We’re away at our extended RWA/NYC trip so it’s a super short show this week as we review some books for your summertime reading. Jeff reviews two books in Gregory Ashe’s Hazard and Somerset Series: Guilt by Association and Reasonable Doubt. Will celebrates Christmas in July and reviews Deck the Halls by Max Walker.

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Show Notes

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Book Reviews

Here’s the text of this week’s book reviews:

Guilt by Association & Reasonable Doubt by Gregory Ashe. Reviewed by Jeff.
I’m so happy that I binged books four and five in the Hazard and Somerset series since book six, the most recent, has just come out on audio this month.

Let me start by saying that I loved both of these books, as I have the entire series. Gregory turns the screws more with each book, which you should really read in order to get the most impact. The mysteries get more complicated and shocking while the slow burn romance between Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset gets closer to an inferno.

In Guilt by Association, Hazard and Somers have yet another murder on their hands–this time slimey Sheriff Bingham. Bingham loomed large for many reasons in book three and for him to be the victim this time was a shock…and yet not given how messed up things are in Wahredua. Their investigation is hampered by a special investigator who comes to town and sidelines them, having them work on only minor details. Hazard and Somers continue to pursue–of course they do!–and soon enough they unravel more corruption and entanglements than we’ve seen in the series so far.

If Guilt by Association provided the most twisted plot yet, Reasonable Doubt provided the most disturbing, which caught me off guard given some of the things that happened in Paternity Case. John Oscar Walden, leader of a local cult, is murdered and his followers believe that he’ll be resurrected in three days just like Christ. As such, they’re not much interested in helping the police, but as Hazard and Somers dig into this they discover that they may actually need to protect and save the killer. This book delves deep into what draws people into cults, how members work to protect each other and how that can get twisted so badly. That, along with the religious overtones, made this book more difficult than the others for me and I found myself having to put it aside for a bit to recover. Don’t get me wrong though, the book was well worth the read and the angst it gave me.

To discuss some of the things I loved about these books I’m going to go into some spoiler territory. If you want to avoid those, please do skip ahead.

First of all, how Gregory manages to keep ratcheting up the tension book to book is mindblowing. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating that he structures incredible plots and does an amazing job of making every word count and tying everything together. That’s very much the case here.

Towards the end of Guilt by Association and all the way into Reasonable Doubt, Hazard and Somers’s finally become a couple. Hazard breaks up with Nico–happy dance over that–and our two detectives can finally be together. Their banter and way the treat each other shifts in the most amazing way as the walls between crumble. Along with this, Hazard has moments where he is caring for Somers’s daughter, Evie, and it’s incredible and precious to see the fatherly side of him. Hazard’s a hell of a superhero too…which is all I’ll say on that because I don’t want to get too spoilerly but if you’ve read you know exactly what I’m talking about and if you haven’t you certainly will.

We get more about Hazard’s past in these books too and it’s terrible how he was treated as a teenager (which we already knew but more details come into focus here) and how that made him into the man he is. Details on his relationships before he came to Wahredua finally get told. Somers has revelations too and in some ways his were even more shocking and reveal how much he’s cared for Hazard all these years. To Gregory’s credit he’s withheld the details for the perfect reveals and it shows even more what an incredible storyteller he is.

I loved that Hazard’s father shows up in Reasonable Doubt. You see where Hazard gets his bristly side. There’s a heated discussion between the two and where they end up provided one of the most unexpected twists of any of the books.

As always, Tristan James is an outstanding voice talent for this series. In particular some of the voices of the cult members in Reasonable Doubt gave me the chills and his characterization of Hazard’s dad was perfect.

I plan to dive into book six, Criminal Past, within the next few weeks. Even more exciting that finally catching up is that Gregory revealed that a seventh Hazard and Somerset book is coming this fall.

Deck The Halls by Max Walker. Reviewed by Will.
Merry Christmas in July!

Deck the Halls is part of Max Walker’s Stonewall Investigations series and acts as a bridge to the spin-off Stonewall Investigations Miami. It’s worth noting that I haven’t read either of these series. Deck the Halls is billed as a stand-alone story, and I can assure you that it does indeed stand perfectly well all by itself.

Let’s get to the story.

Sassy, nice guy Andrew is the office manager at Stonewall Investigations in NYC. When his marriage implodes, the only thing he has to look forward to this holiday season are divorce proceedings.

When Declan Covington walks into the office, it’s lust at first sight. After some flirting, Declan proposes Andrew accompany him on holiday.

Declan will be the only member of his family without a significant other in attendance at the yearly Christmas gathering. If Andrew agrees to play his boyfriend for the week, it’ll take some family pressure off him and will give Declan the chance to cheer up the irresistible Andrew.

‘Fake Boyfriends’ for the win!

The story moves to the grandly elegant Covington family estate which is festooned in grandly elegant holiday splendor.

Declan and Andrew have a private guest house all to themselves and it’s not long before they realize that they’ll want this ‘fake’ relationship to be consummated underneath the mistletoe.

Andrew is a hit with most of Declan’s family, with the exception of his step-father and snobby step-siblings.

After a romantic horseback ride, a hook-up in a luxury tree house, and a blowjob in a barn that has been transformed into a candy cane forest, our heroes get down to business solving the big mystery.

After all, there must have been a reason for Declan to show up at Stonewall Investigations in the first place, right?

Declan’s mother has been ‘misplacing’ expensive pieces of jewelry and no one has been able to explain the mysterious disappearances. Declan has his suspicions about the thefts, but it’s Andrew, using his deductive instincts (and some tricks he’s picked up while working at Stonewall) who finally cracks the case.

Our heroes solve the crime, get their HEA, and start a new life in Miami, where Andrew manages the new branch office of Stonewall Investigations.

I loves this story so much and this couple so very much, that I struggle to come up with anything else to say. It’s obvious from the beginning that Andrew and Declan are going to be great together, they have that intangible ‘it’ factor, that undeniable chemistry on the page.

Max Walker should be commended. Creating characters that are engaging and leap off the page is not something that every author can do.

There’s heat and sexual tension from the first moment out heroes meet, but even after they’ve had sex, there’s still that chemistry and humor and that undeniable feeling the reader gets that these two people are supposed to be together… that they’re meant to be together.

I loved Andrew and Deck’s story. It’s a wonderful worthwhile read, no matter the time of year.