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: Immortal in Death

Review: Immortal in DeathImmortal in Death (In Death, #3) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #3
Published by Berkley Books on July 1st 1996
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 320

“Getting married was murder.”

FINAL DECISION: The book is one of the best blend between the personal as Eve tries to exonerate her friend from suspicion of murder and Eve battling her own personal demons. Twisty and personal.

THE STORY: Eve is racing against time as the woman who is her best friend (gosh, that sounds juvenile) is accused of the murder of the ex of her current lover. Eve must find out who killed the famous model.

OPINION: First, to get the mystery out of the way.  This story is compelling because of Eve being driver to solve the crime to save her friend. This is a good one. Plenty of suspects and the ultimate solution worked very well — especially upon re-reading where the clues are obvious. Good pacing and good set up makes this one of the mysteries that I really enjoyed in the series.

But for me, the value of this book is the leap that the relationship between Eve and Roarke takes. As part of Eve’s past is revealed, I loved seeing not only how Eve deals with it, but also the effect it has on Roarke.

“She was, he thought, capable, strong, and resilient. Whatever wounds she had, she would live with. She didn’t need him to heal, but to accept.”

For me, this is what makes this series so effective. Eve is strong and Roarke only helps her be even stronger and more centered. But she is independent and strong on her own. This works so well in the series. This book really begins to delve more deeply into their connection which grows beyond the cop and (former) criminal rich guy trope.

One of the essential books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Eve and Roarke are planning their wedding and some of Eve’s hidden past is revealed.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IMMORTAL IN DEATH is the third book in the In Death series. While the mystery in this book is completely self-contained, I think the overarching storyline dealing with Eve and Roarke makes these books so I recommend reading the series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: A Perilous Undertaking

Review: A Perilous UndertakingA Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell, #2) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #2
Published by Berkley Books on January 10th 2017
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 338

FINAL DECISION: Very strong followup to the first book in the series. The integration of the personal relationship and the mystery is better done here and the emotional intensity of the characters’ story is a highlight.

THE STORY: Veronica is asked to prove the innocence of an art patron who is set to hang for the murder of his mistress. But there are a lot of secrets involved in this case. From the identity of the person asking for Veronica’s help to hidden reasons why the condemned won’t defend himself, Veronica and her partner Stoker are steeped in secrets as they race to find the real killer.

OPINION: After the first book in the series, this one feels like it has hit a groove. The combination of the mystery and the relationship between Veronica and Stoker is well balanced and compelling all the way through.

Readers of the first book will recall that Veronica is an independent woman ahead of her time. She is opinionated, has made a career for herself, unapologetically takes foreign lovers, and is sarcastic and at times caustic in her tone. She is also clever and observant and a scientist. Even as Veronica remains true to her character, there is clearly a connection between her and Stoker. And I love the relationship between her and Stoker. There is simmering passion, but also real respect and annoyance with one another that is not based on passion at all.

Here, more is revealed about Stoker’s relationship with his family and Veronica continues to deal with the fallout of her family connection revealed in A CURIOUS BEGINNING. I liked that the mystery was developed throughout the book and at the same time the characters remain the focus of the book.

This book reminds me of the some of the best slow simmering man/woman mystery couples. There is an attraction but also verbal jousting and respect and at times bubbling resentment. These two are not going to quickly indulge in some quick passion because what is between them is too dangerous to treat lightly.

This book is funny and quite enjoyable. I can’t wait for the next in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Opium indulgence results in some interesting advancements.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING is the second book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery in this book is completely self-contained and thus the book can be read as a standalone. However, I recommend reading the series in order for the continuing personal storylines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: A Curious Beginning

Review: A Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell, #1) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #1
Published by Berkley Books on July 12th 2016
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 368

FINAL DECISION: A mystery where most of the book it taken up with the developing relationship between Veronica and Stoker. There is no overt romance at this point, but it seems likely that these two who develop a investigative partnership might have some slow burn romance in the future.

THE STORY: Veronica Speedwell is on her own after the death of her aunt. She is now free to pursue her interests out of the country. Veronica is a butterfly hunter and a woman with the taste for foreign affairs (with men). Just at that moment, a man breaks into her cottage and she ends up traveling to London with a German baron who claims that he is going to protect her by delivering her into the hands of his friend Stoker. Stoker is also a natural historian and has many secrets. When the German baron is killed Veronica and Stoker are forced to solve the murder before Stoker is arrested as the prime suspect.

OPINION: The highlight of this book is without a doubt the characters of Veronica and Stoker and their burgeoning relationship. The two are both misfits in the world and thus have a commonality that is interesting.

Veronica is an independent and forward thinking woman in a time where women’s roles are beginning to change but still constrained by convention. Veronica is opinionated and outspoken. She believes in free love. She believes in women’s education and self determination. She isn’t ashamed by any of her oddities.

Stoker is a haunted man. We learn some of his history here and despite his attempts, he is fascinated and frustrated by Veronica. He is a grumpy scientist and adventurer who has been broken and this adventure begins a sort of healing for him.

The tension and sexual interest between these two is high in this book, but the story is satisfied with the slow burn and getting to know one another. For these characters, that is perfect and demonstrates that this relationship (whether it is sexual or not) is going to be important to both of them. Neither fits in the box that they expect.

For me, the mystery was satisfying, but secondary to the introduction of these characters and the development of their partnership. I did expect some of the mystery surprises, but I thought that the entire book was well done. I don’t want to give away spoilers so I will leave the mystery at that.

WORTH MENTIONING: Interested in running away to the circus?

CONNECTED BOOKS: A CURIOUS BEGINNING is the first book in the Veronica Speedwell series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Death Below Stairs

Review: Death Below StairsDeath Below Stairs (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #1) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Kat Holloway Murders #1
Published by Berkley Books on January 2nd 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336

FINAL DECISION: A lively main character combined with a far reaching mystery and the presence of a man with many secrets makes this Victorian historical mystery an enjoyable read.

THE STORY: Cook Kat Holloway has found herself a new position which almost immediately embroils her in the murder of one of the servants. Determined to discover who has murdered the young girl, Kat asks for help from her friend/acquaintance Daniel McAdams, a man with a lot of secrets. Kat and Daniel’s search takes them far from the murder of an Irish servant to the possibility of treason.

OPINION: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I began reading mysteries and I always liked the ones with relationships between the “detectives” and this book fits right in that tradition. While the mystery is interesting and keeps the pace of the story lively, what I really love about this book is the strength and independence of Kat and her relationship with the mysterious Daniel.

Kat is strong and lively and I loved reading about her struggles. Unlike most women in historical novels, Kat works hard every day and has a career that she has created for herself. It is interesting to read about her daily life and the status differences “below stairs”. The struggles and limitations on women of all status is emphasized here.

Daniel’s character is also intriguing as he has plenty of secrets that are slowly revealed — although not all of them are uncovered in this book. He is a good match for Kat and his obvious caring and concern for her even while they are friends makes their romance a slow burn but an interesting one.

The cast of characters, which includes the offspring of both Kat and Daniel, are tossed into a high stakes mystery. Like all good murder suspense stories, this one begins with what seems to be an insignificant death and eventually turns into quite a big deal through a series of twisty plot turns.

I enjoyed the mystery as well as the romance in this one. Everything meshed so well so that all the interesting characters were given something important to do in the unfolding plot, but no one seemed out of place. I enjoyed this one and would read it again to see all the little turns that I missed.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a continuing series where the romance between Kat and Daniel is slow moving and part of the continuing storylines of the series with a book emphasis on a particular mystery.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEATH BELOW STAIRS is the first novel in the Kat Holloway Murders series. There is a prequel book that introduces the characters. While it is not necessary to read that novella first, it certainly provides some background to the characters here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via First to Read by applying points that I earned. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.


Review: Someone to Hold

Review: Someone to HoldSomeone to Hold (Westcott, #2) by Mary Balogh
Series: Westcott #2
Published by Berkley Books on February 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 379

FINAL DECISION: Mary Balogh never shies away from difficult romances. With a heroine who is unsympathetic in the first book in the series, I was amazed that I, like the hero, was able to see both sides of the story and fall in love.

THE STORY: Camille Westcott’s world has fallen apart. It has been revealed that her father entered into a bigamous marriage with her mother and although raised as Lady Camille, it turns out that Camilla and her brother and sister are illegitimate and that Camilla has a legitimate older sister who unexpectedly inherits. This turn of fortune has left Camille not knowing who she is and who she will be. Residing in Bath with her grandmother, Camille decides to take a job as a teacher at the orphanage where her sister had been raised and herself was a teacher. At the orphanage, Camille meets Joel Cunningham, a dear friend of Camille’s older sister and a man inclined to dislike the cold Camille. Joel, however, discovers that there are two sides to every story and that Camille is a woman with many facets.

OPINION: Balogh has a wonderful way of taking flawed human characters and allowing the readers to understand and love them. Camille is a character that appears cold and haughty and just so nasty in the first book. This book takes its time revealing her character (as Joel discovers her) and allowing everyone to understand her actions and also to allow her to grow and change. This book, like many others written by Balogh, challenge the readers to fall in love with the characters. There is a call for understanding and compassion for the imperfection of the human spirit.

Joel is a man who is confounded to realize that as the story progresses he can sympathize with both his old friend and Camille — even as Camille and her sister are in conflict. If he can understand and fall for Camille, who is the reader to hold her prior behavior against her? Joel has his own journey in this book as he grew up in the orphanage and is ignorant of his origins. His discovers serve as a counterpoint to Camille’s own journey.

Readers who have explored Balogh’s books before will find familiar ground. There are no huge dramatic moments in this book. This is a deliberate journey through the self-discovery of the main characters. The intense focus on the personal allows the reader to truly understand these characters.

I started out not expecting to like this book (one reason that I delayed for months in reading it), but I ended up really enjoying these characters and their journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: I love all the characters in the Westcott series. We get to see just about everyone and get an update on what is going on in their lives.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SOMEONE TO HOLD is the second book in the Westcott series. While the romance is self-contained in this book, I think the relationships between all the relevant characters is better understood if the first book in the series is read first.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Beauty Like the Night

Review: Beauty Like the NightBeauty Like the Night (Spymasters, #6) by Joanna Bourne
Series: Spymasters #6
Published by Berkley Books on August 1st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 293

FINAL DECISION: The most traditional romance of the Spymasters series, Severine and Raoul’s story is filled with intrigue, danger, violence and great romanticism. If this is the last of the Spymasters, it allows readers one long lingering goodbye.

THE STORY: Severine de Cabrillac, an orphan of Revolutionary France and previously a member of British Intelligence spends her post war years solving crimes around London. Late one night, a man breaks into her home seeking information about his murdered wife and her missing twelve year old daughter. Raoul Deverney has come to Severine because she is one of the few clues he has. When he seeks Severine’s help in discovering the truth about his wife’s murder, the two engage in a dance of secrets and unwanted passions.

OPINION: This book felt more like a traditional romance that the more recent books in this series which sometimes felt like historical fiction because of the depth of the historical context and the darkness in the book. This book feels more traditional because the focus of the book is on London and while there is political intrigue, the focus really feels personal as the story revolves around Raoul’s murdered wife and missing daughter.

Without being obvious or maudlin, this book serves as a wonderful conclusion to the series as we are treated to a great deal of time with the most recent heroes in the series. We get to see the whole gang working together one more time.

Severine is a woman who is strong and has made her own path. The younger sister of Juntine (BLACK HAWK) and the adopted daughter of William Doyle (THE FORBIDDEN ROSE), she has grown up among the spies and intrigues of Meek Street. Determined to avoid being protected by those same men, she ran off to Spain during the War in order to work with British Military Intelligence. That experience left the expected scars on her both physically and emotionally. Now that the war has ended, she has made a life for herself solving crimes in London — especially those where people are falsely accused.  (But she still has a hand in with her family’s business).

Raoul is a man searching for the murderer of his estranged wife and her missing daughter. He also has a great many secrets (which I won’t reveal because that is part of the story). He is sophisticate and incredibly dangerous as Severine recognizes from the start. He is also an incredibly romantic character which I really liked because he is so different from the other heroes in this series.

The story in this book maintains the grittiness of the series, but isn’t quite as dark. In fact, there is some sweetness to the romance that I wasn’t expecting but really enjoyed.

Bourne has stated that this is the last of the Spymasters series. I believe this series was incredibly unique and I will miss the characters. If this is the end, I think that it was a wonderful opportunity to visit old friends again and wrap up things.

WORTH MENTIONING: Lots of appearances here by the men of the series, but not the women.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTY LIKE THE NIGHT is the sixth book in the Spymasters series. This story stands on its own, but the characters from prior books make significant appearances.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Silver Silence

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: Silver SilenceSilver Silence (Psy-Changeling Trinity, #1; Psy-Changeling, #16) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #16, Psy-Changeling Trinity #1
Published by Berkley Books on June 13th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 464

“Welcome to the Age of Trinity.”

“Even after all this time, Silver did not understand bears.”

FINAL DECISION:  Moving the action from San Francisco to Moscow, Singh kicks off the new “season” of the Psy-Changeling series with the compelling story of Silver Mercant, a powerful Psy woman, and the alpha bear shifter, Valentine who breaks through her silent walls.

THE STORY:  Silver Mercant is the uber effective assistant to the most dangerous man in the world and has also taken on being the coordinator for the new worldwide emergency response/humanitarian response group.  She has also acquired an admirer in Valentin Nikolaev, the Changeling Alpha of the StoneWater bear clan.  Valentin has been courting Silver for months — making sure to meet with her instead of her boss, leaving her food and appearing at her apartment unexpectedly.  When an attempt is made on Silver’s life, Valentin makes it his business to help protect Silver.  In a post-silence (aka a world where the intellectual Psy are allowed to feel emotion) Silver must decide whether to break her own Silence to embrace a potential relationship with her self-proclaimed “teddy bear.”

OPINION:  I approached this book with a bit of trepidation.  When an author puts out a book like ALLEGIANCE OF HONOR and specifically states that she is moving to a new stage in a beloved series with a new focus, a reader who loved the original series might be concerned.  I’m happy to report that while this book moves the series in new directions with the introduction of new characters (and changeling groups), this is still the Psy-Changeling series that I love.  And maybe a better version of itself.

“Something always seems to get broken when a group of bears is out to have a good time.”

I’m constantly amazed by the amount of detail and differentiation that Singh is able to create in her Psy-Changeling world.  For the first time, we get to meet the bear changelings in detail.  And, oh, what a wonderful group these are.  Cuddly, messy, outwardly and unabashedly emotional, partying.  These bears are different from the cats and wolves that the series was previously embedded with.  I love how Singh makes each of these changeling groups different and distinct from the other groups.  Each group has a different culture, a different history, a different set of value priorities and yet they remain unmistakably changeling in their attitudes.  I had thought that I would always love the cats the best, but these bears certainly made an impression on me.

Valentin is a different kind of alpha hero.  He is definitely a dominant and in control, but he is also sweeter and more outwardly romantic and emotional than the other alphas we have met.  (I didn’t think an alpha hero could beat the sexiness of Lucas Hunter, but Valentin certainly does).  He is strong and yet funny and has a soft heart that he is not afraid to show others.  He ends up being a surprisingly good match for the efficient and smart Silver.

Silver is as competent and complex as we have seen through the series.  She has a difficult journey in this book.  (Yes, I ended up crying about half way through). And I never expected where this book went. While this is not the first (or even second or third) Psy and Changeling pairing, Singh always manages to keep the journey of the particular romantic pairing separate and unique.  Silver and Valentin are not like any other couple we have seen in this series — and that is a beautiful thing.

Pairing a wonderful couple with a political thriller is old hat for this series.  But this book gives us new enemies and (perhaps) allies to get to know. A series that never rests on its laurels or gets repetitive, SILVER SILENCE is a winner on all levels: emotional, complex, funny, daring, intriguing and a beautiful testament to love and devotion.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The story has moved away from familiar stories in the San Francisco area that series readers are used to and yet this book exists in that world and doesn’t feel separate at all.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SILVER SILENCE is the first book in the new “season” of the Psy-Changeling series.  Known as the Trinity series, this book is connected to what went on in the previous 15 books in the Psy-Changeling series and yet really starts out in a new direction. New readers could start here and catch up fairly easily, but I don’t know why anyone would.  Start at the beginning of the Psy-Changeling series because this is one of the best series out there.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

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


Review: The Girl Who Knew Too Much

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 Girl Who Knew Too MuchThe Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
Published by Berkley Books on May 9th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 352

“You must not trust anyone — not the police, not the F.B.I.  Above all, never trust a lover.”

FINAL DECISION:  My favorite Amanda Quick book in a long time.  The move to 1930s California has given new energy and freshness to what is often a familiar romantic suspense storyline.  I hope we will be reading more in this time period.

THE STORY:  1930s California is a place where people can reinvent themselves.  Irene Glasson has come here on the run from the murder of her prior employer.  Irene (and that is also a new name) is now a reporter for a small gossip paper when she becomes involved in yet another murder.  The murder of an actress takes place at the hotel of Oliver Ward.  Oliver is also starting his life over again.  Previously a famous magician whose career ended in blood during a performance, Oliver is determined to protect his hotel from scandal when he discovers that Irene didn’t seem to exist prior to four months ago.

OPINION:  I’ve been reading Amanda Quick books since the first ones in the 1990s.  In the intervening years there have been books I have absolutely loved (RAVISHED and THE PERFECT POISON) and ones that I found completely forgettable. The most recent books have been adequate but have lacked the energy and vibrancy of the best books.

THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH moves to a new time period.  I was wary of the change because the 1930s is not a time period often used in romance novels and I did not know how the Quick books would translate into that time period.  I’m happy to report that I loved the time period move to the 20th century.  In taking place in an era that has not been done ad nauseum, the book is allowed to investigate different morals, complications and motivations than the Regency or Victorian eras.

These characters feel fresh and new and the entire book has a vibrancy and drew my interest in an entirely new manner.

Irene is a career woman who is caring for herself.  She arrives in California at a time when she can completely reinvent herself (without pesky complications such as social security numbers and needing government identification). She’s tough and clever and determined. I love smart heroines and Irene is no exception.  She just keeps picking herself up after her disappointments.  She is independent and thus her willingness to trust Oliver is a major point in their relationship.

Oliver is adorable.  Sexy and wounded and oh so willing to engage in witty verbal combat with Irene.  He’s a man who cares for his own. Like Irene, he is also a man who has reinvented himself (for different reasons).  Being a survivor and adapting is a strong theme in this book with these two characters.  They live in a time and place of reinvention and they both are living out that possibility.

Along with a romance there is a peppy suspense story that keeps the pace humming along. The suspense works very well with the romance here and doesn’t overpower the relationship between Oliver and Irene.  Instead, the two work together hand in hand to undercover who is killing the women the Irene keeps discovering. I found the mystery and the solution satisfying and the adventure served to bring the characters closer.

This book was a real winner for me and I hope that there are more books in this time period (and I think there is possibility right in this book).

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is the first Amanda Quick novel to take place outside of the 19th century.


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 positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.


Review: Red Wolf

Review: Red WolfRed Wolf by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Shifters Unbound #10
Published by Berkley Books on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 336

FINAL DECISION: A friends to lovers story with an exciting mythology laden plot, Dimitri and Jaycee — red wolf and leopard — are an exciting pairing.

THE STORY: Shifter Dimitri is a red wolf and has had to fight for most of his life because of his uncommon nature and because of his stutter. He has mate claimed leopard shifter Jaycee but she hasn’t decided whether or not to accept his claim. When they are asked to investigate some shifters who are involved in mysterious and perhaps dangerous actions, the two are challenged both in their relationship and also their lives.

OPINION: This friends to lovers story has depth because these characters are challenged again and again in their relationship. There is also an intriguing story that keeps the pace of the novel hopping. Dimitri and Jaycee are already comfortable together but the story asks the question — are they meant to be together forever as mates or is their friendship with occasional benefits what they are meant to have.

Jaycee is a strong, kick-butt heroine. She is certainly Dimitri’s equal the two are partners and friends who are challenging one another. I loved how their relationship develops as challenges comes from all quarters. Again and again, these two have to evaluate what they want from their relationship.

There is a little slow start to the story, but once Dimitri and Jaycee are off on their mission, the pace picked up quite a bit.

I love the Shifters world and this book expands the mythology of the series in ways that I can’t wait to see what develops.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has a reveal that sets up the next stage of the overarching storyline.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RED WOLF is the tenth book in the Shifters Unbound series. This series is much better read in order although the romance is self-contained in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.