Review: A Madness of Sunshine

Review: A Madness of SunshineA Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh
Published by Berkley Books on December 3, 2019
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Everyone has hidden corners of their life, even the people we think we know inside out.”

FINAL DECISION: A thriller/suspense story about the secrets that rest in small towns where everyone thinks they know everyone but where there are dangerous secrets. I found this book compelling and it kept me turning page after page wanting to see the secrets being revealed.

THE STORY: Anahera Rawiri returns to her hometown in New Zealand. A hometown that she is reluctant to return to and yet is drawn back. There are dark secrets in this town and even more secrets among the people who live there. Will Gallagher is the new cop in town who was sent there after an incident in Christchurch. It was a way of putting him on ice. The town of Golden Cove seemingly is a dead end job without any need for Will’s detective skills until a young woman disappears. Then the dark secrets of the town begin to be revealed.

OPINION: Nicely centered in the community relationships and characters (which is an area that Singh excels in her romances), the story kept me guessing throughout. As varying stories are slowly revealed, there is no doubt that everyone is deeper than what is known at the outset. Nicely, that is also true of the two main characters in the story. As readers, we know some of the pasts of these characters, but their story is slowly unwound even as the mystery unfolds as well.

Although not overly creepy, there is something unsettling about the town and its surroundings. The overwhelming feeling that everyone has secrets and some of those secrets are dangerous makes this book compelling.

I liked both Anahera and Will. Both out of sync with the town…Will an outsider and Anahera a local who has spent a decade away and thus straddles the line between being a part of the town and being a stranger. This gives them a nice connection as they are the “outsiders” doing the investigation while both have one foot in the town.

I enjoyed this story because I kept changing my mind about what was going on and how it was connected with the past. I kept reading page after page because I wanted to know more about Will and Anahera — not just the mystery. That nice balance made this a really good read.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is not a romance. Please don’t read it looking for a Singh romance and then complain that it isn’t a romance. It is also not a paranormal, fantasy or sci-fi book. The book does have romantic elements, but romance is definitely not the focus here. There is sex but it is pretty much all off screen.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A MADNESS OF SUNSHINE is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: Devoted to Love

Review: Devoted to LoveDevoted to Love by Shayla Black
Series: Devoted Lovers #2
Published by Berkley Books on July 2, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable story, sexy, sexy times with a suspense/mystery story that kept me interested throughout. I liked these characters and how they reluctantly fall for one another.

THE STORY: Weddings are a natural place for hookups. When sister of the bride, Magnolia West and friend of the groom Josiah Grant agree to a no-commitments, no regrets one night stand, they don’t anticipate that there is something really strong between them. Two people who have been hurt and closed off end up spending time together as there is danger around them. And the more time they spend together, the more Josiah and Maggie can’t imagine being apart.

OPINION: This book begins with one of my favorite romance book situations — romance at someone else’s wedding. Josiah and Maggie intend to take full advantage of the wedding atmosphere and enjoy some no-commitment sex. But then things happen. There is a mysterious murder of a neighbor and some possible danger for Maggie and her family which requires Josiah to stay on in town to help protect her and find out the truth of what is happening. Of course, this allows Josiah and Maggie to get to know one another better — something neither wanted at first.

Maggie is a woman who keeps herself at a distance from others. She has fear and abandonment issues and is just protecting herself. She also has had really bad luck in the romance department. She is a woman who fears connection and yet is starving to be connected to someone and have a happy ever after. She just fears so much something negative happening that she keeps her distance. I loved that we get to see how quickly she learns to trust Josiah. She opens herself up to the possibility of love and is rewarded.

Josiah is a man who has been burned before and has no intention on getting serious with a woman. But then he meets Maggie and she appeals to him on a deep level. They are physical matches and he finds himself loving the challenge she presents. She is smart and stubborn. Josiah is a deeply protective guy and while he respects Maggie, there is no doubt that he intends to be the alpha protector.

The suspense story here is intriguing as I kept wondering what was going on behind the group threatening Maggie’s family. Information is given at a good pace and I was always interested in what was going on in the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: Can I admit that I really want the story of Brea and One-Mile?

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEVOTED TO LOVE is the second book in the Devoted Lovers series. This book has a self-contained romance so it can be read as a standalone but there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

four-stars

Review: Scandal Above Stairs

Review: Scandal Above StairsScandal Above Stairs (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #2) by Jennifer Ashley
Published by Berkley Books on July 3, 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this one more than the first in the series. I really enjoyed learning more about the characters and developing the backstories of the cast of characters.

THE STORY: Kat is called to help investigate the theft of artwork from a friend of her employer. Kat is soon drawn into a series of thefts including ones being investigated by her friend, the mysterious Daniel McAdam. Open doors in the home she is working in and breaking in a new assistant are some additional challenges for Kat while also preparing meals for the household. Kat’s investigations lead her into the uncomfortable position of moving in the world of the upper household.

OPINION: This book allows times to delve into the relationships between the characters and also presents a whole series of mystery situations. I liked that we got to move through various stories at once. Things overlap and it is not clear what is relevant and what isn’t. In other words, it is a good mystery set up.

I really enjoyed how the mystery is both evidence and personality. And we get to know a lot about the characters surrounding Kat. Some of the information and facts are misdirection but all are interesting. The emphasis in this book is relationship and I especially enjoyed that we get a lot more of Kat and Daniel. They make a cute couple and I like seeing them reveal more to one another.

The book is interesting and I wasn’t sure where the story was going until the end which is enjoyable in a mystery.

I look forward to more from this series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Who knew how much work was involved in Victorian kitchen work?

CONNECTED BOOKS: SCANDAL ABOVE STAIRS is the second book in the Below Stairs aka the Kat Holloway Mysteries series. This is a self contained mystery that can be read as a standalone, but there are ongoing character developments that continue through the series and for that the books should be read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: Devoted to Pleasure

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: Devoted to PleasureDevoted to Pleasure by Shayla Black
Series: Devoted Lovers #1
Published by Berkley Books on July 3, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I loved this bodyguard and star book. Hot and sexy, I loved how these can be combined with a sweetness between the main characters.

THE STORY: Bodyguard Cutter Bryant has agreed to protect his dearest friend by committing to a marriage of convenience between them. But before things are finalized, Cutter is off to Los Angeles to serve as a bodyguard for Shealyn West, one of the hottest new television stars. Cutter is thrown off balance by Shealyn from the moment they meet. Shealyn is being threatened by a blackmailer. Wary of revealing her secrets to Cutter, Shealyn is strongly attracted to the man she has hired to protect her. Deciding that there can be nothing long term between them, the two struggle against their feelings and their attraction while trying to find out who is threatening Shealyn.

OPINION: For some reason, I really like a good bodyguard/star story. It might be watching The Bodyguard or perhaps reading Silhouettes with similar stories in the 1980s. For whatever reason, I really was inclined to like this book from the start — and thankfully, this book exceeded my expectations.

I could have done without the “like a sister” best friend who Cutter has to protect, but that is one of the dramas keeping the couple apart so I think it works as a plot device. What worked much better for me was the blackmailer story. I liked just about everything about it. It was suspenseful, the resolution was dramatic and good. Just good stuff.

I also really, really liked these characters. Both Cutter and Shealyn are wary but oh so willing to fall for one another. Shaelyn is a great combination of strong and independent and sweetness. At times she seems naive, but she is also savvy and determined.

Cutter is a genuinely good guy which is what causes him so many problems. He wants to solve the problems of his friend and doesn’t know how to deal with having to take his own happiness.

I liked the relationship between Cutter and Shaelyn. They manage to pack a lot into what turns out to be only a few days. Of course, the danger and drama forces them into confessions that might have taken other longer, but I felt the connection between these two from the moment they met.

This is a good start to a new series. I haven’t read the stories of some of the characters who appear here, but I didn’t feel that I missed anything (although now I’m tempted to go back and read their stories).

WORTH MENTIONING: There are a whole bunch of characters introduced who I hope get their own stories in this series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEVOTED TO PLEASURE is the first book in the Devoted Lovers series. (There is a prequel DEVOTED TO WICKED that is a crossover with the Wicked Lovers series.)  Prior books are not necessary. I haven’t read any other than DEVOTED TO WICKED and I didn’t feel I missed anything.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley 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.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Betrayal in Death

Review: Betrayal in DeathBetrayal in Death (In Death, #12) by J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts
Series: In Death #12
Published by Berkley Books on March 1, 2001
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 355
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: More a thriller than a mystery, this one tests Eve’s skills as she hunts a professional killer who has Roarke in his sights. I loved the pacing of this one and the exploration of Roarke’s past.

THE STORY: The rape and murder of a hotel maid in one of Roarke’s hotels brings Eve on the case of a professional killer who seems to be targeting those who work for Roarke. Eve fears that Roake is the final target. But because the killer is a hired gun, Eve also has to figure out who is the hidden figure behind these crimes. The solution might rest in Roarke’s shady past.

OPINION: This is a page turner from beginning to end as Eve races against time to find the killer. The book is focused and exciting and has plenty of emotional heft between Eve and Roarke as she is the caretaker this time. This story shakes Roarke and Eve is the one who not only has to solve the crime but also manage the emotions of Roarke.

This book demonstrates how well this series does crime combined with serious character development. Eve and Roarke center this story. While the crimes are salacious and over the top at times, the emotional heart of the series is the relationship between these two and how they are opening up to one another and building a relationship.

The killer in this case is a professional who has some interesting quirks which make him memorable and particularly vicious. It is a particularly nasty episode, but the twist at the end gives this some good emotional connection.

WORTH MENTIONING: A cute part of the book is Eve and Roarke ending up giving relationship advice to Peabody and McNab.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BETRAYAL IN DEATH is the twelfth book in the In Death series. This book has an independent and stand alone mystery with continuing personal story lines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-stars

Review: Judgment in Death

Review: Judgment in DeathJudgment in Death (In Death, #11) by J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts
Series: In Death #11
Published by Berkley Books on September 1st 2000
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 356
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is a great character book. The mystery was okay, but I loved how the mystery brings out some conflicts with characters and also gives the opportunity to delve more into Eve and Roarke’s pasts.

THE STORY: When a cop is found beaten to death in one of Roake’s clubs, Eve has to wonder what the motive is. When things about the cop are revealed, it appears that someone it targeting dirty cops. Both Eve and Roarke also find that people from their pasts are mixed up in the case as well which makes their own relationship a little bumpy for a while.

OPINION: This book is an example of what I enjoy about this series. I read the books as the character story of Eve with the mysteries and crimes as the excuse to delve into her world. Honestly, I find the crimes interesting, but I don’t generally analyze them. I want to know more about these characters and how they react to the crises before them.

This book is a good example of that. For me, the central conflict in this story is between Eve and Roarke when their pasts come back against to haunt them in this case. In comparison to the relative happiness in the prior book, this book reignites some of the conflicts between Eve and Roarke. While this is the eleventh book in the series, the two have been together for just over a year. They still have much to work through in their relationship and as things from the past pop out to disturb their happiness, Eve and Roarke have to navigate their relationship.

This book has some significant events especially about Eve’s past. There are lingering questions about Eve’s past and this book brings new information to light that will continue to be teased out in future books.

My favorite scenes in this book involve Webster. He becomes a catalyst in this book and I like the mess he stirs up.

The crime works well to carry the character moments for a purpose, but otherwise I didn’t find it one of the memorable ones.

WORTH MENTIONING: Man fight! This book also is the introduction of Max Richter.

CONNECTED BOOKS: JUDGMENT IN DEATH is the eleventh book in the In Death series. This series has mysteries in each book that operate as standalones but overarching character storylines. I think it is better to read the series in order to get the full impact, but this book can be read as a mystery standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Witness in Death

Review: Witness in DeathWitness in Death (In Death, #10) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #10
Published by Berkley Books on March 6th 2000
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 338
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This one feels like an old fashioned mystery novel with lots of suspects with a motive and the detective having to use physical evidence and interviews to ferret out the killer. One of the better mysteries of the series.

THE STORY: An actor is murdered on stage in full view of all the audience, including Lieutenant Eve Dallas. Now Eve has to figure out who the killer is. Since her husband Roarke owns the theater and other people she knows have connections to the crime, Eve has to work in the spotlight to solve the crime.

OPINION: This is a book where, appropriately, the murder is committed during a performance of Witness for the Prosecution and then the mystery itself feels like an Agatha Christie mystery including the gathering of suspects for the big reveal at the end.

The emphasis in this one is definitely on the mystery although there are some nice scenes between Eve and Roarke. I also enjoyed the continuing character development of Eve’s friends. Both Peabody and Nadine have important roles in this book.

I think the books where Eve has a personal connection to the murders works best and her friends having connections work almost as well. The story also is teasing out Eve’s continuing struggles with her past. Much as been resolved and Eve is happier, but things are still lurking that she struggles with. This book only teases those issues gently, but I like that her past has not been easily resolved and set aside.

WORTH MENTIONING: My favorite part of this book is Eve setting up a romantic dinner for her and Roarke. This is a turning point in their relationship as she begins to do those regular romantic gestures which make a good relationship.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WITNESS IN DEATH is the tenth book in the In Death series. This series has standalone mysteries with continuing character storylines. This book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Hold Back the Dark

Review: Hold Back the DarkHold Back the Dark by Kay Hooper
Series: Bishop/Special Crimes Unit #18
Published by Berkley Books on April 3rd 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 352
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I ended up tremendously disappointed in this book which began as an amazing story with a whole bunch of characters I was interested in, but ended up being resolved (mostly offscreen) in the space of only a couple of pages. In fact, the book felt like a half book with the author’s synopsis at the end. I’m hoping there will be more with this group in the future.

THE STORY: Something is happening in the town of Prosperity. A call has gone out from a mysterious source calling psychics from all over to the town. A series of vicious murders with unlikely killers takes over the town. The SCU along with a rag tag group of people who have rejected joining the SCU must join together to keep the evil contained in Prosperity and find the source before the evil expands.

OPINION: Until the last chapter of this book, I really loved it. It might have been a 5 star book, but definitely a 4 star one. Then the entire book just abruptly ended with a summary resolution that read more like a synopsis than an actual ending for the book.

This book was disappointing and perhaps one of the worst of the series because it completely abandoned the actual storytelling of the paranormal events. The book felt like it should have had another 100 pages instead of just ending the entire plot in a couple of pages with events that were told in a summary fashion.

I was let down because I believed that the beginning of this book showed incredible promise. The book introduces a whole new cast of characters that are intriguing and their interactions show great possibilities. I loved the return of Galen who is now a more reflective, damaged and dark character. And I loved seeing Hollis and Reese (though disappointed that significant events have occurred offstage once again). All the new possibilities raised my interest in the story and I expected that after all the introductions that there would be some real exploration of what is happening in Prosperity. But this book really feels like it is missing its third act. Instead of the well thought out and plotted ending, we only get a cursory explanation of events without any drama or suspense.

This book might be a gateway to more stories (I hope so because I loved the characters), but this book as a whole was a letdown.

WORTH MENTIONING: The blurb of this book is misleading as it focuses on Katie Cole who is merely a bit character and doesn’t really have much to do with the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HOLD BACK THE DARK is the eighteenth book in the Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series. I don’t believe these books can operate as standalones because there are numerous overlapping characters, references to prior cases and (especially in this case) some overarching storyline.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: Inner Harbor

Review: Inner HarborInner Harbor (Chesapeake Bay Saga, #3) by Nora Roberts
Series: Chesapeake Bay Saga #3
Published by Berkley Books on January 1st 1999
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 324
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable read although the drama in the story isn’t as deep as might be expected from the description. I enjoyed watching these characters fall in love, but I felt there was more that could have been explored below the surface.

THE STORY: Phillip Quinn began life as a thief until he was taken in by the Quinns. Now he wears a veneer of sophistication. When he meets Dr. Sybill Griffin, he finds her reserve attractive. But Sybill has a secret reason for being in town. Sybill finds Phillip intriguing, but she is used to a life kept apart and observing, but although Phillip appears the cool sophisticate, there is something hot and wild under his exterior.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable read, but the story stays on the surface between these characters and thus is not as memorable as it could have been.

Phillip is a sly man. Sophisticated and polished, he also retains the fiery and untamed street rat he was. I liked the combination here, but there really isn’t much drama with his background as I might have expected. I thought the book missed that a bit instead focusing on Sybill. I still felt that Phillip was a little distant as a character because I never got deeper into his character.

Sybill is a good pair for Phillip because they both hide their pain under the sophistication and a type of coldness and distance. That was the interesting part of the story between these characters as they see something alike in one another. She is a harder to get to know, but I thought the book explored her character better than Phillip.

I did really like how the relationship between these two developed, I just wanted more.

The book also wraps up Sean’s story. That part was a bit underwhelming for me. A little too neat and easy for the setup in the first book. The series decides to focus on the relationships which works for me, but the first book set up some expectations that really didn’t come to fruition in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This series was originally created as a trilogy but several years later Roberts added Seth’s book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: INNER HARBOR is the third book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga. This book should be read as part of the series even though the romance is self-contained because the developing relationships are good portion of the plot of this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

 

three-half-stars

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
Goodreads
five-stars

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.

five-stars