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theadornedTitle: The Adorned
Author: John Tristan
Publisher: Carina
Length: 101k words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Indentured Slavery, Sexual Slavery, Tattoos, Art/Artists, Magic, Major Class Distinctions, Alternate World Historical, Slow Burn, Revolution, Netgalley
Rating: LOVED it!!!!

BLURB

My name is Etan, and I am Adorned.

A living piece of art, I exist to please the divine rulers of Kered. With nowhere to turn after my father died, I tried my luck in the capital city. Little did I know how quickly I would be robbed, beaten and forced to sell myself into servitude. But I was lucky enough to gain the attention of Roberd Tallisk, an irascible but intriguing tattoo artist who offered to mark me with enchanted ink for the enjoyment of the nobles. I was given a chance to better my station in life, and I could not refuse.

But the divine rulers want not only the art but the body that bears it. In their company I can rise above the dregs of society and experience a life most only dream of, at the cost of suffering their every desire as a pawn in games of lavish intrigue. Their attention is flattering, but I find I’d rather have Tallisk’s.

Caught between factions, I learn that a revolution is brewing, one that could ruin Kered–and Roberd and myself along with it…

REVIEW

I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterday. I started reading it in the early morning and I couldn’t put it down — I read all day. And to be honest I was a little worried after I requested it because I had previously read a book by John Tristan that I DNF’ed and I think it might have been his first book. I just couldn’t get into the writing and I kinda liked it but also didn’t. So I couldn’t believe that I had none of the same issues with this book that I did with that earlier book. And if this author keeps writing books like this then I’ll definitely stick around and keep reading!

When his father dies with a multitude of debts, Etan is forced to sell his home and all his belongings and travel to the capital city of Kered to look for work. His only skills are his ability to read and write, and while those are rare abilities for a country boy, with no money to garner an apprenticeship, his only choice is manual labor, something he’s unable to do because of a sickness as a child that stunted his growth. He’s pale and petite, and saved by a man in a rickshaw when beaten in the street. The man offers to send him to a place to stay, where he learns after a few days is a home for indentured servants. His only option thereafter is to sign away his rights and work for this man in trade for a place to stay and food to eat.

When the man sees Etan without bruises and washes he almost doesn’t recognize him, but he has an even better idea of work for him. Etan is introduced to Roberd Tallisk, a tattoo artist whose patron is the head of the Council, run by the Blooded, the ruling class of Kered society who possess magic believed descended from the gods themselves. There, Etan’s slave bond is bartered between the two men when Tallisk agrees to take Etan on as his new work of art, an Adorned. The Adorned have always mystified those of the lower classes. They’re those of beauty who are tattooed by master tattoo artists with enchanted ink to become living works of art for the pleasure of the Blooded. Their art is not allowed to be seen by those who aren’t Blooded or the artist. And no one else but the tattoo artists are allowed to wear ink.

Etan’s new life seems wonderful and exciting. He’s protected now for life with gifts of riches from patrons and by the ink he wears on his skin. But there is also an aspect of being Adorned that he never expected. He soon learns the hard price to pay when he starts to mingle with the elite of Keren society and exactly what they expect from him. And he finds himself a pawn, a sort of Mata Hari in the political play between two warring factions for the future of the Keren society.

There are two things that I love most about this story and they go behind the tattoo art (which is super cool) and a lot of the other little details that made this story come alive for me. First is the epic quality of the story. We really get to see Etan’s life played out over a lot of major changes in his life that also herald major changes for the whole world. We meet Etan when he’s young, still living at home with his father and before he’s had to completely depend on himself and we get to see how he changes over time. I typically prefer characters who are alive, present and very decisive about their lives in fiction, especially in fantasy worlds. Etan is alive and present, certainly, but he’s also like a piece of detritus in a massive current once he makes it to the city. He’s buffered on all sides by those making choices for him. I can’t see him acting any other way certainly, as someone who has very little choices, but he’s also very internal and cautious. I didn’t see those parts of his personality changing until much later because it was such a slow change, but Etan grows as the world changes around him and as he needs to take more of his own care for himself.

The second thing I really loved was the cast of characters. We meet a multitude of secondary characters, most of whom are a good sort, and a faction of those who are good people who make some bad choices. As the world in the story changes, it reveals the best and worst of the characters and each of them are made to understand their regrets, in particular Isadel and Lord Haqan Loren. All of them, however, are well rounded characters that we get to know rather well. And this was done sometimes in a rather subtle fashion. The writing requires the reader to be present and active in piecing the world together and in drawing connections, and I can’t tell you how often I find myself wishing for writing like that.

You might not find this story to be perfect, or it might not impact you as much as it did me. Part of how you feel about it, in the end, will depend on what you like most in your romance books. The relationship between Etan and Tallisk is very slow to build and it takes almost the full length of the novel for the two to really come together. The bulk of the story is rather Etan’s journey and finding himself, someone who still feels like a country boy, realizing that he’s a good person with heart amid vultures who would pick at him until there’s nothing left. He has to realize what he really wants out of life, if it is security or love and if those things are separate.

I finished the book wanting more, sad that the story ended and hoping there was a way a sequel could be written, lol. I don’t think that’s really possible. But I know now that I’ll definitely keep my eye on book by John Tristan and I hope that it isn’t too long from now that I find another book that I get so lost in.


PitchLGTitle: Pitch
Author: Will Parkinson
Publisher: Dreamspinner (Harmony Ink)
Length: 53,637 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Debut Novel, High School, Unrequited Love, Closeted, Best Friends, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Coming Out, Coming of Age, Art/Artists, Sports, Baseball, Athletes, Abuse, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Secrets & Lies
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

BLURB

The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor’s life. He’s had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.

Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.

REVIEW

I’m always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I’ve been interested in several and still plan to review a few of them, it has been a while since I’ve picked up a book from DSP’s young adult imprint. From what I gather in the acknowledgements, this is Will Parkinson’s debut novel. Sometimes it’s a gamble picking books to read by a new author or an author I’ve never read, but that’s another part of reviewing that I like. Reviewing gives me the opportunity to read new authors and it feels like I get to enjoy more of the perks, like finding a surprise that’s worth it. Often, it’s different though and while I like some of those books I also don’t like some of them. I’m afraid to say that this book fell into the latter camp for me. While it wasn’t a total disappointment, I just didn’t connect with the book.

Taylor is a gay sophomore in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school. His best friend Benny is straight and the only person alive who knows his secret. They’re best friends and always have been and Benny is a rather special guy that is wise beyond his years, intelligent and loyal. Pitch opens on the day that a new student starts at Taylor’s school. Jackson walks into Taylor’s homeroom, looking nervous and totally sexy and Taylor immediately wants to draw him. What follows over the next year is an intense unrequited love that just doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how hard Taylor tries and Benny cautions. No matter how much Taylor is told that Jackson is disgusted by his little boy crush from Jackson’s cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor just can’t seem to stay away.

It isn’t until he and Benny gain some perspective on their problems during the next summer, camp counseling for abused kids, that Taylor starts to grow up. He still has feelings for Jackson, but he’s less likely now to follow him around like a lost puppy. So when a kid from a neighboring school asks him out during their Halloween dance, Taylor decides to take him up on it. He really starts to like Kevin, but he is prey unknowingly walking into Kevin’s trap. It takes some extremely tough decisions and way too much heartbreak and drama to realize that much of what he thought before wasn’t true, about most of the people he knew.

There are two aspects of this novella that I had a difficult time with. The first are the characters. This, especially, is subjective. Part of what oftentimes makes a young adult novel good are the bad choices of the characters. More often than not young adult stories have a moral and it can walk a fine line in the hands of the author between preachy and poignant. The style of this story went a bit over the top and that just wasn’t something that I was really looking for. For high school students, who I freely admit can be some of the cruelest humans on Earth, many of the actions of these characters went beyond immature and foolhardy. I would have appreciated the characters and their decisions (even the bad ones) more if their actions had been more subtle and less ascribed to their particular archetype. Kevin’s actions in particular required me to suspend disbelief a few times.

As I said before, those decisions and your own feelings about them are more subjective than usual. My other problem with this story was in the writing. I applaud this author for writing and writing and sharing their work. But like many new authors I think that there were some fundamental writing problems that this author needs to work on. Mostly it will just take continued writing, so even though this book wasn’t for me, I sincerely hope that this author keeps up with it. Part of the novice prose problems were dialogue and restraint. In a way, the second has quite a bit to do with the first. This book didn’t fall into too bad of a habit of telling rather than showing, but there is importance in letting the characters express themselves in their own ways instead of being a vehicle to express the author’s view. I’m not talking about preaching about issues or anything like that here. I simply mean the difference between the characters’ observations and personality and the author’s. Almost continually there were times while reading this that I stopped and thought that a character wouldn’t say or think that. The dialogue, in a similar way, oftentimes sounded familiar for all the characters and didn’t seem to represent the individual characters. Restraint is important because readers don’t need all the information. It’s a partnership, you know? The readers picks up on the clues the author leaves and pieces them together and in that way one small action tells you more about the character than a whole page of narration.

Ultimately, this book just wasn’t for me because of the more dramatic plot twists. I have seen a couple of 5-star reviews around so I’ll be interested to see if any other readers/reviewers feel the way I do, or if this turns out to be a reader favorite. I’ve been a part of the more unpopular opinion before!


CH_TruckerFucker_100dpi_cvrTitle: Trucker Fucker
Author: Barry Lowe
Publisher: Wilde City
Length: 12k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Erotica
Heat: 5 – Off the Charts!
Sex Frequency: 5 – Over and Over
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Charlie Harding Presents, Wilde City Press Erotica Week, m/m/m scenes, m/m/m+, Voyeurism, Public Sex, Anonymous Sex, Dirty/Pig/Raunch, Truckers, Artist (Tag), Cops, Blackmail, Straight Men/Bi-Curious, Twinks, Gangbang, Multiple Partners, May/December, Bears, Bikers, Daddies, Obese, Cum Slut
Rating: So So

BLURB

Jez Hereford is the biggest bull mother trucker that hauls ass up and down the east coast until the cops book him for drug possession—he keeps to schedule with the help of speed. The bleeding liberal judge gives him a choice: his license for six months or play mentor to a street feral who confesses a passion for trucks. But Jez is about to learn it’s not trucks the feral craves, but what the big rig drivers have between their legs.

Atom’s predilection for what big burly men have between their legs threatens Jez’s peace of mind until Atom uses his sexual prowess on highway cops. But what will he do when he’s threatened by a mob of horny bikers?

REVIEW

I have to admit, I have a bit of an addiction to Barry Lowe erotica stories. I suppose… it’s my secret guilty pleasure. Barry Lowe writes the dirtiest, the raunchiest, the sometimes nastiest erotica and very often his stories seem to have a cheating kink. This one doesn’t, thankfully, because I swear I’m masochistic about those. I want to read them even though they tend to bother me. I don’t know what’s wrong with me!

But I recently noticed that the place Barry Lowe used to publish, loveyoudivine alterotica, has seemed to shut it’s doors. Normally I hear about these kinds of things (love the gossip!) but I’ve been out of the loop lately. So I have no idea why they’ve disappeared, but all of Barry’s stories with them (which have to be over 100) have disappeared as well, even from Amazon (except in print format, if you really want them). So I was really happy to see that Barry was now publishing with Wilde City Press. And I knew that I had to read this new short story, especially with a name like Trucker Fucker. That promises to be dirty!

Read the blurb. This author and this story is less about if you want to read what it’s about and more about if you like the style of writing or not. So, read the blurb. It’s pretty obvious that the story is full of sex and raunchiness and that the writing displays this, although thankfully Barry tends to keep the numerous euphemisms to a bare minimum (no 100 slightly different repeats of fuck rod). Nevertheless, there is a bare-bones plot here. Jez is a trucker that is caught with speed (something all the truckers do to stay awake on long hauls) and the judge offers him a deal instead of jail time — for six months, Jez has to chaperone and mentor a young guy named Atom who got caught tagging his art all over town and whom the judge says showed an interest in trucking. To his mistake, Atom actually replied to his question of what he was interested in, Truckerrs. Jez finds that out when not an hour into their first drive Atom is trying to suck his cock. He makes no mistake about it and loves being called a slut. But no matter how many times he sneaks away and comes back from other trucks at their stops smelling of cum and looked pleasantly mussed, Jez holds out. He’s straight, he reminds himself.

it isn’t until they spend more time together that Jez starts to care about Atom, looking out for him when he’s being hounded by groups of men looking for action. And no matter how much he tries, no matter how many guys are chasing Atom down like sex zombies, no matter how underhanded they are in trying to get Atom to themselves, Jez can’t help but be aroused watching Atom love it all and want some of Atom himself.

If you made it through that, then you might actually like this story! Or you’re repulsed 😉 Either way, this story is FULL of sex, one on one, blowjobs, gangbangs, spit-roasting, blackmail by cops for a gangbang in the station… you’ll be entertained, for sure.

This is the reason that I like reading Barry’s stories. I go into them almost laughing at how ridiculous Barry has made this story and then I start to get pulled into it and by the time I’m finished I actually found it pretty hot. I’m not ashamed to admit it.

But, this is for pretty hardcore erotica readers! I had to add some pretty interesting tags for this one, LOL.


bloodbathory185Title: Blood Bathory: Like the Night
Author: Ari McKay
Publisher: Torquere
Length: 123,500 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Co-Authored, Vampires, Shifters, On the Lam, Past Trauma/Abuse, Cops (FBI), Friends to Lovers, Best Friends, NYC, Paris, Artists (Photographer), Grief, Second Chances, Sexy to the 999s, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Villain, Mythology
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Evan St. John, a young fashion photographer running from the pain caused by the death of his younger sister, is thrilled when he is offered a job with House of Nadasdy, a leading fashion house in Paris. What he doesn’t know is that Elizabeth Nadasdy, the elegant and powerful owner, is a centuries-old vampire with a penchant for collecting beautiful people. To Evan’s horror, he is turned into one of her “children”.

Unable to bear what he has become, Evan flees to New York and to his best friend, police officer Will Trask. For years, Evan has nursed an unrequited love for Will, but he also knows Will is the one person who might be able to help him. As Evan and Will try to deal with Evan’s condition, they are drawn into the world of the theriomorphs: shape-shifters who are guardians of life and the sworn enemies of vampires. Caught in an ancient war between two powerful supernatural forces, Evan and Will find they must choose sides — because if they are to have any chance of a future together, they must destroy Elizabeth Nadasdy before she destroys them.

REVIEW

These two authors have been one of my favorite writing teams for a while now, and I knew that I wanted to review this book before I’d even heard of it or read the blurb. So when I finally did read the blurb I was even more exited, especially for such a long book. And finishing it took me a couple of days, mostly just because I wanted to enjoy it, so I spent my time reading it totally for pleasure and enjoying every twist and turn.

Evan St. John and Will Trask have a tumultuous past. Roommates their Freshman year of college at Columbia, they soon grow to be friends. Evan is openly gay and an art photography student, always carrying around his camera, while Will is a manly jock through and through. For reasons that Evan never understands, Will sticks by him and the bullying he was experiencing dwindles when people start to realize that Will will aways have his back. As they grow closer Evan starts to understand Will better, including Will’s White Knight Complex, his need to protect and care for those he loves, to an almost fanatical, save-the-day to-the-rescue level.

Their dynamic changes when Evan’s sister is dying of cancer and their relationship grows during the emotional period — Evan is distraught and barely keeping himself afloat while trying to understand and come to terms with her turn for the worse. And Will picks up the slack, in more ways than expected. But the grief sends Evan running to Paris and three years go by, where Evan becomes a famous fashion photographer taken on by The House of Nadasdy, run by famous and infamous Elizabeth Nadasdy, and Will becomes an agent with the FBI.

We’re first introduced to Evan in Like the Night as he escapes Paris during the day to fly to New York City and seek help from Will. He’s a newly made vampire under the gruesome and tyrannical rule of Elizabeth Nadasdy, a modern day remnant of her famous human days as Elizabeth of Bathory. Above all (except herself), she loves beauty and hoards a collection of “children” all turned by her for their extraordinary beauty, which she believes deserves to be preserved for eternity. Evan was a prize for her, and his rejection of her extraordinary “gift” is tantamount to the ultimate betrayal, something she relishes punishing him for. But Elizabeth doesn’t expect the trouble it will take to find and deal with Evan. With him, someone whose beauty hides his intelligence and cunning, are a group of allies who seek one common goal: the eradication of Elizabeth Nadasdy. And of course Evan has Will, his White Knight, ready to stand in front of any threat to his best friend.

I really just loved this book. I took a while to read it because it is long, but it is also totally packed with plot and, just about everything under the sun, making the book seem even longer than it is. There’s an economy to the writing which gives you SO much story for just the first book of a series that it gave me the time and the opportunity to really sink into the story. What came through in this story most strongly for me was the pervasive mood of fear and impending doom. This is all because of the fact that Elizabeth is built up to such supervillain status that she’s made to be almost omniscient, with unlimited power. Add to this a connection between vampires and their sire, or maker, and the fact that Elizabeth could peek in on Evan at any moment and even make him do things or spy on his relationship with Will, or their planned resistance of her make the story suffused with tension.

I found the villainous characters in this novel to be quite interesting. We have Elizabeth who is the typical diabolical character. She relishes in the pain of others and not only causes death and despair because it gets her something (money, fame, power, etc.) but also because she enjoys the suffering of others. She firmly believes that she’s more worthy than anyone else to have the status that she does because of her beauty and the vision she has for the future. But, sometimes diabolical is boring. No matter how outrageously cruel Elizabeth can be, she’s still a character that doesn’t take too much effort to understand. My favorite villainous character is her daughter Anna, who I suspect will become a crucial and central character to the future books. Anna is raised in the shadow of her diabolical mother. She’s always second best, but raised to revel in the same cruelties as her mother. She’s made a vampire both because of her beauty which is similar to her mother’s, but also as a gift from her. But hundreds of years of oppression make Anna rather different from her mother. Though I suspect that they both have similar depth of cruel possibility inherently in them, Anna’s choices are governed by her hate of her mother and her acceptance that her only meaning to her mother is what she can do for her. That makes her cruel, but much more interesting than her mother. And of course, it’s going to be great when the two really turn on one another 😉

Anyway, I’m super excited for the second book. I hope it isn’t too far away. But honestly, I can’t really be sad because this is the first book in a while (that is the first book of a series) that actually gives us enough story to satisfy us for the first installment. 123k words is pretty long, yes, but it allows the book to give full and adequate world-building while also giving us a real story that will be carried on in the second part. We have a full and self-standing plot with only a few loose ends to pick up in the next book. If this is the case for the next books as well, then I can only imagine where this story will go before it ends!

Definitely Recommended!

GIVEAWAY RULES

Please leave a comment below to win an ebook copy of Blood Bathory: Like the Night by Ari McKay. The giveaway will last until Midnight CDT on Tuesday, July 16. I will choose the winner using Random.org and email the winner who will then have 48 hours from the time of the drawing to reply to my email. I will then forward the winner’s information to the author so the winner can receive their book.

Please enter the email you’d wish me to contact you at in the comment form, or if you prefer, leave it in the message.

Thank you and good luck!

GIVEAWAY CLOSED


AcademicPursuitsTitle: Academic Pursuits
Author: Lou Harper
Publisher: Amber Allure
Length: 29k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Lou Harper Week!, Hot College Daze collection, College, Playboy/Manslut, Straight Men, Multiple Partners, Awesome Female Characters, Art, Artists, Self-Discovery Focus
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Jamie Brennan is putting “cad” back into academia!

The son of a well-to-do family and blessed with both dark good looks and buckets of confidence, Jamie lives for the chase. He has a well-deserved reputation around college as a seducer of straight frat boys. No man is off-limits to Jamie—he’s happy to help fellow gay students out of the closet, too. He even has lustful designs on his oblivious English professor, so it’s no surprise that his amorous pursuits often land him in sticky situations.

There’s just one flaw in Jamie’s perfect world—Roger Hunt. The hunky grad student, who dresses more like a lumberjack than the talented artist he is, gives Jamie hostile looks every time their paths cross. Jamie tries to ignore Roger, but they can’t seem to stop running into each other, and Jamie’s beginning to wonder if it’s more than chance that continues to steer them down the same halls…

REVIEW

The reviews are coming… slowly! But I’m getting there, slowly but surely 😉 I have to admit that this was one of the books that I read back in May when I decided to review Lou Harper’s backlist that I read immediately because I already had it and then promptly forgot to review it. I had an oopsie moment this week when I started to write the review because I’ve read so many college themed stories in the past few months that I wanted to be sure I completely remembered everything. And that’s kindof a big deal when you think back to how well you remember books that you’ve read because how much you remember the book and how you felt about it says what impact it makes on you. So when I opened the book again for a little refresher read, it immediately came storming back to me.

I wrote a review yesterday for Hanging Loose where I talked quite a bit about my happiness that that book took the plot completely through the romance, instead of stopping early on in their relationship. Of course, there is an exception to every rule — no author or book is the same. But, I’ve read quite a few books that just take the story up to the honeymoon phase and then leave things at that, and my disappointment when at that point the book often feels unfinished. Academic Pursuits is the one major exception to that, in that this book is really about self-discovery over the romance and your feelings about this book will most likely depend entirely on how you like Jamie. We first meet him while he’s initiating Hollins, another straight frat boy, into the joys of gay sex, something he’s grown quite the reputation for. But Jamie isn’t really that great at reading situations or people, which shows in his ignorance of how some people at his college view his promiscuity. And the promiscuity really suits Jamie just fine. He loves sex and he’s rather charming and good looking, and he certainly makes no mistake about what sex with him entails. In fact, he often makes sure that he’s not leading a guy along. He makes no excuses because he’s rather happy with his life and the way he lives it. It isn’t really until he meets Roger that those perceptions start to change. At first, all he knows about Roger is that the man seems to hate him, which is a shame because the artist is really pretty sexy. It isn’t until the two run into each other enough to finally really start getting to know the other, when they can break down the facade they both see in the other.

I really kindof liked Jamie because he’s so at home in his skin. He makes no secret of his sexual liaisons nor his intentions. He isn’t playing anyone. He just likes sex and has no need to settle down. Nor has he met anyone yet that he feels that way about. I totally got that. But that also means that he has sex with multiple partners, even after he’s met Roger. So for those who really like their main characters to stick with each other and to have a pretty pure romance plot, this might not be your book. For most of the book, he and Roger aren’t together. The course of their romance on-page is in the barely getting to know you’s, and then later in the book Jamie’s change in perception about his feelings for Roger, what that means for him, and his understanding about Roger’s perception of him. This really is a book of self-discovery. Jamie is spending his college years having casual sex and it is only with serious feelings for someone that he starts to understand how others might have viewed him, and also how he wants to change. Not really because his behavior was bad, but because it just doesn’t suit him anymore.

I’ll let you discover the details yourself, but there’s a lot else in this book to like, like his cousin/roommate Jo who is totally awesome, and his own matchmaking efforts for her and for some of his conquests. And you know, for a guy in college, his sexual portrayal is pretty spot-on, you know? The whole reputation as a seducer of straight frat boys might put a funny spin on the situation, but I liked that this was a pretty accurate portrayal of college life.

So, don’t miss out on this one folks. It’s pretty short at 29k words and it’s a fun read. And I didn’t even feel like I needed a sequel!


deadinla1Title: Dead in L.A. (L.A. Paranormal #1-2)
Author: Lou Harper
Publisher: Self Published (Harper Books)
Length: 28k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Psychics, Past Trauma, Roommates, Friends with Benefits, College, Art, Grieving Character, LA, Secrets and Lies, Guilt, Opposites Attract
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Trouble comes in deceptive packages

Still recovering from an accident that left him emotionally and physically battered, Jon’s goal is to lead a simple life, free of complications and attachments. His new roommate—a happy-go-lucky bookworm—seems to fit into his plans fine at first. He doesn’t find out till later that Leander’s also a psychic, specializing in finding lost pets. Jon’s a skeptic when it comes to the supernatural, so he’s convinced Leander’s a nut job.

Jon’s beliefs are challenged when Leander has to track down a missing teenager and he ropes Jon into assisting him. Soon the two of them are knee-deep in a decades-old murder case. The hills and valleys of the City of Angels hold many buried secrets, and Leander has a knack for finding them.

Jon’s hopes for a trouble-free life go out the window as he’s drawn deeper into Leander’s psychic sleuthing. Digging into the past poses many dangers, but the biggest risk Jon faces is putting his bruised heart on the line.

Warning: Men loving men, skeletons, and an unlucky Chihuahua.

REVIEW

Dead in LA is the book that shows just how economical Lou Harper’s writing is. It surprises me even now to write that this book of two stories is only 28k words simply because my memory from reading it is how full of plot and detail it was. Of course it depends on your style and preferences, but I always admire an author who can get their word across without a whole lot of words — I’m the exact opposite! As you might have noticed and indeed bemoaned from my incredibly wordy reviews 🙂

Both of these stories, “Dead in the Hills” and “Dead in the Valley” focus on a separate mystery while the overall arc of the story that connects them is the building relationship between Jon and Leander, two completely fascinating characters! I say that because at this point (after reading the first two stories and waiting for the rest to come) I still feel them on incredibly shaky ground, no matter how far they’ve come from their beginnings as roommates in “Dead in the Hills”. And they, in so many ways, are an opposites attract story, not in a sortof comically stereotypical way (like… the twink and the cop or something) but simply because when I first started reading this book I thought… wait, is Leander really going to become Jon’s romantic interest? I just couldn’t see it. It wasn’t until after they were firmly established as friends with benefits (or roommates with benefits) that they both really started to open up for me as characters and I could see past their superficialities. Jon is an art student, but of course in a completely responsible way (art advertising) that he might not have ever really gone in to anyway, and Leander is a psychic who finds things that people have lost. Now, sometimes those are puppies (like the “unlucky Chihuahua” LOL) and sometimes those are missing people. Jon has a hard time at first believing in what Leander does until he offers his roommate a ride to a job and sees it for himself, not only the accuracy of Leander’s visions but what it also does to him. His ultimate understanding of Leander’s job is what slowly softens him to Leander’s charms, even through all of the trauma and guilt that Jon still has after his wife’s death.

Dead in LA was probably one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year, and in some ways that’s because of the mysteries and in others the relationship. The relationship is also what makes this book like a really early part of a series. Of course, these are the first two stories in this series, but what I mean is that by the end of both there’s still a great deal of uncertainty about their relationship and a lot they’ll need to work through. Both of these stories, for me, were really about getting to know the characters individually and that makes me even more excited for the coming ones, because I get to see more about where their relationship will progress.

This book also shows how well the episodic mystery format is working for Lou. Making the mysteries somewhat shorter allows for more possible directions for the story to go because we, as readers, aren’t completely committed to a long mystery plot while the characters are growing with their relationship. That is what makes the next stories in this series exciting to me.

Also, a note about the cover, which I really love. Lou mentioned that it doesn’t really scream romance (which is true) but that it does really highlight that these are mysteries. That works well for me with these two stories — the cover seems aligned with how I feel about them in any way — but also, I think that the lack of a naked torso makes your book stand out in new ways these days, when I feel like most others I’ve heard from… we’re just tired of those covers.