Title: Hidden Gem
Author: Lissa Kasey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 246 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Misaki “Aki” Itou is a psi—a person with mutated DNA granting him psychic abilities. He’s also a contracted companion—a whore. It may not be the perfect profession, but having a roof over his head, food to eat, and not being subjected to torture is a dream come true. He is the top companion at the Hidden Gem, and it makes him enough money to buy the prettiest, most sparkly shoes he can find.
Shane McNaughton is an Irishman who survived the Third World War and works as a cop. Head of Missing Persons, he’s good at finding people, but after the plague of the Third mutated his DNA, he has a hard time letting anyone see the monster inside. He’s been paying for Aki’s services for two years, both the psi and the sexual kind, but he wants more from the companion.
Shane needs Aki’s ability to see into another person’s past to track down a serial killer murdering the children of rich and powerful men, but the more they work together, the clearer it becomes that they are linked through a darker past than either of them realizes.
Review: A nightmare. Aki’s entire life has been nothing short of a nightmare. Tortured, experimented on, abused and helplessly doomed to a life where even human touch causes inexplicable pain, Aki now lives as a pampered companion—a whore and, amazingly, is grateful for even that. Aki is the most wretched of genetic mutations to surface after the Third World War which has ravaged his world. He is a psi—one who is able, via touch, to see a person’s life, their suffering, their darkest secrets, and the evil that lurks inside. Only two people are able to touch Aki without throwing him into a convulsive, hysterical state—his best friend and fellow companion, Candy; and the man who took him off the street and made him the companion he is today, Paris.
In all this, there is one brief ray of sunshine for Aki, one of his clients, Detective Shane McNaughton. While theirs is not an ideal relationship, both men have feelings for each other, and it is this that leads Aki to help Shane with his current investigation. Someone is murdering psi’s and Shane must stop them. Shane himself is a genetic mutation who must systematically revert to his animal form in order to keep from losing his grasp on sanity entirely. From this unusual match comes a taut, action packed story that I must admit kept me awake well into the night so that I could finish the book.
So many questions, so many worries—would Aki become the disturbingly psychotic killer’s next victim? Why can’t Aki remember how he managed to be the sole survivor of the death camp he was in for all those years? Is he the only survivor, or will those who ran the camp of torture and experimentation be back for him someday? Can Aki ever possibly touch Shane fully enough to have any kind of real, intimate relationship with him? I had to know. I needed to see and this book kept me absolutely spellbound to the very last word. And then? I wanted to write the author and cry out one word: sequel! Please?
I’m going to begin this review with something I rarely do and that is mention artist, Shobana Appavu, for the stunning cover art. I rarely look closely at covers, as they are never the reason I decide to read a book, but this one was just beautiful and fit the story perfectly. Then I could go on and mention the incredible world building the author created, and confess how I felt immersed in a city that does not exist and a lifestyle I have never experienced firsthand. The world in which these men lived almost became a third character; it had such life and was so rich in such a visceral way. When Shane visits the ravaged and chemically deadened south, I felt as though I had entered a barren wasteland with him and could feel the filth and deathly stillness of the area. I feel as though Aki’s wardrobe and makeup and shoes—oh golly, those shoes—should receive a nod due to the fact that each time any of these trappings were mentioned, it gave us, the readers, another window into what made Aki tick, how he thought, and the things, simple and shallow as they may appear, that kept him sane and gave him those few rare moments of happiness he so desperately deserved.
You see, there was just so much to author Lissa Kasey’s novel, so many layers of subtext and plot twists that left me racing to learn more about Shane and Aki, Candy and Paris, and, yes, just who was torturing, dismembering, and killing the poor victims. Shane, so gruff and aloof, yet so determined to see justice done, to save his precious Aki and to maintain some semblance of his own humanity when the beast inside threatened to consume him every moment. The gentle and loving way he thought of Aki, the deep desire to save him, see him pampered and taken care of, kept safe, was so lovely. This was not your typical romance. Sex between Aki and Shane could kill Aki, or leave him hospitalized, so Shane wooed him instead. He became the take-charge partner that Aki needed and the lover he desired. Such a careful dance between these two men that played out in this amazing story, it was nothing short of beautiful.
Hidden Gem is a stunning thriller that left me breathless! If there were flaws here, I could not find them, for this story was just that good. I highly recommend this incredible novel to you.
You can Pre-Order Hidden Gem here:
Or at Dreamspinner Press