I binge-read almost the entire series two weekends ago, and I enjoyed it immensely. Mystery! Romance! Other stuff! This is a massive review and there are spoilers throughout, though I’ve hidden the biggest ones as best I could.
One sunny morning Los Angeles bookseller and aspiring mystery author Adrien English opens his front door to murder. His old high school buddy (and employee) has been found stabbed to death in a back alley following a loud and very public argument with Adrien the previous evening.Naturally the cops want to ask Adrien a few questions; they are none too impressed with his answers, and when a few hours later someone breaks into Adrien's shop and ransacks it, the law is inclined to think Adrien is trying to divert suspicion from himself.Adrien knows better. Adrien knows he is next on the killer's list.Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Tbh, not the best in the series nor is it my favorite. It’s rough, with lots of bumps. But it’s a decent intro to the characters and the world they live in. Basically, Adrien gets sucked into trouble, his friends mostly all die, he’s totally alone and there’s a weird cop1 following him around glowering all the time. Also the murder part was not all that great because it’s totally obvious who the murderer is as he’s the only character left who isn’t a) dead b) a protagonist or c) an obvious love interest.
However, I really liked Adrien and I wanted to see what happened next, so I kept reading. Wasn’t entirely sure if I could deal with Jake (the weird cop) being his love interest, because THAT seemed rife for drama on a scale I normally don’t like. But I liked it enough to read the next book a few weeks later, which is when I really got sucked into the series.
Suffering from writer's block and frustrated with his tentative relationship with hot but closeted LAPD Homicide Detective Jake Riordan, gay bookseller and mystery writer Adrien English travels to northern California where he finds a body in his front drive. By the time the sheriffs arrive the body has disappeared, and Adrien once again finds himself playing amateur sleuth. But when the game turns deadly, Adrien turns to Jake. Jake may be confused about some things, but keeping his lover alive is not one of them - no matter what the cost.©2012 Josh Lanyon (P)2013 Josh LanyonBuy on Amazon | Goodreads
This time the mystery was super convoluted, though it almost didn’t matter because it took a backseat to Adrien and Jake’s (friendship and romantic) relationship. Mostly they ran around trying to find clues but instead having more mysteries kept popping up.
The mystery did feel realistic in that everybody lied, didn’t know answers to questions, just randomly disappeared. It must be super frustrating to be an IRL detective because it’s so messy compared to how most mystery books tie everything up neatly.
I also liked how Adrien is getting a reputation for finding dead bodies, and how it makes him look super suspicious to the police. Most amateur detectives never seem to have that problem in their books, surprisingly enough.
Okay, so Jake and Adrien’s relationship! At the end of the last book they kinda came to an understanding that they cared about each other, so I expected that in this one they’d be dating. Well, they are…kinda. Jake is still firmly in denial about being gay and doesn’t even want to be intimate with Adrien because he has no experience with m/m relationships outside of BDSM clubs. So, like, they’re dating. But in secret. And it’s a HUGE MESS.
And Adrien knew it was a mess! He stands up for himself, which is great! I mean, yeah, he’s super passive aggressive about it. But he knows a secret relationship isn’t what he wants, even if he really likes Jake and wants to be with him.
So he broke up with him and went on vacation, whereupon he found a dead body. Which then disappeared. And then somebody tries to kill him.
And then Jake shows up! And becomes more emotionally available/understandable– perhaps because he was away from LA? He treats Adrien kindly, is more physically affectionate (with some blips because he’s still working through issues), and generally is a really supportive boyfriend. It’s like he goes on vacation and becomes a pod person. It’s obvious he adores Adrien but has a problem actually following through with it unless he’s away from everybody he knows.
By the end of the book, though, they still haven’t talked about what they want from each other, though they did have plenty of very hot sex. And solved the mystery.
After bookstore clerk Angus flees following terrifying death threats, owner Adrien must contend with a mysterious Satanic cult, a hot and handsome university professor, and his on-again/off-again relationship with closeted LAPD Homicide Detective Jake Riordan.Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
So it was at this point that I was firmly sucked into the soap opera drama that is Jake and Adrien’s romance. I almost didn’t even give a crap about the mystery, though it was very well done (if somewhat melodramatic).
The author obviously did a lot of research for this one. Lots of info on cults, magic, Satanism, secret cults, etc. It felt more fleshed out than the previous two mysteries, which is good. Also, there are better secondary characters! Secondary characters who don’t die, and who maybe even want to date Adrien in PUBLIC.
Jake was a HUGE disappointment. He reverted back to secret gay lover as soon as they got back to LA. UGH. Plus it turns out he’s lying on police reports so his fellow cops won’t look too deep into his boyfriend(s)’s background. AND THEN View Spoiler »he ends up impregnating his girlfriend and then marries her. It turns out that Adrien is the other woman!! And he has been this whole time!!!! « Hide Spoiler
Coming off of the last book, where it seemed like they’d worked things out, the betrayal was so heartbreaking. PLUS they worked very well together in solving the mystery and having them at odds made everything about 5x more difficult.
Gay bookseller and reluctant amateur sleuth Adrien English's writing career is suddenly taking off. His first novel, Murder Will Out, has been optioned by notorious Hollywood actor Paul Kane. But when murder makes an appearance at a dinner party, who should be called in but Adrien's former lover, handsome closeted detective Jake Riordan, now a Lieutenant with LAPD -- which may just drive Adrien's new boyfriend, sexy UCLA professor Guy Snowden, to commit a murder of his ownBuy on Amazon | Goodreads
Hating Jake, wanting to see Adrien happy, I ran headlong into the fourth book and probably the best mystery in the series. It’s complex without going overboard, the secondary characters were really great, and it wasn’t super obvious who the murderer is. The balance of tension between romance and mystery was HARDCORE. And it was very, very emotional.
So at this point it’s been two years since the last book and Adrien’s dating Guy– the character I mentioned before who’s willing to date him in public. But Adrien still isn’t over Jake, even two years later, and he’s emotionally distant and unwilling to commit. Turns out to be a good thing, however, as Guy is View Spoiler » « Hide Spoileremotionally cheating with one of the cult members from the last book.View Spoiler » « Hide Spoiler (Seriously, this whole series is a huge soap opera mess and I love it.)
I ended up not being emotionally invested in Guy, either, because even though he and Adrien dated for two years we only ever see the fallout after they break up. It’s hard to care for a romance when nothing good happens, not even emotional connection.
Anyway, it doesn’t really matter because Jake isn’t over Adrien, either. Wanted to be friends after their breakup but he screwed the pooch. Some super convenient things then happen: Jake’s wife had a miscarriage (ugh) and doesn’t want to try again yet because of career ambition. Then somebody gets murdered and the case pushes he and Adrien together again.
But it’s different from the other books because by this point Adrien has become hard-hearted. He has a new step-family (who are super cute and I love them), but more health problems, and he’s still in pain from what Jake did two years ago.
He’s definitely a different person from book one, and while it was painful to see I also appreciated how the author made sure he (and Jake) didn’t just stay stagnant. Their actions had consequences and the consequences stick around from book to book.
Jake is a little different too. He’s still angry, but not as prone to explode as he was before. Or maybe he’s just trying not to scare Adrien away again?
And then Jake’s forced to come out as a consequence of all his actions (from this book and the last one) and it feels almost like a redemption thing. It sucks to come out against one’s wishes, but a) catching the murderer depended on it, b) he was being blackmailed anyway, and c) he and Adrien could never have moved on as long as he was still hiding. Now that everything’s out in the open, maybe they have a chance!
Oh, I’m getting a little teary thinking about it. It’s such good stuff! Dramatic as hell, but VERY entertaining.
That said, the only openly bisexual character is also one of the worst murderers we’ve seen in the whole series. He’s literally depraved. Bleh, what a downer.
As if recovering from heart surgery beneath the gaze of his over-protective family wasn’t exasperating enough, someone keeps trying to break into Adrien English’s bookstore. What is this determined midnight intruder searching for?When a half-century old skeleton tumbles out of the wall in the midst of the Cloak and Dagger Bookstore renovation, Adrien turns to hot and handsome ex-lover Jake Riordan -- now out-of-the closet and working as a private detective.Jake is only too happy to have reason to stay in close contact with Adrien, but there are more surprises in Adrien’s past than either one of them expects -- and one of them may prove hazardous to Jake’s own heart.Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
This one takes place roughly 2-5 weeks after book four. The mystery this time is a cold case, so it’s not a frantic rush to find the murderer as it was in the other books. It’s more about secrets coming to light— a theme carried throughout the series, actually.
At this point both Jake and Adrien want to be together, but Adrien is still dealing with stuff. He was shot and nearly died in the last book. He went through heart surgery and is still recovering. His adorable step-family tries to help, but he just feels smothered. All his ex-boyfriends show up to bug him. And there’s a bigot cop trying to cause trouble. Many problems for poor Adrien, but Jake is surprisingly not one of them.
Jake is now a very different person from the first book. It’s like once he came out, all the tension and anger faded away. He’s more gentle, he treats Adrien kindly but doesn’t make him feel smothered, he gives him space while also supporting him. He also isn’t afraid of being seen with him in public! That is a HUGE step for Jake, who didn’t even want them to be seen as friends before. I think the two years away from Adrien gave him enough time to become more self-aware, honestly.
Meanwhile, Adrien’s still dealing with the betrayal from previous books. Adrien kept saying he didn’t blame Jake, that it was his own fault for not asking questions. But I mean, isn’t it safe to assume that your boyfriend will be monogamous to you unless he specifically tells you he isn’t? Even secret boyfriends.2
Though he’s in pain (physically and emotionally), Adrien doesn’t give up! He and Jake actually talk about things, about what happened in the previous books and about what they want in the future. They talk about emotions!
At this point I was frothing at the mouth and reading as fast as I could to get to the end. And when I did? omg, I was SO HAPPY.
Adrien and Jake have possibly the most tumultuous relationship I’ve ever seen in a romance series and yet it was extremely satisfying on the whole. It’s a little over the top, maybe, with the secret babies and lies and deceit and multiple murders, but it definitely hooked me. While the mysteries themselves weren’t always the best things ever, they were good framework for the romance and the mixof romance and mystery was fun. And, of course, I adored (most of) the characters, which can fix a multitude of writing sins.
Read: July 3-August 3, 2015
I think this is the longest post I’ve ever written! It’s a little over 1800 words. Woohoo, me!
Do you have any recommendations for more GLBTQ mystery-romances? Another good one I can think of is the Kate Kane series by Alexis Hall.
- who, it turns out, is a self-hating in-the-closet gay s&m dude who is attracted to Adrien but also can’t stand being around him (because of the whole self-hating gay thing). ↩
- Although apparently Adrien DID know about Jake’s girlfriend while they were dating, even though it was never mentioned in the book until she got pregnant. Writing problems, I think. ↩