Archive for the 'Reading' Category
Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019
Have you read a reverse harem story? Do you know what they are? Essentially they are romances involving one woman and at least three men. Two men would make it menage-a-trois, which is another category of romance. I have been told by one writer of reverse harem stories, that this is not a group sex/orgy type of book, but the woman has encounters with each man one-on-one. The focus is on the developing romantic relationships between each pairing, while the men also develop relationships with each other of a non-sexual nature.
I’ve not really read them, after learning about them last year. I happened to run across a book bundle with four or five inside by the same author, so I picked it up and so far have read two of the stories.
This writer has a particular formula. I don’t know if applies to the genre in general or not, but there are some things I found interesting about the formula as a writer. First, in these books, the woman doesn’t know the men. She meets them one by one, usually, though one many usually has a male friend with whom he’s shared a girlfriend before, and it was something they wish to repeat again.
I think this experienced couple of men is fundamental to the way she tells her reverse harem stories, because they can reassure both the woman and the other men that this can be a healthy and normal relationship. In other words, they give a kind of permission for everyone to participate in what is currently socially taboo behavior.
The woman also has a problem that she doesn’t want to ask for help for. She’s independent and spunky the men all admire and want her. There’s an insta-love sort of quality to these stories because there isn’t a lot of time to develop each romance with any depth, so the reader just has to buy that they fall in love without a lot of evidence. There’s almost no conflict between the woman and each of the men. The conflict tends to be exterior in the shape of whatever problem the woman has, and complicated by the fact that she either doesn’t want help, or doesn’t want to tell them she needs help, Often she’s in money trouble.
The men want to help her through not giving her money, but helping her dig herself out and supporting her while she does. In other words, it’s not exactly a rescue. Nor is it a “we’ll help you for sex” situation. They like her and want to help her and the implication and sometimes explicitly stated motivation is that she deserves their help whether she’s romantically involved with any of them or not.
In both these books, they five (four men and the woman) end up moving in together after each realizes they all want her and they are willing to compete and let her choose. Of course she realizes she loves them all and can’t choose, and decides to call the whole thing off. She can’t bear to hurt any one of them by picking just one and she can’t imagine that they would want to maintain the relationship, but of course, they all do. She’s just that amazing.
She has sex with each man individually, and toward the end, there’s a kind of five-way with all the men involved, touching and kissing and pleasing her, which makes them all happy. There’s no male-on-male sex. No hint that they even touch each other while they are all naked with the woman.
I have to admit, part of me kept thinking . . . wow, what a lot of work to have sex with multiple men. It feels good and she’s terrifically happy, but combined with working and living life, that doesn’t give her a lot of time to just relax. Maybe relaxation is overrated when you can have that many mind-blowing orgasms.
One other thing that I noticed is that she has to constantly reassure herself that she’s not a slut. Her word. That having sex with multiple partners doesn’t make her an awful person. I found this annoying. It’s not that I don’t get the reason why. Society says that women who have multiple sex partners, whether dating them at the same time or serially, are whores. Readers have subconscious biases against women who do have and enjoy sex with multiple men.
Men who like sex and horndog sex, on the other hand, are just players and that makes them more manly. And the men in these stories clearly don’t have issues having multiple sex partners. It’s never suggested that they are anything less than manly men. But it has to be repeated that the women are not sluts or whores, that they really are good women, and sometimes this is reinforced by them cooking amazing meals for all the men, or being domestic in some other fashion, or being really kind and generous and the fact that they worry about what might be thought about them shows that they are really good women.
The fantasy of these novels is really the chosen one fantasy. And not just one amazingly handsome, nice, wealthy, kind, generous, and big-dicked men, but four. And they are so obsessed with her that they are willing to share her with other men. In fact, it’s a good thing because they won’t have to worry about her when they are working (all tend to have their own businesses or be workaholics). Nor will they have to feel guilty for not giving her enough of their time and attention.
I’m curious about other reverse harem novels and how they approach the story. I have to admit that while this author worked hard to make the stories robust with developed characters, I found the stories a little thin and flat. Not enough depth and not filling enough. Also a bit repetitive and not enough real conflict for me.
Does anyone read these? Do you have a favorite author or book? How do other books approach this type of story?
Tuesday, November 13th, 2018
I’m reviewing a short Christmas novel/novella by Erica Ridley. Normally I love her books, but this one didn’t work as well for me. Part of it was I had a hard time believing in a town devoted to Christmas in that time period, so that may be all my fault. This is the back cover copy:
Beware romantic spirits from Christmas past…
Due to the terms of an estranged relative’s will, the Duke of Silkridge must revisit the cold, unforgiving mountains where he lost everything he once loved. As soon as he restores his family legacy, he’ll return to London where he belongs. He definitely won’t rekindle the forbidden spark crackling between him and the irresistible spitfire he’d left behind…
Noelle Pratchett is immune to charming scoundrels like the arrogant duke. He stole her heart, stole a kiss, and then stole away one night never to return. Now he’s back—and they both know he won’t stay. But how can she maintain her icy shields when every heated glance melts her to her core?
So as I said, I didn’t buy the setting. The relationship between Silkridge and Noelle is believable, but for me, there’s too much exposition, and so much depended on long ago events. There wasn’t enough time or space to really build the romance. I felt like there needed to be more time, more conflict.
I also wanted to kick Silkridge’s dad’s ass. And I had a hard time with him being so beloved by everyone and the fact that he was a total asshole to his son. Surely the servants would have known and the town would have known. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t revere him for what he did for them, but I felt they would also have some awareness. The lack thereof was silly.
There were some other things that bothered me, but I liked a number of the characters, the stipulation in the will (I kept expecting there to be some significance to this–that his father figured out he was an ass and had try to make amends somehow. Nope. Not even.
In the end, it just wasn’t a satisfying read for me. Won’t stop me from picking up her other books . . . those I haven’t read.
Saturday, August 4th, 2018
I have been bad about reading lately. Can’t seem to finish things. But in the past few days I read two very fun books. One that’s been out quite awhile, the other that’s just coming out. Both romances, one paranormal, one not.
First, the one I got from Netgalley.
This one is called Hollywood Heir by Ruth Cardello. It’s available August 14, 2018. Here’s the back cover copy:
A billionaire silver-screen hero finds a real-life heroine in this sizzling romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Ruth Cardello.
Sage Revere follows her instincts, which have led to an oddball career as a plant psychologist. As a side project, she also helps strangers find happiness. Sage has a gift for knowing who needs her help, and the brooding hunk of a loner she meets in a coffee shop certainly fits the bill. She can feel it.
On-screen, Eric Westerly is the hottest superhero there is. Offscreen, he’s out of rehab; incognito in London; and reevaluating his life, his career, and his broken family ties. All he wants is to be alone. Then along comes some daft plant whisperer who gets under his skin. She’s also sweet, sexy, and irresistible. But what’ll happen when she finds out who he is—that underneath the gray spandex, he’s just a regular guy with a Batcave?
But Eric isn’t the only one with a few secrets. And when the masks come off, Sage and Eric are going to have to trust each other if they want a Hollywood happy ending.
I think what made me want to read the book was her career as a plant psychologist. I don’t know that I paid much attention to the rest of the description because I just had to know what was up with that.
It turns out the plant psychology thing is really a ruse for Sage to engage with other people in order to help them find happiness.
What I liked about this novel is the focus on the internal lives of both characters, their friendships with their best friends, and the real humanity that Cardello uses to draw the characters, even the truly obnoxious ones. This also wasn’t the over-the-top movie-star lifestyle sort of book. Both Sage and Eric had serious childhood issues with their families that molded them into damaged people. Neither find it easy to overcome the damage to become whole enough to be together.
I thoroughly enjoyed their journey because they seemed very real, very normal in their feelings and concerns, and even though romances are by nature very positive and uplifting, this one is more so. I’d definitely read this one and will probably check out the earlier books in he series. The fairy-tale parts of the money and royalty wasn’t overdone, either, which made me happy since I was reading for the relationship and Cardello really did well with it.
Jana DeLeon’s Trouble in Mudbug
I bought this one based on the haunting by the mother-in-law and the setting in Louisiana. Here’s the back cover blurb:
Scientist Maryse Robicheaux thought that a lot of her problems had gone away with her mother-in-law’s death. The woman was rude, pushy, manipulative and used her considerable wealth to run herd over the entire town of Mudbug, Louisiana.
Unfortunately, death doesn’t slow down Helena one bit.
DEQ Agent Luc LeJeune is wondering what his undercover assignment investigating the sexy scientist has gotten him into – especially as it seems someone wants her dead. Keeping his secrets while protecting Maryse proves to be easier than fighting his attraction for the brainy beauty.
I liked this book even though the romance wasn’t that well-built. The characters were terrific, and the first half of the romance built well, but then it went a little fast and I wasn’t entirely convinced of the relationship. Just not as believable for me. But the rest of the story was tons of fun and well worth reading. I want to see what adventures Helena gets up to next (she’s the ghost).
Thursday, October 26th, 2017
I’m so behind on book reviews, but here are three to start getting caught up.
I’m in the mood lately for lighter fare, though I’m also loaded up with mysteries, so we’ll see if I go there soon. Anyhow, first books first. I received these from Netgalley, so you know.
This first is actually a paranormal mystery: Hide and Seek by Allie Harrison. (FYI–the publisher is the same as some of my books). It’s available now.
Here’s the back of the book blurb:
Can she stop a killer before he takes over her thoughts?
As a child, Tess Fairmont learned the horror of her psychic gift—the ability to not only see, but experience the last moments of a murder victim’s life when she grasps their hand. Now, as an adult, Tess has learned to live with the curse of her ability and does what she can to help the Chicago PD solve murder cases.
But when she uses her talent to help stop a serial killer, she finds there are things more terrifying than her visions . . . like a serial killer who can connect with her psychically. She soon finds the only place she is safe is in the arms of the medical examiner, Dr. Michael Adams.
Until the killer makes her his next physical target and forces her to play a deadly game of hide and seek.
I really liked the premise of this book and Tess’ talent is really unique engaging. This is a romance as much as a mystery, and I enjoyed both sides of the story, though Michael comes off a little as too good to be true. The killer is creepy and his interactions with Tess become increasingly tense and scary. I do wish there’d been a little bit more obvious connection between the killer and the victims, but the backstory did fit and made sense, plus since Tess is a random element to his story, it works. All in all, it’s a fun read (well, also creepy) and I recommend it.
Next is a cozy mystery with a CORGI! Can you guess why I requested to review the book? I mean, a corgi. Anyhow, this book is Much Ado About Murder by Elizabeth Duncan, available in November 2017.
The show ruthlessly goes on as costume designer-turned-amateur sleuth Charlotte Fairfax investigates the death of a disagreeable director in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery. Costume designer Charlotte Fairfax has another murder on her hands as she prepares for the latest performance of the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company,Much Ado About Nothing. The company’s steady growth enables them to cast star British actress Audrey Ashley, who arrives on scene to play the lead role of Beatrice. But things immediately get more complicated when Audrey insists the company replace the current director with new, up and coming British director Edmund Albright. Edmund plans to change the popular romantic comedy, which alienates several people associated with the production. And the list of people he upsets only grows: the laid off former director, the hotel owner’s secretary, and even Audrey herself. Just as Edmund’s plans are about to come to fruition, his body is discovered on his sofa, holding a gun in his hand. His death is quickly ruled a suicide but Charlotte thinks otherwise. Why would Edmund, on the brink of greatness, kill himself? And in such an American way? With a whole cast of characters to investigate, Charlotte is determined to unmask each one before it’s final curtain call on the whole production in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery,Much Ado About Murder.
First, I read this a couple months ago so I’m a little fuzzy on the details, except the corgi is Rupert and very cute. Anyhow the setting for the book is a lot of fun and I really like that Charlotte is not a young thing. The relationships between the characters are real and quirky and I really felt like I was there at the inn and theater. I’m afraid I figured out the murderer a long way in advance, but that’s okay because it was more about the process and the characters than the whodunnit for me. I enjoyed this book too (if I’m honest, I find myself putting down a lot of books I don’t care for these days, but I don’t write about them because my reason for not liking them is more about where my head is right now than the books).
Anyhow, if you like cozies, this book is for you. It’s good. 4/5 stars.
I finished The Christmas Holiday today. Yes, I’m in the mood for Christmas stories. I’m fond of romances and sap and Christmas stories tend to be full of both. Maybe I should explain that a little. By sap, I mean heartwarming, with friends and family and of course, an HEA.
The Christmas Holiday by Maxine Morrey is available now, and is a fun book. It’s got a British flair, which I enjoyed. Plus it had exotic elements as the characters travel to a variety of places.
But before I say more, the description:
Fall in love this winter on a romantic trip around the world ending in a fairy-tale winter wedding!
As winter comes to London, journalist Mia Walker is desperately hoping for her big break as a travel writer, dreaming of exotic locations and sun-soaked beaches. When she’s invited to write a romantic travel piece that ends in a huge winter wedding in London, she jumps at the chance. The only trouble is, the photographer is renowned adventure-junkie Hunter Scott, who Mia last saw five years ago when she ended their engagement.
It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and Mia knows she’d be mad to say no – even if it does mean spending weeks travelling round the world with the one man she never wanted to see again! But as the wedding approaches, and the magic of Christmas begins to take hold, Mia can’t help looking out for mistletoe – and wishing she hadn’t cancelled her own engagement after all…
I wasn’t sure at first how much I was going to like this book I liked Mia, but some of her bickering with Hunter seemed to go on far too long and seemed a little juvenile on occasion. But then Morrey seemed to settle in to the story more, and I really enjoyed the romance. This is not steamy at all, for those of you who want to know. There are kisses, but everything else is off the page.
I enjoyed the interactions between Liv and Sandy a lot, and between those two and our unhappy couple, Hunter and Mia. This book was a slow build and the solutions and sorting out the problems didn’t come quickly. It felt very real because of that, and yet I didn’t get bored for that slower pacing. I will say that at first I thought that the whole problem between them could have been solved long ago with a conversation, but as things developed, it became clear that a conversation wouldn’t have really done enough. Both needed to grow up some, and both needed to learn some life lessons of their own.
I definitely liked this book and I recommend it if you’re looking for a relationship read, with the emphasis on relationship. 4/5 stars.
Monday, June 26th, 2017
I received this book from NetGalley.
This is a terrific book. Let’s start there. I’ll give you more below, but just know it’s a really good book and you should read it.
So to begin, The Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop by Tracy Corbett and available July 3, is kind of a romance, but while romance is a part of the book, it’s really about people figuring out their lives and going through difficult times and finding each other as friends and family. So if you’re looking for a strong romantic narrative, it’s not going to be coming. Doesn’t matter. It’s a fabulous read.
Back of Book Blurb:
Evie is busy running the Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop and praying for an uplift in sales as soon as possible. She might be in the market of selling romance, but for Evie a new man is the last thing she needs!
That is until plumber Scott Castillo turns up to fix her boiler. She’s definitely not interested. But then, why does she keep ogling his rather attractive forearms? She’s been fooled before – she isn’t about to fall head-over-heels for some smooth-talker, right?
When he isn’t trying to balance paying the bills with caring for his sick mother, Scott has stepped in to help parent his 18-year-old nephew, Ben. Between that and working full time Scott doesn’t have time for romance. Until he meets Evie . . .
Love doesn’t always bloom the way you expect but for the customers of the Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop it might just be the perfect time for romance . . .
Set in Britain, the book follows Evie’s journey back to independence after a bad relationship. She’s running her dream flower shop, but she’s got a time crunch hanging over her head. She’s got only so much time before she’s got to buy the shop or lose out on her dream forever. She’s also got a chip on her shoulder and is terribly suspicious of men. Scott is a delightful guy, but bogged down in several crises of his own. He’s given up his business and his life in London to care for his disabled mother and his nephew, who’s mom–Scott’s sister–can’t seem to be bothered. His ex-fiance blew him off when he decided to care for his mother, and so he’s skittish of new relationships, but he’s also eager to know Evie.
Things quickly go wrong for both. Corbett follows each through their separate lives, then bumps them up against each other, often with disastrous results. Each of them are putting up fronts so nobody knows just what is going on behind the facades and how difficult things have been and are, and both are afraid of what the other might think. Gradually their secrets come to light and they share, growing closer as friends and maybe something more.
Woven through their growing relationships and acting as foils, are the crumbling marriage of Evie’s best friend Laura and her husband Martin, the passionate and devoted relationship of Scott’s nephew Ben and his soon-t0-be bride Amy, the troubled marriage of Patricia and David Robinson, and the quirky and delightful courtship of Josh and Saffy.
Layered on to these relationships are the friendships that help teach each of the characters–not just Evie and Scott–how to grow and how to hold firm to what they most need and desire.
This story is a relatively slow build, but the pacing is really perfect and the story so well woven that the end is incredibly satisfying. You don’t get any of those “too-stupid-to-live” moments, and when Evie seems determined to be blind or to react irrationally, Cordelia or Laura or Saffy or others are there to catch her up short and point out that her reality is different from what she understands. But you sympathize with her because you see that those reactions are realistic for where she’s been and she owns her mistakes and she doesn’t hide from growth. The other characters find both heartache and happiness–but in the end, it’s all perfect.
I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading Corbett’s next book.
Thursday, April 27th, 2017
I’ve been doing some reading off Netgalley recently. I’ve not been getting my reviews up because I’ve been reading. So here’s a bit of a catchup.
The Graves by Pamela Wechsler (May 2 release)
Back cover copy:
Abby Endicott, the chief of the District Attorney’s homicide unit in Boston, returns in the heart-racing follow-up to Mission Hill. Things are looking good for Abby: she’s top pick to be the next District Attorney, and her musician boyfriend Ty has moved in, despite her upper crust family’s objections. But a serial killer is on the loose, and with two college-aged girls dead and another missing, time is running out. When the sons of a prominent government official are linked to the murders, Abby pushes back, stopping at nothing to find justice for the girls. This time, the killer could be right under her nose, and she may be the next victim.
In The Graves, former prosecutor turned television writer Pamela Wechsler delivers a tense and enthralling Boston-set thriller about the intersection of power, privilege, and justice.
I like romantic suspense and serial killer mysteries, and this looked right up my alley. It’s told in present tense, which can be offputting for some readers. Mostly it worked for me, making the tension more immediate, and discovering events as Abby does.
I waffled on whether or I liked Abby or not. She’s smart, but often seemed shallow. A lot is made out of her figuring out how to live without money since she’s been cut off from her parents’ money for dating a man they don’t like. There were times I got bored and annoyed with that, when I just wanted to tell her to suck it up. She’s had to give up luxuries, but she’s doing just fine. It seemed whiny. At the same time, her shopping addiction seems to mask a deeper pain. I think. I was never quite sure.
Abby’s also cutthroat, which she has to be in her line of work. That can be off-putting too, but in the case of Cassandra and Max, I was okay with that.
The investigation and courtroom parts of the novel were very well done. That’s what really wins in this book. It’s sharp and fastpaced and the killer isn’t terribly obvious, plus you have a stirring in of political maneuvering that adds depth.
The major thing I wished for in reading this book was more of Abby’s internal life. I wanted to like her more. I wanted to care more about her choices in life. As it is, she left me a little cold. On the other hand, I’m hooked enough to want to read the next volume in the series whenever it comes out.
Owning It by Leah Marie Brown (May 2 release)
Back cover copy:
The chance of a lifetime . . . or just another bad decision?
Delaney Lavender Brooks needs to grow up. At least, according to her parents. After getting evicted from her apartment and wrecking her car, Laney is almost ready to trade in her paintbrushes and surrender to a more sensible 9-to-5 existence. Almost. Until she’s awarded an internship at a prestigious art gallery in Paris. What else can the free-spirited artist do but follow her dreams? Even if her latest attempt at chasing rainbows might cost her a real future . . .
Once in the city of lights, Laney is almost undone by the glaring truth: maybe she isn’t sophisticated or talented enough to make it as an artist—or an independent woman, for that matter. And when she’s hotly pursued by a seductive Frenchman, she has to wonder if she’s about to be a fool for love, too. Soon Laney’s greatest challenge is not proving herself to her parents, but having the courage to live the life—and love—of her dreams . . .
I know I’ve read Finding It, another in this series, but for the life of me, I can’t find my review. But anyhow . . .
This is a really breezy romance. Laney is a really fun character and I enjoyed her discovery of Paris and her romance with Gabriel. Laney’s quirky and not entirely put together. She’s often awkward, and she is genuine and kind. I came to care about her quickly. I like Gabriel as well, though for me, he was a little bit flat. Or rather, it felt like I didn’t get to know him very well. The book is far more about Laney’s journey and her maturing.
There are only two minor issues I had with the book. The first is that the slang gets a little bit much for me. I get a little bit overloaded. Not a big deal, though. The second is that I’d have liked there to be a little bit more to the ending. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I was looking for just a little bit more personal exploration.
All that said, Owning It was a whole lot of fun. It’s funny and sweet and joyful.
Romancing the Rogue by Erica Ridley (now available)
Back cover copy:
When the new earl inherits, poor relation Miss Rebecca Bond must wed immediately or be out on her ear. The only man she’s ever loved is summoned to hear the will—but he already rejected her so soundly that they haven’t spoken in years. Yet who better than a rakish Viscount to teach her how to snare a gentleman who appreciates her charms?
Daniel Goodenham, Lord North-Barrows, regrets nothing more than the lost friendship with the one woman who treated him like a man, not a title. Fate has given him the perfect pretext to win her forgiveness—even if it means having to matchmake her to someone else. But now that she’s back in his life, he’ll do anything to convince her to choose him instead…
I should start by saying that I haven’t read an Erica Ridley book that I don’t like, and this one’s no exception. It’s an unusual setup and it took a little bit for me to buy the idea that Rebecca had essentially lived like a ghost in the mansion for so many years. Ridley made it believable, though. I thoroughly liked Rebecca. She has a sense of humor, talent, brains, and strength. She’s in a crap position and she knows it, but she keeps fighting for better.
I didn’t like Daniel much at first, mostly because he’d been an ass before the book started and I was irritated with him before I ever met him. He owned it, though, and by the end, he’s redeemed himself. He’s realized what he lost–and it’s not only Rebecca.
Saturday, February 25th, 2017
I did that. Ran away from home and to the Rainforest Writers Village where I got less work done than I wanted, but I did finish the fourth Diamond City Magic book (Yay!!!) and did some work on the second Mission Magic book. I also got to meet a lot of people I didn’t know, and spend time with others I do, and it was a good time. Patrick Swenson is so amazing for organizing and running this. He’s just fabulous.
I came back to aid the husband who had had his wisdom teeth out right before I left and developed dry sockets, which were very bad. Painful bad. He’s improved, but is still having some pain. In other news, the girlie is quickly becoming a teenager and I’m quickly losing my mind. My stress level is up and I’ve got a raging headache at this moment. I’ve got to seriously figure out some way to get through these next five years or so. Ten? Shit.
I need to learn to meditate. And maybe yoga. And exercise myself into the ground. This might get me through the hateful hormones.
Now I’m watching this very odd movie that is alternately bizarre and funny. I’m very amused. It’s called Mr. Right with Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell. Tim Roth has always been a good actor, but in this, he’s awesome. He does southern accent like nobody’s business. Plus he’s a really a fabulous actor.
Today was lovely sunny. Tomorrow the rain returns. Damn. I was looking forward to another walk in the sun with the dogs tomorrow. Maybe it will be a rainy walk. Or I’ll do some reading. I’ve been managing to enjoy some lately. Hoping for more.
Friday, February 10th, 2017
Book provided by NetGalley
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.
4 out of 5 stars
Wednesday, February 8th, 2017
I obtained this book through NetGalley.
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.
2 out of 5 stars.
Sunday, February 5th, 2017
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.