Fish on a Bicycle (Fish Out of Water #5) by Amy Lane

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Jackson Rivers has always bucked the rules—and bucking the rules of recovery is no exception. Now that he and Ellery are starting their own law firm, there’s no reason he can’t rush into trouble and take the same risks as always, right?

Maybe not. Their first case is a doozy, involving porn stars, drug empires, and daddy issues, and their client, Henry Worrall, wants to be an active participant in his own defense. As Henry and Jackson fight the bad guys and each other to find out who dumped the porn star in the trash can, Jackson must reexamine his assumptions that four months of rest and a few good conversations have made him all better inside.

Jackson keeps crashing his bicycle of self-care and a successful relationship, and Ellery wonders what’s going to give out first—Jackson’s health or Ellery’s patience. Jackson’s body hasn’t forgiven him for past crimes. Can Ellery forgive him for his current sins? And can they keep Henry from going to jail for sleeping with the wrong guy at the wrong time?

Being a fish out of water is tough—but if you give a fish a bicycle, how’s he going to swim?

Rating: B+

Jackson Rivers and Ellery Cramer are back – perhaps a little the worse for wear – in this fifth instalment of Amy Lane’s Fish Out of Water series, and they’re starting a new chapter of their lives. After being shot, stabbed and almost poisoned to death during their pursuit of Carl Lacey, the man responsible for turning trained assassins into serial killers, Jackson and Ellery have spent several months recovering from their injuries, and are, when Fish on a Bicycle opens, gearing up for the opening of their new law firm. But some injuries take longer to heal than others, and Jackson, already carrying a shedload of emotional scars that are barely scabbed over, seems only to have acquired more in the wake of the events that went down in the desert.

A Few Good Fish saw Jackson and Ellery teaming up with Ace and Sonny from the author’s Racing for the Sun and also served as the introduction to Lee Burton, a military assassin, and Ernie, his ‘witchy’ boyfriend who, besides being an awesome baker, is more than a little bit psychic. (Their story can be found in Hiding the Moon.) Fish on a Bicycle is something of a crossover story, too, in that it features Henry Worrall, brother of Dex from the author’s Johnnies series about a group of young men who work in the porn industry. I haven’t read any of those stories (although I have some on the TBR pile of dooooom!) and a number of the characters have cameo roles in this novel, but I didn’t feel I’d missed out by not having read any of their stories yet.

Henry shows up at the soon-to-be open offices of Ellery Cramer, Attorney at Law, and is clearly not happy at being there. With him is Galen Henderson, a very attractive and personable young man who explains that Henry is very likely going to be accused – wrongfully – of murder, and asks Jackson and Ellery if they’ll take on his case. Henry served almost a decade in the military but was recently railroaded out with a dishonourable discharge, and this, together with the fact that his brother runs an extremely successful (and legitimate) porn business, lessens Henry’s chances of a fair hearing. Cases like his – where prejudice is likely to prevent justice being done – are exactly the reason Ellery and Jackson have branched out on their own, and even though Henry behaves like a total dick, it’s obvious to both of them that he’s hiding something big and that beneath all the bluster, he’s pretty scared.

Henry is also pretty banged-up following a fight with Scott, aka Martin Sampson, a former Johnnies model who turned out to have been a nasty piece of work.  Following his discharge, Henry – who is pretty deep in the closet – returned home only to be thrown out by his parents, and has travelled to Sacramento to ask his brother Davy (aka Dex) for help.  Henry and Davy have never been close, and Henry obviously disapproves of what his brother and his husband do for a living (and also obviously disapproves of the fact his brother even has a husband!), but Davy gives him a place to stay and pays him to help out around the place. When Sampson was caught trying to deal drugs among the models at the apartment, Henry  got into a fight with him – and over a week later, Sampson is found dead in the building’s dumpster.  There’s no question things are looking bad for Henry, but as Jackson and Ellery start digging, it becomes clear that someone’s out to frame him for murder, that Sampson had somehow ended up in the middle of a drug war…  and that a blast from Jackson and Ellery’s past might just be back to haunt them.

As before,  Amy Lane has created a fabulous blend of mystery, suspense and romance with a healthy dose of humour and snark thrown in.  The plot is intriguing and well-constructed, but the story’s real strength lies in its characters and the relationships that develop between them.  Jackson’s take-no-crap attitude is just what Henry needs and I loved the way Jackson gradually gains his trust and helps Henry start to get his life back on track.

Jackson Rivers is an extraordinary individual. Apart from the fact he’s survived more shootings, concussions, knife-wounds and attempts to kill him than anyone has a right to, he’s smart, sarcastic, has very few fucks to give and is very damaged.  He’s been through so much in his thirty-odd years, things which would probably have broken someone less strong and determined, yet still has the wherewithal to care deeply about injustice and is driven to help those who can’t, for whatever reason, help themselves.  All that said, he’s no saint.  He loves Ellery deeply and knows the feeling is reciprocated, but there’s still a little part of himself, deep down, that thinks he’s not worth loving or caring about, and that little bit makes him careless of himself.  His deep-seated fear that one day, Ellery will wise up and realise he isn’t worth the effort leads him to… mislead Ellery about certain things, which doesn’t go over well.  Ellery ‘gets’ Jackson on an intrinsic level and knows all too well how hard it is for Jackson to admit weakness, but with Jackson’s reticence only exacerbating Ellery’s fears for his health and safety, there is one almighty explosion in the offing –and when it happens it’s shocking and probably the most heart-wrenching moment in the book.

But these two are solid, and I loved watching them talk things through and come up with a way forward. For possibly the first time, Jackson comes to truly understand the dangers he’s facing, and Ellery realises he has some changes to make as well.  For all Jackson’s swagger and snark and Ellery’s cool reserve, these two are a perfect fit and I’m so glad that this is a mature relationship where the people involved communicate and compromise in order to make things work, even though – for Jackson especially – talking about his problems is akin to having root canal without anaesthetic.

There’s a large secondary cast here, including the guys from Johnnies and the people who are part of Jackson and Ellery’s extended ‘chosen’ family – Jade and Mike, Kaden and his family, Lucy Satan, AJ, Crystal, Billy-Bob, Burton and Ernie – and I especially enjoyed the scene at the end when Jackson and Ellery host a party to celebrate the opening of their new business, and Jackson is completely oblivious to the degree to which he inspires love and loyalty in all the people there to celebrate with them – and the degree to which Ellery is proud of him because of it.

Fish on a Bicycle is an absorbing instalment in what has become one of my favourite series.  The main storyline pulled me in from the start, and the relationship between Jackson and Ellery continues to strengthen despite the bumpy road they’re travelling together.  Fans of the series will be pleased with this update on how our guys are doing, and will also be happy to know that there are more books to come.

Note: The last 15% of the digital edition is a short story about what happened when Lucy Satan came to visit.

Readers should be aware that there are mentions of childhood sexual abuse in this story.

Quickie Reviews #4

Another batch of shorter-than-usual reviews of a few things I read/listened to over the past couple of months or so.

Fake Out (Fake Boyfriend #1) by Eden Finley, narrated by Alexander Cendese and Iggy Toma

Maddox – The reason I rarely go home is three simple words: I’m a liar. 

When the pressure to marry my childhood sweetheart became too much, I told her I was gay and then fled to New York like my ass was on fire. 

Now, five years later and after a drunken encounter, I find myself invited to her wedding. And I have to bring my boyfriend-the boyfriend who doesn’t exist because I’m straight. 

At least, I think I am. Meeting the guy I’m bribing to be my boyfriend for the weekend makes me question everything about myself. 

Damon – When my sister asks me to pretend to be some straight guy’s boyfriend, my automatic response is to say no. It’s because of guys like him people don’t believe me when I tell them I’m gay. 

But Maddox has something I need. 

After an injury that cost me my baseball career, I’m trying to leave my playing days behind and focus on being the best sports agent I can be. Forty-eight hours with my sister’s best friend in exchange for a meeting with a possible client. I can do this. 

I just wish he wasn’t so hot. Or that he didn’t kiss like he means it. 

Wait… why is the straight guy kissing me? 

Overall Grade: B+ / 4.5 stars

I needed a palate cleanser after my last, very boring, listen and this fit the bill perfectly. I like the fake-relationship trope, and this was a low-angst, funny and sexy little story about a guy who told his high-school girlfriend he was gay because she was suffocating him and he couldn’t think of a way to dump her without hurting her feelings. Um… okay, yeah, so that was a dick move.

Coming from a very small town, that news spread like wildfire, but Maddox isn’t too bothered by it – he lives and works in New York now anyway, and doesn’t go home often so it’s no biggie as far as he’s concerned. Until one evening that ex-walks into the same bar he’s in, and promptly invites him to her upcoming wedding. Oh, and he should bring his boyfriend…

It’s daft, but it kick-starts the story, which is generally light-hearted, even though both Maddox and his fake-boyfriend, Damon, have some issues to deal with. Maddox, while not at all freaked at the fact that his attraction to Damon means he must be bi, is a commitment-phobe, while a bad experience with a lifelong friend who came on to Damon and then accused him of manipulating him has made Damon very wary of bi-curious guys.

The two narrators fit their assigned characters well; Alexander Cendese is good at playing the lively, slightly dickhead-y, clueless jock with a heart of gold (although Maddox isn’t a jock here) and Iggy Toma’s portrayal of Damon, who is more considered and – as Maddox says, has his shit together – is a nice contrast. Cendese’s female voices aren’t great, but they actually add comedic value here.

Fake Out was an enjoyable listen overall – the narration definitely enhanced the story and it proved to be a great pick-me-up.

In Her Sights by Katie Ruggle

Bounty hunter Molly Pax fought hard for everything she has, turning the bail recovery business she shares with her sisters into an unqualified success. So when their sticky-fingered mother jumps bail and puts the childhood home up as collateral, Molly’s horrified. To make matters worse, every two-bit criminal in the Rockies now sees her family’s misfortune as their next big break.

She needs help, stat.

Enter rival bounty hunter John Carmondy: six feet of pure trouble, with a cocky grin to match. John’s the most cheerfully, annoyingly gorgeous frenemy Molly’s ever had the pleasure of defeating…and he may be her only hope of making it out of this mess alive.

Grade: C / 3 stars

I’ve not read anything by this author before, so I was pleased to be able to jump into a new series. The Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunters are a group of five sisters, the eldest of whom, Molly, has been as much of a mother as a sister to her siblings owing to the irresponsible nature of their actual mother, Jane. All the sisters work as bail enforcement agents – bounty hunters – and In Her Sights opens as Molly Pax – the eldest – is interrupted in her surveillance of her current target by the unexpected and unwanted presence of the ridiculously pretty and ridiculously annoying John Carmondy, a fellow bounty hunter who wants Molly and her sisters to come and work for him.

John is always bright and breezy, his flirtatious grins and quips stirring the attraction Molly feels for him but ruthlessly keeps a lid on; the problem here is that she keeps a lid on it for rather too long, because there’s no real progression in the romance until over three-quarters of the way through the book – John and Molly don’t even kiss until the 80% mark, and the sex scene that follows was strangely flat.

The plot concerning the Pax ladies’ struggle to extricate themselves from their mother’s mess – she puts their home up as collateral and then skips bail – is entertaining, but is not concluded here, so I guess it’s going to run through the series. I liked the relationship between the sisters, but the plot whereby Molly and John chase down a bail-jumper was fairly run-of-the-mill and not all that suspenseful. John isn’t a particularly well-drawn character; he’s funny and he’s cute, but we don’t get to know much more about him other than that he’s a goner for Molly and everyone can see that but her; and Jane is a one-note villain.

I enjoy romantic suspense, so I might give this author another try, but I think I’ll find something from her backlist, because if the rest of this series runs along the same lines as this one, I don’t think it’s for me.

Bonfires by Amy Lane, narrated by Nick J. Russo

Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road.

Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last.

It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.

Overall Grade: B+ / 4.5 stars

A lovely story about two men in their late forties finding love after years spent alone, one because his wife was killed in an accident, the other because of an acrimonious divorce. The relationship between sherrif’s deputy Aaron George and school principal Larkin (who goes by Larx) is superbly developed, and I really liked the “found family” aspect of the story. Both men have been single parents for a number of years and I liked that the romance played out realistically against the backdrop of their jobs and family lives. These are two mature characters with responsibilities that didn’t magically disappear when they wanted “together time”.

Running alongside the romance is the plotline concerning an attack on one of Larx’s pupils, a young man who had, only hours before, come out (along with his boyfriend, another pupil at the school). There’s little doubt this was a hate crime, and the suspect is a fellow pupil, the spoiled daughter of one of the town’s most influential families who is well known for bullying and making trouble for her peers. Aaron is also dealing with the investigation into what looks like the murder of a man whose body was found floating in a nearby lake – while Larx finds himself hauled up before the school-board, which is trying to get the school’s GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) group disbanded. He’s not out publicly – his kids know he’s bisexual as do some of his colleagues and friends – but it’s not widely known, and given the way his career was almost ended years earlier around the time of his divorce, he’s wary of giving the officials yet another stick to beat him with.

[One of the things that struck me hard as I was listening was a fundamental difference between the school as depicted in the book and the ones I work in. I can only speak with experience of state schools, but in the UK, a teacher would face disciplinary action for NOT acting to protect the rights of LGBT kids rather than the other way around; the fact that Larx had to stand up and defend his actions in front of the school board or whatever was just mind-boggling to me. I had to check the publication date of the book to make sure it wasn’t something from the 1990s (it’s not – it came out in 2017).]

Nick J. Russo does a great job with the narration, providing distinct vocal characterisations for all the characters and really capturing the essence of the two principals. Aaron is a bit gruff and quite deliberate, whereas Larx is mercurial; passionate about his job and those he cares for, funny and flirtatious – and all of those qualities come through perfectly in the performance.

I’m looking forward to the next book, which I plan to pick up soon.


Hiding the Moon (Fish Out of Water #4) by Amy Lane

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Can a hitman and a psychic negotiate a relationship while all hell breaks loose?

The world might not know who Lee Burton is, but it needs his black ops division and the work they do to keep it safe. Lee’s spent his life following orders—until he sees a kill jacket on Ernie Caulfield. Ernie isn’t a typical target, and something is very wrong with Burton’s chain of command.

Ernie’s life may seem adrift, but his every action helps to shelter his mind from the psychic storm raging within. When Lee Burton shows up to save him from assassins and club bunnies, Ernie seizes his hand and doesn’t look back. Burton is Ernie’s best bet in a tumultuous world, and after one day together, he’s pretty sure Lee knows Ernie is his destiny as well.

But when Burton refused Ernie’s contract, he kicked an entire piranha tank of bad guys, and Burton can’t rest until he takes down the rogue military unit that would try to kill a spacey psychic. Ernie’s in love with Burton and Burton’s confused as hell by Ernie—but Ernie’s not changing his mind and Burton can’t stay away. Psychics, assassins, and bad guys—throw them into the desert with a forbidden love affair and what could possibly go wrong?

Rating: B-

Hiding the Moon is nominally book four in Amy Lane’s Fish Out of Water series, but really it’s a branch off the main tree, a spin-off featuring some of the characters who appeared in secondary roles in the previous book, A Few Good Fish.  (For which there are spoilers in this review).  In that book, our heroes – Jackson Rivers and Ellery Cramer – were pursuing an investigation into a shady quasi-military organisation that they believed responsible for training and unleashing a particularly violent, sadistic serial killer into society (and probably more like him).  Certain lines of enquiry led them back to an encounter they’d had a while back, in the tiny desert town of Victoriana, at the home and garage belonging to Ace Atchison and Sonny Daye (from Racing for the Sun), a pair of ex-military guys who live as far below the radar as possible and are keen to keep it that way – and they become instrumental in helping Jackson and Ellery to bring down the leader of the group known as Corduroy, and in closing down the whole operation.

The events of Hiding the Moon take place immediately before and during those of A Few Good Fish, and focus on two of the other characters featured in that book – black-ops assassin Lee Burton and psychic Ernie Caulfield (and yes, the Burt and Ernie reference hasn’t escaped me!).  If you haven’t read the previous book at the very least, you’ll be completely lost here, as this one really only works as part of the series as a whole.  It began life as a series of shorts on Ms. Lane’s website to introduce these characters who were to play a pivotal role in A Few Good Fish and then she decided to write their story in full.

Lee Burton’s targets are usually the scum of the earth, so he expects the next one he’s given by his handler will be some low life scumbag.  But Ernie Caufield?  He’s just a club bunny who likes to party, feeds all the local stray cats and works at a small coffee shop;  and Lee can’t for the life of him fathom why anyone would want him dead.  But before he has the chance to start figuring out what’s going on, someone else tries to kill Ernie; Lee ends up saving his life and takes him to the safest place he knows – the garage in Victoriana owned by his friends Ace and Sonny. On the way, he learns that Ernie was orphaned at seventeen when his parents were killed in an accident Ernie now suspects wasn’t one. After being bounced around the foster system a bit, he was whisked away by the military and spent a year working as part of a secret project that used him – specifically his ability to read people – to identify those who could be moulded into perfect soldiers. After that nearly destroyed him, the military cut him loose and he’s been alone ever since, using sex and recreational drugs to dull the incessant noise in his head. Whoever wants Ernie dead was obviously prepared to go to great lengths to make it happen, and Lee knows Ernie will never be safe unless he can find out what’s going on. After leaving Ernie with Ace and Sonny, Lee infiltrates Corduroy and spends months embedded there while he gradually puts together the pieces, and at the same time, he becomes involved in their surveillance on Jackson and Ellery – which involves him listening to them having a lot of sex, Jackson’s frequent grumbling to his cat (which always crack me up) and to their various discoveries and theorising as they plan to bring down Commander Lacey and Corduroy. Realising that they are the ‘fish and the shark’ about whom Ernie had a premonition just before they parted, Lee deliberately conceals what Jackson and Ellery are really up to from those around him while he makes plans of his own – which have to be completely re-made when Ellery and Ace are abducted.

Right from the moment Lee and Ernie meet, Lee is simultaneously drawn to, confused by and fascinated by Ernie, who seems to say whatever comes into his head and is clearly attracted to him. Lee isn’t sure how to handle that; he’s only ever slept with women, but has always known he’s not completely straight, and there’s something about Ernie that is so utterly sweet, so guileless and compelling that he simply can’t deny or resist the pull of the attraction crackling between them. He tries to dismiss what happens that one night on the road as a hook-up, even as, deep down, he realises it’s something far beyond that. And Ernie… well, he just has to wait for Lee to catch up with what he already knows.

I felt, initially, that this part of the story was rushed. Lee and Ernie end up in bed very early on and I didn’t really feel the emotional connection between them that the author told me was there. But as the story progressed, everything began to fall into place. Lee and Ernie actually spend a fair bit of time (several months) apart during the course of the story, and are only able to interact occasionally by text – when Ernie’s lyrical poetry blows Lee away – and to see each other rarely, on a few stolen but magical nights where Lee is able to get away from the camp. We see Ernie becoming more comfortable around Ace and Sonny and starting to fit in to their odd but close-knit family, and Lee realising how much Ernie means to him and what they could have together if he can be brave enough to reach out and grab it. The fact they have to remain apart makes these interactions all the more poignant, and because they are never far from each other’s thoughts, it’s easier for the reader to accept their separation as a necessary evil and not to find it too frustrating.

Even though Lee is the more proactive character in the story – he’s the one working with the bad guys at great risk to himself, after all – Ernie is by far the more rounded character. He has very little to do until the end of the story; mostly he’s just living day to day, helping out at the garage, getting to know Ace, Sonny and their small circle, yet Ms. Lane manages to make him into a complex, interesting character who really grew on me throughout the course of the story.

In general, I enjoy stories that give me a different perspective on a tale I’m already familiar with, although the downside to it here is that I knew how things would turn out, which did take something away from the suspense angle. But when I finished Hiding the Moon, I didn’t feel as though I’d just read the same story for a second time. Yes, there are overlapping elements, but Lee and Ernie’s story is fresh and sweet and funny, and kept me entertained in its own right. If you’ve been following the Fish Out of Water series, it’s a nice off-shoot, although Lee and Ernie aren’t going to supplant Jackson and Ellery as one of my favourite couples any time soon.

A Few Good Fish (Fish Out of Water #3) by Amy Lane

This title may be purchased from Amazon

A tomcat, a psychopath, and a psychic walk into the desert to rescue the men they love…. Can everybody make it out with their skin intact?

PI Jackson Rivers and Defense Attorney Ellery Cramer have barely recovered from last November, when stopping a serial killer nearly destroyed Jackson in both body and spirit.

But their previous investigation poked a new danger with a stick, forcing Jackson and Ellery to leave town so they can meet the snake in its den.

Jackson Rivers grew up with the mean streets as a classroom and he learned a long time ago not to give a damn about his own life. But he gets a whole new education when the enemy takes Ellery. The man who pulled his shattered pieces from darkness and stitched them back together again is in trouble, and Jackson’s only chance to save him rests in the hands of fragile allies he barely knows.

It’s going to take a little bit of luck to get these Few Good Fish out alive!

Rating: B+

Amy Lane’s Fish Out of Water has quickly become one of my favourite romantic suspense series, mostly because I adore the two central characters, but also because the books are gritty, tightly plotted, sexy thrillers with intriguing storylines, plenty of snark and a large helping of angst.  It’s like they were written just for me 😛  A Few Good Fish is the third instalment and if you pick it up without having read Fish Out of Water and Red Fish, Dead Fish, you’re likely to be a bit confused.  The books need to be read in order as there are overarching plotlines that reach a climax here, and while there’s some backstory given, readers will get far more out of A Few Good Fish if they’re familiar with the Story So Far.  Plus, the romance between hard-boiled PI Jackson Rivers and buttoned-up defence attorney Ellery Cramer begins in book one, and it’s important to understand where they’ve come from in order to fully appreciate where their relationship is now.

Spoilers ahead for the first two books.

When, in Fish Out of Water, Jackson Rivers’ brother, Kaden, is framed for the murder of a police officer, Jackson reaches out to defence attorney Ellery Cramer, insisting he’s Kaden’s best chance of beating a murder charge.  Jackson works as the PI for the defence firm where Ellery is the hot-shot up-and-comer, and while he makes no bones about the fact he thinks Ellery has a stick up his ass, he also knows the guy is cool under pressure, can take apart a witness like nobody else and that he’ll get the job done.  As the pair investigates and digs deep, they uncover links to police corruption going back years – back, in fact, to the time when Jackson, then a rookie cop, was shot and almost killed because he was a part of an investigation into that corruption.  Working together so closely also allows them to explore the attraction building between them; their sexual chemistry is off-the-charts, and Ms. Lane also adds a strong emotional dimension to their relationship, making it clear from the start that what’s between these two is much more than no-strings stress relief.

Although there’s a satisfactory conclusion to the main plotline, there are loose ends left over for Red Fish, Dead Fish, when a crazed killer – Tim Owens – who was part of the police corruption ring, brings things up close and personal for Jackson in a truly horrifying way.  It emerges that Owens is ex-military, and was part of some sort of secret program designed to train already violent, unstable men to become sadistic, psychopathic killers – and that Owens was just one of many put through it.

In A Few Good Fish, Ellery is set to defend a young woman accused of a hit-and-run killing.  Nanny Janie Isaacson had taken her charges to school, then stopped further along the road to allow someone to cross when a speeding “big blue… government car”  overtook her and hit and killed a pedestrian.  The driver then approached Janie and threatened her before driving away, and her description of the man makes Ellery’s blood run cold.  It fits Commander Karl Lacey, whom he’d questioned months earlier during the Tim Owens case – but why is Lacey in Sacramento when his base is miles away in Southern California?

Jackson and Ellery know they rattled some fairly dangerous cages by questioning Lacey and have been expecting repercussions… although they can’t deny they’d have liked a bit more peace, quiet and normalcy, time for Jackson to properly heal from his most recent injuries and for them to continue to adjust to life as a couple (which still freaks Jackson out).  When Jackson catches a kid trying to plant a tracker on their car, and then they find out that their home has been bugged, they realise they need to bring in reinforcements if they’re to gather the evidence and information they need in order to bring Lacey’s activities to the attention of the authorities who can close him down. Ace Aitcheson and Sonny Daye (from Racing for the Sun), both had dealings with Lacey and his methods, and are now living well under the radar in a tiny town in the middle of the desert.  Ellery and Jackson must drop off the grid to avoid detection by the bad guys while they continue to investigate; but the stakes are raised when Ellery and Ace are taken by Lacey’s men, and Jackson and Sonny find themselves having to do more than just recon and information gathering.

I’ve been looking forward to this third instalment in the series ever since I finished the second, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I could wish Jackson got to have a bit more recovery time between injuries (his three-legged bruiser of a tomcat Billy Bob might have nine lives, but Jackson doesn’t!), but that’s a minor gripe; A Few Good Fish is a riveting page-turner with high-stakes action scenes, an intriguing plot and two compelling, incredibly likeable central characters.

I said at the beginning that one of things I love about the series is the central couple, and Jackson and Ellery have become one of my favourite romantic pairings.  Jackson – who had a truly shitty childhood, has PTSD as a result of the shooting and is a mass of insecurities beneath the good-looks and charm – is so broken and yet so deserving of love, and Ellery wants badly to shoulder some of his burdens and give him that love – but Jackson is like Billy Bob; prickly and hard to get close to. His mother’s abandonment has translated into a tendency to push people away before they can leave him, but fortunately for Jackson, Ellery is tenacious and insightful; it’s clear early on that he’s got Jackson’s number and isn’t about to let him pull any of his usual crap.  Life has prepared Jackson only for the fact that he doesn’t deserve the good stuff, and he finds it difficult to accept that someone like Ellery – rich, well-adjusted and successful – truly wants to be with him.  But by the time A Few Good Fish opens, Jackson has begun to hope – cautiously – that life isn’t going to crap on him all the time. He and Ellery are living together as a couple and he’s got used to the idea that Ellery actually wants to ‘keep him’.  He’s grumpy and awkwardly sweet on occasion, and I love watching him gradually opening himself up to Ellery and letting him know him.  Ellery is the more straightforward character of the two, and on occasion, he’s overshadowed by the force of nature that is Jackson Rivers, but he’s very much Ying to Jackson’s Yang, and the two complement each other perfectly. Plus – Jackson enjoys Ellery’s bossy streak 😉 There are some great secondary characters – notably the feisty Jade (Jackson’s former girlfriend) and Ellery’s formidable mother; plus Ace and Sonny and a new – and intriguing – couple I believe will feature in a companion novella at some point.

While this particular case is closed, Ms. Lane seems to be paving the way for more Fish stories, and I’ll be there to snap them up.

Oh, and one more thing.  Best. Resignation Letter. Ever. *wink*

Red Fish, Dead Fish (Fish Out of Water #2) by Amy Lane (audiobook) – narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

They must work together to stop a psychopath – and save each other.

Two months ago, Jackson Rivers got shot while trying to save Ellery Cramer’s life. Not only is Jackson still suffering from his wounds, the trigger-man remains at large – and the body count is mounting.

Jackson and Ellery have been trying to track down Tim Owens since Jackson got out of the hospital, but Owens’ time as a member of the department makes the DA reluctant to turn over any stones. When Owens starts going after people Jackson knows, Ellery’s instincts hit red alert. Hurt in a scuffle with drug-dealing squatters and trying damned hard not to grieve for a childhood spent in hell, Jackson is weak and vulnerable when Owens strikes.

Jackson gets away, but the fallout from the encounter might kill him. It’s not doing Ellery any favors either. When a police detective is abducted – and Jackson and Ellery hold the key to finding her – Ellery finds out exactly what he’s made of. He’s not the corporate shark who believes in winning at all costs; he’s the frightened lover trying to keep the man he cares for from self-destructing in his own valor.

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – A

Please note that there will be spoilers for Fish Out of Water in this review.

Amy Lane’s Fish Out of Water was a fabulous listen; an exciting, fast-paced suspense story, interwoven with a steamy, opposites-attract romance laced with plenty of snark and quieter moments of emotional insight and intensity. Needless to say, Greg Tremblay hit the narration out of the park, so I eagerly jumped into the sequel, Red Fish, Dead Fish, which picks up the story a couple of months later. Following a(nother) near-fatal shooting, private investigator Jackson Rivers is still (and, he insists, temporarily) living with his lover, defense attorney Ellery Cramer, while his house – which was shot to bits in the drive-by in which he was wounded – is set to rights. He’s impatient with his convalescence, he’s jonesing to get back to work and he’s on edge about the status of his… whatever it is with Ellery; Jackson doesn’t do permanence and the deep-seated insecurities that tell him he’s bad news and not good enough for anyone to bother with have him pretty much always poised for flight. Fortunately for Jackson, Ellery has him pegged and is well aware that deep down, Jackson is scared of what’s happening between them and that he’s looking for excuses to run. At least – for the moment – Jackson has nowhere to run TO, and Ellery’s patience and gentle, but inexorable persistence seem to be inexhaustible. Not that Jackson doesn’t drive him nuts at times – he absolutely does – but Ellery is every bit as stubborn as he is, doesn’t take any crap and is prepared to wait for Jackson for as long as it takes.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Fish Out of Water by Amy Lane (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

PI Jackson Rivers grew up on the mean streets of Del Paso Heights and he doesn’t trust cops, even though he was one. When the man he thinks of as his brother is accused of killing a police officer in an obviously doctored crime, Jackson will move heaven and earth to keep Kaden and his family safe.

Defense attorney Ellery Cramer grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but that hasn’t stopped him from crushing on street-smart, swaggering Jackson Rivers for the past six years. But when Jackson asks for his help defending Kaden Cameron, Ellery is out of his depth and not just with guarded, prickly Jackson. Kaden wasn’t just framed, he was framed by crooked cops, and the conspiracy goes higher than Ellery dares reach and deep into Jackson s troubled past.

Both men are soon enmeshed in the mystery of who killed the cop in the minimart, and engaged in a race against time to clear Kaden’s name. But when the mystery is solved and the bullets stop flying, they’ll have to deal with their personal complications and an attraction that’s spiraled out of control.

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – A-

It will come as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads my reviews that I will listen to Greg Tremblay read just about anything. When, a few weeks back, I saw a new release with his name on the cover – Red Fish, Dead Fish by Amy Lane – I was keen to review it, but then saw it was the second book to feature jaded ex-cop-turned-P.I. Jackson Rivers and hot-shot defence attorney Ellery Cramer… so I had to find book one, and oh, my – am I glad I did.

Having grown up in poverty, Jackson Rivers has fought hard for everything he has. Neglected and essentially abandoned by his junkie mother when he was a boy, he was lucky enough to fall in with the Cameron family: Kaden – his best friend at school – Kaden’s sister, Jade, and their mother, Toni, a warm, loving woman who was more of a mother to him than his biological parent ever was. The Camerons are the only family Jackson has ever known and he is fiercely loyal and devoted to them. Thanks to Toni’s love and care, and Jackson’s own determination, he grew up ‘right’, and eventually achieved his ambition of enrolling in the Police Academy. But his life was forever changed when, as a rookie, he was paired up with a much older, more experienced – and dirty – cop.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.