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    REVIEW: Buried Passions by Andrew Grey

    Buried Passions – Andrew Grey

    When Broadway actor Jonah receives word that his uncle has passed away and named him the heir to a property in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Jonah’s plan is to settle the estate as quickly as possible and return to his life in New York City. Much to Jonah’s surprise, the inheritance includes the Ashford Cemetery—and its hunky groundskeeper, recent Bosnian immigrant Luka Pavelka.

    Jonah soon discovers Luka is more than easy on the eyes. He sees into Jonah’s heart like no man ever before, and his job at the cemetery is all he has. If Jonah sells, Luka is left with nothing. Luka is there for Jonah when Jonah needs someone most, and there’s no denying the chemistry and connection between them. But Jonah has a successful career back in New York. Now he must decide if it’s still the life he wants….

    Andrew Grey is an author I’ve seen around for some time and only read recently. I regretted not doing so earlier because I practically inhaled his series, Carlisle Cops and Bad To Be Good.

    His stories are about down-on-their-luck fellows and do-gooding average joes who changed their world. His storylines are rooted in the everyday with kindness at their core. They have a certain simplicity that could be boring in the wrong hands, but he had a way of imbuing them with pathos and heart, as well as uplifting moments that I almost always end up glued to his books until the very end. They make me believe that humanity is innately good.

    Buried Passions is another brilliant example of that. Jonah Hughes is a Broadway actor in between jobs who recently inherited an old house with a cemetery, along with the hunky groundskeeper, Luka Pavelka. Little did he expect how they would change his life.

    Luka is a hardworking Bosnian immigrant who still can’t speak English fluently. Frequently overlooked and underestimated, he’s also burdened with bringing shame to his family for being gay. His broken English hides a sharp sense of humor and a keen eye for detail. He is a man who likes taking care of someone, and he found that in the kind-hearted New Yorker who is a bit overwhelmed by his inheritance. Luka’s a total sweetheart!

    The theme is seeing another person as they are. The story portrayed it at its most heartwarming in every way Luka and Jonah interacts. There is mutual respect and admiration from the beginning, and affection that grew into a soul-deep connection in the few weeks they were together.

    When Jonah’s friend said Luka looks at Jonah like he hung the moon, the rightness of it hit me hard in the kokoro! Because that is exactly how you look at someone who treats you the way Jonah changed the world for Luka.

    Their romance vaguely reminded me of one of my all-time favorite movies, God’s Own Country. It’s how Luka taught Jonah about making love instead of just fucking. It mirrors how the Romanian worker taught the Yorkshire sheep farmer intimacy during sex.

    The plot follows Jonah as he navigates the changes in his life and his blossoming relationship with Luka. It also tackles the age-old dilemma of career vs. love. Jonah had to choose whether to grab the coveted starring role he was offered in New York or stay in Carlisle, the cozy little Pennsylvanian town that already felt like home the short time he was there. I loved that this is set in the same town as Carlisle Cops.

    Like the author’s other stories, Buried Passions is deeply moving and downright engrossing. My heart bled for Luka and soared at his reconnection with his family. I was charmed by the small town coziness and swept away by the swoony romance. Although, the ending might be tied too neatly, all in all, it’s a sweet little tale about following a dream or following the heart.

    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Noticed
    Artist: Mutemath
    Album: Mutemath

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    REVIEW: The Doctor by C.S. Poe

    Magic & Steam: The Doctor – C.S. Poe

    1882—Gillian Hamilton, magic caster and Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Magic and Steam, has been stripped of his title, badge, and freedom. Gillian’s true name and powers have been exposed, so now he’s kept under lock and key. To make a tragedy worse, Gunner the Deadly has returned to his life out in the Wild West and has not been heard from since.

    Rumors of a doctor, known only as Sawbones, with access to illegal magic have persisted into the new year. Gillian believes that violence, chaos, and certain death will befall New York City if this criminal isn’t apprehended. And despite having lost his sense of purpose, Gillian knows he’s the only one capable of confronting this new madman—with or without the backing of the FBMS.

    But such dangers should never be undertaken alone. Gillian will need both Gunner’s deadeye marksmanship, as well as his love, if he’s to detain Sawbones before irreparable damage is done to the magic of his world.

    After The Gangster‘s cliffhanger hit like Gillian’s thunderbolts, The Doctor became one of my most anticipated books. The 3rd installment of the spectacular steampunk series, Magic & Steam, starts with things on an all-time low for our favorite special agent and magic caster, Gillian Hamilton.

    In fact it was so abysmally bad, I thought there should be a misery rating similar to the heat rating for sex, just so we’re warned. Gillian’s true identity was exposed. He is now in a maximum security mental asylum in Blackwell’s island, a hell hole where the mad, a.k.a rogue magic casters, were left under the tender mercies of the sadistic staff. He has attempted escape several times, even gotten very close to doing so. The latest attempt landed him in a straitjacket in solitary confinement.

    These events would have been bearable, but Gillian’s self-flagellatory thoughts and the overall tone of pure misery made things infinitely more wretched; they pulled me out of the story completely. C.S. Poe did such a masterful job making me feel Gillian’s plight that I felt a heavy weight on my chest, like the beginnings of depression. Not the author’s fault, she’s just that talented, and I, unfortunately, happened to have low tolerance for this brand of pain.

    But I knew there’s an adventure and a reunion to be had, so I picked it up again. And yes, things do take a lighter tone once Gillian was out and about once more with help from an unlikely savior.

    Where’s Gillian’s darling outlaw? Well, trust Gunner the Deadly to make a swashbuckling entrance! And save Gillian from an even direr fate. From this point, the story gave way to things we love best about Magic & Steam.

    There’s the continuation of the tenderest love story between an outlaw and a federal agent. My favorite part about their romance is the peaceful quality of it, a sort of quiet center for Gillian and Gunner in the swirl of gunfire and explosion. I’m not sure I’m explaining it well, but it’s like how Gunner sounds in the audiobook. Always calm and even, kinda zen-like in the midst of chaos.

    The titular doctor is the notorious Sawbones, a doctor who took pleasure in hacking off limbs during the war. He’s playing god, doing powerful magic never done before. Magic that is forbidden and highly unethical. While Gillian is haunted by his past, he and Gunner race to stop the doctor from his nefarious plans. Their adventure took them full circle, from NY to the wild west and back again.

    The plot moved fast with plenty of adrenaline-pumping action scenes in an immersive alt-Victorian America run by ether. Not too many steampunk gizmos this time, but the magic was wild! Now, Gillian totally owned all his powers, and he’s unleashing them full force! I got such a thrill with him casting jaw-dropping spells left and right. He could be pretty hard on himself, but our boy is the most motherfuckin’ badass magic caster there is! I adore him!

    Gillian’s superior officer, Director Loren Moore, and his informant, the Irish boxer Addison Day, play key roles in the story. Moore is also a loyal friend who always comes though for Gillian. I feel sorry for the guy. He’s been crushing on the spectacularly oblivious Gillian for years. Not sure if they met before, but I’m low-key shipping Loren and Addie. The boss deserves his HEA too.

    Also, holy cliffhanger!!!

    The Doctor is as awesome as promised. The opening chapters might have rattled me a bit, but this is a tale worth sticking around for. It’s one man’s struggle to shed a past he was forced to endure and become the person he is meant to be. A deeply emotional journey and a thrill ride that never ever loses steam!

    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Awaken (Feel Alive)
    Artist: Big Wild & Surfaces
    Album: Awaken (Feel Alive)


    Magic & Steam must be read in order. Those cliffhangers are not for the faint-hearted! Check out my reviews:

    The Gangster
    The Engineer

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    Magic & Steam: US | UK

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    REVIEW: Madison Square Murders by C.S. Poe

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    Memento Mori: Madison Square Murders – C.S. Poe

    Everett Larkin works for the Cold Case Squad: an elite—if understaffed and overworked—group of detectives who solve the forgotten deaths of New York City. Larkin is different from others, but his deduction skills are unmatched and his memory for minute details is unparalleled.

    So when a spring thunderstorm uproots a tree in Madison Square Park, unearthing a crate with human remains inside, the best Cold Case detective is assigned the job. And when a death mask, like those prominent during the Victorian era, is found with the body, Larkin requests assistance from the Forensic Artists Unit and receives it in the form of Detective Ira Doyle, his polar opposite in every way.

    Factual reasoning and facial reconstruction puts Larkin and Doyle on a trail of old homicide cases and a murderer obsessed with casting his victims’ likeness in death. Include some unapologetic flirting from Doyle, and this case just may end up killing Everett Larkin.

    Two things that always make me think of C.S. Poe are New York and neurodiverse detectives. Even before knowing she lives in the city, I always felt a distinct vibe with how she writes about NY. She has also created sleuths who have narcolepsy and color-blindness.

    Madison Square Murders is the first book of Memento Mori, a police procedural that introduces us to Detective Everett Larkin. Larkin has Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), a condition where his memory works like a Rolodex. It’s useful in investigations but a curse most of the time because he is doomed to recall past traumas in perfect detail.

    The story opens with a skeleton unearthed under an uprooted tree in Madison Square Park. A death mask was found with the remains. This brought Larkin to a forensic artist, Detective Ira Doyle.

    I was a bit hesitant to read this at first because I’m not too keen on reading a romance with the MC already in a relationship with another person, even if it’s a failing marriage. The author had partnered with Gregory Ashe in another series. I felt she took inspiration from some of his works by making Larkin already married and infusing the story with a hefty amount of angst and suffering.

    Larkin is a very compelling character. He took it upon himself to investigate the thousands of cold cases in NY because he wanted the victims to be remembered. He knows exactly how many cases are there.

    “Remembrance is the greatest act of love there is. Because… because no one is truly dead and gone, so long as someone remembers them.”

    The story is told from his 3rd-person POV. His cold and blunt personality was one of the main things that drove the story. I felt empathetic because I could relate to the mental struggles and the lone wolf-ism. I felt sorry for him most of the time. I don’t dislike him, but I couldn’t say I actively liked him either.

    Doyle is Larkin’s complete opposite. Friendly and very flirty, he always has a smile ready. And he’s way smarter than he lets on. He was so into Larkin from the get-go but took a step back when he realized the man was married. I liked how we see Doyle’s obvious attraction through Larkin’s aggressively objective perspective.

    Not much to say about the romance because it is barely a romance at this point. Rightly so, or it would have been outright cheating. They had a thing where Doyle calls Larkin ‘work husband’. It’s cute, but I couldn’t squee yet cuz Larkin has an actual husband.

    I liked how Larkin’s and Doyle’s abilities and personalities complemented each other, especially during the investigation. This book is very much about the mystery. It was super into the nitty-gritty of the police work that there was even a point where I tuned out. The amount of research for this must have been astounding. However, it grabbed me back into focus soon after a breakthrough. I was pretty much riveted after that. The story kept me in the dark right to the point Larkin realized who the killer was.

    Objectively speaking, Madison Square Murders is a strong start to a very promising mystery series. It is a very well-written story with solid police procedural and fully flesh-out characters in complicated relationships. The stellar GR ratings are a testament to that.

    Subjectively though, it’s difficult for me to write this review because I felt a nebulous meh-ness towards the book I’m struggling to articulate. It’s not the lack of romance because this one did a great job laying the groundwork for a future love story. I guess it’s pretty much how I feel about Larkin. Intense, emotional, compelling, intriguing, even magnetic, but not necessarily likable.

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

    Soundtrack: I Remember
    Artist: Deadmau5 & Kaskade
    Album: Random Album Title

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    US | UK

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    Madison Square Murders

    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!