This is a wonderful collection of paranormal stories in a variety of settings, and with characters who cover a range of abilities, perspectives, and adventures.
Rhys Ford - Dim Sum Asylum, reviewed by Christy Duke
I am a true lover of urban fantasy, and, in my opinion, Rhys Ford writes the genre very, very well. In 'Dim Sum Asylum', one of the fantastic stories in 'Charmed and Dangerous', the author has combined her talent of the urban fantasy with her equally marvelous talent for writing detectives and mystery.
Detective Roku MacCormick might just be one of the most interesting characters Ms. Ford has written. And that, my friends, says a lot. Half fae and half human, Roku works in the Arcane Crimes division, and just shot his last partner. Well, he'd gone bad, what do you expect? No Roku is partnered with a human, Detective Trent Leonard. A human who pushes all of Roku's buttons in a really good way.
A wonderful beginning to this anthology, the author had me hanging on the edge of my seat, feeling as if I was watching the action and excitement unfold in front of me. I loved all the detail that went into this story and dearly hope Rhys writes more of this world.
Ginn Hale - Swift and the Black Dog, reviewed by Christy Duke
An enticing world of wizards, betrayal, heroes, and death, 'Swift and the Black Dog' pulled me in from the first moment, and kept me hooked. Jack Swift, the wizard, along with his friends, who defeated the Tyrant ten years ago, is tired. Tired of being a hero. Tired of remembering how foolish and arrogant he was. But now, one of his compatriots has called on him to deal with a man they once considered one of them. How can Jack say no, when more death and corruption is happening all around him?
Jack gets help in an unlikely place, in the form of Owen Finch, a young member of the Ministry's Security, an idealist, who believes that the common people can truly make a difference. Jack knows better. It took seven years to defeat the Tyrant, and the Wizards who grabbed the Ministry and higher echelon positions aren't about to let votes sway their decisions. There's more to Finch than meets the eye, though, and it takes both of them to right some wrongs that have been allowed to fester for far too long.
An exciting story that just continued in the same vein of intrigue as the first story did. Thank you, Ginn, I really enjoyed it!
KJ Charles - A Queer Trade, reviewed by Serena Yates
While there is a serious need and an urgent problem behind Crispin’s quest to find his deceased master’s magic papers, there is a levity of tone and a wonderful sense of humor in the way KJ Charles tells this story. Set in a London of the past, but one where magic is real, this is the tale of an apprentice magician and a waste paper seller who would not normally have met.
Crispin is white, young, inexperienced, and desperate to find the spell-covered papers before they can do real damage. Ned is a man of color (as he puts it), is a little older, an experienced trader, and very, very skeptical about the existence of magic. But the attraction between these two different men is undeniable, and I loved watching them get closer as Crispin begins to explain what has happened, and Ned begins to consider believing him. By the time they go hunting for the missing papers and all kind of weird and mysterious things happen, I was both amused and fearful for Crispin’s safety if anyone found out it was his fault.
If you like stories about magic gone wrong, if you enjoy finding out more about men who appear to be very different on the surface, et turn out to be very well-matched, and if you’re looking for a read that is both amusing and suspenseful, then you will probably like this short story.
Nicole Kimberling - Magically Delicious, reviewed by Serena Yates
Working among extra-humans without any of their powers is a tough job. Keith may be “only” human, but he is determined to do his best. In this story, he faces a supertough challenge when his extra-human boyfriend Gunther is attacked and Keith is the one to go after the perpetrator. Never mind all the powerful beings in his way – human determination is all he needs to solve the case.
Keith and Gunther are hilarious together, and it’s clear they are very dedicated to each other. As different as they are they have to be very much in love if they want to make things work, and it’s too bad that Gunther’ relatives don’t agree with his choice of “only human” boyfriend.
If you like stories about men who are determined to save their boyfriends no matter wat they have to face, if an interspecies couple appeals to you, and if you’re looking for a read that is action-packed, funny, and has a wonderful ending, then you will probably like this short story.
Jordan Castillo Price - Everyone's Afraid of Clowns, reviewed by Christy Duke
I hadn't realized how much I'd missed Victor and Jacob until I started reading Jordan's contribution. These are the only two PsyCops I can imagine on Halloween, and the fact that Jacob was even able to get Victor to attend a party made reading this story so entertaining. Of course, as is the norm with these two, a little detour was in order—much to Victor's annoyance and my delight.
Ghost hunting on Halloween with Victor, a medium, and his partner, Jacob? Hell yeah, count me in! Unfortunately, the guys end up in a poorly done "haunted house", which neither find very entertaining. Particularly when they realize what the theme is. All is not lost, however, when they stumble inadvertently upon the ghost clown that Victor saw in this same building when he was sixteen. SQUEE! True to form, though, Victor is able to help this poor vaudeville hobo toward the light.
Thank you, Jordan ~ I do love your guys!
Jordan L. Hawk - The Thirteenth Hex, reviewed by Lena Grey
Hexman Dominic Kopecky doesn’t understand why dashing crow familiar Rook wants his help investigating murder by patent hex. For one thing, Dominic isn’t a witch. For another, the case is already closed—and someone is willing to kill to keep it that way.
When Dominic Kopecky, of 'The Thirteenth Hex' by Jordan L. Hawk, was young, he took the required tests to learn if he had magic but he failed the tests. His parents were elated since they didn't want him to have magical abilities. Dominic was disappointed, but not defeated. He takes a job as a hexman, working with the police, drawing hexes for witches employed in the force. When a handsome familiar named Rook appears at his desk, asking for help with a case, Dominic is baffled but anxious for an opportunity to be of service. However, it seems Rook is interested in far more than Dominic helping him with a crime.
There is a lot going on in this short murder mystery. Jordan chooses her words wisely for the best effect as she maneuvers through Rook and Dominic's business and personal interests, all the while dropping clues that Rook may have another motive in asking for Dominic's help. I'm familiar with most things magical; but someone who isn’t might be a confused. However, Jordan does an excellent job of explaining terms like hex, familiar, and bonded familiar and witch. If you like stories with magic, hexes, witches, familiars, and a murder mystery to boot, you may enjoy this tale. Thanks, Jordan! Keep the magic coming.
Charlie Cochet - The Soldati Prince, reviewed by Lena Grey
Riley Murrough goes from serving lattes to being chased by demons. If this wasn’t bad enough, he bears the mark of a shapeshifter king from a magical realm. Riley is determined to get answers, but if the demons out for his blood don’t kill him, the urge to strangle the arrogant king might. Riley of 'The Soldati Prince' by Charlie Cochet, thinks the biggest decision he will have to make after he closes the café for the day is which left over pastry to eat next. When two menacing looking men come in after hours, Riley is certainly not prepared for them to turn into monsters, necessitating him to have to run for his life. When a gang of huge tigers join in the fray, Riley knows it is not going to be a normal night. When they turn into men, Riley is ready to call the looney bin himself.
Then Khalon, king of a race called the Soldati, begrudgingly acknowledges Riley has the mark on his arm which indicates he is the potential prince and Khalon's soulmate. Most assuredly, Riley is “not” who Khalon is expecting the Great Priestess to send him. He expected a fierce warrior, not someone who is “shorter than one of his swords”.
The real charm of this story is Riley's sense of humor, how he expresses himself, even when he's frightened. He is brave and spunky and won't be talked down to, whether Khalon is king or not. Khalon: “I need time to think of my next course of action without him and his incessant babbling.” Riley's reply is: “And you’re still single? How is this injustice possible?” or when he asks Toka, one of the servants: “What’s the deal with King Crabby-Pants?” Besides Riley, Toka, who is the embodiment of kindness, was my favorite character. If you like stories about demons, shifters, spunky princes-to-be, handsome kings, and best friends, you may enjoy this one. Thanks, Charlie, for the entertaining read.
Lou Harper - One Hex Too Many, reviewed by Lena Grey
Veteran detective Mike Mulligan is an expert on violent crimes—of the occult variety. He might even be cursed. Detective Hugh Fox is eager to partner up and prove himself, but Mulligan is accustomed to flying solo. Can they trust each other enough to track a killer who’ll stop at nothing, not even summoning a demon? Hugh is eager to gain the experience necessary in a great detective. He is good at picking up clues, magical or otherwise, and Mike begins to think he will make a great detective after all. There is one issue to be solved between them; Mike and Hugh are attracted to each other They decide to maintain a professional relationship.
The dead man in the bathtub is only the beginning of a very complicated investigation. Mike and Hugh pick up on residue left by dark magic, making it a murder case instead of a suspicious death. The deeper they dig, the more convoluted the investigation becomes, leading them places literally and figuratively, where they don't necessarily want to go. Much of it is distasteful at best and horrible at worst, but they forge ahead determined to get to the bottom of the strange goings-on.
Lou has created a fascinating alternate world where Law Enforcement Officers use magic to fight crimes as well as criminals use magic to perpetrate them. The characters—hero or villain—are equally well-wrought, providing the story with a wide range of emotion. I'm usually good at following clues and coming to correct conclusions, but not in this story. Lou twists and turns through the mystery with an expertise that confounded me. In many ways, it reminded me of a police show, with its details about police procedure as they search for “whodunit”. Lou never fails to amuse me with her innuendos, dry humor, and flat-out quirky dialogue. I vacillate between smiling and laughing out loud at words like Extra Mundane Perception (EMP) obviously referring to Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) or HAZMAG team instead of HAZMAT. If you like your murder mysteries to include magic, intrigue, humor, handsome detectives, and hot sex, you may enjoy this story. Thanks, Lou, for the thoroughly entertaining 'Magic Mike' story.
Andrea Speed - Josh of the Damned vs. the Bathroom of Doom, reviewed by Christy Duke
The first thing I did after starting this story was to jump on Amazon and buy this series. How had I missed this? I adore Andrea Speed, and two minutes in, I fell for Josh, so it was a win-win all around. The fact that Josh works the night shift at the Quik-Mart, which also has an inter-dimensional portal in back that opens on his shift is absolutely hysterical. Josh's comments on the various creatures that shuffle in and out all night for their snacks had me laughing out loud.
When all hell breaks loose because crazy sister gods are involved, and Josh's smoking-hot vampire boyfriend, Colin, shows up, the whole situation got even more entertaining. When a partially animated electrocuted bathtub shows up, and a toilet with jagged teeth, that's when I lost it, and practically snorted water.
An excellent addition, Andrea, and I thank you for the giggles.
Astrid Amara - The Trouble With Hexes, reviewed by Serena Yates
‘The Trouble With Hexes’ is a somewhat dark tale about two men with very different belief systems, both of whom are convinced they are right. In this story’s world hexes exist and hexbreakers, while trying to help, suffer worrying effects on their health. A realist like Tim does not have an easy time of it, but when he has to deal with a vengeful hexmaker who isn’t very good at their job, he is beginning to believe there may be more to what Vincent was trying to tell him before they split up.
Trying to figure out who hexed Tim then finding them and lifting the deadly hex makes for a tension-filled story and keeps Vincent on his toes and me turning the pages. The complicated romance between Tim and Vincent added another angle to the story, and by the time the multilayered mystery began to unravel, I was hooked.
If you like characters who drive each other mad, yet can’t seem to live without the other, if you want to find out more about hexes gone wrong and what can be done to stop them, and if you’re looking for a read that is as scary as it is emotional and intense, then you will probably like this novella.