Dark, Witch, and Creamy is a fun little contemporary fantasy with the beginnings of romance in it. Here’s the back of the cover blurb:
A witch, a kitty and dark chocolate magic… Caitlyn is used to being the ugly duckling in her glamorous showbiz family… until the day she learns that she was adopted as an abandoned baby. Now, her search for answers takes her to the tiny English village of Tillyhenge where a man has been murdered by witchcraft – and where a mysterious shop selling enchanted chocolates is home to the “local witch”…
Soon Caitlyn finds herself fending off a toothless old vampire, rescuing an adorable kitten and meeting handsome aristocrat Lord James Fitzroy… not to mention discovering that she herself might have magical blood in her veins!
When she’s dragged into the murder investigation and realises that dark magic is involved, Caitlyn is forced to choose. Can she embrace her witchy powers in time to solve the mystery and save those she loves?
I enjoyed this book. It’s sort of on the cozy side of the mystery continuum, with fun and colorful characters and of course, chocolate. Lots of chocolate. I enjoyed Caitlyn and Widow Mags quite a bit, though I wish a little more about Caitlyn’s background had come to light. I also had some questions about Viktor and I hope those get answered in the future. I thought the magic elements were charming. My major complaint about the book is that while the bad guy is identified, the story seems a little unfinished (trying not to spoil it here). There is another book in the series that I think I’ll probably pick up. All in all, the book is fun and worth reading.
I really wanted to like this Combatting Fear by Sandy Vaile. The description pulled me in and I thought it was going to be a fun romantic suspense. Plus it’s set in Australia, which was a big attraction to me (though there were no spiders in this book, which I found surprising. Or venomous snakes.) Let’s start with the back cover copy:
How far would you go to save a child that wasn’t yours?
Mild-mannered kindergarten teacher Neve Botticelli leads a double life. Thanks to a childhood tragedy and her paranoid father, she’s a trained warrior with extreme survival skills who lives off the grid.
When self-made billionaire Micah Kincaid storms into town in search of his son, Rowan, he’s pushy, entitled, and stands for everything she despises. Micah can’t believe a kindergarten teacher is barring the way to him getting crucial information or even just a glimpse of the boy his cheating ex kidnapped. They share only one thing in common: either will do anything to protect the four-year-old, who they soon discover is being held for ransom by an outlaw motorcycle gang.
But as they work together to get Rowan back, they start to see beyond each other’s masks. Could falling in love be even more dangerous than hunting down deadly criminals?
The writing of the book is really good, and the end relationship stuff was well done. Plus there were a lot of elements in the book that worked well. The moments between Tony and Neve especially. The descriptions were evocative and made me feel like I was there. Where I ran into difficulties was with 1) the relationship development, and 2) uneven/contradictory character development.
I’m going to start with the second issue first. Both Neve and Micah were engaging and likeable. But they were also inconsistent and constantly waffled on issues for no good reason. There were no real triggers for much of their–but what if? thoughts. I got annoyed with both of them. Vaile justified their qualms and fears with a solid foundation. I got why Neve was suspicious of Micah and why he’d doubt her–at least at first. But then it kept feeling artificial as they got to know each other and still had the very same doubts without any real trigger for them.
Then Neve is billed as leading a double life. Not really. I was disappointed in that. And that she’s a trained warrior. It didn’t really come across. She’s weepy and nervous and generally sort of passive. And then she’ll have these sudden moments of warrior action and thinking, and then go back to the other. It’s aggravating. The warrior stuff comes out somewhat in the end, but still wasn’t all that warrior-like. I felt a little bit like there’d been a bait and switch.
The relationship development was also odd. Their attraction came at odd times and sort of out of the blue. The final development was really well done, but the development just didn’t feel organic or natural.
In the end, I felt the book was okay, but I didn’t come away feeling satisfied.
I really love the Laura Griffin books. They are romantic suspense and have great characters and engrossing plots, but hot and compelling romance. At Close Range is the latest in her Tracers Series, of which I’ve read most, if not all. I have to check. This one includes characters from previous books, though it can totally be read independently of any of the others.
The book revolves around a double murder that quickly grows into more murders and a twisted investigation. Dani, our main character, is the lead investigator on the case. This is her first time leading, and she’s very nervous, though also very competent. Scott Black is a ballistics expert and former Navy SEAL who works at a local lab that provides forensic services to law enforcement all over the country. Dani and Scott go back to their teenage years. He practically grew up in their house–her brother’s best friend. His career in the Navy ended with an injury, and now he’s become a primary expert in his field. The two of them have sparks, but he’s not ready to cross the brother-friendship line to mess with Dani, and she’s pretty sure he’ll break her heart.
He is one of the experts called in on the case, but soon is implicated as a suspect. That puts them on opposite sides, because even though Dani believes in him personally, a good detective works on facts and evidence. Secondary characters are introduced and play important roles in the story, all the way to the end.
I didn’t love this story as much as some of Griffin’s previous books, but I liked it quite well. I thought the relationship between all the characters–professional and personal–were deftly written, particularly Dani’s relationship with her fellow cops. Her relationship with Scott had some places that I winced at, but I think that was a personal thing, and overall I thought it developed organically and realistically and romantically. The sex scenes were both hot and emotional, which is an art to do. The only major problem I had with the book was that the ultimate bad guy seemed a little bit farfetched. The twisted plotline was wonderful and kept me guessing, but I wish the ultimate villain had been more on the page pulling strings.
I would rate this 4.5/5 stars and totally recommend it and all the others in the series. Good writing, good suspense and mystery, wonderful romance. I read it pretty much in one sitting as soon as it showed up on my Kindle.
I like Christmas romance, and especially this year, it seems like a good inoculation against the unhappiness in the world and the stress of life and the holidays. I picked up Eve Gaddy’s The Doctor’s Christmas Proposal off NetGalley. I really like Eve’s writing and expected to really like this book. And a lot of it I did. But one unfortunately central element kept bothering me and while it was addressed somewhat at the end, not enough for me.
So here’s the story (blurb off Amazon):
Betrayed by his ex-fiancée, Dr. Wyatt Gallagher turns to the one woman he can always trust – his best friend, Mia Watson. After moving away, Wyatt has realized he wants more than friendship with the beautiful artist. With that in mind, he convinces Mia to come to Marietta for the Christmas holidays. But wooing Mia is surprisingly difficult — especially given the passionate night they’ve already shared.
Though Mia Watson has loved Wyatt Gallagher for years, he’s always seen her as a friend, never a lover. Except for one unforgettable interlude when comfort turned to passion. Then Wyatt moved back to Montana, leaving Mia with an unexpected consequence of their night together–and soon, heartbreak to follow.
Faced with the fulfillment of her dreams, Mia knows she must reveal the consequences of their night together to Wyatt. But having withheld the truth for so long, will her confession destroy his trust in her, ending their friendship and any hope of a future together?
So obviously there’s some cool angsty stuff going on. Also, the setting is Montana, and having lived there for 15 years, I loved reading about it. From that third paragraph, you can guess that Mia got pregnant from Wyatt on their one night stand years before (which for her was not one, and for him–very confusing). More on that below.
The family and secondary characters were fun and interesting and warm. This isn’t a book of high drama, it’s quieter and more family focused. It’s a fairly gentle story in many ways. I liked Wyatt and Mia quite a bit and felt that their emotions and feelings for one another were real and strong.
Now this is going to be a spoiler, so if you don’t want to have that, don’t read more.
First, the good. I’ve read some Janet Evanovich before, but I’m not a regular reader. I have enjoyed her stuff, though, and I thought Curious Minds, by Evanovich and Phoef Sutton, sounded fun. This is the back cover copy:
Emerson Knight is introverted, eccentric, and has little to no sense of social etiquette. Good thing he’s also brilliant, rich, and (some people might say) handsome, or he’d probably be homeless. Riley Moon has just graduated from Harvard Business and Harvard Law. Her aggressive Texas spitfire attitude has helped her land her dream job as a junior analyst with mega-bank Blane-Grunwald. At least Riley Moon thought it was her dream job, until she is given her first assignment: babysitting Emerson Knight.
What starts off as an inquiry about missing bank funds in the Knight account leads to inquiries about a missing man, missing gold, and a life-and-death race across the country. Through the streets of Washington, D.C., and down into the underground vault of the Federal Reserve in New York City, an evil plan is exposed. A plan so sinister that only a megalomaniac could think it up, and only the unlikely duo of the irrepressibly charming Emerson Knight and the tenacious Riley Moon can stop it.
Emerson Knight is a kick. He reminds me a little of the TV version of Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock, except much more endearing. He’s rich and totally eccentric and so is his family and house. Emerson is determined to actually see the gold he’s invested his money in. He doesn’t really have a reason, he just wants it. But Riley is sent to convince him otherwise. Soon they discover her boss and family are carrying out a plot to take over the world.
Now, this book should have been ridiculous. The plot–well, come on. Take over the world? But it works. Mostly because Evonavich and Sutton don’t take themselves or the story too seriously. There’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek. The story is a bit silly and fun and hugely entertaining. Puts me a little bit in mind of the silliness of Psyche or Leverage. I really enjoyed Riley and Emerson, and I found the bad guys truly bad. I also enjoyed the way the plot played out. In the end, it all made sense, even though it was utterly fantastic. I recommend it.
Second is not quite so good. I enjoy Pamela Claire’s I-Team books. They are steamy romance thrillers and quite fun. Barely Breathing is a new romance in a new setting–Colorado with Search and Rescue instead of SEAL types. Here’s the back of the book blurb:
Lexi Jewell left Scarlet Springs twelve years ago, vowing never to return to the small Colorado mountain town where she grew up. Now, here she is—over thirty, out of a job and with little choice but to move back in with her eccentric father. Lexi knows it’s just a matter of time before she runs into Austin Taylor, her first boyfriend and her first heartbreak. She’s determined to show him she’s over him—until he steps out of a pickup truck and back into her life, looking sexy as hell in his mountain ranger uniform.
As far as Austin is concerned, Lexi can turn her snazzy little convertible around and drive back to Chicago. After all, she ripped his teenage heart to pieces and turned her back on the town he loves. But from the moment he sees her again, he can’t get her out of his mind. Even her smile messes with his head.
When an evening of conversation turns into something else, Lexi and Austin agree to be friends—with benefits. But as Lexi starts making plans to return to the big city, Austin realizes he’ll lose her a second time unless he can show her that what she’s searching for has been right here all along.
What works really well is the romance. Totally believable–the backstory, the current story, the friendships that surround the two lovers, and the progression of their love story. Lexi’s relationship with her father and step-mother also works really well. It’s difficult and painful and has no easy solution. So why don’t I like this better? I’ll tell you. It’s the sex. Don’t get me wrong, I like steamy romance. I like sex in books. But this book threw me. I know Claire was trying to capture the ‘modern male’ and the raunchy language, which I also don’t mind. But in my sex scenes, I really don’t want to read about pussies (the vagina variety) or plush lips or plump lips (of the kissing variety). Or saliva. It’s so . . . not romantic, I guess. I also really hate it when characters talk about their lovers as a good fuck. Or say something to the effect of, I’m going to fuck her later. It makes the romance tawdry and it feels like hooking-up, rather than not. At some point, they call each other fuck-buddies. Again, makes sense with the friends with benefits thing, but it just throws me out of the story.
What Claire does do well is wrap the raunchy elements up with romantic descriptions of the emotions and physical feelings, which redeems those scenes a bit for me.
Anyhow, much of the story I enjoyed, but there were a lot of sex scenes, a lot of pussy and plush and plump and possible some perky, and then the fucking. If you don’t mind any of that, then this is an excellent book. If you do, well, skip those scenes?
Black Irish by Stephan Talty. I saw this book on some website or other and it looked good, so I bought it. It’s a really excellent thriller. The basic premise is that Abbie Kearney, a police detective in Buffalo, NY, is looking for a serial killer. A nasty one (I love disturbed killers in books). The only trouble is, nobody in town wants to talk to her. The close-mouthed Irish community called the County doesn’t trust her, even though her father is a famous local Irish cop. As the number of killings ratchet up, she gets uncovers old secrets that more than one person thinks worth killing for.
First I want to talk about the mystery and portrayal of Abbie. Both are done really well. I love the twistiness at the end. There were several twists and all of them had well-laid foundation but were still surprises for the most part. The portrayal of characters was realistic and compelling. And there’s a lot of tension, a lot of history underneath everything that drives the various characters. Everybody has been hardened by economic collapse, by loss, by crushed hopes, by feeling of being trapped.
Buffalo has been decimated economically be the desertion of the big steel companies as well as general economic bust. There are few jobs and people are scraping by. Talty pains a poetic and compelling picture of this world, of its people, and of the atmosphere. There’s a richness to the prose, even as there’s a spareness to the writing.
I really enjoyed this book. The mystery was tangled and the world and development is dense and complex. It’s a terrific read.
I just finished the third book in Lisa Shearin’s SPI files. They are so fun. I read the first one, The Grendel Affair, when it first came out. I bought the second, The Dragon Conspiracy, and then somehow forgot about it. Then The Brimstone Deception came out last month and I realized I had some reading to do. The happy thing is that I had two to read back-to-back and that was so fabulous. The unhappy thing is that I don’t have another to chew through. Damn.
Anyhow, the SPI books take place in New York City and revolve around a supernatural non-official police force. There’s a lot of police procedure, adventure, snark, and a hint of romance. The character interactions are just so much fun. Smart and funny and serious and in the latest book, you get to meet the great great great . . . grandaughter of the witch who built Hansel’s and Gretel’s gingerbread house. Only Kitty’s not a child-eater. You’ve got a wide cast of characters, and a variety of cool stuff going on. I really recommend you just go get all three, stock up on some munchies and your drink of choice, and hunker down for a good long, lovely read. Really.
And then, because she’s just so much fun, watch Jeanne Robertson. A very fun, very clean comedian. You’ll laugh.
From the New York Times bestselling author of A Rush of Wings and The Maker’s Song series, a humorous, action-packed urban fantasy about a werewolf pack and an animal control officer in way over his head!
Someone is picking off fortune tellers and hippies in Oregon, snatching them out of their Birkenstocks mid-stride. And when the legend himself, Hal Rupert, Animal Control Officer, gets a whiff of the mystery, he knows he’s the man to solve it. In between proudly wrangling out-of-control cats and dogs, he’s noticed a peculiar uptick in another sort of animal…werewolves.
Hal infiltrates the country fair to investigate the disappearance of the flower children. But his real priority is protecting the love of his life, Desdemona Cohen, whose long purple tresses and black-glossed lips captured his heart the moment he first saw her standing behind the register at Hot Topic. Desdemona may have nicknamed Hal “Creep,” but he’s determined to win her heart. And, you know, save everyone else, too.
So first of all, you can tell from the tone of the description, that this is a tongue-in-cheek sort of romp. It’s entertaining as hell with a lot of fun stuff going on. First of all, Hal is a dog-catcher and his weapon of choice is a catchpole. At first I thought, oh, dear, this could go horribly awry. I should have known better. It’s so fun. Hal is partially a Walter Mitty, slightly delusional and believing he’s a secret superhero, and he’s also a secret superhero saving the world from terrible evil. The mix of his own delusions overlaps with reality in a lovely way. All the characters are well drawn and–I know I keep repeating this–they are so fun. There’s snark and wit and silly jokes and reversals and seriously, you’re going to want to read this one. It releases on January 4th, and right now the electronic version is only $1.99. I’m telling you, give it a grab. You won’t regret it.
I just finished R.M. Greenaway’s Cold Girl. This is a mystery and a police procedural. It revolves around a disappearance–what happened to the pretty singer of a local up-and-coming Canadian band? The main characters are Constable Dion, who has survived a terrible car crash and a year later, is still not able to think the way he once did. Once a hot-shot detective, he’s now relegated to the backwaters of Canada doing scut work. The other main character is Leith, a detective who has been pursuing a particular serial killer and thinks that maybe this case is related.
What unfolds is a picture of a place–the cold remote back country of Canada where people eke out a living. It’s isolated and unrelenting and oh, so cold. In this tiny town, there are too many suspects. Pinning down motives and who did what and when is a difficult task. Worse, Dion has a terrible time articulating himself and he begins to perceive patterns and clues, but his memory and mind won’t work properly. He’s frustrated. Everybody is frustrated with him. He’s hidden his past, not wanting pity, so everyone sees him as inept at best, incompetent at worst. He quickly finds himself at odds with the other local law enforcement officers and scrutinized by his higher-ups.
Leith is feeling burned out, angry, and left behind. Even when he solves one major mystery, he’s left with more piling up. He’s not sure he’s happy in his marriage or his job, and he’s not sure what he wants or where he wants to be. But soon, the missing girl becomes important to him and he finds it imperative that he solves the case.
At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book. Neither Dion nor Leith are particularly likable. But they are fascinating. And watching Dion both fall apart and pull himself together at the same time is agonizing and yet I kept hoping for him. The mystery was somewhat slow to unfold, but then, while this book is about the whodunnit, it’s more about the characters searching and the place and the local world.
The mysteries (they build as you go) are tied up and a satisfying way. Less so are the characters. The ending is slightly muddy for me and I wish it was a little clearer. Two small things are dropped in and I just don’t know quite what to make of them. Also, a lot is made of Dion looking native, and yet nothing comes of it. I kept waiting for it to matter.
I do think this is a really good book and I enjoyed it. It comes out in March, so look for it.
Wow. I mean, wow. The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) is stunning. So freaking good. I’ve read three books so far this year that I think deserve big awards and this is one of them. The writing reminds me of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Cat Valente and Kelly Link. Kingfisher’s writing, however, is more pointed and observant, while being witty and delicious and funny and unexpected. I seriously love this book.
To begin, the description:
Rhea is an ordinary miller’s daughter, engaged to be married under suspicious circumstances to a man not of her choosing. He has unknown powers and a manor house full of mysterious women.
Rhea has a hedgehog. It claims to be ordinary, but normal hedgehogs don’t act like that.
It’s probably not going to be enough.
I don’t want to give away too much, but Rhea is only 15 when a noble asks for her hand in marriage. The asking is more of a telling, as she has no real opportunity to refuse or her peasant family will suffer significantly. So she reluctantly agrees. Very quickly she begins to suspect he’s a magician, though that’s not a terrible thing. What really bothers her is that he’s rather a shifty, mean-seeming sort.
He invites her (again, she can’t refuse) to visit his home and once there, she cannot leave. She discovers his terrible secrets and then must use her wits and her friendships to try to escape before very bad things happen to her.
The worldbuilding in this story is incredible. I loved the golem birds and I thoroughly enjoyed Rhea. She’s smart, observant, and while afraid, she’s courageous as well. Crevan was seriously obnoxious in the best possible way, and I loved the other inhabitants of the house and the quirky magic within.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a couple of things that niggle–a lot was made of Rhea’s name and I thought that would turn into more, and also, Rhea made some pointed observations and then didn’t go anywhere with them. Those were only a couple of things, though and the rest of the book was stunning and engrossing. One of those that I stay up stupid late to read because I can’t put it down. It’s coming out very soon, and you should preorder your copy. Seriously. Do it. You won’t regret it.