One-Eyed Royals (Seven of Spades #4) by Cordelia Kingsbridge

Shattered by their devastating breakup, Detective Levi Abrams and PI Dominic Russo find themselves at war right when they need each other most. While Dominic is trapped in a vicious cycle of addiction, Levi despairs of ever catching the Seven of Spades. The ruthless vigilante’s body count continues to climb, and it’s all Levi can do to keep up with the carnage.
When Levi’s and Dominic’s paths keep crossing in the investigation of a kidnapping ring with a taste for mutilation, it feels like history repeating itself. Thrown together by fate once again, they reluctantly join forces in their hunt for the mastermind behind the abductions.
But the Seven of Spades hates sharing the spotlight, and they have an ace in the hole: a new batch of victims with a special connection to Levi. Their murders send shockwaves through Las Vegas and change the rules of the game forever.
The Seven of Spades has upped the ante. If Levi and Dominic don’t play their cards right, they’ll end up losing everything.

So… my first reaction when I finished One-Eyed Royals was… I might have to knock off 1/2 a star… hovering between 4.5 and 5 for REASONS! #EvilAuthor – It’s been a while and that opinion still stands. This author is killing me!

One-Eyed Royals picks up almost where Cash Plays left off, which is both good and bad. Good because readers left Levi and Dom in a not so good place at the end of the last book. Bad because things haven’t changed much. They still aren’t back together and neither have budged. Levi has found some interesting ways to keep Dom from gambling and Dom still insists he doesn’t have a problem. Yet, they couldn’t stay away from each other, which became even more difficult when their cases keep causing them to cross paths. It would also be a lot less difficult if they didn’t still love each other.

The Seven of Spades is also taking a more personal interest in Levi – at least where his current victims are concerned. Levi has his own demons that he’s struggling with and he’s trying to keep in check. The Seven of Spades is pushing buttons that Levi wasn’t proud of.

I’m not gonna lie – there was one point in One-Eyed Royals that I wanted to smack Levi. I honestly couldn’t believe that he… well, you’re just going to have to read it and experience the frustration for yourself.

I have a few ideas about who the Seven of Spades may be, but I’m not positive. There’s one book left and even though Levi and Dom were in a pretty good place at the end of One-Eyed Royals, no one’s really going to be safe until the Seven of Spades is caught. Needless to say, I can’t wait until A Chip and a Chair is released.

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High Time (Solomon Mysteries #3) by Keelan Ellis

When skeletal remains turn up in Baltimore’s Leakin Park, Detective Paul Solomon is pessimistic about their chances of solving the case. But a clue discovered near the bones soon leaves his partner, Tim Cullen, in little doubt as to their identity. As the case leads him close to home, Tim struggles to find a balance between professional responsibility and family, testing Paul’s patience and loyalty in the process.
In his personal life, Paul wrestles with his own increasingly precarious balancing act. His friendship with David Haygood threatens his new relationship with Owen, and he finds himself questioning not only his own judgment but his motivations as well. When Paul makes a choice that may irreparably damage his budding romance, the only person he can think to turn to is his ex-lover and friend Andy.
As Paul and Tim sift through details of the short life of a young woman who died over a quarter of a century ago, what eventually emerges from the web of connections and coincidence is a story that’s both shocking and sadly familiar to the seasoned detectives.

I really liked Good Boys, so I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed High Time just as much. I mentioned in my review of the first book in the Solomon Mysteries series that one of the things that pulled me in was the fact that I was familiar with the area that the book took place. Baltimore isn’t far from where I grew up. Things got even more interesting for me in High Time when Paul and Tim end up close to where I currently live. That’s not the only reason I like this series though, just an added bonus. 😉

Paul’s a great detective, but his personal life is a mess. His best friend is dating his partner, he’s friends with someone who is admittedly attracted to him, he’s still friends with his ex and he has no idea how to be in a relationship – even though he really cares about Owen. Things get really complicated when the current case he’s working on hits way too close to those near and dear to Tim.

For the record, I got as aggravated with Paul in High Time as Owen did – and he’s not the only one who called him out on his actions. Speaking of which, the supporting characters pretty much make this series for me. The mystery wasn’t bad either 😉

Then, there was the location. Since I’m familiar with the area that Tim and Paul traveled to, I picked up on a couple of things that a lot of readers won’t. Still, the accuracy was pretty good and recognizing landmarks was kinda fun. I also learned some things about some sneaky ways that officials collect info…

I’m pretty sure that there’s more to come and I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Solomon Mysteries.

Lock Nut (The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries #5) by J.L. Merrow

Tom Paretski, plumber with a talent for finding hidden things, and his private investigator fiancé Phil Morrison have been hired to locate a runaway husband, Jonathan Parrot. The job seems simple enough—until their quarry turns up dead in a canal, and a photofit of Tom’s face is splashed all over the news, making him chief suspect.
The widow, petite ex–porn star Lilah Lovett, is convinced her husband was killed by his gay lover, but Tom and Phil aren’t so sure. Worried they may have precipitated Jonathan’s death, they’re determined to find the real killer. But with a web of incestuous ties linking the suspects, it’s hard to know who to trust. Especially when a second victim dies a gruesome death.
Meanwhile, with their wedding looming and them sharing a house now, Tom’s worried it may all be too much, too fast. The last thing he needs are the mixed messages Phil seems to be sending out. They’ll need to get back on the same track if they want to make it to their honeymoon together—and alive.

Another great mystery and another case of miscommunication. If I didn’t love these two so much, I might have gotten a tad aggravated with them. *sigh*

Honestly, I think my aggravation stems from the fact that I’ve always liked Tom and his sense of humor. When he gets so wrapped up in himself and acts like he’s not being treated fairly… that just doesn’t fit with the part of his personality that I fell in love with. I’m just not used to liking Phil more than Tom, but I guess that explains why Tom loves him so much. Regardless of my on again, off again feelings toward Tom, Lock Nut was a great addition and fitting end to the series. (Although I wouldn’t object to checking in on them in the future 😉 )

There was a lot going on in this book, especially where the mystery was concerned. I can honestly say that I didn’t figure out the who of the “who-dun-it” until close to the end, but I don’t want to give anything away. You’ll just have to pick up Lock Nut and follow the trail to the bad guy yourself.

There were a couple of HEAs by the end of this one and everything was wrapped up quite nicely. It took Tom and Phil awhile, but I think the journey was worth it.

Murder Takes the High Road by Josh Lanyon

Librarian Carter Matheson is determined to enjoy himself on a Scottish bus tour for fans of mystery author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. Sure, his ex, Trevor, will also be on the trip with his new boyfriend, leaving Carter to share a room with a stranger, but he can’t pass up a chance to meet his favorite author.
Carter’s roommate turns out to be John Knight, a figure as mysterious as any character from Vanessa’s books. His strange affect and nighttime wanderings make Carter suspicious. When a fellow traveler’s death sparks rumors of foul play, Carter is left wondering if there’s anyone on the tour he can trust.
Drawn into the intrigue, Carter searches for answers, trying to fend off his growing attraction toward John. As unexplained tragedies continue, the whole tour must face the fact that there may be a murderer in their midst—but who?

I’m pretty far behind with my Josh Lanyon reads. Murder Takes the High Road is only the third book I’ve read by this author. (Fatal Shadows & Dangerous Ground) I have no idea why it’s taken me this long to pick one up, but now that I’ve gotten a taste for this author’s style, I’ll definitely be checking out more.

There was a lot going on in Murder Takes the High Road, but it didn’t make things confusing. It simply made the pages turn faster. There was the fact that Carter had to dodge his ex at every corner (along with his new significant other), the mystery of who exactly John was and what he was doing on a tour centered around a specific author who he obviously knew little or nothing about, the mystery of death apparently plaguing the trip and the actual tour itself.

The romance was sweet, the mystery was intriguing and the suspense was nail biting… I loved every minute of it. 😉 Twists, turns, mysteries within mysteries, a fairly unlikely suspect and just a little bit of romantic heat. The perfect mix. 😉

Fatal Shadows (The Adrien English Mysteries #1) by Josh Lanyon

One sunny morning Los Angeles bookseller and aspiring mystery author Adrien English opens his front door to murder. His old high school buddy (and employee) has been found stabbed to death in a back alley following a loud and very public argument with Adrien the previous evening.
Naturally the cops want to ask Adrien a few questions; they are none too impressed with his answers, and when a few hours later someone breaks into Adrien’s shop and ransacks it, the law is inclined to think Adrien is trying to divert suspicion from himself.
Adrien knows better. Adrien knows he is next on the killer’s list.

I hesitate to label this “Romance” but it’s there, all be it, very little. I guess that’s where my eclectic reading style comes in handy, because when the story is good and the characters draw me in, I don’t miss the heat between two characters. Especially when they are just getting to know each other.

I also have a teensy weensy confession to make, Fatal Shadows has been sitting on my Kindle just chillin’ away for quite some time. Don’t even ask why it’s taken me so long to finally pick it up, because I have no idea. Now that I have though, rest assured I will be seeking out the rest of the books in the Adrien English Mysteries. Sooner, rather than later. I loved Adrien’s “voice” in Fatal Shadows. He was witty, smart and funny. I really like characters who don’t take themselves too seriously, and Adrien definitely fell into that category.

It also should be mentioned that this was my first Josh Lanyon book, but it will not be my last. As a matter of fact, I just picked up another ARC, so stay tuned. 😉

 

Dark Horse (Whitehorse, Montana: The McGraw Kidnapping #1) by B.J. Daniels

For twenty-five years, the case of the McGraw twins kidnapping has remained unsolved. As the eldest son, Cull oversees the McGraw horse ranch, wary of prying eyes. So when true-crime writer Nikki St. James comes forward with new information, Cull can’t believe his father invites her onto the compound. His family has suffered enough—he’s not about to let St. James snoop and ruin them completely. But Nikki finds the eldest McGraw’s protectiveness as endearing as it is aggravating. After all, this case is personal to her, too… And her secrets can set the truth free—if they don’t destroy the McGraws first.

I’m not sure exactly what happened with Dark Horse, but I had a hard time connecting with the characters. I think it might have been because things seemed a little rushed. It just seemed like there wasn’t enough time for either Nikki or Cull to change their opinions about each other… but that’s just me.

Other than the rushed romance, I kind of enjoyed the mystery behind Dark Horse. It was an interesting premise and it wasn’t solved by the end of this first book. Because of that, I might just have to check out Dead Ringer, just to see how the mystery progresses. 

Back to You by Chris Scully

Journalist Alex Buchanan has come home to the remote British Columbia town he grew up in, but only because his estranged father is dying. For Alex, the homecoming holds a mix of memories, mostly bad. The only bright spot is reconnecting with Benji Morning, the childhood friend he never truly forgot. As boys, the strength of their bond had frightened Alex. But now that he’s confident in his bisexuality, he’s drawn back to quiet, soft-spoken Ben.
Ben isn’t the same boy Alex left behind, though. His life has been overshadowed by the disappearance of his sister two decades earlier, and now a new break in the case threatens to undo the peace he’s worked so hard to attain.
As Alex struggles to repair the relationship with his father before it’s too late, he finds himself caught up in a twenty-year-old mystery, a story he never expected, and a shocking truth that could affect his and Ben’s future together.

I’ve only read one other book by Chris Scully, but Back to You made it pretty clear that I need to seek out more of her books. Until September wasn’t a mystery. It was more of an emotional story. That’s not to say that Back to You wasn’t emotional, because it was. In fact, the mystery just added another layer to the emotion. A huge layer – one that it was impossible to ignore.

Alex was the last person that Ben expected to have walk back into his life, but Alex couldn’t wait to reconnect with Ben. Things didn’t go exactly like Alex expected though, especially when Ben found out that Alex had more than one reason to come back. Alex got more than he bargained for and things got complicated fast.

I loved the connection between Alex and Ben and the fact that their initial reunion was strained made the story more realistic. Ben was leery of Alex’s intentions, but he was still drawn to him. The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Ben’s sister had a few twists and turns. The obsession that Ben’s mom had with her missing daughter didn’t help, especially since Alex’s interest seemed to fuel it.

I can honestly say that the mystery had me guessing until close to the very end. The outcome had a tragic impact more than one family, but it helped heal more than one too. The romance was as good as the mystery, which are just a couple of reasons why I’ll definitely be looking for more from this author. 😉

Olive Juice by T.J. Klune

It begins with a message that David cannot ignore:
I want to see you.
He agrees, and on a cold winter’s night, David and Phillip will come together to sift through the wreckage of the memory of a life no longer lived.
David is burdened, carrying with him the heavy guilt of the past six years upon his shoulders.
Phillip offers redemption.

Not your typical T.J. Klune read… but that’s not a bad thing. Actually, after thinking about it a little more, there’s absolutely nothing typical about Olive Juice. That’s not a bad thing either.

I’ve been sitting on this review for a while for a couple of reasons. First, I needed time to wrap my head around this book. It was a fairly quick read, but it was by no means an easy one. Second, readers have been warned to not give away any spoilers – for good reason. That’s usually not an issue for me, but this one has me walking on egg shells and prepare yourself for one of my vaguest reviews. *sigh*

As the description states, the story starts with a text and a simple statement. “I want to see you.” Nothing about the rest of the book is simple though. It’s a lot of things. Painful, depressing, heart breaking and yet at times beautiful. My heart broke for both Phillip and David. Readers get glimpses of the past a little at a time, so things are revealed slowly. Which, oddly enough, kept the pages turning. I found myself needing to know where the pain was coming from.

After reading the description and knowing this author, I expected tears. As much as my heart broke for these characters, it didn’t affect me the way I thought it would. I’m not sure why and I know that it wasn’t the same for all readers. It was a powerful read regardless and it touched me in a way that not many books do. That is very typical of this author and one of the many reasons I love his work.

Single Malt Murder (Whisky Business Mystery #1) by Melinda Mullet

Abigail Logan never expected to inherit a whisky distillery in the Scottish Highlands. But in the first novel of an engaging new series blending fine spirits with chilling mystery, Abi finds that there are secrets lurking in the misty glens that some will go to any lengths to protect . . . even murder.
When Abi inherits her uncle’s quaint and storied single malt distillery, she finds herself immersed in a competitive high-stakes business that elicits deep passions and prejudices. An award-winning photojournalist, Abi has no trouble capturing the perfect shot—but making the perfect shot is another matter.When she starts to receive disturbing, anonymous threats, it’s clear that someone wants her out of the picture. But Abi’s never been one to back down from a fight.
Arriving on the scene with her whisky-loving best friend, Patrick, and an oversized wheaten terrier named Liam, Abi seems to put everyone in the bucolic village on edge—especially her dour but disturbingly attractive head distiller. Acts of sabotage and increasingly personal threats against Abi make it clear that she is not welcome. When one of Abi’s new employees is found floating facedown in a vat of whisky, Abi is determined to use her skills as an investigative journalist to identify the cold-blooded killer and dispense a dram of justice before he strikes again. But distilling truth from lies is tricky, especially when everyone seems to have something to hide.

So, I’ve felt like I’ve been in a rut with my reading lately – especially with my review requests. Not that I needed to add anything to my TBR shelf, but I do like variety 😉 That’s how I stumbled upon Single Malt Murder and I am so glad that I did. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Abi, Liam, her best friend Patrick and the close knit group of people in the community her Uncle Ben had called home.

There was so much to love about Single Malt Murder, that I’m not sure where to start. I obviously loved the characters. The writing was great and the dialogue between the characters flowed nicely (clipped, unnatural conversations between characters drive me nuts!) The mystery had me trying to figure out ‘who-done-it’ almost to the very end. I had my suspicions, but just like Abi, I talked myself out of most of them. There was a hint of romance, which in this story, was just enough. There was an elderly character that was spry, witty and respected by pretty much everyone and her common sense observations were helpful to Abi. Liam was a great addition to the story and a true champion (I love it when a dog is as much of a supporting character as the humans they interact with.) What’s not to love about this perfect combination?

Of course, there was a lot more to Single Malt Murder, but I don’t want to give anything away. There were parts of the story and the way the author handled them that were refreshing. Needless to say, I can’t wait until Death Distilled, the second book in Ms. Mullet’s Whisky Business Mystery is released.

On a side note, have you ever had someone bring something to your attention and not be able to get it out of your head? I got so engrossed in Single Malt Murder that I didn’t even give the spelling of Whisky a second thought… until I noticed that one reviewer said that it bugged her. That’s all it took for me to do a little research. Turns out there’s a reason for it and Straight Up Cocktails and Spirits does a wonderful job of explaining it in their 2009 post – Whiskey vs. Whisky: What’s the Difference?. I love learning new things, don’t you?

 

The Mystery of Nevermore (Snow & Winter #1) by C.S. Poe

mysteryofnevermoreIt’s Christmas, and all antique dealer Sebastian Snow wants is for his business to make money and to save his floundering relationship with closeted CSU detective, Neil Millett. When Snow’s Antique Emporium is broken into and a heart is found under the floorboards, Sebastian can’t let the mystery rest.
He soon finds himself caught up in murder investigations that echo the macabre stories of Edgar Allan Poe. To make matters worse, Sebastian’s sleuthing is causing his relationship with Neil to crumble, while at the same time he’s falling hard for the lead detective on the case, Calvin Winter. Sebastian and Calvin must work together to unravel the mystery behind the killings, despite the mounting danger and sexual tension, before Sebastian becomes the next victim. 
In the end, Sebastian only wants to get out of this mess alive, and live happily ever after with Calvin.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Okay, I admit it. I’m a sucker when it comes to any modern prose that even hints at Edgar Allan Poe. I don’t go in search of it, but when it shows up, it most definitely makes me pay attention. That in itself was enough to make me love The Mystery of Nevermore. The mystery, romance and endearing characters were a welcome bonus. 😉

Sebastian was adorable, plain and simple. He had a great personality, he was just a little quirky and he had a love of mystery novels that had a tendency to get him in trouble when he played sleuth in real life situations. He also had a boyfriend who was enough of a jerk that made Sebastian cheating on him almost forgivable. Almost.

Then there was Calvin. I mentioned when I finished The Mystery of Nevermore that one little thing bothered me enough to keep me from giving this one a full 5 stars and Calvin was a big part of that. He was a big, bad, borderline scary detective showed absolutely no interest in Sebastian whatsoever and then Wham! Trust me, it took Sebastian by surprise too. That doesn’t mean that Sebastian was complaining, neither was I really, it just seemed like there should have been a little bit more build up, or at least a hint, or something? Other than that… and the cheating – which both Sebastian and Calvin knew was wrong, but that doesn’t make it any better – the rest of the story was great.

I loved the mystery, which turned into a pretty good who-dun-it, at least for me. The supporting characters were great and added a lot to the story. The Poe references didn’t stop with the hidden heart and most definitely kept things interesting. I kind of wish there would have been more to the story, but once I realized this is the first in a series I was fine with how things ended. This was also my first C.S. Poe read, but even without know that there’s more to come between Calvin and Sebastian, it won’t be my last.

DragonFlyGreen4-5