Review: Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight #2) by Sue Brown

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Isle of Wishes coverAfter the tumultuous events of the past months, life for Sam Owens and Liam Marshall is finally on track.  They are getting married and Liam’s visa issues have finally been resolved.  So Sam sends Liam back to his home in Michigan to pack up his belongings for the final move to England and married happiness with Sam.   Everything is fine until Liam stops returning Sam’s phone calls. Sam trusts Liam and their love so Sam knows that something has gone terribly wrong.

Sam intends to go to the States to look for Liam but knows he will need help and support.  So he turns to his brother, British Metropolitan police officer Paul Owens, to accompany him to Michigan.  If anyone can find Liam and get them both safely back to the Isle of Wight for their wedding its Paul Owens. Upon landing, they soon discover the trail leads to a small town in Wisconsin, outside of Milwaukee where LIam’s rental car has been found.

Once in Milwaukee, openly gay Detective Paul Owens starts investigating Liam’s disappearance and runs smack into the closeted but gorgeous Wisconsin Detective Olaf Skandik.  Olaf returned home after he left the service and joined the police force.  But the small town attitudes and close-knit community now feel restrictive, and Olaf is afraid that coming out will leave him both without a job and family.  But as Paul and Olaf start investigating Liam’s disappearance together, mutual attraction flares into something much more, shocking them both.  What happens when a casual attraction turns into love for men separated by an ocean of responsibilities?

Isle of Wishes is the second story in the Isle of Wight series and it deepens my love for these men and their families that started in The Isle of…Where?.  In that book, we first meet Sam Owens and Liam Marshall when Liam arrives on the Isle of Wight to scatter the ashes of his best friend, Alex.  Sam and Liam meet and fall in love, passionately and forever within weeks of Liam’s arrival and Sue Brown absolutely makes the reader believe in this love affair and Sam and Liam’s need for each other.  The author also surrounded this pair with a collection of characters, mostly Sam’s family, including one of his brother’s, a police officer named Paul.

Brown gave this motley, large family such depth and dimension to their characters that I fell in love with them as much as I did with Sam and Liam.  At the end of that story, we left Sam and Liam happy but starting the process of getting a residency visa for Liam and dealing with other issues.  Brown had convinced us that they were on the road to happiness but still had a journey in front of them. So naturally  I wanted the next chapter in their lives immediately.  Sigh.

Instant gratification are two words not in Sue Brown’s vocabulary, at least not in this series.  Her readers had to wait over a year to see what happened next to Sam and Liam and the Isle of Wishes gives us a startling answer.  Liam disappears to the consternation and heartbreak of Sam and fans of this series.  I love that element of Sue Brown’s stories where items that appear to be safe and straightforward are actually deceptively complicated, whether it is  relationships, sexuality, or even a trip home to finish packing and move.  Nothing works out as planned because life doesn’t function that way and Sue Brown’s stories are most definitely grounded in reality.

That’s why I can accept a casual attraction turning into something deeper, not yet love but greater than just a flirtation and hookup.  It’s also the reason why the cause behind Liam’s disappearance is so plausible as well.  I often find myself nodding in agreement with something I am reading in her stories because its recognizably familiar and human.  This also applies to her characters, whose problems and outlooks reflect our own.

Olaf is that man who finds himself torn between family and job he loves and his sexuality.  Olaf has hidden his sexuality for years and now it has become deeply ingrained to hide his attraction to men.  Given small town attitudes, especially in his town’s law enforcement, Olaf is well aware of what coming out would cost him, his job and his family.  Until Olaf meets the outwardly gay Paul, he has never questioned his decision to remain firmly in the closet.  Then Paul and Sam arrive looking for Liam and Olaf’s life is turned upside down.

Brown makes Olaf’s decisions understandable even as the heat between the men flares white hot.  It’s painful, its frustrating and it feels so real to watch Olaf and Paul work through what they mean to each other even as they follow the leads in Liam’s disappearance.  Paul is a great character too.  Paul is home is in his sexuality.  He is great at his job, loves his family and is astonished at his feelings towards Olaf.  We get it that both men have a hard time believing that their feelings for each other are real given the time frame and situation they are operating in. Sam is there too for every agonizing minute that Liam is gone.  Trust me when I say your heart will be sore but not broken by the end of this story.

And that is primarily why I have not given Isle of Wishes 5 stars.  There are many loose ends left fluttering about at the end of this story, intentionally so.  We do get part of a happy ending and a something more but the author is laying her groundwork for the next installment.  And while I respect that, I do wish it had been pulled together a tiny bit more instead of a surfeit of questions and possibilities.

Still this is a deeply wonderful story.  The writing is crisp and the plot complicated enough to let the romance shine through without obscuring all the other great elements here.  And of course, there are those marvelous characters that we have come to love and who form the  basis and structure for this series.  I don’t think I can place one above the other, they are all so intertwined that separating them out actually would lessen the impact of the story. The Owens family, those by blood and those they adopt are a force to be reckoned with and I love them all equally.

So, what is in the future for this series? Well, per Sue Brown, book 3, Isle of Walls, will be out in May next year. It directly follows on from Isle of Wishes, and although it’s based on Nibs and Wig, it will tell more of Paul and Olaf’s story. Then she has a new series planned with Olaf and Paul, which will start next year.  So many stories to look forward to.  I know I will spend some of the time rereading the first two books while waiting for next spring and the arrival of Isle of Walls.

If you are new to this series, go back to the first story, Isle of….Where?(Isle of Wight #1).  It’s necessary in order to fully understand all the people and relationships to follow.  For no matter where this series goes, the heart of it remains on the Isle of Wight and the incredibly addicting Owens family. Consider this book and this series highly recommended.

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events that occur:

The Isle of… Where? (Isle of Wight #1)
Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 242 pages
Published August 19th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627980776 (ISBN13: 9781627980777)
edition language English
series Isle of Wight

Review: Natural Predators (Mahu #7) by Neil S. Plakcy

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Rating: 5 stars

Natural Predators coverHonolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka and his detective partner Ray Donne are called on one of their most complex case when an abandoned warehouse goes up in flames and in the rubble the remains of a prominent statesman are found.  When the cause of death is determined to be murder, Kimo and Ray follow an ever expanding field of clues that stretch from local gyms into the rarified society of Hawaii’s oldest and wealthiest families.

More bodies pile up as the murderer stays just ahead of them, putting their families and themselves in danger.  In addition to his case, Kimo’s personal relationship with his partner Mike is under stress as they decide whether or not to go ahead as donors for their lesbian friends and a young runaway makes Kimo and Mike think about being foster parents.

Hawaii is a place of immense beauty , where predators and prey live and die as nature dictates.  Under the shinning sun and majestic waves, treacherous events happen even as the ambience lures you in.  No one is more aware of the delicate balance than Kimo Kanapa’aka as he races to find the murderer and keep his new found family safe.

Natural Predators is the first book I have read by Neil S. Plakcy and therefore the first book I have read in this series.  I started early evening and read right through until 2am in the morning, pausing only to rub my eyes, adjust the light and continue on until I had finished.  I had heard wonderful things about this series but still nothing prepared me for the richness and depth of the story and characterizations I found within.  It was like going to a nice restaurant only to find out that the restaurant is gourmet, Jose Andres is the chef, and you are sitting at the chef’s table.

Natural Predators is a veritable luau of Hawaiian delights, a banquet of varying aromas, textures, tastes and melodies, something for everyone’s palate.  Plakcy’s characters range from low level thugs to runaway teens to high society lawyers and businessman and everything in between.  Each character has a defining “voice” consistent with their histories and culture, from traditional haoli conversations to the pidgin dialect heard among those born on Hawaii.  Here Kimo and his partner track down two suspects in the case:

“Mr. Campbell. Police. Open up.” We waited, and Ray was about to knock again when the door opened. Larry, a fat Hawaiian guy with dark dreadlocks, stuck his head out. “Hey, Leroy, it’s da kine police,” he said. “Long time no see, bruddas.”

Larry yawned and stepped outside, and big, bald Leroy followed him. “How about your cousin Pika?” Ray asked. “He in there, too?” “Nah, he wen bag two days ago.” “But he was living with you before he left?” I asked. “Sometimes he moi moi wid us, sometimes wid his buddy,” Leroy said.

To Ray’s credit, he seemed to be following the conversation, which meant he was learning our island pidgin. Pika slept at their place sometimes, but had left two days before. “Tacky?” I asked. Larry nodded. “Yeah. Bodybuilder dude. Dumb as two rocks in a box.” That could describe the Campbell brothers, too. “You know where we can find him?” I asked. “Try gym,” Leroy said. “Ho brah, he alla time workin out.”

Picked out of context, it might seem a little jarring but still you can hear the rhythm of the spoken words and in context, you barely notice it so because you have become so accustomed to hearing it throughout the novel.  By the end of the story, you will feel as though you have walked the streets of the city and sat and conversed with all types of Hawaiians,  The authenticity of elements and locations Plakcy has brought to the story make it that real.

We travel with Kimo and Ray as they traverse from one side of the island to the other, collecting Hawaiian history and geographical facts as we go. From the history of Hawaii’s quest for statehood or independence to the polyglot of cultures that makes up a typical Hawaiian conversation, we are slowly pulled in to the draw of the islands and the rhythm of daily life there. And not once does any of it come across as a regurgitation of a history lesson.

Again Plakcy seamlessly folds in tidbits of Hawaiian sayings and facts, as in this example:

“Just before four, we hopped in the Jeep to meet Frankie. In Honolulu, we don’t use mainland directions like east, west, north and south. Makai is toward the ocean, while mauka means inland, toward the mountains. Diamond Head is in the direction of that extinct volcano, while the opposite is called Ewa, toward a town of the same name.”

Actually I could just keep on with quote after quote, Natural Predators is that terrific, Neil S. Plakcy is that great.  His descriptions are vivid, wide ranging and carry with them the tone of a detective familiar with the full spectrum of human society, one that has lost its element to surprise him but manages to deliver an appreciation for life and its special moments no matter the situation. I am in love with all of the characters here.

Natural Predators is a novel not of one plot thread but many, and Plakcy does a remarkable job of not only paying equal attention to every one but also to keep each storyline as strong and rich in texture as all the rest.  The murder mysteries have a complex history to them, the foster child element will make you laugh and cry, sometimes together, you will hold your breath as Kimo and his partner Mike work through yet another potential obstacle to happiness with regard to surrogate fatherhood and still read in amazement as Plakcy rolls in more layers much like the tropical habitats that abound in Hawaii.  If I thought he would have heard it, I would have stood and applauded upon finishing this story.

So what happens now?  Well, hopefully you will go off to buy the book and I am going back to the beginning and start the series from Mahu (Mahu#1).  I can’t wait for the ride to begin again, such an E Ticket!

Here are the books in the order they were written:

Mahu (Mahu #1)

Mahu Surfer (Mahu #2)

Mahu Fire (Mahu #3)

Mahu Vice

Mahu Blood

Zero Break

Mahu Men: Mysterious and Erotic Stories

Natural Predators

I can’t find the name of the cover artist but they did a beautiful job, worthy of the story within.