Slippery Creatures (The Will Darling Adventures #1)

Slippery Creatures (The Will Darling Adventures #1) 
Author: KJ Charles 
Publisher: KJC Books 
Release Date: May 13, 2020 
Genre(s): Historical M/M Murder / Suspense 
Page Count: 265 
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 

Oh, dear. I haven't stayed up most of the night reading a book for a long time .... except for last night when I picked up this book (after reading just a few chapters earlier and setting it down for some now-I-realize totally insane reason) and devoured it until 4:30 a.m.

Set in post WWI England, Will Darling is a soldier with a box ful of metals and little money. After scraping far too close to the dredges of society, he is unexpectedly saved by inheriting a dusty second-hand bookstore. Except there is a secret hidden somewhere in the stacks, and a nefarious criminal group, as well as the Home Office and any number of tangential characters determined to find it and who aren't particularly interested in playing nice with Will. 

And then there's Kit ... the second son of a Lord, with a penance for purple velvet dressing gowns, champagne and the finer skills of killing a man with a knife as well as scaling walls dressed to the nines in evening wear. Kit is a great character and KJ Charles slowly unpeels him enough to give us a glimpse into his mind, but leaves a shed-load more to unearth. 

There is also a heaping shed-load of sexual tension between Will and Kit (and more than a few wonderfully detailed sex scenes), and the author does a stellar job of sketching out the limits and dangers for men of a certain ilk in the 1920's. Kit's fiance, Phoebe, is delightfully open-minded, and the book ends with a HFN situation for the two men, but there is so much more to explore in this series and I.Can.Not.Wait. 

My only complaint about the book was that Will flies to conclusions immediately as to Kit's motives (and I can't say that he's not wrong .....) but after the third iteration, I grew a bit ...weary of the same theme. But in the grand scheme of things, and at the beginning of what looks to be a simply grand series, I'm okay - I'll live. 4.5 stars for Slippery Creatures

Wounded Air

Wounded Air 
Author: Rick R. Reed 
Publisher: NineStar Press 
Release Date: May 3, 2021 
Genre(s): Horror, M/M, Paranormal Mystery 
Page Count: 171 
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 

After spotting the apartment on his daily transit on the L, Rick becomes intrigued and mesmerized by its huge glass wall, the lofted bedroom, the minimalist industrial vibe of it all, until suddenly his dream of actually living in the apartment comes true.

I never imagined my dream would come true. 

But it did. And in a funny way, what drove me to this particular apartment led to a lot of dreams coming true.

But dreams can turn to nightmares in the space of a single breath.

Ah, foreshadowing. As we English majors used to say back in the day, "Foreshadowing: Your Key to Quality Literature."  We quickly learn that one of the former tenants disappeared without a trace, and almost immediately Rick begins seeing ... something.  Is it left-over energy, a timeslip between past and present, or is the desparate young man with "the essence of a ruined little boy" who appears in the apartment simply a very vivid dream?

In much the same way 1950's horror movies about unstoppable blobs or creatures from black lagoons were metaphors for communism or panic over nuclear war, the apparition here is rich with meaning. We all have our ghosts - ghosts of past mistakes, past relationships, past what-ifs. Do you confront those ghosts in order to move beyond them, or do you let complacency and fear overcome your life?  Does love really conquer all, or do we sometimes throw that love away with both hands?

With the exception of the neighbor Paula - who seemed like a retread of similar characters from past books - the characters are deeply developed and the sheer emotional depth of this story as well as the wrenching depiction of addiction hooked me right away.  4.5 stars for "Wounded Air" and I definitely recommend this book!

I received an ARC from IndiGo Marketing & Design, in exchange for an honest review.

Interlude (The Snow & Winter Collection, #1)

 Interlude (The Snow & Winter Collection, #1)
Author: C.S. Poe
Publisher: Emporium Press
Release Date: April 8, 2021
Genre(s): M/M Mystery/Suspense
Page Count: 149
Rating: 5 stars out of 5 

I will admit it - I haven't always been the biggest fan of ficlets, drabbles, codas or whatever-you-may-call-them from series authors. But, C.S. Poe's Interlude has blown that out of the water .... and now basically I would pay to read random bar napkin scribblings or a grocery list penned by Poe. 

This book of eleven (11) interludes fits in and around the existing "Snow and Winter" series and gives us some deep insight into Calvin (loved "The Good in the World"), the Customer from Hell vs. a nooner, a welcome glimpse into what's going on with Neil (Seb's ex-boyfriend), a belated honeymoon trip, a loving homage to M/M romance novels and the GayRomLit being held in October, 2021 (mark your calendars!) and a few more gems. 

I love Poe's awesome writing chops and her subtle humor and sarcastic wit, and I would definitely recommend "Interlude"  AND I also look forward to Neil's own series, coming soon. 5 stars! 

I received an ARC from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

Bell, Book and Scandal (Bedknobs and Broomsticks #3)

Bell, Book and Scandal (Bedknobs and Broomsticks series, Book #3) 
Author: Josh Lanyon 
Publisher: JustJoshin Publications 
Release Date: March 30, 2021 
Genre(s): Page Count: 204 
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 

There is something intriguingly indefinable about the relationship between the staid pragmatic police commissioner John Galbraith and the sauve French speaking (witch) Craft royalty, Cosmo Saville. 

 Meeting up again with Cosmo and John Galbraith is like reconnecting with old friends .... if one were the pragmatic San Francisco police commissioner and the other was involved in unearthing his sister-in-law's blackmailer, saving his Maman from charges of treason from the high council of Societe du Sortilege and (big breath ...) running from a levitating blind GramMa shedding unfocused magic like a telephone transformer about to blow. Whew ... 

Again, there is plenty to admire about this series - the universe Lanyon has created with the uneasy coexistence between mortals and member of the Craft, the underlying murder mystery, and the incredible collection of characters, events, and intertwining relationships that make absolute sense when reading the book .... and are about impossible to summarize in a coherent manner. 

At the core of the story is the unlikely love story - and sizzling sexual dynamic - between John and Cosmo and finally, after all the struggles through the series, they are on the same page:
"Hell, yes, it's my job," John said impatiently. "It's my job to protect you. To love, cherish, and protect you. That's what I signed on for."
"But it's my job, too, " I said. "To love, cherish, and protect you. And I hate that I keep doing things that put you in the position of having to go against what you think is right just to keep my secrets safe. You don't even like secrets."
"You think he doesn't have secrets?" Phelon said with sudden poisonous softness.
Ah, right there. That's why I love this series. After three books, Lanyon continues to dole out tempting tidbits about John's nightmares, about Cosmo's terrifying past-life regressions (?), the struggle between elements in the Craft world and so much more ... and it all fits together into this wonderfully created universe. 4.5 stars. 

I received an ARC from the author, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

I Buried a Witch (Bedknobs and Broomsticks #2)

I Buried a Witch (Bedknobs and Broomsticks, #2) 
Author: Josh Lanyon 
Publisher: JustJoshin Publications 
Release Date: November 30, 2019
Genre(s): Paranormal Romance, Murder/Mystery/Magic
Page Count: 248
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 

"Mainly by Moonlight," the first book in Josh Lanyon's new Bedknobs and Broomsticks series was more of a whirlwind introduction to the unlikely marriage between stoic police commissioner John and glittery antique store owner / cocktail cupcake creater Cosmo. In between magical spells and a murder, Cosmo blythly ignores the warning signs that perhaps wedding John without full disclosure is not going to turn out well. 

As "I Buried a Witch" progresses, it becomes a case of that traditional adage "Marry in haste, repent in leisure" as their marriage goes off the rails, and Cosmo realizes he has no one to blame but himself. It's a more mature feel to this book - less frivilous and more hard reality about love NOT conquering all. We get more insight into John as well: 
The ability to negotiate a hard bargain is the ability to walk away from a bad deal. John - it was right there in the fierce lines of his face, in the steely gleam of his eyes - was prepared - always prepared - to walk away. I was not. Could not even contemplate it. Not then. In those four minutes I learned more about him than I'd learned in four weeks ...
As Cos comes to an epiphany about his relationship, the underlying murder mystery continues and deepens as a possible serial killer called The Witch Killer is introduced, who may be connected to the Reitherman murder from "Mainly by Moonlight." And while the murder cauldron is boiling away, there is plenty of steam between John and Cos, with several scenes illustrating why their unlikely relationship works so well ... at least in bed. 

Lanyon keeps our interest in the ongoing murder investigations, while amping up the relationship between Cos and John, giving it more texture and depth. I'm looking forward to the third book in this series and give "I Buried a Witch" 4.5 stars.

I received an ARC from the author, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.