Archive for the ‘Carissa’s Reviews’ Category

Reviewed by Carissa

Serenading Stanley by John Inman eBookTITLE: Serenading Stanley
AUTHOR: John Inman
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 234 pages
BLURB: Welcome to the Belladonna Arms, a rundown little apartment building perched atop a hill in downtown San Diego, home to the city’s lost and lovelorn. Shy archaeology student Stanley Sternbaum has just moved in and fills his time quietly observing his eccentric neighbors, avoiding his hellion mother, and trying his best to go unnoticed… which proves to be a problem when it comes to fellow tenant Roger Jane. Smitten, the hunky nurse with beautiful green eyes does everything in his power to woo Stanley, but Stanley has always lived a quiet life, too withdrawn from the world to take a chance on love. Especially with someone as beautiful as Roger Jane.

While Roger tries to batter down Stanley’s defenses, Stanley turns to his new neighbors to learn about love: Ramon, who’s not afraid to give his heart to the wrong man; Sylvia, the trans who just wants to be a woman, and the secret admirer who loves her just the way she is; Arthur, the aging drag queen who loves them all, expecting nothing in return—and Roger, who has been hurt once before but is still willing to risk his heart on Stanley, if Stanley will only look past his own insecurities and let him in.


“Stuck in the dead grass by the front steps leading up to the entrance of the apartment building was another sign.  This one was handwritten on a slab of cardboard and stapled to the wooden stake pounded into the ground.  The lettering on this sign was rendered in pink Magic Marker.  It read ‘VACANCY.’  And under that, this time scrawled in magenta Magic Marker and sprinkled liberally with glitter, were the words ‘TO APPLY PLEASE BE CUTE.’”

Stanley knows two things for certain: he would do almost anything to avoid moving back in with his mother, and he is abominable at interacting with anyone not long, long dead.  Also, he might just be a little in love with Roger Jane.  OK, that’s three things, but to be fair, he really didn’t want to be in love with Roger.  Not really.  Even if only the thought of those godlike lips made him tremble.  And alright, he also knows that Arthur needs some serious make-up tips–and that he most definitely shouldn’t get them from Ramon.  And that Sylvia is one hell of a woman–despite having more parts than she ever desired.  He also knows that living on floor six of the Belladonna Oven, er, Arms, was likely kill him–or at least Arthur–eventually.  So, it turns out Stanley actually knows quite a bit.

He certainly knows enough to know that Roger will never look at him twice.  What with Roger being a god, in all his beautiful nursing glory, and poor ol’ Stanley entirely mortal, and entirely aware of it.  Except Roger did look–a lot more than twice–and now Stanley doesn’t know what to think.

I am a big fan of John Inman, so I may’ve been counting down the days till I could get my hands on Serenading Stanley.  And I may also have spent four hours curled up on my bed giggling like a stoner with a pet watermelon to play with (um…just read the book, you’ll totally understand) when I finally got it.  There may also have been kissing involved (hey! I’m not that kind of girl…it was a quick, discreet peck on the screen) when Stanley manned up and got all declare-y.  This may have all happened…but the brownies seemed to have clouded my memories a bit…so I’ll guess we’ll never know for sure.

What I do know is that once again Inman gave us a book chalked full with pithy humor and a whole host of characters to fall in love with.  This book is no two-man show.  Yes, we are given god-like Roger, who will use every tool in his arsenal to woo the recalcitrant Stanley.  And poor, earthly Stanley, who’ll use every trick in his, to avoid a broken heart.  But it is the cross-dressing building manager, the lovely Sylvia–who would do anything to make her body fit her soul–and even the kleptomaniac, the beautician, and the masseur, that make the story whole.  Without them Stanley would never have his Roger, and without them we would never have such a fun and truly heartwarming tale of friendship, love, and beauty disasters.

If you are looking for an angst-filled book, than I’d advise you to look elsewhere.  Yes, we have Stanley issues, what with the whole insecurity thing, but it is nothing to bog the story down.  This is a fun, light read, that will have you awwing and giggling away long into the night.  Roger’s insistence, and Stanley’s reluctance, play nicely off each other.  And boy, when Roger wants to make a point, he does it beautifully–and with tongue.  He will also not let his Little Mouse scurry away simply because he fears the big What If.  Plus, when a man comes bearing a watermelon–and something a lot more fun–how can you turn him away?  I loved these two together, and I loved watching Roger serenade his way into Stanley’s heart (in a totally non-musical way–because apparently that would be disastrous).

Between the entrancing tenants of the Belladonna Arms, and the hard-won love affair of Stanley and Roger, I was completely won over by this book.  And Sylvia nearly broke my poor heart.  That girl deserves everything that she got–and so much more.  To be trapped inside a body that never matches you, is a terrible thing.  To have yourself denied because of money, even worse.  I loved that Inman was able to bring Sylvia–and all the rest of the tenants–to life is such a wonderful, and highly amusing, way.  I would have liked a little more tension, near the end, but I think I’ll take the sight of Pete on his knees, any day.

Don’t know what else to say, but that I loved it and I’m glad I trusted Inman with my oh-so-fragile bookish heart.  I totally and completely recommend you read this book when you’ve hit angst overload and need to remember how to smile.  Or if you want to find out just how sweet a twizzler can be.

Carissa rates it – star_review

BUY LINKS: Dreamspinner Press

Carissa is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.

To read all her reviews, click the link: CARISSA’S REVIEWS

Reviewed by Carissa

Burning Ashes by H. Lewis-Foster eBookTITLE: Burning Ashes
AUTHOR: H. Lewis-Foster
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 200 pages
BLURB: Intelligent and confident, Australian cricketer Nat Seddon is one of the world’s best bowlers. He’s openly gay, but keeps his private life to himself, everything under control. But on the last day of his team’s “Ashes” tour of England, he meets Scott Alverley, England’s promising new batsman. Nat tries not to be attracted to Scott, but he can’t help finding the privileged young man handsome and endearing. Nat is tempted by a little end of tour fun, but finds himself playing agony uncle to a virgin. Instead of going home to bask on a beach, he spends a wet week in the north of England with Scott. Try as he might to resist, he can’t help falling hopelessly in love.

The hectic sporting calendar is a persistent obstacle to their growing romance; Nat and Scott are rarely even on the same continent. They make the most of the time when they can be together, but the months apart take a toll on Scott, professionally and personally. The possible solutions are nearly unthinkable, but if they are willing to make sacrifices that will change their lives forever, they might hold on to the love they found in the Ashes.


“Cricket is a strange and beautiful game.  A match can last for five hours or five days, and the rules are near incomprehensible to those who have never played the game.  This sport of gentlemen evokes heated passions around the world and none more so than when England play Australia.  One of the oldest and keenest rivalries in sport, when the two countries do battle, the contest is known as the Ashes.”

When Scott and Nat meet over the cricket pitch, both men are struck by an attraction that is both worrisome and unexpected.  Not that it would stop Nat from bowling out Scott, whose first time at bat for the English national team ends with crash of Nat’s ball colliding with his wicket.  Attraction turns to quite a bit more when, over a friendly drink and rather botched attempt at seduction, Scott invites Nat to spend a week with him at his family’s house near the Lake District.  But with several oceans–and a longtime sporting rivalry–between them, can the love they’ve come to share stand the test of time and trials, or will it all turn to burning ashes?

Before I read this book I knew three things about the game of cricket.  The first is that it’s called cricket. Second, that the little sticky things that the bowler is trying to hit is called a wicket. And thirdly, that it is the most incomprehensible game I have ever tried to watch.  My anglophile obsession has carried me into many a deep dark corner of English life, but not even a nice cup of tea or my love of England was able to make that game watchable.  But like the anglo-addict I am, I was drawn into reading this book by the lovely cover and the idea of a sporting Romeo/Juliet style love story.

What I found within the story, though, led me to believe that the cover was probably the best part of the whole book.

I just had a very hard time believing that these two, who have only known each other less than a week, fall hopelessly and madly in love–and stay in almost constant loving bliss for the entire book.  I am no stranger to the idea of insta-love, and while sometimes annoying in its unreality, it can be executed in such a way as to make the reader feel the heat, the connection between the two main characters.  Not here.  There was about as much chemistry between them as a cup of table salt in a jug of warm water.  Handy for clearing out slugs or soothing a cough, but not a lot to inspire the more intense of feelings.  It had the potential–in so many different scenes, in so many different ways–but like table salt, something was preventing the full-on flash, bang, pow of chemical combustion.  It wasn’t till almost two-thirds through the book that I even began to feel anything between the two, and by then, I just couldn’t bring myself to care.  Too much was skipped over in the first section of the book.  Not enough time trying to build them up as a couple, and the lack of on-the-page romantic interaction–and yes, sex is part of that–just killed any hope for a believable romance.

This was not helped by the near teenage-level of angst and emotion that these two exhibited.  I was thrown, quite a bit, by how the stoic Nat–who at the beginning would not wince, less he show weakness–spent a good portion of the book near tears.  I’m all for being in touch with your emotions, but I prefer that they are your emotions that you’re in touch with–not a hormonal teenager’s.  Almost every twist, problem, or disaster was met by almost uncontrollable emotional-overload.  And when they finally do start to act like adults, there doesn’t seem to be much of a catalyst for it.  So either they were capable of it the whole time, or they just woke up one day and decided that almost breaking down in tears at the slightest provocation was not helping anyone.

Strangely enough, I think quite a few of the problems could have been solved if the author had stuck to a shorter timeline for the plot.  With a story that covers almost six years it felt like you would barely get comfortable in a scene before you were jerked out and thrown three months in the future.  If we had been given a novel that stayed with the characters long enough, in one setting, I don’t think it would have felt like we were being shown a highlights reel–instead of the real story.  Also, the amount of time spent in info-dumping, be it back-story or important conversations, may have been needed to move along the plot by giving large bursts of information, but it was too much.  It felt like I was reading a briefing on the characters, and not learning about who they actually were.

About two-thirds of the way through, it did pick up.  I was starting to get a feel for the real people that these characters were playing for the majority of the story, but by then it was too late to save the book, for me.  I really did want to like this book, and there were moments–when catching a bit of banter between Nat and Scott, or some of the players–that I felt it was on the cusp of something, but it could never quite push itself over the line.

Carissa rates it – 2_5

BUY LINKS:  Dreamspinner Press

Carissa is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.

To read all her reviews, click the link: CARISSA’S REVIEWS

Reviewed by Carissa

18308701TITLE: Good Boy
SERIES: Theta Alpha Gamma #4
AUTHOR: Anne Tenino
PUBLISHER: Riptide Publishing
LENGTH: 77 pages
BLURB: Brad “Frat Boy” Feller and Sebastian “Toppy” DeWitt have been together for nine months, and their relationship is as hot as ever. The only cloud Brad sees on their horizon is Sebastian’s stress over his thesis. And their uncertain future together after graduation. And how Sebastian sometimes takes Brad for granted. And Sebastian’s unwillingness to introduce Brad to his father.

Other than that, everything’s awesome.

All of Sebastian’s energy is currently devoted to his thesis, and getting into a top-notch PhD program. Fortunately, his boyfriend takes care of all the domestic stuff and Sebastian’s needs. Any minor strain between them will disappear and they’ll return to the status quo after Sebastian graduates. As long as nothing upsets their delicate balance in the meantime.

Then a friend Brad once had a small fling with is forced to take refuge with them, and Frat Boy and Toppy’s delicate balance topples like an elephant on a waterski. Now Sebastian has to face some truths about how he’s been treating Brad, what he wants for their future, and what he has to do to get it.


Once again we dip back into the world of Theta Alpha Gamma with this fourth installment in the series.  Bradley and Sebastian, of Frat Boy and Toppy fame, have been living in loving bliss since Bradley came out and Sebastian declared his love.  Well, maybe not bliss.  But they do love each other, and while living together has certainly created friction–and not all of it good–no one is looking for an escape hatch just yet.  Except Bradley has had a nagging feeling that something is missing: a missed connection between what was unsaid and what needs to be said between the two.  And after months of trying to ignore the problem, of hoping that the house of cards they have built is held together with duct-tape and not just sex-hoarse prayers, the arrival of Collin at their door pushes Sebastian up to his breaking point and Brad past his.  Now it is up to them both to lay their souls bare, ‘cause life will be looking far from happy if neither of them can find the words to bind them ever-after.

Picking up Good Boy was like a quick, but heart pounding, visit back into the world of my favorite frat-boys.  And sadly, while this story lacked the majority of the Theta Alpha Gamma House, there was plenty of Sebastian and Brad to get my fill of.  And what wonderful flavors they came in, too.  From hot and spicy bedroom play, to sweet and sultry blindfolded promises, there was a little something for everyone.  Even if that something was the sour taste, much like an over-lemoned lemonade, of long held (not-so) secret grudges.  The abundance of flavors should have clashed something horrible, but instead they all fit together to make a truly interesting and exciting story.

After the end of Frat Boy and Toppy I couldn’t shake the feeling that we hadn’t seen the last of Brad and Sebastian, and while we got glimpses of them in Love, Hypothetically and Sweet Young Thing–which, incidentally, happens chronologically alongside Good Boy–it just didn’t feel like enough.  Something was missing from their story–and as we come to find out in Good Boy, something was missing from their lives as well.  Well, not missing…it’s more like it was floating out there in the ether where both of them could feel, but neither wished to acknowledge.  But Brad comes to realize that even if Sebastian doesn’t want to acknowledge it, Brad needs to hear it.  And that, my friends, is when things get interesting.

And hot.

Frat Boy and Toppy had chemistry…but Sebastian and his boy have a nuclear-meltdown level of heat.  I am a fan of BDSM in my stories, loving the play and dynamics that come into effect when Doms and subs unite.  And while we got hints of this in FB&T, it wasn’t something that was overly talked about, or hashed out–which leads, in part, to the conflict in Good Boy.  In this story, it has to be talked about, or else the relationship could very well crumble beneath their feet.  But when the talking is done, and the clothes come off, these two burn up the pages.

Part of what makes this relationship so incendiary is that you get the sense that you are reading about two people who are a Dom and sub.  Not two people playing at the roles.  It is who they are, and when they finally openly acknowledge that part of their relationship, it is freeing and consuming at the same time.  Bradley’s inner conflict and resolve within himself about his sub tendencies was so well written that I had no problem believing that when he was at Sebastian’s feet, it was the only place he ever wanted to be.  And Sebastian grows so much in this story (he starts off as a complete ass, so up really was the only way to go), and learns just what he needs from Bradley–and what he needs to give to his boy, in order for him to be happy with himself.

I do think that in order to fully enjoy this story that you need to have read FB&T (the others in the series are optional to understanding the plot, though well worth the read on their own merits).  Will the story be understandable without having read FB&T? Probably.  But I very much doubt it will be as fun or filling.  There is just so much of the meat of the relationship–and the issues that pepper it–in FB&T, that to skip it would be like gorging on a steak without even pausing to taste the smoky, barbecued flavor on your tongue.  Sure you will get the occasional sweet lick of perfectly cooked meat over your taste buds, but flashes of flavor is nothing compared to the feel of sweet juicy meat running along your lips, over your tongue and bursting fully into all of your mouth.

While I would have quite happily read another hundred pages about these two, and how they are now going to live in this relationship that they have worked out, I don’t feel like we got short changed by the length of the story.  I think the story needed to give some closure to their relationship, and allow us to see the beginnings of their happily-ever-after.  And after it did that, I liked that it ended (even if I did want to set up camp in their bedroom and then sit and drool over the pair for a bit longer).  This story served as a bookend to Sebastian and Bradley’s story.  At least for us.  For now.

As for what is next, I can only hope that Tenino has her sights set on Toby.  My only request is that we get more of those lovely, if somewhat beer-logged, frat-boys from Theta Alpha Gamma.  I just love them–and if you don’t know why, I suggest you take a gander at Sweet Young Thing.

I recommend you read this book if you want to know just what happened to our Toppy and his Good Boy, or if you just feel the need to nuke your e-reader with highly restrained passion.  And if you feel the need to go back and reread the whole series again after you have hit that final page…well you won’t be the only one.

Carissa rates it – star_review

BUY LINKS: Riptide Publishing

Carissa is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.

To read all her reviews, click the link: CARISSA’S REVIEWS

Reviewed by Carissa


18068792TITLE: Junk
SERIES: The Bristol Collection, Book 1
AUTHOR: Josephine Myles
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: 351 pages
BLURB: Letting go is the first step to healing…or bringing it all crashing down.

When an avalanche of books cuts off access to his living room, university librarian Jasper Richardson can no longer ignore the truth. His ever-growing piles of books, magazines and newspapers can no longer be classified as a “collection”. It’s a hoard, and he needs professional help.

Professional clutter clearer and counselor Lewis Miller thinks he’s seen it all, but even he has to admit he’s shocked. Not so much by the state of Jasper’s house, but by the level of attraction he still feels for the sexy bookworm he remembers from school.

What a shame that Lewis’s ethical code forbids relationships with clients. As Jasper makes slow but steady progress, though, the magnetic pull between them is so strong even Lewis is having trouble convincing himself it’s a temporary emotional attachment arising from the therapeutic process.

Jasper longs to prove to Lewis that this is the real deal. But first he’ll have to lay bare the root of his hoarding problem…and reveal the dark secret hidden behind his walls of books.


Junk: where a sexy librarian hoarder meets a shopaholic clutter-cleaner with (over)commitment issues, and falls promptly and fully head over heels. What’s not to like?  Well except the fact that our sexy hoarder, Jasper, is one false move from being buried under his hoard of books and newspapers.  Or that clutter-cleaners with therapist leanings, like our Lewis, might just let morals get in the way of his happily ever after.   It’s nothing that can’t be conquered, but can these two, and all their issues, fit into a house that’s packed to the brim with books, papers, and a secret that not even death can bury?  Only time and love can tell.

I knew from the moment that I read the blurb of Junk that I was going to like this book.  Even discounting my love for the books of Josephine Myles, this truly sounded like a unique story being told.  Yet, hoarding?–the supposed province of crazy old bats with hygiene issues and more cats than could ever be healthy–how could that possibly lend itself to a good ol’ gay romance?  Turns out it lends itself superbly.  Not just because Jasper and Lewis make my knees go weak, or that my inner anglophile has a girlish fit every time I read a book set in the UK.  No, this book actually has the audacity to have depth of character and plot.  And I love it.

I love that these character–all of them–exist in three dimensions.  It would have been enough to find two protagonist who are more than just top and bottom, domineering or shy, but we got so much more.  Jasper and Lewis were great characters to come to know, but Yusef, Carroll, Mas, and of course the clothing free, free-speaking, parents of the Miller twins were a joy to read about.  Feeling like you could actually come across these people, if you take a quick (or not so quick, for the poor residence of sunny cali, like me) jaunt up to this English town, was a wonderful feeling.  The more I found out about these characters the more I wanted to know (if not exactly see–the only people I want to hold naked conversations with are those I’ll be tying to my bed later on).  I am also hoping Myles might be feeling benevolent and will give Mas his own happy ending–because seriously, that bouncy, sassy man has some serious depths that need to be plundered…er…discovered by the right man.

Jasper is a hoarder, but not a pushover.  He has a strong will, a working love life–well, he at least is getting some, if not from the right person, or in the right way–and the determination and courage to go after what he wants.  Be it a solution to his overwhelming hoarding problem, or after the reluctant clutter-cleaner that came to save his house and ended up claiming his heart, he is willing to take the steps to get it.  Yes he has doubts–and plenty of dithering about before he forces himself to change–but he does make those changes.  He does go after his man.  Even if said man made me want to whack him with the stick even as Jasper lulled him in with his, ah, carrot.

Lewis has pesky ethical issues, and unfortunately I can’t say that they are wrong.  Not even if they almost cock-blocked the happily-ever-after.  Lewis does have commitment issues–in that he comes to them way too fast and way too hard–so it is perfectly reasonable, and probably much healthier, to insist that they know that this is what they really want.  Both of them.  Did it bug me?  Of course.  I am a hopeless romantic that would happily live in a world of love at first sight and forever.  But I am also an unrepentant realist and hate when things come too easy to my heroes.  Make them strive for it, make them work hard for it…and then let them declare their undying love as they fall into each other’s arms.

There were so many little moments in this book that made me smile.  Zombie flirting in the cafe (a proven method of convincing your desired other that you are the perfect partner is to show just how useful you would be in a zombie apocalypse).  Decorative fountains that were so much more.  A brother and sister who reminded me quite a bit of how my sister and I act whenever we are in the same room (she’s the pretty one, I’m the smart one.  And most likely the dead one if she ever reads this!).  Yet for all its face splitting smiles and lighthearted nudist oversharing, there was real depth and insight into to the problem of hoarding.

These people don’t just have a problem throwing things away.  It is much more complex than that.  They can’t let go of what they have because they either feel that no one will love it like they do or they are sure that one day they will need it, use it, or turn it into something better and new.  But after a while the sheer weight of stuff, of time, of guilt, build up around them, and make even the thought of trying to move stuff out, impossible.  It does keep piling up, too, because it is hard to pass up that one last book, that one last set of knives.  After all, what is one more in the grand scheme of things?  Then one becomes ten, becomes fifty, and then three rooms are forever closed to you because gravity won out over haphazardly placed piles of stuff.  This was Jasper’s world, and it is no wonder that even thinking about the task before him made him cringe in horror.

And Jasper’s big secret?  Well you’ll just have to find that out on your own, ‘cause I can only deal with so much heartache.  I don’t need to go and break your heart as well–I’ll let Myles and Jasper do that for me.  But I will say, that while I got hints of it along the way, it still hurt to hear.  Maybe it was the combo of wine and late-night reading, but to see what Jasper had put on him, what he had to do, and then having to live with it every day after, it about broke my heart.  I don’t know where I come down on the issue itself, but that is one hell of a burden to carry.

But don’t worry, it is not all doom and gloom!  The love here is genuinely heartwarming, and the chemistry between these two is like a bonfire on a cold night: irresistible to watch and you can’t help but get as close as you can so to feel the heat lick up your skin.  Surprisingly it is Jasper who is the driving force behind most of the action.  He seemed so broken at the beginning of the story, and even with him saying that he’d the one topping Mas, I didn’t think he really had it in him to go after Lewis like he did.  But, boy, was I wrong.  I was wrong in the garden, on the bed, and in the warehouse–several times!  And while Jasper may eventually want to be able to switch it up, it was hot and sweet and very very much a pleasure to read with him in charge.  I do take issue with the fade-to-black before Lewis got to go all toppy on Jasper wonderful behind, though–that was just mean…if completely the right choice for the story.  But still.

I loved this story, and while there were a few areas where the transitions were a little iffy and I might have been jolted out of the scene as I tried to figure what was going on, I don’t have many complaints.  This book took me, my heart, and my head, through a wringing and wonderful journey, and I have no qualms about recommending it to anyone who wants to fall in love vicariously, likes pants-melting kisses, and who is willing to see some of the crazy secrets that hide behind the towers of literary genius.  5 stars.  Go pick it up; you will not regret it–unless it is the domino that sets off your own worded avalanche.

(This book also prompted a little clean-out on my part. So yea! to more shelf space and less shoes clogging my closet.  That means I can buy more books right?)

BUY LINKS: Samhain Publishing :: Amazon :: All Romance eBooks

Carissa is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.

To read all her reviews, click the link: CARISSA’S REVIEWS

Reviewed by Carissa

Dead in the DesertTITLE: Dead in the Desert
SERIES:  L.A. Paranormal #3
AUTHOR: Lou Harper
PUBLISHER: Harper Books
LENGTH: 111 pages
BLURB: Jon Cooper used to think he wanted a life free of complications, but that was before he got involved with his roommate, Leander. Jon knows that the only thing he can’t lose is what he doesn’t have, but where does that leave him?

Leander Thorne, on the other hand, is an easygoing bookworm, with an addiction to books and cooking shows, and a soft spot for Jon, despite Jon’s grumpiness. He also happens to be a psychic specializing in finding lost pets and—more recently—lost people. He’s good at it. Too good if you ask Jon.

Unsolved crimes, missing people and bodies buried in the Mojave Desert make Jon’s and Leander’s lives anything but uncomplicated. Jon is forced to dig into his soul and find a way to let go of his past if he wants to keep Leander.


If you are Leander Thorne, finding bodies in the middle of the sweltering desert is easy.  It’s the living that are giving him fits.  When hired by a high-priced lawyer to find Ethan, the beneficiary of a multi-million dollar bequeathment, Leander and his lover Jon Cooper, set out after the ever winding trail of a man with a dark past and even murkier present.  But with a bevy of unhelpful relatives and a rather impressive vanishing act by the young man, Andy and Jon are left with no more to go on than a single photo and a rather nasty family history of feeding the gators…with other people’s hands.

If you are Jon Cooper, you know nothing lasts forever.  With both a wife and career lost in a car accident, Jon has learned that the “only thing you couldn’t lose was what you didn’t have.”  But no matter how hard he tries to hold himself back he finds himself falling for his book-addicted psychic roommate, Andy.  When Andy, once again, throws himself into the dangerous world of dead people and annoying homicide detectives, Jon finds himself struggling to keep his lover from getting killed, and himself from falling so far that his heart breaks the fall.   But on this crazy ride from the baked Mojave to the shores of Santa Monica, Jon might just find that there worse things than finding yourself dead in the desert. 

Dead in the Desert is the third story in the L.A. Paranormal Series by Lou Harper (both of the previous stories can be found together in Dead in L.A.), and while I don’t think you will find yourself too out of sorts if you wish to start reading about Jon and Andy in this book, I would thoroughly recommend picking up and reading the previous stories in the series.  A lot of the backstory between Jon and Andy, as well as between Jon and his late wife, happen in Dead in L.A. and it will help you understand some of the reasoning behind Jon’s actions in this book.

I was thrilled when I heard that there would be a third story in this series.  I fell in love with these two when I read Dead in L.A. and had not thought that I would be getting any more from this couple.  So the release of Dead in the Desert was a real nice surprise.  I would have liked the story to be a little longer, and maybe a tad bit more dark (even with body-chopping serial killers it read as a nice light read), but I was so totally in love with this complex but heartfelt relationship between Leander and Jon, that the slight loss depth didn’t overly affect my reading of the story.

Strange as it may seem, it is not the crazy life of Leander,  the (I keep wanting to call him a psychic pet-detective, but then I get flashbacks of Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura) psychic and finder of all things missing and buried, that these books focus on.  Instead we get told the story of Jon, the slightly disgruntled art student who has found himself thrown into the odd world of being friend, lover, and self-appointed guard of his bookaholic roommate. Andy is the–this is going to sound corny–wind behind Jon’s sails (yep, that sounded just as sappy I thought it would).  He moves Jon, he steers him into new waters, and pushes him over that dreaded horizon.  Jon, in return, protects Andy from annoyingly insistent cops and makes sure the younger man has more than ramen noodles to eat.  He also tries to help Leander work his way through the mess of images in his head–though I very much doubt that Indiana Jones had much to do with the vanishing act Ethan pulled.  He doesn’t think Andy can’t do these things for himself, but his drive to protect is just whoJonis.  I find it nice that they both have something to offer each other–neither one wants to be the sole focus or the sole giver in the relationship.  And it is a relationship, no matter how willfully blind Jon is intent on being.

Jon has a tendency to remind me of child willfully declaring he doesn’t like chocolate, all the while the chocolate frosting drips from his chin and hair onto the floor below him.  He says he can’t love Andy, not because he thinks Andy is unlovable, but because he knows just how hard he can crash when that love is ripped away.  But just as “places too, lived and died like people,” Jon needs to see that they do live.  No you can’t fight death, but not everything is crumpled fish bones on the shore of a salt-thick lake.  There are lunches by the ocean and feet tucked warmly beneath your thighs so as to keep out the cold.  There is also alfresco sex on the side of hills overlooking the world below, and simply remembering the good things…things like stifling moans and “rutting against each other in a stubborn reaffirmation of life.”

One of the things I love so much about his book is the fact that Jon is trying to grow and learn that there is life after all that death.  He is learning that the weight of Andy against him at night is a comfort that might not replace a broken past, but it does fill in the cracks on a broken heart.  The chemistry between these two is hot, but it is like a nice cup of tea.  Hot and sweet, with a splash of cream to top it off.  I find it soothing and a tad bit addictive.  That they can also laugh and play together is big plus as well.  They have such wonderful humor in the rest of their lives it would be a pity if they got serious every time they got naked.

The humor in this story was fantastic.  It felt settled, like it is not trying to be funny, it just was. This is who Jon is. Who Andy is. No forcing it, no pushing to get a laugh from the readers–but letting us see the quirky and sometimes dirty humor that these two had.  Whether it is the jokes of a couple growing into themselves–“What, you won’t love me anymore if I am bald?”–or Jon’s dry humor–“Cop were distrustful; they always wanted to know why you decided to dig a hole in the middle of nowhere.”–you are left smiling the whole way through the book.

It is hard to say much about the mystery without giving away all those lovely little twist and turns, but let’s just say that Andy has one hell of a job cut out for him this time.  And it doesn’t help that he keeps running across dead people that aren’t even his to find.  While I would have loved to see some grand reveal like in one of Andy’s loved Agatha Christie mysteries, I think I might just like the ending of this mystery a lot better.  After all, for me, it is watching Jon and Andy dance around each other that is so much fun.  The dead people are just icing on the cake (and doesn’t that make me sound like a prime candidate for those lovely white jumpers and padded rooms).

Four stars for a mystery that kept me guessing and a love that kept me hoping.   This book is definitely going on to my re-read pile and I am looking forward to any other stories that Harper can give us with these two.  Read this when you find yourself needing a laugh or needing to smile over what fools we all be, when we be in love.

Carissa’s Rating: four-stars_0

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Carissa is the newest official reviewer on The Blog of Sid Love.

I take this opportunity to welcome her to our fabulous team