Deeper is the first book in the Caroline & West new adult, contemporary romance series. I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I hadn't heard of the author or the series before (although subsequently have found out it's the pen name of Ruthie Knox). However, from the first page I was hooked. This book is beautifully written, has two of the most amazing characters I've read in a long time - especially within the new adult, contemporary romance genre - and the added aspect of revenge porn which, although I knew about it, hadn't realised it was called revenge porn.
Throughout the novel the perspective changes between Caroline and West, but the chapters are pretty long so it's not like it's constantly swinging to and fro all the time. You really get to know the characters and their personalities, what they are about, and who they are inside. Although contemporary romance has its fair share of the trope of good girl falls for bad boy, there is a lot more here than just that trope. These characters are well rounded and three-dimensional. And once you get to know West, you realise he's not really bad boy at all, just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or trying to make ends meet.
The one thing I loved about this story is Caroline's personal growth. We start with her finding out that sexual pictures of her and her ex-boyfriend have gone viral on the Internet. We watch as she closes up, shuts down and isolates herself. She doesn't fight back, she doesn't go out, she doesn't have a life; and she wonders if she will ever get to be a lawyer, because nobody's going to hire a slut. But, by the time we get to the end of the novel, Caroline has come full circle back to the girl that her friends knew before all the craziness, and it was really nice to see.
West is one of the sexiest, most complex and interesting heroes I've read in a long time. Yes, he does seem to be a bad boy, but he isn't really. He comes from a bad area, but nobody really knows because he keeps it well hidden. He's embarrassed and so puts across a persona that he's happier with when at university. The one real aspect that makes West bad boy material is the fact that he deals marijuana, and if we were on the outside looking in we probably would look at West and think, 'you're no good', and I'm sure we wouldn't want anything to do with him.
However, once we see him through Caroline's eyes, see what he does for her, as well as hearing his own thoughts and feelings about the people in his life; Caroline, his mum, dad, and sister, his life really; as well as what he has had to deal with, we begin to understand (although not condone) why he sells marijuana. You begin to realise that he's not really bad at all, but that life has put him in a very difficult situation. He struggles to get himself to a really good college, in order to try and get a good job as a doctor, so he won't have to worry about money when taking care of his little sister, who he adores, and his deadbeat mum.
When Caroline and West do eventually get together, the sex scenes are just so well written, it's a beautiful coming together. There is nothing in the writing that is jarring or made me cringe. The buildup is so heart-wrenching, so beautiful that I was completely and utterly absorbed.
As well is the romance aspect, there is the revenge porn. I thought the author did an amazing job at expressing Caroline's feelings regarding this heinous act by her ex-boyfriend. Caroline's thoughts are very realistic and totally understandable, it made my heart bleed for her. To think that this actually goes on in the real world and not just in fiction is heartbreaking. However, from being a 'victim' to seeing her growth through both these two books, made me feel really proud of her and optimistic for her future, whether it was going to be with West or not.
Although Caroline's feelings towards West are all consuming, in that she needed, wanted, lusted after him, she knows that she would be able to live her life without him, and the ending of Deeper shows that. West is really supportive of Caroline and what she goes through regarding the revenge porn, and I loved how gentle and caring and understanding he is towards her, and how much it helps her get through such a dark time in her life.
The secondary characters are also very good, in fact, the whole ensemble of characters are fantastic. Not one of them got on my nerves or irritated me, unless they were meant to, such as Caroline's ex and West's mum.
As well as the support from West, Caroline's best friend is also there for her as she tries to navigate her way through this awful time. Caroline is surprised at herself for what she is eventually able to achieve in the face of adversity. When she begins to get back into life rather than hiding away, she joins an all-girl rugby team, where she makes more friends and starts to enjoy life again. It was nice to see Caroline eventually surrounded by people that supported and cared for her, and believed in her. It was a shame that her own family didn't do the same thing. When it all came out and she has to tell her father, his reaction is really disappointing. He does redeem himself somewhat, but something like that is not easily forgotten, or easy for a character to come back from.
Deeper and Harder have to be two of my favourite reads of the year, and I know my review just doesn't do either of them justice. Deeper really touched me, and Harder is a great second instalment.
The ending to Deeper is heartbreaking, but fortunately Harder does resolve everything, so make sure you have it to hand otherwise you will die. Yes, die - no this isn't an exaggeration. There is so much more to these books than simply romance, but going into it in too much depth would possibly lead to spoilers, which I don't want to do.
Make Deeper and Harder your two next reads, especially if you enjoy contemporary romance with wonderful, three-dimensional characters and a heartfelt storyline. Rating: 5 Stars / 4 Stars
Deeper / Harder by Robin York (Caroline & West #1/#2) Contemporary Romance Piatkus Books (2014) Paperback: 350 pages
I devoured this series in one go and read all the books back to back. I really enjoyed them, but my favourites are book one, On Dublin Street, and book three, Before Jamaica Lane. I was looking forward to reading Fall From India Place as it's the next generation. It's from the view point of Hannah, who, when we first met her was in her teens, is now twenty-two and an English teacher.
The first part of the book is a combination of the present and flashbacks to Hannah's past. The flashbacks are mostly of her relationship with Marco, who she falls in love with at the age of fourteen to Marco's seventeen. She's sure he feels the same way but his actions turn hot and cold. Then something happens when she's sixteen that crushes her and ends with Marco leaving her.
Hannah hasn't been with a guy since Marco left, which is quite a few years ago now, so when he comes back into her life it's a shock. There are plenty of secrets between these two, and so the rekindling of their relationship doesn't start out well. They have their ups and downs, but the love between then is still there, it's just that the trust isn't.
I can see why Hannah is reluctant to take Marco back. Having him leave her the way he did, at such an impressionable age, would scar anyone, especially with the ramifications that play out after he leaves, which I won't go into as it contains spoilers. However, I did find that their hesitancy to get together went on for a bit too long. The author should have had Hannah take Marco back a bit earlier in the story as the toing and froing became a little annoying.
Overall thought, I enjoyed Fall From India Place. The sex is hot, the characters are sweet, and I would still recommend it. I just wasn't invested in the characters as much as I have been with other characters in previous books in the series, and for me it wasn't a stand out novel in the series. Rating: 3.5 Stars
Fall From India Place by Samantha Young (On Dublin Street #4) Contemporary Romance Piatkus Books (3 June 2014) Paperback: 370 pages
I always look forward to reading the next book in the Dylan Scott MysterySeries, but this time, Dead End by Shirley Wells provided even more than the usual thrill.
In a storyline that was subtly foreshadowed at the end of the last book, Dylan Scott has begun receiving death threats over the phone, claiming that he will get what’s coming to him. Having built up a long list of enemies in his days on the force and as a private investigator, Dylan has no idea where to begin until he learns of the release of Leonard King, who he caught during a drugs bust several years previous. Lenny is nowhere near as dangerous as his partner-in-crime, Max, but he remains safely behind bars and couldn’t possibly be involved, could he?
Then there’s a conman by the alias of Brad Goodenough who was seducing a wealthy man’s daughter with the aim of making off with her money. Having exposed him for the liar he is, Dylan is surprised to see him crop up again near his office and begins to wonder if he could be involved with the threats in some way. On top of all this is the desire to keep the messages secret from his wife, Bev, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing intensive treatment.
With all this action surrounding Dylan, I was surprised to find the plot was interspersed with chapters from the point of view of Jimmy, a highly disturbed individual who was kidnapping men and murdering their families. These chapters are chilling and engaging, as the kidnappings are carried out in several stages over the course of the book, maintaining a high level of suspense and intrigue. As this happens completely separate to Dylan’s investigations, for the majority of the novel I had no idea how their paths would cross, or even if they would, but all I will say is that Wells weaves an absolute shocker of a finale.
I think I enjoyed the fact that this book wasn’t set in Dawson’s Clough, as even though the Lancashire town has been a special place throughout the series, it isn’t Dylan’s home. With these threats being so personal, it made the prospect of crime seem closer and more real, especially with the troubles being faced by the Scott family. I was sucked in to the separate plots of Jimmy and Dylan, with their separation giving a sense of urgency to the plot, as if both are racing against each other to reach a certain destination, even if we don’t know what that might be.
As always, one of my favourite things about this series is getting inside the mind of Dylan Scott, who always seems to pull a solution or a lead out of the bag at the last minute. He becomes embroiled in solving both the Lenny King case and the Goodenough con, whilst at the same time worrying about Bev. It was his worry for his wife that gave his character further depth in this instalment, as he is desperate not to face the extent of her condition and continues to hope for a miraculous cure. All he can think is that she is too young and fit to be facing the big ‘c’, and seeks solace in his investigations to avoid facing the truth.
Being completely unaware of how the storylines would interact, I became increasingly engaged with the twisted perspective of Jimmy, as we are given an insight into his home life and his murderous tendencies. He ignores his sons, thinking they are too soft, and cannot stand his wife’s ‘nagging’ – even though she only asks him where he keeps disappearing to. Having just been discharged from the army, it is clear that he still has psychological issues to resolve, but it remains unclear for the most part what his victims have to do with his end plan.
Considering how this novel ends, I have no idea where the Dylan Scott Mystery series will go from here, but only hope it will continue to go from strength to strength. Each of the characters lives is thrown into disarray by the end, and I certainly hadn’t seen this particular ending coming. It was so well written that I barely noticed the pages flying by until I had reached the final page, and I can’t wait to see where Dylan’s life will go from there. The Dylan Scott Mystery series has me firmly in its thrall, and I don’t want it to end any time soon. Verdict
By far one of the most standout books of the series, Dead End had me on the edge of my seat and dying to know what would happen to everyone’s favourite detective, Dylan Scott. I really had no idea who his mystery caller was, or how the two storylines would intertwine, but the ending was well worth the wait. There is the added tension of Bev’s ongoing cancer diagnosis, which adds a whole other level to Dylan’s emotional stresses, culminating in an ending which may well leave you gasping in shock. Rating: 4.5 Stars
Dead End by Shirley Wells (A Dylan Scott Mystery #7) Mystery & Detective Carina Press (7 July 2014) Ebook: 268 pages
Returning to the Lancashire town of Dawson’s Clough, Dying Art by Shirley Wells marks the fifth instalment of the Dylan Scott Mystery series – a series which shows no sign of slowing down.
Private investigator, Dylan Scott, is sitting in his office waiting for business when an old girlfriend of his turns up to present him with a case. Maddie Chandler’s sister, Prue, was found dead in her home in Dawson’s Clough, with the police stating that she interrupted a burglar. They aren’t treating it as a murder enquiry, but Maddie is sure that something is wrong as she received a strange phone call before Prue was killed. Although reluctant to return to Dawson’s Clough, Dylan cannot resist the sound of this case and gets straight into his car.
Prue’s home had been ransacked, but nothing had been taken – not even the sixty pounds in cash on her kitchen table. This immediately makes Dylan question the police’s verdict of murder, as the supposed ‘burglar’ was obviously looking for something specific. Whilst helping Maddie clear the house, they find a miniature portrait by renowned artist, Jack McIntyre, which is worth thousands. What was Prue doing with such a piece, and could it have been the reason behind her death?
Knowing little about the art world, Dylan begins a research mission to find out about Jack McIntyre, and whether it’s possible Prue ever knew him. Along the way he begins to build a list of suspects, including a local bar owner, Prue’s landlord, Maddie’s husband, Tim, and even Maddie herself. It is clear that his ex-girlfriend has been suffering from a number of problems, and Dylan has to keep his adult head on to ensure he doesn’t fall for any of her advances. It is no secret that Maddie actually loathed Prue, but would she really use her sister’s death just to reconnect with an old flame?
This mystery was as well-crafted as the previous instalments, with frequent trips to the Clough, Manchester and even France providing the much-needed clues. I really enjoyed the multiple perspectives, as we get sections from Maddie’s point of view (which is somewhat twisted), and from teenager, Kevin, who witnessed a man leaving Prue’s home on the night of her death. These additional perspectives lent some space to the story, as the reader is not limited by Dylan’s perspective and can perceive clues for themselves. As always, the mystery was solved by the end of the book with a surprising flourish, as well as a few epilogue scenes which reveal even more explanatory secrets.
What slightly let this book down for me was my frustration with Dylan as the protagonist. As much as I love the way he goes about solving the crimes and the dedication to his work, I disliked his attitude to his family in this book. The frequent reiteration that he was now forty seemed to be used as an excuse to have a mid-life crisis, and he did little to discourage Maddie’s advances. When he did reject her, it wasn’t because of his family loyalty but because he thought Maddie might be unstable. As much as I like Dylan, I very much wanted to punch him after such statements were made.
However, I continue to enjoy the scenes which Dylan spends with his family, particularly his hippie mother, and there was the amusing side plot about Dylan’s father in this book. Having no idea who his father is, when his mother brings an old associate to dinner there is the nagging ‘what if’ that causes Dylan to carry out a DNA test on the sly. This sideline was particularly comic for Dylan’s blunt refusal to accept the possibility, and it is mainly his wife’s teasing that makes him want the truth.
As ever, it was the well-written nature of this mystery series which hooked my interest, as I truly had no idea of the culprit until the final few chapters. It perhaps wasn’t as exciting as previous reveals, but it was the repercussions afterwards which lent that extra touch to rounding off the plot. I particularly enjoyed the forays into the art world, but I would have preferred less of the connection between Dylan and Maddie, so I’m hoping she doesn’t feature in future books. Nevertheless, I’m excited to continue the series and find out what will happen in Dawson’s Clough next. Verdict
Another well-written and intriguing mystery, this book cleverly intertwines the high end art world with the rainy town of Dawson’s Clough. The case was solved once more in a gripping fashion, keeping you guessing until the very end. There are chapters from multiple perspectives which also offer a better insight into the characters involved. Rating: 4 Stars
Dying Art by Shirley Wells (A Dylan Scott Mystery #5) Mystery & Detective Carina Press (12 Nov 2012) Ebook: 239 pages
On beginning book six in the Dylan Scott Mystery series, I knew Deadly Shadows by Shirley Wells would return us to the dreary town of Dawson’s Clough, but I hadn’t expected an undercover operation.
Having been dismissed from the police force before becoming a private investigator, Dylan Scott had been working undercover as David ‘Davey’ Young, and was associated with the ruthless Joe Child. Child is known to the police and to Dylan as a dodgy character, who always seems to have an alibi when his enemies turn up dead. There is little doubt that he is behind such atrocious killings, but without proof there is nothing the police can do.
However, having supposedly reformed his character, Joe is now running a refuge in Dawson’s Clough which is based on Christian morals and helps to feed the homeless. The centre is known to have taken in two young girls, Caroline and Farrah, who are now missing with no leads to their whereabouts. At a loss for evidence, the police reluctantly send Dylan into the refuge under his previous guise of Davey Young, in the hopes that he can find some evidence without arousing suspicion. If Child gets a hint that Davey isn’t all he seems, it will be Dylan’s life on the line.
There are few clues to be found around the refuge, but Dylan knows all is not as it seems when it comes to Child’s miraculous conversion to Christian faith. There is a supposedly deaf and dumb gardener, Kennedy, who seems to know more than he lets on, and Child’s wife, Doll, who keeps sneaking off to meet ‘friends’ in town. On top of all that is Dylan’s home life, as his work undercover prevents him from contacting his wife, Bev, who is worrying about her health. Having developed abdominal pain, Bev has been undergoing tests that may or not be cancerous, giving Dylan further stress at his inability to be at her side.
Once again, Shirley Wells weaves an interesting and cleverly constructed mystery, as I truly had no idea what had happened to the missing girls, or whether Joe Child would finally meet his rightful end. I really enjoyed the added element of Dylan being undercover, as for the first few chapters only Davey Young had been introduced, and I was wondering where Dylan was. Needless to say, I enjoyed the twist at the end of the story, as it builds to an incredibly dramatic conclusion with some much unexpected revelations.
I found that there were even more dimensions to Dylan’s character in this book, as we got to see him tested to his limits as he went undercover, taking extra precautions to avoid detection. It also gave an insight into how he would have acted during his police days, a time which is always skirted over due to his bitterness at being dismissed. He also seemed more caring for his family in this book, a trait which has often put me at odds with him. His concern for Bev was more profound towards the end of the story, but he was still concerned about all the time he was missing with his wife and children.
Added to this were the chapters from Bev’s perspective, as we get to see her growing fears for her health and her constant worry for her children. She has a bad feeling about the blood tests and ultrasounds the health centre want to send her for, and just knows it will have bad results. She isn’t sleeping and is desperate for Dylan to come home and comfort her, despite knowing how important this job is to him. I really enjoyed getting more of an insight into her character, as she was largely in the background in previous instalments.
I think this sixth take was one of the best in the series so far, as the story was so well-crafted that there were clues and red herrings coming from all directions. I was desperate to know what had happened to Caroline and Farrah, which was made more distressing due to the segments from Farrah’s father’s perspective. Wells manages to give us an insight from all parties involved, including Joe Child, yet still succeeds in withholding the most vital pieces of information until the conclusion. There were also hints of the next mystery to come, as Dylan and family begin to receive disturbing phone calls that contain threats to Dylan’s life… Verdict
This was another standout instalment in the Dylan Scott Mystery series, as we are taken back to his roots as a policeman and get to see another side to his investigative skills. Being undercover was refreshing, and added a new dimension of suspense and fear for his identity being uncovered. I also enjoyed the combination of Bev’s perspective and her fears for her health, as it grounds the plot more and makes Dylan seem more human. Rating: 4.5 Stars
Deadly Shadows by Shirley Wells (A Dylan Scott Mystery #6) Mystery & Detective Carina Press (7 Oct 2013) Ebook: 212 pages