Rating: 4.5 stars
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John Tilney is a mystery author who is looking for some hands on experience for his next book. When he meets private investigator Lowell Kanaan, John thinks he has found his perfect romantic hero. Lowell is a sexy wolf shifter who is a bit gruff on the outside, but with a kind heart. It doesn’t take long, however, before John realizes he doesn’t want Lowell just for his story, but for himself. Pretty soon the guys are developing a personal and sexual relationship, as well as building a partnership at work.
John and Lowell end up working a case that starts off as a potential missing person, but soon gets them involved with the Zombie Mafia, stolen body parts, insurance scams, and someone who wants them off the case and is willing to threaten their lives to help make that happen. Lowell’s instinct is to want to protect John and keep him out of harm’s way. But John isn’t going to be pushed aside. He has his own abilities and, as a fire Elementalist, he can hold his own. Not to mention there is no way he is letting Lowell take the case on by himself. But as the guys get closer to finding the killer, they must work together and hope they can catch the bad guys before their lives are in more danger.
Ooh, I really liked this one. Rose and Hawthorne have created some great characters in Lowell and John and I just adored them together. At one point John calls Lowell a burnt marshmallow — crunchy on the outside and mushy in the middle. And that is pretty much exactly how he comes across. He is a loner and doesn’t have a pack (shifter mom and human dad left him going solo) and he’s got a bit of brooding standoffishness at first. But soon we see that a lot of his distance is due to his attraction to John, as well as just covering for his sweet and sensitive side. It doesn’t take long for John’s charm to melt Lowell and soon he is a putty in John’s hands. For his part, John is pretty much too endearing for words. He is sunny and happy and plunges right ahead into everything without thinking much about the consequences. Lowell describes him as “guileless” and that is really what he is. He just says what he thinks and feels and it never occurs to him to watch his words or be afraid or hide his feelings. He just puts it all out there and is totally adorable and pretty much everyone loves him. I found him such a great character and I loved how the story frames him as this lonely guy who needs someone to guide him along, both sexually and with the investigation, and he finds that in Lowell.
John is demisexual, which means he is only attracted to people with whom he has an emotional connection. So we see him fall for Lowell and then he is definitely hot for him. This book is super sexy and I loved these guys together. John is not a virgin, but there is a bit of the experience gap that makes for a really sexy dynamic between them.
I am a big fan of Hawthorne’s writing, and as with most of her books, this one is a paranormal that has a strong contemporary feel. We learn that there are all sorts of praeternatural beings, such as the Beasts (shifters), Elementals, and Necros (who can replace body parts with new ones — hence the Zombie Mafia and black market limbs). They live out in the human world and much of this story feels like a pretty typical mystery contemporary, even with the paranormal characters. However, Rose and Hawthorne do build an interesting world here with a unique take on these various creatures. I do wish we had a little more world building though. There are a variety of different praeternatural factions and they interact in various ways with different prejudices and I don’t feel like I fully understood it all. I never felt like I totally got the various groups and what their abilities were. For example, we hear about Terrans, but I still don’t really know what they are. Especially at the beginning, where we are introduced to a lot at once, I felt a little lost at times. However, I did enjoy the creativity here and, because the story has a very contemporary feel, I could follow along with the mystery and understand the story even not getting all the world building details.
It sounds like this one is a going to be the start of a series, and I am really excited. I just LOVED these characters and I really like the authors’ style and tone here. It is fun and quirky and sexy, with a nice mystery and a good touch of paranormal thrown in. So I definitely enjoyed this one and would certainly recommend it.