Author: Melinda Leigh

Bones Don’t Lie by Melinda Leigh

Bones Don’t Lie by Melinda LeighBones Don't Lie by Melinda Leigh
Series: Morgan Dane #3
Published by Montlake Romance on March 13th 2018
Pages: 348
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five-stars

Private investigator Lance Kruger was just a boy when his father vanished twenty-three years ago. Since then he’s lived under the weight of that disappearance—until his father’s car is finally dredged up from the bottom of Grey Lake. It should be a time for closure, except for the skeleton found in the trunk. A missing person case gone cold has become one of murder, and Lance and attorney Morgan Dane must face the deadly past that’s risen to the surface.

For Lance, the investigation yields troubling questions about a man he thought he knew. But memories can play dirty tricks. For Morgan, uncovering each new lie comes with a disquieting fear that someone is out there watching, because someone is killing every witness tied to this decades-old crime. Morgan and Lance follow in the shadows of a relentless killer and walk right into the cross fire.

Melinda Leigh’s ‘Morgan Dane’ books are always gripping and suspenseful, locking you down with a twisty case and protagonists who work together so well that you can’t help but love them. I’ve enjoyed every one of those as much as I loved Morgan and Lance, and Leigh certainly doesn’t disappoint with ‘Bones Don’t Lie’, with a case that strikes too close to home for Lance.

Every time I think Leigh can’t do any better, she manages to surprise me once again, starting with pushing Morgan/Lance (somewhat) quietly to the top of my best fictional couples list. Individually, Lance and Morgan are fascinating, complex characters; together, their connection to each other simply feels like a solid entity that is the only constant in this maelstrom. In fact, the tense, unfolding murder mystery is contrasted with the respect and love Morgan/Lance had for each other, even as their slowly maturing relationship is tested with a significant discovery linked to Lance’s unresolved past.

The romance is slight, given that Lance and Morgan are already involved, so the focus in ‘Bones Don’t Lie’ is solely on the murder mystery which is, in itself, remarkable and creepy in its own right as it makes you question all you know about law enforcement  and the contradictions so inherent in human personalities.

Still, I inhaled every line that detailed Morgan/Lance’s interactions—Leigh infuses so much depth and subtlety in crafting these characters—that it’s merely a foregone conclusion that this pairing would only come out stronger and better for it. I love Morgan’s unwavering sense of justice, her own protectiveness towards her children as much as I love Lance’s ability to listen and pull back while not compromising his own integrity and honour. Reading about the other characters in the Scarlet Falls series made me only giddier, though that merely reinforces just how much I need more of Morgan and Lance.

five-stars

Her Last Goodbye by Melinda Leigh

Her Last Goodbye by Melinda LeighHer Last Goodbye by Melinda Leigh
Series: Morgan Dane #2
Published by Montlake Romance on September 26th 2017
Pages: 334
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four-stars

Young mother Chelsea Clark leaves the house for a girls’ night out…and vanishes. Her family knows she would never voluntarily leave her two small children. Her desperate husband—also the prime suspect—hires Morgan to find his wife and prove his innocence.

As a single mother, Morgan sympathizes with Chelsea’s family and is determined to find her. She teams up with private investigator Lance Kruger. But the deeper they dig, the deadlier their investigation gets. When Morgan is stalked by a violent predator, everything—and everyone—she holds dear is in grave danger.

Now, Morgan must track down a deranged criminal to protect her own family…but she won’t need to leave home to find him. She’s his next target.

Sometimes it seems as though I’ve been waiting for Melinda Leigh’s sequel to ‘Say You’re Sorry’ for too long. But Lance Kruger and Morgan Dane have not strayed too far from my thoughts so it’s relatively easy to slip back into their world where they are more than friends but not quite lovers, working together against crime just as they iron out the kinks in their own relationship. Leigh left them in a very hopeful position when the first book ended, and I was thrilled to read more simply because she handles pacing, dialogue and adult character-interactions brilliantly.

A new case that Lance and Morgan deal with—the disappearance of a parent of an infant—takes precedence over the romance, as it did with the first book. On its own, the case didn’t seem like a standout at first, but Leigh’s writing is compelling enough to make me stick with it, if only for the way her characters carry out an adult relationship that I find so sorely lacking in books these days. Lance and Morgan, whose romance is barely there at all, have such chemistry it’s hard to look away as they work as a team already in sync. Sometimes it seems as though they’re superhuman, doing all the things they do with little sleep and a ton of other things to juggle.

The mystery of the missing women—when truth finally came out—was a bit more contrived than I expected but it’s something I can overlook maybe because the rest was just done deftly. Generally speaking though, intelligent writing, maturity of characters and some subtle inserts of heat and humour have made me a fan of this series and ‘Her Last Goodbye’ is definitely more than a decent read.

four-stars

Say You’re Sorry by Melinda Leigh

Say You’re Sorry by Melinda LeighSay You're Sorry by Melinda Leigh
Series: Morgan Dane #1
Published by Montlake Romance on May 16th 2017
Pages: 336
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five-stars

After the devastating loss of her husband in Iraq, Morgan Dane returns to Scarlet Falls, seeking the comfort of her hometown. Now, surrounded by family, she’s finally found peace and a promising career opportunity—until her babysitter is killed and her neighbor asks her to defend his son, Nick, who stands accused of the murder.
Tessa was the ultimate girl next door, and the community is outraged by her death. But Morgan has known Nick for years and can’t believe he’s guilty, despite the damning evidence stacked against him. She asks her friend Lance Kruger, an ex-cop turned private eye, for help. Taking on the town, the police, and a zealous DA, Morgan and Lance plunge into the investigation, determined to find the real killer. But as they uncover secrets that rock the community, they become targets for the madman hiding in plain sight.

As a huge fan of Leigh’s Scarlet Falls series, I was so thrilled to learn about this spin-off and even more excited to revisit Lance and Morgan, both of whom were said to have a brief history in Stella and Mac’s story. But Melinda Leigh is an author I can always count on for fantastic reads and ‘Say You’re Sorry’ more than lives up to this billing. But I love Leigh’s heroines and heroes for so many reasons: they use their smarts and wits and intelligence to get ahead (sometimes without even needing to fire a gun), they generally don’t have immature meltdowns that are out of character and aren’t afraid to admit their uncertainty and doubts even when cornered. The all-round maturity certainly helps.

‘Say You’re Sorry’ introduces us to Morgan Dane, a district attorney whose life was blown wide open when her husband died during his deployment, leaving her to sort herself out back home with 3 young children. But the fragility and vulnerability never quite go away no matter how much she convinces herself that the time to move on has arrived, up until a case convinces her to do what’s right rather than what’s convenient.

Leigh ratchets up the tension from the start and very much like every episode of a TV crime series, begins the show with the panicked pants of a potential victim who flees an unknown killer, who surprisingly, acts uncontrollably because of his own self-preservation instincts. But what looks like a simple teenage case of murder unearths a whole load of secrets and several twists that I didn’t see coming, which made the ride more exciting.

I liked both Morgan and Lance together, and loved their partnership which seems to bode very well for the next few books that Leigh has in mind. Morgan’s strong sense of justice appealed to me deeply, especially when it came to her determination to see a falsely-accused teenager out of jail for a crime he didn’t commit while tanking her career in the process. Lance’s solid character was as well, a perfect complement for Morgan’s. His broken dreams have left him a position where he hasn’t been able to be anything other than the police officer he once was, but there’s a sense of untouchable integrity and dignity about him that makes him quite a shining example of what a romantic hero should be.

’Say You’re Sorry’ is however, more focused on the suspense than romance, heavy with the potential of Morgan/Lance which sort of remains unfulfilled by the end of the book, but I’m hoping there’re more to come that will deepen this relationship between the both of them. I’m still vacillating between feeling a little cheated out of hot and heavy times and satisfied because justice is finally served, but as long as Leigh delivers these in the next few books, I’d be happy as a clam.

five-stars

Midnight Obsession by Melinda Leigh

Midnight Obsession by Melinda LeighMidnight Obsession by Melinda Leigh
Series: Midnight #4
Published by Montlake Romance on January 3rd 2017
Pages: 336
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three-stars

In Wall Street Journal bestselling author Melinda Leigh’s edgy new thriller, Louisa Hancock thought she was safe…but there’s a new killer in town.
When a mysterious package lands on Louisa Hancock’s doorstep, the Philadelphia museum curator can hardly anticipate the nightmare that’s about to envelop her. The package is addressed to her father—an expert in Viking culture—and inside is a ninth-century sword, a chilling thank-you note, and photos of two dead bodies in a tableau evoking a Nordic funeral. The gruesome images match a recent crime scene. But before the police can investigate the killer’s connection to Louisa’s father, Ward Hancock vanishes.
Sports bar owner Conor Sullivan wants nothing more than to spend his life with Louisa. Devoted and protective, he refuses to leave her side after her father’s disappearance. When a troubled young boxer he’s been coaching is suspected of the murders, Conor is pulled in even deeper. Desperate, Louisa and Conor take it upon themselves to find her father, but soon another ritualistic slaying makes it clear there’s a Viking-obsessed serial killer on the loose. And he has a new target: Louisa.

A spate of murders based on Viking rituals somehow involves Louisa Hancock once again, not long after the trauma she suffered at the hands of a deranged killer a few months ago. Similar to ‘Midnight Betrayal’ in format, ‘Midnight Obsession’ delivers the same thrilling ride, with the key difference being that Louisa and Conor are an established couple here, even if their hard-won HEA in the previous book comes with more bumps along the way. That said, it’s definitely good enough as a standalone, though reading the previous installment would definitely provide a fuller picture both Louisa’s and Conor’s history.

The romance certainly isn’t quite the focus here—there is no relationship conflict or angst to get through—leaving the suspense and gang-wars to drive the narrative. Yet Melinda Leigh writes Conor and Louisa in a fashion where there’s mutual admiration and much loved-up feelings on both sides, leaving us with no doubt that their relationship is rock-solid through this ordeal. The pacing as well, is steady, without dramatic lurches from breathlessness to sluggishness, perhaps it’s a little slow at the start but it picks up as each murder and/or tragic event start piling on top on one another as the noose tightens around Louisa and Conor. But because the story’s pretty light on the romance, I had expected more gore or at least a greater immersion in the Viking rituals already laid out in the plot; instead the book doesn’t quite deliver these, yet what it does however, is reaffirm the rightness of this couple with many statements on how far they’ve come with each other, right up to the very end.

A huge part of the draw in reading mystery/crime novels is the wild goose chase we’re led on as we’re teased about the identity of the suspect. Leigh does this and more, but most importantly, I felt as though I’d had an entertaining time.

three-stars

Seconds to Live by Melinda Leigh

Seconds to Live by Melinda LeighSeconds to Live by Melinda Leigh
Series: Scarlet Falls #3
Published by Montlake Romance on June 28th 2016
Pages: 335
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four-stars

Wildlife biologist Mac Barrett avoided his hometown of Scarlet Falls for years—too many bad memories. But when he receives the news that his father is dying, he rushes home only to discover he’s too late. Shaken, Mac retreats to his remote cabin seeking peace and solace. Instead, he crashes his jeep to narrowly avoid running over the naked body of a woman lying in the road. Even more disturbing, when he regains consciousness, the body is gone.
Police detective Stella Dane wants to believe Mac, even if his story about the vanishing body seems far-fetched. But when Mac’s description matches the missing woman she’s been searching for, it raises a disturbing question: How does a dead body disappear?
Mac and Stella will have to work together to find the answer and catch a psychotic kidnapper—and quickly. The killer has a deadly message to send, and the case is about to become personal.…

It seems fitting that the wildest and youngest of the lot ended up as a wildlife biologist – and out in the wild as much as he could. But Mac Barrett finally returns home when his borderline-psychotic ex-military father dies and in doing so, is forced to make peace with a past that he can’t seem to outrun. Exhausted and injured, the last thing he expects however, is the flash of a naked body across the road and a reconnection with police detective Stella Dane as she ploughs through what appears to be the marks of a serial killer tramping through town.

I loved Brody’s and Hannah’s story, which upped my excitement for Mac’s own tale the moment ‘Seconds to Live’ went live on Netgalley. ‘Seconds to Live’ is richly and tautly written, albeit somewhat predictable even as the relentless action and suspense seemed to short-change the depth and crises of Mac’s difficult youth and perhaps even in Stella’s own backstory – all of which are merely glossed over in secondary sub-plots that don’t seem satisfactorily resolved. Nonetheless, I appreciated Ms. Leigh’s efforts not to make her characters veer anywhere near the TSTL boundary. While I was skeptical of their very quick mutual declarations of love by the end, both Stella’s and Mac’s paths down the road to romance are rather straight and thankfully unhindered by useless games, particularly when criminals at large take narrative priority.

There are some twists of course, to keep me hooked, and though not so much filled with revelatory moments to leave my jaw hanging , ‘Seconds to Live’ is thoroughly entertaining and good for at least a day to get lost in.

four-stars

Minutes to Kill by Melinda Leigh

Minutes to Kill by Melinda LeighMinutes to Kill by Melinda Leigh
Series: Scarlet Falls, #2
Published by Montlake Romance on June 30th 2015
Pages: 324
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five-stars

After corporate attorney Hannah Barrett tries—and fails—to stop a kidnapping in Vegas, she can’t shake the haunting image of the terrified young girl she couldn’t save. She tells herself that a visit to her hometown in Scarlet Falls could be a welcome distraction. But soon, Hannah realizes the kidnappers have all the info they need to track her every move. And when chilling e-mails about the victim appear in her inbox, it’s frighteningly clear what happened in Vegas has followed her home.
Eight months after a terrible family tragedy, Hannah turns to Detective Brody McNamara once again. Brody is eager to help, though he’s embroiled in the investigation of a brutal murder. But the closer they work together, the stronger their feelings grow…and the more they stand to lose when two seemingly unrelated, but equally deadly, cases collide.

Hannah Barrett and Brody McNamara meet again after 8 months: I’m not privy to the events of the first book because I didn’t read it but there are sufficient hints about what has gone down before and this time, they get to know each other a lot more when Hannah’s own messiah complex puts her in the crosshairs of 2 very unpleasant men. Human trafficking is the nasty issue here and Melinda Leigh doesn’t skirt around it at all through the eyes of the antagonist, which was a little distasteful (but perhaps necessary) for the narrative.

But as a character-driven reader, I thought Ms. Leigh’s characters came through here, having created very mature and very likeable characters in both Brody and Hannah: their stances towards relationships, the degree of perception and willingness to reassess what has been driving them thus far and the kind of understanding about each other that had me down with this particular ‘ship from the start. Hannah in particular, surprised me with her actions and that all-round badassery made me like her even more.

Slowly but surely the threads of Barrett family seem to be coming together once again, with Mac (the wild and estranged one) being set-up for the book in the series. And if I think who I think it is who will eventually force him to face his home once more, then the next book would be very interesting indeed.

five-stars

Midnight Betrayal by Melinda Leigh

Midnight Betrayal by Melinda LeighMidnight Betrayal by Melinda Leigh
Series: Midnight #3
Published by Montlake Romance on September 2nd 2014
Pages: 334
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five-stars

Curator Dr. Louisa Hancock left behind Maine and her troubled past for Philadelphia and a job at a prominent museum. Just when it seems that Louisa’s new life is safe from her dark secrets, the body of a museum intern is found—the victim of a brutal and baffling murder.
Louisa realizes this is no random crime. And when another intern goes missing, the abduction is linked to the only man who has ever tempted Louisa’s heart—Conor Sullivan, the sexy owner of a Philly sports bar. Louisa’s past has taught her to be wary, but her heart refuses to believe Conor is guilty.
Now Conor and Louisa must dodge a police investigation—and their growing desire—as they race to find the real killer before another girl turns up dead. But trusting Conor could be deadly, especially as the evidence against him mounts…and as a merciless killer targets Louisa as the next victim.

Wow.

Louisa Hancock and Conor Sullivan reunite in the latest and possibly the most compelling of the Midnight series when a brutal murder of an intern occurs after the theft of an artefact replica. From here onwards, it’s a series of twists and turns in the plot as Louisa and Conor find their way back to each other amidst the growing danger.

Beautifully written with relentless action and breathless suspense, I was certainly thrown for a huge loop when the killer was finally revealed. After the disappointment of ‘Midnight Sacrifice’, I was thrilled with both Louisa and Conor and loved how their story developed throughout the book – kudos to Leigh for making 2 people from 2 very different worlds come together in a way that I found poignant and believable.

Definitely a keeper and something I’d be going back to read again…and again.

five-stars