I love cheap and tasty wine, reading stories about men falling in love and making good food…Here is where I mix all three.
The level of awesomeness that is this series, really, truly, I can’t put into words. A Case of Possession, the second installment in the A Charm of Magpies Series by KJ Charles is just as good as the first, and THAT is one hard act to follow. In this story we go back to 19th century London, and immediately set off in another fast paced adventure with Lucien Crane, Stephen Day and Merrick, Lord’s Crane exceedingly efficient henchman, and sidekick extraordinaire. This trio did not give me a second of down time during the story. But we didn’t just get action and adventure, with just a bit of smexing to whet our appetite…No, Oh no…Because Lord Crane he is a MAN with a plan, and all of it involves Stephen Day being his. ALL his…SO! There was quite a bit of romance in this story and I gulped it down like it was All You Can Drink Day at the pub, and I was first in line at the bar…It was DEElicious.
Before I get into things…The wine. This post will be food-less since the rats in book, (as KJ warned me they would!) suppressed my appetite a bit. So, just wine on this one, but I promise I have a WINNER for you. As I’ve mentioned, I can’t get enough of Lucien and Stephen, if I had it my way, I’d get a book a week. Alas, KJ Charles does not live to write me books, which means anticipation was HIGH for this one. I had to pair it with something extra special, one of my most favorite reds. I selected the 2011 Barista Pinotage from South African wine maker Bertus Fourie. This wine. THIS WINE. It’s a HUGE splurge for me, it’s close to $16.00 a bottle, about $7-$8 above what I normally spend. Which makes it PERFECT for this story, because anything I read with Lucien and Stephen is exactly that, an absolute treat. The strong coffee tones, and hints of cherry in this wine make it decadent and unique. The coffee angle is also very much apropos, since the story is linked in a way to the land of Sumatra, a close neighbor of the island of Java, which is known by most of the world as one of the finest producers of highland coffee…Ok enough with the wine, back to the story.
We catch up with Lord Crane and Stephen about four months after they barely escaped with their lives in the English countryside. Lucien and Crane have continued their affair, and things have gotten very deep for Lucien. He is far gone on Stephen. The little witch mystifies him, and frankly he can’t get enough of the man. Stephen though, he’s elusive, he comes and goes without notice and it’s KILLING Lucien…I mean they are both free men, there has been no talk of commitment, and given that the danger of being caught engaging in ‘unnatural acts’ could cost Stephen dearly, Lucien does not want to push…But god, HE WANTS TO.
Stephen is stubborn and prideful, he has learned the hard way too many times that he can only rely on himself. So, he is independent, he asks for nothing. They enjoy each other very much, but Stephen keeps his distance. It’s frustrating because in their time alone they are like two halves of a whole. They come together so exquisitely, and Lucien KNOWS they can be so much more. If only Stephen gave in a little, let Lucien in his life just a bit.
Lucien’s time to prove himself to Stephen comes as a result of a strange and terrifying pest wreaking havoc in Limehouse (the Chinese slums). Rats. BIG, enormous rats, the stuff of nightmares are showing up and doing harm…Some occult forces are obviously at play. Stephen and his team are on the case, and when their usual Mandarin translator is no longer available (he has apparently taken extortion and blackmail as his new enterprise) Stephen asks for Lucien’s and Merrick’s assistance. Things go south fast, but they are in it together, and Lucien WILL NOT let Stephen or his colleagues down.
This story has many twists and turns, there a two overarching stories that meet right in the middle of the rat mess, and both Lucien and Stephen are right at the center of it. The mystery and the horror that were so well done in The Magpie Lord are just as thrilling this time. In addition we got some fabulous lore from the island of Sumatra, making for an even more intriguing and complex adventure. Lucien and Merrick had to call upon on their experiences and contacts from the Far East to come to Stephen’s aid, which made for some excellent storytelling. I love that we see another side of 19th century London and not just, The Ton, that is revisited again and again in period novels. I loved the time in the Trader’s club that Lucien frequents, his old stories from the years in China, as well as the tales from all the former China ex-pats that Lucien socializes with.
We also got to meet Stephen’s other associates in the practitioner’s league, and I REALLY hope we get more of them. They are like some sort 19th century Britain version of the Fantastic Four…Stephen, the young but undeniably superior sorcerer. Esther the older and resolute partner. Ms. Saint with her disguises and fast moves, and finally Janossi, the junior magician who makes up for his inexperience with a lot of courage. This group was outstanding and gave me some of the most exciting moments of the book.
There is horror and there is fine mystery here to be sure, but the romance was powerful here as well, and there was NO holding back with the erotica either. I LOVE Lucien’s character, there are so many dichotomies to him, it’s almost like he thrives in the grays. Black or White are just not part of his landscape, and that makes him SO WILLING to be a better man for people he finds worthy. So even though he is a LOT jaded and cynical, with Stephen he is tender. Stephen does not want the tenderness mind you, or the care taking, but Lucien wants to give him softness and hotness and happy. His little witch’s life has too many sharp edges already. I LOVE them together, and look forward to much from this fabulous world Ms. Charles has created.
Absolutely recommend, and if you have time take a moment to read Interlude With Tattoos (a short which is free on Smashwords) before reading this one, it will give you valuable insight.
This book is for sure one of the most outrageously entertaining reading experiences I’ve had in this genre, and for sure one of the best books of this year for me. Oh baby this was delicious! Fish and Ghosts the first installment of the new paranormal Hellsinger Series (THANK GOD THERE ARE MORE!!) by Rhys Ford is creative, funny, rich with wonderful action, and just an overall seriously entertaining read from beginning to end. Think The Sixth Sense and Ghostbusters have a gay baby, which is a book.
To me the key thing about this book was that it felt UNLEASHED. I feel like Rhys went where she wanted to go on instinct, and what she wrote was whatever the hell she wanted. Something different, colorful, humorous, with a touch of darkness, a strong, yet tasteful dose of weird that all came together as a fantabulous read. Trystan Pryce and Wolf Kincaid LIT UP MY LIFE…For real.
Trystan Pryce…He talks to dead people. Or at least that’s what he’s been telling his family for years. He is the guardian of his family’s ancestral home, and after his uncle Mortimer died and left his as sole heir of the home. He assures his relatives that he MUST stay at Hoxne Grange and serve as a portal to the souls that move on through the house…I mean SURE, maybe it sounds a little weird to other people that he is basically running a B&B for dead people, but it is, what it is…Not so much though…His other uncle is pissed he got yipped out of the family’s home and he’s sending in the big guns to finally prove that Trystan is one big box of fruit loops. In comes Wolf Kincaid *swoons*…Wolf goes into homes with “other worldly” activities and pretty much debunks myths…There are lot of people taking others for rides, and his job is to find these con men out. He’s good at it too. He’s got his team and his equipment and if there is anything that is not on the up and up, he’ll find it. He is more than a little curious to see what the heir of Hoxne Grange is up too, and cannot wait to make the guy come clean.
Only thing is, Trystan is delicious. All Wolf wants to do is tackle them man and make him sweat and pant for hours…Also he doesn’t really seem crazy or at least he REALLY believes the whole “Ghost B&B” deal is for real. Pretty soon things start getting strange. Wolf isn’t sure about much anymore, and the thing with Trystan is getting serious…When his crew members make a dumb move and hell starts breaking loose, Wolf has to face the fact that he might have been wrong about Trystan and Hoxne Grange. Then the worst possible thing happens…He has to call his mom for help.
Ok here’s the deal. This right here, this book, it’s Prime Time reading. The characters are fabulous, story solid. From Wolf’s cynical sexy beastness, to Trystan’s prickly hermit thing. Their romance made for a great slow burn, they were explosive together.The erotica was first rate. I had a lot of fun watching these guys make their way to each other. I enjoyed the secondary characters as well. Rhys built a wonderful cast, who brought a whole hell of a lot to the story. Wolf’s mom was phenomenal. Wolf’s crew gave us the sinister part of the strory. And that’s only the characters that were alive! The paranormal angle was OUTSTANDING. The entire thing was highly entertaining, Rhys took me somewhere unexpected and a bit scary, but I have to say I was right there with her the whole time. The action scenes were fun, fast and VERY VERY well rendered. It is easy to confuse when so much is getting built in one’s head from scene to scene, but the writing held here, and I was able to just enjoy the ride. The horror, the mystery, the lore, they were all fantastic. Being the first in a series, this book gave me enough to want the story to continue, but I did not feel like I was being set up. No delayed gratification here, just good reading.
I can’t say enough good things about this book, I LOVED it. Rhys is already a well established writer in this genre, with good reason, she rocked the house with this one.
An absolutely fabulous book, recommend it effusively.
I had three thoughts when I finished this book:
1. I LOVED this book too much, and damn I'm a glutton for angst, because I'm actually giddy.
2. Amy Lane may not be for everyone, but her books ROCK MY WORLD
3. I wonder when the next one is coming out?
Now the story...
The Broken Boy...Self-Destructive Fuckery, thy name is Chase "Chance" Summers
Chase Summers is a young man who has been tampering with the reality of what and who he is his whole life. A horrible childhood, a mother who took her own life, an abusive, bigot father who probably drove her to it. Not nice things to remember. So, he stores the bad stuff in a place in his mind, where he can keep it from touching anyone else in his life. It's killing him sure, every day he's closer to just coming apart. But he sticks to his plan. He has it all worked out, and he has a lot of duct tape.
Chase has a "life" , beautiful fiancee he loves, best friends who are loyal, he's a good athlete, makes a lot of money, and he's in school to be an engineer. From the outside it all looks shiny and perfect. Well, it's all built on lies. Doesn't matter though, he has plan for the future all worked out in his head. All with the appropriate figures, girl, boy, babies...It's all a charade. He is not happy. He is not straight.
What he actually is, is a man in the closet, working as a gay porn actor, lying to his fiancee, his friends, being incredibly unfair to his lover. HE IS MISERABLE. We meet Chase at his lowest, when the stitching of all the webs he has woven have begun to come apart. He has come undone.
The Warrior...Tommy "MOTHERFUCKING PERFECTION" Halloran
Tommy "Tango" Halloran, is an actor for Johnnies the same porn studio that Chase works for. From the first moment Chase sees Tommy, he wants him, to know him, talk to him, touch him. He just WANTS. They meet, and they fall in love. In the midst of the clusterfuck that is Chase's life, Tommy and Chase fall in love, and make a home. Chase is selfish with Tommy, demands from him things that he can't give in return. But Tommy gives them anyways, because he may not be broken, but he has cracks, and the only thing that has ever felt like it can fix them is Chase.
And they hurt each other, but they fix each other too, and those really fucking great moments they have of outrageous love, are just amazing. They manage to build something strong, even while Chase is living what sometimes seems like a dozen lives. Tommy doesn't give up on Chase, he knows what Chase needs to do, he has to let the walls down, and that poison that is inside him needs to come out. Tommy doesn't stop pushing and fighting. He knows, HE KNOWS that Chase can be the man he wants to be, he can have that future he has planned, he just needs to adjust it a little.
The Cavalry...Who said the good guys can't be porn stars?
In true Amy Lane fashion there were plenty more characters to fall in love with in this book than I could manage. In this story she gave us a look in to the porn industry that was very benevolent. Healthy work environment, with good guys that were good friends. There was drama of course, but their role was to be Tommy and Chase's support system. It worked well, I think adding more to the crazy stew that was Chase would have been too much. I loved these guys. Dex the responsible one, the leader, Kane the crazy hyper bunny, Ethan the guy that just wants to be loved, John the porn mogul that was a really great guy. They were awesome and added a whole hell of a lot to this story. They are all a bit frayed, but they were also good people.
There were also Chase's childhood friends Donnie and Kevin who were strong and THERE. The therapist, and even the fiancee Mercy ,who was a strange character for me, but ended up being someone really important.
I know this book may not work for everyone. Chase is difficult to figure out. I just didn't understand what he was doing. He was a living contradiction. He didn't even know what he was hiding from. He just wanted to be loved, and he WAS, just not by the right person. It's hard to like a guy who is blatantly duplicitous and hypocritical.
But Chase is so broken, and so exposed it's hard not to care for him. I just wanted him to get better. He couldn't do it on his own though. Tommy, he had to help him. It'll be hard for some readers to stomach the way Tommy just let Chase get away with EVERYTHING. He hurts him bad. But hey, who the fuck am I to judge how a guy that lived with what Chase had to live with dealt with his shit? Chase's story is not pretty, but in all his lying the his tale is honest. He figures it out, he does. It's just ugly, no way a shit storm like the one Chase had been brewing could happen without taking a few towns out in the process.
Apart from that in terms of format, this story is jumpy, we get a lot of glimpses from different times, that kind of go back and forth. Worked for me, but it is different. The opening for every chapter was really different, and for me a cool fucking trick...Felt like an opening scene of a film and we're kind of zoomed into the moment. That was BADASS.
There was an unexpected surprise, which threw me off for like a second, but Tommy and Chase got me back on track almost immediately. There were also some strong similarities in the way things evolved in some parts to another book by Ms. Lane.
It's a big story this one. Like an onion. Layers and layers of drama, angst, lies, deception, grief, frustration, joy, sexyness, outrageously strong love, endurance, bad shit, good outcomes, happiness, redemption, resilience. It's got it all baby.
HAPPY ENDING YOU ASK? Get your hankies ready, because this boys will have you singing HALLELUJAH by the time it's all said and done. I was anyways.
Do I recommend? Three words: It's. AMY. LANE.