Necessary Evils Series by Onley James Book Review
Hello everyone! Welcome back to my blog after my hiatus in the first part of 2022. While I may have stepped away from the bookish community for a time, I certainly didn't stop reading, a shocking fact to many of you I'm sure. In fact, I managed to read the first four books in the currently releasing Necessary Evils series by Onley James.
The Necessary Evils series is a dictionary definition of lgbtq+ dark romance. It follows the Mulvaney clan of serial killer brothers murdering and falling in love throughout each book. They could easily be deemed the worst of the worst, but most of those who have read these books have come to see that is the furtherest thing from the truth. While the words 'serial killer' get thrown around in this review quite often, I think the redeeming difference that sets the Mulvaney;s apart from the disgusting predatory behavior that repulses a reader away from a character is the essential 'vigilante' component.
But please, stick around for my reviews for the first four books: Unhinged, Psycho, Moonstruck, and Headcase.
Disclaimer: This blog post will contain affiliate and referral links. I may earn a small commission to feed my book hoarding tendencies if you use these links to make a purchase. This in no way impacts my opinions of the books listed - they are all my own.
Author: Onley James
Description: Adam Mulvaney lives a double life. By day, he’s the spoiled youngest son of an eccentric billionaire. By night, he’s an unrepentant killer, one of seven psychopaths raised to right the wrongs of a justice system that keeps failing.
Noah Holt has spent years dreaming of vengeance for the death of his father, but when faced with his killer, he learns a daunting truth he can’t escape. His father was a monster.
Unable to ignore his own surfacing memories, Noah embarks on a quest to find the truth about his childhood with the help of an unlikely ally: the very person who murdered his father. Since their confrontation, Adam is obsessed with Noah, and he wants to help him uncover the answers he seeks, however dark they may be.
The two share a mutual attraction, but deep down, Noah knows Adam’s not like other boys. Adam can’t love. He wasn’t born that way. But he refuses to let Noah go, and Noah’s not sure he wants him to.
Can Adam prove to Noah that passion, power, and protection are just as good as love?
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
(Trigger Warnings: Prostitution, Violence, Gore, Sexual Assault, Murder, Child Abuse)
When it comes to a series like Necessary Evils by Onley James, an interesting assortment of interconnected romance standalones, kicking off the narrative with a bang is a must. If a reader doesn't like the first book they likely won't continue further into the series even if the rest of the stories aren't hinged on each other. Therefore, it is a do or die dilemma to decide which romantic couple will metaphorically helm the ship.
Onley James made the perfect choice.
Noah and Adam may be my favorite couple BUT, excluding the matter of personal preference, they are still the only ones who could have introduced this series to the masses like myself. It truly doesn't matter if a reader is drawn to them or any of the later serial killer based pairings as their #dementedcouplegoals . Anyone can see Onley James made a smart decision when she went into writing Unhinged as the, shall we say, lead single of what could be considered one of the greater lgbtq+ dark romances to be released in the current or previous decade.
Unhinged may be your favorite or it may not. It may be the book you find yourself revisiting like an old, admittedly criminally disturbed friend, but it is definitively the statement the author needed to make with the first book of a self-described "high-heat psychopath romance"- a credit you can find among the series descriptions.
What makes Noah and Adam ideal representatives for this pack of deranged vigilante serial killer romances is that they show the best of what Onley James has to offer with Necessary Evils. The duo of contrasting personalities deliver a healthy dose of salacious banter, blush inducing sexual tension, and smut for days. Therefore, these qualities provide a strangely lighthearted, and I use that word loosely, separation between the outlier elements that you see in glimpses of the darkest parts of the modern day underworld of bloodshed and manipulation. All of which are common themes throughout the entirety of these books.
As a reader, you're always anticipating glimpses of what the series you're reading will be like throughout, hints of what you'll bee seeing consistently present in the writing. In my opinion Unhinged is sort of like an entire book length preview of what to expect when you're expecting deliciously naughty killer energy. Unhinged is just the right amount of uniquely its own in a series that is knockout after knockout while still giving a clever foreshadowing of the themes that will be present from page one of this book to the epilogue of the final chapter in the Mulvaney saga.
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Author: Onley James
Description: August Mulvaney has always been exceptional. As the genius son of an eccentric billionaire, his off-putting behavior is often blamed on his high IQ. They say there’s a thin line between genius and madness. August is both—a brilliant professor loved by his students and a ruthless, obsessive killer tasked with righting the wrongs of a failing justice system. And he’s just found his latest obsession: Lucas Blackwell.
Lucas Blackwell was once the golden child of the FBI, using his secret talent as a clairvoyant to help put away society’s worst. Until, with a touch, he discovers his co-worker is a killer and his life falls apart. Now, the world thinks he’s crazy and that co-worker wants him dead. He seeks refuge at a small college, hoping to rebuild his life and his reputation. But then he runs into August Mulvaney. Literally.
August is immediately intrigued with Lucas and his backstory. He doesn’t believe in psychics, but there’s no missing the terror in his eyes when they collide in the hallway. Now, August has a problem. Lucas knows his secret, and August knows he wants Lucas. And August always gets what he wants.
Can he convince Lucas that not all killers are created equal and that having a psychopath in his corner—and in his life—might be just what he needs?
Rating: ★★★★ (4/5)
(Trigger Warnings: Violence, Gore, Sexual Assault, Murder, Abuse)
Going from Unhinged to Psycho, which is ironically an evaluation note I'm certain a psychiatrist somewhere has a written down about the Mulvaney brothers,, you may not know what to expect. You wouldn't be alone. Because while, as I've previously stated, the first book was a great launch point and a significant indicator of what is to come, you can't really know until you dive in headfirst into the story of August and Lucas. And dive headfirst you shall in a tale of a vigilante serial killer and his psychic love interest.
A psycho and a psychic is a definitively offensive if not catchy subtitle for this one if I do say so myself. Ahem, anyways, I won't quit my day job to write for book advertisers anytime soon.
Much like their predecessors, August and Lucas aren't exactly a match made in societal norms. In any other lineup, I'd argue they would be the most abnormal people in the room, but this isn't any conventional lineup. Among the Mulvaney family's romantic relationships these two are somehow the grounded, downright domesticated pair from the moment they meet, by fictional psychopath serial killer standards, of course. Out of the first four books, I'd argue they are the ones who stabilize a wildly outlandish narrative that manages to work in its own bizarre way.
With Lucas being an FBI profiler and coming into the series as a partner to August Mulvaney, while Noah and Adam happily make cameos in the background, you get a more in depth look into the psychological aspects of these relationships. Psycho manages to go into more detail about what it means to be and love a psychopath, albeit I'm positive a stuffy psych 101 professor somewhere is shaking their head in disapproval. Because, let's be real, we're not reading about the typical candies, flowers, and love notes romance you'll find described by a Hallmark card.
What I love most about Psycho is that you can clearly see how the author has managed to give each of the Mulvaney brothers their own distinct identity. If Onley James had recycled the same main character repeatedly these books would have eventually grown stale, but that isn't the approach the author has taken. She is able to do what few can: write varied yet believable characters. August and Adam could not be more different if they tried, despite their familial status and similar side hustles (murder). Where Adam is cocky, snarky, and downright spoiled at times; August is almost awkward, too literal at times, and Einstein level intelligent - which he never fails to remind others of in case they may have forgotten. Where Adam is possessive of his toy, otherwise known as Noah; August leans more toward endearingly protective of Lucas.
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Author: Onley James
Description: Atticus Mulvaney is the eldest son of eccentric billionaire, Thomas Mulvaney—a role he takes very seriously. Atticus takes everything seriously. Like his brothers, Atticus is a psychopath, raised to right the wrongs of a broken justice system. Unlike his brothers, he’s not very good at it.
Jericho Navarro is no psychopath, but he is a vicious killer. Like Atticus, he also has a secret life. To most, he’s just a mechanic. But to a ragtag group of social misfits, he’s Peter Pan, teaching them to eliminate those who prey on the weak with extreme prejudice.
When Atticus and Jericho come face to face over a shared enemy, their accidental meeting ends in an explosively hot hookup neither can forget. But they have nothing in common. Atticus is a buttoned-up closeted scientist and Jericho is a man on a mission, determined to find and punish those responsible for the death of his sister. Still, Jericho can’t stay away. And, truthfully, Atticus doesn’t want him to.
As Jericho’s mission begins to bleed into Atticus’s life, two separate but equally brutal families will need to learn how to fight together to take out a common enemy. But no amount of brute force can show Jericho how to scale the walls of a psychopath’s heart. Can Jericho convince Atticus that, sometimes, the couple who kills together stays together?
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
(Trigger Warnings: Violence, Gore, Murder)
If you've stuck around for books one and two of the Necessary Evils series you may think you know the formula. Psychopath falls in love with a sweet, somewhat innocent man who makes them weak in the knees. A tried and true love story for the ages and at this point a drill for a reader starting the third book, Moonstruck.
But what if I told you Onley James also knows how to write an inverted trope like nobodies business, except mine obviously since I'm reviewing her books. Whereas Adam and August of the previous books were the 'psychopaths' who fell in love with men who have debatably pure hearts, in Moonstruck we find a Mulvaney who is not the dominant killer of a criminal's nightmares.
Atticus Mulvaney is described as a bit of a serial killer failure among a family of champions in the arena. Mind you, his body count, murder not sexual, is still higher than most of the general population so there could be an argument made against these claims, but I digress from my soapbox. He is a man who just wants to work in his lab and enjoy the finer things in life like the designer shoes he JUST bought that he got mud on while trying to dispose of a body. But the family business waits for no one, not even a diva who revels in his free time that isn't spent hacking into bodies.
So meeting Atticus, you may notice he isn't like the other Mulvaney brothers. Therefore, why should his love interest be similar?
Atticus and Jericho are the definition of opposites attract. Their competitiveness, which Atticus doesn't even honestly care to win, drives them into a relationship fueled by passion and a hit list. There's a saying that to beat a villain you have to be the better villain. In their case, Jericho is the better serial killer, but instead of beating him he hooks up with him like a any reasonable romance book protagonist would.
Moonstruck is basically what would happen if an author decided to write the grumpy/sunshine trope if the sunshine was simultaneously snarky and demanding to combat his petulant, grumpy boyfriend. A ginger boyfriend who he affectionately refers to as Freckles. All while managing to have the best smut scenes in the entire series, don't argue with me, with a refreshing power dynamic exchange in and out of the bedroom.
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Author: Onley James
Description: Asa Mulvaney is half of a psychopathic whole. He and his twin brother live together, party together…kill together. In the Mulvaney family, murder is the family business and business is good. When an experiment separates Asa and his brother, Asa is forced to navigate the world on his own for the first time in his life.
Zane Scott is a small-time crime blogger and amateur sleuth, but he dreams of a byline in a major paper someday. When he winds up at a boring fundraiser beside Asa Mulvaney, they share an intensely passionate encounter that leaves Zane with an ache in his chest and a story idea that could make his career dreams a reality.
At a nearby college, a cluster of suicides isn’t what it seems. When Asa’s father asks him to look into it, he sees the perfect opportunity to see his little crime reporter again. And Asa needs to see him again. Zane’s suspicious of Asa’s motives, but he won’t say no to a chance to peek behind the Mulvaney family curtains.
As the two unravel a sinister plot, Asa’s obsession with Zane grows and Zane finds being Asa’s sole focus outweighs almost anything, maybe even his career--which is good for Asa because loving a Mulvaney is a full-time job. Can he convince Zane that he’s worth navigating a family of psychopaths and his pathologically jealous twin, or will Zane learn the hard way that the Mulvaney boys always get what they want? Always.
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
(Trigger Warnings: Violence, Gore, Murder, Suicide, Assault)
Once you've reached book number four in the Necessary Evils series, you're officially a seasoned veteran. You've probably already picked out your serial killer/vigilante book boyfriend and added all of the upcoming books to your shopping list so you'll be notified upon their release.
This opening paragraph has nothing to do with me projecting at all, if you happened to be curious.
By the time you've made it to this point, readers have seen a vast array of Mulvaney personalities. From Adam's cocky demeanor to August slightly off kilter brand of human to Atticus' prickly personality like an adorably upset porcupine, there is certainly already no shortage of unique characters among them. When you add the main character of Headcase, Asa, you're presented a new brother who in comparison to the others is most similar to Adam of the previous trio. All while still standing out as his own amidst the chaotic family.
Asa is part of a twin set, a two for one deal if you will, alongside his brother. His twin, who we've encountered previously throughout the books in blistering sibling banter, is actually absent for most of this book: a bold yet smart choice by the author. While I love Avi, I think his physical presence, attached at the hip and a somewhat psychic sibling bond, would have made it incredibly difficult for Asa to grow independent enough that he could have his own romance with Zane; and therefore make it harder for Avi to lead the next book, Mad Man.
Of course, in an interesting game of parallels, Zane, a slightly obsessive and too devoted true crime blogger, also has a brotherly relationship of a similar depth. I think this is one of the key stepping stones for their relationship in coming to relate to one another after the initial passion of their first encounter. The difference between the two, and the starting point of the plot? Zane's brother is now dead under 'mysterious circumstances', which leads him straight to Asa's and the Mulvaney's doorsteps.
The mystery unfolding during Asa and Zane's relationship into a string of supposed campus suicides is the most twisted and shocking of any you've read so far in the complicated lives of the Mulvaney family. On its own, it's a compelling puzzle that urges the reader to crave to both look away and delve deeper into the grizzly, psychological truth. When a personal connection emerges amongst the case for Zane, the story becomes an unbearably poignant and heartbreaking narrative peppered amidst the series trademark of epic romantic chemistry and unconventional love.
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