Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Being an investigator for the Paranormal Society has kept Felipe Galvan constantly on the move, crossing the country capturing or killing magical beings and creatures that put people in danger. As the years have gone by, putting his job first has also helped Felipe succeed in running away—away from his sense of displacement in his family, away from the nightmares years of attacks and near death experiences have given him, and away from his growing sense of discontent. One constant bright spot in his life is the enigmatic medical examiner, Dr. Oliver Barlow. In the decade they have known one another, their brief interactions and Barlow’s cool, good looks have captivated Felipe, but the man’s aloofness and tendency to lock himself in his lab keeps Felipe at arm’s length. When Dr. Barlow is tasked to go with him to a monastery to examine a body, Felipe is impressed with Barlow’s skills and hopeful that he can finally get to know him better. Unfortunately, their hunch that the nun was murdered puts them in a killer’s crosshairs and Felipe ends up dead.

Oliver has spent his life as an outcast. Being a necromancer is bad enough, but being unable to perform social graces and interactions like everyone else makes it even worse. After all, he can (mostly) hide his abilities, but he can’t hide his social “deficiencies.” He’s simply too direct or too strange for most people, so his job as a medical examiner for the Paranormal Society suits him perfectly—it limits his interactions with the living and offers a positive use of his necromancy. Oliver is mostly content with his solitary job and single friend, but he’s drawn to the dashing Felipe. After hiding from his feelings for years, he finally drums up the courage to ask Felipe to dinner…only to find him dead on his sitting room floor. Being unable to revive Felipe shatters Oliver’s heart and control, and he’s overcome with grief and ‘if onlys.’ When Felipe gets up and starts talking about his attacker, Oliver is horrified by the unintentional reanimation, but unable to break the connection right away.

Frustrated and angry at being killed and over Oliver’s wish to sever his only tie to life, Felipe convinces Oliver to give him one week to solve the case and catch his killer. While Oliver is reluctant, he’s also grateful to have this final time with Felipe and, as the two work together, the attraction they’ve always felt grows. However, as the clock runs down on Felipe’s time and the pair gets closer to the truth, it becomes clear that Felipe’s death may be the least of their worries.

The Reanimator’s Heart is a paranormal mystery that seems to take place in an alternate universe during the late 18th/early 19th century (given the prevalence of steam cars and Comstockian politics) and is a spin-off from Jorgensen’s Paranormal Society Romances series. Oliver and Felipe are both interesting characters who feel isolated for different reasons—for Oliver, his neurodivergence makes him an outcast more than his necromancy and, for Felipe, he’s so used to putting on the face of fearless, charming investigator he’s become hollow and alienated from those closest to him. Oliver has always feared and disliked his powers so he knows little about them and doesn’t use them more than necessary and has a strict set of guideline for when he does. Thus, his accidental reanimation of Felipe sets up an intriguing moral conflict for Oliver and forces him to examine his internalized fear of his power and lack of understanding of it. I absolutely adored Oliver and really empathized with his struggles, situation, and conflicting emotions.

While Felipe’s inner turmoil and dissatisfaction with his life are more self-inflicted, he’s still a very sympathetic character. Felipe’s job is dangerous and scary, but he doesn’t let himself really acknowledge that; instead, he’s become a storyteller—talking about his investigations like they’re grand adventures when the reality gives him nightmares. He’s so good at telling stories, he can’t help but hide the truth from himself by keeping constantly busy and away from the people who truly know him and smothering his emotions with sherry when he isn’t. Felipe’s greatest asset as an investigator is his ability to self-heal and, with his twenty years of experience, he’s tapped first for the most difficult and perilous jobs. The fact that he wasn’t killed while putting himself in danger and knowing his very life is out of his hands is infuriating and forces him to face the unhappiness he’s been running from and his choices. It’s a mindf%ck to be alive but technically not, adding another interesting layer to the story and the development of the MCs’ relationship.

Told in third person, the writing is clear and straightforward and does a good job exploring the characters’ feelings and establishing the story’s tone. For the most part, the dialogue and word choice kept me grounded in the time period, but there are a few anachronistic colloquiums like “you got this” I found a tad jarring. The pacing is pretty even and has a nice balance between the countdown nature of the investigation and interactions with Felipe’s family and Oliver’s best friend, Gwen, that flesh out the MCs’ natures and personalities. I enjoyed all the secondary characters, the queer rep, and supportive family each man had. Felipe is in a lavender marriage with his best friend, Louisa, and has created a family with Louisa’s partner, Agatha. Agatha is a trans woman with whom Louisa has a daughter, but all three raised her. With his daughter away at college, Felipe is more aware of his desire for the same partnership Louisa and Agatha have and has let his job act as a barrier between his longing and opening up to his family. The only family Oliver has is Gwen and while that may seem lonely, seeing how much Gwen loves and protects Oliver and doesn’t view his differences as annoyances or weaknesses shows that true love and support is measured by quality not quantity.

While this is a character-focused story, the mystery is a consistent plot driver and is not relegated to the sidelines for incongruous or ill-timed sexy-times or relationship drama. Almost all of the MCs’ activities revolve around finding the killer. The set up for the mystery and the players is well done and the investigation overall is handled pretty well. However, there are some leads not followed and times where the characters admonish one another to not jump to conclusions…only to do so, seemingly to add to the “can’t trust anyone” vibe. While annoying, I still enjoyed how the mystery resolved. Additionally, while Oliver’s reanimation of Felipe and his lack of knowledge about his powers is central to the story and there is a set up for him trying to learn more, ultimately, this does not happen so I was a bit disappointed that Oliver ends the story knowing as little about/how to use his necromancy as he started with, but am hopeful he will do so in future stories.

That being said, the engaging MCs, the complicated relationship between a necromancer who hates reanimating and his reanimated crush, and the gothic atmosphere of the Paranormal Society and mystery all combine to make The Reanimator’s Heart an entertaining read.

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