Treasure Trail – Morgan Brice
Erik Mitchell traveled the world uncovering art fraud and relic theft, which pitted him against spoiled billionaires, unscrupulous collectors, mobsters, and cartels. He worked with law enforcement across the U.S. and Europe, but then a sting goes wrong, Erik ends up injured and returns to find his partner cheating. He decides to stop globetrotting and buy an antique shop in scenic Cape May, NJ, rebuild his life, and nurse his broken heart.
Undercover Newark cop Ben Nolan went down in a hail of bullets when a bust went sideways, after a tip-off from a traitor inside the department. When he recovers, he spends a couple of years as a private investigator, only to tire of seeing the worst of human nature. So when his aunt offers him the chance to take over her rental real estate business in Cape May, it seems too good to be true. Now if he could just believe he could ever be lucky again in love.
Sparks fly when Erik and Ben meet. But when a cursed hotel’s long-ago scandals resurface, the two men are pulled into a web of lies, danger, and deception that will test their bond—and might make them Cape May’s newest ghosts!
Treasure Trail contains sexually explicit material intended for adults 18 and over. This is book #1 in the Treasure Trail series.
Treasure Trail is off to a great start!
This new paranormal series by Morgan Brice is part of her inter-connected world of supernaturals. It’s something I’ve always liked about her work.
The story starts with Erik Mitchell just moving in to Cape May, NJ and setting up Trinkets, the antique shop that came along with the house he bought. He also just started on his blog, Treasure Trail, to promote his merchandise.
Erik had traipsed all over the world as part of his work as consultant with the FBI. It’s a dangerous job which had him crossing paths with people who had no qualms with deadly force. On one of his missions, he was shot. He decided to live a quieter life in a town he often visited in childhood.
Cape May is a charming seaside town. Unlike in most stories, the paranormal elements were dealt with quite openly. They even say it’s rare to find a person who has not seen a ghost. There are psychics, a coven of witches, cursed antiques and a very cursed hotel that was torn down 20 years ago.
This hotel plays a central role in the story, a villain of sorts that has caused the deaths and misfortunes of several owners and hotel residents. It has been owned by mobsters, corrupt televangelists and shady new age gurus, all of whom died violent deaths. Even after it was demolished, its evil presence is still strongly felt. It is part of the town’s history and many memorabilia were collected by various interested parties.
The mystery involved some of those memorabilia. A box containing assortments of ephemera from the hotel was sold to Erik. It was a veritable Pandora’s box, containing objects related to famous deaths. Not long after, somebody tried to break in his shop, tried to shoot him and attempted to run him over by a van.
The why was easy to guess, the who was what they needed to find out. While the bad guy was somewhat obvious, I still enjoyed how the various elements tied in together. It’s a book where you savor the process of getting to the answer, more than the answer itself.
There’s seems to be a red string of fate that runs throughout, fate being the main theme. Everything fell into place for Erik. He saw the house and Trinkets online the moment it was put up on sale. The ad even seemed tailor-made for him.
Then he met a very attractive guy he connected with right away while he was waiting at the bar for an online date which turned out to be an epic fail. And what are the chances that said attractive guy would knock on his door the next day?
Ben Nolan was a cop, turned private investigator turned real estate manager. His aunt passed him their rental business. Ben came to Trinkets to have an antique dealer assessed an object he found hidden in one of the houses he manages.
Erik and Ben had a lot of similarities. They were men who could handle themselves in a fight. Erik has a PhD and rocks the well-read, well-traveled, professor look but he had martial arts training and license to carry. Ben is all bad boy ex-cop with ink but is really nice. Both of them had dealt with traumatic experiences that made them change careers. Both were not close to their families. They came to Cape May for a fresh start.
The romance between the two was as insta as they come. They already had the L-word percolating in their minds within one day of being together. I’m not a fan of this fast a pace but the way they synced together that quick was in keeping with the hand of destiny thing the story had going.
It also headed down the miscommunication route especially with the trust issues but happily avoided needless conflict. I really liked how the author set-up my expectations for that awful scenario then deftly turned it into a reasonable plan of action. Shout out to Erik’s cool neighbor, Susan Hendricks, who talked some sense into the guys.
The world-building was a very enjoyable experience as always. Being part of the Morgan Brice/Gail Z. Martin shared world, various characters from other series popped up, including psychic Simon Kincaide and vampire Soren. This is a nice set-up because it opens the series to many possible story lines. We could expect everything from ghosts, witches, demons and fae.
There were no big reveal shockers. Cape May residents were a liberal-minded bunch. People were used to the spooky. More often than not it was a case of Erik being reluctant to reveal his supernatural experiences only to have the other person be easily accepting of the fact. And share similar experiences.
The best thing of all is there is a vast improvement in the writing with new narrator, John Solo, breathing new life into it. While I mostly enjoyed most of the author’s works and Kale Williams’s narration, I do find a certain blandness in them which was highlighted by Williams’s sometimes too calm cadence. Solo’s delivery made the prose’s energy come through.
Also, there were no TSTL moments here. They contacted the police. They did not make any reckless attempts at heroics. And yet the story succeeded in having a chilling, suspenseful climax that managed to make both heroes shine.
Treasure Trail opens this new series in the best way possible. It treaded a familiar path but went in directions that were not exactly new but tended to get bypassed in favor of creating conflicting and excitement. I am eager to see where the author will take this. I say it’s definitely worth the follow.
Posts on Morgan Brice books here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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The Vampire’s Club 5 – X. Aratare
Lucas Daniels senses secrets all around him.
Lucas left home for good and believes he is safe at Club Dyavol. His whole world is now Konstantin’s world. But though he trusts Konstantin completely, the more time he spends in the club, the more questions he has about those that call it home.
Count Konstantin “the Wolf” Volk believes that now that Lucas is under his full protection at the club that Lucas is safe. Except he could not be more wrong. By being completely within Konstantin’s world, Lucas becomes the focus of every friend and foe Konstantin has.
Secrets reveal themselves!!! That Konstantin is a vampire was the least of it. That’s all I’m saying because overflow of emotions shown below:
* ｡✰ ✧♡✧。♡〜٩(⋈◍＞◡＜◍)۶〜♡。✧♡✧ ✰ ｡*
This is a serial where each installment covers a day and/or night. So if you think about it, it’s very, very insta because Lucas and Konstantin has only interacted with each other for 5 days. But the way each book was written, it felt like an extended timeframe.
The pace is fast but so many things happened. There was even a millennia long feud thrown in the mix. Vampire lovin’ aside, the history and the rich world-building in addition to all well-written characters made the books so addicting. Sure, we’re all here for Lucas and his Wolf, but the author also did a good job engaging me with the rest of the characters, whether friend or foe.
Like I said before, I am seriously having a hard time writing The Vampire’s Club reviews because I only end up gushing (and repeating myself). This is a very very gushable series. Once again, I recommend waiting for all the books to be released before delving into this because the cliffhangers will drive you nuts.
5 Stars – absolutely perfect
Lucas Daniels is in danger!
Not from his mysterious new job, but from someone in his own house: his stepfather. Just when he thought Garrett’s intentions were all in his head, his stepfather’s actions send him running to Dyavol and Konstantin for protection.
Count Konstantin “the Wolf” Volk will do anything to protect Lucas, and not only because Lucas’ blood may be curing him. When he finds Lucas under threat from every corner, he’ll do things he never thought possible in order to keep the young man safe. Cutting deals with ancient dangerous vampires, testing the bounds of his curse, even opening up the heart of his vampire Sanctuary itself to a mere mortal. Nothing is off limits.
But while Konstantin is focused on keeping Lucas safe, could the real person in danger be Konstantin himself?
For me, the hardest books to review are the rare 5-star books. There is the very real temptation to simply fill the page with incoherent squees and emojis bursting with heart eyes and stars and exclamation marks. So excuse me just a sec.
The Wolf is claimed!!!!!! ♡☆*:.｡.o(≧▽≦)o.｡.:*☆♡ !!!!!!!
And holy mother that elevator scene!!! (❤ω❤) !!!!!!!
“Anything? Everything?” ヽ(>∀<☆)ノ｡o○♡ !!!!!!!
Now that’s out of the way…
Book 4 of The Vampire’s Club finally has the evil stepfather making his move on Lucas (TW: sexual harrassment). The Volk family, the awesome Lizzie and the paranoid (and vocal) Xavier in particular, rallied to Lucas’ aid. They attempted their powers of seduction on Lucas’ mother to make her see the truth regarding the incident. However, they were met with the strongest mental barrier they have ever encountered. The evil stepfather has a mental wall as well…
I could understand the spell on Lucas’ mom but the evil stepfather too? Hmm…
On a happier note, we are getting a LOT of Lucas and Konstantin! Hence the explosion of emotions above. The plot thickens some more as two arch-enemies meet face to face. I am on tenterhooks!
What exactly is Gaia’s plans for the vampires? Are witches and vampires truly enemies? Is Lucas the Trojan Horse the Nomad suspects he is? Will Lucas realize what Konstantin really is? Will Konstantin ever tell him?
TELL HIM DAMMIT!!! Make him your fledgling!!!
The Vampire’s Club continues to work it magic. I am completely enthralled. Let it seduce you too.
5 Stars – absolutely perfect
Soulbound: A Ferry Of Bones & Gold – Hailey Turner
When the gods come calling, you don’t get to say no.
Patrick Collins is three years into a career as a special agent for the Supernatural Operations Agency when the gods come calling to collect a soul debt he owes them. An immortal has gone missing in New York City and bodies are showing up in the wake of demon-led ritual killings that Patrick recognizes all too easily from his nightmares.
Unable to walk away, Patrick finds himself once again facing off against mercenary magic users belonging to the Dominion Sect. Standing his ground alone has never been a winning option in Patrick’s experience, but it’s been years since he’s had a partner he could trust.
Looking for allies in all the wrong places, Patrick discovers the Dominion Sect’s next target is the same werewolf the Fates themselves have thrown into his path. Patrick has been inexplicably attracted to the man from their first meeting, but desire has no place in war. That doesn’t stop Patrick from wanting what he shouldn’t have. Jonothon de Vere is gorgeous, dangerous, and nothing but trouble—to the case, to the fight against every hell, and ultimately, to Patrick’s heart and soul.
In the end, all debts must be paid, and Patrick can only do what he does best—cheat death.
A Ferry of Bones & Gold is a 115k word m/m urban fantasy with a gay romantic subplot and a HFN ending.
I think Netflix should pick this up as a series.
A Ferry of Bones & Gold is the kind of richly realized world you can write pages upon pages of fandom wiki entries. You got gods from different pantheons, were creatures and every type of magic user available. The Mage Corps and the 30-Day War alone is worth reading as a separate book. I dare not multi-task while I was listening to this lest I miss any of the mini info dumps scattered throughout the book. It was a heroic effort not to inundate the reader with backstories, the book had a big cast and any of them could be a good lead character. Hailey Turner succeeded in delivering all the need-to-knows without slowing down the pace or detracting from action.
And this is one hell of a fast-paced, action-packed story. Patrick Collins, formerly a soldier, now a special agent for the Supernatural Operations Agency should have been in Maui sipping drinks with umbrellas. Instead, he was assigned to handle a case of a missing god and demon-led killings that threw him into the path of shifters, particularly Jono, an alpha without a pack and whom he was attracted to. One important pack member was the seer, Merrick, who was the target of the Dominion sect. There were many attempts on Merrick’s and Patrick’s lives and a few more dead bodies found. Demons started appearing and only a battle-hardened mage like Patrick can stop them.
Now when a book promises magic, I expect to see spells being cast left and right and I am happy that the book did not hold back on the magic. There were many heartstopping battle scenes and Patrick giving it all he got until he was burned out. His kamikazee approach to battle might wreck havoc on his friends’ stress levels but he gets the job done. And this time he left the city standing.
The book also talks about soul debts and how Patrick, Jono and other mortals seems to be subject to the whims of the gods. On the other hand, the gods needed to be remembered and worshiped in order to be relevant. This, along with the inevitability of fate and Patrick trying really really hard to fight it create another layer of conflict. That they’re inescapable made me feel for the characters, although it’s hard to feel sorry for Patrick, he’s a cocky bastard.
The romance between Patrick and Jono was the insta-attraction kind. They were thrown together, literally, by the fates. And though I think their relationship could have been better developed, the short time they spent battling demons and dodging bombs created a strong bond between them. Bonus that we get Jono’s POV! It was fun seeing him get all possessive and growly over the bossy little mage.
Soulbound is an engrossing series and A Ferry of Bones & Gold was an awesome series opener. It delivered an immersive world, gripping plot, a great cast, and enough magic to keep the wannabe wizard in me happy. The romantic subplot mesh well with the story. It was good enough for Patrick and Jono to be memorable without taking focus from the rest of the story. They get an HFN this time but what do the gods have in store for them next?
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Witchmark – C.L. Polk
C. L. Polk arrives on the scene with Witchmark, a stunning, addictive fantasy that combines intrigue, magic, betrayal, and romance.
In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.
Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.
When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.
Such a gorgeous cover! Why can’t MM books have covers this classy?
I have been waiting for this book since last year. Reviews say it reads like a fanfiction, albeit a really good one. I agree but a fanfiction of what, I couldn’t guess.
Witchmark introduces us to Dr. Miles Singer, a psychiatrist trying to heal soldiers with PTSD in a veteran’s hospital. This was a time when psychiatry was not yet taken seriously. Miles is also hiding the fact that he is a witch. He covertly uses his healing powers to help the soldiers. He is also keeping a low-profile because he is hiding his true identity.
Tristan Hunter is a mysterious individual with magical powers. He taught Miles how to control his powers. He and Miles conducts an investigation on the death of Nick Elliot who was Miles’ patient. Nick Elliot died shortly after claiming he was murdered. He was also a witch and a journalist.
Miles and Tristan’s romance started with insta-attraction but it also burned slow. I like the friendship that blossomed alongside the low-key romance and although that proposal in the end seemed to come out of nowhere, I’m glad Tristan is not disappearing from Miles’ life anytime soon.
Dame Grace Hensley is Miles’ sister. She is aiming for the position of Voice among the circle of mages. She needs Miles help to boost her candidacy but she promised not to enslave her brother. When she first made an appearance, I was kind of annoyed with her meddling but she redeemed herself in the end.
The world-building is vivid and palpable. Aeland is a nice world to live in if you don’t count the war with Laneer and the fate of witches. It is ruled by Queen Constantina and there are individuals called the Invisibles who have magic powers.
Aeland runs on aether which I guess is like electricity. There are cars and telephones though only the well-off could afford them. There are also trains but many have bicycles. I could imagine myself riding my bicycle on my way to work in this fascinating alternate Edwardian world. It is really my dream to ride my bicycle to work but it is highly impractical in this blazing tropical heat where you arrive at your office badly in need of a shower if you don’t get hit by a car first (no bicycle lanes here).
In this world there are witches and there are mages. It is implied that there is a difference between the two but until now I don’t know why they are different. It was not explained explicitly. However, witches are usually taken to asylums located in remote regions of the country and were never heard from again. The only people who are considered important are the Storm-singers who maintain the pleasant weather of the country. The rest of the magic welders were treated as second class hence the literal name, Secondary. In this kind of scenario, class conflicts and power struggles come into the picture. The book did a good job showing the kind of struggle Miles had to go through to maintain his freedom when he was discovered by his sister to be alive.
The magic system could use some fleshing out. I am the type who likes going through the rules and imagining myself applying the principles of a certain magic system. The author kept it vague and general. As Tristan was teaching Miles how to control his powers it would have been nice if there were more explanations but they took the more intuitive approach, which means, they just wing it.
The ending left me hanging. Shortly after the liberation, Miles woke to find himself under the care of Tristan’s friend. An imminent war is threatening to erupt and it all depends on Miles. Tristan reveals his new ties to Miles and then poof! It ended just like that. I guess we need that second book.
I could say Witchmark was worth the wait. The story was well-written, the characters were well-developed and likable, the mystery was intriguing but overall, the book didn’t quite hit the 5 star mark like I expected it to. Maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t really surprised about anything. There were some well-used tropes and I expected something grander but while it fell short, it did deliver enough goods for me to enjoy myself. The book also didn’t resort to cheap tricks like exaggerate the lust-levels or insert unnecessary sex scenes just to spice things up. In fact, the book has zero steam which makes it my ideal MM book.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Seven Summer Nights – Harper Fox
It’s 1946, and the dust of World War Two has just begun to settle. When famous archaeologist Rufus Denby returns to London, his life and reputation are as devastated as the city around him.
He’s used to the most glamorous of excavations, but can’t turn down the offer of a job in rural Sussex. It’s a refuge, and the only means left to him of scraping a living. With nothing but his satchel and a mongrel dog he’s rescued from a bomb site, he sets out to investigate an ancient church in the sleepy village of Droyton Parva.
It’s an ordinary task, but Droyton is in the hands of a most extraordinary vicar. The Reverend Archie Thorne has tasted action too, as a motorcycle-riding army chaplain, and is struggling to readjust to the little world around him. He’s a lonely man, and Rufus’s arrival soon sparks off in him a lifetime of repressed desires.
Rufus is a combat case, amnesiac and shellshocked. As he and Archie begin to unfold the archaeological mystery of Droyton, their growing friendship makes Rufus believe he might one day recapture his lost memories of the war, and find his way back from the edge of insanity to love.
It’s summer on the South Downs, the air full of sunshine and enchantment. And Rufus and Archie’s seven summer nights have just begun…
Seven Summer Nights is a standalone novel featuring a disgraced archaeologist and an atheist vicar. The story could be split into two. One thread follows Rufus’ struggle with PTSD, his endearing friendship with Archie, Archie’s rescue and Rufus and Archie’s awakening.
That rescue scene in particular had me crossing my fingers and praying really hard for Rufus and Archie. Theirs was one of the most wholesome relationship I have seen so far and a delightful combination of insta-love and slow-burn. They were so kind to each other from the beginning, there was never any moment of unnecessary drama between them. The second thread was archaeology and witch craft. From the island of Sabros to the rural village of Droyton, mysterious labyrinth and mysterious women kept their secrets for centuries. Rufus and Archie uncovered these mysteries to reveal tragedy and bloodshed. But even with the cruelties, the book was overflowing with kindness and humanity. I felt sad that Archie had to give up his post. He was one of the kindest, most humane persons I have ever come across with.
Women were one of the most significant aspects of the book. I love the rest of the cast. Mrs. Nettles, the level headed, very practical housekeeper, Drusilla, the mystical priestess, Elspeth, the precocious changeling, even the difficult Mrs. Trigg. Together, they form a sort of network or sisterhood that went back to millennia before Christianity and patriarchy took over. The antagonists were effective as well. I felt a significant amount of schadenfreude when that ass of a brigadier had his Wizard of Oz-like comeuppance.
Clocking at around 16 hours, the book was, admittedly, a tad too long but god was it beautiful! At the hands of another, less talented writer, the pace might have been called glacial but Harper Fox imbued the story with so much charm and appeal that I was swept along its languid pace. That summertime ambiance, the easy camaraderie, the small town quaintness, I was effortlessly transported to post-war rural Sussex. Living in a small rural town myself, I could easily relate to both the simple, hospitable, kind-heartedness and the religious narrow mindedness of small town folks.
I also have a special shout out to the narrator. Chris Clogg’s calm, measured delivery and the voices he created for the characters were perfect, especially Rufus’ mild-mannered, very polite and proper Englishman tone.
I think Seven Summer Nights is one of Harper Fox’s best books. Soft, surreal and pure with tight, suspenseful episodes that left me on the edge of my seat. I am not familiar with any archaeological expeditions of the 1940s so I am not sure how close to the facts the details are, but the mystery combined with the romance, post-war struggles and archaeological adventures make a potent brew.
4.5 – perfection is only half a step away