SPECTR by Jordan L. Hawk is a fabulous paranormal series that captivated me from the first pages. As a fan of her historical/paranormal Whyborne & Griffin series, I really had no idea what to expect from this contemporary/paranormal mix, but I have to tell you, I am just blown away. I read the entire six-book season in about four days and I could barely put it down. The whole thing is just completely amazing.
So before I go to far, I should explain that the first season of this series is comprised of six books that were originally released individually and now are also available as a six-story set (Amazon | All Romance), as well as in two 3-book volumes like I reviewed them here (I will review the first three books today, and the second three tomorrow in a separate review). Also, since this is a serial style series with connected stories, things that happen early on affect the story later. I have done my best to keep the summaries simple enough to not give too much away in the overarching series plot.
Hunter of Demons
Caleb’s brother Ben was killed by some otherworldly creature. And to make things even more horrifying, a demon possessed his dead body and walked right out of the funeral home with it. Now Caleb is joining his sister-in-law and some of her friends who claim they know how to get rid of the demon and put Ben’s body to rest. Things go horribly wrong however, and when Ben’s body is destroyed at the same time that Caleb is mortally injured, the demon jumps into Caleb’s body instead.
The Strategic Paranormal Entity ConTRol (SPECTR) is called in to attempt to exorcise the demon out of Caleb, but they have no success. John is a highly trained exorcist and has never seen anything like this type of possession. Normally it takes 40 days for a demon to completely take hold of someone’s body, and considering Caleb is an unwilling host and he has only been possessed for a few hours, getting rid of the demon should be simple. Yet nothing John does will work.
As it turns out, the demon is actually a drakul, or vampire, a creature no one knew even existed. Gray appears to have lived for thousands of years, hopping from one dead body to another. It seems that when Caleb was given CPR just as Gray took hold, Gray instead possessed a live body for the first time. Suddenly Gray is experiencing life totally differently and has no desire to give up Caleb’s body. And although Caleb wants nothing more to get rid of Gray, he is finding his own changes in enhanced senses, strength, and speed.
No one knows quite what to make of Caleb and Gray as they are breaking all the normal rules for possession. John’s boss insists he take Caleb to his home to keep an eye on him. As the men spend time together, they begin to share an attraction. But Caleb just wants Gray gone and his old life back. Not to mention that whatever it is that killed Ben is killing more people, and Caleb and John must figure it out before even more lives are in danger
Master of Ghouls
After solving their case, Caleb and John go out to a club for a night of fun. The attraction between them is growing stronger and they want to enjoy a little date night. But while at the club, Gray senses a demon nearby. When they find her, they learn that someone is forcing people into demon possession. The woman doesn’t know who is behind it all, only that she is compelled to kidnap victims to help make more ghouls.
With the help of other members of SPECTR, John and Caleb are once again sent out into the field to figure out who is behind the kidnapping and the attacks. What they find out is even more dangerous than they feared and all their lives are in jeopardy. What they learn also raises some questions about SPECTR and unveils some things about John’s past. However, they do get access to information that may help with Gray’s exorcism. It has been eight days since Caleb was possessed and time is running out.
Reaper of Souls
It has now been over two weeks and no one seems to be getting any closer to figuring out how to separate Caleb and Gray. But Caleb is growing used to have Gray in his head and John is finding himself strangely drawn to the drakul. It is hard for either man to imagine destroying Gray, but they also know that things can’t continue with Caleb possessed. Although he is able to keep control of Gray, the drakul is still incredibly strong and powerful, and one wrong move will see them both in a SPECTR cell. Things get even more nerve wracking when higher ups from the RD division want to do tests on Caleb, and he can’t help fearing they are going to lock him up at any moment.
But that all takes a backseat when the men are called out on another case. A man has been murdered and it looks like there has been paranormal involvement. When a powerful, anti-paranormal Senator gets involved, the case becomes political and there are threats to take away SPECTR’s authority. When there is a second killing, the pressure is on to find out who is behind it before the anti-paranormal sentiment grows out of control.
So wow, this series is just an incredible ride. I was caught up from the very beginning and read these stories one right after the other. In fact, I had planned on saving the second half of the season for a later time, but I could not put the book down and just continued right on reading. Although this is a contemporary setting, I found that Hawk manages to do here what she does so well in Whyborne & Griffin: fabulous world building and amazing character development, combined with interesting mysteries/suspense plots.
First off, I love this world she has created here with paranormals a known part of society, but a layer of prejudice exists that has them forced to register and a whole agency charged with policing them. There are definitely parallels drawn here with the rights of gays in our world and the prejudices against things that are different and feared. It is done subtly and very well. Caleb has always had the tiniest bit of telekinesis, a power that should have required him to register as a paranormal, but he has been in hiding. So he sees SPECTR as this big bad agency that is going to force him to register, something that will likely lead to the loss of his job and apartment. John, on the other hand, credits SPECTR for saving his life after his parents put him in “reparative therapy” to try to control his abilities as an exorcist. So these men are initially set up on opposite sides, but find themselves drawn to one another right away.
Hawk gives us three interesting investigations in these books, each dealing with different types of paranormal activity, and puts our heroes in the midst of the cases. And on top of this, we always have the lingering issue of Caleb’s possession. We know that the time to exorcise Gray is limited, no one is having success separating them, and that as time passes, Gray and Caleb seem to be becoming more and more integrated.
So let’s get to that, shall we? Hawk does an amazing job here with Gray and Caleb. The dynamic between them is just fascinating. Caleb is understandably freaked out to have this voice in his head, this other being sharing his body. Especially because Gray initially inhabited Ben, along with many other bodies, and his memories are often shared with Caleb. Caleb starts out wanting nothing more than to get rid of Gray, while Gray is thrilled with his new situation and sees no reason to change it. Instead of a dead, decaying body, he has one full of life with Caleb.
I love the interaction between these two characters. Gray talks to Caleb in his head and they are just hysterical. Gray is matter of fact and doesn’t understand much about mortals. He is interested only in hunting and feeding on ghouls. He doesn’t care about humans because they aren’t prey. So he has no interest in hurting people, but he also doesn’t see why he needs to care about any of them. Except for John. Gray very much likes John, even likes having sex with John. As the stories continue, Gray becomes more integrated with Caleb and more possessive that John belongs to them. Gray thinks of them as a unit, and as time passes, we can see that Caleb does as well, even though he knows he shouldn’t.
Here are a couple of passages that illustrate their dynamic as well as Gray’s newfound interest in sex:
They climbed out of the car. Sean stood nearby, talking to a cop with NOLES stitched on her coat. “Let me see what’s going on,” John said.
“Okay.” Caleb hung back by the car.
“We will hunt.”
No. We’re not here to chase down demons. We’re here to do what John says to do.
Annoyance, a tiger lashing its tail. “We have not hunted and fed since the ghouls.”
I know. Nice not to have something trying to maul us to death for a bit, wasn’t it?
Consideration. “I enjoyed the sexual intercourse.”
Well, at least they agreed on something.
And here is poor Caleb who keeps getting sidetracked when Gray chimes in during sex with John:
John had rolled onto his side and propped his head against one fist. His other hand slid down to rub the erection clearly straining against the fabric of his jeans. “Want me to get undressed, too?”
“No. Just watch.”
Caleb ran his hands over his chest, sighing aloud when he pinched his own nipples. Fuck, it felt good.
“Not as good as when John bites us there.”
Just to clarify, I wouldn’t consider this a menage story, despite the fact that we are dealing with three main characters. I think it is because to me, Gray and Caleb are really two parts of the same person. As the stories continue, it is harder to see them as two distinct beings. They think together, act together, and share feelings. Caleb still has to sometimes work to keep Gray in line, but I see them as two parts of the same whole. And while Gray clearly is possessive over John and doesn’t want anyone but he and Caleb to have him, and he definitely enjoys the sensory experience of sex, I never saw him as a third partner, so much as part of Caleb.
What is really interesting here is the way we get Gray’s POV at times. Most of the story alternates between John and Caleb’s third person POV, but when there is danger or they are hunting, Gray comes to the forefront. He is all action and danger, and when he comes out those sections are told in first person, present tense. It is an interesting writing choice and I think it really adds to that intensity and immediacy of these scenes.
So I don’t want to go on forever here because I still have three more stories in this first season to review. I will say that this series works well as one large set. They are clearly written for individual release, as each one does a light recap of key things from earlier in the series, something that would be helpful if you were reading them spaced out. But it is pretty unobtrusive and I had no problem reading straight through like one long book. I would recommend these either way, but honestly I think once you read the first story you are really going to want to read them all, so save yourself some money and buy the set.
So yep, loved loved these. I couldn’t read them fast enough and pretty much got sucked in immediately, to the point that I abandoned pretty much everything else to read them all straight through. I can’t recommend these stories highly enough. They are exciting and fascinating, sexy and intense, with great mysteries and really entertaining characters.