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: First Star I See Tonight

Review: First Star I See TonightFirst Star I See Tonight (Chicago Stars, #8) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars #8
Published by William Morrow on August 23, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384

“All in all, it was still a good day to be Cooper Graham.  Except for one pesky woman.”

FINAL DECISION:  The emotional part of this book really snuck up on me.  I believed it was funny with bickering protagonists until the end which just ripped my heart open.  Phillips is a master at the quirky, funny, sarcastic characters that make me love them despite my intentions.

THE STORY: Cooper Graham has just retired as the star quarterback of the Chicago Stars.  Big man in the city of Chicago, Cooper is unhappy to find out his has a stalker, Piper Dove.  But Piper is not actually a stalker but rather a detective trying to make a name for herself. Her first job is to trail Cooper.  When she is spotted, she soon finds herself working as Cooper’s bodyguard — although he refuses to allow Piper to officially do that job.  Whatever her job title, Piper is determined to protect Cooper whether he wants it or not.

OPINION:  I am often surprised by my reaction to a Susan Elizabeth Phillips book.  She somehow manages to make me like heroines that I either hate or am iffy about when the book starts.  I wasn’t a fan of Piper when the book began.  Her pugnacious personality somewhat annoyed me as the book began.  So determined to do what she wanted, I didn’t see the compassion in her that I want from characters. Oh how wrong I was.  Under her shell, Piper is a woman who deeply cares.  And Phillips does an amazing job of showing that as her personality is slowly revealed to Cooper.  While Piper changes and grows, she remains true to her personality — and Cooper loves her for who she actually is.  By the end of the book, he understands and accepts her and puts himself on the line because he knows she needs it.

Piper and Cooper are the perfect pair.  Both are competitive and want to succeed.  They are somewhat single minded and don’t necessarily give up on bad ideas easily.  Stubborn to to the core — both of them.  I loved how their romance was not sweet and sentimental but rather combative and argumentative.  Just perfect for them.  In the end, their romance becomes deeply emotional and even sweet (for them).

This book is filled with so many engaging secondary characters.  The princess obsessed with shoes.  The widow convinced her Cheesehead wearing husband is still alive. The nerf gun toting teenager.   I love how so many intriguing characters inhabit his book and yet never overwhelm the main storyline.

I recommend this book if you like original, funny romances with unexpected heart.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I absolutely adore Heath Champion’s role in this book (MATCH ME IF YOU CAN).

CONNECTED BOOKS: FIRST STAR I SEE TONIGHT is the eighth book in the Chicago Stars series. While some characters from previous books make appearances, this book does not depend upon any knowledge of those books.  This book stands alone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Troublemaker

Review: TroublemakerTroublemaker by Linda Howard
Published by William Morrow on May 10th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 400

FINAL DECISION: Different than I expected from the description, this book is about two guarded people who are forced together and unexpectedly find peace and love.  Less suspense and more traditional romance, this is a solid book that lacks the power of Howard’s best but is a good read.

THE STORY:  Morgan Yancy, a team leader for a paramilitary group, is ambushed and almost killed.  To protect him, Morgan is sent to a small West Virginian town and told to lay low.  Morgan ends up the housemate of Isabeau “Bo” Maran, the part time administrative police chief.  Bo isn’t happy to house Morgan, but she can’t turn the recovering man away.  Bo knows that Morgan is trouble just when her life seems to be going right.

OPINION:  This was an enjoyable, although not outstanding, read.  I expected the book to be more suspense than it was.  It ended up being bookended by the suspense story but the middle is really a standard romance.  I really liked the quiet between these characters.  Morgan and Bo are both loners and not used to opening up to others.  The quiet time they spend together, the peaceful, alone time they spend was what made their relationship work.

The gentle way in which the two open up and end up finding understanding and companionship withe one another was the best part of the book.  The romance takes a slow journey which was good and worth reading.

I thought the suspense part of the story was fairly predictable with no real surprises as to the villain of the tale.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is primarily romance with a smattering of suspense thrown in.


STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.