Review: Oceans Apart (Separate Ways #2) by Laura Harner

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Oceans Apart coverTwo years after the events in London, Detective Remy Remington has returned to Phoenix, along with his friend, former cop Miguel “Miggy” Rojas.  Miggy needed to get clean after years undercover saw him hooked on drugs. Remy was needed to support his old friend and did so by leaving the Phoenix PD, and with Miggy as a partner, started their own detective agency.  When  their  biggest client sends them a diamond dealer in need of security for a huge diamond sale, the men quickly agree.  But there are several twists to this delivery starting with the fact that it is to be made on board a gay Caribbean cruise the diamond merchant is sailing on. Remy and Miggy will be going undercover as a couple on a cruise that advertises clothing optional and Miggy is straight, isn’t he?

Lord Jamie Mainwaring and his partner Special Agent Ryan Whiteside are investigating high seas piracy for Interpol. Their case leads them to a gay Caribbean cruise, a ship that just happens to be the same ocean liner where Miggy and Remy are supervising the diamond transfer.  Going undercover as a gay couple isn’t a problem for Jamie and Ryan as they are already romantically involved.  The surprise will be the couple already on board, one half of whom Jamie still  loves deeply even after two years apart.

Four men, two couples, a complicated past history, and soon the lines of investigation and romance are blurring into trouble.  Dangers are everywhere, both emotional and professional.  And someone will pay the ultimate cost before the cruise is over.

Intense, surprising, and over the top fantastic.  Those are just a few of the words I would use to describe Oceans Apart, the second story in the Separate Ways series by Laura Harner.  As mentioned, this story takes place two years after the combined investigation into slavery case in London where Jamie and Remy met.  Both men have picked up their lives.  Remy more so than Jamie who still mourns the loss of Remy and their love for each other.  Laura Harner alternates the point of view as the reader is given glimpses into each man’s  life since London and their journey to a new reality for them both.

It is clear that Remy has moved on more successfully from the events and emotions in London.  Together with a Miggy in recovery, Remy has emerged as a different man than the one we met in London.  Harner has deepened and matured her characterization of Remy in Oceans Apart.  The two years have realistically reformed Remy into a person who has accepted new responsibilities as well as the prospect of family and a new romance.   I loved this new Remy.  His new maturity and openness is not only appealing but allows his character to widen his outlook on life and his future.  Miggy Rojas has figured greatly into that transformation.  What a great new character and what a set of complications he brings to the series.  Miggy lives with Remy, he is his partner in the business they started and together they found one of the young men they rescued in the aftermath of London and adopted him thereby forming a family.  That young man, Toby, also brought another satisfactory element to this story as I had wanted to know what happened to him in London.  This story supplied that answer in a way that made me deeply happy.  Everything about the Phoenix group feels real.  It’s messy, complicated, funny, and down to earth.  I loved all of them.  And so of course, their happiness made me fear for the future.

Less content, feeling dissatisfied in his life in almost every way is Lord Jamie Mainwaring. He has rebounded in his mother’s affections and the regard of London society.  He is in a romantic relationship with his partner Ryan Whiteside and feeling successful at his profession.  And Jamie is deeply unhappy.  Jamie’s character is one that if not given depth and insight would come across as whinny and ungrateful for his position as a wealthy lord with a mother who adores him and a partner in love as well as business.  But Harner’s characterization invites understanding and compassion for Jamie in his current reality.  Jamie is that person who realizes that he let the love of  his life get away without trying to stop him.  His current romance is lacking, at least on his side and his return to his duties to his mother and society are as underwhelming as they were to begin with.  I think readers will relate to Jamie as almost everyone has been at this point in their life where everything is off and the path to change is uncertain.

Harner then takes  all four men and throws them into the deep, professionally, emotionally and of course, romantically.  The reader, of course, knows the men are on the same ship before they do which ramps up our anticipation of that moment of discovery.  And from that instant on, the author’s plot takes off running, leaping, swimming, a constant motion of frenzied action, unexpected developments and heart racing suspense and anxiety for the men we have come to care for.  Harner’s narrative provides both a complicated, ever-twisting plot while making her characters even more realistic, especially given the events that occur on and off the cruise.   The story is fast paced, smooth, and action packed. Towards the end as all the secrets start to come out the story becomes unrelenting in the turmoil it creates.  It’s white knuckled action all the way to the shocking denouement.  What an outstanding ride!

Is this a romance?  Hmmm, sort of.  It is called Separate Ways for a reason.  The romance between Remy and Jamie is going to be a long, drawn out affair, despite the white hot beginning.  They parted for a reason, one that remains valid here in this story.  Jamie’s world is England.  Remy’s is in Phoenix and there is not valid, logical way for them to be together now.  Harner understands the complications of each man’s life as well as their priorities and her series reflects that.  Life has a way of intruding no matter what we may want to happen.  The humor, the sadness, and the unexpected elements that arise to throw these men off course.  I love the authenticity of this series from the heartrending moments to those of quiet joy.

Harner has at least four books planned for this series.  Three are out now with the fourth to be released 2014.  If the first two stories are any indication, its going to be a “wild and bumpy” ride, albeit an outstanding one.  It hasn’t disappointed me so far.  I love all the characters and the twists that keep appearing.  I can’t wait for more.  Follow me to the next one Moving Mountains (Separate Way #3).

If you are new to the series, go back to the beginning Continental Divide and start there, a must to understand these men and the events that occur.  Catch up with us and settle in for an astounding ride, fraught with emotional fissures and hot sexy men.  Consider this one of Scattered Thoughts Best of 2013 series and one I highly recommend.

Books in the Separate Ways series in the order they were written and should be read are:

Continental Divide (Separate Ways #1) written by Laura Harner, Lisa Worrall
Oceans Apart (Separate Ways #2) written by Laura Harner
Moving Mountains (Separate Ways #3) written by Laura Harner
Untitled Fourth Book coming in April 2014

Cover art by Laura Harner.

Buy links:  Amazon, ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published October 19th 2012 by Hot Corner Press
ISBN13 9781937252298
edition language English

Review: City Knight (City Knight #1) by T.A. Webb

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

City Knight 1 coverWhen Marcus lost his lover Jeremy he lost everything.  Two punks shot and killed his doctor lover over just a few dollars and Marcus and his partner were the ones to find him.  Jeremy’s death demolished Marcus, and he needed to do something to help protect the innocent, things he couldn’t do while on the force. So Marcus quit his fifteen year job as a detective on the police force and became a private detective.  He quit sleeping and he gave up on love.  Then Marcus spots  Ben, a young man prostituting himself on the bad streets of Atlanta and things begin to change.

Ben has been damaged badly by his past but is still struggling for a better life for himself.  To pay for grad school and living expenses, Ben is whoring himself out on the streets of Atlanta.  Only another year or so and then he will be done.  A past traumatic event has convinced Ben that sex is only tolerable when it is fast and anonymous. And paid for.

Against their wishes, the men find themselves falling into a relationship.  But Ben’s past arrives and shatters everything, the budding romance and Ben’s fragile existence.

City Knight is a monster of a book crammed into a mere 50 pages.  T.A. Webb skillfully frames out Marcus’ and Ben’s past traumas, then with descriptive slashes of anguish and threat, delivers the start of a pain-filled journey to love and redemption for both men and the readers.

The first in a series, City Knight switches point of view from Ben to Marcus so the reader can see what events has brought each damaged man to their present day situation.  This format works here beautifully to impress upon the reader just how damaged and conflicted these men are as neither has moved past the events that succeeded in demolishing their lives. Webb’s characters clash and then start to come together, reawakening their desires for intimacy and sex.  It’s painful, and realistic.  It’s also grubby ,desperate but also starts to show slivers of hope for each of them.

At that point, the reader is quite naturally uneasy as we have come to expect the worst for each man, and Webb delivers that too in a heart crunching cliffhanger that will haunt you and leave you wanting more immediately.  I used to mark down stories that ended in this way but have come to accept this ending as long as it is a part of a series or serialized stories like this one.

In this case, Webb has set the stage for the next story in the series, while leaving the reader ramped up in anxiety and anticipation for the events to follow.    I can’t wait (and didn’t have to).   My review for the next in the series follows shortly.   Read these tales one at a time or cobble them up in one reading, it works both ways.  I loved City Knights and think you will too.

Stories in the City Knight series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events to follow:

City Knight (City Knight #1)
Knightmare (City Knight #2)
Starry Knight (City Knight #3)
Knights Out (City Knight #4)

Book Details:

ebook, 50 pages
Published February 15th 2013 by A Bear on Books (first published February 13th 2013)
ISBN13 9781937252380
edition language English
series City Knight

Review: Some Kind of Magic (Being(s) in Love #1) by R. Cooper

Rating: 4.75 stars

Some Kind of MagicRay Brannigan has always fought against convention.  He was the first were to become a police officer and then detective.  He worked hard to become one of the best on the force, respected by his  peers. Life was pretty good, until he met his mate then his life started unraveling.  Now he finds himself unable to sleep or eat, his thoughts constantly on the one being he wants most in life and can’t have, at least on his terms.  That would be Cal Parker, half human half fairy, consultant to the Police force and son of his retired Captain.  Cal Parker is his mate and Ray can never let Cal know the truth.  Because wolves mate for life, and fairies? Well, everyone knows that fairies don’t do long term anything, so what’s a wolf to do?

When bodies start piling up, all the evidence point to a supernatural Being as the killer.  Ray’s Captain wants everyone working on the case, including Cal Parker.  Working closely with his mate is playing havoc with his senses, all those delicious smells pouring off the fairy and Cal loves to flirt, especially with the grumpy wolf detective.  The more time Ray spends with Cal, the harder it is to fight the pull of his mate.   Then the killer turns his attention towards Cal, and the race is on to protect Cal and catch the killer.

Some Kind of Magic is some kind of charming.  I loved this supernatural tale of romance between a grumpy wolf detective and the flighty half fairy consultant.  Ray Brannigan is almost along the lines of those old noir detectives, detached yet protective of his city, honorable yet fighting his own nature.  The story is told from Ray’s pov, so the reader assembles the facts of the case and the details of Ray’s relationship with Cal as Ray thinks about it.  But right away, we realize that part of Ray is not thinking very clearly, and this is in turn with a being not eating or sleeping well.  A wolf has found his mate and is denying them both the deep relationship that comes with the part.  A lovely touch by the author is the inclusion of “known facts” from old fairytales about werewolves and fairies versus the “new modern knowledge”.

We realize, even if Ray doesn’t, that his perceptions of fairies is off from the start, and that it is fear that is ruling his decision.  So the author gives us a slow build, full of heat mind you, to a sexual explosion between Ray and Cal.  Cal is a lovely character, half human and half fairy, who has his own troubles fitting in with the police and constant human prejudices.  Descriptions of Cal are always accompanied by mentions of sugary confections and candy, savory aromas and rich smells as fairies are constantly feeding on sweets.  The sensual descriptions just add another layer to the reader’s enjoyment of this story as well as makes one want to visit a candy shop.

Humor is not left out of the picture either. At one point, Ray is telling his partner that were natural history was easy to find as the book “I’m Going To Get Fur Where?: A young Were’s guide to their changing body was in every library for Pete’s sake.”  I loved the meshing of worlds here and that does sound exactly the sort of book you would find in the library.

The only element I found to be disappointing was the identity of the killer.  I had that figured out early in the story. But the real journey is the one that Ray and Cal take towards true romance and that is the one that filled me with joy.  Vivid descriptions, wonderful characterizations, and terrific world building, it’s all here.  I hope R. Cooper continues to revisit this world she has created so there seems like a city full of stories await us and I want to hear each and every one.

cover by Paul Richmond is just lovely.

Stories in the same universe include A Boy And His Dragon.