Reaping Havoc, A.J. Rose
Publisher: The Grim Writer Press
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Paranormal/Supernatural, New Adult, Loss, Contemporary
Length: 282 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
No one asked Mitch Seeker if he wanted to be a grim reaper. He didn’t sign up for the rumors, the lack of friends, or the erratic schedule. He doesn’t want to go through life watching people die. Especially not a man he loves. Mitch’s solution is simple—don’t fall in love. He’ll never have to explain why he doesn’t age or why he’s around death so often. Most of all, he will never be a widower.
But when his head is turned by world-class skier Nate Koehn, Mitch believes he may have the answer. If the soul attached to Nate is any indication, Mitch has found himself another reaper, in which case, his undeniable feelings don’t have to be suppressed. However, the spectral tag-a-long is only the beginning of Nate’s burdens. After a catastrophic loss, Nate is no stranger to grief and the hole it leaves behind.
The question they both must answer is loud and clear: is the pain of losing love worse than the pain of never having loved at all?
My Prologue – Bear with me.
Last year an author sent me a book to review which wasn’t for me. I picked it up, put it down. Picked it up, put it down. In the end they asked me if I was going to review it and I told them honestly that I just didn’t like it and, no, I wasn’t going to spend anymore time on it. However, it was evident to me that they could write and I said if they had another book in the future they wanted read/reviewed I’d definitely give it a go. The author closed it down by saying they write the same so it would probably be a waste of time. True to their word, I haven’t had another book come my way from them. Fair enough. Their call. But this book I’m reviewing now is why an author should rethink that stand. Here’s why –
I was offered a review copy of Reaping Havoc by A.J. Rose but on one of my crazed Amazon binges I had actually just bought the book – what’s not to like about the burb? – no need to take up the offer. But there’s a reason I’m mentioning it. Earlier this year I read my first A.J. Rose book, The Anatomy of Perception. It was an ARC/review copy. It didn’t particularly grab me and I wrote a long review to say why that was the case. Yet the author still sent this copy to the blog for a read/review. I said the same thing to AJR that I said to the other author, ‘it wasn’t for me but I could see they were a talented writer, maybe another book could work’. I’m glad the author didn’t take the review personally. I’m glad they listened to me – maybe they forgot my other review which still indicates no long-lasting ill will, and believe me LLIW happens too often. I always post my honest thoughts in reviews. Anyway, I think sending another review copy = sensible. I really liked this book.
Mitch Seeker works in his family book store, all very nice, but he also happens to be a reaper. Yep, he harvests souls of the newly deceased. He not only sees a whole lot of death but he has to interact with a person before they die, then he remains close to make sure he tethers their soul to him after they first pass. He also has to make sure they’ve said their, usually, quick and final farewells so their soul can move on. He guides them to a door which takes them to the other side. He may not know much about what’s behind the door but he does his job as kindly and efficiently as he can. Mitch is twenty four, the year you stop aging for quite a while and you work a probationary period as a reaper in your own right.
Being a reaper is something you are born into and it passes down the male line. While his dad, Charlie, accepts it and gets on with his life and loves, as does his brother Morgan, Mitch hates being a reaper. Hates it with a passion. Reapers live to three hundred which may sound great in theory, but finding someone to love and share your life with is not so easy. First of all, there are rules in place to dating a non-reaper. Divinity is their peak body and they have stringent checks and balances on their reapers. Besides, dating a human also means you watch them age and die while you keep on looking hellishly youthful – until you hit the two hundred and fifty year mark. Because the Seekers live in the tourist town of Caperville, Colorado they are seen at a lot of deaths. They don’t cause them but the whole tethering-the-soul thing means they are always in the vicinity when it occurs. There are three Seeker men in town, but it stretches them pretty thin and makes the town suspicious. On top of this, Mitch is gay and there isn’t a lot of opportunity for him in Caperville. He’s lonely but point blank refuses to take up with anyone because he does not want the heartache that comes with a loved one getting terminally ill or aging and dying. Loving someone leads to hurt and pain and he sees enough of that with the souls he’s reaping.
Out one night for a reap, Mitch sees an unknown hot guy go into a local grocery store. He’s there to collect another soul, Marianne Carelli, who is about to be hit by lightning. He has a job to do so he can’t be distracted thinking about hot guys, besides…it’s the reaping thing… all relationships are off the table for him. However, he inadvertently bumps into Jeep Guy – the hot guy he noticed earlier – now in the parking lot, as Mitch is placing his groceries, and the newly collected soul of Mrs Carelli, into his Mazda 3. You know, as you do…
Twenty two year old Nathan Koehn – Jeep Guy – has recently moved to Caperville because of a tragedy in his life – his twin sister died six months ago. He and Tate were not only twins, but they had skiing in common – both being Olympic alternates – she always pushed boundaries, encouraged him, and they were the best of friends. Understandably, Nate is finding Tate’s death difficult. He’s grieving, and if that isn’t enough, he has an incredibly tenuous relationship with his mother and father. Nate needed to get away somewhere where he felt comfortable, somewhere he could use his skiing talent to, maybe, land a job. Caperville fits. Nate liked the guy he spoke to briefly in the supermarket parking lot. There was something about his grey eyes, his manner. He doesn’t have any friends in Caperville, he’s not a local and the townsfolk give tourists a wide berth until they’re not. Even though Nate plans on staying he finds it hard to connect. But Nate isn’t going to talk about Tate to anyone. Not yet, it’s too painful and people don’t want to be brought down by stories of death. So Nate keeps that part of himself closed off.
Nate ends up bumping into Mitch again when Nate’s out for a run and Mitch is playing ball with his dog, Sadie, in a local park. During the ensuing conversation Mitch notices a soul is attached to Nate in the background. Soul Girl, as Mitch dubs her, is off in the bushes but she’s not hard for him to spot. Perhaps this hot guy is another reaper. If so, things have just become interesting, on several levels. Despite Mitch’s general aloofness and detached attitude to all things relationship, a date is set up.
Mitch stopped him after a couple steps. “Do you need directions?”
“GPS on my phone,” Nate answered. “I’ll find it. Bye, Sadie!” He waved and was off, his corporeal companion trailing behind him.
How did that just happen?
Meanwhile, Nate has made friends with a local policeman, Wes Cooley. Wes organises an apartment with a reasonable rent in the same complex he lives in for Nate, and generally looks out for him. He likes to stop by for a beer and a chat. Wes is somewhat freaked out when he finds out that Nate is going on a date with Mitch Seeker. It seems the popular opinion amongst locals is if you touch Mitch Seeker you die. Everyone will tell you they’re the ‘weird family’ in town. Not only that, a Seeker is always around a death in Caperville, and Wes should know, he’s also there as part of his job. Nate isn’t buying into anything so ludicrous, superstitious and exclusionist. It seems the people of Caperville are narrow-minded if that’s how they think.
Mitch and Nate form a pretty quick connection, against all of Mitch’s better judgement and Nate’s sorrow over losing his twin. However, the book is not maudlin at all. Nate is so upbeat for a lot of it and Mitch is a kind but lonely guy who really does need to let love in for once. I am not spoiling the book by saying that Soul Girl is Tate. Any reader can work that out pretty quickly. Tate is a bit of a conundrum though. She hasn’t passed through the door and there are always reasons for that. Does that mean Mitch’s first idea, that Nate is a reaper and just doesn’t know it, could be correct? But he isn’t saying anything about it. Why? Or is Tate still there for another reason? How do you deal with that when you can’t talk about reaping business to non-reapers? Or maybe-reapers who don’t know they are?
I’ll leave the rest of the storyline hanging because you need to read it for yourself. Reaping Havoc is a little different in the genre and I respect that a whole lot. I picked it up because it sounded unusual. There are some really funny moments that are of the black humour variety – dating with souls on the scene can be…interesting. Some of the book is quite sweet. Both of the MCs are really nice guys. Mitch’s family are awesome, particularly his dad. The world building is really well done. A.J. Rose has things pretty neatly tied up, if I thought, But…hang on, what about? I found it explained plausibly soon after or later on. I wasn’t sure how this book would end but, once again, kudos to the author for doing something interesting in a contemporary paranormal book. I had a couple of niggles but, really, that was me being a crazy-passionate reader about two things that bugged me, others will think, “Okay, you’re a bit mad.” They could be right about that, but nothing took away from my outright enjoyment of a really good read.
A.J. Rose has an interesting take on the supernatural/things paranormal theme, the reaping business, people dying, and life for the Seekers. Both protagonists are caring, sweet and endearing. I can be picky about world building but there was enough to make me a happy reader for the contemporary setting it was in. Oh, and there’s a dog. I love dogs and Sadie was in it enough for me to enjoy her and like the guys even more for caring about her. I hope people pick Reaping Havoc up and give it a read because it is good, it is different, and it is fun reading – with a bit of a pull on the heartstrings. Just a bit. The plot, threads, characters and overall storyline were concentrated on more heavily than sex, which is in-line with a NA rating, but when it occurred it was sexy, more organic, and everything meshed very well. Highly recommended for people who are open and like a bit of quirk in their romance reading. 5 Stars!