Anne Barwell, Dreamspinner Press, Reviewed by Jackie

Review: Shades of Sepia by Anne Barwell

Title: Shades of Sepia (The Sleepless City: Book One)

Author: Anne Barwell

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 210 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.

Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.

One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can’t ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Flint, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he’s found a new home.

After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer’s next target.


Review: I have read more supernatural books than any other genre. There are the shifters that come in all shapes, sizes, and attitudes. Then there are the vampires; they come in many various types also. In some books they all live happily in harmony with one another, and in some books they are mortal enemies. This book has a little of both. Plus, we have the added dimension of the humans in the story. Some of the humans know about the supes, some don’t. More than that, though, some humans seem as if they don’t want to know what is right in front of their faces. These humans accept the fact that a man has been a professor at the local college for going on sixty years and hasn’t aged a day. That man would be Simon Hawthorne, and this book is his story, as well as his soulmate’s, Ben Leyton.

This first story in The Sleepless City series is like most first novels in a series. It introduces us to the players of the game, gives us just enough backstory to wet our appetites, and lays out the “rules” of the universe the author has created. Sometimes the first book loses a little of the romance to the “world building”, but Anne Barwell did a fabulous job of handling both aspects without losing focus on the love story.

When the story begins, we meet Ben and find out he is a transplant to Flint, Ohio via New Zealand. Not only has he been learning to make every strange cup of coffee ordered at the café where he works, but he has learned that just because we all speak English doesn’t mean we can understand each other. When he isn’t toiling away as a barista, he is working on his true passion, photography. Ben found his love of photography through his grandfather, and he has been trying to find the exact spot where his grandfather took a photo many years before when he was in Flint. When Ben finds the spot in the photo, he also finds a mystery man who seems to always be just out of reach.

Simon Hawthorne has lived in Flint, Ohio for going on sixty years now. Simon has all but given up on love since every time he tries to love someone, tragedy strikes in the form of his maker, John. When Simon sees Ben in the park, though, he realizes that the choice may have just been taken out of his hands. Even a big strong vampire can’t resist the lure of his soulmate.

Once the two men make contact, the soul mate bond begins to form, and they won’t be able to resist one another for long. Simon vows to take things slow with Ben, and that is just how Ben wants it. Once they begin their courtship, the investigation Simon has been working on with his friends and roommates starts to escalate. With Lucas, the werewolf coroner, and Forge, the vampire police detective, Simon has been investigating the serial murders happening around Flint. There have been six pairs of people killed. Each pair consists of a vampire and a human. When someone close to Simon is killed and found to have fed on human blood, Simon knows that something is wrong. His friend hasn’t consumed human blood in ages, and there was no way she would have.

The investigation leads to Simon’s past and a monster long thought dead. With this revelation Simon decides he has to tell Ben who and what he is, and he hopes that Ben will be able to come to terms with being the soul mate of a vampire.

Without giving too many spoilers away, I will say that the final battle between Simon’s past and his present was “on the edge of my seat” action. Ben, Lucas, and Forge were the ultimate heroes at the end of the book, and I believe that was just as it should have been. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, and I want to know more about Blair. He seems to be a great mystery one of these men should solve.

I was fully entrenched in this supernatural world the author created, and I am fully invested in the characters. Some of the aspects were new, some were standard, but the story was outstanding. I highly recommend this book and I can’t wait for the next one.

You can buy Shades of Sepia (The Sleepless City: Book One) here:


2 thoughts on “Review: Shades of Sepia by Anne Barwell

  1. annebarwell says:

    Thanks for the wonderful review, Jackie. You’ll find out more about Blair in book 2 ‘Electric Candle’ by Elizabeth Noble which is out from Dreamspinner Press on 4th April.


  2. Pingback: Audio Review: Shades of Sepia by Anne Barwell – Narrated by Michael Ferraiuolo | The Novel Approach

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