I’ve known for a while that of all the reviewers at AAR, my opinions of books most closely align with fellow reviewer (and my editor) Caz Owens. In fact, her reviews are one of the ways I found our site in the first place! These days, we’re often reading and reviewing many of the same books, and sometimes duking it out for a book we both want. Occasionally, she’s wrong and likes a book that isn’t very good, or hates a book that really is great (ha!) – (no, Em is just misguided about those particular titles! – Caz) but most of the time she gets things right, and we feel similarly about the books we read.
A little over a year ago, Caz started recommending the audio version of the Hazard and Somerset series by Gregory Ashe. I didn’t know anything about Mr. Ashe, but I was reading a lot of romantic suspense and my interest was piqued. I read Caz’s review of the audio of Pretty Pretty Boys, the blurb for the book, and a couple of reviews by other readers I follow. Readers loved the tension between the two protagonists – Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset – but bemoaned the lack of romance and potential slow burn as the series progressed. I also noticed the book was shelved as an LGBTQ mystery at Amazon, with nary a ‘romance’ label in sight. I was tempted, but distracted by my insane TBR pile, and ultimately I decided to pass on the series.
A brief – but relevant – digression.
I used to read a lot of critically acclaimed fiction. I read the Pulitzer and Booker prize winners. I followed the New York Times and Wall Street Journal book reviews. And then I read Outlander, and discovered the That’s Normal blog (Confessions of a Romance Reader). When That’s Normal recommended I read Sarah Maclean and her Rules of Scoundrels series, I read it! These days, I’m all critical-schmitical. You go be miserable and sad or enlightened and smarty-pants on your own time. I’m ride or die for the happily ever after, and if a book doesn’t have it, there’s a very small, itsy bitsy chance I’m going to read it. Folks, let’s just keep it real, I’m not going to… unless the book is a mystery-suspense series – chock full of tiny, wonderful glimmers of love, with a probable HEA at the end of the line. See: Sebastian St. Cyr, by C.S. Harris, or Lady Sherlock, by Sherry Thomas.
Fast forward to two weeks ago. I had Audible credits about to expire and I couldn’t think of any books I was eager to listen to. I picked up the audio version of Pretty, Pretty Boys based on a vague memory of Caz’s recommendation. Long story, not short: I didn’t like the narrator, but I was hooked on Emery and John-Henry. I abandoned the audiobooks and glommed the six book series. My sadness this morning – knowing I’ve finished the series – is real. (But there is more to come! – Caz) In fact, I just reread the last chapter all over again. And then I sat down to tell you I LOVED THE SERIES, and I LOVED HAZARD AND SOMERSET, and I AM A GREGORY ASHE FAN, and EVERYONE ELSE ON EARTH SHOULD READ THIS SERIES, TOO. Caz was right. Again.
The Hazard and Somerset series is addictive, thrilling, and engrossing. Each book offers a standalone mystery linked to a plot that evolves over the course of the series. Emery and John-Henry, detectives for the Wahredua police department, grew up together as enemies. John-Henry was Wahredua’s golden boy. Emery was gay, awkward and tormented by a trio of bullies. When they find themselves partnered up after Emery returns to his hometown to punish the men who drove his first love to suicide (after losing his job as a detective in St. Louis (another mystery)), Somers (Somerset’s preferred nickname) is thrilled; Hazard is horrified. For good reason.
In Pretty Pretty Boys (their first case together), we learn more about the complicated and terrible history that binds Hazard and Somers, and how their past is linked to current events in Wahredua (and the overarching plot that links the series). There’s plenty to unpack in the first novel; Mr. Ashe masterfully reveals pieces and chunks of the history between Hazard and Somers, while introducing us an intriguing cast of recurring secondary characters, and crafting a complicated and compelling mystery. It’s all marvelously done, and left me eager to keep reading the series. (Every book left me with this feeling). To fully enjoy and appreciate Hazard and Somerset, you must start at the beginning and read the books in order (Do this. Immediately.) The tension – between Hazard and Somers; between detectives at the Wahredua PD; between the town, its inhabitants, and the PD; between family members – ramps up in every book, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I was completely immersed in this fictional world.
But back to the tiny digression. THIS IS A LOVE STORY, MR. ASHE. And if I have any complaint about the series, it would be the too brief moments of romantic intimacy between Emery and John-Henry. Don’t get me wrong, they’re together all the time – and Mr. Ashe does a superb job rendering their personal and professional relationship (funny, awkward, tense and intense) – but the novels need more romance (the kissy kissy kind). I’m a more, more, more kind of reader and Mr. Ashe is a less, less, less kind of writer. Friends, he’s stingy with the lovin’ and he left this reader craving, needing more. I’m not sure why this author shies away from the romance label, but it’s a disappointment. Let’s keep it real. Hazard and Somers LOVE each other; let’s celebrate it instead of hiding it.
The case: Is Hazard and Somerset a romantic suspense series?
Facts: Hazard loves Somers. Somers loves Hazard.
The verdict: Yes.
Case notes: Hazard and Somers are awesome together – snarky, sexy, funny, sweet, awkward; every book in the series is a B+ or better; Mr. Ashe is a terrific writer.
~ Em Wittmann
Note: Our review of Paternity Case, book three in the series can be found HERE.
I love romance novels - all kinds.
I love music - some kinds.
I have strong opinions about both and I like to share them.
I don’t remember reading this post by Em, but as I bought my first Gregory Ashe book on 31 October 2019 (Pretty Pretty Boys), after reading recs by Em and Caz, I think that I probably must have done!
It seems such a long time ago, with each of the three H and S series getting better and better.
Tean and Jem from the Lion and the Lamb series are my favourites though – but they might get ousted by Auggie and Theo as their story continues! I’m going to start reading their new serialsation tonight…..
Are you getting the daily instalments of The Fairest Show? If anyone’s interested you can find them all here –
I had an ARC and raced through it in a couple of sittings – it’s maybe not quite as rage-inducing as Yet a Stranger, but the day Greg Ashe writes an easy path for his protagonists is probably the day the world will end…
Yes, I am. I just read through the first 4 chapters this morning! Also the short story The Woodsong Fog.
Freebies by Con Riley, Alexis Hall and Gregory Ashe have got me out of my reading slump!
Do you know why GA has changed the style of his covers for Auggie and Theo’s books? I really like the quirky cartoons……………
Em, this post made me chuckle, and nod my head vigorously – more is better, I completely agree!
I am on book 2 of the original H&S series ( I realized the other day that GA is very prolific which is a bit daunting because: where to find the time to read it all?) I am audio-booking these so far since thats the format in my library’s app and do’t mind the narrator. I agree with so many other that the writing is just superb. U can feel the tension leap off the page so to speak. As a matter of fact, I will switch to ebook for the others. I devoured the lion n lamb series that way, so sad its over.
I have fond memories of nagging Em to read these books!
I did some of the first H&S series in audio, but I really don’t like the narrator all that much any more, so I stick to print now.
Greg has said he’d like to write more for Jem & Tean, but there’s nothing on the schedule as yet. Those audios are wonderful though – JF Harding does such an amazing job.
Caz, I was referring to the Hollow Folk series. Characters are high school students. I don’t remember a lot about the book, it definitely had some paranormal pieces. And I do agree that the worst stuff was in the the final book, but each book prior had some difficult areas for me. I’m pretty much a wimp when it comes to violence. I don’t mind the suspense of possible harm, but actual pain throws me off entirely.
I didn’t realize he was doing a second H&S series, but I see in an email that “The Rational Facility” will be released November 28th. That’s very exciting. He’s also releasing a book of short stories, Hazard and Somerset: Off Duty, coming out 10/26.
I realised after I commented that you were probably referring to the Hollow Folk books :) And yes, I’m eagerly awaiting the next H&S book – and the Off Duty stories are a lot of fun!
I loved this series, but as someone else mentioned, there are some very difficult and somewhat graphic violence scenes, and not just in the last book. I attempted the second series, which deals with high school students, but the violence put me off and I stopped reading. I’m starting his third series, Borealis Investigations, and have high hopes for it as well. I do like the slow burn of romance, that extends over several books, and I think this third series will follow the pattern as well. I don’t mind the wait when there are lots of other distractions going on.
The really difficult stuff is mostly in the final book, Criminal Past – and I’m not sure which second series you’re talking about? The first book in the next (second) Hazard and Somerset series isn’t out until the end of November…
Pretty Boys $.99 at Amazon worth a shot as I usually agree with Caz!
All the books are very affordable – Criminal Past is almost double the length of the other books and when I bought it, it was less than 3 quid, which is certainly not to be sneezed at!
I’m happy to take the blame for introducing people to new books they LOVE! :) :) :)
Your comments are so fun to read. Thanks Em! How is this series on the gory-meter? Or the psychologically-disturbing-meter?
There are some disturbing scenes in the final book – Criminal Past and there’s the sort of violence you would probably find in cable TV shows or 18-rated films throughout. I wouldn’t say they’re especially psychologically disturbing – unless you count the ANGST between H&S (!) – but book five Reasonable Doubt features a cult, which I know isn’t everyone’s cuppa.
The last books are definitely the darkest; I do not watch or read horror or books/movies with tons of blood and gore and I had no problems with this series. I agree w/everything Caz said!
I’ve been wanting to read this series for a while…yes, because of Caz. I just bought Pretty Pretty Boys last week and will read it…eventually. ;)
THEY’RE SO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
PS: I HATE NICO. You’ll see.
Eh, he’s kind of a necessary evil – plus he does come to illustrate one of the issues that has affected Hazard and his past relationships, so while he’s a brat, I didn’t get too bent out of shape over him.