TBR Challenge 2017: Comfort Read
Although I am a full week late posting my TBR Challenge 2017 review for this month’s Comfort Read theme, I was determined to not skip it, in spite of the fact I’ve been floundering for the past few weeks to find a book – any book – that could hold my interest for more than a chapter and make me care at least a little about the characters and/or the story. I’ve been in a serious reading rut. I’ve started so many books over the past month, only to discard them in frustration and disappointment. Maybe it’s because my TBR list is lacking in quality reads. Maybe it’s due to my annual bout of what I like to call my own personal March Madness, wherein I typically slide into a self-pitying, depressive spiral of reminiscence, reflection, and regret during the week of my birthday. Hell, maybe it’s just that my tastes have seriously changed since adding a lot of those titles to the list and it needs to be purged. Whatever the reason, none of the books languishing in my TBR list fit the bill as a Comfort Read. I am, therefore, forced to stretch the rules of the TBR Challenge theme this month.
My own personal writing roots are in horror, Gothic romance, paranormal mystery, and supernatural suspense. These are the genres that feel like home to me and feed my need for emotional comfort; they are my mental escape when the real world gets to feeling too real.
As luck (or fate) would have it, one of my favorite authors had his newest book released last week and it was exactly what I needed. Although it is a new release, I added Insight (The Community: Book 1) to my TBR list last year as soon as I first heard it was scheduled for publication, so it technically fits the parameters of the challenge. And, since Santino Hassell is a favorite, auto-buy author for me and the paranormal is my comfort zone, this book also fits this month’s theme of Comfort Read.
Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate.
Hitching from his tiny Texas town, Nate is picked up by Trent, a gorgeous engineer who thrives on sarcasm and skepticism. The heat that sparks between them is instant and intense, and Nate ends up trusting Trent with his secrets — something he’s never done before. But once they arrive in the city, the secrets multiply when Nate discovers an underground supernatural community, more missing psychics, and frightening information about his own talent.
Nate is left questioning his connection with Trent. Are their feelings real, or are they being propelled by abilities Nate didn’t realize he had? His fear of his power grows, but Nate must overcome it to find his brother’s killer and trust himself with Trent’s heart.
Although Insight is categorized as paranormal romantic suspense, the romance between Nate and Trent is not the driving force of this story. This book is primarily a mystery/thriller with elements of romance and paranormal suspense skillfully woven throughout the main story. There are even faint traces of Southern Gothic in the very beginning of Insight as we’re getting to know Nate’s backstory, his estranged relationship with his dysfunctional family, and the dark secrets and implied dangers that seem to pervade the Black family. This was not surprising to me once I recognized that Nate Black is a relative of Jeremy Black, the main character of the author’s stand-alone Southern Gothic horror novel, Stygian.
Santino Hassell is a master at setting a gritty, realistic tone and then creating atmospheric undercurrents of unease and anticipation. He seamlessly weaves a complex, multi-layered plot with subtlety and skill. The world building was superb and the introduction of intriguing secondary characters (whom I’m assuming will play more prominent roles in the second and third books) laid a strong foundation for the remaining books in this series. He has a knack for creating characters that are relatable in their realistic imperfections and you can’t help but be drawn into their struggle.
While some might argue that the relationship between Nate and Trent developed too quickly or too easily, I felt their relationship evolved naturally and was completely believable, especially considering Nate’s empath abilities and their almost constant close proximity for the three or four days they spent traveling together from Texas to New York. It began with a mutual attraction, grew into a friendship based on shared interests, and finally culminated with a sexual chemistry that strengthened their trust in each other and secured their bond.
Though not the main focus of the story, the romance between these two young men is an integral part of it. Throughout all the twists and turns, the unease and surprising revelations, Trent remains Nate’s touchstone, his lifeline, his port in the storm. He is the one person Nate knows he can trust. Trent keeps Nate sane and on track in the midst of the overwhelming tide of suspicion, danger, and uncertainty as he searches for the truth about his brother’s death.
Every time I thought I had it all figured out, another piece of the puzzle would drop into place, shifting my perceptions of characters and causing me to re-examine my theories. I confess, I did solve a couple of the mysteries long before the big reveal. Chalk that up to the dozens of mysteries I’ve read and my obsession with the Investigation Discovery Channel. Nevertheless, the journey toward the unveiling of those revelations was an enthralling and entertaining ride. The story began at a slower pace, gradually gaining momentum as the mercurial clues slid into place. The climax was action-packed and adrenaline-charged and the resolution was satisfying.
Although the mystery of Nate’s brother’s death has been solved by the end of Insight, there were deeper mysteries uncovered which now linger. This book, which is the first in this series, just peeled away the first layer of conspiracy and deception in the psychic world. Hopefully, books 2 and 3 will reveal the flesh and bones of these darker secrets hidden within The Community.
I can’t wait for Oversight (The Community: Book 2) to come out this summer!