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 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.
I enjoyed Follow Me by Tiffany Snow. It’s romantic suspense with a fair bit of geekery, which made me happy. Here’s the back of the book description.
Brilliant, quirky twenty-three-year-old China Mack is totally satisfied with her carefully ordered, data-driven life. A computer prodigy who landed a coveted programming job at the cutting-edge tech company Cysnet before even graduating from MIT, China is happiest when following her routine: shower before coffee, pizza only on Mondays, bedtime at ten thirty sharp.
But then things start to get a little…unpredictable.
First Jackson Cooper—Cysnet’s rich, gorgeous, genius CEO—assigns China to a dangerous and highly classified project for a government defense contractor. Her sixteen-year-old runaway niece suddenly arrives in town, begging to move in with China. And then there’s her sexy but oddly unsettling new neighbor, Clark…
Quickly the Cysnet assignment becomes disconcerting—and then downright scary—as key staffers turn up dead. China suspects she’s being followed and isn’t sure whom she can trust. For the first time ever, she’ll have to follow her instincts, rather than logic, if she’s going to survive.
China Mack is a fabulous character. Snow made her feel not only real and interesting, but made her believable as a genius. I also liked and disliked Jackson and Clark and thought the ending was about perfect. The plot of the suspense made sense and didn’t have big holes in the logic. The only major issue that I have, and it’s my own issue, is I’m not a fan of love triangles and I have no doubt like it’s coming. Snow has planned at least one sequel with these characters and there’s no doubt that she’s set up the triangle.
As an additional note, I’m really glad that Clark wasn’t a dick (as he said). Or at least so much of one that he went through with what he was up to. That would have squicked me beyond redemption.
Sins That Haunt by Lucy Farago is a romantic suspense novel. Here’s the back of the book blurb:
Civil attorney Shannon Joyce walks the line of law and order, but she learned from day one how to put up a good front—thanks to her con man father. Thirteen years ago, she left the east coast and her life of crime behind. Her high school sweetheart, Noah, was collateral damage, but some things can’t be helped. But now there’s no escape when her past comes roaring down the Strip—in the oh-so-tempting form of the man she left behind…
Special Agent Noah Monroe has Shannon exactly where he wants her—in the back of his car in handcuffs. Her grifter father has been murdered, and the FBI needs Shannon to keep one of his scams in play to bag the big bad guy who was financing him. Once again a pawn in someone’s else game, Shannon will have to trust her instincts to survive both the peril threatening her—and the passion Noah reignites…
I liked this book with some minor qualms. There’s a history between the characters and the initial meet made me wary. It seemed a little bit contrived. But then things quickly moved ahead and I was immersed. I thought the overall suspense arc was quite good and their history and backstory made a lot of sense and powerfully impacted the here and now. I do wish that Shannon, who is very smart, would move forward a little quicker in terms of Noah. The things that hold them apart otherwise are important and work well. I liked the twist at the ending–really, both twists. I did doubt her mother could drive the backhoe, but maybe that’s because I’m a ranch kid and driving a tractor isn’t that easy. Or didn’t used to be. Maybe it’s all very automated and simple now.
The way the end built up with multiple climaxes to various arcs was powerful and compelling.
The book is Hard to Handle by Raven Scott. It will be published August 30th by Kensington Books. It’s romance with some suspense thrown in.
Here’s the description:
A covert ops specialist, a cyber-surveillance expert, and an unmatched international security and recovery pro. These are the men of Fortis. When money is no object, discretion is essential, and the police are not an option, the wealthy and powerful call on this trio of former government agents with elite military training—not to mention charm and good looks…
Samuel Mackenzie has his hands full with Fortis’ latest assignment. Their client is a European real estate investor who is trying to close a multi-million dollar acquisition. But a competitor is attempting to block the deal by any means necessary, including threats and vandalism that quickly escalate to life threatening assault. For Samuel it’s all in a day’s work—except for one unexpected twist…
The mission requires protective detail for the client and his mistress, who is also his personal assistant. But the mistress is Mikayla Stone-Clement—the only woman Samuel has ever loved, and who always seems out of his reach. Yet things aren’t what they seem. Because Mikayla has a hidden agenda of her own, one that puts her directly in the crossfire. Now Samuel will have one chance to save her life…and make her his forever.
I have mixed feelings about this book. Parts of it a really liked, parts of it annoyed the heck out of me, and parts of it made me feel a little uncomfortable in a weird way that I will delve into a little bit deeper here.
So first, the good: Overall, I thought the romance was pretty good, and the suspense plot well designed and laid out (except for the bad guy because he came out of nowhere.) I thought the security stuff was believable and I thought the development of all the actions really smart.
That leads me to the bad. One thing drove me seriously nuts. That was Scott’s inclination to use a lot of book saidisms–insisted, muttered, yelled, etc., when people talked. That was okay, but I felt like they were frequently off. Like when people yelled when they really didn’t. Maybe they raised their voices a little–but yelling jarred me because it was wrong for the scene. Likewise, using insisted when there’s nothing to insist on. Like saying, I’d like a yogurt, only writing it as: I’d like a yogurt, insisted the girl. When no one is protesting that she have a yogurt. And then when one character mumbled when he really was murmuring, because mumbling means unintelligibility of the words. It drove me batty and threw me out of the story.
The next thing that drove me up the wall were the over-the-top connection between the two leads. I loved that there was a time when they forced themselves to keep their hands off each other because of emotional tension, but it annoyed me early on when they couldn’t because it seemed too much for these very controlled people. I think that was the writer’s point–that their passion for one another overcame their usual control–but I had a hard time buying it.
I was really annoyed that the actual bad guy wasn’t even mentioned until they pegged him as the bad guy. I wanted him at least mentioned far earlier.
Finally, and this last one may just be me, but one of the things that threw me out of the story was something that seemed to be missing. Many of these characters were people of color. While I am glaringly white, I do know that POC face various kinds of discrimination based on their skin color on a daily basis. There was no hint of that in this book and it struck me as odd. Or maybe the word is artificial. I thought this particularly for Kaylee, who is not only a black woman, but she works in a field dominated by men. In fact, she’s worked in two fields dominated by men. So I kept waiting for someone to be obnoxious both because of her gender and color and there was nothing.
Now, this may be the fantasy of the book–that there’s a world where POC don’t have to worry about their skin color any more than white people do. And maybe it’s the Black Lives Matter movement that makes me extra-sensitive to those elements in society right now. I’m not judging the writer or the book on this one. I’m trying to figure out if this is a reasonable thing to expect in a book or not. I don’t know. In expecting it, am I doing making demands of a text that I have no right to? I’m interested on what anybody here might say because I think it’s important to discuss and frankly, I’m interested in being corrected if I’m way off base.
All things taken together, I’d give this book a 3/5 stars.
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’m way behind on my Netgalley reviewing. So I’m going to jump in with some long and some shorts. All these books came off Netgalley.
I’ll start with the book I finished most recently, called A Jury of One by Charlie Cochrane. This is a British police procedural combined with romantic elements as it follows the developing relationship between the detective, Robin and his lover, Adam. They met in the previous book in this series and at this point, they are newly living together.
I really enjoyed this book. It feels very realistic and the mystery and love story elements were both well written. The mystery wasn’t easy to see through, which I like, and there were a lot of possible ways for the investigations to go. There are several crimes that overlap and end up weaving together nicely. The romance between the two men suffers from the problems of new relationships, the uncertainties of each man, a certain amount of jealousy. I thought it was well done.
The only drawback for me, and it wasn’t entirely a drawback, was the extensive use of British slang. Police are known as rozzers, bad guys are scrotes, voicemail is answerphone. A lot of these were easy to figure out in context. Where I stumbled was when I couldn’t sort out the meaning. I thought these words gave a lot of reality to the world, I just wish there weren’t quite so many. Or a glossary. I like a good glossary. So I’d recommend this one. It comes out March 21st.
Another book I finished recently was a romance called Catching Summer by L.P. Dover. It’s contemporary about a woman, Summer, who two years ago witnessed her husband’s murder. She’s now come out of her grief with the help of counseling. A former nurse, she helps run a restaurant with her sister and former brother-in-law. A lot of football players from the local NFL team frequent the restaurant and one, Evan Townsend, has fallen for Summer. He’s not made any moves on her because of her past trauma. So that’s the set up.
I didn’t find this book that successful. I liked Evan and Summer and most of the time I liked their interactions, particularly because they didn’t get stupid for ridiculous reasons. That was a huge plus. What did bother me was the constant use of ‘fuck’ to describe their sexual activities. Not romantic, at least to me. Then there was the schtick where Summer goes back for ‘certification’ to keep her nursing license. She works two weeks with the team doing medical things including relearning CPR and it just seemed completely ridiculous that this would keep her nursing license current. Another thing that bothered me was the beginning which started 2 years previously and then leaped forward. I didn’t find it all that useful and it was really more a distraction.
In the end, while I did want to finish, I kept getting put off and out of the story and it didn’t work as well as I hoped it would for me.
The next book is Love the Witch, Hate the Craft by Nora Lee. This is the first of a series. It’s got a little bit of the feel of a cozy mystery, with magic. The heart of the story is really about a Rowan who’s come home to her town that she swore never to return to, in order to help save the Elder Tree, which is dying. Should it die, so will the town. Stir in the fact that she’s just broken up with her boyfriend and a local warlock has decided he wants to marry her in order to become the head of the coven, and also the fact that her friend’s kid has uncontrollable magic. Rowan is going to be busy.
In general, I liked the story. Rowan is supposed to be taking over the coven at some point because of her family, and she has to want to come back. She gets to see the town and her friends and family with new eyes and of course, everything turns out all right. This is a fairly fluffy book, as you can tell from the cover. It’s a quick read and pretty fun.
This next one is Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey. This one was fluffy like the last book, and also a romance. Not a great deal of depth, though I enjoyed the interactions between Izzy and Rob. She was jilted by his best friend, and Rob’s been in love with her for long before that. They were friends also, but she’s been unwilling to see him since the wedding, since he got to deliver the bad news and she punched him. She’s embarrassed.
The story begins with a snowstorm that keeps her from getting home to her shady sort of flat where a guy lives who is portrayed as a potential rapist, and at one point he does grab her. She runs into Rob and he takes her home where she stays through the storm and they connect.
Things roll forward and they figure out they’re in love. This is a Christmas story, so the holidays are the backdrop, and the other cast of characters are delightful. Izzy is a wedding dress designer and ends up helping Rob’s sister with her dress last minute.
This book is light reading and fun and a good Christmas story.
I have more to review, so there will be another roundup soon.
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.