(Review) Threshold ★★★★☆

Book: Threshold

Author: Jordan L. Hawk

Series: Whyborne & Griffin (Book #2)

Book 1 review

Genre: Historical Romance; M/M; Mystery

Pub date: 06/02/2013

Pages: 172

Audio: 7hrs 19mins

Narrator: Julian G. Simmons

Introverted scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne wants nothing more than to live quietly with his lover, ex-Pinkerton detective Griffin Flaherty. Unfortunately, Whyborne’s railroad tycoon father has other ideas, namely hiring Griffin to investigate mysterious events at a coal mine.

Whyborne, Griffin, and their friend Christine travel to Threshold Mountain, a place of dark legend even before the mine burrowed into its heart. A contingent of Pinkertons-including Griffin’s ex-lover Elliot-already guard the mine. But Griffin knows better than anyone just how unprepared the detectives are to face the otherworldly forces threatening them.

Soon, Whyborne and Griffin are on the trail of mysterious disappearances, deadly accidents, and whispered secrets. Is Elliot an ally, or does he only want to rekindle his relationship with Griffin? And if so, how can Whyborne possibly hope to compete with the stunningly handsome Pinkerton-especially when Griffin is hiding secrets about his past?

For in a town where friends become enemies and horror lurks behind a human mask, Whyborne can’t afford to trust anything-including his own heart.

Threshold is the second book in the Whyborne & Griffin series written by Jordan L. Hawk.  You can read my review of the first book here: Widdershins.  This series spans several genres including historical romance, mystery, m/m and has strong supernatural aspects.  Especially in this book. I got the audio version of this one.  The narrator Julian G. Simmons was new to me.  Not a huge surprise since in the past I’ve mostly listened to books with a woman as the main character.  He did a fine job.  Nothing exciting to mention.  It was easy to distinguish between the different character’s voices.  He didn’t mess up on any words and even managed a good female voice.

One of the reasons I used to always avoid book series that had the same couple in every book was the drama.  In every book there usually is something that threatens to tear them apart and after awhile it gets annoying.  I’m hoping this series isn’t like that.  In Threshold what threatens their relationship is Griffin’s old friend and ex-lover Elliot.  Almost as soon as he sees him he starts acting like a total jerk to Whyborne.  Although, he gives his reasons in the end, it didn’t stop the sick feeling I get when these things happen.  I get so attached to the characters, even though I know that things must work out between them since it’s a series written about them I still dislike these romantic problems.

I thought Widdershins, the first book, was strange.  Threshold is much much stranger!  The supernatural aspect is something out of a sci-fi novel and I contemplated classifying it as thus but decided not to.  All of the disappearances and strange events just get more creepy.  Seriously, it’s the stuff of nightmares.  Whyborne’s father hires Griffin to investigate since he’s familiar with supernatural occurrences.  Whyborne and Christine go along to help.

Whyborne has some personal growth in Threshold.  I’m looking forward to seeing if he’s changed much in the third book Stormhaven.  Obviously, considering the fact Griffin was a jerk for most of the book, Whyborne was my favorite in this one.  I think I relate to him more since he’s scholarly and has some self-esteem and social issues.  It will be nice to see how he grows as a person through the series. Griffin too.  He has very little confidence in himself beyond his detective business.

All in all it was a good book and I would highly recommend it.  I decided to give it four stars instead of five mostly because of the whole romantic thing.  Also, the supernatural aspect was very strange and hard to believe.  So, if you enjoy historical romance, m/m, mystery, horror, earth based sci-fi or supernatural books you may enjoy Threshold.  I wouldn’t suggest this series as a first m/m read unless you plan to skip most of the sex scenes because they are quite graphic and I’ll admit to skipping through them myself.  I look forward to seeing what crazy adventures Jordan L. Hawk has stirred up in Stormhaven!

Favorite quotes:

“If we cannot find models in our past, we must try to build a future where they can exist, and devil take anyone who tries to tell us we can’t.”

“She kept leaning farther and farther forward, and I became concerned her bodice wasn’t up to the task of containing her bounty.”

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(Review) Widdershins ★★★★★

Book: Widdershins

Author: Jordan L. Hawk

Series: Whyborne & Griffin (Book #1)

Genre: Historical Romance; M/M; Mystery

Pub date: 12/04/2012

Pages: 236

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?

Widdershins is the first book in the Whyborne & Griffin series of which there are currently 8 published and 2 unpublished books in addition to several short stories.  It takes place in the late 1800’s in New England.  If it was based in current day I would classify it as an urban fantasy novel not a romance.  I hesitate to put it under historical romance because it just doesn’t feel right to me but it seems that most people are marking it as such and I can’t think of a better classification so will follow the crowd.

It was the cover art that drew me to Widdershins.  I will admit that I didn’t even read the description.  I hate how reading them gives away things that will happen.  Since I didn’t read it though, I didn’t realize that the book was based in the past.  It took me through the first chapter or so to figure out what was going on, to my embarrassment.  As I usually do when I’m reading a new book I tried to draw comparisons to other books that I’d previously read.  Since I haven’t read all that many historical novels I had a hard time with this one.  The only one that even came close was The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.  That one only has time traveling but still there is quite a bit in the past and supernatural aspects as well.

Frustratingly, this very unique book won’t get as much attention as it really should due to the fact that it’s a m/m novel.  There are some quite graphic sex scenes but you could always skip past them.  It’s not like erotica where it’s in every chapter or anything.  Making this book even more diverse, there is a major supernatural aspect as well.  I hesitate to call it magic.  Sorcery perhaps?  Dark magic maybe.  Either way, it was a nice addition.

Lastly, there’s the mystery.  Griffin is a private detective hired to solve a murder.  He seeks the help of Whyborne to translate a grimoire related to the murder.  I really liked both Griffin and Whyborne.  The book is written from Whyborne’s point of view.  There is a short story that is based between Widdershins and the second book Threshold called Eidolon that is from Griffin’s point of view that gives a lot of understanding into how he thinks of himself and Whyborne.  I’m not reviewing it because it’s very short and only took an hour to read but thought it should be mentioned here.  Whyborne’s friend and co-worker Christine was really the only supporting character of note.  I liked her a lot and hope she’s in the following books.

I would wholeheartedly recommend Widdershins.  As you may have noticed it’s hard to classify to whom I would recommend the book since it is in a broad range of genres.  If you enjoy mystery such as a Sherlock Holmes type novel then you may like it.  Add in the supernatural and romance factors and it really stands out among other books.  I’m actually pretty surprised that I haven’t read it before this.  I really enjoyed it and read it within a day.  There are several other books in the series and I look forward to seeing where the story goes next.

Favorite quote:

“Why did he have to be kind?  If only he’d mocked me, or sneered at me, or merely tolerated me, then I would have known how to deal with him.  But he insisted on being kind, on pretending I had some worth.  How was I to defend myself against that?”

 

(Review) Six Degrees of Separation ★★★★☆

Book: Six Degrees of Separation

Author: Taylor V. Donovan

Series: By Degrees (Book #2)

Book 1 Review

Genre: Contemporary Romance; M/M; Mystery

Pub date: 08/26/2013

Pages: 397

Note from the author:
By Degrees is an ensemble serial with continuing story lines. Six Degrees of Separation is the second installment, and it must be read after Six Degrees of Lust. Thanks.

In the sequel to Six Degrees of Lust, F.B.I. team leader Samuel Shaughnessy and bar manager Machlan O’Bannon are exploring a new phase in their non-relationship. The intention is to take it slowly but power plays are still their favorite activity, and it isn’t long before lines begin blurring. After ending their friends with benefits agreement no rules are left in place to guide them, and soon enough the only thing that’s clear is that neither man is fighting hard enough to reestablish the boundaries.

Their particular situations haven’t improved in the three months since their first encounter. Sam is still focused on his immediate family issues, and everything indicates Mac will have to go to war with his own family before he can reclaim his freedom. The last thing they need is additional complications.

But when the opening of a night club brings Mac to New York City and a break in the Leviticus investigation leads Sam to Houston, they discover how closely their worlds have been connected from the very beginning. Hiding from the life-altering collision is not an option. Will they take the easier road and go their separate ways, or will they come to terms with their past and take a chance on each other?

First, let me warn you that this review may be jaded by the fact that the third book in the series Six Degrees of Agony not only hasn’t been published but last word was that it was supposed to have been published in 2015.  This is very disappointing as Six Degrees of Separation ended in a total cliffhanger.  I find it so frustrating when this happens.  Especially since I read so many book series that it’s highly unlikely that I’ll stumble on the third book if/when it’s ever published.

Six Degrees of Separation picks up pretty much exactly where Six Degrees of Lust left off.  I was glad to see that Sam and Mac continue on as the main focus.  Just as I said in the review for the first book the anticipation of the point when everyone discovers that they know each other was killing me and when they reached that point it did not disappoint.  Surely, it was the best part of the book!

The serial killer mystery continues as well.  The plot thickens when they discover even more murders in Houston linked to the ones in New York.  A new police detective in Houston, Eric, joins the cast of characters as a possible love interest for Logan but of course we may never know since that thread of the story was only hinted at in this book and would have likely been continued in the third book.

Things get much more serious between Sam and Mac.  There are several bumps along the way that surprisingly don’t break them apart and only show how much they really care for each other despite the relationship starting as a one night stand and then a friends with benefits situation.  Thankfully, their story is neatly tied up and I wouldn’t be surprised if the third book would have had a different couple as the main characters.

As far as the supporting characters go there are some big revelations with several of them which of course would ruin the plot if I outlined them here.  I will say that I still dislike Sam’s ex wife Gabby, perhaps even more than I did in Six Degrees of Lust.  I really don’t understand what everyone sees in her and why they all adore her so much.  Also, there is Mac’s ex-best friend, the mother of the twins, I can’t stand her either.  I guess there always has to be someone in books that you’ll dislike though right?  It would be quite boring if we loved everyone.  All sunshine and rainbows would make for a very boring read.

I’m really not sure if I would recommend this book or not despite giving it a 4 star review because of the unpublished 3rd book.  If it wasn’t for that I would most definitely recommend it.  As I said in the review for Six Degrees of Lust I really enjoy the ensemble point of view.  I think Taylor Donovan did a great job making something that could surely turn confusing fairly easy to keep up with.  I will admit there were a few times that I had to stop and remind myself of what was going on with the different characters, especially if they weren’t featured more in the series.  So, keep in mind about the 3rd book if you decide to take on the first two.  Know that the big serial killer plot is left totally on a cliffhanger and you will be frustrated with the ending.

Favorite quote:

“Sam had never felt so aware of anything in his life, or wanted anything as much as he wanted that love.  It was like he’d just been awakened from one hundred years of slumber, and he was feeling everything at once.  Need, commitment, happiness… he felt love, too.  There was no escaping that.”

(Review) Six Degrees of Lust ★★★★★

Book: Six Degrees of Lust

Author: Taylor V. Donovan

Series: By Degrees (Book #1)

Genre: Contemporary Romance; M/M; Mystery

Pub date: 12/30/2011

Pages: 389

*WARNING FROM THE AUTHOR:
Six Degrees of Lust is both an ensemble novel and the first installment in the By Degrees serial. This means there are several point of views and the story will continue. Thanks.

New York City FBI team leader Samuel Shaughnessy lives for his immediate family and his job. After a marriage gone wrong he has stuck to a firm rule when it comes to relationships: he doesn’t have them. Sexually active and emotionally unavailable keeps him satisfied, especially now that he is in hot pursuit of a serial killer targeting gay men.

Former firefighter Machlan O’Bannon now manages a successful sports bar in Houston and after years of waiting he’s ready to stand up and be the man he always wanted to be: out, proud and drama-free. His politically-aligned family wants to keep him locked in the closet, but Mac just wants to meet the man of his dreams.

One man is as high strung as the other is laid back. A chance meeting brings the two men together, and one night of passion ignites a fire neither can fight. Their lives are not only miles apart, but as different as day and night. They don’t want to get involved…but will they be able to stay apart?

I started reading Six Degrees of Lust before I went into the hospital 4 months ago.  I never finished it.  I’ve been trying to find a book to read and when I saw this one on my iPad I kept dismissing it thinking if I didn’t finish it I must not have liked it.  But I remembered there being a serial killer ensemble romance that I was close to finishing.  Somehow it didn’t click that they were one and the same.  I was, once again, going through my iPad and starting and discarding one unfinished book after another when I decided to take another look at this one.  I was a bit embarrassed to realize this was the book I kept thinking about.  Even more embarrassing was that it only took me less than an hour to finish it!  Luckily, all of the characters and events were very memorable and I didn’t feel confused about what was going on.

When I stopped reading it the first time, I assumed that within those last few chapters everything would just quickly wrap up.  I thought it would be like a lot of books and that the focus of the next book in the series would be one of the other couples.  I thought they would catch the serial killer and the next book would have another mystery.  Not so.  The book ended a bit abruptly.  Not really a cliffhanger but also not wrapping up any loose ends.  I’m sure it was frustrating to any readers who had to wait for the next book Six Degrees of Separation to be published.

Six Degrees of Lust is an ensemble novel.  Think of movies like Love Actually where all of the characters kind of move around each other.  At times it’s almost frustrating when you know that at any moment one character could discover that the person that one of the others is friends with is the same person with that name from their past.  Every time they’re mentioned you think surely it will come out now.  Yet it doesn’t.  I’ve started the second book and am still feeling that same edge-of-my-seat feeling waiting for everything to come to a head.  How can they all not know that they know each other in some way?  It’s mind boggling.

Although there are many characters based in New York and Houston, the main characters are Sam and Mac.  Their meeting was great.  I loved how they met and both couldn’t stop thinking of the other until finally they had to see each other again.  Both have some major issues with anything more than just a friends with benefits type of relationship.  Sam has some major skeletons in his closet and just can’t handle more.  Mac isn’t out, not because he doesn’t want to be though.  I love how they push the relationship a bit further as time goes by.  I love the struggle and the sweet moments.  I think this is one of the most believable couples in this genre.  It’s funny because I’m torn between wanting them to just get together already and loving the dance around a real relationship.

In addition to being a romance with a lot of different characters it’s also a sort of mystery.  I don’t know why but I love FBI and cop books lately.  I never used to.  It’s fun trying to figure out who the perp is.  Although in this case the fact that it’s a serial killer and that bodies keep showing up is kind of depressing.  I really expected them to figure it out in the end.  In this case the mystery continues into the second book.  I think the only books I’ve read that have done that were the Cut & Run series.  One of my all time favorite series and also FBI m/m books.  Notice a pattern?  I know what I like.  I just search for similar books when I find one that I really love.

I don’t know if I could do it justice to name all of the other characters.  This would be a huge post and I’d most likely give away too much of the story.  One of my favorites is Logan, Sam’s partner in the FBI.  I’m not sure what his deal is but I’m dying to find out.  I guess every book has to have a character you hate right?  I can’t stand Sam’s ex wife Gabi.  What annoys me the most about her is that she’s a total bi*** and yet everyone that meets her adores her.  There’s just no real reason for it.  Just “oh isn’t she the sweetest” or something like that and boom they love her and are all protective of her.  Let’s see.  Chris that works with her I like.  I look forward to seeing if anything happens between him and Remy.  Sasha is kind of a wild card and I’m dying to know what happens with the poor kid.

If you’ve never read a m/m book I’m thinking this isn’t really the best book to dip your toes in and try it out.  There’s some pretty hot sex scenes… that I’ll admit I end up skimming over after awhile.  This is why I don’t read much erotica.  I just find them boring and repetitive after the first couple of times.  I don’t read these books for that.  I read them for the love story and the struggle.  I think this book wouldn’t be as believable if it wasn’t based in New York City.  The gay community in this book is just huge and in any other place I would find it unrealistic.  But I could be wrong… who knows?

In the end, I highly recommend Six Degrees of Lust.  I think Taylor Donovan did a wonderful job with this ensemble novel.  I really love ensemble movies so this was a treat.  I couldn’t label it just one genre because it isn’t.  So if you like cop/FBI mysteries, gay romance, contemporary romance or ensembles this may be the book for you.  I’m not going to do a summary because there’s just so much happening in this book I wouldn’t do it justice.

Dream Doctor (Dreams #2) ★★★★☆

Author: J.J. DiBenedetto
Version: Audio
Narrator: Heather Jane Hogan

     I had a couple of preconceived ideas about this book that I am very happy that I was wrong about.  First, I thought since it’s Dream Doctor that it was like 8 years after Dream Student.  It’s actually only a year and a half after the first book.  Second, when reading the synopsis for the book I thought that there were going to be major relationship problems between Sara and Brian in this
book.  I get tired of falling in love with a couple and then having the author butcher the relationship in the next book.  It just makes me feel sick while reading it.  I’m happy to say I loved this book and have absolutely no complaints!  It has even more of a mystery to it than the last book.

     I think I learned more than I’d ever want to know about medical school in this book.  I love it when books go into the characters careers or in this case schooling.  I can’t imagine that the author didn’t do any research on this book because it’s very thorough.  So in addition to lots of medical school and average day life as a newlywed Sara starts having her dreams again.  Everyone seems to be dreaming about one of her professors dying.  But who is the one actually trying to kill him?  Yay mystery!

     Sara and Brian’s love at first sight relationship caught my heart in the first book and it continues in this book.  It’s not like boring mushy stuff, just everyday life.  Little jealousy and misunderstandings that always come with newer relationships.  In addition to that they both have overloaded schedules.  I found the mystery intriguing and everything else was icing.  I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

Favorite Quote:

“If she so much as puts a hand on him I’ll cut her heart out.  I know how to do it too, I’ve been reading ahead.  The instructions are right there in Grant’s Dissector page 75.  I think I’ll mark the page with a post-it note just in case.”

   

Dream Student (Dreams #1) ★★★★☆

Author: J.J. DiBenedetto

     I can sum my first thoughts on this book up in one word: unfortunate.  Why?  Because it is unfortunate that this book has such a goofy cover and it’s unfortunate that it has such a boring name.  Even the series name is unfortunate: Dreams.  I was thinking mabye “dreamwalker” would be better, lol.  I am positive with a new cover and name this series would be much more popular.  The premise is interesting.  Sarah keeps finding herself in other peoples dreams.  She meets a guy at a club that she happened to see a dream that he had of her.  She dreams about a serial killer and has nightmares every night.  The dates at the beginning of each chapter are annoying.  The book spans from 1989-1990.  I thought it was a goal to make a book timeless?  If I was in a bookstore and flipped through a book with old dates on it I wouldn’t buy it thinking it was old, but this is not so it’s confusing.  I feel it’s a shame because I really loved the book.

     I recieved the audio version of this book for review.  It was narrated by Heather Jane Hogan.  I don’t think that I have listened to anything narrated by her before.  She had such a soft spoken sweet sounding voice that she put me to sleep 2 nights in a row!  I’m not complaining, that’s great news for an insomniac, hehe.  She did a great job with the different voices and I’d listen to other books narrated by her again.

     I like Sarah and I like her roommate Beth.  They’re both very believable characters.  The romance with Brian was excellent.  He’s a total sweetheart and for once I believe in love at first sight.  As far as the dreams and serial killer part goes I found it really interesting and it made me think of like the Criminal Minds show.  I was shocked to learn from the author that he didn’t do any research on serial killers or criminal profiling for this book.  I really thought he had.  I found some of the dreams absolutely hilarious.  The Sean Connery dream is the best!  I’m curious to see what happens in the next book and how much time has gone by.  Especially after that ending!  Luckily I’ll be reviewing that book too!  I’m rubbing my hands together in anticipation.

Favorite Quotes:

“He looked at me like I was the only woman in the world worth looking at.”