Review: Sea Swept

Review: Sea SweptSea Swept (Chesapeake Bay Saga, #1) by Nora Roberts
Series: Chesapeake Bay Saga #1
Published by Jove Books on January 1st 1998
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 330

FINAL DECISION: A comfortable read about a man who changes his life after the death of his father leaves him and his brothers with the responsibility for a ten year old and begins a relationship with a social worker. The story builds towards the end and offers a springboard for the series.

THE STORY: Cameron Quinn has sailed around the world racing boats and wooing women. The death of his father brings him home where he and his two brothers face decisions on what to do with the ten year old boy that their father brought into their family. The three men have to find a way of building a family in order to keep guardianship of the young boy which challenges all of the lives they have built. They also have to satisfy the watchful eyes of Anna Spinelli, a social worker, who has her doubts that the three men can build a home for a wary and damaged child.

OPINION: This book’s romance suffers a little from the introduction books. The situation and the characters all have to be set out which means that Anna and Cam get less “screen time”. Their romance was only okay for me until the last quarter of the book where things pick up and end on a high emotional note.

I enjoyed this book primarily because of the Quinn family dynamics. There is something really special in how these three men and a young boy figure make a family. The story is both inspirational and sweet. And I love watching these strong men give up whatever they have to for the love of family.

Anna and Cam are both damaged people who have triumphed through the love of others. Unfortunately, we don’t get much into their heads in this book. So while I really enjoy the story of this book, I wish the romance had been stronger.

At the same time, the comfortable nature of this story makes it one that I’ve read before and would read again on a rainy day.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book clearly is part of a series so ongoing story lines are not finished but the romance is complete here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SEA SWEPT is the first book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: The Woman Left Behind

Review: The Woman Left BehindThe Woman Left Behind by Linda Howard
Published by William Morrow on March 6th 2018
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 368

FINAL DECISION: A great personal story about Jina that is miscast as both a romance and a type of action/suspense/thriller. There seems to be an excellent book about Jina’s journey that is joined awkwardly with a villain story.

THE STORY: Jina Modell works for a secret paramilitary organization working with computers. When it is determined that the ops teams need communications and drone operators with each team, Jina is reassigned against her preferences to be an active part of a team. That means that Jina has to undergo intense physical training. But Jina finds hidden strength in herself that changes everything she knew about herself and also her life.

OPINION: This could have been a great book, but it really wasn’t the book I expected. The book ended up reading more like a women’s fiction story. Now the story of Jina was really, really good. I loved watching her struggle with her inclusion in the active team. She is a woman who finds out what she is made of and that she can do whatever she puts her mind to. What I really liked about this book is that Jina’s journey is neither easy nor perfect. She doesn’t become a super-soldier but rather a strong and capable woman. Even better, she becomes so strong that she makes a decision towards the end of the book that feels incredibly right and mature.

Jina is really the focus of the book. Her nominal romance partner feels less developed and their romance is really secondary to Jina’s story. This book is likely to disappoint many who are looking for a romance, but I still enjoyed the romance as a part of Jina’s journey.

The negative portion of this book is the whole villain story which flows from TROUBLEMAKER. The storyline is somewhat confusing and is really unnecessary to the story. I feel the book would have been much better without bringing the villain into the story at all. The entirety of the plot device that the villain serves could have accomplished in a way that kept the emphasis on Jina.

Ultimately, I found this to be a good story contained in a flawed book. I probably would not think to return to this book again even though I really loved Jina who I found to be a compelling character.

WORTH MENTIONING: The blurb and title for this book are pretty misleading. The incident referred to in the blurb happens at almost the end of the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This book is connected to TROUBLEMAKER but can be read as a standalone except that the motivations for some of the characters come from the events in TROUBLEMAKER.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss in order to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.



Review: Hello Stranger

Review: Hello StrangerHello Stranger (The Ravenels, #4) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on February 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400

FINAL DECISION: Not as good as DEVIL IN SPRING, but the unique heroine makes this book. Both outside of the typical aristocratic world, Garrett and Ethan have a sweeter romance than I expected.

THE STORY: Dr. Garrett Gibson is the only woman doctor in England and has made herself independent and finds herself just a little annoyed that Mr. Ethan Ransom keeps popping up watching over her. Ethan was formally with Scotland Yard but now works in the shadows. Although he knows that he should stay away from the intriguing Dr. Gibson, Ethan cannot. Garrett is determined to have a love affair if nothing else, but Ethan brings with him deadly danger from someone plotting a terrorist event.

OPINION: This book has an unlikely pairing — the first woman doctor in England and a spy. Garrett and Ethan meet periodically as Ethan first comes across her in his work. But even though he knows that there is something special between them, his work does not allow him attachments. He cannot avoid, however, watching over her and the two end up meeting again and again.

A funny way to begin a romance, but Garrett and Ethan bond over strange and practical things. While their meetings are prosaic at times, there is an intense underlying sweetness between them. They are so obviously perfect for one another, but Ethan’s job is dangerous and any attachments are dangerous both to him and to anyone he care about. I loved how the two are with one another and how Kleypas keeps the importance of Garrett’s job at the forefront of the story.

This is the story of equals. Garrett knows that she wants Ethan and is determined that somehow she will make things work. She has agency in this story. Her choices, her decisions are her own. And she will not allow Ethan to make the decisions for both of them.

With the description of this story, I expected more intrigue and drama, but the book wisely keeps centered on Garrett and her choices and this makes this book more personal and intimate and sweeter as a romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of West, he has a prominent role here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HELLO STRANGER is the fourth book in the Ravenels series. While this series has a different couple in each book, this is the story of a family and thus the books have overlapping characters and in this case, the romance between Garrett and Ethan actually begins in MARRYING WINTERBORNE and continues in DEVIL IN SPRING. While this book catches the reader up, I think it is better to read the series in order to know all the characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.



Review: The Sins of Lord Lockwood

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Sins of Lord LockwoodThe Sins of Lord Lockwood (Rules for the Reckless, #6) by Meredith Duran
Series: Rules for the Reckless #6
Published by Pocket Books on February 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368

“A man can learn to live for revenge.”

FINAL DECISION: At times dark and sad, this book is ultimately about the ability of the human spirit to endure and ultimately triumph. A wonderful companion to THE DUKE OF SHADOWS, I loved Liam and Anna’s story.

THE STORY: Liam Devaliant, Earl of Lockwood, was kidnapped on his wedding day and sent as a prisoner to the colonies. He has returned a changed man bent on making the man who betrayed him pay. What he doesn’t expect is the arrival of his bride who believes he deserted her on their wedding day. The four years that have passed have made Anna bitter.  The two talked of a marriage where each would be free, but she did not expect her groom to disappear without a wedding night. Anna, however, does have something she needs from Liam and is determined to get it and then return to her home in Scotland.

OPINION: Powerful, emotional and sometimes dark, this is the story of a man who lost everything and how the love he left behind brings him back.

I loved this story become of the complex emotional heart of it. Anna and Liam lost so much four years ago. The structure of the book makes this especially poignant by intermixing the story of their courtship with their current reality. The switching between these time periods brings emphasis on the pain of their separation.

Liam is an honorable man who is struggling. Seeing the difference between the man he was four years ago and the man he is now is sometimes difficult. The way the book is written puts the reader in the same place as Anna who has to discover who the man she married is. He is a wonderful hero who centers this book.

Anna is strong-willed and independent and yet vulnerable under the face she shows others. That is another theme of this book, the faces that one shows. As Liam and Anna both discover the complexity of one another. That no face is false, but rather an aspect of character. But that there is a face that only can be shown to the one you love.

I alternately found this book sad and triumphant. While these two were torn apart, they manage to find their way to one another and build something different and perhaps stronger than what they would have had four years before.

Some characters are so vivid and fascinating that it is hard to close the book on them. Anna and Liam are those kinds of characters to me.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book deals with what we now call PTSD in a complicated and sober fashion.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SINS OF LORD LOCKWOOD is the sixth book in the Rules for the Reckless series. While the romance is separate, I recommend reading A LADY’S CODE OF MISCONDUCT and then a related book THE DUKE OF SHADOWS because this book flows nicely from those two books.  The events of this book run somewhat concurrently with THE DUKE OF SHADOWS.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received and ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.



Review: Collision Point

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Collision PointCollision Point (Brute Force, #1) by Lora Leigh
Series: Brute Force #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 27th 2018
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 336

FINAL DECISION: The suspense and mystery really worked for most of the story, but the solution was a bit of a disappointment. I also wanted the connection between Amara and Riordan to be stronger but since they had a past, their relationship did not feel as immediate.

THE STORY: Amara Resnova has been having dreams and nightmares. Six months ago she was kidnapped by enemies of her father but she cannot remember anything that happened in the last year. But she dreams about Riordan Malone and knows that he was her bodyguard and her lover. Now fearing that someone is trying to kill her again, Amara turns to Riordan for help.

OPINION: This was a decent book that had the possibility to be much more. I really enjoyed the suspense in the story as Amara doesn’t remember what has happened and she has much of the solution in her mind.

For about eighty-five percent of the story, I really was engaged in the suspense of the story, but the resolution disappointed me because there was no way to guess what had happened. While the resolution made sense and was in keeping with the rest of the story, I had thought there would be something more interesting or dramatic to explain Amara’s abduction.

While I am perfectly willing to accept a less exciting personal story with a great suspense story, my disappointment with the suspense story also reflected a romance that was okay but not fantastic. The story had plenty of sex scenes, but lacked some of the excitement between Amara and Riordan. While I thought that everything was worked up well for most of the book, the ending was merely okay.

I would read the next book in the series because this book was okay even if it wasn’t superlative.

WORTH MENTIONING: Nathan Malone from WILD CARD makes a significant appearance here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: COLLISION POINT is the first book in the Brute Force series. This series is a spin-off from Leigh’s Elite Ops series and there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.



Review: Lord John and the Private Matter

Review: Lord John and the Private MatterLord John and the Private Matter (Lord John Grey, #1) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Lord John Grey #1
Published by Delta on October 26th 2004
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 334

FINAL DECISION: A dense and intriguing political and social mystery. The tone of this book is different from the Outlander books because it is focused on the mystery, but there is plenty of historical doings. And I love the character of Lord John Grey.

THE STORY: Lord John Grey has got a family matter on his mind (he’s concerned that his cousin might be betrothed to a man with the pox) when he is tasked with investigating the murder of a comrade who might have been a traitor. He can’t turn away from either so he works on finding the truth on both matters.

OPINION: For readers looking for another OUTLANDER, it will not be found here. However, some of the same elements from that series — a sense of historical presence, intriguing tidbits from history and compelling characters.

This book also is simply fun in many ways with Lord John investigating a murder and also investigating his cousins betrothed. I really liked his character here as we are treated to seeing his cleverness, his determination and his essential kindness.

We get to see how Lord John struggles with his homosexuality — not who his is, but how he has to hide himself where society will destroy him because of who he is. We see him dealing with how to live his life when he has to live his truth in the shadows.

But mostly this book is about Lord John’s investigation, the political intrigue and murder. Lord John travels the underbelly of society in order to talk with people. The books feels like the genre of mysteries of Agatha Christie based very much on the talking and personalities of the people with a few physical clues dropped in. I have a fondness for these types of mysteries and liked this one.

WORTH MENTIONING: Jamie doesn’t appear in this book but is mentioned.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER is the first novel in the Lord John Grey series. This is a spinoff of the Outlander series. It is not necessary, however, to read the Outlander series to enjoy this one and the genre and tone of this series is very different as the books focus on mysteries/crimes to be solved.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Conspiracy in Death

Review: Conspiracy in DeathConspiracy in Death (In Death, #8) by J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts
Series: In Death #8
Published by Berkley Books on April 1st 1999
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 372

FINAL DECISION: A dangerous and powerful killer is determined to keep secrets and will do anything — even destroy Eve — for protection. This is one of the best in the series because the story hits close to Eve when the killer turns on her.

THE STORY: A killer is expertly removing organs from vulnerable people for a mysterious purpose. The first kill is a street person with his heart removed in a precise and clean manner. It appears that the killer might be a well-trained surgeon.  When Eve presses for answers, she becomes a danger and has to be eliminated. Suddenly Eve, herself, is in the crosshairs and has to fight for what matters to her along with uncovering the killer.

OPINION: This is one of my favorite books in the series because of the connection between the events in the case and Eve’s personal life. And the connection is done in an interesting way and not the typical sexual crime case that triggers her memories so often.

Readers of the series know that Eve has a childhood filled with rape and abuse. She has made herself by dedicating herself to her job. This book challenges that part of her life and Eve has to deal with that along with solving the crime. When I read these books, I am not as interested in the solving of the crime as I am with the overarching story about Eve.

For me, this book by forcing Eve to confront some of her deepest fears about herself shows her strength and determination and also how much she has changed from the closed off woman from NAKED IN DEATH.

Although Eve is deeply challenged here, she is not alone anymore.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book introduces both Don Webster and Louise Dimatto.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CONSPIRACY IN DEATH is the eighth book in the In Death series. The crime/mystery is completely separate and independent, but there are continuing personal story lines in the series. I suggest the series be read in order because of the significant personal stories.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Midnight in Death

Review: Midnight in DeathMidnight in Death (In Death #7.5) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #7.5
Published by Berkley on September 27th 2005
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 90

“It didn’t look as though the last days of December 2058 were going to be much of a party.”

FINAL DECISION: A quick and dirty crime investigation centered primarily on the personal aspect of Eve’s job. The compressed nature of this story ratcheted up tension in this story and the emphasis on the personal rather than the crime details makes this a really good story.

THE STORY: It’s Christmas and a killer has a naughty list of targets. Newly escaped from prison, the killer is out to get revenge against those who put him behind bars. He is taking, torturing and leaving the bodies in public view. Eve in in a race to stop him from killing more especially with both Dr. Mira and Eve are on the list so.

OPINION: This is an enjoyable novella and one that I recommend to people who just want to try out the In Death series without committing to a full novel. The crimes and investigation are compressed with a lot of pressure on Eve. Yet all the elements that make the series successful: the personal connection Eve has, the love between her and Rourke, the friendships that Eve has, and the humor and drama are all present in this story.

Things are clearer and more blunt in many ways because of the short story but I enjoyed that this book continues and expands all the important parts of the ongoing story in the series.

For readers of the series, this offers some drama and developments in Eve’s relationship with Dr. Mira.

The novella also allows some intense moments with Eve and Rourke that I enjoyed a great deal.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book follows immediately from the events of HOLIDAY IN DEATH and also serves as an epilogue to that book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MIDNIGHT IN DEATH is a novella in the In Death series and is book 7.5 of that series. This novella fits right in for readers of the series, but is a nice little crime mystery for those who haven’t dipped into the series yet.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Holiday in Death

Review: Holiday in DeathHoliday in Death (In Death, #7) by J.D. Robb
Published by Berkley on June 1st 1998
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 308

FINAL DECISION: My favorite of the holiday mysteries. This one is a good crime mystery. Creepy and strange and what is better than a murderous Santa?

THE STORY: It’s almost Christmas time and Eve is struggling with getting gifts for all the people in her life and wonders if it was better when she was alone. At the same time a murderer has decided to make victims of people searching for true love. Taking inspiration from the song the Twelve Days of Christmas, the killer is hunting for a true love, killing them and leaving them decorated for Christmas with tokens of love. Eve has to work fast because this killer is quickly working through twelve loves.

OPINION: This is one of my go-to holiday reads. The story is really creepy and sinister in its crimes but it is nicely balanced by the innocence of Eve getting Christmas gifts. Although she has a hard shell, she is quite sweet when trying to do her holiday shopping.

I also enjoyed this one because the sexual violence brings more development of Eve’s personal story. She is growing and changing and healing from the horror of what happened to her as a child. While violent and horrible as crimes, this is a very intriguing and intense crime. The days are going quickly and the pace of the killers crime is especially draining for Eve who is fighting her personal demons along with trying to solve the crimes and stop anyone else from dying.

There is also quite a bit of chemistry between Peabody and McNabb as they are circling one another.

For me, I really enjoy the iconic characters involved in this case. The characters and the crimes are one that are memorable and the situations and solutions feel important and high in tension.

WORTH MENTIONING: The novella MIDNIGHT IN DEATH is a companion to this because it also occurs during this same holiday season and is closely related to this book as it deals with the aftermath.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HOLIDAY IN DEATH is the seventh book in the In Death series. The mystery is entirely separate and can be read as a standalone. Because there are overarching character story lines, I think it is better to read these in order, but this is one in the series that works on its own.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Stranger in My Arms

Review: Stranger in My ArmsStranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas
Published by HarperCollins e-books on October 13th 2009
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

“Lady Hawksworth, your husband is not dead.”

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable read that had a Gothic feel to it. The story was more intellectual than full of heart, but I enjoyed the experience of Lara’s uneasiness to the man who has returned to her and the two of them falling in love.

THE STORY: After two years of a miserable marriage, Lara was happy to see her husband go off to India. When she learned of his death, she was finally able to live her own life. Now a year later, she is told that her husband has returned. Lara is at first convinced that the man must be an impostor. But he knows things that only her husband could know. He is, however, not the man who left her. Hunter claims that his near death experience has changed him. The question is whether the man who returned to her is her husband or a stranger.

OPINION: This was an interesting book. A story that raises the issue of whether someone can change and whether a woman can begin to dream again.

This book is clearly an exercise in twisting back and forth over whether Hunter is actually Lara’s husband or an impostor. But it also raises the issue of whether it is possible for a person to change and become a “stranger” to his old life.

This book feels more Gothic than I expected. Who is this man? What is his purpose? Or is this actually Lara’s husband and her doubts and lack of trust are just blinding her to his identity. I liked the intellectual and mysterious elements in this story. And this is a book that I really recommend reading without spoilers.

The best part of the book for me is Lara’s indecision and how she realizes who Hunter is — not in the simple sense of a name but rather as a man. By using the uncertainty she has over whether or not he is her husband, a discovery anew is permitted. Lara finds out who her husband was and is.

Because Hunter remains mysterious for most of the book, the story feels more intellectual that emotional and maybe I’d not like all of my books in this model. But here it works for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: Do not read ahead in this book. Enjoy the way the story develops.


STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.