Category: Romantic Suspense

Collision Point by Lora Leigh

Collision Point by Lora LeighCollision Point by Lora Leigh
Series: Brute Force #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on February 27th 2018
Pages: 336
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

Riordan “Rory” Malone is a force to be reckoned with. A member of the Brute Force Protection Agency and an operative working with the Elite Ops, Rory is the fiercest of warriors and protectors. Honed from the strong Irish stock of their grandfather and sharpened to a razor’s edge, Malone men live for one single purpose: to protect the women who own them, body and soul. From the moment he saw Amara Resnova, he knew she could be that woman.

But Amara, daughter of an alleged notorious crime lord, is a force in her own right. When she betrays her father, she’s finds herself in the arms of a man who is dangerous for her body and soul.

Can Rory keep Amara safe while protecting his own heart? Can Amara trust Rory not to break hers even as the danger mounts, threatening to take them and their passion to a breaking point?

I had assumed that ‘Collision Point’ was the first of a new series by Lora Leigh and not part of her Elite Oops series, which I didn’t exactly take to. But while I found the start somewhat intriguing, it just wasn’t a story that could hold my interest; neither was the writing style which I found choppy, repetitive and somewhat difficult to follow.

On the one hand, there’s nothing more enticing about a male protagonist who knows what he wants and goes after it. On the other hand, there is the cookie-cutter pattern emerging here, of the growling, neanderthal male who’s built only to have rough sex and protect his mate and the helpless female who seems to run and flail at that possessive edge he shows around her. I’ll admit readily that Leigh’s ‘Wild Card’ put me off such protagonists, though ‘Collision Point’ felt marginally better as it pretty much revolved around a hero bulldozing his way through everything to get his woman back.

Structurally, I did struggle with this even from the beginning, as I tried to piece together Riordan’s and Amara’s history for the first few chapters as their backstory came in dribs and drabs, interrupted by copious descriptions of erections, wetness and coitus interruptus. Admittedly, with a sensual history between them, Riordan and Amara weren’t strangers to begin with, but instead of a constant build-up or reconstruction of their past, more than half the story was concerned with sex or how aroused either protagonist was (then spending it jealous thinking of imaginary lovers the other might have had), which did get annoyingly distracting.

My rating merely reflects my inability to continue the story—‘Collision Point’ is more like romantic suspense erotica, if there’s ever such a sub-genre. Sure, the sex is hot, but, it’s not a style that I’m used to at all (this is clearly, my preference) and frankly, I was thrown off way too much, right to the point past the halfway point where I found myself too frustrated to even get down and dirty with this pairing.

Protected by Elisabeth Naughton

Protected by Elisabeth NaughtonProtected by Elisabeth Naughton
Series: Deadly Secrets #3
Published by Montlake Romance on March 20th 2018
Pages: 304
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

Up-and-coming designer Kelsey McClane is on the cusp of success. Recently divorced, she should be enjoying her newfound freedom and glamorous future. Instead, she’s living in fear of the past. When she returns home to Portland on a press tour, danger creeps closer than ever. As threatening messages from her bitter ex-husband leave her vulnerable, a new man in her life makes her feel protected.

Former Army Ranger turned security professional Hunter O’Donnell is hired to guard Kelsey. When a shattering explosion rocks her world, Kelsey’s ex is the prime suspect, but Hunter speculates there’s more to the situation than Kelsey’s letting on. Intent on keeping her safe, he delves into Kelsey’s past. As the two work together to unmask her stalker’s identity, a fire ignites between them that they both struggle to contain.

While the investigation proceeds, it draws them closer not only to each other but also to a lethal plot that’s been in the works behind their backs. And with each new secret unveiled, it’s not just temptation putting them at risk—it’s a madman who will not stop until Kelsey is dead.

What I like so much about Romantic Suspense sub-genre is the blend of heart-pounding action and steamy romance (sometimes with a little mystery written into it) and when written well, provides a bum-clenching, fuck-the-world kind of escape that almost nothing comes close to. ‘Protected’ is one of those reads, reeling me in from the start with unresolved tension that’s almost immediately followed by an explosion that throws the life Kelsey McClane has been rebuilding back into chaos.

There’s a huge backstory to go into once the dust settles but I’ve found it an engaging read that was hard to put down, with several turns that were surprising but needed a little more suspension of disbelief. ‘Protected’ is nonetheless a good standalone, with minimal links to the rest of the series.

Elisabeth Naughton did write Kelsey and Hunter mostly as sympathetic characters: I understood Kelsey’s insecurities, empathised with the emotional abuse and the past she had and her reasons for drawing back from Hunter when she distrusted her own judgement. Warming up to Hunter took a little more time for me—the apparent two-timing act early on didn’t quite endear me to him—but seeing him stepping into his role as protector later on, strapping in despite his own reservations did make him and Kelsey a pairing that I thought I could get behind. There were waffling moments between them however, flawed as they were, and the HFN ending when the wounds have barely healed might seem somewhat unsatisfactory.

That said, ‘Protected’ was a thoroughly absorbing afternoon diversion, and didn’t get any better than the straight-up romantic suspense read.

four-stars

Run to Me by Cynthia Eden

Run to Me by Cynthia EdenRun To Me by Cynthia Eden
Series: Lazarus Rising #4
Published by Hocus Pocus Publishing, Hocus Pocus Publishing inc. on January 23rd 2018
Pages: 223
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
two-stars

He’s used to getting what he wants…

Jennings “Jay” Maverick is a tech billionaire. He has the world at his feet, and he thinks he can buy anything…but he can’t buy her. One look at the mysterious Willow, and Jay knows that he is a goner. He wants to give her anything and everything she desires, but he’s the man responsible for the pain in Willow’s life, and getting close to her—well, that’s not going to be easy.

Her life is a nightmare that she can’t escape.

Willow woke up in one of the “Lazarus” research facilities. She now has increased strength, incredible speed, and some scary psychic bonuses. Because of the danger associated with her new gifts, she’s afraid to touch anyone. One touch from her, and a man’s darkest fears will seemingly turn into reality. But Jay isn’t afraid of her touch. Instead, he seems to…crave it. To crave her.

She can’t trust him, and he won’t let her go.

Willow knows that Jay has been involved with Lazarus in the past, but he swears he only wants to help her. She never expects the white-hot desire that burns between them, a desire that grows more with every moment that passes. Thrust together as allies, Willow finds herself wanting to put her faith in Jay, wanting to find someone she can rely on, but Jay may still be keeping secrets from her. Secrets that could get them both killed.

When darkness and danger close in…RUN TO ME.

There’s undoubtedly a darkly seductive, nightmarish insane edge to Cynthia Eden’s super soldiers engineered to always come back from the dead. And that keeps <i>me</i> coming back.

However, this far down the series, I’ve found things that I both like and dislike about the narrative arc and Eden’s peculiar characterisation of her protagonists here in particular—which I suspect I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of this series—bugs me quite a bit. So this puts me in the minority (what’s new?), having found ‘Run To Me’ a disappointment, all the more so because I was looking forward to Willow’s and Jay’s book.

Willow runs; Jay tries to chase and atone; the baddies aren’t too clear-cut and the race for ‘normalcy’, if there’s ever such a thing, continues—my gross oversimplification, of course. The non-stop action is a draw, as are the twists and turns in this story, though having gone through all the books in the series thus far, I find myself running into several issues that I can’t seem to ignore.

One thing that personally irks me in this book is that there are entanglements or conflicts built around ex-lovers who are still in the picture, and that these drive a wedge—no matter how big or small—between the pairing that Eden tries to bring together. Somehow the involvement of other women/other men diminishes the impact or the force of the pairing that I want to get behind…and now can’t exactly quite because of this particular white elephant that shines rather brightly in the room with them.

For this reason, I actually think it’s darkly ironic that all the other characters kept inadvertently saying things that further damned Jay in Willow’s eyes, when all he wanted was to protect her and atone for his misdeeds in the Lazarus project. Jay/Willow’s relationship is an uphill battle as a result, which after a while, becomes a repetitive push-pull of chasing and running away. Yet if I expected a hard, kickarse heroine, Willow seemed the opposite, never quite able to get past her own demons to rise above them.

Something else that niggles: there isn’t much that differentiates one alpha male from another, apart from the possession of a super power or whether they wear a suit or not. I find myself struggling here Eden’s heroes after a while, as they tend to meld into each other. Jay Maverick—who isn’t a super soldier—suddenly acts like one instead of the technological-baron billionaire he is and his stepping up as alpha—not that I don’t appreciate the possessive and protective vibes he gives out—just didn’t set him apart anymore from the behaviour of other protagonists like Sawyer or Flynn, minus the superpower.

I think I keep coming back to this series in the hope that the overall plot would get better and better, but they haven’t yet worked out too well yet. ‘Run To Me’ is the weakest of the series so far however, and I’m still wishing—or is it wishful thinking?—that the waters would be less muddied the next time around.

two-stars

Claimed by Alexa Riley

Claimed by Alexa RileyClaimed by Alexa Riley
Series: For Her #3
Published by Carina Press on March 27th 2018
Pages: 314
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars

Jordan Chen is the man behind the screen. As part of the elite security team for Osbourne Corporation, he has an iron grip on protection, all without having to make close connections with people. Until he meets the beautiful Jay, and suddenly his quiet life doesn't seem so perfect anymore. He needs more. He needs her.

A workaholic to her core, Jay Rose doesn't have a lot of men in her life. Smiling in the face of her enemies gets her the results she wants at work, but doesn't exactly project a warm, welcoming vibe. So she's surprised when the enigmatic security expert strikes up a friendship with her—surprised but flattered, and maybe a little bit turned on.

A company as powerful as Osbourne Corporation has powerful enemies, and when Jay becomes a target, Jordan realizes there's nothing he won't do to bring her home safe.

It’s no surprise that I’ve often complained about the brevity of the dynamic (and instalove) duo Alexa Riley’s stories. The novella-length and even shorter tales they weave have tended to be—in part due to the length—full of alpha males who take over their women so thoroughly that they sometimes consume them whole, developing tunnel, caveman vision to the point where they see nothing but the words ‘mine, mine, mine’. It’s ‘crazy love’, as a villain in ‘Claimed’ says, or devotion so complete it could well be religious—a style that any Alexa Riley reader needs to get accustomed to first.

But Riley’s full-length stories, in the ‘For Her’ series at least, have gone a long way to ease this somewhat extreme vision of theirs, as the plot—as well as the action—unfolded and stretched over chapters rather than mere paragraphs. The drawn-out storytelling is a boon in this case and the burn between Jay/Jordan more believable because of it.

Yet if I thought ‘Claimed’ started out quite well, the story and characterisation faltered for me as the pages wore on. I liked the initial awkwardness between Jay and Jordan, even as Riley pushed their relationship straight into the deep end rather quickly without much angst at all. And while Jordan was quite the bossy protagonist to remember, what I couldn’t quite get was Jay’s seeming inability to use her brains around Jordan—her total dependence on him, her concealment of the threat pushing her into TSTL behaviour, her helplessness later on—and her sudden pliancy when it came to just becoming a passive taker as she got in deeper with Jordan. That said, a caveat: my confessed preference for stronger, take-charge heroines is definitely showing up here however, particularly since Riley has written some suspense into the story but not too much that it overwhelms the romantic elements in it.

While ‘Claimed’ isn’t my favourite of the series, it’s one I jumped onto because just the thought of a full-length Alexa Riley story is irresistible. Riley’s iron-clad reaffirmations of HEAs (multiple epilogues!), over the top as they might be, do sometimes work out after all quite nicely—this book’s tooth-achingly sweet, drawn-out ending fits the bill.

three-stars

Seek by Mia Sheridan

Seek by Mia SheridanSeek by Mia Sheridan
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on January 22nd 2018
Pages: 157
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars

Wealthy socialite Olivia Barton never imagined her fiancé would disappear on what was supposed to be a routine business trip. She's even more heartbroken and confused when a hired private investigator tracks him half a world away, to a seaside town in Colombia. But the country has recently been ravaged by a massive earthquake and deadly tsunami, shutting down outside communication and making travel all but impossible. Still, Olivia is determined to make it to Colombia to find the answers she so desperately seeks. What she needs is a guide—a mercenary.

The man named Thomas arrives in shadows, an unmistakable air of danger about him, promising to help lead her through the ruined, crime-infested country. But when Thomas and Olivia find themselves fighting an undeniable attraction, danger takes on a whole new meaning. Then again, in the lush jungles of South America, all the rules are different and Thomas and Olivia are about to discover that sometimes the thing you seek, isn't necessarily the thing you find.

‘Stinger’ was my first Mia Sheridan read and if it’s odd to return to the world—even if it’s only a small step back into it—that Sheridan had built, it’s only because ‘Stinger’ stood out quite strongly in my memory and getting back into it felt almost like a shock (but an anticipatory, pleasant one) to the system.

‘Seek’, unlike ‘Stinger’ however, is a way shorter story incorporating the same type of romance and suspense that I love, though it’s still full of the sharp emotions that jump out at you. The journey that Olivia and Brody undertake is an unusual one, and the answers that Olivia seeks somehow have the power to unravel everything she knows.

I do like Sheridan’s writing in fact; the play of emotions, romance and suspense is typically well done (particularly when the tension between Olivia/Brody finally broke), but my own reservations here lay with how easily Olivia caved to the man who’d been part of the deception. I felt for the depth of the betrayal she’d suffered while admiring her strength in moving forward, though not liking how Brody got to make the choice whether to return or not to Olivia, with the easy assumption that she’d be waiting for him after 6 months of silence (woman, where is thy pride and dignity?)…which she seemed to be, judging from how easily she fell back in his arms.

The rushed conclusion and the all-too-easy HEA I think, were what ultimately made me a little unsure about the book. I would have preferred a more drawn-out ending-with maybe more grovelling-that didn’t just occupy a few pages of hasty declarations of ‘wanting it all’, which probably would have a more satisfactory wrap-up for me.

three-stars

No Saint by Mallory Kane

No Saint by Mallory KaneNo Saint by Mallory Kane
Series: Louisiana Lawmen #2
Published by Tule Publishing on January 29th 2018
Pages: 227
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
two-stars

New Orleans Police Detective Rick Easterling is no saint. He’s the NOPD’s best undercover cop. Known as the Man of a Thousand Faces, he’s a rogue–breaking rules to solve cases his way. But when his brother dies of a drug overdose and he’s suspected of being a dirty cop, Rick vows to clear his name and avenge his brother’s death.

Rookie police officer Lusinda Johnson has a personal axe to grind with dirty cops, so she volunteers to work undercover and shadow Rick. She tells herself she can remain immune to his sexy, brooding demeanor, but the longer they work together, the harder it is to see him as anything other than a hero.

As “Sin” and Rick investigate the corrupt underbelly of New Orleans night life, the lies they must tell each other imperil them almost as much as the drug lords closing in. Will they learn to trust each other in time to save themselves and explore their growing love?

‘No Saint’ was a mixed bag for me, though I thought the premise sounded intriguing: sending a rookie officer undercover to investigate another, who might have turned dirty in all his years of experience working in the underbelly of society.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t really buy into the characters at all, even though the beginning started out quite well. I did find Rick easier to sympathise with; his personal vendetta of avenging his brother’s death, his regret about their relationship and his compassion he showed for others when he didn’t need to made him a likeable protagonist.

I couldn’t quite say the same for Lusinda. For a rookie cop, she seemed painfully naive and amateurish with the lack of experience showing up in sharp contrast to Rick’s hardened undercover mien. Her neurotic act with roaches, the constant monologue about her uncertainty and wavering emotions made her out to be almost like a teenager playing cop, consequently making it harder to believe Rick’s fascination with her, let alone his willingness to break his own rule about getting involved while undercover.

I also thought the writing was also somewhat uneven: well-written, descriptive at times, then repetitive/simplistic at other times to the point where I found myself skimming. ‘No Saint’ had good action however; it was also a gritty romantic suspense drawing out the violence of such work and the thin lines of good and bad, particularly if you’re into books that deal with the shifting identities of undercover cops and the struggle to inhabit separate personas and the surprises that will come your way.

two-stars

Running the Risk by Lea Griffith

Running the Risk by Lea GriffithRunning the Risk by Lea Griffith
Series: Endgame Ops #2
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on April 3rd 2018
Pages: 347
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Survival is crucial. Trust is optional. Love is unstoppable.

Jude Dagan's life as he knew it ended a year ago. On a mission gone wrong, he was forced to watch as Ella Banning, the only woman he's ever loved, was killed. Or so he thought.

Jude wasn't the only one who lost something on the day Ella was presumed dead. She sacrificed Endgame Ops, the love of her life, and parts of herself she can never get back. Now she's determined to take down the world's most dangerous terrorist--even if it means working for him. When Jude and Ella are reunited, they'll battle the lies Ella has been forced to tell...and struggle to save a love that knows no bounds.

How do you love a woman who has, supposedly, for the greater good, betrayed you? A woman whom you’ve thought dead, coming back from the grave, who’d actually walked away willingly?

‘Running the Risk’ is a hard one to swallow, but then again, books about betrayal, second chances, big-time conspiracies and a high-stakes game are never easy to get through because they demand for sides to be taken and thereafter, leave you there and then bank on your (romantic) capacity to overlook the gravity and/or the cost of betrayal and proclaim that scarred love still conquers all.

Jude Dagan has found himself in a cruel twist of events that brought him back face to face with a one-time love, and the story unfolds with him learning about the depth and the breadth of her deception, even though it has been done for the sake of pursuing the same goal: eliminating a dangerous player in the international-arms dealing arena. Ella Banning on the other hand, is unable to outrun Jude’s crafty determination, torn between duty and mistaken loyalty (perhaps even stupidity)…and for this reason, it was easier to love Jude more than Ella. Without a good reason given for her actions until later, it was difficult to sympathise with her position in the book for the first half at least, but what do you really say about a woman who made this decision mistakenly believing she was protecting him?

Thankfully, that angst isn’t drawn out too much. The second half is relentless action, a consolidation of sorts, a reaffirmation of team effort, along with sex that sometimes happens in places and situations that seem rather inappropriate and unbelievable—that’s where the suspension of disbelief kicks in.

Still, Lea Griffiths’s effortless writing swept me through it all, unravelling the complex network of arms trade, the shady players and the constant jetting from one locale to the next, where nothing is as it seems—this is the type of high-octane romantic suspense I dig. There’re moves and counter-moves on a chessboard and the dangerous game that’s played has a price that’s typically too high for anyone to afford…all of which Griffith manages very well. But the whole largeness of the entire conspiracy that Griffiths has built here means that only a part of it is resolved in this book and there’re still too many things that haven’t yet fallen into place.

‘Running the Risk’ can of course, be read as a standalone. There are however, references to what happened in the previous book in the secretive and high-strung world of covert ops (and some recap for the reader’s sake here) which can be a confounding—I think the secret-keeping and the classified stuff sometimes work against the story—and the epilogue that’s like a trailer for the next book to come is merely a stark reminder that the whole arc is far from over. I’m always itchy for more (particularly when it comes to world-domination-type things), but the wait for the next one looks to be long.

three-half-stars