Softpaw by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

SoftpawRate: 3.75 stars
Paranormal – Shifters
Publication day: 
July 14, 2016
219 pages  
Self-Published – Extras

Connor’s life could have been the dream of any cultured werecat. He is spending his days in Paris’ gay quarter with comfortably little real work, playing the piano, surrounded by art, fine food and good friends. It could have been, if not for a feral vampire preying on the prostitutes of ‘his’ quarter, killing the boys of the Marais one by one.

When Connor invites a newly arrived hooker to stay on his houseboat, the last thing he expects is Michel to be a member of the Brigade Criminelle – a troubled, hunky rookie cop sent undercover to explore Connor’s connection to the murders, picked mostly because he had been a boy of the Marais himself, not so long ago.

Hiding their true nature becomes a problem for both when their realize there maybe is more to their inital attraction. But in order to bring down the serial killer and maybe have a chance at making their relationship work out, one of them will have to
take the first, critical leap.

My View: I had said, multiple times, that I have a soft spot for stories with rentboys and escorts. I like seeing how they evolved through the story and what caused those changes. In this case, we see a different side of the equation. And combined with an undercover investigation and a werecat, this story has the bones to be great.

This story got me more interested in the mystery aspect than the romance. Yes, it was nice to see how Connor’s and Michel’s feelings developed, but I see them more like a paranormal version of classic superheroes. They want to do good, and both have their secrets. Unknowingly, they’re working to get the same killer down and perhaps, and earlier alliance may have added to the suspense.

The secondary characters in this story are multi-dimensional and fit the story arc. Everyone has a reason to be and help the story move forward. It’s easy to get attached to them, even those we have only met in passing. The settings are interesting and put together in a way we can see the fictitious areas bloom within the real streets of Paris.

My only complaint about this story is the lack of a strong connection between the reasons for the killer to attack and the end result. Yes, we get to know the police’s assumptions and Connor’s, but we don’t get enough from the killer’s perspective. Plus, some of the encounters between Connor and the killer pushed the “reality” boundaries established by the authors.

There’s a small setup for the next book in the series, but not enough to entice a reader to continue reading; unless you read the extra content at the end of the book. Then, you’ll want to know more about the next installment.

What I liked the most: The amount of detail in the descriptions.

I wanted more: Time between Michel and Connor’s cat.

Who should read it: Fans of werecats and humans couples.

ARC provided by the author as part of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group Don’t Buy My Love Program.

Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk

WiddershinsRate: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Paranormal, Historical
Pages: 236
Duration: 9 hours and 15 minutes
Narrator: Julian G. Simmons
Published: May 24, 2013
Publisher: Self-Published

Some things should stay buried.

Repressed scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne has two skills: reading dead languages and hiding in his office at the Ladysmith Museum. After the tragic death of the friend he secretly loved, he’s ruthlessly suppressed any desire for another man.

So when handsome ex-Pinkerton Griffin Flaherty approaches him to translate a mysterious book, Whyborne wants to finish the job and get rid of the detective as quickly as possible. Griffin left the Pinkertons following the death of his partner, hoping to start a new life. But the powerful cult which murdered Glenn has taken root in Widdershins, and only the spells in the book can stop them. Spells the intellectual Whyborne doesn’t believe are real.

As the investigation draws the two men closer, Griffin’s rakish charm threatens to shatter Whyborne’s iron control. When the cult resurrects an evil sorcerer who commands terrifying monsters, can Whyborne overcome his fear and learn to trust? Will Griffin let go of his past and risk falling in love? Or will Griffin’s secrets cost Whyborne both his heart and his life?

My View: I enjoyed this first in the series, but not as much as other books by the author. Perhaps because this is one of her oldest volumes and her writing had matured over time. Even so, the story was interesting and engaging; especially, the historical aspects.

I liked everything about this story, from the characters, the events, to the every day mundane situations. It almost read as an MM installment in the Indiana Jones franchise. The addition of Christine to the story gave more to the plot than a simple love story. At the same time, it helped the author set the characteristic of the time; in which women in the workforce were as frown upon as gay men.

The relationship between Griffin and Percival felt more like an HFN than an HEA to me. Maybe if Percival had taken a little longer to fall for Griffin, it would have worked better for me. He went from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds.

Narrator: I got the additional audio edition, but I didn’t like the narrator. I’m not sure if it was the quality of the recording or the voices; it needed a little more. It was good enough to listen as I drove or when cooking, but not a narration to be immersed on.

What I liked the most: The historical aspect and how well the author integrated little bits of history to the fictional elements.

I wanted more of: A relationship between Griffin and Percival. I felt more of a connection between Leander and Percival.

Who should read it: Jordan L. Hawk fans.

Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk

Restless SpiritsRate: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Publication day: June 6, 2015
Length: 218 pages
Publisher: Widdershins Press LLC (Self-Published)

After losing the family fortune to a fraudulent psychic, inventor Henry Strauss is determined to bring the otherworld under control through the application of science. All he needs is a genuine haunting to prove his Electro-Séance will work. A letter from wealthy industrialist Dominic Gladfield seems the answer to his prayers. Gladfield’s proposition: a contest pitting science against spiritualism, with a hefty prize for the winner.

The contest takes Henry to Reyhome Castle, the site of a series of brutal murders decades earlier. There he meets his rival for the prize, the dangerously appealing Vincent Night. Vincent is handsome, charming…and determined to get Henry into bed.

Henry can’t afford to fall for a spirit medium, let alone the competition. But nothing in the haunted mansion is quite as it seems, and soon winning the contest is the least of Henry’s concerns.

For the evil stalking the halls of Reyhome Castle wants to claim not just Henry and Vincent’s lives, but their very souls.

My View: It took me a long time to read this book, but I enjoyed it in the end. I read the Spectr series part 1 and loved Gray, but I think Vincent and Henry are fighting for a close second.

I had some trouble in the beginning following the pace of the changing POVs, and it took me a minute to figure out the four main characters, but after that, it was a relatively easy book to follow. Almost like a game of Clue mixed with a historical version of Scobby-Do. Definitely, a clever book.

Other than the characters, I enjoyed the events, in addition to the not quite romantic plot. The MCs had great chemistry, but I think they got more of a strong HFN than an HEA. Needless to say, the build-up and banter, leading to their relationship was entertaining, even if so, a little easy for men of their time.

The string of events and the diversity of the characters worked well with the story. And, I need to accept that I didn’t guess the perpetrator. In the end, the author threaded a great story, filled with true and ingenious facts to give the reader a well-paced adventure with a taste of romance. Looking forward to the next book in the series.

What I liked the most: The mystery and paranormal aspects of the story.

I wanted more of: Probably a pause between the POV changes at the beginning of the story.

Who should read it: Fans of paranormal and historical stories.

The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles

The Magpie LordRate: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Publication day: September 13, 2013
Length:  200 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd

A lord in danger. A magician in turmoil. A snowball in hell.

Exiled to China for twenty years, Lucien Vaudrey never planned to return to England. But with the mysterious deaths of his father and brother, it seems the new Lord Crane has inherited an earldom. He’s also inherited his family’s enemies. He needs magical assistance, fast. He doesn’t expect it to turn up angry.

Magician Stephen Day has good reason to hate Crane’s family. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deal with supernatural threats. Besides, the earl is unlike any aristocrat he’s ever met, with the tattoos, the attitude… and the way Crane seems determined to get him into bed. That’s definitely unusual.

Soon Stephen is falling hard for the worst possible man, at the worst possible time. But Crane’s dangerous appeal isn’t the only thing rendering Stephen powerless. Evil pervades the house, a web of plots is closing round Crane, and if Stephen can’t find a way through it—they’re both going to die.

My View: I got this book for a reading challenge. Definitely, not my type of book. This is a case of “it’s not the book, it’s me.” I liked the mystery and the cleverness of the unfolding events but didn’t love the rest. It’s well-written, the characters multi-dimensional, and the connections between them, fantastic, but believable.

I don’t think this story can be considered a romance, not even UST. By the end of the story, the main characters were nothing more than f!@# buddies. Perhaps, a connection between them would have made it more interesting. Or a complete lack of a romantic relationship, bringing the story to the levels of Sherlock and Watson and other team’s books. I think I liked Merrick, for Crane, better than Stephen.

I’d read the other books in the series, but not at the moment.

What I liked the most: The creativity behind the story.

I wanted more of: A relationship between Stephen and Crane.

Who should read it: Fan of historical stories, as well as paranormal.