~* 3.5 Stars *~ Too Little Romance He used to be the Bad Guy. The Big Bad of the piece. Hunted for bad acts, reviled for nefarious plans. Caine was the...more~* 3.5 Stars *~ Too Little Romance He used to be the Bad Guy. The Big Bad of the piece. Hunted for bad acts, reviled for nefarious plans. Caine was the cur obsessed with becoming pureblood. Narcissistic, lacking conscience. Then one selfless act changed his destiny.
First, it killed him. Which, admittedly, was a bummer. Then he was reborn as a pureblood. Perk. But it also thrust Caine into an unfamiliar role: hero and protector of the most important being alive, the pureblood Were and prophet Cassandra.
Yeah, no pressure there. And that's not all. Caine is having the devil's own time keeping his hands off the beautiful, innocent Cassie. He's supposed to be her guard dog while they bounce all over the country at the whim of her prophecies, not panting after her like a sex-starved pup. That's somewhere he absolutely cannot go, no matter how his body torments him for his restraint.
His yearning is great but the stakes are high. They must focus on the race to stay one step ahead of the Dark Lord. If they fail, if the Dark Lord gets the last living prophet in his clutches, the future will be forever lost to them all.
This installment of Ivy's Guardians of Eternity series provides an example of why I tend to dislike when multiple books in a series have concurrent, non-sequential, or overlapping timelines. I can imagine it's a very tricky thing for an author to pull off successfully because I've read several series that haven't quite managed to do so. Including this one.
The first half of this book, the half that most heavily features the two main characters, Caine and Cassie, details the events leading up to and including how those two characters ended up where they were in the previous book. On one hand, that's a good thing, because honestly, I thought I'd just forgotten major plot points after such a long lag time between when I read the seventh and eighth book. On the other hand, once I realized that wasn't the case, the issue became that I was reading half an entire book knowing exactly how it was going to play out.
Not the details, maybe, but the end result. And that completely stripped any and all suspense or tension from that part of the story for me and made a couple of the elements seem a waste of time.
It did give me a chance to reacquaint myself with Caine and Cassie, which I appreciated. Still, there wasn't enough of what I was hoping this book would offer: a closer look into the nitty-gritty of a fascinating character like Caine. The psychological and physiological effects of the massive paradigm shift and major species upgrade that changed his life offers practically endless potential for character evolution and definition, but sadly I felt most of that potential went unrealized.
I like Caine. I've always liked Caine, even when he was on the less-than-straight-and-narrow, because I understood his motivations, even if I didn't approve of his methods. And remember, I hated Salvatore with a fiery passion (before Ivy made me like him, damn it all), so I was all for anyone opposing the character I thought was a hopeless, brutish thug. I just would have really loved seeing Caine's character go from Point A to Point B with a bit more of a scenic route.
Cassandra had the same sort of take-her-or-leave-her impact on me that she's had since her introduction into the series. I felt her character definition also had potential when she and Caine were in Vegas, but the story focus stayed more on their interpersonal relationship, limiting the page time needed to really dig into defining her as a young woman who's been sheltered from the world for her whole life. I never really felt I knew who she was in any substantive fashion.
Plus, I've mentioned before my preference for strong, independent heroines over damsels in distress, and Cassie was the quintessential damsel throughout almost all of this one.
Once the timeline progressed beyond the events of the previous book, this story picked up for me. I loved how the pieces of external conflict started to come together, building tension and becoming more and more intense. The Dark Lord and his minions stirring up all manner of hell, the efforts of the Vampires, Weres, and all their allies growing more and more desperate as they sustain blow after blow... All of that was great. I enjoyed what was there in the story completely.
My problem with the latter half of the book was not with what was there but rather what wasn't. Namely Caine, but to a lesser extent, Cassie too.
Once Caine and Cassie were in the mist dimension, a place we knew they had been taken as of the last book, Caine's circumstance removed him from almost the whole of the second half of the book and we only got glimpses of Cassie. Not only did that limit the impact of the characters in what is supposed to be their own story, but it completely crippled the romantic story elements for me. And the resolution of the romance story arc just wasn't enough to redeem that for me.
There is a lot going on in this book. Much of the plot-driven, external conflict is a culmination of several books in the series, and it's intense and well written and very respective of the groundwork that Ivy has carefully laid. In that regard, the book was completely successful for me. But it's supposed to be a paranormal romance, and this time there just wasn't enough romance for me to be able to fully enjoy the read.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Zebra Books publisher Kensington Publishing via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
The Indomitable Keye Street is Back Atlanta private investigator, bounty hunter, and occasional police consultant Keye Street is feeling a little tense...moreThe Indomitable Keye Street is Back Atlanta private investigator, bounty hunter, and occasional police consultant Keye Street is feeling a little tense. She has been ever since she and her homicide detective boyfriend Aaron Rauser survived a couple of murder attempts last year, but the punishing southern summer heat of Atlanta in July is making it worse.
And it's times like this that Keye's demons ride her hardest.
Four years after her alcohol addiction destroyed her criminal profiling career with the FBI, the last thing recovering alcoholic Keye needs is her damaged, flawed cousin Miki calling her up and begging Keye to meet her at a nearby bar. But that's what you do for family.
Miki is freaked out. She claims that someone broke into her home, but after the police showed up and didn't find anything, they took one look at her record and blew her off. Thing is, Keye isn't sure she believes her either. She's been down this road before with her self-destructive cousin.
Then Keye finds a body in her cousin's living room, and the victim may be connected to Rauser's latest homicide case. Even as she kicks herself for not taking Miki seriously, this new development puts even more on Keye's plate. Now there's a murderous stalker on top a bail jumper with bodily fluid issues and an investigation into a crematorium that may not be keeping the home fires burning.
The heat and the fear and the exhaustion on top of all of that start to make a drink sound like just the thing Keye needs to get her through. And this time, her demons may be too strong for her to defeat.
Amanda Kyle Williams is back with another long, sultry look into the day-to-day life of the mostly functional all-purpose bastion of law and order, Keye Street.
I love Williams' style. This isn't just a suspense novel or a psychological thriller. It is peccadillo-embracing, loony-relative-having, deep-fried-donut-eating Southern fiction wrapped around more than one bizarre case of varying criminality and horror. It's the sort of fiction you don't just read, you commit to, because by the time you're done, the narrative has taken you on such a slow, sweaty, southern journey that the characters are anywhere from old friends to bitter rivals...or both.
Keye is so deliciously flawed as a character. She's got issues. Big, juicy, career-ending, daily-struggle issues. And it's not just the alcoholism, though that is a huge part. Her life is a cautionary tale and Williams pulls no punches, as if she crafts every scene to display Keye's strengths and weaknesses in as harshly bright a light as possible. I love it.
I also love the subtle touches of quirkiness and humor, mostly sarcastic, that lighten Keye's nature (and the story) when things are at their most tense or bleakest. I love Keye's intelligence and her dedication to those she considers her people, be they close friends or family. Her cousin Miki is a real piece of work, but Keye handles her. Not always with kid gloves, but then again, Miki keeps trying to goad Keye into taking a drink. Lovely woman.
Keye still feels compelled to do the right thing. Miki is family. Period. End of discussion. So southern.
Unfortunately, the verdant, rich southern style did slow the pace of the tale. The first half of the book felt a bit boggy and plodding after the pulse-pounding start. As big a fan as I am of Keye and all her quirks, there was a lot of character-driven material in the first half, and the meat of the external, plot-driven story elements didn't really gear up until about midway through.
Once they do, several significant story elements built towards a surprising and satisfying conclusion that was ripe with personal danger and future implications. It's a good plot arc, for sure, and all the plot-driven elements were wonderfully convoluted and complex.
I wish less time had been spent focusing on Keye's never-ending obsession with alcohol. It's something that bothered me in the first book, as well. Her being an alcoholic (recovering) is a defining element of her character, I know. I just get a little weary of reading about it over and over throughout the story. Especially in this book, where I felt a more subtle application could have lent more emotional impact to events during the final conflict of the book.
That said, this book has provided me another solidly entertaining read. I love Keye, and while spending time in her head can get a bit harrowing at times, I find myself rooting for her. Liking her. Wanting her to be happy with Rauser and content in her job. Sober. Even when she makes me totally mental, I want her to triumph. But maybe that's just the Southern in me. Whatever it is, I hope we see more of Keye Street soon.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Bantam publisher Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
Billy and Kristen Shine Together Billy Tripp knows he messed up. He forgot to renew his passport and ended up on his boss' shi...er...shiitake list. No...moreBilly and Kristen Shine Together Billy Tripp knows he messed up. He forgot to renew his passport and ended up on his boss' shi...er...shiitake list. Now, instead of feeding his inner adrenaline junkie in some balls-to-the-wall, no-guns-no-glory operation overseas, he's stuck working at Taylor Security's equivalent of a behavioral time-out in a swank hotel in South Beach.
The thrill-a-millennium assignment among the rich, ridiculously tanned, and infamous? Babysitting a necklace, an assignment that's the mental equivalent of watching grass grow. Disgruntled and bored, tension is starting to ride Billy hard. And that's particularly dangerous, what with Billy's unfortunate...issue.
Then she walks into the ballroom, and Billy can't help it. He stares.
If you had spent the majority of your life feeling like a fat Amazon compared to your perfectly gorgeous, party-hard little sister, you'd have self-image issues, too. At least, that's how hotel heiress and manager Kristen Dante rationalizes the hate-on she's got with her height and fat...er...lush figure, so being stared at by Mr. Tall, Gorgeous, and Monosyllabic is more than a little disturbing. Fortunately her job doesn't allow her to stand in one place for too long, and she's called away to deal with an issue before she totally freaks out about it.
Unfortunately, Billy approaches her while she's dealing with a security problem, his interest piqued by the flashing lights of the cop cars in the parking lot. One of the hotel guests has reported his car stolen and as soon as Billy hears that, Kristen can practically see his ears prick in interest.
Suddenly, Kristen can't help but wish she could go back to his silent stare routine, because frankly, the only thing worse...and sexier...than a quietly intense Billy is a take-charge, mouthy Billy. Which, she realizes with amused horror, may actually be his default setting. While he's giving her the full court press and she's torn between duty and attraction, Billy's investigation into a growing list of car thefts starts pointing to an international smuggling ring.
That's about when whomever is responsible makes their tragic, fatal mistake. They try to take Billy out of the equation. Now they're going to get a good, hard look at exactly how former Army Ranger Billy Tripp defines "relentless pursuit."
I'm so glad I didn't eschew picking up the third book in Giordano's series when I had the chance to read Risking Trust a few months ago. Not only would I have totally missed out on the sexy fun of this romantic suspense series, but I might never have come in contact with the incomparable Billy Tripp. And that would have been a real shame.
Irreverant, incorrigible Billy Tripp. Part adrenaline junky, part lunatic, both a patriot and a man who loves his mother, Billy Tripp suffers from and is embarrassed by what has been diagnosed as borderline (yeah...not so border) ADD. He's hyper, often hyper-aware, and is much better at blowing things up and pushing people's buttons until things explode than he is at controlling his mouth, his attitude....even his actions.
He's like a frenetic pit bull in a kick-ass warrior's body, and when he does focus on what - or who - he wants, he is relentless. And he wants M.H. He wants her bad.
All of that means more fun for me, because I thought Billy was awesome. It may be less fun for Madam Hotness herself, because Kristen spends most of the book torn between mortification at Billy's obvious attraction and wild behavior, and getting a warm, sexy little thrill over his endearing, honest, non-filtered thoughts and antics. Their relationship was a total blast.
Between Billy's mental and behavioral issues and Kristen's problems with body image, I thought Giordano did an excellent job creating two perfectly imperfect and often difficult characters who were just right for each other. It's rare for me to like female lead characters as much as their male counterparts. I did here. Not only did I think Kristen's personal issues were realistic, they never once diminished her character's independence or professional confidence, nor threatened her unshakable belief in her own intelligence and her abilities as the manager of an exclusive hotel. I liked that.
Giordano may write gorgeous alpha men, but she also writes confident, powerful women who are quick to rely on their brains and recognize their strengths, using both to their full potential. The way that Kristen managed Billy - a guy who desperately needs a firm hand to know where the limits are - was nothing short of fantastic. And the way he manages her insecurities was nothing short of brilliant.
On their own, they're layered, fallible characters with personality traits in both the plus and minus categories. Together they fit like exquisitely crafted puzzle pieces, as if they were meant to lock together in perfect compliment to each other's needs. Their relationship was more than the sexy heat that Giordano brings to the story, though that surely didn't hurt. But they were just as remarkable working together as they were loving each other.
Held up against all that, the suspense elements of the storyline would have had to have pretty remarkable to snag much of my attention in this book, and frankly, that wasn't the case for me. I'm sure car thievery, even on the scale indicated in this book, is a serious issue worthy of attention, but it didn't do anything for me personally and added very little in the way of suspense to the read. I ended up not really caring one way or the other about who was stealing the cars. Or why.
Usually, when either the suspense or the romance elements of a romantic suspense read go awry for me, it tempers my overall appreciation of a book. That wasn't what happened here. I loved Billy and Kristen so much, and so fully adored every moment of both their personal and professional relationship, that I couldn't help but like this book. The suspense elements may not have added anything to my reading experience, but it didn't detract much from it, either.
I've become a fan of this series, more specifically the way that Giordano creates and evolves her characters. Hot alpha males, intelligent, competent women, and both with their own quirks, peccadilloes, and insecurities...what's not to love? Add in a more personal or emotionally significant suspense thread, and this book would have hit every one of my Happy Reader buttons. Even without it, this was a great read.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Carina Press via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
Cute, Fun, and Oh So Sexy As far as paradigm shifts go, consciously realizing you're gay because your fraternity brother's naked bum looks like somethi...moreCute, Fun, and Oh So Sexy As far as paradigm shifts go, consciously realizing you're gay because your fraternity brother's naked bum looks like something you'd want to tap is fairly conclusive. Up until that blinding moment, Brad had never let himself think about why the girls in high school and college have never really done it for him. Not that he didn't try lots of them out. He did. So many, in fact, he feels bad about it.
Especially now, when it's finally become so clear that he was just hiding from his sexuality, and if anyone treated his sisters like he's treated women in his past, he'd kick their asses. That is one humbling revelation.
So, okay, he's gay. He can deal with that, he supposes. He has no idea how he's going to come out to his fraternity, though. Not the frat who practically worships at the alter of booze and gives medals for chick boffing. It sucks that he was so good at building up his jock reputation all these years. He doesn't even particularly like playing football.
He does, however, like Sebastian. Sexy Sebastian, TA for Brad's history class, is one put-together, good looking, openly gay man. Just watching him as he reads essays, wearing glasses that add a whole other level of academic hotness to his appearance, gets Brad's blood flowing - and all of it southward. Now that he's finally embraced being gay, there is no doubt who he wants to embrace first. But getting Sebastian to notice him is a whole other issue.
Sebastian is a little bit of a snob when it comes to the third year history students. They're not serious enough about the subject to warrant him learning their names before the end of term. So he doesn't. Except for Brad, anyway. That young man is definitely too hot not to pay all kinds of attention to. Between that gorgeous jock body and those cheekbones of his... Yeah. Pity he's straight, because Sebastian would totally do him.
Except Brad approaches him one night after a party and gives Sebastian his own personal paradigm shift. No way is Sebastian not taking the guy up on it. But no matter how out of the world the sex is, Sebastian is afraid Brad is going to fall for him. And that is going to be a problem, because Sebastian doesn't believe in love. Doesn't even know what it is.
Well, hell. Obviously I haven't been paying close enough attention, because my first experience with author Anne Tenino is by no means her first book. Using this little gem as a yardstick, I have definitely been missing out!
I loved Tenino's authorial voice. It's got a lovely a mix of witty sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek humor that always appeals to me. It comes through with wonderful clarity in the narrative and imbues both Brad and Sebastian with a sense of lighthearted sexiness that keeps this story far from any significant amount of pathos or angst.
I really enjoyed seeing a coming-out tale that wasn't mired down by a bunch of emotional dreck. There's certainly a place for the serious, emotion-pummeling stuff. I have enjoyed many a thoughtful, heartfelt, intense M/M read, but I also love getting a healthy dose of temperature-raising smutty goodness with lots to chuckle about besides. And that is exactly what Tenino offers readers with this one.
From first moment of Brad's self-revelation all the way through to the frat boy's coming out announcement there were tons of scenes that just tickled me to no end. I was especially fond of Brad's discussion with his family and the scene in which he catches Kyle up on various options for gay sex. All the scenes between Brad and his sisters and Sebastian with his were also big hits.
And I adored Collin. He was a scene stealer from the...well...very first page, actually, but his character also allowed for a wistful poignancy and a touch of seriousness to balance out the rest. I am dying to read his story.
Make no mistake, either, Tenino definitely writes smoking hot, erotic sex scenes. Even solitary ones. She did so with a deft hand, stirring fearless lust with hopeful yearning to create an erotic playground for her yummy characters. I definitely eyed my hairbrush differently this morning. And that was actually a little disturbing.
The tale definitely stays closer to the surface as far as story depth and complexity goes. There's not a lot of conflict - neither internal nor external - and everything progresses rather quickly. What conflict does exist is resolved without any significant trauma or is handled with a sharp eye for the lighter tone of the story.
Neither main character has a ton of depth or dimension, just enough to flesh them out a bit and individualize them. Most of the story evolves from Brad's perspective, so his character feels a bit more robust than Sebastian's by default. Both he and Sebastian are likable, though, and both are defined enough to keep them from feeling cardboard. This just isn't the sort of story that provides any deep character studies or sweeping emotional sagas.
It didn't need to be. It entertained me by being no more or less than exactly what it is, an erotically-charged, fun, light read. It is chock full of cute moments, richly flavored with amusing moments, spiced up with scorching hot moments, and even, when you include the end, touched with sweet moments. I enjoyed it a lot.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Riptide Publishing via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
If Loving Garland is Wrong, I Don't Wanna Be Right Seventeen-year-old Charlie adored her best friend Holly Palmer. The popular girl had befriended her...moreIf Loving Garland is Wrong, I Don't Wanna Be Right Seventeen-year-old Charlie adored her best friend Holly Palmer. The popular girl had befriended her on her first day at her new school, where they would be sharing a locker for their senior year. That's huge. Holly even invited her to spend the night when Charlie's mom forgot to pick her up after the Friday night movie they went to with two other girls.
It was a great night. Except she knew she shouldn't have drank so much. She was worried saying no would ruin her shot at popularity. Still, she paid for it. Charlie had to race to the bathroom in the basement, purging booze and bad decisions with each shuddered retch.
That's where she was when the screaming started.
Fifteen years later, Dr. Charlotte "Charlie" Stone is one of the premier psychiatrists specializing in the study of serial killer pathology. Working at Wallens Ridge State Prison, Charlie is conducting a forensic assessment of several serial killers incarcerated in their Special Housing Unit. Michael Garland is one of them. Charismatic, gorgeous, and deadly, he amuses himself by being difficult when they're in session, so when a guard interrupts to let her know she's got two FBI agents in her office, Charlie is more than ready to bring the session to a close. Until she finds out why they've come for her.
A vicious predator is on the prowl along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and his signature is so chillingly similar to that of the Boardwalk Killer, the monster who slaughtered Holly, her entire family, and four other families fifteen years ago, that the FBI are convinced he's back. They want Charlie to return with them to the latest crime scene, then stay and help them catch him.
They are asking for more than she can give. She is in the process of turning them down, or offering to help from afar, when life in the prison takes a deadly turn. Michael Garland is shivved as he's being transported back to his cell, and he bleeds out even as Charlie desperately tries to save his life. A deeply disturbing event for anyone, but for Charlie, who isn't quite like everyone else, it's much worse.
In an abrupt about-face, Charlie's on her way to North Carolina in the company of two FBI agents. She has to go. She has to get away from the prison for a few days. You see, Charlie can still see and hear Michael Garland. To Charlie, who has always seen ghosts, he's as real as he ever was and will be until he crosses over. Facing her own fears to catch a monster seems a better choice than dealing with that one.
I'm totally in love with a serial killer. Yeah...never thought I'd think, say, or type that in my life. Then I met Karen Robards' latest character creation, Michael Garland, and I swear, it was love at first snarky come-on. In my meager defense, I don't actually think he is a serial killer. Just...um...convicted and sitting on death row...before he's murdered and turned all ghostly. Still, I could not possibly have adored him any more if I tried.
Spectral crush aside, I had moments where I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book while I was reading it. It starts out like an in-your-face, gripping, tension- and terror-filled psychological thriller. A vicious serial killer is slaughtering families, then stops for fifteen years for reasons no one knows, and is now apparently back to bloody business. Psychologist/criminal profiler/FBI team gear up to pit their wits and resources against the heinous killer to identify him and bring him down.
But then Garland is killed, Charlie sees his ghost, and the book takes a very different turn. First off, Garland isn't a scary ghost. He comes off as more tough guy than crazy killer guy. And a mouthy, sexy (can't believe I'm saying that, either), horny, smart-ass, too. A pain in the ass sort of ghost. A ghost who makes lewd comments to Charlie, but who shows some vulnerability and even a protective streak if you look hard enough.
Charlie, in the mean time, is freaking the hell out that he's showing up all the time, keeps getting caught talking to him, and tries everything she knows how to try to get rid of him.
I really wasn't expecting to be quite so entertained by a book about a serial killer, but I definitely got caught up in the humor more than once. I don't think it's ever blatantly comedic - that probably would have been in poor taste, all things considered - but many scenes were amusing and the rest were just flat-out awesome. I loved every single second that Garland shared a scene with Charlie. So much so that it made the scenes in which he is not a part seem a little bland in comparison.
Which is actually a problem.
Lest I forget, and maybe more's the pity, but the book is about more than how hot Michael Garland is. Looking at the suspense elements on their own brought into focus a couple of things that didn't sit well with me about the tale. Charlie and Garland are both powerhouse characters with a ton of personality, but the FBI team that comprised most of the secondary characters in the book never seemed to have anywhere near as much presence on the page or impact in the story. They kept fading into the wallpaper instead of commanding their own space, and I never felt their characters were well-defined enough to have any depth.
The plot threads for the investigative arc of the suspense, though, were quite solid. If you were to remove the paranormal elements from the whole of the book (though that would've been a tragedy), you would still have a gripping psychological thriller. One I would have preferred see evolve a little differently, maybe, but it is still a strong, solid, intense read.
The paranormal elements took it to a completely different level of awesome as far as my reading enjoyment level goes, but it didn't always mesh well story-wise. I prefer a bit more focus on the psychological aspects of the killer's motives and motivations in my suspense fiction. I was a disappointed we didn't get more insight there. I was more than disappointed by the final chapter, which had what I consider a fairly egregious summation scene.
I dislike summation or "wrap up" scenes on general principle. They gloss over all the dangling plot threads and wandering story elements and tie them off during a brief discussion between two of the characters, or between the narrator and the reader. That may tidy up the story and help to answer some unanswered questions, but they always strike me as awkward and unnatural. It's a too-easy out, when the story would be more interesting if the provided information is discovered as a natural result of the featured investigation. In this book, especially, it could have made the suspense seem more substantive in the overall had it been better handled.
Those minor grievances aside, I can't remember the last time I was as happy to turn the last page of a book as I was when I finished this one. Not because the story was over. That part was a major downer; I was heartily and thoroughly entertained and wasn't ready to have it end. What thrilled me to pieces in this case was the note that said there are more books with Charlie and Garland to come. Now that was fantastic news that made my day. I just hope it's soon.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Ballantine Books publisher Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
Had Trouble Connecting With This One When she left her hometown of Birmingham over twenty years ago, Special Agent Jess Harris did everything she could...moreHad Trouble Connecting With This One When she left her hometown of Birmingham over twenty years ago, Special Agent Jess Harris did everything she could to wipe the South from her voice and strike her past from her life. She excelled in her career with the FBI, became lauded as a criminal profiler, and spent several years being the go-to agent for stopping the worst of the worst. Then came the case that tilted her world on its axis, stripped everything from her in cacophony of bad choices and ego, and sent her hurtling back to the last place she wanted to be helping the last person she wanted to help.
Birmingham...and Chief of Police Daniel Burnett...have a potential problem on their hands, one Jess is both uniquely qualified for and highly trained to help them with, if she can keep a grip on the crushing emotion that comes from losing everything she's ever valued - including herself. After all this time, ten years since she last saw the man, twenty since she loved him, Burnett has contacted her to request her help on a case. He's afraid he has a serial situation on his hands.
Disregarding her last horrible, career-ending mistake, one that handed a vicious serial killer a Get Out of Jail Free card, Special Agent Jess Harris is the absolute best chance Birmingham has for finding whoever abducted four young women and stopping him before he can get another. Hopefully before the bodies start piling up.
Every once in a while I pick up a book that just doesn't quite work for me despite all the positives it has going for it. Obsession is a well-written suspense novel with a substantial plot and several solid characters. It has a hearty complexity in both internal and external conflict threads and features a sympathetic victim to engage readers and engender emotional connection. The police procedural and investigative story elements felt authentic and organic to the story, and they progressed at a steady and enjoyably readable pace.
In short, this book was a nicely conceived and crafted tale.
It should have worked for me, but it didn't. I have no major complaint about any part of the story, just minor things that bugged me a little as I read. I wasn't crazy about Jess, who, as the main character, struck me as too stubborn and convinced of her own infallibility to be truly sympathetic. There's a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and her personality seemed to waiver across that line more than once.
Not all the time by any means, and I certainly didn't think she was unlikable, but there were a couple of moments when I thought to myself that she obviously hasn't learned from the very mistake that put her career in jeopardy, because she keeps falling prey to the mentality that led her to make it. Then there was a scene in which bad behavior was actually rewarded. That was disappointing.
The romantic elements between her and Dan were also a bit of a downer. On one hand, they did manage to keep their professional focus on the missing girls and didn't let the stuff between them threaten lives, despite the amount of unresolved emotion between them. On the other hand, the emotional tension was a major story element that I felt got a little overplayed given the time they've spent apart and the maturity level they should have for their age. Again, not throughout the book, not even enough to cause a serious negative impact to the story, but enough that it niggled me more than once.
There was a decided lack of any real progress in their personal relationship, and an absence of a satisfactory resolution. This is not the sort of romantic suspense that ends with a Happily Ever After for the main characters. Even though I knew this is the start of a series and wasn't expecting a big HEA moment, I was hoping for more progress than I got after all the angst both characters gnawed on throughout the story. A Happily For Now moment would have been nice.
My biggest issue with this read, though, is one I don't completely understand. I never felt any particular connection to the plight of Andrea, one of the young women abducted and a character we see sporadically as the search for her progresses. Even now I'm not sure why. It wasn't badly written. There was nothing wrong, per se. I just found the scenes from her point of view lacking in suspense and appreciable threat, and my emotions never really engaged for her or the other girls.
It's frustrating having to acknowledge a general feeling of dissatisfaction without being able to pinpoint exactly why. I will say that I felt the scenes that feature contact with the serial killer from Jess' past were some of my favorites in the book. Now that was some plot-driven tension that packed a punch, and the ending of this book had a twist and a shock I wasn't expecting. It got me interested in finding out what happens next.
A warning to fellow cliffhanger-haters: the conclusion of this book is a definite lead-in to the next and could be considered a cliffhanger. Despite my normal loathing of cliffhangers, I didn't really have a problem with it here. This book did tie up all the main plot threads for this story, and I already had the next book when I started this one. That helps.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Forever Yours publisher Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
H-E-Double Hockey Sticks It's been three months since Nate "Ghost" Weller had the torturous task of informing his best friend's family that their son a...moreH-E-Double Hockey Sticks It's been three months since Nate "Ghost" Weller had the torturous task of informing his best friend's family that their son and brother was dead. Three months since Grigg's little sister Ali Morgan climbed into his Jeep and fell apart in his arms. Three months of hellish nights remembering the kiss of solace and life-affirming passion.
And he spent every moment of those three months being racked by guilt over the twelve-year infatuation he'd had for the woman. Guilt and self-disgust are tearing him up, but it's the soul-sucking knowledge that's killing him. Nate knows that if sweet, sunny, kindergarten teacher Ali ever finds out what he'd done in that Syrian hellhole where he and Grigg had suffered unimaginable torture, she would never, ever forgive him.
He already knows he'll never forgive himself.
And now Ali has traveled halfway across the country and shown up on his front doorstep in Chicago. Well...less a doorstep and more an armed guardhouse in front of the custom motorcycle shop that serves as the front for the Black Knights, a group of black ops specialists who take the most difficult of the sensitive jobs for the country. Still, Ali's here for a reason, one that has obviously freaked her out and scared her, as she's asking for his help.
Someone has been following her, she was almost mugged, and her home has been invaded, and that's all happened since he saw her last. It's obvious that someone thinks she has something of value, but she has no idea what or who is responsible. Racing to her brother's best friend, knowing full well he's more than what her brother told her he is, seemed the best idea at the time.
No sooner does Nate let her into the Black Knight, Inc. building than it becomes painfully clear that Ali is going to need the Knights' brand of highly specialized help. She's positively neck deep in trouble. Nate just hopes he can keep his hands off the woman long enough to pull her out of it.
This series debut by Walker wasn't what I was expecting. It had a lighter tone, with lots of intended humor and cute situational comedy moments, a female lead character right out of a Disney movie (including an annoying aversion to any sort of adult language), and a Bad Guy so exaggerated he came off as more a caricature than a character. The whole thing just sort of struck me like a cross between an episode of The A-Team (80's TV show version) and a Katherine Heigl movie.
Until it didn't.
I had some serious issues with Ali's character throughout the book, and I thought the scene featuring the resolution of the external conflict was odd and lacked plausibility. Too, the timeline of some of the major plot points of the story arc were suspect and strained my willing suspension of disbelief. That being said, it was the almost bi-polar tone of the piece that caused me the most consternation. After all, I have a lot of fond memories of The A-Team (which I watched religiously back in the day), and I think Killers was funny. Silly and ridiculous, but funny.
This book seemed to be trying to stick to the same chord, but when paired with story elements and a scene or two that were utterly grim, brutal, and horrifying to gut-wrenching degree, it just couldn't pull it off. The mix didn't work for me. I couldn't quite find that reading groove I need to settle into the story.
There are great moments in this book, though. I loved the secondary characters, especially Ozzie, and I adored Peanut. The ancillary storyline between Frank and Becky was great for amusement...until it, too, took the exit into bi-polarsville. But up to that point it was a lot of fun. The narrative is heavily flavored with pop culture references and the internal monologues and descriptive passages are all about the colloquial language.
That last was both a plus and a minus, though. It was amusing in places, but I prefer that in smaller doses than I got here, and because it was universal throughout the story, I had difficulty differentiating character voices when the point of view of the narrative shifted focus between characters.
And about those characters... I liked Nate a lot. I did. He had moments when he was maybe a little too in touch with his emotions for my taste, as I like my broody, tortured souls to be not quite so hearts-and-flowers expressive, but I'm a total sucker for unrequited love theme. And despite the two-faced tone of the tale, what he went through in Syria was utterly horrific. I felt for him.
Ali, on the other hand, made me want to shake her. She's sharply intelligent, keenly observant, and can handle a handgun for personal safety...which is great. But she doesn't curse (one more h-e-double-hockey-sticks and I was going to be the one to hurl), she's morbidly embarrassed by the idea of her panties being searched, and she's a delicate little girly-girl flower who responds to stress by either crying about it or vomiting over it.
I had trouble relating to her.
The good points of the story were very good. There's a lot of promise in the style and substance of Walker's writing. I especially enjoy the concept of the custom motorcycle business front for the spec-ops Black Knights, because lets face it, the only thing hotter than the bodacious bods of fight-ready former military men is the thought of those bodacious bods, shirtless and slick with sweat, on a thousand or so pounds of roaring bad boy chopper.
Uh...yeah...I think I'll be giving the next book a try.
In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. --Jose Narosky
Unmentionables? Whoever came up with that ridiculous term? Underwear that fantastic deserved to be mentioned on a regular basis.
Surly and disagreeable? He hadn't been surly and disagreeable. He'd been noble and honorable. Jesus. Couldn't she tell the friggin' difference?
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Sourcebooks Casablanca publisher Sourcebooks via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
~* 3.5 Stars *~ One Dark, Sexy Fairy Tale It was a spell, of course. A spell that went very wrong. Since then, characters from fairy tales and nursery r...more~* 3.5 Stars *~ One Dark, Sexy Fairy Tale It was a spell, of course. A spell that went very wrong. Since then, characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes, literary legends, and fictional creatures large and small have been crossing over into the Here and Now. Most Tales blend in with normal humans, or Ordinaries, with little problem. Some, though, don't do blending so well. For those, there is the Fairytale Management Authority, Make Believe's answer to crime and punishment.
Tess "Red" Little, FMA enforcer, makes her living tracking down rogue Tales and bringing them in to face justice, Make Believe style. She's come a long way since the Riding Hood, which, for the record, she outgrew when she was twelve (and that whole wolf thing was horribly misrepresented, too). Now Red keeps the mean streets of Chicago free from the sort of havoc the less savory Tales can wreak.
It's normally a job she enjoys, but her latest case is striking a little too close to home. Several Tales have been butchered by what appears to be a Tale serial killer, and the FMA's three prime suspects all have one thing in common: a history with Red. And as if tracking down three ex's to ask them if they've torn anyone apart lately isn't awkward enough, she's been partnered with FMA homicide detective Nate Grimm, and the reaper is doing weird things to her equilibrium.
Some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed, even if you're fictional.
SeRine's intriguing new series debut may not have been a perfect read for me, but it had enough strong points to appeal. I absolutely love the concept of the world, which in several ways is similar to that of the television series Once Upon a Time. Have no fear, though, this version of Chicago is no one's Storybrooke.
Call me twisted, but I adored the different incarnations of Tales. Snow White? High dollar prostitute. Things with the Prince went south and she got screwed in the divorce. Pied Piper? Exterminator...and registered sex offender. The Sandman? Major pharmaceutical distributor and illegal drug czar. And Mistress Mary Quite Contrary is a prosecuting attorney.
The awesomeness of that alone was enough to push many of my Happy Reader buttons, and the good times didn't stop there. The plot surrounding the investigation into two of Red's cases was solid, if a little light on complexity. I had some problems with a few specific plot points, and there were some elements, like the fact that almost every male character in the book either had sexual history with Red or wanted to, that rubbed me the wrong way, but the execution was smooth and relatively trouble-free.
A few notably rocky places in the plot came late in the book, with twists that felt fairly obvious long before they were revealed, and more than once I felt Red donned the Stupid hat as the story reached its climax, but overall it worked for me. I was less thrilled with Red as the main character. She was fairly typical for an urban fantasy heroine, but that was actually part of the problem, as the book reads like an urban fantasy but tries to pull off a romance.
The leather-wearing, ass-kicking, sarcastic bitch elements were there. She was also a hot mess emotionally. She had commitment and trust issues a mile wide courtesy of a past that was never explained to my satisfaction, and a disturbing propensity for sleeping with dangerous men. One such dangerous man gives her a couple of big happies during the book, and considering he was not romantic lead Nate, those scenes were a huge fail for me and went a long way towards turning me off Red.
Had the reasons for Red's many, many issues been better developed or more clearly defined, maybe I could have accepted them. Instead, they're sort of just thrown out there, remain fairly constant throughout the book, then go through a sudden and unsupported about-face when she realizes her heart belongs to Nate. It made it hard to find her at all sympathetic - or, in a couple of places, tolerable - and as the book is told in first person from her perspective, that's a lot of time to spend in a character's head without caring too much about what happens to her.
For all that she disappointed me, though, Nate thrilled me. I loved his character from the moment he's introduced. I loved his commitment and his understated dedication, his strength of purpose and his endearing kindness. I love that he obviously had feelings for Red from the very beginning, but was always his own man living his own life, even if that meant he was at odds with her. He wasn't the alpha male stereotype, but neither was he ever just an appendage to her life in the story. I just loved everything about him.
Had I been better able to warm up to Red, the good points of the book would have outweighed most of my other issues, but she was just too much of a stumbling block. The good news is that while she kept me from fully embracing this book, this isn't an urban fantasy series with a recurring main character. With the goldmine of story potential inherent in this very exciting world and the opportunity for more unique and engaging characters like Nate in stories to come, that's very good news indeed.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Kensington Publishing Co. via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
Pleasant Enough, I Suppose There's having bad taste in men, and then there's Hillary Wright, whose ex-boyfriend is being indicted for fraud and embezzl...morePleasant Enough, I Suppose There's having bad taste in men, and then there's Hillary Wright, whose ex-boyfriend is being indicted for fraud and embezzlement. To make matters worse, the federal government suspects she was complicit in his crimes. In an effort to clear her name, she's flying to Chicago to help the CIA identify her ex's shady partners. Then she's going to try to put the whole sordid mess - and relationship - behind her.
The charming, good-looking man seated beside her on the flight to Chicago may be just what she needs to start the process.
Former hacker and computer wunderkind Troy Donavan is scoping out Hillary for his boss, but nothing about the pretty, funny woman says she knew anything about her boyfriend's illegal activities. He's been called to serve in his role as freelance Interpol agent to make sure his instincts are correct, and if necessary, protect her from the people who may not be too happy with her if she fingers them for criminals.
It's a tough job, spending time with a gorgeous, witty, enchanting woman who stirs his blood, but somebody's got to do it.
I'm a fan of Catherine Mann and have enjoyed several of her books, but this debut of her new series was just okay for me. Maybe part of the responsibility for my lack of enthusiasm lies with the Harlequin Desire line. I don't read a lot of them because they tend not to have the sort of depth and complexity I prefer in my books. They're shorter length novels and while they definitely bring the heat, they don't usually bring much else.
That was pretty much the case for me here. I liked the premise of the group of independent Interpol agents and the backstory that connects them. I liked the main characters well enough, too, though again, not a whole lot of depth or complexity went into either one of them. There were some elements of the plot that were fairly far-fetched, and the romance arc had moments that struck me as being overly and unnecessarily dramatic, but overall, there were few truly eye-rolling moments at any point of the story.
There were just as few moments that really impressed or wowed me.
The book is fairly simple, straightforward brain candy, light on substance but with a bit of a sexy bite. There's no doubt Mann is an accomplished author who can write layered characters and well-rounded plots. I just don't think this particular venue is the place for that to happen. It wasn't a bad read at all, and I certainly didn't dislike it, but it never really went beyond being just an okay read for me. In the future I think I'll get my Mann fixes elsewhere.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Harlequin Blaze publisher Harlequin via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
Had Few High Points Janette Aston is a young woman ahead of her time. While her contemporaries are attending society balls and getting courted by wealt...moreHad Few High Points Janette Aston is a young woman ahead of her time. While her contemporaries are attending society balls and getting courted by wealthy and titled suitors, Janette is sneaking science circulars into her home and hiding them from her disapproving father. He wouldn't be happy with her interest in the Illuminists, a secretive order of scientists who are disdained by polite society.
Sneaking into their Solitary Chamber to listen to a lecture on electricity is the riskiest thing she's ever done, but thrilling in a way that stirs her unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Getting caught and being manhandled by Illuminist Guardian Darius Lawley, however, isn't the high point of the afternoon.
Darius takes his job as Guardian very seriously, even when tempted by the surprising and captivating Janette Aston. She's a rare Pure Spirit, though she doesn't know it. Unfortunately, she's also a member of the upper class, which should by all accounts make her off limits. It is illegal to recruit Illuminist membership, and even if Darius weren't the honorable rule-follower that he is, to do so would prompt Janette being shunned by society.
Problem is, now that her identity as a Pure Spirit has been revealed, she is in grave danger. If the Helikeians find out about her, they will take her and use her for their evil agenda...or kill her if she refuses to comply. And it didn't take five seconds in her company for Darius to know that compliance is not in the young woman's vocabulary.
As intriguing a world as Wine has created for this series, and as much potential in the concept of the plot, I can't say this was one of my favorite steampunk romances. Despite a strong start with what seemed, at first glance, to be an independent and intelligent heroine and a rigid but honorable hero, the plot never quite came together for me, the world-building lacked the sort of defining explanation that would provide clarity, and the main characters got bogged down by less than appealing habits, which threw off the arc of their romance evolution.
I liked Janette well enough. Sometimes she took being headstrong a little too far, and she straddled an uncomfortable line between scandalized socialite and avid intellectual a little too often for my tastes, but she wasn't unpalatable. Darius, on the other hand, often was.
For a good majority of the book, he seemed completely incapable of conversing with Janette without coming off as either a sanctimonious prig or a doomsday prophet. I found him tedious and two dimensional. I'm all for the noble guardian type, but there has to be a bit of evolution in his character as the story progresses or I end up just wanting him to spontaneously combust. That tends to but a crimp in the effectiveness of the romance.
Unfortunately, that was a large part of my problem with the book as a whole. It wasn't bad, and I certainly wouldn't say I disliked it, but it just wasn't as effective at keeping and holding my interest as I would have liked. The story was just a bit too muddled and hectic, the characters were inconsistent and a little limited, and the manner in which it all came together made it hard for me to really immerse myself in the story as it went along. I don't regret reading it, but I'm not anxious to dive into the next book in the series, either.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Sourcebooks Casablanca publisher Sourcebooks via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
A Solid Series Starter It's not like Kit Colbana is happy to take a job for the alpha of the cat shifters. There are a lot easier ways to die if she we...moreA Solid Series Starter It's not like Kit Colbana is happy to take a job for the alpha of the cat shifters. There are a lot easier ways to die if she were feeling that suicidal. Even though her small business is light on cases lately and she's feeling the pinch financially, she would have turned the job down flat, no matter how lucrative the proffered fee. But the job is finding a runaway kid, and Kit, part private investigator, sometime thief, preferred courier, resolute bounty hunter, and even occasional assassin, has a genuine soft spot for cases concerning kids.
She also has a true gift for finding things. It's in her half-breed blood. Kit's father may have been human but her mother had been full-blooded aneira, a race of ancient warriors versed in magic. Her blood gives Kit a unique set of skills perfectly suited for finding things like a lost cat shifter kid. And when her investigation into his disappearance reveals that there are more children missing, it also gives her the ability to stop those responsible.
Well...she hopes it will, anyway, as Kit has no intention of stopping until either she's dead, or the monster responsible for the kidnapping and murdering of children is. It's just her bad luck that her human half tends to be a lot easier to kill than any of the baddies she's going to be facing on this case. Life sucks that way.
J.C. Daniels, nom de plume of prolific author Shiloh Walker, kicks off her urban fantasy series debut with a strong, stubborn heroine with a smart mouth and a lot of confidence in her own deadly skills. The world of the Colbana Files drew me in, exciting and intriguing me from the first page, and the setting, being a Florida girl myself, had great appeal.
I liked Kit. She's maybe a bit typical for the genre, a kick-ass, sarcastic warrior woman whose mouth writes checks her oft-abused body ends up cashing, but she's amusing, especially when she's picking at Damon, and her hyper-vigilant caution around creatures who could so easily end her keeps her real. She's a troublemaker, surely, and man, she's abrasive at times. She's also deeply damaged by a torturous childhood that still haunts her and tends to rush headlong into danger, but she's also got a code of honor and is loyal to those very few people she trusts. I actually liked her very much, even when she was frustrating me.
I can't say the same for Damon, the cat shifter who practically glues himself to Kit's side while she's on the case. Well, I could, but it would be a gross understatement. I loved him. Loved. Him. He's all kinds of sly, dark danger and secretive, stalking seduction. He's the complete package and I adored every shiver-worthy second of every scene he was in.
The character dynamic between him and Kit was great, and while there was also a plot thread of romance there...eventually...I can't say it was my favorite element of the read. It was just a little odd for me. That there was a thread of romance at all, though, did appeal. Call me a big softy but I prefer at least some romance in almost everything I read.
That's not to say I'm a fan of the ubiquitous love triangle. In fact, I have little patience and less tolerance for anything even vaguely resembling a love triangle. I was a little worried about the vampire Jude at times because of that. Worried, and then surprised as the plot progressed, reached the climax of the conflict, and resolved. His presence in the book didn't evolve into what I was worried it was going to evolve into, I'm happy to say, but I was definitely affected by his character in the story. And that's all I'm able to say without risking spoilers, so I'll leave it at that.
Some elements of the read weren't as successful for me as others. The characters and story as a whole were solid, the well-drawn world full of plenty of deadly threat, but I had some issues with info dumping in the beginning and the ending felt rushed to me. And I'm still not sure I completely bought the motivation and actions of the Bad Guy in relation to the hunting. Sure, the guy was evil incarnate, but I still can't figure out why he did some of the things he did..
In truth, those issues were relatively minor and didn't take away much from my enjoyment in this read. I just liked Kit and Damon too much, and their story excited me. I've struggled with several urban fantasy series I've tried lately, but this one held its appeal throughout the tale. With a damaged but likable heroine I appreciate and a dark world full of danger at every turn, this debut gives me hope that I've found a new urban fantasy series that will provide chills and thrills for a long time to come. I look forward to being along for the ride.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided by publisher Shiloh Walker, Inc. via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
~* 3.5 Stars *~ Taut and Chilling Psychological Thriller Little Livvie Dugan remembers a lot about her sixth birthday. She remembers blowing out the bir...more~* 3.5 Stars *~ Taut and Chilling Psychological Thriller Little Livvie Dugan remembers a lot about her sixth birthday. She remembers blowing out the birthday candles on the cake her mama got for her. She remembers opening presents, and getting to watch lots of cartoons. She remembers falling asleep in the den with the television on. It was a great day...until she woke up and went into the kitchen for another piece of cake. That's when little Livvie remembers finding her mama hanging by her neck, her face all purple and puffy and her tongue lolling from her mouth.
Livvie doesn't remember much of anything else for a long time after that.
Twenty years later, Olivia Dugan still bears the scars from her childhood, scars that no amount of therapy can erase. They've shaped her into a quiet, reserved woman who stays off the grid, and haunted her with nightmares and a lingering sense of being stalked. Still, she's getting by, until she gets a package from her mother, a package sent two decades after she committed suicide. A package that begs far more questions than it answers and opens far more wounds than it heals.
And when Liv slips out of work one afternoon to pick up a quick bite of lunch and comes back to a bloodbath of mind-shattering proportions, she is terrified that the package from a woman long dead has put her in the crosshairs of a killer. And maybe there is even more to little Livvie's memories of a horrific night twenty years ago than she's let herself remember.
As a twisted, complex, disturbing psychological thriller, this book hits all the right notes for me. The heroine, Liv Dugan, is one of the most damaged and broken characters I've read lately, and as odd as this makes me, I loved that about her. Well, maybe it would be more accurate to say I appreciated it, because she was a quintessential product of a truly traumatic childhood. In short, she was believable in her role, and her manic paranoia and edge-of-sanity actions set the tone of the frenetic race to identify and stop the monster terrorizing her.
There is a lot going on in this book. The timeline is a bit jerky and there are a lot of different characters to keep track of, so some parts were a little hard for me to follow in places. I can't say I totally bought into the introduction of Auggie, either. His behavior wasn't exactly what I'd call professional and his connection to September strained my willing suspension of disbelief. Overall, though, this is a layered, grim, freaky thriller that kept me riveted from cover to cover. And the reveal of the Bad Guy completely blew me away. I did not see that one coming at all.
As out of left field as it was, it completely worked, and all those niggling little bits of seemingly random story detritus so carefully doled out from the very beginning coalesced into a horrifyingly shocking snapshot of insidious evil by the end. Disturbing, maybe, also effective and intelligently done.
I wish this hadn't been labeled as a romantic suspense, though. For all that Liv was a great main character, and her damage made her realistic and believable, I don't think it made her a great romantic heroine. She was just a little too broken for me to really engage with her in a romantic role. I liked Auggie quite a lot, and I liked them working together, but I kept wishing she wasn't quite as unbalanced as she was, or that the relationship between them had evolved a little differently. I just couldn't get a grasp on them as a couple, not for where Liv was when their relationship started, anyway.
It was the biggest stumbling block of the read for me, and that, along with some of the stylistic elements that tripped me up here and there throughout the story, kept this from being a solid win for me as a romantic suspense. That doesn't diminish my frank appreciation and admiration of the book as a taut, seat-of-your-pants, gut-kicking psychological thriller. In that regard, it's one of the better ones I've read recently, and one I think fans of the genre would enjoy.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Zebra publisher Kensington Publishing Corp. via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
Better than Chocolate! Four months in Lucky Harbor has netted banking specialist Grace Brooks two best friends and a town she adores, but it's still fa...moreBetter than Chocolate! Four months in Lucky Harbor has netted banking specialist Grace Brooks two best friends and a town she adores, but it's still falling short in the career department. Though she takes as many odd jobs as she can get while she searches for one in her field, her savings account is really feeling the pinch of her extended not-quite-vacation. Surely that's the only reason she doesn't correct the delectable Dr. Josh Scott, dreamiest of the McDreamies, when he misdials a number for a dog walker and calls her instead.
She really does need the money, and honestly, how hard can walking one dog be?
Single father, town doctor, brother of a troubled young woman in a wheelchair, Josh has gotten used to wearing a lot of hats in his life, but lately the weight of all his many responsibilities is grinding him down to the bone. Coming home to deal with one more in a long string of catastrophes surrounding his son's dog Tank is just the tip of a very large iceberg. He wasn't expecting to be poleaxed by a soaking wet and distraught Grace, who was still in the ocean searching for the dog she thought she lost.
She may be the worst dog walker on the planet, but there's just something about the woman that brings Josh to his knees. She obviously needs help, and that's what Josh does, he helps...everyone but himself. But maybe, if Josh can loosen up a bit, and Grace can let go and have fun for a change, they'll both find exactly what they need, and more than they ever dreamed possible, with each other.
Okay, so maybe chocolate doesn't make the world go around, but it sure makes the trip worthwhile.
Six books into the Lucky Harbor series and I just gotta say, I want to live there. Seriously, I would totally move there if I could. Like each book in the series, the town is wacky, weird, and unrepentantly wonderful. Filled with a colorful mix of salty and spicy and sweet characters I've come to adore, Lucky Harbor is the perfect backdrop for each installment of this delightful series. And Grace and Josh's book is my favorite of the lot of them.
Feels like I keep saying that, though, with each new book. Funny how that works.
Speaking of funny, Shalvis baked a batch of giggles, snorts, and chuckles into this one. Grace was an absolute riot, and Josh was such a fabulous straight man opposite her charming blunders. I loved both of them, and the chemistry they had together was spectacular. More than just sexual chemistry, they had a genuine way of interacting that just tickled every single one of my Happy Reader buttons.
I loved how their lives slowly intertwined as the story progressed. Yes, they were totally hot for each other, and it was stellar, but equally enjoyable were the family moments, seeing Grace's influence slowly alter the whole Scott family in heartwarming ways. Josh may have been paying her, but the impact she has on his life, on the lives of his sister and son, all of it, just made me feel good.
The whole book made me feel good. I wanted to gobble Toby up every time he said "arf," and Anna was a complicated, realistic terror. Best friends Amy and Mallory were included in nice ways - not overshadowing Grace and Josh time but adding their own well-known and loved personalities to the story. Matt and Ty were there, too, as Josh's best friends. I loved revisiting them and seeing how happy they all are. It's one of my favorite things about romance series and Shalvis did an excellent job incorporating them as secondary characters. She even included - mostly by mention - the characters from the first three books. It added a layer of continuity to this one that I didn't feel as strongly in the previous two stories.
There just isn't anything that didn't work for me in this book. I thought Grace's issues with her parents and Josh's concerns with being a good father and brother added nice layers of personal conflict for both characters. The storyline evolved very naturally around them and those issues added a pleasant level of depth to their relationship.
There were a lot of different elements written into this book, some even struck more somber notes, yet it still managed to be a light, decadent, sexy romantic treat. This is exactly why Shalvis is one of my top go-to authors for feel-good romance. She writes characters that become old friends and stories that touch my heart even as they entertain my mind. She's done that in every book in this series, some to greater effect than others, but this one exceeds them all.
Grace and Josh's romance really is the hot, gooey, sinfully delicious chocolate on top of a fantastic Lucky Harbor sundae. And I truly can't wait to take another bite.
She didn't look ridiculous at all. She looked the opposite of ridiculous. In fact, she looked good enough to gobble up with a spoon. Without a spoon. He was thinking his tongue would work...
"You have more spiders?" "No," he said without missing a beat. "No spiders." "You said spiders," she said. "And I saw a big one in the side yard, in the sprinkler well." "That spider went south for the winter." "It's summer." "He wanted to be the first to get out of town."
Ty pointed his beer at Josh. "Want to know what I think?" "No," Josh said. "I think you have a case of being a little girl. Maybe you should prescribe yourself a heavy dose of man-the-fuck-up."
Unfortunately, he was a man through and through, and therefore had a penis, which meant that there'd be no reasoning with him.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Forever publisher Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)