I’m a huge fan of Kim Fielding‘s fantastic paranormal series, Bureau. I have been following this since Corruption, Tenrael and Grimes’s story. This series has become better and better with each installment.
This is a review of Chained and Convicted, volume 2 of the series. Both novellas featured creatures shackled and chained, one through captivity and the other through culpability.
Bureau: Chained – Kim Fielding
An agent for the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs? That’s the best job in the world. And it’s enough for Terry Brandt, who doesn’t need personal relationships complicating his life. His newest assignment puts him undercover, investigating a Hollywood agent who may have some evil tricks up his sleeve.
Edge is not the man he appears to be. Although he’s a member of the Hollywood agent’s security staff, his true situation is darker and deeper than that. Ordered to seduce the new prospect, Edge finds himself caught in conflicting loyalties.
Haunted by their pasts and tied up in secrets, neither Terry nor Edge can afford to allow passion to interfere with duty. And with danger dogging them, it’s impossible to envision a future together.
Chained is a shifter story that made me want to hug my dogs.
Terry Brandt is a music-loving Bureau agent assigned to investigate Hollywood’s most powerful agent, Whitaker, rumored to be offering fame and fortune in exchange for something sinister. He goes undercover as a wannabe actor. He was asked to move in to the agent’s mansion as part of the test to see if he has what it takes. There he meets Edge, the man assigned to guard him.
Edge and his two brothers are dog shifters bought by Whitaker, their boss, when they were pups. They served as security in the mansion. They used to be four but their other brother was put down when he refused to behave.
My heart went out to Edge. He and his brothers were treated like dogs. They live in a kennel modified to accommodate their human form. But he’s the one their boss treated the worst. Not only is he beaten at the slightest mistakes, he is forced to seduce the potential actors as part of their owner’s tactics to sink his hooks deeper into them. He was ordered to do just that to Terry.
All the dog shifter brothers were obedient but Edge is different. His boss loved pointing out that he is weak. Compared to his brothers, Edge wanted more but knew he couldn’t. He’s too well-trained for that. He’s loyal to his owner even if Terry is making him feel unexpected things. The most heartbreaking scene was when Terry urged him to run away after all the abuse. He refused. “I’m a good dog!” (╥﹏╥)
The story is set in 1989. There are mentions of HIV. I enjoyed all the musical name-dropping of Terry’s favorite 80s bands. He introduced Edge to the joys of music and I adored Terry for that. He faced monsters but still loves his job. He also kept his sunny, talkative disposition. He’s a good foil to Edge’s strong, silent type.
I loved how Terry treated Edge kindly right from the start. Edge immediately noticed he was different from the other wannabes. Terry didn’t treat him and his brothers in dog or human form as part of the furniture. He acknowledged their presence and talked to them even if he still didn’t know what they actually were.
The book succeeded in portraying the seediness of the unseen side of Hollywood. We get dual POVs. What I like about the writing is that even if I know what’s going on from Edge’s perspective, I could still feel a sense of the unknown as experienced through Terry’s POV where he knew something is wrong but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. This was what made the twists effective.
Terry’s investigation came to a head when he was offered the job in exchange for the most valuable thing he owns. The climax was a suspenseful chaos of fangs, blood and bullets. I gave a little cheer when the brothers finally took action. There’s a lovely ending and epilogue where Townsend, the Bureau chief explained the magical mechanics of things to the guys. I’m happy that Terry was able to keep doing what he loved. Now he can do that with Edge.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
Bureau: Convicted – Kim Fielding
Vietnam veteran Kurt Powell’s addiction almost cost him everything, but a job as federal agent with the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs helped him find sobriety and purpose. Now he tracks down dangerous paranormal creatures as well as humans who abuse their magical powers in illegal ways.
Sent from Belfast to the United States as a boy, Desmond Hughes later fell into a disastrous relationship that led to horrific murders. He’s spent seventeen years in a bleak prison with few comforts and no hope of release.
A new mission throws Kurt and Des together in a desperate attempt to prevent disaster. Sometimes what’s long been lost can still be found, but the road to redemption is never easy—and a mutual attraction may not ease the way.
Convicted is a moving journey towards redemption, forgiveness and freedom.
Desmond Hughes has been incarcerated in the Bureau prison for 17 years. He, along with his lover, Larry Crane, was responsible for the deaths of many people. Crane masterminded the crime, using magical boxes as source of power to wreck destruction. Crane is dead and these deadly boxes are now missing.
Kurt Powell is the agent assigned to find the boxes. He interviews Des who gives him all the places he and Crane stayed. Later on, he takes Des with him to find the boxes with the condition that Des returns to prison after they do. Their quest took them all over the American heartland moving towards Florida, stopping at the places Des had named.
The book is set in the 1993. The sense of time was not as strongly delivered as the other stories. There are nods to the time period, mentions of HIV and racism especially towards Kurt who had a mixed parentage.
Unlike the other Bureau novellas, Convicted has human + human pairing. I liked this just a tad less than Chained but not because it’s not as well written. This is due more to my disinterest towards stories involving road trips and looking for lost things. So I did feel the drag just a bit but the story picked up when they found one of the boxes.
There is less focus on the paranormal here. It’s very character-driven. Both men are burdened with guilt. They have the deaths of multiple people in their hands. One as a soldier, the other as an accomplice to a psychopath.
Des won me over with his spirit. He’s so lonely he talks to himself but I didn’t sense defeat. It’s more like he’s accepted his fate and tried to make do with what he is given. I also didn’t expect him to be the talkative type. The first parts of the book showed him alone. Then he had his first conversation with Kurt and his bright personality really shone through. As Kurt puts it, he has the voice of a born story teller. He’s a big guy with a gentle and kind soul that Crane took advantage of, using and abusing him as part of his schemes. I think Des truly believed Crane meant to change the world for the better with those boxes.
Kurt had his own share of troubles. He’s a Vietnam veteran who dealt with alcohol addiction. In his low moments, he was recruited by Townsend who believed in his potential. Kurt has a son and is friends with his ex-wife. I really liked that Kurt looked beyond the orange uniform and saw Des for what he truly is. He also made him understand that there is always a choice. And that he could forgive himself and move on.
Towards the end, the paranormal elements come into play in a show of magic and double crossing. Kurt suffers the same equally suspenseful fate as Terry. Townsend once again makes an appearance with his words of wisdom and second chances. Then Des showing up on Kurt’s doorstep all earnest and yearning is beyond endearing. Let’s give the man a hug!
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Bureau has always been a series with a lot of heart. Very much present in the stories are the small unexpected kindnesses that go a long way and reach deep places in the hearts of the tormented. Most of the time, the characters don’t even realize the impact of what they’re doing. Like Kurt offhandedly mentioning he would ask for more books for Des who had to make do with a measly 5-book ration. These touches of humanity are what makes this series.
I enjoyed the references to and cameos of well-loved couples from the other stories. West Coast Bureau chief Townsend is always present in all of them and he’s the biggest mystery of all. According to Edge, he smells human and something else. He often pops up in unexpected places to move things along. And I swear, his secret hobby is matchmaking because he really knows how to pair up these guys.
I highly recommend Chained and Convicted as well as the Bureau series as a whole. This is a series that will make you FEEL for ugly, tormented monsters. And no one does ugly, tormented monsters like Kim Fielding.
Posts on Kim Fieldings works here.
If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to get your copy of Bureau. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.
Then Angelo caught my attention. I was in the mood for some dark mafia-themed romance and the blurb intrigued me. So heck, why not.
The thing with this series is that, for the most part, I really didn’t care for the romance. BDSM is not my thing.
But the Marchesi family charmed me with their unconditional love for each other and willingness to die for their loved ones. No one could question their loyalty to each other.
They are portrayed as a typical close-knit Italian family who always have good food at their table. They take breakfast seriously. I almost wish I am a morning person so I could eat the smorgasbord of delights their housekeeper always prepare every morning.
The books are classified as erotica and there are a lot of sex scenes. You can just skip those if you want (makes the reading go faster too). The plot is substantial enough. There are probably some nuances to the couple dynamics I might have missed but I don’t really care.
There’s also the mafia politics, something I always loved reading about. This part worked well with romance especially how it brought the couples together. I liked how the various plotlines were integrated.
Each book features a different member of the notorious Marchesi family and the men they brought into their world of crime and cannoli.
The overarching arc is the threat to overthrow the Marchesi family by rival mafia families. The Marchesi have their allies, among which, Vinnie, who was a son of another mob boss and who was featured in a short story.
We’ll start with Lucien…
The Marchesi Family: Lucien – Silvia Violet
I never imagined the protector I longed for would be a mob boss who demanded complete control.
I shouldn’t have gone to Lucien’s office.
Once I looked into his eyes, I couldn’t leave.
He commanded me to kneel.
I couldn’t help myself.
One taste, and I craved more.
Lucien vowed to protect me from his enemies…
But who’s going to protect my heart from him?
Lucien is the illustrious head of the family. He’s bossy and scary AF. He’s always perfectly put together. He has a sweet tooth. He can drink until he passes out but wakes up the next morning sparkly and fresh. He is, according to Peter, ‘magical‘.
Peter is a sweet young man struggling to find a job. He was tricked by his cousin to fill in a position as a receptionist at some posh company. Little did he know, the company was own by the Marchesi.
So at Peter’s first day of work, in walks Lucien, saw the angelic new receptionist and decided, then and there, he was his. It was that insta.
Stripped of the BDSM elements, this is a whirlwind romantic fairy tale of sorts where the damsel was swept away by the prince to his castle. But instead of the prince, you get a crime lord.
Lucien is Lucien but Peter was a little to submissive for my liking. Still, you couldn’t really hate on somebody pure like him. He’s not entirely helpless and has quick wits about him. He even helped save Lucien. He was exactly what the mob boss needed in his life.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
The Marchesi Family: Mob Boss – Silvia Violet
I let Vinnie seduce me.
I was an easy mark.
I would have granted him anything, but I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know I was setting a man up for death.
But even now I still want him, and he has no intention of letting me go.
This is pretty much a condensed version of Lucien and Peter’s story. The difference is that Tom witnessed a crime and Vinnie had to protect him. This is 40 pages of alternate sex scenes and whatever plot there is so there’s really not much of an exploration of their characters and relationship.
This would have been better as a novella than a short story. All in all, it was kinda okay.
2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like
The Marchesi Family: Angelo – Silvia Violet
Cameron didn’t realize how much he loved his grandparents’ bakery until Angelo Marchesi, a man he’s hated since high school, threatened to take it away.
But Cameron owes Angelo a debt.
A debt he can’t pay…
Unless he accepts Angelo’s indecent proposal and risks finding out how thin the line between love and hate really is.
Angelo is more similar to his cousin, Devil than his autocratic brother, Lucien. The cousins are Lucien’s enforcers.
Angelo and Devil were inseparable since they were toddlers. They were both reckless and bisexual. They cover for each other, especially when one or the other is in trouble with Lucien or the police.
Angelo and Cameron had mutual crushes on each other from high school but with Angelo’s reputation being what it is, he scared Cameron away.
Cam came back to his hometown after burning himself out in the corporate world. He inherited his family’s bakery and was determined to make it work. His deadbeat dad had almost run it to the ground. Then he learned the bastard owed the Marchesis money. One day, Angelo came to collect.
Angelo and Cam’s interactions were antagonistic from the start. Angelo thinks Cam looks down on him for having the kind of family he has. Cam wants nothing to do with the mafia but he was secretly envious the kind of loving family Angelo had.
I’m not a fan of the dubcon scenes but unlike Peter who was 100% submissive, Cameron has more fire in him. It also took him longer to accept the mafia part of Angelo’s life but when he finally did, he fit right in.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
The Marchesi Family: Devil – Silvia Violet
Devil is a mobster with a dangerous secret…
There’s a cop who hates him.
A cop he caught and released.
A cop he can’t get out of his mind after the one forbidden night they shared.
This is my favorite book and Devil is my favorite character in the series. Whereas Angelo was a health buff, Devil relishes a good cigar. Devil goes above and beyond to protect his family but he’s not above keeping his affair with a cop secret.
I liked the cop/criminal dynamic between Joe and Devil. Joe is actually a forgettable character in any other book, but being paired with somebody as unpredictable as Devil added another dimension to his personality. Plus, the fact that he was attracted to a dangerous man shows he’s not exactly vanilla. He also brought out Devil’s endearing mother-henning side which was fun to see.
I also liked that both men were dominant so the power dynamics were balanced. It made the tension between the two so much enticing because you’ll never know who’ll come out on top.
This book wraps the series up. The threat to the family was put to an end for good. Characters for a new series weres introduced. They piqued my interest so I’m looking forward to that.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
I guess I was too hasty with this author. She made me care about the Marchesis so much that I read all the books in quick succession. The series is dark but has a lot of heart. Certainly no oatmeals this time.
If the new spin-off series is as good as this, I’ll probably end up binge reading it too. Moral of the story: Don’t judge an author by one bad story. Sometimes, they could surprise you.
These Marchesis are a tight bunch so while the books could be read as standalones, it’s best read in sequence.
Devil Take Me by Rhys Ford, Ginn Hale, Jordan L. Hawk, T.A. Moore, C.S. Poe & Jordan Castillo Price
Temptation lurks around every corner in worlds sometimes dark, sometimes lurid. Giving in is both dangerous and satisfying, though never in the ways one expects. While these enticements offer a vast range of benefits and boons, the cost is a soul and the devil expects his due. Sometimes suave and charming or calculating and cruel, these devils have schemes and desires of their own. They can be creatures to run away from… or toward.
Join the most unique and celebrated authors of LGBT urban fantasy and paranormal fiction for a fast-paced and unpredictable ride, from a city on the other side of reality, to a world suspended in dusk, to a twisted version of the 1960s and 70s.
Meet devils in top hats and waistcoats, a defrocked motorcycle-riding priest, and a genderfluid antihero—among many more. Full of humor, romance, horror, action, intrigue, and magic, these stories have one common element….
They’re one hell of a good time.
I am the type of reader who, when I see the words raven king, dark duke or devil in winter in the title expects some being who can magically control ravens or actually came from hell only to be let down when they invariable turn out to be just some bastard with poor manners. So I was delighted to know that Devil Take Me was quite literal.
This anthology features a stellar list of authors, among them my favorites Jordan L. Hawk and Jordan Castillo Price, giving their own take on the theme of selling the soul to the devil and trying to get it back.
Infernal Affairs by Jordan L. Hawk: Fluffpaw’s crossroads demon Ralgath, first day on the job, answered a summoning from Chess, a non-binary who wanted to be a hero. Turns out Chess was more than he bargained for. Outwitted by a human, he was demoted to customer service but was later given a chance to redeem himself. Luckily for the demon, Fluffpaw was there to help him.
The lightest and fluffiest story of the anthology. Written in an ironic tone and about as serious as Greg Trembley’s demon voice for Ralgath. Ralgath and Chess were so cute, I’d hurl my tablet if they don’t end up together!
Collared by T.A. Moore: Ex-priest, Jack, was commanded by his personal demon Math to find what was stolen from him…
which took forever to find that I didn’t care anymore. However, I did enjoyed the gruesome horror and Math and Jack’s twisted relationship.
Counterfeit Viscount by Ginn Hale: Archie sold his soul to Nimble, a prodigal conjurer and he was given the chance to get it back by helping Nimble solve a case.
Set in the same world as Wicked Gentlemen, which I haven’t read yet, but now I’m curious. Loved the camaraderie and banter between Archie and Nimble and that twist that I didn’t see coming. Very satisfying epilogue too.
11:59 by C.S. Poe: Death-defy battles against nightmares is the order of the day everyday for Asuka. The monster slayer, tired and merely a shell of his former self, meets the bookworm Merrick, cheerful and full of life. Merrick persistently pursues Asuka and through his knowledge of mythology, helps him defeat the source of nightmares.
This I would love to see as an anime! The freeze frame scene of Asuka falling off a building in a rain of glass is classic. Merrick believing Asuka is a real hero is adorbs! Merrick is cute as a button but really, I was shipping Asuka with the Devil himself.
Wonderland City by Rhys Ford: Wonderland is in trouble as another little girl came through the mirror. Every citizen of Wonderland knows there’s nothing as dangerous as a human child. Xander Spade, with the help of deposed prince, Jean Michel and brave dog, Blue, was tasked by Oz, the Devil to find the child, Naomi, in exchange for returning his soul and going back home to the other side of the looking glass.
At first, this was as whimsical and topsy turvy as the original which I loved. Then came the confrontation with the Red Queen and everything became bloody, chaotic, painful and downright horrifying which I loved too. I know the queens of Wonderland are crazy but here, they are monstrously psychopathic. The process of letting the beast out was drawn out in every excruciating detail and my heart went out to Xander. The romance was there or it will be there once Xander stops putting Jean Michel at arms length.
Dark Favors by Jordan Castillo Price: When Johnny was young enough to fearless, he unwittingly sold himself to the Old Man. Fast forward to 1979 and the Old Man asks Johnny a big favor: kill somebody.
I hate dub-con situations and here comes the big dub-con scene as the highlight. Great. Would have skipped it but it was crucial to the story. Also, I felt conflicted because Adam harassed Johnny and I should hate him for it but at the same time I was drawn to his affable, confident personality and I think he should have just charmed his way through Johnny’s hardcore shell instead of tying him to a chair. On the upside, JCP‘s world-building was expertly crafted as usual and the idea of favors as currency was executed well.
Infernal Affairs – 4 Stars
Collared – 3 Stars
Counterfeit Viscount – 4 Stars
11:59 – 4 Stars
Wonderland City – 4 Stars
Dark Favors – 3 Stars
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits