Review: Claimed

Review: ClaimedClaimed (Outlaws, #1) by Elle Kennedy
Series: Outlaws #1
Published by Signet on October 6th 2015
Genres: Futuristic
Pages: 368

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you that you can’t always get what you want?  I think someone even wrote a song about it once.”

“I don’t care.  I still want to come with you.

“Sorry, sweetheart, but this is a boys-only club.”

Her agitated expression gave way to indignation.  “Wow.  So you’re rude and sexist.”

FINAL DECISION:  A mixed bag that started out slowly but won me over by the end with its intriguing characters.  By the end of the book, I liked this book enough to want to continue to read the series.

THE STORY: In a dystopian future, the world consists of an authoritative government which tightly rules cities and outlaws which exist without rules and without resources hunted by the enforcers of the government.  Hudson Lane, a privileged woman from a city, runs when an unwanted marriage is going to be forced upon her.  In the outlaw world, she finds Connor Mackenzie who leads a small band of men.  Hudson begs Connor to give her refuge.  Despite his reservations, Connor agrees to show Hudson the ways of the Outlaw world which is violent and intensely sexual.  Hudson, however, has secrets which will cause Connor to distrust her.

OPINION: This book was mixed bag.  Sometimes a first book of a new series that involves world building can feel uneven as too many things have to be accomplished in the first book.  That is true here.  For me, the book started out slowly as the numerous characters from the series are introduced and the highly sexual, violent world is introduced with its particular rules.  During these pages, I found it difficult to get connected with the characters — especially Connor.  In a way, the beginning mirrored some of the worst of erotica, with sexual encounters more about titillating with body parts and multiple partners rather than any emotional connection.  By the end of the book, I decided that some of the emotional disconnect is purposeful as it reflects the emotionless sexual encounters that are common in the outlaw world.

Once Connor and Hudson began to emotionally connect, the book got much better for me.  I genuinely began to care about the characters and their journey.  The pace of the story also began to pick up at that point as the drama of Hudson’s secret became more relevant.

Women and men in the Outlaw world are fiercely independent and both have sexual autonomy without moralistic constraints or restrictions.  Just about everything goes in the Outlaw world.

I also liked that this first book leaves some questions about what is going on with the enforcers and what the future holds in this world.  I especially like that the series seems to be created with an overarching storyline.  I prefer my series to truly be connected rather than just having completely separate storylines.

By the time this book ended, I wanted to read more about Connor’s men and this world.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a lot of sex combinations in this one.  MMF with depictions of MFF.  The hero and heroine have sex with other people during the book both with and without the other present.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CLAIMED is the first book in the Outlaws series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher at the RT Convention. I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.


Review: Down the Rabbit Hole

Review: Down the Rabbit HoleDown the Rabbit Hole (In Death, #41.5) by J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Elaine Fox, Mary Kay McComas, R.C. Ryan
Published by Jove on September 29th 2015
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 432

Weird and Fun Collection of Five Novellas

This collection is of five novellas that have as a starting point Alice in Wonderland. The stories are not retellings of Alice in Wonderland but rather have some thematic connection to that novel.

WONDERMENT IN DEATH by J.D. Robb — In number 41.5 in the In Death series, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is investigating a murder suicide. She takes the case because the victims are close to her friends Dr. Louise and Charles. Once Eve begins to investigate things become strange. Although the case should easily be explained away, something bothers Eve. Her investigation leads her to the Mad Hatter and a man who believes death is his domain. I didn’t think this novellas was as strong as other novellas in the series. The mystery is given away from the beginning and there is little intriguing interaction with Eve’s supporting cast to sustain the story. I prefer stories focusing on Eve and Rourke, but this one is mostly case investigation. Rating: 4 stars.

ALICE AND THE EARL IN WONDERLAND by Mary Blayney — This is a companion novella about time travel. This is the story of the Earl Weston and his love Alice Kemp who are transported from the 1800s to present day. Alice has refused to marry Weston because her parents are divorced and thus she will causes scandal. Weston is determined to take this opportunity to convince Alice to marry him. This story wan’t that interesting to me. The whole story is about the two finding out that in modern times things are different about women’s roles and divorce. I didn’t feel any connection between the characters and found the whole story pretty dull. Rating: 1.5 stars.

ILOVE by Elaine Fox — Jeremy Abott and Mary Serafini breakup because Mary thinks Jeremy pays more attention to his cellphone than her. Jeremy gets sucked into an alternate world where he is trapped within the Wonderland of his cellphone. He needs to have a true relationship in order to escape. Can he convince Mary to give him another chance? This is a strange little story. It has in interesting premise but it reads more like a complaint about cellphone addiction than a romance. Rating: 2 stars.

A TRUE HEART by Mary Kay McComas — Elisa is a woman who is guarding herself from fears of being hurt and disappointed. She has just broken up with Max who she liked but was unwilling to risk herself. When she steps into a costume shop, she falls into a world where with the help of a costume guide she uncovers what is actually in her heart. I really liked this story. Really a story of self-discovery, with a touch of a Christmas Carol, this novella tells the story of a romance from a different perspective. Rating: 4 stars.

FALLEN by R.C. Ryan — Beth Campbell, a lawyer, is sent by her aunt’s firm to negotiate the sale of a piece of ancestral property from Colin Gordon in Scotland. On the way there, Beth hits her head and falls into a whole and awakens in the past amongst the Highland clans. In a magical world where people transform and dangerous plots emerge, Beth learns about what is important to her heart. This was my favorite of the anthology. It is romantic and clever with a lot of story and romantic connection in the short novella. The story ultimately resolved differently than I expected and I like when a story can surprise me. The story has a dreamy fairy tale quality to it. It also manages to be sad and then resolve so perfectly that I walked away from the story with a smile. Rating: 4.25


Review: Devoted in Death

Review: Devoted in DeathDevoted in Death (In Death, #41) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #41
Published by Berkley on September 15th 2015
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 374

Good Story Which Contrasts Loving Couples

“She turned to him, her face lit like the sun, her eyes huge, full of wonder and want. ‘We killed somebody. Together.'”

“There has to be trust to work as a team.”

FINAL DECISION: The latest entry in the In Death series has an interesting premise where the murderous lovers are shown in contrast with Eve and Roarke. I found this book to be in the middle of the In Death series of books. I believe the best books connect personally with Eve. This book is more distant from Eve and her team and I think the book suffers for it.

THE STORY: It is 2061 and Lieutenant Eve Dallas is in pursuit of a team of spree killers that are traveling across the country committing murders in their wake. This pair of lovers kill together in gruesome ways. The couple has traveled to New York City. When they commit a murder in Eve’s jurisdiction, she catches their scent and uncovers their bloody wake. She has to work with her team including her husband Roarke to find these killers before their latest victims are found dead.

OPINION: The In Death series is popular because it continues to deliver its unique combination of futuristic police procedural and suspense with a wonderful romance that continues to grow and evolve.
This book is interesting because there is a direct contrast between the murderous lovers and Eve and Roarke. The underlying themes are about trust and love and what makes a relationship. Ultimately, of course, the relationship between Eve and Roarke is shown to be superior as they catch the bad guys. The complexity of how this issue is handled makes this an interesting read.

There is no mystery here. This is one of the books where the murderers are revealed immediately and thus it is the race to keep them for killing again that is the focus of the story. I don’t mind the books where the focus is not on “whodunnit” and in this book the identity of the killers being known allows the direct comparison between the different couples in the story.

Longtime readers of the series will know that things have calmed down for Eve and those she cares for in the last few books. There is more focus on the suspense stories and less on the drama of the relationships. I do miss that element of the stories, but I do like that Eve and Roarke have reached such a good place in their relationship. I also like that Eve is given some peace in her own life after having such sadness and pain. While there are 41 books in the series, the time that has passed in the story is less than 3 years. Thus, there is some relief in the happiness of the characters rather than drama.

I would rate this book in the middle of the series. I do think the best books are where Eve is personally engaged rather than professionally. This story is good, but not one of the great ones of the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: I missed Eve and Roarke in this book. They are both there, but their interaction is less than the best of the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEVOTED IN DEATH Is the 41st book in the In Death series. The books have self-contained mysteries and thus can be read as standalones. The series, however, has continuing relationships between the characters. I believe these relationships are really the center of the series and thus it is better to read the series from the beginning (plus the first group of books are the absolute best).

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Obsession in Death

Review: Obsession in DeathObsession in Death (In Death, #40) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #40
Published by Berkley on February 10th 2015
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 404

Couldn’t Put This One Down

“No suspects, no leads. No known connection between killer and victim — except for herself. No known motive — except for herself.”

THE STORY: Eve Dallas is enjoying the end of the year when an antagonist from her past is murdered. What brings the attention of the prominent homicide lieutenant, however, is the letter written to her left at the scene. The murderer is obsessed with Eve and is committing murders in an attempt to impress her. Eve must look back at her prior cases and interactions with people to discovery who might be a victim and look to those around her to find out who is the killer.

OPINION: This is one of the best In Death books in a while. While Eve has resolved most of her past, she is confronted here with her celebrity in a way that makes her feel guilty. When Eve is personally challenged by a case, the drama and tension of the story is increased. The entire story feels more open, more grounded and more natural. There are some very fun moments with the secondary characters and they don’t feel forced or put in to check off points. They arise naturally from the story. As with much of Eve’s story, the crisis in this book brings her to acknowledge the importance of those she has surrounded herself with in the last years. Even as Eve is challenged by this killer, it is refreshing to see her turning naturally to those around her rather than going it alone. Eve has come far from the isolated woman in NAKED IN DEATH and longtime readers can really appreciate her growth.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book rewards those fans who have read the prior books since there are plenty of references to Eve’s prior cases.

FINAL DECISION: This is my favorite In Death book in a while. I feel these books are best when Eve is personally engaged in the crime being solved. This book satisfies that requirement. There is good rapport with all the secondary characters and Eve and Roarke are incredibly in tune here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: OBSESSION IN DEATH is the fortieth book in the In Death series. While this book references old cases of Eve’s, a new reader should be able to catch up pretty quickly and could enjoy this book as well.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Festive in Death

Review: Festive in DeathFestive in Death (In Death, #39) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #39
Published by Berkley on September 9th 2014
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 389

Eve’s Personal Life More Interesting Than Mystery

FESTIVE IN DEATH is the latest entry in the long running In Death series. As usual, the story is divided between the personal life and growth of Eve Dallas, the New York murder cop, her husband Roarke and now her increasing number of friends and colleagues and the mystery of the book. This book’s personal focus is on the Christmas holiday. These books have a formula now and this book is right in the normal mold.

THE STORY: As Christmas approaches, Eve is learning to cope with her life as she has a more normal life having resolved most of her horrible childhood. As she says in this book, it never completely leaves her, but she can go forward. Over the past several years described in the preceding books, Eve has acquired a number of friends that she now has to shop for. She also has to deal with the annual Christmas party that Roarke hosts.

Eve is also investigating the murder of personal trainer Trey Ziegler who had a secret stash of cash and a whole lot of women who got his “personal” treatment. Eve dislikes the victim but dislikes the crime even more and aggressively looks for the murderer.

OPINION: For this book, I found the murder mystery pretty bland. I wasn’t particularly interested in the crime, the victims or the potential suspects. That being said, I really enjoyed the look into Eve’s mindset at this point. It is nice seeing her become more open as a person, being able to express caring for others more openly. She has matured quite a bit over the last several books and it is nice seeing her construct a happy life for herself. This book felt more like a reward for longtime readers as Eve touches base with various people in her life.

WORTH MENTIONING: My favorite part of the book — “pink magic coat”.

FINAL DECISION: This book has its moments that I really enjoyed. The murder was not particularly compelling but I am enjoying seeing Eve begin to adjust to a life with friends and family. There is a sense of relaxing into her life and the reaching of the promise that Eve having other people to care about makes her a better cop. The best part of this book is Eve’s personal life.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FESTIVE IN DEATH is the 39th In Death book. Because the personal parts of this book are better than the mystery, I recommend this for fans of the series. There are better In Death books for new readers.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Concealed in Death

Review: Concealed in DeathConcealed in Death (In Death, #38) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #38
Published by Berkley on February 18th 2014
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 402

A More Settled, Happier Eve

CONCEALED IN DEATH is the 38th novel in J.D. Robb’s series following the cases of Eve Dallas, a lieutenant in New York in the near future. The novel begins for the first time from her husband Roarke’s point of view. While in the process of beginning a tear down of the interior of an old building, two bodies wrapped in plastic are discovered. Soon twelve skeletons of young teenage girls are discovered. Eve and friends are soon engaged in discovering what happened to end these young lives. The investigation brings Eve into the world of street kids that touches some of her past, Roarke’s and especially her friend Mavis’s.

I enjoyed this book. For me the last few books have been uneven. Since NEW YORK TO DALLAS, there hasn’t been a book that has really gripped me. This one doesn’t rise to the levels of earlier books in the series. Since the resolution of Eve’s past, much of the series angst and tension has dissipated. Eve feels more happy, more settled and more reconciled rob her past and her present.

The focus here is on the victims. As Robb does with most of the books in the In Death series, the theme of the crime is mirrored with our crew of regular characters. That works better here than in the last few books. Eve, Roarke and Mavis all recognize a kinship with the victims but the recognition is softer than some of the earlier books. Because the crimes are old, this has more of a cold case feel. The pave is slower, allowing for more contemplation about the connections and circumstances.

A longtime reader of the series will find plenty of references and continuity to revel in. We also have the chance to meet a new character, Dr. Garnet DeWinter, a forensic anthropologist, who seems destined to become a recurring character.

I would rate this book in the middle of the series. Not one of the best, but better than the last few.

I recommend it.


Review: Naked in Death

Review: Naked in DeathNaked in Death (In Death, #1) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #1
Published by Berkley on July 1st 1995
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 320

Just a Great Book

“She didn’t hurry as she walked to him. Something told her he was a man too used to people — woman certainly — rushing toward him. So she took her time, her long, slow strides flapping her borrowed coat against her chilly legs.”

THE STORY: Lieutenant Eve Dallas is a detective in New York in the mid-21st century. When the granddaughter of a powerful Senator is killed, Eve begins an investigation that takes her from the political powers in Washington and New York and the business powers where she meets the mysterious billionaire Rourke. Determined to solve the crime and prevent more death, Eve finds herself attracted to Rourke — who might be the man she is searching for — the murderer.

OPINION: NAKED IN DEATH is one of my favorite books and is the book that I recommend to anyone looking for a good read. Intense, fun, romantic, surprising, this book has it all.

Eve Dallas is one of the most well-rounded and interesting characters. She is powerful, smart and strong. She is well respected in her job and doesn’t need rescue of anyone. She has a quick mind that the reader will want to follow as she uncovers the truth about the crimes she is investigating. At the same time, she is vulnerable and as readers learn more about her, her success only becomes more amazing.

Rourke is mysterious and appropriately, readers know as much about him as Eve does. Sexy and dangerous, the question is raised whether this will be the man who ends up being the perpetrator of the horrific crimes that Eve is investigating. Eve’s attraction to Rourke is both understandable and also possibly deadly. I am a fan of stories where the romantic involvement is questionable and might be dangerous to the hero/heroine.

A bevy of intriguing secondary characters are set out here. Those characters will make reappearances in future books. Those characters will be fleshed out and the lives further revealed so readers can feel good about liking them.

The pacing of the book builds tension as secrets are slowly revealed. I truly recommend not reading spoilers on this book — not only because it ruins the mystery of the plot, but also because the character reveals are part of the character development. This is not merely a mystery, but the story always serves the purpose of character development. The close connection between story and character is one of the strengths of not only NAKED IN DEATH but the entire In Death series.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

WORTH MENTIONING: Content disclosure: This book and series deal in depth and seriously with rape and incest so those who are sensitive to those issues should consider themselves forewarned.

FINAL DECISION: Fabulous book that crosses genres. Near time sci-fi mystery with a strong romance, NAKED IN DEATH demonstrates some of the best of all these by having great writing, emotional connections with and between characters, and an interesting and engaging plot. This is THE book that I give to friends who want a book recommendation.

CONNECTED BOOKS: NAKED IN DEATH is the first book in the In Death series. The series follows Eve Dallas and the cases she investigates.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.