Review: Catch a Ghost (Hell or High Water #1) by S.E. Jakes

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Catch a Ghost coverTom Boudreaux, ex- FBI agent,  and full time Cajun trouble maker, is wondering why Phil Butler of Extreme Escapes, LTD is offering him a job.  Tom has nothing but failures in his past, including 2 ex partners and agencies that never want to see him again.  But when Phil and EE, Inc. offers him one last chance at redemption he takes it, hoping that his bad luck has come to an end. Then he meet his new partner, Prophet Drews, and realizes it is only beginning.

Prophet Drews, former Navy Seal, former CIA agent and all around genius at chaos, has just been assigned another partner yet again. Then he meets Tom, and recognizes that the Cajun represents all kinds of trouble for him.  Tom is sexy, tough, scarred, and psychic.  He is new to the type of  field work EE requires still Prophet agrees if only for a short time. Why?  Because Tom is fighting some powerful personal demons and that’s something Prophet knows everything about as he has armies of his own to fight, as well as PTSD and a medical diagnosis that can’t be changed.

When a person close to Prophet is killed in underground cage match, Tom and Prophet infiltrate the illegal world of cage fighting to find the killers and the reason behind his friend’s murder.  But the investigation is far more complicated than anyone anticipated, putting not just Prophet and Tom’s lives in danger but their partnership as well.  The most difficult obstacle for both is the fighting the combustable attraction they feel for each other.  But when the investigation pulls them in to a dangerous trap , can Tom and Prophet  fight past their inner demons and learn to trust each other enough to save themselves?

Catch a Ghost is one hell of a wild ride!  SE Jakes creates her own espionage agency, ExtremeEscapes LTD and fills it with damaged, alluring men unable to fight their own demons let alone the attraction they feel for their partners within the agency.  In Catch a Ghost, agent Prophet Drews is matched up with newly hired Tom Boudreaux, an angry, damaged Cajun with two dead partners and two law enforcement jobs behind him.  Neither man is good at relationships, thinking their damaged history and inner demons put them out of bounds for anything other than a quick sexual encounter.

Now I am going to admit I am new to SE Jakes.  I found this author through her latest release Dirty Deeds and am now working my way back through her stories and the Hell or High Water universe.  But between Catch a Ghost and Dirty Deeds, I am a fully hooked fan.  SE Jakes gets it exactly right with her gripping stories of the secretive world of spies and the spied upon, the hunted and the hunters.

Each genre has its own special pitfalls that an author must overcome to achieve a textured, multidimensional story.  In historical fiction,(in my opinion, the hardest genre to write well), its accuracy about the time period the story is set in, attention to detail from clothes to laws, dialog and atmosphere.  With  espionage and action/spy stories, it’s the ability to maintain a certain level of tension as well as creating anxiety concerning  the main character(s) well being, a complex, and intelligent plot that keeps the reader guessing about, well, everything, and a credibility that extends through the operatives and the agencies they are working for as well as the villains of the storyline.  The author has to get the guns, explosives, tech talk, vehicles, and even torture methods accurate in order for us to find the story plausible as well as spellbinding. And then with a solid framework established, the author needs to create memorable characters and a mission to build the plot around.  SE Jakes achieves all of that here.

Starting with Prophet Drews, and his partner, Tom Boudreaux, Jakes makes both men equal yet separate in personal demons that haunt them and abusive family backgrounds.  With chaos swirling around them at all times, some of it self induced, these men need to be able to understand each other intimately in order for their attraction to be something other than just the rut of the moment.

Throughout the story, the author feeds small morsels of information about each man and their past to the readers as well as the characters themselves.  Like the tiny food trails of Hansel and Gretel, these tasty tidbits lead us to a more complete portrait of each person, filling in their history in order to make their present state of mind understandable and something we can relate to.  It’s done through their scars (acquired on the job and by their family), its accomplished through Tom’s tats and piercings as well as Prophet’s reoccurring nightmares and flashbacks.  Jakes descriptions of Prophet in the throes of a hellish flashback are vivid and emotionally devastating.  We are there in as Prophet battles his past and his inability to tell whether he is in a dream hell or reality.  It’s scary and it feels real.  Tom and Prophet are incredible characters, ones that make the reader invest emotionally in their safety and sanity.

What an adrenaline high Jakes puts us and her characters through.    The plot moves along swiftly, dipping and twisting through multiple curves and unforeseen dangers.  Jakes writing is both stylish and dynamic. Each scene is gripping, full of life, whether the men are wrestling each other in a sexual frenzy or pounding a enemy while mentally lost in the past.  Catch a Ghost is a real old fashioned page turner and it ends as it should, in doubt and uncertainty. This may not please everyone but it works here.

Is this a romance?  Not really.  The men, their past, and the plot are far too complex for that designation.  There is an attraction, a sexual pull between Tom and Prophet that might turn into something more if given a chance.  But this story is about the past, theirs, and the agency that they work for.  It also starts each man along a path of self discovery. The author is setting the stage for the next in the series Long Time Gone (Hell or High Water, #2).  That said, this is still a completely realized novel.  To have ended this story in any other manner would have been a negation of all the author has created, including the main characters.  The men have a lot of issues to work through, not the least of which is trust.  Plus there are layers to every operation and a past mission whose disastrous outcome continues to reverberate through the present events and Prophet’s actions.  This story is packed full of great things.  Pick it up, enjoy the wild ride while we wait for the next book to appear.  Consider this highly recommended.

Cover art by LC Chase.  This cover is strong, dramatic and intriguing.  You just have to know more about the person and the story behind that tat.  A winner in every aspect.

Books in the Hell or High Water series in the order they were written and should be read to fully understand the characters and events:

Catch a Ghost (Hell or High Water #1)
Long Time Gone (Hell or High Water, #2)

Related series:

Dirty Deeds (Dirty Deeds #1)

Book Details:

Paperback, 300 pages
Published September 13th 2013 by Riptide Publishing (first published September 7th 2013)
original title Catch A Ghost
ISBN 1626490392 (ISBN13: 9781626490390)
edition language English

Review: Kick Start (Dangerous Ground #5) by Josh Lanyon

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Kick Start coverSpecial Agents Will Brandt and Taylor MacAllister have both left the DSS (Department of Diplomatic Security) after the events in Paris and now operate their own security agency.  But things are not going  particularly well for them, either in their business or relationship.  Will and Taylor’s business is lacking clients and they are running out of money to keep afloat.  Taylor isn’t happy that Will made the decision to quit and go out on their own without consulting him . Now it’s the Brandts that come calling and Will is expected home at his parents house as his younger brother isabout to ship out as a  Marine and wants to spend time with him.  The problem?  Will hasnt’ told his family that he is gay and that his partner, Taylor, is his partner is all ways.

This trip home promises to be anything but a happy visit home.   There is an “Cousin Dennis” staying with Will’s parents who isn’t his cousin and a past felon looking for revenge at Christmas time.  Could things get any worse?  Will and Taylor are about to find out while trying to save their business and their relationship.

Kick Start is the fifth book in the Dangerous Ground series by Josh Lanyon and the pairing of Taylor MacAllister and Will Brandt return in rare form in a story that finds the men on rocky ground, professionally and emotionally.  Since the first installment, Dangerous Ground, the road to love and a relationship has been a tumultuous one.  Special Agents and partners for the Department of Diplomatic Security, their friendship changes with one confession of love from Taylor who is then wounded hours later.  While Taylor has always known of his passion for his coworker, it took Will a much longer time to arrive at the same conclusion, both about his feelings towards Taylor and his sexuality.  Up and down, over but never quite out, these two men have doggedly pursued criminals with the same fervor they save for each other.   Now Josh Lanyon picks up their romance after the events of Dead Run (Dangerous Ground #4) and deepens the issues for these men by separating them (by their choice) from the agency they worked for and placing them on uncertain ground with a new company that’s floundering and trying to set the parameters for their personal relationship.  In Kick Start, these men have never been better.

Josh Lanyon returns to this series and his characters and infuses it with high energy and his trademark humor.  I have always been especially fond of Will and Taylor and have enjoyed watching their relationship deepen and grow despite all obstacles thrown at them including ones they have created themselves.  In Kick Start, Lanyon forces the men to confront the issues facing them, both about their floundering business as well as the problems surfacing in their romance.  And there is no better time for stress and reflection than visiting the in-laws, especially when they don’t know they are the in-laws.  Returning Will to the Brandt home, Lanyon affords the readers a glimpse into Will’s home life and his relationship with the town he grew up in as well as his younger brother.  I thought that the dynamics between Grant and Will were very authentically crafted.  Grant the younger brother forever in his famous older brother’s shadow, a little resentful as well as adoring.  And then he finds out that Will is gay, shattering his image of his brother and making him realize that there was an essential part of Will he never. The resultant sibling explosion feels real in every aspect as does Will’s talk with his father.

Added to the changed family dynamics and their own evolving relationship, Lanyon starts throwing in complication left and right, including a local family of ne’er–do–wells called the Dooleys who just insist on causing their own brand of trouble.  The author is clearly having fun with this surly,unkempt band of brothers:

One of the yahoos, dressed in woodland camo — complete with matching bandana — crawled out of the truck window and jumped to the ground.

“Is Brandt here?” he yelled. He was a big man. Some of it was muscle, some of it was flab, a lot of it was hair. Long black hair and long black beard. Altogether, it amounted to a sizeable and sturdy form.

Taylor relaxed. Not that he had really thought this was some country cousin branch of the mob come hunting Cousin Dennis, but life could be weird. He called back, “Nope. Anything I can do for you?”

“Who are you?”

“Who wants to know?”

The guy said impatiently, “I want to know.”

I’m Larry; this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl. Taylor bit back an inappropriate smile. First rule of visiting the in-laws: No laughing at the local wild life.

“And you are —?”

“Going to kick your ass if you don’t tell me what I want to know!” The big man drew himself up as though readying for battle.

Really? Taylor sighed.

The weary sound carried in the sharp, crystalline air and Larry looked a little discomfited.

You know this is just not going to end well for the Dooleys, as nothing ever does.  It’s humorous and it contains media references that bring up sharp images that just snap  a portrait of the Dooleys immediately into place.  A lovely bit of character shorthand that Lanyon excels in.

Of course, there are gunshots, car chases and several inexplicable turn of events, including one very incompetent sleuth, that should carry over into the next novel in the series.  You will find yourself  reading along at a fast clip to keep up with all the action.  It’s that fast paced, full of snappy dialog, a couple of mysteries, and of course, the love between Will and Taylor that just grows better and better.  This is really my favorite of the series  to date.

If you are new to the series, go back to the beginning, Dangerous Ground, for your first introductions to  Will and Taylor at the start of their relationship.  For those fans of the series, I know you found Kick Start a welcome way to finish out 2013.  I can only hope that it won’t be as long a time before we see another Dangerous Ground story from this wonderful author.

Books in the Dangerous Ground series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that occur (the first four books preceded the start of my review blog):

Dangerous Ground (Dangerous Ground #1)
Old Poison (Dangerous Ground #2)
Blood Heat (Dangerous Ground #3)
Dead Run (Dangerous Ground, #4)
Kick Start (Dangerous Ground, #5)

Book Details:

ebook
Published November 30th 2013 by Just Joshin (first published November 29th 2013)
original title Kick Start
edition language English
series Dangerous Ground

2013 Pulp Friction Series Finale, Finale Contest and Odd Man Out!

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Pulp Friction 4 covers

Today ScatteredThoughts is welcoming back authors Havan Fellows, Lee Brazil, Laura Harner and Tom Webb to talk about the last book in the Pulp Friction series…all of the series…, Odd Man Out.  Odd Man Out was written by all of the authors and ties up all the storylines for each author’s main character or characters.  There is a sensational contest to go along with this series finale, Odd Man Out 2013 Finale coverbut before we get to the contest, lets meet our authors for our final Pulp Friction get together of 2013!

Meeting already in progress, let’s listen in….

Havan: Right now, here, talking about this—this feels like it might’ve been the quickest year of my life. I swear just a couple of days ago Laura came to us with—

Wait a second…how rude, here I am assuming that you know us and our dastardly delicious Pulp Friction stories…introductions may be appreciated…”us” is Laura Harner, T.A. Webb, Lee Brazil and Havan Fellows…now back to our ramblings *winks*

—so Laura approached us with this crazy idea of bad guys being good guys and serial pulp fiction booklets and lots of man love…or something like that. After we completely thought she’d taken up some sort of (perhaps illegal lol) habit and realized she was just naturally…um…spunky like that…lmao…we sat and thought about her proposition.

I just love saying that…Laura propositioned 3 people at once…and we accepted!

And…Pulp Friction was born.

Flash forward roughly a year…and we’re now saying good-bye to the characters that became a part of our lives. Oh I’m not kidding, when Zack got mad at Wick it was hard as hell for me to not think that Laura was mad at me…and when Rory walked out on Chance hearts broke and we wanted to wrap our arms around Chance and tell him it would be okay. These are our boys, our hearts and souls…we’ve brought a very turbulent year of their lives to you and hope that you—our readers—love them as much as we do.

The dynamics of these men are really mind-boggling. We were already friends when we decided to test our boundaries with this endeavor. We knew that we could spend elongated periods of time together and not want to do each other bodily harm…lol…but could we write together? Could we allow the others into our minds and create—develop something that readers would enjoy? (Because make no mistake, even though only the last book is a combined effort we were holding each other’s hands through every single one of the twenty books that came before the finale.) That’s a scary as hell concept for private people to bear.

But we did it…and when the finale came around four extremely talented (some maybe a tad bit melodramatic *cough cough* or a touch hard-headed) and dedicated authors worked together and wrote one blazingly hot and holy-shit-hang-on-for-your-life-roller-coaster ride of a book.

Oh – and just for the record – our voices freaking sing when combined…*bows*.

And now it’s time to say good-bye to what started as five bad guys being good guys and ended as nine men (throw in a cousin & aunt, a housekeeper/mother figure, a manager of a bar & smartening up cop, a brother with two kiddos and a voice across the line) and well—that’s one hell of a family that no one wants to cross and anyone would be proud to be a part of.

We’ll miss them, we’ll think of them often and we’ll always have a place for them in us.

That being said…we’re ready to wow you next year when we take on Flagstaff and see what kind of trouble we can rouse up there.

Lee: Havan, I think you said everything that we’re all feeling right now. I’d just like to add a big thank you to readers and reviewers who supported us with such enthusiasm in this whole endeavor. It isn’t the usual fare in today’s world of instant gratification. This whole concept of waiting to find out what happens next? Well, we knew it would tick some people off, but we hoped you’d love it as much as we did! People like Melanie and Will Parkinson wowed us with their responses, and that is so encouraging. Big hugs and lots of love to all of you!

Laura:  What she said. And then some. I really had no idea what this would turn into by the end of our first year together, but I can tell you, that just as the characters grew into a family, so have the PF writers. Friends who aren’t afraid to test the limits only come along so often in life. I’m grateful to have Havan, Lee, and Tom in mine. Tom wasn’t able to be with us today, but he and I have talked so much this past year about just how lucky we are to be part of this magical collaboration. He is always so appreciative of the amazing reader response to Marcus and Ben.

Havan: Oh-kay…the feelings have been tossed out there, our boys have shared every side they have…and the Macallans Whisky has run dry—well if that isn’t our cue to wrap this up nothing is. But we don’t want to leave ya’ll empty handed…because you should always have something in your hand *winks* soooooooooooo…time for some fun.

Leave a comment…any comment you want, we aren’t picky…and FOUR lucky winners will be picked—each to receive one of the four compilations we published of the series. Oh…don’t forget to leave your email address also! And for the ones keeping count at home—yes we just said we will be giving away a total of twenty books to four lucky winners…a set of each of the series…so leave your comment already *points to comment area*

Contest Rehash (because I always wanted to use that word): Leave a comment here and four winners will be picked to receive one of the four compilations of the series.  That’s 24 books to 4 lucky winners, wow.  A set for each of you.  And please leave us your email address as well so we can get in touch.  I mean, this is remarkable.  Here is what the winners will get:

Wicked Truths coverWicked’s Way Series by Havan Fellows:

Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Way #1)
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Way #2)
Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Way #3)
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #4)
Wicked Truths (Wicked’s Way #5)
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)

Chance In Hell coverChances Are Series by Lee Brazil:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2)
Fifty, Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are, #3)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are, #4)
Chance in Hell (Chances Are #5)
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)

Darkest KNight coverCity Knight Series by T.A. Webb:

City Knight (City Knight #1)
Knightmare (City Knight #2)
Starry Knight (City Knight #3)
Knights Out (City Knight #4)
Darkest Knight (City Knight #5)
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)

Duplicity coverTriple Threat Series by Laura Harner:

Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2)
Defiance (Triple Threat, #3)
Crucify (Triple Threat, #4)
Duplicity (Triple Threat #5)
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)