Psychic Detective Mysteries: Shadows Deceive – S.C. Wynne
If I could have put off meeting Thompson’s family forever, I would have. But he made it crystal clear it was important to him, and I got the feeling if I blew it off again, I’d lose him.
So, like a good boyfriend, I accompanied him to the rustic city of Big Bear, hoping for the best. I expected awkward moments, and funny looks from his family. What I didn’t see coming was having to hang out with his perfect ex-lover, Alexander, and for dead bodies to start piling up.
Working and living together, Thompson and I formed a bond I didn’t think could be broken. But when he starts doubting my abilities, and pulling away, simply because he doesn’t like what I’m saying, I start to realize maybe we were never as tight as I’d thought.
Thompson needs to decide if he wants to protect the past, more than he wants to join me in the future. He thinks I’m just scared of commitment, and so I’m causing trouble. But the reality is, Thompson is the person with one foot out the door.
Shadows Deceive is the third installment of the psychic procedural series, Psychic Detective Mysteries. It follows psychic/police consultant Liam Baker and his partner/boyfriend, Detective Kimball Thompson as they solve murders with the help of Liam’s ability to talk to ghosts.
The first two books were about Liam and Thompson trying to catch a powerful evil psychic, Stephen Pine, who was killing several people and was out to get Liam. Meanwhile, Liam was grieving the loss of his late boyfriend, Will, while Thompson, Will’s partner, patiently waited for Liam to notice him.
Book 3 sees the two men as an established couple which means it was time to meet the family.
The story is from Liam’s POV and you really had to feel it for the guy. Our boy is most definitely not a people person. Not only does he have to stay with Thompson’s family for two weeks, he has to deal with Thompson’s very attractive, very accomplished, very charming ex, Alexander, who the family considers one of their own. The man even ate dinner with them almost everyday Liam was there. And, the poor psychic also stumbled upon a dead body near the family house. So you could see his pain here.
His situation is the bane of introverts everywhere. And you got to hand it to Liam, he was really, really, really trying. He sucked it up and played nice. The book did a great job laying out Liam’s insecurities and the valiant way he tried to be a good boyfriend and to do his job professionally no matter how compromised his partner was. He has grown so much as a character. He came a long way from a grief-stricken man to someone who can hold is own against evil forces. I was neutral about him before but he really won me over here.
Thompson’s family was awesome. His mom especially. The part that made her stood out for me was that she was very perceptive. She knew Liam was hurting. She wasn’t blind to her son’s faults and Alexander’s manipulative side.
Meanwhile, Thompson needed to grovel more because he was being extra obtuse to how much he was hurting his beloved boyfriend by being chummy with the ex. Liam and Thompson’s relationship was tested almost to the breaking point. It was excruciating to watch. Don’t get me wrong, Thompson adores Liam. I liked him in the past 2 books. This Alex thing just wasn’t his shining moment.
The story is a great blend of romance, mystery and paranormal. The mystery didn’t hold much surprises. It was glaringly obvious who the killer was, especially with another dead body popping up. Far from making it boring, I liked how it worked well with the plot, adding another layer of insidious evil for Liam to conquer. I did wonder though if it would have been better or worse, story-wise, if he knew the identity of the killer right away and had to convince Thompson about it.
The plot also connects to the main villain, Stephen Pine. He is currently in jail. I wish that was the last we see of him because I’m not looking forward to his repeat performance. Alas, it is hinted we should expect a comeback in future installments
Shadows Deceive is a story about trust, family, standing up for one’s self and holding on to what’s important. It was emotional and engaging and still suspenseful even with the element of predictability. This is the best book so far. I am eager to see more of Liam’s curmudgeon-y self getting together with ghosts, serial killers, co-workers, in-laws and who knows what. Expecting better of Thompson this time.
Psychic Detective Mysteries should be read in order. Find out more about this Stephen Pine business in the first two books, Shadow’s Edge and Shadow’s Return. I read both but didn’t review Book 2. Check out my review of Book 1, Shadow’s Edge here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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Down Home: Down Low – Parker St. John
His broken bones could finally mend their broken bond…
Bull riding was the only thing that calmed the thrill-seeking, self-destructive beast inside of Calvin Craig. It allowed him to escape a small-minded town and the pain of his troubled youth, fleeing to bright lights and big city fame without looking back.
One trip on the horns of the wrong bull changed everything.
Cal is forced to come crawling back home for the first time in ten years, his body broken and riding days behind him. But not everyone is happy for the return of their local celebrity.
Eli Jackson was once the tall, dark, and sinful preacher’s son who had Cal wrapped around his little finger. Now the steely-eyed sheriff of Sweetwater, Eli is hell bent on running him right back out of town. He’s never forgiven Cal for the spectacular implosion of their relationship. Even though the lingering tension soon has them burning up the sheets, he refuses to be tamed.
Cal is surprised to find himself rising to a new challenge: breaking the bull that is Eli Jackson.
He might have run out of luck, but he’s not out of miracles… yet.
Down Low was an emotional rollercoaster. I found myself enjoying the heck out of it. It was so good! This is an angsty, second chance, friends to enemies to lovers story of high school sweethearts Calvin Craig and Eli Jackson.
Cal and Eli were each other first loves. They had to keep their relationship a secret because Eli was the son of a hellfire and brimstone pastor. In their senior year, Cal wanted to come out but Eli was hesitant. He was heading to college and couldn’t jeopardize his future. They had an ugly fight. The next day, Cal disappeared.
Ten years after, we see Cal returning home (slunking more like). For the past decade, he was a bull-riding superstar and had the broken bones to show for it. He was still healing in several parts, too injured to ride again. The moment he arrived in Sweetwater, he was in for a lot of surprises. Also, Eli hated his guts.
Cal is a “pipsqueak who doesn’t know when to quit” according to Eli. He was bullied in high school. Bull-riding is all he knows. He is a self-destructive adrenaline junkie who would risk permanent injury to save those he cared about. Eli is the town sheriff. He is level-headed and dependable but has a dark streak hidden deep inside.
The book is solely from Cal’s POV. I wished we had Eli’s POV too. Sometimes, when we get a 1st person POV from a person who pines for somebody, it feels unbalanced. Like the other person has all the power. But this was soon put to rights as the story progressed. We witness Eli being drawn to Cal like a magnet and learn his side of the story.
The book perfectly depicted all the conflicting, heart-crushing emotions of seeing your first love after 10 years, the one who betrayed you but still loved after all this time. The longing, the USTs, the hate kisses, the flames gloriously coming back to life. My heart went out to Cal and Eli. They had to sort through a decade of hurts and misunderstandings. Mutual pining, anyone? ♡
I loved the parts where Eli couldn’t help himself. He just had to kiss Cal even if he wanted to punch him just as badly. Cal loves pushing his buttons and when Eli’s buttons are pushed, that’s when things get seriously explosive.
Peak Cal moment is him singing Son Of A Preacher Man offkey at the top of his voice just to annoy Eli, instead of enjoying the cozy morning after. Which ended their very brief “truce” and sent them back to square one a.k.a. Eli hating him again.
Each chapter is marked with a song and opens with a short flashback. I loved how the writing seamlessly take us back to the past and juxtaposed it with the present. We see how Cal’s teen self views the world, perhaps still in a limited, adults are enemies way most people his age do. He created a boogeyman in Eli’s father, who was a huge presence not only in their lives but the entire town as well.
His adult self was very much surprised with how much his small town has changed. And how it still the same podunk town he left behind. I enjoyed the parts where he realized things were different now, more accepting and open. Bullies are now friends and the pastor is only a human who loves his son.
The book also excelled in bringing bull-riding to life. This is a world I know nothing about, but here, it was portrayed, not so much in vivid detail, but with well-written glimpses that easily captured the rodeo world. It brought us the heat and adrenaline, the heart stopping triumphs and the sometimes fatal losses, and the indomitable spirits of men who risk life and limb for 8 precious seconds.
Down Low is simply wonderful. It is one man’s eye-opening homecoming, a reliving of unforgettable memories, a comfort for years of hurts, a fixing of mistakes, and a tumultuous reunion of childhood sweethearts. It takes us through a whole gamut of emotions, sad, happy, painful, sweet and more. Yeah, quite a ride this one!
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
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Joker’s Sin: My Whole World – Davidson King
Atlas Durand’s whole world is built from the spoils of his past. Joker’s Sin is the most popular gay club in all of Haven Hart. Many clubs have come and gone, none able to compete with Atlas and his enigmatic power over his patrons. He would do anything to keep it thriving and anyone who stands in his way will be met with serious regrets.
Toby St. Claire hates working at Vick’s Tricks and longs for his nights off so he can go to Joker’s Sin. Like everyone who steps foot into Atlas’s club, he’s taken by the owner himself and the magical pulse that owns him when he’s there. Joker’s Sin is Toby’s escape from his life and Atlas is his dream come true.
When Toby’s boss realizes he can use Toby to help take down Joker’s Sin and make Vick’s Tricks the club to beat in Haven Hart, it turns everything upside down. Lies, deceit, and corruption threaten to tear Atlas and Toby apart. Is their love strong enough to survive it all or will they become victims of mayhem?
I became curious about Davidson King’s Haven Hart universe after I listened to her interview in the Big Gay Fiction Podcast. I’ve seen her books around but was hesitant to start on her main Haven Hart series because there are a lot of books released.
Joker’s Sin is the spin-off series that can be read as standalone. There are going to be only 4 installments so the odds of finishing the entire thing is high. Each major player in the Joker’s Sin club will have their own books. Three book are out so far.
The series opens with My Whole World, the story of club owner, Atlas Durand. He is an uber-charismatic showman, loved by all who frequents his club. He runs a tight ship and puts an even tighter lock around his heart due to a tragic past that explains why his club is named that way. I pictured him as the magnificent Lenny Kravitz.
His three closest friends work in the club. Ledger is DJ Edge. Max is in charge of the bar. Zero is head of security. Together, they make the club the hottest place to be in Haven Hart. I have no favorite character among them yet but they are interesting enough for me to want to get to know them better.
The love interest here is Toby St. Claire. Toby is a club regular who had a hopeless crush on Atlas. His ultimate dream is to be noticed by the great man. Toby is sweet. Sadly, that seems to be all he is. Among the important characters, he was the one I least connected to. I agreed with one GR reviewer who did not like his character’s narration. His voice was overacted by the narrator in the audiobook. Toby’s exaggerated reactions were more annoying than amusing. As a result, I wasn’t feeling the romance.
I’d love for Atlas to find a new love after what he had been through but I just didn’t feel his connection to Toby was that strong. I see it more of his protective instincts reacting to a sweet, gorgeous young man in need of help. The way their romance unfolded came across to me like we were told rather than shown. Although, there were scenes, like that lovely dance, that showed them forming connections. This issue is a ME thing because many people enjoyed their love story.
One thing I liked about MM romances is that there is this nice tradition where the writers give the lead female characters little happy endings of their own. I’m giving this a mention because that mini arc about Tobi’s twin sister, Poppy, and hacker/bodyguard, Desi, piqued my interest more than the main couple.
Haven Hart is home to many crime families. Toby works in the rival bar, Vick’s Tricks, owned by one of the minor crooks, Vic Kelly. When his abusive boss learned that he won a date with Atlas and was even offered a job at his club, he tasked Toby to gather intel on Joker’s Sin. If he fails, Poppy would pay the price. This put Toby in a difficult situation.
I wasn’t particularly pleased with how he handled it. It’s understandable that he’s scared for his sister but I’m not a fan of the lies. Altas gave him several chances to come clean. The big man made it clear he was willing to help whatever the trouble was but Toby kept prevaricating.
What kept me reading was Joker’s Sin, both the club and the person. I liked how they came alive. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the inner workings of a club. Even though I don’t go clubbing at all, I love the vibe of clubs. It’s that palpable energy generated whenever there’s a crowd enjoying great music. I can see why people keep coming back to Atlas’ place. I’d love to be there myself.
Joker the person was hell of a lot compelling. I wanted to know more about him. His history with Atlas was an entire book in itself. I was actually rooting hard for him and Atlas even though I knew how it played out. I wished this was their happy ending.
While I wasn’t a fan of Altas and Toby’s romance, it still felt organic to the entire story. It had a pretty solid plot that moved things quickly so I wasn’t bored. There were a lot of things happening that kept my attention. I liked how they resolved the Vic Kelly situation because that’s where Wong, the Chinese mob boss, came in. His appearance was short but he made an impression. I’m keen to read a book about him.
My Whole World was an effective series opener. My first visit to Haven Hart was a mixed bag but I’m already invested in this world. I liked how it connects to the bigger Haven Hart universe, enticing me to explore the other books. The author did an outstanding job integrating various elements from the main series and presenting them from new perspectives. Long-time readers would enjoy the easter eggs scattered about.
This is a must-read if you are a fan. If you’re new to the author or a first-time visitor to this colorful town, Joker’s Sin is a good place to start.
You can listen to Davidson King’s interview here.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
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