Note: another long post so you can skip to the end for the tl:dr version if you want. looks like this is turning out to be a series review month
Bad Behavior was one of the best series I’ve read back in 2018. This gritty, partners to lovers, police procedural cemented L.A. Witt and Cari Z‘s status as one of the best writing duos for me. Just when I thought Andreas and Darren’s story was over, we get another awesome installment and a floofy floof short story.
This is a review of Books 5 and 5.5.
Bad Behavior: Protective Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z
Detective Mark Thibedeau is perfectly happy doing his job in Internal Affairs and going home to his cat. Still, when his assistant wants to set him up on a blind date, he can’t help but be intrigued.
Dr. Ryan Campbell loves the frenetic pace of working in an emergency department. He likes his life and doesn’t need anyone. But that guy his colleague wants him to meet does sound pretty interesting.
It’s instant chemistry when they meet—and instant chaos.
That chaos isn’t just phone calls interrupting dates. When a patient comes into the ED rapidly bleeding out from a gunshot wound, Ryan suddenly finds himself in possession of evidence that could very well put two white cops in jail for killing an innocent black man in cold blood.
Not sure what else to do, Ryan takes the evidence to the only cop he can trust—Mark.
Now Mark is investigating a delicate case, and Ryan is a material witness, and putting their fledgling relationship on hold is the least of their problems. Dirty cops stalk Ryan and his colleagues. Higher-ups question Mark’s investigative integrity at every turn. Worse, he’s tugging at threads of a citywide systemic problem of cops getting away with racially motivated murder.
And there are cops with blood on their hands who will gladly kill to keep that system running.
CW: Racially motivated violence, white-cop-on-black civilian violence
This book is #5 in the Bad Behavior series, but can be read as a standalone.
I read in L.A. Witt‘s post somewhere that Protective Behavior began as series narrator Michael Ferraiuolo‘s suggestion. This book was a pleasant surprise. It’s a story I didn’t realize I wanted because I didn’t really pay that much attention to IA Detective Mark Thibedeau. After learning of its existence, I was like, oh yeah, about time we have a book about Internal Affairs cops.
We first met Mark in Book 1, Risky Behavior, as the IA detective who thought Andreas was a dirty cop. He and Andreas were both grumpy assholes who butt heads all the time. Andreas’ daughter Erin later worked as Mark’s assistant. She wrangled him into a blind date with a doctor friend, Ryan.
Mark and Ryan are two very busy men who had no lives outside work. They immediately hit it off but barely got around to their second date, let alone some smexy times, due to ongoing investigations and medical emergencies. They tried. Boy, they really tried but the call of duty always had impeccable bad timing.
I felt their initial meeting was, deliberately, a conventional blind date, perhaps as a reminder that they were really just ordinary people cockblocked by extraordinary circumstances.
Some time after they began dating, Mark found himself investigating a suspected murder of a black man by white cops. The more Mark uncovers, the more he realized this could very well be a systemic problem.
The case was brought to his attention by Ryan. The doctor was the one who attended the victim. The man handed him a recording of the incident as he lay dying . This makes Ryan a witness and thus off limits for any romantic endeavors. It also made him a target of the psycho cops who were looking to get rid of evidence.
I might have initially overlooked him before but the authors did a good job making Mark a likable character here. He’s not a flash and bang guy. He’s more of a solid, dependable, dogged determination gets the job done kind of guy. He goes home to a spoiled cat. A dead giveaway that this hardened detective is really a softie.
Ryan’s more of the same, albeit more playful and flirty. Right away, they understood the kind of high stress, demanding job the other man had. They made their relationship work despite those hurdles. I liked that they were kind of low-key compared to the flashier Andreas and Darren because it feels right to their story. I also appreciated that they were both in their 40s and this is not an age-gap romance.
The story is first and foremost, a police procedural. I really enjoyed this because it’s my first time to read a book that focuses on Internal Affairs. IA investigations are trickier than normal cases. Cops don’t snitch on other cops. Especially their partners.
The plot was well-written. It was easy to follow but still giving plenty of twists and turns that kept me at the edge of my seat. Any police procedural aficionado would love all the nitty gritty investigative stuff.
This is a very timely book that reflects real life events, specifically racism and Black Lives Matter. These issues were handled well. I read one review that says the story tries too hard to make a point. I did find some parts repetitive but not preachy.. All in all, gripping and relevant .
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bit
Bad Behavior: Cuddly Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z
Detective Andreas Ruffner is less than thrilled when his husband and partner, Detective Darren Corliss, announces they’ll be cat-sitting for a couple of weeks. He’s even less pleased when he realizes the cat in question is a large grumpy thing with razor-sharp claws and no regard for personal space.
When Darren deploys the puppy dog eyes, though, Andreas is powerless to say no, so they’re on kitty detail… and despite his best efforts, Andreas is a sucker for the critter shedding all over his apartment and stealing his husband’s affection.
It’s only for two weeks. Plenty of time for the cat to get on his nerves, but not nearly enough for her to trick him into falling in love with her. Right?
This 15,000 word short story is Bad Behavior book 6, and is best read after Protective Behavior.
So I mentioned above that Mark goes home to his cat. The cat is Harley, a giant hairy ball of fluff with no regard for personal space. She jumped on an injured Mark and opened his stitches. So she was sent to live with Andreas and Darren for a couple of weeks while Mark recovers.
This short story is full of adorable cat antics and besotted humans. It is a demonstration of how cats can win over even the most anti-cat person. Witness grizzled detective Andreas being trained by the cunning Harley to become her personal seat cushion, much to the delight of his husband, Darren. Photographic evidence was promptly obtained for posterity.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bit
Michael Ferraiuolo was right on the money when he suggested Mark’s book. Protective Behavior certainly added another dimension to the series by giving us a peek at the inner workings of the Internal Affairs Department. It is a solid police procedural tackling real life issues with a gentle, low-steam romance that goes perfectly well with the story’s vibe. Cuddly Behavior is the squishy cherry on top, a veritable catnip to all cat lovers.
Protective Behavior can be read as a standalone but why stop at one? Experience all the different ways to misbehave in the first four Bad Behavior books: Risky Behavior, Suspicious Behavior, Reckless Behavior and Romatic Behavior.
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Bedknobs and Broomsticks: I Buried a Witch – Josh Lanyon
Something old, something new, something borrowed…something blacker than the darkest night.
Cosmo Saville adores his new husband, but his little white lies—and some very black magic—are about to bring his fairytale romance to an end. Someone is killing San Francisco’s spellcasters—and the only person Cosmo can turn to—the man who so recently swore to love and cherish him—isn’t taking his phone calls.
The only magic Police Commissioner John Joseph Galbraith believes in is true love. Discovering he’s married to a witch—a witch with something alarmingly like magical powers—is nearly as bad as discovering the man he loved tricked and deceived him. John shoulders the pain of betrayal and packs his bags. But when he learns Cosmo is in the crosshairs of a mysterious and murderous plot, he knows he must do everything in in his mortal power to protect him.
Till Death do them Part. With their relationship on the rocks, Cosmo and Commissioner Galbraith join forces to uncover the shadowy figure behind the deadly conspiracy…
Can the star-crossed couple bring down a killer before the dark threat extinguishes true love’s flame?
I Buried a Witch is the second book in the smart and sexy Bedknobs and Broomsticks romantic gay mystery trilogy. If you like endearing characters, spell-binding conflict, and spooky, good fun, then you’ll love Josh Lanyon’s tale of a blue knight and his slightly wicked witch.
The first book, Mainly by Moonlight, fell somewhere between like and love but there are no doubts I loved this sequel.
I Buried a Witch picks up right after Cosmo and John’s honeymoon. Their honeymoon glow was short-lived. Occult-related murders were found and Cosmo couldn’t help but once again poke his nose in police business. This did not go well with his police commissioner husband which led to a blow up which led to Cos blurting out his biggest secret!
I was very happy with the fact that finally! John knew. I love slow-burn romances but ironically, I have no patience with storylines where there’s a big secret and the characters string us along with their will they or won’t they tell dilemma. So it was such a huge relief when everything came out in the open. This is a major reason why I liked this book better.
With these big reveals came character developments that kicked the story up a notch. Now that Cosmo was out as a witch to John, I felt more sympathetic to his plight. He was more likable now that he had less reasons to lie.
John was his usual hot/cold persona. He’s not exactly cardboard but he’s a very typical Lanyon love interest. Sure, I rooted for him and Cos because the author is really good at making this kind of thing work but I wished we could get inside his head.
Many Josh Lanyon stories were written in one POV only, usually the dramatic, talkative MC. Rarely do we get the perspective of the more stoic love interest. Hopefully, the author might decide to
have mercy on us poor readersshake things up and give us dual POVs.
These quibbles aside, the writing hooked me from the beginning. It was a fast-paced read. With most of the world-building established in the first book, this second installment is more focused on moving many elements forward and answering some questions, including why John is resistant to Cosmo’s spells. The perp was the kind that was obvious once the character came on page but I still enjoyed tagging along with Cosmo as he goes about his mundane and magical business.
Overall, this is an engaging second book that kept me intrigued until the end. It did a great job building on the previous events, drawing us deeper into this wonderful world of witches and magic. Many question were still left unanswered. Many things were hinted at, one of which, witchkings and MPreg?! Whoa… I’m definitely sticking around for more of Cosmo’s witchy woes.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Ramen Assassin – Rhys Ford
When life gives Kuro Jenkins lemons, he wants to make ponzu to serve at his Los Angeles ramen shop.
Instead he’s dodging bullets and wondering how the hell he ended up back in the black ops lifestyle he left behind. After rescuing former child star Trey Bishop from a pair of murderous thugs, he reluctantly picks his guns up again. It seems trouble isn’t done with Trey, and Kuro can’t quite let go… of either danger or Trey.
Trey never denied his life’s downward spiral was his own fault. After stints in rehab, he’s finally shaken off his Hollywood bad-boy lifestyle, but not his reputation. The destruction of his career and relationships was epic, and no one trusts anything he says, including the LAPD. When two men dragging a dead body spot him on a late-night run, then try to murder him, Trey is thankful for the tall, dark, and deadly ramen shop owner not just for rescuing him, but also for believing him.
Now caught in a web of murders and lies, Trey knows someone wants him dead, and the only one on his side is a man with dark secrets. Trey hopes Kuro will stick around to see what the future holds for them once the dust settles, but from the looks of things, neither of them may survive to find out.
Kurotsuki ‘Kuro’Jenkins whose name literally means black moon (and how cool is that!) tried taking it easy. He really did. As a veteran black ops agent, he had many dangerous missions under his belt. He wanted to do more had he not been seriously injured and was forced to retire. He was doing a good job lying low so far when trouble came running towards him in the form of Trey Bishop, former child star and recovering addict. The former black ops turned ramen chef had to help because he has a soft spot for underdogs. Plus the man was a regular customer.
Harrington ‘Trey’ Bishop III went down the route of most Hollywood child stars. He has done it all and been in and out of rehab for most his life. Now at 28, he’s washed up and lived on his father’s dole-outs. In all fairness to Trey, he was really, sincerely trying to get better. Just that, no one believes him. He routinely jogs anytime he feels the urge to drink or shoot. It was on one of these runs that he met bad luck in the form of two men trying to dispose a dead body in the wee hours of the morning. Lucky for him, a certain ramen shop owner he has a crush on was secretly packing high calibers and saved his ass.
“…you’re my particularly favorite brand of trouble.”
Their mutual attraction had been going on for months. It was the alleyway incident that finally broke the ice. The ramen chef has white knight tendencies and the younger man brought out his protective side. The romance happened over the few days of things going tits up. I didn’t mind the insta-ness of it all. Dead people aside, it was soft and sweet. I was sold.
I appreciated the way Kuro handled Trey’s many issues. He did not try to ‘fix’ him. He could see outright that the former actor was doing his best to deal with his demons. I especially approved of the way he stood up for him when Trey’s sister, Kimber, was putting him down yet again.
I admired Trey’s determination in the face of all the negativity he received especially from his own family. His only friend was his father’s former mistress. He needed an extra boost and Kuro was the guy to give him what he needed. I rooted for Trey all the way. He’s a genuinely nice person who had the misfortune of growing up in Hollywood and picking up many bad habits. It’s not all that bad because some of the moves he learned on sets were used in a creative ways to help him out of sticky situations. Which made things a whole lot of fun.
Bonus that Ramen Assassin contains an interesting lesbian couple. If ever Rhys Ford decide to write FF stories, if she hasn’t yet, Boom Boom and Kimber is a good place to start. I’m super intrigued with how a former Russian spy and an LAPD police lieutenant would make it work.
Kimber is Trey’s older sister by 15 years. She bucked family expectations by becoming a cop. I didn’t like her at first. She hardly gave him the benefit of the doubt and she said many harsh words. But she redeemed herself in the end. Tatiana aka Boom Boom aka Black Widow is Trey’s dad’s bodyguard/right hand woman/former demolitions expert. She and Kuro had a colorful history together. Now she’s on their side. She almost stole the show.
Face claims are in order:
This is my first full-length Rhys Ford novel. I wasn’t disappointed though not entirely blown away either. It fell somewhere between like and love. I enjoyed how she brought all the elements together, from Kuro’s hush-hush past to Trey’s sordid family dramas and how they inter-played nicely with the murder mystery and the romance. Many of the characters were well-fleshed out, even if some were not entirely likable. The latter was more in keeping with a character’s personality and not due to poor writing.
I prefer mysteries where the villain was present most of the time, just not obvious. This gives a more satisfying aha moment but trickier to execute without making it predictable. Still, the mystery was a good one, leaving me guessing until the last 20%. The turn of events made it plausible that the MC finally met the villain face-to-face at the time he did. Though I felt it would be more interesting if he made an early appearance.
Ramen Assassin is very much a story of people struggling to start a new life. It is also an entertaining murder mystery with action scenes this side of OTT and plot twisty enough to keep things exciting. Even if it’s only an HFN, I’m so glad things are finally looking up for Trey. They might not be on my top ten but I’m fully invested on him and Kuro and will follow their next adventures.
Time for that comeback!
Rhys Ford stories here
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
Bedknobs And Broomsticks: Mainly By Moonlight – Josh Lanyon
A gay high-society wedding. A stolen book of spells. A love-threatening lie. Can a witch avoid a murder rap without revealing the supernatural truth?
Cosmo Saville guiltily hides a paranormal secret from his soon-to-be husband. Thanks to a powerful love spell, uncertainty threatens his nuptial magic. But when he’s arrested for allegedly killing a longtime rival, he could spend his honeymoon behind bars…
Police Commissioner John Joseph Galbraith never believed in love until Cosmo came along. Falling head over heels for the elegant antiques dealer is an enchantment he never wants to break. So when all fingers point to Cosmo’s guilt, John races to prove his fiancé’s innocence before they take their vows.
As Cosmo hunts for the real killer among the arcane aristocracy, John warns him to leave it to the police. But with an unseen enemy threatening to expose Cosmo’s true nature, the couple’s blissful future could shatter like a broken charm.
Can Cosmo find the lost grimoire, clear his name, and keep John’s love alive, or will black magic “rune” their wedding bells?
Mainly by Moonlight is the first book in the sexy Bedknobs and Broomsticks romantic gay mystery series. If you like spellbinding suspense, steamy fun, and a dash of paranormal, then you’ll love Josh Lanyon’s charming tale.
My 3.5-star streak continues with Josh Lanyon‘s latest offering, Mainly by Moonlight, book 1 of Bedknobs and Broomsticks. With her nifty unlikable-characters-but-made-me-commit-to-the-series-anyway trick, Lanyon shakes up her usual murder mystery fare with magic, witches and antiques.
The Bedknobs and Broomsticks world has magic but not heavy on spells. It’s built along the lines of Practical Magic and Bewitched so it has a cozy feel to it. Whatever cutesy nose twitches it has is tempered by unideal character traits and false pretenses. There is a good balance between these elements though I needed to consciously put myself in the mindset that the flaws are part of the charm a.k.a. not ding the book for it. The unconventional set-up made the romance more interesting but admittedly, an acquired taste.
Cosmo Saville is a witch and not just any witch. He’s a veritable witch royalty. His mother is the Duchess, heir to the position of Crone. He is engaged to be married to the police commissioner, John Joseph Galbraith, whom he met two weeks ago. It was a whirlwind affair bought about by a lovespell. On top of their controversial romance, witches keep their identities secret by necessity, which means Cosmo had to constantly lie to cover up his suspicious endeavors. Not at all auspicious.
Since Cos is an antique dealer by trade, he tended to namedrop antiques and art pieces I’m too lazy to google so some references he’s trying make were lost on me. It did not significantly affect my enjoyment of the story. However, the jury’s still out on him. I didn’t like the lying part but he did insist on having the lovespell removed so that counts for something. I am also convinced he genuinely loves John who explicitly told him he hated liars. Uh-oh. What now, Cos?
John, I’m more inclined to. Was it just because of a lovespell? His mysterious resistance to Cosmo’s Jedi mind tricks argued otherwise. I am willing to be swayed because I have inklings as to where this is heading. For me, the commish was the biggest mystery of all. He is older and, in many ways , reminded me of Sam Kennedy from The Art of Murder. But what do we really know about the man? Almost nothing as far as and I can tell. I doubt Cosmo truly knew his fiance. I’m itching to find out what’s behind the hot/cold persona.
Mainly By Moonlight is very much a mishmash of a series opener. I am invested enough to see things through but there were times where I’m just there for the ride which was what made me deduct some stars. I wasn’t exactly bored but the murder mystery wasn’t something that actively engaged my attention either. The victim barely registered as a person. The other characters had passable personalities. The ones that stood out were Cosmo’s mother, his best friend and John’s little sister who I think will be playing an even bigger role in the coming events. There were no concrete resolutions yet. Threads were left open for the next books. Characters hinted to be the main villains flee the scene as soon as they were introduced. Them getting away with it made me want to see some witch-on-witch showdown. Keeping my fingers crossed for that.
Happily, despite being held at gun point by a crazed witch, the wedding did happen. Vows were exchanged, promises were made, feelings were laid bare. Of course, Cosmo conveniently forgot to mention one important detail. I’m pretty sure this little omission would come biting him in the ass. When truths are exposed and trusts are broken, will there be enough love left to keep their marriage alive?
Josh Lanyon books here
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
Hazard and Somerset: Pretty Pretty Boys – Gregory Ashe
After Emery Hazard loses his job as a detective in Saint Louis, he heads back to his hometown–and to the local police force there. Home, though, brings no happy memories, and the ghosts of old pain are very much alive in Wahredua. Hazard’s new partner, John-Henry Somerset, had been one of the worst tormentors, and Hazard still wonders what Somerset’s role was in the death of Jeff Langham, Hazard’s first boyfriend.
When a severely burned body is discovered, Hazard finds himself drawn deeper into the case than he expects. Determining the identity of the dead man proves impossible, and solving the murder grows more and more unlikely. But as the city’s only gay police officer, Hazard is placed at the center of a growing battle between powerful political forces. To his surprise, Hazard finds an unlikely ally in his partner, the former bully. And as they spend more time together, something starts to happen between them, something that Hazard can’t–and doesn’t want–to explain.
The discovery of a second mutilated corpse, though, reveals clues that the two murders are linked, and as Hazard gets closer to answers, he uncovers a conspiracy of murder and betrayal that goes deeper–and closer to home–than he could ever expect.
I think this really couldn’t have worked.
You got a married man with a kid who cheated on his wife. CHEATED!! which is a total deal breaker for me. I don’t care if he was set up, he could always walk away no matter what honeyed trap was dangled in front of him. Also he’s a drunkard. A coward. And too good looking.
Then you have a surly, stubborn detective with zero people skills who rubbed everybody the wrong way. Who was bullied by said married man when they were in high school.
This is not your standard recipe for an MM romance. This sounds more like that dish best served cold but, with Gregory Ashe’s magic, makes for a truly engrossing enemies to lovers(?) story. Question mark because they were barely even friends at the end of the first book. This is as slow burn as it can get, as per other reviews, they didn’t become a couple until a few more books. Which is totally fine by me because I tend to complain about things going too fast anyway.
But how can you make a set-up that screams lose-lose work?
John-Henry Somerset pushed Emery Hazard down the stairs when they were in high school. He is now married to his HS sweetheart, albeit estranged because, as MM writers love to say, he was betrayed by his traitorous dick. Emery went back to his hometown to solve an old mystery of why his HS boyfriend committed suicide. Facing old bullies is painful and awkward and I feel for Hazard right there. To be fair to Somers, he knew he fucked up and he really did try to make it up to Hazard. Somers is the type of person who wants to be liked by everybody so of course he practically begged Hazard to like him.
Hazard and Somers’ interactions go from
“You touch me again,… you shake my hand, you grab my sleeve, you so much as bump me in the mother-fucking hallway, and I will kill you. Do you understand me?“
to Somers’s smiled his normal frat-boy smile. “So,” he said, drawing out the word. “You like me?” “God, you’re a fucking moron.”
to “Just like fucking high school“
Always with a smattering of USTs bubbling just below the surface. The chemistry is fantastic! I don’t even actively like these two men but yeah, go for that second chance!
USTs are all good but they can only take you so far. What really made this stood out is how well the author fleshed out the complicated and not necessarily romance-related relationships between these flawed, complex characters in a way that just draws you into them. Many times I want to smack them in the head. Sometimes I feel sorry for them. Once in a while I could say they’re OK. There were no neatly tied conclusions. Things will continue to remain awkward and unresolved for a while.
Nico deserves a mention. He was the grad school student who pursued Hazard and they were kind of cute together so I imagined a parallel universe called Nico & Hazard.
This book is really a murder mystery story. The detectives were working on a vandalism case and a homicide where one unidentified body was burned inside a trailer. Hazard, being Hazard, made himself a few enemies while Somers played the good cop, charming everybody with his megawatt smiles. The investigation introduced us to important personalities of Wahredua, among them, extremists at the polar opposites of the spectrum. Both were responsible for so much vitriol and trigger warnings. Their hate speeches could put off some readers but you can always skip these parts if it’s too disturbing. As for the mystery, it was obvious who the bad guy was but it was such a well-written book and well-narrated too (courtesy of Tristan James), I didn’t mind it. Then Hazard had to go be a distrustful fool and things went from pudding to poop real quick for him and Somers.
Apart from the obvious appeal of the MM romance angle, Pretty Pretty Boys has all the good stuff-of a great police procedural novel where there is a nice interplay between the police work and the personal issues, compelling main characters, tightly written prose and engaging storytelling that kept me glued to the book. It’s a solid start to an addicting series and I’m definitely excited to see how things will play out.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Seven Of Spades: Trick Roller – Cordelia Kingsbridge
It’s the height of summer in Las Vegas. Everyone believes the serial killer Seven of Spades is dead—except Levi Abrams and Dominic Russo—and it’s back to business as usual. For Levi, that means investigating a suspicious overdose at the Mirage that looks like the work of a high-class call girl, while Dominic pursues a tough internship with a local private investigator. The one bright spot for both of them is their blossoming relationship.
But things aren’t so simple. Soon Levi is sucked into a dangerous web of secrets and lies, even as his obsession with the Seven of Spades intensifies. Dominic knows that Levi isn’t crazy. He knows the Seven of Spades is still out there, and he’ll do anything to prove it. But Dominic has his own demons to battle, and he may be fighting a losing war.
One thing is certain: the Seven of Spades holds all the cards. It won’t be long before they show their hand.
Summer is here. Dropping by Dom and Levi. It’s good to see the two are progressing rather nicely in their relationship. They are working out the kinks and I am enjoying these moments even though I know something catastrophic happened later. Fair warning: do not read the blurbs of the succeeding books. Major spoiler alert.
Maybe Dom’s ‘talent’ for lying charmingly had something to do with their issues in the next book. Here he used it for a good cause, he was making sure Levi’s apartment was safe under the pretext of cooking him dinner, so kinda okay but then coupled with his gambling addiction, this talent thing could go spiraling downward into the abyss. Don’t go there, Dom!
I’m getting way ahead. Damn that spoiler!
Fave moment: when Levi said to Dom, “Fight me.” I got the goosies.
Loved that Carlos and Jasmine had their big moment.
Trick Roller didn’t disappoint. The Seven of Spades was presumed dead by all except Levi, who was obsessed, and Dom, who discovered the SOS got their eye on him, Levi and their friends all this time. How are they pulling it off? I think Rebel knows them or else she would have reacted aggressively. Hmm…
This installment was not as fast-paced as Kill Game but still it still grabbed me and didn’t let go. I like that there’s equal focus on the crime suspense part and the romance part. Sometimes in police procedural MM, the romance part is distracting, like I feel the MCs should be doing their jobs more and do each other less. Here, Cordelia Kingsbridge was able to give Levi and Dom their quality time together without detracting from the investigation. Great execution overall.
Another thing that stood out for me with this series in general is how the author made a conscious effort to include as many female characters as possible. I’m so used to the average MM book where you get two significant female characters or three tops, usually, a bestfriend, an ex or mom. Here, majority of the supporting characters are female, even the ‘extras’, like a random forensic tech or private detective. It’s a nice change from the usual roles women typical play in MM stories. It also supports my guess as to the identity of the SOS. I know I suck at guessing the killer’s identity but maybe for once, I’m right on the money. Maybe.
The main storyline for book two is an SOS-unrelated case of a dead doctor, assumed to be a victim of a trick roller. One of the interesting aspects of the case is that the victim was universally hated by all including his wife so that it became a question of who wanted him dead the most. Martine and Levi spent a lot of time going through a list of suspects while Dom was undergoing his internship at a private detective agency, working on a cheating spouse case. Trick Roller ended with the homicide case somehow tying in with Dom’s case and the SOS. That it happened wasn’t that surprising given that the SOS was bound to make their presence felt sooner or later but how everything came together was still believable and the twists were nicely done.
Levi, Martine and Dom were also called as witnesses to the case related to the first book. That courtroom scene was super intense! I could see why people hate lawyers. Poor Levi was painted as the bad guy. Not condoning serial killings but it felt good to see the SOS put a stop to the lawyer’s bullshit right in front of the media.
I didn’t mind that it ended with a cliffhanger. All the books are released already so you can binge on the entire thing. Seven of Spades is a highly recommended series for those looking for great crime thriller reads you can sink your teeth into. The MM romance part is just cherry on top. Also, there’s an adorable dog.
Whether Rebel knows the SOS or not, I trust her to do her job but now that all bets are off, how long can Dom and Levi stay in the game?
Trick Roller is not a standalone. I recommend reading Kill Game first, review here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Bad Behavior: Romantic Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z
Detective Andreas Ruffner is no fool—he’s found a man who loves him, puts up with him, and has stuck with him through hell and back, and it’s time to put a ring on it. Darren Corliss is the love of his life, and he wants the whole world to know it.
Now the fun part—the wedding!
Well, after the not-so-fun part of planning the wedding in between dealing with overbearing and impossible-to-please family members. With future mothers-in-law driving them both up a wall, the guest list growing out of control, and the wedding getting ever more complicated, Darren and Andreas have to wonder if they’re in over their heads.
But they’re going to make it to the altar if it kills them … and at this rate, it just might.
Andreas finally found the nerve to put a ring on it but the process of getting through the preparations was as tough as one of their cases. As long as it ended up with him and Darren being married to each other, neither of them tried to complain. Everybody is happy for the couple and Emily is excited to be the flower girl but Andreas’ mother is another story.
I am ecstatic they’re making it official! After what L.A. Witt & Cari Z put them through last time, I would riot if this doesn’t end happily. Luckily Romantic Behavior gave the boys their much deserved happy ending.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
Bad Behavior: Reckless Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z
After too many years of putting his job first, Detective Andreas Ruffner is getting his priorities straight. He’s ready to spend some quality time with his adult kids, not to mention come clean about some things he should’ve told them a long time ago. And introduce them to his partner and boyfriend, Darren Corliss.
But in a heartbeat, a family dinner turns into Andreas’s worst nightmare. When the dust settles, one of his kids is hurt, and the other three have been abducted.
Andreas is going to find his kids, and nothing, not even a broken ankle, is going to stop him. Thank God for his sharp, level-headed partner … who has a crisis of his own pulling him away when Andreas needs him the most. As both men try to support—and lean on—each other, they get no closer to finding the kids. And the longer the children are missing, the less likely it is they’ll ever be found.
It started with Andreas and Darren having dinner with Andreas’ kids, Erin, Ben, Casey and Emily with Andreas introducing Darren as his boyfriend and dropping the HIV bomb. Ben took it well but Casey needed more time to process it. After dinner, the girls went for a bathroom break and Ben and Casey went to their car. Next thing Andreas heard were gunshots and a car crash, then his ex-girlfriend Lisa was panicking because the girls were missing.
From then on, the story went on a relentless pace that had me feeling exhausted for both Andreas and Darren. Andreas was still nursing the broken ankle he got from the previous case and he can barely walk. It didn’t stop him from taking the lead in the investigation because heaven help anyone who gets in his way.
This abduction case took all they got. Andreas and Darren barely had any sleep. The boys were pushed to their limits but even as tragedy struck they kept pushing back. Andreas would have probably lost it but Darren was his rock. The case highlighted how much they have come to mean to each other and how solid their relationship is. I love the Han Solo shoutout!
One good thing that came out of this was that their fellow cops rallied behind them albeit somewhat grudgingly since Andreas and Darren were still on their blacklist. Even Internal Affairs was moved.
Family bonds is a key theme in the book and even though the case was a nightmare, there remains a strong feeling of love, care, devotion and dry humor to lighten things up. Andreas’s family remained close and Andreas is friends with both his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend who in turn were both supportive of his relationship with Darren. Andreas kids were amazing and tough, especially Erin who, despite Andreas’ reputation, has endeared herself to everyone at the police station when she started working there as an intern. She gave them a much needed break on the case. I hope she follows her dad’s footsteps because she makes a good cop. Darren’s mom and stepdad also gave much needed support to everyone even though they themselves have to deal with grief. The main antagonist himself was motivated by familial ties.
Both Risky Behavior and Suspicious Behavior were awesome reads but Reckless Behavior stood out as being the most personally case the Andreas and Darren had dealt with. The boys suffered dead ends, setbacks and personal tragedies but throughout all these they remained strong. The execution of the plot was practically flawless, the characterization and writing were on point. Michael Ferraiuolo expertly wrung out every emotion from every word.The hopes and frustration, exhaustion and pain, the terror and suspense and finally the relief and peace. It was beautiful!
5 Stars – absolutely perfect
Bad Behavior: Suspicious Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z
Detective Darren Corliss is hanging by a thread. In between recovering from a near-fatal wound and returning to work at a hostile precinct, he’s struggling to help care for his ailing brother. His partner and boyfriend, Detective Andreas Ruffner, wants to help, but doesn’t know how. And with his own family crises brewing, Andreas is spread almost as thin as Darren.
For cops, though, life takes a backseat to the job. When a stack of unsolved homicides drops into their laps, Andreas and Darren think they’re unrelated cold cases. But when a connection surfaces, they find themselves on the tail of a prolific serial killer who’s about to strike again.
Except they’ve got nothing. No leads. No suspects. Just a pile of circumstantial evidence and a whole lot of hunches. Time is running out to stop the next murder—and to pull themselves back from their breaking points.
Phew! Our boys can’t catch a break. What with the hostility from their peers, Asher’s rapidly worsening Alzheimer’s, Andreas’ family trouble and a serial killer on the loose.
Narrator Michael Ferraiuolo continued to impressed me with his delivery. He was not only reading, he was really acting. I love the small but effective touches he added, like the sniffling, the coughing, the little laughs. It gives an extra something to the narration. Really awesome!
This is another addicting case to follow and I liked L.A. Witt & Cari Z’s take on the serial killer trope. Usually, it takes the entire book to uncover who the serial killer is. In this case, they know who the killer is, they just had a devil of a time proving it. Their evidence were all circumstantial.
The case proved to be a very frustrating one. They were sure their main suspect was it but life threw them curve balls and red herrings which nearly broke Darren’s confidence. Ironically, it was Andreas who remained optimistic. Their strategy was out of the box and as was their way, involved bending the rules slightly. It was great to see Andreas and Darrin evolve into a power couple, both personally and as working partners. They have developed a sort of telepathic connection where each of them instinctively knew what the other was thinking. This kind of bond usually takes years to form but Andreas and Darrin just synced really well.
The climax was full of suspense and fraught with great danger that was compounded by the fact that the other detectives continued to hold grudges with Andreas and Darrin. Detective Paula Morris, Andreas’ loyal friend and one of the best characters of the series, played a crucial role.
Although the story was still written in dual POV, I think this was a slightly Darren-centric story. He had to deal with brother’s condition and the possibility that he too might have the gene. He was also the one making major conclusions on who the serial killer is. In addition, we get to know more of Andreas’ background and family life and witness Darren squeeing at Andreas interacting with his four year old daughter, Emily.
Suspicious Behavior, the second book of the Bad Behavior series, moved Andreas and Darren’s relationship forward, dealt with the repercussions of their first case and showed that they can handle cases outside narcotics.The workaholic pair were tenacious in their pursuit of case and weren’t afraid to get creative with the rules. It was only when they broke their bones were they forced to have that much needed break. Overall, the plot was gripping with cleverly written twists and turns and major arc and character developments all around.
Review of book 1, Bad Behavior series, Risky Behavior here.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away