Author: Melinda Leigh

Save Your Breath by Melinda Leigh

Save Your Breath by Melinda LeighSave Your Breath by Melinda Leigh
Series: Morgan Dane #6
Published by Montlake Romance on 17th September 2019
Pages: 320
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four-stars

Morgan Dane and PI Lance Kruger investigate the mysterious disappearance of a true-crime writer.

When true-crime writer Olivia Cruz disappears with no signs of foul play, her new boyfriend, Lincoln Sharp, suspects the worst. He knows she didn’t leave willingly and turns to attorney Morgan Dane and PI Lance Kruger to find her before it’s too late.

As they dig through Olivia’s life, they are shocked to discover a connection between her current book research on two cold murder cases and the suicide of one of Morgan’s prospective clients.

As Morgan and Lance investigate, the number of suspects grows, but time is running out to find Olivia alive. When danger comes knocking at their door, Morgan and Lance realize that they may be the killer’s next targets.

Melinda Leigh returns with one of the tightest, most cohesive crime-busting, lawyer-PI team in the Morgan Dane series—I can’t seem to get enough of Morgan Dane and Lance Kruger—and ‘Save Your Breath’ is yet another great instalment in this fantastic lineup.

I think I’ve said this in every review of the series, but written from a romance review’s perspective, I’ll need to say it again: the romance is slight and brought off-screen, given the established pairings, with slight touches and kisses and reaffirming words forming the basis of affection here. Lance and Morgan are grounded in each other and it’s always a joy to read about their mature relationship and how they get on in each new book, so ‘Save Your Breath’ furthers their relationship just a little more and probably gives them the short but needed HEA all of their stalwart fans want.

As much as I was hoping for a sharper focus on Lincoln Sharp’s and Olivia Wade’s romance developing along side Morgan/Lance’s rock-solid one, ‘Save Your Breath’ wastes no time in moving past their attraction, straight onto the meat of the story of Olivia’s disappearance and several seemingly unlinked cases.

There’s no doubt that Leigh always crafts a good suspense; this far into the series, the pacing, tone and characters are nuanced and pitch-perfect, though a mite bit predictable plot-wise, or even a bit of a let down when all’s revealed and tied up.

Still, it’s a smooth read otherwise, engaging and compelling and if this is really Leigh’s last in this series, I’ll be saying a very, very wistful goodbye.

four-stars

Secrets Never Die by Melinda Leigh

Secrets Never Die by Melinda LeighSecrets Never Die by Melinda Leigh
Series: Morgan Dane #5
Published by Montlake Romance on 19th March 2019
Pages: 361
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four-stars

When a retired sheriff’s deputy is shot to death in his home, his troubled teenage stepson, Evan, becomes the prime suspect. Even more incriminating, the boy disappeared from the scene of the crime.

Desperate to find her son, Evan’s mother begs PI Lance Kruger for help. She knows her son is innocent. Kruger and defense attorney Morgan Dane want to believe that too, but the evidence against the boy is damning. Just as the trail goes cold, another deputy vanishes. His shocking connection to Evan’s stepfather throws the investigation into chaos as Lance and Morgan fear the worst…that Evan is the killer’s new target.

With so many secrets to unravel, will Lance and Morgan find him before it’s too late?

Throw in a police procedural-type story and I know Melinda Leigh can make it shine. Leigh’s Morgan Dane juggernaut—into its fifth book here—keeps rolling on and shows no sign of abating and for good reasons.

Morgan and Lance tackle a case that has gotten law enforcement into a tizzy: the murder of a retired deputy sheriff, his missing stepson and the current inclination of the authorities to blame it on the latter. The setup is admittedly formulaic (and a little anti-climatic as well) but nonetheless absorbing, easy to follow, with protagonists you know you can put your last penny behind.

I loved catching up with Morgan and Lance, whose relationship grows from strength to strength. Past the sexual tension, the getting-together, Morgan/Lance’s solid partnership is never in question. The return of the odd, power couple as a crime-solving duo is always welcome of course, yet I find that I miss the heat between them—something that Leigh now glances over—even though I liked the progression of their relationship. Essentially, much of ‘Secrets Never Die’ deals with the investigation process and the superhuman strength that both Morgan/Lance seem to possess in the few days within which the story takes place, with only a very, very faint whiff of romance even with the introduction of a potential secondary pairing of Sharp and Olivia.

In any case, Leigh’s solid writing gave me a good ol’ crime mystery to solve and if you aren’t bothered by the seeming lack of romance) ‘Secrets Never Die’ is a pretty good all rounder.

four-stars

What I’ve Done by Melinda Leigh

What I’ve Done by Melinda LeighWhat I've Done by Melinda Leigh
Series: Morgan Dane #4
Published by Montlake Romance on 18th September 2018
Pages: 336
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four-stars

Morgan Dane’s new client has blood on her hands—and no recollection of what happened—as the #1 Amazon Charts bestselling series continues.

Haley Powell wakes up covered in blood, with no memory of the night before. When she sees a man lying in the backyard, stabbed to death, she has only one terrified thought: What have I done?

Agreeing to take the case as a favor to her PI friend Lincoln Sharp, Morgan must scale a mountain of damning circumstantial and forensic evidence to prove her client innocent. Haley couldn’t appear more guilty: her bloodstained fingerprints are on the murder weapon, and she has no alibi. But Morgan can’t shake the feeling that this shocked young woman has been framed.

Someone out there is hell-bent on sabotaging her defense, targeting Morgan, her partner, and especially Haley. Someone who will stop at nothing—and whose next move will be deadly.

Melinda Leigh’s ‘Morgan Dane’ juggernaut of a series goes on strong with no sign of abating and I for one, am glad for it. With little of the unnecessary (and sometimes over-exggerated) drama as her stalwart, arse-kicking protagonists who go from strength to strength, ‘What I’ve Done’ is another solid offering in which I was happy to get lost.

There’re slight developments in Morgan’s and Lance’s relationship which are always nice to read about, but by and large, they are an established couple, which frees Leigh to concentrate on the suspense. We’re plunged straight in, like any police procedural show: an establishing mystery which eventually turns out to be the complicated case that Morgan and Lance get involved in. The stakes are high; the evidence mounts against them in a near-indefensible case, but Leigh quite masterfully twirls the mess until it makes coherent sense with a satisfying resolution.

It isn’t often that I like the suspense overshadowing the romance—a hearty mix of heat and action is typically what I look for—but this series is one that I can’t help but want more and more of. In short, I was nonetheless riveted and engaged—when the case unravels to show that no one is truly innocent and the degree of debauched behaviour is just skewed towards who’s the worse guy.

Admittedly, the romance is subdued, the heat much less pronounced with a new kind of conflict brewing but Morgan/Lance’s chemistry and affection for each other—borne of months working seamlessly together—are obvious despite the very few scenes that concentrate solely on them. ‘What I’ve Done’ is nonetheless solid and well-written, closing with the sense that this growing partnership in more ways than one, is far from over.

four-stars

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