Badlands: Loose Ends – Morgan Brice
Cold cases, old enemies, ex-lovers, and vengeful spirits are making life dangerous for psychic medium Simon Kincaide and his boyfriend, homicide detective Vic D’Amato.
The ghosts of Myrtle Beach are restless, trapped by love, secrets, scandals, and spells, keeping Simon busy protecting the living from the unhappy dead. Someone from Vic’s past is out to destroy him and everyone he holds dear, and the high-profile trial of the first case Simon and Vic worked together puts them in the spotlight—and put a target on their backs. As a deadly trap closes around them, can Simon and Vic tie up the loose ends to stop the threat, or will they become the newest ghosts of the Grand Strand?
Loose Ends is an urban fantasy MM paranormal romance with spooky supernatural suspense, hot sex, hurt/comfort, feisty friends, found family, ghosts galore, and dark magic. It is part of a series but can be read as a standalone and features an evolving, established romantic relationship with all the feels. Intended for readers 18 years of age and older.
The Badlands series opened with a strong book 1, Badlands. Book 2, The Rising was a tad too predictable for my liking. Happily, this third book renewed my faith in this highly interesting psychic procedural.
Loose Ends has exes crawling out of the woodwork. Simon’s former fiance, Jason, showed up with his pouncy ass demanding that Simon return to the bosom of his family and be the trophy fiance again. Vic’s sorta ex and former work partner, Nick, has yet to show his ugly mug but it was clear he was trying to ruin Vic’s life. His social media was hacked, his partner Ross’s car was sabotage.
I had complained in my review of The Rising that the author’s execution of couple down time didn’t feel natural. They’re not necessarily forced but they don’t flow as smoothly as I would have liked with the story.
Loose Ends finds Simon and Vic in their happy place. The romantic element was very much improved. The timing and execution of sex scenes felt more organic to the story.
And it’s nice to see an established couple just generally being happy together without becoming boring. I really liked that they stayed strong and worked as a team against those who wanted to tear them apart. I loved that they avoided major misunderstandings and that they never resort to petty internal conflicts either. They weren’t an insta-favorite but Simon and Vic won me over with how well they made their relationship work.
It’s not just the exes. There was also Simon’s estranged mother. She’s a cold woman who cares only about herself and prefers Simon’s ex-fiance to her own son. She called to demand Simon return to his old life, then sent Jason to persuade him.
Simon had no intentions of doing that. He had built a good life in Myrtle Beach. He has Vic and a great support group. His powerful witch friends provide magical back up while his non-magical friends were always there to cheer them on.
The stand out secondary character here is most definitely Ross. He proved himself a good friend and partner to Vic from the time they started working together. He continues to be awesome, advising Vic on his grand plans of putting a ring on it. I’d love to see more of him around.
Simon’s psychic abilities had once again unearthed a dead body. The paranormal elements came wonderfully into play with a cold case, more haunted objects and later on, Nick’s nefarious methods of revenge. The series has always excelled in this aspect. In this third installment, the world has been established but it still offered different avenues to explore and more otherworldly happenings to investigate.
This is the type of case where the perpetrator was known but has yet to be found. The story moved fast with a well-executed plot. It did a great job tying everything together, making clever use of ghostly characters and magic. It certainly lived up to its promise of spooky paranormal suspense with all the romantic feels.
Although it says Loose Ends can be read as a standalone, I recommend reading the Badlands series in order. Start with Simon and Vic’s meet cute in book 1 and watch them go from strength to strength while solving supernatural cases. They have, since then, put a lot of ghosts to rest. It’s time to move on and take it to the next level.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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I practically inhaled these last two Handled books in one sitting because they’re that good!
The entire series blew me away with Gray and Nathan’s deliciously deviant tale of death and desire that is surprisingly sweet as it is dark. Romilly King created two very memorable characters that are up there in my most favorite couples ever list.
Handled is a world where capital punishment is meted out to serial killers by highly trained killers called Handlers. These executions are supervised by Witnesses. Each Handler is assigned a Witness.
Gray, best handler in town, was assigned Nathan, rookie witness, who somehow forged a more than professional connection to the notoriously very difficult handler.
Handled: Cleansed – Romilly King
Sometimes you have to go back in order to go forward – Gray is going back to handle the man who saw him as an angel, and unleashed the demon in him.
I am a Handler; I deal with serial killers, legally, ruthlessly, and in the presence of my Witness, because justice must be seen to be done.
Handling is an intimate procedure. I only perform for an audience of one; for my Witness, with his hot eyes and his innocent heart, and the pure white soul that I dirtied up so beautifully.
Now someone else is watching, the man who refined the monster in me. I can’t allow that to continue, particularly as he threatens the Witness who has caused the frozen lump in my chest that I laughingly refer to as a heart, to sporadically beat.
This isn’t about retribution; this is cleaning up the past so I have a chance at a future.
Cleansed is the second book in the Handled trilogy, it is a dark gay romance dealing with adult themes and contains graphic scenes that may upset some readers. Please heed the trigger warnings inside.
Cleansed picks up some months after the first book. We see Gray and Nathan’s relationship continue to evolve and grow stronger. For one brief moment, our favorite psycho lets himself be a vulnerable relaxed tiger around Nathan and learns what being cared for without any ulterior motives feels like.
I am so happy we finally get Gray’s backstory. A crazed evangelist played a pivotal role, christening the kidnapped child Gray an angel sent to him. The man killed and tortured people in front of the child, waiting to see if the angel will appear and save the sinners.
Years after his release, Gray learned this evangelist has kept tabs on him and was angry about his relationship with Nathan. Gray being Gray, he provoked his stalker and inadvertently put Nathan in danger. Then he went after the killer with typical Gray panache.
I really like that the story went straight to the point with the identity of the killer. Gray has the resources and is smart enough to figure things out quickly. I also appreciated that he remained essentially himself even after the memories came rushing back. He might have a vulnerable moment or two but his claws are still sharp as ever.
But also, soft thoughts!!!!!
Oh, the soft thoughts are everything! ♥(ˆ⌣ˆԅ)
This is an aptly named book. Gray proved how deadly angelic he can be, burned the bridges to his past and went on to live halcyon days of sun, the occasional Nathan and OMG! cartwheels!
5 Stars – absolutely perfect
Handled: Polished – Romilly King
How deadly do you have to be to kill a killer?
Handlers are hard to kill, and to be fair most of us like the challenge when people try, but now someone is killing off handlers in bloody and complex ways.
Not my problem.
I got out, I got free, and I don’t want to go back.
But someone is offering a favour if I handle this, a valuable one, and it could make all the difference to how this story ends.
Handlers don’t expect a happy ever after; most of us don’t even know what one looks like. I do, my happy ever after is blue eyed and frequently filthy and deliciously mouthy and he bends the way I want him to bend. And I could have that. All I have to do is take on one more handling, and ensure we both survive it.
The odds are not with me this time though.
I really should have kept on killing, I’m out of practice.
Polished is the third book in the Handled trilogy, it is a dark gay romance dealing with adult themes and contains graphic scenes that may upset some readers. Please heed the trigger warnings inside.
The cartwheeling had to come to an end eventually…
Polished is where things come full circle as a retired Gray was forced to handle another case and Nathan is again assigned as his witness. Handlers and Witnesses are murdered one by one. Gray needed to get his monster mojo back in order to solve the case faster. To do so, he pushes poor Nathan away because his little witness makes him more human. They kept hitting dead ends. The situation became even more desperate when Nathan disappeared.
Nathan’s baby handler brother, Indigo and Indi’s special friend Trans, demanded they help. Now these two are adorable psychos! Can we have their book please?
Nathan has learned his way around Gray, keeping faith and patiently waiting, waiting, waiting…Meanwhile, Gray, struggles to put a name to this thing between him and Nathan. It took two teen psychos to help him ease into it. And solve the case while they’re at it.
Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed with how Gray’s redemption came about. Is it wrong for me to wish he was really the psychopath everyone thought he was? Can we just let psychos be psychos and still be capable of love? If Indi can, Gray can too, I believe.
In this trilogy, I was all about Gray. Nathan is a great character through and through. I loved him from the start but the dark and dangerous tend to hog the spotlight more. However, Nathan’s dogged determination, his innate goodness, even his naivety and most especially his selfless love for these unlovable monsters sneaked up on me much like he sneaked his way into Gray’s heart. Slowly but surely. His complete trust in Gray was such a beautiful gift. After all that he has done, I looked at him with wonder too!
This finale revealed a more intimate picture of the relationships between Handlers and Witnesses. It is a complicated relationship, a symbiosis of two people working together in super intense, highly volatile situations. Professional can quickly turn to personal, a natural progression of sorts, and I would love to see more of these dynamics explored. I really hope we get a spinoff series.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
Handled should be experienced as a binge read. You won’t have it any other way.
Witness the beginnings of Gray and Nathan’s explosive partnership in Handled book 1. Review here.
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Prime Time: Headlines by Ella Frank
USA TODAY bestselling author Ella Frank concludes the story of Sean Bailey and Alexander “Xander” Thorne in Headlines.
If I had to describe Sean Bailey, it would be as the sexy, caring, wonderful man I’ve gone and fallen in love with. I never could’ve imagined a world where he was my everything. But with each passing day, the connection between us grows stronger, and the idea of a world without him is something I can’t imagine.
But Sean’s love doesn’t come without complications. As the older brother of my lifelong best friend, this new love has caused relationships to break down and communication to become stilted, and the one question that remains is: am I willing to give up the love and friendship of one for the chance of love and forever with another?
I didn’t mean to fall in love with Alexander Thorne, my brother’s ex and the number one prime-time news anchor in the country. I mean, no one could’ve seen that coming—least of all me. But that’s exactly what happened over these past couple of months: I fell in love.
That’d be complicated enough, I suppose, but Xander? Well, he fell in love with me too, and while it’s caused some major upset in the dynamics around here, I have to believe that a love this real can only lead to somewhere amazing.
This thing between us started out as a job, a friend helping out a friend. But after playing the role of Xander’s boyfriend, I find myself wanting the job full-time, because neither of us are playing anymore.
Headlines is the final book of the Prime Time Series and should only be read after book one, Inside Affair, and book two, Breaking News.
I was drawn to Prime Time because of its spectacular premise about an out and proud news anchor and his surly, straight detective bodyguard who’s also the big brother of his ex boyfriend cum best friend. It’s a fabulous setup that grabbed me immediately with its enemies to lovers, opposites attract, gay for you scenario.
And the first book, Inside Affair held true to it’s promise. I was extremely wowed! However, the author tends to end her books with cliffhangers. This would have been okay had the succeeding books offer substantial plots to merit a separate volume.
The second installment, Breaking News, moved the romance forward several notches. The rest of the book were non-events that weren’t adding anything to the story. It also ended with a cliffhanger.
Headlines picked up on the aftermath of Sean’s younger brother Bailey finding out about his best friend and big brother. Bailey felt hurt and betrayed that the two important people in his life did not tell him about their relationship.
Personally, I think this Bailey issue was dragged out for too long. I understand why he reacted that way but story-wise, I think this could have been resolved sooner.
There’s not much I can say about Headlines because, again, there’s not much going on. There was a mini thread where Sean and Xander were splashed on the tabloids. I appreciated that the author did not make it into a coming out issue.
However, it was also kind of blah because Xander immediately realized who leaked the story to the press. That it was a person he worked closely with and trusted should have been a bigger deal but it was treated as a non-event.
I am of the opinion that the entire series could have been done as one book. Removing the fillers, all the essential plot points combined could have made it into a delicious, suspenseful slow-burn story bursting with USTs, snarky banter and first time gay revelations. Sadly, this third offering did not quite capture the magic of that wonderful opener.
On the upside, Sean and Xander were really good together. There was an almost break up courtesy of Sean’s self-sacrificing nature but Xander kept his head. They remained solid throughout the Bailey debacle. The way they went from strength to strength as a couple and me rooting for their HEA was what kept me reading.
The part that brought Headlines up to a 3-star rating was the epilogue. It was a lovely tribute and I think it was the perfect way to end the series.
So do I recommend Prime Time?
Yes, if you want to witness Sean and Xander’s beautiful romance. This was what made it worth sticking with them until the end.
No, if you hate cliffhangers or are looking for a trilogy with solid sequels.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
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