Deader Than Dead
Grade : B

The first book in H.L. Day’s new series of paranormal romances, Paranormal Problems: Necromancers, Deader Than Dead is a reworked/extended version of a story that originally appeared in a charity Fated Mates anthology in 2023. (The anthology is no longer available so I imagine the authors involved will eventually be republishing their stories, as well.) I freely admit that fated mates is one of the few tropes around that doesn’t really work for me – I like to see two characters falling for each other rather than suddenly finding their One True Love, but H.L. Day is a favourite author, so I decided to see if she could convince me to embrace the trope!

Professional thief Bellamy Farrell is hired to steal a piece of what his client refers to as “sentimental junk” from a private residence in Belgravia. When he arrives at the house, everything goes to plan and he soon enters the basement to which he’s been directed. Inside is the old wooden trunk he’s been told to retrieve; he’s supposed to just take it and leave but something compels him to look inside, and he opens the lid to discover a single, cloth-wrapped object within. He unwraps it to find an unadorned wooden mask (I was put in mind of the one in The Mask), and the sense of unease that had begun to creep over him earlier becomes stronger – the job has been almost too easy, and why is someone prepared to pay him so much money to retrieve something so ordinary? He decides to try to find out more and takes the mask to Dice, a local fence, a man whose knowledge of artifacts and antiques is unrivalled. Dice recoils from the mask in horror, telling Bellamy that it’s a powerful occult artifact – and then to fuck off and never come back. With cold clarity, Bellamy realises he’s become mixed up in something really bad - but while he’s a thief, that doesn’t mean he’s entirely without a moral compass. He’s not prepared to simply hand over a very dangerous object to someone who is clearly up to no good.

Necromancer John Averill works for the Paranormal Problems Bureau, his assignments consisting mostly of bringing back the recently dead for a short time (which is all that is possible) so that grieving friends or relatives can have one last chance to say things they never got a chance to say while the person was alive. His most recent job, however, has him questioning his choice of profession when the young woman who has requested the resurrection of her much older dead husband starts berating the man and demanding to know where he’s hidden all the money. Ugh.

John is on his way home when his boss calls with another assignment, telling him he’s to get in, do the job and get out – no questions, no chit-chat, no poking his nose in to things that don’t concern him. John immediately gets the feeling that something isn’t right – but before he can say anything, his boss ends the call.

His feelings of foreboding intensify as he approaches the old, run-down tower-block he’s been directed to and sees three very large men – obviously hired muscle – standing outside, waiting for him. They lead him up several floors and into a flat that has seen better days – and that sense of dread washes over him again. Somehow he just knows that things will never be the same if the goes into the bedroom – and he’s right. Lying on the bare mattress is the body of a man John has never met – but who he’s been searching for his whole life. His other half. His fated mate.

And he’s been dead for too long for John to be able to bring him back.

That’s got to be one of the most unusual ways to begin a romance I’ve ever read. (Is there an opposite of a meet-cute? Because if there is, then this is it!) The fact that this is a romance will clue you in to the fact that Bellamy does return to the land of the living, but John’s heartbreak and the grief he feels at meeting the love of his life too late really pack an emotional punch. I won’t say anything else about the plot other than that there’s plenty of action, humour and danger along the way as John and Bellamy have to work together to outwit the bad guys and prevent the mask from falling into the wrong hands.

I enjoyed Deader Than Dead. I liked the characters, the story and the set-up for the other books in the series, but I’m still not swayed on the fated mates thing. Everything happens so fast - the attraction, the sex, the combining of lives, all within less than forty-eight hours (it’s insta-love on speed!) – although I will give the author props for making the point that while John and Bellamy know they love each other, they still have to get to know one another. Insta aside, I did like them as a couple and feel they’d have been good together even without the ‘fated to be’ thing.

The speed of the central relationship is my only real issue with the book, though. All in all, Deader Than Dead is a strong series opener with likeable leads, an intriguing premise and interesting secondary characters. I’m looking forward to reading more stories set in this world and will definitely be picking up book two, Dropping Like Flies, which is currently slated for release in late September 2024.

Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : B

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : March 22, 2024

Publication Date: 02/2024

Recent Comments …

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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