A Stella Review: If I Were Fire by Heloise West

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

IIf I Were Fire covern 18th century Siena, Count Salvesto Masello returns home to find the family villa and his father’s estate deeply in debt. In order to save it, he sells valuable heirlooms, but he is running out of silverware. Somewhere in the villa, his deceased father has hidden the art treasures that will pay the debt—but Salvesto can’t find them anywhere.

Amadeo Neruccio has been on the run from the vicious pimp, thief, and pawnbroker Guelfetto, whose toughs finally catch him and bring him to the cellar where Count Masello is selling off his silver. When the count learns what fate Guelfetto has in store for Amadeo, he intervenes, and trades the last of his mother’s dowry for the young man’s freedom.

Salvesto left home over ten years ago to live the life of adventure he craved and leave his broken heart behind. When he rescues Amadeo, he does not expect to find love again—or the start of his next adventure.

I picked this short by Heloise West, a new  author for me,  because as it was set in Italy, I couldn’t say no. It was delightful reading, really well done.

The story between Salvesto and Amedeo takes place in the Siena of the 18th century.

Salvesto Masello has just become Conte, he inherited the last villa among his father’s possessions and all its debts. He is having serious financial problems and while selling his silvers to try and save the failure his father made, he meets a young man who is being beaten almost to death.

Amadeo Neruccio has been betrayed and abandoned by his family and now he is going to be sold at a bathhouse. Can Selvesto save him from his destiny?

I admit I didn’t expect to love this story so much, because at first I found it hard to read, something in the writing style made me sweat a little but later I understood was just my limit with the language. What I particularly enjoyed was the atmosphere Heloise created, she got all the smells, the olives, the grapes, the rosemary and lavender plants and foods in general. I was able to appreciate the characters, the secondary ones too, and for a short like this, I found them to be quite developed. I would have just preferred more scenes between the MCs and their romantic relationship.

If I Were Fire is just fifty-nine pages but there was a great work behind the short length. I’m not great at history but what I recall fits the setting of this story. The rivalry between Florence and Siena, the underworld life made of illicit activities. The strong faith in Santa Caterina. The characters names and surnames, the places. I loved it was specific in every little detail, things were never hinted, always clear in the references that indicate a thorough and careful research, from the first sentence.

And when I realized she titled this story like a Cecco Angiolieri poem, S’i’ fosse foco, she won me over.

COVER ART by L.C. Chase. It fits the historical theme. It is well done and the Sienese elements are very appreciated.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:
ebook, 59 pages
Published September 16th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634765664
Edition Language English

 

The Rank Few and their Rank View or When By The People and For The People Went Into the Dump and The Week Ahead In Reviews

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One of the many aspects that people either love or hate when living in the Washington DC Metro area is our constant bombardment of information of and about the Government.  The constant stream flows from our radios, tvs, cable, computers, phones, tablets, seemingly from the air itself.  It keeps us informed and aware of things happening in the government (whether we want to or not). I would even say that most of the people who live in this area work for the government or it has an impact on their work in some way.  Its Inside the Beltway at work and normally I kind of enjoy it.

Not now.

Now the government is shutdown and I am angry, and feeling helpless to make a difference in a situation that never should have happened in the first place.  This has effected me in so many ways, from the people I love, my family, my friends, acquaintances, all who are on furlough, those working and not getting paid, everyone who is impacted by this idiocy., including myself.

All those wondering how their mortgages will get paid, how will they put food on the table, or even get gas to bring them to the work they are not getting a paycheck for.    I see and hear it in the voices of cab drivers and food truck operators with no one to drive or feed,  hotels vacant because the tourists have gone home or have cancelled their trips.  From the front desk to those cleaning the rooms and hallways, and everyone else involved in the hospitality business, all are impacted, all are hurt.

What about those 30 children just admitted to a new cancer program at NIH, a last hope certainly and one that is frozen along with all the other protocols patients enrolled in specialty care need so desperately.  What about that person who needs a serious operation now.  It was scheduled then all leave was cancelled, no exclusions, no exemptions.  Who looks them in the face and tells them no? Even those hoping to get married or WWII veterans hoping to see their memorial? It’s certainly not the idiot Congress at the helm of this shutdown.

I, along with countless others, have called my representatives, Republican and Democrat, to voice my anger that the needs of the people who put them in office are being ignored, dismissed entirely because our views are not considered important.  The phone lines for all, especially the Republicans are constantly busy.  And when I did get through, I got a voice mail, saying all mailboxes were full.  No one is answering the phones on those offices.  But turn a camera in their direction, and they have time to expound on their importance and what they see as their own path to power and glory.

I am embarrassed that those people voted in to help their constituents have decided to help themselves instead.  The rank few with their rank view, those petulantly powerful, those gasbags of arrogance who should have been helping the government work has shut it down instead.  A fight was picked that they knew they wouldn’t win for the express purpose of shutting the government down.  They are confident that they will never have to come face to face with the millions they are hurting in the process.

And they are probably right.

Will they be visiting the people they made homeless?  Or those standing in line in the food banks?  Those in the hospital and those out of work because they lost their jobs or their businesses?  I don’t think so.  For these type of people its never their fault.  Their self-importance and arrogance overwhelms all else, leaving others to suffer for their selfishness and need for even more power.

The United States Constitution starts out as “We the People”, not We the Few and Powerful.  I think those Senators and Representatives who have shut down the government, need to be reminded who and what they represent.  They need to sit down and listen as someone reads to them the documents on which our nation and our freedoms are based.

Right before the signatures on the Constitution, the following paragraphs appear:

In all our deliberations on this subject, we kept steadily in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety–perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude than might have been otherwise expected; and thus, the Constitution which we now present is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.

That it will meet the full and entire approbation of every State is not, perhaps, to be expected; but each will, doubtless, consider, that had her interest alone been consulted, the consequences might have been particularly disagreeable or injurious to others; that it is liable to as few exceptions as could reasonably have been expected, we hope and believe; that it may promote the lasting welfare of that Country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish.

Where is their adherence to those words and feelings expressed above?  Lacking, tossed aside in favor of their own positions and small minded thoughts.

How sad,, how infuriating, and how un American.

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews:

Monday, Oct. 8:         Northern Star by Ethan Stone

Tuesday, Oct. 9:         Starry Knight by T.A. Webb

Wed., Oct. 10:             Enigma by Lloyd A. Meeker

Thurs., Oct. 11:           The Night Visitor by Ewan Creed

Friday, Oct. 12:           Guest Blog by Playing Ball Authors

Sat., Oct. 13:                Playing Ball Anthology

Review: Fever Anthology by M Rode

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

If you love cowboys, than this is the anthology for you.  From cowboy tv stars to those that ride bucking bulls and every permutation in between, these 8 stories will make you laugh, make you sigh, even reach for a fan or too but always make you remember why you love a cowboy.

Stories included in Fever are:Fever cover

Loose Riggin’ by Julia Talbot
Two Buckets and a Snakeskin Suit by Aaron Michaels
Torn by Sean Michael
Cowboy and Indian by Rob Rosen
Heart of Dixie by Mychael Black
Ready to Ride by Katherine Halle
White Hat/Black Hat by Kiernan Kelly
In the Pocket, a Roughstock story by BA Tortuga

I really enjoyed this anthology, especially because cowboys are a real weakness for me.  Of special interest was the new story from BA Tortuga in her Roughstock series, I cannot get enough of those boys.  It also introduced me to a series I hadn’t heard of, Mychael Black’s Hearth and Home series, so that was a plus too.  Here in sequence as they appear are mini reviews of each story:

1.  Loose Riggin‘ by Julia Talbot: 3.5 stars

One cowboy on the way up, one cowboy bull rider on the way down.  Baron LeBlanc is a top bullrider at the end of his career.  During one ride he injuries himself badly and an young bull rider, Arlen Deamus, offers to take care of him and become his traveling partner.  I loved this story and thought the characters and the plot were full of promise.  It is the perfect introduction for a longer story.  Julia Talbot draws us in with her wonderful characters, great names and vivid descriptions but just as we are settling in, its over. As a short story, it ends so abruptly that it feels incomplete and the reader feels more than a little frustrated after investing emotionally in the story.  I would love to see this author expand Baron and Arlen romance into a full length book.  I will be first in line to pick it up.

2. Two Buckets and a Snakeskin Suit by Aaron Michaels: Rating 3.5 stars out of 5

While on vacation, Marcus and his sister Shelly attend camel races outside Las Vegas.  Shelly is dying to meet an Australian cowboy and these camel races have more than their share of those.  But when Marcus is hurt after he falls off a camel, he is the one who captures the attention of the only Aussie cowboy there.  This was a cute little romance between a man talked into riding a camel by his sister and the Aussie cowboy who just happens to be a chiropractor who comes to his aid.  Michaels did a nice job with presenting us with a well rounded character in Marcus and Shelly but I would have loved a little more back story on Vic.  But it’s cute, hot, and has a realistic HFN.

3.  Torn by Sean Michael: 5 stars for the heat alone

Pistol, an injured bull rider, returns home to his partner Bender and their ranch after a long  6 month absence on the rodeo circuit and shoulder surgery.  He is unsure of his welcome after receiving an angry  phone call from his  partner following his injury.  Bender’s love for Pistol is both the source of his anger and the one thing that will heal it.  This is my second favorite story in the collection.  Sean Michael gets everything right in this story.  We get all the information we need about these two men and their long term relationship from Michael’s descriptions of their tense posture, their loving gestures and a dialog that  telegraphs a well established intimacy at every level.  Bender is tired of his lover’s injuries and this last one scared him badly.  Pistol loves riding bulls and is frightened that his time as a bullrider is coming to an end.  The situation is tense, hot, loving, angry, gentle, just everything you would expect from two scared people who love each other deeply and are faced with a serious situation.  The ending is perfection, but then so is this short story.  It doesn’t need to be longer, it doesn’t need any additional backstory.  It ends where it should.  Lovely.  Here is a tease. Pistol is returning home after surgery unsure of his welcome:

He opened the door, pushed it open and stood, trying to keep them from the arm still in the sling. “Hey y’all, you happy to see me?”

“You should have called and let me know.” Bender waited for the dogs to have their hello, blue eyes on him like twin laser beams.

“I didn’t want you worrying. Jack needed his guest room back.” He’d been imposing. Not to mention, the man’s mother-in-law had come to help with the last few days of Mary Ellen’s pregnancy, and he’d wanted to come home. Bender told the dogs to “scatter,” and they did.

Before Pistol could say anything Bender was on him, mouth covering his in a kiss that smashed his lips against his teeth and totally stole his breath.

Oh. Oh, thank God. He pushed up into the kiss, damn near sobbing with relief.

4. Cowboy and Indian by Rob Rosen: 2 stars out of 5

Jed sees a poster for a fifty-dollar prize for the longest bronco buck advertised outside a saloon.  He figures his horse Bessy needs a new saddle and aims to get it for her by riding in the rodeo.  Along the way he runs into an Apache warrior, Taza, who wants to help his people.  They make love, not war and end up with a future neither of them ever dreamed of.   There are quite a number of things about this story that I have issues with, but the portrait of Taza, an Apache warrior, is the largest.  Having a Native American character, especially in a historical story, can be a iffy element if not handled just right.  For me, Taza just did not work.  From his pidgin English which reminded me of the “Me, Tonto, you white man” variety to the fact that he drops trow for an unknown white man just after the awful Apache wars have ended….well it’s not just unrealistic but downright ridiculous.  Here is their first interchange:

 “Jed,” I told him, with a polite nod. “White man sounds so, well now, formal.”

With his free hand, he pounded his chest. “Taza,” he informed me. “In your language, means Apache warrior.”

I nodded my head. “Pleasure, Taza.”

And then he nodded, releasing the beast before sending it swinging. “You want to pleasure Taza?”

The only way that piece of dialog would work is in a Mel Brooks comedy.  And it just goes further downhill from there.  This is the one story I would skip over.

5. Heart of Dixie by Mychael Black: Rating 4 stars out of 5

Mack Sexton has been in love with his best friend and handyman Les Spencer for a long time.  Les feels the same but neither man has acknowledged let alone acted on their feelings.  Then one day everything changes.  Heart of Dixie is a snapshot of a relationship that is part of a series called Hearth and Home by Mychael Black.  I am unfamiliar with that series but got enough of a taste of it from this story that I will be scampering back to pick up the rest.  Black develops the characters and setting to the point that it and both men feel real and the reader connects with them from the start.  Mack’s sister, Kate, is a lively character in her own right and the interaction among the three of them comes across as long established and affectionate.  Enjoyable and romantic.  I loved this one.

6. Ready To Ride by Katherine Halle: 4 stars out of 5

Eric is an orthopedic surgeon volunteering his time with the Justin Sports Medicine program. Ben Greene is champion Saddle Bronc rider Eric has come to love.  When Eric’s volunteer time with the rodeo comes to an end, Ben must travel on the circuit alone.  And while neither man has talked about where their relationship is going, both love each other deeply.  When Ben is receives a season-ending injury during a ride, Eric decides that, conversation or not, he is bringing his man home for good.  I loved Halle’s characters and thought she got the character of Ben with his avoidance of “mushy talk” just right.  While most of the story is seen through Eric’s eyes,  Halle shows us that Ben’s actions telegraph his feelings perfectly to his lover and that words are not always necessary.  This story has romance, cowboys and HEA in a nice short package.

7. White Hat/Black Hat by Kiernan Kelly: 4.25 stars out of 5

The time is 1968, the place Hollywood where a new TV western is getting ready to go into production.  Two men, Dallas Frank and Stone Grant, arrive to audition for the two leads, Black Bart and Sheriff Carson Star, the White Hat/Black Hat title characters.  To each man’s surprise and delight, they win the roles and secretly the love of each other.   For the next forty years, they pretend to hate each other in public while continuing a love affair that has lasted as long as their show.  Then their show is cancelled.  What will they do now?  Kelly gives us a terrific look back at old Hollywood and its outlook on homosexuality.  Through small interludes we watch as Dallas (real name Joe Bob) and Stone Grant (real name Arvin Mason) settle into a long term relationship while playing the Hollywood game to protect the series and their reputation. The ending is rewarding, the relationship has a very authentic feel as does the times the men pass through.  My third favorite story of the collection.

8. In the Pocket, a Roughstock story by BA Tortuga: 5 out of 5 stars

Sterling is a new bullfighter and he loves his job.  He also loves working with his hero and fellow bullfighter, Coke Pharris.  But rodeo clown Dillon Walsh is tired of the youngster drooling on his man and figures a little matchmaking is in order.  When stock  contractor Colby Tyburn asks for an introduction to Sterling, Dillon sees an opportunity and takes it, maneuvering Sterling into a date with the stock contractor.  Colby Tyburn has been watching Sterling for some time and loves what he sees….a gorgeous energetic young man, all want and desire.  Sparks fly at the first introduction but neither man expects the white hot sex to turn into something deeper and just perhaps, permanent.  In the Pocket is a Roughstock story. So if the reader is familiar with the series, than you already know all about Coke Pharris and his rodeo clown lover, Dillon Walsh.  They happen to be a favorite couple of mine so it is wonderful to see them make an appearance here.  But the focus of the story is the young (and virginal) bullfighter, Sterling, and the older, more experienced man, Colby Tyburn, a roughstock contractor.

Sterling is a bouncy Tigger of a character.  He is youthful, energetic to the extreme and has a bad case of hero worship when it comes to Coke Pharris.  Unfortunately for Sterling, Coke is taken and Dillon is not happy that Sterling can’t keep his hands off his man.  BA Tortuga paints the perfect portrait of innocent enthusiasm and lustful need all wrapped up in one young man who doesn’t seem to know what to do with it all.  I just loved Sterling, he absolutely made me smile.  Colby Tyburn could have come off as a predator but his appreciation for Sterling and all of his qualities, not just his physical traits, brings him back to a person the reader can relate to.  Their sexual encounter is sexy, white hot, and ultimately very touching.  It is not necessary to have read the other Roughstock stories, but it does help to round out the back history of the other men mentioned, however casually.   There are over 17 stories in the Roughstock series, Coke and Dillon’s story is called Roughstock: And a Smile- Season One. I absolutely recommend them all.  Here is a taste:

Nate (was) screaming his head off to get the bull’s attention. Joa landed, but luckily the Brazilian was ready, and they sort of strong-armed each other.

“Gotcha.”

He flung Joa toward Pharris and put himself between the cowboy and Merry-Go-Round. He heard Coke grunt, but then he and Nate were busy playing a game of slap the bull on the nose, trading off as it went round and round. This was his favorite part, the fun part. They did their little dance, and he pulled his butt in, hearing the whoosh as two thousand pounds went by.

“Woohoo!” He grinned at the gate shut, jogging over to Pharris, who clapped him on the back.

He loved his life.

Loved it.

Cover illustration by BSClay is perfect in tone and design for this collection.

Book Details:

ebook, 195 pages
Published June 5th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN
1610404858 (ISBN13: 9781610404853)
edition language
English

Review of Private Dicks: Undercovers Anthology

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Who doesn’t love a private eye? Private Dicks: Undercovers includes a range of cases from all manner of private investigarors in quite the variety of worlds.  From rock stars to werewolves, from Steampunk to the Old West, the species involved may change, but the game is always the same. The private dicks grab a case, solve the mystery, bring the miscreants to justice and end up saving the victim, who just might be the love of their life.

So here are the stories, including some that entertained and enthralled:

Temper by Siobhan Crosslin—Reese is a lone wolf, always on the outside looking in at what he never has had but always wanted, a pack to belong to.  But as an investigator being on the outside has always worked to his advantage as has his ability to deceive.  Reese’s latest case brings him a world of trouble right from the start.  He is sent to investigate a pack that might be at the center of a series of wolf killings and kidnappings.   This investigation means Reese has to infiltrate the pack itself by becoming a pack enforcer, a role that will bring him close to the pack alpha. But his investigation is in peril from the moment he meets Donovan, the alpha and the rest of the Deepine Pack.  They are everything he has always wanted, and Donovan is the wolf who grabs his affections right from the start.

I loved this story.  Reese is an endearing shifter, a wolf in need of a mate and a pack and no expectations of that ever happening.  It is clear that his  past and perhaps current status has involved abuse but he wants to do the right thing no matter how hard that might be to accomplish.  Crosslin did a wonderful job with her characters and world building.  I found that Reese, Donovan and the rest of the Deepine Pack engaged my feelings almost immediately.  The story left me with more questions than answers about how the society in her universe was structured.  There are dragons, shifters and other supernatural beings, each with their own rules and regulations.  And while it might be too much to ask for more information about the world they all lived in given the length of this story, she made it so fascinating that it begs for an expanded version or a sequel. One of my favorites in the anthology.

The PI and the Rockstar by K-lee Klein— Mason Cason is a detective and a good one.  While not flashy in the least, he has made a good living by being an excellent investigator.  Mason’s latest case is a doozy.  A man and his daughter arrive in his office and want him to find the guy who impregnated his underage gum snapping overally made up daughter, a man who just happens to be rockstar named Jade Jonathan Lee, Mason’s private and business worlds collide.  Both his love life and his reputation are at stake if he doesn’t take the case and solve the mystery.

Mason Cason considers himself to be just an average looking man, a plus when it comes to tailing people for his investigations.  It is a nice touch from Klein to give us an main character who isn’t drop dead gorgeous, although his boyfriend certainly finds him attractive.  Mason is so well rounded a character that his looks become secondary to his intelligence and humor.  There is a wonderful surprise in this story right at the beginning and it sets the tone for the rest of this very enjoyable story. Plus I will always be a sucker for Asian rockers.

Glamour by Holly Rinna-White—When his little brother is kidnapped, Jason hires Eric, PI and long-time crush, to find him, terrified of what will happen if people learn his brother is unregistered psychic. But Jason’s own psychic abilities make him a target too for the same people who have kidnapped his brother.  And Eric’s own secrets threaten the investigation and time is running out for all involved.

I found this story to be one of the least successful of the anthology.  The author has set her characters in a world that needs more clarification as to  its inhabitants, their psychic abilities and the governments laws concerning its regulation of its peoples.  There are aliens, who may not be aliens at all, half humans, and their acceptance within human society that got confusing. It  appears that there is a government psychic registry which was never really explained and that added to the confusion about Jason’s brother.  I never felt connected to either the characters or the turmoil in their lives so I never got into the story.

The Virginia Gentleman by Alison Bailey-The Virginia  Gentleman is a well known bank robber with a number of kills under his belt.  When he plans a robbery, he finds he needs 3 more people for his plan to succeed and he finds them in Wilton, Mr McCoy, and his young ward/man who appears to be in total fear of the man he is traveling with.   But nothing and no one is who they seem to be as one is an investigator on a case he is close to solving.  But first there is a gang to be cobbled together and a train to rob.

This story takes place in Wyoming in the 1800’s and contains some very neat twists, especially at the end.  There is also the subject of child abuse that is dealt with in a subtle and sensitive manner.  Historical fiction is a tough subject to tackle and Alison Bailey does a lovely job with her descriptions and details.

The Royal Inquisitor by Megan Derr-Esmour used to be a very good thief but now holds the title of Inquisitor to the King and lives in a palace.  He got there by means of a lover’s betrayal and penance bracelets he must wear that reveal the truth of the gilded cage he lives in.  When the youngest Prince informs him that they must set off to investigate a slavery operation that is kidnapping women and children within the kingdom, Esmour finds he has to work with the person who betrayed him, the former lover who used his love to put shackles on Esmour’s wrists, that would be the Prince himself.

The Royal Inquisitor is one of my top stories of the anthology.  Megan Derr once more effortlessly creates a fantasy world that never feels less than complete and peoples it with characters we immediately love and understand.  Esmour is typical Derr fantasy character.  He is layered, his past complicated, and his love life comes with it’s own facets of angst and abiding love.  Esmour is paired with Prince Teigh, aka Master Amabel the spice monger who Esmour fell in love with.  Teigh is more than a match for his former thief and has the secrets to prove it.  The story is less about the investigation than about bringing the former lovers back together, something Derr accomplishes to the reader’s total satisfaction.  Just a lovely story.

Regarding the Detective’s Companion by E.E. Ottoman-James is a private investigator with a disability.  A carriage ran him over as a boy and now he must use either his crutches or a special wheelchair to get about. Being a private investigator has brought him a mixed bag of cases including cases of dubious content.  So he is not surprised when he is hired to investigate a murder at the College for Natural and Computative Sciences. The prime suspect is Professor Hollingsworth, a respected scientist whose radical ideas have made him many enemies, including James’ client.  That client wants the Professor implicated in the murder whether he is guilty or not and James reluctantly takes the case because he needs the money.  He is hired by the Professor under the guise of being his research assistant but James is not prepared for what he finds, including the mutual attraction that springs up between them.

Ottoman gives us a richly detailed Steampunk world into which the author places this most complex of private detectives. James has a complicated back history that includes being raised by a priest after his mother gives him up because of his injuries.  James also has a somewhat fluid morality, he does what is necessary to live and if that means lying and tampering with the results of his findings on cases, well, then he will do that too.  He is highly intelligent and comes equipped with a marvel of a steam driven wheelchair.  I liked him immensely for his faults as well as his tenacity.  Professor Hollingsworth unfortunately doesn’t have as many layers as James but still is a wonderful match for him.  The problem here is that the length of the story gives the men, their building relationship and the solution to the murder enough space to accomplish all this story cries out for.  There are so many great elements here but in the end it all feels too rushed  and incomplete to be a satisfying tale.

The Demon Bride by Isabella Carter-Quenton works for his father’s agency and when three dead bodies are left on their doorstep, he decides to investigate the case for himself. But Quinn’s father wants Quinn to stay inside and tells him that there are more things involved here than he can explain to his son. It involves demons, and a curses manor and all things evil.  But the last body was a friend of his and Quinn figures with the help of his father’s assistant, Oz, he can track down the murderer and solve the mystery before more bodies pile up.

This is the only story of the anthology that is m/m/m. It revolves around Quinn, Oz and the mysterious Sebastian who live in a supernatural world of demons, witches, and the Church. Carter gives the reader several mysteries, including the fact that there is more to Quinn himself than even he knows.  The problem is that we don’t get enough of anything here to understand the characters, their relationships and the world they live in.  Especially rushed is the romantic relationship that builds between all three men.  One moment Quinn meets Sebastian and the next they are kissing on the way home.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  This is probably my least favorite story here.

Too Dangerous by Sasha L. Miller—Shi is still bitter over the breakup with his boyfriend who stormed off after an argument and never came back.  Shi was a professional and he knew which cases he could handle and which were too dangerous, something his ex Elis never believed.  Then a top member of the galactic governments comes to him with a special mission.  A top secret black ops group was murdered one by one until just one operative remained.  That man was the captive of the drug lord behind the murders.  His mission?  To go undercover, retrieve the missing operative and return home with him.  Not a job Shi wanted to take then he is given the last piece of information.  This missing man is his ex boyfriend.  Now Shi must accomplish what no other investigator has been able to do but the payoff is one he wants above all else.  Elis safe.

Miller takes the final private investigator of the anthology and lodges him precariously in space in the only science fiction story of the group.  I like the characters of Shi, he has a touch of the hard bitten private eye about him even though its now on a galactic level.  Shi and his ex lover are both men with questionable pasts and even more questionable talents, none of which seems to be communication.  Miller gives us a nifty little mission in space along with the gritty details of being a space grunt and the work they do.  The mission resolves itself a little too quickly and it ends in a realistic happy for now which suits our main characters more than a HEA would.   I liked her space age take on the private detective and  only wished the story had been a little longer to flesh out the mission and their back relationship.

One thing I have always enjoyed about anthologies is that I get to read stories by new authors as well as revisit the worlds created by people who work I value highly.  This has a bit of both here and while not all the stories are of the highest calibre, there is enough here in all types of settings to recommend you pick it up and enjoy the world of the private eye!

-lee K