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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3.5 star review

Review – A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliot

a-merciful-death

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 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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4 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Shades of Twilight by Linda Howard

Shades of Twilight.jpg

Dear listener,

Shades of Twilight is the story of Roanna Davenport, who grows up in a wealthy southern family but never quite fits in. She isn’t pretty or popular, and she has a real talent for saying the wrong thing at precisely the wrong moment. She’s in love with a distant cousin, Webb Tallant. But Webb marries their cousin Jessie, the bane of Roanna’s life. When Jessie is found murdered, Webb is blamed for her death, even though there isn’t enough evidence to charge him. Webb leaves town, and Roanna is left to pick up the pieces.

All of her life, Roanna has tried to win the love of her grandmother, of Webb, and of her extended family – and every time she’s been slapped down. She’s had enough. Roanna withdraws from the family, and that’s when her grandmother, Lucinda, realizes how very important this misfit is to all of them. Lucinda tries to make amends to Roanna by setting in motion a chain of events that brings Webb back home. But the plan disturbs a killer who is set on vengeance – and this time, the whole family seems to be the target.

I hope you enjoy Shades of Twilight.

Sincerely,
Linda Howard

I actually dithered over whether or not to add this to my shame files, or if I should just be ashamed period. In any event it is available through OpenLibrary if you are interested, though the usual disclaimers apply.

This is a tough book for me to parse, and spoilers for this book will abound. It turns out that while the first sex scene and the heroes initial abhorrent behavior toward the heroine are what stick in my mind, that actually isn’t what bothers me most upon further inspection. Yes, the hero treats her awfully when they meet after 10 years, but he realizes his actions are awful (to an extent) and gives her the chance to back out. And yes, for the most part Roanna is a doormat. But frankly they aren’t really the problematic characters, nor are their actions what make this story somewhat objectionable.

That family, they are freaking awful. We have basically all the adults treating Roanna awful, talking about how they don’t care to have her around. They don’t really love her or care for her, and they let her older cousin treat her abysmally. They spoil and cosset Jessie to ridiculous levels to the point that she becomes such a sociopath that she actually starts sleeping with her own father (who is unknown to them), and when she gets pregnant she plans to pass the baby off as Webb’s. This leads to the matriarch of the family bashing her brains in, and then letting first Roanna and then Webb be accused of the crime. Not only that, they don’t pay attention or show much real care to anyone beside themselves. They don’t note when their family members are drug addicts or collapsing. They basically let Roanna starve to death before finally noticing her, and it appears no one gets her any therapy or help. And later with another cousin Corliss, they let her grow up just that spoiled too and don’t even really notice that she has a substance abuse problem and is spiraling out of control. And when she upsets them instead of getting her help they just boot her out of the house. She is painted as wholly a villain when really she is a product of that toxic family. And then, when the truth comes out about the fact that the matriarch killed Jessie, it is all forgiveness. Seriously, an awful family.

So why do I even like this book? Well, honestly, I kind of like Roanna, strange as it might be to say. She gets a bad rap from reviewers for being such a doormat, which from a certain perspective might be true. But I think there are a lot of ways to be, and not everyone has to be a ball buster, or spunky, or a spitfire. And she works on herself and I don’t know, she just hunkers in when there are things she can’t change, which is I think where a lot of us are at in our lives. So it is kind of nice to see someone like that have her dreams come true. Now Webb, he isn’t one of those heroes I swoon over, he’s somewhat overbearing and autocratic, he doesn’t give the women in his life the information they need to protect themselves. But, once he gets over himself, he really is rather sweet in his head about Roanna, and to his credit he likes for Roanna to stick up for herself and buck him on things. And here is where it got me, the whole deal was that the matriarch would give him the inheritance, despite the fact that he wasn’t a direct line descendant, while Jessie and Roanna were. He marries Jessie for it even. It was the lure that the matriarch used to bring him back, even though Roanna had been heir in his stead during the 10 years he was gone. And he just gives it up, the land and the house and the money, he wants Roanna to have that power and security.

I don’t know, the two main characters work for me, and the rest of it is like a trainwreck of a soap opera and it keeps me entertained. This definitely isn’t a book for everyone, you’ve got father daughter incest, abuse, maybe not your most upstanding main characters, completely ignoring birth control, and accidental pregnancies. And oh, I almost forgot, but yes, cousins marrying…but I don’t know if it is geography but I just don’t have that big of a hang-up about 2nd cousins getting married. Down here it isn’t that uncommon for people to show up at big weddings and a couple to realize they are actually 2nd or 3rd cousins. So yeah, there is a lot to be bothered by in this book.

Shades Of Twilight

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1.5 star review, Miscellaneous

June TBR Challenge 2016 – River of Eden by Glenna McReynolds, Tara Janzen

TBR Challenge 2016

Topic: Favorite Trope (a favorite theme – amnesia? secret baby? fairy tale? friends-to-lovers? etc.)

River of Eden

A LOST WORLD
In the heart of the rain forest lies a prize Dr. Annie Parrish is willing to risk her life for, an extraordinary orchid known to the Indians as “The Messenger.” With her resources dwindling and time running out, only one man comes cheap enough and is skilled enough to take her deeper into the savage reaches of the Great Green Hell known as the Amazon.

A ROGUE SCIENTIST
William Sanchez Travers has macaw feathers tied in his hair, a week’s worth of beard, and a shaman’s crystal hanging around his neck, convincing Annie that even the wildest stories she’s heard about him don’t tell the tale. A Harvard-trained botanist, the once world-renowned professor lost his reputation – and some say his mind – when he vanished from his camp on the Rio Cauaburi and disappeared for a year in the forest. Now he’s back, in a seedy waterfront bar with a beer in his hand and a mulatto woman doing the lambada on his lap – and against every ounce of common sense she has, Annie’s about to make him a deal.

ONCE THEIR JOURNEY BEGINS, THERE’S NO TURNING BACK
The last thing Will needs is a woman whose secrets run as deep and dark as his own. A renegade in her own right, the legendary Amazon Annie is a magnet for trouble – and he’s already got plenty. He’s out to destroy a devil named Corisco Vargas, before the twisted army major can unleash his nightmarish forces on the whole of the Amazon. Trapped between a shaman’s mystical visions and the violence of the real world, their journey quickly becomes one of desperate danger. But which force will rule their fate – justice, vengeance, or a power as potent and seductive as the Amazon itself?

OK, so I like the academic vs wild man trope. It probably comes from my early obsession with Sean Connery in Medicine Man and was honed by Linda Howard’s Heart of Fire (which I think I am going to have to go back and re-read now). And I am not entirely sure how it first came to my attention, but I slapped it on my Amazon wish list, and ran it through ereaderiq, and when it popped up for free I snatched, and it has languished on Mt. TBR of Doom since….01/30/2015, which granted isn’t as much as I am sure some books have been on, but still, pretty disheartening. Where does the time go?

Anyway, this one could also have gone for the >10 years challenge as it was originally published in 2002, but I was drawing a blank when it comes to a favorite trope, I don’t think I really  have one. In any event,this was published almost a decade after Howard’s version, though you might not have known it from the casual use of the term mulatto and the misogynistic way Will thinks of and speaks to Annie. In that manner it felt very old skool 80’s.

The book is weird though. There is a surprising paranormal element full of mystical Amazon rain forest mumbo jumbo. I wasn’t expecting it to be honest. And while I do enjoy a good paranormal, it felt off here.

Will and Annie though have plenty of adventure, and danger, and chemistry. And despite the oddball paranormal elements and some significant pacing issues, I was rocking along with it until something I find skeevy, the hero had sex with a not really awake heroine. Blergh, I am not a fan. And to add insult to injury there isn’t a  bit of thought to pregnancy or birth control. A cardinal sin in my eyes.

As far as the plot itself, it was initially meh, rollicking adventure on the amazon, a villain or two to beat, and the hero and heroine butting heads. There were some early plot holes that I was initially willing to accept, but by the time the last chapters had come around those holes were plot craters and the ending was a lopped off, dues ex machina, no explanation, no relationship after-care, basic mess. It was like the author didn’t know how to resolve the action or develop the happily ever after so some awkwardness was tacked on to give some facsimile of an ending.

I don’t know how better to explain it. This just didn’t work for me. The characters grated, the story dragged when it wasn’t dumping you in plot holes, there were cardinal sins, and it didn’t resolve into anything that left me feeling happy or satisfied. I hate to just eviscerate something, but this I can’t really scrape up enough good to balance it out. I was giving it a solid 3-3.5 until about halfway, and then it dropped like a stone.

River of Eden

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4 star review

Review – Targeted by Kendra Elliot

Targeted

All Detective Mason Callahan wanted was a quiet fishing trip with the guys—a chance to get away and unwind before Halloween.

Until he finds the body of his boss, Denny Schefte, near their remote Oregon cabin. Now all he wants is to catch the sadist who slit Denny’s throat and covered his face with a mask. Mason was the last person to see him alive and will stop at nothing to find his friend’s murderer.

When the FBI learns of the mask left at the scene, they realize they have a serial killer on their hands—one who is targeting cops. They assign the case to Special Agent Ava McLane, despite her engagement to Mason. Barely recovered from her own nearly fatal injury and her sister’s attempted suicide, Ava hopes she is ready to chase another killer.

But as she delves into the increasingly disturbing case, the killer may be closer than expected—dangerously close.

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’ve been with this series since the beginning. What attracted me was that it is a story about grown-ups being actual grown-ups, which has continued. Where we last left Ava she was broken, shattered even, and while the novel itself was complete we were nowhere near actual closure for Ava. It has been a long wait, but in the end totally worth it! As this is the 4th book in the series, I don’t think I can write much without spoiling previous books, so readers beware.

Ava has been healing-physically and mentally, she’s taken a crucial step back from her sister Jayne. While she is struggling to work out the details of her wedding, her relationship with Mason seems strong and secure.

The mystery though, dang it was twisty.  Elliot has some kind of gift for flowing (there’s no other word for it) through a twisty mystery. Cops are being murdered and we work through the search for connections with the cops, and it is fascinating. And her monsters, so sympathetic, and human, and…horrifying. This one was particularly creepy and sad.

We also get some more insight into Ava’s life and mindset, and a big shock from her past pops up. That seems set for resolution in the next book and should make for interesting fodder. There was only one weird/off note for me, which I can’t really say much about because it would be a major spoiler. It is just that there is an area of angst that didn’t hit right for me. As I have completely harped on, these are grown-ups here, and there are some things that in my experience you just don’t really flip-flop that much on. I don’t know, that may just be my own personal baggage coming to the fore.

In any event it was a great installment and I look forward to the next one. I’ll probably also take the jump to the spin-off Mercy Kilpatrick series.

Targeted (Callahan & McLane, #4)

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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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