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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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    HANDLED | CLEANSED

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    REVIEW: Death Comes To Main Street by Felice Stevens writing as A.P. Eisen

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    The Paul Monroe Mystery: Death Comes To Main Street – Felice Stevens writing as A.P. Eisen

    In the sleepy town of Thornwood Park, something dark and ugly is brewing….

    Detective Paul Monroe is investigating a routine string of break-ins when the case takes an unexpected turn. Merchants are receiving threats, and things might be more sinister than he originally suspected. Paul’s been on the receiving end of those warnings as well, but he brushes them off, not bothering to mention them to his partner, Cliff until Cliff himself is threatened.

    In fact, Cliff discovers he’s been shut out of quite a few things and confronts Paul, who doesn’t understand the problem. The situation escalates quickly, leaving them at a crossroads, with Cliff conflicted and wondering if he’s an equal partner. Now Paul finds himself not only fighting for the people he’s sworn to protect, but for his relationship and the man who means everything to him.

    When an unthinkable tragedy occurs, it’s a race against time to catch a killer who thinks he’s untouchable and has committed the perfect crime.

    Only…nobody’s perfect.


    I’ve always described The Paul Monroe Mysteries as understated. I’m not sure if it’s the right term but I liked how fuss free the stories are. They avoided grand heroics or any over the top action yet delivered engaging, suspenseful police procedurals and heartfelt romance.

    Death Comes To Main Street is the third installment. I found this darker and gritter than its predecessors. Paul and his work partner, Rob, were investigating a series of robberies, threatening notes and suspected arson that resulted in the tragic death of a close friend. These appeared to be hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community. Paul and Cliff also had to deal with homophobic neighbors who were also the main suspects.

    While there are these unpleasantness, this was also, in a way, a happy book. Paul and Cliff’s relationship were as strong as ever. They both had busy, high-stressed jobs but they made it work. They remained solid and in sync even with Cliff’s issues with Paul’s over-protectiveness. They’re comfortable and happy. That really shone through all the negativity.

    Paul took major leaps forward by coming out to his boss and co-workers. I liked that this wasn’t the focus of the story but came about as part of Paul being ready to fully embrace who he is. And I’ve always appreciated how patient and supportive Cliff was about this and everything.

    Being a detective’s boyfriend and having been involved in the last two cases, Cliff could have easily poked his nose in Paul’s new investigations. I’m so glad he did not turn into some kind of amateur sleuth. The story also repeatedly emphasized that Paul does not discuss his cases with Cliff. This is another thing I liked because it showed Paul’s professionalism. Even when his boyfriend was harassed, Paul admirably kept his cool and handled it like the pro he is.

    Cliff’s involvement in the case, albeit through some unfortunate circumstances, happened naturally. The author did a great job letting his character shine even with Paul working closely with another character.

    This series has a good supporting cast. Rob stood out the most because he’s Paul’s partner and best friend. He’s always the first to defend Paul against the stupid and the bigoted. Also, there’s Annabelle who’s not even on page 99% of the time but is strongly felt because Rob always mentions his adored wife. There was the introduction of a new character, Joshua. His appearance added an interesting minor thread to follow.

    This time around, the series amped up it’s procedural by showing us the nitty gritty of the investigation. While realistic and detailed, it moved things at a brisk pace and happily, did not bore us with minutiae.

    The villains were all given so it was a matter of Paul and Rob finding enough evidence to arrest them. I like this approach to mystery because it’s not so common. Usually, we are left to guess the identity of the bad guy. Proving the guilt of the obviously guilty but slippery is interesting as well as satisfying. For me, it reflects real life crime. Wherever we are, there’s always some notorious lowlife who manages to evade arrest despite repeat offenses.

    Death Comes To Main Street gives us the things we love about the series while spicing it up with a tiff and a little more grit. There’s some low-key flash and bang but still a roller coaster of emotions, going from love and passion to grief, fear and anger, to acceptance and relief. Ultimately, it leads us to a happy end but leaves us hanging at the very last second. So not my favorite way to close a story but it does set the next one up nicely.

    P.S.

    Follow Paul as he finds himself with Cliff, stumbles upon dead bodies and catch bad guys in The Paul Monroe Mysteries. The books should be read in order. Check out my review of the first two books below:

    Couldn’t Cheat Death by A.P. Eisen
    Diagnosis: Death by A.P. Eisen

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

    Soundtrack: Walls
    Artist: Stokeswood
    Album: Walls


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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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    KINDLE
    AUDIOBOOK
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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


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    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: Tallowwood by N.R. Walker

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    Tallowwood – N.R. Walker

    Cold cases, murder, lies, and an unimaginable truth.

    Sydney detective August Shaw has spent the last decade of work solving cold cases. Since the death of his boyfriend eight years ago, August works alone, lives alone, is alone — and that’s exactly how he likes it. His work is his entire life, and he’s convinced a string of unsolved cold-case suicides are linked to what could be Australia’s worst ever serial killer. Problem is, no one believes him.

    Senior Constable Jacob Porter loves his life in the small town of Tallowwood in the middle of the rainforests in northern New South Wales. He runs summer camps for the local Indigenous kids, plays rugby with his mates, has a close family, and he’s the local LGBTQIA+ Liaison and the Indigenous Liaison Officer.

    When human remains are found in the camping grounds at Tallowwood Reserve, Jake’s new case turns out to be linked to August’s cold cases, and Jake agrees they’re not suicides at all. With Jacob now firmly in August’s corner, they face one hurdle after another, even when more remains are found, they still can’t seem to gain ground.

    But when the body of a fellow police officer turns up under the same MO, it can’t be ignored anymore. August and Jake must trace the untraceable before the killer takes his next victim or before he stops one of them, permanently.


    Another beautiful masterpiece from N.R. Walker!

    Tallowwood is intense, gripping and moving with just enough fluff to keep things from becoming too dark.

    August Shaw is a cold case detective working on an 18-year old serial killing case that nobody takes seriously, mainly because the victims were gay. One of them was his boyfriend, Christopher, who he found dead in their bathtub 8 years ago. It was made to look like suicide like the other victims. But August knew Christopher wouldn’t take his own life.

    August ‘wears his grief like an old coat‘. He’s drawn into himself, he’s socially awkward, an asshole to others and very, very determined to prove that what were ruled as suicides were actually murders. He’s almost to the point of obsession. It took a small town constable with a winning smile to shed light on a little known fact: the gritty detective could be so damn adorkable!

    Jacob Porter is a senior constable in Tallowwood who contacted August in order to consult him with a case that might be related to the detective’s. Jacob is a cheerful, very likable person who’s also smart and very good at his job. He is a ray of sunshine with a side of bossy. You have no choice but to love him.

    The two men discovered they worked well as a team. They go over case files, visit families of victims, open old wounds, and sought fresh perspectives for that much needed break in the case. While doing so, they bond over food, small town life, Scarlet the cat, and kookaburras.

    The book treated its subject with appropriate gravity and depth. It talks about grief, loss, needing closure and giving oneself a chance to move on. Even with these weighty themes, the story didn’t feel too heavy. The author was able to inject humor with perfect timing. It done so naturally without ruining the profundity of the moment.

    My heart went out to August. I could feel his grief and frustrations pouring off the page. He’s one of those characters who badly needs a hug. I loved how Jacob showed him simple acts of kindness that worked so effectively. He made him feel safe and cared for. The romance was appropriately slow-burn and one of the best of its kind out there.

    Tallowwood is a complex, well-written police procedural. I liked how it focused 80% on the mystery while still delivering a wonderfully done second chance romance. Not only was the mystery hard to solve but people in high places were placing roadblocks whenever they could. I thoroughly enjoyed going through the nitty gritty of the investigation. I was in the dark until the author dropped the big hints.

    I loved how the author built up the suspense and brought everything together in an explosive climax. All loose ends were resolved completely and we were even gifted with a delightful epilogue. I couldn’t ask for a better ending.

    This is the kind of book you’ll want to read non-stop from start to finish. I would have done so if not for the need to sleep. I recommend reading this on a weekend so you could binge. And remember to always watch the kookaburras.

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Dead Hearts
    Artist: Stars
    Album: The Five Ghosts

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