Author: Indra Vaughn
Series: Shadow Mountain, #1
Published: December 21st 2014
Length: 284 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Dreamspinner Press
Two towns flank the looming Shadow Mountain. A dark myth of the Predator drifts through the dense trees, a tale Police Lieutenant Hart never paid much attention to. When one unresolved death follows another—some people dying without discernible cause while others are clearly, and often brutally, murdered—he can't ignore it any longer. Truth may lie in myth, but this one is spread to deceive everyone. The Predator exists, but he's not entirely human. Hart will have to find the connection between the mysterious figure and victims with only one thing in common: a faint tattoo on the backs of their necks, a mark left when someone healed their incurable diseases.Isaac Lasko has been in love with Hart since he moved in across the street seven years ago. He’s been helping Hart renovate his home, and their friendship grows more intense with the years, but Isaac can't help wishing for a deeper bond. When he finally breaks through the lieutenant's armor, the mystery surrounding the Predator threatens them both. Help will come, but at a price.
Fated by Indra Vaughn came my way completely accidentally, recommended by author John Inman in the comments of a Facebook poll no more than a few weeks ago. To this day I haven’t figured out how it went unnoticed by me until that moment. What’s more, it seems to be somewhat overlooked by its intended audience, which is a crime, to be honest. The characters Vaughn has created deserve to be celebrated and talked about, they should inspire people to start discussions and street teams, and yet, they haven’t just yet. Why? Mostly because their beauty is quiet and unassuming, complex and deeply felt. They’re not instantly likeable or wildly entertaining, they just are… human, vulnerable and often wrong, just like everybody else.
We meet Hart, a police detective, in his own home, working on renovations with his much younger neighbor, Isaac. It’s clear from the start that the two have feelings for each other, but Hart is bothered by their age difference and quite used to a life of profound loneliness. When his father dies and he has to leave to handle his funeral, he’s oddly relieved to put some distance between him and Isaac.
This love story doesn’t begin like most other romances and it certainly doesn’t end that way. Their road isn’t easy or predictable, but the feelings are palpable and incredibly real. Hart makes ridiculously many mistakes along the way, but each stems from a very believable place and seems entirely genuine. While in his home town, he stumbles upon a mystery with paranormal elements he’s not quite ready to accept. When Isaac follows him and gets involved, it all becomes too much for him to handle.
The mystery is fascinating and excellently paced, but the soul of this novel is Hart himself. He is lonely and very set in his ways, and it’s clear that giving his heart to a much younger man terrifies him. Vaughn’s writing is a thing of beauty, a work of art in and of itself, and the setting is gorgeous, vivid and deeply atmospheric. She has such an excellent sense of her story and characters and everything is so well defined, but she skillfully keeps things hidden from us and builds tension to almost unbearable levels.
The sheer gorgeousness of this story cannot be put into words. It is not a conventional romance, nor is it your average paranormal mystery, and yet somehow it’s both. It may be a bit difficult to swallow at times, but it is a story that ultimately soothes, enriches, and makes us reevaluate ourselves.
A Author:Indra Vaughn
Series: Shadow Mountain, #2
Published: June 17th 2015
Length: 266 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Dreamspinner press
The capture of the Tattoo Murderer has demanded a heavy price. Doctor Tobias Darwin is dead, Lieutenant Hart is back in Riverside licking his substantial wounds, and he needs to gather his courage and tell Isaac he made a mistake. Isaac will forgive him—he knows that—but he can't promise Isaac an easy life. Being a cop comes with its own risks, after all.When they finally reach the same wavelength, their idyllic reprieve is cut tragically short. Hart doesn't know yet that Isaac is terminally ill, that he will take off to find the Phoenix to heal him as a last resort. This time, it will be Hart who pays the price.In the meantime, a new killer roams the streets of Riverside. He kidnaps, tortures, and kills gay men in horrific ways, and he has the newly healed Isaac in his sights. Hart’s time is running out on every level.
Fragmented hits us right where it hurts the most with some things we’ve been dreading and anticipating finally coming to light. The second book in the Shadow Mountain series is emotionally intense, almost suffocating, as our hearts break over and over again for Hart and Isaac both. And yet, through it all, we never lose hope and we never stop believing that things will miraculously turn out well in the end. It takes a lot of faith to go through such pain and uncertainty with our heads held high, but there is no choice for us, just as there is no choice for Hart.
Fragmented is much more focused on Isaac, but we never stop feeling Hart’s suffocating loneliness. His short time with Isaac brings him some reprieve, but as soon as Isaac becomes unreachable again, the feeling is back, stronger than ever. So much could be said about Vaughn’s ability to bring her characters into the spotlight, but reveal them to us slowly, gradually. She peels them like onions, showing us layer upon layer of genuine feelings.
Vaughn’s writing is once again a thing of beauty, elegant and unassuming. She knows precisely how to captivate her readers and she keeps the focus on her characters throughout. The mystery is unsurprisingly excellent and the tension builds slowly until it becomes almost too much, with Isaac and Hart at the very center.
The Shadow Mountain series has so much more to give, with its strong, fully fleshed character and its unforgettable atmosphere. As far as I’m concerned, the next book can’t come soon enough. I’m breathlessly waiting for more.
Copies of these books were kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherewise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.