Review – Damned If You Do by Marie Sexton

Damned If You Do coverTitle: Damned If You Do
Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Samhain
Our rating: 5 stars

Publication date: June 14, 2016
Genre: M/M romance/Paranormal
Length: 172 pages
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Review Summary: Loved these characters! Seth was so cute and Abbadon made me laugh.

Plot Summary/Description

Abaddon is a demon who needs to collect a certain quota of souls to satisfy the boss. He’s way behind on his targets, and if he doesn’t buck up soon he’s going to find himself demoted to the dirtiest tasks in Hell.

But some souls are worth more than others, and the soul of an innocent blind faith-healer type guy will move him way up the scale. So Abaddon is out to get Seth’s soul – but he finds himself drawn to the young preacher for other reasons too.

Damned If You Do Review

Phobia warning: snakes! If snakes freak you out, you might want to take a rain check on this one…

This is a cute and funny take on the “sell your soul to the devil” idea. If you’re interested, it does raise some real issues about faith, and settle them in a lovely way, but if you could care less about religion you can take it as myth. It’s a feel-good read either way.

Seth a sweet virgin who longs to find love, but he’s carefully guarded by a hard nut named Zeb who picks up on one of Abaddon’s ulterior motives right away and works hard to keep them apart.

This is a sweet romance with low heat ratings, as you might expect given Seth’s sweet and innocent character. However, there’s plenty of emotion and just the right level of angst. It’s a longish novella, and I thought the length was perfect for the story.

Seth’s blindness is handled well, and I liked that he isn’t too goody-good, so we’re for real wondering if Abaddon might succeed in tempting him off the straight and narrow and onto the path to damnation.

How will it end? Will good win out, is Seth a charlatan who’s in Abaddon’s camp already, or will they be separated for ever, one in Heaven and one in Hell? You’ll have to read it to find out for yourself.

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Review – Psycop Briefs by Jordan Castillo Price

Psycop BriefsTitle: Psycop Briefs
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books
Our rating: 5 stars

Publication date: October 11, 2016
Genre: M/M Romance, Paranormal
Length: 204 pages
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Review Summary:
A must-have for fans of Victor Bayne, the gorgeous Jacob, and the PsyCop series.

Plot Summary/Description

A collection of shorts from the PsyCop series, featuring medium Victor Bayne, who works as a psychic detective on the Chicago police force, and his hot lover, detective Jacob Marks.

Psycop Briefs Review

This is a collection of short stories, tangential scenes and odd bits and pieces that fit around Jordan Castillo Price’s hugely popular PsyCop series. The first thing to say is that if you have not read any of the series before, this is not the place to start. Start with the first “real” book in the series, Among the Living, and if you like that, you’ll want to continue on. This collection is for those who have read at least some, and probably most, of the basic series.

Fans may have read some of the shorts in before, because they have been available either to buy or free on the author’s website. I’d read Inside Out (but I loved reading that again, that is a wonderful prequel to the series, where Jacob first sees Vic in an otherwise tedious meeting); Stroke of Midnight, a nice little window into their relationship; Thaw, with Vic and Jacob bonding on ice; and the Clowns one, which I didn’t totally go for, and I don’t know why. That was the only one I skipped rereading.

There was also a lot here that was new to me, and I lapped them up! Some of the “stories” are so short that they are really just a scene, a little peek into the lives of these super-hot fictional guys. I wondered if some of them had been cut from books, or maybe they were just random scenes that came into the author’s head and didn’t fit into a book. It felt super-cool to have all of this extra information on the characters’ lives.

Of the new-to-me stories, one of my favourites was Coffee O’Clock, where the relationship is just getting established. Lots of cute quotes, as Vic cannot believe Jacob is really into him, so what is going on? “I’d been pleasantly surprised the first time he spent the night. Puzzled the second. Now I was downright suspicious… He was after something. But what?” Vic cannot believe it is him that Jacob is after!

Another favorite was Witness which is set after the current last book in the series, so it’s great for people who have read the whole series and cannot wait for the next book. If you haven’t read them all, it won’t matter. There are no spoilers that I can think of.

We also get some lovely insights into their lives, when they do stuff like helping out Jacob’s one-armed Uncle Leon with his self-assembly furniture, or when Jacob buys one of Vic’s old high school yearbooks on eBay! This kind of thing is what makes it unmissable for fans.

204 pages is the length that Amazon gives. I have it on my Kindle so I don’t have any other way to compute, but it seemed longer. You certainly get a lot of different stories and scenes, and it seemed very good value to me.

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Review – Blow Down by J.L. Merrow

Blow Down coverTitle: Blow Down
Series: The Plumber’s Mate, #4
Author: J.L. Merrow
Publisher: Samhain
Our rating: 5 stars

Publication date: July 12, 2016
Genre: M/M romance/Mystery/Paranormal
Length: 249 pages
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Review Summary: I’ve read all the series and this is my favorite (so far… hope she keeps writing them!)

Plot Summary/Description

Tom and Phil are engaged, but that doesn’t mean their lives are perfect. Too many people are trying to get in on the wedding plans and/or demanding Tom’s psychic abilities for their problems. When he’s hired to find a missing necklace, he uncovers a dead body instead – and the murderer is more than willing to kill again.

Blow Down Review

In case you’ve missed the rest of this series, Tom Paretski is an English plumber with a Polish name and a psychic talent for nosing out what’s hidden. He’s been slowly building trust and love with his old high school nemesis Phil, a former police officer, now a private investigator. Phil and Tom make a great team to read about, and they have enough communication issues to keep the reader interested. These books are funny, too! OK, so now go catch up on the series (link to Amazon) 🙂

Blow Down is book 4, and Tom and Phil are engaged, but they still each don’t know where the other one is half of the time. This allows for some minor angst about the relationship and major worries about physical safety once a murderer appears on the scene. Tom’s talent for finding things is expected to stretch way beyond its normal boundaries, and he’s become quite the local celebrity.

J.L. Merrow is a master of descriptions of English village life, and this series is no exception. I thought I caught some nods to Miss Marple as she brought in a village fete and the local clergy – right up to the bishop – in this instalment.

I cannot get enough of Tom. His gorgeous cats, his wonderful customers, the bizarre things that happen to him every day – I lap it all up! Phil is a little more aloof but that works well because he’s intriguing, a good balance for Tom’s point of view. In Blow Down, Tom’s own history is brought into question, communication with Phil is no better than it ever was, but somehow they muddle along and the love is even more convincing for the questioning that they do. They know each other well enough to make it work.

The romance is sweet rather than hot, but the sweeter tone goes perfectly with J.L. Merrow’s comic skills and the cute and quirky cozy mystery feel of these books. I hope this Blow Down review has given you an appetite for Tom and Phil’s latest series of mishaps!

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Review – Rag and Bone by K.J. Charles

Rag and Bone review cover
Title: Rag and Bone
Series: Rag and Bone #1,
in universe of A Charm of Magpies
Author: K.J. Charles
Publisher: Samhain
Our rating: 5 stars

Publication date: March 1, 2016
Genre: M/M romance/Historical/Paranormal (Magic)
Length: 146 pages
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Review Summary: A very sweet couple crossing class and race boundaries, in Victorian London, with magic thrown in – and all presented in a stellar writing style. Totally lost my heart.

Plot Summary/Description

Crispin Tredarloe has been blindsided by the death of his warlock master and the discovery that the style of magic he was learning was not only illegal but downright murderous. He’s trying to be good and learn magic in the acceptable style, but he can’t seem to succeed without falling back on his deathly blood-and-bone pen.

Ned Hall is a waste paper dealer who’s left the docks area where his dark skin and African looks wouldn’t be so unusual, because of his family’s reaction to his preference for men. Crispin’s out of his class, but Ned doesn’t let that stop him. What’s more of a threat is the malevolent being on the loose, that’s attacking the owners of rag and bone shops like the one where Ned’s business is based.

Ned and Crispin’s lives are in danger, but can Crispin battle the evil without resorting to illegal means that will cost him his freedom and perhaps his life?

Rag and Bone Review

I adored Ned and Crispin. They’d have carried the book for me by themselves, but on top of that, you have magic, historical London and the most wonderful crisp and evocative writing style. The story is set in the world of the author’s ‘A Charm of Magpies’ series which I haven’t read, but that was no bar to enjoying it, and the series is going on my TBR list right now.

The romance feels very real. Crispin is from Cornwall, and although he’s been in London a few years, he’s not totally assimilated but remains something of an outsider with a special accent. He’s also an outsider in the magical world, because of his skill as a graphomancer or writer of magic, which is associated with evil warlockery. Ned is a man of colour, and while he fits into Victorian London more easily than Crispin in some ways, his working class upbringing sets him apart from the kind of people Crispin is training with. So although very different, they are a good match.

When Crispin meets Dr Sweet, who seems to be the only one to recognize his potential but offers further training away in Oxford, it causes conflict betweeen Ned and Crispin. But that’s only the start of their troubles.

Crispin and Ned first appeared in A Queer Trade (link to Amazon), a long short story/short novella that appeared in an anthology and has been published separately since. I don’t know if it was readers or the characters themselves who clamored loudly enough for the author to write them their own series, but it’s very welcome. Ned and Crispin are the sweetest couple and anyone who’s read the short will fall on this with glee.

If you haven’t read the short, it’s fine, because the author spends just enough time summarizing how they met at the beginning of this book, without annoying those who’ve read both. I reread the short right before starting Rag and Bone, but I wouldn’t have needed to.

Recommended for anyone who likes male/male romance with a touch of magic, especially when set in Victorian London.

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Review – Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford

Fish and Ghosts coverTitle: Fish and Ghosts
Series: Hellsinger #1
Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Our rating: 4 stars

Publication date: December 30, 2013
Genre: M/M paranormal romance
Length: Novel
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Review Summary: A must for anyone who likes their M/M romance served up in a haunted house.

Plot Summary/Blurb

Tristan Pryce’s uncle died and left him the huge and beautiful Hoxne Grange because he was the only one of the family who could see the ghosts that used it as a stopover on their way to the next world. His other aunts and uncles, not surprisingly, want to have Tristan certified as crazy to get their own hands on the house, so they call in Wolf Kincaid, the CEO of the paranormal research team Hellsinger Investigations, to prove there are no ghosts at the Grange.

Wolf’s looking forward to showing Tristan up as a fake, but things don’t turn out that way. He’s not as crazy and a lot more attractive than Wolf’s expecting. Then Wolf’s team’s activities unleash the ghost of a serial killer in the grounds, and not just their hearts but the Grange and even their lives are in danger.

Fish and Ghosts Review

So right off, I loved the premise here. Haunted house, reclusive hero, friendly ghosts. Other things I loved included Tristan, who is troubled enough to be interesting without being angst-ridden. Wolf is a good partner for him, if a little less developed. Rhys Ford is an excellent writer and I like her style.

Tristan and Wolf are two appealing characters and there is a good tension and fun dialog between them. Some of the ghosts are lovely – Jack the dog and Heather the cook are too sweet for words (although a little research might have prompted the author to give her a different name – Google’s telling me ‘Heather’ didn’t become popular until the late 19th century, and cooks were always called by their last names in England anyway).

On the subject of names, at first I thought the name Wolf was too cheesy to be bearable, but I forgave the author when it turned out to be short for Wolfgang – almost. Because then you’re left with the question of whether it sounds like ‘volf’ or ‘woolf’. I’m sure there’s a rule in all those ‘how to be a writer’ books about not giving your characters hard-to-pronounce names…

The main characters do have a bad case of insta-love. Initial hostility set up by the situation dissolves almost on sight. Wolf forgets about his client’s interests and takes Tristan’s side. Tristan, who has preserved his virginity until now (why?) suddenly decides this is The One.

The sex scenes are long, maybe too long for some readers. However, they’re not just acrobatics, they do develop the characters and the relationship, so even readers who usually skip these scenes might appreciate them. If you like M/M sex scenes you’ll love them.

In summary, Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford is a must for anyone who likes their M/M romance served up in a haunted house. Since it’s the first in a series, I’m hoping the relationship between the two MCs will develop at a deeper level in the next book. I’d like to see more of Tristan and the ghosts, and less of Wolf’s staff and family. But I’ll certainly be looking out for more from the Hellsinger ghost hunting team.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the fish in the title, it’s a play on the old saying, ‘fish and guests stink after three days’. Because that’s how long the ghosts stay at Hoxne Grange…

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