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    SERIES REVIEW: Handled Books 2 & 3 by Romilly King

    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.


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    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!

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Animal Impulses
    Artist: IAMX
    Album: The Unified Field


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    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.

    Not anymore.

    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.

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

    Soundtrack: My Witness
    Artist: The Irrepressibles
    Album: Mirror Mirror

    P.S.

    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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    REVIEW: Handled by Romilly King

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    Handled – Romilly King

    Serial killers think if it all goes south and they finally get caught that their swan song is a day in court, making the families relive the agony while they get off on that delicious pain, all over again.

    Not happening. Not anymore. We’re not making celebrities out of monsters. We’re not giving them a stage to strut on.

    Now they get an audience of two.

    One to Handle the problem, one to Witness it.

    I’m a Witness. I trained for six years to do my duty, to manage my contracted killer, and to watch justice be done.

    I knew it would be hard, the first time, to watch the eye for an eye moment.

    I expected to feel a lot of things – fear, disgust, guilt.

    I didn’t expect to feel turned on.

    And I didn’t expect my contracted killer to look quite so pretty with blood on his hands.

    HANDLED is a dark gay romance with themes of justice, retribution, and unsuitable love. It is not for the faint of heart and contains graphic scenes intended for an adult audience. Further trigger warnings inside.


    So deliciously dark! I love Gray!!!

    I’ve read a lot of serial killer mysteries and just when I’m getting the same old same old feels about the genre, Romilly King creates this novel world of Handlers and Witnesses in her riveting new series, Handled. The way I see it, it’s fighting monsters with monsters.

    Handled introduces us to a government program where they controlled and trained young psychopaths into Handlers. Basically killers sanctioned to render whatever punishment they see fit on serial killers roaming in the wilds. To make sure these Handlers are doing their jobs properly and within the bounds of the law, they are assigned a Witness each. It goes without saying that Witnessing is a very dangerous job. Attrition rates are extremely high.

    The book is a police procedural of sorts. We follow Gray and Nathan as they go about their business of investigating the prime suspect and establishing concrete evidence for their cases. The government requires hard evidence before they are allowed to handle a certain client a.k.a the guilty party.

    The world-building here was very well-thought out. It was done without much info-dumping. Everything felt real. I had no problems following the set-up. The jargon was easy to pick up. I got some slight dystopian vibes from it. Especially with the government involved.

    It’s Nathan’s first time to Witness and he was assigned the best and most notorious Handler, Gray. Now this Handler doesn’t play well with others. When Gray doesn’t like a somebody, the least you can expect is lose an eye. The rare exception is Nora, his long-time Witness, who is now passing the baton to Nathan.

    It was lust at first sight for our young rookie. Like most psychos we loved, Gray exuded that magnetic charisma that had Nathan mesmerized even with the full knowledge of what the man is capable of.

    Gray loves pain. All kinds, whether inflicted by him or on him. When he is in a killing mood, the man is intense! That big scene with Nathan and his client at the climax was pretty nasty. But it was glorious!

    I wouldn’t put it past her to plant the seeds knowing something might blossom because the wily Nora chose the perfect man as her successor. Nathan was totally green, he made errors that could have been fatal. But Gray sensed he was different.

    Nathan was a bit naive but direct. He’s scared but he didn’t give his Handler bullshit. He was respectful of Gray, taking time to ask him about his background instead of simply reading his file. He sassed him back once in a while too.

    I love Nathan! As he acclimatized to his grim job, we see him drawing out Gray’s various nuances. The way he complemented Gray’s personality, they just fit so naturally. I appreciated him for considering that Gray could be something more than what the system thinks he should be.

    And holy heck, the chemistry!!!

    The dynamics between the two was fantastic. They played off each other so well. The interactions were fraught with danger and sexual tension. Any minute Gray could snap. You’d never know if he would kill Nathan or fuck him. Both really.

    I am so happy the book is written in dual POV. Not knowing what goes on inside Gray’s head would be totally frustrating. I love that even though we are privy to his thoughts, it didn’t diminish his mystique. He’s still an enigmatic figure you’ll want to know more about. I enjoyed watching him deal with feelings Nathan is making him feel, feelings that are mostly foreign to him.

    Handled grabbed me and didn’t let me go. It’s a great balance of blood, gore, sex, and romance with a huge heaping of mystery, suspense and sprinkles of sweet. I didn’t find any of the scenes gratuitous. The plot just worked so well.

    I can’t wait to get more of Gray and Nathan as they mete out bloody justice while slowing finding their way to a happy ever after. But for now we are gifted with that super sweet ending.

    Please do heed the trigger warnings. I wouldn’t outright recommend this because it gets pretty dark. But if you dare…

    “Gray is the book you don’t skip to the last page of to see if your guesses are right. Gray is the book you read slowly and savour.”

    P.S.

    Handled is not a standalone novel. Rightly so because you’ll never be satisfied with just one book.

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Used To The Darkness
    Artist: Des Rocs
    Album: Let The Vultures In


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    REVIEW: How To Elude A Vampire by Alice Winters

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    VRC: Vampire Related Crimes: How To Elude A Vampire – Alice Winters

    Finn
    When the vampire stalking me sent me a letter, I was prepared for my new life with the man I love to get thrown into chaos. But as the days stretch on and nothing happens, I become determined not to allow that monster to rule my life, and decide that Marcus and I will move on. We can’t always allow the past to haunt us. If that includes pestering Marcus and harassing my fellow detectives, they’d better learn to love it, because I’m not going anywhere even if they like to remind me I’m the only human working in a department filled with vampires. But Marcus loves me for who I am, even if he’s not crazy about the cute pet names I call him like McBitey. Being with him is more than I could have dreamed, and even with the trials thrown in our way, he never fails to make me smile.

    Marcus
    When Finn joined the VRC, I never expected how everything would change. Now that he’s the brightest part of my days, I’m unsure of how I existed without him. Before Finn and I can settle into our new life together, we’re called in as lead detectives when a body is found in the river, and the case soon hits closer to home than we anticipated. I want to be by Finn’s side to keep him safe, but at the same time, Finn’s fighting for the freedom he’s always wanted after being forced to live a life of fear. What I do know is that my future is with Finn, no matter what happens.

    How to Elude a Vampire is the second in the VRC series and contains a display of manly prowess that doesn’t go as desired, reluctant bonding with a new pet, interfering with a snarky Russian’s love life, misuse of office supplies, a vampire with a killer fashion sense but very little game, a total lack of ancient kung fu powers, a feisty human who almost always gets his way and the possessive vampire who adores him.


    How To Vex A Vampire left us with a huge cliffhanger. As I mentioned in my review of the first book, I got too excited about the second book and read the reviews. I learned the name of Finn’s stalker is Dollmaker.

    HUGE clue right there.

    So I spent the sequel anticipating the big reveal because I knew I was right.

    I was!

    Far from feeling that the book was predictable, I was actually enjoying it more because knowing this guy was close to Finn most of his life only made it more sinister. Mostly, I wanted to see how it would play out.

    How To Elude A Vampire picks up six months after the events in the first book. Marcus and Finn are happy and have everything they need excerpt for that looming threat. They are now staying with Finn’s father, Orin, because his house is the most secure. Or so they thought.

    A series of murders connected to the Dollmaker, attacks right inside Orin’s house, more warnings from the stalker to quit the VRC, and overly protective vampires drove Finn up the wall. He’s tired of living in fear and feeling controlled.

    Nightmares that were actually memories revealed past events that led to Finn losing his arm and leg. We finally learn about Finn’s past as well as the history of vampires.

    I loved how the vampires rally to protect Finn. My boy Karsyn grumps his way through the book but you could tell he’ll die for his human friend if needed. There’s a great addition of Claude, Marcus’s outrageously dressed, outrageously flirty, surprisingly smart brother, who latched on to a certain snarky Russian vampire. These two!!!

    And we have Marcus. I have a better appreciation of Marcus here because six month earlier, he would have wrinkled his nose at the mere thought of interacting with humans. Now, this big bad vampire is so completely head over heels over his tiny human that he’s willing to make a fool of himself just to make him laugh. Witness another Date. Also, a lot of adorable mushy stuff.

    Marcus trying to impress Finn ♡ (≧◡≦) !!!

    With Finn and Marcus as an establish couple, the primary focus was the mystery. There were several nicely deployed plot twists that I didn’t see coming. There’s still a lot of snark and gags that were sometimes repetitive. There were many scenes where they completely ignored the pressing issue at hand just to exchange snarks. However, the plot moved at a fast pace and laid out Finn’s troubles in a way that kept me consistently engaged.

    The build-up, the showdown and the comeuppance played out quick but intensely suspenseful. All throughout the scene, I was at the edge of my seat wondering how Finn is going make it out of there alive. But the man is smart and resourceful and resilient as fuck. That and Marcus.

    How To Elude A Vampire gives us a happy end to Finn’s stalker woes. I kind of wish Finn was turned into a vampire just so he wouldn’t be injured so easily (and spare Marcus the agony of seeing the love of his life live die of old age while he gets to live forever <– my main issue with human + vampire couples) but that epilogue was super sweet.

    I’m glad the author did not drag this stalker business out for several more books. I felt as relieved as Finn and just as ready to move on to happier matters.

    Namely, Karsyn and Claude.

    P.S.

    The VRC books are not standalones and should be read in order. Witness how a short, sassy human charmed a grumpy, confident, 300-year old vampire into the best worst date ever in How To Vex A Vampire. Review here.

    Posts on Alice Winters books here.

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

    Soundtrack: Treat Me Like A Doll
    Artist: Girls Rituals
    Album: Reddishness


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    REVIEW: How To Vex A Vampire by Alice Winters

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    VRC: Vampire Related Crimes: How To Vex A Vampire – Alice Winters

    Finn
    Getting into the vampire-only detective unit was the easy part; what’s going to be more difficult is dealing with my new partner, an ancient vampire who keeps threatening to eat me. The unit has never had a human in it, and Marcus—or as I like to call him, Fangy McFangface—would really prefer to keep it that way. He’s grumpy, short-tempered, and broody, but I have a way with words and I know he’s starting to like me, even if he swears he’s not. But what he doesn’t know is that I didn’t join the unit because I was tired of being a homicide detective, I joined because there is someone after me. They’ve already taken enough from me and I’m afraid they’re going to take all of me if I don’t find someone to help. That’s all Marcus was supposed to be, but now, he’s so much more and I can’t imagine my life without him.

    Marcus
    The moment the pesky human walked through that door, I knew I had to get rid of him. He’s charming and almost everyone else instantly loves him, but he doesn’t understand how risky it is being part of this unit as a human. But as I get to know the stubborn man, I learn that perhaps he’s not as naive as I once thought. And maybe he’s what I needed to realize there is more to life than just work and my dog. A group arises who is threatening to disrupt the alliance between the humans and the vampires, but Finn is the one who shows me how strong that alliance can be and reminds me why it’s worth protecting. When threats hit closer to home, I realize I would do anything for Finn because he’s brought so much joy to my life—and because he’s mine.

    This 105k word book contains: A creative use for undergarments, unintentional splits, a wolfhound who just wants to be a part of things, a vertically challenged human who still manages to wrap every vampire he meets around his little finger, the best date ever, possessiveness, really awkward dancing, some workplace revenge, and just a bite or two. Or three. 


    I have read about three Alice Winters books so far, the first Hitman’s Guide story and the two In The Mind installments. I noticed that her pairings usually come in the form of a persistent, outgoing, flirty lead pestering a stoic, reserved, grumpy love interest who secretly enjoys the pestering but doing his manly best to resist. I’m enjoying the heck out of these chases especially when the other shoe drops.

    How To Vex A Vampire is another paranormal offering set in a world where vampires are free to mingle among humans after a bloody history of persecution and deaths. The VRC is a police department who handles any case related to vampires.

    Finn finally managed to get himself into the department, something he worked hard and schemed hard to achieve for entirely very personal reasons. He was partnered with the notorious Marcus Church, a vampire detective known for his gruff manners.

    The book presents several mysteries. First is the case of a murdered female vampire and a drug that drives vampires into a feeding frenzy. There’s also a hooded ancient vampire stalking Finn for more than a decade. They know next to nothing about this entity but this is the only thing that puts real fear into the heart of the spunky Finnegan Hayes.

    The two MCs hinted at some secrets of their own. Marcus’s true status as a vampire is not known to most. Finn had to make a few educated guesses. The biggest mystery of all might be Finn himself. What makes this little human so special that high-level vampires rally to protect him?

    I love Finn! Finn is, in Marcus’s words, a tiny, fragile human. He lost an arm and a leg from a car accident. He now wears high-tech prosthesis, something Finn goes out of his way not to advertise. Our boy is out to prove that he can stand toe to toe with big bad vampires. He has proven again and again that he can. He’s a man on a mission to kill a very specific vampire. Meanwhile, he’s also hellbent on pursuing one other bloodsucker…

    Poor Marcus tried to put up immovable walls but alas. As the two detectives go about finding the bad guys and before he even realized it, Marcus was swept away by the unstoppable force that is Finn. It was a lot of fun to watch! Check out The Date.

    The book stands out for its humor. It does not have the exhausting hyperactive wackadoodle antics of The Hitman’s Guide. It has a more toned down but still OTT snark for snark exchange that is as funny but not as overwhelming.

    There’s suspense and a lot of action but the focus here is on the character interactions and romantic development. The police procedural aspect might not be the most realistic or even accurate but still procedural enough for us to feel these guys are doing their jobs.

    The VRC series has a great cast to work with, many of them memorable. So it’s no surprise that a couple of supporting characters have books of their own, like my grumpy Russian, Karsyn, and nice guy, DeGray. I’m excited to get to their stories.

    This series opener ends with a cliffhanger so we will be continuing the hunt on the second book. Finn has now charmed enough vampires to form an army. One very vexed vampire is right in front, ready to tear the world apart for him.

    Time to end this elusive ancient threat!

    P.S.

    And so because I got too excited for book 2, I read some reviews and learned the name of this mysterious stalker vampire is Doll Maker. This is giving me ideas! Could it be him?!

    Posts on Alice Winters works here.

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

    Soundtrack: Walls Down
    Artist: Memba feat. EVAN GIIA
    Album: Saga-II


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    REVIEW: Lost In The Mind by Alice Winters

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    In The Mind: Lost In The Mind – Alice Winters

    After the last incident—which involved a serial killer—Chevy and Seneca are considering puppy wrangling as a new, safer profession than psychic detective work. Honestly, Seneca would prefer to focus on his new relationship with Chevy, even if he’s worried about the menacing countdown calendar leading to Chevy’s birthday. But when homicide requests some assistance from them, they have no idea what they’re getting into. And if they’d known what would happen, they definitely would have gone with the puppy wrangling.

    When an elderly couple is found dead in their own home, Chevy and Seneca are pulled into the case. But what’s unusual is that it appears neither of them were killed; instead, they simply stopped existing. Even with Chevy’s ability to go into the memories of the victims, he’s unable to tell what happened to the seemingly normal couple.

    That is, until it happens again. This time, the victims are found alive, all of them kneeling and staring at a blank wall as if hypnotized by it. It’s up to Chevy and Seneca to figure out what is drawing these people and who might be manipulating them.

    But when Seneca begins to act strangely, Chevy becomes concerned that he might also be affected by what is controlling the others. Chevy will do anything to keep the man he loves safe and as far from “The Light” as he can. But is it too late?

    Lost in the Mind is 94k words of banter, the strangest salad ever, and the strengthening of a bond (especially after Chevy’s birthday). This book follows the events of Within the Mind but focuses on a new case. 


    Chevy and Seneca’s second adventure still delivers the same hilarious WTFuckery but tones down the creepy mindfuckery.

    The two men are gifted law enforcement officers. Chevy can access people’s memories, Seneca can copy any gift. They were partnered together because Seneca keeps Chevy grounded.

    Both men are in their late 20s going on 5 because they are the epitome of mature, civilized adults. Mature, civilized adults whose very juvenile sense of humor includes ridiculous bets about having sex on tree branches, eating a head of lettuce while on a stakeout and inappropriate jokes about their boss to their boss’s face. It should have long gotten them fired long ago.

    But hey, everybody loves the uber charismatic Seneca. Who can talk everybody into doing anything, including murder it turns out. So they let him get away with everything.

    Meanwhile, Chevy, introverted and usually overlooked, finally got his own admirer. Seneca got jealous for one hot minute then recruited said admirer into his Chevy fan club. You gotta love his devotion to his man.

    I am happy that these two are settling together quite nicely. The book is written from Chevy’s point of view. He’s still as enamored with Seneca as he was in the first book. And still makes it his mission to aggravate the man. Seneca is still proudly demonstrating his love for Chevy in his inimitable Seneca way. The only change is that now, Chevy is no longer shy about showing his love back.

    After the events in Within The Mind, these two dorks have became inseparable. As in living together, working together, holding hands while going after bad guys inseparable.

    The new case is a very baffling mystery where individuals were found kneeling in front of a blank wall seemingly mesmerized. Investigation revealed these individuals were called by a light, enticing them to surrender to it. It turns them into fearless freaks with no regard to danger or consequences.

    While I wasn’t as creeped out as the first case, this still has it’s fare share of scare amped up by scenes where pairs of eyes all move simultaneously to stare at Chevy and by narrator Joel Leslie’s bad guy voices. The villain behind the light wasn’t as malevolent as their first serial killer. His ‘good intentions’ were pretty twisted though.

    This is a solid paranormal series although the world-building is nebulous at best. There is not much details about people, places and gifts. We don’t know where gifts come from. It’s only mentioned that it’s already there before. It’s also hinted that Chevy’s gift is more powerful than he thinks. Seneca’s gift also had a surprising twist and him getting his dark lord mojo on was one heck of a turnabout. I hope we get more explanations in future books.

    Lost In The Mind was quite the head trip. The story felt both slow and fast. The case was difficult and took a while to solve. The plot cycles through humor to horror to fluff at breakneck speed.

    One moment Chevy and Seneca are faced with the Pillow Case Cult (<- best cult name ever) ready to sacrifice them to The Light, the next we got an over the top birthday celebration complete with room full of balloons, a chastity belt and tunnel exploration. In between, we get quiet, tender moments of finger cuddles and warm fuzzies. It’s enough to give one whiplash.

    But I’m already ready for more outrageous Chevy and Seneca shenanigans. Bring on the next psycho!

    P.S.

    In The Mind series is best experienced in order. Witness Chevy hopelessly pining after Seneca, Seneca futilely chasing after Chevy because that’s how these two idiots roll in the first book, Within The Mind. Review here.

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

    Soundtrack: Light’s On
    Artist: Secret Machines
    Album: Now Here Is Nowhere


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    REVIEW: Devil’s Hour by Aimee Nicole Walker

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    Zero Hour: Devil’s Hour – Aimee Nicole Walker

    Devil’s hour, noun: the hour when the demon or devil who leads hell is at its strongest.

    Born on the wrong side of the tracks, Royce Locke is no stranger to scrapping and fighting for the things he wants. What he desires most is Sawyer Key—his partner on the force and the man he’s falling in love with. After asking Sawyer to take a chance on him, Royce will need to back up his pretty words with fearless action instead of being his own worst enemy.

    Someone is harassing the mayor of Savannah, and Locke and Key are tasked with finding out who. The investigation quickly takes a twisted turn, leading them to an enemy who thinks purification by fire is the only way to save the city. Scarier than The Purists’ elusiveness is their ability to turn public opinion in their favor, creating unrest and threatening anarchy by fanning flames and fear. When you play with fire, someone is bound to get burned.

    When menace becomes murder, the two detectives will race the clock against the devil to save their beloved city from becoming a raging inferno. Royce will need to draw on his grit now more than ever if he hopes to realize the dreams that are finally within reach. The rag is lit, the Molotov cocktail is tossed, and the zero hour is upon them. Challenge received and accepted.

    Devil’s Hour is the second book in the Zero Hour series, which follows Locke and Key’s investigations and evolving relationship. This is a series that must be read in order. Devil’s Hour has a happy-for-now ending with no cliffhanger. It contains mature language and sexual content intended for adults 18 and older.

    Trigger warning: Part of the storyline involves coming to terms with a friend’s suicide, which may be difficult for some people to read.


    The clock is ticking. Savannah is poised to ignite as purists threatened to set the city on fire. The mayor is involved in a scandal along with other people in high places. It’s up to Locke and Key to uncover the mysterious entity hellbent on purifying the sinners.

    This case came months after the events in Ground Zero. Royce and Sawyer are gradually settling down, work-wise and relationship-wise.

    Devil’s Hour follows the same style as the first book. The detectives followed several angles, dead ends, a few minor cases, sometimes apprehending suspects that had nothing to do with the case. Like with the previous installment, I really liked this because it felt realistic that they’re working on several things at once. However, this time around, the mishmash of things that were happening felt a bit all over the place.

    I was happy that we got Royce’s POV. This is something I was hoping for. In the first book, Royce came off a bit dickish. Hence, the name Detective Dickhead. Although, he did slowly open up to Sawyer as the story progressed.

    Here, I had a better understanding of his hurts, doubts and insecurities. Royce came from a fucked up environment and feared that he might fuck up whatever good things he had in life. Most especially what he had with Sawyer.

    Royce is grieving the loss of his bestfriend and former partner, Marcus, who died of suicide. He is desperately seeking closure. This is one of the overarching threads of the series that I’m also eagerly following. It talks about how somebody you thought you knew your whole life could keep so many secrets. Secrets that could turn Royce’s already upside down world inside out.

    Royce might like to think he’s no good but I really admired his dedication to his late partner’s wife, Candy, and her kids. No matter how overworked he is, he always managed to squeeze time to help her out whenever she needs him.

    Sawyer is my favorite character here. He had his own share of grief but I love his optimism, his level-headedness, his willingness to reach out first and communicate openly no matter how difficult the subject and his overall goodness. Like the time he had food delivered to Candy because she needed a break and some sustenance. He really put much thought in what kind of food he thinks her family would like. And he hasn’t even met her and the kids yet.

    Eventually, they wrapped up the mayor’s case. It was complicated due to the people involved. I was in the dark most of the time. I had my suspicions once a certain character was introduced. I’m happy I guessed right.

    I liked how this revealed bigger, more insidious crimes. Not everything came together neatly. The ending left some threads open for Marcus’s upcoming revelations in book 3, as well as another case awaiting trial.

    Devil’s Hour started with heat and ended with somebody burned. There were many unpleasant things that happened. There were sex scandals, religious nutcases, IA business, hackers, arson and more. In the middle of all this, Royce realized how much Sawyer mean to him.

    Royce and Sawyer’s partnership went from strength to strength. Their relationship evolved rather nicely and it was wonderful to see Royce, finally, 100% in.

    About time, Dickhead!

    P.S.

    The Zero Hour books are not standalones. Best to start with Ground Zero and see how Detective Dickhead met Detective Asshole. <- yes seriously that’s how they call each other when they’re feeling especially affectionate. Review here.

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

    Soundtrack: Fire That Burns
    Artist: Circa Waves
    Album: Different Creatures


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

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  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Ground Zero by Aimee Nicole Walker

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    Zero Hour: Ground Zero – Aimee Nicole Walker

    Ground zero, noun: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change.

    Heat, humidity, and homicide are things veteran detective Sawyer Key expects to encounter on his first day with the Savannah Police Department, but the hostile reception from his new partner catches him by surprise. Sawyer isn’t a stranger to heartache and recognizes that Royce Locke is a wounded man who’s reeling from a devastating loss. Relentless and patient in all things, Sawyer is determined to make the new partnership work.

    Savannah, Georgia is known for her quirky people, oak trees draped in Spanish moss, and antebellum architecture. Beneath the Southern charm and hospitality, festering hatred and violence is soaring with the summer temperatures. Locke and Key find themselves at the epicenter when their first case involves the death of a former shock jock who appears to be the victim of vigilante justice.

    Opposites in nearly every way, the two detectives set aside their differences to take back their city and restore law and order. From this reluctant truce, an intense attraction grows that will either tighten or shatter their tenuous bond. Falling for his partner spells inevitable disaster, but Sawyer’s always been a sucker for wounded things. Sawyer could be the key to the life Royce has always wanted, if he’s brave enough to trust him. The fuse is lit, the clock is running, and the zero hour is upon them. Tick tock.

    Ground Zero is the first book in the Zero Hour series, which follows Locke and Key’s investigations and evolving relationship. Ground Zero has a happy-for-now ending with no cliffhanger. It contains mature language and sexual content intended for adults 18 and older.


    “I mean, I want you to mourn me properly, but then I want you to find an epic love. Promise me right now, Sawyer.”

    Sawyer’s husband, Victor, has passed away two year ago, leaving a hole in his life. After some scandal in his old precinct, he was recruited by the SPD and partnered with the notorious Royce Locke

    Everyone knows Royce Locke is an asshole. He’s quite flirty with the ladies but gave the impression that he doesn’t really care. He just lost his old partner who’s also a close friend and so very not looking forward to his replacement. It was kind of funny how their co-workers all took bets on how long Sawyer would last (one day) because Locke lost no time antagonizing his new partner.

    But Sawyer was no doormat. He’s not about to throw away his new job so he sassed him right back. I loved their banter! The chemistry and tension rolled off them like waves. All these while doing good work as detectives.

    Sawyer also cannot resist strays and wounded souls. He took one look at Locke and knew a cry for help when he saw one.

    The romance here started insta but evolved slowly. It first appeared that Locke was straight with his sexuality hinted as bi later on. I almost didn’t like him but I really liked how the story let the two men talk candidly about whatever issues they have, whether personal or work-related.

    It wasn’t easy nor did the conversations came out smooth but I appreciated how petty misunderstandings were avoided by laying it all out in the open. It also lead the way to Locke finally taking a step forward and me connecting with him.

    I would have paid good money to get inside his head too. He was a mystery himself. But seeing him through Sawyer’s eyes, we see how his walls come down bit by bit. Now and again, we catch glimpses of the ‘not asshole’ Locke. Somebody who’s vulnerable and grieving. A friend who took care of his late partner’s widow. A man who adores children. It made for a satisfying momentous moment when it was time for Locke to bare his soul.

    Somehow this reminds me of Hazard & Somerset but written in Somers POV. I have the audiobook and Tristan James is the narrator. He used his Somers voice for Sawyer and his Hazard voice for Locke. The book is written entirely in Sawyer’s POV and his personality reminded me of Somers. Friendly, popular but with hurts aplenty.

    One thing that sets this book apart from other law enforcement/police procedural romance, is that Locke and Key worked on multiple cases. Normally, the partners would be working just one major case, almost always a serial killing.

    Working on different cases in one book is a more realistic depiction of police work. It also gave the story a slice-of-life feel to it. The cases were complicated and interesting. There is enough procedural work here to satisfy any fan of the genre.

    This is a great opener. There’s just the right amount of mystery, suspense and romance. The HFN ending builds the anticipation for the next book. Right now, there is a future waiting to be explored and a promise waiting to be fulfilled. The two men just started their journey together. I can’t wait till they get there!

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

    Soundtrack: 1313
    Artist: The Big Pink
    Album: Future This

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  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Ex Meridian by A.E. Via

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    Nothing Special VII: Ex Meridian – A.E. Via

    Police Lieutenants, God and Day are under intense pressure from the chief to take back control of Atlanta’s streets.The last thing their task force needs is a pair of trained killers in town with a personal score to settle.

    Take a man and strip him of his ability to feel compassion, empathy, remorse, or any of the emotions that make him human, but leave the ones that ignite rage and aggression and you have the perfect killing machine—now imagine two of them.

    Code names Ex and Meridian are synonymous for ‘guaranteed death’ to international terrorists. Two broken men from the same crooked streets, recruited into an unsanctioned government program that few know about. Trained to operate most efficiently—lethally—together.

    When Ex returns from an op in Bolivia to learn his little brother has been accidentally killed in a feud between drug gangs, he’s stateside before he can consider the rules he’ll be breaking, and of course Meridian is right beside him. There’s mayhem on the streets of Atlanta and the police are losing control. If Godfrey and his elite team of detectives can’t get the job done then they’d be happy to lighten their caseloads for them. And Ex nor Meridian care about doing it quietly.

    “I know who you are.”The man grunted when Ex turned to leave.“You’re the fucking devil.”
    Meridian walked past, glaring one final time.“Say that loud enough… maybe God will save you.”

    But after their first run-in with the big lieutenant and his protective husband, Day, Ex and Meridian start to reevaluate their own relationship. Wondering if they could be even deadlier if they let loose the feelings for each other that they’ve been forced to suppress for years.

    Meridian’s dark eyes stayed locked on his, “A man who can fight beside the one he loves doesn’t make him weaker, Ex—it makes him more dangerous.”

    No multiple pairings. No cliffhangers. Ends with a HEA.

    Note: This title focuses on two new characters in the series. And while it can standalone, there are appearences from prior main characters.
    Note: This is a partners-to-lovers, out-for-you, action romance.
    Note: There are depictions of violence in this novel.


    A grieving brother out for revenge.

    A killer whose blood is literally cold.

    An assassin who kills with a whisper.

    The Devil in the house of God.

    A most compelling partners-to-lovers romance that slow-burned for eight years! Squee~!

    OTT action and suspense that’s perfectly balanced with the rest of the plot.

    God and Day’s boys coming together with their bounty hunting friends.

    Some of God’s most vulnerable moments!

    Day still winning and annoying everyone with his mouthy ways.

    The King brothers’ most painful memories coming out in the open.

    Ruxs and Green are tested as they have never been before!

    Ex seeing Meridian in the truest light.

    Meridian giving Ex the world. Ex doesn’t even need to ask. ♥(ˆ⌣ˆԅ)

    The baddest, toughest alpha pair of ’em all!

    Meridian’s dark eyes stayed locked on his, “A man who can fight beside the one he loves doesn’t make him weaker, Ex—it makes him more dangerous.”

    P.S.

    Okay, so I’m addicted to this series and I’m sticking around for good or bad. Luckily, it’s mostly good. The last two books showed huge improvements. My thoughts on the rest of the books here.
    Ms. V’s books here.

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: This Is A Call
    Artist: Les Friction
    Album: Dark Matter

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  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Within the Mind by Alice Winters

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    In The Mind: Within the Mind – Alice Winters

    Seneca is the complete package. He’s smart, sexy, and confident, much to Chevy’s annoyance. They’ve worked with each other for two years, and even though Chevy might secretly find his partner charming and attractive, playful harassment is all they have.

    Chevy was born with a unique gift that allows him to go into the memories of others. As detective, he uses this ability to find peace for victims who have been hurt or attacked. He delves into their memories and can pick out minute details that will help them put the criminal behind bars.

    But neither Chevy nor Seneca are prepared when they are asked to go into the mind of a serial killer in hopes of finding survivors. They are even more unprepared for the monsters they find inside the man’s mind. Drawn into a memory where it’s hard to figure out where the truth exists, they realize that there may be more to the serial killer than they originally thought. The dark world draws the two men together in a way they never dreamed.

    It will take everything Chevy and Seneca can give to stop the darkness that could consume their minds. As the two are forced to face what is keeping them apart, together they realize that there’s more to the mind and heart than either of them know.

    Within the Mind is a 90k word romantic suspense with lots of snark, an ominous gramophone, and finger cuddling, because we all know spooning isn’t as great as it sounds.


    A mindbending blend of hilarious WTFuckery and creepy AF mindfuckery.

    The WTFuckery comes in the form of Chevy Wright and Seneca Bates, detective partners for some unnamed agency. They have gifts, Chevy can access memories of people while Seneca can mimic any gift. When they’re not pretending to be upstanding, civilized law enforcers, they spend their time trying to one up each other in snark. Which is, like, 90% of the time.

    Chevy and Seneca are perfect foils for each other. The former is grumpy and very introverted while the latter is very flirty and outgoing. Seneca is forever declaring his love to Chevy. Chevy is forever announcing his disgust at Seneca’s antics. All the while, wanting him but giving up on ever having the man.

    I’m not an expert on this, but is Chevy demi? Because with all the innuendos exchanged by these two goofs, Chevy’s POV could have been written with many lust filled references. Instead, it was all about the longing and the pining. And the giving up because how could someone perfect ever liked someone as boring as him? Even when he was finally with the man of his dreams, he didn’t just immediately jump his bones. He took his time until he was ready.

    This was more effective in showing the depth of feelings in a relationship revolving around playful harrassment. The beauty of their relationship is that they bring out the best, and worst, of each other. The serious conversations between them are few and far in between but when they come, it’s right in the kokoro!

    The mindfuckery is courtesy of the artist/serial killer, whose gift is unknown but very powerful. The way the killer manipulated the mind so effectively it had me questioning reality. To the point I keep expecting that any jump from memory to current reality is an illusion. It was disorienting as hell. As if that’s not bad enough, he threw in creepy sound effects, endless hallways, and monsters in the dark. I got the heebie jeebies!!!

    And then at the end, when all the pieces come together, you’ll find yourself, quite unexpectedly, feeling sorry for the monster. All in all, it was a nicely done murder mystery.

    Within the Mind is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. The humor could be too juvenile to some but when you’re comfortable enough to show your weird to a person and he shows his weird back, that’s a rare and precious thing. That’s how I see Chevy and Seneca when they’re trading dumbass remarks. I just adore these two!

    The worldbuilding and character descriptions are not as detailed as I would have liked. I have no clear picture of what the characters look like exactly. Nor the locations. This could be intentional since we are seeing thing’s from Chevy’s perspective. His outlook could be a little blah.

    The gifts weren’t detailed as well. Just enough basic explanation is provided. Gifts are rare and so far, four were presented in the story. I expect more gifted individuals will show up as the series progress.

    Within the Mind is best read if you’re prepared for crazy characters getting themselves involved in many ridiculous situations. Situations ranging from there’s a six-legged arachnid woman with a face full of teeth coming after me to let me talk out of my ass like Ace Ventura, pleeease!!!

    It could be worse. We’ll find out on their next case.

    P.S.

    Alice Winters books here.

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

    Soundtrack: The Memory’s Here
    Artist: Hot Hot Heat
    Album: Hot Hot Heat

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  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Promises Part 3 by A.E. Via

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    The Bounty Hunters: Promises Part 3 – A.E. Via

    A bounty hunter’s partners to lovers’ story.
    The hunt is on… and he’s the prey.

    Bradford (Ford) King was sure he had the rest of his life mapped out. Though he was no longer a SEAL Lieutenant, his brother was home safe and he had a job that still allowed him to satisfy his hunger for hunting bad guys. Life was simple, no distractions or complications – at age forty-six – that’s all Ford wanted. What he didn’t want was his work partner, sniper/watchman, Dana, giving him s**t all the time.

    Dana Cadby had grown up labeled a roughneck from the wrong side of the tracks. He’d fought, scrounged, and survived despite a father that constantly told him he couldn’t. Dana pulled himself up by his own boot straps and made a name for himself in the marksman community. He’d been Duke’s bounty watchman for five years. It was his job to ensure their safety, watch their backs. At thirty-three, he was trusted, well respected by his peers, his bosses, his friends… so why couldn’t he earn the same respect from his partner?

    Dana knew he was bisexual before he graduated high school. He also knew he was attracted to the huge, 6’3”, SEAL from the moment he and his brother came to join their team. It wasn’t easy for him to tamp down his immediate reaction to Ford’s thick muscles, full beard, and dark eyes. Still, Dana exhibited nothing but professionalism towards him, not wanting to make his ‘straight’ partner uncomfortable. So why did Ford constantly give him hell?

    After Dana took back his ex-girlfriend, he’d noticed an intensification in Ford’s bad attitude. One that turned aggressive and downright antagonistic, and Dana was damned if he’d just lay down and take it. He was gonna make that man respect him if it was the last thing he did.

    When Duke sends Dana and Ford out to track down their most dangerous bounty yet, they both embrace the fact that they make one hell of a team… but they fight tooth and nail against the powerful intimacy brewing between them.

    Beware: If Ford and Dana connect completely, god help the fugitive who’s in the sights of the hunter and his watchman.

    This story is a part of a series but can stand alone. It does not end on a cliffhanger and has a HEA.


    They were a couple of idiots but at least their story was better than Quick and Cayson’s.

    Idiot #1 is Ford. A stubborn fool who refused to acknowledge his feelings for his partner.

    Idiot #2 is Dana. Who needs to grow a pair and dump his snobby user of a girlfriend.

    The on-again-off-again girlfriend was annoying as fuck but I wasn’t annoyed with Ford and Dana. They were actually kind of amusing in the way dumb asses are amusing. Ford made a big deal about the age difference between them but he was as immature as the younger guy.

    Image result for smashing heads together gif

    Yep, they deserve each other.

    We get the usual ratio of 90% relationship woes/romance stuff, 10 % action/suspense. At this point, I already know what to expect so no sense complaining about the lack of bounty hunting procedural and other case-related scenes.

    We also get the usual not-so-deep plot and character development but despite all this, the author is especially adept at making you care for her characters. Sure, I roll my eyes at the OTT-ness of it all but at the end of the day, I really, really want her alphas to get their HEAs. Even the idiots.

    The next book is the one I’m most excited to read about. Based on the teasers, Brian’s book is going to be the best. I just know it!

    P.S.

    The best way to get to know these tough guys is to read The Bounty Hunters books in order.
    Promises Part 1 review here
    Promises Part 2 review here
    A.E. Via books here

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

    Soundtrack: I Wanna Be Yours
    Artist: Arctic Monkeys
    Album: AM

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