Si and Howie became a couple in book one, but that was a side story so their romance was never explored. It’s mentioned in book two that they’ve had some issues and now we get to see what they are. Unlike Mitch, Si doesn’t leave the team so Howie is having to deal with weeks of separation at a time without knowing where Si is or if he’s okay. He doesn’t want to move to North Carolina, he’s happy in Wyoming. But again, there is no communication here. His mother is also a problem; his family doesn’t approve of his being gay and she’s here from Ohio. At one point, it’s only his aunt and cousins left alive, but then he is supposedly from a big family. He seems to not care what anyone thinks except his mom. In fact, he still dates when his mom is alive, just keeps it out of her face, but I have to assume his aunt or cousins are telling her anyway? Why couldn’t he have just done that with Si instead of other men? There is some repetition about how Howie is kind and gentle, not a warrior, but I was frustrated with him not standing up for himself. This plot frustrates me as much as what happened between Jake and Mitch, but two years later, Si and Howie finally get their second chance.
Si is a volatile character, not that he would ever be violent with Howie, but he seems to need calming influences. His friends tend to “manage” him. The dynamic of Mitch and Jake as team leaders, follows into their personal lives as well. I didn’t understand the inclusion of Mark, who is ex-agency and now a physical therapist that just happens to be in this small town in Wyoming. When someone has it out for Howie, the team tries to figure out who, and whether someone is trying to kill him or just scare him. Clearly, something needed to happen to set up the next book so that it makes sense for these men to keep doing military type scenarios when they are supposed to be civilians. There also needs to be some sort of connection to the bar, or it wouldn’t make sense to be part of the J.T.’s Bar series. Everything is sorted, but I still am not too attached to most of the characters except Mitch, and by extension Jake.
Mitch’s brother Greg shows up out of the blue to J.T.’s Bar. He’s on the run from someone trying to kill him, having been in witness protection for fourteen years. When his marshall Riordan tracks him down and takes him away to safety, the attraction they have been battling for the last few years boils over with the forced proximity. The numerous sex scenes are steamy and more detailed in this one, so it works better as an erotic romance than a suspense/thriller. It is on the insta-love side because although Riordan may know almost everything about Greg, Greg knows next to nothing about Riordan and it’s his POV.
Unfortunately the character descriptions are still not very detailed, so there is nothing more about the covert ops team members, nor about the sheriffs or marshalls either. There are a few plot twists as they try to catch the bad guys, including the mole in WITSEC. When the danger is over Mitch’s and Greg’s parents show up, so the last third is family drama. This is actually my favorite part as Mitch and Greg bury their past and start fresh with Greg working as a cook at the bar. Greg also has to figure out how to move forward with Riordan. I felt more attached to Mitch and I really liked Greg and Riordan as characters.
After J.T.’s sister Sharon is murdered, he resigns from a covert ops organization. Riley, his best friend since grade school and Sharon’s husband, goes to prison while JT just leaves his whole life behind, including his boyfriend Mitch and starts going by the name Jake. With the loss of Riley and Jake, the whole team crumbles as even two years later half the team thinks Riley is guilty, and half think he’s innocent. When Riley escapes from prison and makes his way to the bar, is he there to kill Jake, or something else?
Most of the characters are all veterans and ex or current law enforcement except for Howie, the bar’s co-owner. Jake seems a little clumsy for an elite ex-soldier. His abandoning his boyfriend without a word is a source of conflict for me. The one thing Jake and Mitch do right is sex, the talking not so much; even at the end of this I am not convinced they can have a mature adult conversation about their feelings. The other team members (Del, Si, and Ruiz) just seem to take this all in their stride and forgive Jake for disappearing, or at least there isn’t anything that shows differently. There is also a side insta-lust romance with Howie and Si. The foreshadowing is a little clumsy all heading towards a confrontation with the bad guy with a suprise plot twist coming out of nowhere. As a short novella, this is just a bunch of fun–nothing too detailed or angsty, with some mildly spicy sex scenes.
**This series was originally published by Dreamspinner Press and has been self-published by the author. It is now exclusive to Amazon. She does sometimes sell through Payhip first, so signup for her newsletter.
Holden moved away from Baltimore nine years ago; his life is now in Ithaca where he’s a veterinarian. He has his best friend Gavin and his pit bull Peanut. But when he gets a call his twin brother Hendrix has been shot in the line of duty, he rushes back to be by his side. While Drix is in a coma, Holden gets close to Jameson, his brother’s work partner and his own high school crush. There was a reason Holden left this place and Jameson has family problems of his own. As their lives start to slot together into a routine, they need to decide if this is something they want to keep.
The authors switches POV between Holden and James every other chapter, so the reader gets immersed in both men’s feelings. I got attached to both characters quite quickly. Although this is a hurt/comfort trope, it never gets too angsty. Since the authors dwells on the positive rather than negative aspects of the story, the shooting and the past traumas for both men, are easy to navigate. This is a slow burn that is unexpectedly sweet with sexy love scenes. The characters are spending so much time together, they get to know each other well. This all feels natural. They are in their own little bubble–with Jameson on leave after the shooting, they spend every day at the hospital. I felt that time go by, but I wasn’t bored. I felt a real sense of intimacy was achieved. It’s impossible not to like Drix and Gavin, but I really connected with Luwanna, a volunteer at the hospital. I think most people who have spent time in a hospital have known a Luwanna.
This is a complete story. Yet, there are many threads that could get pulled for a sequel. Holden’s aforementioned past trauma is something he needs to talk about with his brother one day. Jamison’s family issues may never get fixed, but it’s his professional problems at work that are the real issue, considering his uncle is his boss. His brother and cousin are all also cops. Throw in Jamison’s father situation, and the reader knows exactly where this will all logically come to a head moving forward. Just because I think I know the plays, doesn’t make this less enjoyable to read. I prefer foreshadowing to things coming out of left field. Still, life comes at you hard, so I’ll wait to see Gavin get his own story which way the authors go to wrap those things up.
The cover was done by Michele Notaro and Sammi Cee. I would say this is Holden. He has a lot of past hurts he keeps hidden so I get using the hair as a veil, but I feel like the book deserves a more wow cover.
Jason contacts Mark about the death of his brother Andrew. Andrew and Mark had been best friends when they were young, but didn’t keep in touch after Mark left town at 15. Now at 33, all the memories Mark buried away are back. It was Andrew’s last wish that Jason complete his bucket list of things he wanted to do and Mark is made a part of it with his 15th high school reunion. Throughout this book they both face grief of a life lost, lost chances, and regret for bad decisions and might have beens. This is tapered with some of the best memories of their lives. Questions of all the missed years are painful. At first, both have things they are hiding; watching them earn those secrets is an emotional rollercoaster. The flashbacks they both have keep the emotional punches coming.
This was a bit unexpectedly triggering for me. Be advised much of this is about child abuse and bullying. The grief and shared history gives them something to bond over initially, but it is being together daily that makes it mean more, letting their relationship blossom. This book come across as very real to me with enough sweet and sexy parts to make it believable they can make it work and not just as a vacation romance. I liked the honest communication between them, both about the past and what they are feeling for each other as it happens. This is about righting old wrongs and really living because life is short, not revenge or comeuppance, although the reader gets a bit of that too.
Devon’s secret is…he wants a Daddy, but has not ever told anyone–not even his husband. After their 30 year relationship, and 20 year marriage, has ended, Devon is beaten down by life. Who would want a boy who’s almost 50? Bern, the son of Devon’s best friend just returned from the service. Devon has no idea that Bern has always wanted him. What was once a crush, became caring nearing on obsession for Bern so that he went away to college and then joined the service. As soon as Bern learns of the divorce, he hands in his papers so he can come home and claim what he has always believed was his.
This starts in the past with Bern’s POV, which is a brilliant way to establish him as a character. His Dad Murray gets it because he had a similar dynamic with his wife. Father and son are honest with each other and he knows who his son is as a person. Bern’s upbringing and personality have resulted in him being a dominant caregiver, making him perfect for Devon. Of course, Devon has no idea. Devon’s POV lets us see his shock at Bern as a man. We get to see his sadness, his loneliness, his longing. He has never asked for what he wanted, and buried it in shame.
Bern has a plan, and takes charge…parts of this hit me as a little intense or creepy, him having studied every little thing about Devon’s likes/dislikes for YEARS. This is not just age gap, but age play. While Daddy/little is mentioned more than once, there is not too much detail–the reader is not immersed in this kink, but it has a little more than most novels out there that just use the words. Once they get together, this goes fast with explicit content. There is less dialogue, with large portions of the book happening in their heads. It is also slightly repetitive in their thoughts. I get annoyed when authors write older or younger characters unrealistically so I am happy to report that is not the case here. Devon is age appropriate when he is not a little. It’s great to see Devon embracing his submission, being less self conscious, less insecure, and unashamed about what he wants with Bern. This is a sweet, hot, wish fulfillment story.
Dorran finds a dead body in his new apartment building. Turns out the lead detective on the case is his ex-boyfriend Eli whom he hasn’t seen since high school, more than ten years ago. The dead guy turns out to be John, the person Dorran bought the apartment from. John’s uncle Francis had owned the apartment before he died–not too long ago either. As Dorran is cleaning out Francis’ belongings so he can move in, he starts to feel a kinship with Francis. Suddenly things are out of place and he feels like he’s being touched, but no one is there. Then, there are his neighbors, all gossips and in everyone’s business. While they may not tell the police investigating John’s death everything, they seem to want to tell Dorran. As Dorran gets dragged into the case through no fault of his own while trying to do the right thing, his own curiosity gets engaged. Eli warns him to stay out of it as it’s police business. They also have their own personal issues that need to be resolved if Eli is going to keep coming around.
This story has a lot going for it, but it didn’t quite come together for me. I felt removed from the characters and not emotionally invested in their second chance romance. There is some contradictory information as Dorran thinks about Eli and their history. The reader is told Dorran loved Eli, but his thoughts about the Eli he knew aren’t very flattering. The reader is also told Eli runs from confrontation and his problems. Yet Dorran is the one who left Eli because he wouldn’t come out. Eli keeps saying he forgives Dorran, but Eli is still bitter about this even though he admitted it was his own fault. Dorran is still beating himself up over his decision. I think this conflict as a plot point could have been better written. There is also some repetition.
The neighbors are all somewhat interesting. There could have been more done to make them be creepy, invasive, and meddling in a way the audience could treat them all with suspicion. They are all supposed to be suspects. There was a murder in the building, possibly two, and yet this is not atmospheric at all. The reader is told Dorran is upset at finding the body, having nightmares, and feels uncomfortable as the neighbors all want to talk about it. The guy is having stuff move around in his apartment! Yet, I didn’t feel that fear at all. In fact, he decides having a ghost is just fine and no big deal. I did guess who was responsible for John’s death, but the details of why are revealed only at the end. This story didn’t grab my attention or emotions as much as I had hoped it would.
The cover art is by Angela Waters. I’m not sure this conveys anything about the story. It has a noirish quality in the background and this is a who-done-it. This is not how I pictured these guys.
An immortal, Wes Cooper is technically dead, but able to travel between this world and the otherplane. Lexi Aster is his best friend and a witch; it was her great grandmother’s spell to resurrect Wes after he was killed. He’s not a ghost since he has a living body, but he can make himself disappear, so that resurrection went a bit wonky. When he witnesses a murder, he is frozen and doesn’t act in time. His guilt motivates him to try and help with the investigation. Except for the first time, the killer actually sees Wes while he’s invisible. Now his ex from 33 years ago, Detective Hudson Rojas, gets assigned the case and Wes’ life gets complicated.
The author takes a huge risk giving the POV to an amoral character who is not terribly mature and so self-absorbed that he has spent no time getting to know or understand the magic that allows him his life. Over the course of the book, it becomes obvious that Wes isn’t a bad guy, that he cares for his friends. Knowing the time period and how he dies explains why he is the way he is, but he is so much more as he starts to care more for others and things outside of himself. Hudson has his own growth that needs to happen for them to get their second chance. As with most of the books I have been reading lately, most of their issues come down to lack of communication, but timing in life is everything. In the end, these guys are sweet together. Wes reads as demisexual, although that word isn’t used. The final love scene was hot and funny at the same time–quite an accomplishment and it helps to make the whole thing real.
The lovers reunited element works well in the story. Lexi and Evan (to avoid spoilers, I’ll say he’s Hudson’s friend) are fleshed out enough to care about what happens to them, but I did want a little more. The mystery and the murders are interesting with enough action to keep the suspense going. If witches, vampires, secret societies and ancient artifacts sound exciting, this is the book for you. I’d be happy to read more in this world.
Frankie kissed Tom when he was 17 and Tom punched him, ending their friendship. Then, Frank left town and hasn’t been back in 30 years. When his uncle dies, he has to go back to deal with his inheritance. Tom has been working for Frankie’s uncle and has now lost his friend, his home, and his job due to his death. He has given up everything to take care of his mother, who is now in a nursing home. The story has dual POV and their childhood is shared through flashbacks. Frankie is still caught in the sadness of the past. Much of this book is sad, reminiscences often are–of dreams lost, bad decisions made, the things you can’t take back. As Frank and Tom start to relive the good times they shared as boys, rather than dwelling on the incident, you would think it would liven up, but for me it doesn’t.
I am not a fan of second chance romances. I tend to think things didn’t work out for a reason. I am not a fan of nostalgia or glorifying the past. But avoiding dealing with things from your teenage years until you are nearing your fifties is not healthy. While my heart ached for both men for different reasons, I was frustrated with them too. Tom has let fear rule him for so long; after fighting it, he finally gives in and decides to explore what they have. Frankie was hard for me to relate to for some reason. His demisexuality seemed to keep him isolated from deep relationships and even his friends didn’t really know him. There was a little bit of comic relief about 60% in when they tour a neighboring resort. I wish that type of interaction had been included more. The best parts are having them recapture their love of the woods and each other–sharing the dream of remodeling the resort.
While this was interesting and well written, I felt removed emotionally at times. That’s okay, because I like to read books that are about many types of people. How boring would it be if we were all alike? It’s a good reminder that other people’s logic and life experience can be completely different and will affect their decisions and outlook. Charlie, Simon, and Brian from book one show up. Brian seems the next one to be paired off, but as he cheated on Simon over and over for a decade, I am not much enthused by this prospect. It will take a lot to redeem this character in book three, but if any author can do it, Kelly Jensen can.
Scott and Liam have a history. It’s hard not to love them both right away and want to protect them as children in foster care. The author only spends enough time here to establish the relationship and how heartbreaking it is when they’re separated. When they find each other again as adults, they are together two years until it all falls apart. Six years later, they are throw together at work. The love is still there, but not the trust. In the end, the only thing that fixes that is time. It works a heck of a lot better as a hurdle than most of the manufactured crises a lot of authors seem to throw into a story as a plot device. This series does specialize in dysfunctional men meeting their match.
All ten characters from previous books show up, but this can be read as a standalone with no problem if you want to dive in. I know a lot of books say that, but honestly it’s been such a long time since I read the first four that I don’t remember the characters and I skipped the fifth one (I bought it, I just haven’t had time to read it before this review was due.) Jamie, is the only one that is pertinent. On the one hand, that made reading it really easy. On the other hand, it would have had a bit more depth if they were all more integral to the story than just being the gay adopted insta-family they become. I feel like fans of the series will just be excited to see their favorites included, even if for a few brief scenes. It turns out Jamie busted Scott when he was 17, but they eventually bonded over cars and have been friends for years. It seems strange then that Scott’s never met Jamie’s boyfriend or other friends until now.
Besides being a medic, Liam is in a band that plays at the bar Scott ends up working at. Liam has a boyfriend, Dion, who is steady, supportive, and understanding–the death knell for sure. Guess what happens. As time goes on in the story, the truth of why Liam left Scott and joined the military is obvious. Some of Liam’s time in the military: his guilt, loss, and nightmares are touched on. Although we get Liam’s POV a few times, it’s Scott’s POV for the most part, so it’s easy to empathize with him, but Liam really comes off as having handled everything quite badly. In fact, Scott is a better person than me because no way would I forgive so quickly, if at all. The hot sex happens quickly and continues throughout the story. The real plot actually comes from them learning to be with each other as adults, not just immature kids, whilst still navigating old patterns of behavior. Liam is living with his mother and her new family after his injury in the Army. He is still learning to deal with his relationship with her after his childhood. Scott still has anger and self esteem issues. There isn’t really a lot of angst, it’s more: fear of rejection, fear of hope. Sometimes you have to decide what you want, go after it even if it makes you vulnerable, and fight for it without letting others interfere. They worked out what they wanted for their future as children. Now, it’s time to work out what their new future as adults will look like. The author made me want them to be together and work things out.
The cover artist is Kanaxa and matches the rest of the covers in this series. It shows the cityscape (Baltimore) and an eye catching Scott.