Title: Turning Tricks (Task Force Iota 2)
Author: Anne Tenino
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Futuristic/Science Fiction/M/M Romance
Length: Novella/164 PDF pages/51,331 words
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: The book that provides not only the continuation of James and Matt’s story, but also the overarching storyline for the entire series
Blurb: James Ayala thought life would be smooth sailing once he escaped from a Red Idaho reeducation camp and returned to Blue Oregon. He was supposed to get answers about the biocybernetic chip that made him empathic, face the man who implanted it, and then ride off into the sunset with his new boyfriend, Matt Tennimore. Life, however, has other plans: the bad guy dies without giving them any answers, they left their horse in Idaho, and Gramma Anais finds a parasite on James’s implant—one that forces James into isolation.
Matt just got James back to Oregon where he wanted him, and extraneous brain hardware or not, he has no intention of letting him go. But James hesitates to move in with him. Despite his hurt, Matt has to man up and do his job, leaving James behind, while the rest of the team struggles to find the real mastermind behind the implant and the parasitic “Trick” – before it takes over James’s brain. But will it be too little, too late to save him?
Turning Tricks is a sequel to very good 18% Gray (reviewed here) and the second book in Task Force Iota series which actually owes its name to this book. The novella continues the story of James Ayala and Matt Tennimore as well as their family, friends and colleagues in futuristic, Blue Oregon.
The story picks up shortly after 18% Gray ended. After returning into the fold of Matt’s crazy family, things should be easier for James and Matt, but they only get more complicated. In addition to the growing implant, Anais, Matt’s grandmother, finds a parasite in James’s head and no one knows how it got there and what it can do to James and other implant receivers. The answers they were hoping for are lost in the explosion that takes the life of the man who experimented on James and his fellow soldiers. The men’s relationship is additionally unbalanced by James’s uncertainties and his reluctance to move in with Matt.
The relationship between Matt and Jason is deepening. It is obvious not only in the way their empathic connection is evolving, but also in their lovemaking: it’s no longer just the expression of attraction and affection, but also reassurance and comfort. Under the circumstances, Matt has to stop being the brat in the relationship and provide anchor and stability for James, which he does admirably. That is not to say that he is completely mature: his insecurities regarding Captain Dallas Levine who had a brief fling with James in the prison camp and, especially, Miz Horse provided some very funny moments. Speaking of Miz Horse, yes, don’t worry – she’s back and funnier than ever. She was also the protagonist of one of the more touching moments in the book. Author’s humor is present and gives the book the lighthearted tone in what could be rather gloomy circumstances. I especially liked how Ms. Tenino dealt with the cursed acronyms I have complained about in the previous book. The solution was perfectly incorporated in the story and made me laugh out loud several times. What can I say: I am a “PlainSpeak bastard” and proud of it. 😀
In addition to Miz Horse, many secondary characters from the previous book are back with a few additions: Matt’s grandparents, nuns Carmela and Pearl, his cousins Laslo and Jude, Dal Levine, Brandon Farmer (another implant recipient), Captain Torres, etc. It was heartwarming to read how Matt’s family accepted James. We were given a hint about the new pairing that could possibly follow Laslo and Logan’s story – Jude and Dal – who show a promise to become a funny couple.
The addition of Djinn, a mysterious entity, provided the needed overreaching story line for the series and hook up for the future books. He was a menacing presence in the background of James and Matt’s story; too bad they didn’t know about him until the very end and that this situation was resolved too easily, if not completely. As a voice, Djinn both worked and didn’t work for me. His childishness and obsessions (with hands and penises) together with his professed superiority should have given us a nice, psychopathic antagonist. We do see results of his machinations or he tells us about them, we do not actually see him much in “action”. As a result, Djinn’s voice became a bit tiresome later in the story. However, I have high hopes for this character: it will be interesting to see his evolution, discover his secrets and find out what he will do with hands (and penis) once he acquires them.
At times, it was a bit difficult to follow the reasoning of Anais and Pearl in dealing with James’s implant as well as political games surrounding Task Force Iota, because they happened behind the scenes. I felt that these parts of the story could have used some editing. This is not an independent book and you have to read 18% Gray first to understand it and fully enjoy it.
Overall, Turning Tricks is a good sequel to 18% Gray. Matt and James became more solid than they were and they still have space to grow, the series got the common story line which promises new and exciting stories, we met some new and interesting new characters. If you are anything like me, you will enjoy it and look forward to Laslo and Logan’s story which is coming next. Recommended.