Publisher: Harlequin

Armored Attraction by Janie Crouch

Armored Attraction by Janie CrouchArmored Attraction by Janie Crouch
Series: Omega Sector: Critical Response #3
Published by Harlequin on June 1st 2016
Pages: 224
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two-stars

One secret can change everything 
It's been eight years since Liam Goetz has seen his ex-fiancé. Vanessa Epperson had everything: beauty, brains…and a family fortune. He chose her, while she chose a life of luxury and never imagined their paths would cross again. An unexpected phone call from Vanessa—desperate for his help in a human trafficking case—ressurects old longings. As they work together to save hostages and catch a predator, Liam begins to learn some shocking truths—about himself and the woman he thought he once knew so well…

Stumbling onto a body on a beach leads Vanessa Epperson into a human trafficking ring and the shady dealings in her hometown that involves the local law enforcement. The only person she can turn to is an ex-fiancé, who thought the worst of her when she apparently chose money and breeding over him.

While I liked the suspense and the storyline well enough, this book caught me out in a classic case of liking the heroine but hating the ‘hero’, as well as the pace at which they fell back into a relationship too easily and without much friction at all. I barely found Liam’s actions and behaviour acceptable, especially because Vanessa had paid the heavier price for the misunderstanding that had torn them apart for years. In the meantime the ‘hero’ went off womanising for the next 8 years, yet claimed that he was still coming back to the woman he apparently never stopped loving, except for the fact that it was her reaching out to him that gave him that kick in the arse – the flimsiest excuse I’ve ever seen and I was astounded at Vanessa for giving into him so easily.

Granted, it is my own intolerance for manwhores that finds this behaviour irksome, particularly when the heroine had clearly changed for the better and the male protagonist for the worse. In fact, it was difficult to stomach their HEA when I felt that Vanessa deserved way better than Liam after all that she’d endured while he lifted skirts everywhere else.

two-stars

Allegiances by Cynthia Eden

Allegiances by Cynthia EdenAllegiances by Cynthia Eden
Series: The Battling McGuire Boys #6
Published by Harlequin on April 19th 2016
Pages: 288
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four-stars

Private investigator Sullivan "Sully" McGuire has a reputation for danger. He's spent most of his life tracking the men who murdered his parents. The one woman who sees past Sully's predatorial pursuit is the wife he abandoned years ago. But Celia James has returned, this time with a target on her back. In order to save Celia, Sully is forced to resurrect old demons. New dangers—and dormant desires—bring Sully and Celia closew…and old enemies even closer.

A thrilling conclusion to the series, albeit rather similar to book 5 that seamlessly led straight into this. The central mystery of the McGuire parents’ murder is finally solved, but not without twists and turns and some shocking revelations that hint at a larger conspiracy – and with it, a well of corruption – within the Alphabet agencies.

I did like Cynthia Eden’s no-nonsense approach to Sully’s and Celia’s estrangement; there’s no time wasted getting a divorced couple back together again, even though Celia seemed to forgive what Sullivan had done rather easily all those years ago. Sully’s sudden need for his ex-wife however, is a hundred and eighty turnaround, considering he didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with her years after he’d pushed her away. Skeptical as I am of the slippery slope of lust and carnal want (and the promises of forever) that both of them slide down, I’m already stubbornly hoping for Monroe Blake’s story…because he deserves much more than what he got in here.

four-stars

Deceptions by Cynthia Eden

Deceptions by Cynthia EdenDeceptions by Cynthia Eden
Series: The Battling McGuire Boys #5
Published by Harlequin on March 22nd 2016
Pages: 288
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four-stars

Old sins explode in New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden's new Battling McGuire Boys! 
People called Elizabeth Snow wild, and once she was. Now she's the straitlaced librarian with no interest in the wildest, sexiest McGuire…until she needs him to protect her from a murderous stalker. But former Delta Force Mac does more than protect—he quickly unleashes her untamed side again, taking their attraction to the furthest edge of desire! 
Secrets from their pasts threaten Elizabeth and Mac—as much as"The Fixer," who seems to know their every move as they hunt this monstrous killer. Can they trust each other enough to go forward? Or will a shocking truth prove fatal?

The ‘wildman’ of the group, former Delta-force soldier Mac McGuire shifts into high gear when his frequent visits to the library – and his secret crush on the librarian – lead to an unexpected case that brings Elizabeth Snow into the crosshairs of a killer and his master. But this also finally brings Elizabeth up close and personal, right to where he wants her and where he hopes she wants to be as well.

It’s hard not to like the typical Cynthia Eden male (or at least what I’ve read thus far from several of her books): gruffly protective, pore-oozingly alpha, yet movingly unafraid to admit his feelings before going all the way to convince the woman in question to take that chance on him. Mac McGuire fits the bill perfectly and after the wishy-washy manwhores that have been perpetuating the pages of way too many books, I’m ready to throw my hat (and clothes) at him.

Consider my standards sort of restored.

But even as Mac’s and Elizabeth’s story unfolded, I particularly waited with bated breath the deliciously intriguing setup for Sullivan’s and Celia’s story and a promising shift back to the focus of the series – the McGuire boys’ parents’ murder – which I’d thought the series had lost along the way. So much that I bought that book straight off Harlequin and am impatient to dive right in – right after this review.

four-stars

Tennessee Takedown by Lena Diaz

Tennessee Takedown by Lena DiazTennessee Takedown by Lena Diaz
Published by Harlequin on January 21st 2014
Pages: 224
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two-stars

It can't be a coincidence that in the past twenty-four hours, three different thugs have tried to kill or abduct Ashley Parrish. Sexy SWAT team leader Dillon Gray saved her, but now he wonders why someone would want to murder the beautiful accountant and why he finds her so infuriatingly attractive.
Then the FBI comes after Ashley for embezzlement, and Dillon knows he must protect her from a killer and prove she's being framed. Taking her on a hair-raising run through dangerous terrain barely fazes him. But wanting her from more than just one night scares the hell out of him.

Tennessee Takedown begins with a shootout and from there, it’s action and more action – barely enough for me to take a breath to get to know the 2 leads Dillon and Ashley better. Through the heroic rescues and the breathless escapes, I still wasn’t able to get a handle on both of them, let alone the chemistry that I found lacking. There is a solid plot here, but it’s unfortunately weakened by the superficial development characters and a tenuous connection between them that wasn’t too believable at all. Dillon’s hurried turnaround in the last few pages of the book was too rushed and Ashley’s eagerness to have him anyway in her life seemed more desperate than dignified – all to create an illusory HEA that I wasn’t exactly buying.

two-stars

Dead No More by L.R. Nicolello

Dead No More by L.R. NicolelloDead No More by L.R. Nicolello
Published by Harlequin on January 1st 1970
Pages: 394
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three-stars

Lily Andrews was once the most sought-after undercover operative at Unit 67, a black ops agency buried deep within the US Intelligence community. But then her partner—and fiancé—turned rogue, leaving her for dead after a mission gone horribly wrong. Disgusted with 67's attempt to cover up Jackson's traitorous actions, Lily walked away from everything she knew and loved…and swore she'd hunt her ex down on her own and bring him to justice.
When the handsome, undeniably alpha Derek Moretti needs her help to pursue a ruthless sociopath who is putting advanced weaponry into the hands of terrorists, Lily sees her chance to return to 67 with her pride intact. She didn't realize how much she'd missed the adrenaline rush of being undercover—or maybe that's the heat that races through her whenever Derek is near. But soon Lily will have to choose between the vengeance she craves and the country she's sworn to protect. And with the clock ticking down on a nuclear catastrophe, she knows that this time, if she's trusted the wrong man, she won't live to regret it…

Derek Moretti meets his match in this story, where his smooth insertion into a messy government conspiracy-type plot isn’t what he’s expecting. Enter Lily Andrews, the jaded top agent of Unit 67 who’s flailing in the wind after a devastating betrayal nearly a year ago by her ex-fiancé, who he’s supposed to work with. But from the get go, nothing is as it seems and their attraction to each other only complicates matters.

I found this book more disappointing than the first, in spite of the positive reviews it has garnered. L.R. Nicolello’s writing is distinctive and smooth without the extraneous glitter that can typically be found in many authors’ attempts at waxing lyrical. It’s also complicated (and interesting) enough, plot-wise to keep a reader’s interest for a whole 300 pages.

My only issue’s with the characters, especially Lily Andrews who is almost too perfect and sculpted like a Mary Sue – and consequently, not that likeable or relatable. I also found too little differentiation between Derek and Marcus, the former of whom appeared in ‘Dead don’t lie’ and I struggled to tell them apart at times if not for their names. Yes, they’re kind, compassionate, with a very alpha, yet grounding presence and I love them for that – yet they could be twins for all I know.

three-stars

Special Ops Exclusive by Elle Kennedy

Special Ops Exclusive by Elle KennedySpecial Ops Exclusive by Elle Kennedy
Series: The Hunted, #3
Published by Harlequin on May 7th 2013
Pages: 288
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two-stars

In the midst of revolution, about to be trampled by a rioting mob, star journalist Rebecca Parker won't give up on a story—even when a sexy military man literally sweeps her off her feet to safety. Nick Prescott is a hot number, hot copy and a bad liar. Who is he? Who needs him dead? How is he tied to a sinister government plot? By teaming up with Nick to uncover the truth, the red-haired spitfire puts her own life in danger. Ignoring his warnings to walk away, Rebecca proves she does what she wants…but does she get the love that she needs?

Nice guy and gentlemanly Nick’s story is up in this last book – and after the thrilling ride of Sebastian’s story, I think I just fell flat on my face the moment he meets Rebecca, a pesky journalist who doesn’t know when to let go of things.

The overprotective nature of Nick isn’t as Alpha or as neanderthal as I thought it would be, and I definitely saw sense why he wanted Rebecca to stay behind. I’m all for strong heroines, but all too often they cross the line into TSTL territory when they insist on doing things their own way without regard for their or anyone else’s safety, under the illusion that it preserves and/or asserts their intelligence/independence only to ironically reinforce the opposite.

I’d never felt for one moment, that Nick was objecting to Rebecca working or being in a profession that courted danger (incidentally) but rather the rash way she jumped into things and bulldozed everyone into accepting only her opinion that her work matters the most – without acknowledging the chip on her shoulder or the need to compromise for a relationship to work. The way she spoke even came across as selfish: wanting to pursue stories that intrigued her without regard for Nick or how priorities might change in a relationship. Why authors insist then, on such character portrayal leaves me clueless. Again, I almost cheered when Nick wanted to walk away from her, and sulked when he miraculously realised that stubbornness (or maybe better known as ‘passion’) is what he lacked in life.

two-stars

The Marshal by Adrienne Giordano

The Marshal by Adrienne GiordanoThe Marshal by Adrienne Giordano
Published by Harlequin on December 16th 2014
Pages: 224
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two-stars

His painful past is their present danger...
The last thing US Marshal Brent Thompson needs is distraction from his work. But distraction—in the form of a sexy Chicago investigator—is exactly what he gets. Jenna Hayward is as alluring as she is determined, driven to help apprehend the murderer who killed Brent's mother twenty-three years ago. With a shared mission—and a steadily rising attraction that jeopardizes Brent's resolve to stay unattached—the pair must work together to get answers…before the murderer makes them his next victims.

Brent Thompson’s waking moment has been consumed by the need to find his mother’s murderer – an obsession that has lasted 23 years. Finally Jenna Hayward gets on this case and as a former beauty-queen turned investigator, puts them on the path to discovery and danger.

Brent is interesting enough a character; I’ve always found tough nuts to crack and repressed (but devoted and dutiful) types more alluring than the garden-variety womaniser but Jenna rubbed me the wrong way from the start with the way she uses her cleavage to get information, her extreme insecurities about her looks and the constant need for approval.

Nope, not too much sympathy from me there.

I couldn’t really buy the cliche of her being a former contestant (as though we need untouchable beauties in romance novels anymore) who later tried and failed to join the FBI, despite Adrienne Giordano’s effort in making her realistic. Asking for a plastic surgeon when she got a cut on her face, then hiding it later was pretty much the last straw for me (vanity trumps the urgency of the case, I imagine) and I started skimming through the pages from that point onwards.

two-stars