Badlands: The Rising – Morgan Brice
A big storm is brewing, there’s a killer on the loose, and the ghosts of Myrtle Beach are restless. Psychic medium Simon Kincaide and his sexy cop boyfriend, homicide detective Vic D’Amato have their hands full helping the Grand Strand brace for rough surf, driving rain, and high winds as a winter storm roars toward shore.
Everyone’s on edge, and rumors are rampant about sightings of Blackcoat Benny, a ghostly omen of danger, and worse, the Gallows Nine, the spirits of nine infamous criminals hanged back in the 1700s, a harbinger of disaster. Rough tides wash the wreck of an old pirate ship into shallow waters, high winds threaten to damage an old mansion with a dark past, and the citizens of the beach town hunker down to ride out the storm.
As the skies grow dark and the sea turns wild, several men from prominent local families end up dead under suspicious circumstances. Simon’s premonition confirms Vic’s gut feeling—the killing is just getting started. As Simon tries to reach out to the spirits of the murdered men to help the investigation, he’s attacked by malicious ghosts that don’t want anyone getting in the way of their long-overdue vengeance.
With the storm hammering the coast, and new victims piling up, Simon is certain that the sins and secrets of the past are coming due, and that the murders have a supernatural link. Vic and Simon race to stop the murders against an unholy deadline, but as they battle rising tides and risen ghosts, can they save the intended victims without getting trapped themselves?
The Rising is the second novel in the Badlands series. It is a MM romance intended for readers 18 years of age and older.
Hmm…I don’t know if I’m in a slump but I wasn’t into this the way I was with the first book, Badlands.
I like Simon and Vic and appreciated that the book avoided the usual petty squabbles between couples, focusing instead on the adjustment to their new life and dealing with the fears and dangers of being in a relationship with a cop and a psychic. However, much as I like these developments, I can’t help feeling that the execution of their couple downtime felt a little mechanical a.k.a kind of blah. This is something I’ve noticed with Morgan Brice‘s books, the smexy times are not necessarily forced into the scenes but they don’t feel organic either.
The book is a great mix of police and psychic procedural, taking time to lay out the step-by-step of the investigations and Simon’s rituals. Simon had to deal with dead pirates, sunken ships, haunted houses and vengeful ghosts while Vic tackled a case of multiple suicides, murder and possibly, spirit possession. The cases crossed paths and led them to two ghosts who were bitter enemies back in the day when they were privateer and pirate. And one of them had a special connection to Simon!
As interesting as these sounded, I wasn’t surprised by any twists. I found that answers came too easily, via visions. This is convenient and welcome since it makes life easier and safer for Simon and Vic but it also makes it easier to predict the outcome. I guess it makes a nice change from the usual vague and obscure psychic visions but unfortunately doesn’t help in creating tension and excitement.
The highlights for me were the seances and these were definitely suspenseful and exciting. Narrator Kale Williams did a wonderful job creating varied voices, some pitiful and some malevolent and he was able to amp up the scare factor effectively. As if that’s not scary enough, it’s quite something to read about these events in the dead of night where spirits were summoned, witches worked their magic and a storm unleashed its fury while an actual one is raging outside right at the exact moment. Talk about realism!
What’s also fascinating about this book are the rich folklore and the magical practices that the author was able to make good use in the story, particularly through Miss Eppie’s and Gabriella’s talents, in addition to Simon’s academic background and his skeleton crew’s gifts Their hoodoo and witch magic made them formidable enemies so it’s a good thing they got Simon’s back. I want to see more of these folk magic again in the future.
Overall, The Rising had all the right ingredients but some things were bland and predictable. This could be a ME thing because many people gave it high ratings. I’d still read the next books. The Badlands series, and Brice‘s paranormal universe as a whole, has many interesting elements that I would like to explore. I’ll give this one a passing grade for now.
Badlands books are best read in order. Review of book 1 here
Other psychic series you might enjoy:
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
Peter Darling – Austin Chant
Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is.
But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.
Peter Darling is a brilliant retelling of the classic story of Peter Pan.
Peter, who knew he was a boy and not ‘Wendy’ his family insists he should be, returns to Neverland after ten years only to find the Lost Boys and the pirates are no longer at war.The first person he announces his presence to is, of course, his favorite rival, Captain Hook.
“To die,” Peter began, “would be an awfully big—”
“Don’t start that again,” Hook said. “Surely you could have come up with something new to say after ten years.”
Peter promptly re-ignites the war and there were the inevitable casualties. In one of their battles, Peter and Hook were trapped together in the tunnels. They had no choice but to work together. Peter in a vulnerable moment, grieved the loss of an important friend. This is where Hook surprised him.
“I find that enemies are the most satisfying people to share secrets with,” Hook said. “If you must tell someone, tell someone who’s sensitive to all our vulnerabilities, on account of trying to exploit them.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
Peter soon discovered that he and Hook had many things in common. They were both dreamers who had gone to Neverland to make their dreams come true. Peter dazzles with his youthful energy, his arrogance and confidence that he could be anything he wants to be in Neverland. Hook was a revelation! He is dastardly, ruthless and greedy but also a cultured dandy, sardonic, charming, a man of his word and a skilled artist. It is hard to erase the image of the Disney Captain Hook in my mind but Austin Chant did a good job recreating this supposed villain, this caricature of a pirate into an engaging character capable of sympathy and love.
I felt narrator Mark B. Knight’s quiet, almost monotonous, almost clip voice didn’t quite deliver the right kind of emotion. Also, it was helluva lot confusing that the faeries have masculine sounding voices despite the female pronouns though this is probably consistent with the transman theme. At first, the narration threw me off and though I know the story was really good, I couldn’t fully get into it until Hook made his big move. Turns out, Knight’s style was perfect in delivering the right amount of tension to capture that momentous, explosive moment when these two mortal enemies stopped being at each others throats and were suddenly at each others lips! After that I was hooked! Sorry, I had to say that.
Peter Pan and Captain Hook! Who knew it would work out! There’s hope for all you bitter rivals out there!
Hook gave a low chuckle. “Your obsession is flattering, Pan. And I share it.”
“Is that not what they call it,” Hook said, “when two men can think of nothing but each other?”
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away