Review: Face Off

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: Face OffFace Off (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #3) by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #3
Published by Headline on November 29, 2018
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 416
Goodreads
five-stars

 

“He’s put in the time, done the work. He was almost ready to make his move.”

FINAL DECISION: Simply fabulous! A book that pays off the suspense promises of the prior books in the series and adds character development and a complicated and delicious romance.

THE STORY: Dr. Evelyn Talbot finds that the stable life she is building in Alaska is crumbling as she is getting pressure from her family to return to the safety of Boston, her boyfriend wants her to make a commitment to him, and the demon from her past has apparently arrived in Alaska to finish what he started when he tried to murder her when she was sixteen. When the bodies of two women are discovered, both Evelyn and Amarok realize that the confrontation they have been expecting may have finally arrived.

OPINION: I’m so happy that this book didn’t disappoint. It’s always my fear when I read these books that build upon one another that I might find that the series does not live up to its potential or that it will squander all of the buildup. I’m happy that this book actually was better than I expected.

In approaching this book, I had two things that I wanted: (1) some resolution on the Jasper storyline (since he has been stalking Evelyn throughout the series); and (2) some development with the relationship between Evelyn and Amarok. Happily, this book satisfied these two and gave me more.

In a story that makes me jump at noises at night, the suspense is ratcheted up in this book. There are plenty of twists and turns and scares in this story. Readers of the series know that by the end of the prior book in the series, Evelyn’s high school boyfriend, attempted murderer, and serial killer, Jasper now is working at the serial killer prison that Evelyn spearheaded. Having undergone extensive plastic surgery and the passage of twenty years has allowed Jasper (now using an alias) to infiltrate Evelyn’s world without her being aware of who he actually is. The scenes with Evelyn and Jasper together were creepy and filled with tension.

There are dead ends and dead bodies and plenty of tension and enough fearful possibilities to make me want to put the book down to get an emotional break while at the same time wanting to turn page after page to find out what happens. This book was especially good because things happened that I did not expect and the lack of predictability kept me interested in every twist along the way.

And that is all I’m going to write on the suspense plot because I don’t want to give anything away.

On the romance front things are finally coming to a crisis point between Evelyn and Amarok. For the first time since the early days of their relationship, all the pressures are finally threatening their relationship. Jasper’s continual and looming threat, Evelyn’s family wanting her to return home, Evelyn’s relationship fears, Amarok’s ex-girlfriend, and the increasing number of murders that have occurred in relation to Hanover House are finally weighing down on the couple. This crisis point begins tearing at the fabric that has kept Evelyn and Amarok comfortable in recent months. Now they have to change and grow together or apart. I loved the examination of the fracturing of their relationship and this ended up being my favorite part of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: I was concerned that this book might be the end of the series, but I was excited to see that there is more planned.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FACE OFF is the third book in the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles. This book focuses on the story between Evelyn and the serial killer who tried to kill her when she was sixteen. While that story has been a part of all the books to this point, this book brings that story to the forefront. While it is not necessary to have read the other book in the series to enjoy this one (the prior events are summarized for the reader), I think that reading the prior books makes this book much deeper and enjoyable.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

 

five-stars

Review: Shelter in Place

Review: Shelter in PlaceShelter in Place by Nora Roberts
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 29, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 439
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: A difficult and timely subject. A mass shooting alters the lives of everyone connected to the events. Simone and Reed alter and rebuild their lives and eventually find one another. A nice romance combined with the suspense of someone who wants to continue the body count.

THE STORY: On a summer’s evening, three young men execute a horrible crime in a mall and theater in Maine. Simone Knox, a teenager, ends up hiding in the bathroom at the theater calling 911. Reed Quartermaine, a college student, is in the mall when the shooting takes place. That event changes both of their lives. Their struggles eventually bring them in orbit of one another while someone else is eliminating survivors.

OPINION: I generally prefer my books heavy on the romance with some suspense thrown in. This book is much more a suspense and story of rebirth after a tragedy, but the story works so well in bringing Reed and Simone together that I really enjoyed this one.

I enjoyed seeing these characters build their lives and find one another. The story between them was sweet and sexy (even if they don’t meet until well into the story), and I was intrigued for every page and turn of their story.

The characters were well drawn. The varying reactions to the tragedy not only for Reed and Simone but also for their friends, family and even strangers kept the story grounded and compelling.

The suspense story worked well for me but I really appreciated that while it was important, it did not overshadow for me the relationships of the characters. The book ends up being about hope, about overcoming tragedy. The violence ends up being a part of the story, but not the most important part.

It’s been a long time since one of Roberts’ standalone books has interested me so much. This one will be on my keeper shelf.

WORTH MENTIONING: Although the book deals with a violent subject, I thought the depiction of violence was not gratuitous or overly graphic.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHELTER IN PLACE is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-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
Goodreads
three-stars

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.

 

three-stars

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
Goodreads
three-stars

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.

 

three-stars

Review: Promise Not to Tell

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: Promise Not to TellPromise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: ,
Published by Berkley on January 2nd 2018
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 304
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A solid suspense story but I enjoyed most the relationship between these two damaged and vulnerable people.

THE STORY: Virginia Troy has struggled with the after effects of her childhood in a cult where the members deaths were orchestrated by the cult leader (who is presumed dead, but might not be). When a former cult member ends up dead under mysterious circumstances, Virginia turns to a private investigator to help learn the truth. Cabot Sutter also was a child in the cult and he also is still haunted by the events. When the investigation draws them closer together, Virginia and Cabot need to figure out who is murdering people and also whether they can overcome their pasts to build a relationship together.

OPINION: I liked this book because there was a renewed focus on the characters over the suspense plot. Not that there isn’t an interesting plot, but I read these books for the relationship and so I enjoyed seeing these characters maneuver around one another.

Cabot and Virginia are both haunted by their past and in one another they find acceptance and understanding. I liked that their relationship is based upon their mutual problems that have separated them from other lovers in the past. However, that is really the only tension between them. Besides the suspense story, there is little drama in the relationship.

I liked the focus on the created family and how these survivors have dealt with a past that could have destroyed them all.

The suspense story has many twists and turns and just when it seems that the story is resolved, things go off in a different direction. Things fit together but there are many layers which was enjoyable.

I was especially excited by the ending of the book which previews the drama that is going to be present in the next book.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book also sets up the scenario for the next book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PROMISE NOT TO TELL is the second book in an apparent trilogy about three brothers. I say apparent because the publisher has chosen to not promote the fact that these books are connected (probably to not turn off casual readers who don’t want to start with book 2). Goodreads has indicated these books as being the Cutler, Sutter and Salinas series so I will go with that. This book can be read as a standalone, but there are definite continuing storylines and overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: Break the Night

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: Break the NightBreak the Night by Anne Stuart
Published by Bell Bridge Books on June 8th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A gothic-type romance where the line between the hero being the “hero” or being the one who threatens the heroine is blurred, this book has an intriguing concept and at times a very interesting plot. Not as well developed as Stuart’s later books, this one is still a fun and only slightly scary read.

THE STORY: Jack the Ripper is terrorizing Los Angeles. Lizzie Stride has become involved because her custom masks are being used by the Ripper in the murders. J.R. Damien is haunted by the murders and he fears that he might have a closer connection to the murders than anyone expects. Lizzie might be the next target for the Ripper and Damien and Lizzie work together to protect Lizzie. But what are their connections to the murders?

OPINION: Anne Stuart is known for her anti-heroes that walk the edge between being the hero and being the villain. This book also has that device although I wasn’t as convinced as I should have been that Damien was the villain — but he did some atrocious things. And at times he treated the heroine abominably.

Yet, I always enjoy the Gothic feel of these types of stories. The book combines a murder and suspense story with a creepy feel that always keeps me unbalanced as I read the story. I know this type of story is not for everyone and isn’t even the best example of Stuart’s work. The Jack the Ripper story was approached in a different manner. This book’s best feature is it’s story concept. The characters were not as developed as I like (especially Lizzie who we never really know much about) and there are some gaping plot holes, but the entire feel of the story led me to enjoy the journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book was originally published in the early 1990s.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BREAK THE NIGHT is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

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

three-half-stars

Review: Cowboy’s Legacy

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: Cowboy’s LegacyCowboy's Legacy (Cahill Ranch #3) by B.J. Daniels
Series: Cahill Ranch #3
Published by Harlequin Books on November 28th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This might be my favorite B.J. Daniels book I’ve read. I really liked the combination of the romance and the suspense story. This book is more suspense than romance, but I really liked the “romance in review” way of going through Flint and Maggie’s story.

THE STORY: Sheriff Flint Cahill’s girlfriend Maggie disappears just as the two are moving in together. Flint knows that his crazy ex-wife must be involved, but Flint is forbidden from being involved in the case. The question is whether or not Maggie will be found in time.

OPINION: This book covers the kidnapping of Maggie. The focus is primarily on the search for what happened to Maggie and Flint trying desperately to find her. As might be expected with B.J. Daniels’ stories, there is a strong focus on the suspense and mystery aspects of the story.

But there is also an interesting method of exploring how much Flint and Maggie mean to one another as they are separated. Through flashbacks, thoughts and explanations, the relationship between Flint and Maggie is explored and experienced by the reader. I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance I liked so much where the main characters spend so much time apart.

The drama and suspense works really well here and for readers of the series, quite a few stories are nicely wrapped up by the end.

As a matter of full disclosure, this book isn’t a romance in the sense that most people might expect. While the story explores Flint and Maggie’s story, they are already together as the book begins and there is quite a bit of their story in the prior books in the series (although reviewed here for new readers).

I just liked the whole sense of the book. It’s construction felt different than others I’ve read and I liked that about it.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book seems to wrap up the overarching storylines from the series so it seems in some way as the end of the series. However, there are a number of characters who are available for their own stories so I hope we see more of them in the future.

CONNECTED BOOKS: COWBOY’S LEGACY is the third book in the Cahill Ranch series. This book can be read as a standalone, but this story has been percolating in the prior two books so reading those will give the background to this one. I think that this book should be read as part of the series to get all the nuances.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: Hello Again

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: Hello AgainHello Again (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #2) by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #2
Published by Headline on November 2nd 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 352
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is the best of the series so far. Mixing the romance, Evelyn’s personal demons, creepy serial killer mysteries, danger and some serious suspense, this book is satisfying in so many ways, but definitely left me desperately wanting the next book.

THE STORY:  Dr. Evelyn Talbot is continuing her work with serial killers at Hanover House in Alaska determined to uncover a way to identify the people who become serial killer. Her newest inmate is known as the Zombie Maker who defies many of the standard expectations of serial killers — but he also reminds her of her ex-boyfriend Jasper who killed her friends and almost herself and has been on the loose for two decades. When another friend of Evelyn is killed with the Zombie Maker’s signature the question arises: was the wrong man convicted of the Zombie Maker’s crimes or is Jasper hunting Evelyn again.

OPINION: I’ve been a fan of this series since I read the prequel a couple of years ago. The story was just creepy enough and had enough romance to keep me interested, but this book explodes the story. Everything feels bigger and more urgent here. The series has really hit its stride now that the setup portion has been completed. This book is the best so far.

This book takes place about a year after the events in the previous book. Evelyn is still running Hanover House and more serial killers are coming all the time. Not to give anything away, but this book deals with the question of the Zombie Maker serial killer and whether he is guilty or not and the similar murders which might indicate either that the man incarcerated at Hanover House might be innocent or that Evelyn’s personal demon is making a move on her again.

This story seamlessly blends and uses to good suspense purposes the questions of the newest killings and three possible suspects. Some is revealed here but other parts of left to the ongoing and overarching storylines. Frankly, I was frightened and creeped out by much of the last third of the book — which was exactly what I was expecting.

This book is really a suspense book with some romance — and I really liked the balance here. This is Evelyn’s personal story and the book never forgets it in service to some suspense storyline. Everything is personal and is all seen from the lens of Evelyn’s life. I like the suspense in this book but I probably wouldn’t have continued to read without the romance between Evelyn and her Alaskan trooper boyfriend Amarok. The two have been seeing one another for a year, but Evelyn still has trust issues and doubts and there are new challenges and hurdles for the two. Despite their serious difficulties, these two are so wonderful together that it manages to balance out all the darkness of the plotline. If I didn’t have the hope of their relationship really working out to a HEA in the end, I think the darkness of the story would have overwhelmed me.

This series has definitely found its footing here and I look forward to the next installment because things are getting really interesting and scary.

WORTH MENTIONING: Oh when will the next book be out!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HELLO AGAIN is the second novel in the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles. This book has an independent story, but there are overarching storylines in the series. I think this book is better read after the prequel and first book in the series because the relationships between the characters is more clearly defined.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

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

five-stars

Review: Dark Horse

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: Dark HorseDark Horse (Whitehorse, Montana: The McGraw Kidnapping, #1) by B.J. Daniels
Series: , , The McGraw Kidnapping #1
Published by Harlequin Intrigue on August 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 256
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Much more mystery/romantic suspense than romance, I enjoyed this book for what it is — an introduction to the mystery of the disappearance of the McGraw twins.  The romance was a nice addition, but certainly did not carry the story.

THE STORY: True crime writer Nikki St. James to write about (and intending to solve) the kidnapping of the McGraw twins.  It has been twenty-five years since they disappeared and although some believe that the twins are dead and that the mother and her lover committed the crime, Nikki wants to prove there is another explanation.  Nikki has gotten the father to agree to talk, but his eldest son, Cull McGraw, doesn’t trust Nikki and wants to protect his family.  Sparks fly and old secrets present new dangers.

OPINION:  This book is really a mystery book with a side of romance.  I thought the mystery is well set out and very intriguing.  In fact, the mystery is my favorite of the B.J. Daniels books I have read so far.  I thought the entire set up was creepy and definitely a well constructed and interesting conflict.  I felt like I was in the middle of an Agatha Christie book with all the suspicious characters and secrets.

The book really is focused on Nikki as the “detective” of the story.  She has her own secrets which have sent her into the investigation of the twins’ disappearance.  Cull is the dutiful eldest son who falls for Nikki.  There really isn’t much else about their characters, but there was enough to keep me in the game as I was far more intrigued by the mystery than the romance.

This is a short category romance so things happen quickly and I was impressed that the mystery itself was so well set out.

I look forward to the next book in the series with another romance (but knowing Daniels’ style, there will be more about the mystery than the romance and that’s okay).

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book does NOT resolve the mystery of the kidnapping of the twins in its entirety.  There are some answers, but clearly there is much more to learn.  That is the overarching story so you will have to read the rest of the series for that to be resolved.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DARK HORSE is the first book in the Whitehouse, Montana: The McGraw Kidnapping series.  I haven’t read the other Whitehouse, Montana books so I don’t know how closely related the series are.  I didn’t feel that I missed anything, however, in starting with this book.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: Outlaw’s Honor

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: Outlaw’s HonorOutlaw's Honor (Cahill Ranch #2) by B.J. Daniels
Series: Cahill Ranch #2
Published by Harlequin Books on May 30th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  The series improves as the characters fall into their places. I enjoyed this book as part of the series and I especially loved Darby who is sweet and honorable.  The story slowly unwinds the motives of the characters and I enjoyed the journey.

THE STORY:  Darby Cahill has a quiet life running the bar he and his twin sister own in a small town in Montana. While attending a fair, he sees a woman who shakes his foundations.  Ironically, that same woman tries to pickpocket him later. He is even more shocked when that woman, Mariah Ayres arrives at his bar asking for a job. He hires her while the two dance around what actually happened and what Mariah’s motives are.  Darby becomes more concerned when he discovers that Darby is running and is in danger.

OPINION:  This is a slowly developing romance that is combined with a suspense story.  The story unfolds as the characters motives become known.  The way that Daniels structures this series there is development on various storylines (upcoming romances and overarching mysteries).  A lot happens in this book on various levels.

I enjoyed the mystery in this one and the continuing storyline of the series.  My favorite part of this story is Darby who is simply adorable as a hero.  He is a good man who falls for Mariah instantly — love at first sight — and despite all the circumstances, Darby cannot help but do everything he can for Mariah.

Mariah’s story is complex and only revealed later in the book.  I won’t disclose her story here because part of the development of the story is the questioning of her motives. The romance here is sweet and most of the drama of the series is from the mystery and the external danger.

This book advances the overarching story in the series and I can’t wait to find out more.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The story about Darby’s brother is the one I have been waiting for. More happens here for those who have been following the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  OUTLAW’S HONOR is the second book in the Cahill Ranch series. While the story here is independent as to the romance, there is an overarching storyline mystery that continues from the first book.  It’s better to read this series as a whole because there are unanswered questions after this book as well.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars