Review: Duplicity (Triple Threat #5) by Laura Harner

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Rating; 5 stars out of 5

Duplicity coverOn the surface, everything and everyone seems happy and settled in the home of Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah.  They have discarded Jeremiah’s contract and now have a loving threesome partnership. But only on the surface and when young, distraught Clarenda Harris enters their office to ask for their help, she triggers a set of events and emotions that none of them saw coming, not even Archer.

Clarenda Harris is the mother of twin baby boys and the father of her sons, wealthly Dwayne Cashman, is missing, presumed dead in a plane crash.  Dwayne Cashman, also a twin,and his brother were inseparable and now that brother is set to inherit all Dwayne’s money and estate, leaving nothing for Clarenda and her sons.  But Clarenda is certain something is fishy.  She thinks Dwayne is alive and wants Zachary, Archer and Jeremiah to prove it.  Usually, Zachary would turn to Wick Templeton for research and help but Wick has disappeared, leaving all Zachary’s phone calls unanswered.

Zachary is left to deal with his feelings of betrayal over Wick, Jeremiah is hiding his grief over the loss of a friend and Archer is trying to balance the needs of his men with his own feelings to master.  Duplicity is in the air and the tension is rising.  Everything is feeling unsettled.  Can Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah discover the truth behind Dwayne Cashman’s disappearance before the will is read and the estate settled?  Or will all the hidden feelings and complications cause a breakdown in communications and relations that will threaten their happiness and that of others close to them?

Duplicity is a perfect title for a story full of hidden agendas, false identities, and layers of deceit that cover the actions and events connected to Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah and their band of brothers.  It all starts with a case involving twins and more twins that causes reverberations through the closely bonded group of friends that includes Archer, Zachary, Wick, Marcus, Chance and their significant others, especially when  another set of twins turns up dead with connections to the missing Wick.   There are dangers and conflict doubled at every turn and Laura Harner does an excellent job of leading the reader through the maze of troubled relationships and past histories that have come back to upset all involved.

At the heart of the series is the loving menage of Archer, Zachary, and Jeremiah.  They are settling beautifully into a happy threesome and the sex scenes in this story are white hot and kinky.  There are elements of D/s and bdsm here but the manner in which Harner uses them to enhance and better understand her men and their needs makes not only for some very intense, loving sex but also makes their relationship understandable and accessible. This applies even to those readers who don’t normally read books with this content.

Harner also discloses aspects of the mens past, especially where it involves Wick Templeton, that starts to shed light on the origins of this band of brothers.  This provides us with a better understanding of the depth of Archer and Zachary’s feelings towards Wick.  It also gives Jeremiah a chance to step forward with his issues with Zachary’s dependance upon Wick and its intrusion into their relationship.  So many emotions in flux, including Jeremiah’s grief over the heinous torture and death of his friend, Nick.

Harner has created a story with all the right elements in play to create an atmosphere of suspense, mystery, angst that combined with the incendiary sexual and loving partnership of Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah makes Duplicity a must read for lovers of all genres.   Triple Threat is a dynamic, engrossing series, one of four interconnected series, that you should put on your lists of books needed for 2013 and every year after.

As with the others, if you are new to this series, go back and start with the first story, Triple Threat#1.  I have listed them all in the order they were written and should be read to understand the men, their relationships and the events as they occur.  Run, don’t walk, to grab them all up.

This is how it all starts:

“Nice to meet you, Clarenda. I’m Zack. If you’ll follow me, Archer and Jeremiah are waiting in the study.” As had become our custom, I greeted our newest prospective client at the door and used the opportunity to size up any potential threat. Although it was possible for a weapon to be hidden almost anywhere, it seemed unlikely that this harried-looking woman was armed with anything more dangerous than the sticky-looking Tickle Me Elmo that stuck out from the top of the oversized canvas bag slung over her shoulder. Standing not much more than five feet even, her long dirty-blonde hair pulled into a messy tail and dressed in khaki capris and a blue and white striped tee shirt, the woman could pass for a college student. Until you looked at her face. Dark circles under her eyes and hard lines etched into her cheeks added ten years to her looks.

Entering the study, I made the introductions and, after handshakes all around, led her to a wingback chair that faced the delicate looking couch Archer favored when we had a client. As usual, Archer got right to the point. “You understand how our business works, Miss Harris? You must have lost something of significant monetary value, and if we are successful, our fee is half of what we recover. Do you think what you’ve lost merits a fifty percent commission?”

“Is sixteen million dollars worth your time, Mr. Wilde? Because if I’m right, that’s what I estimate my former employer’s estate is set to pay to his twin brother in fourteen days.”

Triple Threat Series in order:

Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2)
Defiance (Triple Threat, #3)
Crucify (Triple Threat, #4)
Duplicity (Triple Threat #5)

Cover art by Laura Harner is perfect for the story and the series.

Buy links:  All Romance EBook, Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 118 pages
Published September 27th 2013 by Hot Corner Press
ISBN13 9781937252601
edition language English
series Triple Threat

Review of Poison (Lost Gods #4) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 4.75 stars

“Nine gods ruled the world until the ultimate betrayal resulted in their destruction. Now, the world is dying and only by restoring the Lost Gods can it be saved.”

It has been two years since Ailill, the White Panther of Verde returned home from Pozhar with the jewels needed for the ceremony of The Tragedy of the Oak.  He had been poisoned on his mission there and it had taken all the skill of Gael, the mortal avatar of the Unicorn, to heal him.  Verde has been ruled by the mortal avatars of their Lost Gods, the Unicorn, the Pegasus, and The Fairy Queen killed 900 years ago at the base of the Sacred Oak.  Every 100 years, the moment comes to right the wrong but is lost and the Tragedy repeats itself. Now all of Verde waits as the time for The Tragedy of Oak grows near once more. All of Verde hope that finally, after 900 years, the ceremony will finally be completed and their human incarnations of The Unicorn, The Pegasus, and The Fairy Queen become gods again.  But someone doesn’t want that to happen and the White Beasts of Verde are being poisoned, the people of Verde are becoming crazed as their White Beasts fall, and even their three God incarnations themselves are threatened.

Gael asks Ailill to investigate the poisonings and stop the person responsible before it is too late and the Tragedy starts all over again. As the people start viciously fighting each other, Vanya arrives from Pozhar.  Once a mercenary, now a noble, he has never forgotten Ailill and has come to see if their feelings for each other are the same after a two year absence.  Ailill too has been missing his mercenary and hates the lifestyle that comes with being a White Beast of Verde.   Ailill and Vanya’s  investigation leads to old secrets kept from the White Beasts by the reincarnations themselves.  Old lies and treachery must be revealed if they are to stop The Tragedy of the Oaks from happening again.

Poison is the fourth and penultimate book in the Lost Gods series that began with Treasure.  As this incredible journey through all manner of Kingdoms and their Gods draws to a close, more of Megan Derr’s complex saga comes together as another large piece of the final puzzle is put in place.  Like one of those fabulous wooden puzzle boxes, each book puts more elements in place to solve the complete puzzle using elements and characters from each of the previous stories.

In Poison, one of my favorite characters, Ailill the White Beast of Verde becomes a central piece of the puzzle to the Tragedy of the Oak and the key necessary to open the door on the mystery of the deaths of Verde’s Gods. Previously a deliciously slutty being when we first meet him in Treasure, Ailill has evolved through all the stories, his character deepening, his gravitas, the seriousness of his mission, becoming evident even through the frivolous manner he exhibits. In Burning Bright, Iilill meets Vanya, the wolf of Pohzar, who along with his gang of mercenaries, helps Ailill recover Verde’s royal jewels.  In a short amount of time, both men strike up an affair of lust that quickly becomes something more than either ever expected to have, an affair of the heart.   Towards the end of the story, Ailill is struck down by a sorcerer of Schatten, poisoned by dark magic.  Helpless to heal him, Vanya must watch as Ailill sails for Verde and the hope for a cure from The Unicorn, Pegasus, and The Fairy Queen. Now events bring the two men back together again as the Lost Gods are returning.  This time it is the Kingdom of Verde’s Lost Gods time to be reborn and again a war is fought between Order and Chaos.  Vanya, a character I came to care about as much as Iilill, too has grown and developed since we last saw him.  All the skills he has acquired as the head of a band of mercenaries are now being employed as a Duke of the Kingdom of Pozhar to his and ours amusement.  I had hoped to see these two reunited and Derr does not disappoint here with the reclamation of their romance, their feelings for each other burning as brightly as before.  Whether Derr meant to or not, these two become the heart of the story for me and their love affair more important to me than the Gods restoration. I suspect that is part of the quibble I had with this book.

Many more characters become front and center here.  One is Noir, the Royal Voice of the Gods.  A young black panther whose deep love for Gael, the Unicorn is doomed to failure if Gael continues to keep their love secret, hidden from all at Court even from the other avatars.  Noir is endearing in his innocence and youth, a perfect foil for Gael, the mortal reincarnation of The Unicorn. Gael and his sisters, The Fairy Queen and Pegasus, rule Verde from an incestuous relationship that is taking its tole on its members.  We also meet all the other White Beasts that comprise the Court of Verde and are quickly swamped with character sketches and lightly layered beings.  After a while it was hard to keep track of cast.  Gael is perhaps the most fully realized of all of them which is not surprising as his relationship with Noir is on the same level of importance as Ailill and Vanya’s. As Noir watches the interaction and  outright displays of affection between Ailill and Vanya, the inequality of his own relationship with Gael is emphasized and Noir’s insecurities deepen.  Megan Derr does a great job with making all these relationships and their flaws seem realistic to the reader as the characters juggle their expectations with the reality of their situations as the City falls into flames as the White Beasts are poisoned.

I always keep in mind as I read each related story of the Lost Gods saga that even the smallest detail is of significance in the construction of the whole picture.  So I was dismayed that I realized who was behind the poisonings almost from the start.  It was the only person who made sense, as Vanya discovers later on in their investigation.  I also came to the right conclusion as to the methods used to conceal their identity from all the others.  That was unlike any of the other puzzles presented in the other books so I was a little stymied that I figured it out so soon.  The only thing I can come up with is that timing is everything and that it all had to happen exactly during the ceremony of The Tragedy of the Oak and Derr had planned on that character reveal early on to ramp up the anxiety and anticipation of the race to the end.  And perhaps the final piece will fall into place during Chaos, the last in the series.  It is not like her to give away plot points so easily unless she means to do it.  So color me a little confused here.  That’s my main quibble.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still an incredible book. The richness of her descriptions, the vivid portraits of the inner sanctum and gardens, the sheer grand scale of mythology building that is the Lost Gods is astounding. Was I happy and totally satisfied at the end?  Absolutely, just with some quibbles this time.  Again, the themes of sacrifice, reincarnation and forgiveness are played out but not exactly as they were before. Not all are forgiven, not all are sacrificed as the Gods return to Verde.  I suspect Derr is completing her stage upon which all the characters from all the books, along with new ones will converge in the final battle between Order and Chaos.   I cannot wait for it to start and the saga come to its convoluted end.  The Lost Gods saga is a real Treasure as I suspected from the start! Bring on the Chaos!

Cover:  Another perfect cover from London Burdon to go along with the rest of the Lost Gods saga.