5 Stars, Historical Romance, M. Keedwell, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann, Samhain Publishing

Review: Dark Economy by M. Keedwell

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Title: Dark Economy

Author: M. Keedwell

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 287 Pages

At a Glance: Dark Economy is a jolly good story. This is my first time reading this author, and I was very impressed.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Love can’t stay buried.

Medical student Cadell Meredith has been known to acquire “volunteers” from the occasional pauper’s grave in order to improve his surgical skills. While the legality of this practice is a bit murky, he wouldn’t go so far as to call it out and out robbery.

His latest acquisition, however, is different. The body on his table was obviously healthy, wealthy—and murdered. Cadell feels compelled to seek justice for the dead man, but while dissection comes naturally to him, crime investigation is unfamiliar territory.

Furthermore, he’s caught the attention of one of those new police officers, Blaine Breton. A handsome, sentimental fool who insists Cadell is a criminal. A criminal! Cadell is the first to admit he’s no saint, but he’s no killer.

A marvelous game of cat and mouse ensues as Cadell seeks to expose the truth while hiding his own secrets. A task that grows ever more difficult as his desire for Breton grows…and the danger deepens.

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Review: Dark Economy is set in London, in 1829, and the author has really brought this time period to life. The writing style, settings, and the old English accent give the book its historical feel. We find that it’s also a time of indecision in the medical field, as well as intolerance toward gay men. It’s quite the page turner, full of suspense, danger and humor.

As Cadell Meredith is a medical student, you will find an abundance of medical terms (you may find yourself checking the dictionary—I know I did) and an autopsy or two, so if you’re a little squeamish, you have been warned. Cadell is a fascinating character, and we find his emotions in a whirlwind over not only Blaine Breton but an old acquaintance, a new acquaintance, his medical studies, and sleuthing! He’s a brilliant medical student and artist who has connections to the burial sites of paupers. He does a little grave robbing in order to get hands-on practice, which, of course, is against the law, but he feels justified because his passion is medicine, and he strives to be the best. He uses his artistic talent to draw diagrams for his professor to use at lectures. When he acquires a particular body, and discovers a murder, though, he sets out to find justice for the individual.

Blaine Breton is a policeman, staunch in his belief that Cadell is grave-robbing criminal. They both have different opinions on grave robbing, and of each other, which causes hostility between the two. At almost every turn, Blaine is there to just make Cadell as miserable as possible. In fact, they are driving each other crazy! But, Blaine also has a soft side, and even though he tries to be tough, there’s also a shy side to him. Blaine is still a little bit of a mystery to me.

When tragedy strikes, the first person Blaine runs to is Cadell. That’s when the emotions and respect between them start to come through. After Cadell spends some time with Blaine, he decides to share information he has about the possible crimes and murders that have been happening. Blaine and Cadell team up with other fellow policemen to go after the suspects and try to solve this complicated murder mystery.

M. Keedwell’s Dark Economy is a jolly good story. This is my first time reading this author, and I was very impressed.

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You can buy Dark Economy here:

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Maggie Kavanagh, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Kim

Review: Inner Sanctum by Maggie Kavanagh

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Title: Inner Sanctum (The Stonebridge Mysteries: Book Two)

Author: Maggie Kavanagh

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 204 Pages

At a Glance: Inner Sanctum is just as good as the first story, Double Indemnity!

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Six months into a relationship, things have heated up between political blogger Sam Flynn and FBI Special Agent Nathan Walker. Though Sam is happy with Nathan and proud of his own sobriety, he’s anxious about what their future holds. Things are heating up in Stonebridge, Connecticut, as a series of deadly fires puts the community on edge and eventually threatens Sam’s comatose brother. As Halloween approaches, fears rise that the arsonist will strike again.

When Sam encounters the main suspect, seventeen-year-old orphan Damon Blake, he’s not sure what to do. Obstruction might land him in jail, but he is increasingly skeptical of Damon’s guilt. He takes matters into his own hands and investigates, but doing so means keeping Damon’s whereabouts a secret from Nathan and the police. Meanwhile, Nathan wonders what Sam is hiding and grapples with insecurities of his own. Sam wants to confide in Nathan, and Nathan wants to trust Sam, but they discover that negotiating new love can be as dangerous as solving crime.

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Review: It’s been six months and Sam and Nathan are still dancing around each other when it comes to using the “L” word. And even though Sam has quit drinking, there are times when he is still struggling with the temptation. Even struggling with the fact that things are going well between the two of them. Sam still worries that Nathan will realize Sam is not worth it, which is why Sam is reluctant to move in with Nathan. Sam is also especially shy about talking to Nathan about exploring the kinkier side of himself. But, Nathan himself is struggling with his own insecurities when it seems a teaching post with the FBI is on the table rather than a field job.

When the call comes in that there’s been a fire at the Shady Brook, resulting in the death of one their staff, Sam starts to look into the series of arson fires that have started to escalate with deadly intent. And Damon Blake, the main suspect in the fires, puts Sam in an awkward position when he contacts Sam and pleads his innocence. Not to mention, Yuri, one of Sam’s friends (and a one-time lover), kisses Sam at a party and basically let’s Sam know that he still has feelings for him. Even though Yuri is about to move in with his new lover, Michael…

Maggie Kavanagh’s Inner Sanctum is just as good as the first story, Double Indemnity! The writing flows smoothly and the main characters, as well as the secondary ones, are definitely interesting enough that you want to get to know them more. The author does an excellent job of writing a mystery that leaves one guessing who the real culprit is. I love that I couldn’t figure it out, and yet it all made sense when the great reveal happened. I’m really looking forward to the next installment of the series.

I really want to know what is going to happen to Timmy!

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You can buy Inner Sanctum here:

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Karen, Rhys Ford

Review: Sloe Ride by Rhys Ford

Title:  Sloe Ride (Sinners: Book Four)

Author:  Rhys Ford

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press

Page/Word Count: 246 Pages

At a Glance:  Quinn and Rafe are now my favorite couple in this series.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb:  It isn’t easy being a Morgan. Especially when dead bodies start piling up and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it.

Quinn Morgan never quite fit into the family mold. He dreamed of a life with books instead of badges and knowledge instead of law—and a life with Rafe Andrade, his older brothers’ bad boy friend and the man who broke his very young heart.

Rafe Andrade returned home to lick his wounds following his ejection from the band he helped form. A recovering drug addict, Rafe spends his time wallowing in guilt, until he finds himself faced with his original addiction, Quinn Morgan—the reason he fled the city in the first place.

When Rafe hears the Sinners are looking for a bassist, it’s a chance to redeem himself, but as a crazed murderer draws closer to Quinn, Rafe’s willing to sacrifice everything—including himself—to keep his quixotic Morgan safe and sound.

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Review:  I did a reread of the Sinners series in preparation for Sloe Ride, and Quinn and Rafe are now my favorite couple in this series.

In my family, almost everyone is loud and opinionated and outgoing, they make friends with everyone; basically, they are all super social.  Now, if you have ever met me or even interacted with me online, I am the exact opposite of them. I am quiet. In most cases I keep my opinions to myself, I am super-shy, and when I meet someone new, I am usually terrified to say anything because I am pretty sure whatever comes out of my mouth is going to sound ridiculous to them, and that I will make a fool of myself. Because I get so nervous when I do start talking, I tend to babble… I am a mess, so it was easy for me to get into Quinn’s story since I felt some similarities with him.

Quinn and Rafe’s relationship, compared to the others in the series, seemed to flow and develop much more smoothly, more sweetly.  I love how Rafe handles Quinn’s quirks, and even finds them adorable.  Throughout the story you still get doses of the rest of the guys you already love, along with watching Quinn and Rafe get together.  Having the little snippets of the others seemed to give this book that little edge we are used to in the series, while keeping Quinn and Rafe’s story sweet.

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Reviewed by Karen, Rhys Ford

Audio Review: Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

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Title:  Murder and Mayhem

Author:  Rhys Ford

Narrator: Greg Tremblay

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press

Run Time:  7 hours and 44 minutes

At a Glance:  I am a huge fan of both Rhys Ford and Greg Tremblay, and when you put them together, the end product is nothing short of amazing.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb:  Dead women tell no tales.

Former cat burglar Rook Stevens stole many a priceless thing in the past, but he’s never been accused of taking a life – until now. It was one thing to find a former associate inside Potter’s Field, his pop culture memorabilia shop, but quite another to stumble across her dead body.

Detective Dante Montoya thought he’d never see Rook Stevens again – not after his former partner falsified evidence to entrap the jewelry thief and Stevens walked off scot-free. So when he tackled a fleeing murder suspect, Dante was shocked to discover the blood-covered man was none other than the thief he’d fought to put in prison and who still makes his blood sing.

Rook is determined to shake loose the murder charge against him, even if it means putting distance between him and the rugged Cuban-Mexican detective who brought him down. If one dead con artist wasn’t bad enough, others soon follow, and as the bodies pile up around Rook’s feet, he’s forced to reach out to the last man he’d expect to believe in his innocence – and the only man who’s ever gotten under Rook’s skin.

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Review:  Once I started doing reviews, and had access to audiobooks opened up to me, I learned pretty quickly that the narrator can make or break the story.  I have had instances where a story that wasn’t a favorite became one because of the way the narrator delivered it, and had the reverse happen–a story that I loved being performed by a narrator that made it almost impossible to get through the book.  Then, there are audiobooks like this one, where the story is amazing all by itself, but read by a fantastic narrator elevates it even more.  I am a huge fan of both Rhys Ford and Greg Tremblay, and when you put them together, the end product is nothing short of amazing.

There are a few narrators that I have listened to who have an amazing talent for bringing a story to life and reeling you in. Greg Tremblay is one of them.  It blows me away how these narrators are able to bring to life so many different characters, and give them a voice, and, in this case, every one of them so distinct you have no trouble following who’s talking. It’s easy to forget that it is one person doing this, and then I sit back in amazement when the realization hits.

When I first read Murder and Mayhem, it became one of my favorite books by Rhys Ford, which, in and of itself, says something since I adore every one of her books I’ve read, but the narration by Greg Tremblay made me love the story that much more.

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You can buy Murder and Mayhem here:

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5 Stars, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Sammy, Theo Fenraven, Voodoo Lily Press

Review: Half Moon House by Theo Fenraven

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Title: Half Moon House

Author: Theo Fenraven

Publisher: Voodoo Lily Press

Pages/Word Count: 175 Pages

At a Glance: Once again Theo Fenraven gives us a thoughtful story. Highly recommended.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Abandoned by an industry that has been decimated by the economy, and struggling in a marriage that isn’t quite the stuff of dreams, Jon Donovan is ready for a change.

It appears in the shape of Cass Allen—as comfortable in a skirt and heels as he is in jeans—who has happily spent his life drifting from place to place and job to job.

Pragmatic and practical meets mystical and magical as they start a new business, help solve a murder, and are blindsided by a devastating betrayal neither of them saw coming.

The tiny house community has two new advocates, but Jon and Cass will only find their happy ending if they are willing to give up who they were and become the men they are supposed to be.

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Review: When you reach a point in your life where you are certain you cannot survive one more hit, you know it’s time to make a change. Jon has lost just about everything a man could lose, the land he loves, a startup business that was a dream come true, a wife he thought loved him, almost everything but the shirt off his back, all except for Cass.

Cass, beautiful, mysterious, and with the ability to calm Jon like no other, enters his life and reopens a door he felt was closed. Cass is as fluid as they come; delighting in a skirt as much as a pair of jeans, he has just that touch of mysticism that will set him apart from any man Jon has ever met. The two venture into a business deal only to have it literally stolen from them by the one person Jon trusted other than Cass—his wife.

Now Jon must start again, but how? And where? Florida has been his home for many years, but the next opportunity will take him far afield and the real question is, will Cass remain a part of his life, or be one more thing he has lost in the process of beginning again?

Half Moon House by Theo Fenraven explores what it means to take risks. Jon and Cass both throw caution to the wind in many ways in this novel, from the business they begin (construction of tiny homes often measuring less than 300 square feet), to becoming involved in solving a local murder. With energy the two men embrace the unknown. What they did not expect was to be thwarted and nearly destroyed by those who pledged to love them. However, adversity brings to the fore our best and worst qualities, and this author chooses to dwell on the indomitable spirit inside that will carry these men through the darkest of time.

The beauty of Mr. Fenraven’s writing lay in the descriptive passages of the land Jon owns and of the friend he has found in Cass. One can almost feel the gentle breezes rolling off the water and see the variety of wildlife that inhabits it. Then the gorgeous scenery wraps around the two men who have made it their home and we are mesmerized by the way this story unfolds, and we learn so much about what makes these two men tick. More than that, we learn to appreciate what we have and how to make sure that through wise stewardship we will have it for years to come.

Half Moon House is much more than a romance. The novel introduces a way to live life to its fullest by conserving and preserving our time on earth. The fact that a bit of mysticism and mayhem was thrown in the mix only served to make this incredible story that much edgier. You feel every struggle and blow that fall on Jon and, by association, Cass. Thankfully you also experience their grit and determination to survive and thrive on their terms and no one else’s.

Once again Theo Fenraven gives us a thoughtful story and leaves us with a reminder to appreciate each moment and person that comes into our lives. I highly recommend Half Moon House to you.

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, John Inman, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Sunset Lake by John Inman

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Title: Sunset Lake

Author: John Inman

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 320 Pages

At a Glance: I highly recommend Sunset Lake to you. It is an amazing piece of work.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Reverend Brian Lucas has a secret his congregation in the Nine Mile Methodist Church knows nothing about, and he’d really like to keep it that way. But even his earth-shattering secret takes a backseat to what else is happening in his tiny hometown.

Murders usually do that.

Brian’s “close friend,” Sam, is urging a resolution to their little problem, but Brian’s brother, Boyd, the County Sheriff, is more caught up in chasing down a homicidal maniac who is slaughtering little old ladies.

When Brian’s secret and Boyd’s mystery run into each other head on, and Boyd’s fifteen-year-old son, Jesse, gets involved, all hell breaks loose. Then a fourth death comes to terrify the town, and it is Brian who begins to see what is taking place in their little corner of the Corn Belt. But even for a Methodist minister, it will take more than prayer to set it right.

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Review: Well, it has finally happened. I have been rendered speechless by what I must say is one of the most exciting and exceptional murder mysteries on the market today. John Inman’s Sunset Lake not only exceeded my expectations, given that this author is well known for turning out great stories, but has left me with nothing more than endless superlatives about this incredible piece of fiction.

A cold-blooded psychopath has come to the quiet farming community of Nine Mile. What seems to be a series of random murders has set the town on edge, and the local minister, Brian Lucas, is doing his best to help the victim’s families bear their grief. Having a unique inside view to the investigative process, due to his brother being the town sheriff, Brian has not a clue who could possibly be stalking his flock. Time and again he will turn to his friend Sam for both support and comfort. But these men have a deeply held secret that has been kept for far too long. In fact, Brian is in danger of losing more than members of his flock; he may have to say goodbye to the love of his life.

I never saw it coming. The murderer? The gasp worthy ending? I never had a clue, and I am an avid mystery reader. In fact, one of my pet peeves is that I often figure out the ending of a novel and solve the mystery before it is revealed. But not this time. No, this one was so cleverly written, so intricately drawn that I had absolutely no inkling of how it would all play out. When John Inman finally disclosed who was viciously killing the old women in town, I was shocked. But Mr. Inman was not done with me, not by a long shot, for the ending of this novel was perhaps the most gut-wrenching solution ever offered up by a novelist.

However, the mechanics of this mystery were not the only thing that made this story a nail-biting page turner. What this author does with defining his characters and revealing their inner thoughts and emotions is nothing short of brilliant! In this case, even the town of Nine Mile becomes one of the “people” in his book. With incredible detail and a constant barometer reading of the pulse and atmosphere of the landscape, the story takes on a frantic edge that carries the reader along with it. You literally breathe the air around Sunset Lake. You feel the rain and violent nature of the storms that descend on the town beginning on the day of the first murder. It’s as if even the elements know something evil has come into its midst.

Then, Mr. Inman introduces you to the people of his town and you fall in love with them. From Sam’s irascible aunt to the two young boys, Kyle and Jesse, and a host of others, the inhabitants come to life under the deft hands of this author. But the real stars in this novel are Bryan and Sam, whose secret draws you in and makes you ache for the fragile nature of what you hope will be a long term solution. I hate to be cryptic, but you really must read this story to understand all the complexities within this gorgeously crafted community.

It is no secret that I have been a fan of this author’s work in the past. This novel has solidified for me that John Inman deserves to rank high on any best seller list. He is just that good. I highly recommend Sunset Lake to you. It is an amazing piece of work.

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, Joe Cosentino, Lethe Press, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: Drama Queen by Joe Cosentino

Title: Drama Queen (A Nicky and Noah Mystery)

Author: Joe Cosentino

Publisher: Lethe Press

Pages/Word Count: 196 Pages

At a Glance: Drama Queen is a comedic and cozy little murder mystery with a side of romance.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: It could be curtains for college theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza. With dead bodies popping up all over campus, Nicky must use his drama skills to figure out who is playing the role of murderer before it is lights out for Nicky and his colleagues. Complicating matters is Nicky’s huge crush on Noah Oliver, a gorgeous assistant professor in his department, who may or may not be involved with a cocky graduate assistant…and is also the top suspect for the murders! You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat, delightfully entertaining novel. Curtain up!

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Review: Joe Cosentino’s Drama Queen takes readers behind the curtain at Treemeadow College, a fictional school set in the fictional town of Treemeadow, Vermont—perhaps the last place on earth one might expect to happen upon a series of murders. But, that is indeed what we find within the pages of this book: a murder mystery, a comedic romp, an investigative caper, and a love story all rolled up into one nifty little novel that never takes itself too seriously, leaves us rooting for its amateur sleuthing duo, Professors Nicky Abbondanza and Noah Oliver, and places this novel firmly in the category of a tried and true cozy mystery.

There’s a play-within-the-play feeling to this story, in that Cosentino makes us, the readers, his audience, as though we’re watching a theatrical performance he’s scripting and directing as the story moves forward, all while the actors are moving from scene to scene and including us in the show. There’s a play in pre-production at Treemeadow, too, but someone keeps bumping off faculty members, one by one, which leads to the theater department’s eventual closure, and leaves Nicky and Noah to team up as our pseud0 Holmes/Watson investigative team, not only to help find the killer but to help clear Noah as a suspect.

The author keeps things close to the vest as the story unfolds—there are a slew of players, both major and minor, which leaves us with plenty of red herrings, each with possible motives and sufficient opportunity to make them a plausible suspect in the crimes. As Nicky and Noah make their way through this cat and mouse caper, and the body count continues to rise, we also watch these two playful and charming men fall crazy in love with each other, which gives Drama Queen just the right heartwarming tone to add to its blend of lightheartedness and drama.

If you’re ever on the outlook for a sweet romance with a murderous bite that’ll tickle your funny bone too, consider giving this coziest of cozies a try.

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You can buy Drama Queen here:

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4 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Blaine D. Arden, Cayendi Press, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Oren’s Right by Blaine D. Arden

Title: Oren’s Right (Tales of the Forest)

Author: Blaine D. Arden

Publisher: Cayendi Press

Pages/Word Count: 65 Pages

At a Glance: A beautiful tale of longing and need set in the world of Blaine D. Arden’s Forester series.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Following his principles will break two hearts.

Forester Veld loses a piece of himself to mute baker Oren when they first meet, but Oren is vowed to Haram. When Haram is killed, Veld denies his heart to respect the mourning period. It’s the right thing to do.

During Haram’s funeral, Oren proudly bares the brands that show the nature of their love; Haram owned him, heart and body. The elves pity Oren and think he’s broken.

Veld has no intention of dishonouring Haram’s memory, but his death may not have been an accident. Only a forester can learn what the trees have seen. However, Oren’s independence is threatened, and if Veld does not offer what Oren needs, Oren may never be his to claim.

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Review: Although it’s noted that the Tales of the Forest series can be read in any order, I have to say I feel you’d get the most out of reading Oren’s Right if, at the minimum, The Forester: Book One is read first. I can say that without any qualms, too, because I’ve now enjoyed all three books set in this elven world Blaine D. Arden has created, but must say I think a certain level of familiarity with the tribe and its politics, positions and the hierarchy of those positions within the tribe, as well as the magic, customs and beliefs in this fantasy setting, is needed to get the fullest understanding of and meaning from Veld and Oren’s story.

The plot of Oren’s Right is twofold, the first being a murder mystery; the other is the story of the man whose world crumbled when the one who owned him body, heart, and soul was suddenly no longer there for him to take care of. For a man such as Oren, a man who finds fulfillment in submission and service to another, this left him at loose ends, as well as ripe for not only gossip but to be picked at by the busybodies who feel Oren needs a woman to care for him.

Veld’s want of Oren causes the Forester no small amount of guilt, when Haram has been so recently murdered, but the feelings Veld harbors for Oren are far from new. Veld has always wanted what Haram had with Oren, but Haram wasn’t the sort of man to share, nor was Veld the sort of man who wouldn’t honor, to its fullest extent, Haram and Oren’s bond.

The building of the relationship between Veld and Oren is incredibly touching; the need for these two men to be together—one to master, the other to serve—is portrayed well through their connection and communication, as we observe Veld’s increased longing to mark Oren and make the mute baker his own. This, played out against the investigation of Haram’s death—which, as it turns out, was no accident—layers well with the anticipation of a relationship, and offers this novella a fuller, richer emotional payoff than I’d expected from the word count.

Arden brings this story to a satisfying and poignant conclusion, as we witness Haram’s final act, perhaps his most selfless and greatest act, to ensure Oren continues to get what he needs to be whole and happy and healthy. This ending, complemented by the bonus scenes that have been added since the novella’s original publication, transforms what might have been a happy for now tale into something with a more permanent and fulfilling note to it.

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Giveaways, Joe Cosentino, Lethe Press

Guest Post and Giveaway: Drama Queen by Joe Cosentino

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Author Joe Cosentino joins us today to chat a bit about his latest novel Drama Queen and is also offering the chance for one lucky reader to win an e-copy of his Dreamspinner Press novella An Infatuation. To enter for your chance to win, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below.

Good luck!

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WHY I WROTE A NEW GAY MYSTERY/COMEDY/ROMANCE SERIES

THE NICKY AND NOAH MYSTERIES

PREMIERING WITH DRAMA QUEEN, PUBLISHED BY LETHE PRESS

by Joe Cosentino

A good who-dun-it, a good laugh, and a good spark of romance are hard to beat. I have always been a huge Agatha Christie fan and a loyal Armistead Maupin reader. What I love most about their novels are the sense of mystery, plot twists and turns, clever humor, and unexpected yet totally earned endings. So I decided to write a new gay mystery/comedy/romance series along that vein. As a theatre college professor/department head, I set my series on a college campus in a fictitious, quaint, private New England campus. The Nicky and Noah mystery series was born.

The setting is an Edwardian style university founded originally by a gay couple (Tree and Meadow) whose name the university bares: Treemeadow College. In the first novel, it is winter, so white snow, cherry wood mantels surrounding blazing fireplaces, and hot chocolate are in abundance. In the second book, it is fall, so gorgeous leaves of amber, violet, and scarlet blanket the campus. The third book takes us on cruise to Alaska for sights of glaciers and whales.

As Drama Queen (book one) begins, David Samson, the technical theatre professor, is found with a knife from the prop room lodged in his back. The suspects include David’s wife and son who stand to inherit a fortune, David’s two hunky graduates assistants who are desperate for his job, the mysterious movement professor who Samson didn’t support for tenure, the department head David wanted to unseat, David’s two ex-lovers, and his four students with a joint secret. When the local police are stumped, including a studly closet-gay detective, it is up to handsome, well-endowed Nicky Abbondanza, Professor of Directing, to moonlight from directing the college production and use his theatre skills to find the murderer. Complicating matters is Nicky’s intense crush on gorgeous Assistant Professor of Acting, Noah Oliver, the prime suspect in the murder (whose tenure application was not supported by the victim).

Nicky has his sleuthing cut out for him as Treemeadow theatre professors continue to drop like stage curtains. Since Noah finds each of the bodies, Nicky must not only restore justice to Treemeadow, but also save the man he adores.

As Nicky and Noah eavesdrop, seduce, role play, and finally trap the murderer, pandemonium, hilarity, and true love ensue for a happily ever after ending—until the next book. In Drama Muscle, Nicky and Noah don their gay Holmes and Watson personas again to find out who is murdering musclemen in the Physical Education Department. In the third book, Drama Cruise, Nicky and Noah embark on a cruise to Alaska while putting on murder mystery dinner theatre—and solving a real murder mystery onboard ship.

Readers will enjoy getting to know quick-witted sleuth Nicky and sweet, loyal Noah. They’ll find the clues, red herrings, plot twists, and puzzles captivating. Fans will love the budding romance between them. Most of all, readers will laugh at the hijinks, hysteria, and unquenchable spirits of Nicky and Noah. As the two fall in love with each other, the readers will fall in love with them.

So grab your program and take your box seat. The curtain is going up on this new series. Lights up!

Drama Queen is available at the following e-tailers: Lethe Press (paperback) | Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (paperback) | Barnes & Noble

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Author BioAbout the Author: Joe Cosentino is the author of An Infatuation (Dreamspinner Press), Paper Doll, the first Jana Lane mystery (Whiskey Creek Press), Drama Queen, the first Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are Porcelain Doll (the second Jana Lane mystery), Drama Muscle (the second Nicky and Noah mystery), A Shooting Star (Dreamspinner Press novella), A Home for the Holidays (Dreamspinner Press holiday novella).

You can find out more about Joe at his website joecosentino.weebly.com

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THE GIVEAWAY:

An Infatuation: With his ten-year high school reunion approaching, Harold wonders whether Mario will be as muscular, sexy, and tantalizing as he remembers. As a teenager, it was love at first sight for Harold while tutoring football star Mario, until homophobia and bullying drove Mario deep into the closet. Now they’re both married men. Mario, a model, is miserable with his producer wife, while Harold, a teacher, is perfectly content with his businessman husband, Stuart. When the two meet again, will the old flame reignite, setting Harold’s comfortable life ablaze? How can Harold be happy with Stuart when he is still infatuated with his Adonis, his first love, Mario? Harold faces this seemingly impossible situation with inimitable wit, tenderness, and humor as he attempts to reconcile the past and the future.

A Bittersweet Dreams title: It’s an unfortunate truth: love doesn’t always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.

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4.5 Stars, Audio Book, JCP Books, Jordan Castillo Price, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Reviewed by Lisa

E-book and Audio Review: Body Art by Jordan Castillo Price – Narrated by Gomez Pugh

Audio Gem

Title: Body Art

Author: Jordan Castillo Price

Publisher: JCP Books

Pages/Run Time: 108 Pages/ 3 Hours and 24 Minutes

At a Glance: A little murder and another stellar performance by Gomez Pugh make perfect companions of this e- and audiobook.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Does everyone have a certain “type” they end up with…whether they want to or not? If Ray Carlucci’s ex is anything to go by, Ray likes his men gorgeous, rebellious, and chock-full of issues. But now that Ray is single again, he has a shot at a fresh start—a very fresh start, since his tattoo shop was gutted by repo men and he can fit all his belongings in the trunk of a taxi.

Ray’s shiny new chauffeur’s license lands him a job as a driver for an elderly couple on Red Wing Island. It’s a cold fall, and since the Michigan island is the summer home to snowbirds who fly south for the winter, it’s practically deserted—save for Ray’s new household and a sculptor named Anton Kopec, who works day and night twisting brambles and twine into the distorted shapes of macabre creatures. Compelling, bizarre, and somewhat disturbing…not just the sculptures, but the artist, too. Ray has a feeling Anton is just his “type.”

Despite their scorching chemistry, when a dead body is unearthed by some workers and a freak ice storm traps them all on the island, Ray can’t say for certain that his new flame isn’t capable of murder.

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Review: One of the things I love about Jordan Castillo Price’s work is that you never quite know what you’re going to get between the covers of her books. Sure, you have the blurb, but that’s just the bait to lure you in. What hooks me, without fail, every time, is her characters. Anton Kopec embodies the flawed men this author makes us fall for. Ray Carlucci embodies the flawed men this author makes us relate to. Sometimes her characters are challenged by a psychological affliction, and sometimes they’re just regular guys who get kicked in the teeth when it’s not quite bad enough that life already has their privates twisted firmly in a vice.

This short novel, Body Art, is billed as a thriller, and that it is. The setting evolves with the change of seasons on a Michigan island, just as summer has turned to autumn, and autumn is quickly swept aside by the unforgiving nature of a winter ice storm, which adds a terrible beauty to the island’s isolation and the eerie desolation of a dark forest thick with the unknown.

When immolated animals begin showing up on Ray’s doorstep, there is a clear and present bizarreness that sneaks up on readers—at first seeming innocuous enough as we’re empathizing with Ray’s “every man” troubles, but at the same time, we also know nothing good is bound to happen with this sort of foreshadowing. The atmosphere and anticipation in this novella is built slowly and begins to escalate not long after Ray meets fellow island resident Anton in the woods one night. Their initial meeting only adds to the strange and unusual, as Anton works exhaustively at being little more than enigmatic—something that just so happens to draw Ray to the beautiful, eccentric artist like steel to a magnet.

Anton’s behavior is symptomatic of his psychological chemistry, at once agitated, then almost childlike in the intensity of his enthusiasm, much more than mere artistic temperament allows for. Ray’s reactions to Anton are symptomatic of an arsebite of an ex-boyfriend, the loss of his tattoo shop, and his undeniable attraction to men who may not necessarily be good for him. Everything in this story comes to a head, however, when a dead body is discovered buried beneath his new employers’ lawn, the body of a man who was known to be a friend of the one man whose moods and behavior are known to be erratic at best. The mystery unfolds under a cloud of suspicion, where we readers are left to wonder whether or not the identity of a killer might be locked inside the Alzheimer’s-riddled mind of an old man.

Jealousy and greed go hand-in-hand with murder in Body Art, and JCP gives plausible enough reason to substantiate a killer’s motives in a story that had just enough twists to keep me guessing all the way up to the Big Reveal. As a standalone novella, we get just enough depth to the storyline and characterizations, not as much as I always appreciate in this author’s work, but more than enough for those times I love a little instant-gratification in a shorter novel. Not to mention when I want some chills and a good mystery; this book fit those needs perfectly.

I read this e-book first, then I let Gomez Pugh read it to me a second time because I may or may not be addicted to his voice—it’s a close call. Not only that, but I wanted to test Pugh’s range on yet another Jordan Castillo Price offering. Unsurprisingly he delivers a great performance, emoting to perfection each nuance of Anton’s high-tension-wire personality, then delivering on the next breath Ray’s regular Joe, good guy patience and kindness. From the elderly couple, who are Ray’s employers, to the rest of the staff left on the island, to the least significant bit-part role player, Pugh seems incapable of turning in anything resembling a mediocre or lackluster narration. In fact, if hard pressed, I might even say his delivery elevates Body Art a notch simply because of his smooth and sexy voice.

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You can buy Body Art here:

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Dreamspinner Press, Giveaways, Rhys Ford

Killing Them Softly: The Murder and Mayhem Blog Tour With Rhys Ford

Murder_Mayhem_header

A funny thing happened on the way to the murder scene… I needed victims.

Now skip this part if you’ve heard it before but see, it’s hard to be a serial killer without victims. And if there’s one thing I do like writing, it is murder.

For the introduction of Rook and Dante in Murder and Mayhem, I wanted to do something different so I reached out to my fellow authors and asked, Can I murder you?

Everyone I reached out to said yes. Some were reluctant, some were enthusiastic, but mostly there was a tingle of impending doom because really, nothing says I love you like a particularly well planned murder—especially if it’s yours.

The authors I’m killing off on this tour are some of my favourites. I could kill everyone I like. Sadly, I wouldn’t have enough time, and I do have to move on to other murders, other books. But I’ve gathered a few… and best of all, like in some of the better mysteries in life, there is a plot twist.

***THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED***

To launch the Murder and Mayhem series, I will be giving away books written by my victims as well as a $20 USD gift certificate to the eTailer of the winner’s choice.

Catch each authors’ death on the tour and be sure to enter to win! And thank you all very much.

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6tammTA Moore—Labyrinth of Stone
I’ve known Tamm for centuries. She is one of the Five, a beloved cluster of friends who’ve bled, cried, laughed and coffeed together in various groupings. Tamm’s also one of the best fucking writers I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. God, I wish I could write like her.

6JCP

Jordan Castillo Price —  Channeling Morpheus for Scary Mary Ebook Box Set,  Mnevermind 1: The Persistence of Memory
There’s a Japanese word, komorebi, that loosely means the scattered, bokeh-like light when the sun shines in between trees. It’s an intangible word but when you come across that moment…in that forest…with the pungent scent of the weald in your lungs and the sparkling warmth cutting through the cold, you sure as hell know what that word means. Reading Jordan’s books, delving into her worlds, is to capture that moment and hold onto it forever in your mind.

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Blurb – Murder and Mayhem: Dead women tell no tales.

Former cat burglar Rook Stevens stole many a priceless thing in the past, but he’s never been accused of taking a life—until now. It was one thing to find a former associate inside Potter’s Field, his pop culture memorabilia shop, but quite another to stumble across her dead body.

Detective Dante Montoya thought he’d never see Rook Stevens again—not after his former partner’d falsified evidence to entrap the jewelry thief and Stevens walked off scot-free. So when he tackled a fleeing murder suspect, Dante was shocked to discover the blood-covered man was none other than the thief he’d fought to put in prison and who still made his blood sing.

Rook is determined to shake loose the murder charge against him, even if it means putting distance between him and the rugged Cuban-Mexican detective who brought him down. If one dead con artist wasn’t bad enough, others soon follow, and as the bodies pile up around Rook’s feet, he’s forced to reach out to the last man he’d expect to believe in his innocence—and the only man who’s ever gotten under Rook’s skin.

Read an excerpt and Purchase Murder and Mayhem HERE

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Murder and Mayhem Blog Tour:

June 1:  It’s About The Book

June 2: Love Bytes

June 3: MMGoodBook Reviews

June 4: Mercy Celeste | 3Chicks After Dark

June 5: The Novel Approach | Bike Book Reviews Spotlight

June 6: Sinfully Sexy

June 7: The Blogger Girls 

June 8: Prism Book Alliance

June 9: Joyfully Jay

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!rhys_ford_headshotAbout Rhys Ford: Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawai’i then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.

Rhys admits to sharing the house with three cats of varying degrees of black fur and a ginger cairn terrorist. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and an overworked red coffee maker.

My Blog | Facebook | Twitter

And at the Starbucks down the street. No really, they’re 24/7. And a drive-thru. It’s like heaven.

My books can be purchased, folded and first chapters read at Dreamspinner Press.

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Karen, Rhys Ford

Review: Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford

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Title: Murder and Mayhem

Author: Rhys Ford

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Page/Word Count: 236 Pages

At a Glance: I closed the book with a smile. :)

Reviewed By: Karen

Blurb: Dead women tell no tales.

Former cat burglar Rook Stevens stole many a priceless thing in the past, but he’s never been accused of taking a life—until now. It was one thing to find a former associate inside Potter’s Field, his pop culture memorabilia shop, but quite another to stumble across her dead body.

Detective Dante Montoya thought he’d never see Rook Stevens again—not after his former partner’d falsified evidence to entrap the jewelry thief and Stevens walked off scot-free. So when he tackled a fleeing murder suspect, Dante was shocked to discover the blood-covered man was none other than the thief he’d fought to put in prison and who still made his blood sing.

Rook is determined to shake loose the murder charge against him, even if it means putting distance between him and the rugged Cuban-Mexican detective who brought him down. If one dead con artist wasn’t bad enough, others soon follow, and as the bodies pile up around Rook’s feet, he’s forced to reach out to the last man he’d expect to believe in his innocence—and the only man who’s ever gotten under Rook’s skin.

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Review: Not that I didn’t know it before reading this book, but I honestly, in my opinion, don’t believe Rhys Ford can write a bad story. Everything I have read that she has written is amazing, and this may be my new favorite from her.

This book is a little different than what I am used to getting in a Rhys Ford book, and I have sat here and rewrote this sentence multiple times, trying to come up with the right words, or something to try to explain what makes it different, and I got nothing. The best I can think of is that this book is a little grittier than I what I am used to in her books. You still get all the things you love in a Rhys Ford book, though: you get mystery, love, humor – but in maybe a little darker package.

I love that everything is always so descriptive, and I get a clear picture in my head of each scene. As you’re reading, you can not only see the picture but almost feel, smell, hear and taste the things being described. Now, I am a romance girl, those are the books I like, and I rarely, if ever, read anything that isn’t in that genre. With that being said, even if this didn’t have the “romance” aspect to it, I still would have loved it just being a murder mystery story. But, boy am I glad that isn’t the case, because Rook and Dante are HOT!

Rook comes across as such as smartass. He is snarky and grumbly and always has a comeback. It was awesome and funny – but the more you learn about him, you see that he is really just hiding behind it and is kind of lost. Dante, on the other hand, comes across as much more calm and rational, but has no problem keeping up with Rook’s mouth. Then about three-quarters of the way in, I was literally sitting on my couch, curled up in a blanket saying out loud, “Awww….I love them together!” My husband at this point has pretty much excepted that I am nuts and talk to my books, so he just looked over, saw that I was holding my Kindle, shook his head, and turned back to the game. This book also had one of the best lines I have ever read in it about what a real man is – I don’t ever highlight on my Kindle, there was never anything that really jumped out at me where I felt, “Wow, I really want to remember this one line,” but there was in this book. I not only highlighted it but had to put my Kindle down and absorb just that one little part.

I love the great references in the book (one of my favorite movies of all time!) And waited and waited for the one line…I know it had to be in there at some point, and I finally got it in the very last paragraph, so I closed the book with a smile. :)

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You Can Pre-Order Murder and Mayhem here:

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Cover Reveal, Dreamspinner Press, Giveaways, Indra Vaughn

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Fragmented (Shadow Mountain: Book Two) by Indra Vaughn

FragmentedFS

Title: Fragmented
Series: Shadow Mountain (Sequel to Fated)
Author: Indra Vaughn
Publishers: Dreamspinner Press
Releasing: June of 2015
Length: 266 Pages
Categories: Paranormal, Murder Mystery
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase

Blurb: The capture of the Tattoo Murderer has demanded a heavy price. Doctor Tobias Darwin is dead, Lieutenant Hart is back in Riverside licking his substantial wounds, and he needs to gather his courage and tell Isaac he made a mistake. Isaac will forgive him—he knows that—but he can’t promise Isaac an easy life. Being a cop comes with its own risks, after all.

When they finally reach the same wavelength, their idyllic reprieve is cut tragically short. Hart doesn’t know yet that Isaac is terminally ill, that he will take off to find the Phoenix to heal him as a last resort. This time, it will be Hart who pays the price.

In the meantime, a new killer roams the streets of Riverside. He kidnaps, tortures, and kills gay men in horrific ways, and he has the newly healed Isaac in his sights. Hart’s time is running out on every level.

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Excerpt: “How’s your shoulder?” Hart asked.

“Not bad. I get a twinge every now and again, but it’s healing up nicely. How about you? I guess spending the night is out of the question, huh,” he asked, running his fingers lightly over Hart’s aching side.

“Unless you want to sleep beside a drug-induced snorer, probably yes,” Hart said. “I don’t think I can even stand up long enough to shower.” Isaac had a smear of paint on his cheek, and Hart wiped at it with his thumb but ended up spreading it around more. He grinned and took Isaac’s face between his palms. “Did you have time to think?”

Isaac touched Hart’s shirt, pressing his fingertips lightly against the center of his breastbone. “Like I could stop.”

Hart put his hand over Isaac’s. It trembled. “So you ready to have a go at this, then?”

Isaac laughed and ducked his head. “You know how happy it makes me to hear you ask me that?” he said, voice low. He put his arms around Hart’s shoulders and drew him carefully near, pressing his nose against Hart’s neck. “So fucking ready,”he mumbled, kissing the soft skin above Hart’s clavicle lightly.

Hart drew back a little, just enough so he could kiss Isaac on the mouth. Outside the night chirped with the last of the cicadas, and he thought how strange it was to stand in his dimly lit garage, which smelled of spilled oil and turpentine, feeling happier than he could ever remember.

The kiss deepened and Isaac gently squeezed Hart’s shoulders. He made a hoarse noise when Hart gathered up his T-shirt at the small of his back and palmed his skin, but as soon as Hart needed to take a deep breath, his aching body protested unkindly.

Reluctantly Hart let Isaac go. “You have no idea how badly I wish I was up for this now.”

Isaac rested his fingertips against Hart’s sternum. “Can I see?”

Hart took a small step back, but Isaac didn’t allow the contact between them to break. “I don’t—it’s not pretty.”

“I don’t expect it to be. I’ve got a wild imagination.”

Hart breathed carefully, then held his hands out palms up as if to say “go ahead.” With a touch so gentle he could hardly feel it, Isaac lifted his shirt, then ran light fingers around the puncture wounds on his side.

“That’s not so bad,” he said, and then his eyes narrowed. “Where’s the stab wound?”

Hart turned around and Isaac lifted the shirt, slowly higher and higher, until the scars were bared. He didn’t say anything for the longest time, but Hart could feel him swish his thumb back and forth over his left shoulder blade. Isaac turned him around again, eyes shimmering.

“We’ve got matching scars now,”Isaac said, trying to make light, but his bottom lip quivered. “Oh, love.”

His eyes were so sad Hart thought he’d break in half. He reached out and cupped Isaac’s face, so he could pull him close and rest their cheeks together.

“I’m all right now, angel. I’m all right. I wish I could show you how much—”

“You go rest,” Isaac said, gently rubbing his hands over Hart’s arms and kissing him lightly one more time. “Like you said, we’re in no hurry. I’ll come see you tomorrow. I’m glad I can say that now. I’m so happy you’re back.” He smiled bashfully, and Hart watched him go through the open garage door.

Across the street where Isaac lived with his mom until he returned to school, one of the upstairs curtains moved. One of the three nosy brothers? Hart turned around and grinned. He had a box full of unsolved murders and his body felt like it was a hundred years old, but he couldn’t remember ever feeling this light.

It was well after midnight when Hart fell into bed, limbs lax and mind swimming from a painkiller. He imagined he could still feel Isaac’s mouth on his like a promise of more to come. The thought made his dick swell and Hart stuffed a hand down his boxers to tug at his balls, just to feel that sweet ache. His body felt too boneless and weak with fatigue to really do much about his growing arousal, but it didn’t matter. The heat in his blood was enough.

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Giveaways

In honor of the upcoming release of Fragmented, Indra Vaughn is offering the chance for one lucky reader to win an e-copy of Fated, Book One in the Shadow Mountain series. To enter for a chance to win, just click on the Rafflecopter widget.

Good luck!

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FatedFATED: Two towns flank the looming Shadow Mountain. A dark myth of the Predator drifts through the dense trees, a tale Police Lieutenant Hart never paid much attention to. When one unresolved death follows another—some people dying without discernible cause while others are clearly, and often brutally, murdered—he can’t ignore it any longer. Truth may lie in myth, but this one is spread to deceive everyone. The Predator exists, but he’s not entirely human. Hart will have to find the connection between the mysterious figure and victims with only one thing in common: a faint tattoo on the backs of their necks, a mark left when someone healed their incurable diseases.

Isaac Lasko has been in love with Hart since he moved in across the street seven years ago. He’s been helping Hart renovate his home, and their friendship grows more intense with the years, but Isaac can’t help wishing for a deeper bond. When he finally breaks through the lieutenant’s armor, the mystery surrounding the Predator threatens them both. Help will come, but at a price.

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5 Stars, BJ Sheppard, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Sammy, Self-Published

Review: Pieces of Jack by BJ Sheppard

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Title: Pieces of Jack

Author: BJ Sheppard

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 305 Pages

At a Glance: The mystery element in Pieces Of Jack is center stage and riveting. The action is swift and pulls you along, the terror and fear palpable.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: …the price of silence just went up.

14 years ago, five friends were bound together in a pact of silence, burying their involvement in the murder of a classmate hell-bent on exposing their darkest secrets. Now, fighting for justice on the Grimm City PD, Detective Meyer Stanton finds himself thrown back into the past, the secrets he vowed to keep, coming back to haunt him. Working below the law, Meyer, his childhood sweetheart, Evan, and an old flame become the targets of a psychotic serial killer, wearing the face of a long-dead enemy. With the help of his partner and ex-lover, Detective Corin West, can Meyer rip the mask off the dark murderer following his every step – before the five estranged childhood friends all fall prey to his murderous rampage – or is Grimm City about to fall under the bloodshed of its deadliest criminal?

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Review: Time has not been kind to the five boys who were discovered by the high school bully outside a gay club. Five friends who hid each other and kept each other safe but who could not come out to their parents, their high school buddies, their town. Everything hung in the balance of Jack’s hateful promise to tear their world apart and expose the fact that they were gay. More than one of those five high school boys wanted Jack dead, but just which one of them was responsible for the bloodstained bleachers on their school football field the next day was a mystery. And then, there were the jars in their lockers—each containing a little piece of Jack.

Fast forward several years and suddenly, long lost ties to each other begin to slowly re-knit as one-by-one, the boys turned men are being silenced in strange and violent ways. Meyer has become a police detective and is assigned to the cases. Before he knows it, he will be back in touch with the one boy, Evan, whom he has carried a torch for most of his life. But time is ticking away, and Jack appears to be back from the dead and hell-bent on destroying all of them.

I have followed the work of this author since he first made his delightful foray into the romantic comedy genre. While this is not his first attempt at mystery/horror, it is by far one of his best. It is thrilling to watch BJ Sheppard grow as a dynamic storyteller with each novel he writes. With a unique and compelling voice, he unwraps each character and reveals their innermost intimate secrets and fears. The passion that arises between his men is not overdone or singular, but, in fact, adds depth to the plot and enhances the story overall rather than pull the reader away from it by sticking in some gratuitous sex scene. The moments when Evan and Meyer finally consummate a love that has been a part of them since their youth is tender and stunning in its intimacy.

The mystery element in Pieces Of Jack is center stage and riveting. The action is swift and pulls you along, the terror and fear palpable and slowly ramps up until your heart is in your throat. As each piece of this novel unfolds, you watch with horror as death takes center stage, and the final scenes, where all is revealed, is just gorgeous in its insanity.

Pieces Of Jack is a real testimony to how a writer works hard to ply his craft and just gets better with each story he shares. BJ Sheppard has arrived, and his fans will no doubt grow in numbers with the release of his latest fascinating story. I highly recommend this novel to you.

TNA_Signature_Sammy






You can buy Pieces of Jack here:

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4 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Jamie Fessenden, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Narration Rating, Narration Rating - 2.5 Stars, Reviewed by Sadonna

Audio Review: Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden – Narrated by Cliff Bergen

Title: Murder on the Mountain

Author: Jamie Fessenden

Narrator: Cliff Bergen

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 7 Hours, 15 Minutes

At a Glance: The narrator in this case was okay, but I didn’t love his rendition of this book.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: When Jesse Morales, a recent college grad who aspires to be a mystery writer, volunteers to work on the summit of Mt. Washington for a week, he expects to work hard. What he doesn’t expect is to find a corpse in the fog, lying among the rocks, his head crushed. The dead man turns out to be a young tourist named Stuart Warren, who strayed from his friends while visiting the mountain.

Kyle Dubois, a widowed state police detective, is called to the scene in the middle of the night, along with his partner, Wesley Roberts. Kyle and Jesse are instantly drawn to one another, except Jesse’s fascination with murder mysteries makes it difficult for Kyle to take the young man seriously. But Jesse finds a way to make himself invaluable to the detective by checking into the hotel where the victim’s friends and family are staying and infiltrating their circle. Soon, he is learning things that could very well solve the case—or get him killed.

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Review: Murder on the Mountain marks my first foray into M/M audiobooks. I’ve been reluctant to dive into the audiobook pool because I usually have a VERY vivid movie going on in my head when I read books—a narrator may or may not capture my take on that movie. I had several friends recommend this book to me, so I thought I’d try it in audio.

I really liked the story of Jesse and Kyle. They meet after a tourist named Stuart has gone missing, and Jesse discovers the body after everyone on the mountain goes to look for him. Jesse has had a kind of strange afternoon; he remembers seeing Stuart – and his friends – earlier in the day, and he’s quite shocked to be the one to discover the body.

After the authorities are called, Jesse meets detectives Kyle Dubois and Wesley Roberts. Since he found the body, the detectives are quite interested in his statement. He immediately feels an attraction to Kyle, but he tries to keep his head in the game for the case at hand – which he believes is murder. It turns out that Jesse is an aspiring mystery writer, and this makes the detectives more than a little skeptical.

As the detectives begin to work the case, though, Jesse rather inserts himself into things by staying at the hotel where the rest of the friends and family of the tourist are staying. It turns out it is a wedding party, and the wedding was to have taken place that Saturday. There are a number of potential suspects, including the fiance’s family, and Stuart’s brother and best friend—it seems all have something to hide.

Kyle is quite unhappy at Jesse’s poking around, but he can’t help but be grateful for the information that Jesse is able to get by befriending the party. He also admits a number of things to Jesse, including his bisexuality and his devastation at the loss of his wife five years earlier. While they are getting to know each other, Kyle also worries that Jesse is putting himself right in the crosshairs of a killer. What’s to stop the murderer from going after Jesse if he – or she – determines that Jesse is getting too close?

There are a number of twists and turns, as you would expect with a good murder mystery. There might have been a number of motives for killing Stuart, but there are no clear clues or physical evidence that would tie any particular person to the murder. A lot of skeletons in a lot of closets are also revealed. As the whole sordid episode unravels, there is a suitably exhilarating climax.

I really enjoyed both the mystery part of the story as well as the budding romance between Jesse and Kyle. Kyle is actually interested in someone for the first time since his wife’s death, but he’s having a little trouble dealing with that emotionally. Jesse is a young guy who is not afraid to say what it is he wants. He really wants Kyle and he is very upfront about it. Both characters were likeable and believable. I also liked Kyle’s partner Wesley. He has Kyle’s back and his best interests at heart. As for the motley crew of family/friends/suspects, they made for an interesting and circuitous tale with several surprises thrown in for good measure. I would definitely recommend this story to any mystery lover.

However, I’m not sure I’m sold on audiobooks. The narrator in this case was okay, but I didn’t love his rendition of this book. I would have liked a little more energy, I think – although I thought he did a good job with Jesse’s part in particular. I’m reserving judgment, but I’m not 100% convinced that audiobooks are for me. I’ll try a few more before I decide, but definitely this does not convince me to steer away from reading my books.






You can buy Murder on the Mountain here:

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, Jenna Byrnes, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann, Totally Bound

Review: Rainey’s Release by Jenna Byrnes

Title: Rainey’s Release (Kansas City Heat: Book Six)

Author: Jenna Byrnes

Publisher: Totally Bound

Pages/Word Count: 108 Pages

At a Glance: Jenna Byrnes’ writing is entertaining and keeps you wanting more.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: A madman targets gay drug addicts. Can the KCPD track down the latest serial killer before more blood is shed?

Detective William Rainey is the newest man assigned to the KCPD’s Homicide Division, having just relocated from St. Louis with his life partner, Joshua Wolf. When a murder with the same MO as several St. Louis crimes takes place, the similarities are hard to ignore. The investigation turns personal and soon hits close to home. A suspect comes to light and Will finds himself in a battle to solve the most important case of his life. Enlisting the help of Detectives James Dixon and Nick Peyton is tricky when the men don’t feel like they know him yet. Can he earn their trust before it’s too late?

Dividers

Review: William Rainey and his partner Josh Wolf have made the move to Kansas City. Will has gotten himself a new job as detective for the Kansas City Police Department. Josh has a new job too, at the Bright Horizons Treatment Center, as a therapy counselor. He also has plans to look for a Narcotics Anonymous group that fits his needs.

Will starts his job at the KCPD feeling nervous about his being gay, he’s still unsure of how others will react to it, and unfortunately for him he’s temporarily assigned to James Dixon (aka Dix—he won’t answer to anything else). Their first homicide assignment is that of a young man found dead in an alley, with all the signs that he’d been a drug addict.

But what really has Will upset is Dix. Dix not only refers to him as “rookie” but tends to make homophobic statements. Will gets a chance to work some cases with Peyton and Laura ,and notices how much easier it is working with them than Dix. Will approaches Peyton and brings up the issue of Dix’s gay bashing. Peyton doesn’t hold back and shows a picture of his better-half to Will. Will is totally surprised. Peyton then calls Dix into the break room and confronts Dix about the gay bashing. Will is then stunned when Dix admits to being gay and married.

Will doesn’t know how to react, he doesn’t admit or deny to being gay, and this leads to a devastating turn of events. Will he lose his job? Or worse, loose Josh? Will the killer be found? How does Will make things right?

I have been totally sucked into the Kansas City Heat series since the beginning. The series name fits too: there’s a lot of heat in these stories, and Josh and Will are hot, hot, hot! Jenna Byrnes’ writing is entertaining and keeps you wanting more, she creates characters you want to keep tabs on, so it’s nice to hear about them in other books in the series. I think you could read Rainey’s Release as a standalone, but if you want to learn more about the other characters, here is a list of books in reading order: Dixon’s Duty, Peyton’s Pursuit, Cameron’s Cove, Taylor’s Task, and Gage’s Gift. I recommend them all.

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, F.E. Feeley Jr., Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Still Waters by F.E. Feeley

Title: Still Waters

Author: F.E. Feeley Jr.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 210 Pages

At a Glance: This is a novel that will stay with you well beyond the last page. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Promise, Michigan is very much like every other small town across the state. Built on the edge of a lake, the homes sit in neat little rows in cute little neighborhoods. During the summer Promise bustles with tourists who come to spend their vacation dollars and enjoy the lake’s refreshingly cold water. But Promise holds a terrible secret. In the center of the lake is an abandoned island where a curse is rumored to wait for victims, unabated and deadly. Most think it’s just a story, something used to keep kids out of trouble. Still, everyone gives it a wide berth. Everyone except Bret and Adam. They dare to venture out the night of Bret’s birthday. When they declared their love and promise to get married, they believe no one else heard their whispered words—but they are wrong.

Five years later Adam dies, and Bret returns to his family to heal. But someone is killing the people of Promise in random acts of violence. Bret, with the help of FBI agent Jeff McAllister, must discover the identity of a murderer with death on his mind and revenge in his heart.

Dividers

Review: I rarely begin a review with a nod to the cover artist, but in this novel’s case, not only was the story breathtaking but Paul Richmond’s cover art is glorious as well. So, come take a dip with me into the world that F.E. Feeley Jr. created. You may want to keep a light on and the tissues handy, for this one will not only make your spine tingle, it will nip at your heartstrings as well.

Once a year Bret returns to his hometown of Promise to remember the love of his life, taken too early from him. Adam was the first person Bret met in high school that seemed to really care about him. Living in a “perfect” home with parents who barely spoke to him, Bret knew full well any behavior that threatened his mother’s high position in town would prove to make his life even more of the bitter hell than it already was. So, being gay was out of the questions, till he met Adam.

Adam was tough, fearless and beautiful. Together these two boys would beat back the haters by setting the competitive swimming world on fire. While doing so they would also fall deeply in love. And so, after making a promise to marry five years hence, post college graduation, the two boys allow the town to see their love for each other. Suddenly, Adam disappears and despite all Bret’s attempts to stir a fire under the local police force, the eventual discovery of his body floating in the lake remains a mystery and is eventually deemed a suicide. But Bret knows in his heart someone put Adam in that lake, and one day justice will be served.

Five years later Bret is with the Woolsey family once again, remembering his boyfriend. But this time, there is something else afoot in the town of Promise and deaths are racking up despite the FBI’s involvement. The strange ways in which select people are being killed remains a deadly mystery, one that may eventually take Bret’s life as well.

Unfortunately my poor attempt at a synopsis cannot communicate to you the terror this novel creates as each chapter unfolds. As Mr. Feeley describes in descriptive passages the deaths of each victim, you cannot but watch with something akin to horror while glancing into the shadows to make sure you are not being visited by the horror he unleashes. Fast paced, eerily detailed and convincingly real, the author weaves his story so effectively you swear you can taste the lake water that becomes the means of death for each victim. Not content to give us a scary tale the likes of which will remind you of a Stephen King novel, Mr. Feeley also intertwines not one but two love stories into the plot.

When FBI agent Jeff McAllister lays eyes on Bret, something stirs inside him, and, thankfully, it is reciprocated by Bret. Two lonely men who have had their share of empty one-night stands are suddenly and determinedly drawn to one another. But Bret’s heart has never fully recovered from losing Adam, so he hesitates to let the walls he has built around himself crumble. This was no tired insta-love trope trotted out to satisfy the romance aspect we all look forward to in this genre. Instead, it was a relationship which was beautifully developed and nurtured in each chapter. Tentative and ever so lovely, we watch these two men grow to care deeply for each other and pray that their fragile connection will take deep root.

Poetry. Much of the descriptive passages in this novel were so gorgeous that the word poetry comes to mind time after time. F.E. Feeley Jr. is a consummate wordsmith who wraps his story in phrases that melt your heart. Still Waters was an incredible tale of love and loss, horror and beauty, terror and learning to trust. This is a novel that will stay with you well beyond the last page. I highly recommend it.






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4.5 Stars, DSP Publications, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Sadonna, Rick R. Reed

Review: IM by Rick R. Reed

Title: IM

Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 280 Pages

At a Glance: IM is action packed, horrifying in its detail, and full of the most delicious twists and turns that will make your skin crawl and your heart race.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: The Internet is the new meat market for gay men. Now a killer is turning the meat market into a meat wagon.

One by one, he’s killing them. Lurking in the digital underworld of Men4HookUpNow.com, he lures, seduces, and charms, reaching out through instant messages to the unwary. When the first body surfaces, openly gay Chicago Police Department detective Ed Comparetto is called in to investigate. At the scene, the young man who discovered the body tells him the story of how he found his friend. But did this witness play a bigger role in the murder than he’s letting on?

For Comparetto, this encounter is the beginning of a nightmare—because this witness did more than just show up at the scene of the crime; he set the scene.

Comparetto is on a journey to discover the truth—before he loses his career, his boyfriend, his sanity… his life. Because in this killer’s world, IM doesn’t stand for instant message… it stands for instant murder.

Dividers

Review: IM is a creepy story, there is no doubt about that. The horror of the murders, coupled with the driven, near panicked state of the unrightfully maligned and swiftly made ex-police officer, Ed Comparetto, was perhaps one of the most riveting storylines I have read in a long time. And then there was the serial killer, the cold-blooded monster who brutally destroyed one lonely man after another while pretending to be their answer to cyber dating. All in all, Rick R. Reed’s IM was a gruesome, compelling, and terrifying murder mystery, with copious twists and turns that made for a truly exciting and nail biting, roller coaster of a read.

When Detective Ed Comparetto catches the call to a bloodcurdling murder crime scene, little does he know the witness who found the body would turn out to be a potential suspect. The elfin young man gave detail after detail about finding his friend lying in his own blood, dismembered, in his bathtub. Ed dutifully questioned the witness and filed the man’s sworn affidavit. Only problem was the witness, Timothy Bright, wasn’t exactly who he said he was. Now Ed, who had recently come out to his police force as gay, had to not only find this “witness” but he had to do so on his own, without his badge or gun, after having been fired for allegedly falsifying the same witness statement.

Along the way, Ed will question his own sanity, and stumble upon a man who just may be the answer to his own unending loneliness. But, catching a serial killer as hideous and blindingly intelligent as this one is no easy task. As Ed uncovers secret after secret surrounding the murderer, the horror that is this killer comes to life, and no one is safe.

Why was this novel so very, very good? It is because you alternately hated the serial killer—were sickened and horrified by him, and then mourned for him—then empathized with him for his innocence lost, his life so twisted and strange, his rape at the hands of a man who was sworn to heal those in need. You wanted to hate this man but you saw the reasons for his anger, his insanity, and suddenly, you pitied the very man who viciously destroyed without compunction.

Rick R. Reed takes us deep into the rabbit hole, where so very little makes sense until a dedicated and determined police detective cracks wide open the identity of a killer who somehow managed to escape capture, one murder after another. He does so by sheer grit, and with a new-found love at his side, he pursues the killer relentlessly, even at the cost of his own sanity and, perhaps, his own life.

IM is action packed, horrifying in its detail, and full of the most delicious twists and turns that will make your skin crawl and your heart race. This one is a nail biter from beginning to end, and well worth every moment you will spend reading it.






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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Angel, SJD Peterson

Review: Splintered by SJD Peterson

Title: Splintered

Author:  SJD Peterson

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 220 Pages

At a Glance:  An excellent psycho-thriller mystery story, with a bit of romance thrown in.

Reviewed By: Angel

Blurb: A string of murders targeting effeminate gay men has the GLBTQ community of Chicago on alert, but budget cuts have left many precincts understaffed and overworked. Not to mention, homophobia is alive and well within the law enforcement community and little has been done to solve the mystery. When the FBI calls in Special Agent Todd Hutchinson and his team, the locals are glad to hand the case off. But Hutch finds a bigger mystery than anyone originally realized—seventeen linked murders committed in several different jurisdictions. Hutch’s clues lead him to Noah Walker.

Working on his PhD in forensic psychology, Noah has been obsessed with serial murders since he was a child. But coming to Hutch’s attention as a suspect isn’t a good way to start a relationship. Noah finds himself hunted, striking him off Hutch’s suspect list, but not off his radar. To catch the killer before anyone else falls victim, they’ll have to work together, and quickly, to bring him to justice

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Review:  Just when I thought I was left to Nora Roberts’ Eve Dallas to provide me with a good and sexy mystery, especially after Josh Lanyon decided to end Mr. English’s career, I find SJD Peterson. And yes, I am ranking this new-to-me author right up there with two on my all time favorites list. I really enjoyed this mystery and hope the clues the author left indicate there will be more from this series, and soon.

As the blurb says, Hutch and his team are out to find a killer. And it was one I didn’t even expect. The clues to the killer were almost nonexistent, which was a change. Normally I get some inkling about the bad guy but when he was revealed, I was like, oh… wow, okay, and I went with it.

The details of both the mystery and the police work felt real to me, down to the homophobia of the police departments working the murders, and the fear of the gay community. Hutch is jaded and intense, and I love how he saw into the mind of the killer, though he never actually saw him. Noah was just too cute for words, and intelligent to boot. I love that his past is what pushed him into his chosen field. His backstory makes me wonder if the mystery will be solved, and I hope for further sequels in this series.

Granite and Byte round out the team of investigators, and I would also enjoy more from them and their stories in the future. All the characters worked well together and once I began reading, it was hard to put the book down. I finished Splintered in just one night.

SJD Peterson focuses on the mystery here, and the romance between the protagonists is secondary. I liked that, and creepily, the reasons behind it made sense in context despite there being few clues to the mystery and murders. I also enjoyed the chemistry Hutch and Noah had. There isn’t much shown about their relationship, though, other than a one-night stand before Hutch’s guilt forces him to refocus on the case.

I found out, after reading, there are some outtakes from the book, and I would love to read them as well. Definitely looking forward to more of this series, and I will be on the lookout for more of the author’s works.

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4 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Jon Wilson, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: Cheap as Beasts by Jon Wilson

Title: Cheap as Beasts

Author: Jon Wilson

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 240 Pages

At a Glance: A recommendable read for lovers of classic murder mystery.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Like most soldiers, Declan Colette lost his fair share in the war—in his case a sailor, drowned off Iwo Jima. Since then he’s been scratching out a living as a cut-rate PI, drinking too much, and flirting with danger. Then a girl arranges to consult him, only to be murdered en route, and the cops tag Colette as their prime suspect. To save his neck he’ll need to find the real killer, a quest that pits him against a rival detective firm, a dangerously rich family, and a desperate foe whose murdering ways started back during the war.

Could this be the case he’s been waiting for? Catching the killer could make his reputation. Failing, could cost him his life.

Either way: win-win.

Dividers

Review: Having so recently binge-read Joseph Hansen’s iconic Dave Brandstetter collection, I’ve been on the lookout for more of the same and seem to have discovered yet another interesting mystery series—or at least the start of one—by author Jon Wilson.

More standard noir than I might say the Brandstetter series is, with Cheap as Beasts Wilson has gone the way of the seminal hardboiled 40s gumshoe archetype, and made a bit of a mystery of Declan Colette himself. We do get the opportunity to learn a few things about him—namely, he’s not out to win friends or influence people, sometimes at risk to his person. Collette doesn’t seem to care much about whose buttons he pushes, whether inside the law or out. He’s a hard drinking, chain smoking, tough talking PI, not perfect, by any means, and his wise-cracking, antagonistic demeanor often finds him trouble in one form or another, though he proves throughout the narrative he has a detective’s eye for detail and the tenacity to see a case through to the bitter end.

Told in the first person, as most noir is, the author establishes the reader’s intimacy with the character and his story from the outset. The occasional second person address directed toward readers then adds yet another layer to that familiarity and engages us as we become better acquainted with our protagonist. The requisite femme fatales and bevy of suspects are introduced as we learn details along with Collette about not one but three murders which revolve around one wealthy family—the young widow, the children, cousins, and, of course, those in their employ; all come under suspicion in the beginning, the investigation complicated further when certain pieces of evidence disappear. That, coupled with more than a few red herrings, keeps things interesting from beginning to end, though I felt the motive for the first murder could have been more clearly defined.

As an aside to the mystery, reader’s are offered a mere glimpse of the personal side of Declan Collette, a World War II veteran who suffered his share of loss. Though we only get the barest hint of the emotional scars it left behind, it isn’t particularly difficult to piece together those clues and come to the right conclusion. The attraction he feels for Morgan O’Malley, he of the wealthy family, is tempered by the grief that causes Collette to keep Morgan at a respectable and business like distance, even though the attraction is entirely mutual. Collette does his level best to be off-putting and succeeds admirably, and though any potential ties between the two men seem to be severed by novel’s end, as the saying goes, it ain’t over till it’s over, so perhaps Book Two will be more enlightening on a personal front.

Though not as dark and nuanced as Hansen’s seminal noir series, Wilson’s crisp prose and engaging characters make Cheap as Beasts a recommendable read for lovers of classic murder mystery.






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5 Stars, Joseph Hansen, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Open Road Media, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of by Joseph Hansen

Title: The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of

Author: Joseph Hansen

Publisher: Open Road Media

Pages/Word Count: 181 Pages

At a Glance: I don’t think there are any new ways I can come up with to express how exemplary these books are

Blurb: When Ben Orton’s head is found bludgeoned by a heavy flower pot, the people of La Caleta are stunned—not because their police chief has been murdered, but because no one thought to do it sooner. A bruising, violent man, Ben had a commitment to order that did not always take the law into account. But as insurance investigator Dave Brandstetter is about to find out, the corruption in Ben’s police force did not die with him.

By the time Dave arrives in the fading fishing town, a young activist has already been arrested for the murder. Only Dave seems to care that the evidence against the accused is laughably thin. As the people of La Caleta try their best to thwart his investigation, Dave must do whatever it takes to catch Ben’s killer.

Dividers

Review: Once again, as with Troublemaker, the title of this book has more than one connection to its characters. One of the men everybody was afraid of is dead. The other man everybody is afraid of is the one who will uncover all their secrets, so they have good reason to fear him when he shows up in their sleepy ocean-side town to investigate the death of Ben Orton, the chief of police who was, by his widow and son’s accounts, a fine, upstanding American who was loved and respected all around. If that’s the case, though, why was the man found bludgeoned to death? To find the answer to that question is Dave’s job, which means talking to the people who saw the Ben Orton behind the husband, father, and badge. That’s the man who was cheating on his wife and trying to keep his daughter away from her boyfriend—who happens to be a black man—and not being averse to breaking the law to do it.

In what I can now, with all confidence and enthusiasm, refer to as typical Joseph Hansen style, nothing is what it seems on the surface, as he lays each thread of the mystery out one by one and then begins to cross-stitch them into a pattern of motive, opportunity, and plausibility. As he does so, you begin to see that pattern coming together—the spurned wife, the zealously loyal son, the police officers who don’t hesitate to make Dave’s life difficult, the television anchorwoman, and on through various members of the community—the facts don’t add up to Ben Orton being the paragon of virtue some folks believed him to be. The problem with the truth coming out about the deceased chief of police is a simple one: there are some secrets folks want to remain secret.

Along with racial prejudice, homophobia plays its role in The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of, which leads to Cliff Kerlee’s arrest. His being gay went a long way in them not bothering to pursue a thorough investigation in the case. Cliff was a crusader for a cause, he made an inflammatory comment, and, in doing so, made himself an easy target. One of the astonishing things about these books, having been written in the early 70s, is that the social relevance of the things Hansen wrote about back then are still things that remain socially relevant today. I’m not sure if that’s a testament to the author’s ability to write books that will stand the test of time, or a sad statement that we’re still seeing these issues coming into play in the 21st Century. Whichever it is, at the risk of becoming repetitive, Hansen presents them with admirable skill.

In doing a fantastic job of keeping this series fresh rather than it falling into the trap of each book being a carbon copy of the one before it, Hansen lays further groundwork in Dave Brandstetter as a character. Developments in his personal life—with his father and his lover, Doug, as well as the introduction of a new character, Cecil Harris—the author finally shows readers that Dave is human, susceptible to personal burdens that begin to affect his considerable investigative skills. Yes, Dave makes mistakes in this installment of the series, but rather than it tarnishing his character, it only serves to add dimension to both him and this series. Solving this crime may have come with a price to pay, certainly the truth revealed in this installment took its toll, but for Dave, Ben Orton’s death may have served to set his life on a new course.

I don’t think there are any new ways I can come up with to express how exemplary these books are as forerunners of modern gay fiction, or how groundbreaking they were at the time they were originally published. The books speak well enough for themselves.






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4.5 Stars, Joseph Hansen, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Open Road Media, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: Troublemaker by Joseph Hansen

Title: Troublemaker

Author: Joseph Hansen

Publisher: Mulholland Books (Orig. Publication – 1975)

Pages/Word Count: 272 Pages

At a Glance: Another great mystery, though doesn’t keep pace with the first two in the series

Blurb: Rick Wendell’s ranch is far from town. A remote, dusty hideaway, its only inhabitants are Rick, his aging mother, and her horses. One night, Rick’s mother returns from the movies to find Rick lying on the floor, stark naked and with a gaping bullet wound in his chest. Standing over him is his lover, a mustachioed hippie, who swears he did not fire the gun that he’s holding. The case seems open-and-shut, but Dave Brandstetter is not satisfied.

An insurance investigator with an unusually keen sense of detection, Dave is openly gay and professionally skeptical. Something about the murder causes him to trust the alleged killer—and seriously doubt Rick’s mother.

Dividers

Review: If ever a book has been more aptly named, Troublemaker is it. Joseph Hansen reveals more than just a murder victim and a killer in this, the third installment in the Dave Brandstetter mystery series. Hansen reveals in no uncertain terms that Dave is not only an unpopular fellow but isn’t averse to stirring the pot to solve a crime, regardless of whom he offends and/or ticks off in the process. Dave isn’t a death claims investigator for Medallion Life to win friends and influence people. He’s a death claims investigator to prevent fraudulent payouts on life insurance policies, and he’s by god going to do everything he can to look beyond the easy answers and dig down to the stinky and sordid secrets always lurking beneath the obvious.

Unlike the previous two books in the series, I must start by saying I didn’t feel Troublemaker flowed as effortlessly. There were several things happening at once in this novel, the first being the murder investigation, obviously. The parallel plotlines running alongside it, however, were of a personal nature, one involving Dave’s relationship with Doug—Doug’s mother is suffering from psychotic episodes during which she hallucinates, which is causing strain on Doug as well as his relationship with Dave. While this serves its purpose—to offer a more domestic interlude, showing a little personal chaos must also fall amidst the professional—I felt it to be a heavy storyline against which to contrast the core plot, especially when added to what Dave is facing with his own father, i.e., a health scare. While all these things may be necessary to future developments in the series, I felt they did bog down the pacing of this installment. And as a side note, there is also what seemed an aimless introduction of a young artist who is bent upon insinuating himself as a third wheel in Dave and Doug’s relationship. While a playful devise used to show that Dave is a one man sort of guy, it was resolved so handily and without incident that it was easy to dismiss.

One of the side stories that did work well is the further examination of Dave’s relationship with his father, Carl. Carl Brandstetter is more accepting of Dave’s sexuality than many sixty-five year old men in the late 1960s may have been, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t averse to hinting that Dave ought to give up the gay lifestyle and settle down with a woman. One of the socially relevant commentaries in Dave and Carl’s relationship—perhaps more significant today, with marriage equality in the fore, is the contrast of Dave’s committed partnership with his deceased lover, Rod, and now the one he’s attempting to build with Doug (read: monogamous), to Carl’s serial bastardizing of the state of holy matrimony. The man’s on his ninth wife, so apply that to the argument that marriage equality will diminish the sanctity of marriage as a whole, and go ahead and have a bit of a chuckle at the irony of Hansen’s prescience.

As is typical of this series, the investigation of the death of Rick Wendell, owner of the gay bar The Hang Ten, seems cut and dried when the author introduces the facts. But, where Dave goes, things are never as they appear on the surface. With Larry Johns imprisoned–the man deemed guilty because every shred of evidence, save for one very important piece, seems to point directly at him—it wouldn’t seem Dave should have much to do, but where there is greed, jealousy, and the human condition involved, it’s a guarantee that, as Mr. Wilde once wrote, “The truth is rarely pure and ever simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!”

Dave proceeds through the investigation of Wendell’s murder in his trademark style, with a bulldog tenacity and “screw you if you don’t like it” attitude. While you might think by this point that reading three consecutive mysteries in a single series would begin to weigh tedious, not to mention become repetitious, I have to say that couldn’t be less the case. Hansen is a master craftsman with a gift for turning a phrase and painting a picture with words: “Backgrounding him, the Pacific wrote white scribbles to itself on blue slate under a wide smile of sky. The surf lipped pale sand beyond a stagger of red dune fence.”

And that is the way Hansen sets a mood.






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3 Stars, Literary Fiction, Missouri Dalton, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Taz, Torquere Press

Review: Sleeping on the Job by Missouri Dalton

Title: Sleeping on the Job

Author: Missouri Dalton

Publisher: Torquere Press

Pages/Word Count: 118 pages

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: At sixteen, Simon Murphy was an accomplished jewel thief, at eighteen he was released from a boy’s reform school and these days, he’s a detective with Chicago’s Night Shift. When a familiar killer strikes again, Simon is forced to confront his past, his mob boss father, and the brother he hasn’t seen in years. Of course, on the Night Shift, Simon also contends with ghosts, vampires and other things that go bump in the night. Add angry boyfriends in the mix, and Simon’s going to need all the help he can get. Continue reading

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Charlie Cochrane, Riptide Publishing

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Best Corpse for the Job by Charlie Cochrane

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A Quick Q&A With Charlie

Q: Where are you from?

A: Stoke Newington, in London. Just around the very limit of where you can hear Bow Bells so doubtful if I count as a cockney. (And they were mending them at the time I was born so perhaps nobody of my age truly qualifies.)

Q: What’s your favorite place to visit? Continue reading

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