A MelanieM Review: The Orchard of Flesh (Arcadia Trust #2) by Christian Baines

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

The Orchard of FleshReylan’s last assignment for The Arcadia Trust brought a rebellious human servant under his roof, and a volatile werewolf lover named Jorgas into his bed, leaving the self-reliant Blood Shade–known to the outside world as vampires–in no hurry to risk his immortality for them again. But when a new terror starts disappearing humans from a bad part of town, Reylan must do everything in his power to keep Sydney’s supernatural factions from the brink of war. Having an ambitious, meddlesome human in the mix is only going to make things worse…especially when that human is Jorgas’s father. Reylan will need all his determination and cunning to keep the peace under his roof, between the night’s power brokers, and in his lover’s troubled heart.

Christian Baines brings us back into the world of Reylan and the Arcadia Trust series by means of a mystery.  Humans are disappearing from a notoriously bad part of town and suspicions are pointing towards a Blood Shade, the preferred term for vampire.  Reylan is asked to investigate and does so because his interests are closely entwined and his curiosity piqued.

By launching us directly back into the seamy undersides of Sydney, Baines gives us the gritty, reality that is sometimes missing from supernatural novels with a romance bent.  As I mentioned in my previous review of the first story, The Beast Without, there’s no sparkle to be found anywhere near these Blood Shades, thank you very much.  And the werewolves?  They are alpha predators to the bone with neither beings exhibiting any guilt or making apologies about who and what they are.  Its sort of refreshing.

In fact Reylan is an asexual being..except for the fact that Jorgas seems to negate that whenever they come in contact to one another and then the heat between them is almost combustible.  Reylan has to ignore the fact that their union is considered an unholy alliance by all factions outside of themselves.  And what is it about this strange and unusual investigation that has so many threads leading back to not only the most powerful Blood Shade in Sydney, but to Jorgas’ father too.  Baines has a veritable tapestry of plot threads here, and he’s woven them skillfully throughout the novel that it carries us along, throughly connected to the characters, the relationships that are evolving and the new situations that are being revealed.

One of the things I love is the idea here of mannequins, an undead servant that is adopted by a Blood Shade.  It is a big deal, and not done lightly.  Brett, from the first novel is Reylan’s mannequin and things are not going smoothly with his transition from human to mannequin.  Baines lets us see what might happen when that occurs.  Here the person is unprepared and just perhaps, maybe even the wrong choice.  Its a fascinating element and I love watching it evolve.

But for all the locations, the mysteries, the grittiness and just the plain, out and out terrific writing, its the characters that stick with you.  I know they have since the first time I met them in The Beast Without.  I had to wait for this one.  And while, yes there is a bit of a cliffhanger, Baines has promised the wait for the third story won’t be as long.

You should read the first book in the series to get all the world building and characters firmly in place before picking up The Orchard of the Flesh.  But as that remains a favorite of mine, I would have recommended that to you as well anyway. Pick them both up and get started today. This is an amazing series full of remarkable characters.  I can’t wait for the third story  now to arrive.

Cover art is quite wonderful and works for the story and character.

Sales Links

Bold Strokes Books

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Book Details:

ebook
Published August 16th 2016 by Smashwords Edition
ISBN139781626396500
SeriesArcadia Trust #2 settingSydney (Australia)

Series: Arcadia Trust:

The Beast Without (Arcadia Trust, #1)
The Orchard of Flesh (Arcadia Trust, #2)

An Alisa Review:Behind the Uniform Collection by by Toni Griffin, Gregory L. Norris, and Jon Keys

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

 

Behind the UniformUniformed careers are a matter of choice and of sacrifice – military, fire, police, forest service, etc. – and the people who choose these careers are often dedicated to a fault. But sometimes dedication can come with a hefty price. Behind the Uniform illustrates the physical or emotional sacrifice and the hard choices that sometimes come with such all-consuming dedication.

A Wolf in Cop’s Clothing by Toni Griffin
Marcus Holland loves his job as a small town cop and his life with his pack. When his mate, Brian, kissed him goodbye that morning and remarked, “This is Leyburn. What trouble could I possibly find?” Marcus really hoped never to find out. He had no idea how much those words would come back to haunt him as he goes about his duties.

It’s the Hat by Jon Keys
Forest ranger Matt Keller’s frustrations mount as he tries to bust a poaching ring in a Michigan national forest and now he’s discovered that Kyle, the gorgeous waiter he desperately wants to ask out, has an ex-boyfriend hanging around. The ex is bad news, Kyle says it’s complicated, and Matt’s not sure which way to jump. Just as Matt’s puzzling things out with Kyle, his pursuit of the poachers takes a dangerous turn and he could risk losing all the pieces he’s fought so hard to juggle.

The Head Shed by Gregory L. Norris
Milo Hanover is proud to manage a Head Shed. He and the sex workers he supervises are vital to the morale and sanity of troops fighting a ruthless alien invader. When Colonel Dunnegin arrives at the Shed, though, it isn’t for the usual reason. He reveals that humanity needs Milo for the secrets carried in his genetic code rather than his enthusiastic service. In the desperate race to get Milo to the front, he battles his own heart even as he’s thrust into the battleground for humanity’s survival.

 

**Please note: The stories in this anthology will not be released individually.

 

This was a nice collection of stories, each with their own set characters.  Even with a slightly common theme the stories were different and all had very different feels to them.

 

A Wolf in Cop’s Clothing

I have to admit this story is the main reason I wanted to read this anthology.  I have enjoyed the Holland brothers’ form the beginning.  This story focuses on Marcus and Brian, the couple from the first Holland Brothers books.  We were able to see both characters’ points of view and how protective and caring they both are of their children and each other.  It was great to see these characters again and how strong their relationship still is.

 

It’s the Hat

This is a classic story of two people being attracted to each other, but not knowing for sure the other wants them.  We are able to see both characters’ points of view which helps us to get connected to these characters.  In this story Matt has been lusting after Kyle for months, but doesn’t feel worthy to act on his attraction.  Kyle finally has to take the last step for them to see how good they could be together.  I love the glimpse forward at the end.

 

The Head Shed

This story is told from Milo’s point of view and has a dystopian setting.  Milo and John have been hardened by war, but know what life was like before.  Milo gets pulled from his place at the Head Shed because his genetics should be able to help fight against the invaders.  When they are captured he puts himself in harm’s way to save humankind and the man he loves.  This is the only story I had a bit of a hard time with, it kind of just picked up in the middle of this war and even though the author did some background explaining I just didn’t feel connected to these characters or the story.

 

The cover art by Freddy MacKay is nice, but it depicts firemen of which there are none in these stories.

 

Sales Link: Mischief Corner Books | Amazon | ARe

 

Book Details:

ebook, 143 pages
Published: July 20, 2016 by Mischief Corner Books
ISBN: 9781925313925
Edition Language: English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Hexbreaker by Jordan L. Hawk ~ Audiobook narrated by Tristan James

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

HexbreakerWill a dark history doom their future together?

New York copper Tom Halloran is a man with a past. If anyone finds out he once ran with the notorious O’Connell tunnel gang, he’ll spend the rest of his life doing hard time behind bars. But Tom’s secret is threatened when a horrible murder on his beat seems to have been caused by the same ancient magic that killed his gang.

Cat shifter Cicero is determined to investigate the disappearance of one friend and the death of another, even though no one else believes the cases are connected. When the trail of his investigation crosses Tom’s, the very bohemian Cicero instinctively recognizes the uncultured Irish patrolman as his witch. Though they’re completely unsuited to one another, Cicero has no choice but to work alongside Tom…all the while fighting against the passion growing within.

Tom knows that taking Cicero as his familiar would only lead to discovery and disaster. Yet as the heat between them builds, Tom’s need for the other man threatens to overcome every rational argument against becoming involved.

But when their investigation uncovers a conspiracy that threatens all of New York, Tom must make the hardest decision of his life: to live a lie and gain his heart’s desire, or to confess the truth and sacrifice it all.

Get ready for eight-and-a-half hours of entertainment from the talented mind of the highly creative paranormal author, Jordan L. Hawk, and the smooth, delicious, and melodic voice of Tristan James.  There would’ve had to have been a very big goof-up in this audiobook for me not to enjoy it with that talented combo involved.  And there wasn’t, so I did. A lot! 

This is book one in a new series, Hexworld, though there is a prequel, The 13th Hex, that can be read prior. It’s not necessary, but IMHO, it adds to the story since the characters from the prequel are featured as principal secondary characters in this one.

Tom Halloran has been living a lie for eight years, hiding from his past identity as Liam O’Connell of the notorious O’Connell Gang, who started the Cherry Street fires. Tom saw his father and brother go on a killing rampage, wiping out his whole family, and when Tom used his hexbreaking skills to remove the hex from his brother, the man immediately died.  Tom now carries the guilt of killing his brother, and the grisly memory of his father tearing his mother’s face half off, along with the guilt of not being able to stop any of it. He hides his hexbreaking abilities and is working as a regular cop in New York City, having assumed the identity of a man he found dead in an alley who was fresh off the ship from Ireland and on his way to take a job as a patrolman.

Though he wants nothing to do with the Metropolitan Witch Police, the other law enforcement agency in the city, his mission to find out who killed one of the shopkeepers on his patrol takes him there, and that’s when the adventure begins.  Because he meets Cicero, a cat familiar, unbonded, untamed, and the most beautiful man Tom has ever seen—though with the temperament of an aloof cat who got away with the cream.

This story sets the stage for this new world, the world of hexbreakers, witches, and familiars who work for the MWP, trying their best to maintain law and order in the turn of the (19th to 20th) century. There’s angst, heartache, and regret; but there’s also hope, bravery, love, and redemption.  The adventure is complex and interesting, and the world-building was outstanding. 

As Tom and Cicero, aided by Dominic and Rook, attempt to solve the mystery surrounding the murders that appear to be caused by the same hex that killed Tom’s family, they are joined by a host of secondary characters, some of whom turn out to work for “the bad guys” and some of whom I hope will return in future installments of this series.  Tristan James’s talent for speaking with authentic-sounding British and Irish accents enhances this already amazing story. 

The book is totally different from the Whyborne and Griffin series, and yet equally as intriguing and satisfying.  Don’t miss a chance to get into this series now.  It’s going to be a wonderful adventure.

The cover art, by the author, depicts two men holding hands and embracing—one behind the other—in the top pane; and a background map of NYC with the shape of a black cat superimposed over the map in the lower pane. The cover is attractive and perfectly conveys both the characters and setting of the story.

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Audiobook Details:

Audiobook
Published August 3rd 2016 by Widdershins Press LLC (first published May 6th 2016)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHexworld #1