Author: Susan Laine
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht
Buy Link: Sparks & Drops (The Wheel Mysteries)
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: Novella (170 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A Private Investigator and a witch team up to uncover a plot that is killing witches all over the city.
Blurb: Magic is in the air when Gus Goodwin, a pagan shopkeeper and owner of the Four Corners’ occult shop, meets a Niall Valentine, a mysterious PI investigating the disappearance of a local witch named Joy. What starts out as harmless flirting and information gathering soon turns into a partnership, with both men determined to solve the case.
Then bodies begin to pile up. Someone is using fire and water to kill witches associated with Joy, and it is up to Niall and Gus to find out what’s going on. But when their friendship blossoms into something else, the unknown dangers looming ahead become even more frightening. If they can’t solve the murders soon, they’re going to get themselves killed.
Review: I have been following author Susan Laine since near the beginning of her writing career and I can honestly say she just keeps getting better and better. Her stories have become tighter with more intricate plots and her characters have moved beyond the standard fare to embrace both cute personality quirks and really lovely innate traits that make them feel so very real. Sparks & Drops is, once again, a novella that has it all and is highly entertaining to boot.
The story centers around a private investigator, Niall Valentine who has been hired to find a woman who has disappeared and was deeply involved in the local covens studying the Wiccan way of life. Along the way his investigation leads him to Sam and his store where most everyone in the community shops. Hesitantly, Niall enlists Gus’ help in tracking down Joy and during the investigation her friend, Charisma is found dead–drowned in the bathtub at Joy’s apartment.
Niall tries to turn Gus away and keep him safe. His feelings for the man have grown rapidly and Niall is wary of any sort of instant attractions, plus it is simply not wise to continue to let Gus be a part of the investigation. No sooner does Niall make the decision then another victim is found burned alive in in the very shop Gus owns and lives above. Now the two men must race against the clock to find the killer before another witch loses their life, especially since that witch may be Gus.
Author Susan Laine openly declares in her dedication that this story is to shed light on how peaceful and intrinsically spiritual she knows the followers of Wicca tend to be in general. She allows her character, Gus, to occasionally go on a rant about the injustice that he and his fellow believers have suffered under and the many misconceptions they have had to deal with over the years. I found most of these passages blended well with the story and never felt like a singular political statement but rather what they were written as–a way of enlightening Niall on the life and practices of the modern day witch. They were woven into the story in such a way as to feel seamless and a careful addition to a already solid storyline.
The two men were also well written but a wee bit underdeveloped for my taste but then the overall novella dealt well with they mystery element of the story so I barely noticed that small problem. I simply wanted to know a bit more about them, Gus in particular, as his back story was glossed over rather quickly and I felt that by novel’s end I was just beginning to get a sense of who he was and how he and Niall would fit together. I am sure given the title extension that there will be sequels and I can only hope they focus more on these two fun and decidedly sweet characters.
All in all, Sparks & Drops is both a good mystery and a sweet romance, two of my favorite genres rolled into one. I really admire the way in which author Susan Laine always strives to write a better story, deeper and more involved characters and humorous and entertaining plot lines. Overall this was a solid story that left me ready and eager for the next installment.