books

Josh Lanyon

Books

Adrien English: Fatal Shadows (2000/2012), A Dangerous Thing (2002/2012), The Hell You Say (2011), Death of a Pirate King (2011), The Dark Tide (2011), So This is Christmas (2016)

Holmes & Moriarity: Somebody Killed His Editor (2009/2016), All She Wrote (2010/2017), The Boy with the Painful Tattoo (2014/2018), In Other Words… Murder (2018)

All's Fair: Fair Game (2010), Fair Play (2014), Fair Chance (2017)

Haunted Heart: The Haunted Heart: Winter (2013)

The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks (2011/2016), The Ghost Had an Early Check-Out (2018)

The Darkling Thrush (2012),  Short Stories: 2007 – 2013 (2015), Murder Takes the High Road (2018),


Adrien English


Fatal Shadows (2000/2012)

Adrien English’s morning is not off to a good start–the police at his door, informing him of the death of his employee and friend Robert Hersey.

“What makes you think he wasn’t mugged?” “Fourteen stab wounds to his upper body and face.” I felt the blood drain out of my brain again. “Those kinds of wounds generally indicate prior acquaintance…”

And it’s likely they suspect him of the murder.

It doesn’t help when someone breaks into his bookstore, The Cloak and Dagger, and trash the store.

This story was originally written in 2000 and revised in 2012, which is why I think parts of it feel a little bit off, since American culture has changed a fair amount in the ensuing decade.

Like me, he’d realized he was gay his last year of high school. Unlike me, his family had disowned him the minute he came out of the closet.

Yes, kinds are still thrown out of their homes for being gay, but it IS less common than it was. So Adrien’s mother’s acceptance of him–and the hostility of so many around them–does feel a little off for 2012, as does Rick’s fear of losing his job if he’s outed. There are also small issues around cell phones, which were rare in 2000, but ubiquitous by 2012.

It’s not a huge problem, but it did lead to the story being a little uneven in places. Which is I suppose the problem with revising a story a decade after it was written.

Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc
Rating: 6.5/10

A Dangerous Thing (2002/2012) 

Adrien English is tired of Jake Riordan canceling their dates–not that Jake would admit they were dates, since he’s deep in the closet.

Swell. He preferred humiliating strange men in costume to kissing a man he knew. And presumably liked.

So Adrien heads to the ranch he inherited from his grandmother in an attempt to escape Jake and hopefully work on his new book.

But the discovery of a dead body that disappears–and evidence of illegal activity on his property–keeps Adrien from writing and puts him in danger.

You’re the one paying that no account Ted Harvey to sit around and smoke dope all day.”

“I’m paying him to look after my property.” Smoking dope was a perk.

As with the previous book, this was written and then rewritten a decade later, which leads to some uneven parts–namely that drug laws changed in the intervening decade which makes the threat to Adrien less than it would have been

Of course, it’s possible that the book is supposed to be set in the early aughts, but in that case I think it should say so.

Although some things haven’t changed.

“How long have I been here? Where am I exactly?”

“Almost forty-eight hours. You’re in Calavares County Hospital running up a sizable bill even as we speak. I hope you’ve got health insurance.”

I hoped I had enough. I’ve known solvent, gainfully employed people bankrupted by a hospital stay.

Shaky but stubborn, I sat there peeling off the lime-green plastic hospital bracelet, demanding an “Against Medical Advice.”

“We can’t hold you prisoner,” the man of medicine admitted when pressed.

I delivered the coup de grâce. “My insurance won’t cover another day.”

Open sesame.

And I quite liked this bit:

(T)rying to convince myself I didn’t feel so bad, it struck me that I had really underplayed this concussion thing in my own writing. Jason Leland was routinely knocked on his noggin and an hour later was back to chasing bad guys backstage, upstage and all around the town. The reality was a shattering headache to end all headaches, blurred vision, a touch of nausea, and pulverized neck and shoulder muscles.

And I was amused by this.

Sniffing my ear, he said, “You smell good. What is that?”

“Bacon grease.”

It’s an interesting mystery and the relationship bits are fascinating, as Jake continues to try to hide and deny his nature.

Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Rating: 7/10

The Hell You Say (2011) 

Adrien’s assistant is in trouble. He’s been getting threatening phone call of an occult nature–bad enough that Adrien gives him some money and tells him to leave town.

Meanwhile, Jake is involved in a case that might involve the occult, and is irritated that Adrien sent Angus away without learning where he was going, because Jake would like to talk to someone involved in the occult.

But that’s not really Jake’s biggest problem.

Jake was deeply closeted. He claimed it was because he was a cop — that the job was tough enough without having to go to war with the guys who were supposed to be on your side — but I’d come to believe that it was more complicated. Jake despised himself for being sexually attracted to men.

In the meantime, something seems a little off during the signing of a popular mystery author, and people have decided to come looking for Angus.

“Help me understand. Are you telling me you joined this group and you…sold your soul to Satan?”

“No. Of course not. We all made a pledge to serve His Grace. In return, He will grant us whatever we want. Money. Great jobs. Beautiful women.”

Angus got Wanda and ten dollars an hour at Cloak and Dagger. Maybe he should ask for his soul back.

This book does not end cleanly.

Just so you know.

The mystery is solved, but Jake and Adrien are over. Which came as a bit of a surprise.

“You’re not seeing anyone?” I asked, against my better judgment.

He replied, as though stating it for the record, “I’m not involved in a serious monogamous relationship.”

I was, but it was apparently a solo effort.

But it shouldn’t have, because clearly Jake is bent on remaining in the closet, and it’s not fair to Adrien to have to hide their relationships.

Also: Adrien’s mother has decided to remarry, and Adrien is soon to have three new sisters.

Did these people know I was gay? Was that going to be a problem? Not that I gave a damn what they thought, but if Lisa had her heart set on this, I sure as hell didn’t want to be the deal breaker.

I really disliked Jake by the end of this book.

Publisher: Just Joshin
Rating: 7/10

Death of a Pirate King (2011) 

It’s been two years since Jake walked away from Adrien.

During that time, Adrien has been involved with Guy–who is pushing him for more in their relationships–and discovered that he actually enjoys (most of) his new family. Even if he does often find them overwhelming.

He’s also just been released from the hospital, after a bout of pneumonia, and it does weakened heart no good to have a man keel over into his soup right next to him.

Unfortunately, that also means Jake is back in his life.

“Really?” I said. “I disappointed you? I can’t imagine what that feels like — to be disappointed in someone you trusted. How’s it feel?”

He said tightly, “All right –”

“Does it? Feel all right? Terrific! Then I have something to look forward to –”

I think what I particularly liked about this story was that although he wasn’t always comfortable with them, Adrien had come to love his new family. Especially his new sister, Emma.

I was walking back to the parking lot with Emma when her riding lesson was finished, my thoughts a million miles away, when she said suddenly, very quietly, “Adrien, are you going to have that operation?”

Was it, like, a topic of dinner conversation around the Dauten household?

“Probably, kiddo.”

She slipped her hand into mine.

A whole lot happens in this book–much of it having to do with Jake’s remaining in the closet–but I decided to stop hating Jake, even if he did deserve a good deal of misery, he got a good deal of misery, and he did have a lot of confounding factors.

I also realized that this series was far better than I was giving it credit for, since I keep immediately purchasing the next book in the series the second I finish the previous.

Publisher: Just Joshin
Rating: 8/10

The Dark Tide (2011)

When last we saw our heroes, Adrien was in the hospital recovering both from being shot, and from heart valve replacement surgery.

It’s three weeks later and he’s finally home above his bookstore, but all is not well: someone keeps breaking into his store, a skeleton is discovered in the construction where his store is being expanded, and his family will not stop bothering him about his health.

Pretty justifiable on the last one, since he basically looks like death warmed over.

To be honest, the whole stepfamily thing wasn’t nearly as trying as I’d originally anticipated two years ago when my mother had unexpectedly decided to marry Councilman Bill Dauten. With Dauten had come three lovely and charming daughters: Lauren, Natalie, and Emma. Emma was the exact kid sister I’d have chosen if kid sisters were something you could purchase in a pet store.

On a personal level, he has to work out how he feels about Guy–who was with him for the two years after Jake left–as well as how he feels about Jake, who did finally out himself AND take a bullet for Adrien.

I particularly liked just how slow and difficult Adrien’s recovery is here. He spent a lot of time in the hospital. He goes to rehab three times a week. He can’t even walk up stairs without difficulty.

Dr. Shearing was my therapist, yet another member of my rehabilitation team, which included my cardiologist, physical therapist, exercise therapist, dietitian, and…shrink.

And his new lease on life is something that Adrien has to come to terms with.

I’d never really considered the stark prospect of myself in extreme old age, because I hadn’t figured I’d live to an age where I needed to worry about nursing homes or assisted living.

There’s a lovely passage here, where Adrien asks why he calls his mother Lisa and not Mom or Mum. It’s actually very sweet–and surprising.

This is another very good story–both the mystery and the interpersonal bits.

Publisher: Just Joshin
Rating: 8/10

So This is Christmas (2016)

Adrien and Jake have returned early from Christmas in London with Adrien’s mother and her husband. Adrien goes to work, only to discover the store not open, and his (step) sister in bed with his Angus, his employee.

“Anyway, you think Angus is going to sue me for sexual harassment? You think he’s going to sue you?”

Nope. I thought he was going to fall in love with her, and she was going to dump him, and he’d mope around for a week and then quit, and we’d be back to Natalie and me trying to run the place on our own.

And if that weren’t enough to ruin his day, an acquaintance from several years ago shows up on his doorstep wanting help in finding his boyfriend, who went home from Christmas and then disappeared.

Adrien is also still recovering from his recent heart surgery. I really appreciate that the upheaval of that is something that is taking him a very long time to deal with.

I didn’t want my gratitude for having a chance at a normal life to make me afraid to live that normal life?

Big things take time to process and move past. And Adrien’s move from thinking he wouldn’t make forty to a surgery that promises him a normal life is a big thing.

And of course Adrien and Jake are still getting used to living with each other.

“I’m telling you that I’m going to do better, Jake. I’m going to be a better boyfriend. I’ll take the dog to obedience class, and I’ll try to manage some weekends off. And I won’t get involved in any more mystery— What the hell is so funny about that?”

This is a much lighter and happier story than the previous in this series. It’s also a novella, so it’s shorter as well. But I liked seeing Adrien and Jake continuing to adjust to their new lives, and I quite enjoyed the happy surprises at the end.

Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Rating: 7/10



Holmes & Moriarity


Somebody Killed His Editor (2009/2016)

Christopher Holmes has spent the past 16 years writing his beloved heroine, Miss Butterwith, but sales are flat, and his editor has strong-armed him into coming to a conference in an attempt to help his career (and see if he can stay with his current publishing house).

“This is the perfect opportunity to try something new,” she urged.

“I don’t want to try anything new.”

“Well, you should. You’re a thirty-something-year-old man writing about a seventy-year-old spinster and her cat. That cannot be healthy.”

I was so flattered that Rachel thought I was still in my thirties that I didn’t put up half the fight I should have.

But things go wrong from the start: his car dies, the bridge to the property washes out just as he was crossing, and he found a dead body while trudging to the lodge where the conference was being held.

Christopher is a bit of a queen, which initially put me off or perhaps made me uncomfortable.

I jumped up and started yelling, “Help! Help!”

I never said I was the hero of this story.

But I eventually got settled into Christopher being a little bit prissy and not at all an action hero, and got down to enjoying the story, which was quite good.

Christopher is, of course, snarky, but he also realizes that snark and sarcasm are a defense that he needs to work on.

Of course, sometimes the snark is deserved.

“Did you ever read a story by Poe called ‘The Purloined Letter’?”

“No.”

My eyes widened. Maybe this higher education thing was a waste of time. What were they having these kids read?

It’s a M/M romance and an interesting mystery, and I quite enjoyed it.

Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing
Rating: 7.5/10

All She Wrote (2010/2017)

Christopher has canceled his weekend with X.J. to go help his mentor, who had a fall and needs help with her writing retreat–and discovering who is trying to kill her.

I wouldn’t exactly pronounce the silence dead, as I shoved the stack of papers aside and pulled my laptop out of the case, but it did feel uncomfortably like a pride of junior high school students was waiting to devour a stray substitute teacher.

Despite my initial not being sure about Christopher, I quickly came to like him very much.

I heard her out in silence. Well, for me it was silence. Close to silence. I hardly interrupted at all. For me.

“Christopher, would you kindly shut up?” Anna requested at last.

I happen to like money, so sue me— but not for all my money, please.

Although Christopher and X.J. had worked out their differences at the end of the last book, Christopher’s insecurities and the physical distance between the two seems to be allowing Christopher to let their relationship die.

I actually quite liked that this was the difficulty between the two–not a misunderstanding, but Christopher’s weakness and the fact that phone conversations don’t generally help couples work things out.

I also appreciate Christopher’s loyalty to the people he cares about. He’s a bit of a curmudgeon and rather anti-social, but he does like people–even if it’s only in small doses.

No one was in better position than I to know how easily shyness gets misread for arrogance or coldness or indifference.

It’s an interesting mystery, and I liked seeing Christopher and X.J. work things out.

I also particularly liked the ending, about which I can say nothing without giving things away.

Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc
Rating: 8/10

The Boy with the Painful Tattoo (2014/2018)

Christopher Holmes has decided to take the next bog step–he and JX are moving in together.

JX found a house and Christopher has moved up to San Francisco.

Unfortunately, JX has to immediately head off to a convention, and when Christopher starts to unpack he finds something other than his grandmother’s china in one of the crates.

The clock was ticking. Somewhere. In a box we couldn’t find.

I really do like Christopher.

I dumped silverware in drawers, placed glasses on shelves, located J.X.’ s toaster, and opened a box of little jars of spices I had never heard of. What was Tajin? What was Egyptian dukkah? Did we even eat the same food?

And I especially like that Christopher and JX have to work at the relationship.

I laughed too, but I saw suddenly how it probably felt to him when he was trying to be serious and I made a joke.

And it is work. As is any relationship. Especially when both individuals are full-grown adults with complicated pasts and dueling careers.

This is a mystery, and it’s also a M/M romance, but I think there was less sex in this book than in the previous two.

Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Rating: 7/10

In Other Words… Murder (2018)

The fourth Holmes & Moriarity book finds the two settled into the new home and starting to talk about more serious matters–like a fancy vacation that might possibly be a honeymoon.

Unfortunately, Christopher’s stalker from the previous book is causing trouble, and a body has been found in the yard of his own house–and Christopher’s ex has told the police it might be to body of his PA–the man who broke up Christopher and David’s relationship.

Plus, Christopher still isn’t writing.

“I can’t afford a lawsuit!”

“Honey, it’s just money.”

“It’s my money, and I’m not working right now!” I was trying, trying not to use exclamation points, but they were creeping in against my best effort.

J.X. said with maddening reasonableness, “But I am. We’re fine. If worse comes to worse, I’ll do an extra book this year.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

To be clear, things still aren’t always easy between the two. Christopher remains uncomfortable with Gage, JX’s nephew, and JX is not happy that David wants to talk to Christopher.

But they actually talk through their problems, and are learning to check their bad habits and worst impulses.

And although she harangues Christopher less, Rachel does make an appearance.

“Hold on. A year ago you told me the cozy was dead.”

“I didn’t say dead, Christopher. I said Cozy was suffering malaise.”

“I’m pretty sure you pronounced it dead.”

“Not at all. Cozy was in ICU. Cozy was receiving necessary medical attention. Happily, Cozy has survived and is on the mend.

I found that bit highly amusing.

But mostly I just sat back and enjoyed the story.

I, on the other hand, agreed with Ambrose Bierce when he said the telephone was “an invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.”

I mean, how can you not love a character that quotes Ambrose Bierce?

This book actually closed all the story arcs of the previous three books. I would not recommend reading this without having read at least the previous book, since lots of events that happened there are important here.

Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Rating: 8/10


All's Fair


Fair Game (2010)

Elliot Mills loved being in the FBI–until a shootout left him unfit for anything but a desk job.

The pain after his knee replacement had been excruciating, beyond anything he’d imagined or previously experienced, barring the original experience of getting kneecapped.

Yes, I did shudder when I read that.

Now he’s a professor at the same college from which his father retired–living in the shadow of a famous 60s radical.

It’s not what you want for your child, you know?” He had no idea.

He neither had, nor wanted, children, and his own parents had been completely accepting of his sexuality. Choosing a career in law enforcement was the thing that had driven his father to threaten disowning him.

The disappearance of the son of one of his father’s friends–a wealthy and powerful lawyer–puts Elliot back in contact with the man he left behind, and neither Elliot nor Tucker Lance are comfortable with the situation.

What do I like best about Elliot? His acceptance of everything he is.

The rest of the afternoon was spent quietly. Elliot graded papers and did his lesson plans for the following week. In the evening he worked on his Civil War diorama of Pickett’s Charge, which currently dominated the long window-lined sunroom on the west side of the cabin. He had received a hand-painted 15mm miniature of JEB Stuart to replace the former one lost during the move from Seattle to Goose Island. He placed the dashing Stuart with his two cavalry brigades and stepped back to admire. The game table was 4×8 feet and, according to Roland who had helped him construct it, irrefutable proof that Elliot was destined for long and dull bachelorhood.

Why do I love that so much?

Oh, no reason.

I also like that the story makes clear the sheer amount of drudgery that’s part of being in law enforcement.

In addition to the initial responding officers, Tucker’s debriefing team would consist of local investigators and the evidence collection technicians: the photographers, latent print personnel and other specialized personnel. It would be Tucker’s job to determine what evidence was collected, discuss preliminary scene findings with team members, discuss potential technical forensic testing and the sequence of tests to be performed, and finally initiate any actions required to complete the crime scene investigation.

I also liked that Elliot and Tucker start to work out their problems relatively quickly. I really was not in the mood for a whole book of anger and hostility and sniping interspersed with boinking.

I liked this, and am reading the next.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 7/10

Fair Play (2014)

Elliot and Tucker are mostly settled down, although they still have the trial stemming from the last case to deal with.

Tucker reached over, finding Elliot’s hand, bringing it to his mouth and kissing his knuckles. “Can we not talk serial killers before bed?”

When Elliot gets a call in the middle of the night that his father’s house is burning down, he has to wonder whether Roland’s book about his time in The Collective (a 60s anti-war group) is a bigger problem that his father is willing to admit.

“Do you really believe your father has never lied to you?”

“Yes, I believe it. He’s never lied to me. Well, I mean, excluding fostering unquestioning belief in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and John F. Kennedy. Anyway, I think the first two were mostly my mother.”

One thing I particularly like about this series is the work that Elliot and Tucker put into their relationship.

“You—? Why didn’t you tell me?” There was no pretending that this news wasn’t a shock. And it hurt. To keep something like this secret? Not just for a few hours. For days. Days they had spent together.

In the space of two sentences Tucker had become a stranger.

But Elliot instantly rejected that thought, that reaction. Tucker was right. This wasn’t about Elliot. It wasn’t even about them. It was about Tucker. He made himself focus on Tucker once more, on what Tucker was telling him. Or not telling him.

That could have gone somewhere very different, but both Tucker and Elliot are willing to do the work of their relationship, and I very much like that.

Because relationships are work, and when romances shrug off that work, they do a disservice to their readers.

Considering my day job, THIS totally cracked me up.

He laughed as though Roland had done something delightful. He studied the monitor, clicked, studied the monitor again. Then his face fell. “Holy shit. He has a folder with all his passwords in his mail.”

Yes people. That is a TERRIBLE idea. Don’t do it.

A fair amount happens in this story, besides the mystery of who burned down Roland’s house, and it doesn’t distract at all from the mystery, but rather strengthens it, because life isn’t just one mystery that needs solved–it’s everything happening at once while you’re trying to deal with it.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 8/10

Fair Chance (2017)

Elliot Mills and Tucker Lance are settling into something akin to domestic bliss. Things are still uncomfortable with Roland, after they put his father’s good friend and old radical partner in jail for murder.

Elliot must have looked fairly horror-struck because Tucker laughed. “Listen, your father gets caught up in this stuff, in his causes du jour, but I guarantee you he has no idea you feel like this.”

“I don’t want him to know I feel like this,” Elliot said. He gave a short laugh. “I’m not sure I want to know I feel like this.”

And Tucker’s discovery of his mother is also difficult, since she and her husband are conservative Christians who are not comfortable with Tucker’s sexuality.

“It’s not even— or not only— the visible and pained trying to adjust to finding out gay runs in the genes. It’s the whole… the holy-roller stuff.”

“Sure…” Elliot didn’t really have an answer because it bothered him too.

“I don’t even know if I believe in God. They’re so conservative they make me look like a bleeding-heart liberal.”

Elliot laughed. “Uh, no. But I’m getting a kick out of the fact you think so.”

On top of that, they are still trying to discover where “The Sculptor–the serial killer from the first book–hid the rest of the bodies, and it seems like Elliot is the key to getting the murderer to talk.

When the hell were they going to be done with him and able to move on with their lives?

First thing–that last bit sounds like a trope, but it fits very cleanly into the story and the past between the two characters. Second, I like the fact that things were not over and done with at the end of the first book. Catching a murderer is one thing–but getting him to trial and getting a guilty plea is something else entirely, and a lot of work.

The previous two books were good, but this one was a page turner, where I was afraid of how things were going to turn out, but nothing was far-fetched or unreasonable, which I very much appreciated. And I also like how much drudge work for both Elliot and Tucker is discussed or shown.

It’s an excellent conclusion to the series.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 9/10



The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks (2011/2016)

First off, I had a really hard time figuring out just when this book was set. It was first published in 2011, but re-written in 2016, but was definitely not set in 2016. The characters all seem to rely upon land lines and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still in effect in the military.

Aside from that, I quite enjoyed it.

Perry Foster has returned early from his vacation, after his romantic aspirations went down in flames. His day gets even worse when he goes into his apartment and discovers a dead man in his bathtub.

A dead man who then disappears.

Nick Reno is an ex-Navy SEAL searching for a job and moving past a divorce. But he’s over-qualified for pretty much everything and struggling to find employment. So when his young neighbor freaks out, he decides to see if he can figure out what happened.

He could imagine what Nick would say of such imaginings. The thought of Nick bolstered his sagging courage. Nick did not believe in ghosts and neither did Perry.

Of course, if some human agent was standing outside his room making spooky noises, it wasn’t so reassuring.

Perry is quite lovely. He’s an innocent, and he’s positive even if he doesn’t necessarily have cause to be. But most importantly, he can be silly.

Perry gave a tired laugh. “I know. But that’s what he said. At least, that was the only thing I could make out. He said something else, but I couldn’t make out the words.”

“None of them? What did it sound like?”

Perry made a violent gurgling sound, and Nick nearly choked on his beer. “You’re shitting me.”

Perry gave that funny little smile, but said seriously, “It didn’t sound like words. It was just… dying sounds.”

He was still reading when Nick padded in.

Unshaven, bleary-eyed, he stalked over to the gas range. “Morning,” he growled.

“Good morning,” Perry said cheerfully. “There’s hot water.”

“I see that. I take coffee with my hot water.” He scowled at Perry’s mug. “Tell me those are not bunny-shaped marshmallows.”

Perry blushed.

“Don’t you drink coffee?” Nick sounded disbelieving.

I adore that he drinks his cocoa with bunny marshmallows.

There’s also a marvelous scene when Nick decides that Perry needs to know how to protect himself. It does a good job of showing that for all that Nick sees Perry as a fragile child, he isn’t.

Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Rating: 7/10

The Ghost Had an Early Check-Out (2018)

Nick and Perry have moved to L.A. where Nick works as a PI and Perry is going to art school.

It’s while Nick is out on a case and Perry is sketching when Perry meets Horace Daly, who is seemingly being haunted–except that Perry interrupts three actual men attacking Horace.

One thing I particularly like is that although Nick still keenly feels the difference in their ages (and physical stature) he recognizes that is HIS problem, and works to deal with it.

That was one thing he had decided early on. He was not going to undermine Perry’s confidence or self-resilience with his own fears. Perry was not his child, he was his partner. Physically frail or not, he was a grown man.

And despite their differences, they really do work well together.

“You’d think people who were going to the trouble of stalking someone would be more obsessed with the details.”

“You’re making a lot of assumptions.” Despite the seriousness of the situation, Nick was a little amused. “You can’t judge based on the type of stalker you would be.”

There was another thing I quite enjoyed, which is how Nick and Perry separately see the police detective Marin.

Detective Marin, was a stocky, pugnacious-looking blonde in sensible shoes and a suit from Sears, which Nick knew because he owned the same suit.

Detective Marin, had a nice smile and, unless Perry was losing his eye, was hiding a baby bump beneath that men’s suit jacket.

That’s a lovely parallel there, seeing how Nick and Perry see the same character.

Like the previous book, it’s an interesting mystery, and I very much love the interactions between the characters.

Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Rating: 7.5/10



The Haunted Heart: Winter (2013)

This isn’t really supernatural; it’s a ghost story. But I didn’t have a better category for it.

Flynn Ambrose is living in the house he inherited from his uncle on Pitch Pine Lane while he sorts through the antiques and other items collected over a lifetime.

I said, “From the way you were chortling to yourself, I was expecting a mummy case at least. Maybe an iron maiden.”

“There’s probably one in the back. I know there’s a coffin in there somewhere because I helped the old man carry it in.” Kirk’s dark gaze held mockery.

“I…have no response to that.”

“He was on the eccentric side, your uncle.”

He also inherited the downstairs border, a veteran turned playwright.

The problem is that Flynn isn’t well. The sudden death of his lover–who had also been his childhood best friend–sent him into a spiral that put him in the hospital, and even now his parents worry constantly about him.

The nice thing about heavy sweaters was you could wear them a long time without having to wash them, but still. There was a limit. There were a lot of limits, actually. Since grooming was one of those things people watched for, I made sure to clean beneath my fingernails and behind my ears.

There is a LOT of grief in this story.

Flynn’s loss is overwhelming–but for good reasons. He’s a quiet and gentle young man, and he and Alan had been best friends since they were kids, so he had never loved anyone else before.

It’s difficult to read his grief, but it’s also not an unreasonable grief, since he’d never loved and lost before. That’s not to say that grief gets easier with experience; only that you learn it’s survivable.

This was published in 2013, and says book one, but there isn’t a second book available. However, Josh Lanyon’s website says there is a sequel coming in 2019. So we’ll see.

But honestly, I’m okay because the book ended cleanly. No, it’s not a romance HEA, but Flynn is clearly in a better place at the end of the story, and although we don’t know Kirk’s past, his time in Afghanistan and PTSD are something that are comprehensible without details.

Mind you, I’d LIKE more books, but I’m not angry at the lack of a sequel.

I really like Josh Lanyon’s writing, and this was a lovely story. There is boinking, but not much; the story is very much centered on discovering who is haunting the mirror and how Flynn and Kirk can un-haunt it.

Publisher: JustJoshin Publications
Rating: 8/10


Short Stories: 2007 – 2013 (2015)

This is a short story collection (obviously, from the name) but to be clear, these aren’t mysteries like most of her longer works I’ve read. It wasn’t a bad thing, just different.

Perfect Day
A Limited Engagement
In Sunshine or In Shadow
The French Have a Word for It
In a Dark Wood
Until We Meet Once More
Heart Trouble
In Plain Sight

Perfect Day finds Graham and Wyatt on a camping trip–and possibly at the end of their relationship, as Graham is still in love with his previous lover, who died unexpectedly.

“If it was — if I was — it would be someone like you.”

Someone like me. But not me. Obviously not me.

Funny that of all the things he said that morning, that hurt the most.

I know people who have lost partners, and was hard for them to move on.

A Limited Engagement was a surprisingly difficult story.

He followed me inside, shaking his wet, black hair out of his eyes. He wasn’t wearing gloves, and his hands were red from the cold. His Joseph Abboud overcoat dripped in a silent puddle around his expensively shod feet. “I am going to kill you,” he said carefully and quietly, and he launched himself at me.

I jumped back, my foot slipped on the little oriental throw rug, and I went down, crashing into the walnut side table, knocking it — and the globe lamp atop it — over. The lamp smashed on the wooden floor, shards of painted flowers scattering down the hallway.

Ross’s cold hands locked around my throat. Big hands, powerful hands — hands that could stroke and soothe and tease and tantalize — tightened, choking me. I clawed at his wrists, squirming, wriggling, trying to break his hold.

I get (mostly) why Adam acted as he did. And why Ross reacted as he did. It was just that there could be reconciliation so quickly.

In Sunshine or In Shadow. Kiernan and Rick are cops and partners–and for a short while had been more, but an incident on the job changed things for both of them, and so Kiernan has decided to move on (and justifiably so) and begins his new chapter with a trip to Ireland.

The French Have a Word for It finds two men reunited after a decade apart. Thomas, the bodyguard, and Colin the teen he rescued and guarded.

I really really liked Thomas here: his recognition of both their age differences when they parted, as well as the dynamic of hero worship between them.

In a Dark Wood was a mystery, of a young man who saw something disturbing as a kid, and the police officer who wants to discover the mystery and perhaps save Tim from himself.

Although there are mystery elements, the heart of the story is what Tim saw as a kid, and how it continued to affect him, regardless of whether he chose to admit it or not.

“Please tell me you’re just the same sober.”

The merry-go-round slowed…slowed…glided gradually to a stop. It was nice to lie there like that, skin on skin, listening to the faraway chirp of crickets and frogs. His words finally registered. I laughed and lifted my head. “It’s moot. I’m never sober.”

His mouth was a kiss away. He said wryly, “You think you’re joking.”

Until We Meet Once More is a military story, and has a lot of boinking, but which was kinda integral to the story, of how the two men saw and felt about each other, and how their youth and the world in which they grew up drove them apart. (And the chance encounter that put them back together.)

Heart Trouble was troublesome for me, because of the issues inherent in a doctor patient relationship.

In Plain Sight was a mystery / missing persons story, of two law men and the difficulties of being day in such a masculine environment.

All in all it was an interesting anthology.

Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Rating: 7.5/10



The Darkling Thrush (2012) 

I’ve read a lot of Josh Lanyon books in the past year, and I adored most of them.

This is a fantasy M/M romance and… I didn’t much care for it.

Colin Bliss is in London for an exchange program to get work experience as a librivenator. But all they are having him do is work as librireddo, so he takes some time off to take a private commission to search for a magical book that was supposed to have been destroyed several hundred years ago.

So, the story.

Almost all the other books I’ve read by Josh Lanyon were mysteries, so it might come as a surprise that the world building wasn’t the big problem here.

I jumped to my feet. “I don’t agree that there are books too dangerous to exist. It’s against everything we believe in the Societas Magicke. It defies reason.”

That was pretty decent, although I’m still not sure whether this is an alternative history or supposed to be set in a “modern” time with magic.

No, the problem was the romance.

First, it felt like Colin’s earlier romance with his boss was tagged on–Antony has little personality and I didn’t get any idea as to why Colin was interested in him.

But it gets worse–the big problem was the lack of chemistry between Colin and his eventual love interest.

“You didn’t like me from the moment you first laid eyes on me.” In the amber light, his face looked stern and golden — like a funerary mask. It seemed a long time ago, that first meeting. Almost irrelevant.

He spoiled the image by smiling. I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen him smile before — not a genuine, friendly smile. “That’s not true.” (He) sounded amused. “It’s quite the opposite. I like you too much.”

Colin has given no one any reason to much care for him; the words spoken between the two are the only sign of any feelings at all between the two.

I can buy the boinking the first time, but declarations of caring and love?

Not at all.

If there had been no boinking and no declaration of caring and interest between the two, this actually would have been a strong story, but the declaration of feelings came from out of nowhere, and I simply didn’t believe it.

Publisher: Just Joshin
Rating: 5/10



Murder Takes the High Road (2018)

Two years ago, Librarian Carter Matheson bought tickets for himself and his boyfriend for the Tour to Die For, a bus trip through Scotland visiting many of the places that appeared in Dame Vanessa Rayburn’s books. But now Carter and Trevor are split, and Carter refused to give his expensive ticket to Trevor’s new love, Vance. So Carter is solo on this tour, watching his ex, and wondering why he just doesn’t go home.

Except that he loves Vanessa Rayburn’s books.

This was quite an interesting mystery. First, the author had been convicted of murder as a teenager, which gets to explore some of the interesting ethical quandaries posed by a real life author who committed murder as a young teen: Can you still enjoy an author’s mysteries after you discover she has a sordid past? Does an author’s past change how view her works–especially when those works are murder mysteries?

It’s not that Vanessa Rayburn is even a lot like the real life author with a difficult past. But it does allow you to think a little more abstractly about a situation that can make people uncomfortable.

In any case, you couldn’t write about the murder of children if you were in the least bit squeamish— if you want my honest opinion.”

It appeared Edie and Bertie did not, and the conversation behind me died a quick and chilly death.

(To be clear, the author in the story had NOT killed a child.)

But that is not the main reason to read the book–it’s just what immediately sucked me in.

What kept me reading and reading was Carter.

“You didn’t tell me you were a librarian,” he said.

I grinned. “You know how it is. The minute guys find out, they start treating you differently. Asking if you can fix their late fines, trying to get you to put the new releases on hold for them.”

Although I appreciated that the main character was older, it also made me wish there were more older heroines in romance.

There were a lot of older people on this tour. I was pushing forty and I was likely the youngest person on board.

But I also liked many of the secondary characters. On a bus tour, of course there are going to be a lot of people, but as with any real group, certain characters managed to stand out.

Nedda said wearily, “I’ll examine her.” She explained she was a retired GP.

“Why haven’t you said so before now?” Yvonne demanded. “Why isn’t it in your bio?”

“I didn’t feel like spending the trip dispensing free medical advice,” Nedda told her.

That cracked me up. The author has obviously spent time talking with real doctors.

All in all, it was a decent mystery, a cute romance, and I enjoyed it.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 7/10