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Mystery/Crime

Beneath the Truth by Meghan March

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 17th August 2017
Beneath the Truth by Meghan MarchBeneath The Truth by Meghan March
Series: Beneath #7
on August 8th 2017
Pages: 350
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three-stars

I used to believe there were lines in life you don't cross. Don't lie. Don't cheat. Don't steal.Until I learned people don't always practice what they preach.I turned in my badge and gun and walked away from everything.Then I got the call no one wants, and I’m back in New Orleans.What I don't expect is for her to be here too.Another line you don’t cross?Don't touch your best friend’s little sister.She's always been off-limits. Too bad I don't follow the rules anymore.

Second-chance romances or unrequited crush/love stories have always been tricky for me, and I admit that it’s got to leap over a heap of scepticism that I’ve developed when it comes to such tropes. That’s mostly because my vindictive, cynical self always has a basic set of questions which are more often than not, left unsatisfactorily answered. Maybe this is a defensive reaction, because most of the time, someone (typically the heroine) caves way too fast and too easily, without giving the other party a hard time about it—call it payment for years of pain and longing, I guess.

In essence, this trope spurs me to ask: what flipped that switch? Why only now, after all this time? Did this ‘second-chance’ happen only because one party (typically the hero’s side) suddenly decide that his blinkers fell off and that he needed to ‘claim’ a woman who had been there and pining all along? Or did this opportunity just happen to come along and someone decided to go along with it, without having given a thought to the other protagonist for years and doing anything about it?

Rhett Hennessy’s and Ariel Sampson’s relationship fits this to a tee. A lifelong crush on Ariel’s part, with Rhett determinedly ignoring her until one day he decides he’s going to move in for the kill like a neanderthal, on his own time. It was frankly, hard to accept when it didn’t take too much effort on his part to do so because every single bit of attention he paid her apparently got her panties wet, but thankfully, Meghan March doesn’t dwell on this too long.

Rhett and Ariel do slide into a relationship a tad bit too easily, but that’s also because a suspense/mystery plot takes over. The romance sorts itself the moment Rhett/Ariel got their act together early on and my strong opinions dulled when the dirty cop mystery grew. I did think however, that the story did try to juggle a little too much though—the mess with an ex-boyfriend, dirty cops and mafia involvement seemed to mesh in a way that stretched my ability to suspend disbelief.

The long and short of it is, it was an alright read; I didn’t hate it but I wasn’t blown away either. ‘Beneath the truth’ is definitely much more than just unrequited crushes fulfilled, though I couldn’t have guessed how much it tries to incorporate suspense when I haven’t read the rest of the series. But it’s perfectly fine as a standalone, though a little catching up to get into it might be needed.

three-stars

Going Dark by Monica McCarty

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 12th August 2017
Going Dark by Monica McCartyGoing Dark by Monica McCarty
Series: The Lost Platoon #1
Published by Berkley Books on September 5th 2017
Pages: 352
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three-stars

Like Rome's Lost Legion, a SEAL platoon goes on a mission and vanishes without a trace.
After walking into a trap on a covert op in Russia, the men from top secret SEAL Team Nine are presumed dead. Not knowing whom they can trust, and with war hanging in the balance, the survivors must go dark and scatter around the globe.
Marine ecologist Annie Henderson joins her new boyfriend on a trip to the Western Isles of Scotland to protest a hazardous offshore drilling venture. When she realizes that she may be swept up in something far more dangerous than she'd intended, there is only one man she can turn to. . . .
She and the mysterious but sexy dive boat captain haven't exactly gotten off to the best start, but something about his quiet confidence makes her think that he's the kind of man she can depend on. Because he's gruff and guarded, she can tell Dan Warren has secrets. But she could never imagine how high the stakes are for him to keep his cover, even as he risks everything to protect her. . . .

A SEAL team paralleling the lost Roman Legion is a mouthwatering prospect. A covert op that had gone so wrong has led to the remaining few scattered around the globe and off the grid, waiting for justice to be served? It’s catnip on a platter. As someone who isn’t really into historicals, Monica McCarty’s a new author for me and any addition to the RS sub-genre is something I’m typically happy to pounce on.

Yet the opening was at best, shaky with an overwhelming info-dump that got my head swirling, all in the midst of an op that was going to go bust. Filled with with too many names, ranks and explanations of how the team worked, the first chapter was also oddly anchored by a character who also wasn’t the protagonist, which was bewildering to say the least as you only learn of one of the secondary SEALs peripherally mentioned was going to be the hero instead in the next few chapters.

But ‘Going Dark’ hits its stride halfway in, as Dean Baylor (the once Senior Chief)—hiding away in the Hebrides two months after the botched Russian job—gets inadvertently involved in an ecoterrorist plot with a woman who could very well be collateral damage. Nevertheless, I was drawn in by the intrigue and the suspense more than the characters with whom I felt less of an affinity.

Dean/Annie weren’t quite a couple that I could see together—their fiercely opposing ideals aside—as their skin-deep connection simply felt like an adrenaline-fuelled product that would burn bright and hot, but eventually burn out. Dean’s constant rumination about his casual hookups, his usual type of women and Annie not fitting the bill were off-putting to say the least, even when these comparisons were supposed to serve as his internal monologues about Annie’s break from the mould. The latter’s environmental-saving, emotional liberalism is the still furthest from his military beliefs however, though attraction comes at the worst possible timing especially since “casual” has always defined Dean’s so-called social life to a tee. Yet Annie’s insecure naïveté—some TSTL lines were crossed—and her need to keep clinging when all they agreed to was a fling that would end when they separated got annoying when she went from a seeming no-nonsense PhD graduate to a weepy, needy woman when she near begs him to stay.

That said though, this is a thoroughly promising series; the other characters definitely intrigue me and Monica McCarty provides enough of a backstory of them as a teaser that makes me enthusiastic for the sequels to come. Action specific to each couple is the focus of every book it seems, though as of now, investigations of the overall mystery crawl on, which make the ending unsatisfactory as none of the pieces have yet fallen into place. But the bright side? There’s still more to look forward to.

three-stars

Disavowed by Tee O’Fallon

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 1st August 2017
Disavowed by Tee O’FallonDisavowed by Tee O'Fallon
Series: NYPD Blue & Gold #3
Published by Entangled Publishing (Select Suspense) on August 28th 2017
Pages: 363
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one-star

NYPD Detective Dom Carew can’t forget the violent way his lover was killed in Afghanistan fifteen years ago. The pain and trauma of her death still haunt him, and since then he hasn’t let a woman under his skin. Until one incredible, hot and steamy night with stunning and sassy Daisy Fowler.

Sexy, gorgeous, and hunky doesn’t begin to describe Dom Carew, but Daisy’s been burned by Dom before. A year ago, he bolted from her bed in the middle of the night without so much as a gee you were great in the sack, babe. Never laying eyes on his handsome face again is the plan. If only their paths didn’t keep crossing. If only she didn’t still find him irresistible as sin.

Seeing Daisy again sets Dom’s blood on fire, but he’s about to embark on the most dangerous undercover op of his life—infiltrate the Pyramid, an international organization of assassins. Love has no place in his heart or his world, but when the dangers of his job threaten Daisy, he’ll destroy anyone in his path to protect her.

This is my first Tee O’Fallon read but finding myself cringing and grimacing for most of the book doesn’t bode too well. There are times when I can sort of ‘ignore’ the protagonists and concentrate fully on the suspense and there are others when characters do trump everything else. And when a book—or rather, a main character—annoys you in the first chapter, that just feels like an ominous start.

For ‘Disavowed’, the latter held true and I found it difficult to get past the idiocy of the male protagonist enough to even enjoy the suspense. My hopes for it getting better waned when it appeared that Dom Carew spoilt it all from the beginning and the journey then on was a torture, at least when it came to the development of the relationship he and Daisy never really had.

I couldn’t get past the pure drivel that Dom kept spouting, let alone feel any sympathy for a ‘womanising asshole’ who, from the very beginning who uses women and leaves them in the middle of the night because of his own self-piteous reasoning that he was no good for anyone after his first and only love died in Afghanistan 15 long years ago.

Oh, boo hoo.

And of course Daisy stayed celibate in this one year and Dom continued going through women, though in his own words, he’d apparently never stopped thinking about her and behaving like he owned her. Adding to the hypocritical attitude is some jealous territorial behaviour that goes into overdrive when Daisy inadvertently gets involved in a case that he’s working undercover. That he’d put Daisy in an untenable position by using the excuse of work and his own personal heartbreak to keep her away yet taking every advantage of their sexual chemistry felt beyond unforgivable because she truly deserved better than his cavemannish ways.

Daisy on the other hand, pined a little too much. Though I understood her need to want some belonging, I found myself wishing she’d moved on from Dom as thoroughly as she could have, then flaunting it in his face as much as he used up every excuse in the book to remain an emotional coward. And why, oh why, did Daisy have to justify Dom’s behaviour when fifteen years surely must have been long enough even for her to stop making those same excuses for him?

Unfortunately, ‘Disavowed’ frustrated me to the point where I couldn’t read on. It’s clearly not the book for me in this case, particularly when I found myself way too annoyed to enjoy anything properly.

one-star

Into the Night by Cynthia Eden

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 31st July 2017
Into the Night by Cynthia EdenInto the Night by Cynthia Eden
Series: Killer Instinct #3
Published by Harlequin Books on December 26th 2017
Pages: 384
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three-stars

Lives will be ravaged as two FBI agents confront a mastermind serial murderer in New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden’s new Killer Instinct novel

Sheltered in the shadows of the Smoky Mountains is the suspect who’s summoned FBI agent Macey Night’s fears to the surface. Every day that the “Profiler,” a vigilante serial killer, escapes justice is another day she’s reminded of what it is to be a ruthless predator’s prey. Capturing him is a craving deeper than anything she’s felt in a long time. But Agent Bowen Murphy, equal parts sexy and volatile, seems hell-bent on changing that. Working together—needing, living, and breathing each other—they’re entwined to distraction.

Bowen’s used to operating on impulse: act, don’t feel. Now Macey and the controlled terror behind her beautiful eyes has him rethinking everything, including his rule to never get close to a colleague. He’s willing to fight for a future with Macey, but the consequences of love could be deadly.

I sometimes feel for authors who love writing murder mysteries, since these perennially suffer from the inability to hold their readers’ interest, particularly when the cases meld into one another and they stop standing out, even with excellent writing and atmosphere-creation. Throw some romantic suspense in it and the whole story becomes electrified, but that problem of keeping things fresh remains.

Cynthia Eden’s ‘Killer Instinct’ series is strangely one that keeps going under the radar for me, though it really deserves more than a second look. Perhaps this is a strange observation but I think for most of the books in this series, the characters and plots tended to blur into an interchangeable ball of mystery, murder and gore for me.

‘Into the Night’ did feel a tad bit too similar to the point where I couldn’t really distinguish each protagonist from another because all of them had their own secrets, worked for the FBI and turned dirty-talking alphas or wanting, sex-starved women in bed. Yet I did like Bowen and Macey, as I did the other couples (though they weren’t memorable enough to leave their own indelible stamp on me) so that was some conflict for me right there as a RS addict.

Thankfully Eden does deliver her twists, knowing full well that a murder mystery isn’t just a straight path leading to the whodunnit moment and that kept me entertained throughout, as did the surprisingly fast switch of relationship between Bowen and Macey. The mystery branches out into something more complex as the story goes on and with a few cases of the hunter getting hunted type of revelations, I got more and more invested as the pages kept turning. There are some parts where disbelief must clearly be suspended—it did get loopy when it was revealed—but by and large, there were hints that made it not too surprising at the end.

‘Into the Night’ isn’t a bad read and I’m going to say this up front. But it’s fatigue that’s setting in on my part, and I’m going with the been there, done that and read that line because it’s true. Like someone with a need of another, bigger and craftier fix, I think I’m jaded when it comes to Eden’s brand of RS (especially the serial killer cases because I’ve read so many of Eden’s books) unless there’s something revolutionary in the works to come.

three-stars

Delta: Redemption by Cristin Harber

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 28th July 2017
Delta: Redemption by Cristin HarberDelta: Redemption by Cristin Harber
Series: Delta #4
Published by Mill Creek Press on July 25th 2017
Pages: 306
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two-stars

“My name’s Victoria—No last name. Don’t ask.”

That was all that the woman would share when Delta team’s expert trigger man, an Australian named Ryder, pulled her from the pits of a human trafficking nightmare and took the gun from her hand.

He didn’t mean to steal her revenge but survival was the priority. Now that Victoria was home? She had a past he was trying to understand while keeping a secret from her that might tear her apart.

But he’s not the only one. When she goes missing, Delta team discovers that Victoria No Name was a one-woman vigilante force, taking on whoever crossed her path, from gun runners to a drug pushing motorcycle club.

She was exactly who Ryder thought she might be, and now he was coming in to help—whether she wanted backup or not.

Cristin Harber’s books used to be like crack for me, though I’ve got to admit that I’ve been disappointed in them as the Titan series grows. Harber does write good suspense; everything that involves Titan is typically drawn out, fairly complex and what they do actually rolls out hypothetical scenarios that aren’t too hard to envision coming true of late. ‘Delta: Redemption’ is Victoria/Ryder’s book, 2 secondary characters that I’d long forgotten about in Harber’s previous book, but it wasn’t hard to get caught up in the hostile Russian conspiracy in middle-America and the shady link to the brutal world of human trafficking.

I liked the start of the story, as Cristin Harber portrayed a victim of circumstances and rape who’d lost her self-confidence and her perceived standing in her small-town community. Both Ryder and Victoria’s connection was…for the want of a better word…a sympathetic one which I thought I could relate to. Both had lost something/someone and Harber certainly writes that soul-deep connection between the both of them especially well as Victoria was recovering from her ordeal.

But it went downhill for me from that point onwards and yes, was Victoria herself who rubbed me the wrong way. Upfront, I felt the problem was her TSTL behaviour that proved to be the costly catalyst that helped account for the action that happened in the rest of the book. Insisting on going at things alone when she knew full well that she needed help on this was stupidity of epic proportions; going ahead full steam while actually condemning herself–which shows some amount of perception that she wasn’t doing it right–for keeping things secret made it worse.

The need for revenge is always explained away as a lone-wolf, bloodthirsty, cannot-be-ignored trait and it’s simply reiterated here with her PTSD seemed swept under the rug with a softly-softly approach that Titan gave her, as did her friend Seven, ironically proving exactly what she never wanted others to think of her from the start: helpless when it came to crunch time yet having no issues eluding and deceiving when it suited her, only to lead Titan/Delta to her rescue a second time.

I’m all for assertion of independence, though all too often it’s done without thought, which then crosses the line straight into idiocy for me. ‘Delta: Redemption’ was to say the least, a read that didn’t go down too well, though clearly, what I ranted above has been one of my personal beefs for a long time. I couldn’t stop my eye-rolling for a long time, but as I’ve always said, just because it didn’t go too well for me, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t for others as well. In fact, I’m quite happy to say the opposite, in fact, happens.

two-stars

The Coldest Fear by Debra Webb

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews 20th July 2017
The Coldest Fear by Debra WebbThe Coldest Fear by Debra Webb
Series: Shades of Death #3
Published by Mira on August 29th 2017
Pages: 411
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four-stars

A killer with nothing left to lose…
Afraid or not, Detective Bobbie Gentry has a monster to confront. The pain of losing her family and nearly her life to a criminal's vile hunger is still fresh, but now the landscape is different. Now she's not alone. Now she has Nick Shade to trust. Nick treats the terror of his past with vengeance. He's dedicated his life to hunting serial killers, and he'd give up his last breath to save Bobbie. When a string of killings bloodies Savannah's elite society and causes cold cases to resurface, Bobbie is captured in a city more haunted than Nick's inescapable nightmares. And as the murderer strikes close, Nick and Bobbie will need to become even closer if they're going to survive.

‘The Coldest Fear’ picks up immediately where ‘A Deeper Grave’ left off, where Bobbie Gentry rushes after Nick Shade to help conquer his demons after he helped her with hers. There’s so much I like about this series and it’s primarily because of the unusual partnership that Debra Webb has gotten going between Bobbie and Nick: their pasts, their sheer capabilities to rise above their broken lives, their similar passions and the depth of their own feelings. Yet very little of that shows up in this book and without this defining feature that I’d found in the past two books, ‘The Coldest Fear’ stayed a very good read but not a fantastic one.

I’d expected that this was going to be a story of Nick and Bobbie working together to search for the man who supposedly orchestrated every recent tragedy in Bobbie’s life. What I hadn’t expected was to see Nick pulling so far away that he stayed hidden in the shadows, mostly out of sight and out of the narrative, still caught in his self-recriminating guilt because he would never be the kind of man for Bobbie who deserved better. This partnership that I’d envisioned was sadly, nowhere to be seen and like Bobbie, I was frustrated seeing Nick disappear when he was clearly needed and his insistence that he had to go at solving the biggest case alone was more hindrance than help by the time I reached the halfway mark. Instead, a seemingly unrelated sub-plot came into play—and which seemed irrelevant—with the pieces only falling into place later as Bobbie gets drawn into a bizarre situation of missing children from a cold case that is 32 years old with Nick relegated to nearly a peripheral character while Bobbie conducted her investigations with another officer in Savannah. It was as though I’d stepped into a separate police procedural with many POVs inserted into the narrative as the plot spirals out into peripheral details and rabbit trails that were bewildering to say the least.

There are however, shocking revelations towards the end and these strings are brought together quite masterfully by Webb as characters finally reveal the fractured history that they all share. It almost makes the long detour worth it, though it was difficult to see anything past the destruction of all the characters’ lives after a while. The hunt for twisted, psychopathic serial killers is claustrophobically wearing and the characters do bleakly reflect this: their personal tragedies are worn deep on their skin and psyches and no one comes away untouched at all.

This series definitely falls more into the suspense/thriller genre with very little emphasis on the romance, which, because of my own personal tastes, was the only disappointment. It’s well-plotted and a complex enough puzzle to get any suspense/thriller-fan going especially with all the mudding details that don’t add up, yet I couldn’t help but think that the overarching story feels very unfinished beyond Bobbie’s personal acceptance of events.

four-stars

Say No More by Liliana Hart

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 14th July 2017
Say No More by Liliana HartSay No More by Liliana Hart
Series: Gravediggers #3
Published by Pocket Books on July 25th 2017
Pages: 368
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two-stars

Dante Malcolm is a man of refined tastes. He was once a part of Britain's Elite Intelligence Force, but there was a reason he'd never been able to capture Simon Locke, the notorious thief who always seemed to be one step ahead. That's because Dante and Simon were one and the same, until Dante's double life eventually caught up with him and now he belongs to the Gravediggers. Eva Rothschild is a Detective Inspector with Interpol and is the one responsible for catching MI-6's most notorious agent in his final heist--except the heist killed him. But something has never felt right about his death, and it's haunted her for months. It was too easy, and Dante Malcolm was too smart to go down that way. Dante might belong to the Gravediggers in body, but his heart and soul will always belong to the next job. The rest of the team doesn't know about his alter ego because he made sure the information went missing from his file. So when the job he's always waited for seems like a possibility, he sneaks out of the country like a thief in the night, only to run into the only woman who's ever been able to match him in wit--and passion--for the job. Except they're standing on opposite sides of the law--and only one of them can walk away with the prize.

’Say No More’ had loads to deliver after I read its blurb.

Slap an arrogant, self-absorbed man who only lives for only himself and his pleasures without any consideration for others on the table and I’m going to want a redemption story and a hard but rewarding way out of the morass he’d found himself in. Put a woman whom he’d wronged so badly that I expect grovelling and a hard time by the end of it.

Instead, all I got was more cocky smugness, inflated self-confidence and the constant pompous justification of why he acts the way he does, amid the backdrop of child-smuggling and a missing twin that could have been more prominent but wasn’t. The action and the suspense somehow took a backseat to the meandering story of Dante’s womanising habits, his history with Liv and the Gravediggers mission that stood in the way of the plot moving forward.

Of all the books in the Gravediggers series, ‘Say No More’ is unfortunately the weakest of the lot in terms of plot and characterisation. It didn’t have the intensity and quirk of the first book nor did it have the same humour and surprises of the second, and I found myself sorely disappointed (and infuriated) in what could have really been a great read.

There was nothing redeemable I found of Dante, for starters. Privileged, unapologetically superficial and self-absorbed as he goes in search of thrills beyond working in MI6, his own selfishness and cowardice leads him to eventually become a Gravedigger, all because he’d no care for anyone but himself, not even the woman he gives up because he was afraid of giving up his lifestyle more. But he merely remains insufferably unrepentant even throughout the 2 years he left Liv—despite the claims he makes about wanting only her—and somehow thinks that a declaration of love at the end without any tangible measure of self-sacrifice would solve all problems between them in his small-minded universe.

Liv, the woman he spurned for the sake of his own skin, is understandably angry but apparently not angry enough that she jumps easily into bed with him despite the enormous amount of hurt he’d caused. Lust, or rather, sex, it seems, is overpowering to the point where Dante and Liv get it on as though 2 years of pain can be brushed aside like nothing. I still liked her better nonetheless—liked her unrelenting determination to search for a sister (whose story feels like a ship passing in the night) and sympathised even the pain she’d gone through.

Still, ‘Say No More’ isn’t a book I’d warmed up to at all, considering the optimism I felt after Elias/Miller’s story. But it’s been long established that my reviews mostly run contrary to what’s found here, so maybe it’ll be right up someone else’s alley. Just not mine.

two-stars
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