Book Reviews

When the Devil Wants In by Cate Ashwood and J.H. Knight at Dreamspinner Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Officers of the Law / Romance / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Reviewed by Serena Yates on 31-January-2018

Book Blurb

John Turner has been living a lie most of his life. Growing up in the rural Georgia town of Magnolia Ridge, he’s only ever let one person truly know him: his best friend, Chloe. To the rest of the world, they’re the perfect couple, but just between them, she’s helping John hide in plain sight.


Matt Kinsley, a cop from San Francisco, moves to town looking for a slower pace and to reconnect with his Southern roots. Starting over in Magnolia Ridge means taking a step into the closet, but Matt finds that with John for company, he doesn’t mind so much.


As the two start to explore a possible relationship, a horrific murder rips the town apart but brings John and Matt together in ways neither could’ve imagined. Matt must decide where his loyalties lie while John resists the urge to run again. Together, they have to discover who the real devil is before another life is destroyed.


Book Review

A slow burn on both the romance and the mystery, this novel is all about the small-town Georgia setting, establishing the characters, and giving the plot time to unfold as the story begins to take off. There is a lot of drama around people, families, and their history - which is very much the reality of any small town. Much of the story revolves around the developing relationship between John and Matt, and how they deal with figuring out if they have a future as a couple, but there is a strong second component to this novel in the form of a murder mystery. It may be slow to emerge, but once it does? It definitely had my attention and just as much for the whodunnit as for the accompanying drama and pain it causes to those left behind. The victim was not someone I had expected in any way, and while I had an immediate suspicion about the murderer, I could not have been more wrong. The perpetrator was not someone I would have suspected in a hundred years.

John has lived in Magnolia Ridge since he was born. He is all about family, especially his domineering mother, and living in a place he knows inside and out. He occasionally wonders about exploring the world, but he has never really gotten that far in his decision-making. He has known that he is gay for a long time, but is too afraid to come out. His best friend has been his beard for years, and since she’s no good at relationships, they have fallen into a comfortable routine where they pretend to be considering marriage. John is in a rut, not happy about it, but too complacent to do something about it.

Matt is a cop who needed a change from San Francisco due to a case that really shook him up. His mother is from Georgia, so Matt decides to move there. Small-town policework is very different to what he is used to, getting to know town politics and all the people is not easy, especially when some of the friends he has made suddenly become a victim and others turn into suspects. On a more personal level, the biggest drawback is the fact that he feels he has to go in the closet (a place he has never been before), but he figures it is safer to “wait and see” how the locals will react as and when he does come out.

The difference between John and Matt seems to be huge when they first meet. But they have two things in common: the incendiary physical attraction between them and the need to stay in the closet for fear of recrimination from the local population. It creates a tentative bond, but what really connects them is the friendship they develop through shared projects and doing stuff together, as much as jumping each other’s bones at every opportunity. Watching them deal with various crises was compelling, and their gradual coming to terms with the fact that they will face whatever consequences their honesty will have was very believable.

If you like thrillers that are as much about the people as about the “technical details” of a murder investigation, if small towns are your thing, and if you’re looking for an intense story that meanders along rather than rushes to the final conclusion, then you will probably like this novel.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 246 pages/90292 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 30-January-2018
Price $6.99 ebook, $16.99 paperback, $16.99 bundle
Buy Link