Wounded Air by Rick R. Reed

Rick and Ernie found the perfect apartment on Chicago’s West Side. Before they’re settled, Rick begins having all-too-real disturbing “dreams.” Each time, an emaciated young man with sad brown eyes appears, terrifying and obsessing him.
From their next-door neighbor, Paula, Rick learns about Karl and Tommy, who lived there before them. Tommy’s mysterious disappearance pains her. When she shares a photo of her with Tommy and Karl, Rick is shocked and troubled. Tommy is the man who appears to him in his dreams.
The ghostly visitations compel Rick to uncover the truth about Tommy’s disappearance. It’s a quest that will lead him to Karl, Tommy’s lover, who may know more about Tommy’s disappearance than he’s telling, and a confrontation with a restless spirit who wants only to—finally—rest in peace.

So, yes, this is tagged “Ghost”, but it’s not a paranormal romance. It’s also tagged “M/M Romance” and while it does involve two gay couples, there’s not much romance between the pages of Wounded Air. I could have easily tagged it as horror, but that would be even more deceiving because even though there is most definitely a haunting, the horror in this story comes from nothing supernatural, but what characters go through in their not so normal, tragic lives.

Wounded Air was not an easy story to read. Not because it wasn’t gripping or because the writing was lacking. No, Wounded Air was hard to read because of what Tommy went through before his tragic death – which isn’t a spoiler. The author didn’t pull any punches in giving readers a glimpse into Tommy and Karl’s life before Tommy’s ended. The real mystery was how Tommy met his end and the revelation didn’t surprise me.

The story takes several twists and turns and jumps from the past to the present. It wasn’t a confusing switch though and without those glimpses into the past there wouldn’t have been much of a story. As hard as Wounded Air was to read, it’s one of those books that I’m glad that I read. It’s probably not for everyone though, especially those who would be triggered by references to addiction. Like I said, Rick R. Reed pulls no punches and Tommy’s slide into his own personal Hell isn’t just brushed over.

There was no happy ending – it was more like a resolution. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the way things were left with Rick. It seemed like there may be more to his story. Hmm…

Mute Witness by Rick R. Reed

Sean and Austin have the perfect life. Their new relationship is only made more joyous by weekend visits from Sean’s eight-year-old son, Jason.
And then their perfect world shatters.
Jason is missing.
When the boy turns up days later, he has been abused and has lost the power to speak. Small town minds turn to the boy’s gay father and his lover as the likely culprits. Sean and Austin struggle to maintain their relationship amid the innuendo and the threat that Sean will lose the son he loves. Meanwhile, the real villain is close to home, intent on ensuring the boy’s muteness is permanent.

I’ve mentioned before that this author’s mystery, suspense, horror offerings are my preference when it comes to his writing. I’m still not sure what that says about either him or me… The fact that I love the way that he gets into the minds of these truly sick individuals or the fact that he does such a good job of it. Regardless, I’ve added Mute Witness to a list of my favorites by Rick R. Reed.

Mute Witness was originally published in 2009, like a lot of his other 2020 re-releases. I, for one, am happy that so many of his books are being re-released regardless of the reason. Otherwise, they may have stayed off my reading-radar and that would have been a shame. This was one of those books that I couldn’t put down. Really, I picked it up before I went to bed… and then I didn’t go to sleep – until 4:30 am – which was pretty much pointless since I had to get up at 6:30. *sigh•

I tagged this as a mystery, but it was more a suspense, mainly because readers learned early in the story who the guilty party was. The suspense came in waiting for the rest of the characters to figure it out. I didn’t tag it as a M/M Romance, because there was very little romance. However, the fact that Sean and Austin were a couple played a crucial role in the story.

There were a lot of characters and a lot of POVs, but it wasn’t confusing at all and added so much to the story. Those alternating POVs kept the pages turning and just one of the many reasons why Mute Witness was so hard to put down. Some of those POVs weren’t easy to read and there were just as many characters to despise as there were to adore.

Rick R. Reed is just as good at writing flawed characters as he is at writing truly demented ones and Mute Witness was no exception. No one’s perfect and none of the characters in this story are. They all make mistakes that are totally human. There are also monsters in Mute Witness and be forewarned, no punches are pulled, there is little that is held back and a lot of it is hard to read. Those kind of stories, the ones that make you think, make you feel and even make you cringe a little are among my favorites.

Dinner at the Blue Moon Cafe by Rick R. Reed

A monster moves through the darkest night, lit only by the full moon, taking them, one by one, from Seattle’s gay gathering areas.
In an atmosphere of spine-tingling fear, Thad Matthews finds his first true love cooking in an Italian restaurant called The Blue Moon Cafe. Sam Lupino is everything Thad has ever hoped for in a man: virile, sexy as hell, kind, and…he can cook!
As the pair’s love heats up, so do the questions. Who is the killer preying on Seattle’s gay men? What secrets is Sam’s Sicilian family hiding? And, more important, why do Sam’s unexplained disappearances always coincide with the full moon?
When the secrets are finally revealed, is Thad and Sam’s love for one another strong enough to weather the horrific revelations revealed by the light of the full moon?

For the record, one of Rick R. Reed’s horror stories is not supposed to include tears. Emotion, sure. Terror, totally expected. Romance, probably. But tears? I in no way expected a story about blood thirsty, vengeful driven werewolves to bring me to tears. *sigh* That’s not a bad thing though. I consider any book that can draw that kind of emotion a worth-while read. It just kind of caught me off guard.

Dinner at the Blue Moon Cafe was told by several different POVs. It definitely kept things interesting, especially considering one of the POVs was from the killer. That didn’t surprise me though. Rick R. Reed has a knack for getting inside the heads of his most terrifying characters. I’m not sure what that says about me or him, considering his horror stories are among my favorites that he writes.

Thad and Sam were pretty much attracted to each other from the time that they met. Thad always had feeling that there was something different about Sam. A lot of that came from his self doubt though so it was easy to ignore… until it wasn’t. I think what I liked most about Dinner at the Blue Moon Cafe was that there was the possibility that love wasn’t enough. Some things are just too much to overcome and Thad had every right to walk away. That thing that I liked so much? Yeah, it’s what broke me too. It was obvious that Sam really cared about Thad, but…

Yeah, no spoilers here. You’ll just have to read Dinner at the Blue Moon Cafe and find out who the real monster was. 😉

The Couple Next Door by Rick R. Reed

Jeremy Booth leads a simple life, scraping by in the gay neighborhood of Seattle, never letting his lack of material things get him down. But the one thing he really wants—someone to love—seems elusive. Until the couple next door moves in and Jeremy sees the man of his dreams, Shane McCallister, pushed down the stairs by a brute named Cole.
Jeremy would never go after another man’s boyfriend, so he reaches out to Shane in friendship while suppressing his feelings of attraction. But the feeling of something being off only begins with Cole being a hard-fisted bully—it ends with him seeming to be different people at different times. Some days, Cole is the mild-mannered John and then, one night in a bar, he’s the sassy and vivacious drag queen Vera.
So how can Jeremy rescue the man of his dreams from a situation that seems to get crazier and more dangerous by the day? By getting close to the couple next door, Jeremy not only puts a potential love in jeopardy, but eventually his very life.

Well, Rick R. Reed has done it again. He’s sucked me into another one of his crazy dark stories with The Couple Next Door. Although this is another re-release (the author has had a lot of those recently) since I didn’t catch it the first time around, it’s new to me.

Since there’s so much that happens… so many twists and turns and so much suspense, I don’t want to risk giving away too much- so I’ll apologize in advance for my vagueness. Just know that nothing is quite what it seems and… well… that pretty much covers it.

As far as the characters go, I’m not sure anyone except for Jeremy would have stuck with Shane as long as he did. I questioned his sanity more than once. He actually tried to walk away from the drama more than once, so he did have some sense of self preservation. I got just as aggravated at Shane as Jeremy did at times for keeping himself in harm’s way. As for John/Cole/Vera? Well, there just are no words….

There were times that reading The Couple Next Door was like witnessing a train wreck – one that I couldn’t walk away from. It definitely kept the pages turning – if for no other reason just to find out if any of the characters would make it to the end. Prepare yourself before going in – this is definitely not one for the faint of heart.

The Man from Milwaukee by Rick R. Reed

It’s the summer of 1991 and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer has been arrested. His monstrous crimes inspire dread around the globe. But not so much for Emory Hughes, a closeted young man in Chicago who sees in the cannibal killer a kindred spirit, someone who fights against the dark side of his own nature, as Emory does. He reaches out to Dahmer in prison via letters.
The letters become an escape—from Emory’s mother dying from AIDS, from his uncaring sister, from his dead-end job in downtown Chicago, but most of all, from his own self-hatred.
Dahmer isn’t Emory’s only lifeline as he begins a tentative relationship with Tyler Kay. He falls for him and, just like Dahmer, wonders how he can get Tyler to stay. Emory’s desire for love leads him to confront his own grip on reality. For Tyler, the threat of the mild-mannered Emory seems inconsequential, but not taking the threat seriously is at his own peril.
Can Emory discover the roots of his own madness before it’s too late and he finds himself following in the footsteps of the man from Milwaukee?

A book by Rick R. Reed when he’s in thriller/horror mode is not for the faint of heart. What’s it say about this reader that those are the books that I enjoy the most by him? It’s probably best to not dwell on that – especially when I admit that he has a knack, especially in the case of The Man from Milwaukee, to make me sympathize with the “bad” guy in the story. *sigh*

To be fair, it wasn’t hard to sympathize with Emory, especially in the beginning of The Man from Milwaukee. He didn’t have it easy at home and he had little or no social life and his sister gave him no support at all, aside from sticking around their apartment until he got home from work. He was sad and lonely, so when Tyler came into his life – even as just a friend, it should have turned things around for him. Just a little bit anyway.

Tyler saw something in Emory that it seemed no one else did. He had a niggling fear that things weren’t quite right with Emory, but he couldn’t resist trying to reach out to him. Things inevitably took a drastic turn and Tyler soon learned that he should have trusted his gut before it was too late.

I’m not sure what Rick R. Reed has in store for horror/thriller fans next, but I can’t wait to find out. 😉

The Secrets We Keep by Rick R. Reed

Jasper Warren is a happy-go-lucky young man in spite of the tragedy that’s marred his life. He’s on a road to nowhere with his roommate, Lacy, whom he adores, and a dead-end retail job in Chicago.
And then everything changes in a single night. Though Jasper doesn’t know it, his road is going somewhere after all. This time when tragedy strikes, it brings with it Lacy’s older, wealthy, sexy uncle Rob. Despite the heart-wrenching circumstances, an immediate connection forms between the two men.
But the secrets between them test their attraction. Will their revelations destroy the bloom of new love… or encourage it to grow?

I have to admit that I got a little bit aggravated with both of Jasper and Rob at times throughout The Secrets We Keep. Jasper because he was clueless when it came to Lacy and her feelings, but hind sight is 20/20, so I couldn’t be too hard on him. And Rob…well, let’s just say he could have handled things a lot better than he did. Unfortunately, I can’t explain what bothered me so much about Rob without giving away a huge spoiler… *sigh*

I liked the story and I liked the way that these two lost souls found each other at a time where they really needed each other most. The circumstances that brought them together was tragic. They both deserved to find happiness and I was glad they found it. As for Jasper’s secrets? I wouldn’t really categorize them as secrets, at least not compared to Rob’s, but they were just as hard to reveal for Jasper.

Bigger Love (Big Love #2) by Rick R. Reed

Truman Reid is Summitville High’s most out-and-proud senior. He can’t wait to take his fierce, uncompromising self away from his small Ohio River hometown, where he’s suffered more than his share of bullying. He’s looking forward to bright lights and a big city. Maybe he’ll be the first ever genderfluid star to win an Academy Award. But all that changes on the first day of school when he locks eyes with the most gorgeous hunk he’s ever seen.
Mike Stewart, big, dark-haired, and with the most amazing blue eyes, is new to town. He’s quiet, manly, and has the sexy air of a lost soul. It’s almost love at first sight for Truman. He thinks that love could deepen when Mike becomes part of the stage crew for Harvey, the senior class play Truman’s directing. But is Mike even gay? And how will it work when Truman’s mother is falling for Mike’s dad?
Plus Truman, never the norm, makes a daring and controversial choice for the production that has the whole town up in arms.
See how it all plays out on a stage of love, laughter, tears, and sticking up for one’s essential self…

Oh Truman… I loved him in Big Love and I loved him even more in Bigger Love – which I suppose is kinda appropriate. ❤

Truman had grown a lot since his freshman year. He was more sure of himself. He had friends and even though he was still a victim of random bullying, it had died down and he had also learned to ignore most of it. I really liked the young man he had grown to become. His relationship with his mother had grown as well. They were a great team – more than mother and son – more like best friends. Even though Truman was afraid things would change if his mom fell into a serious relationship, he really wanted her to be happy – and she wanted him to be happy too.

Mike was a mystery. Even after that first encounter. Truman didn’t even know his name, but he was still hard for him to forget.

Mike was as confused about his feelings as Truman was, which meant he had a lot to come to terms with. One thing he did know was that he didn’t want to hurt Truman, he wanted to protect him – he just didn’t go about it in the right way. He grew a lot too in Bigger Love and he eventually got it.

Big Love (Big Love #1) by Rick R. Reed

Teacher Dane Bernard is a gentle giant, loved by all at Summitville High School. He has a beautiful wife, two kids, and an easy rapport with staff and students alike. But Dane has a secret, one he expects to keep hidden for the rest of his life—he’s gay. But when he loses his wife, Dane finally confronts his attraction to men.
A new teacher, Seth Wolcott, immediately catches his eye. Seth is also starting over, licking his wounds from a breakup, and the last thing Seth wants is another relationship—but when he spies Dane on his first day at Summitville High, his attraction is immediate and electric.
As the two men enter into a dance of discovery and new love, they’re called upon to come to the aid of bullied gay student Truman Reid. Truman is out and proud, which not everyone at his small-town high school approves of. As the two men work to help Truman ignore the bullies and love himself without reservation, they all learn life-changing lessons about coming out, coming to terms, acceptance, heartbreak, and falling in love.

I guess my way of warning people of trigger warnings in a book is tagging it with “tough issues” and Big Love was loaded with them. Coming out, grief that involves both a partner and children, attempted suicide, bullying are all included, so if want to stay clear of any or all of these topics, this book is definitely not for you. Although I haven’t been reading books by this author for very long, I’ve now read enough to realize that shouldn’t consider anything that he writes to be an “easy” read so I brace myself going in.

Another important point about Big Love is that although there is a bit of romance, it’s more of a book about relationships than a true romance. It’s also about characters finding themselves and being comfortable with who they are. The story centers around Dane and his prior relationship with his wife and his current relationship with his kids, his his relationship with his students (especially Truman) and Seth. There is a lot that all of these characters have to come to terms with in Big Love and none of it is easy. Readers spend time getting to know not just Seth and Dane, but are given Truman’s POV as well. This is one of those books that wasn’t easy to read, but it was well worth the emotional time spent with each of them.

The next book in the Big Love series centers on Truman. He was in a good place at the end of Big Love and I’m hoping he’s still there by the time readers catch up with him in Bigger Love.

Third Eye by Rick R. Reed

Who knew that a summer thunderstorm and a lost little boy would conspire to change single dad Cayce D’Amico’s life in an instant? With Luke missing, Cayce ventures into the woods near their house to find his son, only to have lightning strike a tree near him, sending a branch down on his head. When he awakens the next day in the hospital, he discovers he has been blessed or cursed—he isn’t sure which—with psychic ability. Along with unfathomable glimpses into the lives of those around him, he’s getting visions of a missing teenage girl.
When a second girl disappears soon after the first, Cayce realizes his visions are leading him to their grisly fates. Cayce wants to help, but no one believes him. The police are suspicious. The press wants to exploit him. And the girls’ parents have mixed feelings about the young man with the “third eye.”
Cayce turns to local reporter Dave Newton and, while searching for clues to the string of disappearances and possible murders, a spark ignites between them. Little do they know that nearby, another couple—dark and murderous—are plotting more crimes and wondering how to silence the man who knows too much about them.

Gah! I’ve mentioned before that this author is full of hits or misses for me, but when it’s a hit, it’s impossible to put down. Sleep’s overrated, right? – That was my initial response after finishing Third Eye. When I stop and think about it and looking back at the books by Rick R. Reed that I’ve read, I think the horror and suspense books, the ones that keep me on the edge of my seat, give me chills and keep me awake are the ones that I enjoy the most. I’m not sure what that says about me… or him, but… maybe it’s one of those things that we shouldn’t dwell on… That doesn’t mean that I’m going to avoid the romance books by this author, it just means that I now know that I have a preference. 😉

Not surprisingly, Third Eye is not for the faint of heart. The bad guy is terrifying and evil as well as extremely unpredictable – a truly scary combination. There was also some other sketchy characters thrown into the mix and more than one character that grew on me as the story progressed. There were also more than a few “parents” in this story that didn’t deserve the title and at least one that I “yelled” at – more than once.

I couldn’t really fault the police or others for not believing Cayce, but I admired him for not giving up and continuing to try. There were twists and turns and danger around every corner and Rick R. Reed left little to the imagination when it came to what monsters are capable of.

The only real issue I had with Third Eye was a personal one. I wanted a certain character to get knocked down a few notches – which I’m sure she did, but I wanted to “see” it. I can’t say more, but I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with me when it happens.

I picked up Third Eye as another re-release and there have been a few more. I can’t wait to see what I’ve missed and decide what I’ll read next from this author.

Raining Men (Chaser and Raining Men #2) by Rick R. Reed

The character you loved to hate in Chaser becomes the character you will simply love in Raining Men.
It’s been raining men for most of Bobby Nelson’s adult life. Normally, he wouldn’t have it any other way, but lately something’s missing. Now, he wants the deluge to slow to a single special drop. But is it even possible for Bobby to find “the one” after endless years of hooking up?
When Bobby’s father passes away, Bobby finally examines his rocky relationship with the man and how it might have contributed to his inability to find the love he yearns for. Guided by a sexy therapist, a Sex Addicts Anonymous group, a well-endowed Chihuahua named Johnny Wadd, and Bobby’s own cache of memories, Bobby takes a spiritual, sexual, and emotional journey to discover that life’s most satisfactory love connections lie in quality, not quantity. And when he’s ready to love not only himself but someone else, sex and love fit, at last, into one perfect package.

I so didn’t want to like Bobby… and I certainly didn’t expect the character that readers met in Chaser to bring me to tears… Trust me, no one was more surprised by the fact that I actually liked Raining Men more than I liked Chaser. At the end of my review for Chaser, I mentioned that this author had his work cut out for him if he could turn my loathing of Bobby into love, turns out he was up to the task.

You could probably read Raining Men as a standalone, but you’d miss out on how bad Bobby really treated his best friend, Caden. That book sets the stage for Bobby’s transformation in this book. And, as much as I always tell myself not to judge others, Bobby’s actions made it really hard not to, from Caden and Kevin’s perspective especially. Getting things from Bobby’s perspective didn’t make what he did forgivable, it just gave readers a sense of how broken he truly was. There were times in Raining Men that I really got aggravated with Caden, but to be fair, I never really sided with him in Chaser, so it wasn’t much of a surprise.

There were a lot of supporting characters in Raining Men that really made the story for me. From his family, his support group, his therapist to his new-found friends (including Johnny Wadd) – they all shed some light on who Bobby really was. I think what I liked most about this book was that it wasn’t really a romance centered book. Strange, I know, because I do like a good romance. I think it would have been a disservice to Bobby though to have everything “fixed” for him by finding the right person. He had a lot of soul searching, growing and even set-backs to go through to even think about finding his HEA. When he did though, it was perfect and I walked away from Raining Men a lot more satisfied than I did when I finished Chaser.