• Uncategorized

    SERIES REVIEW: Boystown Books 1-3 by Marshall Thornton

    Boystown Books: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries – Marshall Thornton

    Finalist for the Lambda Award in Gay Mystery, Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries takes place in Chicago during the early 1980s. Haunted by his abrupt departure from the Chicago Police Department and the end of his relationship with librarian Daniel Laverty, Nick Nowak is a beat cop-turned-dogged private investigator. In this first book of the series, Nick works through three cases: a seemingly simple missing persons search, an arson investigation, and a suicide that turns out to be anything but. While working the cases, Nick moves through a series of casual relationships until he meets homicide detective Bert Harker and begins a tentative relationship.


    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Boys Town
    Artist: Babes
    Album: Leave Your Leather On


    Boystown Books: Three More Nick Nowak Mysteries – Marshall Thornton

    The Boystown Mystery series continues as Chicago private investigator Nick Nowak finds himself involved in three new cases. He’s asked to help a young man who murdered his stepfather but refuses to assist in his own defense, hired to find the murderer of a dead porno star, and, in a case that traps him between the two men he loves, must search for a serial killer’s only living victim. Set in the second half of 1981, Nick juggles his deepening relationship with Detective Bert Harker with the return of his ex, Daniel Laverty. Which man will he choose? Or will he be able to choose?


    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: OOO
    Artist: Karen O
    Album: Crush Songs


    Boystown Books: Two Nick Nowak Novellas – Marshall Thornton

    In the two novellas that make up the third book in the popular Boystown Mysteries private Investigator Nick Nowak works two challenging cases and grapples with an even more challenging personal life. In Little Boy Boom, Nick’s car explodes when a thief attempts to steal it. Realizing the bomb was meant for him, Nick sets out to discover who wants him dead only to find that the list of possible suspects is longer than he’d like. When he begins to run out of suspects he wonders if the bomb was truly meant for him. Little Boy Tenor finds Nick investigating the murderer of a church choir’s star tenor, while at the same time his friend Ross asks him to discover the truth behind his lover, Earl Silver’s mysterious death. As he juggles the two cases, he becomes increasingly disturbed by what he learns.


    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Slipping Away
    Artist: Moby
    Album: Hotel


    A bit strange to call a series set in a decade you lived through as historical, but I considered Boystown by award-winning author Marshall Thornton as such. My first series from the author, The Wyandot County Mysteries, was entertainingly bitchy, and another modern historical (if we can call it that) set in the 2000s.

    The usual Regencies and Victorians are not working for me as of late, so I’m hoping to dive into more books set in the mid-century and later eras.

    Boystown starts in 1980, with prequels set in 1979. It chronicles the life of ex-cop-turned-PI Nick Nowak. He’s 33 years old and in the prime of his life. He’s good at his job. His business is going well and he’s free of debts He lives in a garden apartment, a.k.a. basement apartment in downtown Chicago in the known queer neighborhood called Boystown. Every weekend, he works as a bouncer at a gay club owned by a friend.

    The storytelling is one of the best and a top favorite in my reading history. Nick has a very compelling voice and a charismatic character. The books are written like episodes in a TV series. Also, Marshall Thornton has always been fantastic at flavoring his stories with period-specific events, culture, technology, and so on. They have a palpable patina of time and they always feel authentic and lived-in. 

    Nick’s cases intertwine with his private life, and threads from the previous books are continued or mentioned in the succeeding. There are many recurring characters or references to past events that Nick would follow up on or would impact the current story. We see Nick’s everyday habits and work routine, plus the more action-packed moments.

    My favorite part is the cases. Almost all mystery series tend to default to murder as the crime, so I loved that Nick’s cases vary from background checks to missing persons to arson to car bombing, and sometimes protection for rock stars. I loved that they realistically portray the variety of work a PI handles.

    And Nick’s one hell of a PI! He doesn’t give up until he’s satisfied, not even if his client feels the matter is already settled. He’s got wily investigation skills and is not above lying, impersonating someone, seducing the gullible, or breaking inside an apartment to get answers.

    Nick knows he’s a looker and enjoys an active sex life. There is no shortage of people eager to throw themselves at him and Nick’s not inclined to say no. From informants he’s interviewing, to corporate lawyers, to friends with benefits, beat cops mistakenly apprehending him while undercover as a homeless man and even the very person he’s investigating, as well as orgies. A couple of times, he asked himself if he was giving off some kind of pheromones.

    Nick is also pining for his ex, Daniel Laverty. They had a bad breakup after a homophobic attack that left Daniel with a broken cheekbone. Daniel wanted to report what happened, but Nick, then a closeted cop, refused.

    Nick eventually develops a relationship with a closeted police detective, Bert Harker. Theirs is an open relationship, which means Nick still goes around fucking any willing body. Nick is also torn between Daniel, who recently reunited with him, and Bert, currently living with him. The series is not romance, and it didn’t make promises of a romance HEA, so the open relationships didn’t bother me.

    What bothered me was the APPALLING lack of protection in all the sex scenes. There’s also some scenes where the characters take drugs. It was a wild, hedonistic era and Nick is in the thick of it. In contrast, contemporary MM books make it a point to mention rubbers or an exchange of health status. 

    Knowing what we know now of the 80s and the AIDs epidemic, it is heartbreaking that some of the characters here were among the early victims, and Nick and his friends have no clue yet of what is happening. It’s going to hit very close to home. I almost don’t want to read the succeeding books because the impact is going to crush Nick. 

    As mentioned earlier, Boystown is written as a continuous chronicle of Nick Nowak’s life and should be read in order. I had grand plans of reviewing the entire series until I learned there are 13 books. It’s a lot for me, so I’ll probably do three books at a time.

    The first three books of Boystown opens a highly engrossing mystery series that captures a pivotal era through the eyes of a gay PI. Blending Chicago grit and 80s sex appeal with LGBTQ+ issues and noir mystery, these stories are authentic, steamy and as irresistable as Nick Nowak himself.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of Boystown. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    BOYSTOWNKindle

    If you like my content, please consider supporting me on Ko-fi or PayPal. Your donations will help keep this website going. Thank you so much!

  • book,  Uncategorized

    SERIES REVIEW: The Wyandot County Mysteries Books 1 & 2 by Marshall Thornton

    The Wyandot County Mysteries: The Less Than Spectacular Times of Henry Milch – Marshall Thornton

    A new mystery series from the award-winning author of the Boystown and Pinx Mystery series.

    Things have not been going well for Henry Milch. After a Saturday night clubbing in his beloved West Hollywood, he took one pill too many and ended up banished to northern lower Michigan to live on a farm with his ultra-conservative grandmother. It was that or rehab.

    While working a part-time job for the local land conservancy he stumbles across a dead body in the snow—as if things couldn’t get worse. But then things take a turn for the better, there’s a reward for information leading the man’s killer. All Henry has to do is find the murderer, claim the reward and he can go back to his real life in L.A.


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

    Soundtrack: Town
    Artist: CASTLEBEAT
    Album: VHS


    The Wyandot County Mysteries: A Fabulous Unfabulous Summer for Henry Milch- Marshall Thornton

    In the second Wyandot County Mystery, things are still not going well for Henry Milch. While stuck in Northern Lower Michigan helping his Nana Cole recover from a stroke, he learns that her favorite pastor has been killed. When Nana Cole asks him to investigate, he refuses—until she offers him money. Money that will help him get back to real life in West Hollywood. That sets Henry off on a journey that includes: off-key choir rehearsals, pole barns, bad haircuts, a hunky doctor and too many get-well-soon casseroles.


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

    Soundtrack: Big City Dreams
    Artist: Might Not feat. Sofia Insua
    Album:


    The Wyandot County Mysteries by Marshall Thornton is an LGBTQIA+ murder mystery series I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. It did not have the usual romantic subplot, nor is it cozy. It contains many undesirable elements, yet I was completely hooked!

    The series is set in the early 2000s, so people watched cable TV, landlines were still ubiquitous, cell phones were flip phones, and the It gadgets were those colored Macbooks that look so retro now. The news often talks about the war, and people would mention updates about sons or grandsons deployed in the Middle East. 

    The star of the series, Henry Milch, well, I wouldn’t say he’s a likable character. Vapid, spectacularly self-absorbed, has nothing but uncharitable comments about everyone. In another story, Henry would be the bitchy ex the main character would dump to be with the love interest. Or that friend who’s always a hot mess

    Henry used to live in LA, but after an incident that left him with costly hospital bills, he’s broke and now lives with his Nana Cole in a small town in Wyandot County. Henry hates it. One reason is he’s shoved back in the closet. He has big plans to return to LA once he has enough money. And this kicks off the first mystery.

    The Less Than Spectacular Times of Henry Milch opens the series. Henry discovered the dead body of Sammy Hart, an out-and-proud gay man. The police weren’t making any efforts to solve the case, so Sammy’s friends offered $15,000 to anyone with information about the killer.

    Jumping at the chance to earn the reward, Henry decided to investigate, calling upon the knowledge he picked up from CSI and True Crime.

    In A Fabulous Unfabulous Summer for Henry Milch, Henry was offered $2000 by his Nana to find out what really happened to the dead pastor of their church. The man was bludgeoned to death. The police said he was robbed by a meth addict, but Henry thought otherwise.

    Still lacking enough funds to move to LA, Henry decided to humor his grandmother and started asking enough questions in an attempt to earn the money.

    He struck an antagonistic friendship with Opal, a bisexual a friend of the late Sammy Hart, who helped pooled money for the reward. Henry calls her only when he needs something, and Opal never hesitates to call him on his BS. Born and raised in the area, Opal knows everyone, including suppliers of illicit substances.

    Content warning: Henry is very much in denial about his drug addiction, and he’s frequently popping pills. In one very, very gross scene, he seriously contemplated fishing out the pills he puked floating in the toilet bowl so they don’t go to waste. He came to his senses when he realized that’s what drug addicts do, and he tells himself he’s not an addict.

    He sleeps with a few guys, most of them forgettable. One time, he dated a gorgeous doctor, a genuinely nice guy very much attracted to Henry. In your usual MM romance, this doctor would be The One. Of course, Henry fucked it up by refusing to give up his pills after the good doctor offered to help him overcome his addiction.

    Henry’s relationship with his mother and grandmother is complicated. His mother goes from boyfriend to boyfriend and has a casual parenting style, a.k.a. mostly absent. His mother and grandmother rarely agreed on anything, but surprisingly, they did when it came to him.

    Nana Cole is from one of the old families of the county, with typical Christian conservative views. They frequently butt heads. But even with their differences, it’s obvious that Nana Cole cares for her grandchild. Henry is determined not to like his Nana, but he also did not abandon her when she had her stroke.

    As an amateur sleuth, Henry notices things that don’t add up but have zero finesse in dealing with people. He just point-blank asks questions. He’s also not above using people to get what he wants. Given his bull-in-a-china shop approach, it was a wonder Henry got answers from the conservative folks of the county.

    With such a flawed character taking the lead, the entire thing wouldn’t have worked. But the author magically made the storytelling so damned engaging, even if I didn’t like Henry at all. He takes us to a scathingly humorous fish-out-of-water view of small-town Michigan with many comparisons and palpable longing for the big city way of life.

    Many times, I would think, “What a bitchy thing to say, Henry!” while at the same time thinking, “He’s got a point, though.” This leads us to another content warning: Henry’s views about religion and small-town life may offend some.

    The Wyandot County Mysteries is one of those mystery stories where I just enjoyed tagging along with our unlikely sleuth, not really caring about who killed who. The cases propel Henry to begrudgingly learn more about his hometown and its people. Twice, he’s on the cusp of leaving, but something or other would prevent him from hightailing it to LA.

    Would this snarky twink finally say adios to Wyandot to party and play in LA, or would he feel enough of a connection to the place to call it home?

    Maybe the third time’s a charm for our boy. Looking forward to Book 3. Because one thing about a hot mess like Henry: he’s never boring!

    P.S.

    The Wyandot County Mysteries should be read in order.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of The Wyandot County Mysteries. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    THE WYANDOT COUNTY MYSTERIESKindle | Audiobook

    If you like my content, please consider supporting me on Ko-fi or PayPal. Your donations will help keep this website going. Thank you so much!

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: His Guilty Pleasure by Leighton Greene

    West Coast Mobster: His Guilty Pleasure – Leighton Greene

    When Redwood Manor’s butler Darian is accused of murder during a high-stakes Mafia parley, he has to rely on the infuriatingly attractive Raffi DeLuca to prove his innocence—before one of the mobsters decides to take justice into their own hands.

    Darian Thornfield-Hayes has always been content to fade into the background while he conducts his work with precision and perfection. But when murder threatens the fragile peace between rival Mafia factions staying at the Manor, he finds himself in the spotlight in the worst possible way.

    Raffi DeLuca, acting head of security—and the flirtatious thorn in Darian’s side—jumps in to give him an alibi, claiming they spent the night together. But in doing so, Raffi finds himself compromising his honor and his vows to the Don.

    When Darian and Raffi are forced to share a room to keep up the charade, the attraction simmering between them flares to life. Raffi sees past Darian’s defenses to the real man underneath, awakening desires the untouched Darian never dared admit to before.

    But Darian hasn’t been telling the whole truth…

    Torn between his heart and his duty, Raffi must decide how far he’s willing to go to protect Darian.

    Will their guilty pleasure be the key to solving the murders, or will secrets tear them apart?

    ***

    His Guilty Pleasure is the fifth book in the West Coast Mobsters series. Follow the men of the Los Angeles underworld in this page-turning romantic suspense series as they find love, danger and mystery in the most unexpected places.

    Each book in West Coast Mobsters tells the love story of a different couple who find their happy ending, as well as a resolution to the mystery they’re investigating, but there are cliffhangers to the wider suspense plot for the series.


    From the super-loyal Alfred Pennyworth to the devilish Sebastian Michaelis, butlers are fascinating, pivotal figures who perform miracles while being as unobtrusive as possible. However, the personal lives of butlers are a subject that doesn’t get talked about often, so when I learned about this book, I had to grab it.

    His Guilty Pleasure is the 5th book of West Coast Mobsters and the very reason why I started this series. Darian Thornfield-Hayes, Redwood Manor’s new butler, and Raffi DeLuca, acting head of security while Max Predetti is away, are in charge of making sure the parley between opposing Bernardi factions goes smoothly.

    Somebody threw a wrench into the works by murdering the mediator of the parley, a retired mobster last seen arguing with Darian. As the number one suspect, the young butler has to prove his innocence not only to the Castellanis but to the rest of the people involved in the parley.

    Darian’s and Raffi’s views from ‘below stairs’ gives us well-rounded look at the power players of the West Coast after seeing it through the Castellani leadership’s POVs from the previous books. The ‘dynamic duo’ juggled regular work, investigation of the murder, and their passionate, if complicated, romance while putting out fires and trying to keep everyone alive in a house full of killers.

    As subordinate members of the Castellani Family, Darian and Raffi felt very much like secondary characters in their own book despite it told in their dual 1st person POVs. It is fitting in a way because they are working in the background, supporting the Castellani bosses, performing minor miracles to satisfy the difficult and deadly guests of the Manor.

    As a peek into the private life of Darian, it almost didn’t feel like he had one because, no surprise, the butler has little personal time. How he seemed to be present everywhere at the same time is a mystery, but the man is a consummate in the art of hospitality.

    The most personal he got was finally acting on his attraction to white knight Raffi after a nudge or two by the matchmaking Julian. It was a hot/cold romance I’m neutral about because I am more invested in the murder mystery and the disaster of a parley.

    It is obvious from the get go that this is Julian Castellani’s show. He was hellbent on hiring Darian, even going so far as using Raffi when Darian first turned him down, knowing Darian would have a reaction to the security specialist. From then on, his “favorite butler boy” was guaranteed his protection because, it turned out, our lovable Castellani psycho collects and protects his toys, a.k.a. people he’s fond of. And never lets them go.

    Julian is also a genius schemer, a shadow ninja, and a creative killer who lends a helping hand to key players when needed, lays clues here and there, and makes bold moves lesser men won’t dare make. All for the Family and revenge.

    My favorite part, however, is Alessandro. The man is now a stronger, wiser Don Castellani. So wise, in fact, that he mastered the art of plausible deniability and weaponized it. It was a damn clever move and so low-key, yet it made the Castellanis more powerful than before!

    The only thing missing is Teddy. Our boy only has a cameo so I need another Sandro/Teddy book, pleeeease!

    His Guilty Pleasure satisfied my curiosity about butlers and while the romance was lukewarm, the mafia politics was a powder keg about to explode. It’s one heck of a gripping twisty-turn-y story, stealthy in its attack, gleeful in its revenge, and pleasurable in its unfolding.

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

    Soundtrack: Pleasure
    Artist: Feist
    Album: Pleasure

    West Coast Mobsters has an ongoing suspense plot that runs through the all the installments so they should be read in order.

    Johnny Jacopo lost a hat and gained a boyfriend in His Lethal Desire.

    Alessandro Castellani looked for justice and found a teddy bear in His Brutal Heart .

    Julian Castellani went on the prowl and tamed a lion in His Fatal Love.

    Max Predretti uncovered a traitor and discovered a mafia prince in His Sinful Need.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of His Guilty Pleasure. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    HIS GUILTY PLEASUREKindle | Paperback

    If you like my content, please consider supporting me on Ko-fi or PayPal. Your donations will help keep this website going. Thank you so much!

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: His Fatal Love by Leighton Greene

    West Coast Mobsters: His Fatal Love – Leighton Greene

    Easily bored, completely manipulative, and utterly deadly…and that’s just in bed.

    As an assassin for the Castellani Family, I live for the thrill of the job.
    I’m devoted to my Family and my Don, because they keep me safe.

    To Leo Bernardi, I’m a monster.
    A killing machine.
    And a puppet that his Family can use for their own ends.

    To me, Leo is just a pawn in a game that I’m playing.
    A means to an end.
    And if I have a little fun with him along the way, who cares?

    Leo thinks he can seduce me. Tame me. Use me.
    In this game of cat and mouse, the Bernardi Lion is about to get a big surprise.

    But the more entangled we become, the more I start to feel…

    Things I didn’t think I was capable of feeling.

    Things I’ve never wanted to feel.

    In my line of work, love is a fatal flaw. But the more time we spend together, the harder I fall.

    Leo Bernardi is my greatest enemy…
    Could he also be my greatest love?

    **

    Dive into a forbidden romance between a psychopath assassin and a Mob Enforcer. Get ready for seductions and betrayals, scorching love scenes, and an unforgettable romance as a cold case comes back to haunt two Families sworn to destroy each other.


    If you have read the Morelli Family series, Julian Castellani most likely made himself memorable with his specially made intimate jewelry, attempting to seduce a well-placed Morelli. Unlike Alessandro, who prefers a low-key profile, this Castellani brother embraces the limelight and his notoriety.

    His Fatal Love is Julian investigating the murder of his beloved mother he witnessed when he was five years old. A lil mystery that I didn’t realize until the big twist was revealed was why Julian was questioning the identity of the killer despite seeing the crime happening right before his eyes.

    Julian has been called many names, psychopath being one. To which he is quick to reply, “undiagnosed“. An expert assassin on par with Jack, Julian is practically a ninja the way he can go in and out any tightly guarded place. He either feels nothing or feels too much, no in-betweens.

    Two complicated relationships are with Alessandro and Jack.

    Alessandro and Julian have always been antagonistic. There were even moments I felt Julian was going to kill his brother. Book 2, His Brutal Heart, put that to rest, and happily, Alessandro and Julian have somehow come to a truce, and along with Jack coming back to the fold, it makes for a stronger Castellani Family.

    I think Julian has a teeny-tiny bit of brother complex. Alessandro has a thing for blonds, and light-haired Julian always tries to provoke his brother by mentioning this in his on-going game of notice me, onii-chan.

    Also, the way he describes Alessandro by smell that was somewhat too intimate for brothers, even half-brothers. Turns out, he catalogues everyone’s smell. There’s a reason for this and I loved the stealthy way the story connected it to everything that’s happening.

    Trust is one of the major themes, and Julian is known to be spectacularly untrustworthy. Jack, the top Castellani assassin from His Lethal Desire, wouldn’t let his boyfriend, Miller, anywhere near the younger Castellani.

    When Jack tried to explain what trust is and why he doesn’t trust him, Julian struggled to understand the concept. This psychopath assassin is somebody who will kiss you passionately then, quick as a snap, give you a Sparta kick down an oubliette. 

    As Leo Bernardi discovered.

    Leo is the second son of Don Bernardi and works as the Enforcer. He struggling to gain his father’s respect, which was doubly hard since his father is homophobic. The connection between the Bernardi Lion and Julian is a convoluted scheme cooked up by the don that makes use of the fact that Leo is gay and has to seduce the younger Castellani to the Bernardi side.

    The plot was a thrilling game of seduction, secret identities, double agents, hard bargains and rough sex. It was gripping and twisty turn-y, weaving Julian’s investigation and mafia politics with his character development, relationship with Alessandro, growing feelings between him and Leo, and a surprising secret vulnerability that explains many quirks.

    Leo might be less flashier than Julian, but the Bernardi Lion has a dominant presence, similar ruthlessness, and indomitable will to finish a mission. Used to being the brawn, he’s a lot smarter than he gives himself credit for.

    Leo is loyal to a fault but has no qualms withdrawing that loyalty when a person is no longer worthy of such gift. So when his loyalties shifted to Julian who earned it the hard way, it stayed with him for good.

    I couldn’t imagine before who Leighton Greene would pair Julian with. But now that I’ve meet him, Leo Bernardi is the perfect match. He softens Julian’s rougher edges without stifling the feral wildness that makes Julian who he is.

    We may have come from different worlds, but we fit together perfectly. We have our own secret language—a language of revenge, of love, of passion and violence.

    My favorite parts were the scenes where Julian was confused why his chest feels tight or almost painful. He was so endearingly bewildered, not realizing he was feeling emotions he never felt before. Feelings like concern, fear, happiness, and love. All because of Leo.

    His Fatal Love is a fascinating tale of vendetta, blood ties and Family vows. It is one man’s heart-opening journey and a second son coming into his own. All in all, intensely feral, wildly passionate and fatally emotional!

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Love and War
    Artist: Fleurie
    Album: Love and War

    P.S.

    West Coast Mobsters should be read in order. They’re delicious mafia romances with a fairy tale flavor.

    Witness a Cinderfella hitman style in His Lethal Desire and a darker take on Beauty and the Beast in His Brutal Heart.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of His Fatal Love. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    HIS FATAL LOVEKindle | Paperback

    If you like my content, please consider supporting me on Ko-fi or PayPal. Your donations will help keep this website going. Thank you so much!