4 star review

Review – A Merciful Truth by Kendra Elliot

Merciful Death

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.

Raised by a family of survivalists, FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick can take on any challenge—even the hostile reception to her homecoming. But she’s not the only one causing chaos in the rural community of Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. At first believed to be teenage pranks, a series of fires takes a deadly turn with the murder of two sheriff’s deputies. Now, along with Police Chief Truman Daly, Mercy is on the hunt for an arsonist turned killer.

Still shunned by her family and members of the community, Mercy must keep her ear close to the ground to pick up any leads. And it’s not long before she hears rumors of the area’s growing antigovernment militia movement. If the arsonist is among their ranks, Mercy is determined to smoke the culprit out. But when her investigation uncovers a shocking secret, will this hunt for a madman turn into her own trial by fire?

I didn’t think it was possible, but I find that I may just enjoy this series even more than the Callahan & McLane series, and that is saying something. There is something just so fantastically comforting and soothing about stepping into a world where adults are ADULTING. I know, it is weird right, but nowadays I tend to find myself doing some mental gymnastics trying to keep my head into a story about the young ones when I just want to scream at the book: “Love him?! You don’t even know him, you’re still just a child!” There is none of that here, just delightful characters who actually make sense to my brain.

This book is a continuation of the series, and while it may be possible to read it as a stand alone, I highly suggest reading at least the previous book if not even the other series too.  That is because there were inexpertly mended relationships that we get to see continue to grow and change, and that makes is really fascinating and lovely to watch. Additionally, I think the relationship between Mercy and Sheriff Truman Daly is a lovely and warm slow burning fire that deserves all the page time. Did I have my qualms in the last book? Absolutely. Did Elliot justify my faith in her capability to make me buy in? Again, absolutely.

Beyond the primary relationship though, there are a variety of other relationships to flesh out the human dynamic. Mercy’s brother, sister, and niece all got a significant amount of page time, but it was done in a way that further the overall plot well. And the plot served well to further the changing relationship dynamics. Ilona Andrews recently posted on the topic of episodic vs progressive series, that really re-framed how I am looking at series right now. And this is definitely progressive. The stakes are real and so is the character growth. None of these people are the same as when they started the first book.

Speaking of the plot, the suspense was well done, there were a couple of nice red herrings, and one major “you did NOT see that one coming” twist that made the mystery stand on its own rather than just being the vehicle to carry the romance. And as I said before, real stakes with real life type consequences.

I think there are a couple of things that have me edging this series ahead in my favoritism. One is that Mercy just barely edges out Ava in my affections. But two, the Callahan & McLane series focuses on the monsters. This one focuses more on relationships and the seething secrets in small town rural life. While I may not have any experience with monsters (which that fact does make that topic fascinating in its own way), I do have experience with the seething secrets in small, town rural life. So the Mercy series is a bit more like slipping into home.

Either way though, if you enjoy romantic suspense with slow burn romance and real life relationships with adultier adults, I cannot recommend Kendra Elliot enough.

A Merciful Truth (Mercy Kilpatrick #2)

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4 star review

Review + Blog Tour – One Snowy Night by Jill Shalvis

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It’s Christmas Eve and Rory Andrews is desperate to get home to the family she hasn’t seen in years. Problem is, her only ride to Lake Tahoe comes in the form of the annoyingly handsome Max Stranton, and his big, goofy, lovable dog Carl.

Hours stuck in a truck with the dead sexy Max sounds like a fate worse than death (not), but Rory’s out of options. She’s had a crush on Max since high school and she knows he’s attracted to her, too. But they have history… and Max is the only one who knows why it went south.

They’ve done a good job of ignoring their chemistry so far, but a long road trip in a massive blizzard might be just what they need to face their past… and one steamy, snowy night is all it takes to bring Max and Rory together at last.

I have been digging on this series for a bit now, and it was a surprise since contemporary doesn’t always do it for me and YA/NA (which this has a flavor of) is even chancier, but this group of friends I just can’t wait to keep hanging out with. And yeah lucky readers, there’s a giveaway that will give you a chance to get hooked up with the first two in the series!

Link to Follow Tour

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | Google | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras with her family and far too many assorted quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental.

Look for Jill’s latest, SWEET LITTLE LIES on shelves and e-readers now, and get all her bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold.

Visit Jill’s website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

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

I think it is possible to read these as stand alones, I just don’t know why you would want to. Part of the joy to me in this series is the group dynamics. We met Rory in the first book in the series, and she got a little more present in the second and we got a peek at touch of her background as one of Willa’s adoptees, connections made of those who did not grow up with a stable home life.

But now it is Christmas, and Rory figures it is time to finally take grown up stance in her life and mend some familial breeches. Which puts her into contact with Max, the one guy that she just cant settle her feelings with, and apparantly the one guy she has some sort  of mysterious history with.

This is a sort of snowed in trope, though they are driving, and it is a Big Mis. SO there aren’t a lot of interactions with others and they have some solid time to work out their issues. And since this is novella length, it works out for the best that they have both history and the extended alone time, and that every disaster (and there are several) gives them each the time to size each other up in a new light. And they are almost painfully cut with each other, and there is plenty of saucy banter. It is good stuff.

But, on the neg side, it is almost too short, and the age and theme skew even younger than the other books in the series. It is also a happily for now with glowing possibilities for the future, which actually does fit better my idea for two such young (to me kids) and the short format, so for me it isn’t a negative, but I know it could be for others. So take that into account.

Overall though, it is a good, quick, happy  read, perfect for the upcoming holidays and I do recommend it, along with the whole series.

And whoohoo for me, I have the 3rd full book in this series in the queue, so drop on by in January and see what the gang is up to next.

One Snowy Night (Heartbreaker Bay, #2.5)

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3.5 star review, 5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Dream Man by Linda Howard

Dream man

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 star review

Review – Troublemaker by Linda howard

Troublemaker

A thrilling, fast-paced novel of romantic suspense from sensational New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Linda Howard.

For Morgan Yancy, an operative and team leader in a paramilitary group, nothing comes before his job. But when he’s ambushed and almost killed, his supervisor is determined to find out who’s after the members of his elite squad—and why. Due to worries that this unknown enemy will strike again, Morgan is sent to a remote location and told to lay low and stay vigilant. But between a tempting housemate he’s determined to protect and a deadly threat waiting in the shadows, keeping under the radar is proving to be his most dangerous mission yet.

The part-time police chief of a small West Virginian mountain town, Isabeau “Bo” Maran finally has her life figured out. She’s got friends, a dog, and a little money in the bank. Then Morgan Yancy shows up on her doorstep. Bo doesn’t need a mysterious man in her life—especially a troublemaker as enticing and secretive as Morgan.

The harder they fight the intense heat between them, the closer Morgan and Bo become, even though she knows he’s hiding from something. But discovering the truth could cost Bo more than she’s willing to give. And when Morgan’s cover is blown, it might just cost her life.

Linda Howard is one of my loves. I have been with her through a lot of the years. For some reason though I was really late realizing she had a new release out, and so was completely blindsided when the reviews started coming in. And they were mixed to say the least. So I was really late getting around to it. It appears to be a series…maybe?

Where to start, so much where to start? The initial set up is pretty good, rough tough cream puff has been shot, his organizational leader sends him to recuperate with said organizational leader’s former step-sister who is the chief of police of a small town. We have the feisty chief of police with a cute little plot pet, who isn’t immediately on board and asks some questions and asks for assurances of safety for herself and her town.

THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN MY CATNIP!!! But it wasn’t 😦

For some reason they harped on the fact that Bo’s position is purely administrative so she isn’t a real cop. And while it is a legal option in some states, I find it a) irritating that this is harped on, b) irritated that this was the choice that the author made when she could have been a real police officer, and c) that she doesn’t stick to her purely administrative position when her role is defined that way. I am also kind of flipped off at the reasons she needed money and so acquiesced to her step-brother’s demands. It made her seem weak which irritated me.

On the pluses, these two experienced no insta-love, they took their time and got to know one another. So it was completely lovely and relaxed how they got together. Unfortunately, looking at it closer, WE THE READERS never really got to know the main characters, we never got the text of their conversations with one another….what we got was a ton about Tricks the plot pet. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good plot pet as much as the next person (probably more), but this was effing ridiculous. It was too much.

So I am torn on how to rate this and whether or not to recommend it. In the end I did enjoy it, and it was super relaxing to read and kept my attention well, but I am not going to re-read it. And it was interesting enough that I would be interested in continuing to read the series, if it is indeed a series. But there were the aforementioned issues. Plus, it is still 12.99 and that is quite insane. So I don’t know, YMMV, and it isn’t a complete nix.

Troublemaker: A Novel

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5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Open Season by Linda Howard

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Be careful what you wish for….On her thirty-fourth birthday, Daisy Minor decides to make over her entire life. The small-town librarian has had it with her boring clothes, her ordinary looks, and nearly a decade without so much as a date. It’s time to get a life — and a sex life. The perennial good girl, Daisy transforms herself into a party girl extraordinaire — dancing the night away at clubs, laughing and flirting with abandon — and she’s declared open season for manhunting. But her free-spirited fun turns to shattering danger when she witnesses something she shouldn’t — and becomes the target of a killer. Now, before she can meet the one man who can share her life, first she may need him to save it.

This is one of my favorite books of all time, not the least of which is that much like Cry No More, it has excellent treatment of birth control, though in very different ways. I figured I would come back to it after the way I had to shelve a few of Howard’s books in my Shame Files.

Daisy Ann Minor is a 34 year old librarian who has sadly let her life pass her by. She lives at home with her aunt and mother in something of a rut. She wakes up on the morning of her 34th birthday and decides she has to MAKE her life different. And the banter between her hormonal side and her sensible side is just too hilarious for words.

Fortunately for dear Daisy, she IS a librarian, and as such a researcher. So she sets out a plan to get a freaking life, and it is cuter than hell. And her mom and her aunt are fantastic and feisty, and completely on board with the plan, I’d be thrilled to have both of them in my family.

Chief Jack Russo is a jock, and alpha, and a grown up with some sexy grey in his hair, and underneath the gruff exterior doesn’t take himself too seriously. And between him and Daisy the sparks fly right from the beginning. And they keep bumping up against each other and rubbing each other the wrong way. We have the prissy classy librarians with a plan and the chief keeps getting completely, if sometimes obliviously, in the middle of it…until it is entirely on purpose. This jock really wants the librarian.

But on to one of my favorite components of the story-the birth control. There’s this one particular scene with condom buying (it was part of Daisy’s plan to let the community know she was looking-and if you ever lived in a small town you know how accurate it is) that is too funny. I thought about quoting it here, but really, it should be read in its entire glory. And then when they do decide to have sex, there is frank talk about birth control AND expectations if it should fail, but rather than being clinical it is just fun and funny and as little raunchy.

The mystery is perhaps solved a little too simply, like dominoes falling in a row it is lined up and knocked down in short order, but the characters are just such a riot that I don’t even care.

Seriously, it is a delightful book that I recommend to anyone.

Open Season

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1 star review, 5 star review

Openlibrary Review – After the Night

After the might

FAITH DEVLIN: A poor, outcast child in Prescott, Louisiana, she’d always adored the town’s golden boy from afar. But he called her white trash that sultry Southern night when his rich, respected father disappeared, along with her pretty Mom. Now Faith wanted to hate Gray Rouillard…not to feel a powerful surge of desire. But she couldn’t quench her passion, any more than she could hide the truth about the past she had waited so long to unravel.
GRAY ROUILLARD: Even when he raised hell, he did it with style. Reckless, charming, and backed by Rouillard money, Gray controlled the town of Prescott — and Devlin was a name he never wanted to hear again. But when he gazed at Faith Devlin, all he saw was a swirl of tangled sheets and her silken flesh beneath him. To care for her was impossible, unthinkable…because Gray Rouillard planned to use all his power to ruin her.

So this one is another Openlibrary (read for free legally-just get pdf not epub) AND Shame File. And unlike Shades of Twilight, I am just going to go ahead and admit, yes, I have actual shame for enjoying this book, despite the fact I’ve gone back to it on numerous occasions like an addict looking for my next fix.

Here’s my obligatory warning, there will be spoilers here. I can’t very well discuss the issues if I can’t say what they are. Also, trigger warnings, all the trigger warnings.

So it starts with Faith Devlin as a small child. She is infatuated with Gray, and as she grows older (she is a young teen now) this infatuation turns sexual in nature-of course. In any event Faith grew up in the town’s trashy family, and her mother is having an affair with the town scion who happens to be Gray’s father. When the two disappear, it starts a chain reaction that culminates in Gray and law enforcement going out to the shack the Devlin’s live in and running them out of town. It is the middle of the night and Faith is in a nightgown trying desperately to get her family’s thing packed as LEOs are throwing their stuff in the dirt. The cop cars have their headlights on and it turns her nightgown transparent and all these grown damned men, particularly the “hero”, are gawking and lusting after this teenager, thinking how she looks sexy like her mother. Hence the title – After the Night.

Eventually Faith grows up and finds out her mother actually didn’t run off with Gray’s father, so she heads back to her hometown to find out the truth. And back home all anyone can think about is how Faith looks like her mother and must be a trashy whore like her too. Sparks immediately start striking off Faith and Gray, and while Faith may be a feisty one in any other situation, when it comes to Gray she is a perpetual and unremitting doormat. He pushes her, and coerces her, and manhandles her and is in general a misogynistic a-hole toward her. And basically she just lets him treat her that way and the least little bits of anything remotely resembling kindness she just soaks it up like a sponge-forgiving his every transgression. Never mind that he and his family would have cheerfully bought out her house and run her out of town if she hadn’t bought it outright, that they would have messed with her banking if she hadn’t kept that out-of-state, that he turned the entire town against her so that she couldn’t buy gas or groceries in town, never mind any of that-he says he’s proud of her and she preens. This is a woman who needs freaking therapy, not the dubious love of a jerk who holds literally all of the power in the relationship.

Eventually they do end up together, but he never really apologizes for any of it, and then there is quite possibly the creepiest thing EVER said by a so-called hero. They are talking about the night that her family was thrown out of town and he tells her it wasn’t all bad because he wanted her then. That’s right the most traumatic night of her entire life wasn’t all bad because she gave him a boner when she was 14 years old. Add to that the fact that apparently the villain had been using Gray’s sister as a sexual surrogate for their mother, and she felt compelled to let him so her wouldn’t leave like their father supposedly did, and there are entire levels of sexual creepiness here. And that last was just gratuitous, there wasn’t a real need for it to further the story.

So why do I keep circling back to it? Damn but there are sparks there. And their banter is often hilarious. And Gray could also be funny and humorous, and once he quits trying to run the heroine out of town he’s oddly likable. And there is this just intense and funny and bonding intimate scene that I always go back to. Linda Howard just has a way of writing characters that I can always come back to.

In this case I think I shouldn’t come back to it. There is everything wrong and really nothing really redeemable about this story. And looking at it objectively, the things I enjoy about it should never have outweighed the bad. It is just that I never looked at it objectively. As it always left me on an emotional high, that is the way I always think of it, and I never went past the surface of the emotions I was left with.  ANd now I am looking at it objectively, and it is objectively horrifying…and yet…I still enjoy it. What does that say about me I wonder?

In any event, I should probably quit picking exclusively on Ms. Howard, whom I still love and who has some of the absolute best and favorite books, the author who got me to see that birth control in romance is a good thing and that it can be sexy and funny and good, and that heros could make me cry too. It is just that I have read and reread her books so many times, and her characters and stories are complex so that it was inevitable that some would have issues. So I think I’ll pick another excellent one next, and then try to pick on someone else next time.

After the Night

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4 star review

Review – Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis

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Choose the one guy you can’t have . . .

As captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru can handle rough seas—the hard part is life on dry land. Pru loves her new apartment and her neighbors; problem is, she’s in danger of stumbling into love with Mr. Right for Anybody But Her.

Fall for him—hard . . .

Pub owner Finn O’Riley is six-foot-plus of hard-working hottie who always makes time for his friends. When Pru becomes one of them, she discovers how amazing it feels to be on the receiving end of that deep green gaze. But when a freak accident involving darts (don’t ask) leads to shirtless first aid, things rush way past the friend zone. Fast.

And then tell him the truth.

Pru only wants Finn to be happy; it’s what she wishes for at the historic fountain that’s supposed to grant her heart’s desire. But wanting him for herself is a different story—because Pru’s been keeping a secret that could change everything. . . .

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

Jill Shalvis is one of those authors that I hear about quite a bit, but for some reason or another, I’ve just never picked up. But when this was offered to me, it just caught my eye. While the Big Secret isn’t a favorite trope of mine and contemporary doesn’t always do it for me, I do enjoy a heroine who is large and in charge (boat captain seemed to fit) and the friends to lover trope (which this sounded like it might be), so I snatched it up and prepared to dive in.

And right off the bat we have a homely plot pet in the form of a fat old dog, so it is just checking my boxes right and left. We’ve also got a tight circle of friends, yeah, they are sequel bait, but who cares? They’re fun to hang out with and have interesting and apparently varied back stories. So that is another check box for me as I enjoy stories that explore communites and don’t simply rest on the shoulders of the main couple.

Really the relationship between the two main characters is a vehicle to explore their neurosis, of which they each have plenty. And it isn’t so much friends to lovers as it is that our girl is a teensy bit of a stalker…I liked her anyway (martyr complex and all), and naturally enough so does our hero.

We also have, joy of joys, actual condom use incorporated into sexy times, which is another thing that pushes all my buttons in the best way possible.

The story and the setting, for the most part, can best be described as…cozy. Yes, there was a big blow up when the Big Secret came out (par for the course), but the author didn’t drag it out so it worked ok for me. And the secondary characters, they seriously rock and since the next book comes out in September and the one after that in January, it is a very doable wait. It kind of has a Molly Harper feel that I am digging. It isn’t perfect (though I can’t quite put my finger on what was off-maybe that they are so young and dang I am getting old?), but I think I have a new contemporary series to glom onto, the next two are now on my TBR.

Sweet Little Lies (Heartbreaker Bay, #1)

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