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    REVIEW: Hell Cop by Astrid Amara, Nicole Kimberling & Ginn Hale

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    Hell Cop – Astrid Amara, Nicole Kimberling & Ginn Hale

    Three award-wining authors bring a magical city and its fantastic defenders to life!

    Home to demons, enchanting creatures, sorcerers, and millions of ordinary people equipped with paranormal technology, Parmas City runs on magic. But not all sorcery is benign. Whether they’re murderous spells, supernatural assassinations, demon-fighting rings or illegal incantations, paranormal crimes abounds. Sworn to take on those threats are the tough, tireless, and often troubled members of the Metropolitan Demonic Unit–the Hell Cops.

    Next of Kin by Astrid Amara
    Jay Yervant is a Hell Cop so powerful that his bare skin incinerates anyone he contacts. Isolated, he is tortured by desire, until he meets Brian, a sensual young man who touches him with impunity. But Jay’s burgeoning hope is threatened when a malevolent sorcerer unleashes a host of demonic assassins against Brian. Keeping his lover may cost Jay his life
    .

    Red Sands by Nicole Kimberling
    Anthropologist Michael Gold’s got problems. His apartment’s been ransacked, his dad’s missing, and he’s been framed for murder. As a half-demon he expects trouble from the city’s Hell Cops. Instead, he gets Argent, a man immune to his psychic powers and armed with disturbingly intimate knowledge of Michael. But whether Argent intends to use that to exonerate Michael or to convict him may not matter, because someone wants him dead.

    Touching Sparks by Ginn Hale
    When photojournalist James Sparks stumbles into an underworld of sorcery, blood sports and demonic drug traffic, he believes that Detective Ben Moran may be his only way out. But playing the role of an informant is far from safe, and as James uncovers evidence of police corruption, he realizes that Moran may be in as much danger as he is.


    Hell Cop is a fantastic urban fantasy collection brought to us by the same author trio who created my favorite supernatural world of the Irregulars.

    Astrid Amara, Nicole Kimberling and Ginn Hale give us Parmas City, a city that is powered by demons. Demons and demon body parts are used to create technology, medicine, used as labor, fuel even illegal drugs. Some of these demons can be seen on the streets going about their daily tasks. The city is ruled by old rich sorcerer families called hotbloods who own huge corporations and control portals that summon demons.

    Hell Cops is the street term for the police officers who handle any case related to demons. It goes without saying the job is pretty dangerous so the hell cops are typically magic users.

    This collection has 3 interconnected stories starring hell cops, Jay Yervant, Sam Argent and Ben Moran. Each story is a police procedural/mystery with an innocent bystander who found himself entangled in the case and with a hell cop.


    Next of Kin by Astrid Amara

    This introduces us to the world of hell cops by way of country bumpkin Brian Day who left his cultish roots to look for his father in Parmas City. He was working at the hospital assisting nurses when he spotted a man literally on fire and offered him a glass of water. He turned out to be hell cop Jay Yervant.

    Jay was so taken by the young man that he followed (well, stalked really) him to his apartment and witnessed (he was peeping) Brian’s rather spicy interaction with an incubus that almost turned tragic. The two were thrown together when more threats to Brian’s life surfaced.

    This is a strong opener. It built the world smoothly as Brian navigates his way around the metropolis and Jay providing a more experienced perspective. It then flips the dynamics with Jay as the virgin and Brian introducing him to the sensual delights of human touch. By virtue of his powers, Jay expels too much energy and burns everything he touches. But to his amazement, Brian can touch him without harm.

    Family is the key theme. Jay is from the prominent hotblood family of the Yervants. Brian’s search for his father led him to another hotblood family, the Sairs, whose scion was suspected of illegal activities.

    From what was a seemingly unrelated case of demons massacring kindergartners to a long lost father to Jay and Brian’s blossoming romance, everything was built up really well and came together splendidly. The mystery was an intriguing one and made me want to learn more about the hotbloods and Parmas City.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Touch
    Artist: Daft Punk feat. Paul Williams
    Album: Random Access Memory


    Red Sands by Nicole Kimberling

    This is a story of half demon anthropologist Michael Gold framed for the murder of his cousin. The hell cop handling his case was Sam Argent, who he later realized was the same guy he hooked up with one summer.

    This is my least favorite of the three. For one, we only get Michael’s POV. I understand that this is to highlight Michael’s telepathy and Sam’s mysterious unreadable appeal. But I had a hard time connecting to the hell cop’s character which made the romance unconvincing. Another thing I was unimpressed with was how unprofessional Sam was sleeping with the main suspect.

    The mystery here wasn’t as compelling as the first but I liked that we get the perspective of somebody with a demonic blood. I wished this was developed more because it would be interesting to get a demon’s POV. However, this story meshed well with the general vibe of the book so I still liked it.

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: Read Your Mind
    Artist: Enya II
    Album: Read Your Mind


    Touching Sparks by Ginn Hale

    A slow burn, age gap, hell cop/informant romance of Ben Moran and James Sparks, the photojournalist who was helping him take down a corrupt official. As the story progressed, we learn more about the plight of hapless demons, often treated worse than animals, hidden behind the ostentatious wealth and power of hotbloods.

    Ben and James were the best couple and the most interesting characters. Ben has known James as a teenager. James has been crushing on Ben since forever. The older man has suffered the loss of his lover and has closed himself off.

    I’m glad we get James’ and Ben’s POVs. The hell cop is attracted to James but does not act on it. Especially because he was someone Ben watched grew up. There’s a lot of USTs simmering between them and I love the anticipation that built up through the story.

    I totally loved James’ spunky spirit! He’s a brave soul who took in upon himself to investigate a prominent official illegal activities. He almost got himself killed if not for a bunny suit. But it didn’t stop him from pursuing his target. He was clever and resourceful. Despite being completely human, he fought a dragon and saved a sorcerer’s life.

    This is a great blend of suspense, action and mystery with high stakes, nasty villains, a beautiful romance and a sweet ending. This is my favorite of the three.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: SPARK-AGAIN
    Artist: Aimer
    Album: SPARK-AGAIN


    All three Hell Cop stories fit together seamlessly while letting us see the city through several sets of eyes. The authors did a great job great job creating this magical demon world. I’m so glad that stories were by no means over because we have more cases to investigate in Hell Cop 2.

    Overall Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits


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    REVIEW: Happy Endings by Alice Winters

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    Demon Magic: Happy Endings – Alice Winters

    Smart men never dabble with demons. I never claimed to be smart, but at least I’m powerful enough to control them. When I bound Havoc to me nearly three hundred years ago, I never realized how difficult he’d make my life, although “accidentally” lighting him on fire every now and then does bring a smile to my face.

    Havoc is handsome, mysterious, and somehow my closest companion, even if we don’t always get along. He’s more interested in bedding attractive women than protecting my life, which defeats the main reason a mage like me would have a demon. I even had to fight off swordsmen alone once because he was too busy betting on who’d survive.

    When fifteen people are found dead with messages from a long-extinct cult, Havoc and I are forced to face our past and sort through our differences. We start to realize that there’s something more to this relationship, something that has kept us by each other’s sides for so long. Maybe it took three hundred years to finally understand my feelings for Havoc and realize that I can’t imagine being with anyone but him. Havoc and I will do everything we can to stop the evil that is threatening the lives of the people I care about. Or destroy everything—we haven’t quite figured that out yet.

    Happy Endings is a 73k word novel that has an immensely powerful mage, a shapeshifting demon with a strong libido, a dark mage that just won’t stay dead, a spray bottle put to unusual uses, armor that is most definitely not made of dragon skin, blackmail involving an unfortunate slow-mo video, a detective being pursued by a determined minotaur, unprofessional use of illusions, and an epic walk into battle.

    *Revised and edited.


    Happy Endings kicked off Demon Magic, another Alice Winters paranormal snark-fest.

    Miles and his contracted demon go about their intertwined lives for 300 years, with Havoc sleeping with every woman he can get. Miles lets him carry on with his amorous business while very, very secretly pining for his demon.

    The mage owns a café that doubled as magic shop and home. Apart from an oversexed demon familiar, he has a witch assistant and a werewolf chef who were a couple. He was approached by two detectives about a dead body with markings similar to that used by an Inquisition-type group Miles had encountered hundreds of years ago.

    Miles and Havoc’s past was dredged up the deeper they became involved with the case. We learned about the abuse Miles suffered from his late master and how he and Havoc forged their connection. It later turned out, this very dead master might not be resting in peace after all.

    Miles is quite possibly, the most powerful mage in existence although the book hasn’t confirmed it. I always liked it when we get an established high level magic user right off the bat since I’m bored with beginners. There were a lot of magic on display which I really enjoyed. Miles can use glamour and change his appearance. He can basically do almost anything but has an affinity for fire. And he has demons at his beck and call.

    Havoc, well, he’s a piece of work. The demon is obnoxious, horny and childish. We meet a lot of his type in the author’s works. He’s tolerable but him going from chasing skirts to getting into Miles’ pants seemed to come out of nowhere. But after my confusion with his sudden turnabout wore off, I could see his complete dedication to Miles. Which is always delivered with a jibe or two to the long-suffering mage.

    This series has a great supporting cast. Standouts were Sam the detective and Iya the minotaur. I’d love to read their story. Iya is a himbo who latched on to Sam after Miles assigned him to protect the detective under strict orders not to penetrate the human unless the human said so otherwise. Trust the doofus to misinterpret that in his little demonic brain.

    At first, I was put off by the ridiculous opening scene and had to give it another try before it stuck. The author’s humor is the polarizing kind. Either you like it or you don’t. Here, it got tiresome at many points. Many lines weren’t that funny. They were trying too hard to be raunchy.

    There were also scenes that did nothing to the story, merely there to show off a gag or two. And almost overshadowed the progress of relevant events which is too bad because the core plot was actually exciting. We got necromancers, missing grimoires and political intrigues, not to mention a cute romance involving a demon. They’re my favorite kind of supernatural love interest next to vampires.

    The writing wasn’t as dedicated to its world-building as it to the humor but we still more or less see an understandable picture of what’s going on. It is the kind of fantasy world where every imaginable creature exists so we get everything from paladins to archangels and things that I’m not even sure what.

    There were also explanations provided for demon summoning. Most of it were the usual ritualistic stuff but I liked that Miles is so powerful he can drop the chanting mumbo jumbo and just go with “I summon you”.

    The book also tackled the demon’s relationship to its summoner. Most contracted demons were treated nothing more than strictly controlled, often mistreated tools. Miles and Havoc’s relationship has always been special. The mage treated his demon kindly from the start. A huge risk because demons are very tricky. I love the trust they had with each other.

    Happy Endings might have gone overboard with the silly gags and could have woven a stronger world but it still had the right amount of magic, loveable demons, quirky humans and intriguing threads to propel me through to the next book.

    And so the quest continues with more misadventures, more graves turned, more misuse of glamour spells and a monster from the past making his comeback. Looks like the real fun’s just starting.

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: Stuck With You
    Artist: Upstate
    Album: Wake The Morning


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    REVIEW: Loose Ends by Morgan Brice

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    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.

    P.S.

    Book 1 review, Badlands.
    Book 2 review, The Rising.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Unfinished Business
    Artist: White Lies
    Album: To Lose My Life


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    LOOSE ENDS