Book Reviews

Mystery at the Masquerade (Secrets and Scrabble 3) by Josh Lanyon at JustJoshin Publishing

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Romance / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller / Fiction
Reviewed by ParisDude on 30-March-2021

Book Blurb

Love is in the Salt Sea Air--and so is Murder!

Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, reigning Scrabble champion, and occasionally clueless owner of the village's only mystery bookstore, the Crow’s Nest, is both flattered and bemused when he’s invited to the annual Marauder’s Masquerade, the best and biggest social event of the season in the quaint seaside village of Pirate’s Cove, Rhode Island. The event is hosted by the wealthy Marguerite Bloodworth-Ainsley—a descendant of the famed pirate Tom Blood.

Ellery doesn’t even know Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley—nor, it turns out—does Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley know him. But Marguerite’s son, Julian wants to know Ellery. Julian, handsome, rich and engaging, is a huge mystery buff. In fact, he’s bought quite a few books at the Crow’s Nest bookstore, but never quite worked up the nerve to ask Ellery out.

As his relationship with Police Chief Carson seems to be dead in the water, Ellery is grateful for a little flattering attention from the village’s most eligible bachelor, but any hopes of romance hit the shoals when Julian is accused of murdering his mother’s unlikable second husband during the Masquerade's annual ghost hunt in the family’s spooky cemetery.


Book Review

YES! Josh Lanyon has published a new novel, after a hiatus that to me felt age-long because I was so accustomed to her seemingly exhaling a new release with each breath she made… and always quality releases at that. Well, the new book is out now, and the quality is there, too; what’s more, I could almost sense the pleasure Josh took when writing this book, the third in the ‘Secrets and Scrabble’ series. Maybe it’s the difficult times we’re currently living in, maybe it’s the cold winter weather dragging on, but I was genuinely craving a good cozy murder mystery, so purchasing a copy of this one was a win-win situation.


Ellery Page, the young and somewhat naïve ex-New Yorker become small town dweller and owner of a hardly successful book shop in Pirate’s Cove, is invited to the social event of the Rhode Island island—the annual Marauder’s Masquerade, a masked ball to which the exclusive Bloodworth family only ever invites the finest and hippest members of the local community. A welcome distraction as his relationship with the hot Police Chief Carson is at an all-time low. The hunky officer, after months of blowing hot and cold, has decreed that a manly friendship should be all they might enjoy; but even for a friend, he has been incredibly aloof and behaved very weirdly as of late. Maybe he is just too busy dealing with the recent burglaries that have occurred in town, but whatever—Ellery doesn’t want to confront too many answerless questions, so he gives in to his friend’s pressure, accepts to be fitted out as a Regency pirate, and attend the glitzy event (“Sample the fancy crab puffs!”, his old friend and employee Nora has instructed him).


Yet when he arrives, looking more scrumptuous than said crab puffs, Ellery is still wondering why he has received the invitation in the first place. He doesn’t know the hostess, wealthy Marguerite Bloodworth-Ainsley—a descendant of the famed pirate Tom Blood—nor her second husband, who looks much younger than she and doesn’t seem to be a supporter of conjugal fidelity. Nor her son, handsome Julian, who is suddenly all over Ellery with the disconcerting eagerness of a puppy discovering its first bone. The evening, however, is pleasant at first. Until stepfather and stepson have a violent row that almost ends in a fistfight. And of course, Ellery wouldn’t be Ellery if he didn’t stumble upon the dead body of said stepfather shortly afterwards…


I adored this book, from start to end. As I mentioned, I could feel Josh enjoying every single minute of writing it, of putting together the plot, of coming up with twists and turns, of putting wry or witty remarks in the mouths of her characters, of describing Ellery’s anguish over his seemingly unrequited infatuation with the police chief. As this is the third book in the series, the whole quirky cast and the setting gave me that comfortable feeling of knowing them the way one would know long-time acquaintances and even friends. That doesn’t mean that their every moves and reactions were foreseeable—most of them are just too excentric, in a highly pleasing way—but I caught myself giggling and mumbling, “Of course she would do that!” or “Huh! Just like him to say that!”


From the first I’ve really liked Ellery, his dogged determination which often seems to clash with his easy-going insouciance and rash recklessness, but makes him the endearing character he is. I love his adopted puppy, of course, as who wouldn’t, and always enjoy Josh’s descriptions of his puppy ways. I am also very fond of the police hunk; despite his sometimes forbidding seriousness and his apparent inability to make up his mind about Ellery (“Go get’im!”, I’d love to scream), he is a sweet and thoughtful man, very dedicated to his job and his community, but not to the point of forgetting that he has a right to have a private life, too. Of course, he is the archetype of one of Josh’s fads—the monosyllabic, withdrawn, almost unfathomable virile hunk—yet his juxtaposition with Ellery, who seemingly (only seemingly) carries his heart on his tongue, creates that little tension that makes Josh’s book so addictive.


I know that there are readers out there who think that gay books of whatever genre should always have a certain amount of sex and steam. This is not a book for you—Josh really sticks to the rules of the cozy murder msyerty genre in this series, so there aren’t even any swear words to be found, let alone sizzling scenes of flesh and sweat and… you get the picture. I do not think that sex is what makes a good gay book a good gay book. It’s the gay, it’s the characters, it’s the story, it’s the writing, it’s a whole. So, for me, this third ‘Secrets and Scrabble’ installment was a perfectly good gay book. A perfectly good book.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been purchased by the reviewer.


Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novel, 219 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 26-February-2021
Price $3.99 ebook
Buy Link