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Tag Archives: HFN

Provoked (Enlightenment #1) - Joanna ChambersTitle: Provoked (Enlightenment #1)
Author: Joanna Chambers
Publisher: Samhain
Length: 54,571 words
Genre: m/m Historical Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Scotland, 1820s, Closeted, Homophobia, Rich/Poor, Lawyers, Secrets & Lies, Mystery, Aristocracy, HFN (this was just the first part of a longer romance arc)
Rating: Really Like It

BLURB

When a man loses his heart, he has no choice but to follow…

Enlightenment, Book 1

Lowborn David Lauriston lacks the family connections needed to rise in Edinburgh’s privileged legal world. Worse, his latest case—defending weavers accused of treason—has brought him under suspicion of harbouring radical sympathies.

Troubled by his sexuality, tormented by memories of a man he once platonically loved, David lives a largely celibate life—until a rare sexual encounter with a compelling stranger turns his world on its head.

Cynical and worldly, Lord Murdo Balfour is more at home in hedonistic London than dingy, repressed Edinburgh. Unlike David, he intends to eventually marry while continuing to enjoy the company of men whenever he pleases. Yet sex with David is different. It’s personal, intimate, and instead of extinguishing his desire, it only leaves him hungry for more.

As David’s search for the man who betrayed the weavers deepens, he begins to suspect that his mysterious lover has more sinister reasons for his presence in Edinburgh. The truth could leave his heart broken…and more necks stretching on the gallows.

Product Warnings
Contains mystery and danger set in 1822 Scotland, and a forbidden love between two men that will leave you on the edge of your seat—until the next book.

REVIEW

I don’t know why exactly, but I was really, really excited to read this book. It makes no sense really, because I rarely read historical novels and Joanna Chambers is a new author to me. Perhaps it was a latent psychic power because once I started this book I never wanted to stop. I was forced to stop to get some other reviews done, but if I hadn’t been forced to I don’t think I would have. I was immediately drawn into the lush prose and the strange love/hate dynamic between David and Balfour.

David’s actions in the first chapter of Provoked introduce him to us so perfectly. Jostled in an excited crowd to see the death of two men charged with treason for their part in an uprising against the government, David watches on helplessly. He worked on their case as part of their legal defense, but he’s still a junior in his field and there wasn’t much he could do. But, what he could do was work tirelessly, and in the end it didn’t make a lot of difference. David throws himself into everything and this was no different. To put the families of the condemned at ease he shares with them his own childhood. He was raised by a farmer in a country village in Scotland but worked and did everything he could to further his education. Now, he’s gone up in the world and is working among the higher classes in Edinburgh. Still, he isn’t far from his roots. Being a witness to the deaths of these two men is something that he owes them.

Over a thoughtful and depressing meal later that evening another man sits to dine with him. He’s handsome and confident with an interesting face. He introduces himself as Mr. Balfour and after a considerable amount of shared whisky, David finds himself on his knees in a wet alley. He can’t stand that he always falls prey to his demons and tells himself that this time will be the last time. Or at least, that’s what he always says. Balfour seems surprised by his behavior after their tryst and has a rather more hedonistic outlook on life. Where David is bound tightly to his morality and refuses to move into a life of dishonesty by marrying a woman and starting a family, Balfour seems to have no problem with that. He’s looking for happiness, he says, and the only version for him is the one of his own making. Ideals have no place over them.

It is a surprise to David some months later when he again runs into Balfour while dining at the home of his boss. In the meantime, the case that brought about their first meeting, that of the weavers, barges back into David’s life. Euan, the younger brother of one of the men brought down in the case needs his help. His brother Peter wasn’t hanged but is en route on a ship in chains for his part in the conspiracy. Euan needs David’s help to find Lees, the government man who infiltrated their group, incited them from a small idealistic group into an active anti-government rebellion and then turned them in. David wants to help Euan but is afraid for him. He’s just a kid who, like him, has also worked himself up to a higher education and David doesn’t want him to throw all of that away by searching for vengeance, and he knows that his brother wouldn’t want him to either. But Euan won’t be swayed, so David agrees to help him find Lees, knowing that it will most likely be a lost cause.

When Balfour comes up as a possible identity for Lees, David doesn’t want to believe it. He also doesn’t want to continue forming an attachment to the man. It’s gone past the physical with them and David can’t allow himself to sin in such a way, nor allow his heart to be handled by a man often so callous, and so fundamentally different from him.

I want to have the sequel now! I say that, not just as someone who really liked this first book and wants more, but also as a reader who wants more of the story. There are two arcs — the romance and the quasi-mystery plot — the first of which definitely spans the series. I’m not sure about the second, though. Was the external plot just a part of this book and the next one will see these two guys in a different situation dealing with different issues? I don’t know. But, as far as the romance arc, this story was really just the setup for what is to come, which leaves me really wanting to see where their relationship will go. That, after all, is what really brought this story forward for me and what drew me in. David and Balfour are two such interesting characters and together they have such interesting conversations. The writing of these two guys and their evolving dynamic hit a sweet spot. The language is beautiful and I really felt like I was getting to know both of them well. David, of course, isn’t difficult to read. Balfour offers a delicious treat because what he says and obviously thinks/believes are often different and puzzling those things out (along with David) filled their interactions with meaning.

I definitely recommend this one to all readers of m/m romance, not just those that like historicals. And I’m definitely going to be looking out for more books by Joanna Chambers 🙂


Weight of Silence (Cost of Repairs #3) - AM ArthurTitle: Weight of Silence (Cost of Repairs #3)
Author: AM Arthur
Publisher: Samhain
Length: 51k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Mild & Sexy
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Series, Coming Out, YA Characters, Hurt/Comfort, Sisters, Family Drama, Abuse, Deadbeat Dad, College, HFN, Past Couples’ Cameos, Thanksgiving, Christmas
Rating: Pretty Good

Reviewed by Sadonna

BLURB

The wrong secret can poison everything–even if it’s kept with the best of intentions.

Gavin Perez knows he’s a living cliché. He works a dead-end job, shares a trailer with his waitress mom, has an abusive, absentee sperm donor, and he’s poor. So color him shocked when middle-class, white-bread Jace Ramsey agrees to hang out with him.

Granted, Gavin is trying to make up for dumping a bowl of cranberry sauce on Jace at Thanksgiving. And boy, is Gavin forgiven, over and over again…until Jace goes back to college for finals and stops returning Gavin’s calls.

Back home from the semester from hell, Jace doesn’t want to do anything but sleep through the holidays. It’s easier than coming out to his family—or facing Gavin’s hurt. But Gavin’s ready forgiveness draws them back together, and Jace won’t be able to stay in the closet much longer.

Nor will he be able to keep hiding his pain. He trusts Gavin with his body, maybe even with his heart. But can he trust that a devastating secret that’s eating him up inside won’t destroy everything—and everyone—he loves?

Product Warnings
This book contains one slightly hyperactive hero from the wrong side of town, a frustrated college student looking for a little life experience, and an unexpected romance amid dark secrets that just won’t stay buried. Also contains references to physical abuse some readers may find disturbing.

REVIEW

This is the third book in the Cost of Repairs series. While this story takes place in the same town as the first two novels, there isn’t a lot of crossover and it can be read as a standalone story. The couples from the previous two stories briefly appear in this book, but it’s not really necessary to have read them before this one.

Every year for Thanksgiving, Dixie, who owns the local diner, Dixie’s Cup, throws a large Thanksgiving potluck dinner that is attended by a lot of folks in town. All of her employees and a number of her friends as well as her nephew and his partner also are invited. This year Gavin and his mom (who works at Dixie’s) are also there along with the Ramseys. Keith Ramsey is one of the local police officers and he keeps an eye on Dixie’s and of course has been friends with her for years. Gavin and Jace have a small accident with some cranberry relish that results in them talking really for the first time. Gavin has been out since he was 14 and he’s pretty sure Jace is gay but he doesn’t seem to be out. Surprisingly though he agrees to go to a party with Gavin over the Thanksgiving weekend.

While Jace has some misgivings about the location of the party, he ends up having a decent time and then he and Gavin go out to the lake to park. He’s never really done anything with a guy before – beyond some awkward groping and kissing – and boy does he want to with Gavin. Gavin recognizes the deer in the headlights look about Jace though and he takes things slow. Jace is in his sophomore year at Temple [University] and Gavin is about 4 years older, so he lets Jace take the lead and set the pace.

Several weeks later Jace is home for Christmas break and he’s not at all acting like himself. He’s not eating, he’s moody, and he’s uncommunicative with his family and just generally stressed out. When his mom forces him to make an appearance at their annual Christmas party, he comes face to face with Gavin. He’s shocked that Gavin even speaks to him since he had ignored all communication from him since Thanksgiving break. Jace feels guilty and explains it away that he had finals and then he had to change his number because of harassing texts and calls. Gavin amazingly accepts these excuses and they start to hang out again. Jace is not happy to be home, he’s not happy at college and he’s pretty much avoiding his family. Regardless, Gavin is happy to be spending so much time with Jace. He and Jace hang out at Gavin’s trailer quite a bit since Gavin’s mom is working and Jace isn’t out to his family. Although Gavin recognizes that Jace is tense, he chalks it up to his worry about grades and his unhappiness and being forced to go to college when he doesn’t really want to be there.

As the break continues, Jace’s family and particularly his twin sister Rachel become more concerned about his behavior. He’s not eating and as a consequence has lost a noticeable amount of weight and seems to be getting weaker. When he does try to eat, he seems to get sick quite a lot. Things come to a head with his family and Gavin really helps out. There are things that no one knows that have happened at school and Jace feels guilty and betrayed and is dealing with an incredible amount of stress and self-loathing. While Jace meant well and made a decision out of the desire to protect someone he loves, he has suffered some pretty awful consequences. Without being spoilery, luckily for Jace, Gavin is a great guy and steps up when he needs to.

I am a fan of this author and really liked the previous two books in this series. For me, this story is not quite as strong as the first two in the series. I think that the ages of the guys and the things they were dealing with were not quite as compelling as the first two. This book is also not as long as the previous two installments. Or maybe it’s just that I’m old 😉 I really, really liked Gavin especially. His personality I thought really was conveyed especially well in this story. Jace grows a lot in this story and learns a great deal about himself, his family and what he wants out of life. I enjoyed seeing Rey and Samuel from the first book in a small supporting role and also Dixie and company from the diner. This is a well-written series and I would happen to revisit Stratton, PA in the future should the opportunity arise.


Burden72lgTitle: Burden
Author: Annmarie McKenna
Publisher: Samhain
Length: 30,500 words, 113 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance Mystery
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Cops, Injury, Assassination Attempts, Memory Loss, Recovery, Insta-love, Kittens!, HFN
Rating: So So

Reviewed by Sadonna

BLURB

There’s more than one way to guard a body.



In the year since his car flew off a cliff, Detective Brennan McGuire has struggled to relearn the simplest tasks—like speaking without a stutter—and even more with trying to fill the gaping holes in his memory.

But when his daily visit to a local coffee shop turns into a melee of flying bullets, Brennan’s instincts take control.

So much for Keegan Monroe’s first day off after a long undercover assignment. One minute he’s relaxing over coffee, the next his cheek is kissing concrete. Question is, is the gorgeous man on top of him his savior, or the one who took a potshot at his head?

As Keegan shepherds the too-quiet, too-skinny Brennan through the investigation, attraction flares into nights of white-hot passion. But with each scorching encounter, more and more of Brennan’s memories shake loose…and it becomes clear someone doesn’t want him putting those pieces together.

With Keegan’s oath to protect and serve putting him squarely in the crosshairs of a murderer, now the question is, who is protecting whom?

REVIEW

The blurb for this story pretty much tells it all and gives away the twist to the plot.  Brennan has suffered a traumatic brain injury as the result of a car accident that he can’t remember.  He was a police officer before the injury, but now he can barely order a drink and pay for it at the local coffee shop.  While on his daily therapy exercise, he spies a shooter and lunges at the hot guy he thinks is about to get shot and in doing so, becomes a suspect.  Somehow the police take forever to figure out that something is wrong with him (duh).  Once they realize that he was an officer and that he is still recovering from the accident, they STILL think he might be involved.

Keegan begins to doubt that Brennan is involved and has him review mugshots in an attempt to identify the shooter.  Keegan is convinced that this somehow has to do with the case he has just completed.  As the investigation continues and he witnesses Brennan’s flashes of memory, he begins to suspect that something else is going on.  During the second day of the investigation we meet Brennan’s aunt – who is a hoot – maybe my second favorite character in this story 🙂

Brennan and Keegan are definitely attracted and even though he kind of feels like maybe he’s taking advantage, Keegan just can’t seem to keep his hands off.  Amazingly during sex, Brennan doesn’t even stutter and seems sure of himself and what he wants.  Brennan’s old instincts seem to be surfacing more and more as the case continues which is a good thing for both of them.  Keegan liked the Brennan he sees and wants to help him remember what happened and not just because he’s trying to figure out what’s going on with the assassination attempts.

I really wanted to like this book so much more!  The blurb was intriguing and I liked both MCs – especially Brennan.  The problem for me was the rushed, compressed time frame of this story – it’s literally two and a half days and the MCs are saying “I love you.”  Also, I knew from the blurb and the story pretty much what was going to be the outcome and who the bad guy was.  I hate when that happens!  This would have been a much better story if it had been about three times the word count and we got a fully fleshed out relationship built between the MCs.  Instead they spend one day together and they are “in love.”  Not saying it can’t happen, but it’s just not that satisfying.  I’ve read other books by this author and really liked them and there is nothing inherently wrong with this one.  I just needed more relationship development to feel like I got the whole story.


Brennessel_Running_Up_That_HillTitle: Running up that Hill
Author: Barry Brennessel
Publisher: MLR
Length: 13,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, MLR Mixtapes, Recent Historical, Coming of Age, Kate Bush, Closeted, NYC, Fear, Best Friends, Technology, 1980s, 80s Music, AIDS, HFN
Rating: LOVED it!

Reviewed by Sadonna

BLURB

For Jeremy Saura, a song by Kate Bush holds all the answers. Pushes him onward. Sends him running up that road. Up that hill. Up that building.



Jeremy gets chills as he listens to the lyrics. The song, a beautiful powerhouse of determination over despair, only gains in impact as he replays it. Seven times.



”I adore you Kate Bush,” he whispers to her photograph. For Jeremy, “Running Up That Hill” gives him the momentum he needs to navigate the trials and tribulations of a new job, a complex friendship, and a budding workplace romance.

REVIEW

I’ve been waiting for this story to come out with the summer Mix Tapes series from MLR.  When I first read Tinseltown, I knew this was a writer to watch and I’ve never been disappointed.

It’s 1986 and Jeremy is a young man just starting out in NYC with his first real job after college.  He works at a law book publishing company.  They are just adopting Wang word processors and his coworkers are freaking out about the change.  Jeremy is thankful to have the job, especially after he meets Adam, the editor on the project he’s working on J  Adam is very cute and as Jeremy leaves his office after their first meeting, he catches Adam watching him.

Jeremy’s best friend Scott is his confidant and Jeremy tells him all about meeting Adam. While they have a lot in common, their taste in men is quite different.  Jeremy also has a passion for music.  He buys 45s at the Vinyl Attic, the local record store and in fact the store owner has nicknamed him Mr. 45.  I loved the description of the store, the owner and the transition of the media of music. Jeremy’s conversation with Scott after his record purchases is like a comfortable walk down memory lane with references to the only 80s nighttime soap I ever watched and even a mention of my favorite grocery store chain – even though I didn’t know about it until 1999 – and I like Jeremy’s record choices.

Friday night comes and even though Scott is still a bit banged up from a fall while jogging, he and Jeremy decide to go out to the Liberty – a local gay bar.  As he’s getting ready, he listens to Kate Bush’s single Running up that Hill.  He loves the song and plays it again – 6 more times.  Amazingly, Jeremy runs into Adam at Liberty.  Their night continues after the club however 😉

Monday at work they see each other again when Jeremy completes his project, but things get weird when a female coworker interrupts their conversation and Adam clams up.  t lunch with Scott, Jeremy tell him about his time with Jeremy. Things get back on track and Jeremy decides to celebrate by getting more new music.  He is now obsessing on Kate Bush.

Things seems to be going well with work and with Adam, but then a scare with Scott and a nasty prank and the damn Wang word processors all try to get in the way of Jeremy’s happiness. But our Jeremy, inspired by the words and music of the lovely Kate Bush perseveres.

Where do I start about all the things I loved about this story?  A little context – 1986 was without a doubt one of the worst years of my life.  I was Jeremy’s age in 1986.  My dad died in 1986 a couple weeks after his 46th birthday after a long illness. I had to have my mother committed in 1986.  I was putting myself through college working as a secretary commuting 120 miles round trip every day, going to school at night and on Saturdays.  I got hired for my job because I had worked with one of the other big word processing systems just coming on in the mid-80s, the late lamented NBI, and I was really good at it.  I spent long hours on the train listening to my Walkman and in the car listening to my cassettes.  Music has always been a big part of my life and I think particularly at that shit storm stage of my life it was a huge comfort to me.  I heard Kate Bush for the first time in 1979 when I was an exchange student in Europe.  I thought she was amazing – particularly Wuthering Heights (for you Anglophiles, search YouTube for Kate Bush and Noel Fielding – Wuthering Heights – it’s amazing).

For me, reading this story was like punch in the gut, followed by a comforting hug.  Barry so eloquently captured the rhythms of the mid-80s – the big changes that were beginning in the role of technology and media in our lives in new ways, the tentative steps being taken by many towards living an authentic life and the horror and fear surrounding the AIDS epidemic.  Listening to Jeremy’s inner dialogue and slightly sarcastic nature literally felt like I was stepping back in time.  I loved his voice in this story.  Once again, I am in awe of Barry’s talent in bringing to life characters in what I can only describe as movie-like story.  Read this story. You won’t be disappointed.


GSW_Crocodile_Kevs_Merry-Go-RoundTitle: Crocodile Kev’s Merry-Go-Round
Author: G.S. Wiley
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 7,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Australia, Co-Workers, Famous(ish), HFN(ish), May/Dec, Musicians, Short Story, Sports
Rating: So So

Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

Kevin Ballantyne is a hugely successful children’s entertainer, but his personal life is no laughing matter. Will an encounter with a grown-up fan give him an Australia Day to remember?

“Crocodile” Kevin Ballantyne has been entertaining kids in Australia and all over the world for more than twenty years, fan-favorite Kazza the Kangaroo always by his side. When the dancer playing Kazza backs out of an Australia Day gig at Sydney’s Hyde Park, Kevin is left scrambling. High dive artist and longtime Crocodile Kev fan Lachlan Clayfield steps into the breach and the kangaroo costume. As they get to know one another over the course of the day, Kevin finds himself wondering whether Lachlan might be able to lend a hand in other, more personal, areas of his life.

REVIEW

Kevin Ballantyne has been entertaining kids for decades as Crocodile Kev with his trusty sidekick Kazza the Kangaroo. When he’s scheduled for a slot at Hyde Park in Sydney for Australia Day, the woman playing Kazza can’t make, putting him in a horrible situation. Lucky for him, he finds a fan in Lachlan Clayfield, another entertainer for Australia Day, who’s willing to put on the kangaroo suit. The two hit it off right from the start not just on the stage but in other ways.

When this story starts, it’s to Kevin not wanting to do the gig in Hyde Park and he wants to do it even less when he realizes his Kazza won’t be there. It was hard for me to connect with Kevin because I felt like he didn’t have much of a personality and didn’t like his life. Lachlan, however, I really enjoyed. I loved his bubbly attitude and the high dive entertainment he was part of. The two together are pretty cute. Kevin is much older than Lachlan which made things a bit awkward when he finds out how much of a fan the much younger Lachlan is.

This is one of those stories, though, that had a lot of potential but fell short of the mark. While I liked the premise of the story, I felt like it was too short to achieve its potential because there wasn’t much depth to the characters or the conflicts. The entire story felt rushed but also lacks a lot of important details, which made the ending feel abrupt and open ended. There’s inconsistencies but I also felt like there was too much pointless emphasis on the way Australians talk. Granted, I’m not Australian but the way Lachlan in particular was talking felt forced and awkward.

In the end, I liked the story but I felt like there could have been much more to it than there was. I loved Lachlan but Kevin came across dull in comparison to him. The age gap between them created some good conflict but there were too many other issues within the story that made this potentially good read only an okay one.


beachremedy400Title: Beach Remedy (a Paranormal Days story)
Author: Sasha L Miller
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 17k words
Genre: m/m Paranormal/Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Magic, Witch/Mage, Vampire, Urban Fantasy, California, Ghosts/Spirits, On Vacation, On the Beach, HFN, Light and Sweet
Rating: Pretty Good

**Giveaway! Enter by 6/18 to win a copy of this story (as well as it’s partner, Herbal Remedy, by Megan Derr) on Sasha Miller’s guest post yesterday.

BLURB

With his cousin laid up from a broken ankle, Lee agrees to help him out and combine a beach vacation with a bit of legwork to scope out a haunted lighthouse. That his cousin agrees to pay for the vacation certainly makes a cheesy ghost tour bearable. Lee’s plan is to get the work out of the way quickly, then spend the rest of his time on sun, sand, and all the blood and sex a vampire can stand. But the cute hotel clerk he picks out proves to be anything, but an easy snack.

REVIEW

Though there’s no need to read these stories in any certain order (the other being Megan Derr’s Herbal Remedy), they are connected. The common denominator are two of the main characters. In this story, it is Jayden, who is the brother of the narrator of Megan Derr’s story. I happened to read Megan’s story first, so I found that I knew quite a bit about Jayden before I got to read his story. In Megan’s story we see quite a bit of Jayden and his importance in Jordan’s life, so I had a pretty good handle on his character. Though… it’s interesting, and this one aspect played out well in the order I read the stories. From Jordan, I got one characterization of Jayden and though it was admittedly multifaceted because he’s an important character to him, actually getting to know Jayden firsthand from this story completed his character in the same way you’d get to know someone through their sibling only to see later that you only understood them through the lens of sibling affection and at the same time, frustration 🙂

Lee probably felt similarly towards Jordan, when he meets him in this story just because he’s heard about him through Jayden. The two meet at a sunny beach hotel. Lee had planned his vacation to the beach for some well-earned rest. It might seem strange for a vampire to vacation at the beach, but all Lee wants is some relaxation and a new guy to share his hotel room with each night. So his fixation on one man alone surprises him.

Jayden works at the hotel desk and checks in Lee when he arrives. The two share a flirtation that baffles Lee a bit. Jayden seems to be reacting strangely to his vampire-seduction mojo, but if Jayden is immune then maybe he’s really interested in him. He still has a job to do though. He wouldn’t have met Jayden at all if his cousin wasn’t laid up with a broken ankle. Astor is researching the local lighthouse (which is rumored to be haunted) for his next book on hauntings. If he hadn’t agreed to do the research for him since he was laid up, then Lee wouldn’t be staying in such a swanky beach-front hotel, and therefore wouldn’t have had the chance to meet the lovely Jayden.

The best part about this story is that Sasha Miller has thrown away all the unofficial vampire rules and created an interesting, rather mundane vampire. For someone like myself who prefers the Wild Bill sort of vamp (though Wild Bill could never be called mundane!), I really enjoyed getting to know Lee. He’s got a bit of a shaky moral compass, though he’s a genuinely good guy. And I liked the couple that Jayden and Lee make.

Second, this is really a nice beach read. Not that it’s about a beach (duh), but because it’s really about a vacation fling, and those are always fun to read about. The warm weather and long evenings, the lack of stress, and… the beach. It’s about appreciating the day and not worrying about tomorrow. That made this story fun to read. Jayden and Lee enjoy each other, have lots of sex and because they aren’t worried about the future, they allow themselves to be playful. One of my favorite scenes is when they go to do Astor’s research at the lighthouse and make fun of all the ghost stuff. It’s light and sweet.

The story does evolve, towards the end, as they start having real feelings and thinking about what happens next. I appreciated having a solid Happy for Now ending with a real plan going forward for their relationship rather than an unreal HEA.

This is definitely best read as part of a pair, but mostly because the stories are both good and go well together than needing to be read together. You could enjoy either of them separately if you wished.