Hidden Gem Series
Candy has gone from being the top companion at the Hidden Gem, to managing it. While he is busy restructuring the red-light district into an adult playground, his fellow companion and lover, Ivy finds time to spend with Institute of Scientific Study Investigator, Jackson Taylor. Candy can’t hide the fact that he’s jealous of Jack for taking Ivy’s time, and Ivy for catching Jack’s interest.
Ivy loves Candy and Jack, but he’s not sure how to make it work between the three of them when Candy’s libido runs at hyper speed and Jack’s is non-existent. All he knows is that he wants to try. Each time he tries to bring the three of them closer, life gets in the way. Most recently a series of violently murdered companions which Jack is investigating, while putting Candy and Ivy on high alert.
Something more than brutal murders is happening in City M. A sleeping threat to humanity is changing the world. Candy, Ivy, and Jack will have to band together with their friends to either evolve or be swept under a tidal wave of awakening power.
- 5 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Independently Published
Pairings: MM, MMM
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Ace, Bisexual, Gay, Genderfluid
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 3 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Fated Mates / Soul Mates, Forbidden Love, Menage
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Snow cascaded outside Jack’s window in giant clumps. He’d never much cared for snow as a kid when he lived in the South, and their idea of snow was a dusting. In the North it snowed seven months of the year—huge drifts that often towered above him when shoveled to clear roads and walks. He should have been used to it by now, but the dark sky and quickly forming piles covering his windows made him lonely and tired. Most City M dwellers wouldn’t have been deterred by the heavy downfall, but Jack had no desire to venture into the cold. At least not tonight.READ MORE
He had decided when he got up that morning that he was going to finish his work early and find a book to get lost in since it was his birthday. Most people went out to party with friends, drink themselves into a stupor, or find a little company. Jack’s only friend was a hard-boiled detective with a new lover he couldn’t pry himself away from for more than a few hours. He was sure Shane didn’t even know it was Jack’s birthday, as such trivial things never came up in their rare conversations that weren’t about serial killers, missing persons, or hybrid humans genetically modified by former political regimes. They didn’t really talk about much else. Not even the fact that they were both detectives or A-Ms—humans mutated by a plague who turned into animals once a month. Did that mean they were actually friends? Jack equated trust to friends, mostly. He trusted Shane and a handful of others. Did that mean all the rest were his friends too? And yet he was still all alone tonight.
Life was supposed to be easier now that he was older, except he was coming back to the same issues. Having a birthday shouldn’t hurt. It was just another day, really—only with it always came the memory of his family.
He had hidden away every extra penny, worked long hours, and done four times the work of his siblings, just so he could buy himself something for his thirteenth birthday. Jack knew what to expect out of the day: lots of work, a meal of leftover gruel, and if his parents actually remembered his birthday, he’d likely be forced to take some girl to his bed to make him a man. He snorted at the idea that sex made anyone a man. His older brothers were all saddled with small children, meager earnings from backbreaking jobs, and useless wives who did nothing but pop out more mouths to feed. That was the way of things in the ghettos of southern Georgia. Or at least what used to be Georgia. It was the Southern Republic now, though the leaders couldn’t decide whether to make that official or not.
Jack didn’t want a wife, babies, or anyone to burden his already overtaxed income. His parents and siblings took most of his money. Unless he hid it. Even then sometimes they found his stash. He dreamed of running away someday, finding a job in one of the better cities. He could program computers and work technology unlike anyone else he’d ever met. It all just made sense to him, lines of gibberish code, hard drives, and networks. The world was only starting to rebuild all the global interconnectivity it’d lost in the last war, so most of his jobs were computer, Wi-Fi, or software related. Sometimes he was stuck doing odd jobs that didn’t pay as well, like taking out the trash, killing rats, or delivering messages by hand. He’d rather debug code or create a new app than all those sorts of normal chores.
He finished his last job of the day: correcting the register system at a bakery. Whoever had installed it didn’t know code, because every time the register rang up something for more than twenty dollars, it froze up, crashing the whole system. The minor fix that had baffled the store owners took Jack less than ten minutes to install. He also cleaned up the system, removing extra lines of code that slowed it down, and boosted the Wi-Fi signal.
The owner tested the register, ringing up fake orders until he was convinced that it wasn’t going to crash again. “Perfect,” the man said after a moment. “It’s never been this fast.” He opened the register drawer and took out some cash. “You’re so smart, Jackson. If I had more computer work for you to do I’d hire you permanently.”
Jack shrugged. He couldn’t imagine just working one place anyway. His family would freak if his money waned at all. It didn’t matter that he was only thirteen. He earned the bulk of the income that fed them all. Most days he wasn’t bitter—only on days like today when he stood in a bakery surrounded by the smell of sugar and cases of pastries that he’d never tasted. He watched people come in and buy donuts, cupcakes, and even full-size cakes with multiple tiers. It was normal to have a cake for your birthday. Jack had read about it a million times in his stack of worn-out novels—the few he had left that weren’t missing pages from being used for toilet paper.
Suddenly Jack knew what he wanted for his birthday. “Can I buy a cake?” he asked the baker. Jack pointed to a round cake decorated in white swirls. “Maybe that one?”
It was simple but large enough for his entire family to have a bite. The baker smiled. “Sure. I’ll even give you a discount.” Jack watched the man pack the cake into a large box and tape it shut. He paid with part of his hidden stash, a little shocked as he’d never spent so much on food before. He couldn’t wait to try it, but he headed home, the chilly January air blowing against his skin. What would everyone think of the cake? Would they finally look at him like he meant something more to them than just their next meal? Would they be proud and happy? Jack was excited and hopeful, even if they sneered at his stupidity and glee like they usually did. He carried the box with the reverence of a new mother holding a baby, all while daydreaming of sugary goodness.
When he reached his building, reality sank back in as he was greeted with cold, crumbling stairways stinking with urine, feces, and cigarette smoke. In the summer, the building sweltered, adding body odor and mold to the mix. He hated this place, longed for something better than his blanket in the corner to sleep on and more than simulated flour and water to eat. Today he would have a taste of what the rest of the world experienced. He wondered briefly if it would ruin him, spiral him into a darker place when he realized how good everyone else had it, when he was stuck in the dump of humanity.
The door to his apartment was open and, inside, talking to Jack’s mother and father, were a handful of uniformed people. Several women in uniform carried away toddlers, who whined and struggled in their arms. His sisters-in-law were crying; his brothers had turned away from the scene as though if they didn’t watch it wouldn’t be real.
Companies often culled from the slums. They bought newborn babies or even young kids from the very poor to experiment on or to be trained for dangerous jobs. There were sometimes rumors that the rich took them as their own to raise. Jack had already watched two younger brothers be taken away by them some years ago. He only vaguely recalled their names anymore. He didn’t miss having to care for them, change their diapers, and feed them, but he did sometimes recall their laughter and found the world a very silent place with them gone.
“Take more if you won’t raise your price. There are plenty to choose from,” Jack’s father told one of the uniformed men. He waved his hand at some of the crawling infants left behind. “We have too many to feed as it is.”
Yet he encouraged them all to breed—maybe just to sell them off. Jack didn’t know. It made him a little angry, but he knew there was nothing he could do. He set the cake on the table. No one noticed. Would they even remember it was his birthday? They’d probably be angry at him for wanting to celebrate even though the kids were being taken away. He sighed and wondered if his little brothers had a good life now. Maybe they’d be the children of rich people who couldn’t have their own kids, or even learn a trade that would better provide for them in the future.
“They’re all too young,” the uniformed man said. He glanced in Jack’s direction. “Perhaps that one.”
Jack narrowed his eyes and his father blanched, likely thinking of the income he’d lose without Jack around to program things. “How much?” his father asked after a bit of hesitation.
Jack gaped at his old man. “I feed you and you’re going to sell me?”
“Be silent. Our family is starving. Sometimes sacrifices are needed.”
They weren’t starving. Jackson had brought home a sack of grain just yesterday. And today a cake. His father was even growing pudgy around the middle. Jack glared at them all; none of them would meet his gaze. So be it. It was his birthday. He’d wanted to get out of here anyway, right? Why the hell not? He stared at the cake while his father negotiated the price for him. He’d never get to taste it, but was it so much to give up for a chance to escape? He followed one of the uniformed women down to a transport. The slums were full of uniforms today, buying children and overseen by the rich bastards who pulled all the strings. Jack ignored the crying of the other kids around him and made his way to an open window seat on the transport. Was it too much to hope that life would be better anywhere other than here?
The better life had been long in coming. Jack spent years as little more than a prisoner at a facility for human testing. He never knew what they were testing on him, but he always had clothes to wear, warm blankets, and his own space. He was allowed unlimited access to digital libraries. Food came and went. Sometimes they’d starve him for weeks, only to return to regular feedings like nothing had ever changed. There were times they would drag him away to perform procedures on him. He always returned with scars, but very few memories. The days were long and lonely, filled with nothing but gray walls, the cell door, and endless books to read. After his change the testing had intensified for a while. Then one day the facility had just shut down. All the doors opened and the doctors walked out, leaving the rest of them to go free as well.
He remembered how dark the sky had been that day. He’d spent years dreaming of sunshine. Only it no longer existed. Not in the South. He went North when a handful of years on his own had garnered him enough respect to get a job offer with the ISS—Institute of Scientific Study. Though he now suspected that Paris had something to do with that. At least whatever Paris’s involvement, it was minimal. He called only when he needed Jack to work on something, hack into something, or reprogram something—which oddly enough wasn’t all that often.
Jack flipped through his digital library. The list of “to be read” books had been growing exponentially the past few months since he hadn’t had enough time for recreational reading. Case files and research took up most of his time and left his head spinning with nightmare-like mysteries to haunt his sleep. He needed to find something to escape the real world for a while. Maybe a romance. He loved the concept of romance. That people would connect on some intimate level and do everything for each other sounded like a fantasy. But he’d seen it in real life, hadn’t he? Shane and Aki had a romance, right? Maybe even Paris and Rain. It wasn’t all physical—which Jack didn’t understand at all—else Aki would never have given up being a whore and Shane could have just continued to visit him at the Gem.
A knock on the door broke him out of his brooding. Jack frowned and glanced out the window. Still snowing, but the porch motion light was on. His inner unit townhome looked just like the other five surrounding it, so it was unlikely someone had just randomly knocked on his door. He sat contemplating it so long that they knocked again. The fact was that no one ever visited him.
He got up, setting his book reader aside, and made his way to answer the knock. From the table under the window, he retrieved a gun, flicked off the safety, and approached the door. He couldn’t fake not being home. Not with the lights on and the shades up. Jack carefully peered through the peephole in the door, blinked for a minute as his brain slowly caught up with what he was seeing, then unlocked the door and threw it open wide, keeping the gun lowered at his side.
“Hey,” said Ivy. He was bundled up in a thick fur coat and seemed to be wearing full-length pants, which was unusual since he was a companion from the Hidden Gem and usually half-nude. His rich red hair was pulled up into a high ponytail, and his face was bare of the makeup he usually wore when he worked. He carried a stack of boxes and behind him at the curb a car was parked with Manny, the head guard of the Hidden Gem, leaning against it.
Ivy frowned when he noticed the gun. “Everything okay?” He glanced around like he was looking for some unknown assailant.
Jack put the safety back on the gun and stuffed it in the drawer. “Yes, sorry. Just cautious in the middle of snowstorms. What are you doing here? Is it even safe to be out in this?”
“Can I come in?” Ivy asked. “It’s kind of cold here on the stoop.”
“Oh yeah. Sorry.” Jack stepped aside. “Does Manny want to come in too?”
“No. He’ll be back later to pick me up.” Ivy stepped inside and waved at the guard, who nodded slightly, then made his way back to the passenger seat. Jack closed the door and locked it mostly out of habit.
Ivy shrugged out of his coat and hung it on the hook beside the door, and he made his way to the kitchen. He set the stack of boxes and a small pot filled with dirt down on the table. One of the boxes was in a familiar-looking sort of package of cardboard with shiny stickers decorating the outside. That one made Jack’s heart lurch. Ivy opened the box, revealing an elegantly decorated cake.
“Happy birthday!” Ivy smiled at him.
“Thanks.” Jack glared at the cake and kept himself on the opposite side of the table. He hated the memories, but hated the fact that they still bothered him so much even more.
Ivy set the cake aside and ushered Jack to a chair at the table. “Sit, sit. Presents first, then cake.”
“Shouldn’t you be working?”
“Nope. Candy rearranged my schedule so I could be off. Not that it would have mattered. The Gem was dead for customers tonight.” He set the stack of presents in front of Jack. The shiny paper and attached cards were something he’d read about in books, but had never actually experienced for himself.
“In case you didn’t notice, there’s a blizzard going on out there.”
“Nah. Just a lot of wind blowing around the snow that’s already there. I’ve seen much worse winters.” Ivy handed him a blue-wrapped package. “Open this one first, it’s from Candy.”
Jack flipped the present in his hands for a moment, debating how to do it without looking stupid. He took off the card—a digital mini screen that flipped from pictures of balloons and cake to the words “Happy Birthday.”
“It’s personalized to you. Just put your thumb in the middle,” Ivy told him.
Jack found the marked spot and put his thumb over it. The mini screen instantly changed to a recording of Candy. “Happy birthday, Jackson. I hope it’s a great one. Would have thrown you a big party, only you’re not the ‘big party’ sort. I saw this and thought of you—oh, and I know you’ll like the other gift I sent you.” He winked. “Ivy is yours all night, for whatever you wish. No questions asked.”
Jack was frowning by the end. He didn’t want Ivy to be all his for whatever debauchery Candy thought he might enjoy. He hoped that whatever the gift was it didn’t involve some sort of kinky sex toy that Jack was sure to have never seen before. His experience with sex was limited—mostly learned from smutty romance novels—and he was okay with keeping it that way.
He set the card aside and unwrapped the present. Instead of being some overinflated dildo or fuzzy handcuffs, it was a book. A real book. No one had real books anymore. They were collected and stored behind protective glass in museums, but this one looked ancient. The pages were yellowed with age and brittle.
It was a first edition of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas in English. Published in 1846, the book was worth a very sizable fortune. “You should bring this back to him,” Jack told Ivy, carefully wrapping the book back up so it wouldn’t be damaged. “This is too much. I’d never forgive myself if something happened to it.”
“Candy said you’d say that, but he won’t take it back. You talked about a lot of books when you were sick. Did you know that? We would even find something to read to you when you were a cat, since it seemed to keep you calm so we could get more food and fluids in you,” Ivy told him. A few months ago a very bad virus had made its way through City M, a virus that was aimed at killing the A-M population by pulling them back and forth through shifts. Candy and Ivy had helped care for him when he was battling the illness.
“This should be in a museum.”
“Only there is no museum in City M. The vote stalled in the senate, just like it has every time it’s been brought up. And,” Ivy pointed out, “things are mostly loaned to museums from private collectors rather than owned. So if politicians ever decide to create a physical museum, you can always lend things from your collection. Open the next one.”
The purple present revealed the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a copy of The Hobbit. The digital card said it was from Aki, but didn’t have a long video. They weren’t a first or even an early edition, as they were in amazing shape, like they’d just been printed yesterday. Jack could smell the print and pages. Where had Aki found something this pristine?
A digital card by itself from Shane included a long video. “I didn’t buy you anything,” Shane told him. “I let Aki cover that. We’ll be over to help you install the case to protect your new collection.” The video of Shane vanished, replaced with a picture of a wide, glass-covered bookcase.
The video came back up with Aki on instead of Shane. “You have a year of book service. It’s a new company that produces limited print editions of classic novels. Each month you’ll get three to five novels delivered to your door. I remember reading real books, though it’s been a long time. Maybe you’ll let me borrow one sometime. Paris chose the shelf. Says it has all sorts of technical features that will protect your books and make you happy. Happy birthday, Jack.”
How was this real? No one had ever cared this much. To send him things, to make long-term commitments to being his friend. Jack wiped his eyes with the cuff of his shirt. Crap, this was supposed to be just another birthday.
“You ready for the one from me?” Ivy asked after a minute.
But there were no more packages, just the pot that Ivy had pushed aside. “What...?” Jack began to ask, but Ivy leaned forward and kissed him soundly. Jack pulled away as if he’d been slapped, jumping out of the chair and tipping it over. His heart hammered with fear. Not really of being touched, but of the expectations that usually followed a touch like that. He liked Ivy. Hell, he sort of liked Shane, Aki, Paris, and even Candy. Would they still like him if they knew how different he was? He’d been trying to keep himself detached from them all for this very reason. “Sorry, sorry. You should probably go. Tell everyone I appreciate their gifts.” He headed to the door ready to let Ivy out.
“Jack?” Ivy hadn’t moved from the table. “Come back and have some cake, please.”
Jack swallowed back bile. “I don’t think I can. Whatever you’re expecting of me...”
“I’m not expecting anything.” Ivy got up and began to open cupboard doors until he found the plates, then the drawers until he pulled out a knife and a couple forks.
“I can’t eat that,” Jack insisted. “You should go.” This was why he didn’t do friends. Things always got weird. His head didn’t work right. He wasn’t like everyone else, and not just because he shifted into an animal.
Ivy set the stuff on the table and stepped in close to Jack again, breaching his privacy bubble. Jack took a step back but the wall hindered his escape. “Candy said you’re shy. But you’re not shy. It’s okay. I understand. We’ll have some cake and you can tell me about your favorite books. I admit to not being a big reader, but Candy reads a ton. He was telling me about the one he gave you. Sounds interesting.” He made his way back to the table and began cutting the cake into slices.
“They made a bunch of movies. You’re probably familiar with the story.” Jack began to relax a little, but he glared at the cake. Almost thirty years was enough time to overcome that memory, right? He sighed, picked up the chair, and returned to his spot at the table beside his new haul of print books.
Ivy slid a slice of cake in front of him and passed over a fork. He dished up his own piece before pushing the platter aside and taking a fork full of the dessert. He sighed and sucked on the fork. “So good. I have a horrible sweet tooth.”
Jack sliced his piece with the edge of his fork and scooped it up, wondering if he could somehow dump the whole thing without Ivy seeing. But Ivy stared at him, waiting. He sighed and put the piece in his mouth, expecting it to taste like sawdust to echo the churning in his gut... only it didn’t. It popped with sweetness, lemon, and strawberry; the top was overly sugary, but Jack could see the appeal. He hadn’t expected cake to taste that way. Almost like sunshine.
“Good, right? I was going to order just a vanilla cake but Candy suggested you might like something a little more flavorful. He special ordered this one since he knew you liked strawberries. The lemon is good too, though. Tastes like strawberry lemonade.” Ivy plowed through his piece of cake, then lifted the knife. “Mind if I have another slice?”
Jack shook his head and slowly ate. All these years and he’d been avoiding this. But Ivy had said this wasn’t the norm. Fruit in a cake sounded odd, but he liked it. Could do without the frosting top—too much sugar—but he cut around it just fine. “Thank you,” Jack said when he finally finished his slice. Ivy was finishing up his second piece.
Ivy picked up the pot. “Shane said you hate the winter almost as much as Aki does. So I thought this might help. You’ll have to put it near the window. And each time I come over I can help renew it if it’s not getting enough sun.” He cupped his hands around the pot, and a green shoot sprouted in the middle. It curled upward, growing like the images from a slow-motion camera played at warp speed, until leaves and branches sprang from the stalk. Then finally a single bloom, purple and white spilling together as though it was a watercolor painting, sprouted from the stalk. “It’s an orchid.”
Jack sat in awe. “It’s beautiful. Thank you. How did you...?” But he had always known, hadn’t he? Ivy was a psi. His eyes were multicolored, sky blue and apple green. He also had swirls of green lines etched into his skin, mostly invisible buried beneath his clothes, but Jack knew they were there. Ivy gave him a tight smile and changed the subject, leaving the plant on the table.
“Will you read to me for a while? My eyes get tired from all the words, but Candy reads to me and it’s nice. I can see the story in my head when he does different voices for dialogue.” Ivy boxed up the cake and set it on the counter beside the fridge.
Jack took their plates and put them in the dishwasher. “You won’t get bored?” Wouldn’t he rather be doing other things? Maybe watching movies on the vid screen or even seducing men at the brothel?
“Not at all.” Ivy dropped onto Jack’s couch and patted the seat beside him. “Come sit. The one Candy got you has pictures. I hope the story is as exciting as he was telling me. Swords, romance, and loyalty.” He sighed. “Sounds wonderful.”
“It was a very different world in nineteenth-century France,” Jack told him and took a seat on the couch, but left a foot of distance between them.
“There is no France at all anymore.”
“One of countless treasures lost to the world. All we have now are these.” He held up the book, which he’d carefully unwrapped. Despite being so old, the binding was still solid and the pages appeared to have been treated by something to help keep them from disintegrating. He could smell the chemical faintly. “History is one thing, but fiction shows us the hopes and dreams of those in the past. They were warring in their time, for not all that dissimilar reasons.”
Ivy slid closer as Jack opened the book, practically latching himself to Jack’s side so he could see the pages. Jack swallowed back his anxiety and began to read. He hoped the story would be engaging enough for Ivy. If not, he was sure he could find a few smutty romances the companion might enjoy, though he cringed at the idea of reading one of the many sex scenes out loud. As his voice filled the silence while the storm raged outside, Jack settled into the feeling of not being alone on his birthday, and was startled to discover he kind of liked the warmth of Ivy against him, listening to his voice.COLLAPSE
It's About the Book on Amazon wrote:
This is such a awesome series...I love how the story flows...from the 1st book you are sucked into this world and wonderful plot...I liked the m/m/m part of the book as well..it was a new take on it with how their relationship fit together ...I hope this series continues...
Christina Wade on Amazon wrote:
This cover is gorgeous! It’s so so pretty. Candy Land is book 3 of this series. You definitely have to read these in order. Each book has a new couple for the love story but the story arcs are carried on throughout. The world building is fantastic and intricate. The characters are vivid. Their pasts are revealed in pieces and really do make the man in this book.
Candy Land features the loner AM/shifter and detective Jack, Candy the beautiful dom whore and Ivy the oh so sweet boy with the ability to control plants Candy saved in the last book. The three of them have a connection of sorts born of the time they spent together in quarantine during the outbreak in book 2. In this book they come together in a three way relationship. It’s not exactly normal by most people’s standards but for them it works. Jack isn’t a sexual being but he cares for both of the other men. He will have sex if they want it but he doesn’t initiate or look down on them for sex playing such an important part of their lives. Candy and Ivy are very sexual. They’ve been having sex since Ivy came to the Gem. The part that’s new in this book are the emotions they all admit to having for each other and adding Jack to the mix. Both Candy and Ivy are companions and have no intention of stopping. Jack is fine with this also. I’m generally not a fan of manage but for these characters it worked. They really did seem happier together.
Normally the romance takes center stage for me but in this installment the plot was excellent. There was so much revealed in the last book. I thought I learned so much and them bam! Things get totally shaken up. This book takes everything a step further. What you think you know, you probably don’t. This entire series is about government conspiracies and cover ups. Power struggles. Prejudice. Human experimentation gone horribly wrong. I love how I never really know what’s coming next.
Parts of this did get a bit confusing. The evolving A-Ms and Psi were hard to visualize. Giant worm snakes with wings? For me this part of the story became a bit too indulgent in the creativity department. I want to follow along. At this point I have no idea what to expect when it comes to what these guys can turn into and what powers they have. I guess for me that’s good and bad. I don’t like just anything happening on page. It has to fit somewhere with the rules and information I’ve been given. I guess that could just be me but parts of this book were just too out there.
So the romance was okay for me. Nothing memorable and certainly not my my favorite of the series. The plot and story lines were very interesting. I like forming all the connections between the characters and the things that happened in previous books. That more than anything kept my attention when other parts of the story seemed to drag or go off into crazy morphing creatures. Basically this books had some great highs but also some lows. I just wish I had a better grasp of what the characters super abilities were. If you’ve read the rest of the series you’ll want to pick this one up.
First, let me preface this review by stating that this is my first foray into the world of urban fantasy. I’ve read a handful of paranormal books – a few shifters, some vampires, witches and warlocks. I’ve read a couple of Lissa’s books (writing as Sam Kadence) and really loved them so I thought this was as good a place as any to start with the fantasy genre. Her writing was just as good here as it was in the other books I’ve read. The stories were unlike any other I’ve read although there were some similarities in the romance department with the alpha males protecting their loved ones (although these alphas have a bit more bite to their protection), as well as some some bdsm components . I loved most of the characters – Aki, Shane, Candy, Paris, Rain, Ivy, Jack and even some of the guards at the Gem. Each of them is strong in their own ways, even if they are submissive in nature. The bad guys were great characters too…even though you hate them. One thing that took some getting used to was the reference of all the companions of the Gem and other brothels as whores. That just doesn’t seem like a positive to me so it made me cringe a bit throughout all 3 books.
I loved seeing Jack, Ivy and Candy develop a relationship. I’m not sure which of those three is my favorite; I liked them all so much.
The story also has a mystery/thriller subplot that has a lot of Jack’s attention through the book.
This book definitely should not be read as a standalone. I think you would be quite lost if you attempted to. Each story builds upon the previous and the characters are all woven together.
Definitely a must read series!