4 star review

Review – The Last Time I Saw Her by Karen Robards

The Last Time I Saw Her

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.

In the sizzling new novel from New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards, Dr. Charlie Stone must prove the innocence of a dangerously sexy condemned man, or lose her one chance at true love.

In this world, Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone skillfully probes the twisted minds of incarcerated serial killers to better understand what makes them tick, and to help nab those who remain at large. But in the next world, Charlotte’s ghostly lover—convicted killer Michael Garland—is facing death yet again. It seem the only way Charlie can snatch Michael from the jaws of oblivion is by proving his innocence. And this dead man’s dead ringer may just be the key.

A mysterious stranger has turned up in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and Charlie is shocked to realize he could be Michael Garland’s identical twin. But she suspects the resemblance is only skin deep—and that behind the handsome face may lurk the perverse mind of a killer. While using all her keen profiling gifts, Charlie risks her life to discover the shocking secret that will clear Michael’s name.

Then a breakout at Wallens Ridge State Prison forces Charlie to contend with a sudden swarm of psychopaths bent on spilling blood. No one has a better chance of tracking down the deadly fugitives than Charlie—unless the rampaging killers manage to find her first and make this case her last. But Michael will move heaven and hell—and even make a devil’s bargain—for the chance to save Charlie’s life, and feel her touch once more . . . if only for the final time.

I have read all these books, and the verdict is in! I am thrilled by this serious. This is my one truly crazy sauce series that I simply must keep up with. And Karen Robards definitely did not let the crazy sauce levels abate. Seriously, this book is the biggest head trip of the series, which if you’ve read the previous books is truly saying something.

Charlie Stone is depressed since her lover was sucked back to Spookville. She is trying to get through each day one day at a time, without much success, when in walks Michael Garland’s doppelgänger (or maybe his evil twin) with a subpoena for her files on him. In the midst of her meeting with him, and while a Scared Straight group is touring the prison, the serial killers she has been studying stage a prison break and kidnap her, the kids, and the doppelgänger. Charlie’s terror drags Michael back, and so starts our story.

Michael spends a good bit of his time in the doppelgänger’s body, so him being corporeal makes for a nice change, but at times the ethical considerations of utilizing another person’s body like that kind of gave me the heeby-jeebies. But once I put that to rest it was all hot and sweet. But seriously, don’t ponder that aspect too much it completely ruins the rest of the vibe. This was much more of a relationship book than a romantic suspense book. I mean there was plenty of action and mystery to go around, but it happened to them more passively than being an active mystery they were trying to solve this time. WHich was probably just as well since there was SOOOO much relationship angst. A serious eff-ton of relationship angst all piled on top of the crazy sauce train. It was the express train too.

We also got some more Lena and Buzz time, which was as always a delight, though their page time was short.

When it comes to the ending and the resolution of the Michael thing though, that is where the real head trip comes in. What? Did anyone reading this review seriously think that a ghost seeing forensic psychic who is in love with a serial killer and whose best friend is an honest to goodness psychic would be enough for me to call this a head trip at this point? Lets be real, it certainly was not. But this ending came right out of left field. I did not see it coming and I can not quite decide if Robards went into this series not quite knowing where she’d end up and how she’d get out of the set-up, or if she is simply brilliant. It was just about the most novel way out of the ghost hero trap that I think is possible to dream up, anad I have read a few ghost heroes. A bit of a deus ex machina I suppose, but a fun way out nevertheless.

Seriously, if crazy sauce is your thing this is a don’t miss series. Looking back, at previous reviews, I think I was maybe not as consistent of a grader as I am now. So honestly, while this isn’t a perfect series, and sometimes it felt like we readers were being jerked around, now that the payoff is here it was absolutely worth it and I am so glad I stuck around.

The Last Time I Saw Her (Dr. Charlotte Stone, #4)

3.5 star review

Review – Sworn to Protect by Katie Reus

Sworn to Protect

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.

His worst mistake was walking away from her…

Quinn Brody ended things with sweet, sexy Athena when he learned she was a virgin. Their relationship was getting too serious and walking away seemed like the best plan. But Quinn has never been able to forget Athena. And when she gets a marketing job at Red Stone Security, it becomes impossible. Quinn wants a second chance, but Athena’s not interested—even if the chemistry between them is off the charts.

Now his past has come back to haunt him…

The man Quinn put behind bars has been released from prison and is out for blood. Quinn took years of the man’s life and helped his abused wife flee so now the ex-con is hellbent on using Athena to make Quinn pay.

He’ll do anything to protect her…

When Athena is sent to Vegas for a tradeshow Quinn volunteers to accompany her—to watch her back. But professional quickly turns personal when the threat to Athena escalates. Refusing to lose her again, Quinn will do anything to save her. Even if it means risking both his life and his heart.

Length: 43,000 words

A lot of times in shorter stories like this, it is tough to feel like you really know the characters, but this one starts in the middle of an intense scene that really lets us understand who Quinn is as a person. And it truly sets the stage for how his mind works and for future events and conflict.

After the prologue, we’re back in the present and it turns out Quinn is apparently finally ready to quit being an idiot. This is a second chance trope which is kind of my catnip, and it doesn’t commit the cardinal sin in my eyes of the manwhore because he was an idiot who ruined things trope. I also really enjoyed the characters, Quinn as I said is ready to quit being so stupid (always a good quality in an alpha hero), and Athena isn’t TSTL. In fact she’s smart and capable. The action is fast paced, the suspense is handled well, the smexy times are definitely smexy (though the condomless fetish is a nitpick for me) and the romance was sweet.

This sort of thing is my kind of catnip. Quick short reads that hit all the high notes, and all my good buttons with an extended “family” of characters we can keep checking back in with, with no need to do more world building or lifestyle setup. You could read this as a stand alone because the main protagonists story isn’t integral to the series as a whole, but if you are a fan of Lisa Marie Rice (or you used to be) or Cynthia Eden’s suspense, then you’ll want to check this series out at the beginning, because Katie Reus is reliable with a capital “R” when it comes to this sort of crack-tastic read.

Sworn to Protect (Red Stone Security, #11)

5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Cry No More by Linda Howard

Cry No More

Cry No More (which is available at OpenLibrary) is one of those books that makes me cry ugly tears every damned time. Oddly enough though, while it is one of my favorite books, it is also one of those books that I often don’t think about or remember until someone or something reminds me about it, and then I just have to re-read it. Others have said it better than I can, but I’ll do my best to show what makes this book so special/important to me.

1. This is the first romance novel that made me cry, and it wasn’t just crying, it was ugly crying. Those last chapters still just kill me.

2. This was the first novel that made me understand the allure of the emotionally detached and/or amoral hero. Diaz was just cold and had a serious lack of social skills. I loved him any way, he was fascinating and real in a way the prince charmings or alphaholes I’d read up until then simply weren’t, and was in a package that made me able to read the book and root for the couple. If you’ve read the now viral article, Things I’ve Learned About Heterosexual Female Desire From Decades Of Reading:

It’s really good when a man could hurt you and maybe spends a lot of time hurting other people but makes an exception in his hurting-people schedule for at least one woman he doesn’t hurt, but he could if he wanted to, only he doesn’t, so it would be great if he murdered everybody except for you and didn’t murder you even a little bit.

Yeah, this was the first time that kind of character worked for me. For better or worse, Linda Howard and Diaz were my gateway into heroes who weren’t “good”, and without this, there are so many heroes I adore today that likely never would have made any sense to me otherwise. Like Kaleb, Vasic, or even Aden (to an extent).

3. This was the first romance novel I can remember that had frank discussions between the two protagonists on safe sax, birth control, and blood tests. While this came out after Open Season (another book I adore and which has excellent realistic sex scenes and the funniest condom scenes I’ve ever read), it took several more years before Open Season came into my possession. And it didn’t take me out of the love scenes at all; it was touching and in character. This is the book that made me start questioning all the unsafe sex and obsession with going condomless “just because” that is so ubiquitous in romancelandia.

4. This was also the first book I ever read that used technical anatomical terms instead of being completely purple prose. And guess what? The world did not end, I was not shocked and I don’t even think I noticed it on the first read through even.

So those were all my “firsts” with romance, and the book would be special enough for me with just that, but the story itself was amazing, heart breaking, and the mystery and villains actually made sense. It is twisty, and turny, and dark, and violent, and emotional, and tender. It has characters you root for even when they aren’t “nice” or “good”, characters who break your heart. All the things you want and need from romantic suspense. This book may not be perfect, but it is probably one of the best romantic suspense I have read, and I highly recommend it. 5 stars

4 star review

ARC Review – Midnight Secrets by Lisa Marie Rice

Midnight Secrets
by Lisa Marie Rice

Former Navy SEAL Joe Harris nearly died—twice—on a medevac helo after being blown up by an IED. He’s not moving too great these days, but if there was ever a woman designed to jump start a man’s hormones, it would be his new neighbor.

Meeting Isabel—loving Isabel—brought Joe back to life.
Isabel Delvaux came from one of America’s foremost political dynasties, until the greatest terrorist attack since 9/11 killed her entire family. She barely survived the Washington Massacre, only to become prey for rabid reporters. Fleeing to Portland and changing her name was a way out, a way to start over. The only way.
She knows she’s safe with Joe Harris. Not just because he’s big and strong, not just because he’s part of a security team that obliterates threats on the regular, but because he’s been to the abyss and back.But as they help each other heal–through talk, through touch, through spectacular sex—the past comes back to play. When Isabel’s memory starts to return and a mysterious stranger sends Joe emails indicating she’s in imminent danger, he’ll do anything to help her uncover the truth. Even if that truth is the most terrifying thing of all…

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 am just like an excited puppy when it comes to Lisa Marie Rice’s Midnight series, and the excitement has not died down as I stare at book 6. Just picture the excited little puppy having a full body shake and wriggle over a milk bone. Yeah, that is me when it comes to this series. There is a repeatable format that just works for me. Damaged (in some way or another) hero who is totally sweet and protectively alpha. Damaged (in some way or another) heroine with a heart of gold. Some mystery or Machiavellian scheme that needs solving and/or thwarting where they save each other or at least each save the day, and then happily ever after. Honestly, with as much serious trauma and drama as these former Special Forces security consultants have in their personal lives, it is just amazing they can be so successful financially. But it is a heck of a ride.

Continue reading

4 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts

Carolina Moon
By Nora Roberts

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts—an utterly spellbinding tale about a woman who, though battered in both body and spirit, can never lose Hope…Tory Bodeen grew up in South Carolina, in a small run-down house, where her father ruled with an iron fist and a leather belt—and where her dreams and talents had no room to flourish. But she had Hope, who lived in the big house just a short skip away and whose friendship allowed Tory to be something she wasn’t allowed to be at home: a child. 
After young Hope’s brutal murder, unsolved to this day, Tory’s life began to fall apart. And now, as she returns to her hometown, with plans to settle in and open a stylish home-design shop, she is determined to find a measure of peace and free herself from the haunting visions of the past. As she forges a new bond with Cade Lavelle—Hope’s older brother and the heir to the family fortune—she isn’t sure whether the tragic loss they share will unite them or drive them apart. But she is willing to open her heart, just a little, and try. 
Living so close to those unhappy memories will be more difficult and frightening than Tory could ever have expected, however. Because Hope’s murderer is nearby as well… 

I love OpenLibrary, and as far as I am concerned it is one of the best and most novel approaches to book lending we’ve seen. Small disclaimer though, always checkout the PDF version (unless you are fortunate enough to have access to one of the partner libraries in which case I don’t know exactly what is available), because OCR text recognition isn’t great with scanned older books. But they do have a wealth of books available.

Today’s feature is Carolina Moon. I’d consider this one to be one of Roberts’ quasi paranormals, i.e. the whole world is contemporary as are all the characters except the heroine who has a bit of a twist.

Victoria Bodeen is one of those heroines where you just can’t quite understand why or how she keeps geting up from the hits life has dealt her. Cade Lavelle is one of those poor little rich boy heroes. He’s overbearing, and arrogant, and proprietary when he doesn’t really have that right. So I’m not sure quite why I like him, I can just tell you that I do. And I found their romance and their relationship very satisfying. There’s also a secondary romance that I found very enjoyable as well. You put those romances together with friendships and familial bonds woven into a very tricky mystery, and you have yourself a highly satisfying read. And considering the bargain price of free, it is more than worth the read.

As has often been said about Nora Roberts’ books, they tend to be a bit formulaic. This one however is a bit more involved and trickier than usual. 4 stars

4 star review

Review – The Liar by Nora Roberts

The Liar
by Nora Roberts

Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions …
The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed.
Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning …

Nora Roberts doesn’t quite have the same magic for me that she did once upon a time, but she’s never really let me down on romantic suspense either, and so I read her epic romantic suspense each year.

This year’s offering is a family saga/drama as much as it is romantic suspense. Shelby returns home to Tennessee after her husband’s death. It turns out her husband was a miserable excuse for a human being and she is absolutely better off without him, no matter how much debt he left her in with his death. Her daughter is more than a plot moppet in this story, and she was a cutie pie. Griff, the love interest is the Mary Poppins of romance heroes.  There are also a host of other family members and friends who are integral to the storyline. I enjoyed reading about these people and their lives. What broke down for me a bit was the suspense, I had figured out all the plot twists before a quarter of the book was through. So while I enjoyed the journey, the book failed a bit on the suspense level. There were quite a number of twists though, so I am not going to heavily into the plot because that could possibly spoil it for the handful of people who might just be surprised. What i will say is that it was a nice cozy book that was easy to get into, with likable characters, and a plot that seemed relatively believable.

Overall I am rating this 4 stars, but read it for the characters and the journey, not for the suspense, unless of course you have never read a Nora Roberts romantic suspense book, only then would you possibly be surprised.
1 star review

Review – Falling for a Redneck by Eve Langlais

Falling for a Redneck
By Eve Langlais

So this is the second story in a row that simply hasn’t worked for me. And not just random stories, but things that should have worked. I don’t know if I’m heading into a slump or it’s just awful luck for this weekend, but whatever it is, I hope it straightens out PDQ.

Be forewarned, there WILL  be spoilers and ranting.

So generally speaking, even if Eve Langlais books don’t make my top favorites list, I can at least count on solid enjoyment. This is in fact the first book of hers that was completely wrong for me. It should have been right dang it. We have an uptight, germaphobe, white collar woman, and an earthy blue collar guy with two adorable plot-moppets to melt her icy facade. But this reprint should have stayed safely in the past.

From this point on there will be spoilers and rants, feel free to skip out, but if you haven’t read anything by Eve Langlais, skip this book and try her Freakn’ Shifters (ignore the horrible apostrophe usage) or Furry United Coalition (yes that does spell FUC). Both of them are full of humor, whimsy, and sexy times.

So, we start out meeting Marissa, the pro-Domme, in full regalia in a session. Except this isn’t her kink, it’s a job she does so she can punish men and vent her anger at all men over the horrible way her ex-husband treated her. So yeah, we have another BDSM practitioner doing it in lieu of therapy, a trope I quite despise. It actually gets worse though because her former therapist is the person who turned her onto it. So, yeah, that happened. And then she doesn’t even own it, she’s all conflicted over it. Enter the sexy redneck Dirk and his adorable plot moppets. I settle in thinking alright, this is working for me. I’m even getting into the mystery of Marissa’s stalker. And I’m especially enjoying getting to know Dirk and seeing him as a person and his back story unfold. Then WHAM, another trope/comment I abhor. Marrisa refers to her pro-Domme activities as “…as bad as prostitution”. Literally, WTF? First off, that’s just an awfully denigrating way to think about or write about prostitutes. Considering prostitutes as ” bad” is just not something I can condone. There’s plenty of ways to think about prostitutes (and that’s definitely a debate for another time), but that dismissive horrified line of thought is one that just pisses me the hell off. And secondly, if you aren’t having sexual contact with a human being for money (which she wasn’t), then it isn’t prostitution. It’s a service right up there with paying for massage, hair cuts, or spa services. Yes it’s a little out of mainstream for the general population, but it still isn’t sex for money. So she’s going to quit because she’s tired of it anyway, and her anger’s all cured by the love and care from her redneck and his magical peen. That’s a little bit of magical thinking, but I tend to accept it in romancelandia. Whatever, on with the story. So Dirk takes her to his parents house to be safe from the stalker. It’s a farm, which makes for some fairly funny scenes. We get to find out plenty more about Dirk and his kids, and both he and Marissa really open up. The plot moppets’ bio-mom even breezes in giving Dirk closure and forcing both of them to confront their feelings for each other, and then conveniently breezes right out with no real repercussions or consequences. So Dirk and Marissa head back to real life, and she’s figured out her stalker is actually one of her now-former client’s wife. She sets up one last appointment with the man to lure his wife in, and this part I actually did like, she talks the wife down and teaches her to dominate her husband as he likes to be dominated. Those two go home a happier and kinkier couple. Then Marissa finally confesses to Dirk that all her angst and anger came from the fact she had cervical cancer which resulted in a hysterectomy, and that her husband knocked someone else else up and left her. Yes, that’s very miserable, but Dirk is a sweetie who explains she’s not half a woman, she’s the other half of his heart. They get married and our formerly very starched and buttoned up clean freak doesn’t even freak over the handprints the plot moppets leave on her wedding dress. It’s sweet.

Now, if that were the end of it, at least it would have been a high note. Still not a great or even good story, but a high note. But of course I wasn’t that lucky, we then have the epilogue from hell. A year later they wake up and find a freaking baby on their doorstep. The plot moppets’ bio-mom has popped out another kid and left it on their doorstep as a belated wedding present. WTF?!?! I guess someone must think that’s a happy ending of massive wish fulfillment proportions. But personally, I just found it creepy and weird.

I think what frustrated me so much, is that there was the bones of a great story in there. And Dirk and his backstory were just excellent. He’s one of my favorite heroes so far this year. I actually kind of even liked Marissa. But the story around them just completely irked the hell out of me. How on earth does an author even write characters I like in a story I can’t stand? There’s some sort of voodoo going on here, but I’m still giving this story 1 star.