Review of Murder at Pirate’s Cove (Secrets and Scrabble, #1), by Josh Lanyon

I received an e-copy of Josh Lanyon‘s Murder at Pirate’s Cove through Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:

Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, Scrabble champion and guy-with-worst-luck-in-the-world-when-it-comes-to-dating, is ready to make a change. So when he learns he’s inherited both a failing bookstore and a falling-down mansion in the quaint seaside village of Pirate’s Cove on Buck Island, Rhode Island, it’s full steam ahead!

Sure enough, the village is charming, its residents amusingly eccentric, and widowed police chief Jack Carson is decidedly yummy (though probably as straight as he is stern). However, the bookstore is failing, the mansion is falling down, and there’s that little drawback of finding rival bookseller–and head of the unwelcoming-committee–Trevor Maples dead during the annual Buccaneer Days celebration.

Still, it could be worse. And once Police Chief Carson learns Trevor was killed with the cutlass hanging over the door of Ellery’s bookstore, it is

Review:

I quite enjoyed this. I didn’t guess the murderer until 90%. The romance is such a slow burn that it doesn’t even culminate in this book, though it’s quite obvious that it’s coming. (For the record, I wouldn’t call this an M/M romance. Rather, I think it is a cozy mystery that just happens to have a gay protagonist.) The writing is clean and readable and I didn’t notice any particular editing problems. What’s to complain about?

Review of Midnight Desire (Ravens Hollow Coven #1), by Shari Nichols

Shari Nichols sent me a paperback copy of her book Midnight Desire.

Description from Goodreads:

Danger and desire collide to form an unlikely alliance between a witch with a sordid past and a special agent who might be her future.

While trying to escape her past, kick-ass witch Willow McCray dispenses her own brand of justice swiftly and without mercy, until she crosses paths with sexy Magickal Bureau of Investigations Agent, Alex Denopoulos. Now, she must use her powers for good if she wants to stay out of Hellios, the mage prison for those who have broken the Wiccan Rede of ‘Harm ye None.’

Alex will stop at nothing to catch a killer, including recruiting notorious felon, Willow McCray, to work for the agency. While under his guard, the lines between duty and passion become blurred the more time he spends with the red-haired beauty. His penchant for justice and deep-seated hatred of witches makes a future together seem impossible. But he’s not ready to let her go. Now he’ll risk more than his badge to keep her alive.

If only Willow can vanquish the evil surrounding them and give Alex what he wants—before she loses her heart and even her very soul in the process.

Review:

Shari Nichols is a new-to-me author. I’ve read exactly two books by her. And while they weren’t the exact same book, they were pretty darned close. In the first (Haunted), the heroine is a psychic medium who uses her gift to fight a psychotic ghost and get the big, hunky guy. In this one (Midnight Desire), the heroine is a psychic witch that uses her gifts to fight a psychotic fae and gets the big, hunky guy. It was very obvious that the same plot template was used for each (and followed very closely) and even some of the language/dialogue could have been cut and pasted from either book into the other (especially in sex scenes, which also played out almost exactly the same).

It makes it a little hard to judge this book on its own. What’s more, all of my complaints from Haunted have to be repeated here. The love is instant, unsupported, and unexplained. I mean, if you’re going to create a paranormal world and include insta-love, why not give it a reason—fated mates, matching magics, genetics, past lives, hell anything? But give a reason if two people are going to be inexplicably drawn to each other and act outside the norm.

I almost got whiplash from the two characters’ push-me-pull-me attitudes. I hate the way every scene is broken up with some lust-filled reverie. It doesn’t build the sexual tension for me. I just feel like it clutters the narrative and annoys me. Lastly, the way Alex pursued Willow was pushy and creepy as hell. She’d say some variation of “No, I don’t want to have sex with you. I’m mad at you.” And he’d come back with, “Let me make it up to you,” (by having sex).

Specific to this book, my complaints mostly focus on the lack of worldbuilding. We have mages and sorcerers and witches, but no explanation of what the difference is. Demons are both the villains and work for the good guys and I have no idea what it actually means to be a demon (other than having horns). There are vampires and pixies, but their place isn’t explained in any fashion. Hell, I don’t even know if the rest of the human population knows they exist. I assume so since everyone walked around without issue, but I don’t know.

Having said all that, the writing is perfectly readable and other than the occasional inconsistency (walking into a room full of crossbows and knives on the walls and then not being able to find anything to cut ropes with, for example) the editing is pretty solid. Like I said with Haunted, I think maybe this just isn’t the book for me.

Review of Peacemaker, by E.M. Hamill

I received a copy of E.M. Hamill‘s Peacemaker through Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:

Third-gender operative Dalí Tamareia thought their life as an ambassador ended when they joined a galactic intelligence agency. When they’re yanked out of the field and tapped to negotiate the surrender of deadly bio-engineered warriors who crashed into hostile territory, Dalí is thrust headfirst back into the tumultuous world of galactic diplomacy.

Dalí has faced Shontavians before, but not like these. The stranded mercenaries are highly intelligent and have an agenda of their own. Dalí can’t afford to be distracted from the negotiations by their own demons or the presence of a charming diplomat with a mysterious past.

As a brewing civil war threatens to derail the entire mission, Dali must use all their skills to bring this dangerous situation to a peaceful end—but the Shontavians may not be the biggest monsters at the table. Someone is determined to see Dalí and their team dead before they discover the brutal truth hidden in the wreckage.

Review:

It took me a little while to get into this book. I think mostly because it’s been a while since I read the first one and I didn’t remember a lot. But by the time the plot really got rolling, I’d mostly caught up. I enjoyed quite a lot about it. Dali is a likable character. The universe is an interesting one, and the plot kept me engaged (even if very little of it was a surprise). The one thing I didn’t see coming, the twist at the end, didn’t feel believable, however. I can think of several ways it might play out and become more believable though. So, I look forward to the continuation to see what happens.