Category Archives: Fiction

One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

***A complimentary copy of this read was furnished by St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review***

The only thing true about Chris Brennan was there was no limit to what he’d do to get what he wanted. Right now he needed to become a teacher at Central Valley high where he could be near the town’s scions and their less worthy counterparts deepest secrets. Teenagers and their secret was a virtual cornucopia of information.

Minimum suspense and a slower pace are allotted as the stage is set with introductions, bits of background and the excitement a new, single, handsome teacher that’s eager to coach the baseball team can bring. It picks up as Chris sifts until only Evan Kostis, Raz Sematov and Justin Larkin remain as perfect candidates for his nefarious scheme.

With Mindy Kostis abandoned for her husband’s work, Susan Sematov still reeling from her husband’s death and busy single mother Heather Larkin, Chris easily presents himself as a man willing and able to help their sons on the path to manhood. The outing hints as a study of lonely mothers and their sons and gains momentum as Chris’ perfection bumps against these own family secrets.

For this reader’s taste, the slow burn inherent of a cast this size, the mystery of the antagonist and how to much to share when as well as the amount of red herrings, plot twists, turns and background make it almost impossible for the reader to definitely choose a foe. The ebb and flow of the information means nothing can be discounted to stay ahead in a fairly good thriller with strong, personable characters.
Rating:4stars

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Take Me Back by Rosalind James

 

***A complimentary copy of this read was furnished by Montlake Romance through NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review***

Jim Lawson left Paradise to become an Army Ranger. He left a tearful Hallie in his wake before coming back to be the deputy sheriff. Henry Cavanaugh tried to force broken-hearted Hallie to stay but couldn’t. Now Hallie inherits her wickedly vindictive father’s wealth, but only if she lives in his home and stays out of Jim’s bed. Henry knew love for Jim could bring Hallie back but is Jim worth millions to her?

There could have been a helping hand in Henry’s death and somebody’s not quite as calm as they appear or maybe they’re not happy to see the prodigal daughter return. With Paradise being a small town and all, it doesn’t take long for the conditions of Hallie’s inheritance to become public and less time than that for townsfolk to become interested in the outcome as they sneak peeks at the couple.

Luckily, Hallie’s plans are to collect her money and leave, not settle down in Paradise. But seeing each other again reminded Jim and Hallie the feeling between them was anything but dead. Five years bring changes and in Jim’s case its family. He’s now a widower and a father. But for this reader’s taste the circumstances around Henri’s death and the star couple were a bit frustrating.

There are few things that can always be counted on but some sure things are in this series. One is the story will be well written and the characters have full lives. Another is the flawed hero is definitely older and wiser than twenty-something. He’s learned something from his mistakes and can admit he’s been a jerk. Also, there will be so many suspects they kill the suspense until you just want it to be over.
Rating:3.75stars

Fated by Lauren Dane

Enforcer Megan Warden wants to be mated more than anything except maybe not being trapped in a car for hours on her way to a wedding with her mother and grandmother lamenting her lack of a mate. Layla’s anchor, Dr. Shane Rosario was raised human not wolf but made sure he came to the wedding to see Lay. When Shane and Megan’s eyes met, he’d never be happier to be a wolf.

With the war settled, danger non-existent and all the Warden siblings mated this emotional outing was good but this reader missed the danger, excitement and tension that had been the series norm. It was difficult for this reader to see strong, self-assured Megan askew, likable Shane brought huge human elements to the tale as he had no idea of pack-life or familial bonds.
Rating: 4stars

Tough Customer by Sandra Brown

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Goal oriented Dodge Henley doesn’t let rules, limits or other people’s concerns alter his plans. Unless that other person is Caroline King the one that got away. It’s been 30 years but Caroline knows if anyone can and will help her daughter, Berry, it’s her father, Dodge. Since the one and only time, Dodge saw Berry was the day she was born, he argued with himself about it and the guilt won.

Berry’s case is anything but simple, unwanted attention at work became stalking became attempted murder and a threat to her life. Meanwhile Berry’s not sure how Dodge fits in the picture and she can’t figure out Detective Ski Nyland and the circumstances of the assault are complicating her work life. Plus, it’s not that Ski doesn’t believe Berry, but…he doubted until Oren turned into a murderer.

With the murder, Ski began to realize his interest in the case was more than just catching Oren. As the villain of the piece, Oren Starks had a lot of ground to cover and plenty of people to terrify. For my taste he alternated levels of insane and psychotic, he was also intimidating but not necessarily frightening in his scenes. Oren’s essence was on the page even when he wasn’t.

This outing was very much an emotional soup. There was Caroline and Dodge with decades of baggage to work through, Berry with the secrets she kept and the secrets kept from her as she fell in love there was also Ski on a very fine line to getting involved with a principal on an open case and unable to disguise his feelings anymore. Quite the engrossing medium fast read.
Rating:4.5stars

Mates: True & Eternal by Laura Wright

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This extreme short is a few intimate scenes from Alexander and Sara’s marriage. When Sara wants something Alex doesn’t her anger gives him time to think it over very carefully. But she forgot he has gifts. The outing is about them and doesn’t further the overall arc.
Rating:3stars

Nightshades by Melissa F. Olson

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Teens are missing, agents are slaughtered and shades (vampires) are a known entity. Special Agent in Charge Alex McKenna lobbies for and gets the top job in the Chicago Bureau of Investigations-Bureau of preternatural investigations. Alex wants to prove he’s more than a legacy as his new team is tasked to verify the connection to shades and put a stop to the rampage for safety and public relations.

Determined to use every resource he can think of to create a successful team, Alex visits the one shade they have in captivity and is in turn steered to shade Rosalind ‘Lindy’ Fredrick of Cincinnati. Impartial and non-violent, Lindy broke with vampire leader Hector’s rulings of stealth to the point of embracing human behavior but became anxious when she couldn’t reconcile the Chicago killings.

Alex visits Lindy at her office to talk at the same time shades arrive to either kill her or bring her to Hector. Lindy maneuvers Alex to safety by insisting they talk away from her workplace. Alex is unprepared to find his type of woman in Lindy, except that pesky shade thing. Continuing to make his own rules, Alex offers Lindy a job on his team but she’s reluctant to leave her spot under the radar.

Alex is fairly confident he can make a difference with both a shade attack survivor and Lindy on his side and persists. Alex and Lindy are circumspect about their new working arrangement but the shades have devious and insidious methods to gather information. It doesn’t take long until Lindy is very much on their radar and adaptations are made accordingly, leaving room for exciting battle sets.

This fast paced tale offers a fairly fresh take on vampire life without going to one extreme or the other. The characters are well done and the story has natural ebbs and flows that work with the lead and secondary characters strengths. A nit that definitely needs picking here is the ending. While not exactly a thrilling cliffhanger, the reader is left with enough puzzles to independently clamor for a sequel.
Rating: 4.5stars

Mister O by Lauren Blakely

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Nick Hammer’s raunchy cartoon Mister Orgasm was turned into an animated show and gave Nick more fame than he knows what to do with but that hasn’t stopped him from lusting after magician Harper Holiday, his best friend, Spencer’s sister. He’s pleasantly surprised when she visits with him at a book-signing after picking up a gift for a friend.

Theoretically Nick’s helping Harper get over her awkwardness with the opposite sex when there’s any attraction from either side. What he’s really doing is clearing the field for himself between fantasies. As secondary characters in Big Rock both leads were fine and I’m not sure they aren’t fine here but this reader had little patience for one dimensional Nick and clueless Harper.
Rating: 3stars

Countdown To Zero Hour by Nico Rosso

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Outside a popular Russian nightclub Hayley Baskov was selling simple food from a steam cart when undercover bodyguard Artem “Art” Diaz came to try it and stayed to enjoy an escalating flirt. As Art’s ‘boss’ came to join the conversation, two men started a knife fight. As Hayley huddled with a utensil for a weapon, Art made short work of the interlopers but the moment was gone and she was afraid.

Though they were interested in each other, Art’s on an undercover assignment about to bear fruit and Hayley as afraid of him as she was the attackers as he ensured her safety. Hayley’s surprised when Art makes an offer she can’t refuse, chef at a week-long closed meeting for an outrageous sum. Art’s concerned personally and professionally and it will take all his wits to keep her out of the crossfire.

Stealthily putting the final touches on his op to arrest his ‘boss’, keeping his personal and professional feelings tamped, staying in character and protecting Hayley while falling for her stretches Art’s extra diligence. Overall, the characters needed more flesh and the leads more chemistry though someone’s food obsession was clearly evident.

For my taste, this streamlined read spent more time on the loving detail of the weapons and the flexing adversaries than the romance though action was the goal. This reader saw Hayley’s lack of subtlety in word and deed in contrast to the first chapters as more predatory than she was ‘supposed’ to be. The opening chapters caught my interest but the fuzzy chemistry and heroine made it hard to maintain.
Rating: 3.5stars

What a Reckless Rogue Needs by Vicky Dreiling

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Lady Angeline Brenham is recovering from the scandal of a broken engagement to a roué at the ripe age of 30 and being a societal pariah, wants to avoid the indignity of being trotted out in the new season. Unfortunately, Colin Brockhurst, Earl of Ravenshire made a grave error for Angeline’s debut when he reserved the first dance, arrived drunk and too late for it. They’ve been frenemies every since.

Colin’s hung over when he receives a summons to his father’s side to discuss the sale of the ancestral home where his mother is buried. Colin doesn’t want to sell and is prepared for his father’s objections. Colin presents his case and his father flatly refuses. The father counter-offers the property if Colin gives up his rakehell ways and make a respectable marriage. Colin can’t think of a worse fate.

As the women of both families think to determine a bride for Colin, Angeline’s former fiancé triumphantly returns to the area as a neighbor. Meanwhile Angeline and Colin renew their childhood friendship. This is the type of read where the ending is telegraphed as soon as both leads are introduced and it’s all about the enjoyable journey.
Rating:3.75stars

Rock Chick Revenge by Kristen Ashley

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The drastic makeover the years brought Ava Barlow kept bad boy childhood neighbor, Luke Stark, from recognizing her when she stepped into the Nightingale offices looking for his help. Ava’s convinced the extra poundage she carried plus her lack of the glamour and grace her mother and sisters oozed kept him away but Luke’s distance was all about his family situation and their age difference.

After a string of bad boyfriends, Ava’s bad luck with men continues as her best friend’s husband, Dominic, turns his attention to her. Much to his family’s delight, handsome, sexy Ren (hope there’s more of him!) Zano’s also made tentative overtures. Ava hatches a plan when Dominic’s attention to her increases but Dominic’s dirty and she’s in the crossfire as his enemies try to force him to heel.

It was difficult for this reader to reconcile how inexplicably enamored and patient Luke was in the face of Ava’s endless ‘I’m astoundingly stupid/aren’t you getting sick of me yet?’ antics though the inner dialog could’ve been a dealbreaker. Ava’s Cinderella (the evil mother and villainous sisters, no step about it)/Ugly Duckling (major makeover) past made a good accounting for her low self esteem and Luke’s affirmingly great response.

Luke’s star turn was welcome after his misfires to get a HEA in previous installments. Though Ava stepped up and got her act together, this reader never warmed to her. However, through it all there was tension, adventure and drama mixed with the belly laughs and snickers as the guys had to work and the women familiarized Ava with the lay of the new land she’d fallen into.
Re-read: November 2016 – August 2013/Original Read: December 2, 2012
Original Rating: 4.5 Stars

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