Review: Risk the Night

Review: Risk the NightRisk the Night: An Ice Novella (Anne Stuart Short Reads) by Anne Stuart
Series: Ice #6.5
Published by Impeccably Demure Press on February 12, 2023
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 67

FINAL DECISION: Dark, with a heartless “hero” that is close to pretty much a sociopath, this short story is such distilled Anne Stuart that I loved it. Admittedly, however, this will only be for a particular audience.

THE STORY: Madison gets the interview of a lifetime with Constantine, a heartless assassin. She is undone by the seductive man who is extremely dangerous and seemingly soulless. Constantine is taken with the woman who is far too innocent for him and can’t help but seek her out again.

OPINION: A long analysis of this story might be almost longer than the story itself. The description tells the reader just about everything about this story. Madison is a woman who has an almost fiance when she meets Constantine. There is something dark and hot between them from the moments they spend in a dark room together talking. So much so that although they never see one another, they almost instantly recognize one another when meeting at a different time and place.

Like many of Stuart’s heroes, Constantine is not heroic but rather dark and deadly. There is nothing soft and caring about him except for what he feels for Madison, but readers and Madison never get that softness. For many readers, this story will be a hard pass because of the darkness of the antihero, but Stuart has a following for a reason: her heroes are incredibly hard and dark, but the heroine is someone that they are willing for whom they are willing to change the world.

WORTH MENTIONING: This short, dark novella has violence and sex intertwined, so readers should be aware.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RISK THE NIGHT is a short story that takes place in the Ice universe. It is a standalone that doesn’t rely on anything from the prior books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book five stars.


Review: Tangled Lies

Review: Tangled LiesTangled Lies by Anne Stuart
Published by Harlequin Books Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 255

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this book as an early Anne Stuart hero. I understand that some people might be offended by the heroine having feelings for her “brother” but as it was obvious that he wasn’t, I wasn’t bothered. I like the ambiguity of whether the hero is good or bad. The negative is that the heroine is not as well developed as later Stuart books.

THE STORY: Rachel Chandler comes to Hawaii to find her brother she hasn’t seen for fifteen years. Her brother, however, is a haunted man to whom Rachel feels an unnatural attraction. (Of course, the man is not her brother, which one might expect from this being a mainstream romance). Dangerous events threaten Rachel, and she needs to figure out who to trust.

OPINION: This is Stuart experimenting with another hero who has ambiguous motivations. She perfected this in the Ice series, but here the story is not as well developed, and neither are the characters. At the time this book was published in 1984, it would have been so different from other category romances. Stuart is an author who broke boundaries, and this book is attempted to go into the darker parts of romance.

Many of the taboo books now are from the Anne Stuart tree of writers. But here, she is interested in messing with the expected narrative of category romances. For much of the book, neither the heroine nor the reader knows the hero’s motives and who he is in the story. In subverting the trustworthiness of the hero, the book allows the reader to question whether it is a good idea for the heroine to get involved with him.

I liked how Stuart upends the expected story, but I didn’t think the heroine was strong enough here. She was a bit meek for my interest. Later Stuart books had stronger heroines. This book can have benefitted from Rachel being more assertive earlier in the story. The book is a bit bonkers, but I liked the twists in the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: TANGLED LIES is one of Anne Stuart’s early books. She perfected the hero who has ambiguous motives and might be the villain as sh


STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Return to Christmas

Review: Return to ChristmasReturn to Christmas by Anne Stuart
Published by Impeccably Demure Press on November 12, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Historical, Time Travel
Pages: 316

FINAL DECISION: This was an enjoyable story that felt “old fashioned” in a good way – perhaps classic is a good word. The time jump to the 1940s and getting a mix of modern and history was a fun read. The story made me happy and is a definite feel good holiday story.

THE STORY: Madison Simcoe finds herself living an unfulfilling life and she’s had enough of the harassment she has had to deal with at work. She decides to visit Macy’s during the Christmas season and finds herself in transported 1947. There she meets Johnny Larson who has returned from the war haunted by what he did there. Johnny works at Macy’s and is grumpy towards the woman who invades his life. Madison needs to find a way back to 2020 but finds a deep connection to the people in the past.

OPINION: This book had the comfort of watching one of those old holiday movies. Iconic imagery, a sweet romance with characters who are good people, and a special magical bit of help in the end. It’s the kind of story that feels like it should be read on a cold winter’s day in front of a fire with a cup of hot cocoa.

I liked these two characters. Madison/Molly is a woman who feels empty in her present place and time. After traveling to the past, she finds meaning in her life with the right person. I especially liked how she sees parallels in her challenges in both times.

Johnny is a man who is broken but does his best to do good even while being a crusty recluse. I thought that the interactions with Molly and Johnny were the smart interactions that are in classic 1940s films.

The story was fun and definitely festive. Lovers of classic romantic films or time travel romances will like this. While there is definitely some heat, it is not as explicit of some of Stuart’s other stories. I will add this book to my holiday story rotation.

WORTH MENTIONING: Content warning for sexual harassment and attempted sexual assault.


STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: On Thin Ice

Review: On Thin IceOn Thin Ice (Ice, #6) by Anne Stuart
Series: Ice #6
on September 15, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense

Good Adventure Romance

THE STORY: Elizabeth Pennington is an American aid worker in a small war torn South American country. When she is kidnapped by revolutionaries, she ends up meeting Finn MacGowan who is also a captive. Finn is a Committee operative who has been kept captive for three years and is ready to escape. He believe the Committee, a covert multinational anti-terrorist organization, has abandoned him and he intends on escaping and getting revenge. When escaping, he reluctantly ends up with Beth as a companion and they must avoid those who want to kill them and find out who is trying to use Finn to draw out the former head of the Committee.

OPINION: This book is a constant adventure. There are betrayals and murders and dangerous thugs. Beth and Finn have a contentious relationship and are always on the edge of love and hate. The entire book is intense including the romance. I especially like how this book wraps up loose ends from the prior Ice novels. I am a big fan of Stuart’s type of hero who is dangerous and sometimes especially dangerous to the heroine. Here, Finn is not as close to killing Beth as other of Stuart’s anti-heroes are with their heroines. That gives this book more of a typical adventure suspense romance. The characters are sharply drawn and well defined. Although filled with adventure, the story is always centered around the characters which is what I like best about these books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Stuart wrote this book to give closure to what happened to MacGowan after the events in ICE STORM even though her original publisher did not want any other Ice series books.

FINAL DECISION: I like this book. It is different from others in the series although Finn is just as dangerous as the other men in the Ice series. The action adventure was thrilling and as a result the romance was intense. I also really enjoyed the update on my favorites from the Ice series as well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ON THIN ICE is the sixth book in the Ice Series. It can be read as a standalone although there are characters and background that comes from the prior books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Fire and Ice

Review: Fire and IceFire and Ice (Ice, #5) by Anne Stuart
Series: Ice #5
Published by Harlequin MIRA Genres: Romantic Suspense

My Absolute Favorite of the Series

“He’d taken one look at her and felt his world begin to crumble away.”

THE STORY: Reno is the grandson of a Japanese mobster. His cousin is an operative for the Committee, a covert operations group, which Reno has recently worked with as well. Jilly Lovitz is the sister of the wife of Reno’s cousin. When some deadly people come to kill Reno’s cousin, Reno has to rescue Jilly. Jilly and Reno had met before and neither has been able to forget the other. As Reno and Jilly run for their lives, international killers and dangers closer to home are revealed.

OPINION: I love this book. Full of adventure and excitement, it also has one of the sweetest romances between two prickly people who fight and argue and fall in love. It’s not sweet in the typical sense, but somehow Reno and Jilly are sweet and funny in a strange way. This book and its characters feels different. Punked out gothic outfits for disguises, the immersion in the Japanese pop culture. The book feels youthful and playful even while the storyline is deadly and dangerous. It is an interesting combination and definitely unique. It’s not a typical book or hero but it is fun, exciting and romantic.

WORTH MENTIONING: Reno is definitely not my usual type of hero: tattooed, bright red dyed hair and unearthly contact lenses. But by the end of the book, I adored him. Younger and less hardened than the other heroes in the Ice series, Reno is more irreverent and in a twisted way, sweeter than the others. At the same time he is a seriously deadly man as well.

FINAL DECISION: FIRE AND ICE is on my favorite’s list because Reno is a hero that I never expected to love. The fact that his and Jilly’s story is so exciting and fun and unexpected makes this a book that I love to reread.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FIRE AND ICE is the fifth book in the Ice Series. This book can be read as a standalone but is closely connected with ICE BLUE and would probably be best read after that book.



Review: Ice Storm

Review: Ice StormIce Storm (Ice, #4) by Anne Stuart
Series: Ice #4
Published by MIRA on November 1, 2007
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 347

Great Adventure Romance With Intrigue and Unexpected Twists

“But she had killed him once. She wouldn’t hesitate to kill him again.”

THE STORY: Isobel Lambert is the head of the Committee, a group based in Britain which attempts to thwart terrorist groups. Isobel is known as a sleek, cold, dangerous professional. She is reaching the limit of her tolerance of this life, however, and the young, vulnerable girl she was keeps showing through. Seventeen years ago, that young girl killed the man she spent two weeks in France with. Unknown to her, he survived and became the terrorist Serafin who makes a deal with her bosses at the Comnmittee. She has to save him and thus discovers that he is man she loved and hated and thought she had killed.

OPINION: I am a big fan of Stuart’s anti-heroes who are always on the edge of being the villain. Here, Isobel and Killian are both anti-heroes of a sort. They are a danger to one another even as they rely upon one another to reach safety. Both are dark characters who have killed and live in a shadowy world. The moral line of what is right and wrong is complicated and blurry here. I especially liked the interweaving of the past and present stories such that secrets are revealed in the past which illuminate the present. Isobel and Killian are an interesting combination. The constant danger and lack of truth between them makes their story fascinating and complex. I also especially like the softening of Isobel without making her weak. She remains a professional and yet readers are allowed to see her deep caring for her comrades and eventually also for Killian. As a fan of the Ice series, I also really liked seeing past characters (I won’t spoil who) and this time we get an update on their lives which was satisfying.


FINAL DECISION: The story of two people who both lead deadly lives, I loved how the book is romantic and yet not at all sentimental. I loved the interactions between Isobel and Killian.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ICE STORM is the fourth book in the Ice series. It can be read as a standalone although I think because it deals with and includes characters from the entire series, it will be better appreciated when read after the other books of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Ice Blue

Review: Ice BlueIce Blue by Anne Stuart
Series: Ice #3
Published by Harlequin MIRA Genres: Romantic Suspense

Thrilling, Dangerous Romantic Suspense

“He really didn’t know what he’d do Kiss her. Shoot her. She was making him crazy, and he couldn’t afford to let that happen.”

THE STORY: Summer Hawthorne, a museum curator, is kidnapped over a Japanese urn given to her by her beloved nanny. She ends up rescued by Takashi O’Brien, a man who might be more dangerous than those who kidnapped her. Taka is a man who has been given the order to kill Summer in order to keep the secrets that she holds: the location of temple ruins in Japan to be used by a cult to bring about mass destruction. Taka and Summer both have darkness within them and somehow they recognize one another even as the story tips between Summer’s certain death and Taka’s desire to rescue her.

OPINION: I absolutely love this book. Summer and Taka are one of my favorite couples in this series. There is a dearth of Asian heroes and I especially liked the interracial aspects of this story. The two of them have a dangerous edge throughout the story. Taka almost kills Summer multiple times and even though he knows he must, he continually finds reasons to stop. Summer is overwhelmed by the events happening to her and yet she demonstrates and incredible amount of strength. At times, there is so much tenderness between them even as they both fight against it. The action and adventure in this story is non-stop and even apart from the emotional story between these characters, it is a fun ride. Stuart has a different type of hero. Taka is deadly, not only to others but also the heroine. What I like best about this book is that there is also tenderness from Taka despite himself. This book also has some hot airplane sex and who can resist that?

WORTH MENTIONING: Adore, adore Taka’s cousin Reno who has his own book in FIRE AND ICE. Readers of this book might guess who the heroine is.

FINAL DECISION: This is my second favorite book of the series. Filled with action and the type of dark anti-hero that Stuart is known for, Taka believes himself immune from love, but he can’t resist Summer.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ICE BLUE is the third book in the Ice Series. It can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters that might remain mysterious if the reader is not familiar with the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Cold as Ice

Review: Cold as IceCold As Ice (Ice, #2) by Anne Stuart
Series: Ice #2
Published by Harlequin MIRA on September 17, 2012
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 371

Dark Romantic Thriller

“He’d been a gray ghost before, now he was a fallen angel. The man was a chameleon, capable of turning into anything he wanted, and he assured her those persona were lethal. And she believed him.”

THE STORY: Genevieve Spenser is a high powered attorney who believes she has given up her idealistic views. When she comes to get signatures on a document for an important client of the firm, she ends up in the middle of a kidnapping perpetrated by the assistant of her client. Peter Jensen at first appears bland and non-threatening, but Genevieve learns that Peter is extremely dangerous and deadly. Peter knows that the innocent Ms. Spenser is likely to be a casualty in the Committee’s attempt to prevent more damaging events. From the beginning, however, Peter is unwilling to sacrifice Genevieve even though he knows he will likely have no choice.

OPINION: I just love Stuart’s anti-heroes who are especially good in the Ice Series. This book is filled with action and adventure and reluctant romance. This is definitely not your sweet loving book. This book is raw and harsh and sometimes it is difficult to see how these characters can have a happy ending. Peter is a highly trained killer and he knows that there is no clear line between the good guys and the bad guys. Peter almost immediately doesn’t want to have Genevieve be a victim. He is known as the Iceman and she begins to melt him despite himself. Genevieve believes herself jaded and cold but doesn’t realize that she is an infant compared to the dangerous people she encounters here. A reader will not get an intense emotional connection between these characters. At times their relationship seems more hate than love, but somehow it works. Despite both their wishes, these characters fall in love and form a strong bond.

WORTH MENTIONING: Stuart has a particular style with her heroes who are killers and are always on the edge of being dangerous to the heroine.

FINAL DECISION: Love, love Stuart’s ruthless anti-heroes. This is a tremendous romantic thriller with action and adventure galore.

CONNECTED BOOKS: COLD AS ICE is the second book in the Ice series about the covert agency known as the Committee. While there is some overlap of characters, COLD AS ICE can be read independent of the first book in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Black Ice

Review: Black IceBlack Ice (Ice, #1) by Anne Stuart
Series: Ice #1
Published by MIRA on April 26, 2005
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 377

Fabulous: Action Packed Dark and Romantic Thriller

“What she needed was a little more sex and violence in her own life.”

“Be careful what you wish for…”

THE STORY: Chloe Underwood is an American in Paris. She is a rebel in her family of doctors. Chloe cooks and learns languages. She is working as a book translator when her roommate asks her to cover for her as a translator for a business meeting. Chloe ends up in a house full of international business people. There she meets Bastian Toussaint who she is immediately attracted to. Bastian, however, is a married womanizer and not matter what her attraction, Chloe is determined to avoid him. Bastian, however, has no intention of avoiding Chloe. Bastian is an agent with The Committee, an anti-terrorist organization. In Bastian’s world, there is little difference between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. He wonders who Chloe is working for and intends to find out her secrets. Then he will decide whether or not he will have to kill her.

OPINION: BLACK ICE is a romantic thriller. There is serious danger for the main characters throughout the novel. Bastian is a dangerous man. He has a dark past and present and has no use for Chloe. The truth is, however, that he is unable to resist her even though she is not trying to capture him. Their romance is raw and dark and yet there is something incredibly attractive and sweet about how the light of Chloe seeps into Bastian and changes him. I love this book. It is one of those books that I read so quickly because it is action packed. The balance between the action and the romance is well done. The book is also hot as Chloe and Bastian burn up the pages together.

WORTH MENTIONING: I am a great fan of the type of deadly dark heroes that Stuart writes. Admittedly, such a hero who walks the edge of loving and killing the heroine is not for everyone.

FINAL DECISION: I adore this book. Bastian is the type of dark tortured hero that a woman might not want in real life, but who is fantastic to read about.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLACK ICE is the first book in the Ice series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Heartless

Review: HeartlessHeartless (The House of Rohan) (Volume 5) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #5
Published by Impeccably Demure Press on May 14, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 316

FINAL DECISION: Loved the couple was completely lukewarm about the plot of the book which seemed to have some pointless complications. Struggled through the first half and enjoyed the second.

THE STORY: Emma Cadbury is having a second life as a surgeon after years of being the youngest madam in London and a prostitute before that. What she doesn’t need is the complication of Brandon Rohan. Emma met Brandon when he was recovering from serious war injuries and she urged him to live. Several years have passed and Brandon’s memories of those times have been clouded by his prior addiction to opium. When someone tries to murder Emma, Brandon is determined to protect Emma even if she wants to stay away from the man she knows is not for her.

OPINION: This book was okay but a disappointment to my expectations. I read the prior book years ago and I had anticipated Emma and Brandon’s book so much. While I still loved Emma and Brandon together, I was greatly disappointed by the story in this book.

The entire first half of the book was a slog to get through. There was not enough of Emma and Brandon’s relationship and a lot of stuff that was intended to complicate their relationship and ended up being annoying and abandoned by the end. There is the “other woman” story that went absolutely nowhere but was the primary reason that Emma and Brandon couldn’t get together quickly.

The murder attempts didn’t work as well in the beginning as the setup.

The second half of the book was much better. When the focus turns to just Emma and Brandon, the pace picked up, the intensity of the character’s relationship increased and I enjoyed reading the second half very much.

So this is a book that ultimately ended up okay for me, but I didn’t enjoy the first half of the journey which seemed mostly pointless.

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked the epilogue, but can’t help but wish that we actually got to see the events.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HEARTLESS is the fifth book in the House of Rohan series.  While each book in this series is about a different couple, there are overlapping characters. Indeed, the story of this book began in the prior book in the series, SHAMELESS, and I think this book is better read after that book (even though the events are summarized here).

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.