Sunday, September 23, 2018

ARC Review: Strays by A.J. Thomas

Orphaned at a young age and raised in the foster system, Jory Smith has no idea he’s half incubus. He only knows he has the power to heal people, making himself sick in the process. Exploited by a crooked faith healer who sells his abilities and his life to the highest bidder and then left for dead, Jory flees, falling into a job at a small-town café where he can put his lifelong obsession with baking to good use.

But the minister who exploited him wants him back.

Exiled hellhound-turned–bounty hunter Malpheus Pelle has no idea why his human client wants him to track down an incubus. Jory is traumatized and afraid to touch anyone, an emotional handicap that could prove fatal for a demon who requires physical contact. Needing answers, Mal concocts a disastrous plan: pretend to date Jory to uncover the truth. Unfortunately, his plan never included dealing with an ancient demon assassin, Jory’s orgasmic pumpkin cookies, or losing his heart to the incubus he’s supposed to be hunting….

Jewel's rating:

I love mythology and fantasy in modern settings. Give me a mix of the familiar and the fantastic and I am one happy camper. fit the bill pretty well for me with its quirky mix of mythology, religion, and cupcakes.

Jory Smith grew up in the system. He never knew his parents and was passed from foster home to foster home until he was taken in by a faith healer (ie con man). You see, Jory can actually heal people, and though he doesn't actually believe what the good old reverend preaches, at least Jory can actually heal. It comes at a high cost, however, because every time he heals someone, he takes on their illness and each time it hurts a little worse, and the reverend will use him up until he's dead -- which is kind of what happens!

What he would rather be doing, however, is baking. Baking is Jory's passion and where he gets the most feelings of joy and accomplishment. Baking is one of those simple joys that can bring happiness to others, and Jory is amazingly good. After being left for dead, Jory runs as far as he can and finds himself a spot in a cafe making pastries and cakes.

Mal Pelle is a Hellhound bounty hunter contracted to find Jory after the reverend figures out that Jory lived. Because if Jory is still alive, the good reverend can still make money, and the reverend, well, he can't exactly do more than con. Mal is exiled from his clan and Hel because he insisted once insisted on doing the right thing, even though the cost was high. Mal is a bit cynical, and very practical and first assumes that Jory was not just in on the con, but enjoyed it.

Well, not everything is as it first seems. Jory is the very definition of unexpected and Mal is powerless in his attraction to him and soon finds out that his employers do not have Jory's best interests at heart.

There is a lot of world-building in Strays as I would expect from a new fantasy series. I didn't at all have trouble keeping up, however, and I ate it up with a spoon. You actually don't have to track the minute details anyway. Keep up with the main and secondary characters and you're golden. I loved all the mythology, though, and I'm happy it was all there. I'm hoping to get more stories in this universe, as I thoroughly enjoyed this one!


ARC of Strays was generously provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

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