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.

Where There's a Kilt, There's a Way (Kilty Pleasures #2)

 Where There's a Kilt, There's a Way (Kilty Pleasures #2)
Author: Ella Stainton
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date:  March 23, 2021
Genre(s): M/M Murder/Mystery, Paranormal, Historical
Page Count: 265
Rating: 3 stars out of 5 

Well .... I loved the first book in this series - "Best Laid Plaids" - and as I started this book, I enjoyed catching up with Ainsley and Joachim two years into their relationship. There's a new cast of secondary characters here which, personally, were a bit confusing since we get alternating chapters of Ainsley and Joachim and their respective adventures, and I kept forgetting who was who. 

Once Ainsley and Joachim are finally reunited (around 2/3rd of the way through the book) and realize they are both involved in the same murder / mystery, things start coming into clearer focus. 

But, for me, the folklore aspects of the tale (A ghostly moose? Nissa? Trolls? Enchanted treasure chests? Why, yes please!) were much more interesting than the shadowy murder/mystery. And while there is a wide range of characters here, many are very lightly fleshed-out and as a result the murder/mystery seemed undeveloped as well. 

Surprisingly, what didn't click for me was the relationship between Ainsley and Joachim. The sizzling sexual dynamic between Ainsley and Joachim is an integral part of their relationship and in this book there are only a few scenes that really demonstrate why they are perfect for one another. Instead, each seems very willing to assume the worst of the other and there are plenty of moments where rampant miscommunication and misunderstandings lead to chaos. 

3 stars for "Where's There a Kilt, There's a Way" but I do look forward to the next book in this series.

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

Mystery at the Masquerade (Secrets and Scrabble #3)

 Mystery at the Masquerade (Secrets and Scrabble #3)
Author: Josh Lanyon
Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing
Release Date: February 28, 2021
Genre(s): M/M Cozy Mystery
Page Count: 219
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 

This third installment in John Lanyon's new cozy mystery series was unexpectedly published in early 2021, ahead of schedule, and it is a welcome ray of sunshine (and murder).  

Ellery and Jack, Buck Island's gorgeous police chief, are still friends .... just friends, no benefits. They share an easy casual friendship involving sanding, sawing and plenty of other home repairs at Ellery's decaying Dutch Renaissance style mansion, but anything beyond that involves the two men warily circling around any sort of actual involvement. 

But an unexpected invitation to the annual Marauder's Masquerade at Bloodworth Manor puts Ellery in the middle of a murder in a mausoleum, with plenty of suspects and intrigue. Of course, Nora finds the murder a bit too convoluted. 
"A hard shove down the stairs, a balcony railing giving way," Nora was saying dreamily. "That how you do it."
"Sometimes you scare me," Ellery remarked.
Don't get me wrong - like Nora, I simply adore a good old-fashioned murder mystery, and while the mystery here is interesting, well-written and completely gripping, I think I actually squealed in delight at the very G-rated, yet nicely steamy debut of some perhaps more-than-friendly benefits between Ellery and Jack.  4 stars for "Mystery at the Masquerade."

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

The Q

 The Q
Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: February 1, 2021
Genre(s): Literary Fiction
Page Count: 194
Rating: 5 stars out of 5 

First of all, this is not a romance .... it's better. In the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, there is a nondescript little gay bar called The Q, actually the Quench Room, but most think the Q stands for queer. It's a gathering spot for drinking, dancing, shooting the breeze, reconnecting with friends, and for some it's a lifeline. If you're from a small town (as the author is, and me as well), you've probably had a bar like this in your life. 

Reed weaves a rich tapestry, sharing vignettes of lives entwined with the bar. There's the old married couple at the end of the bar, whose marriage is nothing like it appears to be, and another married couple facing a crucial crossroads. There's the man who sees his face in the mirror and wonders who he really was. "Was there any substance there? Or had he been all gloss and veneer, with nothing substantial behind the pretty?" The bartender, Mary Louise, mourns the loss of so many beautiful men in her life taken by AIDS. 

I recently read an excellent article entitled "A Feeling for Fiction" by Keith Oakley on how fiction elicits such empathic responses from us. He says "A story is a partnership. The author writes it, and the reader or audience member brings it alive." Reed does this, in The Q, in the best way possible - holding up a mirror before us, allowing us to glimpse our own stories of love and loss, of hope and fear, through the lifes and loves of eight folks from the Q. 5 stars.

I received an ARC from the publisher, via NineStar Press, in exchange for an honest review.

Death's Prelude (Detective Heath Barrington Mystery Series #5)

Death's Prelude (Detective Heath Barrington Mystery Series #5) 
Author: David S. Pederson 
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books 
Release Date: February 9, 2021 
Genre(s): Historical Murder / Mystery 
Page Count: 221 
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 

This is the fifth book in the series, but it is a prequel to the entire series, featuring a young Heath Barrington, newly graduated from college in 1937, and on a cruise across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary with his aunt Verbina. 

The pace of this book is somewhat elegaic, but I enjoyed learning about life aboard the Queen Mary on her inaugural cruise, complete with details about the layout of the boat, the dinner menus, and a glimpse of a time long past when men and women wore their finest for an elegant and refined ocean voyage. 

Health meets the enigmatic Lord Simon Quimby aboard and is immediately transfixed by his elegance and good looks, as well as the supposed deadly Quimby family curse. Heath has his first sexual experience with Simon, and with the naivety of youth, envisions a future with Simon. But Simon feels trapped in his circumstances - the unwilling heir to an estate that badly needs an infusion of cash, in the form of a marriage to one Ruth St. James, of the Philadelphia St. James'. 

There is a murder / mystery here, with Heath solving the mystery behind the Quimby family curse, and realizing that he wants a career as a police detective. 

Where the book really excels is in its setting of both the Queen Mary and society in pre-WWII Europe. We really get a sense of the dilemma Simon faces - to marry and save his family legacy, or fully embrace who he is and try to find his niche.  

The only thing that didn't work for me here was Heath starting out the book as a slang spouting college boy and ending as a wise sage advising Lord Quimy about his life choices.  There isn't enough character development along the way to make this sudden "adulting" flow seamlessly.  However, overall, I enjoyed the book immensely and give it a sold 4 stars.

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