Skid Row Serenade by J.S. Cook

SkidRowSerenadeLGTitle: Skid Row Serenade
Series: N/A
Author: J.S. Cook
Genre: Historical/Mystery/Suspense
Length: Novel (210 pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (Aug 14 2015)
Heat Level: Low
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥ 4 Hearts
Blurb: In the tradition of novel noir, nothing is ever quite as it seems.

Novelist and war hero Tony Leonard sees private investigator Edwin Malory being mugged outside a seaman’s mission in downtown Los Angeles, so he takes him home and gives him clean clothes and access to a hot shower. It doesn’t take him long to discover Malory was hired by wealthy industrialist Linton Vanderbilt Stirling, the father of Tony’s estranged wife, Janet. The reason for this is simple: Tony’s father-in-law suspects him of drinking away his daughter’s personal fortune.

On a whim, Tony drops in on Janet one night and finds her naked, dead, and tied up, her skull beaten in. Horrified, Tony flees the scene, knowing that as her husband, he is the number one suspect in the killing. He sees only one way out. He needs to fake his own death.

And who better to send his “suicide note” to than Edwin Malory.

ISBN: 978-1-63476-099-7

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Reviewer: Cat

Review: Skid Row Serenade is a unique mystery suspense with a historical backdrop and an old-time private detective feel. I got the Dick Casey vibe from the story. I could see the men in their hats and long coats with cigarettes and their booze.

The star of the show–oops– I mean book Is Tony Leonard. He is a man with many secrets. He is a bisexual war hero married to a rich socialite. Their marriage is open. She has a place of her own on her father’s estate where she entertains many suitors.

Tony has a drinking problem and is a novelist. He goes to the local mission and helps fellow men down on their luck. He meets Ed but soon finds out that Ed isn’t what he seems. One evening Tony pays Janet a visit to find her brutally murdered.

Ed is a private detective investigating Tony on behalf of his estranged wife’s father. He finds himself involved in a big twisty mystery.

I never really connected with either character. I would have liked to have known more about how Tony met Janet, more details about his captivity with the Germans and how his sister-in-law got involved with her husband that also was one of his captors. It just didn’t set so well with me he was able to visit Johan as a brother-in-law knowing his past and what he had done to him.

Having said that, this was a very intriguing mystery with lots of twists and turns. It is not an easy one to guess who the murderer is.
If you like a hard to figure crime drama, mystery and suspense with a touch of romance and light off the page man-sex this is for you.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through *

Stranger at the Door by J.S. Cook

strangeratthedoorTitle: Stranger at the Door
Series: N/A
Author: J.S. Cook
Genre: Americas / Ghosts / Spirits / Historical / Paranormal
Length: Novella (87 pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press LLC (May 25th 2015)
Heat Level: Explicit
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥ 3 ¾ Hearts

Blurb: South Carolina lawyer Calvin Amos is confident he can gain Thomas Basinger his freedom on appeal. Thom was convicted of a murder during an armed robbery gone bad. But Basinger’s case proves more difficult than Cal anticipated, and the battle he assumed he’d win turns into a devastating failure. Remorseful over the personal defeat, after Basinger is executed, Cal throws himself out of his office window.

Bizarrely, the fall doesn’t kill him. Even stranger, Thom Basinger rings Cal’s doorbell looking for a job. Both men are drawn to each other. Before long, the two forge a unique, heartfelt connection that transcends the boundaries of life and death.

Calvin Amos always imagined himself in possession of some great love or other. He didn’t know he had to die to find it.

ISBN: 978-1-63476-035-5

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Reviewer: Shorty

Review: I have to admit this was a strange book in the beginning as Calvin loses his case and witnesses Thom’s execution. Then feeling guilt, remorse and depressed throws himself out his window. The fall does not kill him which was weird.

Thom is then sent back to help Calvin but isn’t told why he is being sent back. It was just confusing for me as I didn’t understand how someone who was executed could be sent back. Not to mention the conversation he had about was not shown. So I have no idea what exactly was told to him to begin with.

Aside from that I enjoyed the story very much. Poor Calvin didn’t know what to make of Thom and one point thought he was losing his mind, which I understood.

Interesting and intriguing read.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through *

The Quality of Mercy by J.S. Cook

QualityofMercy[The]LGTitle: The Quality of Mercy

Author: J. S. Cook

Genre: Historical Romance (1930s)

Length: Short Story (44 Pages)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (January 14th, 2015)

Heat Level: Mild

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥4Hearts

Blurb: The year is 1934, and disgraced federal agent Nathan Devereaux is escorting convicted felon John Banks to visit his dying mother. Banks is despondent, miserably ill with a heavy cold, and unenthusiastic about traveling by plane. It isn’t a responsibility Devereaux wants, but something about the prisoner’s plight resonates with him.

Devereaux charters a plane to Wisconsin, hoping to get there before Banks’ mother breathes her last. But a routine journey swiftly turns into a sojourn in hell when a violent winter storm forces the plane miles off course, and Banks’ seemingly bad cold turns out to be diphtheria.

Stranded many miles from the destination, Devereaux must find a way to save Banks’ life without compromising the mission. Like Banks, Devereaux has secrets of his own, and the scope and purpose of his mission don’t quite square with the stories he tells. Making matters worse, he is the only one standing between Banks and certain death, but even a federal agent can do only so much—especially an agent with blood on his hands.

ISBN # 978-1-63216-300-4

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Reviewer: Gigi

Review: Everyone makes mistakes in life, some get caught, some are forgivable, and some need to forgive themselves. Devereaux and Banks have both made mistakes that change the direction of their lives, they both have secrets to hide. One man’s good fortune will give them both second chances.

For such a short story, there was a complicated merging story line. Devereaux’s past catches up with them both while Bank’s while the reader grieves for Bank’s past, the two meet in interesting ways, and I’m still left a little confused about what Devereaux did wrong….though I can’t give more away without giving up the gig.

The sexual attraction between the two is rather sweet and caring than hot, but it’s beautiful in its way. There is nothing explicit in the intimate scenes, but exemplary of the human condition. This is a short and sweet story with a bit of mystery, a little suspense, tossed into a snowstorm.

A great little story, packed with great reading, I highly recommend.

Famous Last Words by J.S. Cook

FamousLastWordsLGTitle: Famous Last Words
Author: JS Cook
Genre: Historical/Mystery
Length: Novella (109 pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (November 12th 2014)
Heat Level: Mild
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥4 Hearts
Blurb: When former Indiana farm boy William Henry Rider goes on a bank-robbing spree in Benedict Fouts’s corner of Depression Era Illinois, it’s up to Ben to bring him in. But Rider is no ordinary criminal. Famed for robberies that happen in the blink of an eye, Rider becomes a folk hero who steals from the rich and burns the mortgage papers of poor farmers teetering on the edge of financial ruin.

Intrigued to learn that Fouts has been assigned to his case, Rider approaches him in a darkened movie house with a unique proposition: “We’ll have ourselves a game of Cops and Robbers. I’ll run, and you catch me. The clock starts right now, Ben.”
Ben knows he’s the only one who can stop the Bureau from murdering Rider, but he’s soon struggling with another reason to chase the enigmatic fugitive.

ISBN: 9781632161710

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Reviewer: Tams

Review: A very interesting story set in the 1930’s when the FBI was making a name for themselves by bringing in the mobsters and putting a stop to gangs like Bonnie and Clyde. Benedict Fouts is an up and coming agent that longs to add one name in particular to his list of accomplishments, William Henry Rider.

Agent Fouts seems to always be one step behind the bank robber extraordinaire, but he is determined to bring Rider in. When Rider learns exactly who it is chasing him, he issues a challenge, one that Fouts puts entirely too much thought into.

While Fouts is chasing Rider from state to state in hopes of nailing him (pun intended), he learns that the bank robber doesn’t kill, he tries not to hurt anyone and he burns deeds for poorer people so they won’t lose their home or land. It would seem that Rider is actually somewhat of a modern-day Robin Hood.

But somewhere along the way, the lines between what Fouts needs to do and what he wants to do get blurred, and the two become lovers. With the entire force of the FBI after Rider, not much caring if he is dead or alive when they find him, Fouts has to think fast on his feet if he is to save Rider and his heart.

Short, Sexy, and Steamy, that is what this book was. Fans of prohibition era stories like Bonnie and Clyde, The Untouchables and Boardwalk Empire are going to love this story of the upstanding FBI agent that falls for his mark. Cook delivered a very entertaining story full of suspense, intrigue and some juicy twists.

The story was weighed down a few times briefly when Fouts thoughts would be overly descriptive, but overall I really enjoyed the game of cat and mouse Fouts and Rider played throughout. Definitely recommend this read, especially if you are looking for something fun, and quick.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through *

The Winter Dark by J.S. Cook

WinterDark[The]LGTitle: The Winter Dark
Series: N/A
Author: J.S. Cook
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Length: Novella (104 pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (September 10th, 2014)
Heat Level: Moderate
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥3Hearts
Blurb: Veteran police chief Eli Gallagher doesn’t ask for much, but he does insist that his officers uphold the “serve” part of “serve and protect.” Conscientious young Deputy Stan Leach takes Eli’s motto to heart, maintaining a high standard of personal accountability.

When Eli’s long-distance boyfriend, Gilbert Nees, telephones from Philadelphia, Eli thinks he intends to further cement their relationship. Unfortunately, Gilbert’s news is anything but good. But Eli doesn’t have time to wallow, because a violent act results in murder in the small town of Morristown, Mississippi.

But as Eli and Stan uncover evidence, their personal lives begin to unravel. Stan, working closely with Chief Gallagher, grows increasingly attached to Eli and learns what it really means to be an advocate of justice.
Product Link:
Reviewer: Portia
Review: This book confused me, at first. I really couldn’t get a handle on exactly whose story it was. On one hand, Stan is kinda sorta in a relationship, yet crushing on his boss. Eli is taking a trip to see some unknown man, but we aren’t sure of the nature of their relationship. But, all of that is becomes unimportant as crime hits their small town.

This is one of those books at a). I’d like to see turned into a movie and b). MADE me turn the page to find out what was going to happen. For a while, the mystery overtook the romance, but I don’t mind when that happens.

And “The Proposal” made me forgive any other issues I had with the work. It was just toooo sweet.

I would recommend this title to readers who like a bit of romance in their mysteries, grouchy lawmen, and fake Yankees.

Come to Dust by J.S. Cook

ComeToDustLGTitle: Come To Dust

Series: #3 Inspector Raft Mysteries

Author: J.S. Cook

Genre: Mystery/Crime/Historical

Length: Novel

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (November 15th, 2013)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating:
♥♥♥♥♥4.5 Hearts

Blurb: In the frigid winter of 1891, with the nation still reeling from the Barings bank crisis, Inspector Philemon Raft returns from an involuntary sabbatical, tasked with solving the kidnapping of highly placed peer Alice Dewberry. Thrust into a sordid underworld where the upper classes indulge in disreputable overseas investments designed to fatten their pocketbooks, Raft finds himself at loose ends without his companion, Constable Freddie Crook. Far from offering their help, the ton use every asset at their disposal to keep Raft from discovering the truth about hapless kidnap victim Alice Dewberry—who may not even exist.

Soon Raft discovers that his old nemesis, the workhouse master John Gallant, has returned to London. Gallant doesn’t say what he wants—but he knows enough to ruin Raft’s career and even his life. Raft tries to solve the case with his usual strange insight, but there are other, darker forces at work. This is a frightened London: the London of Whitechapel, of Jack the Ripper, the London of poverty, dirt and despair, where a right turn down the wrong alley could earn Raft a swift trip to the morgue.

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Reviewer:   GiGi

Review: A strong murder/kidnapping/mystery plot with the M/M romance added in. just the right amount for a story you can sink your teeth into. There are lots of hints, clues, and foreshadowing in the writing, which kept me in suspense and guessing throughout the whole story.

Things just did not seem to add up, and the shocker at the end explains the seemingly impossible. I did not realize that this book was part of a series, but is the third book of the Inspector Raft Mysteries by JoAnne Soper-Cook. Book one is Willing Flesh and book two is Rag & Bones. The earlier books set the background between Raft, Freddie, Gallant, and other shadowy men at play in this mystery.

This book reminds me of a dark, Victorian, Holmes/Scotland Yard type mystery. There is a bit of the paranormal, lots of different class distinctions and the seedy and underhanded acts that come with them all, and throughout I was glued to the pages. The characters are believable, memorable, and a very strong part of this book.

Valley of the Dead by J.S. Cook

ValleyOfTheDeadLGTitle: Valley of the Dead

Author: J.S. Cook

Genre: Historical (WWII) / Mystery-Suspense

Length: Novel (226 pages)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (August 5th, 2013)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: ♥♥2 Hearts

Reviewer: Thommie

Blurb: The Second World War rages: it touches Newfoundland in unprecedented ways, throwing spies and patriots together inside expatriate Jack Stolyes’s Heartache Café and forcing uncomplimentary bedfellows into alliances. It’s all in a day’s work for Jack, whose introduction to the Island included corrupt cops, a murder on the doorstep of his restaurant, and more than one attempt on his life.

When exotic and alluring Egyptian diplomat Samuel Halim enters Jack’s small corner of the world, Jack’s life will change forever. Then, on his voyage home, Sam disappears along with the code key to decipher a Nazi radio command that will set Rommel’s troops in motion.

Jack finds himself with nothing to go on except a fragmented late-night phone call from Sam and a handful of disparate clues. In the teeming heat of Cairo—a city rife with romance, secrets, sex, and danger, where no one is who he seems and violent death waits around every shadowed corner—it’s up to Jack to find the new love of his life and deliver the code that will change the course of history.

Product Link:

Review: This book was one heavy read and at some point, I felt as if it was going to keep on forever. By the time I reached half of it, I was seriously struggling to keep reading it.

No, it was not badly written, as a matter of fact I found the language and mannerisms of the characters appropriate, the descriptions of the places quite good, and the events mostly accurate. I had the feeling that the code thing in the story was a bit over the top as it is known that the Nazi’s had the Enigma machine and changed the rings of it every day (or so I’ve read), but I wouldn’t bet on it either. Not being an expert on WWII I can’t say for sure the events in this story (history wise) were all realistic, but most of them were quite familiar to me.

So you’re probably wondering what was it that didn’t work for me. Mostly, our main character Jack. Jack meets Sam in Newfoundland and he’s been his “friend” for a week (or was it two, I don’t recall) when Sam vanishes. There is quite of history and many events that have occurred before this. They are linked with each other and when put down, making some sense. But, we only get to see them as flashback thoughts later on in the story. The glaring point is that Jack and Sam have a very, very short acquaintance and a platonic one at that – having shared only one kiss – but Jack is totally and irrevocably in love with Sam, who is married with four children back in Cairo.

When Sam vanishes, he makes a phone call – a strange one at that – telling Jack he doesn’t remember how he got where he is and has no memory of what’s happened to him. Immediately, Jack promises to get over there (Egypt) and to his side.

For me this was all it took to make me frown upon this book. Jack, who has fallen head over heels with a man he barely knows, travels all the way to Egypt. What was he supposed to do when he got there? Only God knew, for Jack had no clue…whatsoever. He was put in the middle of an unfolding story. Playing the sitting duck for everyone to shoot at him and try to dispose him. That all seemed so face, so ludicrous I couldn’t focus on it for long without a headache.

I have questions, many of them. Why did Jack get to Egypt? How would he have found Sam (who by the way is head of the Cairo police and a secret agent for the Allied Forces) when he didn’t even knew where Sam was, who had him, or how to travel through Cairo? Why was Jack so important that everyone wanted him dead? Through the entire book, never once did I found him useful for anything other than get himself in trouble. No, as a matter of fact, I found this character incredibly incompetent. “Too stupid to live” is perhaps a big understatement. His role was so out of depth I kept wondering …why? And then I kept wondering, how could those bad guys, that had murdered even their own mother, how could they miss killing him, if they wanted him so much dead? Two similar scenes had my eyes bulging. One in Cairo, when Mukbar waits for him to wake up. He is in Jack’s room, waiting for Jack to wake up so he can take him in the desert and put him inside a tomb… Why not use that bloody gun of his with the silencer and put a bullet in his head? And then same things happened back in Newfoundland, when Octavian’s brother is after him, gets in his bedroom, waits for him to wake up, only to put a dart in his neck, and ultimately failing to kill him yet again. I’m not even going to mention the warehouse incident and the gun with no bullet in the chamber. Really, that was over the top.

So anyway, for me the mystery/suspense plot failed enormously. The loving romance I won’t even go there, I was left with an end that for me, it made no sense at all. And through it all, this story dragged on forever without managing to captivate me even for five minutes. It only gets the rating I’m giving it because this was a new (for me) perspective of WWII and I am a bit fascinated with the era.


Sixteen Songs About Regret by J.S. Cook

SixteenSongsAboutRegretLGTitle: Sixteen Songs About Regret

Author: J.S. Cook

Genre: Contemporary, Historical (1972, 1981)

Length: Novel (232pgs)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (20th May 2013)

Heat Level: Low

Heart Rating: ♥♥1 ½ Hearts

Reviewer: Pixie

Blurb: Prodigy pianist Simon Duckworth has a dark past. After being violently raped when he was thirteen, he flees to London, ashamed and determined never to tell a soul. He gets a job at a Denmark Street music shop, but it stifles him. At the first opportunity, Simon answers an ad for a musician, an act that changes his life forever.

Stephen Abednego has seen the same ad. He arrives in London with little more than his ambitions and a sheaf of poems, but together, they’re enough to get him hired. Under their new manager’s watchful eye, Stephen falls for Simon—but Stephen deeply closeted, and Simon may be too emotionally scarred for a mature relationship.

With their manager’s help, their music rises, dragging them into the hectic world of superstardom, but success doesn’t come without a price. Each step out of the ennui and coal smoke of 1960s industrial London must be paid for in regret. With social convention standing between them and the whole world watching, Stephen and Simon discover that finding each other is not as easy as it seems.

Purchase Link:

Warning this story contains scenes of rape, homophobic violence, drug abuse and child abuse.

Review: Simon has a past that haunts him, and not just by the rape when he was thirteen. When he meets Stephen he falls in love, but Stephen rebuffs him. When Simon is plucked from obscurity and thrown into stardom his past dogs his steps. Stephen feels more for Simon than he will ever let on; he doesn’t want to be a poof and does everything he can to prove that he isn’t. As the two become more famous their relationship becomes strained. Simon spirals into drugs and Stephen buries himself in a woman. As Simon reaches the brink of his sanity, the two men splinter apart.

This story had a great story premise. Two young men meeting and shooting to stardom, one is fine with his attraction to men, the other doesn’t want to face his feelings for men at all. Simon has been kept under his mother’s thumb, Stephen is spreading his wings, together they make for stardom but their feelings for each other and Simon’s past makes things hard. Simon spirals out of control and his mental health is severely tested. Stephen can’t face admitting how he really feels and it drives the two men apart, but they can never forget each other. Finding each other again might not be easy. but their feelings never fade.

Both Simon and Stephen are great characters. The time they are in limits them to what they can be to each other. Stephen also doesn’t want to want another man, whereas Simon embraces that side of him even with earlier trauma’s haunting him. The storyline is quite dark really, with lots of drugs, Simon’s precarious sanity and just an overall depressing feel to the writing.        

Okay, so this book wasn’t for me, not even a little bit. Usually, rock stars make for a great story and it might have been if it wasn’t for the way it was written. This is a story that is really hard to follow. it jumps backwards and forwards with no warning, and actually makes very little sense as you try to follow what is happening. The constant shift in perspective and backwards and forwarding in the timeline gave me a headache as I tried to keep up with what was going on. Having to flick backwards to the last page to see if I had missed something had me wanting to bang my head in frustration as I still didn’t get why it was written like that. I personally felt like someone had taken the book, cut paragraphs up and then stuck it back together willy-nilly.

I will recommend this to those that like the 1970-1980 music scene, difficult relationships, an unstable/unbalanced rock star, a confused songwriter and an ending that gives them hope. 


But Not For Me by J.S. Cook

ButNotForMeLGTitle: But Not For Me

Author: J. S. Cook

Genre:  Historical (1930s/40s)

Length: Novel (310 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (March 18th, 2013)

Heart: ♥♥♥♥4Hearts

Heat: Moderate

Blurb:   Gangster Nino Moretti’s world is a series of contrasts between extreme wealth and abject poverty, an unstable existence punctuated by booze and bullets. For Nino, the gangster lifestyle is even more dangerous because he is a finnochio—a gay man—in a position of absolute power at the head of his own criminal organization.

When Nino rescues beautiful mob accountant Stanley Zadwadzki from a violent assault at the hands of sadistic rival gangster Big Frank O’Hara, both Nino and Stanley become hunted men. Stanley places himself under Nino’s protection as Nino’s accountant and unofficial companion. As a warning, Frank murders Nino’s office boy. In a quest for revenge, Nino tracks Frank to Little Italy, where the resulting confrontation forces him to shoot a bystander to protect Stanley. With a gang war looming, Nino must set aside his feelings and concentrate on asserting his superiority over Big Frank—or lose everything he holds most dear.

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Reviewer: Cat

Review: Nino is a mobster. I guess you can say he is a good bad guy. He sees Stanley and is immediately smitten, but can also tell that he is being abused by the other mob leader, Frank. When Frank humiliates and strikes Stanley in public Nino grabs him and takes him under his protection. Stanley is a bit confused and still a bit leery. He feels that Nino must want something from him, for all the good things he is doing for him. Feelings grow in both men. Can Stanley love Nino? Does Nino love Stanley or just want him for a toy? Do gang wars break out over Nino stealing Frank’s boy-toy?

I liked this one a lot.  I bounced back and forth on and off the fence between liking and loving on this one. By the time it ended I decided I loved it. I found the story was very interesting, with lots of action.

I liked the way Nino treated Stanley so lovingly, with respect and you could see how bad he wanted him, but how important it was to him that Stanley came to him of his own desires. Not because Nino was his boss or doing things for him.

All the characters were very deep and interesting. There were times though I felt the story got a bit draggy, but then it would pick back up nicely.

Recommendation:  If you like gangster stories, Bad Guy main characters, Prohibitions era stories, complicated relationships, lots of action and some sweet loving man-sex, give this one a try.