Book Review: Grimmer Intentions, by Jodi Hutchins
Brittany B. | 03/25/2020
Before we dive into the review, here’s a quick personal note from me:
If you’re an avid or semi-frequent reader of The Queerblr, you’re probably wondering why I’ve decided to revisit The Tales From the Grim series by Jodi Hutchins, as I’ve reviewed book one, The Grim Assistant, as well as released a cover reveal for Grimmer Intentions. Well, times are stressful with COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) causing cities, counties, states, and entire countries to halt life as we know it. With shelter in place orders from the government and only essential businesses permitted to be open where I live, I find myself wanting to revisit some authors who give me feel-good vibes to help me unwind and destress. Hutchins’ books are definitely that for me. Grimmer Intentions will be the first of a few “repeat” author reviews that I’ll do in the coming weeks.
So enough with what’s stressing us all out and onto the book review, shall we?
Grimmer Intentions, book two of the Tales from the Grim series by Jodi Hutchins is even more delightful than its predecessor. Two strong personalities collide in an unlikely romance while tensions in the world of the Grim become palpable:
She screwed up. She broke protocol. She saved a life. Grim Reaper Margo Petrov may have resurrected a drowned surfer on the brink of death, but she isn’t earning any awards or receiving employee of the month from Corporate; she’s under more scrutiny from the Grim governing body than ever before. Since she has a massive secret that could spell disaster if revealed, she sure as hell doesn’t want to be in the spotlight, in any form.
Margo vows to keep her head down and stay out of trouble, reaping her quota of spirits lest she cause more problems for herself and the woman she saved with an illegal blood bond. She certainly shouldn’t be opening doors to the Fae lands or offering her neck to an Empusa woman suffering from bloodlust, but Margo’s laundry list of bad decisions keeps growing. With the threat of becoming decommissioned by Corporate looming in her periphery, Margo stumbles deeper into the politics of her people and soon realizes their intentions are far worse than she initially thought.
This book begins with a quick look into the past at the beginnings of Margo’s life with her brother before they were officially named Grims. The short first chapter gives additional foundation to Margo’s character that was slightly lacking in the first book and an introduction to one of the plot threads that carries through the entire book. After that short chapter, however, the book pretty much starts immediately after the conclusion of The Grim Assistant but from the perspectives of Margo and Jackie.
I would argue that a reader wouldn’t necessarily need to read The Grim Assistant to know what is happening in Grimmer Intentions, as the first book did more for setting up the world than it really did for the overarching story of the series. The second book of the series really starts to ramp up what’s happening at “Corporate” and, I would argue, has a better handle on the balance of tension. There is tension created through the frenemies to lovers dynamic between Margo and Jackie as well as each one of our main protagonists’ own dire circumstances that create palpable tension and plot points that ultimately collide together towards the end of the book.
Reading the first installment of the series is still something I’d recommend. There are a few scenes that Hutchins includes in the second book that don’t necessarily further the plot but they do tie up some lingering questions from the first book. This is most noticeable with Lauren and Sam’s love story, as the reader gets to see it further develop from the sidelines in both Margo’s and Jackie’s perspectives. The relationship between Lauren and Sam also makes for an excellent contrast when the relationship between Margo and Jackie begins to form. It was nice to have that juxtaposition between the two relationships because the differences in their type of affection and relationship, in general, are so drastic.
Hutchins again delivers on a wonderfully diverse cast of queer characters. Jackie has a nonbinary sibling named Ezra. The dialogue surrounding Ezra throughout the book is spot on. Hutchins even has a moment where they demonstrate how easy it is to clarify someone’s pronouns, even for the rough around the edges, Margo:
Margo lifted an eyebrow, noting the pronoun Jackie used in relationship to her sibling. “Their? Is Ezra nonbinary?” She chewed her lip, hoping she hadn’t been rude.
“Cool. Figured I’d ask, and I hope that wasn’t rude.”
[Jackie] beamed. “No, not at all. Actually, I really appreciate you asking.”
[Dialogue from Chapter Twleve]
This is not the first time the reader has seen Ezra mentioned, but it is the first time in the book that Margo comes across Ezra’s character while talking with Jackie. In several scenes previous to this during Jackie’s perspective, she talks about her sibling and always uses gender-neutral language for them and it is seamless and natural.
There was another character that I was surprised to see have a bigger role in this book and who I will forever stan: Calliope O’Sullivan, the selkie police officer. She plays an integral role in the plot development of the story and was a character that I wasn’t at all expecting to see again from her tiny scene in The Grim Assistant (she’s the police officer who comes to the scene on one of Sam’s first cases with Margo). I don’t know what it is about Officer O’Sullivan that I love so much – maybe I just have a thing for disgruntled gritty cops. Who knows. What it does prove, though, is that despite having a relatively small role in the book, she still has a complete characterization about her. In fact, all of the characters in this book are fully developed and fully realized characters. It is clear Hutchins put a lot of effort into their construction and editing of this story, as every character has a purpose and there are no throwaway characters.
Though I enjoyed the plot of this book and the multiple threads that Hutchins managed to intertwine at the end, my main criticism comes in the overarching plot – though the personal stories of both Jack and Margo are wonderful and enticing, the things happening with Corporate are concerning but rarely feel like the focus of the story. Again, I’m okay with it because I love the characters so much in this series and will happily read their character drama. But the throughline plot of the books feels like it would happen regardless if a protagonist is present for it or not, as much of it is handled by side characters. It felt like Jackie and Margo were simply present for what happened but had no active role in instigating any of it.
Grimmer Intentions further sets up the series for another installment and I am beyond excited to see what happens next in the Tales from the Grim series. I know I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more of my favorite disgruntled selkie police officer, but honestly, Hutchins could write pretty much anything and I’d be happy. They’re an author I trust to take me on a fun story and introduce me to sympathetic characters who will jerk my emotions around just enough without overwhelming me. Hutchins has quickly become one of my comfort “go-to” authors when everything feels a bit much in the world and I want to retreat into a book.
4.5 out of 5 Rainbows
Recommended Reader: Similar to my recommended readers for The Grim Assistant, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an urban fantasy novel that is unapologetically queer; anyone looking for a book that has fantastic characters to Stan over; or anyone who is looking for a frienemies to lovers romance that is extremely well written.
Content Trigger Warning (Minor Spoiler): Jackie is an Empusa, which is not a vampire but is a creature that requires the blood of others to live. There is low grade “blood play” (sexual activity in which a participant is deliberately cut, or in this instance, bitten) in this book. By low grade I mean that one character really enjoys the feeling of being bitten by the other; I don’t recall there ever being biting during a sex scene, though.