, Romance Pages:
90 Series: Whyborne & Griffin #8.5 Rating:
Shy secretary Maggie Parkhurst knows there’s nothing special about her. She’s neither sorceress, nor fighter, nor scholar. What could she possibly have to offer Persephone, the chieftess of the inhuman ketoi — and the woman Maggie’s fallen in love with?
After Maggie’s friend Irene goes missing under mysterious circumstances, she has no choice but to turn to Persephone for help. When the trail leads to a shadowy acting troupe, they discover a plot that stretches much farther than a single vanished woman.
But when a dark truth is revealed, Maggie must choose between a man from her past… and the impossible yearnings of her heart.
Undertow gives us the story of Dr Whyborne’s secretary, Maggie, and her friendship with his sister, Persephone. It’s a short one, but it has a nice action sequence, and shows us a slightly different side of Widdershins society.
I do think it’s funny that Maggie still hasn’t worked out that Whyborne’s in a relationship with Griffin. All the signs are there, she sees them, and… doesn’t clock on.
It’s nice to spend time with a character other than Whyborne, and also to see Maggie find happiness instead of mooning after him. I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed Persephone’s efforts to woo Maggie. Dead squid, indeed.
Wild, Wild Hex, Jordan L. Hawk
Wild Wild Hex is a short story that takes us quite different places than the main series. Instead of following the MWP, it follows the fortunes of a “Hexas Ranger” (and yep, he hates the pun plenty) as he chases down a notorious bandit, and discovers that he has a chance to do a lot more than that.
The emotional connection between the two leads is quick, as rendered necessary by the shortness of the story, but it doesn’t feel totally rushed — instead it feels pretty natural for these particular people, thrown together in this particular situation. It’s not quite the same level of attachment as I feel about, say, Cicero and Tom, but it’s enough to make this little story satisfying.
Hexhunter, Jordan L. Hawk
Hexhunter breaks the mould of this series a little bit, which was a relief: the couple didn’t have a mid-book miscommunication-and-break-up, which was a feature of each of the others. Not that Isaac and Bill’s story is entirely smooth-sailing: there’s a whole jealousy subplot (sigh) and, of course, Isaac’s trauma and self-hatred. If you might have triggers around that and about a victim blaming themself for what happened to them, be careful with this one (though Bill is entirely supportive of Isaac).
The relationship between them is sweet, though in the relatively short space of the book you don’t have time to entirely feel the weight of the pining Bill’s been doing for quite some time. Isaac’s road to some kind of recovery is pretty satisfying, given we’ve been seeing his pain since book one.
This book doesn’t draw the series to a close, either, despite the fact there’s been nothing new since that one — the overarching plot that ran through the four main stories isn’t solved, though each couple has had a happy-ever-after. So that’s worth noting, too.
Not my favourite of the series, I think, but enjoyable as ever!
Hexslayer, Jordan L. Hawk
I wasn’t sure how to feel about a book where Nick was one of the romantic leads, since he’s stubborn as a (yes, yes) horse, and it felt like it was going to be a pretty big barrier to a romance. I feel like it was shockingly easy, actually, and while it made sense… I don’t know, I could’ve used a little more time for it to develop, or something.
Which is not to say I didn’t have fun with this book, and with the development of Jamie’s character as he begins to understand he’s been privileged and blinkered — and with Nick’s slow acceptance that some people can be depended on.
I didn’t love the scene where Nick decided to let Jamie ride him in his horse form, despite his initial refusal to ever countenance it, I must admit. It felt like Nick saw that as servitude, as degrading, and then decided… what? He’d be okay with that because the case was more important? Jamie was more important? His motives weren’t entirely clear to me there, and I didn’t feel comfortable with it being fairly glossed over, and then repeatedly happening again. There’s a whole intersection there with Jamie’s disability and Nick being accommodating of that, but still, not wholly comfortable.
Overall, not a favourite of the series, but I’m definitely curious what it’s all building up to — does the fourth book finish things up?
A Christmas Hex, Jordan L. Hawk
It’s probably the wrong time of year to read A Christmas Hex, but I was curious about this one and decided to go ahead anyway. Unlike the other Hexworld books, this one doesn’t concern the police and their familiars, but a private detective, Gus. Roland realises that Gus is his witch and quickly becomes fascinated, but he’s terrified to admit that his animal form is that of a wolf, since people normally fear wolves.
It’s a fun set-up, but the relationship between the two feels more than a little rushed by the amount of space available in such a short narrative, and I didn’t get the usual sense of two people figuring out how to match up their experiences and come to some kind of accord. It all feels like it’s a bit too easy, but not in the sort of way where it makes total sense — like there’s some important scenes of negotiation or reaction or something skipped.
It was a fun short read, but definitely not a favourite.
Spectr Volume 2, Jordan L. Hawk
Summoner of Storms concludes volume 2 of these books, so it’s a good point to step back and think about the story so far as a whole. A lot has changed in the last three books, and the status quo is well and truly shattered: things and people aren’t as we thought they were, and Caleb, Gray and John’s relationship has grown.
There’s a lot of good development in these three books, looked at from the end — each individual book might feel pretty short, but together it really builds up. A certain betrayal, and the aftermath of that for several key relationships; the wider plot with SPECTR and what they’re up to; what Gray is and what he can do. I enjoyed that the betrayal wasn’t all someone being an asshole: it makes sense for the characters and their motivations, and all the things they’ve experienced.
The only thing I didn’t enjoy much was the jealousy subplot in the first book of this volume (so book four of the series). I feel like Hawk has leaned on this a bit too much in a bunch of books; it’s very human, but it’s not of interest to me personally.
I’m pretty happy with where the series gets to by this point: each book within this volume advanced things and changed things, and now Caleb, Gray and John are in a whole new world. I’ll be fascinated to see where it goes.
Spectr: Volume 1, Jordan L. Hawk
Reaper of Souls closes the first volume of the Spectr series, so now that I’ve finished it, it seems like an appropriate moment to take a look around and try to review the series so far. Volume one is on a strict timeline: Caleb has been possessed by a drakul, Gray. If Gray can be exorcised before 40 days are up, Caleb can go back to his life. If he can’t, well… there’s normally no hope for a human host/victim after that point. John is an agent with Spectr, and he’s meant to be pretty darn good, but he can’t get Gray out.
As a result, and due to Gray’s unique circumstances (he hunts other paranormal entities, not humans; his possession of Caleb is an accident), John ends up babysitting Caleb while he tries to figure out how to exorcise him — and then Caleb ends up helping him with cases using Gray’s strength and supernatural senses, and then Caleb and John start falling in love.
I enjoyed the ambivalence surrounding Gray — the fact that he seems to care about not harming Caleb, not causing too much trouble, and especially his curiosity about John. John’s confused feelings about both of them add another dimension as well, one that becomes increasingly important toward the end of the volume.
I’m looking forward to reading the second volume and learning how everything shakes out.
Rattling Bone, Jordan L. Hawk
I didn’t realise this was coming out, and leapt on it as soon as I did! It’s lovely to revisit Oscar and Nigel, and see them a little further into their relationship — in fact, with Oscar taking Nigel to meet his parents. It’s… predictably awkward, especially as soon as they discover Nigel’s job and what the two of them work on together. I like that the contention isn’t about Nigel being trans or about it being a queer relationship, and there’s no tension about the non-binary character either; instead this is pure family dynamics, secrets being kept, etc. I enjoyed that there were complexities there, that it wasn’t just both parents being a united front of anger for exactly the same reasons.
Of course, those secrets are relevant to the story, and Oscar finds himself having to use his newly acknowledged talents to help his family — whether they want him to or not.
I was a little worried that the jealousy/inferiority complex stuff so characteristic of Whyborne in the early Whyborne & Griffin books was going to come out here with the references to Oscar’s childhood friend, but luckily it didn’t really go that way too much. The ending is cute, too.
So much more I’d like to know about the background stuff and their sponsor…
Hexmaker, Jordan L. Hawk
Back to Hexworld, and this second book is as fun as the first. I think I liked them a tiny bit less than Cicero and Tom from the first book, and I thought they needed to do a heck of a lot more communicating (including about their boundaries during sex, which they just kind of plunge into), but Malachi and Owen have a totally different and interesting dynamic, and it worked out well. The power differential between witches and familiars is present in all of these stories, but most of all here, where the personal relationship balances it.
I think overall I’d have liked a bit longer for Owen and Malachi’s relationship to develop; the compressed timescale didn’t quite work for me here, and I could’ve used seeing a little more trust starting to develop between them. The relationship crisis definitely echoed the one in the first book, but I’d felt more closely connected to the relationship in the first book.
I’m curious to see where the overarching plot is going, and I love the background of the world — Owen’s trans brother, because of course hexes can help with that; Egyptian archaeology being relevant for the history of hexes… It’s all pretty fascinating, and as always the book is pacy and fun.