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Cover of Night by Laura Griffin

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 10th August 2017
Cover of Night by Laura GriffinCover of Night by Laura Griffin
Series: Alpha Crew #3
Published by Pocket Star on September 4th 2017
Pages: 128
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two-stars

Journalist Karly Bonham is on her first overseas mission, covering the new United States ambassador to Thailand, when she is taken hostage by terrorists, with only her wits and courage to keep her alive—until help arrives in the form of Navy SEAL Ethan Dunn.

As part of an elite SEAL team called Alpha Crew, Ethan has been on countless harrowing missions, but he knows this one is different the instant he meets Karly—the sexy young reporter who somehow managed to escape the terrorists’ clutches. Ethan is impressed by her, especially when he learns she has intel that could be the key to a successful rescue op. Ethan knows working with a civilian raises the stakes on an already dangerous mission. But with the clock ticking down, he enlists Karly’s help to thwart a vicious plot and bring a terrorist mastermind to justice.

Laura Griffin’s ‘Alpha Crew’ series has been a very different read so far from her ‘Tracers’ series. The books in there are short, action-packed, with significant time lapses between several chapters and in many ways, a very, very distilled and disappointing version of a military/paramilitary romantic suspense novel.

The short length of the book does the whole story a disservice. I’ve no doubts about Griffin’s writing to begin with, nor with her ability to handle intricate plot lines and elaborate setups that have made some of her books so memorable for me.

But with ‘Cover of Night’ topping out at a mere 100-ish pages, I felt that Karly’s and Ethan’s connection did exist, though it was harder to be convinced by their relationship and the love declarations when all they had was a one-night stand fuelled by the thrill of a rescue and the let down of adrenaline. What for instance, made Ethan, who didn’t do relationships, want something more with Karly when there didn’t seem to be any other indication that she was different from the other women he picked up except for the fact that she rebuffed him? Moreover, Karly’s sudden change in attitude towards the end towards Ethan when he was pushing her for something more the night before he was about to be shipped out was beyond abrupt especially when the story ended just there.

In other words, everything felt too rushed and unfinished, from their relationship to the terrorist plot that was supposedly foiled with a significant arrest. ‘Cover of Night’ simply had so much potential which wasn’t quite fulfilled by the end, leaving me rather mixed about this series because it really could have been so much better.

two-stars

At Close Range by Laura Griffin

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 5th February 2017
At Close Range by Laura GriffinAt Close Range by Laura Griffin
Series: Tracers, #11
Published by Pocket Books on January 31st 2017
Pages: 368
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four-stars

When a lakeside tryst ends in a double murder, police detective Daniele Harper arrives on the scene determined to get answers. Clues are everywhere, but nothing adds up. Dani turns to the Delphi Center crime lab for help, but soon regrets it when her secret attraction to their chief firearms examiner threatens to distract her from the most important case of her career.
As a ballistics expert and former Navy SEAL, Scott Black knows firearms, and he knows he can help Dani unravel her case. Scott has managed to hide his interest in his best friend’s younger sister for years, but when her investigation brings them together, the sparks between them quickly get out of control. Scott resolves to keep his hands off Dani and his eyes on the goal—identifying a killer. But when that killer zeroes in on Dani, all bets are off. There isn’t a line Scott won’t cross to convince Dani to trust him so that he can help her take down a ruthless murderer who has her in his sights.

The Tracers series has been either a hit or miss for me and while I don’t think any has quite reached the heights of ‘Scorched’ or ‘Beyond Limits’, ‘At Close Range’ comes quite close. The heart-pounding action is the book’s main draw, as is the strong focus on a likeable, strong female protagonist with admirable strength and fortitude, with a side of the romance that unfortunately paled in comparison to the layered but intelligent case Laura Griffin has built in this story.

Yet the story takes on the ‘friends to lovers’ trope as well, but that too, did bring about its own pitfalls…as well as my own biases to the surface when it comes to this very difficult trope. Despite having known each other for ages and wanting each other, I was disappointed to learn that Scott Black was no better than a player who committed to nothing but his work (“going through women like chewing gum” as the unflattering description would have it), or that he thought PTSD was sufficient excuse that Dani was better off without him.

But because the romance is somewhat spare—there’s tension but not too much focus on emotional depth and development on Scott’s side at least—, I could only question just how much he felt for Dani apart from physical need or why he decided to start pursuing her after he stayed distant for so long. Where then, had this change of heart come from, unless it had been the unexpected sex that suddenly convinced him that she was worth his time? In fact, I thought he had been quite the idiot with her, interfering with the case when he wasn’t supposed to and then wanting something with her on his own closed-off terms. I often felt that Dani actually deserved someone better than Scott, who didn’t even seem to have emotionally caught up with her even with the rather unconvincing declaration of love at the end when nothing in the story demonstrated anything more than his protective instincts for his best friend’s sister.

Consequently, I thought Griffin’s book could actually function well enough on its own without the romance built into it—that thoughtfully-plotted is the story (though some bits did seem far-fetched) with its sharply-drawn supporting characters that support it. But this side-rant is clearly my own objections to the way the pairing had been done. I was otherwise mesmerised by the technical details as I was with the science as I thought of Bones every time someone from the Delphi starts squinting. The story had everything else going for it: the excellent twists, turns and revelations were thrilling, as was the unusual setup that had the ball rolling from the very first page…which didn’t stop until O’Dark thirty.

four-stars

Deep Dark by Laura Griffin

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 25th May 2016
Deep Dark by Laura GriffinDeep Dark (Tracers, #10) by Laura Griffin
Series: Tracers #10
Published by Pocket Books on May 24th 2016
Pages: 368
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two-stars

The moment detective Reed Novak steps onto the crime scene, he knows the case is going to rock his world. A beautiful young woman murdered at home. No sign of forced entry. No motive. She’s obviously not the killer’s first victim, and Reed’s instincts tell him she won’t be his last. Reed’s first clue comes via a mysterious text that links to a dating profile, but even more intriguing than the clue is the person who sent it.
As a white-hat hacker in the Delphi Center’s cyber investigation unit, Laney Knox sneaks into some of the deepest, darkest corners of the Internet looking for predators. Laney would prefer to stay away from Austin PD’s most recent murder case, but she can’t ignore the chilling similarities between that crime and her own brutal attack years ago. Laney offers to help the sexy lead detective, but he wants more from her than just a promising tip—Reed wants her trust. Laney resists, but as their relationship deepens she’s tempted to reveal the closely guarded secrets that could make her a key witness…or the killer’s next victim.

I’m frankly at a loss when it comes to rating this book.

Laura Griffin writes fantastically detailed police procedurals and much of the developing drama in ’Deep Dark’ reads like a gorgeous and thrilling novelisation of a ‘Bones’ and/or a ‘Castle’ episode. But if I appreciated the complexity of the crime and the unfolding mystery of the whodunnit, I was less than impressed with the female protagonist, who’d slipped from tenacious and dedicated into the stupid and petulant categories too quickly for my liking.

The pairing in question here is a much older divorced detective and a young, headstrong upstart, the former of whom I simply felt sorry for because of the frustration and the road blocks he encounters by way of the latter. The problem was that for most of the book, their relationship was on unequal footing, built on deception – mostly on Laney’s part – and resolved in a way that makes a mockery of trust and moral integrity in it.

In fact, I’d be the first to admit that ‘Deep Dark’ hits several hard limits for me, which clearly, is just my personal beef with the sort of flaws written into protagonists that I cannot tolerate, curtailing as a consequence, my overall enjoyment of the whole mystery.

My preference of heroines who put themselves out there both physically and emotionally is clearly showing up here and I found myself unable to put any faith in a relationship that, most of the time, was characterised by lies, use of leverage and sex as distraction, even if we are told the reasons for Laney’s closed-off, untrusting, TSTL behaviour. That she behaved in a manner, time and again, that emphasised her age instead of showing she was beyond it – and the constant, intolerable lying when it was unnecessary – didn’t do her any favours at all, except to highlight her immaturity and deliberate evasiveness even when it was to her detriment, which made this pairing and the glaring age-gap even more disappointing and questionable than I hoped it’d be.

Characterisation-rant aside however, I’m never ready to give up on Laura Griffin’s writing and can only hope that she might return to the bigger military-political conspiracies (such as ‘Scorched and ‘Beyond Limits’) that had me at the word ‘go’.

two-stars

Edge of Surrender by Laura Griffin

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 1st April 2016
Edge of Surrender by Laura GriffinEdge of Surrender by Laura Griffin
Series: Alpha Crew, #2
Published by Pocket Star on March 28th 2016
Pages: 128
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three-stars

Ryan had one job: keep Emma safe at all costs. But after a night of passion, Emma takes off and Ryan soon realizes he’s not the only one looking for her. Can he figure out who’s after the beautiful government aide, and why, before she falls into the wrong hands…if she hasn’t already?
Emma’s fighting to get justice for her fallen comrades, but she can’t do it alone. She needs Ryan’s help, but that means trusting him--and dealing with the out-of-control desire blazing between them. Can there be any future for a marked woman and a man trained to kill? She hopes they live long enough to find out…

I’m simply going to leave the same review for this part as I did the first, seeing as this would have worked better as a single novel than 2 novellas separated by a few short weeks. I deliberately waited until I had both parts before I began reading and that did pay off at least, but knowing how this one ended certainly made me understand the frustrations of those who had to wait for the second part for the story’s (less than satisfactory) conclusion.

Yet Laura Griffin’s foray into military romantic suspense apart from her Tracers series seems like a tentative one, but the Alpha Crew series already has the potential to be as successful as her Texas crime-busters one – if ‘Beyond Limits’ (a sure favourite of mine) is any indication of what she can do with SEALs and strong women.

I loved the way we are plunged straight into adventure and danger: a plane crash, a stubborn woman who does everything to survive (realistically so) and a SEAL determined to protect her at all costs, even as an unexpected attraction flares between them. Yet I neither hated nor loved both protagonists though, since I simply thought it was more lust (the immediate burn of attraction) than love that connected them, all the way to the very abrupt end. There isn’t much depth to both Emma and Ryan for me to be really invested in them, nor is there a satisfying ‘Hollywood style’ taking down of the bad guy – the pace of the story is both a boon and a bane for character development in this case – and I’d actually hoped for something more concrete and poignant by the time I turned the last page.

three-stars

At the Edge by Laura Griffin

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 1st April 2016
At the Edge by Laura GriffinAt the Edge by Laura Griffin
Series: Alpha Crew, #1
Published by Pocket Star on March 7th 2016
Pages: 144
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three-stars

When Emma Wright’s government plane goes down over the Philippine jungle, she’s forced to survive alone until an ultra-elite SEAL team goes in after her. As the leader of Alpha Crew, Ryan Owen is no stranger to challenges, but he’s never tackled anything quite like this sexy, smart, and resourceful woman. The mission is to get Emma home safely, but danger is everywhere, and Ryan’s unexpected desire for Emma could be a deadly distraction.
Back home in California, Ryan’s mission is over—but Emma’s has just begun. She knows her plane crash was no accident, and she’s determined to uncover the truth about what happened—even if her quest for answers puts her at risk. Torn between duty and desire, Ryan searches for a way win Emma’s heart while protecting her from an invisible enemy who wants her dead.
The thrilling conclusion to this Alpha Crew romance is just weeks away!

I deliberately waited until I had both parts before I began reading and that did pay off at least, but knowing how this one ended certainly made me understand the frustrations of those who had to wait for the second part for the story’s (less than satisfactory) conclusion.

Yet Laura Griffin’s foray into military romantic suspense apart from her Tracers series seems like a tentative one, but the Alpha Crew series already has the potential to be as successful as her Texas crime-busters one – if ‘Beyond Limits’ (a sure favourite of mine) is any indication of what she can do with SEALs and strong women.

I loved the way we are plunged straight into adventure and danger: a plane crash, a stubborn woman who does everything to survive (realistically so) and a SEAL determined to protect her at all costs, even as an unexpected attraction flares between them. Yet I neither hated nor loved both protagonists though, since I simply thought it was more lust (the immediate burn of attraction) than love that connected them, all the way to the very abrupt end. There isn’t much depth to both Emma and Ryan for me to be really invested in them, nor is there a satisfying ‘Hollywood style’ taking down of the bad guy – the pace of the story is both a boon and a bane for character development in this case – and I’d actually hoped for something more concrete and poignant by the time I turned the last page.

three-stars

Shadow Fall by Laura Griffin

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 23rd July 2015
Shadow Fall by Laura GriffinShadow Fall (Tracers, #9) by Laura Griffin
Series: Tracers #9
Published by Pocket Books on September 22nd 2015
Pages: 357
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three-stars

In the ninth romantic suspense novel in the New York Times bestselling Tracers series, author Laura Griffin brings back her elite cadre of forensic experts as they hunt down the most brutal serial killer yet.
Special Agent Tara Rushing arrives at a grisly murder scene and quickly discovers she’s got a serial killer on her hands. The killer is meticulous, making sure to wipe up even the smallest traces of evidence…but the Delphi Center experts are on the case.
The local sheriff has a suspect all picked out—ex-Marine and current security expert Liam Wolfe. Despite all her digging, Tara knows very little about Liam when she shows up at his sprawling Texas compound, which serves as headquarters for Wolfe Securities, and she’s surprised by her intense physical reaction to him.
As she and Liam grow closer, Tara finds herself depending on his skills and expertise to help her track a killer. But when another body turns up, Tara must decide if she can trust the man who’s quickly stealing her heart.

‘Shadow Fall’ is Laura Griffin returning to her Tracers roots dealing with local violent crime, after the brief (but exciting) forays into counter-terrorism themes of the previous ones. Special Agent Tara Rushing is called to the crime scene and finds Liam Wolfe in the centre of her investigation. But Wolfe, as she finds out, is taciturn yet desirably intense, unsettling her further as the body count piles up.

Ms. Griffin’s crime writing is flawless and intricately detailed, even if, like in some previous Tracers books, it seems to sacrifice character growth and relationship development in the process. There were major gaps in the characters that I would definitely liked to have seen filled/explained and was disappointed when they weren’t: Liam’s apparent dalliance with an ex-client even when he has Tara in his sights, the almost-non-relationship between Liam and Mark (whom I loved and had hoped to see more of), the return of the other Tracers but no mention at all about their significant others and how they were getting on. Even Tara’s and Liam’s connection seems tenuous at best even if it’s undeniable strong, forged only by the dark pull of adrenaline-filled attraction; the insta-love declaration at the end incredibly unbelievable given Tara’s deep distrust issues. All I really got out of the end was that Tara and Liam were both good at their jobs, despite the chips on their shoulders and it took a few runarounds before the killer was taken out.

Nonetheless, Shadow Fall is an entertaining read which fell short of the relationship development (which I do believe should be one of the defining characteristics of romantic suspense), especially if you’re in just for the thrilling ride to get to the whodunnit portion.

three-stars

Beyond Limits by Laura Griffin

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 15th January 2015
Beyond Limits by Laura GriffinBeyond Limits (Tracers, #8) by Laura Griffin
Series: Tracers #8
Published by Pocket Books on January 27th 2015
Pages: 400
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five-stars

Elizabeth LeBlanc and Derek Vaughn meet again under rather implausible circumstances when Derek finds evidence of a terrorist sleeper cell during an operation in Afghanistan that leads him straight back to Texas and back to Elizabeth. Having spent the better part of a year pining for each other, Elizabeth and Derek have a real chance at making things work between them, even though it seems the obstacles (both perceived and real) are too many to overcome without losses or heavy compromises.

As a reader, I’ve always been uncannily drawn to the chemistry that I find between peripheral characters and while reading Scorched, Elizabeth and Derek drew my attention with their tentative interactions and their chemistry. I’m thrilled that they’ve finally gotten their own story – even as far-fetched as the events seem at times – and and even more intrigued by the angsty scenes between the 2 other side characters of Luke and Hailey that Ms Griffin introduces in this book.

The Tracers series have been a hit and miss for me and in taking a step away from forensic anthropology, Beyond Limits is a solid read, as well as a refreshing change from the previous books – and one which I definitely hope subsequent books could build on.

five-stars
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