3.5 star review

Review – A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliot

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FBI special agent Mercy Kilpatrick has been waiting her whole life for disaster to strike. A prepper since childhood, Mercy grew up living off the land—and off the grid—in rural Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. Until a shocking tragedy tore her family apart and forced her to leave home. Now a predator known as the cave man is targeting the survivalists in her hometown, murdering them in their homes, stealing huge numbers of weapons, and creating federal suspicion of a possible domestic terrorism event. But the crime scene details are eerily familiar to an unsolved mystery from Mercy’s past.

Sent by the FBI to assist local law enforcement, Mercy returns to Eagle’s Nest to face the family who shunned her while maintaining the facade of a law-abiding citizen. There, she meets police chief Truman Daly, whose uncle was the cave man’s latest victim. He sees the survivalist side of her that she desperately tries to hide, but if she lets him get close enough to learn her secret, she might not survive the fallout…

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.

Mercy Kilpatrick was a side character in the Callahan & McLane series, where she came off as one cool, competent individual. The thing I enjoy about Kendra Elliot is that she writes about adults, established adults with adult lives who feel (despite their traumas and dramas) more similar to myself now than the YA/NAs and early 20s characters that populate so much of the romance landscape. It is a nice break for me.

But back to Mercy, like I said, she came off as cool and competent if somewhat closed off in the other books. And now we get to see why. I did not grow up as a prepper, but I did grow up rural where self sufficiency was the order of the day, and we did know some preppers, so this one was easy for me to get into.

There were a couple of mysteries going on, not exactly wheels within wheels conspiracy, but there were enough changing directions and red herrings to keep me engaged throughout the book.

And the web of relationships; broken, cut off, and later imperfectly mended, were also a draw in this book. For the most part I bought her family members as characters as well as their responses to her and to events of the past. I felt enmeshed in Mercy’s emotions as she confronted her family and her past and admitted the effects of same on her present and probable future.

The love interest, Sherriff Truman Daly, he was a bit of a tougher sell for me. I mean I got him as a person, but I just had trouble with seeing their relationship as exactly plausible or realistic. But, since it was left as a happily for now, and there will be future books, I look forward to Elliott work them through it because I know she can do it. And I liked it well enough that I will absolutely be reading future books in the series, though I can’t yet say that I prefer this series to Callahan & McLane.

A Merciful Death (Mercy Kilpatrick #1)

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3.5 star review

Review – Emperor’s Arrow by Lauren D. M. Smith

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Grand Prize Winner of Harlequin’s 2015 So You Think You Can Write contestDebut author Lauren D.M. Smith delivers an epic fantasy romance in this soaring tale of a kickass warrior and the emperor she’s honor-bound to defend.

The bride candidates have been summoned. Their numbers are many, yet only one is an Amazzi warrior. Only one would give her life to protect him.
Evony of Aureline, warrior of her people, has no intention of becoming a hideous old man’s bride. Though her people have sworn their loyalty to the legendary emperor Galen, Evony knows little of courts and intrigue. It’s simply not her world.

Yet it’s on the palace training grounds where Evony’s archery skills gain her the respect of soldiers and legates alike. The emperor himself takes notice of the beautiful, ruthless warrior. In turn, the young, steely eyed Galen is nothing at all what Evony expected. This man could very well conquer her heart. But does he feel the same?As the rivalry among the remaining bride candidates intensifies and the plot for the throne unfolds, Evony must make a grave choice: fulfill her destiny and protect her people or follow her heart and pursue true love.Either way, the honor of the Amazzi people and the future of the empire now rests with Evony of Aureline. For she is the Emperor’s Arrow.

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.

This had actually been on my shelf for quite an embarrassingly long time, from the time of my deepest slump, and I just couldn’t get past the first few pages so I reshelved it. But after reading Enveloping Shadows, I thought I would give it another try, and I am glad I did.

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was the author’s second book rather than her first book. It is every bit as well written and vivid as her second, maybe even more so, and Evony and Galen were much more clearly and sympathetically wrought. Futhermore (or maybe more to the point) I actually really liked both of these characters and the story they told.

Evony is a stranger in a strange land, she makes mistakes but she can acknowledge them, she is comfortable asking for help when needed, and she is willing to offer help when needed as well. Even better she is comfortable when others have different cultures and mores than she does.

Galen is initially hard and cold, but we soon learn he has good reason for being so, and as the story progresses and he and Evony grow closer he unfurls like a flower to the sun. I am being a little tongue in cheek here describing him as one would often describe the female in a pairing, but in essence it is true-he has healing to do and under Evony’s strong supportive shoulders he does.

As for the story itself, there’s mystery and intrigue and plotting. It is good and entertaining and well worth the read, I recommend it if you are in the mood for fantasy and a slight twist on the Amazon mythology.

The Emperor's Arrow

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3.5 star review

Review – Highland Chieftan by Hannah Howell

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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.

Responsible for protecting her younger siblings from their abusive father, Bethoc Matheson is in no position to rescue another soul in Scotland. Yet when she sees a bleeding man on the verge of drowning, that’s exactly what she does, securing him safely in a cave where she can return day after day to tend to his wounds.

Sir Callum MacMillan can scarcely believe such a slight lass as Bethoc could save him from the grasp of death. But he knows the telltale marks of an angry fist on her skin, and he knows she has the soul of a fighter within her feminine frame. Raised to be a protector of the weak by his Murray clansmen, Callum would prefer to be the one saving her—and save her, he will. If he can first survive the treacherous attack that led him into her irresistible arms . . .

I’m so absolutely thrilled to be back with the Murray Family, despite the fact I mostly enjoyed my sojourn with the Wherlocke-Vaughn family. It is slightly insane that I haven’t actually reviewed one of these here since they were such a staple of my romance diet and I still have an enormous stack of dog-eared (yes I was one of those-you dead tree lovers can be grateful for the advent of digital so hooligans like me no longer deface books) and well-loved books chronicling the lives and loves of the Murrays and MacEnroys.

For the most part I think these can be read as stand alones. Yes there are characters from previous books, but with no centralized arc, jumping in just anywhere is entirely possible, even here with the 21 book, though I do tend to recommend the rest of the series. I suggest no hard long gloms though as it can all be a bit predictable.

This is another of Howell’s damsel and knight in distress books, where they each save each other, with a passel of plot moppets to round it out. I adore it.

We have two mysteries circling around to entertain us, and of course a delightful push-pull of romance between our two main characters.  Callum is one of the rescued boys from Highland Angel, and it is good to see those poor boys grown up and getting the happiness they deserve. And he has grown up to be such a sweet man, and Bethoc is a fitting mate for him. There are some heartbreaking events but overall it is a sweet and happy book.

We also got to check in on the lives of beloved characters, though as I said this can be read as a stand alone, so I don’t think they are overly intrusive if you haven’t read them. You can depend on what you’ll get from this series though, good kind people doing good kind things even in the face of heartbreak, and even though they are a bit muddle headed about love. I am really pleased to be back with the Murray’s and hope to keep visiting with them for years to come.

Highland Chieftain (Murray Family #21)

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3.5 star review, 5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Dream Man by Linda Howard

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This 1998 classic one was way overdue for a re-read, and the comments from my review of Troublemaker made it imperative. Dream Man is available from Openlibrary, but the usual disclaimers apply.

Detective Dane Hollister of the Orlando police department has never met anyone quite like Marlie Keen. While he has doubts about her supposed clairvoyant powers, she sees crimes as they’re being committed, there is no doubt about how much he desires her. To Marlie, Dane is all heat and hard muscle, and he makes her body come alive as it never has before. But not even she can foresee that their passion will lead them on a dangerous journey into the twisted mind of a madman who will threaten their happiness and their lives.

So things to note, I adored this book, it got 5 stars from me and I have reread it so very many times. And I still love it, but, just bear in mind these comments are me trying to read this thing with 2016 eyes. If you still love and have fond memories of this book, you just may want to look away. Because as much as I still enjoyed it, I think perhaps it didn’t hold up to time as well as others have. And considering this is such a widely read and reviewed book, well there may almost certainly be spoilers, and my comments are going to be more directed and specific than I would otherwise be. You have been warned.

Holy crap, I DID NOT remember Dane being such a stalkerish pig. I really didn’t. I will grant you that he is no where in the alphahole league as the ones I really trash, but I remember him as being a sweet hero. But really his bowling her over and moving in was slightly creepy to me now. I mean there is some genuinely witty banter, and he is rather sweet at times, but still. On the plus though it was the late 90’s version of this Athur Dayne guy-which is a must read. READ IT!!!!

Other pluses include a psychic heroine, but it somehow doesn’t strike as hardcore paranormal, she is a strong heroine who shows a huge personal growth pattern (some would say too much), the romantic connection, the sex scenes, and Dane’s partner, and the mystery and truly creepy villain. There is a ton of good stuff.

On the side of I don’t know if this is a plus or a minus-the prose is remarkably purple and I enjoyed the hell of it in the way that only a reader of the old skool possibly could, your mileage may vary.

On the negative Marlie kind of gets healed by the magic Peen, there is some acknowledged condomless sex that I had completely forgotten about (and Linda Howard is usually so wonderful with this), the hero flat betrays the heroine (not sexually, but…professionally), and there wasn’t nearly enough groveling… but the make-up sex was hot and sweet.

And back to the pluses, the epilogue, the magical wonderful baby epilogue. I know that epilogues in general get a bad rap, and baby ones even more. But seriously, this one simply must be read, to quote one of the nurses “There may be justice in this world, after all.”

So in the end what was formerly a 5 star book is probably down to a 3.5 star book for me now, still goo, still maybe a re-read, but not the top of the re-read stack. And maybe subconsciously I knew this and it was why I had such a delay in re-reading it. Who knows?

Dream Man

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3.5 star review, Miscellaneous

Review – Where the Wild Things Bite by Molly Harper

Where the Wild Things Bite

Delivering a rare book to a valued customer is definitely part of mild-mannered archivist Anna Winthrop’s job description. You know what isn’t? Protecting her precious cargo from mid-flight theft by the very pilot who is flying her to Half-Moon Hollow…while trying to appear as unappetizing as possible to the only other passenger, a vampire. Undead bookstore owner Jane Jameson could be waiting a very long time for her book. Possibly forever.

Fortunately, Anna’s dashing fanged companion Finn Palmeroy helps her fend off the attack, but not before their plane crash lands in the forest hundreds of miles from civilization. Great, now she’s stranded with a priceless tome and a rakish vampire whose bedtime is fast approaching. Why does everyone want this book so badly, anyway? Anna just wants to get it to Jane before Finn decides to turn her into dinner-or sweep her off her feet. Okay, the second option is really tempting. But they’re not out of the woods yet…

Molly Harper is another funny favorite of mine and this is the fifth book in her Half-Moon Hollow series which is itself a spin off from her 4 book Jane Jameson series. She sort of specializes in shady characters, and this one might be one of the shadiest yet. We met Finn when he was kind of  up to no good in the last book (there was something there but he was just too damned shady), and he is pretty well up to his same old tricks.

Anna may be the most neurotic and idiosyncratic character I have read in a long, long time. She has mommy issues, and dating issues, and self esteem issues, and medical issues. Yes, issues, she has them. But she is stronger and more capable than she knows, thought still far from perfect. Plus, she’s a librarian who handles rare paranormal manuscripts, how could we resist that? The answer is that we can’t!

This seemed incredibly short and fundamentally ridiculous, and I enjoyed ever insane second of it. There’s immolating vampires, crazed homicidal pilots named Ernie, banter in the woods, freaky shifters with poor communication skills, betrayal, and new found friendship. It MUST be love.

Honestly, I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys their romance ridiculous, funny, and filled with female friendships.

Where the Wild Things Bite (Half-Moon Hollow, #5)

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3.5 star review

Review – Allegiance of Honour by Nalini Singh

Allegiance of Honour

The “unparalleled romantic adventure”* of Nalini Singh’s New York Times bestselling series continues as a new dawn begins for the Psy-Changeling world…

The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.

But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy…and changeling.

To find the lost, protect the vulnerable—and save Trinity—no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

I read this the instant it came out, literally, I stayed up all night reading it, which is something that I endeavor not to do any more. And it has taken me this long to write my review, and I am not the only one to have some kind of feelings about it.

I read this series both for the romance and for the world building, so in general it doesn’t really bother me when the balance skews one way or the other, but this thing, it wasn’t either of those.

I think I get what the author was trying to do here, it was meant to be a wallow through characters that we love, an homage to the reader if you will, updating us on how thrilled and wonderful their lives are after such hardships. And it was meant to be a bridge, setting up new conflicts and adding new characters that I assume will be important in future installments.

But that wasn’t what it was, or at least that wasn’t what it felt like to me. It felt like, I don’t know, a money grab and a cop out. If all these scenes and information had been dispersed out through the year as vignettes, I would have been thrilled and I would have read them avidly. As it was I was just somewhat disappointed. If she had picked out a character pair and told their love story with the Black See changeling story line threading through it (like Zaira and Aiden’s story), I would have been thrilled too. And maybe if the mystery and furthering of the overall plot had been more cohesive and integral, I would have been more satisfied too.

As it was, I guess the best word for this is underwhelming. Yes, I knew ahead of time it was an ensemble, and I can’t really think of any ensemble books that I liked (and several I have actively despised), but I hoped for better from this author. Perhaps this is a format that just doesn’t work for me. Maybe it doesn’t actually work for anyone. I am keeping my fingers crossed on the next one though, hoping this particular author manages to take back the reins after the conclusion of what I had thought would be the end of the series.

Allegiance of Honor (Psy-Changeling #15)

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3.5 star review, Miscellaneous

Review – The Lady Who Saw Too Much by Thomasine Rappold

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Cursed with prophetic visions and desperate to atone for a death she could have prevented, Gianna York swears she will never again ignore the chance to save a life. When she is hired by Landen Elmsworth to serve as companion to his sister, Gia repeatedly sees the image of her employer’s lifeless corpse floating in Misty Lake. As subsequent visions reveal more details, Gia soon realizes her best chance to save this difficult man is by becoming his wife.

At first, Landen Elmsworth believes the fetching Miss York might be right for a meaningless dalliance, but he grossly underestimates her capacity for cunning and soon finds himself bound until death to a woman he may never be able to trust. Yet in the dark of their bedroom they discover an undeniable passion–and a capacity to forge their own destiny . . .

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.

I previously read The Lady Who Lived Again on something of a whim, but found it interesting enough to go ahead and try the second in the series.

I can’t quite decide if I find the second one interesting enough to continue though. In these pages we have a clairvoyant heroine, a damaged and oblivious hero, a sister who is the epitome of wallflower, a brother who is a bit of a prat, a feisty domineering aunt, and a smarmy villain.

We start with a vision that leads to a marriage of inconvenience. Our main couple staggers along between mistrust and disbelief with very in the way of communication. They do however have a good bit of chemistry, and the mystery is engaging enough. It is just that I don’t like Gianna as much as I did Madeleine. I think the story was a bit better actually then the last one, but for me it is often more about characters. A character I really like will let me forgive much more in a story.

It is tough for me to rate this one. Compared to the previous story, I like the hero better, I like the mystery better, I like the supporting characters better, and I like the main characters as a couple better. You would think that would add up to me liking this story better, but somehow it doesn’t. And it isn’t that I dislike the heroine of this one, I just didn’t like her as much, and for me that makes all the difference somehow. I am giving it about the same rating, but for vastly different reasons.

We also get a nice little cameo from Madeleine and Jace and an indication the two heroines will become friends. I am still holding out hope somewhere-some when, Dolly gets her HEA, but she doesn’t feature in this story at all, so I will have to go on hoping.

The Lady Who Saw Too Much (The Sole Survivor Series)

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