Review: Odd Man Out by Lee Brazil, Havan Fellows, Laura Harner , and T.A. Webb

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Odd Man Out 2013 Finale coverChance Dumont. Marcus Prater. Zachary Carmichael. Wick Templeton.  These four men have considered each other brothers, family by choice instead of by blood.  They thought they knew everything about one another and they have been through the worst of times with each other.  Or so they thought.

Now Wick has disappeared and won’t return their phone calls. And the remaining men are left feeling betrayed and angry over Wick’s absence and the events that caused it.  Then the Twins, brothers from Wick’s past, turn up dead, killed in the same manner as other gay young men recently.  The man they thought had been arrested for the previous torture and deaths of gay youth is out of prison.  Could the killer be the same man who killed the Twins?  The killings are starting to look personal, and when a meeting is called at Chances Are, everyone is expected to show, even Wick.

But someone is missing from Chances Are, someone unexpected.  And soon its evident that one of their brother’s has been taken by force.  Is it the killer?  Or someone completely different with their own grudge?  The remaining band of brothers must act and quickly before their family is shattered forever.

Four outstanding series, all on Scattered Thoughts Best of 2013, have been leading up to one explosive finale and Odd Man Out doesn’t disappoint! Each series in the Pulp Friction group (Chances Are, City Knight, Triple Threat, and Wicked’s Way) revolve around a strong, charismatic, and densely layered main character.  In their own series, each man exhibits a magnetism and strength that sometimes push the other characters in their own series into the shadows.  So I was curious as to how the authors would be able to find a balance among such compelling, formidable men.  Would one overshadow the others when combined into one book?  The answer is no, the men and their stories mesh as seamlessly as you would expect given their back stories and history together.

And when by seamlessly, I mean realistically. Because these alphas can spend their time in arguments, shoving, anger and hurt that is the result of letting others close, especially to this almost hermetically sealed off group of men.   As all four series and their main characters collide, each man is in the midst of a personal upheaval caused by the introduction of a new love and partner into their lives.  For some like Ben and Marcus, their acceptance of each other has been relatively easy, or as easy as it can get for a member of this tight-knit brotherhood.  Chance and Rory, Zachary, Archer and Jeremiah too, have also recently settled into a loving partnership.  Only Wick and Ned, well, Wick, is still fighting Ned’s new role in his life in a grudgingly humorous manner expected of Wick Templeton.

So much jostling of roles, so many new men to accept within the tight ranks of family. And it’s not just the original members but Ben, Rory, and Jeremiah who have formed bonds to each other.  I love that as much attention has been paid to the links forming between the secondary characters as it has been to the main ones.  Each author has kept all the threads of their series taut while weaving them into the other stories and the series finale.  It is a testament to how well this group of authors know and like each other that their characters play so nicely and believably with each other.

Each man has some huge issues to work through as they race to save one of their own.  And once again, these problems carry with them substantial emotional baggage that each man must examine before the somewhat broken bonds can be reformed between Wick and Zachary, Chance, and Marcus.  The anger and hurt these men carry because of Wick’s actions resonate through each conversation and scene.  It’s powerful, its authentic and we get it because we have come to believe in these characters and their love for each other.  So when they break trust with each other, we feel the anguish as powerfully as they do.  The four authors have presented the readers with four rock solid characters and made them real and their stories compelling.  How can we not feel as they do?

There is also plenty of anxiety and anticipation to go with the white knuckle suspense of Odd Man Out.  As the authors build momentum and suspense into the search for the missing man, we “hear” the thoughts of the captured man and his tormentor interspersed with scenes of the others gathering clues to help them pinpoint who and where their brother has been taken.  It’s a heart pounding, pulse racing ride and you will be on the edge of your seat every step of the investigation and hunt.

I won’t give anything away but there are moments of humor and funny asides to go with the thrills scattered throughout this finale.  Sometimes it used to alleviate the headache inducing tension that is building, other times it  illuminates a man’s character, a means of hiding one’s true emotions behind a facade.  Odd Man Out is really such a rollercoaster ride of emotions, events and turbulent relationships, a true E ticket (for those who remember them).

I loved this story and all the series connected to it.  I hope this doesn’t mean we have seen the last of Wick Templeton, Chance Dumont, Marcus Prater and Zachary Carmichael.  These characters pack a punch whenever and wherever they appear, whether they are together or separately.  I have come to love them all and would love to see them again wherever their futures are taking them.  They have plenty of stories to tell and I would love to read them all.

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 145 pages
Published December 3rd 2013 by Pulp Friction

The Pulp Friction Series of 2013 are:

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)

Review: Burden by Annmarie McKenna

Standard

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Burden coverIt’s Detective Keegan Monroe’s first day off after a long undercover assignment and all he wants to do is relax and enjoy his coffee.  But his day is shattered when a  man dives in front of him throwing them both to the ground.  Then a gunshot goes past them as a murder attempt fails.  The man laying on top of him is stuttering that he couldn’t let him kill Keegan.  Suspicious of his savior, Keegan takes the man into custody for questioning.  But at the precinct some astonishing facts are revealed. The suspect is a former I.A . police detective.

Detective Brennan McGuire has been struggling to adjust to the brain damage he incurred when his car went over a cliff during an investigation.  Along with stuttering and the massive physical scarring caused by the accident, Brennan also has long and short term memory problems which make it almost impossible to cope with the requirements of every day life.  Brennan can’t remember the accident or much else about his life as a police officer.  But something sparked in the depths of his traumatized memory when he saw someone aiming a gun at the man at the table and he reacted.

During the investigation into the shooting, Keegan and Brennan find themselves falling first into bed and then into a relationship.  But their romance triggers Brennan’s repressed memories of his accident with startling results.  Now Keegan and Brennan find themselves with not one mystery but two to solve and some very determined people who want to make sure that Brennan never remember.  Can Keegan and Brennan find love while keeping each other alive?

I think Annmarie McKenna has the makings of a terrific story here but several issues, including the ending, leave it at that – just the ingredients and nothing more.  I loved the idea of a brain injured detective whose traumatized brain holds the key to his injury and much more.  It’s a great plot tactic because it pulls in those readers who love the hurt/comfort element while upping the tension and anticipation in the story for the moment when the character remembers the past and pulls it all together in a satisfying denouement.   And it works for most of the story. Right up until the author throws it all away.

Detective Brennan McGuire’s life’s a mess.  He can barely remember the social niceties that get people through the day, let alone  pay for a cup of coffee. As created by McKenna, he is an object of sympathy and engages our affections immediately.  I liked her treatment of his brain trauma.  He is still touchy and snarky even if he can’t remember the simplest thing like a pepperoni pizza or to shake the hand offered to him.   His is a beautifully layered portrait of a man coping with brain trauma and not always succeeding.

Keegan Monroe is a somewhat less effective character.  As a detective who immediately gets sexually involved with a suspect, and a brain damaged suspect at that, Keegan appears to have a less than solid grasp on police ethics, not to mention the appearances of taking advantage of someone in recovery.  I got that the sparks flew between them.  McKenna does a more than credible job making us believe the men can’t keep their hands off each other.  But the facts about their relationship and Brennan’s physical and mental state kept me from throughly investing myself in their affair.

The author does a good job in plotting out the mystery for the readers.  She slowly gears up the anxiety over the safety of the men as more and more facts about  Brennan are revealed. But all the suspense and anticipation is demolished in an ending that is rushed and incomplete in terms of motives and facts.  I was, in fact, astonished when I came to the end.  All that build up and the reader gets nothing for their time and effort spent on this story.  It pretty much just stops with no real explanation, no satisfactory reveal of  all the criminals, and certainly no resolution to the relationship of a detective and a still brain damaged individual.

And that is a shame because this book could have been so much more.  With a longer, more fully developed ending and perhaps even an epilogue, this could have been one of my “must read” recommendations.  But as it is, I will say that if you are a fan of Annmarie McKenna, then pick this up.  But if you are looking for romance, a terrific mystery and an ending that will leave you satisfied, then head elsewhere.

Cover by Angela Waters.  This is just a generic cover that has nothing really to do with the story.  Grade C for effort.

Book Details:

ebook, 117 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
ISBN 1619218291 (ISBN13: 9781619218291)
edition language English

Review of Cherish (Faith, Love & Devotion #4) by Tere Michaels

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars

It has taken several years, 5 to be exact, for New York City Vice Detective Evan Cerelli, his four children, and former Homicide Detective Matt Haight to come together as a couple and as a family.  And for the most part they have made it without the emotional fireworks and mental turmoil that marked the first year of their relationship.

Now Even is going to be promoted to Captain of his precinct, the first out gay captain on the force, Matt is a successful security advisor when he is not a wonderful house husband to the two kids, twins Danny and Elizabeth, still at home.  Katie and Miranda are off at college, and their friends seem happy.  Life is good.

But Thanksgiving is coming and bringing with it the family explosions they thought they had left in the past. When Evan accidentally learns his oldest daughter, Miranda, is thinking of getting married to her boyfriend of less than 3 months, he flies off in a rage and is met with equal anger from Miranda who still has problems accepting her father’s relationship with Matt. A temporary truce between them sees Evan inviting Miranda’s new boyfriend and his parents to Evan and Matt’s house for Thanksgiving.  Also coming for Thanksgiving is Helena, Evan’s partner on the force and her boyfriend, Shane, and second oldest daughter, Katie, who “wouldn’t miss the fireworks for anything.”

And before the turkey is even on the table,  emotional explosions are going off and everyone is included.  Matt and Evan first have to survive Thanksgiving with their family and friends, and each minute more is making that unlikely.

This is the fourth book in the Faith, Love & Devotion series by Tere Michaels and it is a series close to my heart.  We first met  Matt and Evan in the first book Faith & Fidelity, at the angst ridden beginnings of their relationship.  Then Evan was mourning the loss of his beloved wife and first and only person he has ever slept with.  In addition to his grief, he was trying to do his job as a police officer and fill in the void for his four kids left behind when his wife died.  Evan is full of pain, grief and overburdened by stress and doubts about his ability to  be a good father and step up to the plate.  Matt is a complete mess when the reader and Evan first encounter him.  Forced to resign from the police force he loves over behavior issues, he has become a bitter, disillusioned drunk, getting by as a security cop and on anonymous sex with women. But a conversation in a bar and the exchange of personal confidences leads to an unlikely friendship that eventually turns into a shattering love affair that forces each man to rethink his sexuality and  their acceptance of the fact that they love each other.  It is a tough road for Evan and Matt, especially Evan, who has the reactions of his children, former inlaws and police force to think about.

One of the things I cherish about this series is that Tere Michaels lets us in on the emotional fallout and oscillating feelings, including bouts of denial, that come with identity earthquakes. By that I mean the paradigm shifts that occur within a person when the most basic self knowledge is proven wrong.  And being gay or bisexual is a major shift for them both.  The author lets their relationship play out, not over one book but four stories, including this one.  The Evan/Matt relationship here is the strongest it has ever been (and that’s saying something) but even here it has its shaky moments, most of which come from the stress brought on by Miranda. Let me tell you, there are many times that I am as frustrated with Miranda as everyone else in her family.  I don’t like her behavior and think that Evan needs to get a grip when dealing with her.  But does that sound like I think of them as characters?  No it does not.  And that’s the beauty of these stories and these amazing characters, they might make you gnash your teeth and pull some hair, but they are never anything less than believable.

Michaels also takes into account how much alike fathers and their daughters can be as Evan and Miranda’s behavior is often a reflection of each other.  Matt too has aged and grown into his role as caregiver/second father to at least 3 of the kids, and his growth is as realistic and wry as can be.  Tere Michaels has a wonderful grip on relationship dynamics, not only between romantic partners but familial relationships too.  Siblings squabbles,  family arguments, and the small joys of an established bond are all found here in this latest addition to the series.

I also loved that it takes place over Thanksgiving and includes the family of Miranda’s boyfriend, which adds that unknown element so often present at Thanksgiving when multiple family groups, including strangers, are brought together and forced to engage each other on the most intimate of  American celebrations, the Thanksgiving dinner.  Expectations are perhaps unreasonably high for what we think this holiday with its traditions of being grateful and giving thanks will bring.  And that stress alone has blown up more turkeys than any fryer on the market. I will tell you that all ends well, at least temporarily for this wonderful family I have become so fond of.  If you are familiar with this story, you will love Cherish as I did.  If this series is new to you,  don’t start here.  Go back to the beginning to where it all started.  It makes the place they are at now all the more precious and rewarding.

And Tere Michaels?  I need more of another favorite couple here, that would be Jim and Griffon from Love & Loyalty (Faith, Love & Devotion #2).  Pretty please?  That would be a great Christmas gift for us all.

Here are the books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the history and couples involved:

Faith & Fidelity (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #1)

Love & Loyalty (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #2)

Duty & Devotion (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #3)

Cherish (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #4)

Cover art by Croco Designs.  The covers for this series are just average.  They really don’t relate to the stories within nor do they make any real attempt to have models that look like the characters. Grade C

Books available at Loose id, Amazon, and All Romance.