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Keep Me Close by Cynthia Eden

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Fantasy/ Magic/Paranormal/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense/ Speculative Fiction/ Urban Fantasy 27th October 2017
Keep Me Close by Cynthia EdenKeep Me Close by Cynthia Eden
Series: Lazarus Rising #2
Published by Hocus Pocus Publishing inc. on October 24th 2017
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four-stars

Flynn Haddox is a dead man. Literally.

As a highly trained Navy SEAL, Flynn once worked covert missions for the U.S. government, but then his life was stolen away. Killed and placed in the secretive “Lazarus” program, Flynn was brought back from the dead and turned into a super-soldier. Now he has increased strength, enhanced senses, and a few psychic bonuses that he fights hard to keep hidden from the rest of the world. He also has no memory of his past…and a new, twisting darkness seems to be growing inside of Flynn.

Cecelia Gregory escaped death once. Can she do it again?

Dr. Cecelia Gregory was supposed to help the Lazarus test subjects. They didn’t have control of their emotions after the experiment, and her job as a psychiatrist was to break through the walls that the men had created. Too late, Cecelia realized that the Lazarus subjects were far more dangerous than she could ever imagine. The men came back from the dead, but some of them came back…wrong. Now one of the subjects has a dark obsession with Cecelia. The man known as Subject Five is hunting her. And he wants her dead.

One man wants to kill her, but another just…wants her.

Flynn feels a connection to Cecelia that he can’t deny. Not some sweet, innocent attraction—a consuming lust that makes him crave her all the time. Flynn knows that his feelings aren’t normal, but protecting her is his mission now. The man hunting Cecelia is just like Flynn—all the same enhancements, all the same strengths. And no weaknesses. One big difference, though—Flynn doesn’t plan to lose Cecelia. And he’ll fight his own darkness to prove his worth to her.

In ‘Keep Me Close’, Flynn Haddox and Cecelia Gregory battle an old nemesis whose powers and ‘unkillability’ seem to stake the odds against them. Like the vampire that can only die with a stake through the heart, Bryce the villain torments the hell out of everyone before he finally dies, but not without the menacing laughter echoing in his wake.

Cynthia Eden’s ‘Keep Me Close’ is no doubt, an overload of the senses: a popcorn throwing mish-mash of zombie and vampire lore, serial-killer-type suspense with top-secret military experiments—and is a return to the sequel that’s typically known to be bigger, bloodier, more brutal (and sometimes cheesier) than ever.

But it’s a hell of a ride that reads like part horror and suspense with some erotica thrown in to amp up the steam level, where most male characters, because of the nature of the experiments, are given free rein to be over-the-top alpha super-soldiers who are very in-tune with their primal side, with single-minded beliefs that narrow down to protecting the woman at all costs.

With Flynn/Cece’s story, there are some similarities with Sawyer/Elizabeth’s one and at some parts, it does feel like rehashing of what we’ve gotten thus far, as a super-soldier hitting the ground hard with his female doctor, then fleeing before taking the fight to the enemy. But as with any Eden book, there are also some twists and revelations that have given more depth about the experiment these soldiers have undergone, the long-term effects that we don’t know about, as well as the introduction of additional characters that have given this series scope for expansion. I’m intrigued to see where Eden will take the direction of this narrative arc in fact; it seems as though Eden herself is aware of the similarities between these 2 books, and the vein of change that’s hinted at is more than welcome.

four-stars

Never Let Go by Cynthia Eden

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Fantasy/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense/ Speculative Fiction/ Urban Fantasy 28th September 2017
Never Let Go by Cynthia EdenNever Let Go by Cynthia Eden
Series: Lazarus Rising #1
Published by Hocus Pocus Publishing inc. on January 1st 1970
Pages: 278
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three-stars

He was more than just a man...

Dr. Elizabeth Parker didn't like wild, dangerous men...yet she still found herself falling for sexy Navy SEAL Sawyer Cage. He was her exact opposite--a man she should definitely stay away from, a man who lived for the thrill of danger...but he was also the man she found herself wanting more than any other.

But their secret relationship ended in heartbreak when Sawyer was killed on a mission. Grieving for him, the last thing Elizabeth ever expected was to find Sawyer listed as a test subject for the top secret government project she was heading--a project called Lazarus.

For years, Elizabeth had worked feverishly to unlock the secrets of life and death, and with her Lazarus formula, she finally thought she'd made a breakthrough. Only she never expected to use Lazarus on her lover.

But the choice is taken out of Elizabeth's hands...

Sawyer is given the Lazarus formula, and he's transported to a remote government facility. At that facility, Sawyer wakes once more, only he's not the same man. He's stronger, he's faster, his reflexes and his senses are ten times better than an average man's. The government calls Sawyer a super soldier... Elizabeth still calls him...hers.

Unfortunately, Sawyer has no memory of his life before Lazarus. All he knows is that something about the sexy doctor awakes a primal response in him. He wants her, and he'll do anything to possess her. Soul-deep, he feels that she was meant to be his.

Death waits in the darkness.

But something is wrong inside the Lazarus facility. The test subjects are holding back secrets, and danger seems to lurk in the air. The Lazarus subjects are super-human now, and some of those subjects have a very, very dark side. Twisted cravings drive them to the very edge of sanity. Can Sawyer keep Elizabeth safe from the madness around them...or will the growing darkness consume them both?

NEVER LET GO...a gripping new romantic suspense from New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Cynthia Eden.

There’s always something darkly seductive and irresistible about the super-soldier romance for me, seeing as these sort of stories are always finely balanced on the knife-edge of suspense and erotica. Depending on the severity of the super-soldier transformation however, it’s also undeniable that these tales run the risk of normalising the clichéd caveman behaviour of the heroes in question as the status quo in this sub-genre, as is the expected offshoot of writing altered personalities.

‘Never Let Go’ isn’t a new concept (Rebecca Zanetti’s Sin Brothers or Christine Feehan’s Shadowalkers come to mind immediately) though it definitely is an intriguing start, with a little twist of how the super soldiers actually get to where they are. I can’t quite say it’s a perfect read however, as it carries all the hallmarks of an establishing book with the same pattern of logic-deficient neanderthals who are primally ruled by instinct, libido and emotion…along with many loose ends which hint at a bigger picture that hasn’t yet quite coherently come together.

I’m still glad that Cynthia Eden has jumped on this bandwagon nonetheless, even though there are unavoidable pitfalls of this particular sub-genre of romantic/paranormal suspense: the most glaring ones being the cavemen who run around and the brutal savagery that results as part of their transformation, but also several authors’ tendencies to emphasise a narrowed definition of the good and the bad—no grey area of morality seems to exists apart from the questionable idea of ethics and playing god using frontier medicine and technology—which, if handled carelessly, can turn the characters into flatter and puppet-like figures.

And clearly, there were some parts where ‘Never Let Go’ that were grounded in those stereotypes, which tanked my enjoyment a little. As much as I liked Elizabeth’s and Sawyer’s early relationship before he went, well, ‘monstrous’, the middle bit of the story actually got quite hysterical, with parts resembling a b-grade slasher film as Sawyer struggled to fight the darkness in him and Elizabeth seemingly frozen between speechless terror and speechless desire. I was simultaneously horrified, incredulous and disbelieving, yet glued to the book while also wondering if there were going to be more mad turns and madder character deviations that the story was going to take.

That said, I’m not counting out this series just yet. Far from it, in fact. I just wish that I could have suspended my disbelief a little more, though there is cause for more cautious optimism given the hints that have already been dropped about the rest of the project and the other primals waiting in line to pounce.

three-stars

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 strange 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

Before the Dawn by Cynthia Eden

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 20th May 2017
Before the Dawn by Cynthia EdenBefore the Dawn by Cynthia Eden
Series: Killer Instinct #2
Published by Harlequin Books on July 25th 2017
Pages: 371
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three-stars

Ex-SEAL Tucker Frost knows that the world is full of evil. He saw it in the face of his own brother, Mason Frost, a cold, methodical, sadistic killer. A killer Tucker put down with his own hands in order to save Mason's final victim—Dawn Alexander, the only girl who got away from the infamous "Iceman."
It's Tucker's up close and personal experience with evil that's made him perfect for Samantha Dark's experimental profiling division in the FBI. Samantha wants agents who have personal ties with killers, who have unique insights into the minds of monsters. And when women start turning up murdered with the same MO used by the Iceman, Tucker is sent back to Louisiana to investigate.
The last person he expects to see is his ex-lover, Dawn. Ten full years have passed since the night that Tucker faced down his brother…and since he last saw Dawn. But the dark need still burns just as hot between Tucker and Dawn. As they grapple with a desire that never died, they must also face the shared shadow from their pasts. Both Tucker and Dawn have the same question—has Mason Frost come back from the dead to hunt again? And this time, will he succeed in killing the victim who got away?

‘Before the Dawn’ is a bit more predictable than Cynthia Eden’s first book in her Killer Instinct series, with a copycat serial killer (with a specific MO) that is typically a trusted ally. But it’s also a second-chance story, where a couple separates for more traumatic reasons than usual—in this case, where neither really didn’t seem to be in a good place to be together—only to be brought back together when a copycat killer emerges.

Romantic suspense—of the thriller kind—and I have a certain relationship: the story unravels as the clues go out while I do the guessing whodunnit game. It’s always fun and entertaining and the stranger and more shocking the twists, the more memorable it is for me. Despite this, the predictability factor, or at least how far into the book I get before guessing who the perpetrator really is, isn’t the only criterion for my rating and/or review of the book. In this case, I had my suspicions but Eden does throw out red herrings that do cause you to doubt your own conclusions.

What frustrated me however, was the push-pull that always comes when both Dawn and Tucker try to rationalise their own feelings away from each other and that sex came rather inconveniently before several truths were brought to light. Such delay tactics simply added to the layer of unrevealed secrets that tainted the relationship before when all they had to do was to sit down and put things out in the open before letting more bodily needs come into play.

‘Before the Dawn’ is an absorbing read nonetheless, even if Eden’s heroes and heroines in all her series do inevitably meld together, bound by the similarities in their tortured backgrounds and hidden pasts. And this probably makes this book less of a standout than it really is because it’s not easy to differentiate between her plots and characters after a while. I’d love to continue this series however, as much as I’d love to have Eden’s protagonists who are somehow more memorably unique in their own ways.

three-stars

Wrecked by Cynthia Eden

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 27th April 2017
Wrecked by Cynthia EdenWrecked by Cynthia Eden
Series: LOST #6
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Pages: 248
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four-stars

SHE LEFT HIM ONCE.

LOST Agent Ana Young was only fourteen when she was abducted by a madman, but unlike many kidnapping victims, she did go home. Now, her mission is to find the missing. But her new case has her on the hunt for the escaped convict who’s obsessed with her. And Ana has an unlikely partner—the sexy, supposedly-by-the-book FBI agent she had one amazing night with and had to forget.

NOW HE HAS TO PROTECT HER 24/7…

FBI Special Agent Cash Knox knows that Ana, the petite, tough-ass former bounty hunter, can get the job done again. But this time, someone else leads them to “Bernie-the-Butcher,” someone who’s been watching Ana. Waiting for her.

FROM A CRAZED KILLER.

Now, catching a deranged murderer means Ana must trust her guarded heart to the gorgeous, complicated G-man she wasn’t supposed to fall for.

Cynthia Eden’s LOST series has thus far, been a mixed bag for me, but there are several ones which I do like and ‘Wrecked’ is one of them. It’s exciting to dive into a world where shades of grey operate and where characters are never what they seem, up until the very end, so everything that Eden throws up is a potential twist in the plot.

‘Wrecked’ is Ana Young’s story, one of the latest additions in Gabe Spencer’s outfit, whose bounty hunter past had been decided for her when she’d been tortured as a child, except that those walls of hers can be pulled down—by the unlikeliest of people in FBI agent Cash Knox. He’s back in her circles because a hunter of serial killers is at large and him needing her help is just as much an order from his boss as it is his need to see her again. Their very brief history is their only foundation, but even then, Cash’s own link to her isn’t merely because law enforcement dictates it. The mystery trail is complex and sometimes confusing, but Cash and Ana need to sort through their own issues as they search for a perpetrator that seems way too brilliant for their liking.

As far as Romantic Suspense goes, ‘Wrecked’ is an entertaining read, where connections are (sometimes coincidentally) forged from dark pasts and love found in the oddest of places, even from a one-night stand that isn’t as accidental as it seemed. Eden writes about perpetrators who are as much victims as they are of circumstances, warped only because they’d been traumatised, but also of love found so near and yet so far from where one’s personal demons lurk. Some parts of the book do seem a bit more dramatic and over the top than I thought they should have been—but it does rack up the chill factor at times and the psychological insights are one of a kind. Overall, it’s a story that’s hard to put down and in that vein, that’s more than good enough for me.

four-stars

After the Dark by Cynthia Eden

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 11th January 2017
After the Dark by Cynthia EdenAfter the Dark by Cynthia Eden
Series: Killer Instinct #1
Published by Harlequin Books on March 28th 2017
Pages: 384
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four-stars

Former FBI agent Samantha Dark was one of the most respected profilers in the bureau, an expert on the twisted minds and dark hearts of the most depraved criminals. But when her own former lover turned out to be the serial killer she was hunting, Samantha's career was destroyed. Blamed for the FBI's failure on the complex case, Samantha fled Washington, DC, for the quiet anonymity of Alabama.

Now an all-too-familiar killer is hunting once again. She can catch the sadistic assassin, but that means putting her trust in her former partner, Blake Gamble. Ex-military, Blake is tough, protective, precise. With her entire life on the brink, she knows he wants her back in the FBI and possibly more.

But someone else wants her, too. A threat is waiting in the dark, a killer who has set his sights on the ultimate trophy victim: Samantha.

The stylistic hallmarks of Cynthia Eden never show up more clearly than in her romantic suspense thrillers: the unapologetically tense atmosphere, the brutality of the murders, the psychopathic killer(s) and the characters with their own baggage that hinder them from moving on properly. If it all sounds somewhat repetitive, it’s because it is to an extent, but Eden manages to make every crime story fresh despite the similarities of her the tortured heroines and alpha heroes who tend to populate the pages of these thrillers. In fact, I thought very much about the LOST series as I went through this book and saw how much this is already mirroring it.

But from the moment I read “The Gathering Dusk”, I was eager to see how Samantha’s and Blake’s very obvious chemistry was going to combust and “After the Dark” didn’t disappoint as it kicked the drama into high gear with betrayal, a relentless body count and mind-bending psychoanalysis. There’s always the hunter and the hunted, but Eden complicated this predatory relationship and I liked how this became a game of wits as it showed how personal the relationship really was between Samantha and Latham—with Blake as the unusual third party who got in the way with his steady and admirable straight shooting behaviour. There’s no straightforward whodunnit moment like most crime books, leaving you with the feeling that the game could be won either way—with fate playing a huge hand in it.

It all makes for good storytelling, really. I liked how the climax played out (the resolution was sort of expected) but most of all, I liked how this series is keeping me excited for the next book to come.

four-stars

Taken by Cynthia Eden

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 7th October 2016
Taken by Cynthia EdenTaken by Cynthia Eden
Series: LOST #5
Published by Avon on November 29th 2016
Pages: 400
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three-stars

Bailey Jones somehow survived her harrowing abduction by the infamous Death Angel. But while her physical scars have healed, she can’t stop wondering about a woman she helped to escape, who simply disappeared. When LOST agent Asher Young is assigned to her case, Bailey instantly feels an attraction to the intense ex-SEAL who seems to be carrying dark secrets of his own.

Asher can’t afford to let his growing feelings for Bailey distract him from his job. Only she can soothe his horrific nightmares, but the last thing he wants is for the demons from his past to ever hurt her. Bailey has gotten past his guard, and the emotions he feels for her—they’re as dark and dangerous as the past he doesn’t want to face.

When corpses begin surfacing—all marked with the same tattoo depicting the Death Angel’s calling card—Asher must race to stop a twisted killer who wants nothing more than to claim his next prize: Bailey . . .

‘Taken’ was an entertaining read and did send me on a whodunnit quest, a game I always play each time a murder/serial killer mystery comes up. But I guessed it correctly this time, even managing to piece things together before the climatic (and predictable) end.

Perhaps this is exactly why I can’t seem to shake the feeling that the LOST cases are getting too familiar and it’s this familiarity that has taken the sheen off this book. While I loved the previous story in this series and the complex case it presented, ‘Taken’ follows that pattern in a way that made me yearn for Cynthia Eden to up the ante on the plot and suspense. Like every other LOST book, every secondary character in law enforcement or in the medical profession is a suspect and a red-herring and bureaucracy mucks up an investigation that is hindered by either weather, the media or the police themselves. The killer is hell bent on the heroine – all the cases somehow point to her – and once we uncover the reason why, the story races from guessing game to resolution.

While I do understand Eden’s need to give her lead characters a darker, edgier side, there were several character motivations that I couldn’t understand and consequently thought were actually made out to be more significant than they really should have been. Asher’s childhood trauma for instance, that consequently affected his ability to commit but stirs every protective instinct with women felt too unbelievable for me to swallow and his own sudden fixation with needing to take away Bailey’s pain felt more like a psychological run-off than love. Bailey in turn, because of her own childhood tragedy, wants Asher as a first step to reclaiming her old life. But because these damaged characters seem to turn to each other to exorcise their own demons or fulfill some gaping need more than anything else, it was hard to take this pairing at face value, let alone accept the near instant-love that seemed to appear after they tumble into bed.

Admittedly, ‘Taken’ isn’t the best of Eden’s books, but it’s definitely a decent story, especially if you’re new to this author.

three-stars
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