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Shades of Sepia

The Sleepless City - (series written with Elizabeth Noble) - Book 1

by Anne Barwell

Shades of Sepia - Anne Barwell - The Sleepless City
Editions:Kindle - Second Edition: $ 4.99
ISBN: 978-0-473-52893-5
Pages: 240
Paperback - Second Edition: $ 12.99
ISBN: 978-0-473-52891-1
Pages: 273

To be soulmates they first have to survive.

A serial killer stalks the streets of Boggslake, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.

Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.

One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can't ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Boggslake, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he's found a new home.

After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer's next target.

Author’s note: This story was originally released in 2014 by another publisher. This edition has been revised and re-edited with the end result being a better, stronger story.

This book is on:
  • 7 To Be Read lists
  • 3 Read lists
Publisher: LaceDragon Publishing
Cover Artists:
Pairings: M-M
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: Ageless/Immortal
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Fated Mates / Soul Mates, Hurt / Comfort
Word Count: 71513
Setting: Boggslake, Ohio, USA
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters

“Cool. I knew you guys were like the Justice League or something.”

Lucas laughed. “I was going more for the Legion of Super Heroes, actually.”

“Yeah, but the League has Batman in it,” Blair began, “and the Legion is—” Luckily, whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the sound of a telephone ringing. Once he and Lucas started on one of their comics conversations, they’d go for what seemed forever.

“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Forge asked Simon.

“What?” Simon glanced around for the source of the noise. He didn’t get telephone calls and presumed it was coming from wherever Blair was.

“You’re the only one around here who insists on that horrible ringtone,” Forge pointed out, “so it’s obviously your phone.” He’d complained about it ever since Simon had explained—quite logically he’d thought—that if he was to carry a telephone, it made sense for it to at least sound like one.


“Try your pockets?” said Lucas helpfully.

“Oh, right.” Simon fished his telephone out of his pocket. Its screen was flashing with the name of the caller. Simon stared at it.

“You’re supposed to answer it, not stare at it,” Forge said. “Or have you forgotten how to again?”

“I know how to answer it.” Simon poked at the appropriate button, then held the telephone up to his ear. “Simon speaking. How can I help you?”

Forge snickered. Simon glared at him, thought for a moment about retreating to somewhere more private, then realized it would be a waste of time. Damn vampire hearing. Not that werewolves and ghosts were much better.

“Hey, Simon. It’s Ben.”

Perhaps he was calling to say he’d thought twice about meeting for coffee. But why would he take the time to do that? Surely if that were the case, he’d just not contact Simon again at all?

“Hello, Ben.” Simon took a couple of steps toward the door, half turning his back on the other occupants of the room.

“I rang to apologize,” Ben said, his words tumbling out over each other.

“Apologize?” Simon frowned. “Why?” If anyone should be apologizing for the way in which their conversation had ended, it should be him.

“I obviously upset you, and I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t,” Simon reassured him. “I overreacted. I do that sometimes.” He reached for his glass of milk and took a long drink. Feeling a little calmer, he collected his thoughts before breaking the silence. “Would you still like to meet for coffee?”

Lucas and Forge high-fiving was something best ignored, as was the smug expression on both their faces.

“Yeah, sure, that would be great,” Ben answered very quickly. “When and where? I’m working a long shift tomorrow, so that won’t work, but I don’t start until eleven on Thursday.”

After mentally consulting his calendar, Simon nodded. “That would be fine. I don’t have lectures on Thursday mornings. Do you know Hunter’s on West Thirteenth Street? We could meet there at nine.”

“I haven’t been there, but I’ll find it,” Ben said. “See you at nine then on Thursday?”

“Yes. Goodbye, Ben.”

“Bye, Ben,” called out Lucas.

“Bye.” Ben paused. “Hey, who is that?” His voice took on a rather suspicious tone. “Simon, is there someone listening in on us?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Simon said. “I share my… building… with some friends who don’t understand the concept of privacy. That was Lucas. I’ll explain on Thursday.”

“Okay. Bye.”

“Goodbye,” Simon said again, this time to a darkened telephone. He shoved it back into his pocket.

“He sounds cute,” said Lucas. “I like the accent.” He grinned. “Can I come too? I want to hear how you explain me.”

Reviews:Jackie on The Novel Approach Reviews wrote:

I have read more supernatural books than any other genre. There are the shifters that come in all shapes, sizes, and attitudes. Then there are the vampires; they come in many various types also. In some books they all live happily in harmony with one another, and in some books they are mortal enemies. This book has a little of both. Plus, we have the added dimension of the humans in the story. Some of the humans know about the supes, some don’t. More than that, though, some humans seem as if they don’t want to know what is right in front of their faces. These humans accept the fact that a man has been a professor at the local college for going on sixty years and hasn’t aged a day. That man would be Simon Hawthorne, and this book is his story, as well as his soulmate’s, Ben Leyton.

This first story in The Sleepless City series is like most first novels in a series. It introduces us to the players of the game, gives us just enough backstory to wet our appetites, and lays out the “rules” of the universe the author has created. Sometimes the first book loses a little of the romance to the “world building”, but Anne Barwell did a fabulous job of handling both aspects without losing focus on the love story.

When the story begins, we meet Ben and find out he is a transplant to Flint, Ohio via New Zealand. Not only has he been learning to make every strange cup of coffee ordered at the café where he works, but he has learned that just because we all speak English doesn’t mean we can understand each other. When he isn’t toiling away as a barista, he is working on his true passion, photography. Ben found his love of photography through his grandfather, and he has been trying to find the exact spot where his grandfather took a photo many years before when he was in Flint. When Ben finds the spot in the photo, he also finds a mystery man who seems to always be just out of reach.

Simon Hawthorne has lived in Flint, Ohio for going on sixty years now. Simon has all but given up on love since every time he tries to love someone, tragedy strikes in the form of his maker, John. When Simon sees Ben in the park, though, he realizes that the choice may have just been taken out of his hands. Even a big strong vampire can’t resist the lure of his soulmate.

Once the two men make contact, the soul mate bond begins to form, and they won’t be able to resist one another for long. Simon vows to take things slow with Ben, and that is just how Ben wants it. Once they begin their courtship, the investigation Simon has been working on with his friends and roommates starts to escalate. With Lucas, the werewolf coroner, and Forge, the vampire police detective, Simon has been investigating the serial murders happening around Flint. There have been six pairs of people killed. Each pair consists of a vampire and a human. When someone close to Simon is killed and found to have fed on human blood, Simon knows that something is wrong. His friend hasn’t consumed human blood in ages, and there was no way she would have.

The investigation leads to Simon’s past and a monster long thought dead. With this revelation Simon decides he has to tell Ben who and what he is, and he hopes that Ben will be able to come to terms with being the soul mate of a vampire.

Without giving too many spoilers away, I will say that the final battle between Simon’s past and his present was “on the edge of my seat” action. Ben, Lucas, and Forge were the ultimate heroes at the end of the book, and I believe that was just as it should have been. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, and I want to know more about Blair. He seems to be a great mystery one of these men should solve.

I was fully entrenched in this supernatural world the author created, and I am fully invested in the characters. Some of the aspects were new, some were standard, but the story was outstanding. I highly recommend this book and I can’t wait for the next one.

About the Author

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with kitty siblings Byron and Marigold who are convinced her office chair is theirs.

In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.  She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.

Anne’s books have received honourable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards.  She has also been nominated three times in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—twice for Best Fantasy, once for Best Historical, and once for All-Time Favourite M/M Author.