3.5 star review

Review – ‘Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick

Til Death Do Us Part

Calista Langley operates an exclusive “introduction” agency in Victorian London, catering to respectable ladies and gentlemen who find themselves alone in the world. But now, a dangerously obsessed individual has begun sending her trinkets and gifts suitable only for those in deepest mourning—a black mirror, a funeral wreath, a ring set with black jet stone. Each is engraved with her initials.

Desperate for help and fearing that the police will be of no assistance, Calista turns to Trent Hastings, a reclusive author of popular crime novels. Believing that Calista may be taking advantage of his lonely sister, who has become one of her clients, Trent doesn’t trust her. Scarred by his past, he’s learned to keep his emotions at bay, even as an instant attraction threatens his resolve.

But as Trent and Calista comb through files of rejected clients in hopes of identifying her tormentor, it becomes clear that the danger may be coming from Calista’s own secret past—and that only her death will satisfy the stalker…

I am going to admit, I am still really bitter that The Ladies of Lantern Street series was not closed out. I get hung up, ok. I was super excited when this one popped up on Goodreads and was listed as a Lantern Street book, because I like things to finish. So when I found out it wasn’t it was another bitter disappointment for me that I guess will never be resolved.

In any event, on to the book. The delightful thing (for me) is how you pretty well know exactly what you are going to get from an Amanda Quick (AKA Jayne Ann Krentz book). Broody hero. Strong and assertive heroine. Mystery. Initial deflowering scene where he doesn’t quite get the heroine to the point (at least during the act). Secondary romantic scene where there is bliss for both of them. Eventual realizing of flowering love. Resolution of mystery. And then the all important happily ever after.

So yes, it is stock. But it is stock that I enjoy at least in part because of nostalgia. The rest of it, is that even as she is recycling plots, the characters are usually still fresh and charming, and she mixes it up. So for instance, while she has written a stories featuring protagonists who write serialized novels, in this particular instance it is the hero rather than the heroine who writes them.

Which brings me to an interesting point on this. Quick’s novels for some time have become more and more feminist, with the heroines becoming more independent, and this one perhaps more so than usual. But what I found really eye catching, is that whereas in With This Ring, the heroine was fairly desperate to keep her separate life as an author secret, while in this one the hero blurts it out to all and sundry. While this brought some funny scenes, because everyone is a critic and blurts their opinions-many of which denigrate the romance plot he is shaping up in his series (it is rather meta), it also kind of made me give it the side eye. I can’t quite decide if it is a blind spot, or if it is one of her few nods to the historical double standard. Quick’s novels tend toward being more wallpaper historical than actual historical. I don’t know, it is a point to ponder.

In any event, the hero and heroine were charming with good chemistry, and there was no real relationship angst. In fact I was kind of surprised that we didn’t get the hero’s authoritative marriage demand immediately after the deflowering and/or the marry in haste learn to love in leisure trope. Maybe that is why the book had more of a feminist facade to me?

Secondary characters were also enjoyable and integral to the story. And the mystery was satisfyingly twisty, even though I saw who the villain was from a mile away, it jumped enough to keep me entertained. YMMV on how fast or if you figure it out, but I think since I have read literally everything this author has ever written, it made it easier to see where she was going with things.

All in all, this is another comfort read from Quick and I think it might go on my regular re-reads rotation, but again, at the $13.99 Kindle price point, I might hold off until it goes down or you can get it from the library.

'Til Death Do Us Part

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3 star review

April TBR Challenge 2016 – Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl

TBR Challenge 2016

Topic: Contemporary

Taking the Heat

Passion this hot can’t be faked…

All revved up for bright lights and steamy nights, writer Veronica Chandler chased her dreams to New York City. When she hit a dead end, reality sent her back home to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Saving her pride and her new gig—writing a relationship advice column!—requires some faking. No one can know the truth about her big-city flop or her nonexistent sex life. But the town’s irresistibly rugged librarian is determined to figure her out… and give her hands-on lessons in every wicked thing she wants to know.

Gabe MacKenzie’s heart might be in Wyoming, but secretly his future’s tied up in his family’s Manhattan legacy. Getting down and dirty with Veronica is supposed to give him a few memorable nights—not complicate his plans. But the thing about heat this scorching is there’s just no going back… and it might be too hot for either of them to take.

I don’t read a ton of contemporary, but some way, somehow, this was the series that reminded me about libraries, and got me into borrowing ebooks from the library.

I’ve enjoyed this series because it is about grown-ups, about women I could see being friend with and going out for a Girl’s Night with. But this particular book, it felt a little NA. We have two main protagonists who while a little older than the NA crowd, are still desperately trying to figure out their futures, and not being honest with their families or themselves about what they want.

The only thing that saved it for me was that it was punny and the banter was hilarous and dorkily hot. Plus, hunky male librarian? Yeah, that will cover a host of sins, including said hunky librarian being a lying, misrepresenting, polecat.

But the “Girls” are still a ton of fun and I can absolutely imagine girl’s night out with the bunch of them. The only problem is there’s not more page time with them.

What makes this story though is Veronica, she starts out so timid and afraid and SHE decides to grow and change and implements everything on her own and for herself. But since we readers already know that Gabe is a lying, misrepresenting, polecat, it just makes it kind of awful in a lot of instances.

In the end we have the power of love and change and the story was left on a we’re giving this a chance and not declarations of undying love and matrimony. So it DOES work, it just wasn’t completely successful for me. But it was well written, often very funny, ans the sex scenes were delightfully realistic (for the most part). It is worth the read if you are a fan of the series, but while it probably could be read as a stand alone, I don’t advise it because I don’t think it is the best of the bunch. Start with the first novella, it is the best.

I don’t know if this is the end of the series or not, but since I am still holding out for Jill’s book, I’m not marking this as a closed/ended series.

Taking the Heat (Jackson: Girls' Night Out, #3)

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5 star review

Review – The Witness by Nora Roberts

The Witness

Daughter of a controlling mother, Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking at a nightclub and allowing a strange man’s seductive Russian accent lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever.

Twelve years later, the woman known as Abigail Lowery lives on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she designs sophisticated security systems — and supplements her own security with a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. But Abigail’s reserve only intrigues police chief Brooks Gleason. Her logical mind, her secretive nature, and her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something — and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed.

With a quirky, unforgettable heroine and a pulse-pounding plotline, Nora Roberts presents a riveting new read that cements her place as today’s most reliably entertaining thriller — and will leave people hungering for more.

I had to come back and re-read this one after reading The Obsession. It is probably my favorite recent Nora Roberts books and the one I thought about the most when I was reviewing, so be prepared for a ton of compare contrast in this review.

As in the Obsession we see a big chunk of the child before digging into her adult story, and that seems to make a character more relatable for me. And Liz/Abigail is so delightfully quirky/closed off, so much her own person that I adore her. Really, she is quite like Temperance Brennan on the TV show Bones, if you like that sort of thing…which I do (I know a lot of people didn’t care for this character, YMMV). And where Brooks is also practically perfect, since we see his family and how he relates to them, the overall “goodness” of the character makes sense in that light, so I bought him more than I did Xander.

The Witness falls more into the romantic suspense side than the mystery side, as we know who the players and perpetrators are. There is also alot of tech and hacking, so if you are into that it is very interesting. Personally, the house rehabbing of The Obsession, vs the tech here, they’re about equal in interest for me. There are pluses and minuses in each though, and I like Naomi’s relationships with friends better than I do they very tentative opening up we see here in Liz/Abigail. So which is better? I think they are pretty close, which is why I had previously commented on the price of the new release.

The Witness

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4 star review

Review – The Obsession by Nora Roberts

The Obsession

Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous.

Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up―especially the determined Xander Keaton.

Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away.

Nora Roberts (AKA JD Robb)is probably the most prolific author I read. And her books are LONG, and consequently for me, satisfying. Her writings fall into a few different categories: the long running Eve Roarke series, stand alone romances, stand alone romantic suspense, and interconnected characters in trilogies, quads or families (which often hold paranormal elements). Her standalone romantic suspense can further be broken down into ones devoted to  a current event plot (which may or may not be a multiple character arc), and ones that follow the personal growth from childhood into current events, like The Witness. The Obsession falls into the latter category.

The things that worked for me were the extended timeline which made Naomi more of a fleshed out character for me, the personal growth she experienced, the plot pet, and the strong relationships she formed with others, particularly a female friend. I am a sucker for romances that feature friendships and families outside the romantic one. The quaint and charming town juxtaposed with the gruesome and triggering suspense also worked well for me.

What worked a little less well was Xander. The only thing keeping him out of complete and utter Gary Stu territory was that he had a healthy sense of self esteem. He was just a little t0o perfect; mechanic, handy-man, multi-business owner, property owner, in a successful town band, well regarded by literally everyone in town, good with dogs and children and has a serious love affair with books (he even reads Austen). In short, absolute wish fulfillment and I found him slightly bland. I mean Roberts’ heroes are often a bit too good to be true, so I am not sure why I focused in on Xander more than others, but opinions are very subjective and personal.

It is ok though, the focus was much less on Xander and much more on Naomi. And I really enjoyed seeing her open up to herself and those around her, much like in The Witness, it is kind of my jam, though this story is much darker and uncomfortable than that one. So in my world view, perfect Xander gets to be the won prince in our heroine’s story. Hey, I don’t expect anyone else to go along with my skewed world view 😉

So I do recommend this one, albeit with the caveat that unless you are a die hard Nora Roberts suspense fan, you might want to wait to get it used, get paperback pricing, or borrow it from the library. It is good, but not really phenomenal $14.99 must pick up now good. If you aren’t a die hard Roberts fan, well, with over 200 books to her credit, chances are there’s something you haven’t read yet at around half the price, including The Witness which is $7.99 and which I think it is about to get a re-read from me.

The Obsession

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3.5 star review

Review – White Tiger by Jennifer Ashley

White Tiger

A woman is lured into the shadows of a dangerous manhunt…
Wanted and on the run…

For twenty years, Kendrick, a white tiger Shifter, has been the Guardian of un-Collared Shifters who spend their lives living in secret—and in fear of being shunted into Shiftertowns. When Kendrick’s group is discovered and forced to flee, Kendrick is more desperate than ever to protect them

His only salvation was in a beautiful stranger.

In a diner in the middle of nowhere, lonely waitress Addison Price has seen a lot of unusual drifters come and go, but none has ever captivated—and intimidated—her like the imposing fugitive who wields a broadsword with incredible skill. But when he risks all to protect her, Addison’s fear turns to empathy—and empathy to desire as she learns more about her savior. Soon she’s more than willing to help the crushingly sensual white tiger and his cubs in a passionate bid for freedom. Whatever the cost.

I really get a kick out of this series. Sometimes it is sweet, sometimes sad, sometimes light, sometimes dark. But even when I find myself not wanting to read in general, I do still want to read these when they come out. While each story is a stand-alone in many ways, I think you are better reading most of them, and in order, to get the full picture.

This particular story was longer on plot, and a touch shorter on relationship. But it was good. It opened up the world and gave readers new insights into shifter relationships and communities. Completely fascinating, I love the world building that Jennifer Ashley does with this series.

And Kendrick and Addie and their little plot moppets were completely adorable. I love a good plot moppet, and that is something that this series does well. And while Kendrick and Addie’s personal relationship may not have exactly taken center stage, their relationships with the group as a whole did, and that worked for this couple because of the kind of people they are.

We also got to see more Ben/Gil, Zander and a ton more Tiger. I adore Tiger, he’s probably my favorite character so it was really good to see how his happily ever after is shaping up. And the Ben/Gil character is fascinating and I can’t wait for his story. But I am not at all disappointed that we get Zander, the crazy polar healer’s story next.

White Tiger (Shifters Unbound #8)

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4 star review

Review – 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush by Kevin J. Anderson, John McFetridge

2113.jpg

18 exhilarating journeys into Rush-inspired worlds

The music of Rush, one of the most successful bands in history, is filled with fantastic stories, evocative images, and thought-provoking futures and pasts. In this anthology, notable, bestselling, and award-winning writers each chose a Rush song as the spark for a new story, drawing inspiration from the visionary trio that is Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart.

Enduring stark dystopian struggles or testing the limits of the human spirit, the characters populating 2113 find strength while searching for hope in a world that is repressive, dangerous, or just debilitatingly bland. Most of these tales are science fiction, but some are fantasies, thrillers, even edgy mainstream. Many of Rush’s big hits are represented, as well as deeper cuts . . . with wonderful results. This anthology also includes the seminal stories that inspired the Rush classics “Red Barchetta” and “Roll the Bones,” as well as Kevin J. Anderson’s novella sequel to the groundbreaking Rush album 2112.

2113 contains stories by New York Times bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Z. Williamson, David Mack, David Farland, Dayton Ward, and Mercedes Lackey; award winners Fritz Leiber, Steven Savile, Brad R. Torgersen, Ron Collins, David Niall Wilson, and Brian Hodge, as well as many other authors with imaginations on fire.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Dang, just dang, this is a ton of stories. I picked this up because I am fond of Rush, and because of the Mercedes Lackey story. Anthologies are difficult to review, especially when there are this many stories, so I’ll try to leave brief comments on them individually as I go along. But overall this anthology is filled with gems and you don’t need to have any familiarity with rush at all. I’ve underlined my favorites for ease of reference. Continue reading

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