"Debut author Bell delivers a great, slow-building romance, gently examining her characters' painful pasts." -- Kirkus Reviews
People die, but legends live on.
New York antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury recently lost her best friend to murder. The killer’s identity may be linked to her friend’s expensive missing bracelet—a 500-year-old artifact that carries an ancient curse, one that unleashes evil upon any who dare wear the jewelry created for the Persian royal family.
Weeks later, Annalisse sees a matching necklace at a Manhattan gallery opening. She begs the owner to destroy the cursed piece, but her pleas fall on deaf ears—despite the unnatural death that occurs during the opening. With two victims linked to the jewelry, Annalisse is certain she must act.
Desperate, Annalisse enlists the gallery owner’s son to help—even though she’s afraid he’ll break her heart. Wealthy and devastatingly handsome, with a string of bereft women in his wake, Greek playboy Alec Zavos dismisses Annalisse’s concerns—until his parents are ripped from the Zavos family yacht during their ocean voyage near Crete.
Annalisse and Alec race across two oceans to save his mother, feared dead or kidnapped. When the killer changes tactics and goes after Alec behind Annalisse’s back, can her plan to rescue Alec’s mother save them all?
Hold on for a heart-thumping, thrilling adventure through exotic lands in this fast-moving romantic suspense mystery by Marlene M. Bell.
"An irresistible page turner and a successful melding of thriller and romance. With a splash of international adventure and plenty of surprises, Stolen Obsession is an entertaining read and a great beginning to the Annalisse Series." -- Self-Publishing Review, ★★★★½
Marlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer, artist, and crazy sheep lady who resides in beautiful East Texas. Her renown sheep photographs grace the covers of many livestock magazines where she also writes newsy articles about raising sheep from her hands-on experience.
Of Marlene's first novel, Stolen Obession, Kirkus Reviews said, "Debut author Bell delivers a great, slow-building romance, gently examining her characters' painful pasts." Stolen Obession also won the 2018 IndieReader Discovery Award (IRDA) for Best Fiction Cover. Stolen Obsession— and Spent Identity, books one and two, have received numerous awards including the Independent Press Award for Best Mystery in 2020. The third book in the Annalisse Series releases in 2021. Calico Raven is an international mystery with touches of romance--at a killing pace.
In October 2020, Marlene offers the first of her children's picture books, Mia and Nattie: One Great Team! Based on true events from the Bell’s ranch, it's a touching story of compassion and love between a little girl and her lamb. Marlene shares her life with her husband and dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep: a large Maremma guard dog named Tia, and cats, Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks. The cats believe they rule the household—and do.
Slow burn romance, curses, Greece, deception and murder combine in this novel to create an intriguing blend of romance and suspense.
We are thrown into the story of Annalisse, an antiques appraiser still reeling from the mysterious death of her friend Sam. When she spots a connection to the murder at a gallery opening, she gets thrown into a world of danger and intrigue. Her life gets tangled with the Greek playboy, Alec Zavos and she has to decide who to trust as the stakes get increasingly higher.
L I K E S
I was so here for the angst between Annalisse and Alec, and the slow burn was what kept me reading for the first half of the book. There was one slightly steamy scene that I was so here for as well!
the setting & descriptions
This book leads you on a crazy hunt around the world, and the lush descriptions of the Greek island, the boat, the antiques gallery. I felt like I was right there with the characters.
D I S L I K E S
the last quarter
I was LOVING this book for the first half of the book (mostly for the romance if i'm being honest) but it slowed down after that, and the last quarter was just a mess to me. I kept being very confused about who was who, there seemed to be a new reveal every page but it didn't affect me very much because I had no clue who the people were. I still don't know who the villain/s was, were there two? One? Five? Confusion!
O V E R A L L
I was living for the first half of this novel, loved the romance and intrigue. After that halfway point however, my interest waned and by the last quarter I lost interest completely. I might check out the sequel when it comes out, as I do still want to find out what happens to these characters that I loved.
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Thank you to BookSirens for providing me with a copy of this book!
I had trouble liking this novel. As I began reading it, I felt like I had missed an earlier novel as there were so many references to a previous murder. While a few details are revealed as the novel progresses, a prologue or first chapter detailing it would have helped.
I found Bell's writing style difficult to follow. Here is an example of the odd writing style. Annalisse stood in front of a mirror. “Alec stood behind her in the mirror's reflection.” (Loc 2168/5055) So, was he only standing behind her as reflected in the mirror but was not standing behind her in reality? How can a person stand in a mirror's reflection? And another, “The gap between Lucianna and the table was remarkable and unfriendly.” (Loc 2675/5055) The gap was unfriendly? Can a gap exhibit an emotion? Sentences like those stopped the flow of my reading. And sometimes the dialogue exchanges just did not make sense to me, even after reading it a couple of times. An edit would have caught such things.
And there was just too much romantic movement, often at entirely wrong times. An example is shortly after Alec sees someone close to him brutally killed. He holds Annalisse, hugs her and his body “springs to life, rock-hard.” (Loc 2706/5055) Good grief. He should be sad instead of generating sexual responses. I really got tired of the repeated inappropriately timed sexual tension. And when they do have sex, again at a really inappropriate time, there was way too much description for this reader. I really did not appreciate the graphic nature of that scene.
And that reflects my dislike for the characters. Alec seemed like an absolute cad. I didn't like him at all. It seems all he thought about was sex, even after experiencing great tragedy. And I did not find Annalisse engaging. I just could not identify with her personality or her actions. And both of them do really dumb things, often causing suspense by their own unwise actions.
This is the debut effort from this author. It showed potential but could have been so much better with proper editing.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.
I absolutely love Greek lore, so I was very curious about STOLEN OBSESSION when I first saw it. Give me some Greek Isles and a great mystery about jewelry from antiquity, and I'm all in. Not to mention the handsome Greek romantic lead.
STOLEN OBSESSION does not disappoint. It starts off with a bang, dropping us so immediately into Annalisse's life, that I kept looking for the prequel to the story of how Annalisse became so distrustful, who was her friend Sam, and how everyone knew each other. Not to worry, all is revealed, but not before trouble comes in droves for Annalisse and her handsome admirer, Alec.
Interestingly, I felt like Alec was a good guy, but for much of the book I had that tiniest bit of doubt (just like Annalisse) that drove me to turn page after page to find out. He was just too good to be true, there had to be more about him than was revealed. If that makes you curious, you'll just need to read more to find out. When you do, enjoy the ride, but also be prepared for the little moments to charm you, such as a romantic stop in the horse barn or some time curled up before a fire, and great characters to wow you, such as the fabulous art dealer Generosa Zavos, not to mention a few tough agents, like Matt and Mick.
Though this is the first book and sometimes feels like there was at least a prequel, I'm glad to say it isn't the last book and it is worth hanging in there for the reveals. I definitely enjoyed my Greek romantic escape and am look forward to another offering.
Thank you for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
The fabulous cover hints at the story inside and I do like when that happens. Doesn’t it peak your curiosity?
Annaliise has lost one friend to the curse and she struggles to stop any more from being added to the tragedy. She’s determined to protect her friends, whether they believe in the curse or not.
I love any twist on murder in my mystery and suspense/thriller reading, and Marlene M Bell supplies that in Stolen Obsession.
Traveling through words are some of my favorite adventures. I go places I would never visit otherwise. So…are you ready for the journey?
Annalise fights her attraction to Alex, but he is persistent and patient in his wooing of her, offering to help her on her mission to solve the mystery of the jewels. Annalise had suffered a great loss and protected her heart from more hurt. Of course, we know that can’t stand forever, seeing this is romantic suspense, but he will have to earn his way in.
I can relate to him, because my Mr Wonderful was the same way. And we know how that ended.
Their relationship developed in a realistic fashion, no instalove, but a familiar face appears in a new light for her. I won’t explain any more. You will need to read Stolen Obsession to find out more.
I couldn’t help but crack up at the Art Lady. She carries Ms Smith, her trusty 38, because pepper spray doesn’t cut it for her and is only used for backup.
Numerous times Marlene M Bell takes me to the brink of suspenseful tragedy, only to keep them safe and let me know there is more danger to come. I am very suspicious and she leads me to the edge of a cliff. I feel I’ll fall off, but she yanks me back from the precipice saying…not yet…but soon. I love that!!!
I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of Stolen Obsession by Marlene M Bell.
A curse, antiquities, and murder make this an intriguing read. Throw in a handsome man, the Greek isles, and deception....well, it rounds out all the key elements of a good story.
This book led me across the globe and through a web of clues and misdirection while trying to decipher who was behind the murders and kidnappings. Let's just say there is a twist near the end that I didn't expect but looking back should not have been surprised. With everything that happens to Annalisse and Alec, I trusted no one...not even the ones that are there to help and protect.
The romance between Annalisse and Alec moves at a somewhat slower pace as they take some time to get to know one another before jumping into bed together. There are some slightly graphic sex scenes, but nothing too risque. Annalisse has some reservations about Alec, I believe mainly due to his wealth but is able to overcome it with time. I liked that Alec is planning to open and run a Vet clinic. With his background and opportunities afforded him, he could have done anything, but he followed his interest with animals into a career that is relatable.
I will say that this book needs a prequel to really delve into the murder of Annalisse's friend Samantha. It is the focus of the beginning of the book, but I feel like we really don't know what happened and who the key players are that are involved. It is mentioned again near the end of the book and her murder is resolved. Maybe not to Annalisse's liking, but it is tied to what happens during the bulk of the book and I feel like it needed more explanation. When I started this book I wondered if it was the second in the series but it is not.
The book does fluctuate from moving slowly to a brisk pace especially near the end when everything is coming to a head. I think the last 15-20% of the book is the best since that is where we learn the truth about those involved. As I mentioned earlier, there is a twist (or two!). Will you figure the twists out before the truth is revealed?
Annakisse, orphaned when she was a girl, holds tender memories of her Aunt and Uncle , sheep farmers, far away from her Manhattan residence. While supporting her boss in an opening for the gallery, a necklace she feels is cursed, was unexpectedly on display. It must be removed! The "opening" is halted when a mugging occurred. Then further disaster transpired! While she originally sought the aid of the gallery owner's womanizing son, she reluctantly had to put herself in his care while the crimes were being solved. She must protect herself from another devastating relationship. The author created the characters in a way they felt real and involved the reader in the scenes so he/she felt a part of the story. This was a great story! I felt it began rather awkward while building the foundation but it improved steadily until the end. *Reader Beware: There is some profanity, graphic violence and sexual contemplations throughout, plus, an explicit scene. The Book Title and Cover were very fitting and eye-catching.I offer a five and a Half Stars rating. **This book was gifted me with no expectation for a positive review.
As an appraiser, Annalisse has seen it all…or so she thinks. So when cursed jewels come into her possession, she doesn’t know what to do. After suspecting they were behind the death of her friend, Annalisse embarks on a quest with her friend/romantic interest in a plan that will either stop the curse or kill them.
There is plenty of suspense and even some romance in this story. I love the blend of genres as well as the author’s ability to create both suspense and light-hearted moments.
The narration was distinctive and wonderfully done.
This book was given to me for free at my request and I provided this voluntary review.
Stolen Obsession is the first book in Marlene M. Bell’s Annalisse series, and it was one of those books that sounded perfect for me. I love a good mystery and slow building romances, so I was eager to see what this one would offer. Unfortunately, this was one of those cases where I found myself unable to connect.
The concept of this one was interesting, and I’m sure many people would be hooked. Although I was interested in seeing how things came together, I felt disconnected from the story. There was nothing about the characters that I liked, and I found quite a few things difficult to connect with and jarring. It’s not that this was badly written, simply that I could not connect with the style. Many are sure to be hooked by the unfolding details, however.
Thank you Lola's Blog Tours and the author for a complimentary copy. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own.
Stolen Obsession By: Marlene M. Bell
REVIEW ☆☆☆☆ I have actually already read the second book, Spent Identity, prior to reading Stolen Obsession. I loved the second, and I was fairly certain I would like this book as well. I was correct! Poor Annalise begins with a tragic event, then another, and her luck just seems so bad. I was sad for her and all the negative stuff in her life. The blame for this lack of luck might be blamed on cursed jewels in the gallery where she works. Others kind of think it's a crazy idea, but Annalise is certain about the jewels and a curse bringing tragedy to the wearer. These jewels must be destroyed, but someone else is after the necklace. They will use sinister means to obtain the jewels, and Annalise knows she is in danger. She must find answers and keep the jewels away from whoever's after them. It's a journey to foreign places, through history and a race against time. This is a great story that begins with action and maintains a fast pace. It's a mystery with drama and a bit of romance. I like the idea of a curse because it's fascinating to imagine that it could be real. Annalise is a strong heroine who can hold her own, and she is highly intelligent. I appreciate a savvy feisty female lead because their aren't enough of them. The end will leave you wanting more with a great twist. Marlene M. Bell has crafted a wonderful mystery and a great start to the series! Pick up your copy today!
Let’s start with what I really like about the book. The story is so good, with so much potential and intrigue. The characters travel the world, experience great loss, find great love, and survive epic danger. Not to mention, they solve a murder mystery involving a cursed object. You can definitely tell the story was well thought-out and developed by Marlene Bell.
What I didn’t like were minor character issues and the dialogue. I will save the character critique for the character section, so first let’s tackle the dialogue. Sometimes, the dialogue didn’t make sense to me. I found myself rereading paragraphs sometimes pages later because I was lost in the action. I’m not sure if this is totally a dialogue issue, though.
I also felt like there wasn’t enough description between the dialogue of each scene for me to truly understand or appreciate what is happening. Sometimes, it feels like the story moves forward but I haven’t caught up yet.
Have you ever gone to the bathroom during a movie? When you get back, you ask your friends what you missed, they give a quick summary, and you think you understand. Then a few scenes later, you realized they didn’t fully describe what happened, missed some detail, and now you’re a little lost. Not really lost, but just a little behind and need to connect a few more dots to figure out everything that is happening. That’s what happens to a few scenes throughout this book. I just could have used a more information here and there.
Also, I have to say this because it stood out to me. There is a lot of writing that I really loved. Marlene Bell has a definite storytelling voice; however, there is a line that I absolutely hated. So much so, that I am wondering if I am reading this wrong, and it has a different meaning than I interpreted. Here it is: “’Again. Like that. So. Good.’ Annalisse’s words had the sharp bite of a babe in the throes.” This line took me completely out of the story. Maybe it’s the word babe used to describe a grown woman. Maybe it’s something about the visual. I’m really not sure, but it could be entirely a personal preference thing.
Annalisse has a lot of great qualities, and is very passionate, I just didn’t connect with her all of the way. She seemed so smart, but acted like everyone should trust her about a cursed necklace and act accordingly. Maybe I just needed her to understand that the people around her don’t have her history with this necklace and may need to be convinced. I feel like she should have acknowledged how bizarre her requests must sound, but how important it is to follow her guidance.
Alec is written as a very attractive playboy who is more than meets the eye. I liked him, I just wanted even more of his back story. With just a little more development, Alec could have been a truly great hero.
Overall, you can tell how good the plot is and how much Marlene Bell has to say. She showed me a pretty picture, that I felt like I didn’t get to see all of. With just a little tweaking, she coud have something truly beautiful.
Stolen Obsession is a suspense-filled mystery. The reader follows along with our main character, Annalisse, who lands on the wrong side of cursed, historical, jewelry, while she tries to determine who is attacking those she loves. A Solid 3 1/2 Stars for me.
What I liked: The concept \ mystery aspect of the novel really works for me. I avidly followed the mystery of who is after the necklace. Similarly to Annalisse and Alec, I couldn’t figure out who we could trust and who we couldn’t. Are the FBI\\CIA agents trustworthy? What about the household staff? And honestly, before the end, I was not even sure I could trust Alec’s mother, Gen. This was some masterful plotting on the part of Ms. Bell. I quite enjoyed the relationship between Annalisse and Alec. It feels very authentic to me. The two have an instant physical attraction, but more importantly, spend time actually getting to know one another before falling into bed. Both characters have been hurt in the past and have trust issues. I appreciate how Ms. Bell shows the growth in both characters learning to open up and trust one another. I also really adored the drawn-out foreplay between the two characters. Steamy flirting at it’s best!
Where I struggled: I found the dialog between characters stilted. On more than one occasion, I had to re-read sections of dialog to determine what was actually happening. Every time Annalisse walked out of an argument to avoid conflict, I wanted to walk out with her. I’ve read some other reviews of Stolen Obsession and I have the feeling this issue might be my own. Maybe it was my lack of ability to focus while I was reading? I’m not really sure. I also grappled with the random POV shifts from Annalisse to Alec. The majority of the book is told from Annalisse’s POV, but there are a handful of chapters from Alec’s. I’m not really sure why this is? The switch in POV does make sense during the final chapters, as we need to see both perspectives to follow the unraveling mystery. But for me, maybe a recap of Alec’s POV would have been easier to understand than the switching to Alec’s POV.
While the beginning of the novel started off slow, once the action kicks off, I enjoyed Stolen Obsession. Read it if you are interested in a suspenseful mystery.
Oh my! Thrills, chills, action, romance and history! And I love history! This was a real page turner. Just loved it. Things kept coming from everywhere, making no sense and then falling into place. A great whodunnit.
Part murder mystery, part romance novel, Stolen Obsession was an easy read. Though it tended to lean a bit more towards the romance end than I’d anticipated, I still found it enjoyable. If you’re all about the romance, definitely check it out.
Annalisse is an antiques appraiser, reeling from the horrific murder of her best friend. When she spots a connection to the murder at her client Generosa’s gallery opening, she’s sure things are about to get worse. Not to mention, the gallery owner’s playboy son Alec has taken an interest in her and is more distraction than she needs. Reluctantly, Annalisse teams up with Alec as the mystery unfolds...
From the first page, you’re dropped right into the action with little to no build up. It was a bit disorienting, but the book soon finds its stride. The only other thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the almost total lack of subtlety in the building of the relationship between Anna and Alec. It was not a slow build but rather blatant from the first introduction, which just felt a bit abrupt. The author managed to throw in a few twists I definitely didn’t see coming, and the Greek backdrop was great atmosphere. Solid three stars!
Stolen Artifacts. Ancient Curse. Murder and Suspense...and Romance. Annalisse Drury is a sheep-loving antiquities appraiser in New York. Her best friend is murdered and she believes that the five century old bracelet that she was wearing might be the source of an ancient curse.
When she discovers an identical bracelet at a gallery opening, it thrusts her into a world of danger and intrigue with the gallery owner’s Greek playboy son, Alec Zavos. As the two of them work together to save his parents and stop the killer, they become closer.
What starts off a little slow and cloudy turns into a wild high-speed ride of danger and mystery. I found the blend of history, intrigue of ancient artifacts/curses – like an Indiana Jones adventure, and romance, quite satisfying. Annalisse is a smart, likable heroine. The plot twists and turns kept me turning pages and always guessing at who the murderer could be. A quite satisfying ending.
If you like a page-turner or a wild ride, I recommend STOLEN OBSESSION.
My favorite genre is mystery/suspense, but recently I've been obsessed with historical fictions and this seemed to be the best of both worlds. I love the research and insight this story gave into cultures and artifacts. The creativity and detail was enticing.
In the beginning when it kept referencing a past event, I had to look up to see if I'd missed a previous book in the series (I didn't, this is the first). I was a little confused, but it slowly started bringing you up to speed understanding the current predicament and building it off the previous event at the same time. It ended up creating a more dimensional, exhilarating read to already feel like you are in the middle of so much mayhem.
Many possible perpetrators were introduced and they all had motive, which is my excuse why I got the killer so utterly wrong. I do love a good book that makes you think and makes you wish you read faster.
Please let me start with what I really like about the book. The storyline was good, the characters were good too, even though there were too many, imo. The best part was the cursed jewelry. I liked Alec and there was a past of his that I felt was missing.
The parts where I am lost really are the beginning of the book. I felt like I was talked at. The first 1/3 was scattered and at times hard to follow. I really think some good cuts & edits would have made a big difference.
Stolen Obsession, book 1, of the Annalise Series, by Marlene M. Bell, is a fast-paced, Romantic Suspense that delivers thrills, intrigue, and delightful characters readers will enjoy. The main heroine, Annalise Drury, is an accomplished antiquities appraiser in New York. She recently lost a dear friend Samantha Freeman.
When Annalise attends the launch of her friend Generosa Zavos’ SoHo gallery, she feels anything but social. Even the spark of attraction she feels for Generosa’s son Alec escapes her when she discovers a distinctive gold horse on display. The necklace is related in style and constructs to the bracelet her friend Samantha wore until her murdered body got found.
Annalise conducted extensive research on the 500-year-old jewelry tracing it back to a Persian royal family. She believes the pieces are cursed and the cause of Samantha’s death. Fearing the curse will deliver a curse to Alec and his mother, she begs them to get rid of the item and never wear the piece. A trip to the island of Crete changes the course of the journey when someone who wants the necklace threatens the trio. Alec works with Annalise to save his mother and themselves and uncover the truth. Will they win and find justice from the threat attached to the gold horses?
The tension and suspense ramp, even as Annalise and Alec’s attraction evolves into a relationship where trust is critical. The twists and turns powered by hatred and curses culminate into a stunning, unexpected ending. For readers who enjoy a thrilling adventure across multiple continents with an undertone of romance, this is a book and series you should consider.
Annalisse’s background made her strong, but losing her best friend due to a brutal murder set her on edge, trusting no one but her other best friend, Chase. When eligible bachelor Alec took an interest in her, she wasn’t sure if she should believe the tabloids about him or follow her heart. Then, once a cursed necklace resembling the bracelet that her murdered friend wore surfaces, things heat up to an intensity that doesn’t stop until the very end.
In this first book of the Annalisse Series, Marlene Bell creates a whodunnit that has many moving parts. When these parts collide with a vengeance, she keeps you guessing all of the intricate details of how everything played out until the very end. Initially, I struggled to connect some situations and wondered if I had missed a prior book in the series. But once I imagined a white board in front of me keeping track of the many people and pieces it all clicked together.
If you enjoy a good mystery and sorting through the clues to figure it all out, you will enjoy Stolen Obsession.
It has been awhile since I have read a mystery book. It starts off with annalisse at an gallery opening. The action kicks off right away. She meets the handsome Alec, recognizes the necklace as a sister piece to the one from her friend and watched her boss die. Things don't slow down until the last few pages. During the few days they are shot at, held captive, terrorized, almost blown up and just generally terrorized.
Now Alec and Annalisse are very stressed to each other. Alec's mother has spent her time trying to push those two together. While all the action is occuring, they are falling for each other. Alec is trying to be a gentleman and take things slow and not scare her off. Annalisse is scared. She has lost so much and blames all that's happening on herself. Loved their chemistry.
I like how quickly the story moves. You don't have to do a lot of skipping around and waiting. The ending was definitely a suprise. My only complaint is that it just felt to quick and there wasn't much explanation at times. But I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
Sometimes I get to a point where I feel bogged down in a certain genre and need a change. That is when a Mystery is always my go-to. I feel like they make me think and help get my mind off of things more than any other genre. There is a great balance between the Romance and Mystery. I found myself guessing the whole way through, and being wrong quite a bit. On the other hand I was swept up in the Romance. The plot was fast paced and flowed smoothly and the characters were those who I really liked reading about. They were interesting and compelling.
Stolen Obsession is the first installment form Marlene M Bell’s series, Annalisse. It is, also, the author’s debut novel. The reader is introduced to Annalisse Drury, an antiquities appraiser from New York. She finds herself trying to identify the killer of her best fired through a missing five hundred year old bracelet that carries an evil curse. She finds a necklace matching the bracelet at a gallery opening in Manhattan. Despite advising to have the necklace destroyed, another murder occurs. She asks Alec Zavos for help when his parents go missing. The two go on an action packed adventure that involves danger, mystery and suspense. I enjoyed Stolen Obsession. It captured my attention to the point I did not want to put the book down until the end. It is not a long read but it is full of twists and turns that I did not expect or could not have predicted. I loved Annalisse and admired her courage, bravery and strength. I loved her even more when she meets the handsome Alec. Those two had great chemistry that made me want to root for a romance. I enjoyed other characters that I found to be fun and energetic. I give Stolen Obsession four and a half stars. I recommend it for those who love a good and entertaining romantic suspense. I can not wait to see what happens next to Annalisse Drury in book two of the Annalisse series. I most definitely believe this is a book not to be missed. I received this book from the author. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
To start, I have to admit it that it took me a while to get into this particular story. Before I applied for the giveaway, I always read the synopsis and make sure that I'm not applying for something that's in the middle of a series and will make no sense...
So I was a little surprised to find this book begins like it is a sequel. Next to no background is given on who, what, when, or why. You just plunge right in and get little vague snippets that something happened and something isn't right. It was confusing and often times made me feel very distant from the story and aloof as to what was happening since I had no idea what had happened before to make this artifact so "evil".
I was also very startled by how...err...titillated (to be polite) the main character was by another character, Alec. I was expecting this to be a mystery with some romance thrown in, not a romance with some mystery sprinkled throughout.
It felt like every time Alec blinked Annalisse was ready to swoon like an overstimulated Victorian maiden and it really took away from a few scenes. It was especially off putting in the beginning of the story, when someone Annalisse was supposed to care about and respect deeply passed away suddenly. It barely felt like she acknowledge he died before she was day dreaming about jumping Alec's bones again.
Obviously from my rating, I didn't think the book was awful. I just think it could do with a little bit of polishing, the beginning was very confusing and fragmented with no clear backstory...and the characters take a long time to warm up too because you get sexual tension thrown in your face every other sentence and only get to know them bit by bit. Despite that the romance is a slow burner, so you aren't getting a face full of lovin' too quickly.
Otherwise, I thought the story had a lot of potential and promise. Who doesn't love a good story about a potentially cursed artifact? Between the Hope Diamond and to King Tut's tomb, to James Dean's car, Little Bastard, and everything that's come before...the tragic and seemingly paranormal power these objects allegedly control has fascinated humans since the beginning of time.
If you get past the slow, and again, confusing beginning the story picks up speed very fast. There's a lot more to this cursed object than meets the eye, it crosses oceans, involves murders, kidnappings, and secret agencies all vying to obtain the collection for themselves. It's a wild read with a plot twist, that even if you anticipated, still came as a surprise.
I can't wait to read the next book. I just hope it slows down on the romance and has a bit of a clearer beginning.
While I love watching revenge movies, filled with action & adventure, romantic suspense is not my usual genre to read. I'm so glad I took a chance on Marlene M. Bell's Stolen Obsession.
Annalisse is an antiquities appraiser. She's brilliant at her job, can spot fakes a mile away. But behind her professional and beautiful veneer, she lives in fear. Fear that her best friend's murderer will walk away free. Fear that anyone who gets close to her will die, just like her parents did. It's easy for Annalisse to believe in curses when she's a living example. So when she spots a variation of the same cursed jewelry that brought about her best friend's death, she panics.
The night the killer strikes again, also happens to be the night Alec, her older friend's gorgeous son, finally notices her. In a typical romance novel, this would be the part where the couple would fall in love, or into bed for the first time. Instead, the murderer strikes again, and Alec is determined to protect the woman he's secretly long admired. Alec quickly discovers Annalisse won't fall into his arms like most women. Soon they are swept into a flight for their lives, and the murderer is closing in. Whoever is after them believes the necklace belongs to them, and they'll kill to get it.
The pace of the story moved along swiftly and drew me in from the first page. The suspense is well crafted and had me on the edge of my seat several times, wondering who was in on the conspiracy. The romance in this book was very solid. Occasionally, the back and forth banter reminded me of Old Hollywood films. Instead of feeling cheesy, it made Alec & Annalisse's interactions fun and sweet. I loved all the nods to history and the author's vivid description, which made for a lovely read. A sweeping romantic and often deadly adventure, Stolen Obsession is my new standard for excellent suspense fiction.
I loved the mystery, settings, and characters of this book. So let’s break it down a bit more,
Stolen Obsessions is book one of the Annalisse series, but it feels like there should be a prequel. I was a little confused at the feeling of missing some information in the opening chapters.
Each scene is described vividly and plays like a movie in your head while reading. From the gallery to apartments to villas in Greece, you are sucked in by the lushness of the descriptions.
The main characters jump off the page and demand your attention. Annalisse, Alec, Gen, and Chase captivate and beg you to keep turning the pages.
I did have issues keeping all the minor characters straight. Between changing aliases, the nationalities, the government agencies, and too many possibilities for the bad guys, I got lost frequently. Now some of this is probably my fault. I am easily distracted and needed to direct my focus to keep everyone straight, so I didn’t have to reread sections.
However, that did not stop me from devouring the chapters because I needed to know how this mystery turned out.
The slow-burn romance between Annalisse and Alec is superbly written. I could visualize them in the villa with the sheer drapes gently moving with the breeze. Oh, how I loved that part.
The author keeps you hooked with the desire to discover who is behind the horrible murders and mayhem. By the end, I suspected everyone!
Overall, this is a good romantic mystery. The reader needs to focus and pay attention to all the small details. This is not a book for light reading. Put on your super-solver spectacles and dive deep into the mystery.
The sudden death of Annalisse Drury’s boss, Harry, during the opening of an art exhibit of her favorite client, Generosa (Gen) Zavos, leaves her unnerved. Moments before his demise, Annalisse notices an Iranian horse necklace—one of two identical pieces; the other in Crete—in one of the display cases. Sam, her longtime friend, wore a bracelet with the exact design at the time of her grisly death six weeks earlier. Convinced that the jewelry is cursed, Annalisse, alongside Chase, another longtime friend, investigates its connection to the deaths of Sam and Harry. Alec, Generosa’s son who is sweet on Annalisse, eventually gets involved. While romance builds between Annalisse and Alec, the trio’s sleuthing gets quite convoluted to the point that Gen’s life is in danger.
Award-winning artist, nature photographer, and shepherd extraordinaire Marlene Bell creates a spine-chilling debut steeped in mysticism and vengeance. The first book in the Annalisse series, the narrative combines directed and misdirected dialogue with succinct but vivid descriptions that not only set the flow of Bell’s fast-paced thriller but also helps in shaping her characters and scenes. Plenty of twists, turns, red herrings, and chapter cliffhangers punctuate a tale steeped in ancient Middle Eastern charms and curses underlined with sexual tension. Bell balances unnerving moments with Annalisse and Alec’s burgeoning relationship. Closing on a satisfying note, Stolen Obsession sets the groundwork for the next in her captivating and nail-biting series.
Immediately when she sees the necklace that’s eerily similar to a bracelet that belonged to her murdered friend Sam, Annalisse is convinced that it’s not a modern copy but part of the antique Persian set. A collection that disappeared hundreds of years ago. The jewellery was destined to be worn solely by Iranian royalty and is supposedly cursed. She thinks that someone wants to get all the pieces back together and that everyone at the gallery is in danger. She has no evidence or clues to say or think this but that her friend was murdered and her bracelet gone. Well, not many robbers will leave an expensive golden piece of jewellery behind so that’s certainly a viable option. She may have been killed for the value of the bracelet without any further meaning attached to it. Then during a gallery party, her boss and owner of the gallery drops down dead (as they say) and turns out to be poisoned. Annelisse is certain that the cursed jewels are involved somehow. There’s virtually no introduction of the characters and you’re left to figure out who’s who and what they do and how they all interact. Annalisse, the main character comes at first over as a bit daft with her swooning over her friend’s handsome Greek son. And her quick conclusions without any fundament, those 2 elements together in the first chapter made me want to give up on the book. As I just finished a waste-of-time book and didn’t want to undergo the same experience again, I hoped this was only a hiccup. At least Annalisse doesn’t jump into bed with Alec at the first opportunity, regardless of the erotic tension between them. There’s a mutual attraction, but Annalise is very wary and distrusting. When the Greek horse breeder tells her he’s building a veterinary clinic for himself, she freaks out as she suspects that the vet her friend Sam was dating is the one that killed her. A bit exaggerated and even childish in my opinion, even if he would be the murderer that doesn’t mean anything regarding other people in that profession! Alec is a rather stereotypical good guy/perfect soulmate-lover and a perfect gentleman as well. Despite his attraction to Annalise and the mixed signals she sends, he behaves so primly and proper you’d take him for a template Englishman. It is not really clear at the start who Gen exactly is or what her function is. At first, she appears to be a Greek jewellery maker who exposes pieces of her work in the gallery. Later in the story, she behaves and is treated as an employee but then she’s said to be the owner when the cops come to the gallery. At the start of the book is said that Harry is the proprietor, that’s why Annalisse is worried about her job because she doesn’t get on with Peter, the brother in Law who will take over from the murdered Harry (inherit I assumed). It’s annoying and confusing, to say the least, or is it merely careless? Such obvious things (am I the only one to notice this?) should be rooted out by the editor. Messy writing like this really interferes with my reading progress and pleasure and once again I must force myself to continue to at least a third of the book. After all, those recommendations and positive reviews come from other people who seem to love this book. But alas; 19th century English Tudor cottages’? Tudor STYLE maybe, as most of the 19th century was Victorian. The FBI doesn’t go to other countries and take over the investigation. They have to ask permission and will ASSIST and work together with the local authorities. This is information to be found on the official FBI website. They may be authorised by US law to investigate kidnappings and terrorism against US citizens, but once they are abroad, they have to answer to the local laws just like anybody else. Not illogical, or would you like that Chinese police came to the US and apply their own law when one of their subjects was victims to a similar crime in Dallas (or so)? Further along in the book, it turns out that it’s the CIA and not the FBI that’s dealing with the Gen’s abduction. I don’t know which rules apply to them, but they’re just ordinary citizens and have no jurisdiction in other countries. I doubt that even friendly countries are happy with foreign interference in local affairs and crimes. Apart from all those annoying inconsistencies, the story self isn’t bad, it’s fast-paced and exciting. I had a few hunches about how the puzzle fits together but didn’t get the full picture. I had to keep reading to find out if I was on the right track. I have to admit that towards the end the tension builds really high and it gets thrilling enough to deserve at least 3 stars. I’d give more if not for all the stupid mistakes. So, no I don’t regret to read past those first chapters. I received a free ARC through Booksirens and this is my honest review.
‘New York had hooked her with its claws, drawn her into its global mystique, ideal for an antiquities appraiser with her specialty.’
Texas author/photographer/artist Marlene M Bell is well known for her sheep landscapes that grace the covers of publications such as, Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living and Sheep Industry News. She also owns and operates Ewephoric, a mail order venture to emphasize her desire for realistic sheep stationery, non-fiction books and sheep-related gifts. STOLEN OBSESSION is her debut novel – Book 1 of her ongoing Annalisse Series.
When offering a debut novel that promises to be a series it is imperative that the author capture the attention of the reader immediately – especially when the story is complex in characters, incidents and places as we discover in Stolen Obsession. Marlene manages to accomplish this imperative step with her opening page – ‘A ground fog shrouded investigators while they unearthed her roommate from the black dirt of a farmer’s field. The August crime scene played so vividly in Annalisse Drury’s head it made her queasy. She took a shuddering breath and closed her eyes. “It’s too soon to socialize. I can’t be here.” Annalisse scanned the room full of art collectors and met the gaze of a guest who watched her with curiosity. Shedding the embarrassment with a shrug and a smile, Annalisse considered using a headache as an excuse for a quick escape from the party. She’d rather hang out alone behind the walls of her Greenwich brownstone and dive into a Bronte novel—to an era far from her memories. No excuses tonight. She couldn’t disappoint her favorite client, Generosa Zavos, who expected her to stay for the evening launch of Zavos Art on SoHo’s gallery row. Annalisse slid next to the window for a break from eavesdropping. She couldn’t care less who had the best spa massages in New York, or who was having an affair. She smoothed down her ball gown to overcome the urge to cover her ears. Squeezing back the stinging in her eyes, Annalisse peered through the cool glass. SoHo’s boutique district substituted as a catwalk for leftovers and knock-offs from Fashion Week. Rain or radiance, women in split pencil skirts and above-the-waist belts, sporting zippered leather jackets, hit the streets in every season. Umbrellas in blue and black popped open along the sidewalk. The count-the-drop sprinkles had quickly changed to a torrent of water, and the squeals from a power couple caught without cover had Annalisse wishing she were outside sprinting with them. A clap of thunder shook the window and she sprang backward into a guest, jolting her from a wet Manhattan dream to reality. Pain rippled through her shoulder as she held onto a nearby drink cart, praying it wouldn’t roll away with her attached. “Sorry, miss. Are you all right?” The tattooed hand of a man in an ill-fitting jacket steadied the cart then brushed at her bare arm. For an art connoisseur, his dirty nails and sandpaper-rough fingers surprised her.’
With these intensely involving seeds planted the plot outline assures our attention for the novel – ‘People die, but legends live on. New York antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury recently lost her best friend to murder. The killer’s identity may be linked to her friend’s expensive missing bracelet—a 500-year-old artifact that carries an ancient curse, one that unleashes evil upon any who dare wear the jewelry created for the Persian royal family. Weeks later, Annalisse sees a matching necklace at a Manhattan gallery opening. She begs the owner to destroy the cursed piece, but her pleas fall on deaf ears—despite the unnatural death that occurs during the opening. With two victims linked to the jewelry, Annalisse is certain she must act. Desperate, Annalisse enlists the gallery owner’s son to help—even though she’s afraid he’ll break her heart. Wealthy and devastatingly handsome, with a string of bereft women in his wake, Greek playboy Alec Zavos dismisses Annalisse’s concerns—until his parents are ripped from the Zavos family yacht during their ocean voyage near Crete. Annalisse and Alec race across two oceans to save his mother, feared dead or kidnapped. When the killer changes tactics and goes after Alec behind Annalisse’s back, can her plan to rescue Alec’s mother save them all?’
Steady, exacting thriller has started and for an opening book (especially a debut) it seems sure that Marlene M. Bell has a success on her hands
I was already acquainted with the characters in Marlene M. Bell’s Annalisse series from reading and reviewing Scattered Legacy, the third in the series. Now I’m going back to the start, to meet our characters again for the first time in Stolen Obsession.
Annalisse Drury is an antiques appraiser. She’s reeling from the murder of her best friend Samantha, which may be linked to Samantha’s missing bracelet, an ancient piece that’s supposedly cursed. Although she doesn’t feel much like socializing, she’s at a gallery opening to support her friend Generosa (Gen) Zavos. When she sees a piece there that looks very similar to the cursed bracelet, she fears something horrible will befall her friend. Then Annalisse’s boss dies at the opening, and her fears come to pass. She enlists Gen’s handsome playboy son, Alec, to help convince Gen to get rid of the necklace before more troubles come.
The action starts rather abruptly right off the bat. It feels like Samantha’s murder needs its own story. We know that it happened, we know that it was traumatizing for Annalisse, but we don’t know any more of the details. How did Samantha get the cursed bracelet? What events led up to her death? Inquiring minds want to know!
The romance is an important part of the story, but not at the expense of the mystery and suspense. Annalisse is hesitant to trust Alec, almost reluctant to even admit that she’s attracted to him, even when he’s obviously attracted to her. But events place the two of them in a position where they have to rely on each other when Alec’s parents are attacked on a boat and Gen is kidnapped. They’ve got to work together and with the authorities to try to get her back.
And oh, the suspense! Annalisse and Alec aren’t sure who they can truly trust. They’ve got security, but something doesn’t seem right. Has the detective in charge of the investigation really sent them to help, or are they bad guys, too? The closer you get to the end of the book, the more frenetic things get. Not only are they trying to rescue Gen, they’re trying to save her life. She has a condition that requires medication, and the longer she’s without her meds, the worse it is for her.
There are things I would have liked more detail on, and toward the end, I tended to lose track of who exactly the different bad guys were – it felt like a couple of new ones popped up in the thick of the chase. Overall, though, this was a lot of fun to read! I feel like I have a little bit of an unfair advantage, having already read the third in the series. I know how some of the characters will grow and develop. Even if I didn’t have that little edge, though, Stolen Obsession is still a crackin’ good book. I look forward to reading the second in the series, and I hope there are more to come after the third!