Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People

Today, I am hosting author Anne Barwell’s latest release Double Exposure, book one in the Pōneke Shadows, a m/m paranormal romance.  Be sure to read my review.  And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.


Title: Double Exposure
Series: Pōneke Shadows
Author: Anne Barwell
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery, Detective, MM Romance
Tropes: Found family, fated mates, romantic suspense
Themes: Family, acceptance
Release Date: July 11, 2022
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 73 000 words/179 pages
Publisher: LaceDragon Publishing

Vampires and werewolves live long lives. The Sleepless City saga might have ended but the story continues…

Someone is hunting supernaturals. 

Blurb:  Vampire Simon Hawthorne and his human partner Ben Leyton’s plans for a peaceful holiday with family are hijacked by the New Zealand Supernatural Council.

Tensions are on the rise in Wellington. Supernatural councillors are disappearing. Werewolves are suspicious of anyone human or vampire. If they don’t work together, their enemy has already won.

And no one with a connection to the supernatural world is safe.

Note:  Although it’s part of a shared world, it can be read and enjoyed alone.  It’s the first in a spin-off series of The Sleepless City and does not end on a cliffhanger.

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Rupert looked mildly affronted. “I am not in hiding. The council were trying to get me involved, and I make a point of not getting mixed up in their politics, whatever the cost, considering that cost is usually too high for anyone but them.”

“You’re hiding from the council?” Ben asked. “I can understand that. They hijacked Simon’s delivery at Auckland airport, then blackmailed him into helping them.”

“If this is supposed to surprise me, you’re a few centuries late with that titbit of information,” Rupert said. “I have yet to meet a council I enjoyed doing business with. Though there was that group of werewolves in rural Japan a couple of hundred years ago that—”

“Why are you here?” Simon cut Rupert off before he could start on one of his stories. Although neither he nor Marion would admit it, they shared a predilection for embellishing stories about their pasts.

Rupert fished a large envelope from his pocket and handed it to Simon. “This is the information I have, but it’s not a lot. They cover their tracks well, apart from that massacre in Brisbane nearly ten years ago. There is someone in Wellington who provides a safe haven to anyone in our community who asks for it. Nothing much happens in the area that Elard doesn’t know about. You should talk to him.”

“You’re not going to help?” Ben asked

“Heavens, no.” Rupert raised an eyebrow. “At least Simon knows better than to ask that.”

“Rupert’s better at staying in the shadows and orchestrating things from afar. If we need help, I’m sure he’ll be there…” Simon glanced at Rupert. “… but only on his own terms. I’d ask him to join our team, but it would be a waste of time.”

“Totally a waste of time.” Rupert grinned and nodded towards both of them in turn. “Now, I must be off. I’ll be in touch. Watch yourselves, gentlemen. I don’t enjoy funerals.” He blurred towards the door. It opened, then closed behind him, and then he was gone.

“He’s kind of how I remember him, but not,” Ben said slowly.

“The not, would be because you didn’t know what he was then. He’s not hiding it now, though he’s never completely upfront about anything.” Simon emptied the envelope, took a pile of neatly typewritten sheets to read, and gave the rest to Ben to look through. “Rupert’s always had his own agenda. It’s how he’s managed to survive so long.”

“Uh-huh.” Ben shook the papers he held. “There’s something loose in here.” A small card fell to the floor. He picked it up and his eyes widened. “It’s a business card, so guessing it’s Elard’s.”

“And?” Simon asked, knowing there must be an ‘and’.

“He’s a Catholic priest.” Ben read the words on the card out loud. “Fr Elard Reith, St Ansgar’s Parish, Newtown. We help those who ask.” He groaned. “Oh great, I was hoping to avoid Uncle Martin while I was here.”

“Uncle Martin?” Simon asked. Ben had mentioned him once or twice, but he’d got the impression Ben’s father’s brother wasn’t that close to the rest of the family.

“Yeah. He lives across the road from St Ansgar’s and always acts like he knows stuff the rest of us don’t.”

“Perhaps he does.” Simon got up to pour some more tea.

“I hope not.” Ben didn’t look happy. “It’s starting to feel like however hard we try to keep my family out of all this, fate is making damn sure they keep barging in.”


I enjoy it when books are set in other countries, so I wanted to read and review Double Exposure.  Before I begin the review, I do recommend reading the other series The Sleepless City, because Ben and Simon do have a past, something I wasn’t aware of, and you might get a bit lost because of that.

First, the stakes are high in this story.  I won’t get into what’s been said in the blurb.  The story takes place in New Zealand, and Ben and Simon are there for a second wedding and their honeymoon.  Plus, Simon has to meet Ben’s family.

As always, the writing is top-notch.  Same for the characters who are truly fleshed out.  I especially adored Simon.  Ben and Simon are a bonded pair, so they have a deep sense of what the other is feeling.  This gives them an advantage when it comes to dealing with whoever is stalking and killing supernatural people.

Of course, the supernatural council task Simon with finding out who is behind the nefarious activity, and Simon agrees to help, with Ben by his side.  We get to meet a cast of characters who aid the plot.  They aren’t present for exposition, but references to the previous series happen quite a bit, and it does slow down the pacing.  I found the references weren’t required, because the book (as a newbie to the characters) could’ve stood on its own without referring to what happened in the past.

The world-building is top-notch.  I enjoyed learning about the vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and other supernatural people.

I also enjoyed the mystery aspect of the novel, because I LOVE mysteries.  I kept wondering who was behind the killings (and I didn’t see it coming).  I must say I do think we might see a certain couple in another book because they weren’t quite finalized in this one.  I do hope they get a story of their own.

I wouldn’t call it a fast-paced read.  Or action-heavy.   It takes time to digest.  So if you want something quick, you won’t find it here.  But if you want to immerse yourself in a world of the supernatural that is quite heavy in narrative and dialogue, since there is more talking than doing, this is something you’ll enjoy.  I know I enjoyed it.  As I said, the characters are interesting, and so is their world.

The romance between Ben and Simon is wonderfully executed and doesn’t get buried by the big plot of the supernatural killings.


Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. Anne works in a library, is an avid reader and watcher of a wide range of genres, and is constantly on the look-out for more hours in her day. She likes to write in series and even so called one shots seem to breed more plot bunnies. Her writing is like her reading – across a range of genres, although her favourites are paranormal, fantasy, SF, and historical. Music often plays a part in her stories and/or her characters are musicians.

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.   Her 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.

Follow Anne:  Blog/Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Newsletter Sign-up | Pinterest | Facebook Group | The Sleepless City Website | The Sleepless City FB Group


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