A big welcome to Morgan Brice as part of her review tour with Gay Book Promotions for Badlands from Darkwind Press.
This is the first of a new series, and the first I’ve read by Morgan Brice—AKA Gail Z Martin—and I’m totally hooked. I have so much love for this story, and these characters. It hit all of the things I love in a story: interesting characters with angsty pasts, urban fantasy, psi powers, and magic. And then I discovered some of the side characters who ‘cameo’ in this story, have series of their own. I LOVE books and series that stand on their own, yet are part of a larger interconnected universe. My wish list on Book Depository suddenly grew exponentially as I need to catch up on this author’s backlist—and buy a hardcopy of this one, as I like hardcopies of my favourites. I read a lot of books, and enjoy most of what I read, but occasionally one comes along that I totally obsess over, and feel the need to tell everyone about. This is one of those books.
I loved Simon and Vic, both as individuals and a couple. Simon describes himself as a ‘gay clairvoyant medium history nerd with a passion for ghost stories’ and I liked him as soon as he appeared on the page. It’s obvious that Simon cares about those around him, and I liked the way he tries to help those with abilities, as those who are part of his ‘skeleton crew’ help each other. I thought it was realistic that he feels like an outsider, not just because of his abilities but because he is a gay man, and I felt for him and why he lost as his job as a tenured professor.
I liked that although the attraction between Vic and Simon is there as soon as they meet, Vic struggled to believe in Simon’s abilities. Especially given Vic’s own experiences, the time it took for him to come to terms with everything about Simon felt very realistic.
The world building was fabulous and the locations very easy to visualise. I really enjoyed the sense of community amongst the people of Myrtle Beach, both amongst those who are part of the loosely aligned group of people initiated into the Shadow Group, and their friends. The side characters were interesting in their own right and I hope to see more of them in future books—and am aiming to catch up with others by reading their series. It’s obvious that author has researched the different kinds of magic used in the story, and I appreciated the realism that was the result of that research.
I found this story very addictive, and I got hooked as soon as I started reading. I blame it for several late nights as I had to find out what happened next. The plot unfolds at a good pace, but not too quickly, and I found myself trying to join the dots along with the characters. I was on the edge of my seat during a lot of the book, especially during the final showdown with the bad guy. The author does a great job in racking up the tension, and in the finish I had to keep reading as I was very worried about the survival of one of the main characters!
I’d recommend Badlands to readers who enjoy urban fantasy and paranormal romance with interesting characters, fabulous world building, a story that keeps you turning pages, and is part of an interconnected universe. 5 out of 5 stars.
Book Title: Badlands
Author: Morgan Brice
Cover Artist: Natania Barron
Genre/s: urban fantasy, MM paranormal romance
Simon Kincaide owns a boardwalk shop in Myrtle Beach where he runs ghost tours & does seances and private psychic readings, a fresh start after his abilities cost him his lover and his job as a folklore professor. Jaded cop Vic D’Amato saw something supernatural he couldn’t explain during a shootout several years ago in Pittsburgh and relocated to Myrtle Beach to leave the past behind, still skeptical about the paranormal. But when the search for a serial killer hits a dead end, Vic battles his skepticism to ask Simon for help. As the body count rises, Simon’s involvement makes him a target, and a suspect. But Simon can’t say no, even if it costs him his life and heart.
What Amazon reviewers are saying about Badlands:
“…steamy, complicated and totally engaging.”
“Highly recommend this one.”
“An excellent well written book…”
“A brilliant story that has you invested in the characters and guessing what will happen next.”
“Can’t say enough good things about this book!”
“Bikes are a big deal here,” Simon said to fill the pause. “I’m always amazed at how many come through for Bike Week.” Several major motorcycle events each summer turned the Grand Strand into a cavalcade of the hottest cycles on the coast.
Cop Dude shrugged. “I always liked Born to Run. Springsteen fan. What can I say?”
“Sir?” the voice called from the counter, making Simon turn away. “You’re next.” Simon had never been less happy to get to the front of the line.
“I’ll have a Dread Pirate Roberts,” he mumbled, not wanting to look like an idiot to the guy he was trying to impress. He handed over the money, took his change as she rang him up, dropped a one dollar bill in the tip jar, and moved down the counter to wait for his drink.
“I’ll try that, too,” the cop said, flashing him a grin. “What the hell? Live life on the edge.”
Le Miz baristas were fast. Simon knew he needed to come up with a way to extend the conversation without looking like a creeper or lose the connection, maybe forever. Just as the barista handed both of them their drinks, a deafening thunderclap sounded, rattling the windows, and the rain came pouring down.
“Want to grab a table?” Simon asked, nervous enough that his throat felt tight. “We’ll drown if we go out there now.”
“Sure. Why not.”
Simon led the way through the crowded outer room where the tables were all taken to the back room where there was once a display of pirate doubloons and recovered sunken treasures. The room kept its murals of sailing ships and scruffy pirates, along with the odds and ends left behind by the previous owners—a beat-up old chest, a pirate mannequin everyone called “Mo” and a bedraggled stuffed parrot on a perch, dubbed “Percy” by Le Miz regulars.
“You must come here a lot to know there’s a second room.”
“Told you, I take my coffee very seriously,” Simon teased as he sat down. “I’m Simon, by the way.”
“Vic,” the man replied. “So what’s in this mystery drink?”
“Do you like the smell?” Simon asked.
Vic leaned over his cup, took a deep breath, and his eyes fluttered almost closed. Simon’s heart did a little samba, instantly imagining what Vic would look like blissed out and debauched after sweaty sex. Simon’s erection strained at the fly of his jeans, and he was insanely glad they were seated at a table where Vic couldn’t see how aroused he was.
“Good?” Simon asked, hating that he sounded a little breathless.
“Yeah,” Vic replied, with a little moan that made Simon painfully hard.
“Glad I could turn you on to a good thing,” Simon replied, hoping he hadn’t read the signals wrong since he was blatantly flirting.
“Much obliged,” Vic replied, and maybe it was Simon’s imagination that the man’s voice dropped a little lower, a bit huskier, than before.
“You’ve been here before, you said?” Simon asked, finding that his pick-up skills were as woefully rusty as his ability to make polite chit-chat.
“A few times,” Vic replied. “I haven’t gotten to the boardwalk as much as I’d like.”
“I try not to overdo the special coffees,” Simon said with a self-conscious smile. “I know the sugar adds up. But you’ve got to do something to make yourself feel good now and then, right?” Oh lord, that sounded really bad. I can’t believe I said that.
A wicked twinkle came into Vic’s eyes. “I’m all for feeling good,” he replied, and his foot bumped into Simon’s beneath the table.
It’s just his foot. Doesn’t mean anything. Could have been an accident,Simon told himself, but Vic didn’t move away, and Simon hoped his smile looked encouraging instead of merely nervous.
“So are you in town for business or pleasure?” Simon asked, and cringed internally. What’s wrong with me? I’m never smooth, but I didn’t used to be this awful at picking up a date.“I mean, are you a local or just visiting?”
Vic’s full, sensuous lips quirked in a smile. “Neither,” he replied.
Simon tried and failed at not staring at his lips and imagining them around his cock. Get a grip!Shit, that only changed the mental image to a hand job. So not working! Don’t fuck this up.That didn’t help at all.
“Moved here not too long ago, so I don’t feel quite like a local, but definitely not a tourist,” Vic added.
“You can still take in the sights, even if you live here. Most people don’t take time to enjoy what’s in their backyards. I’d love to show you some of my favorite spots.” Oh, just shoot me now. That sounded like the worst line from a cheap porno. I totally suck at this. No, don’t think about sucking…
“Sounds fun,” Vic said, and Simon was so lost in his embarrassment that he almost missed it.
“You would?” he asked, then cleared his throat. “I mean, that’s great,” he failed miserably to cover his awkward reply. Simon was just about to ask for Vic’s number when Vic’s phone went off.
The ringtone sounded odd, and Vic’s manner shifted in the blink of an eye, going from casual and relaxed to tense and alert. “I’ve got to take this,” he said, without even glancing at the number. “I’m sorry. It’s work. Confidential—need to step away.” With that, he got up and headed toward the service corridor that went toward the men’s room, taking his coffee with him.
About the Author
Morgan Brice is the romance pen name of bestselling author Gail Z. Martin.
Morgan writes urban fantasy male/male paranormal romance, with plenty of action, adventure and supernatural thrills to go with the happily ever after. Gail writes epic fantasy and urban fantasy, and together with co-author hubby Larry N. Martin, steampunk and comedic horror, all of which have less romance, more explosions Morgan Brice will be a Supporting Author at Gay Romantic Lit convention and a Hosting Author at RomCon in October.
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