Alec Lambert had gotten too close to a witness a few months back. A serious lapse in judgment that had cost Alec a stint in the hospital, his girlfrie...moreAlec Lambert had gotten too close to a witness a few months back. A serious lapse in judgment that had cost Alec a stint in the hospital, his girlfriend, and his dog (taken by the said girlfriend), not to mention the life of a fellow FBI agent...And now, even Alec's certain promotion to Supervising Special Agent in his BAU unit. Actually he's been brought down a heap of notches, stuck in the new CAT unit lead by Wyatt Blackstone. A unit investigating Internet-related murders. Knowing the Black CATs reputation, Alec isn't very pleased, but at least he's still an FBI agent, isn't he?
His appreciation of his new team, his new position, and his new boss's cunning comes the first day of Alec's new position. A serial killer, the Professor, the BAU has been after for years, has switched on-line, luring his victims using different Internet scams.
Just hours before his untimely demise, the Professor's latest victim had been in contact with a woman who's made her life calling to warn Internet users of such scams, Samantha Dalton a.k.a. Sam the Spaminator.
Alec and his new partner immediately head onto Ms. Dalton's doorstep, unwittingly pulling the woman into the dangerous cat-and-mouse game that is about to get even more perilous and deadly.
This is the second book in the Black CATs trilogy by the talented Leslie Parrish, and if it's at all possible, even better than the first book, Fade to Black.
The plot was as good as the first book, with all its intricacies and different POW, but the pacing (while dragging a little at the beginning of the first book) has definitely improved, remaining consistent throughout the story.
Ms. Parrish has introduced another Blackstone's CAT member to the mix, someone mentioned only in passing in the first installment, but that proved to be an invaluable addition to the mixed team. I adored Alec, with all his little contradictions (the hardened FBI agents don't appear to hardened after all when the right person in involved ;)), that twinkle in his eye, and the protective streak a mile wide.
I had some problems with Sam Dalton at the beginning, the woman was a real mess. I've never been divorced myself, so I wouldn't know how it felt, but after a year you thought she'd have moved on. Well, she did in the course of this story and I ended up loving her just as much as every other "misfit" in Wyatt's CAT group.
The suspense was even more gripping, firmly crossing the threshold into thriller territory, IMHO. The serial killer was utterly twisted without having gone into stalker territory, but a stalker-ish serial killer...Talk about creepy. And yet again, his identity was once again a huge surprise, a nice respite from some other RS books when the villain's identity is so transparent it almost makes you cry.
Yeah, I definitely loved this book. The plot was nice and twisty, the pacing great, the characters, though some already familiar, still interesting, their dynamic has apparently grown even more from Fade to Black, the villain was a complete wacko and a complete surprise, the suspense chilling, thrilling, and unrelenting, the familiarity of the Internet world and its scams (and the dread that something like this might happen in real life, we've all received a similar message in our inbox), and that extra touch of romance (a bit hotter this time, maybe?) combined in a perfect mix.
The only real problem I've encountered in this book was the CAT IT specialist Lily Fletcher. I knew from the start of Fade to Black that she would be a real wild-card, despite her emotional side or because of it, and kept hoping she'd finally see reason. She didn't, (almost) destroying the most important factor in the dynamic of the entire team - trust. What happened to her wasn't "nice", but it wasn't unexpected either...But now, having read the blurb for Black at Heart, the final installment in this amazing trilogy, that completely confirmed my suspicion about the shy IT and the big boss (*wink wink*), I'm really looking forward to reading the last book and see what Ms. Parish would come up with. I can't wait!!!(less)
On the night of Lily Fletcher's memorial service, someone dialed Wyatt Blackstone's number, a voice from the grave begging for help...
Now, seven month...moreOn the night of Lily Fletcher's memorial service, someone dialed Wyatt Blackstone's number, a voice from the grave begging for help...
Now, seven months later, someone is offing in-the-closet pedophiles, luring them to out-of-the-way motels through known deviant websites, using very familiar names. The murder scenes are similar, the evidence of murderous rage, no usable fingerprints, no possible DNA samples, but the killer always lives a lily blossom beside the victim's body.
Wyatt Blackstone, the rather mysterious and reserved leader of the new CAT unit dealing with Internet-related murders, is particularly interested in this case, so interested in fact, no one in his team (but one, Brandon Cole, the IT specialist he's asked for help that night seven months ago) knows about it.
Wyatt refuses to believe the convenient clues, but the nagging doubts won't go away, until he talks to the only suspect he has...
Whoa, what a ride. After the heart-breaking prologue (with a nice kick in the end), we're immediately thrown into a gruesome murder scene and in the very thick of the investigation. The fact Wyatt is playing this pretty close to the vest should've been a good indication of just exactly was going on, but still the truth surprised the heck out of me...Lily Fletched, that voice calling Wyatt from the grave, is alive, recuperating in his beach house in Maine.
The second surprise of the day was Lily herself. Gone was the shy, quiet woman, in her stead we meet the strong, determined, scarred (both inside and out) warrior. The surprise was very pleasant indeed, I never much cared about the Lily from the past, but this new Lily, the Lily shaped by that horrible night when all went wrong and the seven days that followed it, now this was a woman to be reckoned with and admired. The details of what she's been through were never fully explained, which I could as a blessing, because the mere tidbits we've been fed were reason and explanation enough for me. This new Lily at first appeared cold, but it was (as usual) only a defense mechanism), she was strong, she was skilled, she knew what she wanted...Closure and the man she's loved for what a while, her enigmatic boss, Wyatt Blackstone.
And can you blame the girl? I've been itching to know more about Wyatt from book one in this amazing trilogy. He was a true enigma, a man evidently burying his emotion deep, aloof, unflappable...Gorgeous and sexy as hell. It was heart-breaking to learn the truth about his past, it was rather annoying see him resist the temptation that was Lily, and it was HOT to see him finally lose some of that famous control.
The suspense part of the story (the major part) was yet again amazing, with the serial killer on the loose, wondering if it was possible Lily was behind it, the hunt for the Lovesprettyboys bastard who kidnapped Lily and held her for seven days, the bomb that the truth about it was, and the tension after learning the true identity of the murdered and his reasons that was strung until the epilogue.
I loved the Black CATs, it was evident how the team progressed from virtual strangers to a group of people that would do anything to protect one of their own (without judgment, without needing all that much explanation), even putting their careers on the stake. It was nice to revisit those "old" friends (Dean and Alec), learning of how their lives went on after their own stories. It was wonderful receiving some sort of vindication when learning just what went down after the failed pedophile bust seven months prior.
But in this story I did miss the romantic aspect a little. A tiny little bit. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of tension, wondering whether to do something or not, tapping around the edges, and when the moment finally came it brought a relieved sigh and a "was about time!" to my lips, but I find it wasn't enough. I wanted to see more of that Blackstone control slip, I wanted to see Wyatt and Lily happy together (I've been rooting for them since the beginning, despite the fact Lily wasn't my favorite character back then), it just wasn't meant to be, I guess. I'm not disappointed with the romance subplot, I just wish there was more. Only a little bit, maybe.
Anyway, with the tight-strung suspense, good pacing, chills and thrills, great action, gripping tension, that little bit of romance (that could've been more ;)), and wonderful characters Black at Heart presents a wonderful finale to this great and highly-recommended series.
Boy, am I glad for my latest crazy book-shopping spree that led me to this little gem of a story.
With this flood of contemporary/suspense/thriller/par...moreBoy, am I glad for my latest crazy book-shopping spree that led me to this little gem of a story.
With this flood of contemporary/suspense/thriller/paranormal romance hybrids out there it was refreshing stumbling upon a "straight" contemporary. They come rare these days, especially if you’re looking for a fresh and frolicking book that manages to deliver from beginning to end.
I loved the feel and the style of it. It was quirky, a little eccentric, hilarious, fast-paced, sarcastic, yet serious and sad at the appropriate moments. It’s obvious the author used to write screenplays, the whole thing had an almost movie-like feel, for me the characters and the story came alive even quicker and the book as a whole was a big more "tangible".
I absolutely adored the characters. They had depth (even the supporting cast), so many dimensions it was scary, and they appeared "real", like someone you’d meet on a street someday or read about in a magazine. Taylor with her sarcastic defense system and that huge emotional scar she absolutely refused to acknowledge, yet it shaped her point of view and impacted everything she did and say, almost causing her to make the biggest mistake of her life. Kudos for her logical, lawyer-y brain for (once in a lifetime) being right and put its foot down. And Jason. Oh, what to say about Jason. At first he was "a typical movie-superstar prick", but oh so slowly Taylor got to know him better, the reader got to know him better, and before you know it, we were both in love with the guy. Okay, so he was a jackass, especially the stunt with his co-star, but he did it for a good cause (his cause). And it worked! And when he finally decided to go with the flow and turned the charm up a notch…Ooh. Two thumbs up for the portrayal of the other part of Hollywood as well, the other side of Jason, beside the movie star. Because, when he finally allowed the true Jason to shine through the VIP veneer, that’s the moment Taylor fell in love with him. When he let himself be just a man instead of the actor, that’s when the arrow hit home. Yay!
Great mixing of worlds as well, Taylor’s legal one and Jason’s movie world (with all its hypocrisy and backstabbing "beautifully" portrayed by Scott Casey). These two complete opposites worked perfectly together, creating a wonderful couple…And a wonderful love story.
A highly recommended read. The author truly did one hell of a job with this one and Ms. James is already on my watch list (I’m looking forward to reading her next book – Practice Makes Perfect).(less)
The FBI needs ears in the office of a money-launderer for the mob. But they need a decoy to plant those ears. Enter Jordan Rhodes, gorgeous heiress an...moreThe FBI needs ears in the office of a money-launderer for the mob. But they need a decoy to plant those ears. Enter Jordan Rhodes, gorgeous heiress and wine connoisseur. She’ll get them into a charity event, posing as an agent’s girlfriend in exchange for her brother’s freedom. Easy as pie. Especially when the agent posing as her boyfriend isn’t the asshat that gets on her nerves.
The big day comes and the nice agent is down with the stomach flu and Jordan is stuck with the asshat, Nick McCall. Okay, still easy as pie. Get him in, get him out, say goodbye forever.
Wrong-o. Because the money-launderer appears to have a major crush on our valiant Jordan and decides to put a tail on her “boyfriend”, determined to uncover some sort of dirt in the guy, because, let’s be frank, she’s so out of his league there must be something fishy going on.
So Jordan and Nick are stuck together for the immediate future. What a mess.
Wrong. Again. Because while it might sound like a mess, it was really a pretty amazing story, written with the JJ usual flare and panache, featuring a grouchy FBI agent (not unlike Jack Pallas from the previous story) and the first un-lawyer heroine in the JJ history.
And I loved every minute of it. Even the rather child-like argument toward the end when neither spoke to the other, because they were both scared spitless of ending up with a broken heart. And this is, this being me, someone who hates theH/h inability to communicate that inevitably leads to “conflict”, “misunderstanding”, and (unnecessary) “tension”. This wasn’t such a case. Yes, they failed to communicate, but the setback didn’t last long enough for me to start gritting my teeth.
Loved the plot, loved the pacing, loved the style, loved the characters...Loved everything.
And I was so glad to see Jack Pallas and the new U.S. attorney Cameron Lynde make an appearance. It’s good to visit with old friends from time to time. And the trash-talking camaraderie between Jack and Nick was a real fun to read. And the convo about their “secret weapon looks”, the clash of titans between glowering-and-growly (Jack) and don’t-fuck-with-me-face (Nick) was hilarious.
When’s the next book coming out?
Note about the cover: Love the placement of his hand. :D(less)
Reading Leslie Parrish’s books is my guilty little pleasure. Why guilty? Because when her books come out, I drop everything else I might be reading at...moreReading Leslie Parrish’s books is my guilty little pleasure. Why guilty? Because when her books come out, I drop everything else I might be reading at the moment, and dive right in. Headfirst. And I love it.
I loved this new installment in her Extrasensory Agents series as well. A great mix of romance, drama, paranormal and thriller. Because there was no “pussy” suspense in this book, it jumped right into the thriller realm with a villain there was no space left in his head (if you want to know what I mean, you’ll have to read the book, and if you’re anything like me, you won’t be sorry).
This time it was the heroine that worked for eXtreme Investigations, and what word it was. Olivia could touch dead remains and know exactly what happened in the last two minutes and ten seconds of that person’s life. Stuff of nightmares, you’d think. And you’d be right. Lucky for our girl, she met a man. The right man. A tough cop with a heart of gold and a weakness for a redhead with green eyes and a strange affinity to death. And she wasn’t just lucky to meet him for her peace of mind, but for her own well-being as well.
You know what the problem with Ms. Parrish’s books is? I cannot talk/write/rant about them without revealing spoilers, so I find it really hard to gush about how much I love her books without revealing too much. And it’s tough to gush when people don’t know what you’re gushing about…
I’ll keep it brief and simple. If you like your reading material to have a lovely mix of genres (equal amount of each), great pacing, wonderful characters, thrilling suspense, intense tension, chillingly delicious villains, amazing chemistry, tight plotlines, and twists and turns galore, this is the book for you. Despite its “predictability” (I’m not talking about page-to-page know-it-all, but the certainty of a happy ending) it was decidedly unpredictable. I’ve grown weary of books where you can see everything that’s about to happen from a few scenes before, know the identity of the villain when he/she first makes an appearance etc. Cold Touch kept me on my toes and on the edge of my seat. And the final twist (not the accomplice one, because I saw that one coming!) in the end really threw me. Was it necessary? Yes, to solve the mystery, but that could’ve been solved without that sacrifice. And I would’ve loved to see two happy endings instead of one, but it wasn’t meant to be. I’m not saying that final twist ruined the book for me, because it didn’t, it just added another layer to the whole story, I’m just saying I could’ve done happily without it. But then, we wouldn’t have an “interesting” epilogue. ;)
P.S. Oh, I thought of a downside to this series. Only one book a year. So not fair.(less)
Whew. I finally got around to reading this. And now that I’m done, I’m really, really sorry for not reading it sooner. Damn! Maybe it wasn’t as “funny...moreWhew. I finally got around to reading this. And now that I’m done, I’m really, really sorry for not reading it sooner. Damn! Maybe it wasn’t as “funny” (I mean the LOL moments) as Just the Sexiest Man Alive, but it was still one of the best contemporary romances / romantic comedies I’ve read in last few years.
I loved Payton and J.D., and their mutual antics. Very kindergarten, if-he-pulls-your-braids-it-means-he-really-really-likes-you, extremely childish at times, somewhat over the top at moments (the coffee on suit and the heel incident), but still, you could feel the underlying (sexual) tension between these two. And the banter, the banter, when they managed to burry the proverbial axe for a few moments, was absolutely fantastic.
“Why don’t you look around this firm sometime—everyone here is just like you, J.D. White with a penis.”
Not being in the law field, I sometimes puzzled over the partner-race the two were in, I admit to not understanding the importance of it all, but it provided both the comedic angle and some pretty good insight into the psyches of our hero and heroine. He was a rich-boy, asshole with slightly chauvinistic tendencies, she was a prissy, feminist vegetarian, and for some reason they worked. Worked splendidly in war-more, worked splendidly in truce-mode, worked splendidly (together) in work-mode, and worked splendidly in “amorous”-mode. I just loved these two to bits. Along with the rest of the supporting cast, from her quirky mother, to his filthy-rich parents, their two best friends, her secretary, and the major client. This motley crew of characters clicked perfectly, bringing all the necessary nuances to the story. Wonderfully done.
Speaking of the motley crew cast of characters. J.D.’s best friend and an anonymous cab driver provided my absolute favorite scene in the book with the Pride and Prejudice reference and apropos tea discussion.
“ ‘Does our fair Ms. Kendall truly loathe the arrogant Mr. Jameson as she so ardently proclaims, or is it all just a charade to cover more amorous feelings for a man she reluctantly admires? ’” Up front, the cabdriver snorted loudly. He appeared to be enjoying the show.
“Psych 101 again?” J.D. asked.
Tyler shook his head. “Lit 305: Eighteenth-Century Women’s Fiction.” He caught J.D.’s look and quickly defended himself. “What? I took it because of the girls in the class. Anyway, I see a bit of a P and P dynamic going on between you and Payton.”
J.D. didn’t think he wanted to know. Really. But he asked anyway. “P and P?”
Tyler shot him a look, appalled. “Uh, hello—Pride and Prejudice?” His tone said only a cretin wouldn’t know this. “Oh right, P and P,” J.D. said. “You know, Tyler, you might want to pick up your balls—I think they just fell right off when you said that.”
Up front, the cabdriver let out a good snicker.
Tyler shook his head. “Laugh if you want, but let me tell you something: women go crazy for that book. And even crazier for men who have read it. If I plan to bring a girl back to my place, I might just so happen to leave a copy of it sitting out on my coffee table and, let’s just say, hijinks frequently ensue. And you know what? It’s not a bad bit of storytelling. I like to put on a nice pot of Earl Grey tea, maybe a slice of almond biscotti, and—yeah, that’s fine, keep right on laughing, buddy, but I bet I’ve gotten laid more recently than you.”
“Hey—not that I’m not thoroughly amused at the thought of your little tea cozy and you wrapped up in a blanket reading your book—”
“I didn’t say there was a blanket.” Tyler paused. “Fine. Sometimes there may be a blanket.”
“—but my question is, were you going anywhere with this, or is it just some sort of weird sharing moment?”
Tyler had to think. “Where was I going with this . . . ?” He snapped his fingers. “Oh, yeah—Pride and Prejudice. Women and the whole Darcy complex. For Payton, that’s you.”
“I thought Darcy was the asshole.”
Tyler smiled fondly. “You know, he really kind of is.”
“Great pep talk, Tyler. Thanks.”
“But he doesn’t stay the asshole,” Tyler said. “See, you just don’t understand women the way I do, J.D. They want it all: a career, apple martinis, financial independence, great shoes; but at the same time—and this they’ll never admit— they are drawn to patriarchal men who are dominant and controlling. That’s the essence of the Darcy complex. He may be an asshole, but he’s an asshole that gets the girl in the end.”
J.D. rolled his eyes. This entire conversation was just so ridiculous. But still.
“And how does he accomplish that?” he asked.
“Oh, it gets a little complicated,” Tyler said. “See, Lizzie has this troublesome younger sister who runs off with the guy she originally thought she liked—wait, back up—to really understand, I should start with the visit to Pemberley, because it actually starts with the aunt and uncle, see—her uncle loves to fish and Darcy asks—”
J.D. held up his hand, very, very sorry he asked. “The short version please. We’re already at your stop.”
Tyler looked out the window and saw that the cab had indeed pulled up in front of his building. He turned back to J.D. “Okay. The short version, the very short version: he gets the girl by being nice to her.”
J.D. waited. “That’s it? He’s nice to her? That’s so . . .lame.”
“Look, if you want to win Payton over—”
J.D. stopped him right there. “Hey, we’re only speaking in hypotheticals, okay? I haven’t decided that I want to win anyone over.”
“Oh. Then my advice is that you should start there. Figure out what you want.” With that, Tyler got out of the cab and darted through the rain into his building.
Great. Thanks for the help. J.D. gave the cabdriver his address. He stared out the window as the taxi made its way the six blocks to his building. When they arrived, J.D. reached through the divider and handed the cabdriver a twenty and told him to keep the change.
The driver turned around. “Hey—your friend back there was giving you some pretty strange advice.” Around fortyish and wearing a ragged flannel shirt and a Sox cap that had seen far better days, the guy had one of the thickest Chicago accents J.D. had ever heard. “He seemed a little off the wall, if you know what I mean. I don’t think I’d listen to him if I were you.”
J.D. grinned. “I’ll take that under advisement.” He opened the door to the cab and stepped out.
“Because everybody knows that Darcy doesn’t win Lizzie over just by being nice.”
J.D. stopped. He looked back over his shoulder.
The driver rested his arm on the divider. His rolled-up sleeve revealed a tattoo of a black scorpion that covered his entire forearm. “See, it’s all about the Grand Gesture. That’s how you get the girl.”
“Thank you,” J.D. managed to say.
The driver shrugged. “No prob-lem. Frankly, it sounded like you could use all the help you can get.”
He put the cab into gear.
“And listen—tell your friend to try English Breakfast next time. It’s a little more robust. Earl Grey is really more of a Sense and Sensibility kind of tea.”
It’s the scenes like those, the amazing characterization, the general comedic feel, and all-in-all good plots that I love about Julie James' books.
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Granville, Georgia is plagued by a serial killer…Or is it? When reporter Lexie Nolan ran the story of several teenage girl gone missing, she was shut...moreGranville, Georgia is plagued by a serial killer…Or is it? When reporter Lexie Nolan ran the story of several teenage girl gone missing, she was shut down, and almost lost her job, while the chief of police and all the prominent citizens claimed the missing teens were just runaways. Especially since they were from the “bad part of town”.
Well, the Ghoul, as some have dubbed the presumed serial killer has struck again. This time kidnapping a girl from the bad part of town going to school in the good part of town. The police and the public can no longer hide from the truth…Or can they? Just to be sure, Lexie enlists the help of Aidan McConnell, a psychic investigator ran out of Savannah by a case gone bad, resulting in the death of a child. It’s tough getting him on board, but once he’s hooked, there’s no chance he won’t see this through.
But someone doesn’t want Lexie and Aidan poking around. Because something is obviously wrong in this quaint little town, something that just might put the serial killer to shame with its darkness and longevity. Because Granville reeks of dark secrets, and the serial killer just might expose them all.
Though this is categorized as romantic suspense, I’d say this is more along the lines of a thriller with some (rather strong) romantic undertones. It was dark, compelling, chilling, edgy, intriguing, a little sick (especially in that basement and clubhouse), and a lot twisted. I thought Ms. Parrish’s Black CATs trilogy was dark, but it has nothing on this book. Also, the Black CATs stories were sort of 50-50 on romance and suspense, while here the percentage was highly in favor of the suspense.
The driving force, at least for me, wasn’t the “less-exposed” romance, though it played a major role, bringing Lexie and Aidan together, binding them, creating a powerful team, it wasn’t the aforementioned two leads, it wasn’t even the twisted killer or the sick and dark “little town secret”, it was the strong, determined, unbreakable personality of the Ghoul’s latest victim, Yvonne “Vonnie” Jackson. Though a secondary character, relegated into the role of the victim, she was the glue that brought everything together, she was the catalyst for this story, and its true heart. The reader gets to know the killer, observe her prison through her eyes, experiences everything as she experiences it, and has no choice but admire the strength of her character, her determination to get free no matter what, her stubborn refusal to let the villain win. And it is also her slight connection to Aidan that pulls him into the investigation, gets him to trust Lexie, makes him forget all his misgivings and self-doubt, and dive into the case head-on. Yes, the killer started it all by kidnapping her, but it was Vonnie that drove the story forward. Ms. Parrish did an amazing job in creating such a realistic character and giving her the opportunity to (almost) outshine the leads. Despite everything, to me, this was more Vonnie’s story than anything else.
Not that I didn’t love the romance subplot. Far from it. The sparks between Lexie and Aidan flew from the get-go, the tension and attraction was almost palpable and it was just a matter of time before they both gave in. Their “psychic” connection gave their story a little otherworldly feel, but still retained that elusive believability and realism. Marvelously done. The same goes for the main suspense arc. The killer was deliciously twisted, a complete psycho with a sadistic streak a mile wide, but it was still a true pleasure to read, and the villain’s identity remained a secret until Ms. Parrish decided to reveal it, which was a nice respite from the usual suspense fare where the bad guy is obvious from the first chapter. The “Hellfire Club” sub-sub-plot was sick and twisted as well, though the resolution was rather lacking, but maybe we haven’t seen the end of the Club just yet. Here’s hoping.
And now to the whole series stuff. Unlike many first-book-in-a-series books, this one wasn’t rife with world building and introductions of characters, but instead provided mere tidbits of the characters’ pasts and abilities, but that was enough to get to know them and whet the reader’s appetite for more. I’m already itching to read more about the XI investigative team and their abilities. April and Olivia’s story is too far away for my taste.
Lastly, despite the “darkness”, I don’t think this is a “mood book”, having to read it when the mood is just right. You can pick it up at any time, it’ll pull you in from the first page and won’t spit you out until the very end. Even when a scene was a bit too much to take and I wanted to put it down, I simply couldn’t. Something compelled me to keep reading. A true page turner. Can’t wait for more.(less)
Special Agent Dean Taggert, member of a special Cyber Action Team (CAT) dealing in Internet-related murders, comes into the small town of Hope Valley,...moreSpecial Agent Dean Taggert, member of a special Cyber Action Team (CAT) dealing in Internet-related murders, comes into the small town of Hope Valley, Virginia, pursuing a case that might have something to do with a missing person reported seventeen months ago.
Up until now, everybody in Hope Valley, Sheriff Stacey Rhodes included, though local girl Lisa Zimmerman had simply taken off with one of her druggie boyfriends. A video, found on a "specialized" website catering to the lowest of the low on the humane scale, appropriately called Satan's Playground proves them all wrong. Lisa had been murdered that night seventeen months ago...And she knew her killer.
Having literally escaped back home to Hope Valley from what she's seen and experienced during her stint in state police, Stacey Rhodes, can't believe blood and death have invaded her small, serene home town. And that the killer, with a deadly handle of The Reaper, still on the loose, slowly but inexorably letting go of his grasp on reality, could be someone she knows, someone she works with, someone she loves.
With the time between the murders escalating and the Reaper becoming more and more brazen with his Internet murder-auctions, Stacey, Dean and his CAT team race against the clock to uncover the Reaper's identity and save his next intended victim...
This is the first book in a suspense/thriller series (it appears a trilogy for now) by Leslie Parrish. Fade to Black started with a compelling and utterly chilling prologue, and the suspense didn't let up until the fast-paced, completely unexpected finale.
The plot was great, well-developped and well-written, the pacing great (thought it dragged its feet a little at the beginning, but that's to be expected with a first book in any series), the characters were nicely drawn and "fully-dimensional", the dynamic was great and the chills and thrills throughout the story compelled me to finish this one in one sitting.
Though some might find the multiple-character POW and procedural part of the story somewhat boring and uneventful, it helped develop the reader's understanding of the characters and what made each of them tick, brought the whole apprehending-the-killer procedure a little closer to the reader's understanding, along with nicely sketching the initial team dynamic, which, as the story progressed, developped into true team-work. Six completely different characters, literally forced to work together sight unseen, developped a new, strong team-bond throughout the story, promising even more excitement in the future.
I absolutely loved the cat-and-mouse game between the killer and his pursuers, the clues that seemed to bring them closer to the killer, yet contradicted themselves at the same time. The suspect list was an arm long, with new clues pointing in different directions and possibilities with each page, and I loved the utter surprise the Reaper's identity presented. Never saw that one coming.
The different twists and turns, smaller sub-plots, great characters, wonderful pacing, the chilling suspense, and that little touch of romance (though I wouldn't miss it if it weren't there) make Fade to Black a truly wonderful and compelling read. A great first installment in this series and I can't wait to read the rest.
P.S. Shawna, thanks a bunch for pointing me in the direction of this beauty. ;)(less)
Three years ago she tanked his investigation, he insulted her on TV, and she had him transferred to Nebraska (or so he thought). Now, she’s an audile...moreThree years ago she tanked his investigation, he insulted her on TV, and she had him transferred to Nebraska (or so he thought). Now, she’s an audile witness to a murder and he’s lead investigator. And they still hate each other’s guts (or so they try to convince themselves).
Julie James isn’t one of my favorite authors for nothing, and I’m feeling pretty bad about doubting her while reading the first part of this book. Because it was rather slow and uneventful. Having finished it, I know better and will never doubt you again, Julie. You have my word.
Sure, it started slow, but it was necessary to create a realistic foundation to the rest of the story, providing important info on the two leads (and the killer’s motive) in three flashbacks, the first two also illustrating the start of what I lovingly call “the big misunderstanding”. Yes, BM is almost a must in some stories to keep things lively and moving forward, often descending into cliché, but not with Ms. James. Nope. It was there, sure, it creating the necessary tensions (and some humorous moments), but it didn’t overwhelm the story with its bulk and it was resolved in a timely manner (which isn’t often the case) and when both BM participants were willing to communicate (which also isn’t often case—actually, this just might be the first “easy” BM in my reading experience).
But let’s go back to pacing. The first half was to set the chess pieces on the board, the second one, even before the resolution to the BM, was to grab that chess board and shake it like mad. Because once the pace picked up and the story started hurling toward the big finish, there was no stopping it. And I loved every minute of it. For a first venture into suspense, Julie James did a great job.
And now to what Ms. James does best. Characterization. Sheesh, but I loved every single one of the bunch (even the killer had that extra spark for me, but that’s probably because I’m a fan of the author). Cameron was your typical JJ heroine. Funny, a little self-deprecating, smart, sarcastic...What’s not to love about her. But the hero, Jack Pallas, the brooding, glowering, Alpha fed, was the one who stole the entire show, with his scruff, his muscles, his protective nature, his “hidden” personality, his sense of humor, and his bike. And Cam’s friends and Jack’s partner provided the comic relief.
And another commendation for Julie James. You’ve graduated from sex scenes. Yay! Some fellow reviewers claimed it seemed forced, but I didn’t get that impression. Far from it. It was sexy, sensual, and H-O-T, laced with a pinch of humor, and Jack, of course. :D
This is a pretty lame review for such a great book, but I don’t think anything could do it justice. You’ll just have to read it and experience Jack Pallas on your own. ;)(less)
Another sweet story in this two-book miniseries. I know, I know, it’s the word sweet. What on Earth could be sweet about a jaded (ex) gigolo being auc...moreAnother sweet story in this two-book miniseries. I know, I know, it’s the word sweet. What on Earth could be sweet about a jaded (ex) gigolo being auctioned off – for a measly five thousand bucks – at a bachelor’s auction for needy kids to a day-care center owner so she could use him as a pretend boyfriend at her parents’ wedding anniversary?
Well, everything. ;)
The story starts at the same auction as in Slow Hands by the same author, where the mix-up by two harried printers leads to the all-American paramedic, mistaken for the gigolo, getting auctioned off for 25 grand. Sean Murphy, the real hired escort for women, retired and with his own set of rules, suffers from the same printer’s mistake and is turned into the paramedic and bought by Annie Davis, the day-care center owner. Don’t you just love it when Kismet rears its pretty head?
Country-bred Annie has fled her overprotective family and started a business in the big city, all the while avoiding being murdered, robbed and raped (not necessarily in that order). For the past few weeks she’s been telling everybody back at home about this wonderful guy she’s been seeing and she was bringing to the anniversary celebration. Unfortunately the divorced single father she’s been falling far ended up being still married and Annie ended up without a date. There’s no chance in hell she’ll be going home alone and suffer through another bout of you-should-stay-at-home-and-marry-a-country-boy, so she needs a man. Pronto!
The bachelor auction is a given and the sexy hunk of a paramedic going last, with his long, black hair, vivid blue eyes, and a golden stud in his ear is a godsend. So Sean, the globetrotting business consultant (yeah, that’s what he really does for a living) and the girl-next-door with a body he can’t help salivating for Annie are stuck together until the weekend and her parents’ party.
All the get is one weekend, there could be no future for them…Yeah, right.
I’d highly suggest you read the first book, Slow Hands, first, because that one’s great, too, and you will have a better picture of exactly what went on with the program mix-up. But this story could easily be read as a stand-alone, so don’t fret if you missed the opportunity to download the first book for free. Your loss.
I loved this book. Even more than I love the previous one. Maybe because the mix-up didn’t drag throughout most of the story, but it was addressed early on and only served as some great dinner conversation and shared laughter.
I adored this story because of the two main characters, Annie and Sean. They were both nicely developed, they had depth, they had character, and when we discovered thy shared a rather bossy family past, it was made even more clear they were absolutely made for each other.
Annie was you typical girl-next-door type who grew up in a large family, with three overprotective brothers and an overprotective father. She desperately wanted to shake off the mold of the good country girl living in the big city. She wanted to see the world, experience things other than milking cows and living only a mile away from her family. Sure, she wanted a family as well, but in her own time and under her own rules. She was sweet, caring, and had completely no clue as to how beautiful she really was – inside and out – until Sean came along. I loved her final reaction, how totally nonjudgmental she was, how accepting and how understanding.
And Sean. Well, this tall, dark, gorgeous, long-haired, blue-eyed, golden-earring wearing, Irish-accented, sexy devil was a masterpiece in contradiction. At first he appeared beyond jaded, reminiscing about his sordid past, his living-in-the-Dark-ages father with his penchant for arranged marriage, his mother who sold him to get her next fix, the older women flocking to his side yadda yadda yadda. Yet, when he set eyes on the woman who "bought" him, he did a 180 so fast it made my head spin. Some would say that his intimate knowledge of women made him adjust to her needs to what he felt she wanted, but there was something in her that drew him, enchanted him, made him want to be a better man.
There’s something about taming-the-bad-boy stories that get to me. It’s great to know that he he’s still bad in the end, that he let himself be tamed, that it took one special woman to accomplish that fact. And it’s wonderful seeing such taming unfurl before your eyes.
This is what happened in this story. Not that Sean was such a bad-boy to begin with, he was more a consequence of everything that happened to him, yet just the fact he saw himself unworthy of Annie was evidence enough he was worth everything she could give him. And the fact he was ready to push her away, suffer the pain of the separation so he wouldn’t hurt her (he hurt her just by pushing away, but there’s no way to tell that to a man, because they’re so bloody smart and all-knowing!) was heart-breaking.
I was a little disappointed about how the anniversary party played out. With all that buildup, warnings, preparation I was hoping for more than a few pages. Though I loved how Sean got in her father’s good graces by beating Annie’s brothers at rugby (football is for sissies!). And the ending was a bit of a let-down as well. It just seemed too abrupt. Instead of the epilogue the author could’ve stretched the last chapter a little more, building the suspense. I know the ending was a given, but she could’ve made us squirm more. The epilogue was a bit sappy, but a nice resolution to a great story.
This was truly a fantastic story to read, forget about everything, and just enjoy the fantasy swirl in front of our eyes. If you like reformed-bad-boy stories or just like to escape in the world of a sweet, sexy romance, this is definitely a story for you.(less)
A pretty solid finale for this four-book miniseries, just not as good as it could've been. And the pacing had much to do with that little hiccup.
Shy,...moreA pretty solid finale for this four-book miniseries, just not as good as it could've been. And the pacing had much to do with that little hiccup.
Shy, "sincere and pure" bookstore owner Caron agrees to play Audrey Hepburn at a charity ball, but thanks to a toilet malfunction at her store ends up two hours late and without a costume. Lucky for her, another woman is unable to perform and Caron find herself strutting the stage as Marilyn Monroe and catching the eye of millionaire and playboy Baxter Remington.
Their attraction was explosive, the sexy scenes scorching hot (yep, it was a Blaze alright), and they were pretty well-developped and nicely-rounded characters (without, gasp, emotional baggage). Yet the embezzlement-ploy (or something like that) in his company - he had nothing to do with it besides believing in his VP - and the subplot of a female FBI agent with a huge chip on her shoulder determined to find some dirt on Baxter and her apparent female-hating partner (there was so much tension between the it could've been cut with a knife) kept intruding on the sexual buzz the main story provided, and severely messed with the the pacing.
There is only one word that comes to mind (now, immediately after having read this story) - sweet. Oh, and throw aww in front of it.
I don't think the...moreThere is only one word that comes to mind (now, immediately after having read this story) - sweet. Oh, and throw aww in front of it.
I don't think the author wanted people to describe this story along the "sweet" lines, but that's juts how I feel about it. Yeah, it had a few hot scenes (nothing extraordinary, mind you), but what truly drew me in, was the depth to the story, which is rather unusual for a Blaze book (at least for those I've read so far).
The characters were wonderful, nicely developped from the scumbag ex with his little cameo to the hunky, sweet, all-American EMT hero. The heroine was, at the first glance, his complete opposite, but once he managed to get her out of her ice-princess shell, you could see they were made for each other. And through their romance, through all Jake taught Maddy, the reader as well learned a little lesson.
Yeah, luckily there was some depth to the whole thing to distract me from the utterly silly, and easily amended, misunderstanding that spurned everything into action. And the budding relationship between the hero and heroine, along with her completely dysfunctional family, and small glimpses into the upper crust of the society, made me spent a couple of pleasurable hours in the company of this sweet, sexy, poignant little story.
Which is yet another lesson in itself - not every Harlequin freebie is bad. ;)(less)
In Enticed by Stephanie Bond an Atlanta lawyer decides to spend a few romantic days in the Maldives with her boyfriend (that’s supposed to propose acc...moreIn Enticed by Stephanie Bond an Atlanta lawyer decides to spend a few romantic days in the Maldives with her boyfriend (that’s supposed to propose according to the practice’s grapevine), but there’s a little cupid out there that do anything to give her a little more time to think about it... Even if that means stranding her on Sri Lanka with a happy-go-lucky pilot/home-builder/captain.
I loved this little story. It was sexy, sweet, a little bit romantic, and a lot fun. Kimber needed to loosen up a little in the beginning, but with Finn’s help she turned out just fine. I wish that it was longer and the ending seemed a bit rushed, but still a 4 ½ star story.
In Propositioned by Leslie Kelly Liz left her life behind to tend bar in St. Lucia, but she never imagined someone from her past would come looking for her.
This wasn't as fun and carefree as the previous story, but it sure was a little steamier. The biggest problem was the heroine and her strange distrust of the hero. She blamed him for something he had nothing to do with, despite knowing what a douche bag her ex was...And she was just as quick to jump to conclusions after almost all was said and done.
A very romantic story, though. 4 stars
In Fevered by Lori Wilde we meet a reporter that’s “only interested in the truth” lying her way to an exclusive interview with a reclusive chemical engineer in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle, with a small stop in his bed.
This was by far the most disappointing story in this anthology. Predictable, without much chemistry, the verbal images of the surroundings were the less descriptive, and the ending (the entire plot, actually) was a bit too “template”. 2 ½ stars(less)
The best part of this four-novella anthology was Lora Leigh's Breed novella. Certainly not one of the best stories in the series, and entirely too sh...moreThe best part of this four-novella anthology was Lora Leigh's Breed novella. Certainly not one of the best stories in the series, and entirely too short, I barely started enjoying the story when it was already over.
Shiloh Walker's was one of those hidden gems and the first story by the author I've read. I'm sure it won't be the last. The twist of "combining" two utterly different creatures of the lore was a nice move, yet I felt that sort of conflict could've been explored a little further. Unfortunately, with novellas the author has a limited amount of space to cram everything in.
I've never been a fan of Emma Holly's and I certainly shall not become one. Her contribution to this collection was once more a rather boring rendition of been-there-read-that. I just cannot relate to her characters or her stories.
It it Meljean Brook's story that earned the title "Skimmed Through Instead Of Read" for this anthology. I just couldn't "get with the program". Neither the plot nor the characters were able to pull me in, leaving me to just fly through it to continue with the next story.(less)
This was the first book by this author I read, so I didn’t have any expectations about it. I just decided to let it surprise me. And surprise me it di...moreThis was the first book by this author I read, so I didn’t have any expectations about it. I just decided to let it surprise me. And surprise me it did. Parts of it I liked, parts of it not so much…And it ended safely on middle ground.
Kudos for the India setting, creating a great feel of remoteness and isolation for both the leading characters and the reader as well. I truly had the feeling of being there with them, living alongside them their surroundings, the oppressive heat, and the imminent danger lurking in the shadows along. The buildup was wonderful and intense, culminating in a chilling battle scene.
I’m a bit “wobbly” on the characters. Both Leo and Briony were rather realistic, flawed, and issue-laden, but I once again liked the hero best. There was just something off-putting something about Briony, but I don’t know whether it was her inability to forgive and forget, her aloofness, her frigidness, her indecision or a combination of all these elements. I just didn’t get her reasoning. She was so in love with Leo (she said), but kept pushing him away and when the truth as to why she did that came out I simply didn’t get it. She should’ve done something sooner, maybe not have gone through the wedding, not kept quiet…I don’t know. She just didn’t seem reasonable for a doctor. Though her profession did give me some pleasure, leaving the usual regency-novel template in the dust.
The second problem was the slowing-down toward the end. The entire story revolved around Leo and Briony first resolving their issues, then getting alive and well out of India and all this created great tension, great suspense, and wonderful pacing. Once everything was resolved the story simply stalled, leaving the reader reeling, wondering what the heck just happened. Anticlimactic.(less)