Dana and Eloreen review Charmed and Dangerous: 10 Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy by Rhys Ford, Ginn Hale, KJ Charles, Nicole Kimberling, Jordan Castillo Price, Jordan L Hawk, Charlie Cochet, Lou Harper, Andrea Speed, and Astrid Amara (Published by JCP Books, August 25, 2015, 509 pages) Guest Post from Jordan L Hawk and giveaway below.
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
When Jordan Castillo Price contacted me with an offer to participate in what became the Charmed & Dangerous anthology, naturally I said “yes” as fast as I could hit the reply button. A chance to work with what amounted to a list of my auto-buy authors? Where do I sign up?!
Of course, after agreeing to write a story, I had to…well, write a story. Which meant coming up with an idea.
Authors frequently get asked about where we get our ideas. The answer is “everywhere,” by which I mean you never know what random thing will collide with some other random thing in your subconscious and suddenly coalesce into an idea. And if you’re really lucky, that idea will turn out to be good enough to carry a story.
Ordinarily, though, it’s such a long process that I have only the most vague clue as to what fragments of memory and experience got together to birth a particular story. So this is one of the few times I can lay out the main ingredients.
To create “The Thirteenth Hex,” take:
- Appalachian hex signs (the better known Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs are a similar but distinct tradition)
- Teddy Roosevelt’s crackdown on corruption when he was a police commissioner in NYC
- The 1986 Excedrin poisonings, where the killer tried to use a mass poisoning to cover up the murder of a specific target
- Victorian patent medicine
- Lore about familiars giving witches their supernatural powers
Then blend together with a dashing crow shifter and a math nerd, and voila. One anthology story to go.
Blurb: Magic takes many forms. From malignant hexes to love charms gone amok, you’ll find a vast array of spells and curses, creatures and conjurings in this massive collection—not to mention a steamy dose of man-on-man action. Charmed and Dangerous features all-new stories of gay paranormal romance, supernatural fiction and urban fantasy by ten top m/m paranormal authors.
Rhys Ford – Dim Sum Asylum
For Detective Roku MacCormick, working Arcane Crimes is his passion. Now cleared of any wrongdoing for shooting his last partner, MacCormick is given back his badge… as well as a new case and partner. Trent Leonard isn’t exactly what he’d expected, but then nothing in San Francisco’s Chinatown ever is.
Ginn Hale – Swift and the Black Dog
When Jack Swift killed a tyrant and won the revolution he became a national hero. But someone in the new government prefers dead heroes to living, swearing, cynical wizards. Caught between bullets, revenge and desire, Jack had better be swift indeed.
KJ Charles – A Queer Trade
Apprentice magician Crispin Tredarloe returns to London to find his master dead, and his papers sold. Papers with secrets that could spell death. Waste paper seller Ned Hall can’t resist Crispin’s pleading—and appealing—looks. But can the wasteman and the magician prevent a disaster and save Crispin’s skin?
Nicole Kimberling – Magically Delicious
Occult attacks against NIAD agents aren’t remotely Keith Curry’s department. But when his lover, Gunther, is assaulted, Keith refuses to just sit back and fill out paperwork. He’s on the case—even if that means enraging powerful mages, crossing leprechaun picket lines, or braving dinner with Gunther’s goblin parents.
Jordan Castillo Price – Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns
Psychic medium Victor Bayne can spot a ghost any day of the year, but Halloween holds some special surprises. His psych-groupie boyfriend Jacob coaxes him to the location of an old spirit sighting, but they can’t ghosthunt without enduring a cheesy “haunted house” that’s even more disturbing than they realize.
Jordan L. Hawk – The Thirteenth Hex
Hexman Dominic Kopecky doesn’t understand why dashing crow familiar Rook wants his help investigating murder by patent hex. For one thing, Dominic isn’t a witch. For another, the case is already closed—and someone is willing to kill to keep it that way.
Charlie Cochet – The Soldati Prince
Riley Murrough goes from serving lattes to being chased by demons. If that wasn’t bad enough, he bears the mark of a shapeshifter king from a magical realm. Riley’s determined to get answers, but if the demons out for his blood don’t kill him, the urge to strangle the arrogant king might.
Lou Harper – One Hex Too Many
Veteran detective Mike Mulligan is an expert on violent crimes—of the occult variety. He might even be cursed. Detective Hugh Fox is eager to partner up and prove himself, but Mulligan is accustomed to flying solo. Can they trust each other enough to track a killer who’ll stop at nothing, not even summoning a demon?
Andrea Speed – Josh of the Damned vs. the Bathroom of Doom
It’s a boring night at the Quik-Mart for Josh and his friend Doug. Until a vampire with a grudge—and the most adorable backup ever—crashes the store. Can Josh survive the Bathroom of Doom?
Astrid Amara – The Trouble With Hexes
P.I. Tim Keller has a problem. And the only person who can solve it is his ex-boyfriend, Vincent, whose job as a hexbreaker was the reason they broke up. It’s hard admitting he was wrong, especially when coughing up organs. But there’s a missing person to find, a hexmaker to hunt down, and a romance to repair before Tim breathes his last.
Dana – When I first heard of this anthology, I was so excited. Four of the authors I had read many books from, and the others were in my to-read and wishlist piles. After reading the anthology, I want to read them even more. It amazed me how different each story was different from the others despite the use of the word hexes multiple times and pixies showing up in several stories. Each was completely different though, and I loved each one. The authors I have read, surprised me as well, providing stories different from the ones I’m used to reading from them. I can’t do the amazing stories justice by reviewing the anthology as a whole, though. So I will say something brief about each one.
‘Dim Sum Asylum’ by Rhys Ford – I love this author’s writing, and this is no exception. The concept was hilarious to me. After his crooked partner dies, half-fae/half-human detective Roku gets a new partner and their first assignment is chasing a spelled fertility statue around Chinatown. Of course he is endowed and shaking it around. I love the action and the descriptions of the people and the rooftop pathways connecting buildings in the city. I thought that Roku and Trent have good chemistry, and I wouldn’t mind a longer story about them one day. *hint hint*
‘Swift and the Black Dog’ by Ginn Hale – This is the first story I read from this author and I was swept up in the world she created. Most of the other stories still seem to take place on a magically populated Earth, but this feels somewhere different. It could be a dystopian future or a harsher planet where a Tyrant once ruled. Swift was an interesting character who once defeated the Tyrant with his friends who all have magical Ways. Finch is a guard who almost seems inconsequential at first, but ends up being very important to the story when one of Jack Swift’s old friends becomes power hungry.There was a surprise for me, and I don’t find myself caught off guard too often, so I loved it. I will be checking out this author in the future.
‘A Queer Trade’ by KJ Charles – I enjoyed the historical feel of this story. There is quite a bit of craziness when papers with powerful spells go missing after the death of the magician. Sold to a local market the food wrapped in it becomes quite fresh. Then there’s the walking dead man. The magician’s apprentice needs to get the papers back and stop the madness and find out what might come of his attraction to the waste seller who decides to help him. Not only are the two men gay, but one is black and the other Caucasian. Two things that would definitely make their feelings for each other impossible in that time period, but it doesn’t seem to matter to them. Great story!
‘Magically Delicious’ by Nicole Kimberling – This is also the first story I have read from this author and I loved it. The human world is coexisting with all manner of otherworldly folk. Pixies, Leprechauns, and Goblins all play a big part in this story. Vampires, shifters, and faeries exist too. Gunther and Keith are both detectives in a paranormal policing agency and when Gunther is brought down by a case of pixie dust poisoning, Keith has to find out who did it. The story is a lot of fun even though there is a crime to solve. My favorite part is when the leprechaun uses the phrase magically delicious. Do they watch tv commercials? LOL
‘Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns’ by Jordan Castillo Price – This is a Psycop story, though I’m not sure where it falls in the continuity. I love this series as well as Jacob and Victor the two main characters. It probably would help to be familiar with the series, but I think it should be relatively easy to follow if you haven’t read it. Clowns are scary, but oddly the one in this story doesn’t seem to be. Even if he is a ghost. However, the humans who created the twisted haunted house, might be. I’m always happy to read about this couple and enjoyed this story.
‘The Thirteenth Hex’ by Jordan L. Hawk – I love this author’s work. The familiars in this book aren’t just animals, but animal shifters. I liked Dominic right away. He is a relatable character even in this historical setting; working a job that isn’t the one he really wants to have. Rook sounds darkly handsome, and I wish I could see what he looked like with his silky long hair. It was a great story of witches and familiars and police corruption.
‘The Soldati Prince’ by Charlie Cochet – This was so different from the paranormal THIRDS series that I’ve read, though I see some of the same personality quirks between the characters in that series and this story. Riley is human but destined to be the mate of Soldati King, Khalon. The Soldati are shifters that protect humanity from demons that make it through the veil between worlds. They are bigger and stronger, but Riley isn’t afraid to stand up to them or stand beside them in a fight. It isn’t love at first sight, but respect grows quickly and fate is stronger than their stubborn wills. Loved it.
‘One Hex Too Many’ by Lou Harper – One of my favorite stories of the bunch, and the first I’ve read from this author. Extramundane Crimes detective Mike Mulligan thinks he is hexed when it comes to partners, and so does everyone else. Still he gets a new one in the form of Hugh Fox. The crime they investigate in this story was really thought out, and intrigued me. Mike is gay and Hugh is not, but when Mike deceives Hugh in order to protect him from the so called hex, Hugh’s feelings come out and there is a bit of a gay for you love story. Really enjoyed this story.
‘Josh of the Damned vs. the Bathroom of Doom’ by Andrea Speed – This author’s Infected series is in my tbr pile, but I hadn’t even heard of the Josh of the Damned series before this story. Now I want to read them so bad. For me this had a ‘Clerks’ on paranormal steroids feel. There was no end to the craziness that happened in this story. Greek mythology villians, necromancers, vampires, zombie hamsters, and animated bathtubs and toilets all conspire to take over the portal that connects the paranormal world and human world behind the convenience store that Josh works in. So humorous.
‘The Trouble with Hexes’ by Astrid Amara – This is also one of my favorites. It was slightly longer than the others, and I’m a sucker for second chance romances. Tim broke up with Vincent when his hex-breaking caused him to have health issues. He couldn’t stand to see the man he loved hurt himself, and he hardly believed in hexes in the first place. It did make him seem like a jerk, but when he’s hexed and the only person who can help is Vincent, they both admit that their feelings for each other are still there. Even if Vincent can’t just forgive him that easily. The hex is strong though and Tim is only days from dying. My gut clenched when Vincent showed how devoted he was to helping the hexed and in particular his ex when he does something he swore he would never do. The two of them had my heart then, and thankfully the perpetrator is caught. I don’t know if there is a full length book or series about this couple, but I would read it if there was.
Anthology rating – 10/10 pots of gold
I heard about this anthology and knew I had to read it. The title hinted at magic and mayhem and the blub confirmed it. Most stories are a lot of urban fantasy with hints at steampunk and dark topics. These are not the fantasy stories you think they are, nor do they end exactly as normal happy for now or happily ever after.
Overall, I loved the stories. They provided deliciously dangerous and charmingly fun stories with heroes that are not quite what they seem. Together, they weave a subtle story that—while not directly related—are really close; and could be a universe on their own, collectively. A few I had trouble following the plot and/or characters, so scratched my head at the endings. But the love between main characters, and the resulting sex scenes, were hot and gratifying in world crazy with magic and chaos.
For “Dim Sum Asylum” by Rhys Ford.
It took a little while to comprehend the world Detective Roku MacCormick was immersed within as Rhys starts off the story right off the bat with a chase scene and goes downhill in a dangerous way from there with betrayals, dragons, and fae. As always, she didn’t disappoint with rich detail and complicated interactions between Roku and his new partner, Detective Associate Trent Leonard, who joined the team for his own reasons. Hold on to your nickers though, it’s a bumpy ride.
For “Swift and the Black Dog” by Ginn Hale.
This post revolution dystopia story was wonderfully dark and dangerous, and probably the darkest story of the ten. Betrayals and secrets are prevalent throughout the story of the wizard “hero” Jack Swift and his unexpected desire and connection to the charming security guard Owen Finch who has an unexpected secret of his own. The story is woven beautifully, and world detailing provided so well, so much so, that I will need to go find more of Ginn’s stories.
For “A Queer Trade” by KJ Charles.
Based in a London where dangerous magic exists with a flick of a pen, young apprentice Crispin Tredarloe finds himself without a master, and trying to rectify a complicated mistake that leads him to the highly desirable waste-man Ned Hall, a man of color who comes to believe Crispin’s wild tale of magical papers and helps him resolve the cascading issues in unexpected ways. While dark in nature, there is a happy ending that can be for now or ever after. You decide.
For “Magically Delicious” by Nicole Kimberling.
This charming story based in the Washington DC area but with extra-human species working together with humans and magic is prevalent in this age. While it has a dangerous plot, it was lighter and had a somewhat tongue-in-check feel, as I laughed and shook my head, at the antics of the leprechauns, the plight of the pixies, and the interactions between human NIAD Special Agent Keith Curry and his transmogrified goblin boyfriend, and love of his life, strike force agent Gunther Heartman as investigations merge and hit close to them personally.
For “Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns” by Jordan Castillo Price.
The title made be a bit wary going into this story because how often clowns are portrayed as dangerous in fictional stories. While I don’t have anything personal thing against clowns, in fact loved watching them from the circus performances I attended, I know those that do. Luckily, Jordan provided a beautiful and charmingly psychic Halloween story about a PsyCop Medium, Victor Bayne, and his PsyCop boyfriend, Jacob as they go down Victor’s memory lane and put to rest a “clown” from Victor’s past. The story is a day in the life of Victor and I wanted more. Jordan provides enough details that you can read this story stand-alone from her other PsyCop stories. I guess that means I need to go read them.
For “The Thirteenth Hex” by Jordan L Hawk.
Witches, hexes, and animal/human shape-changing familiars abound in this story around an investigation that seems to have been solved. But for Hexman Dominic Kopecky, he gets an up close and personal look at the crime when unbounded Crow familiar Rook seeks his help with the evidence. They discover a deep plot of betrayal, but a great bond between them, neither one expected. They were in dangerous and in inopportune waters, but they were charmingly saved and the good guys triumphed. It does provide somewhat of a predictable rollercoaster ride, but well worth the read despite foreseeing the end game for the main characters.
For “The Soldati Prince” by Charlie Cochet.
I think this one was the lightest in theme with it not being quite as complicated plot as the others in the book. It’s still fun learning about Riley Murrough, a worker at a café and the hidden depths we find when he is thrust into the extradimensional world of the Soldati when he is abducted by demons and saved by an arrogant Soldati shape shifter tiger king, Khalon, who is Riley’s fated mate. They have to learn to trust in the Goddess bringing them together didn’t make a mistake, but not before sacrifices are made. Hope is prevalent throughout the story and you can’t help but root for Khalon and Riley to have their happy ending. Thankfully, they do.
For “One Hex Too Many” by Lou Harper.
Another lovely magical detective story, this one about Detective MIke Mulligan of the Extramundane Crimes Division and his new partner rookie Detective Hugh Fox as they investigate suspicious deaths by dark magic while the two detectives get closer despite Mike’s conviction that he’s cursed. We find out about Mulligan’s history, somewhat, but I would like to know more about Fox’s history. The story skims over Fox being straight and seems a little sudden with his comfort on being with Mulligan. This is one of the stories I would like to have a sequel with more details, and perhaps find out more about the mysterious, transgendered in every way Leslie’s story.
For “Josh of the Damned vs. The Bathroom of Doom” by Andrea Speed.
Another author I need to read her other stories in the series this story takes place. We met Josh, a Quik-Mark employee, his pizza-delivery roommate and stoner Doug who sticks around after driving Josh to his place of work that protects a dimensional doorway, and the subsequent not-so-typical hold-up of a convenience store where we find out about Colin, Josh’s vampire boyfriend, and saving Josh from animated bathroom appliances and zombie hamsters. It’s charmingly light despite zombies, lizards and other paranormals, and no sex between Josh and Colin but you get an idea of the universe and want more, especially with several pop culture references. I was amused and entertained, especially with way Josh was attached, and can’t wait to read more.
For “The Trouble With Hexes” by Astrid Amara.
A second-chance love story is one of my favorite types and Astrid does not disappoint with the added paranormal flavor and the dangerous world of hexes. We meet hexed Tim Keller as he contacts his ex-boyfriend, Vincent, to help him. Trouble between them causing the split up is revealed and they rediscover their love as Vincent races against time to figure out the source of the hex to save Tim’s life. In spite of the hex, they are able to reconnect and the sex and love between them is hot. While things are dire, it is a charmingly dangerous story fitting into the theme of the anthology and finishing the book with a high note.
They are all great in their own way. I smiled and I cried. Some are darker than I normally read, but not too dark that I couldn’t read them. Some are lighter than expected, but still fun in their dangerous and charming ways. You will need to devote some time to them as most are densely written and not for the faint of heart. And now, I have to go read some of these authors’ previous works, especially Ginn’s, Jordan’s and Andrea’s.
As such, I give Charmed and Dangerous an overall rating of 9 out of 10 pots of gold.
Anthology rating – 9/10 pots of gold
Jordan L. Hawk is giving away one ebook from her backlist titles. Comment on this post for your chance to win.
You need to be 18 or older to participate in this contest. Void where prohibited. Etc.
This contest will end on September 4th, 2015 at 11:59 PM CDT. Good Luck!