Author: Liliana Hart

Say No More by Liliana Hart

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

Gone to Dust by Liliana Hart

Gone to Dust by Liliana HartGone to Dust by Liliana Hart
Series: Gravediggers #2
Published by Pocket Books on June 20th 2017
Pages: 384
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four-stars

Sometimes the dead do rise…
Miller Darling is one of the most popular romance novelists of her time. Not bad for a woman who doesn’t believe in romance. She’s as logical as they come, and she doesn’t believe in happily-ever-afters. What she does believe in is family, so when her brother disappears, she doesn’t think twice about packing her bag and her laptop and heading out to find him.
Elias Cole has an axe to grind. Of all the Gravediggers, he’s the most reluctant in his new role as dead man walking. He’s angry, and being stuck in the tiny town of Last Stop, Texas might as well be purgatory. He misses his country and the life he had before he was betrayed. The only thing keeping him sane are the men who are like him—the Gravediggers—and the woman who makes his head spin. He’s never met anyone like Miller Darling. She’s not intimidated by his scowls, and damned if he doesn’t find that appealing.
When Miller sneaks out of town in the dead of night, her suitcase in tow, he has no choice but to follow. He’s made an oath to the Gravediggers. Only death can separate them. But he’s willing to risk it all to follow the one woman who drives him crazy halfway around the world. But when the ones who own his soul find out that he’s deserted them, there will be nowhere to hide.

Elias Cole and Miller Darling have a recent and unhappy history, and it’s mostly a funny one of unfulfilled sexual tension where Elias left Miller, well, wanting. They’re brought closer together by circumstances that are odd but befitting the life of a romance author who lives inside her head when she receives a finger with a ring that says her equally oddball and irresponsible brother has gone missing.

Elias is literally forced to go with Miller as she goes after her brother and the journey is a hilarious one, peppered mostly by Miller’s fanciful imaginings that started to feel a lot like a parody of romance authors whose heads stay mostly in the clouds. I loved every minute of the banter, especially how often Miller makes Elias speechless with her overactive imagination.

At the same time, Elias’s own reasons for wanting revenge lends gravity to his purpose for being a Gravedigger and I was eagerly waiting for his backstory, as I do for the rest of the motley crew. Sadly, not too much of it is given and his purpose in seeking revenge is somewhat dimmed by the end of the book, proving a disappointment as I half-expected that goal to be fulfilled.

But as far as pairings go, I loved how Elias/Miller both surprised me at every turn, both with their conversations and actions that were as non-stereotypical as they could be in this genre. That they made me laugh most of the way was a fantastic bonus that helped make this book a standout.

Like the first book, this one made me sit up and take note, not just because of the intrigue that’s presented here—I’ve not forgotten that the funeral parlour in an ugly town in Texas houses the world’s deadliest operatives—but also because of the direction that the story took. I’d been expecting more counterterrorist-type scenarios as it did in Deacon’s case, but that was hardly the case this time around.

‘Gone to Dust’ has a heavy focus instead on the journey that Elias and Miller took and the development of their relationship, but eschewed the details about the treasure, the myth and Justin’s ultimate fate in favour of banter and steamy sex. In fact, the story ended very soon after they yanked Justin out of his hiding place and got the bad guy, making me feel as though I was left hanging when Elias and Miller finally decided that they loved each other enough to stay together after a very brief meltdown on Elias’s side.

I think I would have enjoyed it more if the ending had been less abrupt and if I’d seen more of the Gravediggers in action—there were admittedly fewer scenes with them here than in the first book—mostly because their strange relationships and quirky interactions were the highlight of this series so far. The rushed epilogue felt like a HFN without a definite plan for the future (that itself is briefly explained) but still, it would have been nicer to have ‘Gone to Dust’ more conclusively wrapped up without me feeling stunned and wondering if some pages had been missing after all.

Still, it’s a memorable read and as a series that’s only just beginning to gather steam, I’m eager to see what Hart has in store next for this group of unlikely brothers.

four-stars

The Darkest Corner by Liliana Hart

The Darkest Corner by Liliana HartThe Darkest Corner (Gravediggers #1) by Liliana Hart
Series: Gravediggers #1
Published by Pocket Books on May 23rd 2017
Pages: 368
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three-stars

Deacon Tucker is a dead man walking. A former black ops agent, he was disavowed and stripped of all honor before being recruited as a Gravedigger. But his honor and good name no longer matter, because no one knows he’s alive, and he’ll never get the recognition he deserves. His mission is simple: save the world or die trying. And for God’s sake, don’t ever fall in love. That’s a rule punishable by death. The kind of death a man can’t be brought back from.

Tess Sherman is the only mortician in Last Stop, Texas. She has no idea how Deacon Tucker ended up in her funeral home, but she’ll eat her hat if he’s only a funeral home assistant. Deacon is dangerous, deadly, and gorgeous. And she knows her attraction to him can only end in heartache.

Deacon is on a mission to stop the most fatal terror attack the world has ever known—what’s known as The Day of Destiny—a terrorist’s dream. But when he discovers Tess has skills he can use to stop them, he has to decide if he can trust her with secrets worth dying for. And, most important, he has to decide if he can trust her with his heart.

It takes an appreciation of macabre, black humour to like this book; thankfully the dry kind that I love can sort of easily be translated into a love for this kind of dark comedy.

In contrast to the sombre, almost-sinister cover which made me wonder if ‘The Darkest Corner’ was a murder mystery or a thriller, there’s quite a bit of wry, self-deprecating humour in this, as characters run the gamut from dark and shady to weird and mentally unstable. It’s eccentricity exemplified and probably not a story for people who love straight-out romantic suspense and hear-pounding thrillers but one that meanders and winds around the daily lives of Tess Sherman, her relatives and their ilk, while keeping a mysterious group of men called the Gravediggers who’ve died and come back to life, all in Tess’s back garden, so to speak.

We’re given the odd life that Tess leads, right down to her babbling personality and the actual happenings in a funeral home, except that it’s suddenly populated by men whom she can’t understand, not least a mysterious leader named Deacon Tucker who never gives straight answers when she needs it. Her funeral home business is, unbeknownst to her, the perfect cover for what they do and Tess is slowly but surely waking up to things that go bump in the night—and not of the supernatural kind.

I’m reminded of 6-feet under in its morbid glory, with all the tangential, long descriptions of peripheral characters who add to the quirky mood of the story but not to the plot, which is surprisingly slow-going after the actual introduction to the Gravediggers. For the first half, I was entertained somewhat and undoubtedly en route to boredom, though the cloak-and-dagger conspiracy theories and the spy stuff did get interesting, interspersed with the small-town life that Liliana Hart tries to bring to life. Unsurprisingly, it was Deacon and his unhappy band of operators that captured my imagination, and I think we simply didn’t see enough of them in this book. I was straining the end of my leash for the action and suspense to begin, given that there is a real threat out there and it only materialised in the last quarter of it.

Hart however, has already written a potential series of books into this opener, with sufficient characters have enough depths to plumb until the daylight fades. So while I’m a little on the fence with this slow start, I’m nevertheless eager to dig deeper into this strange band of brothers. Just more of the action and the spooky spy-stuff please.

three-stars

Scorch by Liliana Hart

Scorch by Liliana HartScorch by Liliana Hart
Series: The MacKenzie Family #12
Published by Nla Digital LLC on July 26th 2016
Pages: 168
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three-stars

Shane MacKenzie’s life has been turned upside down. He’s lost his command, his identity, and his will to live. He’s a dead man walking, and the only thing that makes waking up in the morning worthwhile is knowing he’ll come head to head with the one woman who gets his blood moving.
Doctor Lacy Shaw spent years as a medic on the battlefield. She’s seen things that can never be erased from her memory, and when Declan MacKenzie gives her the opportunity to work for MacKenzie Security, she decides any job has to be better for the body and soul than watching soldiers die in a war zone. That’s until she meets Shane MacKenzie and realizes she’s never fought so hard for one person to live.

This is one of the harder reviews I’ve had to write. The anticipation of waiting for a book that’s nearly two years in the making can be excruciating, not least because of the expectation that it can’t be anything but a blockbuster that a reader never forgets. Essentially, book disappointment isn’t an option. But what if it is?

‘Scorch’ is that type of book which I thought could be so much more.

A lot of the first few chapters is repetitive: an amalgamation of key scenes from previous books that are filled out, explained and set-up so we get Shane’s love ‘em and leave ‘em lifestyle – but do I really need to read about him having graphic sex with another woman? – as he juggles being a SEAL commander at the top of his game to the point where he sacrifices his leg to save someone. And perhaps this is where my opinion will be an unpopular one (what’s new?) – I thought it fairly unnecessary because I’d expected the story to be the focus on his new life and his PTSD, wrapped up in a new, romantic suspense case.

To some extent, it is. But that’s still too little for me. I felt that rehashing the previous scenes brought a pitfall of its own: several inconsistencies messing up the timeline in my head and piling on more confusion instead. And these discrepancies are clear; I had to re-read some portions of the MacKenzie books just to get back in the game for this. An instance (out of several) is a scene in previous books which hinted at a potential separation as Lacey was called back to active duty and Declan asking if Shane could live without her, but we’re told in ‘Scorch’ that it’s a different situation altogether with no whiff of separation – which made me wonder if Liliana Hart had several different ideas about Shane and Lacy when she conceived the plot and changed it as she wrote this book.

The result is an unevenly paced book, with a second half that rushes into sex, love declarations, and a climax (pun sort of intended) that felt like a cross between robocop, syfy prosthetics and special ops remade with a super doctor/soldier female lead, up until an end that seemed very unfinished.

The inconsistencies aside and other missing scenes which I felt were crucial to developing the story, I actually found myself finishing the book alarmingly quickly, and felt flatly short-changed because I wanted much more. I wanted the to be gutted by pain of Shane’s rehab, the angst of his entire world upending, the pain of his mental adjustment of looking at his doctor with new eyes rather than she was attractive because of her amethyst eyes; I wanted the deep POV of his elation as he got back on his feet rather than be told that he simply had an ‘attitude readjustment’ when he put on his new prosthetic leg.

All these felt glossed over as Hart simply wrote about several key milestones in his difficult recovery. I wanted more conflict between Lacy’s and Shane’s own ideals but seemed to only see philosophising platitudes instead of the rawness I craved. I wanted a couple so solid it would take more than a severe storm to shake them, but how could that happen, when the roots of their bond didn’t seem to go that deep?

I could go on, but I think the point’s made. In short, so much is told, not shown. And I yearned for more of the latter.

That said, it isn’t to say that the story is a turn-off for me; I did like the idea that not every character is safe from harm and that there is a clear, ongoing case of war declared on the MacKenzies by various jealous parties after their toys and skills. I just wished I could say I’d gotten a hangover so great that I had to stay off books for a few days, which, unfortunately isn’t the case at all.

three-stars

Crave by Liliana Hart

Crave by Liliana HartCrave by Liliana Hart
Series: The MacKenzie Family, #11
Published by CreateSpace on March 31st 2015
Pages: 216
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two-stars

When Evangeline Lockwood witnesses the murder of a prominent politician, the killers will do everything they can to make sure she can't testify. Since Evangeline's father was once Deputy Director of the CIA, he knows just who to call to protect his only daughter—MacKenzie Security.
The last thing Cal Colter wants is to get stuck with a babysitting job, but Declan MacKenzie has assigned him the task and he has no choice but to accept. Cal especially doesn't know what to do with the quirky computer nerd who covers her lush body in baggy clothes and her stunning violet eyes behind glasses. But if Cal knows anything, it's women, and he's just as determined to peel back the layers of this unusual woman as he is to keep her alive.


Liliana Hart writes more than decently but ‘Crave’ is a disappointment in so many ways, not least because it felt like a novel with its spine and half of its narrative ripped off. There is a threadbare plot and unfinished business between 2 childhood friends, but what went wrong between them was never really addressed properly before the sexual attraction and the sex scenes took over.

How, for example, had Cal Colton always ‘loved’ Evie when he actually married another woman? The insta-love proclamations came too fast, too soon and I simply felt too frustrated with the lack of character development – let’s not even go into depth and some basic grammar and spelling mistakes that should have been eliminated in the editing process – give this book a higher rating.

‘Crave’ seems to be too overly concerned with furthering Shane Mackenzie’s story (yes, I’m impatiently waiting for that, though I’m afraid the same thing would happen with Shane’s story too) and in the process, compromised so much when it didn’t give Cal and Evie the justice and attention they deserve.

two-stars

Secrets and Satin by Liliana Hart

Secrets and Satin by Liliana HartSecrets and Satin by Liliana Hart
Series: The MacKenzie Family #8
Published by Smashwords Edition on February 9th 2013
Pages: 216
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four-stars

No one knows heartbreak like Jade Jax. After losing her husband to a tragic death, she doesn’t believe love can happen twice. But after years of living a half-life without her husband, her body starts to waken again, and needs she’d forgotten come to the surface.
Max Devlin never thought Jade would want him outside of his dreams, but fate plays a helping hand when they’re thrust into a high stakes mission, protecting each other’s backs like old times. Max decides he’s finally ready to end his bachelor ways, but he learns quickly that happily-ever-after isn't always possible. Because Jade has no desire to ever love again. Not when she knows how painful it can be.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve picked up a book uncertainly, only to be more than pleasantly surprised by it. Max’s and Jade’s story is one of those times.

I’d rate this higher if not for Liliana’s Hart’s disturbing tendency to have all her heroes into anal play. I love the conventional smexy scenes as much as any lass would, and thankfully there’s a lot less bdsm over here and everything else that gives me the willies – just not my cup of tea – but I particularly loved Max’s utter devotion and unwavering feelings. About high time we have a hero who just isn’t afraid to be a coward (and not an idiot/tortured playboy with the typical excuses of playing the field) and a kickass heroine who can be persuaded to love again.

four-stars