Review: Driven by Fire

Driven by Fire
Driven by Fire by Anne Stuart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“He was going to kiss her. This man, her enemy, was going to kiss her, and she wanted him to. Desperately.”

FINAL DECISION: Action filled romantic suspense, this book kept me guessing as to the identity of the villains until the very end.

THE STORY: Jenny Parker is a pro bono lawyer and the daughter of a crime lord. She is trying to live her life apart from her family but she keeps being pulled back. When her father calls her to tell her that her younger brother has gotten mixed up in white slavery, Jenny knows that she has to protect her brother from the mess he has accidentally gotten involved in. She meets Matthew Ryder, a member of the Committee, a covert anticrime agency. Matthew knows that Jenny is lying about something and intends to discover all her secrets.

OPINION: The second book in the Fire series continues the stories of the men of the Committee in the United States. DRIVEN BY FIRE is about human trafficking. The plot is complex and goes in unexpected directions which pushes the story forward to its conclusion. The book is romantic suspense and the suspense is predominant here.

Jenny is an interesting character because she makes some morally questionable decisions. Often in Stuart books, the hero is steeped shades of gray while the heroine is bright and innocent. Not so here. Jenny’s family and her decisions make her more morally complex from the beginning. This allows a bridge between her and Matthew. Indeed, Matthew himself is a lighter hero than most of Stuart’s Committee heroes. He’s no Boy Scout, but he doesn’t seem poised on cold homicidal tendencies. While I am a big fan of Stuart’s antiheroes, Matthew is more a traditional hero and perhaps more palatable to those who find her more difficult heroes difficult to embrace.

For me, because Matthew is less dark and more normal, less time spent with him compared to Jenny and therefore he remains a mystery throughout the novel and I felt less connection with him and also less connection between him and Jenny. I enjoyed the book but it felt more suspense than romance to me.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved the Easter egg reference to ON THIN ICE.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DRIVEN BY FIRE is the second book in the Fire series. It can be read as a standalone.

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.

Review: Hanover House

Review: Hanover HouseHanover House (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #0.5) by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #0.5
Published by Brenda Novak on September 1st 2015
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 200
four-half-stars

Great Start to Romantic Suspense Series

“She wasn’t often attracted to someone like she was attracted to him — and had been from the first moment she’d set eyes on him. Especially someone who didn’t particularly like her in return.”

FINAL DECISION: While nothing is ultimately resolved in this book — it is a prequel, it does its job of making me want to read more about Evelyn, her project and her relationship with Amarok. Suspenseful but also a good romance, I hope the series lives up to the prequel.

THE STORY: Evelyn Talbot is a psychiatrist who studies serial killers and criminal minds. Kidnapped and tortured as a teen by her boyfriend, Evelyn is compelled to try and understand why people do such things. As part of her work, she is coordinating the building of a mental health center/prison in Hilltop, Alaska in order to house and study notorious killers. Many of the residents around the new facility are not pleased to have it in their vicinity. One of those is Alaskan State Trooper Benjamin “Amarok” Murphy. He is unhappy about the center, but attracted like crazy to Evelyn. At the same time, Evelyn’s own past is preventing her from having any relationship including one with the younger and handsome trooper. Also, the man who killed her friends and tried to kill her is still on the loose and may still be trying to kill her twenty years later.

OPINION: This is my first book by Brenda Novak, but it won’t be my last. This book has me intrigued by Evelyn’s story. In some ways, she has recovered from the crimes committed against her when she was sixteen and in other ways she is still that terrified teenager. Her budding relationship with Amarok has the possibility of allowing her to move beyond her past — and, of course, it is precisely at that moment that the past threatens to suck her back in.

This book is creepy and suspenseful and sometimes scary which is exactly what I like in my suspense books. What pleased me the most was how much time was devoted to the relationship between Evelyn and Amarok. Admittedly, I am a romance reader first so I prefer my suspense with a hefty dose of romantic relationship. This book satisfied that requirement for me.

Evelyn and Amarok are just so cute together. She is incredibly vulnerable and he is a protector by nature. Evelyn has lots of hangups and this man who is seven years younger than her attracts her but for her a relationship seems impossible for so many reasons. Amarok’s practical and down to earth demeanor is a perfect contrast to Evelyn’s understandably neurotic behavior.

Along with the intriguing cast of evil characters (the inmates who will inhabit Hanover House), I hope that future books will have a heavy dose of Evelyn and Amarok’s developing relationship.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is the beginning of a series dealing with serial killers. The prequel introduces the overarching plotline and the romantic relationship between Evelyn and Amarok.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HANOVER HOUSE is the prequel to the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles previously known as the Hanover House Chronicles series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received a copy 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.

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four-half-stars

Review: After the Storm

After the Storm
After the Storm by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

This One Was Just Too Sad for Me

FINAL DECISION: This story was good. There was an old mystery and personal problems with Kate and John, but this one ended just too sad for me. The stories are getting too predictable in that there is never any positive resolution. It’s beginning to feel like Shakespearean tragedy.

THE STORY: A tornado comes to Painters Mill and brings destruction but also uncovers old secrets. When a set of human bones are discovered in the wreckage, a murder that occurred decades before comes to light. Kate Burkholder, Chief of Police, stirs up old mysteries. Also, just when things seem to be going well for Kate and her live in lover John Tomasetti, a new problem brings fractures in their relationship to light.

OPINION: There is so much sadness in this story. The mystery itself has a sad story. The investigation uncovers so many other sad stories. The result of the tornado is sad. And then there is Kate and John’s relationship which has a sad turn but which seems like there will be some happiness in this story — but then that also ends in a sad manner. All this might work well if this was one story among many, but honestly, just about every one of these books are so sad. It seems like there is no bright spot in these stories. This was one book where I hoped that someone would have a happy ending — alas, it was not meant to be.

All that being said, the story was good and had great pacing. Once starting this book, I couldn’t stop until I had finished it. Exciting with many stories intertwining. Just too sad for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: These books always end up too sad and unhappy at the end. I keep wishing for something good to happen once in a while.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AFTER THE STORM is the seventh book in the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone although the relationships and characters grow and develop throughout the series.

STAR RATING: I give this one 4.25 stars.

Review: A Hidden Secret

A Hidden Secret
A Hidden Secret by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Small Mystery But Chance to See Kate and John’s Relationship

FINAL DECISION: A sad solution to a small mystery but with an optimistic ending. I liked this book more for the development of Kate’s character and the chance to know how her relationship with John is evolving.

THE STORY: Someone has abandoned a newborn baby and Kate Burkholder comes to investigate. The infant was left with some items which lead Kate to believe that the mother might be Amish. With the help of her lover John Tomasetti, Kate must determine what would lead a woman to abandon her child.

OPINION: One thing I liked about this story was that there was really a happy ending — especially for this series. The mystery here is small and it solution is pretty obvious because of the short nature of the story but the story works out well. This novella gives Kate and John a chance to have further development in their relationship. It is clear that Kate is serious about John and their relationship might be taking a new direction.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novella gives a good sense of the structure of the novels in this series although the mystery is less grim. In fact, this may be one of the happiest endings ever.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A HIDDEN SECRET is book 6.5 of the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

Review: The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel

The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel
The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Very Creepy Crime Thriller in Amish Country

FINAL DECISION: Sad, creepy and filled with secrets. This is a story of how the past doesn’t stay buried and what people will do for revenge. The overlap between the main mystery and John’s story gives this book extra heft and interest.

THE STORY: Kate Burkholder. chief of police in a small town, and her team are called to an apparent suicide. A man hanging from the rafters of his barn seems obvious but quickly the investigation turns to murder when it is discovered that the man was shot. His murder seems connected an 35 year old crime — the horrendous murders that decimated most of an Amish family. It seems like a ghost has come back for revenge. At the same time, Kate’s personal life seems to be going well until her lover John gets news that one of the men connected with the death of his family has gone free.

OPINION: This book excels because of the connection between the revenge crime Kate is investigating and John’s own feelings for revenge. This book is all about how the past never really dies. Kate and John are in a good place as this book begins, but the crisis that arises shows that there are still problems that they have with trust. Kate doesn’t trust John not to seek revenge — because he has before — and John cannot truly talk with Kate. There are some very interesting parallels with the investigation (I won’t say more to not give away spoilers). These connections raise this book to a level beyond a standard mystery.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book takes place six months after the previous book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DEAD WILL TELL is the sixth book in the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone although there are some ongoing stories which are secondary to the main mystery.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

Review: Her Last Breath: A Novel

Her Last Breath: A Novel
Her Last Breath: A Novel by Linda Castillo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Emotional and Deeply Personal Amish Murder Mystery

FINAL DECISION; I loved this book. The book delves deeply into Kate’s emotional world and the personal connection to the murders being investigated bring out all sorts of difficulties for Kate.

THE STORY: Kate Burkholder, Chief of Police, is called to a horrible accident. An Amish father and two of his children are killed when their buggy is struck by a vehicle. This hit and run accident at first appears tragic but accidental. Soon, however, questions arise and it appears that the “accident” may actually have been murder. Kate is left trying to figure out who would want to murder the husband of her childhood friend.

OPINION: This is a murder that deeply wounds Kate. Because of her personal connection to the victims, Kate’s past is churned up. This is a book all about the churning up of the past. The mystery was really good in this one. It kept me guessing until the end, and honestly I didn’t see the ultimate solution coming. Winding through this mystery are two other personal issues with Kate. Her relationship with John is a prominent part of this story as she needs to decide whether she wants a deeper commitment with him. Also, Kate also finds out that secrets don’t stay buried as the crime that touched her life when she was fourteen is uncovered and she fears that her life will fall apart. I think the best part of these books is the personal connection that makes these books so compelling. This story is too strongly entwined with Kate’s life that it gives great insight into her and also into the case itself. I can find a decent mystery anywhere. It is the extra personal connection that makes this book so compelling.

WORTH MENTIONING: Kate and John’s relationship has a significant turn in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HER LAST BREATH is the fifth book in the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone although a dark mystery from Kate’s past returns here. Readers would be better served by reading at least the first book in the series first.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

Review: The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel

The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel
The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Very Creepy Crime Thriller in Amish Country

FINAL DECISION: Sad, creepy and filled with secrets. This is a story of how the past doesn’t stay buried and what people will do for revenge. The overlap between the main mystery and John’s story gives this book extra heft and interest.

THE STORY: Kate Burkholder. chief of police in a small town, and her team are called to an apparent suicide. A man hanging from the rafters of his barn seems obvious but quickly the investigation turns to murder when it is discovered that the man was shot. His murder seems connected an 35 year old crime — the horrendous murders that decimated most of an Amish family. It seems like a ghost has come back for revenge. At the same time, Kate’s personal life seems to be going well until her lover John gets news that one of the men connected with the death of his family has gone free.

OPINION: This book excels because of the connection between the revenge crime Kate is investigating and John’s own feelings for revenge. This book is all about how the past never really dies. Kate and John are in a good place as this book begins, but the crisis that arises shows that there are still problems that they have with trust. Kate doesn’t trust John not to seek revenge — because he has before — and John cannot truly talk with Kate. There are some very interesting parallels with the investigation (I won’t say more to not give away spoilers). These connections raise this book to a level beyond a standard mystery.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book takes place six months after the previous book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DEAD WILL TELL is the sixth book in the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone although there are some ongoing stories which are secondary to the main mystery.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

Review: Mr. Perfect

Review: Mr. PerfectMr. Perfect by Linda Howard
Published by Pocket Books on July 1st 2003
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 405
Goodreads
four-stars

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.

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four-stars

Review: Secret Sisters

Secret Sisters
Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perfect Balance Between Romance and Suspense

“No matter what happens,we will be secret sisters forever.”

FINAL DECISION: SECRET SISTERS perfectly balances romance and suspense into a book that thrills the nerves and satisfies the heart. Twisty and clever, this book doesn’t give up all its secrets until the very end.

THE STORY: Eighteen years ago, darkness entered the lives of two young girls who were best friends. Madeline Chase and Daphne Knight were unseparable until a man came taking one and leaving the other. Madeline has survived after the brutal attack that sent her fleeing from Cooper Island and continues to inhibit her ability to have a lasting relationship with a man. Now the head of the successful Sanctuary Creek Inns, Madeline is called back to the Island to deal with the property where she was attacked. Jack Rayner works hotel security for Madeline’s business despite her attempts to get rid of him. When a murder forces Madeline to tell Jack the truth about her past, the two work together to uncover the secrets that refuse to stay buried on Cooper Island.

OPINION: I loved this book in a way I haven’t loved a Jayne Ann Krentz book in a long time. It is no secret that I have been somewhat disappointed in the recent Krentz books because to me it felt that the romance was suffering and the books were becoming more suspense than romance. This concerned me because as a longtime reader of romances, have seen some of the best known writers turn primarily to suspense and crime drama books where romance is either non-existent or highly diminished. With this on my mind, the blurb for this book concerned me because it seemed that the emphasis was completely on the mystery with little mention of the romance.

I primarily read romance and I like it that way. I read a wide variety of books that fall within the broad romance genre, but I do prefer that my books have a positive romantic relationship that is integral to the story. Happily, SECRET SISTERS satisfied all my romance needs while providing a twisty and tricky suspense story that kept me turning pages until the very last one.

“She had spent eighteen years keeping secrets. She was good at it.”

The characters in SECRET SISTERS are strong individuals who have experienced pain and yet have grown stronger. I especially liked Madeline – a woman who has been damaged and yet has become successful and while she lives with pain, she does not allow herself to wallow in victimhood. She struggles and with her fears, but she constantly challenges herself. She is adult and accomplished. Her match is Jack who is a modern western hero.

“In the mythic past that infused the modern southwest, you have a man like Jack a badge and sent him out into the dusty street at high noon to stop the bad guy.”

Jack is definitely a brains over brawn type of hero. Smart and savvy, Jack has experience being a profiler and thus is able to anticipate the actions of others. Unfortunately, this knowledge also haunts Jack. He has his own secrets in his past. He knows that he wants Madeline but also knows that his past makes him unsuitable for any long term relationship. Coincidentally, Madeline also has difficulties with long term relationships. They find in one another, however, a reason to regret their limitations. I appreciated that these characters talk to one another, are adult and don’t do stupid things.

The other major characters in the book are Madeline’s friend Daphne and Jack’s brother Abe. These two have a romance themselves, but it is secondary to the more developed relationship between Madeline and Jack.

“She concluded that Abe Rayner was going to be irritating. However, there was something reassuring about him.”

Daphne is an interior designer and a recent widow. Part of the significant action in the book is Daphne and Madeline rediscovering one another and the healing that their friendship provides.

Abe is an Information Analyst and a definite geek. Shorter than Daphne, he is not a traditional hero, but his relationship with Daphne provides a nice counterpoint to the more complicated and complex relationship between Madeline and Jack.

The suspense story captivated me until the end. It had multiple surprises and even when things seemed to be resolved, there was more to be revealed. This is a book about secrets and just about everyone has a secret. I believe that the best part of this book is finding out where the mystery is going and thus I don’t want to reveal too much. I was glad that I didn’t peak at the end of the book to find out the ultimate conclusion because the journey of discovery was especially enjoyable in this book. The mystery stems from what happened to Madeline and Daphne eighteen years before and I found the solution to be intriguing and satisfying.

The mystery and the romance in this book mutually reinforce one another. The romance is developed through the mystery and the mystery in turn gives urgency to the romance. This is one of Krentz’s best.

WORTH MENTIONING: I love a man who cooks and cooks well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SECRET SISTERS is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

Review: Rogue Alpha

Rogue Alpha
Rogue Alpha by Carole Mortimer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fast Read Novella That is Hot

FINAL DECISION: This novella is action packed and very sexy. The story is very straightforward and simple, but I liked the connection between the main characters. This is an easy and enjoyable read.

THE STORY: Diana Moore believes someone broke into her apartment although no one else does. Eight months ago, Diana’s world fell apart when she was kidnapped and held for ransom and then her husband was killed. Fearful of what might be happening now, Diana turns to the only person she can think of — Seth Armstrong. Seth works for Grayson Security and was the one who rescued her from her kidnappers.

OPINION: This is a straightforward and quick read. For a novella, there is a strong storyline with a lot of action and suspense. This book, however, is rooted in the relationship between Diana and Seth. The two have an immediate connection (which works because of the short length of the story). The story is hot and sexy. The connection might be too quick for some readers, but the length of the story gives some excuse for the quick progression of the romance between the characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are no appearances by the main characters from the previous novels only brief mentions for some.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ROGUE ALPHA is the seventh book in the ALPHA series. Although there are overlapping characters, ROGUE ALPHA can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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