Favorite Quote: ME? CRAZY? I Should Get Down Off This Unicorn And Slap You.
Jane Yellowrock is back and badder than even in the eleventh installment of Faith Hunter’s bestselling urban fantasy series-Jane Yellowrock. Already a force most won’t reckon with, she has increased her power and prestige as the Enforcer for the MoC of New Orleans-Leo Pellister-and the unintentional creation of her own clan. When New Orleans falls victim to a wave of revenants and an unnatural storm, Jane discovers the European Vampires Delegates have chosen a deadly way to announce their arrival. Allies and enemies come out of the woodwork as Jane and her crew attempt to keep the residents and their loved ones safe but centuries of secrets, lies, and betrayal may spell death for them all.
Jane Yellowrock, a Cherokee female dual nature skinwalker, has been slowly and steadily settling into her new life. She and Beast have found common ground and become an almost unbeatable team. Jane has begun to rely more on her Indian heritage to cleanse her soul of the black magic it’s collected due to her guilt over things she has done. Her love life is flourishing and she has a strong show of strength at her back through Clan Yellowrock which consists of Younger Brothers, her new primo-Edmond, the Truehearts, her lover-Bruiser, and Brute. For the first time in a long time, Jane is content.
“I love you more than bacon. Unless I’m hungry.”
As always, Hunter gives readers a nonstop action packed, kick arse, magically enhanced story with a continuous flow of controlled chaos and humor as Jane once again finds herself cleaning up behind one of Leo’s political long games. Hunter continues to increase her character base, introducing new players while expanding on the older more established ones as she guides readers through Jane’s latest and convoluted adventure.
They wanted to own the world.
Readers will be pleased to see the arc surrounding the European Mithran Vampire delegate (EVs) has finally reached fruition. And what a fruition it is. Hunter has dropped plenty of clues throughout the series concerning the Europeans and their ties to Leo and his people. It’s only in here do you realize just how long and deep those ties run. Centuries. The sheer magnitude and duplicity Hunter reveals in here is staggering and I applaud Hunter for her skill. She makes wonderful use of history and I admit I was fascinated by the liberty Hunter takes as she bends and twists it to her will. Jane and the crew certainly have their work cut out for them as they are pulled multiple directions as the EVs launch their agenda on various levels with all roads leading to back to Leo Pellister.
Leo needed a good lesson in manners, but I had to survive this situation first.
I would remiss if I didn’t mention that after the initial out of the gate one two PUNCH the storyline slows down considerably as Jane deals with some personal issues concerning her family while investigating what the EVs are up too. It’s really around the 30-40% mark that the story resets its focus, picks up the speed, and races towards the end.
“You ever try to crown me again, I’ll cut you head off and shove it up your arse.”
Hunter finally addresses the Rick LaFleur situation and seemingly lays it to rest but if you’re not reading her Soulwood series, some of the information here might be confusing and/or a spoil-y. Let’s just say Ricky Bo is back and Jane makes it perfectly clear who holds the key to her heart. And it ain’t Ricky Bo. It was nice to see Rick finally apologize for his actions. Not only for when he humiliated Jane in front of everyone but from the very beginning.
“I’m sorry I hurt you, Jane. I’m sorry I shamed you. I’m sorry I was such a lousy human being that every single person who matters to me in New Orleans wants to punish or kill me. Including my mom.”
As always, Hunter ends the story a climactic note as she wraps up the main storyline with cheers, jeers, and more than one jaw-dropping moment. Though the EVs are on the run, the long game is still in play with some interesting clues towards the future. Jane is not done in her evolution but she may wish she was when it’s all said and done. Hunter writes another winner and I’m more than ready for book twelve, title and release date to be announced.
I have been a fan of Lynn Kurland for years. I picked her A Dance In Time on a whim and was instantly hooked. To this day it remains one of my favorite time travel romances and I often reread it. Kurland’s wonderful voice has created a fascinating and convoluted world drenched in medieval charm with delightful narrative, witty characters, and delightful storylines. She is perfect for those who enjoy adventurous romances with hints of mystery and suspense. Another bonus feature of the stories is the air of innocence in them. Even though I do enjoy an explicit love scene as much as the next reader, the love affairs Kurland’s characters embark upon are fun and fit the general theme of this series with plenty of courting and wooing tailored to fit the personality of the woo-ie. And frankly, who doesn’t enjoy a good wooing on occasion? The physical love scenes are almost non-existence yet I don’t feel the reader or story suffers due to those blackouts.
Ever My Love opens in the past to give us a hint of the adventure we are about to embark on. We then flash forward to the present to lay the foundation and from there proceed to travel back and forth between the 21st and the 14th century for the rest of the story. This particular story deals with two modern-day characters who are new to the series-Emma Barton and Nathaniel MacLeod. Kurland uses this couple to explain some peculiarities in the MacLeod family tree and to also close a couple of open-ended storylines from previous books. Remember ‘Father John’ from My Heart Stood Still? Well, he has a connection to the hero and we learn exactly how he ended up in the 14th century and why he’s never left.
Ever My Love is more definitely more energetic than the last few books though the sense of anticipation and wonderment that first drew me to this series remains missing. The same smooth pacing and steady hand is apparent but there was a time when Kurland took more chances. She made her couples work for their happily ever after and they suffered their fair share of bumps and bruises along the way. The heavy inclusion of the previous heroes/heroines now guarantees our couple will get all the answers and help they need with no real sacrifices being made.
Nathaniel (Nat) and Emmaline (Emma) are well developed characters and fun to follow behind on their journeys. Both are intelligent, witty, likable, unfailing optimists whose ability to handle the unknown is admirable. Especially poor Nat who has learned the hard way of his family’s pensity for time travel when he finds himself randomly tossed back into the 14th century anytime a certain number pops up. A number he soon learns has a very interesting history. Both of them have secrets that they are protective and cautious about revealing. I found it amusing but slow going as they each circle around the same subject, trying to determine what the other knows and how to broach it. The middle section of this book drags at times with its chatty narrative and repetitive thoughts and deeds.
The romance is slow burning with a soft but tangible chemistry. This couple doesn’t jump into love or even lust. There is a lot happening to them with Nat’s family and his time hopping issues. Emma has her own problems with her family and an irritating ex-boyfriend. I will admit the whole ex-boyfriend plotline reminded me of A Garden in the Rain. Lucky or maybe not this story isn’t as dark as that one was When Emma gets dragged into his mess, Nat finds himself at a loss on how to protect Emma. Emma does eventually surprise him with her own ninja skills though only after she has a realistic and well-earned meltdown.
Jamie, Patrick, Ian, Maddie MacLeod and various other relatives all come out of the woodwork to offer advice, a helping hand, some weaponry training, and a clue or few. They add to the overall personality and humor of the story. As any fan of this series knows, Jamie is a terrible busybody and his brother Patrick proves to be no better.
The main conflict is pretty standard fare for this series as Nat and Emma hop through time, following and rescuing one another while trying to figure out what their connection to one another is and the reasons for the time loop. The ending is enjoyable with a bit of action and suspense as the story comes full circle and all our questions are answered.
Ever My Love is an entertaining read that shows a spark of the ambition this series has been missing, giving readers a humorous and lightweight romance with plenty of supernatural adventure.
Favorite Quote: “Hey, stop touching my vibe.” […] “You know, you can get your own on the internet. You don’t need to go around stealing them.”
Winnie Masters works at the local library and is raising her younger sister after their mother walked out on them. A recent STD scare convinces her to take a two-month leave of absence from sex. A leave of absence that didn’t even four days before she falls off the wagon at her best friend’s wedding. The next day she does the walk of shame from his hotel room to hers and hightails it home before he even realizes she’s gone. When she is laid off from her job the following Monday and pressed into working at the family law firm, she is dismayed to discover her new boss is none other than her one night stand from the wedding.
Mark Bishop never expected to see the woman from the wedding in his office. And he certainly never expected her to be his new administrative secretary or the granddaughter of a founding partner. A hard working lawyer currently on his way to becoming a partner, Mark knows playing ‘spank the naughty secretary’ with the very sexy and delicious Winnie could get him fired. Though he wants to. Very very much.
Winnie wants Mark but only in bed. Or on his desk. In a car. On their lunch breaks. She doesn’t do relationships. Mark also wants Winnie in his bed, but also in his life. He wants every part of her. But with all the mistakes they are both making in this relationship, he’s not sure either of them will get what they want.
Fans of Elizabeth Brown’s Off Limits series is sure to enjoy her latest couple-Winnie Masters and Mark Bishop- on their bumpy journey down happily ever after road. This humorous and emotional romantic comedy features two strong, opinionated, intelligent people whose intense attraction to one another is highlighted by their initial animosity and complicated work relationship. Engaging narrative, magnetic chemistry, witty dialogue, and a cast of dynamic aka very nosey secondary characters will keep readers on the hook till the very end.
The Mistakes is a journey of growth, reflection, and perseverance as told in dual points of view. Brown’s enticing voice that lends credence and realism to her characters and their actions. Both protagonists flesh out well; Brown unapologetically revealing their flaws and strengths with clarity and conviction.
“You are so dick-centric that you even give your STDs male nicknames. Don’t you see how messed up that is?”
Winnie is a contradiction of snark and strength that sheaths a very fragile and loving heart. She is both appealing and appalling. Winnie struggles to support her younger sibling on her own while proving to her family and herself she is nothing like her irresponsible mother. She likes sex. She likes men. She lives her life on her own terms and makes no apologies for that.
“So what if my new job’s biggest benefit was frequent sex with my boss? I could deal with that.”
Luckily for her, Mark is the most patient of heroes. His playa’ image is corrupted by the love and respect he gives his family, friends, and Winnie. He’s just really a sweetheart whose drive to succeed slowly killing him. Sexy, funny, and forthright, he fights for Winnie both sexually and emotionally. Every roadblock she places in front of them he pushes against them, using any means necessary to strengthen their connection.
“You are all I ever wanted. I need you in my life, so please, just tell me what I need to do to fit into yours.”
Mark and Winnie’s romance is littered with some deep belly laughs and heartfelt bittersweet moments as they attempt a clandestine sexual relationship only to discover to their horror they have fallen in love. I enjoyed watching Mark chase Winnie. She certainly puts him through his paces. He puts up with so much. A little too much at times. I’m all for finding oneself and taking all the time you need but Winnie has what I like call Scarlett O’Hara moments. That is where the heroine or hero just decides not to think about the problems at hand and deal with other things. Though the romance is slow to develop, their chemistry and love scenes blaze bright and hot across the pages. Mark has a dirty mind and mouth to match. *wink*
“Problem?” he asked, looking down at me as he sheathed his perfect erection.
I turned back to the desk and shook my head. “Uh-huh.”
I nodded. “No, it’s fine. I just… forgot how big you are. You sure you wouldn’t rather have a blow job?”
He leaned into me again, his lips against my ear. “Believe me, as much as I’ve fantasized about shoving my dick in your mouth to shut you up, I’m not entirely convinced you wouldn’t bite it off.”
A kaleidoscope of dynamic and interesting secondary characters add even more love, humor, and advice to the mix from a very opinionated grandmother who only wants the best for her grandson to a best friend who not only through Winnie’s issues but also her fears. Family plays a very strong role in here as shown when Winnie’s family’s interference almost destroys Mark and Winnie’s chances at happiness.
The book does slow down considerably in the last 25% as Winnie deals with a game changer and tries to figure out what it is she really wants from life. It felt as if Brown just stops everything and lets Winnie strings Mark along for a while longer to keep the conflict and anticipation alive. < The Mistakes is perfect for fans of opposite attraction and forbidden office romances who enjoy fun, smart, and sexy couples who have to work at their happily ever after. Some may find the stubbornness of the heroine draws out for far too long but it’s an enjoyable romance overall. Though part of a series with previous character cameos and interaction, you can read this comfortably as a standalone.
Lord and Master is an erotic romantic suspense trilogy whose tone and setting remind me a little of a Danielle Steele or Sidney Sheldon novel. It has the makings of a dramatic family saga with all the necessary over the top emotionally fueled energy bursting from the pages. Family, secrets, deception, betrayal and eventual redemption are all facets of this multidirectional story that centers around one young woman-Luna Gregory. Told in three parts; Lord and Master, Her Master’s Servant, and The Marchioness, each part taking us deeper into world of Luna Gregory.
Part one-Lord and Master-was enjoyable and the strongest in the trilogy. Straight forward with a robust beginning, Jagger introduces us to the key players while setting up the plotlines and romance. Luna Gregory is a 26-year-old personal assistant of the Marchioness of Lionbridge and lives permanently on the Arborage Estate. Calm, cool, and collected, I enjoyed discovering the different faces Jagger imbibes Luna with. She’s naturally intelligent and witty but Jagger makes her more approachable with her sarcasm, earthy speech, strong will, and love of speed. There are undercurrents of classism and misogyny that foreshadow the events that are coming.
Various secondary characters dot the scenery, adding to the intrigue as the reader tries to figure out their agenda. The Marchioness, who maintains a firm steady role, stays in the background though her machinations are far reaching. The romance builds fast and burns bright. Luna and Stefan’s introduction is amusing with a decidedly Mills and Boon feel to it. All burning loins and scornful looks. Stefan comes off as a privileged playboy who believes his looks and wealth give him certain rights. Luna isn’t a virginal school girl who’s easily impressed and Stefan must work to catch her attention…and keep it. While the sex scenes are certainly racy, calling them erotic is pushing it. The ending events rip Luna’s world apart and readers are left wondering what happens now?
Part Two-The Master’s Servant-opens on a thrilling note with Luna horrified by the sheer audacity of the Marchioness’ plans. Unable to handle the betrayal of her lover and her mentor, Luna appeals to a friend and heads to Scotland (Shetland) to work and heal. Stefan searches far and wide, eventually finding Luna, and their reunion is anything but forgiving. Angry, Luna and Stefan attempt to work past their issues but instead continue to punish each other. The horse is strong out of the gate but falters quickly. I am disappointed by the lack of action as we spend a large portion watching Luna and Stefan play power games as she forgives Stefan for his duplicity and lack of attention though I’m not sure why. He does nothing to truly earn it. The writing becomes choppy, the narrative repetitive, and the dialogue flashes between formal and incoherent. The underutilized characters and lack of development are frustrating. It’s a very awkward read. Stefan and Luna both act like children, striking out and trying to make each other jealous as they struggle to reconnect. The sex is angry and violent and though Jagger tries to persuade us it’s spicy kink, I don’t buy it. One aspect I really disliked was how ugly the women were to one another. Eventually, all roads lead back to England and we are left with the knowledge that trouble has come to Arborage.
Part Three-The Marchioness-is the final last installment and while a little better than part two, it’s not by much. Luna and Stefan are back at Arborage. Stefan has put on the mantle of Marquess of Lionbridge while Luna helps to manage the estate, this time by his side. It is rather similar to book one with Jagger slowly building back up the suspense and intrigue though the villain(s) are ridiculous and the feeling of falling down the rabbit hole is strong. Stefan’s family and Luna’s friends are all on hand for the finale and Luna goes behind Stefan’s back multiple times to thwart their enemies. She becomes the one thing she despises-a manipulator. Dramatic scenes and seemingly coded dialogue help to amp up the anticipation until you realize Jagger is doing nothing more than adding filler to plump up the thin storyline. The romance and sex are tetchy between Stefan and Luna though the erotic elements are strongest in here. Any connection between them is now forever lost to me and the chemistry feels forced and ill-fitting. The ending is an overly dramatic fait accompli that read like a scene from the Godfather.
Lord and Master proved to be a disappointment as I got further into the story with its general lack of cohesion and the slow deterioration of the main characters and plotlines. Jagger’s attempts to manipulate and force her story where it clearly did not want to go only served to alienate the most enjoyable aspects of it.
Jackson Paige AKA Jax Pain. Drummer of the up and coming metal band- Manix Curse. Jackson shocked to see his old loverOriginally posted at SmexyBooks
Jackson Paige AKA Jax Pain. Drummer of the up and coming metal band- Manix Curse. Jackson shocked to see his old lover walk through the door of his tattoo shop after he left her with no explanation five years earlier and never looked back. Time hasn’t dulled his feelings for her and he wants back in her life but once she hears his reasons for leaving, she may be the one this time who leaves and never looks back.
Jami Dillon. A contract attorney who always follows the rules. She never expected to see her greatest heartbreak when she comes looking for her younger brother, Mason, concerned over some of the choices he’s making in his life (book one-Beautiful Crazy). She is stronger this time around but still hiding some pretty deep scars. She can’t/won’t allow Jax to break her heart again…because this time she won’t survive it.
I was really looking forward to reading this installment after reading book one, Beautiful Crazy, and briefly meeting our leads. Second chance romances with an opposite attraction trope and buoyed by some serious undertones? Sign. Me. Up. Unfortunately, what should be an emotionally complicated and extremely sexy romance struggles under the weight of too many tropes, an underdeveloped storyline, repetitive dialogue, and two characters who romance I didn’t buy.
The beginning starts off on a high note as our hero and heroine run into one another for the first time in five years. It’s deliciously tense scene with plenty of sexually fueled anger and shock. We learn that Jackson and Jami were fellow law students and lovers. Jackson lets us know right off that he left her one night without so much as a goodbye and that she deserved it. And you believe it because Jami comes off rather snobbish in her attitude and dialogue. Right away Lane sets up the dichotomy between this couple- giving more credence to Jackson’s claims. Jami is so uptight and rigid while Jackson seems to go with the flow. Jami followed her parent’s demands and became an attorney while Jackson grabbed his dreams with both hands and is a talented artist and musician. I liked the tone of this couple and was ready to see how Lane was going to break them and then put them back together whole.
Their next meeting is at Jami’s brother’s engagement party and that’s the beginning of where the story started to fail for me. Jackson and Jami have an interlude in the guest bedroom and while it was H.O.T. as all get out, it felt manipulative. Jami doesn’t say boo to Jackson over his disappearance five years ago but we are suppose to believe she will fall into bed with him a few days after seeing him again?
From there the relationship picks back up with Jackson and Jami bobbing and weaving; unsure if this was the route they wanted to take again. It made me nervous too. We really don’t get to see what they were like previously nor do we get to see the fallout so I never got a good feel for how they were compared to now. Also, while the chemistry between them is smoking -Jackson is quite the bossy boy with the dirty mouth- I was more weary of what kept the attraction alive for five years of no contact and how easily it was for them to fall back into it.
Jami and Jason’s reconnection is littered with numerous pitfalls. Jami is a control freak who lacks self-confidence and self-esteem due to her parents’ constant emotional attacks on her. They really are awful people. She develops some coping mechanisms but they aren’t healthy. Jackson also suffers from some self-esteem issues. When we learn exactly why Jackson left Jami five years ago, it explains some things but also makes him look like a huge arse and I lost respect for him. Lane does an admirable job of facilitating communication between Jami and Jackson over Jami’s many issues but they seem to rehash the same things over and over with no real insight or resolution. Lane truly misses an opportunity to dig in and extract more from both characters. As it was, they stay pretty much one dimensional and boring.
I did enjoy seeing some familiar faces from Beautiful Crazy. Kelvin and Mason are still crazy in love and the band is on its way to stardom. Mason and Jami have a wonderfully close sibling connection and their interactions are where she seems to really shine. Lane gives just enough interaction with various other the secondary characters to ensure fans there is more Rock and Ink to come.
Beautiful Mess suffers from the dreaded sophomore slump and is sadly not of the same quality as the first book in the series. It does have a solid base, strong writing, and plenty of potential so I hope this was just an anomaly and book three brings back quality I know Lane is capable of.
Favorite Quote: “Give her hell, Sam Hamilton. And try to look less serial killer and more solid citizen. Smile, why don’t you?” He forced a smile at her. Willie blinked. “Eh, maybe not.”
Sam Hamilton has been feeling about lonely since his best friend found his soulmate. When he meets Ivy Stephens, a young lady who is interested in adopting one of the strays he helps to rehome, Sam falls hard and fast. But Sam has some serious baggage in his life. Baggage that will do anything to make sure Sam’s attention stays firmly on them. As Sam and Ivy grow closer, Sam is worried Ivy may be too nice to fit into his life. But Ivy soon proves to Sam and everyone else that being nice doesn’t mean she can’t get down and dirty when she needs to.
Zero to Sixty is the third installment in Marie Harte’s sexy and humorous Body Shop Bad Boys. This series spins off her McCauley brothers series with its focus lasered on the Webster Garage and the four gorgeous, sexy, commitment-phobic mechanics who work there. There is some character/storyline crossover but it’s mild and not invasive. Each book can be read as a standalone though previous romance storylines carry over.
Harte introduces Ivy Stephens to Sam Hamilton with a bit of a meet cute. Ivy is out searching for a stray puppy (Cookie) she has been taking care of on and off. Sam is also out looking for Cookie. They run into one another and Sam agrees to keep Cookie at his home until Ivy can talk to her landlord about having a pet. Sam decides the best way to get to know this gorgeous woman better is to vet her for Cookie’s sake through a few “dates.”
“Ah, just so we’re clear, we don’t give dogs away to just anyone who wants them.”
“I mean, puppies are popular. We’d have no problem getting him a good home. A friend of mine was asking about this little guy just the other week.” She frowned. “I have a good home.”
“If you’re not busy tomorrow night, we can grab a beer or something. Talk about plans for Cookie.”
I reviewed the first two books in the series- Test Drive and Road Assistance-and thoroughly enjoyed. Harte does a wonderful job of individualizing the characters and storyline so you don’t feel as if you’re reading the same romantic set up with just different names. This installment felt softer and less conflicted than the first two. The same engaging narrative, sexually enhanced romance and endearingly characters are present but Harte chooses to leave the dramatics by the curb and gently walk this couple to their HEA.
Sam is the best friend and roommate of Foley Sangers (the hero of Road Assistance). Also a mechanic at Webster’s Garage, Sam was pretty much raised by Foley’s mom, Eleanor, his own mother an abusive addict. Single, gorgeous, and ripped, Sam is honest to a fault and a total gentleman despite what his size and mannerisms suggest. A bit of a loner, Sam’s relationships with the opposite sex consists mainly of hook ups. The most important things in Sam’s life are Foley, Foley’s mom, and his job.
Ivy is a massage therapist who stays to herself. Intelligent, good looking, and a genuinely nice person, Ivy is also a bit of a loner as her family has all but abandoned her for reasons unknown and her last serious boyfriend used her to get through school then dumped her. Ivy doesn’t carry a chip on her shoulder like Sam does. She is content with herself and her life.
Harte takes Sam and Ivy’s relationship slow, allowing them the time to get to know one another using an appealing mixture of trepidation and awkwardness. Opposite attraction romances are the best and Harte does this one with justice. Fantastic dialogue, dry humorous wit, and a layered storyline allows readers to see beneath the surface and experience first hand the emotional issues they are dealing with. Ivy has pretty much laid her demons to rest but Sam is still struggling with his childhood, his time in prison, and general feelings of unworthiness. Ivy sees Sam and accepts him as he is because she understands the root of his pain. She is someone he has unknowingly been searching for. I love the humor she uses to help defuse his guilt and shame.
“So there you have it. You’re dating an ex-con.”
“Can I ask you something personal?”
“Is it true every prisoner makes license plates? Did you wear black and white striped uniforms? Have a ball chained to your ankle? Break up rocks with an Acme pickaxe?”
“You watch way too much TV.”
The sexual role reversal in here is interesting and works with the overall tone of story. Ivy is the one who not only sets the parameters of their relationship but also initiates the initial sexual aspect. She instinctively understands that Sam has some confusion between intimacy and sex and gives him all the power as she sets out to seduce him.
“You said I can touch you, right?”
“Yeah, don’t stop. Just keep petting me, baby.” He blinked at her once, then shut his eyes and groaned. “I’m gonna sit…right…here.” He shook, then sat unmoving, breathing hard.
“God, you’re gorgeous.” She stroked him from his chest to his belly button, never having been so close to perfection before. Then, because she figured the poor man had suffered enough, and her underwear would never be salvaged if she kept stringing this out, she unsnapped his jeans.
He started, his eyes remaining closed.
“You still okay?”
He swallowed. “Yeah.”
Barely a whisper, but he’d given consent.
Of course, no Harte book would be complete without the antics of the rambunctious Webster mechanics and various other characters from this series. They all step in, unasked, to help Sam deal with these new feelings of his and to explain why Rays wasn’t the right choice for a first date. Harte introduces a few new characters whose personalities fit right in with this bunch and I hope we see more of them in the future.
Zero to Sixty is a lightweight romance contemporary brimming laughter, love, and family. Perfect escapism for the romance lover in all of us. Looking forward to book four, Collision Course, which is Lou’s story. *fist pump* Release date is 10/27/2017.
Thomas’ small town contemporaries are always a welcome respite as they weave a cozy tale of love, laughter, pain, and heartbreak of small town living. Similar to her Harmony series (reviews here), each book pushes forward on the arc while, discussing one or two characters romances while dealing with a small thrilling mystery on the side. The fifth book in Jodi Thomas’s Ransom Canyon series takes readers back to the small town of Crossroads, TX with a few new romances and mysteries while updating us on some well-known residents and introducing us to a few new ones
Wild Horse Springs had all the ear markings of a typical and entertaining story but seems to lose its way quickly. Even with its normal multiple storyline threads, there is a disorganized feeling to the writing that is only matched by the rambling narrative and random head jumping. Thomas uses the same familiar formula that has worked for years, telling the story from four seemingly unrelated points of view slowly revealing the common denominator that binds them all together. But for me, in this instance, it doesn’t work. I found the main romance uninspiring and drenched in unnecessary purple prose while the second romance was far more entertaining but has less time and space in which to develop realistically. Both romances are fueled by insta-love but Thomas doesn’t give us any clues to what the appeal between any of them is beyond the fact they’re all single. The third “romance” has been dragging out since the beginning of the series and offers very little advancement. After five books in I’m still unsure if this is even a romance or just a childhood dream one of the leads refuses to let die.
Three main storylines circle around, feeding off one another as they slowly merge together though as I stated earlier, the plotlines felt underdeveloped and the narrative predictable and rambling. Even Thomas’ strong characters can’t pull this story out of the rut it’s in. The ending is a fast wrap up, leaving this reader frustrated with more questions than answers. As always, each book leaves off with the promise of more to come, giving Thomas a way to continue to build on the arc and the various relationships of the town.
I’m not sure if I will be continuing this series. While I have enjoyed my time spent in Ransom Canyon, it just isn’t holding the same sense of energy or appeal that her earlier series did. I’m also starting to see a decline in the strength of Thomas’ writing. We shall see.
Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders is an engaging and heart pinching erotic romance with two very interesting and damaged protagonists. Heavily characteUnder Her Skin by Adriana Anders is an engaging and heart pinching erotic romance with two very interesting and damaged protagonists. Heavily character driven, I loved the bold sexuality that emerged from within the slow burning romance. The abuse storyline is handled well and I liked how Anders focused on Uma and her journey. I am looking forward to book two in the series which involves the Doctor who helps Uma....more
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series so I was dismayed to discover I did not like book three. ThNOTE: I don't rate DNF reviews.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series so I was dismayed to discover I did not like book three. The story starts out interesting enough with a “spanking contest” between Chino and Maddie. The attraction has always been there but Maddie has a bit of a chip on her shoulder towards Chino and apparently all it took was some kink to knock it off. From there Tan builds the romance while introducing random subplots to give the story a bit angst and controversy. Not bad but I didn’t get the same level of connection or chemistry between them that I got from other couples. What did me in was I couldn’t take the conversations between Chino and Maddie. Every time one of them opened their mouth I cringed. At times they sounded like d-listers from a porn set. Overall, this story didn’t have the easy flow and organic cohesiveness I felt the first two had....more
Favorite Quote: “Well, you know how we Americans are. Rebelling against the crown since 1776.”
Crown Prince Colin Sinclair and his royal siblings are forced to flee to to the United States after a coup in their country results in the assignation of their parents. Settling in Charlotte, NC Colin becomes the official caregiver with some help from friend. When their cover is blown and plastered all over the tabloids for the world to see, their country offers Colin a deal. Marry a princess of their choosing and the Sinclair family will be allowed to return home. But Colin is tired of being at the mercy of his country’s government. Taking matters into his own hands, he proposes marriage to the one person who has held his heart for ten years.
Della Hughes may have met the Sinclairs under less than happy circumstances but over the years she has grown to love them all, especially the oldest, Colin. Della doesn’t believe in fairy tales or happily ever afters but when she learns her prince charming is REALLY a prince, she is shocked. Willing to do anything for this family, Della agrees to a marriage of convenience but when the honeymoon goes from fake to real, Della isn’t sure she can walk away at the end, Or if she even wants too.
Royal Scandal is the first book in Marquita Valentine’s Royals in Exile series. Set in the US and the Isle of Man (a real country-part of the British Crown), the story revolves around the Sinclair family and their fight to regain their heritage. I’ve been enjoying the new trend of royals falling for commoners romances that have been trending the last few months. It is for me the ultimate modern fairytale. Lightweight and humorous, this friends to lovers romance is relatively low in angst and conflict with a surprisingly bite of heat. Valentine focuses on Colin’s and Della’s romance foremost but effortlessly blends in the history of happened to their parents and the cause while advancing each sibling’s story to prepare them for their own stories.
The story opens with Colin and his brother Theo trying to console their colicky youngest brother. Valentine gives us the bare bones of what is happening and sets the stage for the romance to come. When one of the family bodyguards informs them they have a visitor, Colin is shocked by a gorgeous and bold young woman demanding to know why her family is being evicted from their home. Colin realizes that his family’s need for privacy is forcing the caretakers out onto the streets. He let them stay and gains a friend in the process. Della Hughes. The book then jumps forward ten years in time which dismayed me a little. We are told of the depth of the friendship Della and Colin holds and everything she has done for the family but I would have enjoyed seeing some of it play out. Della essentially adopts the role of “mother” to the babies and helps Colin with the older ones during that time.
I liked Colin and Della. In fact, I liked all the siblings. Each one is individually fleshed out and Valentine makes sure we see their differences and the possible snags that may hamper their futures. Colin is the oldest and he takes his responsibility seriously. Exiled at age nineteen, he assumes the parental role over all of them (Theo- age seventeen and the twins, Charlotte and Imogen-age fourteen) though the ones that depend on him most are the two youngest Sinclairs. Aiden, age fifteen months and Pierce, age four months who are some seriously cute kids. Though fashioned somewhat as plot devices, Valentine characterizes them in a way that you instantly forgive her. Colin is seriously overwhelmed but I liked that he isn’t portrayed as a martyr. He has fallen for Della hard but doesn’t want to ruin their friendship. Especially since his future remains uncertain and he has not been completely honest with her about who he really is. Intelligent, understated, loyal, and funny with sexy dominant side that comes out later on.
“Do be a good girl and sit very still while I wash you.”
He tweaks a nipple and desire makes me whimper.
“That’s yes, your highness.”
Della is his perfect match. Also smart, sexy, loyal, and funny, she gives as good as she get and isn’t one to play games. The chemistry is sweet and steamy with some nicely done longing and sexy internal thoughts. The added bonus of their history together only adds to the overall appeal. She too fell for Colin years ago but feels he only sees her as a friend. I love the relationship she has with Colin and his family. It has a separate quality to it that didn’t seem dependant on the attraction between her and Colin.
The marriage is the pivot of the story and its pacing increases two-fold. This couple does a rapid about-face, going from platonic and willing to suffer in silence for their love to full frontal lust filled mattress dancing. While Valentine expands on the romance, she also expands on the somewhat machiavellian plot behind the family’s exile. The two storylines start out running parallel and slowly begin to intertwine. I enjoyed watching Colin and Della’s love for one another truly blossom and grow once they got out of each other’s way and the political machinations were interesting. Unfortunately, the storylines begin to compete against each other. I felt the seriousness of exile plotline cast a small shadow over the romance.
I also had an issue with Colin’s omission of some important details. Some things he remained tight-lipped about for too long while others he allowed Della to make her own assumptions about, knowing when she found out she’d be furious. And she was. I think she deserved a bit more groveling and explanation on his end though overall his reasons were understandable.
The ending gives Colin and Della the happily ever after they both deserve and a nice little epilogue to clue us into the next Sinclair sibling’s story.
Royal Scandals is altogether a royally fun and flirty romance that engages and satisfies despite the few issues I encountered. I am looking forward to the next in the series, Royal Affair, which is set to release March 7, 2017.
FBI agent Eden Collins vowed never to return home to Clear Springs, Montana. Growing up the daughter of an infamous cult leader, her childhood was not pleasant. When Eden receives an anonymous picture of a homicide victim who has tattoos similar to those of her mother’s followers, Eden knows it’s time to head home to confront her past and hopefully catch a killer.
Sheriff Zach Owens is in over his head when girls start disappearing and turning up dead in his small town. Eden Collins’ sudden arrival in town seems a little too coincidental but Zack will use whatever and whoever he can to stop the killer(s). Only, he doesn’t count on her being so attractive or him being so protective of her. Zack knows she is the only one who can access the inner sanctum of the reclusive cult but fears he may be sending her right into the killer’s arms.
The Devil’s Daughter is a deviation from Katee Robert’s usual romantically focused fare. The first book in her Hidden Sins series, this intense psychological thriller builds a layered and complicated story that takes a look into the world of cults and the powerful allure behind them. Through the eyes of a former member. The edgy atmosphere lends a hand to the overall dark and mysterious quality the story holds as Robert’s leads her readers down a rabbit hole of power, sex, mysticism, and murder. Heavily character driven the book effortlessly balances the intensity of the murder investigation with the internal struggles of the heroine, FBI agent Eden Collins, creating some interesting dynamics.
I don’t want to go back. Please don’t make me. It was the cry of a child in the dark. She’d worked very, very hard to leave that child behind, but the little-girl voice had a nasty habit of popping up at the worst times.
Robert’s has a definite gift for nail biting stories that leaves you hanging onto every little word. She pulls no punches and allows you little time to accept before tossing you next challenge. Smooth flowing with minimal fillers-this story grabs you and doesn’t let go till the end. The narrative is easy to follow, even with the occasional head jumping. A strong investigative base allows readers an inside look while steady pacing and intense suspense flies us all the way home. The romance and the conflict blend effortlessly together though the romance remains a low-key presence that doesn’t offer readers any real concrete resolutions in here.
With one girl missing, and now one dead, all eyes turn towards the local cult Elysia, and Martha Collins, its charismatic leader. Zach attempts to question Martha but is instantly stonewalled. A war veteran with some PTSD, this small town sheriff’s mama bear style protective warrior status is a direct result of his traumatic experience. Intelligent, handsome, and loyal to the core, he takes each death personally and struggles with maintaining a professional demeanor.
“Do you often collect people you considered yours?”
“Call it a habit I’ve never been able to escape.”
When Eden appears in town, Zach isn’t instantly on board with her help but soon grows to trust her as he sees her commitment towards justice-a trait she shares with him.
Eden Collins’ left home 10 years ago after a traumatic event that left her convinced death would soon follow. Completely reinventing herself, she becomes a FBI agent. A strong, intelligent, emotionally isolated heroine with a strong sense of justice and deep-seated vein of vulnerability. Calm, cool, and collected, she hides her insecurities well. It’s only when she comes home does those insecurities and fears come roaring back to the surface. Though she sees the truth behind her mother’s false prophecies and god-like stature, she is more than aware of the power her mother welds. A power that Eden struggles not to fall back under herself.
She looked like the kind of woman who’d gather lost souls to her ad hold them till they were whole again.
Which is exactly why she was so dangerous.
I enjoyed meeting Eden and Zach. Robert’s works to build on their connection, showing us a team that works well together despite their differences. The romance is slow burning though heavy with chemistry. Robert’s takes her time exploring Eden’s and Zach’s attraction, using the investigation and their individual demons as speed bumps. Eden has spent her adult life alone and on the move. Her childhood has left her unable to easily trust and her job sends her everywhere. Engaging dialog and revealing emotional scenes help to tip the scale towards love. Zach’s protective streak comes out strong concerning Eden. While he wants to protect her from harm, he doesn’t coddle her. He recognizes her strength, skills, and tenacity. Though Eden doesn’t feel she has anything to offer Zach, he refuses to give up on them.
He was like a golden god who’d wandered into this strangely domestic scene, and she didn’t know how to reconcile the two conflicting impressions.
A varied cast of secondary characters are well developed and fleshed out. They slip effortlessly in and out of the story. We see many different relationships in here that further explore the mentality behind cults and the various methods that are used to keep the followers complacent and faithful. Eden’s mother is complex character who we get to know through Eden’s eyes. I found Eden’s ability to see right through her mother’s hype interesting and wondered if it was her childhood that allowed for that or her extremely strong will.
As we get closer to solving the mystery there are some very intense reveals that left me shocked. The duplicity and deception left me reeling at the implications. The ending is an explosive finale that resolves the conflict and answers all our immediate questions but leaves enough open to lead us into book two. The Devil’s Daughter is an excellent endeavor and sure to appeal to fans of romantic suspense with a strong thriller/mystery base. I am looking forward to the next in this series; to be announced.
The date is 1963 and two elves compete for prestige and honor at a job fair after college graduation. Felecia Eloytrisk Cambri (Trisk) and Trenton Kalamack (Kal), have despised one another for years. An argument at the job fair ends up with both of them chastised and no longer top recruiting prospectives. Trisk is offered a job with Global Industries, a human laboratory. Her job is to monitor the lab tests the humans are running, reporting anything of interest back to the elven conclave. When a fellow human scientist, Daniel Plank, develops a biological virus to be used in war, Trisk uses her skills to tweak it so it doesn’t affect any Interlanders (supernaturals). At the same time, she herself creates a strain of almost indestructible tomatoes to try and help end hunger. When Kal is brought in by the conclave to “check” over Trisk’s work, his ego gets the best of him and we are left with a killer tomato that systemically begins to wipe out the human race.
Fans of Kim Harrison’s epic urban fantasy series The Hollows and its itchy witchy heroine, Rachel Morgan, will want to jump on Harrison’s’ newest release, The Turn. This prequel introduces the world, creating a light background bridge of information for first time readers while giving long time fans a chance to see how it all started and get some answers to lingering questions.
Fans will remember that the decline of the human population, the initial reveal of the supernatural community, and the subsequent chaos that followed for YEARS all boiled down to a virus that was blamed on tomatoes. T4-Angel tomatoes to be exact. The Turn explains the hows, the whys, and most importantly, the WHOs that set all this into motion.
Action packed with plenty of intrigue, mystery, a machiavellian like series of plot lines, and Harrison’s winning dialogue keeps pacing smooth and steady. The genre seems to split between UF and mystery/thriller with a strong dose of corporate espionage. Harrison doles out the information is a manner that instantly draws you in and holds you hostage till the end. Strong characterization and dialogue engages as Harrison builds her cast of players-using new and familiar faces. The balance between the story and the characters is well maintained-neither overpowering nor sacrificing for the other. Fans may be disappointed to see that while a romance does slowly develop, it’s awkward and added more for the convenience of the story rather than an organic pairing.
I loved getting to meet the faces behind the events that made up the basis of The Hollow series and also seeing some very familiar faces. Trisk is utterly brilliant in her makeup and showcases the strong and appealing heroines Harrison is famous for. Kal is an egotistical jerk who you will love to hate. Trisk and Kal’s relationship is very similar to that of Rachel and Kal’s son, Trent. Their antagonism is so prevalent in the story it is the fuel that powers everything. It was interesting to see that Trent got his elitist attitude honestly thought there are some things revealed that will cause some to look at the little cookie maker a little differently. Daniel was a delight and I wish we could have gotten to see what became of him. It was great to see Quen, Cormel, and others who held huge roles in Rachel Morgan’s world. Reading this story really made me miss this series.
Though tragic in ways that we know can’t be fixed, Harrison offsets the seriousness with humor, love, and shows us that in times of great need, people will rise to the occasion. She leaves us with a viable ending that leads us into world we came to love and I’m thrilled Harrison choose to revisit it one last time.
Boone Price and his brothers are or rather were roughnecks-oil drillers. When they discover oil on their property, the money flows in as fastGrade: C-
Boone Price and his brothers are or rather were roughnecks-oil drillers. When they discover oil on their property, the money flows in as fast as the oil gushes out. Now a billionaire, Boone finds he’s more than ready for the respect that should come with his new found wealth. When it doesn’t, he decides what he needs is some class in his life. Enter Ivy Smithfield. Blonde, gorgeous, and intelligent with legs that don’t stop, Boone has found his trophy wife. But Ivy has a few secrets of her own. And she is positive that Boone will drop her in a heartbeat when he finds out the woman he wants doesn’t exist.
Dirty Money is the first in a romance contemporary series that follows the four Price siblings as they look for love in all the wrong places. This spirited romance requires a definite suspension of belief and some common sense as Clare introduces a rambunctious storyline with some raunchy lovin’ and characters who go all out and then some for love. Boone and Ivy come out strong but soon dissolve into a puddle of misunderstandings and temper tantrums. Ivy’s lying drags the storyline down and I found Boone’s attitudes on money and women tacky as the story wore on. I think the series has plenty merit, I’m just not sure it’s for me.
Wait For It is the fourth book in Molly O’Keefe’s emotionally gritty Everything I Left Unsaid series. It’s also the story I’ve been waiting oGrade: C+
Wait For It is the fourth book in Molly O’Keefe’s emotionally gritty Everything I Left Unsaid series. It’s also the story I’ve been waiting on. We first met the MCs, Blake and Tiffany, in book two and the meeting was not pretty to say the least. Blake comes to Tiffany’s trailer and is shocked to learn his brother Phil not only had a wife the family knew nothing about, but also three children. Phil has disappointed his family his whole life. Blake attempts to protect the family from more heartbreak by offering Tiffany money to disappear and never contact their family again. Tiffany is no fool and knows this money can help get her and her kids out of Phil’s abusive reach. A year or so later, Blake learns how wrong he was handling that situation and his attempts to redeem himself opens up wounds he thought long closed.
O’Keefe has an addictive rich voice that effortlessly paints erotic fantasies while stripping away the artifice and deals directly with the heart(s) of the issue. While I always enjoy her stories overall, felt there was a curious sense of disconnection here. Both protagonists are old souls who will always sacrifice themselves for the good of those they care for. O’Keefe does a fabulous job of dissecting them as individuals so she can put them back together as a couple but I never felt them became a couple. Their chemistry was delish and I loved the role playing of sorts but I never bought the step from lust to love. The hint of suspense through Phil was admirably done and am I the only one wondering about the mysterious J? Wait For It entertained but just didn’t blow me away....more
Famous pop singer Cady Ward, Queen Maud to her fans, has come home to rest and recuperate after a long grueling tour. When an overzealous fan is able to make it backstage after her last concert, her manager demands she hire a bodyguard.
Police officer Conn McCormick has his own problems with a potential scandal that could ruin his career. His captain decides to place Conn on bodyguard detail while IA investigates his case.
Not looking for a relationship, their close proximity only fuels the flames of their chemistry and soon Cady and Conn give into their desire. But someone is messing with Cady and when Conn’s investigation reveals who the culprit is, he will have to choose his heart or his job.
Going Deep is the 5th book in Anne Calhoun’s Alpha Ops series. Each book can be read comfortably as a standalone though there is character and scene cross over from previous books. Though this is listed as a romance suspense, It is more contemporary romance with a suspenseful/mystery element running through it. The evolution of the romance takes precedence. While well written with a smooth pace, a steady stream of reveals at appropriate intervals, and the expected steamy scenes; there is a curious sense of disconnect in here. The characters and the storyline develop and progress as expected but with none the emotional intensity and sense of anticipation I usually experience while reading her books. The spark that would have brought it all to life is not in evidence. The full novel length helps evolve the storyline but not enough to save it.
The beginning introduces us to our protagonists and has a promising start. Cady is a famous musician who has come to her hometown to relax for a couple months before beginning another tour to promote a new album. Having fired her last bodyguard, she bulks at needing a new one in her hometown. When a drunk fan sneaks backstage to profess his love and a string of bad luck begins to plague her, her manager demands she hire a bodyguard. Here we meet the super sexy, super broody Conn McCormick.
Conn McCormick, a former soldier turned police officer, is a quiet self-contained man who’s being accused of assaulting a prisoner in his care. His lieutenant decides to get him out of the office and public eye while they investigate the charges brought against him. As Conn has some documented anger issues, he suspects he’s being set up. His lieutenant refuses to allow him to look into it, instead loaning him out as Cady’s bodyguard and asking him to trust the system he pledged to defend.
Calhoun spends time showcasing the contrasts between Cady and Conn and slowly introducing their compatibility. I enjoyed getting to know Cady and Conn as individuals. They seem very different on the surface yet deep down they want the same thing. Love. Respect. Commitment. Choice. Cady had a decent childhood with some mild angst while Conn was shuffled around, unwanted, from relative to relative after his deadbeat father disappeared. Cady isn’t naive but she also isn’t as jaded as one would suspect for a rockstar. She accepts the negative along with the positive aspects associated with her career choice. I liked that she while she wasn’t a pushover she also wasn’t a diva. She’s very comfortable in her own skin. Conn, on the other hand, is a mass of contradictions. A solitary figure, he is most comfortable surrounded by his brothers in blue- his family. A family that wants him, is proud of him, and will never desert him. Being accused of a crime he didn’t commit hits him on a multitude of levels. He feels betrayed and abandoned.
Where I would have expected more friction here (Cady is famous, rich, and very mobile while Conn is middle class and firmly settled in his job and the town) it’s very minimal. Every possible stumbling block is easily resolved with little to no fanfare. This couple is excruciatingly affordable. Nothing really seems to phase them. We see some raised emotions from time to time but overall they roll with the flow. Watching them come together is nice and sweet but nothing momentous. There is quite a bit of downtime as Calhoun works to put this couple on the same page together.
As Calhoun is the queen of erotically charged romances, I’d be hard pressed to find fault with the physical scenes in here but again, it’s all very circumspect. There is a faint push and pull in the beginning as Conn seeks to talk himself out of wanting anything personal with Cady but easily overrides himself at every available opportunity. Some hot and heavy love scene adds to the chemistry we feel from the beginning, they didn’t do much to solidify this as a viable romance. It has insta-love all over it and while I could see understand Conn falling for Cady-she offers him stability and family- I wasn’t sure what tipped the scales for Cady.
A cast of secondary characters flirts in and out of the storyline, adding to the suspense and mystery of behind both conflicts. No one really stood out beyond their place settings with the exception of Cady’s sister. Her scenes are some of the strongest aspects of foreshadowing I’ve seen in a long time. Calhoun excels at making her an unlikable character.
The two main conflicts set up nicely but fail in delivery and development. Calhoun seems to lose interest in them early on and they stay in the background until she pulls them out to remind us they are there. I was disappointed in the resolutions. They were flimsily constructed and their lack of development has them falling flat once we get all the facts behind them.
While Anne Calhoun remains an erotic siren whose couples and romances are a literary feast for the eyes and senses, this particular book seems to deviate from Calhoun’s usual fare and just wasn’t what I expected.
Favorite Quote: “He made falling in love so easy.”
Sharon Sala takes us back to the small town of Blessing, Georgia in her third installment with a sweet and heartwarming story of second chances when a war weary soldier comes home to heal and falls for a young widow and her adorable little girl.
I love small town romances and Saving Jake hits all the right notes. Small towns are notorious for being nosy, unforgiving, gossipy, while being filled with an overabundance of love and compassion. Everyone knows everyone’s business and what happened in past is viewed as if it just happened yesterday. In here, Sala builds an ambiguous tale of love, loss, redemption, and forgiveness with some humor, passion, and emotional angst.
This story engages from page one, flowing smoothly and evenly as Sala sets the tone and scene. Strong characterization, engaging narrative, and a compelling storyline is deeply rooted in humor and sorrow. There is a strong inspirational tone that matches the world in which it is set. Small towns are often built on the faith of its residents and that faith is what sustains them during the bad times while giving them cause to celebrate during the good times.
I loved meeting Jake, Laurel, and of course, Bonnie. All of them are sweet, sensitive, and kind people who despite their tragic circumstances in life, remain strong and relatively cheerful. Though the relationship starts out somewhat antagonistic, neither are sure if they are ready for friendship much less a romance, watching Jake and Laurel grow beyond their pain and sorrow. Each of them finding the courage to not only go on with their lives after tragedy struck but to learn to reach out to one another despite their fears was heart warming.
Using dual narratives, Sala does an excellent job of getting us into their heads and showing us the deep wounds that need healing in order to move forward. Your heart will definitely hurt as Laurel describes the pain, anger, and guilt she continues to feel after her husband committed suicide. Like Jake, he too was a vet but refused to deal with his PTSD-choosing to end his life instead. Abandoned and blamed for his death by his family, she also has to deal with their escalating harassment.
Jake’s pain is the result of the war. Hailed as a hero for wounds suffered in battle, he deals with PTSD, nightmares, and survivor’s guilt on a daily basis. It’s hard for him to accept his survival when his best friend who saved his life didn’t make it home. He too has his to deal with harassment from a local resident.
Watching this little group grow gradually into a family is delightful to watch. Sala does a wonderful job of developing the relationship while keeping this couple true to themselves. Their problems aren’t miraculously resolved once they acknowledge their feeling for one another. Nothing felt manipulated or forced. I found Bonnie amusing and realistic in narrative and actions. She’s not used as a plot device and is more than able to carry her own weight in the storyline. Her pet invoked some feelings of nostalgia in me as my daughter also had a pet chicken as a child.
Fans of Sharon Sala and small towns bursting with heart are sure to enjoy this latest installment that brings two deserving people a second chance at life and love.
Criminal investigator, Xander Stone, is called in when all else fails. Hit by lightning as a child, he gained the ability to hear people’s thought. When he’s finished with his latest case, he hears a woman’s voice telling him she is dying. This voice has been speaking to him for years, begging for him to save her. Convinced it is nothing more than hallucinations brought on by his accident, he usually silences her voice with alcohol. Only this time, he isn’t given the choice. He is taken over by a greater power and ‘wakes’ to find himself in front of a dilapidated mobile home in the middle of nowhere. Once he forces his way in, he finds two women on the brink of death, and discovers one of the woman is the voice he’s been hearing.
Isleen has long given up being saved. After 8 years of captivity and torture, completely at the whim of a woman who refers to Isleen as the Dragon and herself as the Queen, she is prepared to die. Her grandmother, also a prisoner, keeps reassuring Isleen that her savior is coming. She will be saved if she can just hold on. When Isleen reaches the point where she welcomes death with open arms, a man appears and saves her and her grandmother.
Abbie Roads’ Race the Darkness is the first in a two book series. This debut blends the paranormal with horror to create a dark romantic suspense that flirts lightly with the fairy tale-Beauty and the Beast. A scarred, bitter man plays reluctant hero to a mysterious young woman being held captive and abused by a religious cult. Heavily character driven plot lines and an emotional base tells us a story of love, loss, hope, and redemption as this couple fight to stay alive against a religious cult who demands their death in the name of an ancient prophecy.
The beginning showed great promise. Roads’ sets us down in the middle of an intense scene, giving us a front row seat to witness the power that the hero, Xander Stone, carries in him. Not only can her hear people’s thoughts but his ability also amplifies sound, causing him great pain and is the cause of his anti social behavior. Xander is an island unto himself. His father abandoned him emotionally and physically after Xander’s accident and Xander has grown into an antagonistic, untrusting, angry adult. When he connects with Isleen, a bond is revealed, one that confuses and angers Xander. Especially since a similar bond all but destroyed his father.
This story reminded me a little of Dean Koontz-think A Door Away From Heaven. Similar in “way out there” fantasy inspired plot lines, seemingly random characters with complex ties to one another and a religious and/or mythological base. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end. The story’s strong opening dissolves into a jumble that lacks dimension, direction, and personality. Once past the initial rescue and meet and greet, the story becomes a disjointed mess. Repetitive dialogue, manipulative plot devices, and random character/scene insertions left me with more questions then answers. The story felt rushed with very little in the way of exploration and development into the characters and the reasons behind what happening.
Xander is the only character who is defined in any real fashion. The perfect grumpy hero. He is an arse and makes no apologies for it. We know why he is an arse and it makes perfect sense. Everyone else stays rather singular in dimension- acting as a catalyst to explain someone else’s actions. Even Isleen to an extent. She is the stereotypical angelic heroine, designed for sacrifice because of her innate goodness. She has her moments where Roads’ attempts to break her out of her mold-some dark humor at her own expense and verbal commitments to being strong. But she slips back easily into her predestined spot. We are told what is happening in the present but not really why. From Isleen’s captivity to the ancient prophecy that started it all-every offered is merely cursory.
The villain(s) of the piece offer hints of intrigue, suspense, and eventually horror as Roads’ introduces us and takes us into their world. We are shown what is happening and gradually clued it to the why but, connection Road’s tries to make between the present and the past is weak and murky. Again we are left with far more questions than answers. I was also disappointed in the deconstruction of the main antagonist. He goes from scary to pitiful in a nano second
Race the Darkness had all the ingredients to be a wonderfully dark and unique paranormal romance suspense but Roads’ chooses far too often to play it safe, She backs off when we would expect her to charge forward and juggles entirely too many characters and plot lines for the story to handle. Book two, Hunt the Dawn, spotlights a new hero and heroine though looks to be contained within the same world. I am really hoping this one tightens up considerably and answers all the questions book one leaves you with.
New Jersey Hurricanes striker Logan Hart is an international soccer star who plays hard on and off the field. Gorgeous, rich, and single, he has the perfect life.That is until a former one night stand hands him a baby, claiming it’s his, and disappears. Logan doesn’t know the child is really his or not and has no idea how to care for her. His sister puts a call into a nanny service. Logan’s all for handing off this new responsibility to more capable hands so he can get back to his single ways but when the sexy, blond, take no prisoners nanny shows up and informs him she is the nanny, not the parent, and his participation is non-negotiable, Logan finds himself looking for more than just a new notch on his bedpost…he wants to win her heart.
Isabella Bennett takes pride in her career as a professional nanny. Using her skills, she not only cares for the children of the rich and famous but also helps to teach the parents how to become a family. Logan and his child desperately need Isabella but their mutual attraction could create some problems. Isabella is there to whip Logan into shape, not fall into his bed. As the chemistry between them only continues to bloom, Isabella finds herself hoping that this is the real thing. But a secret Isabella is keeping may be the one thing that stops her from finally getting her happily ever after.
Hard to Hold is the first in a new sports based romance contemporary series by Katie Rose.An appealing premise and cover piqued my interest right away. I enjoy sport based romances and I’m always looking for more secret/surprise baby tropes that don’t follow the norm. Rose sets the stage right off the bat with a bold scene and narrative. Our hero, Logan Hart, is home from Europe and having a drink with a teammate. A young woman interrupts Logan’s night out, handing him a baby and informing him he is the baby’s father and she’s done. Logan is shocked and tries to chase after her but she drives off before he can stop her. Logan heads home, calls his sister, and proceeds to freak out. And rightly so. His sister helps him out by putting him in touch with a professional nanny service send over a nanny who instantly sets to right the chaos that has descended, winning his admiration, trust, and eventually his heart.
This lightweight predictable story hits all the basic notes for a romance but doesn’t develop beyond a singular level. This surprised me because I read and reviewed The Heat is On, #4 in her Bad Boys of Summer series, and enjoyed it. I found the overall romance and storyline much better developed and balanced in comparison to this one.
An antagonistic employee/employer relationship develops and trips along with a wee bit of angst, humor, and some push and pull in the romance. Logan sees a beautiful woman he’d like to get to know better but has no ambition towards making it something more permanent while Isabella sees a gorgeous abet arrogant man who needs to to be taken down a notch. They dance around each other as Logan learns how to be a parent while dealing with the team, the gossip, and locating the baby’s mom.
The chemistry is plausible and helped along by some steamy scenes but the connection is weak. Isabella seems determined to keep Logan firmly in “player” category though there is no evidence of this besides second hand gossip. I was also not happy with her presumptions about his having one night stands and obviously not using a condom. Logan struggles with crossing the line between them, knowing he needs her more for his child then his bed. When they decide to go forward, he stops them at a critical point and she ends up taking it personally. They don’t really seem to get to know one another on a personal level, and I never saw the moment it went from attraction to affection for either of them.
The best part of the book for me was watching Logan grow into parenthood. He doesn’t instantly take to the baby and there was a sense of realism there. The confusion and fear were evident and Logan learns to deal with it while growing to love his child. There was a small storyline concerning Logan that didn’t seem to offer much in ways advancement in the book or his character. Logan suffers under the care of a host family while in Europe as a teenager and resents his parents didn’t believe his claims. Interesting but there is no resolution and it disappears as quietly as it enters. A minor conflict concerning Isabella’s secret is the catalyst that pushes Isabella to trust Logan and we are left with the HEA we never doubted was coming.
Hard to Hold is sure to appeal to fans who enjoy predictably sweet and lightweight romance contemporaries with a hint of spice that doesn’t push any real boundaries or demand much emotionally.
Detective Jeremy Lawrence never expected a trip home to Butte, Montana would end up with him having to investigate his brother Robert’s murder. Especially not with his former neighbor and high school crush.
Deputy Blake West, a single mom, hasn’t seen Jeremy in forever. Learning he is divorced, Blake wants to see if the chemistry between them still burns as hot and bright as it did so many years ago. But when the killer sets their sights on Blake and her family, Jeremy and Blake will have to put their romance on the back burner as they race against time to discover who wanted Robert dead and why.
I grew up with Harlequin Intrigues. I love the blend of the intense suspense and romance and lack of filler in the storyline. Quick, fun, usually sexy reads. Dusted Up with the Detective is part of a loosely structured series based in Montana. I haven’t read the one before it-Smoke and Ashes– but don’t feel it was a requirement to understand this one. Dust Up with the Detective promises a lot but for me didn’t deliver. I enjoyed the conflict-small town politics, a woman’s struggle in a predominately male environment, and a suspicious death-but the fast tracked romance, lack of structure, and inconsistencies in the storyline left me uneasy and full of questions.
The story opens on with our heroine, Blake West, rushing home to discover who she thinks is a stranger attacking her daughter, is really her old friend and crush, Jeremy Lawrence, helping her daughter remove a pair of handcuffs. With a hacksaw. This was the first of many issues.
Most police issued standard handcuffs all use the same key. There is no way Jeremy, a detective, wouldn’t carry a spare pair of cuffs and key with him. Even on vacation. It’s a cop thing. But let’s say for the story’s sake he doesn’t carry a spare pair. Why use a hacksaw? The child wasn’t in any immediate danger. Why not just wait for Blake to come home (she had already been called) OR load up the kid and take her to the police station for removal?
To top it all off, Blake is chastised, in front of Jeremy, by her mother for not hiding the handcuffs better. Huh? Megan is 13. Old enough to know better. The whole scene, which is set up to reintroduce Blake and Jeremy, seemed more inclined to just embarrass Blake and cause unnecessary conflict.
From this point on, Winters’ simultaneously builds the layered mystery steeped in police procedures while cluing us into the feelings Blake and Jeremy have had for one another since high school. Winters’ attempts to build a tense, emotionally motivated romance falls flat. The problem is we don’t have enough background on them and what we are given doesn’t support this train of thought. Blake and Jeremy are around the same age and they never dated-just good friends who hung out. In Blake’s attempts to push Jeremy into admitting his feelings for her, she dated someone else and ended up pregnant and alone at age 16. Plenty of internal dialogue on both sides shows us they are still interested in one another but the intensity of their feelings, along with the push and pull they engage in, is better suited for a couple who has a strong romantic history. They move really fast and engage in some inappropriate places.
Winters’ pretty much tells us who the villain(s) are in the very beginning with a cast of characters list though she takes us step by step through the investigation to give us the reasons behind the murder. While I liked Blake, I didn’t like Jeremy. I found him indecisive and pushy and I never felt he really took Blake or her job as a deputy seriously. His pushiness gets her in a multiple messes, to the point where she is almost fired. Blake, on the other hand, annoyed me with the romance but I liked her fortitude and love for her family. She’s good at her job and doesn’t allow anyone to belittle her for it.
A large cast of secondary characters help to round out the story, giving clues to the mystery and some insights into the protagonists deeply buried issues. The ending comes at us fast and wraps up the mystery and romance up in a tidy little bow, leaving readers secure in the fact that Blake and Jeremy have found their HEA. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy any of it.
Two years after the events in Archangel’s Enigma (book eight), Nalini Singh takes us back to Manhattan and the main protagonists of this tempestuous world-the archangel Raphael and his now angelic consort Elena. Singh has always hinted that we have only scratched the surface of Elena’s complicated family. In here, Singh exhumes Elena’s past, giving readers an intimate look into her mother’s history and fleshes out the secrets that have always linked Elena to the angels and eventually leads her to her powerful and deliciously dominant mate-Raphael.
“No one will take my Elena from me. I’ll destroy the world before I allow that to happen”
Raphael has those under his command and protection on a soft lockdown as the Cascade and Zhou Lijuin both remain unpredictable. The Cascade seems to be set on pause and no one has seen or even heard from Lijuin since the last epic battle. The assumption is she is not dead but has slipped into the deep sleep that often claims those archangels of immense age and immortality. Standing on the edge of the abyss, waiting for the other shoe to drop has everyone on edge. Especially Elena. When a missive comes from a secretive group calling for a meeting of the Cadre, Raphael sees it as a chance to introduce Elena to a rarely seen part of his world. The meeting is to take place in Morocco, the birthplace of Elena’s mother. Elena decides to use this time to gather more information about her ancestry while Raphael deals with the group.
“This group that has the power to force the Cadre to meet, what's it called?”
“The members call themselves the Luminata.”
The Luminata is a cloistered order of male angels who have chosen to withdraw from all the temptations of the world in order to seek and further their enlightenment. Self-governed, the Luminata severs all ties to the world, choosing to be a nonbiased entity in the world. Because of their neutrality, the Luminata is tasked with calling the Cadre when an archangel has not seen for a certain number of years. This helps to stop the vacuum that occurs when a territory is left unattended. Though it’s only been two years since Lijuin went missing, a drop in time in an immortal’s life span, her territory is now being overrun by vampires caught in the bloodlust. Something that affects Elena on the deepest of levels.
“I see memories in your eyes, Elena.”
“They’re a part of me.”
Once again Singh rips open her world and creates her own cascade in such an easy, offhand manner that only reiterates her skill as a true and talented storyteller. From the very beginning, Singh has created an exceptional fantasy that screamed, ‘this is only the beginning.’ She ushered us into a world filled with dangerously complicated supernaturals whose violent-tinged actions are a result of their nature with no apologies offered. The smooth steady pacing, richly developed plot lines, and sublime narrative continues to offer readers a never ending adventure. Alternating the novels between various couples helps to keep the arc fresh and invigorating. We don't grow bored or complacent because Singh doesn’t allow us to. Each novel brings something new to the table.
Expanding on the complex and dictatorial world of her angels, Singh brings various matters to the forefront for our consideration. From the wisdom of immortal rulers to the obvious lack of accountability; the main question being asked in does absolute power corrupt absolutely? And when it does, who will step forward and demand justice?
Allies and enemies are plentiful as Raphael and Elena are drawn deeper into the darkness that surrounds the Lumia; a darkness that has Elena in it’s sights. Though some may be concerned to find the main focus is firmly on Elena and her journey, rather than on the arc, many will find the side path Singh takes informative as she uses it to address past characters and storylines. Aodhan holds a larger more centralized role, giving insight into his past and his future.
“When he is not broken, he is a shooting star caught in mid fall.”
Singh effortlessly blends the romance with the main storyline, using it to give Elena a tether of support in Raphael. While the love between Raphael and Elena remains as passionate and animated as always, there is a sense of peace surrounding them that wasn’t in existence before. The strength of their bond only continues to grow since they first fell together. Deliciously besotted with one another, the chemistry they share scorches the pages. Though we don't get many physical scenes, their dialogue is rich in emotion and intent, with bits of humor inserted to further solidify this couple has reached a state of complete unity.
“Remember when I was terrified of you?”
“You were never terrified of me.”
“Hah! Are you kidding? I was scared out of my skin-but I still thought you were hot. I’m obviously a little deranged.”
Tense action wrapped in a cloak of intrigue and suspense takes us in hand and leads us towards the finale; wrapping up the main conflict in a firestorm of vengeance and justice while giving us a brief update on the arc. Elena is gifted with the knowledge she has been searching for while Aodhan gains some much needed peace. Bits of the arc threads are picked up towards the end, giving readers hints towards the future.
Archangel’s Heart is an entertaining and engrossing story that takes us back into the past and shows us what a warrior angel is capable of when the ones she loves are threatened. I look forward to my our next visit with these dynamic characters and the fascinating world they live in....more
Favorite Quote: “Do you think an extraordinary woman ought to be treated differently, my dear?” […] “The extraordinary will always be treated differently—they’re extraordinary, after all. What I wonder is whether a not-so-extraordinary woman will ever be treated the same as a not-so-extraordinary man.”
Reviewed by Tori Grade: B
What if the story behind Sherlock Holmes was not as the world has been led to believe? What if Sherlock Holmes was not an eccentric man but an eccentric woman? A woman who in the eyes of society committed a horrific sin and finds herself ostracized and forced to seek employment? A woman whose intelligence is in direct odds with her kewpie doll appearance? A woman whose only hope of survival is a man she cannot have, a secret widow, and a sister who may have committed murder? Would we still be as interested?
I say yes.
Set in the Victorian Era, Thomas opens the story in the future with two separate scenes. One introduces us to the 1st victim; Mr. Sackville, and the other the protagonist, Charlotte Holmes. We learn exactly what happens to Charlotte and from there Thomas takes us back the beginning to explain to us how Charlotte came to that point in her life and becomes involved in Mr. Sackville’s death and the two that follow.
“I thought of calling myself Charlie Holmes would be too obvious. Sherlock is similar enough to Charlotte without being its exact masculine equivalent.”
The youngest of four children in an affluent abet miserable family, Charlotte’s oddities-the ability to read people and situations with uncanny and often embarrassing honestly- come to light early on in her childhood. She learns to hide her eccentricity to a certain degree as she grows older in order to fit into better with society. When she decides she doesn’t want to marry, she strikes a deal with her father. If she, by age 25, still doesn’t want to get married, he will pay for her education in order for her to pursue a career befitting a single woman. Her sister, Olivia (Livia), warns her that their father is not to be trusted. That he will not honor his word to her.
“Remember Charlotte, Papa doesn’t like women. He’d feel a lot more hesitation breaking his word to a man-but you aren’t a man.“
When Livia’s prophetic words come true, Charlotte takes matters into her own hands without considering the ramifications of her decision. Her punishment is to be thrust out into a world that despises her for her gender and soon discovers first hand the double standards that have haunted the female sex since the beginning of time.
“It is the same old story. But when it happened to me, I thought he was special and I was special. And it turned out neither of us was special at all.”
Charlotte eventually lands on her feet with some help from a powerful childhood friend whose strong affections hint at the possibility of something more in the future but for now offers Charlotte a safety net. The impeccable Mrs. Watson makes our acquaintance and a partnership is born.
A Study in Scarlet is the first in a historical mystery series by Sherry Thomas that takes a famous fictional character and offers up a new perspective on an old favorite. I can’t say I’m a die hard fan of Sherlock Holmes but I have enjoyed reading them on occasion. I admit to being intrigued when I first read Thomas was going to gender swap this character and offer readers a new backstory and protagonist. This auspicious undertaking offers two very different but equally compelling storylines that run simultaneously, remaining curiously separate until the very end. Dynamic characters fill the story to almost overflowing, each one a strong personality that commands the scenes in which they participate in. The formal dialogue and narrative is well written and keeps the reader firmly engaged in the time period though it doesn’t flow as easily as I would have liked. At times I felt as though I was being buried in exposition. The story is slow to start in the beginning as Thomas sets the stage. It’s around the quarter mark that we begin to see the storyline settle itself and pick up the pace.
Charlotte is an interesting protagonist I am looking forward to watching grow and evolve. She reminded me a lot of Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan. Thomas does a fantastic job of showcasing the perils Charlotte faces as a woman on top of the tense mystery that she is compelled to help solve. A contradiction in looks and temperament; her appearance effectively hides her brilliant, analytical mind. Her cold logic is at direct odds with the warm and at times humorous relationship she shares with her sister, Watson, and Lord Ingram. A romance with food only furthers her appeal. What struck me most about Charlotte was the innocence Thomas manages to imbue her with. She is an honorable, straightforward person and the slight nuances of humanity we all prescribe to often escape her. She expects those she deals with to be an honorable as herself and every time she was shown the opposite, a hard lesson is learned. That’s not to say she isn’t knowledgeable to her personality and its supposed flaws. She knows what she is and accepts it… most of the time.
“He made her human-or as human as she was capable of being. And being human was possibly her least favorite aspect of life.”
Charlotte’s sister Livia is a delight and I thoroughly enjoyed the dramatic way she approached all aspects of her life. Lord Ingram is a dark horse, a curious mixture of autocratic reserve and modern sensibilities whose interest in Charlotte is both comforting and heartbreaking. Of course, what would Holmes be without Watson. Thomas creates the perfect foil for Holmes in Watson. An older woman who also suffers the stigma of society’s disapproval, she gives Charlotte the support she needs to persevere.
I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery. Thomas keeps readers in the dark as she leads us down a twisted path of lies and revenge that dates back years and handles the players involved with a deft hand. I admit I was completely shocked once we learned the main reasons for the deaths.
There were some issues I had with the book overall. An overwhelming amount of points of view saturate the story in the beginning and causes some confusion as we jump from character to character with no visual clues to warn us. I had hoped Charlotte would be more physically present in the investigation though understandably she is not able to be due to her gender. As it was, she gives direction and the police do the footwork. There was also the side story involving Lord Ingram. I really wish we had gotten to see the scenes of importance concerning him and Charlotte as they happened rather than hearing them mentioned offhand in memory.
A Study in Scarlet Women was a most enjoyable read that held my attention even with the issues I have listed above. I find myself more than ever eager to see what manner of business Charlotte Holmes engages in the future; especially now that the main introductions and world set up have been taken care of.
Gin Blanco-assassin extraordinaire and the reluctant queen of Ashland’s criminal underworld- is back and facing her greatest adversary to date. Still looking for the head of the Circle, Gin finds herself with more questions than answers as she continues to gather intel on the group and more memories come to the surface. When a friend asks Gin to look into her sister’s disappearance, she discovers a connection between the group and the missing girl. A connection that slowly snares Gin deeper and deeper into the web of a serial killer.
Snared is an apt title for the Spider’s latest adventure. Estep chooses to give readers not one but two mysteries as Gin not only continues to investigate the mysterious Circle and her connection to it but also finds herself hunting a serial killer. Gin is snared by her various investigations. Action packed scenes intertwine with an intriguing mystery filled with suspense. Witty dialogue and a sexy date night help to balance the more serious scenes. The character driven plot lines continue to maintain a strong emotional tone opposed to earlier installments.
“I’m not going to stop. I will never stop until I find out who every single member of your cursed Circle is.”
Jade Jamison, a minor underworld crime figure, comes to Gin asking for her help. Her little sister is missing and Jade is sure something bad has happened to her. Gin is currently stalking Damian Rivera, a member of the infamous Circle whose drinking habit makes him a prime candidate for interrogation in Gin’s eyes, but she takes some time off from her vendetta to help a friend.
“All you had to do was ask.”
As Gin and her friends dig deeper into the girl’s disappearance, they learn she isn’t the first to disappear in Ashland. There are quite a few missing woman over a two-year period who all bear striking resemblance to Jade’s sister. The police have nicknamed him the Dollmaker but refuse to launch an official investigation. Gin soon learns of the Circle’s influence there.
“You’re saying that there’s a serial killer in Ashland.”
I’m a die hard fan of Jennifer Estep and her writing. Her piece de resistance is her strong heroines whose ability to accept their flaws and learn from them is a highlight of all her stories. Gin Blanco has to be one of her strongest yet most vulnerable of Estep’s heroines to date. Raised by a foster dad/mentor after her family was brutally murdered, Gin has struggled the whole series between what she is and what she feels her friends and family need her to be. Luckily, she has found balance and finally seems to have made peace with herself.
The last couple of books has been focused on Gin, the Circle, and her family’s ties to the infamous crime syndicate. Gin is beginning to remember more about her mother and the events leading up to her death. Her mentor, Fletcher, left her a series of clues dealing with the Circle upon his death but it’s up to Gin to figure out what they mean and where they will take her. I am enjoying the anticipation that Estep is building in this arc and the sense that something huge is coming that will affect Gin both personally and professionally.
“I don’t think either one of us is going to like what we find.”
While this series is a comfortable read that always entertains, I’m beginning to see some issues forming. I am disappointed to see the character (main and secondary) evolution has gone dormant with this new story arc. We don’t see much individualism in the group anymore. This also is affecting the romance. While it still maintains a solid presence, Owen seems to have become more as prop than anything else these days. He’s become Gin’s sidekick along with everyone else. I was also put out with how heavily the foreshadowing is in the beginning and the way Gin’s memories are being used to advance the arc. It all feels a little too convenient and filler-like. Estep doesn’t leave much to chance. Luckily the story is well plotted and the investigation reveals in an interesting and manner that held my attention. Some new faces are introduced and they may be what breathes some new life into the series.
While this series continues to entertain and remains one of my go-to reads in Urban Fantasy for its strong female protagonist I do feel it is falling into a rut of sorts. I look forward to book 17 and seeing if Estep can bring back the edginess and spontaneity that seems to be missing.