Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Shadows & Dreams (Kate Kane: Paranormal Investigator #2) by Alexis Hall

From the blurb:

Second rule in this line of business: be careful who you kill.

My name’s Kate Kane. And right now, I don’t know which is more dangerous: my job, or my girlfriend. My job makes me the go-to girl for every supernatural mystery in London. My girlfriend’s an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince. Honestly, I think it’s probably a tie.

A few weeks ago, I was hired for a simple missing person case. Next thing I know, I’m being arrested for murder, a vampire army is tearing up London, and even my dreams are out to get me. Something ancient, evil, and scary as hell is on the loose and looking for payback. The vampires are in chaos, the werewolves are culling everything, and the Witch Queen can’t protect everyone.

Which means it’s down to me. And all I’ve got to hold back the shadows is a stiff drink, a quirky sidekick, my creepy ex-boyfriend, and the woman who left me for a tech startup. It’s going to be another interesting day.


Be prepared to be plunged back into the chaotic world of Kate Kane.  

Hall is in perfect form with this second instalment of Kate Kane: Paranormal Investigator. Just like the first novel, the cast of characters is huge, but don't let that put you off - Hall wants you to understand just how big, magical, and scary his version of London is.

The most perfect thing about this novel (and there are many perfect things) is Hall's wit.  From the prologue I was cackling like a witch on helium. It was so bad (i.e. good), my partner forbade me from reading it in bed. No big deal. I just finished reading it while they were at work. Relationship skills, I has them.

This time I fell even more in love with Kate than I had before. It's hard not to love a heroine whose catch-cry is "Well, fuck." She's self-deprecating, not a morning person and hates bananas. Her noir-esque style of narration combined with a gen y speech characteristics including the clause structure "because noun" (e.g. "because reasons") meant that I felt a strong affinity and connection with Kate and her voice.

In this book I also felt more convinced by her relationship with the vampire prince, Julian. The first novel it was a little unclear what she saw in Julian other than sex-goddess. Not that that's a bad thing.

The digs at Twilight are super obvious and make for some irreverent intertextual goodness.

Hall's second instalment of Kate Kane is uproariously funny. 

Best consumed with something hard... like whiskey. Trust me, Kate would approve.

Title: Shadows & Dreams (Kate Kane: Paranormal Investigator #2)
Author: Alexis Hall
Genre: Paranormal/Romance
Publisher: Ripdtide Publishing
Publishing Date: June 2014
Type: f/f

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Necropolis by Jordan L Hawk

From the blurb:

Introverted scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne has spent the last few months watching his lover, Griffin Flaherty, come to terms with the rejection of his adoptive family. So when an urgent telegram from Christine summons them to Egypt, Whyborne is reluctant to risk the fragile peace they’ve established. Until, that is, a man who seems as much animal as human tries to murder Whyborne in the museum.

Amidst the ancient ruins of the pharaohs, they must join Christine and face betrayal, murder, and a legendary sorceress risen from the dead. In the forge of the desert heat, the trio will either face their fears and stand together—or shatter the bonds between them forever.


The boys are back.  It's no secret that I love the Whyborne and Griffin series and book 4, Necropolis, is no exception.  Hawk has a way of capturing these characters that makes my heart sing.  Her narrative is dripping with humour, fantastical monsters, and gorgeous settings.  She's a story teller of high calibre.

This book takes our hero Whyborne well outside of his comfort zone - travelling all the way to Egypt, having been summoned by his colleague and best friend the archaeologist Christine Putnam.  The arid desert setting, the ancient tombs and artefacts, combined with the love and turbulence of Whyborne and Griffin's steamy relationship makes this an absolutely rollicking read.

I also love that Hawk is not afraid to touch on the fact that Griffin is bisexual. It's a small thing, but having visibly bisexual characters in the queer romance genre is so important.

I listened to this on audiobook and Julian G Simmons is a masterful narrator. He does a fantastic job capturing Whyborne's voice and giving distinct voices to both Christine and Griffin. It makes for a delightful listen. I couldn't stop and ended up listening to it in one day.  Not only is the performance excellent, so is the production.

This novel is perfect for a lazy summer day. Would be excellent reading on a lovely beach somewhere. If you don't have a beach, I'm sure a sunny patio will also work. Best consumed with iced-tea.

More Information:

Title: Necropolis
Author: Jordan L Hawk
Genre: Paranormal/Romance
Publisher: Jordan L Hawk
Publishing Date: May 2014
Type: m/m

Monday, 16 June 2014

A Ghost of a Chance by Josh Lanyon

From the blurb: 

Over a century ago Illusionist David Berkeley committed suicide in his mansion by the sea, thus dooming his restless spirit to wander forever. Or so the local legend goes...

Professor Rhys Davies, a part-time parapsychologist, is writing a book on California hauntings and he believes the crumbling ruins of Berkeley House will make a terrific chapter -- if he can gain access to the house and grounds. The only obstacle is brooding cop and self-appointed caretaker, Sam Devlin. As obstacles go, Devlin is a big one.

But you know what they say. The bigger they are, the harder they fall...

The Review:

A short novel narrated by the witty and self-deprecating Rhys.  Rhys is a parapsychologist but with a healthy dose of scepticism, making him a fun narrator. The opening scene of this book is action packed, awkward, and sets the stage for the struggle between Rhys and Sam Devlin.

Rhys is a bit of a hipster university lecturer - but he is quite feisty and sure of himself.  Sam Devlin stands in his way of getting information for his book on California hauntings.  Devlin is the big, brooding cop, but he's smarter and a better listener than Rhys initially gives him credit for.  

The backstory to this novel was intriguing but not overdrawn.  I particularly liked Rhys' trip to a small local museum. I feel Lanyon captured the feel of small town museums with very specific curiosities.  The sea-side small town setting is picturesque.  Rhys' tone as the narrator is witty, adding a nice contrast to the sombre, old-world style setting - a pastiche of modern and old bound together by an Illusionist's suicide.

The thing I loved most about this novel was the way the romance unfolds.  Rhys and Devlin do not get along at first, and it's only through small realisations on Rhys' behalf do we glimpse the gentle movement toward caring for Devlin.

It's not an original story line, but it's well done.  The romance is skilful and the paranormal elements are always left dangling tantalisingly on the fringes.  It's a great read for a cold afternoon perhaps with a full-bodied red wine.


More Information:

Title: A Ghost of Chance
Author: Josh Lanyon
Genre: Paranormal/Romance
Publisher: Just Joshin
Publishing Date: 2012
Type: m/m

Friday, 13 June 2014

Haunt Me by Megan Dorei

From the blurb:

Elise and Rose never had an easy past—they started out friends, but life and other women quickly got in the way. Then tragedy struck, and Elise's life is lost... until she reappears in Rose's home as a ghost, giving the two women one last chance to fix the wrongs between them in the hopes of being happy together in the next life.


A novella about two friends who are trying to repair a friendship and foster a romance they never had the opportunity to have... and one of them is now a ghost.

This is a sweet novella, navigating the hardships of early adulthood and all the hangups from high school that still linger and cause hurt.

Megan Dorei wonderfully depicts the history of the two women - Elise and Rose.  The long flash backs uncover an uneasy past of painful things said, poor decisions, and heartache.  The flash backs weave into the present narrative well.

I liked how this wasn't your average haunting, but much more relationship based.

A great read for a sleepy Sunday morning with a pot of English Breakfast or Earl Grey tea.

Trigger warning for suicide.

More Information:

Title: Haunt Me
Author: Megan Dorei
Genre: Paranormal/Romance
Length: Novella
Publishing Date:  23 Jan. 2013
Type: f/f

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Silvers by Jill Smith

From the Blurb:  

B, captain of the first crewed mission to the Silver Planet, does not think of the planet’s native race as people. Silvers may look human, but their emotional spectrum is severely limited. B allows his team to capture, study, and even kill the creatures.

When B bonds with a Silver called Imms, everything changes. B’s not sure if Imms’s feelings are genuine or imitation, but B’s growing friendship with Imms becomes his anchor in a strange world. Following a shipboard fire that kills most of B’s team, B takes Imms back to Earth. He sanitizes the story of the fire—for which Imms bears some responsibility—so that Imms is recast as its hero rather than its cause.

Life on Earth threatens the fragile connection between the two men. As Imms seeks independence from a bureaucracy that treats him like a test subject, he begins to experience the gamut of emotions—including a love B is frightened to return. And as B and Imms’s story about the fire threatens to unravel, Imms must use all he’s learned about being human to protect B.

The Review:

The Silvers by Jill Smith is a highly emotive novel, packed with sagacious prose.  The themes of colonisation and assimilation are prominent, making this novel deep, compelling, and intriguing.

An exploratory team is sent to the Silver Planet to investigate whether the water found there would solve Earth's water crisis.  However, when they arrive, they encounter an alien race whom they call Silvers.  The Silvers are humanoid, have a bruised skin hue, and a wandering heart.  Their emotional and physical differences are threatening to some of the crew, who quickly turn to brutality and cruelty - some of it sanctioned for 'Science'.

When the captain, B, finds a Silver, who has been brutalised by one of his crew, he decides to act with empathy and compassion, taking the Silver on board and nursing him back to health away from the other crew.  Although Silvers don't seem to feel much emotion, B soon learns that they are more complicated than the brutish humans first believe.

Imms, a Silver, is intrigued by these newcomers to his land, but soon his entanglements with them earn him castigation from his clan.  He is left with two options: to be alone or to join the humans, especially the one who saved his life, B.

The second part of this book is where the author really shines.  In the haunts of domesticity, Jill Smith successfully interweaves the mundane, the beautiful, and the profound as B and Imms struggle to navigate their relationship and stop more humans from hurting Imms.

Imms' perspective is especially provoking as he tries to become more human, to assimilate.  The pain of non-quite-belonging that Imms feels highlights, I think, the pain of colonised bodies.  Jill Smith provides open allusions this, especially with reference to the story of Pocahontas. 

B is a wonderfully faceted and fallible character.  He is the reluctant hero, and this reluctance sometimes causes him to falter at times when others need him most.  He is quite reflective on his own shortcomings and even when he is not behaving his best, it is still easy to sympathise with him.

There were a few detail discrepancies that I felt could have done with some work.  The premise is that Earth is short on water, but the action that takes place on Earth gives no indication of such a shortage - for example there are and streams, and the humans eat nonhuman animals, who consume a lot of water.  I would expect water shortage to have wide ranging impacts on humans and nonhuman animals, even those living in wealthy countries.  Also, despite the existence of intergalactic space travel, Earth is very much ordinary modern day.  These discrepancies, however, don't affect the story.

The Silvers provides a hesitant happy-for-now ending, which may not be satisfactory for all lovers of m/m romance, but it is an ending that reflects the turbulence and complexity of the characters and their story.

A highly recommended read.

A copy of this novel was given to Speculative Queer Romance in exchange for an honest review.

More Information:

Title: The Silvers
Author: Jill Smith
Genre: Sci-fi/Romance
Length: Novel
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publishing Date:  Feb. 2014
Type: m/m

Monday, 3 March 2014

King of Dublin by Heidi Belleau and Lisa Henry

From the blurb:

Twenty years after a deadly pandemic ravaged the world, Darragh Fearghal Anluan and the people of his village have carved out a hard but simple life in the Irish countryside. But with winter comes sickness, and Darragh must travel to Dublin in search of medicine. What he finds there is a ruined city ruled by a madman, where scavenging is punishable by death . . . or conscription.

Ciaran Daly came to Ireland with aid and optimism, but instead was enslaved by the so-called King of Dublin. After months of abuse from the king and his men, he has no reason to believe this newcomer will be any different. Except Ciaran finds himself increasingly drawn to Darragh, whose brutish looks mask how sweet and gentle he really is.

The tenderness Darragh feels for the king’s treasured pet is treason, but it’s hardly the only betrayal brewing in this rotten kingdom. Rebellions and rival gangs threaten the king’s power, but not nearly as much as Darragh and Ciaran—whose only hope for freedom is the fall of the king.


It's been a long time since a novel emotionally gutted me like King of Dublin.  It's dark, it's bleak, and you are definitely advised to read the associated warnings on the publisher's site.

The novel opens with survivor of the pandemic, Darragh, who has until this point struggled to carve out existence in his small home village with a few other survivors somewhere in the south of Ireland near Cork.  But he's left his village on a mission to Dublin.  The villagers need medicine to prevent a deadly illness which kills some of them each winter.  However, upon entering Dublin, he falls into a hell from which he may never return.

The other hero of this novel is Ciaran Daly.  He's been trapped inside the hell that is Dublin for about a year before Darragh arrives.  He is also living his own personal hell being abused by the king and his men.  Ciaran's situation, his previous optimism, and his down right stubbornness to survive are all painfully drawn and gut wrenching.

The setting is superb and it feels so real.

King of Dublin moved me intensely.  Heidi Belleau and Lisa Henry do such an amazing job of painting Darragh and Ciaran as complex people, who are fundamentally trying to survive and trying to be good - two things which often come into conflict.  It was emotionally intense to watch these two souls navigate such a dreadful situation.

The finale, however, was worth it.  All of Darragh and Ciaran's mistakes, all the ways in which they've hurt and loved each other.  Without giving it away, you simply must read it.

This has easily been one of the stand out new releases of this year, for me.  King of Dublin is stunning and haunting.

Please do read the trigger warnings on the website before plunging in.

More Information:

Title: King of Dublin
Author: Heidi Belleau and Lisa Henry
Genre: Post-apocalyptic/Romance
Length: Novel
Publishing Date:  24 Feb. 2014
Type: m/m

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Demon Abraxas by Rachel Calish

From the blurb:
San Francisco after dark can be full of unusual sights, but the last thing Ana Khoury expects to stumble across is black-garbed figures carrying a body. Her call to 911 is interrupted by a blow to the head, plunging her into nothingness.

Sabel Young has long been attracted to the impetuous and alluring Ana, but her obedience to an ancient order of witches leaves her with few options for romance. When she realizes that Ana has been taken—and by whom—her very private life and Ana’s normal world collide.

Her orders are clear: Do not get involved with demons. But she can’t leave a woman with no magic in the hands of dark powers that will exploit her body and destroy her soul—especially Ana. With daring and luck she pulls Ana to safety.

At first it appears they have escaped dark magic unscathed. At first…


Set in modern day San Francisco, The Demon Abraxas tells a tale of demons, demon worshipers, witches, and the woman who gets caught in between it all - Ana Khoury.

I enjoyed the romance between Ana and witch Sabel Young.  They'd been flirting before everything changed, before there was a murder and before Ana got caught up in the demon's plot.  I love that Ana is not helpless nor is clinging onto Sabel for help.  She is fiercely independent and fiery, which makes her a great heroine for this book.

There's lots of juicy sexual tension between the two heroines.  They're also both very independent and strong willed, ensuring that many of the blocks that stand between them getting together are of their own making.

My favourite character was probably Lily, who is half human half demon and bisexual.  Her story was probably the one that drew me the most.  I loved the chapters told from her perspective.  I would have love to know more about her history, her life, and her work.

The demon Abraxas was also an excellent character in his own right.  A difficult thing to depict so well as he rarely is anything close to physical.  However, Rachel Calish brings him to life.

Lesbians? Check.  Bisexual? Check. Demons?  Check. Witches? Check.

A great f/f paranormal/fantasy romance.

More Information:

Title: The Demon Abraxas
Author: Rachel Calish
Genre: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy/Romance
Length: Novel
Publisher: Bella Books
Publishing Date:  Oct. 2013
Type: f/f

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Body Magic by Poppy Dennison

From the blurb:

Sequel to Mind Magic
Triad: Book Two

A pack is only as strong as its weakest member. Rocky Harris knows how the system works. He’s been on the bottom rung his whole life. But when his alpha consigns him to the High Moon Pack to help them improve security, he finds his beliefs not just challenged but outright assaulted.

Cade Montgomery’s confidence took a hit when the pack’s cubs were kidnapped on his watch. He’s prepared to do anything to protect his family, even if it means working with Rocky. Maybe Cade doesn’t trust Rocky, but with the turmoil surrounding pack Alpha Gray’s unpopular decision to break tradition and mate with a mage named Simon, Cade knows more threats are coming.

Then someone declares war on shifters and puts the entire pack in danger. Cade and Rocky will need each other’s strengths to survive the impending battle—and the power of their growing attraction.


(Read our review of the first book, Mind Magic, here)

Body Magic is the second book in Poppy Dennison's Triad trilogy.  The story follows two couples.  Cade and Rocky are introduced at the new romance for this novel, but a lot of time is also spent focusing on the established couple, Gray and Simon.

Cade is from the High Moon Pack, the pack that we grew to know and love from the first novel, Mind Magic.  Rocky, whom we also know from the first novel, has been brought in as a security expert from an outside pack.  Rocky is not ostensibly a likeable character, and I must admit, when the first chapter focused on him, I was a little uneasy.  

However, seeing things from Rocky's perspective really helped me to have more sympathy for him.

This novel is set right after the first.  Unlike the first novel, Body Magic is less about action and mystery and more about exploring relationships.  Despite the blurb of the book, which makes it sound like the novel is all about Cade and Rocky's romance, the story still hinges upon Simon and Gray and most of the narrative follows them in the lead up to their mating ceremony and Simon's important 25th birthday.  It did feel like it took a while to build up to the action, but I really enjoyed just spending time with the High Moon Pack and Simon, whom I adore.

The stand out character in this novel was actually Cade.  Cade is a biracial black man.  It's great to see in this genre, which is more often than not totally white.  Cade's inner musings on being different and dealing with difference were a very nice addition.  We see a depth to Cade that we didn't in the first novel.  Character wise, Dennison does a fab job with Cade.  School was never his strong point, so he doesn't consider himself smart like college-educated Gray and Liam, however, Cade never comes across as being unintelligent in a hammy sort of way.  His empathy and his loyalty to Gray and the High Moon Pack make him really loveable.

I would have like to have spent more time with Cade and Rocky.  Their romance felt a little thin, comprised mostly of physical attraction and some other inexplicable pull.  Both characters can be quite guarded and suspicious, but I would have like to see them talk more and add a bit more substance to their romantic feelings for one another.

The family scenes with Simon, Gray, Garon, and the new addition, orphan mountain-lion shifter cub Riley are undeniably adorable.  I love them and their family so much.

Body Magic is a solid and sweet second book in the Triad trilogy.  

Visit Poppy Dennison's website

More Information:

Title: Body Magic
Author: Poppy Dennison
Genre: Fantasy/Urban Fantasy/Romance
Length: Novel
Publisher: Dreamspinners Press
Publishing Date: 10 Sept. 2012
Type: m/m

Friday, 21 February 2014

A Case of Possession by KJ Charles

From the blurb:

Magic in the blood. Danger in the streets.

A Charm of Magpies, Book 2

Lord Crane has never had a lover quite as elusive as Stephen Day. True, Stephen’s job as justiciar requires secrecy, but the magician’s disappearing act bothers Crane more than it should. When a blackmailer threatens to expose their illicit relationship, Crane knows a smart man would hop the first ship bound for China. But something unexpectedly stops him. His heart.

Stephen has problems of his own. As he investigates a plague of giant rats sweeping London, his sudden increase in power, boosted by his blood-and-sex bond with Crane, is rousing suspicion that he’s turned warlock. With all eyes watching him, the threat of exposure grows. Stephen could lose his friends, his job and his liberty over his relationship with Crane. He’s not sure if he can take that risk much longer. And Crane isn’t sure if he can ask him to.

The rats are closing in, and something has to give…


The second installment in A Charm of Magpies is an extraordinarily fun romp.  I think this is even better than the first book, The Magpie Lord, and that's a tall order!

This novel follows Lord Crane, a domineering earl, and his lover, magician Stephen Day, as they seek to uncover a very curious plague of giant rats in London.  This mystery provides a fun backdrop to the main story arc - Crane and Stephen.

In The Magpie Lord we got to see their attraction to each other blossoming, but in this second book, we get to see their relationship unfolding.  Both men are incredibly strong in their own ways and fiercely independent.  There is a huge question mark over whether these two can actually get together for more than just mind blowing sex. 

The female characters in this novel really help to make it a winner for me.  Leonora Hart, a friend of Crane's, especially.  I love her sense of humour and her brashness.  I also enjoyed finding out more about Stephen's work partner, Esther Gold.  These two characters are what makes this novel, for me, superior to the first.  What can I say? I'm a sucker for awesome women!

KJ Charles' research also needs commendation.  Victorian London is not portrayed as being entirely comprised of white people!  There's a strong focus in this novel on Chinese migration, which really adds a nice depth to the book.  

KJ Charles' style is witty and fun.  The sex scenes are ridiculously steamy.

A Case of Possession is superb.

More Information:

Title: A Case of Possession
Author: KJ Charles
Genre: Paranormal/Historical/Romance
Length: Novel 
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publishing Date: 28 Jan. 2014
Type: m/m

Friday, 14 February 2014

A Reason to Believe by Diana Copland

From the blurb:

Detective Matthew Bennett doesn't believe in ghosts. So when the spirit of a murdered child leads him to her body, he's shaken to the core--and taken off the case. Unable to explain his vision, or to let go of the investigation, Matthew turns to renowned medium Kiernan Fitzpatrick. Though he has doubts about Kiernan's claims to communicate with the dead, Matt is nevertheless drawn to the handsome psychic, who awakens feelings he thought were long-buried.

Haunted by the lingering spirit of the little girl, Kiernan is compelled to aid in the search for her killer. The chance to get closer to the enigmatic Matt is an unexpected bonus. Although Kiernan's been betrayed by people who turned out to be more interested in his fame than in himself, with Matt he's willing to risk his heart. As the two men grow closer, Kiernan helps Matt rediscover that life offers no guarantees--but love offers a reason to believe...


From the opening chapters, I was hooked.  I downloaded the audiobook for just before going to bed.  The scenes with the ghost of the little girl were absolutely chilling.  You've been warned.

Matt Bennett considers himself a rational man who doesn't believe in ghosts.  So when a chilling vision of the dead child leads him to find her body, he is thrown for a loop.  He admits to his less than welcoming superior what he saw.  His superior is a homophobic arsehat and uses what Matt saw as an excuse to put Matt on leave.  

Matt's sister in law and best friend Sheila takes him to see a psychic medium - Kiernan Fitzpatrick.  Matt is highly dubious about the whole thing.  However, it soon becomes clear that Kiernan Fitzpatrick is far from a hack, he does actually speak to and see the dead.

Kiernan is not what you would expect a psychic medium to be.  He is impish, childish, and funny.  In fact, he is so decidedly not the stereotype that it catches Matt entirely off guard.  The novel tracks their attempts to uncover who murdered the little girl.  Along the way, they explore what's going on between them.

I felt Matt's character could have been a little more interesting.  But Kiernan definitely balances out some of Matt's bland, stoic nature.

The romance didn't feel forced, it was paced really well despite the novel only taking place over a short time - about a week.

The female characters are also fab.  At first I didn't think I would like Sheila, but she soon grew on me and I ended up liking her very much.  Kiernan's sister Aiden is also really cool.

I read a lot of romance books that are predominately white, but this one felt especially so.  A bit more diversity in the characters would have been welcome.

Overall, A Reason to Believe is a great paranormal mystery with a solid m/m romance.  

More Information:

Title: A Reason to Believe
Author: Diana Copland
Genre: Paranormal/Romance
Length: Novel (80k)
Publisher: Carina Press
Publishing Date: 22 Oct. 2012
Type: m/m