Demon Magic: Happy Endings – Alice Winters
Smart men never dabble with demons. I never claimed to be smart, but at least I’m powerful enough to control them. When I bound Havoc to me nearly three hundred years ago, I never realized how difficult he’d make my life, although “accidentally” lighting him on fire every now and then does bring a smile to my face.
Havoc is handsome, mysterious, and somehow my closest companion, even if we don’t always get along. He’s more interested in bedding attractive women than protecting my life, which defeats the main reason a mage like me would have a demon. I even had to fight off swordsmen alone once because he was too busy betting on who’d survive.
When fifteen people are found dead with messages from a long-extinct cult, Havoc and I are forced to face our past and sort through our differences. We start to realize that there’s something more to this relationship, something that has kept us by each other’s sides for so long. Maybe it took three hundred years to finally understand my feelings for Havoc and realize that I can’t imagine being with anyone but him. Havoc and I will do everything we can to stop the evil that is threatening the lives of the people I care about. Or destroy everything—we haven’t quite figured that out yet.
Happy Endings is a 73k word novel that has an immensely powerful mage, a shapeshifting demon with a strong libido, a dark mage that just won’t stay dead, a spray bottle put to unusual uses, armor that is most definitely not made of dragon skin, blackmail involving an unfortunate slow-mo video, a detective being pursued by a determined minotaur, unprofessional use of illusions, and an epic walk into battle.
*Revised and edited.
Happy Endings kicked off Demon Magic, another Alice Winters paranormal snark-fest.
Miles and his contracted demon go about their intertwined lives for 300 years, with Havoc sleeping with every woman he can get. Miles lets him carry on with his amorous business while very, very secretly pining for his demon.
The mage owns a café that doubled as magic shop and home. Apart from an oversexed demon familiar, he has a witch assistant and a werewolf chef who were a couple. He was approached by two detectives about a dead body with markings similar to that used by an Inquisition-type group Miles had encountered hundreds of years ago.
Miles and Havoc’s past was dredged up the deeper they became involved with the case. We learned about the abuse Miles suffered from his late master and how he and Havoc forged their connection. It later turned out, this very dead master might not be resting in peace after all.
Miles is quite possibly, the most powerful mage in existence although the book hasn’t confirmed it. I always liked it when we get an established high level magic user right off the bat since I’m bored with beginners. There were a lot of magic on display which I really enjoyed. Miles can use glamour and change his appearance. He can basically do almost anything but has an affinity for fire. And he has demons at his beck and call.
Havoc, well, he’s a piece of work. The demon is obnoxious, horny and childish. We meet a lot of his type in the author’s works. He’s tolerable but him going from chasing skirts to getting into Miles’ pants seemed to come out of nowhere. But after my confusion with his sudden turnabout wore off, I could see his complete dedication to Miles. Which is always delivered with a jibe or two to the long-suffering mage.
This series has a great supporting cast. Standouts were Sam the detective and Iya the minotaur. I’d love to read their story. Iya is a himbo who latched on to Sam after Miles assigned him to protect the detective under strict orders not to penetrate the human unless the human said so otherwise. Trust the doofus to misinterpret that in his little demonic brain.
At first, I was put off by the ridiculous opening scene and had to give it another try before it stuck. The author’s humor is the polarizing kind. Either you like it or you don’t. Here, it got tiresome at many points. Many lines weren’t that funny. They were trying too hard to be raunchy.
There were also scenes that did nothing to the story, merely there to show off a gag or two. And almost overshadowed the progress of relevant events which is too bad because the core plot was actually exciting. We got necromancers, missing grimoires and political intrigues, not to mention a cute romance involving a demon. They’re my favorite kind of supernatural love interest next to vampires.
The writing wasn’t as dedicated to its world-building as it to the humor but we still more or less see an understandable picture of what’s going on. It is the kind of fantasy world where every imaginable creature exists so we get everything from paladins to archangels and things that I’m not even sure what.
There were also explanations provided for demon summoning. Most of it were the usual ritualistic stuff but I liked that Miles is so powerful he can drop the chanting mumbo jumbo and just go with “I summon you”.
The book also tackled the demon’s relationship to its summoner. Most contracted demons were treated nothing more than strictly controlled, often mistreated tools. Miles and Havoc’s relationship has always been special. The mage treated his demon kindly from the start. A huge risk because demons are very tricky. I love the trust they had with each other.
Happy Endings might have gone overboard with the silly gags and could have woven a stronger world but it still had the right amount of magic, loveable demons, quirky humans and intriguing threads to propel me through to the next book.
And so the quest continues with more misadventures, more graves turned, more misuse of glamour spells and a monster from the past making his comeback. Looks like the real fun’s just starting.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
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Badlands: Loose Ends – Morgan Brice
Cold cases, old enemies, ex-lovers, and vengeful spirits are making life dangerous for psychic medium Simon Kincaide and his boyfriend, homicide detective Vic D’Amato.
The ghosts of Myrtle Beach are restless, trapped by love, secrets, scandals, and spells, keeping Simon busy protecting the living from the unhappy dead. Someone from Vic’s past is out to destroy him and everyone he holds dear, and the high-profile trial of the first case Simon and Vic worked together puts them in the spotlight—and put a target on their backs. As a deadly trap closes around them, can Simon and Vic tie up the loose ends to stop the threat, or will they become the newest ghosts of the Grand Strand?
Loose Ends is an urban fantasy MM paranormal romance with spooky supernatural suspense, hot sex, hurt/comfort, feisty friends, found family, ghosts galore, and dark magic. It is part of a series but can be read as a standalone and features an evolving, established romantic relationship with all the feels. Intended for readers 18 years of age and older.
The Badlands series opened with a strong book 1, Badlands. Book 2, The Rising was a tad too predictable for my liking. Happily, this third book renewed my faith in this highly interesting psychic procedural.
Loose Ends has exes crawling out of the woodwork. Simon’s former fiance, Jason, showed up with his pouncy ass demanding that Simon return to the bosom of his family and be the trophy fiance again. Vic’s sorta ex and former work partner, Nick, has yet to show his ugly mug but it was clear he was trying to ruin Vic’s life. His social media was hacked, his partner Ross’s car was sabotage.
I had complained in my review of The Rising that the author’s execution of couple down time didn’t feel natural. They’re not necessarily forced but they don’t flow as smoothly as I would have liked with the story.
Loose Ends finds Simon and Vic in their happy place. The romantic element was very much improved. The timing and execution of sex scenes felt more organic to the story.
And it’s nice to see an established couple just generally being happy together without becoming boring. I really liked that they stayed strong and worked as a team against those who wanted to tear them apart. I loved that they avoided major misunderstandings and that they never resort to petty internal conflicts either. They weren’t an insta-favorite but Simon and Vic won me over with how well they made their relationship work.
It’s not just the exes. There was also Simon’s estranged mother. She’s a cold woman who cares only about herself and prefers Simon’s ex-fiance to her own son. She called to demand Simon return to his old life, then sent Jason to persuade him.
Simon had no intentions of doing that. He had built a good life in Myrtle Beach. He has Vic and a great support group. His powerful witch friends provide magical back up while his non-magical friends were always there to cheer them on.
The stand out secondary character here is most definitely Ross. He proved himself a good friend and partner to Vic from the time they started working together. He continues to be awesome, advising Vic on his grand plans of putting a ring on it. I’d love to see more of him around.
Simon’s psychic abilities had once again unearthed a dead body. The paranormal elements came wonderfully into play with a cold case, more haunted objects and later on, Nick’s nefarious methods of revenge. The series has always excelled in this aspect. In this third installment, the world has been established but it still offered different avenues to explore and more otherworldly happenings to investigate.
This is the type of case where the perpetrator was known but has yet to be found. The story moved fast with a well-executed plot. It did a great job tying everything together, making clever use of ghostly characters and magic. It certainly lived up to its promise of spooky paranormal suspense with all the romantic feels.
Although it says Loose Ends can be read as a standalone, I recommend reading the Badlands series in order. Start with Simon and Vic’s meet cute in book 1 and watch them go from strength to strength while solving supernatural cases. They have, since then, put a lot of ghosts to rest. It’s time to move on and take it to the next level.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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Familiar Magick: Discovering Destiny – Abigail Kade
Who would believe that pretending to be your next door neighbor’s boyfriend for a simple family dinner would change so many lives forever? As two witches from two very different families learn how their destinies are intertwined, they realize they may be the only hope for their kind to survive what’s coming for them all.
Once upon a time, I was the heir to my family’s seat on the High Council of Witches. After one horrific night, the Council was no more and all the families went into hiding. The likelihood I would ever find my mo shíorghrá, my soul mate, was gone. But by fate or luck, I’ve finally found my other half. Tobias Wyvern was destined to be mine, but we’re discovering that’s not all destiny has in store for us. I need to find out if our future will be our own, or if it will be determined by a prophecy that was written before either of us were born. I’ll do whatever I have to do, go wherever I have to go to find a way for us to be together. Even if it means going home.
I invited my next door neighbor, Arthur, to a family dinner to get them off my back, but what I’m finding out is that my whole life has been a lie. I was always told we were the only witches left in the world, but that’s because my family was too frightened to tell me the truth. They signed a contract when I was a child, but had no intention of following through. The Wyverns and the Blackwoods would never be united if they could prevent it. Things happened and they were able to disappear, but now Atherton Blackwood is here to claim me, and I’m ready to be claimed. However, claiming me now has consequences far beyond a vow to each other. By coming together, we’ll set into motion a destiny neither one of us could ever have predicted.
My first thought upon reading the blurb was that Discovering Destiny was Romeo and Juliet, witch version.
Familiar Magick is built upon the tragic history of witches. There are families of witches that specialized in various elemental magic. One day, malevolent entities killed the witches en masse. There were a few families who managed to stay alive. The survivors scattered and went deep into hiding, practicing their magic in secret.
This is a short book of only 126 pages. It did not dwell too much on the details but it was able to establish a fairly well-conceived world, enough to give the series solid bones to work with. There was nothing groundbreaking or new here but this was the part I enjoyed the most.
Destiny is the main theme and witches are fated to soul mates who compliment their magic. They’re also bound to very vocal animal familiars. They’re there as plot device and comic relief, serving as voices of reason and sources of annoyance, mostly nagging their witches towards various courses of action.
Atherton is from the Blackwood Family. They specialized in wind magic, allowing them to affect the weather. His familiar is a raven, Lucy, a foul mouthed, foul tempered creature. She’s not that bad because she has Ath’s best interest at heart.
Tobias is from the Wyvern family. They specialized in earth magic. In Tobi’s case, this allows him power over plants. His familiar is a cat, Chester. He’s well-spoken and has perfect manners. Excerpt when you try to scratch his belly.
I have more descriptions for the familiars because the personalities of the two MCs weren’t as distinct, fully realized or that interesting. They were content to be swept along by their destiny, neither one questioned the state of things.
Anyway, these two were destined to be together but were pulled apart by the evil forces who massacred the families. But as fate would have it, they ended up as neighbors 20 years after.
Ath knew Tobi was a witch. Tobi was utterly clueless. He grew up with the knowledge that the Wyverns were the only witches left in this world. The two men were egged on by their familiars to ask each other out. Both were digging their heels. Tobi, because he’s shy and socially awkward. Ath, I don’t know.
This part was both cute and frustrating. Cute with how the two were dancing around each other and throwing off sparks. Frustrating because, for the most part, they did nothing. Also, Chester was already talking to Ath secretly and explicitly telling him to make his move. So why didn’t the cat just tell Tobi about the existence of other witches? From what I gathered, there were no specific caveats about this thing. Also, cluelessness could be adorable but I couldn’t believe Tobi was actually that dense not to figure things out after some very obvious clues.
The second part of the story was meeting the Wyvern family. Here, we meet horrid characters in the form of Tobi’s mother and brother. A mystery presented itself and unveiled a quest that will tie together all the books The two MCs were more active participants now, taking action to solve the riddle left by Tobi’s late father.
I feel that the ending could have been executed better. It was going for a cliffhanger but it took the focus entirely off Ath and Tobi. It was like they were forgotten upon the introduction of the new characters who were going to be leads for the second book. I think it’s important for romance novels to end with something conclusive about the main couple even for HFNs and cliffhangers, especially if the series features a different couple each book.
Discovering Destiny might have one-dimensional characters and wonky plot but it laid a good foundation for the series and had it’s share of entertaining moments. My interest was piqued by the next book, starring a nerdy fire witch and his leather daddy demon. Plus, there’s a fast-talking squirrel familiar. I say read this series opener to get the lay of the land so we could have the best experience out of the more promising sequels.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
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