Really quick before I get to the Good Stuff: The first two books in the Spirits of Los Gatos series are available in paperback, and hopefully by the end of the week Finding Insight will be as well. Here’s the link to Caroline’s Inheritance. I’ll let you know more on the FB page when the others finally get processeced.
I’ve been reading lately. Okay, that sort of goes without saying, but I’ve been on a bit of a bender. I think I’ve got through fifty or more books since New Year’s. My husband is thanking any deity he can get the attention of for Kindle Unlimited, and so am I or it would be a real problem.
A lot of those books weren’t really worth remembering. Good fillers for my brain at the time, certainly, but not anything I’d tell other folks about. Others were straight up trashy romance novels of the finest caliber because man. That guarantee of a happy ending can be vital to my mental health some days.
And some… Well. Some combine all sorts of elements to be worth telling everyone about. Fair warning though, yes. It is technically a romance in that the main character enters into a romantic entanglement much to the couples mutual satisfaction. No, it’s not a romance in that I’ve never read one like it. Playing With Fire by R.J. Blain.
Bailey Gardener starts the book working in a coffee shop in Manhattan that is licensed to add pixie dust to its drinks. In this world, it’s a mostly harmless magical hit, but— and there’s always a but— only the lower grades of dust are legal for handling by any old person. The higher grades are classified as dangerous substances and you need a certification to handle them. Which Bailey has.
It’s the certification part that gets her into more trouble. That and her bizarre lack of a filter between brain and mouth. She’s fairly certain that she has no friends and by the end of what might be the worst 18-hour solo shift at a coffee shop ever (and chapter one,) she gets blown up by a phone bomb laced with yet another extremely dangerous substance— gorgon dust— in her own apartment. Good thing her one true talent is being immune to all things gorgon.
The local police chief, naturally, arrives on the scene to put her in very special quarantine and things are rolling through a fast-paced few months of dealing with the effects of magical quarantine, an unusual uptick in gorgon-related incidents, jumping through hoops for the freelance cleanup job that her certifications qualify her for, and stumbling through the discovery that she’s got more friends than she thought she did.
At one point she’s sent out to deal with a drunken gorgon, er, mess, and finds one of the gorgons themselves still there and still over amorous male there who decides that Bailey would be perfect for carrying his whelps. No court in the country could convict her for her actions. Gorgons heal fast anyway, right? There’s napalm-drunk fire breathing unicorns, angels with a fairly twisted sense of humor, more gorgons and crazy exes than should be packed into one book, and a courtroom brawl that honestly I wish I’d been to. I’d have taken popcorn.
I actually couldn’t put this one down. In fact, I was too busy wiping tears of laughter from my eyes and accidentally waking my family up with my laughing to even notice it was creeping up towards dawn. And yet, for all the slapstick funny nonsense, there was a pretty warming story of a woman who didn’t realize how many friends and allies she actually had, even when she was pushing her luck with them. Bailey manages to be a reliable hero, a professional at handling the dangerous magical substances she works with, and remarkably resilient. Frankly, she’s the first female lead character in some time that I haven’t wanted to strangle.
Even beyond that, the world building is solid. Supernatural and magical creatures are an everyday part of society. There are rules and regulations and bureaucracy all through the book that are exactly the sort of thing that normal society forces us to deal with, and Bailey either waltzes over them or bashes her way straight through, to hilarious effects. I mean, who doesn’t want to see what happens when an incubus, a fire breathing unicorn, and a semi-trailer is involved in a felony pixie dust spill? Trust me, you want to see it.