The Mysterious and Amazing Blue Billings
In a departure from her usual m/m contemporary romance fare, Lily Morton has embarked upon a new series of paranormal romances featuring The Mysterious and Amazing Blue Billings, a psychic with a tragic past, dark secrets and a big heart he’s kept under wraps for years. The book is part ghost story, part romance, and the author certainly knows how to bring the spooky – so you might want to make sure you’re reading it in a well-lit room! The things I so enjoy about her contemporary romances – complex, likeable characters, snark, tenderness, steamy sexytimes and authentic British-ness – are all here too, and it’s a winning combination.
Levi Black has relocated from London to York, where he has inherited a house in a prime location not far from the Minster. He knows little about the house, other than it belonged to a cousin of some sort, and that it was bequeathed to his mother; and now his mother has passed away it belongs to him. Eager to make a fresh start after breaking up with his partner of five-years (who cheated on him), Levi is determined to fix the house up (it’s not been lived in for years) and make it his home, in spite of some odd noises coming from upstairs and the rather nervous demeanour of the solicitor who meets him there to hand over the keys. Levi had hoped to be able to stay in the house while the work is completed, but the place is in a worse state than he’d thought, so he moves into an hotel for the duration.
Six months later, Levi is finally able to move in and quickly makes himself at home – although he’s at a loss to explain the pervasive scent of lily of the valley, and the sudden banging of the open doors and windows that he’s sure he’s closed and latched. Later that evening, he’s surprised to discover his house on the route of one of York’s many ghost tours – surprised and embarrassed when he wanders downstairs naked to find a group of people staring at him through the kitchen window! – and to hear it referred to as the ‘Murder House’ by the tour guide, a strikingly attractive young man with vivid blue hair whom Levi has seen around town a few times.
Waking up the next morning to a freezing cold house – all the windows have been thrown open and the boiler has been switched off – Levi decides he needs to find out more about the history of his new home, so that night, he waits for the tour to pass by and tags along, intending to question the guide at the end. Over a drink, the guide – Blue – tells Levi the gruesome story behind the Murder House, but becomes quickly withdrawn when Levi expresses his scepticism about ghosts and the spirit world.
But as more inexplicable things start to happen and an inexorable aura of darkness and dread descends on the house, Blue realises that Levi needs help of the sort only he can provide. He’s a psychic and is able to see the spirits that move among the living of the city, many of whom seem intent on communicating with him. The problem is that he has never really worked out how to hear as well as see them; he has never honed his talent and for the first time, finds himself regretting that, as it leaves him unable to help Levi as much as he would like.
The romance between Levi and Blue is a lovely slow-burn and I really liked both central characters, who are very, very different, but who just click together to make a perfect fit. Blue has had a tough life, ending up in care and then homeless at thirteen and doing what he had to in order to survive on the streets. He’s prickly and defensive, scared of emotional attachments because they never last; but when he finally lets his guard down around Levi he’s revealed to have a huge capacity for love. Levi is an absolute sweetie; honest and caring, he’s fascinated by Blue and wildly attracted to him, but doesn’t think someone so gorgeous and unusual could possibly be interested in someone as ordinary as he is, while Blue, of course, thinks a guy like Levi is way out of his league and is surprised at his impulse to protect and help him. There’s a definite spark of attraction between them from the moment they meet, but their relationship develops slowly, as a genuine friendship first and then evolving into something more.
Levi is grieving the death of his mother around six months earlier, and Ms. Morton handles the subject with a great deal of sensitivity; the scene in which Blue takes Levi to see a stained glass window in one of York’s oldest churches is just so lovely:
“I think this is what grief is really like. After we lose someone, we’re like this window. We’re broken in pieces. Eventually we put ourselves back together, but it’s never the same as the original us. Instead, we’re a jumbled-up version with funny angles and new faces to show the world.” He turns to face the window. “Still beautiful and still whole. But just in a new way.”
I loved crotchety Tom, the owner of the bookshop where Blue has spent many hours – Levi isn’t wrong when he says he’s what Blue will probably be in his sixties! – I hope we’ll see more of him and Blue’s friend Will in future books. And York itself feels like character in the story given the author’s wonderfully vivid descriptions of the city and its history; it’s a beautiful place full of wonderful old buildings and bursting at the seams with character and it’s easy to picture the old bookshop tucked away in sight of the Minster and the narrow cobbled streets.
I enjoyed the book a great deal, but near the end both Levi and Blue veer rather close to TSTL territory, which caused me to knock off half a grade-point. It’s hard to explain without venturing into spoiler territory; let’s just say that maybe Levi’s Scooby-Doo references weren’t too far off the mark!
That said however, I’m still giving The Mysterious and Amazing Blue Billings a strong recommendation. The characters are likeable, the romance is sweet and sexy, and the banter is spot on; and although the mystery is perhaps a tad predictable, the ghost story is well done and the spooky parts are downright creepy!
I’m looking forward to reading more about Black & Blue.