Luckily, he’s called back to work to track down a high-profile missing person.
Meanwhile, Jacob tries to find a home they can move into that’s not infested–with either cockroaches, or ghosts. As if the house-hunting isn’t stressful enough, Vic’s new partner Bob Zigler doesn’t seem to think he can do anything right. A deceased junkie with a bone to pick leads Vic and Zig on a wild chase that ends in a basement full of horrors.
Took me two tries before I got Body and Soul right. In the first try, Vic’s pill popping is so off-putting and I was like, I didn’t want to read about a junkie. Second try succeeded because I had a change of perspective and told myself Vic is taking meds and everybody takes one or two to keep going. Heck, even I got my own daily maintenance. So I’m sorry, Vic.
Victor Bayne is a person with a difficult personality. He’s neurotic, socially awkward and has a lot of bad memories of psych-wards just waiting to be triggered. That’s not to say he’s not without his charm because Jacob Marks is head over heels in love with him. And I personally love Vic’s bland attitude towards most things. That and his commentaries.
Jacob is looking for a place they could both move into, someplace free of ghosts. Vic is sure there must be a place somewhere in a city as big as Chicago. Turns out it’s harder to find one than they think. Major points to Jacob for having the patience of a saint and for indulging Vic.
Also I was listening to this in the small hours of the morning, which is the prime time for anxieties and dark thoughts. I was fervently hoping my subconscious do not pick up on the images of dead people with half their heads attached or those nasty voodooed things Vic and Zig found in the basement. What my stupid brain projected in my sleep was that of a toddler with hideous features and bendy limbs. Must be that ghost baby in Vic’s laundry room. Good job creeping me out, JCP!
Despite their ,IMO, rather abrupt start, Vic and Jacob’s relationship is going extremely well. Jacob is still the image of a perfect (sometimes too perfect) boyfriend but I’m cottoning on to the idea that there are good, dependable boyfriends in the world and one of them happens to love Vic. Also, I enjoyed tagging along with Vic and Zig in their investigation and it looks like Vic is starting to like Zigler as his partner. Zig’s a good guy so I hope he sticks around.
Yay! I am finally getting the hang of Psycop and I’m in it for the long haul.
What on earth happened to Lisa?
Nonsensical comments on book 1, Among the Living here
Blathers on book 2, Criss Cross here
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Soundtrack: Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead
Artist: Cannibal Corpse
Album: The Bleeding
Tyack & Frayne: Tinsel Fish – Harper Fox
Christmas in a Cornish seaside town, bright lights and a hot new romance to ward off the winter storms… What could be finer? But Gideon and Lee’s first festive season together is shockingly interrupted when Lee tries to rid a client’s home of a malevolent presence. The ritual goes wrong, and in its aftermath Lee is strangely altered. As well as dealing with the changes in his lover, Gideon has a sinister thread to follow, linking the haunted house with disappearances among the homeless people of Falmouth.
Can love withstand what looks like a case of possession? As the darkest night of the year comes down, Gideon finds himself locked in a battle to restore his lover’s soul.
Someday, I’ll go to London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Cornwall and all these places I have read about and make a pilgrimage to sites mentioned in books like Camlet Moat, Gretna Green or a desolate moor.
The second book of the Tyack and Frayne series had Lee attempt to do a sort of cleansing and ended up not being himself. The result was a riotous scene where he picked a fight at a restaurant and ended up being hauled away like a sack of potatoes by Gideon. That was the best and one of the very few highlights of the book for me. The rest of the book was flat and uninteresting but those into steam would be glad that Lee and Gid had a lot of smexy time together.
Another thing of note is the appearance of Gideon’s brother Ezekiel and Lee ‘s meeting with Gideon’s parents. There was also a nice follow up on the Kemp kid’s situation and Isolde had more page time but all of these were not enough to save the book. I think I couldn’t be arsed to read the rest of the series anymore but a visit to Cornwall is still in order.
2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book
Soundtrack: Faded from the Winter
Artist: Iron & Wine
Album: The Creek Drank the Cradle