books

Jordan Castillo Price

Books

PsyCop: Among the Living (2006)

Short Stories: Sympathy: MM Romance with a Hint of Magic (2009)

Anthologies: Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy (2015)


PsyCop


Among the Living (2006)

Victor Bayne’s partner is retiring.

Maurice was a sixty-two year old black man who had a lot more gray in his hair at his retirement party than he’d had when I first met him. We’d never been close in a way that some partners at the Fifth Precinct are. We didn’t hit sports bars after our shift for a shot and a beer. We didn’t watch the game at each other’s houses. We didn’t invite each other to family functions— not that I have any family to speak of.

Maybe it was the race difference. Or the age difference. But despite the fact that we didn’t connect on any sort of deep, soul-searching level, I was gonna miss working with the guy.

In the bathroom he accidentally meets Detective Jacob Marks, who he hadn’t previously known to be gay.

This is the part of the story I had problem with, but it’s probably me and not the story–I just don’t *get* random hookups. I mean, I understand that people have them and enjoy them, but… I don’t quite comprehend them.

So, the two hookup in the bathroom, and then Vic is called into work, even though he’s supposed to have the day off.

His new partner is there, and they are sent out on a case, except that Vic has been taking medicine to tamp down his powers.

“The Auracel,” she said, taking the next right, “it works for you?”

“It makes the dead people shut up,” I told her. And, by golly, the high was just an added bonus.

Because that’s Vic’s power and pretty much the bane of his existence-he can converse with the dead, and once they realize it, they won’t leave him alone.

The mystery is interesting, as are the characters. I also want to note that the copyright for this story is 2006, before the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the world was a very different place. Neither Vic nor Jacob is officially out at work, which matched our world at the time (and I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the amazing changes coming in just a few years).

This would be the reason for the secret hookups, which again, I don’t grok. But I also was somewhat surprised by Jacob. How did he know Vic was gay and how did he know that he wasn’t making a mistake coming on to him? Was it because he’d been watching him? Is that creepy? I don’t feel like they really knew each other at all before the party (other than to say hello in passing) so… the whole relationships just felt off to me.

But the mystery was interesting, and I do want to read another story. Perhaps now they are a couple, I’ll grok their relationship a little better.

Publisher: JCP Books
Rating: 6.5/10


Short Stories


Sympathy: MM Romance with a Hint of Magic (2009)

This is a M/M romance short story.

Apparently, broken characters are my catnip.

It’s been two years since the accident. Anthony Potosi has had to learn to walk again, and to attempt to regain at least some of what that loss took from him. But one thing hasn’t change, and that’s his relationship with his brothers–the three of them own a landscaping company, and much of Anthony’s recovery has been focused on getting back to work.

Anthony is sent to Hook House–the supposed haunted house that was often the center of adventures with his brothers–and there he discovers his perfect man, even if he doesn’t understand what the perfect man might see in him.

The fact that this is a short story means that some of the thing that ended up being important to me appeared later than I was comfortable with. Initially, the teasing between the brothers feels more like bullying, because it isn’t quite clear how much his brothers love him, and how much they worry about him.

I knew why Chip worried about me. He was the one who’d had the special waterbed installed in what used to be his rec room. He was the one who’d found me pounding on that fucking ramp in a blind rage till I drove splinters into my knuckles. He’d even changed a bedpan or two.

That bit right there shifted the story for me. After reading that I knew his brothers loved him, and that the wordplay was just teasing, even if it did have an edge to it.

This wasn’t my perfect story, but it was a good story, and I did enjoy it.

Publisher: JCP Books
Rating: 7/10


Anthologies


Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy (2015) edited by Jordan Castillo Price

“Dim Sum Asylum” (2015) by Rhys Ford
“Swift and the Black Dog” (2015) by Ginn Hale
“A Queer Trade” (2015) by KJ Charles
“Magically Delicious” (2015) by Nicole Kimberling
“Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns” (2015) by Jordan Castillo Price
“The Thirteenth Hex” (2015) by Jordan L Hawk
“The Soldati Prince” (2015) by Charlie Cochet
“One Hex Too Many” (2015) by Lou Harper
“Josh of the Damned vs. The Bathroom of Doom” (2015) by Andrea Speed
“The Trouble With Hexes” (2015) by Astrid Amara

This is, like all anthologies, a variety of stories, some of which I enjoyed, one of which I utterly despised, and some of which were MEH. In other words, a good selection and variety.

“Dim Sum Asylum” (2015) by Rhys Ford

This is a parallel Earth story, where fae and magic exist in what is otherwise our modern world.

The main character is a cop who is half fae, and takes chances he shouldn’t, because he is still grieving the murder of his husband and their daughters in rioting.

No matter how small something was, if it had teeth and it was angry, it was something to be reckoned with.

I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Chinatown–especially the actual dragons guarding the area.

We’d tapped for backup on our phones as soon as we hit the roof, but dispatch hadn’t promised anything other best wishes and maybe a cup of hot coffee when we got back.

My only negative is that in most law enforcement agencies, there are reasons partners aren’t supposed to be involved, but perhaps magical police have different standards.

I’d read another story set in this world or with these characters.

“Swift and the Black Dog” (2015) by Ginn Hale

I’d categorize this more as straight-up fantasy with a generous helping of dystopia, and I really dislike dystopias, so this story wasn’t really for me.

That said, it was interesting. It tells of what happens to the heroes after the revolution.

“Wizard’s Ways aren’t like what they show in the films,” Jack replied. “It’s not like we sit down and decide. I didn’t think to myself, I’m gonna work magic by smoking and being kicked through a six-story window. My Way just came out of that.”

“A Queer Trade” (2015) by KJ Charles

I’ve read this before, and enjoyed it the second time through.

“Is that your stuff making that bloody noise?”

Tredarloe’s mouth dropped open. “You can hear it?”

“I can’t hear it. That’s the problem.” 

“Yes!” Tredarloe said. “That’s exactly what it’s meant to sound like!”

“It sounds like something you can’t hear?” Tredarloe just gave him a look, and Ned shrugged. “All right, yes. It sounds like something I can’t hear, and I’ve been not hearing it for three days.”

KJ Charles writes diverse British historicals–in this story one of the characters is Black, and buys and collects waste paper to sell. Racism exists in this world, as does homophobia, but they’re not the central parts of the story.

My point being the true past isn’t white-washed or treated as nicer than it was, but her characters have lives and adventures that are outside of their being Black or gay.

he’d learned his letters off a book of fairy tales, and if you could trust that, which you might as well after everything today, throwing magic stuff in rivers never worked for long.

I still really love that bit.

“Magically Delicious” (2015) by Nicole Kimberling

This is another parallel Earth story, where it’s our modern world but with magic and fae creatures.

The main character, Keith, is in a relationship with Gunther, a transmorgified snow-goblin who also works as a special agent, but they are NOT work partners.

Snow goblins—that is goblins who had not undergone transmogrification—looked like creatures of nightmare. They seemed to be made entirely of spiky, white bone. Blood red pits smoldered where their eyes should have been and they had more teeth than a barracuda, even when just born. Keith had now gazed upon many small, toothy creatures being held by proud parents or grandparents. 

He mentally crossed his fingers, hoping for a pink or blue hat that would help him figure out the gender, at least.

Because Gunther is a transmorgified snow-goblin, he’s unnaturally attractive, and so Keith sometimes feels insecure about their relationship, but it doesn’t actually cause Big Misunderstandings, which I very much appreciated.

Also, Gunther’s parents are adorable.

On the day that Gunther had moved in with Keith, she had taken Keith aside and pressed a small spiral notebook into his hand. Written on the pages were her precious, famous and well-guarded recipes for goblin favorites such as Cracked Hot-Pepper Marrow Bones, Sheep Skull Surprise (the surprise turned out to be extra eyeballs sewn into the sheep’s mouth), and Goblin-style Pig Trotters, which were traditionally served raw in a bowl of vinegar, and garnished with whole bulbs of garlic cut crosswise and seared on the edge of a heated scimitar. On the first page of the notebook she’d made a special note that Gunther, like all goblins, was sensitive to salt and could only abide the smallest amount on special occasions. Then she’d drawn a little, anatomically-correct heart.

That’s so cute.

I also like that Kieth doesn’t have magical powers–he is a food inspector, which is extremely unglamourous, but he knows that his job is important, and he enjoys it–but when Gunther is attacked, that doesn’t mean he won’t do everything he can to find out who hurt his boyfriend.

I’d definitely read another story about these two.

“Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns” (2015) by Jordan Castillo Price

This is a Halloween story with a couple who are both telepaths, but have different strengths and abilities.

They go to a theater where Vic experienced his first ghost–to see if the ghost is still there.

The ghost bit I liked. The rest of the story was kinda all over the place for me.

“The Thirteenth Hex” (2015) by Jordan L Hawk

I’ve read Jordan Hawk’s stories set in this world before and although they are interesting, they just aren’t really my thing.

They’re Gaslamp historicals, where it’s mostly our past, just with magic and witches and their familiars.

I think what I don’t like about these stories / this world is the sense of unavoidable fate where witches and their familiars are concerned.

I won’t avoid another of the stories set in their world if I come across one, but I also won’t seek them out.

“The Soldati Prince” (2015) by Charlie Cochet

This story I actually hated.

As noted in the previous story, I really dislike “fated mates” stories, and that’s what this is.

“Hey, if you want to be friends, that’s cool, but friends don’t kidnap each other or chain each other up. Okay, maybe some do, but why don’t we start small? Maybe grab a cup of coffee instead?”

UGH UGH UGH.

I really cannot stand stories where the characters seemingly have no free will in their lives and especially their relationships. And the manipulation of the goddess makes it clear that these two really didn’t have any choice in the matter, regardless of the words said.

I really did NOT see why either character “fell in love” with the other. The king is a jerk to Riley–and kinda also to everyone around him. Perhaps it’s just because he doesn’t like what the fates have decreed, which is fine, but he didn’t seen to change his behavior enough for me to see why Riley fell for him–and vice versa.

And all the conflict in the story seems like it was randomly manufactured by the gods or whomever for plot reasons and … GRRRR. The whole thing just made me angry.

“One Hex Too Many” (2015) by Lou Harper

The main character believes he’s cursed to lose all his partners, and so doesn’t want the new partner he’s assigned, because he doesn’t want anything to happen to the guy.

There were some things I really liked about this story–specifically many of the policing bits.

TV shows like ECD, New Skye and its many spin-offs made people think the workday of an extramundane investigator was full of car chases and deadly exchanges of magic. Oh, and spiffy gadgets that could tell you the perp’s magical specialization from a whiff of residuum. As if.

In reality, you rarely cast a serious spell on the job. The paperwork that followed was punitive. But I figured the realistic portrayal of a cop’s job would’ve made for boring television.

I did, however, have two problems with this story. First is the one I had with previous stories–there are reasons law enforcement officers aren’t supposed to be in romantic relationships with their partners. I don’t like that being thrown away by people who are supposed to be good law-enforcement officers.

Secondly, there’s this:

Out in the hallway he sighed with obvious relief. “Thanks, man. Leslie has a very strong charm. And I’m not even gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with it,” he added in a rush.

If, perhaps, this was a novella or a full length book instead of a short story, I could have gotten past this. But no, Fox says (and believes) he’s straight. I just don’t see him jumping into bed with Mike after just a few days working with him. ESPECIALLY since they’re partners.

Which is too bad, because I quite liked the mystery part of the story.

“Josh of the Damned vs. The Bathroom of Doom” (2015) by Andrea Speed

This story is 100% batshit crazy.

It was a zombie feeding frenzy, but because they were hamsters it was adorable. 

That doesn’t mean it’s not amusing, because it is, but holy shit–this is NUTS.

You couldn’t get crazier, even if you fed meth and bath salts to an entire mental ward and set them loose at Burning Man. 

Mind you, I actually made Michael read this story because it’s so bonkers it was kinda hilarious.

“The Trouble With Hexes” (2015) by Astrid Amara

Tim shows up at his ex’s place of work, because he really doesn’t know where else to turn. Tim and Vincent broke up because Tim didn’t quite believe in the hexbreaking Vincent was supposed to be doing, and really didn’t like the damage Vincent was deliberately doing to himself for it.

Both had reasons to be unhappy with each other, but there was also a strong element of misunderstanding with that–Tim can’t see why Vincent is taking drugs that might well kill him just because he thinks it’s helping his aunt, and Vincent was hurt that Tim didn’t believe that what he was doing was important.

If there were hexes, then there could be ghosts. Vampires. Hell, a weight loss pill that worked. Anything was possible.

I actually guessed pretty quickly who the baddie was in this story, but that’s ok because I could also see why it was so difficult for Tim and Vincent to see that themselves. I also liked that both of them worked in their own ways to help people; Tim as a private investigator and Vincent as hex-breaker.

I’d definitely read more stories with these characters.

Publisher: JCP Books LLC
Rating: 8.5/10