Publisher: Kensington - Lyrical Press

Dangerous Moves by Karen Rock

Dangerous Moves by Karen RockDangerous Moves by Karen Rock
Series: Dallas After Dark #1
Published by Kensington - Lyrical Press on February 13th 2018
Pages: 385
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Pounding music. Sculpted men. And a conspiracy that could cost far more than a few dollar bills . . .


Detective Blake Knight has been undercover before. But an assignment to bust a steroid ring running out of Dallas’s elite male strip club means his new cover will be nothing but his own taut muscles and oiled skin. It’s one thing for the tough, by-the-books agent to take down bad guys with his gun. Facing a rowdy crowd in only a G-string is another story . . . especially in front of his new boss, gorgeous, mysterious Reese Landon.

Her father’s club and shady business practices bring back terrible memories for Reese. But when he’s shot and goes into a coma, she vows to protect him the way he never did for her. That means keeping the police at a distance—especially sexy, driven Detective Knight. If she has to give him a cover job, it would be a crime not to put that glorious ass on stage. But no matter how good he looks in a Velcro uniform, she can't trust him, or give into the undeniable heat between them. They're both chasing the truth. And it might expose more than either wants to show . . .

Having a cop going undercover in a male stripper club is is something new and I’ll admit readily that this played a huge part in wanting to read ‘Dangerous Moves’. Marvellous premise, after all and I’ll not say no to this. Romantic Suspense or not, that does start off rather hilariously, as Blake Knight takes on one of the dodgiest cases and had the (good?) fortune of meeting the owner’s daughter.

But with the strip club as a front for illegal activities amid the red-hot male routines, Blake and Reese find themselves on the opposite sides of the law, and that proves to be the rift that this pairing is built on despite the helpless pull of attraction that both have for each other.

Both Blake and Reese clearly have some sort of character-growth arc throughout: Blake for seeing the world in black and white and having his moral code flipping on its head when he learns about dirty activities involving cops and steroids were happening under his nose. On the other hand, Reese’s blind, naive loyalty to her father gets her close to obstructing justice, as is her refusal to see family as anything but culpable. However, it isn’t one that’s realised early on enough until it’s nearly too late, having her come across as naive and a bit TSTL, and possibly a bit selfish, to the point where she thinks that Blake doing his job means not putting her first.

That said, Karen Rock writes the suspense excellently and the pacing during these action scenes is well done. Yet it got predictable—the villain’s identity seemed as obvious as daylight—and there were parts in the middle of a scene or chapter transitions that felt awkward with several odd phrases that stood out during the sex scenes for instance. But there were also bits that had me laughing, particularly in the beginning. I did want to know more about another secondary character however (and was slightly mollified that there will be a book on him) and was disappointed when he merely flitted in and out of the pages like a passing ship in the night.

‘Dangerous Moves’ is nonetheless a decent read, albeit not a perfect one. Rock however, teases the blurb of the next book in here and that’s making me look forward to it already.


Phantom Pearl by Monica McCabe

Phantom Pearl by Monica McCabePhantom Pearl by Monica McCabe
Series: Jewel Intrigue #3
Published by Kensington - Lyrical Press on June 27th 2017
Pages: 288
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Riki Maddox is not your average tomb-raiding treasure hunter. Her targets are carefully chosen to wound her father's killers, the Japanese Yakuza. To thwart their quest to recapture World War II loot initially stolen by Japanese forces, she puts herself in constant danger--and in the sights of a man as driven and as daring as she is.
Working for the Department of Homeland Security, Special Agent Dallas Landry is a rare breed: an academic with an unmatched lust for adventure. He had a perfect success rate recovering stolen art and antiquities--until he came up against an intriguing menace known as Riki Maddox. She's placed his reputation on the line, and stopping her becomes his number one priority.
Now the two will cross paths once again in Australia--on a quest for the legendary Phantom Pearl, a priceless mammoth tusk carved by 15th century monks. Barely one step ahead of the Yakuza, it's a three-way race to recover the long lost treasure. One Riki is hell-bent to win. But playing games against a federal agent like Dallas will cost more than her freedom. The chase will demand she risk her life and her thirst for revenge--but it just might offer something more to live for...

Riki Maddox and Dallas Landry want the Phantom Pearl for very different reasons and that has pit them against each other. And it’s not a rivalry that is new either; Riki has rubbed Dallas’s losses in his face by winning the treasure hunt (or rather, artefact) first, leaving him a laughing stock in front of Homeland Security and Dallas has finally, finally caught up this time around in the search for the Pearl. It’s a chase that takes them half around the world and as they tangle with the Yakuza, Riki and Dallas learn that there is no end to treachery and are forced to reevaluate the meaning of allies and foes.

Coming off ‘Phantom Pearl’ is akin to stepping off the platform of a roller-coaster ride still woozy and dazed, with the sun a little too bright in my eyes. It’s that exciting a ride which makes you—quite paradoxically—want to slow down to savour every moment of it even as the pace picks up enough to break your neck.

I was immediately intrigued by the setting and the context, never having even heard of Yamashita’s gold despite having having some kind of familiarity with Asia-Pacific history. Monica McCabe blends fact and fiction seamlessly and easily made this summer blockbuster material for me, where every page is filled with wry humour, unexpected laughs and a treasure-hunting adventure in far-flung locations rich in mystery, action and swashbuckling romance. It’s so different from many romantic-suspense-adventure-type stories set in South America or even Europe that ‘Phantom Pearl’s’ sheer daring was enough to make me sit up and take notice.

While I couldn’t exactly swallow the sudden realisation of love sneaking over both Dallas and Riki just as I couldn’t quite imagine the huge climatic scene in Singapore’s largest shipyard happening without setting off international furore, I’m reminded yet again that ‘Phantom Pearl’ is fiction layered over fact and it’s all in the name of having an entertaining good time—which I did.

The Jewel Intrigue series are all standalones—all the books are entirely unrelated, linked loosely only by the theme of treasure hunting—and every story is a thrill ride that needs no prior knowledge to enjoy. McCabe is going instantly on my watch-and-read-list and needless to say, I can’t wait to see what else she has up her sleeve.