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Catalyst by Rachel Grant

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 24th October 2017
Catalyst by Rachel GrantCatalyst by Rachel Grant
Series: Flashpoint #2
Published by Janus Publishing on November 21st 2017
Pages: 350
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three-stars

When a food storage depot in famine-struck South Sudan is torched, American aid worker Brie Stewart flees, only to land in a market where she’s the next item up for auction. Is the attack on the aid facility another assault upon the war-torn fledgling democracy, or has her family set her up as a pawn in their quest for oil rights?

Chief Warrant Officer Sebastian Ford crossed paths with Brie years ago when she was a shill for her family’s company, pushing a pipeline that threatened his tribe’s land. Determined to lead the rescue operation to save her, he won’t let her abduction—or the attraction that flares between them—get in the way of settling their unfinished business.

The Green Beret’s skills are put to the test in the flooded grasslands of South Sudan, where they must battle nature and dangerous factions who are after more than oil. Bastian and Brie put their hearts on the line as they find themselves embroiled in a conflict that extends beyond country and continent. Together they must douse the spark before it reaches the flashpoint and engulfs everything they hold dear.

I’ve always thought of Rachel Grant as the romantic suspense author who goes where good authors of this sub-genre go, then where most books actually end, takes it a breath-stealing mile further. Where entire books would have been written around a sex-trafficking plot, Grant integrates hers with a smartly-written overview of cultural anthropology, native American issues and the knife-edge balance of the socio-political situation in Africa that makes her Flashpoint series beyond excellent.

‘Catalyst’ is written pretty much in the same vein as its predecessor: thrilling, engaging and entirely absorbing, particularly if you love the kind of geopolitical background (with some corporate dirt thrown in) that Grant painstakingly unravels—which I do—in a part of the world that’s hardly written about in such books. For that alone, I can’t wax lyrical enough about this series, which is akin to seeing a complex chess-piece that’s put together in a narrative arc that makes it feel as though there’s yet unfinished business to conclude.

It’s also almost a given that her characters are equally multifaceted, and it’s my own fault that I didn’t quite warm to Brie and Bastian at all, with the former being more manipulatively needy and self-pitying because of her past than I expected, while the latter was too careless with people and unashamedly being Bastian the bastard about it. The games they later played with each other because neither of them could get a handle on commitment also didn’t help my ability to like Brie/Bastian as a pairing while as Brie’s ‘rich girl’s woe-is-me penance’ got tiring after a while. That said, the first half of ‘Catalyst’ enthralled me more than the second, where I found I needed to suspend disbelief a bit more when it seemed that many of the mysterious threads laid out so intricately in the first half were actually tied together by an obsessive man in Brie’s past.

The action and suspense are nonetheless very well-done and I was especially taken by the hostile tension between Savannah James and Cal whose book I hope Grant tackles next, as much as I loved the appearance of one of Grant’s best heroes in the Evidence series here.

three-stars

Tinderbox by Rachel Grant

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 2nd March 2017
Tinderbox by Rachel GrantTinderbox by Rachel Grant
Series: Flashpoint, #1
Published by Janus Publishing on February 14th 2017
Pages: 302
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four-stars

In the volatile tinderbox of the Horn of Africa, Morgan Adler has made the paleoanthropological find of a lifetime. The discovery brings her to the attention of a warlord eager to claim both Morgan and the fossils, forcing her to make a desperate dash to the nearby US military base to beg for protection.
Master Sergeant Pax Blanchard has orders to intercept Dr. Adler before she reaches the base, and in so doing saves her life. After a harrowing afternoon he safely delivers her to his commanders, only to find his responsibilities toward protecting the obstinate archaeologist have only just begun.
Morgan and Pax are forced to work together in the Djiboutian desert heat, but it is the fire that ignites between them that threatens to combust them both. For the Green Beret, involvement with the woman he must protect is a threat to his career, while for the archaeologist, the soldier is everything she never wanted but somehow can’t resist. When Morgan uncovers a mystery surrounding Djibouti’s most scarce and vital resource, the danger to her reaches the flashpoint. For Pax, protecting her is no longer a matter of following orders, and he’ll risk everything to bring her back alive.

Rachel Grant’s stories—academically-inclined with scorching hot romance and suspense— simply satisfy the geek lurking in me, to be honest. The talk of paleoanthropology, archaeology and every geek thing out there gets my juices going and ‘Tinderbox’ made me lap it all up, wide-eyed. All of it. Including the detailed explanations of the volatile geopolitics of the Horn of Africa and the warring interests of the US, China and the surrounding African states that came through the characters’ dialogues. Grant’s intelligent writing is just that riveting really, with compelling characters and even smarter villains whose endgames aren’t revealed until after a series of twists and turns that will get any romantic suspense fan enthralled.

In fact, I’d call it fictional-realism for the blend that we get of Grant’s own archaeological experiences and her fantastic storytelling.

‘Tinderbox’ starts like any summer blockbuster movie: we are thrust straight into explosive action, characters at odds with each other and a location where few people would venture voluntarily. From there onwards, it’s a journey of mind-bending turns and slow cranks of the screw as the tension rackets up both in the region and for both Pax Blanchard and Morgan Adler. Perhaps the better question would be: how large would the blast radius be when it all finally ignites? And at the centre of it all, are Grant’s protagonists whose push-pull relationship finally reaches a point where some kind of stand needs to be made because the kind of circumstances they face simply don’t allow for anything else.

I did like Pax and the quiet competence that he showed, though it was harder to take to Morgan. So competent academically and physically, yet like a rebellious, immature teenager when it comes to mastering her own emotions and daddy-issues, she came across at times too much as a pushy, petulant teen than a knowledgeable PhD holder who should have known better than to bait Pax for sex (her lowest point for me) simply because her pride had taken a hit when she couldn’t accept Pax’s reasons for not wanting to pursue their relationship.

Fighting hard for women’s equality to be in a man’s world has been a recurring theme in Grant’s books and I do think it’s something that definitely resonates with me, though not if it results in a female lead sacrificing good sense and maturity in the process which I felt Morgan had done. Yet there’s no denying how much of a badass she could be when it all culminated in a thrilling and drawn-out action-packed climax that kept me turning the pages.

My own personal bias states that Grant isn’t an author to be passed up. ‘Tinderbox’ merely confirms this.

four-stars

Poison Evidence by Rachel Grant

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 30th October 2016
Poison Evidence by Rachel GrantPoison Evidence by Rachel Grant
Series: Evidence #7
Published by Janus Publishing on October 25th 2016
Pages: 300
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five-stars

After creating advanced mapping technology that intelligence agencies itch to add to their arsenals, Ivy MacLeod can’t turn down the perfect opportunity to test it: mapping a vast World War II battle site in the islands of Palau. The historic survey is more than an all-expenses-paid trip to paradise, it’s also an opportunity to distance her reputation from her traitorous ex-husband.

Disaster strikes when her ex-husband’s allies attempt to steal the equipment, but the man she turns to for help might be the bigger threat to her mission, her country, and her every waking thought. Is he protecting her as he claims...or is he a foreign agent? Her compass is skewed by the magnetic pull of him and further thrown off when she learns her own government has betrayed her.

Stranded on a tropical island with a man whose motives remain a mystery, Ivy must decide who is the spy, who is the protector, and who is the ultimate villain. Choose right, and she gets to keep her country’s secrets—and her life. Choose wrong...and she risks nothing short of all-out war.

A postcard from Palau arrives at Luke Sevick’s home – a plea for help. But the man who has sent it has his own identity buried so deep that we don’t know who he is until partway through the book, when he finally reveals it to Ivy Macleod, the woman whose equipment and help he needs to finish his endgame.

Of all of Rachel Grant’s leading men, I think none have captured my imagination as much as Parker Reeves/Jack Keaton/Dimitri Veselov, the man with many faces, identities and a past that has been a noose around his neck. Played by everyone, betrayed by those he loved, I fell hook, line and sinker for his story the moment he appeared in ‘Cold Evidence’ and devoured every breathless moment as Ivy threw his well-laid plans into disarray and him into a tailspin as they both gave each other as good as they got.

Grant doesn’t disappoint with a complex web of intrigue, shadow ops and a huge dose of romance that in no way compromises the breakneck pace of the suspense and the tightly-woven plot that twists and turns—and keeps ahead of the reader always. Brilliantly written and so intricately done, ‘Poison Evidence’ is such a stellar example of the genre that few books live up to.

five-stars

Cold Evidence by Rachel Grant

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 3rd February 2016
Cold Evidence by Rachel GrantCold Evidence by Rachel Grant
Series: Evidence, #6
Published by Janus Publishing on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 300
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four-stars


The frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest are about to get hot…

The only thing Navy underwater archaeologist Undine Gray fears more than facing former SEAL Luke Sevick is never scuba diving again. But when a dive on a Cold War-era US Navy submarine ends with an accidental explosion, she’s terrified of going into the deep, forcing her to beg the most experienced diver she knows to take her back to the bottom of the cold Salish Sea.
Luke wants nothing to do with the woman who destroyed his career a dozen years ago but finds it impossible to turn his back on her plea. Caught off-guard by an attraction he doesn’t want to feel, he’s eager to be done with this mission of mercy. But when they dive on the wreck, he only gets sucked in deeper. Someone has been digging on the Navy sub…and it appears the explosion that almost killed Undine was no accident.
To find the truth, Undine must navigate murky waters and the unexpectedly hot undercurrents swirling between her and Luke. Worse, divers are searching for something lost in US waters during the Cold War, and they’ll do anything to keep Luke and Undine from finding it first.

An explosion on a technical dive brings Undine Gray back into Luke Sevick’s life, which is a turn of events he could never have conceived. Nor is it a welcome one, considering how Undine had thoroughly screwed his life up 12 years ago. But what starts as a normal deep dive on a Cold-War-era submarine soon becomes a matter of national security, ultimately forcing Undine and Luke to work out old hurts and grievances neither could have thought the years could erase.

Meticulously researched and intricately presented, ‘Cold Evidence’ provided more than a day’s worth of entertainment. Rachel Grant doesn’t skimp on the details or the action (or even the steamy scenes); the result of which is a satisfying, drawn-out read that also unravels the depth of her characters and their motivations.

four-stars

Covert Evidence by Rachel Grant

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 14th May 2015
Covert Evidence by Rachel GrantCovert Evidence by Rachel Grant
Series: Evidence, #5
Published by Janus Publishing on May 26th 2015
Pages: 302
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four-stars

“With a believable plot, an exotic setting, a smart heroine and a sexy hero – Rachel Grant’s Covert Evidence is the definition of fabulous Romantic Suspense.” – New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Toni Anderson
Falling in love was never part of his mission…
With visions of professional glory, underwater archaeologist Cressida Porter embarks on a research trip deep into the heart of Eastern Turkey. Her dreams turn into nightmares when she becomes the unwitting courier for a terrorist network. Stranded and unable to speak the language, she turns to a handsome and enigmatic security specialist for help, even while fearing he may be behind a violent assault that leaves her vulnerable.
CIA Case Officer Ian Boyd’s mission is clear: follow the courier, identify the terrorist leader, and intercept the microchip before it falls into enemy hands. For Ian, cozying up to the alluring archaeologist to find out where her loyalties lie isn’t exactly hardship duty. But spending time with her proves dangerous when she awakens a longing for a life he can never have.
Attraction wars with distrust as Cressida and Ian are forced on the run. When violence erupts in the already unstable region, Cressida discovers everything she knows about Ian is false. With all secrets revealed, Cressida must decide if she can trust the spy with her life, while Ian faces his own impossible choice: Cressida or his mission.

Cressida Porter is desperate for validation, both personally and professionally, and it’s her glaring insecurities that has put her in a perfect position to be used as an unwitting courier in a much larger terrorist plot and in the crosshairs of Ian Boyd, a CIA case officer whose job is to intercept the microchip that Cress is carrying. There’s distrust all around and the lies they’ve told each other start Ian and Cress on the wrong foot for quite a while.

The mystery here is a twisty, winding road of political intrigue and archaeology in the volatile middle-east and while it does become a little bogged down at times, I certainly appreciate Rachel Grant’s effort in bringing the larger context of the current conflict into the book even as Ian’s and Cress’s story play out in the foreground.

There’s a hint of character growth, especially on Cress’s part which I can appreciate even more – I found her distasteful at first – but her own admission of her myopic views of selfish academic glory showed at least, some measure of self-awareness and self-worth. The same goes for Ian really, who has to learn about operating in a non-solitary way for the first time ever. Even if I don’t take to them as much as I did with Alec and Isabel, Covert Evidence is a solid read just for the subject matter and the unrelenting action.

four-stars

Incriminating Evidence by Rachel Grant

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 24th March 2015
Incriminating Evidence by Rachel GrantIncriminating Evidence by Rachel Grant
Series: Evidence #4
Published by Janus Publishing on March 24th 2015
Pages: 290
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four-stars


From enemies to allies…

When archaeologist Isabel Dawson stumbles upon an unconscious man deep in the Alaskan wilderness, her survival skills are put to the test. She tends his wounds and drags him to shelter, only to discover she’s saved the life of Raptor CEO Alec Ravissant—the man who may have covered up her brother’s murder to save his senatorial campaign.
With no memory of the assault that landed him five miles deep in the forest, Alec doesn’t know what to believe when he wakes in the clutches of the beautiful redhead who blames him for her brother’s death, but he quickly realizes he needs her help to uncover the truth about his lost hours.
Isabel never imagined she’d find herself allied with Alec, and he’s the last man she ever expected to find attractive. But the former Army Ranger-turned-politician proves seductively charming, and he’s determined to win much more than her vote. When their quest for answers puts Isabel in the crosshairs, Alec must risk everything—his company, his campaign, and his life—to protect her.

I’ve sort of forgotten what the other Evidence series books were about (except for a vague memory of Curt?) but this definitely pulled me back into the series. In fact, I felt Incriminating Evidence is probably the best so far, of all the books. Great chemistry between Alec Ravissant and Isabel Dawson and their friction is always, part attraction and part animosity, the former winning out at the very end. There’s a mystery to solve, retrogade amnesia to overcome and a baddie to catch – and I was definitely left guessing my way through.

four-stars
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