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    REVIEW: Dysfunctional by Isabel Lucero

    Dysfunctional – Isabel Lucero

    A dark, MM romance

    Ezra Hamilton hasn’t felt the warm spurt of blood flow through his fingers or the indescribable feeling of pushing a knife deep into someone’s flesh in a long time. Too long.

    He’s been watching a man stalk women, curious as to what he’s doing with them. Ezra’s never encountered someone with similar dark tendencies before, and what starts off as genuine curiosity turns into much more when Kaspian turns the tables on him.

    As their chemistry builds, so does the mistrust. They both know they can’t trust a killer, but their inner demons call to each other anyway.

    When Kaspian’s impulsivity threatens to ruin Ezra’s freedom, he knows he has to stop him. Kas appears to be fixated on Willow—a woman Ezra works with. In an effort to not have to worry about her disappearance bringing heat on him, he tracks Kaspian as Kaspian follows Willow into a cabin in the mountains.

    There, in the middle of a blizzard, secrets will be revealed and revelations made, but the chances of everybody making it out alive are slim.

    This is a dark romance that will have graphic scenes. Warnings are on the author’s website. 18+


    Ever since Hannigram, I have been looking for more murder husbands stories so Dysfunctional is right up my alley.

    The premise reminded me of Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z Brite, where one serial killer falls in love with another. One difference, however, is that both MCs are bisexual.

    The story starts with Ezra Hamilton, a psychopathic killer trying to lead a normal life. He noticed a tattooed young man, Kaspian, stalking several women. Intrigued, he proceeded to stalk him in return. Observing that these women soon disappeared, he recognized a kindred spirit. One day, he followed Kas and his victim to a hotel, only to be confronted by Kaspian.

    This starts a little game of I-know-what-you-are-and-I’m-going-to-make-you-say-it. Later, as their relationship evolved, it turned into pushing buttons and testing limits. I’m living for the USTs and the power dynamics here!

    They danced around each, using innocent people as pawns while they exchanged long looks across the room. And this is both in the literal and figurative sense because some of the scenes happened in a club. The zing jumps off the page!

    I have a one niggle though. For experienced bad guys, they’re pretty sloppy. It’s a wonder they’re not caught yet.

    For instance, in the first few chapters, Ezra’s phone broke. He took it to a cellphone repair shop. Turns out Kas works there. I couldn’t believe, Ez just handed his phone over to Kas, knowing the guy is a fellow killer. Cellphone techs dig up a lot of shit from people’s phones. Ezra should have known better.

    Another thing, these two were not mentioned wearing gloves or any protective gear when they touched the victims. Heck, they even jerked each other off next to the grave after just burying their victim. They are spreading their DNA samples all over the place. So yeah, sloppy.

    But even with the lack of PPEs, the story completely grabbed me with its tightly paced writing that always held a thrum of tension. I loved how the plot explored the dynamics in so many interesting ways, twisting and turning with secrets and revelations that are part of a deadly mating ritual between Ezra and Kas. It became a question of who is after who. And why. It was the why that unleashed the monsters.

    There are some graphic scenes here so please heed the TWs. In terms of darkness, I say this is darkish grey. The murder scenes are short and to the point. Nothing gratuitous. There is some blood play as well. The two MCs are obviously bad guys but are shown with a code in the later part where they kill only evil-doers.

    Overall, Dysfunctional is a satisfying addition to my small but growing list of murder husbands books. It grabbed me from page 1, and I was riveted til the end. It was a weeknight, but I finished it in one sitting. It’s that good!

    There’s something so fascinating about stories where one’s crazy matches another’s insanity. Gives hope that there’s someone for everyone. Even the psychos.

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

    Soundtrack: Perfectly Deranged
    Artist: Dalby
    Album:


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    REVIEW: Madison Square Murders by C.S. Poe

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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    REVIEW: Psycho by Onley James

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    Necessary Evils: Psycho – Onley James

    August Mulvaney has always been exceptional. As the genius son of an eccentric billionaire, his off-putting behavior is often blamed on his high IQ. They say there’s a thin line between genius and madness. August is both—a brilliant professor loved by his students and a ruthless, obsessive killer tasked with righting the wrongs of a failing justice system. And he’s just found his latest obsession: Lucas Blackwell.

    Lucas Blackwell was once the golden child of the FBI, using his secret talent as a clairvoyant to help put away society’s worst. Until, with a touch, he discovers his co-worker is a killer and his life falls apart. Now, the world thinks he’s crazy and that co-worker wants him dead. He seeks refuge at a small college, hoping to rebuild his life and his reputation. But then he runs into August Mulvaney. Literally.

    August is immediately intrigued with Lucas and his backstory. He doesn’t believe in psychics, but there’s no missing the terror in his eyes when they collide in the hallway. Now, August has a problem. Lucas knows his secret, and August knows he wants Lucas. And August always gets what he wants.

    Can he convince Lucas that not all killers are created equal and that having a psychopath in his corner—and in his life—might be just what he needs?

    Psycho is a fast-paced, thrill ride of a romance with an HEA and no cliffhangers. It features a psychopath hell-bent on romance and a disgraced FBI agent attempting to redeem himself. As always, there’s gratuitous violence, very dark humor, and scenes so hot it will melt your kindle. This is book 2 in the Necessary Evils series. Each book follows a different couple.


    August is freakin’ AWESOME!!!

    We first meet August Mulvaney in Unhinged, Book 1 of Unnecessary Evils. The series is about a family of psychopaths raised by eccentric billionaire and psychiatric genius, Thomas Mulvaney. Atticus, August, Aiden, Archer, Asa, Avi, and Adam, were handpicked for their special psychological profiles, adopted, and trained to be secret vigilante killers. Each is equally talented in other fields, with carefully cultivated public personas that helped them pass as normal.

    August is the second oldest son. He loves music and enjoys the gruesome wetwork that even some of his brothers find distasteful. He doesn’t like the screaming though, hence the music. Publicly, he is a tenured theoretical physics professor, much loved by his students and well-respected by peers. It says a lot about him that he is dubbed as the weirdest psycho in the family of psychopaths. And decisive man that he is, it took only 7 seconds for him to decide that Lucas Blackwell, adjunct professor, disgraced FBI agent, and psychic, was the one.

    I loved this book so much! The cast is fantastic! I loved all the Mulvaneys. Every one of them is outstanding and gorgeous so it’s pretty hard to pick a favorite. But August could just be it. His characterization was brilliant. He is a very fascinating, complex person who always has an interesting side waiting to be discovered.

    He might be a genius with the IQ of Einstein and Hawking, but he was utterly clueless about relationships. So it was beyond endearing how he was so determined to make his relationship with Lucas work, he asked his family for help and even read five books on relationships.

    “What you are is mine. It’s my job to make you happy. I lack the capacity to do so on my own. I can’t love. I can’t feel guilt or empathy or remorse, any of the things that might help me understand what you need. All I have is research and context clues, which I’m not very good at interpreting. But I can give you what you need. I’ll do whatever it takes. But I can’t do it without help. Testing my theories is all I know.”

    Damn, these Mulvaney boys really know how to sweep somebody off their feet!

    Lucas is equally fantastic as well. He has a soft vulnerability that made August want to protect him. He spent some time in a mental health facility after he was ridiculed for identifying a co-worker as a serial killer through his psychic powers. The same killer making young girls disappear and taunting him about it.

    He immediately knew August was also one, after accidentally crashing into the professor. He was scared at first, but soon, he recognized August wasn’t the enemy. I loved how he accepted August’s quirks and how he fits. As August declared with absolute certainty within hours of meeting the man, “he’s perfect for me“. I wholeheartedly agree because he always brings out in best in August.

    Lucas crossed the room and pulled something from his pocket. August’s air pods. “I saw them in the center console and figured you could use them. I know the screaming bothers you.”

    August wrapped his arms around Lucas, dragging him in for a deep kiss, swallowing his cry of surprise. Kohn grunted in disgust.

    “It’s just headphones,” Lucas said.

    August shook his head. “It’s not just headphones. I don’t know what love feels like, but I imagine it’s like feeling I’m having right now.”

    Lucas’s face went soft, his smile radiant. “That’s the sweetest thing anybody’s ever said to me after cutting off another man’s nipple.”

    My favorite Lucas moment was at the epilogue, where he surprised August at lunch. Then he went on to relay the wild gossip about them circulating on campus. I LOLed at the part where he teased August about running away with his millions with the pool boy. They don’t even have a pool. It didn’t stop August from being adorably possessive and growly.

    Usually, when I get to the smexy parts, I stop reading or skim because I find them boring. August and Lucas are so amazing together and I loved them so much, I even enjoyed their love scenes. They are one of my all-time favorite couples!

    Like its predecessor, Psycho tackles very dark subjects. The mystery was super intriguing. It was a case of trying to pin down the killer who was also the federal agent assigned to solve the crimes he committed. When it was revealed what they were doing to the victims, it wasn’t anything too graphic but it did churn my stomach a bit. There are also scenes with torture, where pain was inflicted with glee. I highly recommend proceeding with caution.

    At its core, Psycho is a story of a man who found his person, fell in love for the first time, and wanted to do everything to make them happy. Only that man happened to be a cold-blooded serial killer and his person happened to have another serial killer hunting him. Looking past the blood and gore, it’s actually a very schmoopy, swoony book with some of the most quotable squee-tastic lines ever! All coming from an individual who cannot love.

    “Is it true you remember every word ever said to you?” 

    “Did Noah tell you that?” August asked,

    “He said you always wear headphones to drown out the noise. I’ve never seen you wear them.” 

    August brushed his hair aside, removing the tiny earbuds from his ears. “They’re not on. I don’t wear them around you.”

    “Why not?” 

    August frowned in confusion. “Because I want to remember every word you say to me.”

    You don’t need to be psychic to know, this one’s a keeper!

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: I Always Knew
    Artist: The Vaccines
    Album: Come Of Age

    P.S.

    I always say, you meet one Mulvaney, you love ’em all. Start with the youngest, Adam the supermodel serial killer, and his feisty person, Noah, in Unhinged,.


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    REVIEW: Unhinged by Onley James

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    Necessary Evils: Unhinged – Onley James

    Adam Mulvaney lives a double life. By day, he’s the spoiled youngest son of an eccentric billionaire. By night, he’s an unrepentant killer, one of seven psychopaths raised to right the wrongs of a justice system that keeps failing.

    Noah Holt has spent years dreaming of vengeance for the death of his father, but when faced with his killer, he learns a daunting truth he can’t escape. His father was a monster.

    Unable to ignore his own surfacing memories, Noah embarks on a quest to find the truth about his childhood with the help of an unlikely ally: the very person who murdered his father. Since their confrontation, Adam is obsessed with Noah, and he wants to help him uncover the answers he seeks, however dark they may be.

    The two share a mutual attraction, but deep down, Noah knows Adam’s not like other boys. Adam can’t love. He wasn’t born that way. But he refuses to let Noah go, and Noah’s not sure he wants him to.

    Can Adam prove to Noah that passion, power, and protection are just as good as love?


    Gaga for fictional psychos?

    Meet the Mulvaney brothers: Atticus, August, Archer, twins Asa and Avi, Aidan and Adam. All gorgeous. All talented. All certified by a board of doctors to be psychopaths.

    The boys were adopted by billionaire Thomas Mulvaney and trained to be secret vigilante killers who follow a strict code. Their father calls them necessary evil. Each Mulvaney brother stood out. Their interactions were a riot! Even Thomas left me intrigued. Adopt me, please!

    Each book would feature one brother. I want everyone’s books!!!

    First up, Adam.

    Adam is the youngest. He is publicly known as a supermodel. One night, he was held at gunpoint by Noah Holt, son of one of his earlier victims. He deftly took control of the situation and showed Noah who his father really was. Turns out, the man was a pedophile and a major player in the child trafficking ring. This led the two, along with the rest of the Mulvaneys, to hunt down the other abusers who had participated in the crimes.

    The story is a crime-solving procedural of sorts, where instead of a detective, you get a family of super-rich serial killers and their mysterious (and super sassy) hacker working together to put down other monsters. I totally love the concept! And Onley James pulled it off spectacularly!

    Murder is the default crime in mysteries so I really liked that this is not a murder mystery. In most mysteries, I just enjoy tagging along in the investigation and not care too much about the killer. Here I enjoyed the procedural and I felt heavily invested in seeing the bad guys get their comeuppance.

    This book has a pretty grim topic so TW for sexual abuse of children. However, the author did a great job handling the issue. There were no graphic details or anything on-page. The wordings were written with tact and sensitivity while still giving us a good sense of how horrific Noah’s experiences were. His brain blocked his childhood traumas but the more evidence they unearthed, the more his memories returned. It got so bad he had a melt down.

    This is where both Adam and Noah shone the brightest.

    You’re not going to lecture me on drinking my problems away?” Noah asked.
    “No. If this is what you need to cope, then I’ll keep you safe while you do it.”

    Their romance sprang practically fully formed overnight. I might not be too keen on the insta-ness of things but it fits their story in a way. As a psychopath, Adam doesn’t really feel emotions like love and empathy. But he can be rage-y, obsessive, and possessive. That he can decide Noah was his the moment he laid his eyes on the young man is in keeping with who he is.

    But for a psycho, Adam can be surprisingly sweet. I loved how he adores Noah and took care of him when he was hurting badly. He doesn’t really understand human emotions but he asked other people for help so that he can comfort his boyfriend. How many men you know would do that?

    Noah is perfect for Adam. He appreciated Adam’s possessiveness and obsession. He understood that Adam needed clear, concise rules to help him better navigate their relationship. I loved that they talk things out. Their chemistry?

    Adam was a match and Noah was gasoline-soaked paper

    Adam might go all caveman protective on him but Noah is no damsel in distress. Our boy is a survivor and a fighter. I especially loved how when he was given the chance to take action, he took the ball and ran with it. Attaboy!

    The book might be dark but is also very romantic, filled with squee-tastic lines that go right to the kokoro. One of the most beautiful scenes in the book was in the warehouse where Adam was tracing the stars connecting Noah’s freckles. It was so tender and quite breathtaking. It was one of those moments where time seem to stop and there’s nothing but that moment.

    Unhinged is a fantastic series opener. It effectively set the Necessary Evils world. It effortlessly drew me into Adam and Noah’s story, as well as seamlessly introducing all the key players. The story is a heady mix of mystery, romance, humor, hurt comfort, and family dynamics. Sometimes devastating, often funny, many times swoony, always crazy good!

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

    Soundtrack: Unhinged
    Artist: Lydia Kaye
    Album: Seventh Sense


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    UNHINGED

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    REVIEW: Better The Devil You Know by Bey Deckard

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    Better The Devil You Know – Bey Deckard

    This is not a romance.

    Tags: graphic torture, murder, paranormal, forced incest, rape

    Byron is tall, handsome, well spoken, wealthy, and has outstanding taste in wine and food. You’ll be impressed by his impeccable attire and eloquence in conversation, ranging from Baroque art to the newest advances in pharmacology. With his charming smile and elegant manners, Byron truly is the perfect date… and who doesn’t love a man who appreciates opera?

    What’s the catch, you ask?

    Just this: if Byron finds you suitable, he will subject you to utterly depraved forms of torture.

    No, I’m not talking about S&M.

    Byron will mutilate, rape, and then kill you. Don’t think that you will survive the encounter, because you won’t.

    He has a perfect record.

    Intrigued? Would you like me to arrange a rendezvous? It has to be in the next few days because he’s leaving on a trip south to much warmer climes, and his calendar will be completely full.

    Yes? Very good. I will make a reservation for two under the name of Smith.

    Who am I? I’m Gloria, his personal assistant.


    This is where a very bad man goes to hell to give the Devil what he deserves.

    Better The Devil You Know is most definitely not for the faint of heart. Please do heed the trigger warnings. As mentioned in the blurb, this is not a romance. This is paranormal horror. If you like it painful and gruesome, this one takes it to the extreme.

    Byron was a former doctor who uses his money to cover up his many illicit activities. With the help of his uber-efficient assistant, Gloria, he seduces men then later turns them into his playthings. With his medical knowledge, he prolongs his victim’s life and inflicts the sickest, most depraved tortures you can ever imagine.

    This sicko has no redeeming qualities what so ever. There’s no redemption, no turning over a new leaf at the end. But I have to say, boy is he charming!

    This is a story that feels very much like its main character. Dark, monstrous, sickening, terrifying but somehow you are still drawn to it. The sheer force of Byron’s charisma compels one to stay, makes one curious, keeps one interested.

    Each chapter is shown through the eyes of Byron’s many victims. All too often, it is a tale of hapless young men drawn to the handsome gentleman with impeccable taste and perfect manners, only to find out too late that this beauty is worst than a beast.

    It’s very intense to go through these men’s thoughts as they writhe in agony and breathe their last breaths. The author gave them names, faces, voices and backstories. It makes their plight even more heart-breaking knowing that two brothers just wanting a new car or a gay immigrant just wanting to make a connection unknowingly threw themselves into the hands of a monster

    There are a couple of mysteries presented in the book. One is Michael, Byron’s last date. Why does this young man seem vaguely familiar? Gloria became a mystery as the story progressed. Who exactly is this assistant who seem almost too good at her job?

    Then there is Lucifer. Luce to his friends. Never ever Lucie. Wondering what would it take to break a man like Byron. The Lord Of Hell has always been a fascinating character. Here, he’s fabulous, if perpetually bored. Seeing him light up when he talks to Byron, well, I couldn’t help but ship the two. But again, this is not romance. Fantastic chemistry notwithstanding, Luce is too good for the likes of Byron. Yes, the man is that bad.

    There are so many clever twists and turns. Everything came together in a thrilling climax. It was a something I half expected since it felt like the logical conclusion given the set-up. I just didn’t know how exactly it would be done. The other half was something like Luce and Byron plotting elaborate methods of soul rehabilitation together. Would have loved to see that.

    Either way, I loved how things were resolved. It does have its own kind of happy ending for the two, Because really, when I think about it, take away all the blood and gore, Better The Devil You Know is a story about one hell of a job promotion.

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

    Soundtrack: Pray The Devil Back To Hell
    Artist: Lucinda Williams
    Album: Good Souls Better Angels


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    BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

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