C.S. Poe

Books: Mystery | Romance | Queer | Fantasy


Snow & Winter: The Mystery of Nevermore (2016), The Mystery of the Curiosities (2017), The Mystery of the Moving Image (2018), The Mystery of the Bones (2019), Interlude: Snow & Winter Collection Volume One (2021), The Mystery of the Spirits (2021)

Memento Mori: Madison Square Murders (2021)

Southernmost Murder (2018)


Lancaster: Kneading You (2019), Joy (2017), Color of You (2017)


Magic & Steam: The Engineer (2020), The Gangster (2021), The Doctor (2022)

Short Stories/Novellas: Marriage, Love and a Baby Carriage (2016), New Game, Start (2017),  Love in 24 Frames (2019)


Footsteps in the Dark (2019)


Snow & Winter

The Mystery of Nevermore (2016)

Sebastian Snow runs an antique shop, has an in-the-closet copy boyfriend, and achromatopsia–he can't see color and has other vision problems due to that.

When he finds a body part in the floorboards of his store, he's drawn into a mystery, initially against his will, but later with greater excitement.

The truth was, my partner of four years, Neil Millett, also had keys and the code, but mentioning his name around cops was a bit tricky. He was a detective with the NYPD's forensic investigations unit, and very much in the closet. So much so that the only people who knew we were living together were Max and my father. Neil didn't want other officers knowing he was gay, and when I was twenty-nine with a heart all aflutter for a sexy detective, I didn't mind.

I really like Sebastian as much as I dislike Neil.

Clothes shopping was stressful for me. Department stores were so bright, and there was apparently a concept of clashing colors. My idea of adding new options to my wardrobe was heading out to secondhand shops with Pop, letting him grab a dozen items in dark colors he says won't hurt anyone's eyes if I mix and match, then we're out in ten minutes.

I was really fascinated by Sebastian's colorblindness. The author put a lot of work into how these limitations would affect his life, from the many negatives (trouble dressing, issues with lights of normal brightness) to some of the positives (being able to see more clearly in the dark). The whole thing makes Sebastian a complex and interesting character.

One thing I didn't especially love was that Sebastian was not clearly split from Neil when he has sex with Calvin (the other cop and love interest).

The mystery itself was fine. I was a little wary about Sebastian repeatedly investigating the case (and getting himself into trouble), but it was okay, and I enjoyed the whole thing.

Publisher: DSP Publications

The Mystery of the Curiosities (2017) 

Sebastian and Calvin are making their relationship work. It's hard for Calvin whose family won't speak with him now, which is exacerbating the PTSD he won't admit he has, but Sebastian is doing his best to make Calvin feel loved.

And Calvin does his best to deal with Sebastian's weaknesses in a way his ex never did.

I liked old black-and-white movies. They were easier to watch, what with never being overwhelmed by the mess of tones and colors blending into one another that represented modern cinema.

I do like how the problems Sebastian has with his vision are brought up in unexpected ways.

"These aren't the same colors, are they?"

"Uh, I guess not."

"What color?"

"Brick color."

"You're fucking hysterical," I said.

Max shrugged. "What's it matter? They're like a reddish color. Some are a bit darker, a not really purple. It's hard to say."

"But definitely not matching," I concluded.

"No," Max said, shaking his head. "Does that mean something?"

I turned to stare at the pile again. "I don't know. Maybe. They're old."

So what do I like about this story? I like Max, and how he initially is willing to help Sebastian, and the realizes mysteries aren't as fun as he's expected.

I really like how Sebastian is patient with Calvin, and tries to support him and tries gently to push him to talk to someone about his PTSD. Yes, Calvin's reluctance to talk is difficult, but it also feels incredibly true. I particularly appreciate that the PTSD is clearly presented as something that is not going to magically get better–yes Sebastian and his father want Calvin to get a dog, but they both see that as a starting point to his recovery, not a solution.

There's a scene where Sebastian is initially jealous when he thinks Calvin has been talking to someone else about his past and problems, but immediately realizes how irrational the stupid that is.

That's something else important that I don't think gets enough recognition–that we all get irrational thoughts and feelings, and that's okay as long as we recognize them for what they are.

One problem I did have was that Sebastian KEEPS DOING STUPID STUFF. He's told "Don't do A" so he immediately runs out and does A. Which sometimes triggers Calvin. Which really bugs me. Sebastian KNOWS he is making bad decisions, but keeps making them. I suppose that could just be a personality quirk, but it really bothered me when those decisions kept upsetting Calvin.

And I suppose that is Sebastian's shtick.

I dropped my haphazardly packed bag onto the couch and then kicked off my shoes. I changed into my regular glasses and went across the room to open the fridge. "Full bar. We can get drunk and make some bad decisions later."

So it's another good entry into the series.

Publisher: DSP Publications

The Mystery of the Moving Image (2018)

After having been burned out of his apartment, Sebastian and Calvin are moving into a new place–together.

And Sebastian is done with mysteries and putting himself in danger. Or he thinks he is, until a Thomas Edison Kinetoscope shows up at his shop.

Calvin–although not healed–is seeing someone for his PTSD and is healing.

Calvin hardly ever talked about his therapist or their sessions together. Not that I expected him to. It was his journey. So long as he sought discussion with someone who would guide him to discovering self-forgiveness and healthy coping mechanisms, I didn't care if he never shared a word.

Which means that Sebastian has no reason not to face his anxieties now, even if he thinks they should be a thing of the past.

So yeah, a lot of things were good. But I guess that's why I'd also been sidelined by anxieties lately. I wasn't expecting old self-doubts when I was on top of the world.

What I like best about Sebastian is that he's a geek. Not in the technology way–he's completely inept with technology–but that he gets excited about his interests and is passionate about them.

"I remember watching Fred Ott's Sneeze in my Film History class. That was Edison's, wasn't it?"

"Yeah, first copyrighted film in the United States," I murmured. Fred Ott had been a gentleman who worked for Edison, who by all accounts had a particularly memorable sneeze. It was one of the test reels shot by W. K. L. Dickson, Edison's assistant, who was the brilliant inventor of the Kinetograph camera and Scope viewer. "But even that film didn't survive," I continued. "It was submitted to the Library of Congress as a series of still images, later reanimated into a movie."

"How do you know this?"

"I took notes in college." I carefully removed the canister lid.

"You're the guy at the cocktail party everyone regrets striking up a conversation with."

Not me. I love meeting people like that.

"I'm ignoring the sarcasm only because I'm incredibly turned on by you spouting random facts at me," I answered.

Calvin smirked. "I'll remember that."

So, I love the bits and Calvin and Sebastian's relationship. I love that Sebastian is working out a friendship with Neil, and that they are learning to talk about the things that bother them.

I also enjoyed the mystery, even if I think that Sebastian takes too many foolish risks.

It's a fun series, and I'll be glad to read the next when it comes out.

Publisher: DSP Publications

The Mystery of the Bones (2019)

The fourth (and perhaps final) Snow & Winter book finds Sebastian trying to plan their wedding–and not particularly enjoying it. But he is determined it will be perfect, and that means following all the books and rules.

"There's a whole industry dedicated to specialized bras for wedding dresses," I continued.

Calvin's silence was palpable confusion.

"They make adhesive bras," I concluded. "Which… sounds pretty awful."

"Almost lost my nipple to one of those," Quinn stated. "Had a rash for three days from the residue."

I do like Quinn.

I also really like Sebastian's father.

I walked to the kitchen area on the left of the spacious apartment layout, opened a cupboard, and removed two mugs. "But something happened and I blew chunks."

Pop set the pot down with a minor clatter and looked at me. "Are you sick?" He did the parent hand-on-forehead maneuver.

Also, Sebastian is still freaked out over the events from the past summer.

"Life isn't all about money, Seb."

"You can say that. You don't have a hospital bill the length of a CVS receipt."

But mostly I just like Sebastian.

My brain felt like a library card catalog, and I was in a mad rush to find the one title that would help me navigate this sensitive situation with relative success.

Filed under social sciences. Should I start with 302.2— Social interaction, communication? 305.3— Groups of people, by gender or sex? Hold up, 306.7 has a footnote— for problems and controversies concerning various sexual relations, see 363.4.

"This is why no one likes you," I muttered while raising my head. "You're in the bathroom making Dewey Decimal jokes to yourself."

Sebastian swears he does NOT want to play private detective ever again. He is done with that, both for his own health and for Cal's sanity.

Unfortunately, someone thinks differently.

"What're your eyes doing?"

"Moving," I answered, my tone more dry than white bread left on too high a setting in the toaster. My Dancing Eyes condition was hardly noticeable as an adult, but still they wobbled involuntarily at times. "I have achromatopsia. Sometimes my eyes move strangely when I get stressed."

"You're stressed?"

"Yes, Officer," I said with a hint of mockery. "I've only had one cup of coffee and found a head in a box."

"Your stressed is pretty calm, Mr. Snow."

As with the previous book, the mystery is outlandish, but she does a good job walking the line and mostly doesn't go into ridiculousness to far-fetched it throws me out of the story. That's actually a harder line to walk than you'd think. If you're going to write a book set in "the real world" and are going to be over-the-top, you have to make sure that the rest of your story is grounded and correct. And she does this for me. Calvin and Sebastian are real people with real issues who are working hard to deal with those issues. They have jobs that require their time, and they have family members and friends. All those things are grounded in reality, so I'm good with the mystery being crazy.

Not that it was a bad mystery, because it wasn't. But the characters are what I liked best.

Publisher: DSP Publication

Interlude: Snow & Winter Collection Volume One (2021)

Interlude Snow & Winter Collection Volume OneThis is what it says on the tin: A collection of Snow and Winter short stories.

I do not recommend reading these if you have not read the books, but if you have read the mysteries, they are delightful.

They are little slices of life–peeks into the lives of the two characters, including two stories from Calvin's POV–which we do not get at all in the books.

Dopamine: Take Only as Directed This takes place immediately after The Mystery of Nevermore and is Sebastian and Calvin's first New Year's Eve.

Credit Scores and Cohabitation is how they found their new apartment after the events in The Mystery of the Curiosities. House hunting is the worst.

(Realtor) showed us a railroad-style apartment, which he insisted was the same square footage as a "normal" one-bedroom, with the trade-off being it was four feet wide.

The Ghost of Durango is set right after The Mystery of the Moving Image, and it is Calvin forcing Sebastian to take a vacation. The bit I like best about this story is the glimpse into why the two work well as partners.

Calvin had been learning how to react to my need for help with situations that the rest of the world considered inconsequential, but for me, were at times akin to moving mountains. Calvin was also learning that he was one of the few people I trusted, one of the few I could admit to not having an adaptation for every situation, and that maybe I couldn't hurdle this issue alone.

Interpersonal Relationship Studies on the Way to the Coffee House is one of the Calvin stories, and is set before The Mystery of the Bones. It's just a tiny peek into Calvin's brain.

The Good in the World is set after The Mystery of the Bones and it is another tiny snippet of Calvin's thoughts.

The other stories were fine, but those are the ones that stuck out for me.

Publisher: Emporium Press

April 2021 | Rating: 8/10

The Mystery of the Spirits (2021)

The Mystery of the SpiritsThis is the fifth Snow & Winter mystery. Sebastian and Calvin are happily married, and Sebastian has managed to avoid getting involved in murders–until now.

"We should get one of those OSHA scoreboards for the shop. You know, for recording accidents? Except we record how many days we can go before a mystery is dropped in your lap."

"I've been doing very good," I answered.

"I know. A new record. It's been… 545 days."

"Exactly. I haven't— wait, for real?"

"Yeah, but now it's zero," Max explained.

I really enjoy spending time with these characters. And I especially love that Calvin's PTSD and therapy remains important in the story.

His military service had forever changed who Calvin was as a man. But two years ago he couldn't even admit to himself that he had a serious problem. A year ago he could hardly say, "I have therapy tonight." Instead, he'd say, "I'm seeing Dr. Chambers tonight." So yes, he'd cried at the recollection, he'd allowed that loss in the past to affect his decision-making in the current, but he'd also willingly told me that story. It was huge progress.

The mystery was interesting, and I particularly like how Sebastian was pulled unwillingly into the mystery, but once he was in, he was all in–which is why Calvin didn't want him involved in the first place.

I'm glad I was able to spend more time with these characters. If we get another book, that's great, but if we don't, this is a lovely ending place.

Publisher: Emporium Press

January 2022 | Rating: 8/10

Memento Mori

Madison Square Murders (2021)

Madison Square MurdersEverett Larkin works for the Cold Case Squad. And even among that group he's considered odd. But he's good at his job, even if he is often a bit overly emotional.

I was initially distracted by the appearance of Neil Millett, Sebastian Snow's ex, and someone I'm especially fond of.

"Cold Case Squad," Larkin added.

"Cold Case?" Millett echoed. "They let you guys outside?"

"I believe the department is ethically obligated to allow us to see the sun once a quarter."

Millett isn't the love interest (if you'd read the Snow & Winter series).

However. Everett is married. And his marriage is clearly falling apart.

"Easy out?" Larkin echoed. "You know what, Noah— I've been on Xanax for the last six months. I've been falling apart right in front of you. When was the last fucking time you asked if I was okay and actually meant it?"

Noah looked as if he'd been slapped— his eyes wide, jaw open. The silence crumbled inward as he asked, "Why the hell are you taking Xanax?"

Also, that first paragraph was a personal punch in the gut.

Cheating is usually a DNF for me, so I was extremely wary. And if it had been a different author, I may well have not continued on.

I don't love that (like Sebastian) we're seeing Everett's relationships–marriage–fall apart on the page. That's rough going. But, I decided to trust her and keep reading.

Also, just like the Snow & Winter series, Larkin has an extremely rare and at times debilitating illness that affects his perception of the world.

The idea of this?

"(S)ome of those memories… aren't good. They're just as vivid as they were five or ten or fifteen years ago. And so are the emotions of that moment."

Made me want to throw up. Physical pain I generally handle, but emotional pain? To never be free of it? That's a nightmare.

The mystery was interesting and I enjoyed it. And now I am irritated that I don't have another book with this characters to read RIGHT NOW.

Publisher: Emporium Press

October 2021 | Rating: 8.5/10


Southernmost Murder (2018)

Southernmost MurderI'm beginning to think I should just go ahead and read everything CS Poe has written, because I've really liked everything I've read so far.

Aubrey Grant runs an historical property in Key West–a job he does well, despite the regular inconveniences of his narcolepsy. He's also looking forward to a visit from Jun–and hoping they'll get along as well as he remembered and move their friendship to romance.

But a literal skeleton in the closet puts Aubrey's plans in disarray, and instead of romancing, he and Jun try to figure out just who wants into the Smith house so badly–and why.

I really like Aubrey.

I was five feet three when I didn't slouch and probably weighed a hundred and twenty pounds soaking wet … I'm pushing forty and still wear dirty Chucks, skinny jeans, and at times, tastefully offensive T-shirts. My hair was bleached white, I wore zero-gauge plugs and a nose ring.

Sometimes when a character is brash and in-your-face about everything, it bothers me to a small degree. But with Aubrey his attitude fits perfectly.

One thing I particularly liked was that although Aubrey and Jun weren't dating at the start of the story, they had a long established friendship and both were hoping Jun's visit would change that friendship into a relationship. It was sweet and believable, since they were already friends and attracted to each other.

Another thing I'd forgotten about CS Poe's stories is that they are generally written from a single POV, which has been unusual in a lot of the romance I've read recently, but I quite enjoyed.

Did I mention how much I liked Aubrey?

I eventually reached a fence in someone else's yard I had to scale. And I did scale it, which impressed me to no end— but then I fell off the other side and into the Smith garden. At least there was no one around to see that.

This was an adorable romance AND an interesting mystery. Plus, it's a stand-alone, so if you wanted to see if her writing was for you, this is a good book to check out.

Publisher: DSP Publications



Kneading You (2019)

Kneading YouChristopher Hughes always wanted to live in a small town. With a degree in literature, he's delighted to take a job taking over the local library and help it recover from years of neglect.

Unfortunately, a local Selectman wants the property for a building project, so Christopher has a tiny window and an even tinier budget to impress the town so they keep the building, and just maybe give him a budget for improvements.

But once the local handyman, Miles Sakasai, shows up, Christopher finds one more thing to work towards.

This story is so sweet!

Although he doesn't have a degree in library science, Christopher is still passionate about libraries.

This library is not cost-effective. It's really that simple."

"But it's not about making money," I declared. "It's about having a safe and free place for people to come and learn! This town doesn't even have a bookstore— you have to drive nearly twenty miles to the closest one, and then you have to buy the book! Libraries are here for those who can't afford to make that purchase. For kids who need resources for school, or even— if we were able to purchase a computer or two, we'd have high-speed internet for those who need something better than dial-up. Libraries are crucial!"

And Miles is just as sweet–a quiet man who is content working as a handyman and baking bread–doing what makes him happy rather than what society (and his family) expects of him.

And in addition to being sweet, it was an interesting story. How was Christopher going to save the library? Because the HEA wasn't just Christopher and Miles, but Christopher saving the library.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Joy (2017)

JoyGideon Joy is just plain unlucky.

If it is possible for something in his life to go wrong, it does. Which is why he is depressed but unsurprising when he clips a moose driving through New Hampshire, wrecking his car AND the car of someone else.

Since he's been driving across the country to figure out what to do with his life, he doesn't have the money to repair the other guys truck, so he stays in town to get a job and eventually pay off the repairs on the guys car and then his own.

This is the sweetest story.

It's in a rural, mountainous area where the towns are tiny but the humans are kind.

It has a cute elderly couple that run a bed and breakfast.

"You should stay away from Bucker's," Bridget answered.

"What's Bucker's?"

"A bar."

"I know how to bartend, though."

She made a face. "Ah, but the owner isn't…. There are more accepting folks in town you'd much rather want to work for."

"He doesn't like flatlanders," Bernard supplied.

"Or gays," Bridget added.

"Honey," Bernard murmured.

"What?" she protested. "He doesn't!"

Amusing citizens and co-workers and the most adorable couple.

I noticed over his shoulder that several of the other construction guys were watching us with varying levels of interest. That was odd.

"So I'm going to leave," I stated.

Silas cleared his throat. "Thank you for lunch."


The guys muttered and exchanged a few dollar bills between one another.

So! Cute!

And, there was no boinking! Which of COURSE I loved even more! But I loved it even before I reached the end and realized there wasn't boinking.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Rating: 9.5/10

Color of You (2017)

Color of YouBowen Merlin has moved to Lancaster NH to take a job for the county, as the music teacher and director for the high and middle schools. It's a big change, to have moved from NYC, but he is excited about the change. And then he dumps hot apple cider all over the cute guy he kind of has a crush on.

"Hansen or Handsome?" I asked, before I was quite certain I resembled something akin to a deer in the headlights. "I said that out loud."

There is a good deal I liked about this story. I very much liked both Bowen and Felix, and I really liked that Bowen had synesthesia. (Considering that another of her main characters has debilitating color-blindness, this does seem a bit unfair.)

"His voice was just so flippin' gorgeous," I said, sighing a little. "I've never heard an amber voice. It was smooth and flowed like blues music."

However, there were some things that bugged me about this story.

First: teenagers. He comes in the middle of the school year and all the teenagers immediately fall in love with him? This book was not marked as a fantasy.

Second, I really wish more time could have been spent on Felix's issues. He justifiably has issues, and it felt as if they were almost magically overcome. It felt a little disappointing, because love overcomes a lot, but I don't think it overcomes body issues that quickly.

This is set in the same town as Joy, and I did like seeing Gideon and Silas again, and I liked that Bowen became friends with them, but it seemed a little weird that Felix wasn't already friends with them, what with this being a small town.

So, it was fun, but I felt like the story wasn't as good as I have come to expect from her.

Publisher: Emporium Press


Magic & Steam

The Engineer (2020)

The EngineerSet in the American West in 1881.

Gillian Hamilton is a Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Magic and Steam–and a powerful magic user. He is sent out west to catch a renegade magic user, but runs into a completely different wanted man while on the hunt.

I'm not quite sure I understood this magic system.

The raw magic passed through us without harm to our internal workings, while concurrently, our life energy replaced what was taken from the stream.

Does that mean he ages more rapidly the more magic he uses? It's not clear, although there is another book in the works, so it might become more clear later. Regardless, this use of magic is not without cost–which is good.

Gillian may be a lawman, but it's clear to the reader (if not to him) that he didn't have a lot of choice in the matter if he wanted to be able to legally use his magic–and do so for the good of society.

I generally avoid historicals set in the US, since I have a hard time reading about slavery and Reconstruction and Jim Crow but books that don't have those evils are inaccurate enough that I don't want anything to do with them. So I just don't read those.

But as this is steampunk and clearly alternate history, it doesn't bother me if characters don't deal with those issues, because it's possible the world has a history without those evils.

For a novella, this covered a lot of ground. I'm not sure that everything was consistent, but with stories that short, there's a lot left out, so the things that felt off might be worked out in a longer story.

We'll see.

Publisher: Emporium Press

August 2020 | Rating: 7/10

The Gangster (2021)

The GangsterSet in Steampunk New York in 1882.

Special Agent Gillian Hamilton of the Federal Bureau of Magic and Steam is back in New York, and hoping to spend New Years Eve with Gunnar the Deadly–who he met in the first book, when he was out west.

A new player is trying to take over the local gangs, and Hamilton is drawn in–whether he wants to be or not.

I. Hate. Cliffhangers.

Publisher: Emporium Press

January 2021 | Rating: 7/10 (because cliffhanger)

The Doctor (2022)

The DoctorSet in alternate US in 1882.

Gillian Hamilton has been caught. He has been exposed as Simon Fitzgerald, the Butcher of Antietam. And he is now on Blackwell's Island at the Asylum for the Magically Insane.

"Why are you helping a criminal?"

Barrie wiped his nose again. "I don't believe it's fair to call twelve-year-old Simon Fitzgerald a criminal when, as far as I understand it, it was not your will to join the Army."

"I was ten."

This story was a lot. Gillian suffers from Soldiers Heart–the name given after the Civil War to what we now call PTSD.

Gillian is also abused by the staff of the Asylum. In fact, I put the book down for a month after starting to read it, because I just did not want to be inside the asylum with Gillian. Luckily, Gillian is free by the end of chapter two and the action / adventure picks up again.

"I lied about my level and the FBMS found out last month."

Addison lowered the mirror the rest of the way, and I met his puzzled expression. "They punished you for— being too skilled?" Then realization sparked in his eyes, like a flame brought back to life among dying coals. "FBMS is afraid of you."

Although there is a good deal of Gilliam remembering / being reminded of his time in the army.

"In '62, the Union incorporated magic into their war strategies, and they weren't particular with how they came about fulfilling their need for casters. My parents sold me to the Army for ten dollars and a pound of sugar."

Gillian and Gunner are together at the end of the story, however, it doesn't end cleanly and there is yet another cliffhanger.

Which is why I'd put off reading the third book, because of the ending of the second.

I hate cliffhangers.

Publisher: Emporium Press

November 2022 | Rating: 6/10

Short Stories

Marriage, Love and a Baby Carriage (2016)

Marriage Love and a Baby CarriageTheodore Reinhart's convention in San Diego is not what he was expecting.

I was attending a singles' convention for special people like me to find their forever penguin partner. But after I paid the attendance fee, got a hotel room, and booked my flight, I found out it was specifically for guys and gals.

This story is hilariously over-the-top. It's about gay penguin shifters. It's adorable.

"My name's Theodore Reinhart, I look like a rainbow puked on me, and I'm a gay penguin— Magell— attending a meet and greet for straight folks."

Theodore is a mess, arriving at the convention with lost luggage and only the suit on his back.

"Good plan," I told myself. "Better plan: ditch the coat." I took it off, only to realize it tied the ensemble together. Without the jacket adding to the plaid and stripes to show I'd purposefully mismatced, I looked like I'd gotten dressed while blindfolded.

Did I mention this is ridiculous? It's ridiculous. It's fated-mates and love-at-first-glance.

I thought a walk on the beach after this would be nice."

"Can you read minds?"

"Am I reading yours?" he countered.

"Plagiarizing it," I answered.

It's utterly marvelous and I completely adore it.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

New Game, Start (2017)

This is a perfectly fine story. I just feel like it needed to be a lot longer for what happened, because what did occur happened so fast it was almost out of left field. I mean, it took place over the course of a week–and during that week they both actually had to do other things besides chat.

That's just a lot for me to believe.

So, it wasn't bad, but I wish it had occurred over several weeks, or that the two had some connection prior.

Publisher: Emporium Press; 2nd edition

December 2020 | Rating: 6.5/10

Love in 24 Frames (2019)

Love in 24 FramesDeclan Groves is a CPA who loves art, and rented a space in a studio to have the space to work on his stop-motion project.

When one thinks of a "New York City artist," they don't envision a forty-eight-year-old man in a three-piece suit, strolling through the door at seven o'clock after a long day of being an accountant.

He is also in love with the front-desk receptionist at the studio–even if he's unable to say anything or make a move.

This is a very sweet short story. Declan is a bit of an awkward geek and his crush, Shota, works hard at multiple jobs. They're just adorable.

"I promise I'm not a creep."

"Does your niece say that too?"

"She teaches me all the hip lingo."

Shota grinned.

"No one says ‘hip' anymore," I stated, mostly to myself.

This was a lovely little escape, and although there is kissing, there is no boinking!

Publisher: Emporium Press

May 2020 | Rating: 8/10


Footsteps in the Dark (2019) L.B. Gregg, Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Dal MacLean, Z.A. Maxfield, Meg Perry, C.S. Poe and S.C. Wynne

 Entrée to Murder by Nicole Kimberling

This is an anthology of mysteries with M/M romance. Most, but not all, of the stories have boinking.

Entrée to Murder by Nicole Kimberling

After a steady diet of big city trouble, Chef Drew Allison moved to the island town of Orca's Slough to get a taste of life in the slow lane. But hometown hospitality goes stale when he finds a dead body in the basement of his own Eelgrass Café.

I really like Drew. He wants to make his restaurant work, and wants to get his partner out of trouble, but since part of the trouble is their bartender, he's kinda of stuck. He also a genuinely good person who wants to take care of his employees, especially Lionel, his young assistant.

I vaguely recollected that Lionel's grandmother had refused to teach him to cook because "his wife would take care of that for him," while his busy single mother possessed neither the time nor the inclination.

I also love this story for the variety of characters, including two older women who are also main characters, and a delight.

All but one looked up as I entered.

"This is Andrew," Evelyn announced, waving her hand back as though I were some stray dog that had followed her home. "He's the chef at the murder restaurant."

To my surprise, only one of the old ladies seemed scandalized, and she appeared to be mainly irritated at Evelyn.

"I'm sure he doesn't want to be introduced like that."

The mystery is good, but what makes the story are the interactions between the characters, like Drew seeing Lionel getting dropped off at work.

(S)he told him off in Korean. I stood gawking, impressed by the volume she managed to produce from her tiny body. She put to shame a couple of chefs I'd trained under.

When she noticed me watching, she changed her tone to chirpy English. "Okay, I love you, bye, bye!"

I really enjoyed this story.

Twelve Seconds by Meg Perry

A mysterious phone call, a missing executive, and an exploding rocket throw space reporter Justin Harris and Air Force Special Agent Greg Marcotte into an investigation that will change their lives…if it doesn't kill them first.

This story alternates POV between Justin and Greg.

As a space reporter for the Hughes-Simmons news syndicate, parent of the Orlando Tribune and other major newspapers around the US, Justin Harris was expected to respond to space news regardless of the hour. If an air leak developed in the International Space Station, if a rocket failed on a launch pad in French Guiana or Kazakhstan, if Elon Musk tweeted anything, Justin needed to hear about it.

This is the story that I read bits out loud to Michael. And it wasn't even the dialog, but a bit with an alligator and an unexpected dead body.

Greg clapped Fleshman on the shoulder. "This sort of decision, Airman, is why God invented colonels. And here comes mine now."

Ward Vernon strode up to them, scowling. "Where the hell is Santos?"

Greg said, "Throwing up, sir." He pointed to the gator.

Vernon's jaw dropped. "Jeeezus Hallelujah Christ!"

Airman Fleshman was biting his lip to keep from laughing.

Mindy arrived a few minutes later and surveyed the situation, shaking her head. "Damn."

Vernon said, "Indeed. What kind of gun do we need to kill this gator, Agent Leonard?"

"Our service weapons would work, sir. But it's illegal to kill a gator without a permit."

Vernon scowled. "We're the United States Air Force, dammit. We'll shoot whatever we like.

I think what I liked about those bits were that they felt precisely like what would happen in that situation.

I also loved that Justin was a tremendous, adorable geek.

This was another great story.

Reality Bites by S.C. Wynne

Detective Cabot Decker is called to the set of hot-shot TV producer Jax Thornburn's reality-TV show after a contestant is mauled to death by a tiger. Is someone trying to ax Jax's career—or Jax himself?

This was a Hollywood story, so the setting was a little less appealing to me, but the main character was a police detective, so that was a definite plus.

I kinda wanna make Michael read this story, since a major plot point is an electronic lock, and he knows lots and lots about this. But from what I've listened to over the years, they got things correct.

The characters were fine. Not my favorites of this series, but that was mostly comparing it to other stories.

"I'm still not sure about this."

"I'll make sure you have fun."

"I don't want to have fun."

"Then I'll make sure you have a horrible evening."

"I can do that all by myself."

"I'll pick you up at eight."

The mystery was the strong point of this story, and I very much liked it.

Blind Man's Buff by L.B. Gregg

A game of Capture the Flag turns deadly inside an abandoned shopping mall when Tommy and Jonah stumble into a homicidal maniac's hunting grounds.

This was a very interesting story. If it was a movie, I totally wouldn't watch it, because things chasing and attacking in the dark are so very much not my thing, but the premise and the characters were lovely. Tommy and Jonah are high school teachers, and also tremendous geeks, who like physical RPGs, like the game of capture the flag they are playing in an old mall.

What makes Tommy so likable and adorable is that he is still a dork, even if he's also the tank of the group and has spent years honing his body and doing things like parkour. (Did I mention the pakour? As a life-long klutz, I adore parkour.)

I'd spent most of the last decade working to become more like Thor because the weak, geek, queer motif hadn't paid off for me, personally.

But he's also a grown-up.

Here's the adult learning curve in life— or mine, anyway. Adulting is about facing hard tasks, difficult decisions, and unpleasant realities. Stepping up to the plate even when you don't want to, because you have to. But sometimes adult life requires you to stand down, listen to others, and find the grace to compromise respectfully.

There were a couple of issues with the mystery here, but mostly I really liked it.

A Country for Old Men by Dal Maclean

Inspector Calum Macleod has returned to the Western Isles of Scotland to bury a part of himself he can't accept. But the island has old secrets of its own. When a murderer strikes, Calum finds his past can't be so easily escaped.

This was possibly my least favorite story in the anthology, but that's mostly because I don't like second-chances romances where they main characters are antagonistic towards each other at the start.

But it still had plenty of positives.

"You know what's disappointing?" Adam asked. "I do Muay Thai— Thai kickboxing— every week. It's supposed to be good against knives. But… it turns out you don't necessarily understand someone's going to attack you until the knife's already at your throat."

Another good mystery.

Pepper the Crime Lab by Z.A. Maxfield

When Lonnie Boudreaux's neighbor is murdered, he must foster the man's dog, befriend a mysterious former cop, and stop the killer—or else!

I especially liked the main characters in this story. Lonnie is a workaholic whose health has forced him to reevaluate his life.

The mystery was also very well done, and I would actually love spending more time with these characters.

Lights. Camera. Murder. by C.S. Poe

When a hotshot television producer hires him to recover a stolen script, NY PI Rory Byrne must go undercover on the set of the ground-breaking historical drama The Bowery–a job complicated by Rory's unexpected attraction to handsome, talented, and out-and-proud actor Marion Roosevelt.

Another TV-set mystery, this one set in New York. The main character is a private investigatory who is set to the set of a TV show to figure out which of 100 possible people are a thief.

One of the things I liked best about this story was the premise of the TV series: an historical series with a M/M romance. It allowed almost the entire cast to be LGBTQ.

I also very much like the mystery, although the romance between the two characters didn't do much for me.

Stranger in the House by Josh Lanyon

Miles Tuesday's memories of Montreal are happy ones, but now that he has inherited the house at 9 Braeside, everything feels different. Was Madame Martel's fatal fall really an accident?

This is another story where I liked the mystery, but felt like the romance was lacking.

In the old days, confirmed bachelor was code for gay, but Miles was pretty sure in Oliver's case it meant middle-aged-heterosexual-used-to-having-his-own-way.

Miles is a really really nice guy.

"I'm an enterprise architect for BEC Financial." "Enterprise architect. Is that something to do with IT?" "It's everything to do with IT," Oliver said cheerfully. It sounded really dull, but Oliver seemed happy about it.

Since the boinking part of these stories are my least favorite bits, that lack didn't bother me that much, it just made the boinking more annoying that normal.

What impressed me most about this book was that these were novellas and and short novels, and all were excellent. That rarely happens in an anthology, but here even if one part of the story felt weak to me, the strengths of the other parts lifted it up.


Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.

Rating: 9/10