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Authors I’m Thankful For: Andrea Speed

Anyone who follows me on social media, or heck, even this blog, won’t be surprised to see this author’s name as part of my gratitude event this month.

I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read by Andrea Speed. Her Josh of the Damned shorts are hilarious and different from anything else in the genre. DMZ was 29 pages of awesome. But it’s her Infected series that well and truly captured my heart from the first page.

Roan… what can I say about Roan McKichan? He’s an amazing character. He’s snarky as hell, which I appreciate. He loves obscure bands. He loves to read. He’s brave, and he’s a bad-ass. When he loves, he loves whole-heartedly, and he’s incredibly loyal to those who’ve earned his trust, and he inspires the same kind of loyalty in return. Hell, I even have a tattoo for Roan – and he’s the only individual character I have ink for so far! (The Leo symbol, as seen below.) My other book related tattoo is a nod to a couple of different characters from the Harry Potter series.

roantattoo

Beyond Andrea’s writing, which is masterful, in my opinion – a mix of humor and snark and grittiness – it’s the characters that really make this series. I may be a Roan fangirl, but I also have a lot of love for Dylan and Paris and Holden and Scott (and the other hockey players).

I’ve reread all the books in this series. I’ll reread them again. While at its heart, this is an urban fantasy mystery series, don’t let that fool you into thinking you won’t sometimes get gut-punched straight in the feels. Book two sort of ruined my life for a while, I’m not even going to lie.

I highly recommend all of Andrea Speed’s stuff, but especially the Infected series, which ranks as one of my favorites not only in the m/m genre, but in every genre. Everyone should experience the glory that is Roan.

 

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Piper’s Reading Roundup: February

Hey, all! My reading picked up a bit in February. Right now I’m sitting at 26 books for the year (and 18 of those were last month). These were my favorite reads from February. Sharing the love.

In no particular order…

How to Howl at the Moon by Eli Easton – This was a sweet, funny, adorable read and absolutely perfect for my down mood lately. I really enjoyed it and recommend it, if you’re a fan of cute and fluff, which I most assuredly am. And I’m very happy to know there’ll be a story for Roman later this year!

Bayou des Enfants (Rougaroux Social Club, #4) by Lynn Lorenz – I’m a big fan of this series but hadn’t gotten around to reading this offering until last month. Scott and Ted are probably my favorite couple in this series, so I was really glad to revisit them and to see their family completed — even if it wasn’t exactly when or how they planned. Recommended for fans of the series. I don’t think it would stand well on its own, though, so if you haven’t read any of the previous books, I’d recommend starting at the beginning.

Here Without You by Mia Kerick – This was the followup to Kerick’s YA novel, Us Three. The boys are older and two of them are trying to navigate their first year of college while the other stays behind in their hometown to protect his sister from their guardian, their abusive uncle. Things get pretty angsty toward the end there, but I was thrilled to see these guys a bit older and to see how their relationship had progressed. If you enjoyed the first book, I definitely recommend reading this one too.

Infected: Paris by Andrea Speed – I reviewed this book last week, so it probably surprises no one to see it on this list. If you want my in-depth thoughts, you can find them here.

Checking Out Love by R. Cooper – This was probably my favorite read of the month. Everything about it just worked so well for me. It was short, funny, charming, and features a nerdy librarian and an equally nerdy college student with no brain-to-mouth filter. For me, it was perfect. I gushed about it all over my social media accounts the day I read it. Awesome stuff.

Claimings, Tails, and Other Alien Artifacts by Lyn Gala – This was a lot of fun. Ondry, the alien in this story, is just fantastic in the way he wants to protect and tries to understand Liam, despite the differences in their cultures. I really enjoyed the story.

Taxes and TARDIS by N.R. Walker – I’m not sure why it took me so long to read this story. It matches up a blue-collar guy with a geeky accountant, and really, anyone who knows me is aware that this type of story is right up my alley. This was really cute, and I know I’ll likely read it again.

And for a non-M/M story that still fits under the GLBTQ umbrella…

Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff –  You would think that this book wouldn’t work for me. It’s a love story, but it’s told in 2nd person POV and you never know the gender of either the protagonist or the love interest. And yet… it was really beautiful.

I think the issue of Kid’s homelessness was glossed over a bit in terms of how difficult that reality would be, but I still appreciated that the author was trying to bring attention to the disproportionate amount of LGBTQ homeless youth out there. It’s said by Kid’s father that Kid “can’t decide to be straight or gay or a boy or a girl,” so I definitely do count Kid as falling under the LGBTQ acronym, even if we never know if Kid’s relationship with Scout is same-sex or otherwise. Some readers complained that not knowing removed their ability to connect with the characters, but that didn’t bother me at all. Maybe because I can relate to gender identity issues and not knowing or not wanting to claim any specific label.

A gorgeous book, and a love song to Brooklyn too.

~*~

So, what did you read last month? Any standouts? I’m always looking for recs, so feel free to comment!

Piper Reviews “Infected: Paris” by Andrea Speed

infected parisIt’s no secret I’m a hardcore fan of the “Infected” series by Andrea Speed. I don’t have a tattoo representing Roan on my wrist for nothing. Without a doubt it’s one of my favorite series out there, and I’m very much in love with all its characters and the world in which they live.

Infected: Paris is a prequel to the series, but it released today, months after the final “Infected” book came out. If you’ve read this series, you might have gone into this book with a mix of dread and anticipation, as I did. I’ll try to avoid spoilers for both it and the series as a whole, but be warned, some milder stuff might slip through.

In this book we get to meet Paris Lehane and see how he met Roan McKichan, who is the main character throughout the series. While working a stalker case with too many suspects and not enough clues, private investigator Roan runs into a homeless man named Paris. Roan’s sense of smell is heightened even by shifter standards, and he can immediately tell that Paris is a fellow “infected.” Unlike Roan, a virus child who was born with the disease, Paris got it from another shifter. Like STDs, the infection can be passed through bodily fluids. There are various shifter strains, but they’re all “big cats.” Tigers, lions, panthers, etc. The deadliest strain by far is the tiger strain. Infected tigers rarely survive for long, if they even last beyond the first shift. In this world, being a shifter is ugly and painful and it’ll eventually kill you. These are not the romanticized shifters some of us have come to expect in paranormal romances. In this universe, there’s nothing glamorous or exciting about it, and infecteds are often treated as pariahs.

Roan can tell Paris is a tiger strain immediately, and by the looks of Paris, Roan knows he probably doesn’t have much time left to live. He gets Paris to a clinic for infecteds to help deal with his shift, so that hopefully Paris survives to see another month. He visits Paris several times while Paris is there, in addition to talking on the phone, and while Paris is fighting the toll his disease has taken on his body, Roan is still investigating his frustrating and seemingly unsolvable stalker case.

Roan and Paris are drawn to each other pretty much from the start. Despite the scraggly facial hair and grime covering him thanks to his life on the streets, Roan sees some of Paris’s physical appeal. More than that, Paris has an undeniable charisma that Roan can’t seem to resist. So, in spite of knowing it’s unwise to get involved with an infected tiger strain, given their high mortality rate, Roan can’t help himself. He and Paris want each other too much—and we as readers know they’re meant to be.

Overall, I loved the story, and I’m immensely grateful to Andrea Speed for giving us more Paris because my love for Paris is renowned. And of course, I’ll never complain about more Roan.

I can admit to a bit of disappointment, though. I was thinking that this book would be mainly in Paris’s point of view; instead, it was mainly Roan’s. And while I understand the inclusion of the stalker case/mystery because it ultimately led to Paris and Roan’s first meeting—and because there’s a mystery in every book—I would’ve liked less focus on the stalker case and more on their developing relationship. I wanted more scenes with them together and maybe a bit more about Paris’s past, especially what he’d gone through since becoming homeless. But that’s just me, and I can admit I’m greedy. 😉

“Infected: Paris” is a great introduction to Paris and Roan’s relationship and to them as a couple—and the series as a whole for people who haven’t read it. I highly recommend it for fans of the series, and if you haven’t dipped a toe into the “Infected” world yet, this would definitely be the ideal place to start. I can’t wait for more in this universe. There’ll be a spin off for Holden, a character introduced in later “Infected” books, which I am really looking forward to.

In the meantime, I’ll probably be rereading all of the Infected books again. I love spending time in this world. Humor, pain, mystery, suspense, action, love, loss, smart-asses, hockey players—this series has all that and then some. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

 

*Disclaimer: Thanks to Andrea Speed for providing me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.  

Piper’s Favorite Reads of 2014

Hey, everyone! This time of year you’ll see a bunch of these lists popping up, but I always love to share my favorite reads, so I’m hopping on the bandwagon. 🙂

Note: While these are the books I read and loved in 2014, not all of them were actually published this year. They might just be new-to-me, but I want to show them some love either way. These are all books I rated 5 stars. I’d include my 4-star reads, too, but we’d be here all day. 😉

Now, in no particular order:

Phoenix (Death Rose #1) – Melanie Tushmore

I really can’t praise this story enough. Set in the 80s, in the height of hard rock and glam metal, we have the story of artist, Alex, and his ultimate crush, guitarist Danny Death. We see Alex as a youth when he first encounters the band and follow him into adulthood. I enjoyed every minute of it.

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Meatworks – Jordan Castillo Price

I think my quote from earlier this year says it all:

Life in Desmond Poole’s world is dark and messy and full of self-destructive choices. He’s not your traditional romantic hero, and Meatworks is certainly not your conventional, feel-good romance. The characters are damaged and their path to love rocky. Yet that in itself is the appeal. Jordan Castillo Price breaks molds and defies formulas. Her work is always a breath of fresh air for its grittiness and realism. Meatworks is no exception. If you’re anything like me, it’ll dig its hooks in you and refuse to let go, even weeks after you reach the final page.

These characters are flawed. They’re real. And as always, JCP is a master of her craft.

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Hell & High Water (THIRDS #1) – Charlie Cochet

If you’re into M/M and you haven’t heard of Charlie’s THIRDS series, where have you been hiding? For the paranormal lovers, these books have it all. Shifters, alpha males, action, humor, smexiness, mystery. Even if you’re not a paranormal fan, you might enjoy this series. It’s definitely worth checking the first one out.

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Better Than New – Charley Descoteaux

This was such a gem. It was a free short story, part of the Love’s Landscapes offerings, and dealt with a disabled hero and some hurt/comfort. I loved it from start to finish, and I highly recommend it.

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Static – LA Witt

This book meant so much to me for such personal reasons that I left a comment on LA Witt’s Facebook wall to thank her mere moments after finishing it. It’s labeled as a shifter book, but it’s really so much more, and addresses gender identity issues in a way I’d never read before.

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The Border – Kim Fielding

It’s no secret that I love Kim Fielding’s writing. She wrote a couple of my favorite books in the entire genre — Brute and Speechless — and her stories are never lacking in emotional depth and the sort of prose I can only hope to aspire to. This little novelette packed so much story into so few pages. It earned a spot on my favorites shelf, and I’m sure I’ll reread it again and again.

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Life After Death (Infected #3) – Andrea Speed

Another not-so-secret love of mine is Speed’s Infected series… but it took me a long, long time before I worked up the courage to start this book. If you’ve read the previous books in that series, you might know why. To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into details, but I will say that my emotional journey with this book — and the entire series — will stay with me for a long time to come. Forever, in fact, since I have a tattoo in honor of the main character, Roan.

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As He Watches – Finn Marlowe

This is another freebie, part of the Love Has No Boundaries stories offered from the M/M Romance Group in 2013. I have a bit of a fetish about men in lingerie, and this book hits that spot in such a good way. It’s BDSM, there’s some humiliation, and it’s hot as almighty hell. I’ve already read it twice.

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Protection – SA Reid/T. Baggins

This book wrecked me. WRECKED. I only downloaded it originally because it was free on Amazon, but boy, am I glad I did. I only had the vaguest idea what it was about before it started, which was both a curse and a blessing. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but if I had, I might not have taken a chance on reading it, and that would be tragedy. This book was amazing, and definitely a standout among the books I’ve read this year.

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Tequila Mockingbird – Rhys Ford

What can I say about Rhys Ford? She is amazing in every single way and has a mastery of the language I doubt I’ll ever possess. Her Sinners series is one of my faves. Love, sex, mystery, music, and characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Read her books!

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That Last Thing He Needs – JH Knight

This was a great story that reminded me of one of my favorite TV shows, Shameless. This is the story of Tommy O’Shea, who is struggling to raise his seven siblings without any help from his drug and alcohol abusing parents. At its heart, this story was about family — the one you’re born into, and the one you build for yourself. I loved these characters and I’m so happy to have had a chance to be part of their world for a while.

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Of Last Resort (Princes of the Blood #1) – Megan Derr

Megan Derr is one of my longtime favorite authors in M/M. I reread her stories constantly. Her Princes of the Blood series started earlier this year with Of Last Resort, which I absolutely loved. We have a plain hero rejected by his fiance when he decides to undergo the “Blooding” to try to become a Prince of the Blood. No one expects him to survive, but of course, Raffé surprises everyone, himself included. If you’re a fantasy fan, definitely check this out. The other books are just as good.

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 Sixty Five Hours – N.R. Walker

This is yet another free read, and it is fantastic. We have humor, enemies-to-lovers, hot sexy-times, and Walker’s engaging style and strong characters. Really, what more could you ask for?

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Mark Cooper versus America – Lisa Henry & JA Rock

Yay for more lingerie! Love, love, love this book. So hilarious, so well-written, so frickin’ hot! Go forth and read it!

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The Other Guy – Cary Atwell

This is a book I don’t even remember why I purchased. Something about the cover drew me in, maybe, and it sat on my Kindle for ages until I was on vacation earlier this year. Man, did I regret not reading it sooner. It was amazing. Funny, engaging, friends-to-lovers, which is one of my all-time favorite tropes. I enthusiastically recommend it, especially to those of you who like “fade to black” or non-explicit sex scenes.

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(Watch Me) Break You – Avril Ashton

Avril’s stories are often dark and gritty, but man, when her characters fall, they fall hard. The emotions are intense, the sex is always scorching, and you can rely on her for a happy ending despite the odds. Plus, she includes all sorts of interracial/multicultural relationships. This is why she’s one of my faves, and this book did not disappoint. It contained all of my favorite things about Avril’s writing, plus ventured places she hadn’t gone before, which I appreciate.

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Then the Stars Fall – Brandon Witt

This was a family-focused story that also deals with grief and the prejudices involved with being an openly gay man in a small, conservative town. There were kids and pets and lots of vivid secondary characters, plus a slow-burn romance, which I tend to adore, as I love sexual tension. It was lovely. I even bought the paperback and asked Brandon to sign it at GRL, I loved it so much. And it’s another one for the readers who prefer non-explicit stories.

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Brothers of the Wild North Sea – Harper Fox

Wow. I would probably call this my second favorite read of the year. I can’t describe how much I loved this book. The history, the magic, the enemies-to-lovers romance in the truest sense of the term. Harper Fox is a brilliant author with such immense talent I can’t help but feel awed when I read her stories. They are really a gift. This book was gorgeous, and nothing else I say can do it justice.

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Second Skin – Genna Donaghy

This book was fun and different and has gotten a lot less attention than it deserves, in my opinion. I loved everything about it, the characters, the story line. Everything.

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Bone Rider – J. Fally

Brilliant! This was easily my favorite book of the year. I loved it so much. Humor, action, romance. Simply awesome. Some people might not be fans of all the different POVs, but I thought it really worked. It couldn’t have been told any other way. I will buy anything else J. Fally releases without question based on my love for this book. It really felt like watching a movie, a la Die Hard. I gushed about it everywhere.

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And those were my favorite reads this year! I might add to this list if I read something amazing between now and New Year’s Eve, but for now, these were the books I enjoyed reading most.

What were yours? Any books to recommend?

Piper Reviews “Infected: Epitaph” by Andrea Speed

When I finished Epitaph (Infected, #8), I was crying. It wasn’t that the ending was sad. On the contrary, it was hopeful. In fact, it was as happy an ending as I could hope for with this series. So, what made me cry? Relief. As I was finishing the book, I was filled with such an intense feeling of relief, I couldn’t express it any other way but tears.

If you’re as big of a fan of the Infected series and as invested in it as I am, you might understand why I was emotionally overwhelmed.

It’s been a hard, long road for Roan. All his life, he’s been told he’s a “dead man walking,” that he’s a freak, that he shouldn’t have survived for very long after his birth, and he certainly shouldn’t have made it into adulthood. Roan is the oldest known virus child in the Infected world. He defies all odds and expectations. He’s a pill-popping, self-proclaimed “sarcastic asshole.” If you put Roan through a trial by fire, he might come out a little singed, but he’ll also be stronger—and he’ll be giving you the finger and asking if that’s all you got.

Needless to say, I love him. From the very first book, I’ve been invested in Roan’s story like he was someone I knew in real life. So, when Andrea Speed—who knows what a big fangirl I am—offered me an ARC of Epitaph in exchange for an honest review, well, hell, no one could possibly have expected me to refuse, right?

Here we are at book eight. The official end to Roan’s story arc, not counting the prequel coming out in February. These books definitely need to be read in order. I don’t think they can stand alone. There are too many different threads and characters and too much backstory. If you jump into the middle of the story, you might be able to follow along since each book features a new mystery—usually several—but for maximum enjoyment, I’d suggest starting with book one.

How to review this without giving away spoilers, for both this book and the preceding ones, which are currently being rereleased by DSPP? I’m not sure, but I’ll do my best.

In this world, a werecat virus has changed everything. When you’re infected, you’ll turn into whatever big cat strain you were infected with (lion, tiger, cougar, panther, etc). These aren’t your ordinary shifters. They have a monthly cycle, but when they turn, well, they basically become animals. There is no rational thought, no empathy, no humanity. They become hunters, and as such, they need to lock themselves away whenever they enter their cycles so as not to go on a killing spree. Naturally, for a variety of reasons, the infecteds often get loose and start wreaking havoc—and that’s where Roan comes in. He’s strong, a veritable superhero in his own right. He makes other infecteds look like wee, helpless kittens—because he was born with the virus and something happened in utero to make him special. But, see, no one really understands what Roan is or how strong he might become. He’s literally the first of his kind, and so he’s writing the “how-to” guide as he goes along.

Roan is a former cop, current private detective. His sidekick is a former prostitute named Holden, his best friends are a mix of cops, hockey players, and EMTs, and he’s married to an artist/bartender. Over the last few books, Roan’s health has been getting worse and worse, even as he’s gotten freakishly stronger and stronger—even by his own standards. It doesn’t look like it’ll end well. Really, everyone keeps expecting that one day he’s going to either drop dead out of nowhere or go out in a hail of bullets. Because Roan can’t help himself. As sarcastic and cynical as he might be, as shitty of a childhood as he might have had, he still wants to save the world—or at least his part of it.

When tiger strain infections start showing up and killing people around Seattle, Roan is both horrified and furious. Followers of the series will know why. He needs to find out who is intentionally infecting people, in addition to a couple of other cases, but in the meantime, new symptoms are showing up every time Roan shifts, and he can almost hear his own death knell ringing. He knows if something doesn’t give—and soon—he’ll probably die horribly, leaving behind a hell of a lot of grief and anger. But how can he give up what feels like such an intrinsic part of his nature? What will he do with himself if he’s not investigating? But on the flipside, what’ll happen if the extent of his powers become known to the public? Nothing good. So Roan has to figure it out and make some decisions about his future and the life he wants to lead before it’s too late. But as with just about everything in Roan’s life, it won’t be that easy. Good thing Roan is such a stubborn bastard. 😉

I recommend this book for fans of the series, and to those readers who haven’t read it, if you’re a fan of shows like Supernatural or urban fantasy books, I’d suggest trying it out. There are romantic relationships, but these books are predominantly action/adventure mysteries. So, if you like your romance to be an undercurrent, not the primary focus, these might be for you. As always, this book was masterfully written, with Andrea Speed’s signature humor, emotion, and compelling characters. These books pack a punch, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be captivated right from the start, and you’ll fall in love with Roan the way so many of the other characters do. He’s magnetic, even just on the page, and a character who will stick with me for a long time to come.

 infectedepi

Infected: Epitaph releases from DSP Publications on November 18th. Pre-order it now from Amazon!

Check out Andrea Speed at http://andreaspeed.com.

 Disclaimer: As said above, a copy of the book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Series Piper Loves: “Infected” by Andrea Speed

preyThere are several series in M/M that I really love. That have, in fact, became some of my favorite series in any genre overall. I regularly gush about the “PsyCop” series by Jordan Castillo Price. But another of my all-time faves is the “Infected” series by Andrea Speed. Ah, this series. Let me tell you guys, I’ve cried more over these books than any others. I find myself extremely emotionally affected by them. I’ve cried for, with, and over the main character, Roan. It’s broken my heart and mended it again. It’s made me laugh, it’s made me frustrated. I’ve run the emotional gamut with this series, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I can’t really talk much about this series without spoilers, so in brief, if you’ve never heard of this series, basically what we have is an alternate-universe set here on Earth, in the state of Washington, but in which “infecteds” are openly acknowledged in society. These people have a virus that forces them to change into various felines (depending on which strain they have) overnight a few days a month. They don’t know or remember what they’re doing when they’re shifted into their alternate form. Essentially, they become mindless animals with animal urges. These aren’t the typical shifters you encounter in paranormal books that can still think rationally. They think like the predators they are, and as such, they have to be caged during their monthly time so as not to risk eating their loved ones (or anyone else) as a midnight snack.

Roan is a lion, but he wasn’t infected like most, he was born that way. He’s a virus child, offspring of an infected and a human. Normally virus children don’t survive very long and even if they do, they usually suffer from mental and physical disabilities. Roan, to his knowledge, is the oldest recorded virus child in history, which makes him pretty unique and gives him abilities typical infecteds don’t possess. He used to be a cop but now he’s a private detective, and the books follow his cases as he investigates. These aren’t really romance, though they do contain romantic subplots, and Roan’s relationships are very important to the overall storyline. But they are, first and foremost, mysteries. So if you’re looking for the more traditional romances focused more on sex and the development of the romantic relationship, these might not be for you. In fact, there is no on page sex—at all. Everything, and I mean everything, is “fade to black.” If you need your smut, well, you won’t find it here. But what you will find are interesting mysteries, fabulous writing, and engaging, well-crafted characters you grow to love and root for. In my opinion, that gives this series a lot of things to recommend. 🙂LAD

If you haven’t heard of this series, check it out. The last book comes out sometime this summer, and there will be a prequel and a spin-off series, but this final book will be the end of Roan’s direct storyline (though I’ve been assured by Andrea we’ll still see him around, not to worry).  

The order:

  1. Prey
  2. Bloodlines
  3. Life After Death
  4. Freefall
  5. Shift
  6. Lesser Evils
  7. Undertow

And be sure to visit Andrea’s website, as she puts up flash fics fairly regularly.

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