Secrets and Ink

Lou Harper
Secrets and Ink
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Samhain Publishing
Release Date
January 2014
Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ, Romantic Suspense/Mystery

If life was like the movies, Jem Mitchell's wouldn't be such a mess. In LA's glittering world of dreams, he works an unglamorous job at a gourmet grocery store. His past is so deep and dark, the details are lost even to him. All he knows is he was once cursed by a meter maid, and ever since, his love life has sucked.

When Detective Nick Davies becomes a regular at the store, Jem dares to hope he's un-hexed at last. He should have known that sex with a remarkably normal guy, devoid of weird fetishes and fatal personality flaws, was too good to be true.

During a post-encounter cuddle, Nick recognizes the tattoo on Jem's back—and remembers him as a young hustler he arrested nine years past.

As Jem's memories come crashing back, he flees from Nick, but fate contrives to keep pushing them back together. And when Jem's old partner in crime is found murdered, the stakes are raised for life, for love, and a dangerous drama with no guarantee of a Hollywood ending.

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Feb 17, 2014   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
192 people found the following review helpful
Snappy storytelling and surprisingly touching characters combine to make Lou Harper's murder-mystery romance a fun and moving success. Featuring the kind of mystery that only a movie town could produce, and two utterly mismatched but beautifully paired heroes, this is a pleasing page-turning read from beginning to end.

Jem Mitchell isn't proud of his past, even if he can't remember it all, but he's determined to move beyond it--even if he might be cursed. Though his job at Frank's Trading Post might not be particularly exciting, it certainly has its perks, like the hot cop who comes in everyday at lunch and heads straight for Jem's checkout. As their lunchtime flirtation escalates, Jem thinks he might finally have escaped his bad luck, until he realizes that the man he is falling for is the same cop who arrested him nine years ago for hustling.

Detective Nick Davies has never managed to forget the sassy, fearless teenager he booked all those years ago, but he never realized that the quirky, irresistible man in his bed is the same kid all grown up, until he sees the tattoo on his lower back. Utterly bewildered, he doesn't stop Jem from running off, but fate isn't done toying with either man. When Jem's former partner-in-crime is found murdered, it's clear that Jem's past is coming back to haunt him in more ways than one. But can he trust Nick enough to let him help?

As a hero and a narrator, Jem is absolutely adorable. His troubled past has left him with a wisdom that surpasses his years, but his catty sense of humor keeps the tone of the story light, overall. Though the details of his backstory are told in fits and starts, and somewhat out of order at times, and while this can be a little confusing, it also helps the reader to realize that even the most simple of characters can be hiding a wealth of complications beneath their straight-laced exterior. I appreciated the fact that Jem also owned up to his own mistakes without self-pity. It made his journey with Nick feel much more rewarding overall.

For his part, Nick is a perfect foil for Jem's eccentricities. His methodical nature and calm facade provide the safety and security Jem needs and brings out the best in him as well. That is not to say that Nick doesn't have his own secrets as well, and it was quite interesting to see the vagaries of his character come out in the course of his book. I also really appreciated the fact that he had the courage to acknowledge his snap judgments and fight for the man he wants. The chemistry between these two was sizzling, but Lou Harper also does a fantastic job of showing the bond that forms between Jem and Nick, and the friendship that grounds their relationship and keeps them coming back to each other.

The mystery element of this story had the wonderfully wild quality of a Hollywood plot, in more ways than one. From Jem's curse to the extremely colorful personalities who make up the supporting cast, the intrigue swirling through this book definitely kept the pages turning. Though the ending came a little too quickly, the primary focus for me was always on Jem and Nick, so I can't say I was overly disappointed.

Ultimately, both Jem and Nick have their feet on the ground, and that keeps the more outlandish elements of the plot feeling realistic. The twists and turns of their relationship felt real and emotionally captivating, and the final scene, though not wholly unexpected, brought the story to a wonderfully fulfilling conclusion. I, for one, wouldn't complain about meeting Nick and Jem in another story, but I do know that I will be keeping an eye on Lou Harper's work from now on, thanks to this thoroughly entertaining, steamy story!
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