Surviving the WINTER MASQUERADE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a gay magical realism story by Kevin Klehr. WINTER MASQUERADE features a man waking up in a fantasy world and the only way home is to acknowledge his life is endangered by his partner.

About the book:
Ferris wakes on the Sea Queen, an enchanted cruise ship sailing on a chocolate sea. He has no idea how he got here, but he desperately wants to go home to his boyfriend.

The alchemist is the only person who can help Ferris, but he’s been kidnapped. The ransom is high tea with scones and jam.

Meanwhile, the passengers are gearing up for the Winter Masquerade, a ball where love and magic reign.

With a murderous musician, an absent boyfriend, and a mystical party, Ferris soon learns that Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

My Review:
This fantasy/magical realism story was filled with twists and turns–and breaks with reality. Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland for adults.

Ferris awakes on the Sea Queen, an ocean liner sailing a chocolate river. He’s unsure how he got there, and wonders what’s happened to his boyfriend, Harris. He seeks help from the first people he finds, a kindly musical trio made up of Olive, Cole and Scallywag–a child. They urge him to seek help from the Alchemist, but the Alchemist has been kidnapped to another dimension. So, Ferris’ brought to The Detective who’s aided by a talking, flying minihorse called Janus, and the Alchemist’s wife and mistress to help find Ferris’ way home.

They urge him to describe his home to see if he can retrace his journey. Each time Ferris tries to talk about Harris he is transported to another dimension where sweet Olive is trying to murder everyone aboard ship–notably Ferris. The Alchemist stands ready to defend Ferris, but Ferris must come to terms with the evil in his life before he can find his way home.

Through several iterations, Ferris begins to see the pattern–discussing Harris causes him terror, injury and pain. The persons in his Sea Queen journey all represent people in Ferris’ real life, friends and lovers he’s lost due to the abusive relationship he’s trapped in with Harris. Breaking through his self-isolating walls, through the fantasy comfort of the Sea Queen comrades, gives Ferris the impetus and strength to reach for the help he needs to escape–both the Sea Queen and his abuser.

It’s an imaginative way to relate the terror of domestic violence without being overt. Ferris is a good man, and he’s ashamed of the fearful and dire situation he’s allowed himself to fall prey to. His abuser has appropriately groomed Ferris, to remove those supports that would hinder his ability to control Ferris. The Winter Masquerade is a metaphor for removing the masks that hide our secret selves–and Ferris finally lays down his mask to his dear, but estranged, friends. It was then that Ferris began to remake himself into an independent man, one he could believe worthy of love.

It’s at times comical and confusing, in the way that Alice in Wonderland is both comical and confusing. It is only once Ferris returns to his real life roots that we begin to see and understand his real life problems. It takes time, but the resolution mentions Ferris finding the love of his life much later–when his heart’s finally healed and ready to accept that love.

Interested? You can find WINTER MASQUERADE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kevin is the author of a number of books including the Actors and Angels series and the Nate and Cameron Collection.

The Actors and Angels series are three comedies about theatre in the Afterlife, where two friends explore their love for each other through several lifetimes with the help of a gay angel. The third in the series scored a Rainbow Award for Best Gay Alternative Universe/Reality novel. The Nate and Cameron collection are two novellas that delve into a relationship between a dreamer and a realist, where the latter is coming to terms with loving second best. The two stories, Nate and the New Yorker and Nate’s Last Tango, are also available in one paperback edition.

His dystopian novel, Social Media Central, explores a future where everyone is addicted to their screens and where murder is just a keystroke away.

And his new novella, Winter Masquerade, whimsically explains why Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

Kevin lives with his husband, Warren, in their humble apartment affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own “Emerald City,” Sydney.

Catch up with Kevin on his website, twitter, and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Surviving a MURDER AT PIRATE’S COVE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M cozy mystery from Josh Lanyon. MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT is the first book in the Secrets and Scrabble series, and I jumped in with both feet, even if it’s not a romance… I’ve also enjoyed MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT by Lanyon, which is a M/M paranormal romance, and will be posting about the sequel soon.

About the book:
Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, Scrabble champion and guy-with-worst-luck-in-the-world-when-it-comes-to-dating, is ready to make a change. So when he learns he’s inherited both a failing bookstore and a falling-down mansion in the quaint seaside village of Pirate’s Cove on Buck Island, Rhode Island, it’s full steam ahead!

Sure enough, the village is charming, its residents amusingly eccentric, and widowed police chief Jack Carson is decidedly yummy (though probably as straight as he is stern). However, the bookstore is failing, the mansion is falling down, and there’s that little drawback of finding rival bookseller–and head of the unwelcoming-committee–Trevor Maples dead during the annual Buccaneer Days celebration.

Still, it could be worse. And once Police Chief Carson learns Trevor was killed with the cutlass hanging over the door of Ellery’s bookstore, it is.

My Review:
Screenwriter Ellery Page has inherited his great-greataunt’s mystery bookshop, the Crow’s Nest, and crumbling estate in idyllic Pirate’s Cove–where everything is a pun on the historical founders of the town. It’s a big change from NYC, where he was floundering after his boyfriend left–taking their mutual friends with him. What seems to be a great chance at a fresh start is really just a step away from misfortune, as the bookshop had hardly any customers, and his home, Captain’s Seat, which was maybe built form the timbers of an old pirate vessel, is very aptly called a death trap.

Ellery is making the best of it, and he’s frustrated by the persistence of a motivated buyer for the bookshop, Trevor Maples. Trevor has been land-grabbing all he could in Pirate’s Cove, hoping increased tourism might help him turn a profit. He’s also up for mayor, and his bullish ways haven’t made Trevor many friends in town. Ellery isn’t willing to kowtow to a bully, but he’s suspect number one when Trevor Maples ends up dead on the floor of the Crow’s Nest the very evening after Ellery was overheard to vehemently promise to never sell. And it looks like the murder weapon was the now-missing antique cutlass that hung over the shop’s door.

An outsider in the town, Ellery’s sure Police Chief Carson will make 1 + 1 = Ellery’s arrest, adn the local paper is surely hounding both Ellery and Carson over the fact that Ellery isn’t immediately taken into custody. Fact is, the chief has seen Ellery having a meal in a pub minutes before the body was found…by Ellery. And as the evidence keeps getting found…by Ellery…it seems ever more likely that Ellery is being set up as a patsy. Ellery’s unwilling to get railroaded, however, and starts investigating a bit on his own. Which only brings him more confrontation. Especially when the second murder happens.

This is a really intriguing cozy mystery, with just a HINT of a budding romance. Ellery and Chief Carson are developing quite a nice rapport, even if Ellery’s not sure the lawman bats for his team. Well, until more than halfway in. Carson is a good investigator, and he’s frustrated that Ellery keeps taking daring chances to help prove his own innocence, choices that put Ellery in harm’s way more than once. The town and townspeople are as fun and quirky as one might hope, staging their Pirate Days festival that brings few visitors, but lots of gags for the locals.

The end is satisfying, with the red herrings and dead ends all knotted up tightly. It’s the beginning of a series, which makes me nervous for more death in this quaint hamlet! But, it also seems to promise a little bit of romance for Ellery, who’s finally got his life on track. I adored Ellery and his deadpan narration, with his constant predicaments and hope for just keeping it all together. I’m all in for more of this, hoping we get some Scrabble to go with our secrets.

Interested? You can find MURDER AT PIRATE’S COVE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Josh Lanyon is the author of over sixty titles of classic Male/Male fiction featuring twisty mystery, kickass adventure and unapologetic man-on-man romance.

Her work has been translated into eleven languages. The FBI thriller Fair Game was the first male/male title to be published by Harlequin Mondadori, the largest romance publisher in Italy. Stranger on the Shore (Harper Collins Italia) was the first M/M title to be published in print. In 2016 Fatal Shadows placed #5 in Japan’s annual Boy Love novel list (the first and only title by a foreign author to place). The Adrien English Series was awarded All Time Favorite Male Male Couple in the 2nd Annual contest held by the 20,000+ Goodreads M/M Group. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist (twice for Gay Mystery), an Edgar nominee and the first ever recipient of the Goodreads Favorite M/M Author Lifetime Achievement award.

Josh is married and lives in Southern California. Catch up with Josh’s new on her website, Facebook or twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Finding Love MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M paranormal romance from Josh Lanyon. MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT is the first book in the Bedknobs and Broomsticks series, and I absolutely couldn’t resist it for that fact alone. I loved that children’s story as a kid!

About the book:
A gay high-society wedding. A stolen book of spells. A love-threatening lie. Can a witch avoid a murder rap without revealing the supernatural truth?

Cosmo Saville guiltily hides a paranormal secret from his soon-to-be husband. Thanks to a powerful love spell, uncertainty threatens his nuptial magic. But when he’s arrested for allegedly killing a longtime rival, he could spend his honeymoon behind bars…

Police Commissioner John Joseph Galbraith never believed in love until Cosmo came along. Falling head over heels for the elegant antiques dealer is an enchantment he never wants to break. So when all fingers point to Cosmo’s guilt, John races to prove his fiancé’s innocence before they take their vows.

As Cosmo hunts for the real killer among the arcane aristocracy, John warns him to leave it to the police. But with an unseen enemy threatening to expose Cosmo’s true nature, the couple’s blissful future could shatter like a broken charm.

Can Cosmo find the lost grimoire, clear his name, and keep John’s love alive, or will black magic “rune” their wedding bells?

Mainly by Moonlight is the first book in the sexy Bedknobs and Broomsticks romantic gay mystery series. If you like spellbinding suspense, steamy fun, and a dash of paranormal, then you’ll love Josh Lanyon’s charming tale.

My Review:
Even though he hasn’t practiced his magic in a couple of years Cosmo Saville is a powerful witch. Duc of Westlands and second behind his mother in the succession line to the Abracadantes craft tradition, Cosmo’s just not that into all the traditions. It’s easier for him to blend into the non-magic world if he doesn’t use his magic for everyday tasks, and he’s mostly successful with the exception of portal traveling–that’s just plain practical magic, so he can avoid traffic and what-not. Cosmo owns an antique shop in San Francisco and he discovers a grisly murder of a competitor in his field–who’d revealed he’d found an ancient grimoire. Cosmos barely escapes the scene, but is definitely under suspicion.

He inadvertantly encounters Police Commissioner John Galbraith as they duel for the top bid on an antique bed with craft markings. John, an avowed non-believer in all magical arts, wants it as a whimsical gift for his younger half-sister Jinx, who fashions herself a “witch,” though Cosmo can detect no craft within her. John is rather rude to Cosmo, and his friend thinks it a lark to put a love enchantment on them. Soon, they run into one another more and more frequently, and each time the tension is more of the sexual than avaricious kind. It’s not long before they both fall head over heels, and that’s when Cosmo learn the truth about the love spell–only John’s already proposed and the wedding is mere weeks away. Cosmo hasn’t even told John about his abilities in witchcraft–how can he possibly explain about the love spell?

Also, it seems that John’s intervention is the only thing keeping Cosmo from being arrested for murder–so, will he throw Cosmo to the wolves if he thinks Cosmo enchanted him? For all the complicated twists, there’s a lightness, and a hope to the story. Both Cosmo and John never thought they would fall in love, and yet their hearts and minds are so in tune. Their sexual chemistry is another kind of magic, though, and it’s bound these men tighter than their impending marriage vows.

This is by turns taut and whimsical. The mystery is meant to develop over at least three stories, so we get some immediate resolution to Cosmo’s current problems but new issues are on the horizon to keep the major plot arcs in motion. John’s mother, to whom he is very close, is a bigoted, magic-hating woman, and her antics upset Cosmo and his mother. Cosmo’s mother is unhappy about this marriage, because it means Cosmo is further distancing himself from the “craft” realm. Keeping all the magic antics from John’s consciousness is difficult, and upsetting to Cosmo, especially when there’s a witch seeking revenge casting spells at Cosmo. I like the storyline, and the characters. It’s fun start to a series, with mismatched lovers who may just turn out to be star-crossed.

Interested? You can find MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Josh Lanyon is the author of over sixty titles of classic Male/Male fiction featuring twisty mystery, kickass adventure and unapologetic man-on-man romance.

Her work has been translated into eleven languages. The FBI thriller Fair Game was the first male/male title to be published by Harlequin Mondadori, the largest romance publisher in Italy. Stranger on the Shore (Harper Collins Italia) was the first M/M title to be published in print. In 2016 Fatal Shadows placed #5 in Japan’s annual Boy Love novel list (the first and only title by a foreign author to place). The Adrien English Series was awarded All Time Favorite Male Male Couple in the 2nd Annual contest held by the 20,000+ Goodreads M/M Group. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist (twice for Gay Mystery), an Edgar nominee and the first ever recipient of the Goodreads Favorite M/M Author Lifetime Achievement award.

Josh is married and lives in Southern California. Catch up with Josh’s new on her website, Facebook or twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Wrapped Up in IRON & VELVET–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a recently re-released contemporary F/F paranormal mystery/romance from Alexis Hall. IRON & VELVET is the first book in the Kate Kane Paranormal Investigator series, and I was really intrigued. I’ve only read M/M romance from this author before, including FOR REAL, LOOKING FOR GROUP, and WAITING FOR THE FLOOD and PANSIES. This mostly-girl showdown is smart, sassy and little bit sexy.

About the book:
I like my women like I like my whiskey: more than is good for me.

Name’s Kane, Kate Kane. I’m a paranormal private investigator, which is like a normal private investigator except—and stop me if you’re having trouble following this—more paranormal. This business comes with a few basic rules: don’t start drinking before noon, don’t get your partner killed, don’t sleep with the woman who killed him.

Last year I broke all of them.

The only rule I didn’t break was the one that said don’t work for vampires. But then a dead werewolf showed up outside the Soho shag palace of Julian Saint-Germain—a bloodsucking flibbertigibbet who’s spent the last eight centuries presiding over an ever-growing empire of booze, sex and hemoglobin.

I shouldn’t have taken the job. The last thing I needed was to get caught in a supernatural smackdown between a werewolf pack and a vampire prince. Even if the vampire prince was dangerously my type. But what can I say? I was broke, I’m a sucker for a pretty face and I gave up on making good decisions a long time ago.

My Review:
Kate Kane is a take-no-shit PI who totally drinks whisky for breakfast. Her specialty is in paranormal cases, and she’s particularly suited to this being half-Fae. Her mum is the Queen of the Wild Hunt and Kate can draw on her mother’s strength and power when necessary. She’s had a bad year, what with her ex-girlfriend murdering her investigation partner and then getting locked up for it. She’s desperate for a little cash, though, which is why she agrees to investigate the suspiscious death of a young werewolf at the Velvet, a vampire-owned hedonism bar.

Julian St. Germain is one of the four vampire princes–despite being female. She was once a nun on a mission to kill paranormal creatures, but a lot happens in 800 years. While Julian is strong, ancient and powerful, she also doesn’t want to risk a war breaking out all over London between the vampires and werewolf clans, and Kate seems like a sexy morsel who could solve the mystery and satisfy Julian’s…appetites. While Kate normally stays away from bedding vampires–and clients–there’s an undeniable pull between them. Also, Kate is definitely a master at bad decisions.

This is a fun and engaging read with a lush paranormal subculture set into London’s urbanity. I loved the class between the contemporary and the historical physical spaces here, which plays a counterpoint to Kate and Julian’s deepening attraction. There are so many intriguing characters, from the female werewolf alpha, who is a lingerie model who wouldn’t kick Kate out of bed for eating chips, to a genderqueer vamp ready to wreak havoc in stiletto heels, or a female golem who just wants to be useful, but not in a sexual way. Plus, the intricate politics of the different paranormal entities is vast and shrouded in arcane traditions only immortal beings could remember.

A second murder and a direct attack on Julian leads Kate, plus an unlikely collection of vamps, werewolves, and mages, into the bowels of London. They also probe Julian’s ancient history to find what could be stalking her. Wow, was the culprit not pretty. The pacing was brisk and Kate’s deadpan narration was spare and self-deprecating. I think I nearly wet myself coming across one of Kate’s million epitaphs–she mentally composes one each time she’s in deep crap with little chance of survival–so, like 7 a day while on the case. They are almost like tiny refrains, bringing humor in at the darkest moments.

The resolution brings some tragedy, but Kate survives to fight again, and she’ll need Julian’s protection if she’s going to make it any longer in this world. After all, Kate’s a “Beloved daughter,” and doesn’t particularly care to be “Sorely missed.” There’s a dash of sexytimes here and there, while Kate and Julian learn about one another, and try to figure out who could be hunting Julian. It felt like enough, and I didn’t want the romance to slow down the investigation, so I’m glad it didn’t.

Interested? You can find IRON & VELVET on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.

He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car. He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.

Catch up with him on his website, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

New Beginnings? LOCK NUT–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly released contemporary M/M mystery romance from JL Merrow. LOCK NUT is the fifth book in the Plumber’s Mate series and I hope it isn’t the last. I adored PRESSURE HEAD, RELIEF VALVE and BLOW DOWN. For those who haven’t picked up these books, they feature a plumber with a knack for finding water and lost/hidden items–including dead or missing people, and his former bully who’s now his fiance. It’s set in England, and has some absolutely awesome vernacular.

About the book:
Still waters run deadly.
Tom Paretski, plumber with a talent for finding hidden things, and his private investigator fiancé Phil Morrison have been hired to locate a runaway husband, Jonathan Parrot. The job seems simple enough—until their quarry turns up dead in a canal, and a photofit of Tom’s face is splashed all over the news, making him chief suspect.

The widow, petite ex–porn star Lilah Lovett, is convinced her husband was killed by his gay lover, but Tom and Phil aren’t so sure. Worried they may have precipitated Jonathan’s death, they’re determined to find the real killer. But with a web of incestuous ties linking the suspects, it’s hard to know who to trust. Especially when a second victim dies a gruesome death.

Meanwhile, with their wedding looming and them sharing a house now, Tom’s worried it may all be too much, too fast. The last thing he needs are the mixed messages Phil seems to be sending out. They’ll need to get back on the same track if they want to make it to their honeymoon together—and alive.

My Review:
Tom Paretsky–maybe he is Polish–is a plumber with a unique knack for finding what’s hidden, including dead bodies. His fiance, Phil Morrison, is a private investigator, so it’s a handy skill to have. In this story Tom and Phil are planning their wedding, but it’s not going well, especially when Tom’s face gets put on the telly as a suspect in a murder.

Tom’s committed to finding the true killer before another death gets put on his head. And Phil’s determined to make it to the altar–with Tom intact. Though moving in together hasn’t been without issues. Tom’s a little territorial, and he’s slow to adapt to big changes. Like finding out about his paternity issues and building his familial relationships. Phil knows Tom needs nudging, even when Phil goes a bit far.

As with the other books in the series, the sexytimes are on the down-low but Tom’s raw wit keeps the pace cracking along and we know how very much he adores Phil. That’s totally reciprocated, too, even though Tom has self-esteem issues. Tom’s efforts to track down the killer are more personal this time. He’s making friends with the kooky family of the grieving widow, knowing that she’s the prime suspect. I did like all the misdirection, even if I had picked out the killer in the beginning. The harrowing bits have the appropriate amount of tension, and enough suspense to make me wonder if we’d hear those wedding bells pealing, or not. I loved how it ended, and I really hope to see more of these books in the future.

Interested? You can find LOCK NUT on Goodreads, <a href=”Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Pop on over to my pal Joyfully Jay and leave a comment to be entered to win a $10 Amazon gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards Finalists.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online on her website, twitter and Facebook.

Needing a RELIEF VALVE-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M mystery romance from JL Merrow. RELIEF VALVE is the second book in the Plumber’s Mate series and a fave of mine. I adored book 1, PRESSURE HEAD, and book 4, BLOW DOWN, which I read out of order. For those who haven’t picked up these books, they feature a is a plumber with a knack for finding water and lost/hidden items–including dead or missing people. It’s set in England, and has some absolutely awesome vernacular. The book came out several years back, but is being re-released by a new publisher.

About the book:
If you dig up the past, be prepared for some dirt to stick.
The relationship between Tom Paretski, a cheeky plumber with a gift for finding hidden things, and PI Phil Morrison may only be a few weeks old, but already it’s under attack. Tom’s friends and family are convinced the former bully isn’t good enough for him, and they’re not shy about saying so.

Then Tom’s prickly older sister, Cherry, is poisoned at her own engagement party. Tom’s left reeling and not knowing who to suspect. Could it be her new fiancé, Gregory, a cathedral canon with an unfortunate manner and a taste for taxidermy? Or someone from her old writers’ circle, which she left after a row? Or could the attack be connected to her work as a barrister? Meanwhile, Tom’s honorary auntie’s left him a gag gift from beyond the grave that could be more significant than anyone knows.

Phil’s fighting against the clock to solve the case before somebody ends up dead. And with the poisoner hiding a dark secret, Phil’s terrified Tom could have been the target all along.

My Review:
Tom Paretsky–maybe he’s not Polish–is a plumber with a unique knack for finding what’s hidden, including dead bodies. He’s got a trick hip after spending nearly a year in traction when a lorry hit him back in secondary school. The fact that he ran into the street to avoid schoolmate Phil Morrison and his gang of bullies isn’t a fact Tom’s family isn’t loathe to forget. Not even when Tom and Phil have now become an item…of sorts.

That said, Tom’s determine to change his family’s minds, and insists on bringing Phil to his sister Cherry’s engagement party. When Cherry is poisoned there, well, it’s good that Phil was available to help out on the case. This mystery/romance is charming and harrowing by turns. Tom wants to help figure out who might behind the attack, and Phil makes it his first priority; Phil isn’t sure that Cherry was the target. Tom having inherited some undisclosed property seems to make him worth bumping off, is Phil’s thought. I have a special fondness for amateur sleuth stories, and I love Tom. He’s such a fun narrator, and he’s always getting himself into a scrape. His reaction to Cherry’s fiance–whoo boy! Greg is a big man, gregarious and creepily friendly–as well as a canon for Church of England. Tom’s quietly horrified about Greg’s taxidermy hobby, and not sure if Greg is entirely straight–which leads to some inappropriately hilarious situations while Cherry recovers. And Phil’s not amused. Though he does take a friendly shine to Tom’s bestie Gary’s diminutive fiance–a former adult film star turned veg-trader in the nearby market.

While they figure out where their relationship is going, Phil and Tom work on both Cherry’s case, and on finding the “hidden” inheritance from Tom’s surrogate aunt. This last part threatens to tear apart Tom’s family even more so than Tom’s choice of boyfriend, or Cherry’s poisoning. The pace is as brisk as Tom’s rambling chatter. If you dig Brit blokes going on doing ordinary/extraordinary amateur sleuthing, well, this might be a book for you. I’ve devoured them all at this point…and would read another dozen more.

Interested? You can find RELIEF VALVE on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards Finalists.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online on her website, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Bad Juju in WICKED CHARM–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review and giveaway for a contemporary YA mystery/romance from Amber Hart. WICKED CHARM is an interesting read about two kids finding a connection, and the killer who might be trying to cut them loose.

Catch my review and enter the gift-blast giveaway down below.
About the book:
Nothing good comes from living in the Devil’s swamp.
Willow Bell thinks moving to the Okefenokee area isn’t half bad, but nothing prepares her for what awaits in the shadows of the bog.
Girls are showing up dead in the swamp. And she could be next.
Everyone warns Willow to stay away from Beau Cadwell―the bad boy at the top of their suspect list as the serial killer tormenting the small town.
But beneath his wicked, depthless eyes, there’s something else that draws Willow to him.
When yet another girl he knew dies, though, Willow questions whether she can trust her instincts…or if they’re leading to her own death.

How about a little taste?

Though Gran’s land is mostly wet, there’s solidness, too. My eyes trace the long path that cuts the property between Gran and Mr. Cadwell in half. I’m expecting to see nature—the kinds of birds Dad and Mom study, snakes, grass, and forever sky—the same things I’ve seen every morning since moving here with Dad and Mom to help Gran, who’s ailing but doesn’t like to admit it.

I get halfway down the path with my stare before my eyes snag on something. A serving spoon falls from my hand with a clatter into the sink.

“Who,” I whisper, “is that?”

Across the way stands a boy. He’s staring at me, wearing a twisted grin like he knows me. The wind ruffles his depths-of-the-ocean black hair. He’s wearing a dark shirt and dark jeans, and I cannot tear my eyes from his.

Gran hobbles over and looks out the window. “What is he doing so close to our side?”

“You know him?” I ask.

I can’t stop staring out the old weathered screen.

“Hell right, I do. Grandson of the evil next door. Trouble in living form. Someone oughta hand that boy a Bible. Change his life forever and ever, amen.”

Gran curses a lot. “Hell” is her favorite word.

“Hell, you’d better look away first,” Gran says. “B’fore he snares you for good.”

I wonder if she’s right. I want to look away first. Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t want to look away at all.

“Mother!” Dad’s voice enters the room a moment before he does. “Did I just hear you cursing around Willow again?”

I rip my eyes away—though it’s hard—to see Dad clad in shorts and a T-shirt, ready for another day of observation. He and Mom are ornithologists, scientists who study birds. Mom follows Dad into the kitchen and takes a seat at the table; her strawberry-blond hair is braided and slipped through the adjustable hole in her hat. Dad’s hair is like Gran’s and mine, his eyes, too. Mom’s eyes are blue, and I’m secretly glad mine are not. I enjoy being like Gran.

“It’s not good to curse around her; she’s only seventeen,” Dad continues.

In Florida, Dad and Mom studied birds so much that I hardly ever saw them. Here’s no different, but at least now I have Gran to keep me company.

“Doesn’t matter, and you know it,” Gran says. “A heart is a heart is a heart. A few words here and there won’t change that.”

My stare goes to the window again. The boy is gone.

“Quit looking for that boy, you hear?” Gran says, knowing.

“I’m not looking for him,” I reply. But I’m a lying liar.

“What boy?” Dad asks.

I join him and Mom at the table.

“No one,” my lying self answers.

“Stop thinking about him,” Gran says.

“I’m not!” I say, frustrated. But only because she knows me so well that I can’t hide myself from her.

Clearly Gran isn’t a fan. We drop it and eat our breakfast, Dad and Mom jabbering about some new species of bird they think they’ve discovered. Gran watching me like a hawk. And me wondering about the gorgeous black-souled, trouble-in-living-form grandson of the evil next door.

My Review:
Willow Bell has just come to like in the Okefenokee swamp with her aging grandmother and her parents–who are ornithologists and often gone on bird-watching excursions. Her grandma’s property has one close neighbor, Mr. Cadwell, who her Gran states is the Devil. He shares his home with his twin grandkids, Beau and Charlotte. Willow, Beau and Charlotte are all seniors in high school, and Willow notices Beau rather soon after her arrival. His fierce stare and attractiveness pull her in, though she gives good weight to her Gran’s warnings about Cadwells and how they will break a woman’s heart.

Beau has a big reputation as a heartbreaker, and it’s well-earned. Still, Willow isn’t too starry eyed. She may find Beau attractive, but she’s also a girl with a mission on her mind. She wants to explore her new surroundings and make new friends. Any interaction with Beau is long on exploring–outside of one’s own mind–and short on the physical. Beau is deeply private, and the rumors swill regarding his parents and their long absence–though that didn’t make much sense to me; its a small community. Nosy parkers abound. Still, he likes that Willow gives him the space to be real, and he confides in her some of his deepest secrets. Their bond is tested once the bodies of two girls turn up in the swamp. Two girls that Beau briefly dated. Is Beau involved? What about his friends, who seem a mite too jealous of Beau getting all the girls to swoon for him?

Willow is quick to defend Beau, but evidence points to someone close to him, and she’s not sure how to take it. Naturally, Beau defends his own, but the answer only comes to light when his family is threatened. It’s an interesting mystery/romance as Beau and Willow fight for their love against both Willow’s disapproving Gran, and the killer. I liked the action bits, and the context. The swamp is so well-described it’s almost another character in the book. These kids truly love their world, and are highly protective of the land and people who live there. That was interesting to experience, as a reader.

The end is a nice twist, with a killer that wasn’t the first suspect to mind. While Beau and Charlotte deal with their own personal tragedies, Willow’s there as a buffer, a friend, and more for Beau, just like she started.

Interested? You can find WICKED CHARM on Goodreads, Amazon (US, UK, CA, and AU) Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and GooglePlay. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a gift bundle including a $10 Starbucks card, a signed copy of WICKED CHARM, and two ebooks.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Amber Hart resides on the Florida coastline with family and a plethora of animals she affectionately refers to as her urban farm. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She’s the author of Wicked Charm and the Before & After series for teen readers, and the Untamed series for adult readers. Visit her online at http://www.amberhartbooks.com

Catch up with Amber on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.