The Sixth Sense series by Sarah Madison is one of three series that I list as my overall top favorite M/M reads. It’s randomly chosen as the first of the three to be showcased in my new recommendations feature. Or maybe not so random…it’s the one I’ve most recently reread, so it’s freshest in my mind. Point is, I would be hard-pressed to name which of the three series is my most favorite. I love them equally.
As it turns out, those three series have a bit in common. All are told from a single POV, all are mysteries, all have a healthy dose of hurt/comfort running throughout, and all feature the same couple as their romance arc develops from first meet, through some ups and downs (some veering more wildly off track than others) until their eventual solid HEA (safely assumed in the two of these that are still in progress).
Note, that at no point in any of them is there an early solid HEA that gets yanked away via contrived “Big Misunderstandings.” Romance arc-wise, I simply think of each series as a single story.
Generally speaking, I enjoy books from either dual POV or single POV. It depends on the story, and what the story requires. These happen to be best served with the reader discovering things about the 2nd MC as the POV character learns them.
Likewise, I enjoy many genres. I think the fact my three top favorites happen to be mysteries is that that genre lends itself well to being the backdrop for a romance arc that takes a bit of time/experience to fully develop.
The Sixth Sense Series by Sarah Madison
On to this particular story/series! Oh, how I love it…everything about it. The fun tropes, the engaging writing style, the well-developed, mostly-reasonable characters, and the intriguing storyline. The MCs each have flaws that make them more real and believable without making them unlikeable. Those flaws also allow for a bit of character growth and self-awareness as the story progresses. The book also has a lovely smattering of hurt/comfort throughout.
Where to start? The MCs are FBI Special Agents Jerry Lee Parker and John Flynn. The story is told from Jerry’s POV. The story has an overall contemporary feel, but has very fun paranormal twists, which are hinted at by both the name of the series and the titles of the books.
Each story in the series is a separate piece to the overall mystery which is still unresolved. Yet I don’t feel like I’m left hanging as I patiently wait for the next installment. The romance arc is left in a comfortable place, feeling relatively solid to the point that even if the series never continues, I will happily reread the three books so far over and over again and be happy imagining for myself what their future might hold.
Here are the blurbs:
About the stories…what’s not in the blurbs:
While Jerry Parker is gay and out to all (and estranged from his family because of it), John Flynn considered himself to be straight. Still, this isn’t really a gay-for-you story. There are reasons, which will unfold as the story goes on, why Flynn suppressed the gay side of his nature. Ultimately, if you want a label, he’s probably bisexual. So…the fun aspects of a GFY without the stigma attached to them?
It’s not mentioned until the third blurb, but Jerry has a nearly photographic memory. This feature is important to his character development throughout the series.
The first story is set in San Francisco, where Jerry Parker lives and works. Flynn is visiting from the east coast, following up on a fresh lead on a cold serial killer case, and Jerry is assigned to work with him.
Pets feature nicely in the series. Jerry has one cat to begin with, and they acquire (rescue) a kitten together.
The blurbs don’t come right out and say what the “unusual and unpredictable powers” are that Flynn develops after touching a mysterious artifact. This happens one third of the way into the (expanded) first book, and as indicated in the blurbs, remains present throughout the rest of the three existing books.
To me, this “superpower” is one of the major selling points of the book, so I’m not sure why the blurbs are cagey about what it is. But, both the title of the series (The Sixth Sense) and of the first book (Unspeakable Words) hint at what it is. My enjoyment rereading the stories (over and over and over) isn’t diminished in the slightest by already knowing what will happen. I’m able to relish the rereads because it’s about the most excellent journey, not the destination.
So I’m torn between not wanting to (kind of) spoiler something that was apparently deliberately left out of the blurbs, and wanting to properly rave about that (very important) aspect of the story. My compromise is to put the raving that directly ties to the superpower under a spoiler tag. Make your own decision whether or not to open the tag, but honestly, I don’t see any harm in it.
Needless to say, this ability of Flynn’s is the perfect setup for the occasional relationship tension without having to resort to contrived and unreasonable rifts. I was always able to understand both sides of their disagreements. With each of the MCs being basically good and reasonable people, they manage to work through their disagreements as their relationship rallies and develops through the ups and downs.
The second book has our heroes traveling together to the east coast to Flynn’s stomping grounds. A host of side characters and some intriguing side drama are introduced and resolved. A second artifact with its own “power” is also brought to light. The title of book two hints at that “power,” and once again, I find it to be a significant draw to the story’s appeal. Think about it: Walk a Mile (as in, walk a mile in each other’s shoes). Riiight…you know what paranormal twist happens without my spelling it out, don’t you? It was an amazing plot device for furthering character and relationship development.
The third book features one of my favorite tropes…amnesia (spelled out right in the blurb so I don’t have to agonize over potential spoilers). Toward the end of Book 2, Jerry got cracked on the head as that book’s drama concluded. Both fun and difficulties ensue when he wakes up in the hospital, and although he still has his photographic memory for fresh stuff coming in, he has no idea who he is…but OMG, check out the hot guy who is apparently is boyfriend! Memories filter back but leave a gap regarding recent months encompassing all of his relationship with Flynn, including his knowledge of Flynn’s “superpower.” That’s an extra fun twist since Jerry is now completely unguarded.
The third book also greatly features Flynn’s mother, which adds a bit more depth to the characters. As indicated in the blurb, they also finally meet up with the “supervillain” who’s trying to collect the artifacts for his own nefarious purposes.
I own two sets of the ebooks…the originals, and the new versions with the sweet covers pictured here. The first book was significantly expanded when it got its new cover. I don’t think the other two books had more than possibly a few tweaks. I don’t yet have the paperbacks, although I plan to get them eventually. I keep hoping they’ll be released on audio some day.
All in all, this series is a wonderful mix of superb writing that does an excellent job of showing both characters’ emotions and development while remaining only in one character’s POV, highlights a fun and unique relationship arc, and has an intriguing story (several stories) going on in the backdrop. I heartily recommend it with every fiber of my being.