A MelanieM Review: Treasure Trail by Morgan Brice

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Erik Mitchell traveled the world uncovering art fraud and relic theft, which pitted him against spoiled billionaires, unscrupulous collectors, mobsters, and cartels. He worked with law enforcement across the U.S. and Europe, but then a sting goes wrong, Erik ends up injured and returns to find his partner cheating. He decides to stop globetrotting and buy an antique shop in scenic Cape May, NJ, rebuild his life, and nurse his broken heart.

Undercover Newark cop Ben Nolan went down in a hail of bullets when a bust went sideways, after a tip-off from a traitor inside the department. When he recovers, he spends a couple of years as a private investigator, only to tire of seeing the worst of human nature. So when his aunt offers him the chance to take over her rental real estate business in Cape May, it seems too good to be true. Now if he could just believe he could ever be lucky again in love.

Sparks fly when Erik and Ben meet. But when a cursed hotel’s long-ago scandals resurface, the two men are pulled into a web of lies, danger, and deception that will test their bond—and might make them Cape May’s newest ghosts!

Treasure Trail contains sexually explicit material intended for adults 18 and over.

Treasure Trail by Morgan Brice is another terrific paranormal romance with a mystery element from this author who quickly become a musts read based on her other series of the same nature, Badlands and Witchbane, both of which are loosely interconnected by their main couples who solve paranormal/supernatural murder/mysteries, albeit in other towns and states. While each series operates independently of each other, it’s not unusual to see or “hear” characters from the other series being referred to or as is the case here where Simon Kincaide (Badlands), a medium and friend of Erik’s, is part of the story.

For me, a reader already a huge fan of the multiseries universe this author is creating, adding another couple with complex back histories and locating them in a town that carries it own rich  paranormal history and historic legacy to use in future stories?  Awesome! For the new reader who will treat this as a standalone?  No problem because Brice provides enough of the backstory on each character (including secondary people such as Simon and Vic) that you won’t feel as though you are missing out on too much foundation story.

Treasure Trail is located in Cape May, New Jersey, a place, which is you have never had the pleasure of visiting, you should put it on your lists asap.  It’s everything Brice describes here, vividly in the story.  Full of gorgeous Victorian houses, a beach often underutilized, a lighthouse and birding to die for (not literally or course unless its in this story). It’s one of my favorite places to escape to .  And, as Morgan Brice so aptly points out, with its location on shifting sands, it’s a liminal spot, perfect for paranormal activities and ghostly tales.  That it  has many of.

As Brice has done for Myrtle Beach and Pittsburgh, the author folds in Cape May beautifully into her story and couple, using it’s history , atmosphere, and settings effortlessly.  So it allows us to focus on Erik and Ben, their relationship, their problematic back stories, and the mysteries they are working on.

As always, I love the paranormal treatment here. Brice brings in many elements of the paranormal community (as she does in each series), forming an eventual “otherworld family” for Erik and Ben to draw from.  Each one is well defined and intesteresting in their own right.  Erik and Ben?  Oh, my.  What a great couple.  Erik is an unexpected combination of toughness and vulnerability that is truly appealing.  And Ben himself is Erik’s equal so their partnership works on every level, including romantic.  Yes, I believe that they were soulmates.

At the end, the author throws in a twist to this story that made me aware that she writes under another name and yes, there are more connected series than just Badlands and Witchbane.  It has sent me running to her library to get caught up.  Oh my.  So yes, read the author’s note at the end.

Treasure Trail by Morgan Brice is a wonderful story and a great start to a new series.  I absolutely recommend it as well as all the other series Morgan Brice has written that are joined to this one.  Have fun and binge them them all!

Cover art: Lou Harper.  Love this cover, it works for the tone and characters.

Sales Links: Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 246 pages

Published: June 26, 2019 by Darkwind Press

Edition Language: English

Book Details:

 

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Craving’s Creek by Mel Bossa

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

The blurb to this book really captured my attention. The story, seen through Ryde’s point of view, takes place over 15 years and is broken down into three main parts. The first part shows Ryde’s intense attraction and focus on his neighbor Alastair. The reader gets to see the juxtaposition of Ryde’s supportive, though neglectful family and Alastair’s strange and scary religious upbringing. Then, this gut wrenching tragedy happens taking away all their youthful hopes and dreams. The second part shows Ryde’s life fourteen years later. Surveying the landscape is bleak as Ryde hits rock bottom when his selfishness, pain, and grief become more important than his love for anyone, even Alistair. Meanwhile, seeing Ryde again makes Alastair realizes his life is not what he thinks it is. The third part of the story deals with them both trying to put their demons to rest and move forward. This is where most of the hurt/comfort trope plays out.

For this 2019 edition, the author has mentioned she “really toned down the drama” from the 2015 version, which boggles my mind since I cried several times while reading it. This book has a very high angst level with themes of rape, sexual abuse, mental illness, PTSD, addiction, religious fervor, and betrayal. It is stark in its depiction of what Ryde’s whole family has lost. Ryde’s best friend Sheryl is fighting her own battle since she made the decision to let Ryde drag her down with him.

I am of two minds about this book. Obviously, it was well written enough to affect me so deeply. There is so much nuance here to complex issues like religion versus spirituality and coping mechanisms. Watching Father Masson wrestling with his own conscience about what is best for Alastair is compelling. Father Cornwell, as Alastair’s spiritual advisor, shows the bad side of the Church in wanting to control the situation, or save his soul, rather than do what may be best for Alastair’s mental health. There is certainly a compelling argument that he should not have been allowed to take his vows. Through it all, Alastair never losses his Faith in God, even when he loses faith in the Church.

I think the main flaw of this book is the subtle implication, even after apparent rewrites, that love can cure mental illness, trauma, and stop alcoholism. Ryde’s sobriety is nearly instantaneous. Alastair almost never shows any sign that it isn’t all about him except for asking about Ryde’s nightmares. Their one attempt at sexual intimacy ends disastrously. He warns Ryde he may never be able to have sex, but I’m not sure Ryde actually thinks that might be true–his focus on the physical rather than the mental issues here is astounding. A lifetime of trauma can’t be solved in a few months of once a week therapy or even after one huge breakthrough. Going back to Craving’s Creek seems just thrown in for the dramatic affect.

Shared history and trauma are important components to their relationship, but in the end it can’t be the only thing that keeps them together. There is not much here to convince me they can live together on a daily basis and navigate normal life yet, so I would argue this is a HFN rather than a HEA. Still, the book ends on a hopeful note of catharsis as they move towards their futures, finally together, with Ryde much more able to cope with the reality of Alastair than his 17 year old self would have been.

The cover design was done by Written Ink Designs. This is not how I pictured Alastair at all. The picture does signal that religion will be a main theme and shows the place that is ground zero for what happens to them.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & NobleKobo

Book Details:

ebook, 224 pages
Published June 29th 2019 by JMS Books LLC (first published August 18th 2015)
ISBN 139781634869560
Edition Language English

A Lucy Review: 9 Willow Street by Nell Iris

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Heartbroken after the death of his beloved Nana, Hannes, the family outsider, finally allows himself to grieve. The legal battle over Nana’s quirky old house — the only place he’s ever felt accepted and loved — is over, and he moves in and finds a sense of peace.

… And a rabbit.

An adorable bunny with a huge personality moves in, too, and refuses to leave. Hannes instantly falls in love with the sweet animal who helps heal his heart. But one morning, Hannes’ view of the world changes when the rabbit transforms into a man. A man named Mattis.

After the initial shock, Hannes and Mattis discover a connection between them that runs deeper than it seems. Will their newfound feelings survive unraveling secrets and meddling families, and grow into something real? Something deep and everlasting?

Poor Hannes.  His very beloved great-grandmother died suddenly (at age 109) and not only did he lose the only family member who supported and really loved him, but he had to fight his relatives for the house she left him.  The will was contested and thirteen months spent bitterly fighting before Hannes was allowed to move into his inheritance.  Which he did with such grief it poured off the pages.  “I couldn’t even cry on the one-year anniversary of her death last month, but here, in her garden, I finally let go.”   Nana and Hannes forever, it was supposed to be.  The rest of the family are as intelligent as Hannes but chose different paths – doctors and surgeons and they look down on Hannes for his career as an herbalist.  A career Nana supported fully. 

He is heartbroken that because the court fight took so long, nothing remains of Nana’s scent in the house.  The sight of her favorite cardigan sends him into tears again.  Then he spies, in the middle of the kitchen, a white and black rabbit.  He, in his grief and loneliness, is so grateful for a warm, soft friend who he can cuddle and confide in.  “You see, little one, my parents are smart and successful, but not particularly warm.”  That is such an understatement, especially Mommy dearest.

Hannes names the rabbit Mio and it becomes his companion.  When people come looking for their brother, he obviously hasn’t seen anyone.  However, when they return to ask about a rabbit…well, Hannes doesn’t know why but he lies.  No rabbit here, nope.  And so the connection between Hannes and Mio (Mattis as a human) becomes even more.

The story is very sweet and pretty angst free.  It is told in first person present tense by Hannes, not my favorite. Also, the mothers of both of them are pretty wretched, though Hannes’ mother wins the worst mom award by far.  “You know how we feel about pets,” Mother says.  Well, this isn’t your house and he’s an adult, so who cares?  I did love Hannes standing up to her. Mattis’ mother is just rude, not a horrible person.

There is explaining to do and I have to say I was glad Hannes didn’t just, ok, a rabbit, cool.  Because that would freak anyone out!  I liked the explanation of the warren, as well, and the reason Mattis left. 

This is a sweet, pretty fluffy tale (see what I did there?) of a boy and his rabbit. 

Cover art, showing Hannes and his man bun, is spot on.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | JMS Books | Universal Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 95 pages
Published July 6th 2019 by JMS Books LLC
ASINB07T6L4P9J