The Woman Left Behind by Linda Howard
Published by William Morrow on March 6th 2018
Genres: Romantic Suspense
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.
Troublemaker by Linda Howard
Published by William Morrow on May 10th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
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.
CONNECTED BOOKS: TROUBLEMAKER is a standalone.
STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.
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.Lake of Dreams by Linda Howard
on May 2, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
“It was as if he had been stalking her in her dreams, inexorably moving closer and closer to a conclusion that she already knew. Because, in her dreams, only sometimes did he make love to her. Sometimes he killed her.”
FINAL DECISION: I love gothic romances where there is a question of whether the love interest is the hero or the villain. This story is so good that I was sad that it was resolved so quickly.
THE STORY: Thea Marlow has been having unsettling dreams which haunt her. She keeps dreaming of a man who loves her passionately or kills her. When she goes to her family home by the lake, a knock on the door reveals the man of her dreams or her nightmares, Richard Chance.
OPINION: This novella has all the makings of a great gothic. It is spooky and creepy and it is not clear until the resolution what is happening or what the outcome will be. I don’t want to give away too much of the story because this novella is all about the mystery of what is happening. Apart from the story, the characters don’t have much substance so this is not a novella in which to fall in love with characters. This story has a secret of what is happening and the question of whether or not Thea will live until the end. I loved the story but was disappointed that the ending came too quickly, too directly and too simply. It is an enjoyable read, but it really depends upon the mystery so I don’t think it is a story for repeated readings.
WORTH MENTIONING: LAKE OF DREAMS has already been published in STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT and EVERLASTING LOVE so check to make sure you don’t have it already.
CONNECTED BOOKS: LAKE OF DREAMS is a standalone.
STAR RATING: I give this novella 3.5 stars.
Come Lie with Me by Linda Howard
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this story although the lack of insight into Blake’s thoughts made this less memorable than other similar stories.
THE STORY: Dione Kelley is a physical therapist who is dedicated to her profession. She also uses it to keep a distance between herself and other people. Having a miserable childhood followed by a disaster of a marriage, Dione keeps herself apart. Her newest client is Brent Remington, a handsome adventurous man until a horrible accident leaves him unable to walk. Dione and Brent begin to have a connection which undermines Dione’s walls even as she knows that it is wrong to get involved with a client.
OPINION: I liked the premise of this story. And I really liked Dione’s story arc. Especially for the time, the story feels relevant. I also really enjoyed the story of Brent’s recovery from his injuries. It demonstrates what a professional Dione is, how smart and clever she is. My only complaint is that because the story does not give us anything from Brent’s perspective, he feels distant to me throughout the story. I prefer books that give both points of view because it makes both characters relatable. I liked the story but it did not feel memorable to me.
WORTH MENTIONING: This book was originally published in the early 1980s as a category romance. However, the book feels less dated (except for no cell phones) because Dione is so independent.
CONNECTED BOOKS: COME LIE WITH ME is a standalone.
STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.
Against the Rules by Linda Howard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Second Chance at Love
“I want you to stay this time.”
FINAL DECISION: An older book which shows its age in the acceptance of a sexual relationship between a 17 year old and a man of 28 but also because the heroine’s annoyingly passive actions. At the same time, I liked the well paced story and the hot romance.
THE STORY: Cathryn Ashe inherited the ranch from her father but has stayed away for years. Eight years ago, she ended up giving her innocence to Rule Jackson, the ranch foreman, and she has been running from their torrid relationship ever since. Now a widow, Cathryn intends on settling her business at the ranch quickly and returning to her life in Chicago. Rule has other ideas including a second chance with the woman that he has always wanted.
OPINION: I remembered this book fondly from when I read it years ago. Unfortunately, this book, unlike other classic Linda Howard books, has not aged gracefully. First, I was a bid appalled by the fact that Cathryn and Rule had their first sexual encounter when Cathryn was just seventeen years old and Rule was twenty-eight. I thought nothing of it years ago, but now it just feels creepy to me. But I put that aside because it was not uncommon to see such things in classic books of the time.
I really liked the intense romance between Rule and Cathryn. I thought they were always meant to be and I liked how these two finally came together. My biggest complaint about this book was Cathryn herself. She seemed incapable to acting like an adult despite her claims to now be mature. She owns the ranch and yet she refuses to act as an owner and yet is resentful about Rule’s taking charge. I wanted to scream at her “If you want to be the boss, stop acting like a wimpy child.” Her passive nature towards these things probably would not be written this way in a current book. Cathryn make so many bad choices that I can’t figure out why Rule wants her at all.
For me, this is one of those books that was better in the past.
WORTH MENTIONING: This book was original published as a category romance in the 1980s.
CONNECTED BOOKS: AGAINST THE RULES is a standalone book.
STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.
White Lies by Linda Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Who Is This Man?
FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable story of a woman who falls in love with a man thought to be her ex-husband but then she isn’t quite sure that he is.
THE STORY: Jay Granger’s life changes when the FBI comes to her door to tell her that her ex-husband has been in a terrible accident and that they need her to come identify him. Although they have been divorced for five years, Jay cannot abandon Steve Crossfield. She is drawn to the man in the hospital bed but when he wakes he seems so different from the man she remembers loving before.
OPINION: This story is not complicated and I figured out quickly what was happening, but the story is well executed and the characters are so interesting that I was engaged throughout the story. This book was originally published as a category romance and thus lacks some of the sophistication and complexity allowed in a longer novel. I liked these characters who fell in love without really knowing the truth about what happened to Steve. The connection of these characters is visceral — a recognition of spirits. The real mystery in this one is how the truth about Steve’s actions and identity will be revealed and what that will make for the hero and heroine. A fun (not funny) read.
WORTH MENTIONING: Kell Sabin.
CONNECTED BOOKS: WHITE LIES is the fourth book in the loosely connected Rescues series. It can be read as a standalone.
STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.
Heartbreaker by Linda Howard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pleasant Romantic Suspense Originally Published as a Category Romance
FINAL DECISION: This is an enjoyable read which hints at the more compelling Howard books. For me, the book lacks deep emotional connection with the characters and thus is more forgettable.
THE STORY: MIchelle Cabot inherited her father’s ranch and found that he was deeply in debt. Recovering from an abusive marriage, Michelle is determined to prove herself by working the ranch — even without help. When she discovers that her father had taken a large loan from a neighbor, she is nervous about meeting him again. John Rafferty is the man that Michelle had a crush on years ago and she ran from the intense attraction between them. John has wanted Michelle for years even as he thought her a useless ornament. Now he considers making her his mistress in order to give her an easier life but MIchelle is determined to prove herself a strong woman.
OPINION: I typically really like Howard’s older category romances. They are where I first discovered her before she began writing her popular romantic suspense novels. HEARTBREAKER is a good book but has never had the depth and interest of the other books in this series or her Mackenzie books. I didn’t feel as much connection with or between the main characters and this left me somewhat detached from the story. Not a waste of time read, but not necessarily one I love to revisit.
WORTH MENTIONING: This book is one of the earlier books dealing with domestic abuse.
CONNECTED BOOKS: HEARTBREAKER is the third book in the Rescues series. It can be read as a standalone as it only has a small connection to the second book in the series.
STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.
Diamond Bay by Linda Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of My Old Time Favorites
FINAL DECISION: This old time romantic suspense book is one of my favorites. I love the strong dominant hero who is completely undone by the determined and independent heroine.
THE STORY: Rachel Jones, a widow and former investigative reporter, finds a man washed up on her beach. Rachel came home after her job caused the death of her husband. She now runs two souvenir shops and writes. She the stranger washes up on her beach, her instincts tell her to keep it quiet. Instead she cares for him herself. Kell Sabin is the chief of a shadowy group of U.S. agents. An attempt on his life has left him weak and vulnerable and in the Rachel’s hands. Danger surrounds the two as they grow closer even as Kell knows that they have no future because he must be alone to do his work.
OPINION: This book was one of the first romantic suspense books I ever read. I loved that this story had suspense but focused on the romance. It is limited because of the length of the novel and its origin as a category romance. The characters are more complex than a normal category romance and the story is exciting and the relationship complicated. Kell is determined to be alone because of the possible pain his life presents, but he cannot hold out against the determined love of a strong woman. I also loved that Rachel loves Kell and so she accepts him totally even if that means that he will leave her. No whining from Rachel even as her life is turned upside down. The book is part of the serious alpha male hero trend in the 1980s but Rachel is no naive innocent. She is strong and a partner.
WORTH MENTIONING: This book was first published as a category romance in the late 1980s.
CONNECTED BOOKS: DIAMOND BAY is the second book in the Rescues series. It has overlapping characters with the first book in the series MIDNIGHT RAINBOW. DIAMOND BAY can be read as a standalone but is more enjoyable as a companion to MIDNIGHT RAINBOW.
STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.
Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard
Published by Pocket Books on July 1st 2003
Genres: Romantic Suspense
More Suspense Than Romance
MR. PERFECT is the story of Jaine Bright who with the friends create an amusing list of the qualities that make up Mr. Perfect. The list becomes a sensation. Someone them begins threatening the women over the list. At the same time, Jaine meets her new neighbor, Sam Donovan. She and Sam strike sparks of of one another.
I liked this book. It is more suspense than romance. The mystery takes precedence. I enjoyed that story even though I figured or the villain before it was disclosed. Sam and Jaine are sweet together. I liked that Jaine is fierce and strong and that while Sam is an alpha hero he still respects Jaine’s courage and strength.
Overload by Linda Howard
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars
Banal Characters and Storyline in this Novella.
FINAL DECISION: Pretty pointless story with characters that seemed two dimensional. I could guess the big secret from the beginning and it the heroine keeping the secret seemed pointless and neither character seemed to change during the story enough to make their happy ending seem earned.
THE STORY: Elizabeth Major broke off with Tom Quinlan six months ago because she felt he was controlling. An interior designer, Elizabeth’s business happens to be across the hall from Tom’s private investigation across the hall. During a blackout the two end up stranded and trapped together in the building. Tom wants another chance and intends on getting Elizabeth to divulge the secrets she is keeping.
OPINION: This story had promise but the characters were not interesting enough and their story not dramatic or emotional enough to justify the story. The entire drama comes from Elizabeth not telling Tom about her ex-husband and his treatment toward her. Once the secret is disclosed, the characters quickly resolved their problems. The story is one that I will probably forget by tomorrow. The only intriguing part of the story is the two main characters being locked in together in their office building during a heat wave and blackout. Good concept but the execution didn’t do anything with that great concept.
WORTH MENTIONING: I’ve got nothing.
CONNECTED BOOKS: OVERLOAD is a standalone novella.
STAR RATING: I give this book 1.5 stars.