A Guest Review by Lloyd A. Meeker
Review Summary: Two charming romantic stories featuring an adorable psychic and an injured construction worker haunted by ghosts of his own.
Trouble comes in deceptive packages
Still recovering from an accident that left him emotionally and physically battered, Jon’s goal is to lead a simple life, free of complications and attachments. His new roommate—a happy-go-lucky bookworm—seems to fit into his plans fine at first. He doesn’t find out till later that Leander’s also a psychic, specializing in finding lost pets. Jon’s a skeptic when it comes to the supernatural, so he’s convinced Leander’s a nut job.
Jon’s beliefs are challenged when Leander has to track down a missing teenager and he ropes Jon into assisting him. Soon the two of them are knee-deep in a decades-old murder case. The hills and valleys of the City of Angels hold many buried secrets, and Leander has a knack for finding them.
Jon’s hopes for a trouble-free life go out the window as he’s drawn deeper into Leander’s psychic sleuthing. Digging into the past poses many dangers, but the biggest risk Jon faces is putting his bruised heart on the line.
Warning: Men loving men, skeletons, and an unlucky Chihuahua.
LA Paranormal Series
This is my first reading of Lou Harper’s work, and I could easily become a fan. Dead in LA is a charming, easy read with very likable characters. The book is actually two short stories that string together as anecdotes in a developing relationship between Jon, a construction worker studying art as he recovers from the accident that killed his wife and Leander, a good-hearted psychic kid who makes his living finding lost pets.
The writing is smooth and engaging, the characters are well-drawn and although the plots are not the stuff of great mysteries they provide a tonally perfect vehicle for Leander’s airy, quirky way of doing things. Jon is the story narrator–he’s depressed and closed down but against what he thinks of as his better judgment he’s drawn out of himself in response to Leander’s open-hearted way of wandering happily through the world. At first it might be easy to think Leander simple, or at least naive. He is neither.
This excerpt is from their tentative and sweetly awkward introduction, in which Leander takes the lead. In fact, in spite of the fact that he is just renting a room in Jon’s house, Leander pretty much takes over, in his effervescent and slightly goofy way.
“So what made you go back to school?”
“I needed a change.” That was the understatement of the year. After a year of depression I needed to get away from everything that reminded me of my late wife, Alicia, or I would’ve jumped off a bridge, and it’s not that easy to find a suitable one in L.A. Most of them are over freeways. Causing a pile-up wasn’t my wish.
He stared at me expectantly, so I added, “I had an accident, and it fucked up my shoulder. I had to find a new career.”
“And you decided to become an artist. How awesome!” He didn’t just say it to be polite, either. His smile shone as if I’d revealed a precious secret.[…]
What Leander did next took me totally by surprise. He reached out and put his hand on mine. I couldn’t even search his downcast eyes for explanation. His touch was both soft and firm, sending electrical signals through my body, waking up cravings I didn’t want awake. I sat frozen like a rabbit in front of a snake. I wanted to yank my hand away but that would’ve looked stupid. Fortunately, the shriek of the kettle broke the moment.
“You’ll be all right,” he said getting up and turning to the stove. “You’re not an alcoholic, right?” he asked over his shoulder.
“No, I’m not,” I replied startled by the strangeness of the question.
While he busied himself, I rubbed the back of my hand and wondered when I’d become such a wimp. I needed to get a grip on myself.
He put a steaming mug in front of me. “Chamomile toddy. My Grams’s recipe.
“Granndma. She raised me after my parents died. Careful, it’s hot.”
I got the impression he didn’t feel like talking about his dead any more than I did. Most of all, I didn’t want to know intimate details about him. Not getting involved with other people and their lives was part of my no complications policy.
There were a number of elements that recommended this book to me. To my sensibilities it was infused with a quality of kindness that I often miss in M/M stories — men being good to each other for no reason other than it was in their nature to do so. Simple stuff, in contrast to the usual fare of dramatic attraction, dramatic disagreements and constant red-lining emotions. Jon’s inner critic and the mysteries create plenty of conflict, but Leander’s innate generosity is truly refreshing.
In fact, it was refreshing to encounter a story where the psychic character is the most balanced person in the story. Too often they are given the role of the tortured one clinging to sanity, as if it had to be that way.
Finally, the humor is in character — each protagonist has a sense of humor unique to his character. Leander’s is whimsical, Jon’s ironic and bitter.
If you’re in the mood to be charmed by someone guileless as Leander, and to root for Jon as he slowly comes out of his shell, then you should pick up this book.