Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best Books of December 2015

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Best Books of December

2015

 

Its has been a stellar month.  From the great advent stories to our regular reviews that have run the gamut from science fiction to contemporary romance with a kink to the supernatural and shifters in love, we have read and reviewed the lot and its been wonderful.  And so hard to pick the best of the month.  I had to narrow it down to the 5 star ratings with a  sprinkling of 4.75 stars which were rounded up.  I also divided them out as well into Advent Short Stories and Audio books.  Still there were many.  Take a look back, see what stories you may have missed and enjoy!

The titles are linked to our reviews.  As always happy reading!

Best Books of December 2015

Sleigh Ride Advent StoryAdvent Short Stories:

It Was Close…

Best Audiobooks of December 2015audiobook clipart bw

 

The Heroes of Sanctuary are Back in Accidental Hero (Sanctuary #8) by RJ Scott (excerpt and giveaway)

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Sanctuary 8

Accidental Hero (Sanctuary #8) by RJ Scott
Sanctuary (Volume 2 – The Chicago arc) series
Expected publication: November 20th 2015
Publisher: Love Lane Books

Artist:  Meredith Russell
Buy links will be here:  RJ Scott Author

Blurb

Chicago Cop Simon Grant and Sanctuary operative Cain Brodie, have to be the heroes of their own stories, just to stay alive.

Everyone wants Chicago cop, Simon Grant, dead. Armed with an address, he is on the run and heading for Sanctuary, only to end up at the wrong end of a gun. Is it possible the tall amber-eyed man holding the gun is actually going to be able to help him?

Cain Brodie is in charge of Sanctuary’s new Chicago office, C-Tower. His well organised administration day takes an unexpected turn when he has a man wanted for murder right in his gun sights. Thrust into a situation he has no control over suddenly he needs to be the one in control.

Accidental or not, Simon and Cain have to be the heroes of their own stories, just to stay alive.

Excerpt

Cain couldn’t believe this was happening.

Project-manage the setting up of our Chicago office, Manny, the operations manager of Sanctuary, had said, sporting a broad grin. What can happen?

Well, fuck you, Manny, because I’ve seen Die Hard and I know what can happen to a guy in a high-rise. Like a cop with other cops looking for him. Like guns. Like Albany Ops picking up on the fact someone had followed him into the parking garage before the steel gates had fully shut.

And now Cain was faced with whoever the fuck this was, a steely-eyed, spiky-haired, uniformed cop with his hands near a gun.

“Hands where I can see them,” Cain snapped.

He forced his grip to stay steady. Manny was going to laugh at him when he found out Cain was pointing a gun at a cop. Manny’s empty gun. Talking of Manny, he really needed to channel the company’s weapons expert. He imperceptibly straightened his arms and bent his legs slightly. Cain had done the general gun-range training that everyone at Sanctuary was expected to do, but to be fair he’d spent his last visit there fixing the computer network in the office and hiding out.

Guns and Cain didn’t match well. Too loud, too destructive, too deadly.

In his earbud, Albany Ops were asking for an update, but Cain couldn’t answer accurately. He gestured with the gun when the cop didn’t automatically raise his arms.

“Hands. Up.”

The cop shook his head. “I don’t know what’s going on here, buddy, but one word from me and backup is on its way from my colleagues in the atrium,” the cop lied.

He had his hands out in front of him, and was apparently trying for the “innocent good guy in an elevator” look.

Cain was not falling for that. Albany Ops said this man was wanted for suspected murder. Said he was armed and dangerous. Said he was on his own and very much off the reservation.

“Hands behind your head,” Cain ordered with a small, gun-waving gesture.

“You realize this is assault with a deadly weapon against an officer.”

The cop still hadn’t moved his hands and Cain’s chest tightened. This wasn’t exactly going as he’d expected. Manny had assured him that having a gun gave you the edge. That all you needed to do was confidently portray that you would use the damn thing and people would believe you.

Evidently, he was failing big time at looking hard and ready to use the weapon.

About the Author

About RJ

RJ Scott has been writing since age six, when she was made to stay in at lunchtime for an infraction involving cookies. She was told to write a story and two sides of paper about a trapped princess later, a lover of writing was born.

As an avid reader herself, she can be found reading anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror. However, her first real true love will always be the world of romance where she takes cowboys, bodyguards, firemen and billionaires (to name a few) and writes dramatic and romantic stories of love and passion between these men.

With over seventy titles to her name and counting, she is the author of the award winning book, The Christmas Throwaway. She is also known for the Texas series charting the lives of Riley and Jack, and the Sanctuary series following the work of the Sanctuary Foundation and the people it protects.

Her goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.

Giveaway

Win a $15 Giftcard from Amazon or ARe, plus 2 further prizes of an ebook from RJ’s catalogue. Competition closes 4th December – midnight GMT.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Direct link is http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/f922301b62/?

Sanctuary – The Bullen Arc Series:

A series of connected stories set against the backdrop of the Sanctuary Foundation.

Sanctuary, a foundation offering witness protection to anyone whose safety is compromised. A Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Highly Recommended Series

Book 1 –Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary, #1)
Book 2 –The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary, #2)
Book 3 –Face Value (Sanctuary, #3)
Book 4 –Still Waters (Sanctuary, #4)
Book 5 –Full Circle (Sanctuary, #5)
Book 6 –The Journal Of Sanctuary One (Sanctuary, #6)
Book 7 –Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7)

Review: Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8) by Abigail Roux

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

???????????????????????????????????????Ty Grady and the others in his Sidewinder crew are finally home.  After an emotional welcome at the airport, Ty finds he has returned to a world that moved on without him.  As Ty deals with the emotional fallout from the their last black op mission and his reunion with Zane, Deuce, Ty’s brother arrives with wedding news.   Deuce asks Ty to be his best man.  And the wedding?  It’s on a remote island in Scotland. And someone’s been threatening his future father-in-law.

Clearly help is needed and Ty calls on Kelly Abbott and Nick O’Flaherty, his Sidewinder brothers, for assistance, a team with their own secrets to hide. When Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott join Ty and Zane at the wedding on a private island in Scotland, the remoteness of the location and poor cellphone reception gives them jitters.  But none of them are prepared when the bodies start falling and the killer or killers identities is someone on this small island, either friend, family or close acquaintance.

With all the families jeopardy, including Ty’s young  niece, Ty and Zane, along with Nick and Kelly, must sort through past cases, old enemies, and unknown alliances before more murders occur, including their own.  Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions but who will survive this one is anyone’s guess.

 

Well, here we are.  The penultimate story in the Cut & Run series.  With Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8), the bells are starting to ring down the end of this remarkable series and Ty Grady and Zane Garrett is starting on the road to their finale. The penultimate story in any series is a tricky one, but even more so in a series as beloved as this one.  It must start to wind down a multitude of plot threads, but not too many, mind you, because you must save the most for the last story.  The penultimate story must layout clues, guidelines as it were, for all the events to come without losing sight that this story must have its own legs to stand on. Its own storyline and its own resolution.

Does Ball & Chain and its author, Abigail Roux, accomplish this daunting task?  Yes, I think it does. Although I think some readers will be disappointed, others will love it, and the rest are just waiting for that last story and nothing will be able to satisfy them before that story arrives.  What a tough audience this book will face as most readers have been with this couple and series from the first book, Cut & Run, and are quite fanatical about Ty and Zane.

One obstacle that I think this book must surmount are the scenes/storylines readers have written for Ty and Zane in their minds since they finished book 7, Touch & Geaux.  This is the reunion book, the one we have been waiting for since that heart-wrenching exit at the  end of Touch & Geaux.  You know, the one that had  people pulling out their hair in tears while wailing in dismay.  That scene.  I have been waiting for that along with you.  Did it live up to my expectations?  Not on the first reading.  Maybe the second.  Again, how could anything beat the glorious, and totally unrealistic scenario I had created in my head for Ty and Zane?  Cue the swelling music,  passionate glances and mad sex acts that happen immediately upon reuniting!  What Abigail Roux came up with was so much better and in keeping with the characters, Ty and Zane.  It was done with humor, affection for all those returning home and, of course, the love that Ty and Zane held for each other. And I loved it, once I got past the purple prose of my imagination.

I loved the location, that isolated island off the coast of Scotland in the Inner Hebrides.  It’s a perfectly spooky place for dead bodies, startling revelations, and hidden passages, of the building and of the heart.  It took all the main characters out of their comfort zones (if they still have any by now), and forced them to look closely at what each of them has become, and at the relationships that have carried them through so far.  Not a particularly happy time….a sexy one but not a happy one for the most part.  Abigail Roux has these precious characters exposing some hard truths about themselves and what their past actions have done to others they care about.  Plus this last mission has clearly damaged all the men involved, Digger, Owen, Nick and Ty, all are showing symptoms of PTSD or signs of other trauma that is the result of their final secret mission.  The stress is overwhelming them and each is trying to deal with it in their own way.

Ball & Chain is a hard book to review because any detail given can lead to a spoiler.  Still there is a lot on Abigail Roux’s agenda for this story.  There is the reunion we have been waiting for as Ty returns, along with the rest of the Sidewinders, from a mysterious mission.  And the reader is just getting settled into familiar surroundings and the FBI office when we are thrown out of the action and into unfamiliar territory.  At the end of the last book, Ty and Zane have outed themselves to their colleagues and bosses and now we wait for the repercussions to hit.  And they do but only for a short while and then we are  whisked away to Scotland.  That felt too abrupt and left this reader feeling a tad unsatisfied about the lack of resolution to this story element.

The wedding in Scotland brings together not only Ty’s entire family, including Ty’s grandfather and his shovel, but Nick and Kelly and the Director too.  As loyalties are divided, and old secrets revealed, ties between people begin to unravel as past histories and relationships surface. Sometimes, however, I felt that so many plot threads, one piling on top of another, almost overwhelmed the story.  At moments, Ball & Chain almost felt like an extension of the 12 Little Indians movie, with corpses piling up everywhere as it looks bleaker and bleaker for those left on the island.  But in true Abigail Roux form, the plot tightens, the nonessentials are pared away, and we are left with Ty and Zane and their fight for each other and a relationship.

Still Ball & Chain is as much about Nick and Kelly as it is about Ty and Zane. It’s about couple dynamics as well as the other complex relationship issues at play here. Sibling brother to brother, Sidewinder brother to brother, lover to lover, fathers/and father figures to sons….Abigail Roux threw it all into the wedding melting pot with explosive results. And this multitude of players, main players, will raise objections from those readers who want Ty and Zane, and only Ty and Zane. And I get that, I really do.

But think back to Touch & Geaux,the preceding story. What a great mess of a book! Full of emotional land mines, psychological quagmires, and quests for revenge to fill several novels, it brought all the Sidewinders together along with Ty and Zane and other important characters only to leave several major plot threads dangling at the end along with character fates. And remember, this includes a mole in the FBI. With that story, everything got tangled up together, people, histories, and past events returning with traumatic results. Now Abigail Roux only has two books to pull it all together. So in my mind, Ball & Chain, as well as the final story, can’t be only Ty and Zane. Because in order for Ty and Zane to have their future, a number of supporting characters have major roles to play for that to happen.  So it has to be about those characters as well, even if that makes some readers unhappy about the loss of page time for Ty and Zane.

So back to the question did Ball & Chain do its job?  Did it raise the right questions? And did it include all the right people?  Did it set the stage for the final story while giving you the reunion you wanted, the drama you expected, as well as the surprises and angst one expects from Abigail Roux and this series?  For me, the answer is yes, yes it did.

Repercussions from the events in New Orleans are still rippling through the group, the mole is at large, and a major player has just died. OK, i was pretty happy about that one.  Now everyone has returned to the US and the final battles can begin.  I can’t wait.

And Abigail Roux did give me an ending this time that I adored (at least as far at Ty and Zane were concerned).  One that starts to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion. There is a line towards the end that will be one of my favorite ones of the series.  I wonder if you will be able to spot it?

The author has said she won’t go past book 9 for the Cut & Run series, so I expect Ty and Zane to go out with a bang.  Maybe even a flashbang.  Only the author knows for sure.  Roux has made Ty and Zane deal with huge issues and traumas, from alcoholism and torture, lying and commitment, kidnapping and coming out, even claustrophobia and fear of heights. So I expect the final story to feature more of the same, more soul searching and scary events to come.

Maybe even Grandpa with his shovel.

And hopefully a wedding.  That would be lovely.

Until then I will search through the series again for more clues about the Mole and people we expect to pop up in the finale.  I will reread the moment they were pulled apart in Touch & Geaux, and then the moment they came back together in Ball & Chain.  And then I will read the end of this story one more time.

Ty and Zane are about to have their ending.  I will be there with tissues in hand to see how it all ends.  I will probably hate it in sections and I will love it.  That’s the way this series works.  And this couple.  All or nothing.  Bring it on, Abigail Roux!

Cover art by LC Chase continues the wonderful branding that is a mark of this series.  Love it although not as much as the tiger.

Book Details:

Paperback, 306 pages
Published March 17th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published March 2nd 2014)
original titleBall & Chain
ISBN139781626491076
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/titles/ball-chain-cut-run-8
seriesCut & Run #8
charactersTy Grady, Zane Garrett

Books in the Cut & Run series in the order they were written and should be read:

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read:

  • Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8) the penultimate story
  • Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7)
  • Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6)
  • Dine & Dash (Cut & Run, #5.5)
  • Armed & Dangerous , #5 – by Abigail Roux
  • Divide & Conquer #4,*
  • Fish & Chips #3, *
  • Sticks & Stones #2,*
  • Cut & Run #1 – *all of these written by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Review: Free Falling (Extreme Escapes, Ltd.) by S.E. Jakes

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Sometimes falling in love is the most dangerous thing of all…

FreeFalling_500x750Expert thief Blue first met Mick, a mercenary and a hitter, when the millionaire they were working for sent them out to “retrieve” a priceless statue and ship it out of the country.  Blue was adamant about working solo, Mick was just as adamant that he was coming along as ordered.  The argument only ended after a bet was made and agreed upon.  A bet Blue lost.  But Mick never showed up, leaving Blue hanging  and alone in the hotel room that had been part of the bet.  Blue was angry, humiliated, and more than a little frustrated at the way the evening turned out.  Blue swore that Mick wouldn’t get a second chance.  And then a year later he sees him again.

A year later finds Blue in Bogota.  The job Blue is on should be quick and easy, its also one he has been paid for.  But things start to go wrong almost immediately.  Blue spots Mick in a meeting in a bar, catching not only Mick’s eye but that of the dangerous drug dealer Mick is working with.  It takes finesse and quick thinking by Mick to get Blue away from the criminal and a deadly situation that was getting out of control.  Recovering, Mick and Blue realize that they care for each other.  But their jobs and personalities make going forward impossible.

Then Mick disappears on a job and its up to Blue to save him.  Suddenly nothing is impossible if only he can save Mick first.

Blue and Mick first appeared on my radar during the Hell or High Water series.  SE Jakes gave us tantalizing glimpses of this duo throughout those stories as Blue popped in to visit Prophet only to be followed by Mick still chasing after him.  A few sentences of dialog, a quick scene that telegraphed the deep love and affection these men felt for each other, and then, poof, they were gone.  Blue would jump out the window with Mick close behind him.  And the reader was left wondering who were these crazy men and what was their backstory?

In Free Falling, we finally get some answers, but only some.  Blue is an unrepentant thief.  He enjoys his work and is one of the top “procurement” people in the world.  He is never going to change, a fact that has acted as a bulwark against any lasting relationships except one. But what happened to make Blue this way?  SE Jakes has created an almost heartbreaking answer to that question.  From Blue’s memories and several phone calls he gets while on the run, the reader gathers the pieces to the puzzle that is Blue.  From his dysfunctional family background to his raison d’être, all are clues which help us better understand Blue. It also makes his need for stealing understandable and almost honorable, almost.  Blue is a complicated man, surprisingly full of insecurities and yet still so confident in his abilities and intelligence.  And he meets his match in Mick.

Ah, Mick.  A massive mountain of a man.  A killer, a soldier, full of unwavering loyalties. And yet….still capable of friendship and love.  His complexities are a perfect match for the compulsions and intricacies that is Blue.  I haven’t read all of the Extreme Escapes Ltd. stories, so I don’t know if his backstory is already out there.  But again, SE Jakes gives us enough to cobble together an understanding of this man and the forces that drive him.

These men need a plot as intense, dangerous and wild as they are and they get it in Free Falling, a perfect metaphor for their lives.  Someone is manufacturing a drug that whips a person into a long lasting sexual frenzy, one that compels them to want more and more sex.  It’s the ultimate blackmail tool and perfect for creating sexual slaves.  And EE and Mick are out to stop its manufacture and distribution.

Free Falling is such great high wire fun! The action is fast-paced and explosive.  The sex scenes intense and incendiary.  And the pathos when it comes, well, it’s heartbreaking.  No idling, no slow speed to this narrative,  it’s just revved up and roaring down the road!

So buckle up, grab this story up and prepare for one wild ride.  You are going to love it.

Cover Art by Croco Designs, http://www.crocodesigns.com.  Can that cover get any hotter?  I  don’t think so.  Love it.

Book Details:

ebook, First Edition, 150 pages
Published December 5th 2012 by SEJ (http://sejakes.com)
original title Free Falling
edition language English
Books in the Extreme Escapes Ltd universe are:
  • Hell or High Water Series: Catch a Ghost, Long Time Gone, Daylight Again (coming soon), If I Ever (coming soon)
  • Dirty Deeds Series (EE, Ltd.): Dirty Deeds, Dirty Lies (coming soon), Dirty Love (coming soon)
  • Men of Honor Series: Bound by Honor, Bound by Law, Ties That Bind, Bound by Danger, Bound for Keeps (EE, Ltd.), Bound to Break

Review: Corruption (Diversion #3) by Eden Winters

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Corruption coverSNB Agent Simon “Lucky” Harrison has had many lives and just as many names. He started life and entered criminal life as Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter.  He exited life that way too when it  became necessary to fake his death as a part of a pharmaceutical drug operation that turned ugly and ended up with Lucky “fatally” injured in the hospital.  Now Simon “Lucky” Harrison is a successful agent at the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau.  He is still recovering from his leg injury he incurred during the last drug bust when a new illegal drug operation comes to light.  When a young business woman dies on a dance floor from an overdose of bath salts, she is but the first of many.  The SNB clues lead to a local motorcycle gang and Lucky thinks he is the one most likely to be chosen to go undercover.  But his bosses have another idea.  They choose Bo, Lucky’s partner and love, although he would be the last to admit it.

Former Marine Bo Schollenberger, now SNB Agent Bo Schollenberger has turned his new career into a huge success.   Now his bosses at the    SNB want him to impersonate someone else. Someone named Cyrus Cooper, a bad ass drug dealing biker, a total opposite from the real Bo.  Bo has been taking  classes in undercover work and excelling at adopting various personas to everyones amazement.  But Bo is hiding a secret about his chameleon-like ability, one that just might get him killed or at least lose the man he loves, Lucky Harrison.

Soon Bo is deep undercover and becoming a man Lucky would never recognize.  Brutal, ruthless and deadly, Bo settles things with his fists or a gun and soon rises to the top of the organization.  When another agent dies, Bo needs another man to be his backup and guess who arrives?  But has Lucky arrived too late to save Bo?

With the third book in the Diversion series, Corruption by Eden Winters finds the two main characters at a crossroads in both their careers and their relationship.  In the last outing, we watched as Lucky finally realized that he loved Bo but he had  problems vocalizing his need as well as his love, while Bo was able to tell Lucky he loved him.  That emotional change and uneven state of affairs brought about new issues for Lucky, a man unsure of his position and ability to give Bo what he needs, including a stable relationship and a home.  Bo also  seemed to realize the many challenges ahead if he wanted Lucky in his life.  Corruption begins with both men questioning the relationship and their ability to go forward with a future together.

I love the complexities that Eden Winters continues to build into this series as well as her main characters.  In each new book, she adds new layers and textures to their relationship while revealing more of the depths to each man’s character and past.  Lucky has to be one of the most unusual main characters in  recent m/m romance or any romance for that matter.  A former drug lord’s boy toy and thief, he now works for the same agency that put him away.  But Lucky’s past is only as far away as the next emotional crisis of which there are many these days.  As Walter, his boss and father figure, presses Lucky to take on new responsibilities within the agency, Lucky fights to keep everything the same in his life, both his career and his romance with Bo.  Lucky likes the stasis he had achieved with Bo and his job at the SNB and any change throws Lucky off guard, bringing up old and new insecurities as well as painful instances from his past life.  Bo is pressing for changes as well.  Bo wants a commitment and not just a verbal one. He wants a very specific physical acknowledgement that they are on the same mental and emotional page with each other and Lucky is reluctant to give Bo what he wants.

As the story is told from Lucky’s pov, the reader has an intimate knowledge of Lucky’s thoughts and feelings as Bo presses for more than Lucky is able to give him at the moment.  We understand that Lucky can’t figure out why he is having problems moving forward while knowing exactly what is behind  Lucky’s refusal to change his relationship with Bo because Eden Winters has crafted a man whose motives are elusive only to himself and not those around him.   Equal in complexity to Lucky is the character of Bo Schollenberger.  His depths are still forthcoming as is the pain he continues to carry around with him from his past.  Bo’s position within the SNB has been changing with each book.  Bo has been steadily acquiring new skills and respect within the agency to Lucky’s consternation and pride.  One issue Bo has had in the past has been his emotional involvement with the people he has met undercover and this new case will test everything about Bo, from his character to his ability to continue to work for the SNB.

When Bo goes undercover as Cyrus Cooper, Winters creates yet another fully realized character, only this persona lays overtop a character we already know and love.  Cyrus Cooper is Bo’s complete opposite and yet he is Cyrus Cooper, a fact that not only the reader has to recognize but Lucky as well.  This is quite an achievement by Eden Winter.  She gives us two completely real yet opposing characters inhabiting the same body and makes us believe in both of them.  And then she elevates this aspect of the story by having Lucky relate in different ways to Bo and Cyrus, changing his approach to each man emotionally and sexually.

And as if all this is not enough, Winters throws in multiple plot threads, a charismatic and scary motorcycle gang lord, and a drug bust that ends in a shocking revelation that changes everything for Lucky, Bo, Walter and the SNB.  It is a bit of a cliffhanger and still this is an incredibly satisfying book.

Eden Winters introduced us to the regulations and corporate structures of the pharmaceutical industry and made them seem as foreign and obtuse as any business that has been twisted for criminal means.  It has been a real revelation and a remarkable foundation for this romance action series or whatever you want to label it.  I find myself hesitating, not wanting to put the  limitations of a label on such a unique and revelatory series and cast of characters.  I only know that I want and need more of them and the dubious path that Winters has laid out before them.  It’s an amazing journey and I know you will want to be here with me every step of the way.

If you are new to the series, don’t start here.  Go back to Diversion and start at the beginning of this marvelous series.  Here are the books in the Diversion series in the order they were written and should be read:

Diversion (Diversion #1)
Collusion (Diversion #2)
Corruption (Diversion #3)

Book Details:

ebook, First, 195 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Rocky Ridge Books
edition languageEnglish
url http://rockyridgebooks.com/2013/10/01/corruption/
series: Diversion #3

Review: Shock & Awe (Sidewinder #1) by Abigail Roux

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Shock & Awe CoverAfter being shot in New Orleans, Sidewinder medic Kelly Abbott has returned home to his cabin in Colorado with fellow Sidewinder Nick O’Flaherty joining him to help him in his recovery.  Kelly and Nick, bonded through their years together as part of a Marine Force Recon team, have always loved each other like brothers but past confessions and the recent events in New Orleans has Kelly thinking past brotherly bonds into something far more intimate and sexual. During a quiet moment at the cabin Kelly asks Nick to kiss him and is surprised when Nick does.  But the kiss turns into something unexpected for each man…its deep, and warm and overwhelmingly sexual, and leaves Nick and Kelly wanting more.

That one kiss leads to others and only the reality of Kelly’s wounds keep the men from more.  Confused, Kelly and Nick try to examine their feelings not only towards each other but about a deeper commitment outside their band of brothers.  But the past has a way of intruding on the Sidewinders, pulling them towards danger and an uncertain future.  Can Nick and Kelly find their way through their confusion and doubts before they are called to duty once more?

Abigail Roux is killing me here.  I am still trying to recover from the events of Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7) when Roux starts a new series about the Sidewinders, the Marine Recon group that Ty Grady is a part of, and has me in tears all over again.  But I am getting ahead of myself and this review.

Shock & Awe, the titles continuing in the tradition the author started in the Cut & Run series, is an expansion series into the tight band of brothers Abigail Roux introduced in the Cut & Run series.  We met the various members of the Sidewinders as they came to visit Ty Grady in Baltimore and through appearances made in several of the Cut & Run stories.  Nick, especially, was an important character in helping to understand Ty’s past and the close  bonds of the Sidewinder Marine Force Recon Unit.  Going too much into Nick O’Flaherty’s background would offer up spoilers for past stories but suffice it to say he and Ty have an unusual past history that is referenced here in Shock & Awe acting as an impetus for Kelly’s musings and startling request.  And while the others members of the unit (Digger, Owen, and yes Ty) make an appearance, Shock & Awe is focused on Kelly and Nick. It starts shortly after the events of Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7) where Kelly was shot in New Orleans when all the Sidewinders gathered to celebrate a birthday.

The smaller, more intimate setting of Kelly’s cabin is perfect for the introspection and actions that follow an unusual request from Kelly for a less than brotherly kiss from Nick.  Normally, Roux has a much larger canvas on which to place her characters and storyline but having one location lets the author (and readers) concentrate on the developing relationship and emerging emotions of Nick and Kelly.  I loved this aspect of the story.  The author had previously given the readers only a cursory introduction to Kelly while past stories made Nick an unwelcome intrusion into Ty and Zane’s relationship.  Now both characters get to stand on their own and this story turns them into the remarkable men that Roux had always intended us to see them as.  I had no trouble at all falling in love with both of them.  Here is a little window into their close relationship. They have just arrived at Kelly’s cabin and are getting settled:

Kelly made a derogatory sound and closed his eyes again. Nick pulled away, then gently covered him with the sheet.

Kelly may have been the corpsman, but Nick had always been the caretaker of the group. He’d been a wingman, fall guy, sounding board, and alibi. He’d been mother, father, big brother, and crazy uncle. Whatever they’d needed. He’d always been the one who’d made sure all the Sidewinder ducks were in a row, and he was probably the sole reason the house they’d all shared in Jacksonville hadn’t burned down.

It was so odd to think back on all those years and know that Nick had been hiding part of himself he thought he couldn’t share. It almost broke Kelly’s heart to think of all the secrets he’d spilled to Nick, all the things he’d gotten off his chest, but Nick had never been able to do the same.

And when Kelly’s heart breaks so does ours.

There is so much emotion, so many feelings packed into this story that I found it hard to believe it was only 92 pages long.  It was just long enough for me to fall completely in love with these two and time enough for Abigail Roux to break my heart not once but twice before the story ends.

Abigail Roux has proven over and over in each of her stories that she has the ability to make us believe in her characters, their passions and relationships.  She is also a proven master of the hidden agenda, cliffhangers and heartbreak.  You will find all of those here too.  Grab this book up and fall in love with Nick and Kelly.  The second story in the series, Bait & Switch (A Sidewinder story) is located after this one and will have you gnashing your teeth as well as crying quite a few tears, especially as it features Zane and Ty as well as Nick and Kelly.  This is a 2 tissue box affair from start to well…..just pick it up and starting reading.

If you are new to Abigail Roux and her connected series (Cut & Run and Sidewinder), it would be best to start at the beginning to understand all the relationships of the men mentioned.  Plus you will find yourself with two new addictions.  One is winding down.  There are only two more stories to go in the Cut & Run series.  I hope that Sidewinder enjoys just as long a run.   Don’t miss out on these remarkable men and this terrific author.

Cover by LC Chase.  I loved this.  The green cover sets it apart from the Cut & Run series while the shamrock continues the tradition of a single object helping to tie the series together.  Perfection.

Sidewinder series to date:

Shock & Awe (Sidewinder #2)
Bait & Switch (A Sidewinder story)

Cut & Run Series:

Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8) Expected publication: March 15th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7)
Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6)
Dine and Dash(Cut & Run #5.5)
Armed & Dangerous (Cut & Run #5) – by Abigail Roux
Divide & Conquer #4, Fish & Chips #3, Sticks & Stones #2, Cut & Run #1 – all of these written by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Book Details:

ebook, 92 pages
Expected publication: November 11th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
original title Shock & Awe
ISBN13 9781626490567
edition language English
characters Ty GradyZane Garrett, Nick O’Flaherty, Kelly Abbott

Review: Parting Shot (A Matter of Time #7) by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Parting Shot coverDet. Duncan Stiel, closeted homicide detective, had a childhood so bad that he never talks about it.  All the events in his past has lead to Duncan growing up as an adult who keeps his personal life and his emotions hidden, including his sexual orientation. Duncan’s reserve and determination to remain closeted has already cost him the only real relationship he has had to date (see Acrobat).  So when Duncan meets and hooks up with Aaron Sutter, billionaire and equally closeted gay man, Duncan thinks that finally he has met a man on the same page emotionally as he is.  No longer will he have to worry that Aaron will want  him to meet family or friends, or even come out of the closet where Duncan is most comfortable, all the things that caused his last relationship to break up.  Duncan is a man consumed by his job, including the need to occasionally go undercover.  The last thing Duncan ever expected was to  find love with Aaron Sutter.

Aaron Sutter has finally realized that Jory will never be his and that it is time to move on.  Duncan Stiel is as far from the type of guys that Aaron normally finds attractive,  Instead of a slender blond twink, the detective is tall, muscular, and an alpha in every way.  And in no time at all, Aaron is smitten, lusting after the detective in a manner so unlike himself that Aaron is astounded at his own behavior. When Duncan is hurt, Aaron has an epiphany that shakes him to the core, making Aaron question the decisions he made in the past.

But Aaron is also involved in a mean, and desperate fight with his father over control of Sutter Enterprises. Staying in the closet and away from Duncan might be the only way he can stay in control.  Duncan too is involved in a criminal case so dangerous that it threatens not only his fragile new relationship with Aaron but their lives as well.  As the obstacles mount up against them,  the men must fight not only against outside influences but their own inner demons as well if they are to find their way to love and a future together.

I love Mary Calmes.  She is a wonderful storyteller who has created a pantheon of characters both memorable and addicting that they have cried out to be included in one book after another.  Parting Shot is not only an addition to A Matter of Time series but incorporates characters from other favorite novels of mine as well, including Mine and Acrobat.   The inclusion of these characters is important in a number of ways in describing why Mary Calmes is so good as what she does.  Both men, Nate and Terrence Moss (also known as Conrad Harris) make only a brief appearance here, but just the mention of their names brings up a well of memories and emotions created by their stories (Acrobat and Mine respectively).  They make an impact despite the brevity of their scenes in Parting Shot because of Mary Calmes’ incredible gift of creating characters we commit to memory and bury deep within our hearts.   Just look at Duncan Stiel and Aaron Sutter.

Both men started out as satellite characters in other stories.  Aaron Sutter was once the boyfriend of Jory Keyes before Sam Kage arrives into the picture.  Aaron continues to flow through their story, a man determined to regain Jory’s affections and then finally as a true friend to be counted on. Hard to make an arrogant billionaire with a predilection for sharing his lovers with other men likable but Calmes made him a complex and ultimately appealing character.  No matter his actions, there was just something about Aaron as created by Calmes that spoke to the reader and garnered their affections.  Aaron just demanded that he have his own story and now he has gotten it, to my absolute delight.

Duncan Stiel was a little harder sell.  He was a complete jerk when he appeared in Acrobat, although handsome, and competent, a complete alpha male.  Parting Shot helps explain Duncan’s behavior by presenting us with his past.  Once we see his traumatic childhood revealed, then those personality traits that made him so unappealing becomes understandable.  Duncan Stiel of Parting Shot is someone the reader connects with on every level.  I just love him.

These two men have arrived independently at the same stage in their lives where they want a real relationship.  Both have Jory and Sam as an example of what they are missing in their lives and what they can attain if only they take a chance and change.  The men meet and fall instantly in lust.  That’s extremely realistic knowing what we do about these men.  But what follows is also just as authentic given their personality traits and their pasts.  They just mesh with each other in almost every way.  I have seen this happen in real life.  When the timing is right, things (and people) just fall into place.  Not the case of “instant love” that appears so often in other stories but a connection based in reality and the personalities of the men involved.  I believed totally in their relationship and feelings towards each other.  It just felt right.

Aaron and Duncan are also an extremely sexy couple.  They are equals in and out of the bed.  I loved that about them as well.  Their sex scenes together are hot, sensual, realistic, and sometimes quite funny.  Aaron is really out of his element here and Mary Calmes incorporates that aspect into their relationship in some wonderfully funny scenes and dialog.  They cracked me up, just amazing.

Duncan is involved in a case with some very dangerous criminals, pulling him undercover yet again several times in the book (including a undercover gig that brings in Marshall Sam Kage). This storyline flows along side one in which Aaron is dealing with his father who is determined to overthrow his son as the head of Sutter Enterprises so the father can resume his control over the company.  The corporate fight Aaron is engaged in is just as critical as the criminal investigation Duncan is engaged in.  Each power struggle and criminal case has ramifications for both men.  It will cause them to examine their closeted lives and determine the paths their lives will take in the future.  Powerful stuff indeed.   And Mary Calmes makes it just as exciting and suspenseful as it sounds.

This is a completely absorbing novel.  Once you pick it up, be prepared to remain situated until you have finished the book.  It pulls you into the lives of Duncan and Aaron and all those around them.  If you are new to the series, it helps to read the preceding books to fully understand the nature of these men and the relationships they had in the past.  Grab up Mine and Acrobat while you are at it.  Have a very merry Mary Calmes sort of weekend!  I highly recommend them all, including Parting Shot.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  I love Dante’s cover but it really doesn’t pertain to this story.  It could be the cover for any number of books and that’s too bad because this story had so many elements that could have been used to make it relevant to the story within.  Consider this cover a misstep.

Here are the books  of A Matter of Time in the order they were written and should be read:

A Matter of Time (#1)

A Matter of Time (#2)

A Matter of Time (#3)

A Matter of Time (#4)

Bulletproof (A Matter of Time #5)

Just Jory (A Matter of Time #5.5)

But For You (A Matter of Time #6)

Parting Shot (A Matter of Time, #7)

A Matter of Time, Vol. 1 (A Matter of Time, #1-2) reworked and reedited

A Matter of Time, Vol. 2 (A Matter of Time, #3-4)reworked and reedited

Book Details:

ebook, 264 pages
Published July 19th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623808758 (ISBN13: 9781623808754)
series A Matter of Time

Review: A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

A Casual Weekend ThingDoug Heavy Runner is the only member of the Baker County Sheriff’s Department that is also a member of the volunteer search and rescue team operating in his section of Montana.  So it is no surprise when a 911 call results in Doug hanging over the edge of a cliff, hauling up a body caught on ropes below him. The man is an apparent suicide but his suicide note and death will draw his younger brother to town, along with complications and clues that point to a criminal operating in town, something Doug Heavy Runner left Miami PD to get away from.  Doug lived an out lifestyle in Miami, but the undercover work and an abusive boyfriend sent him home to Elkin and life as a small town deputy and closeted gay.  Now one death may unravel Doug’s new life.

San Diego PD Detective Christopher Hayes is still trying to recover from a devastating gunshot wound that threatens to end his career when he gets a call from a small town coroner in Montana.  His older brother has committed suicide and Chris needs to identify the body and see to his brother’s estate.  The problem is that Chris hasn’t seen his brother in over 20 years by choice as his brother was a convicted pedophile who Chris thought was still in jail.

On the way to Elkin to attend to his brother’s remains, Chris stops in to a local gay bar,  hooks up with a Native American cop and a hot weekend of sex ensues.  Imagine both mens surprise when the suicide’s brother turns out to be Chris and the deputy in charge of the case is none other than his weekend hookup, Doug Heavy Runner.  When Chris’ brother’s house is burned to the ground and the cause is arson, all clues lead to another pedophile operating in the area.  The deeper they probe into the brother’s life, the wider the scope of the investigation.  Soon the FBI is involved and Chris’ partner from San Diego shows up, and everyone is second guessing themselves and each other as the case folds back to Elkin and its citizens. And all the while, Chris and Doug’s casual fling deepens and turns into something neither expects or can accept – love.

I was not expecting a book as complex and moving from the title, A Casual Weekend Thing.  A.J. Thomas has written a book with so many layers to it that I was continually amazed with each reveal and new element  she added to the overall picture.  This book is a police mystery, a cop romance, a character study, and just a grand read.

At the core of A Casual Weekend Thing are two damaged men, each a gay police officer whose back history has made them who they are today, two driven individuals who run from commitment and any relationship other than friendship or casual hookups.  Each is a runner, one by name and one by emotional need, a clever turn by the author.  Christopher Hayes is an ultrarunner, a rare breed of runner who pit their endurance against distances from 50 to 100 mile runs in extreme weather conditions.  Chris was told by his abusive brother to run for his life when he was 12 and run he did, never looking back.  Chris is still running, from his past, from his tenuous future on the force, and from all relationships, never fully trusting anyone.  In Christopher Hayes, Thomas has created an emotionally damaged man, who thinks he has coped with his past but in reality is in denial.  It is a wonderful characterization, multidimensional and realistic in every respect.

Doug Heavy Runner is Chris’ equal in complexity and pain.  In Doug, Thomas gives the reader a man who ran from his culture, that of a Salish-Kootenai Indian on a reservation where crime, poverty, and despair rule and very few escape.  Doug fled to Miami, to become a police officer and live an openly gay lifestyle, passing as a latino.  But the undercover work and abusive boyfriend combined to break him down until his path led him home to the reservation and the small town nearby.  Doug is running just like Chris, too afraid to trust himself in a relationship or to come out to the community.  Thomas balances these two men against each other’s past history even as the author starts them on the investigation that will hit close to home for both men.  Thomas manages to create not two but multiple realistic characters, including Chris’ partner, Ray, a man who was supposedly “straight” until he wasn’t, to Chris’ surprise.  Not once did I feel that any of these characters strayed into a less than authentic portrayal of a real person.  Some were repulsive, some sympathetic, and others incompetent, but always real.

Great characters were certainly a necessity given the complex, and densely layered plots that play out in this story.  Thomas takes the time to set up the situations for the events that follow.  It is a slow build that pulls in element after element, revealed to Chris, Doug and the reader in small increments.  As more facts are unearthed, a feeling of unease sets in.  Then we discover the truth of Chris’ relationship with his late brother, and the horror arrives.  That he treats it so unemotionally makes it worse.  The more clues are discovered, the more horrific and wider the investigation becomes, pulling in the FBI and Chris’ partner.  Thomas does a superlative job in creating a monstrous psychopath who eludes identification until close to the end.  And intertwined with this investigation, is the romance between Chris and Doug, a tenuous thing given each man’s trust issues and past history.

I have to admit I came so close to giving this story 5 stars.  I really wanted to.  But there were a few minor issues with police procedure as well as some actions on the part of Chris that had me shaking my head in incredulity.  I just don’t think a police officer of his experience and background would have committed the errors he did, given the clues he had at his finger tips.  I can’t say any more but when you read the book, you will recognize the areas I am talking about.  That, combined with a little rough transition at the beginning, kept A Casual Weekend Thing from being perfect.  But it sure came close.  It hooked me right from the beginning and keep me on the edge of the bed (so to speak) until the last page.

The end leaves us with a very realistic HFN and I think it needed it.  A HEA for Doug and Chris, considering the events they just emerged from would be just implausible and not in keeping with the characters Thomas was so careful in creating.  I can hope, however, that this will set them up to return in a future novel with another case to solve together.  Now that would be perfection.  Consider this book highly recommended.  I can’t wait to see what A.J. Thomas has for us next.

Cover Art by Brooke Albrecht.  I applaud the cover artist’s choice of model, although he looks far more Indian than Native American.  Also the woods below aren’t really in keeping with the landscape around that area of Montana.  I know, that’s really getting picky, isn’t it.  But they get the tone of the book right.

Book Details:

ebook, 310 pages
Published May 13th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623804876 (ISBN13: 9781623804879)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3806

Review: Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7) by Abigail Roux

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

???????????????????????????????????????FBI Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett have been relegated to desk and PR duties after their last case made them too high profile for undercover work.  With 20 years on the job, Zane is considering retiring and other major  life changing decisions when Ty gets a call from one of his old friends who is in jail in New Orleans. His friend  needs Ty’s help and fast.  New Orleans is the last place Ty should be considering going because of the time he spent there undercover as well as all the memories it holds and not just for him.  For Zane, New Orleans is a city rife with echos from their past.  But for Ty, loyalty is everything and both men set out to rescue Ty’s friend.

From the moment Ty and Zane land in New Orleans, the bodies start to pile up and danger hunts them at every street corner.  Once more Ty’s past has come back to haunt him and now it threatens to kill not just him but all he cares for, including Zane.  But the threat Ty and Zane face in New Orleans is not just physical, but an emotional threat to the heart of their relationship and the trust they hold for each other.

With criminals and the law closing in on Ty and Zane, all the last secrets that had been deeply buried come out. Will both men be able to withstand the resulting emotional and physical explosions or will they see everything they have worked so hard for destroyed.

I fell in love with this series in 2008 with the first release of Cut & Run (Cut & Run #1), then written by Madeline Urban and Abigail Roux.  From the moment we are introduced to Ty Grady and Zane Garrett, the reader knows that here are two characters so complicated, so weighed down with their past and inability to trust anyone other than themselves that if they were ever to get together the resulting fireworks would be memorable and glorious.   It would also take loads of work, painful work to make it happen which is how it occurred over the course of the next several books.  And for every step forward, the authors had our heros take two steps back.  And this intricate ballet happens while Ty and Zane are engaged in various cases that often threaten not just national security but their lives as well.

After the last book, Stars & Stripes, in which we found the pair mostly happy with their relationship and coming out to their families, I knew that such a happy time would be short lived.  There was just too much still happening around them, too many unresolved issues that had been glossed over and now we know why.  Abigail Roux has always struck me as a meticulous planner and researcher.  When her characters go on location, you can bet  Abigail Roux has spent some time there visiting the various locales, jotting down names of bars, streets, and other places her characters have spent time.  Now if she does that for just one book, what sort of planning would she do for a series?  For me, the answer is that the series would see the same attention to detail but on a much larger scale and with the end of the series already in place. In Touch & Geaux, I see elements that demonstrate, at least to me, that some of the events here have been in motion for some time.

It is hard to go into details without giving anything away, but the revelations that explode in this book caught me totally by surprise.  I never would have guessed them in a million years but now that I am thinking about them, the basis for these surprising disclosures start back in Cut & Run and pop up through every subsequent book in the series.  Things I maybe gave less attention to than I should have are now imbued with a deeper, darker meaning, their true purpose clear.  And it all points to some masterful planning by Abigail Roux.

If you are a true fan of Ty and Zane as I am, than just be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster, worthy of at least several boxes of tissues and then some.  If you are truthful with yourself, than you have to admit you knew this was coming.  Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are complicated men with dark, secretive pasts.  Both are very good at keeping secrets, even from each other and the ones Ty has been keeping from Zane will go right to the heart of each others issues.  Issues of trust, truth and self knowledge – it doesn’t get any more powerful than that.  All those things have haunted both men from the very first time they met each other, and have continued to do so for all the two years they have been partnered.  Actually their relationship in all its gritty,slow, painful, and  complex glory has always struck me as one of the most realistic things about this series.  I liked that the slow climb to a romantic partnership was equal in complexity to the men themselves and that a HEA is always in question.

There are things here that might make one scoff or at least pull back in disbelief.  LIke a motor bike ride from hell or a magazine shoot that seems unlikely for the FBI in Washington, DC or Baltimore even, but again we have seen Zane ride like that before, think back to another  wild  Zane ride to the National Aquarium.  And maybe even the FBI can loosen up enough to put out a calendar.  Who knows in these times?  But the real meat and bones of this story are Ty and Zane and their relationship, everything else is almost superfluous. Or enough it seems for me to overlook it on my way to the heart of these men and the status of their lives at any given point.

One of the things I often hear mentioned about the Cut & Run series is the switching POV that happens repeatedly throughout the books.  I know that each author wrote one character, right up until Abigail Roux took over writing the series by herself.  That fact most likely explains the POV changes in the series.  And once that pattern was set for the series it made perfect sense to me that Roux continued to write the books in the same manner in which they were started.  I actually love hearing the thoughts of each man and it has contributed to the  intimate connection I feel with both Ty and Zane that I might not otherwise have achieved.  And that connection is a strong one, attained through outstanding characterization, snappy, memorable dialog, and scenes that have me howling in laughter or in tears, sometimes both at the same time.

This is perhaps the finest book of the series yet, it was certainly a return to the darker, tumultuous times when Ty and Zane were on unstable ground in almost every way.  This book is necessary because it brings back home to us that so much still had to come out, that there was still so much that Ty and Zane had to work through for a real partnership to succeed.  As it was for them, this path is a painful one for us too. But what a journey we are all on together.  I can’t wait for the next book to arrive.

I believe I read somewhere that Abigail Roux has 9 books planned for the series, perhaps 10.  You can go and preorder Cut & Run #8 right now as I  have already done.  Considering how I felt, still feel,  about the end of Touch & Geaux, I needed that promise of a resolution hopefully to come for all involved, including the readers.  So I think I will pass the time by going back to the beginning and rereading the books in order.  I think that with the knowledge I now possess many events will take on an entirely new look and context.  I can’t wait to see what I will find.  In the meantime, here is the buy link for Cut & Run #8.  It is available at a discounted price until April 14, 2013.

The cover by LC Chase is another is a great branding style, the voodoo doll figures prominently in the story. Great job.

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read:

Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7)

Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6)

Armed & Dangerous , #5 –  by Abigail Roux

Divide & Conquer #4, Fish & Chips #3, Sticks & Stones #2, Cut & Run #1 – all of these written by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

And a big congratulations to Stars & Stripes and Abigail Roux. DABWAHA Champions.  Stars & Stripes just became the first ever M/M romance to win the DABWAHA tournament!

 

Review: MIA Case Files 3: Craving by K.C. Burn

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Rating: 2.75 stars

MIA Files 3 CravingAgents Brandon Ellison and his partner Oliver Cardoso were on a mission for the MIA (Metaphysical Investigative Agency) when it  went horribly wrong, injuring Brandon Ellison.  That mission and its aftermath ended Brandon’s career as a field agent due to his disabilities and broke up the partnership, both romantically and as agents.

Now seven years later, Oliver and his new partner, Carmichael, are on a mission when almost the exact thing happens again.  But this time, with more experience under his belt, Oliver and partner come through with minor injuries.  When they go to complain to the head of MIA’s Research and Development Team, they find Brandon Ellison in charge and unable to explain what went wrong.  But Oliver’s new partner doesn’t trust Brandon, and thinks Brandon is behind the malfunctioning sonic charge that almost got them killed. Brandon is equally distrustful of Carmichael as well as jealous of his closeness to his former lover.

When Brandon invites himself along on their next mission to investigate problems with the weaponry, fireworks fly once more between Brandon and Oliver as their rivalry and memories vie for dominance and old love starts to resurface.  With hundreds of lives at stake, old and new grudges must be put aside if everyone is to survive this latest mission.

I picked up this book by K.C.Burn without reading any of the prior books in the series and that has left me as well as any other reader confused from the start. Burn supplies the reader with no back history to explain the alternative world I found myself reading about.  Apparently a war is going on between the human world and Umbrae (?) with portals being opened by the enemy to let through all sorts of creatures, from werewolves, vampires,demons and more. Who the nefarious Umbrae are and why they are unhappy with the human race is never quite explained.   Unlike other books where you can gather enough information from the various story threads to piece together a vision of the world, the author just assumes you have read the previous books and carries on.

So I will just concentrate on those portions of the book the reader can understand, the characters.  I liked the character of Oliver Cardoso. A green agent when the first accident happens, now he is a seasoned field op of 43, older and greying.  Oliver is certainly the most layered character you will find here.  Burn does a nice job conveying his weariness over the job and the emotional isolation he has imposed on himself since the first mission.  Brandon Ellison is a harder character to warm up to .  For Brandon, everything has hinged around that first failed mission.  His disability and his loss of Oliver has consumed his life.  The fact that Brandon ended up at head of R&D seems like a fluke to both Brandon and the reader as well.  Hard to root for a couple to get back together when half of said couple just doesn’t feel real.  Harder to care about a alternative universe when the danger seems minimal, the action downplayed, and the calculated “aha” moments more on the level of a high school play.

The plot, how to explain a plot that doesn’t track?  People are getting infected, the MIA must stop the portals from opening up, wherever they pop up, let’s set off some sonic explosions, the infection is spread by bites and being gay helps.  There are quite a few flashbacks but the uneven timeline just works against the story instead of for it because of the jerky manner in which it is handled.  The flashbacks here just serve to break up any momentum the story had built to date. The narrative structure consistently diffused any sense of danger or dread in the events happening around the main characters, and any sense of being connected to the characters and their situation just dwindled away. Between the style of writing and the lack of exposition this story just comes across as one  sad mess.

Here is an example.  Two characters are having a conversation about being gay:

“Brandon shrugged. “Whatever makes us gay makes us better agents.” Oliver had expected a lecture about genetics and heredity and antigens.

Not only would such an explanation be lost on Luis, but Brandon had been pretty pissed when he’d realized gay men were better agents because they were more likely to recover from Umbrae bites without going mad, while having a greater chance for death when the portal closed if the possession managed to complete the three-day physiological transformation.”

*head desk*

That just makes my head hurt, especially the last, long sentence and the entire book reads that way.  I love alternative worlds and  zombies, werewolves and vampires? Bring it on but make it believable or at least entertaining.  Make me want to lose myself in the events happening on the pages instead wanting to put the book down unfinished.  In the end the fleeting promise of one character did not hold my interest for long and although I did finish the book, I won’t be going forward to explore this universe further.  I did it so you don’t have to, that’s my motto and I am sticking to it.

Books in the series include:

Wolfsbane (MIA Case Files #1)

Blood Relations (MIA Case Files #2)

Craving (MIA Case Files #3)