Tag: mystery-crime

Threat of Danger by Dana Marton

Threat of Danger by Dana MartonThreat of Danger by Dana Marton
Published by Montlake Romance on June 5th 2018
Pages: 304
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

Jess Taylor and Derek Daley were in the throes of first love in a small Vermont town when they were kidnapped by a serial killer. They escaped his clutches—but not the trauma of the unsolved crime. With their lives changed forever and their romance cut short, they went their separate ways to exorcise their fears.

Jess is living on the edge as Hollywood’s hottest stuntwoman. It’s no longer terror thrumming through her veins. It’s adrenaline. Derek is a former Navy SEAL spinning his ordeals into heart-pounding bestselling thrillers. But when Jess is called home on a family emergency, she must face the past—and face the man she left behind, who is just as haunted and, like her, still so much in love.

Now, as an old flame reignites, Jess and Derek are taking advantage of second chances and putting their bad memories behind them. But here, in the quiet town of Taylorville, a killer is getting a second chance as well.

With Dana Marton, each book is radically different: characters, histories and backstories, all of it and it’s this kind of unpredictability that makes Marton a compelling writer. In fact, ‘Threat of Danger’ is nothing like its predecessor (save the good writing), is only very marginally linked to it and a solid standalone in its own right.

‘Threat of Danger’ is in essence, a whodunnit mystery that builds up to the revelatory moment and it’s closer to a typical ‘crime’ story rather than a military one that I’d expected. Jess/Derek’s story unfolds slowly, almost painfully as the memories return, the irrational blame that Jess places on Derek for their ordeal in the woods a decade ago coming to light as she’s forced to revisit her hometown. Jess’s family business of sugaring fascinated me, as did Marton’s deliberate but unusual pairing of a stuntwoman who lives on adrenaline highs (yet stays anonymous) and a retired SEAL who’s now a bestselling thriller writer.

Jess’s and Derek’s story is also a second-chance one that, because of the circumstances laid out, is more or less a believable one, though it does seem as though Jess and Derek come together incidentally because of her return. This pairing would absolutely not have existed otherwise save for the hand of fate so to speak, and the quick fall back in love (was it ever?) felt a mite bit forced, especially over the few weeks that Jess stayed.

The biggest issue I have is the perp’s (somewhat weak) motivation for committing crimes which didn’t entirely make too much sense, but then again, should there really be expecting a solid, logical reason for characters doing what they do? Maybe. Nonetheless, I would have liked to be more convinced about the deeper, more twisted psychological rationale behind the string of serial killings that the perp committed at least, particularly in a story that’s all about shoring up the moments until the momentous climax.

There’s no doubt that Dana Marton’s writing is thrilling, her opening scene superbly crafted, as dreaded anticipation cuts the knife edge of a vague menace that we never quite find out about. That much I knew from the prologue that I’d better buckle in for the ride that awaited me and I was right. ‘Threat of Danger’ is engrossing, compelling and thankfully, filled with mature characters (some of whom act as tragic parallels to Jess/Derek’s relationship) who add rather than detract from the entire storytelling. It’s in all, an entertaining read that had the time passing without me even knowing it, and I finished the book moist with anticipation with what else Marton has up her sleeve in the rest of this series.

four-stars

Nothing to Lose by Christy Reece

Nothing to Lose by Christy ReeceNothing To Lose by Christy Reece
Series: Grey Justice, #1
Published by Christy Reece on 28th March 2014
Pages: 400
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

Choices Are Easy When You Have Nothing Left To Lose

Kennedy O’Connell had all the happiness she’d ever dreamed—until someone stole it away. Now on the run for her life, she has a choice to make—disappear forever or make those responsible pay. Her choice is easy.

Two men want to help her, each with their own agenda.

Detective Nick Gallagher is accustomed to pursuing killers within the law. Targeted for death, his life turned inside out, Nick vows to bring down those responsible, no matter the cost. But the beautiful and innocent Kennedy O’Connell brings out every protective instinct. Putting aside his own need for vengeance, he’ll do whatever is necessary to keep her safe and help her achieve her goals.

Billionaire philanthropist Grey Justice has a mission, too. Dubbed the ‘White Knight’ of those in need of a champion, few people are aware of his dark side. Having seen and experienced injustice—Grey knows its bitter taste. Gaining justice for those who have been wronged is a small price to pay for a man’s humanity.

With the help of a surprising accomplice, the three embark on a dangerous game of cat and mouse. The stage is set, the players are ready…the game is on. But someone is playing with another set of rules and survivors are not an option.

Mea culpa, I wish I had gotten to this sooner, having mistakenly thought this was a legal romance that I typically drag my feet into. But Christy Reece’s ‘Nothing to Lose’ surprised me when I began and couldn’t stop. The concept here is somewhat similar to Reece’s LCR series—victim advocacy, to put it in very, very broad terms—, only that it’s funded by a billionaire who wears many hats, carries a messiah complex and tries to remain shrouded in mystery as he goes along picking out people to help. But Grey Justice, the shadowy figure who pulls the strings of many puppets, is thankfully one of the good guys, or so we think, and his job is to help a detective and a woman who has lost everything to get to their goals, because it serves his own hidden agenda.

By and large, ’Nothing to Lose’ unravels a sweeping plot with enough hooks and tendrils to stretch over a series of books and written into this is a quasi-forbidden-type romance which I was pleasantly surprised with. Kennedy and Nick—the best friend of her murdered husband—are a solid-enough pairing that I could get invested in, despite the speed bumps along the way in a journey that stretches nearly 2 years.

Admittedly I do have a few, somewhat minor issues with Reece’s writing that typically prevent me from jumping straight into a book of hers. There’s the tendency to head-hop being one as we get deeper into the storytelling that confuses me (Reece holds a single POV at the start before this control slips from time to time), the almost-magical happening of things because money is no issue, the villains getting so laughingly evil/infantile they might as well be cut out of cardboard and the shades of grey that tend to divide themselves neatly into black and white as I read on.

As I said, subtle changes that bother me a mite bit, though it’s nitpicking on my part. The story’s well-written, with a heroine who shows remarkable strength after all that she’s lost, and a hero who is only slightly prone to stupid fits when it comes to overprotectiveness and jealousy. The (anti?)climax feels a little over the top in a popcorn-throwing movie, requiring a larger amount than usual of suspension of disbelief, though there’s always the sense that there’s too much unfinished business—a good enough hook to keep coming back—even as Kennedy/Nick rush off into their sunset.

four-stars

Avalanche by Cambria Hebert

Avalanche by Cambria HebertAvalanche by Cambria Hebert
Series: BearPaw Resort #1
Published by Cambria Hebert on March 9th 2018
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
two-stars

Don’t get caught in the surge.

Through a bullet hole in a wall, I watch a man bleed to death. Those responsible think their crime died with the victim, until I identify them.What’s a girl to do when she’s being hunted by murderers witness protection can’t even stop?Run.My only refuge is a place I vowed to never go again.When it’s do or die, an eight-year-old heartache suddenly seems trivial. Besides, he won’t be there anyway.But he is.Turns out my old pain feels brand new the second his eyes meet mine.I can’t leave. I can’t stay. This snowy town that’s supposed to be my shelter suddenly exposes me more than before.With no one else to lean on, Liam becomes my lifeline. Now we’re both running for our lives, trying not to get swept away.

Apart from the (very petty) complaint that the brochure-like cover does not match what the story seemingly promises, I was actually intrigued by ‘Avalanche’ and its premise.

Past the excellent opening chapter however, I couldn’t get past the idea of the unbelievable instalove that Cambria Hebert rolled out in both Bell/Liam’s very short history or that they remembered it as true love 8 years later after an accidental meeting. Instead, their connection (both present and remembered) felt romanticised, naive, as Bellamy went from frantic woman on the run to woman who melted at everything Liam did, seemingly losing every sense of self-preservation (her half-hearted moments of wanting to run and barely-there backup plans) when he touched her.

That there was a declaration of never having stopped loving each other—yes, the flings and never being seen with the same girl twice certainly help bolster that particular conviction—made me cringe, particularly when it didn’t feel as if their week-long affair as teenagers was the epic type of romance I could be crowing about.

It was as though this book couldn’t really decide whether it was going to sit in the romantic suspense category or the new adult one, and ended up straddling both in a way that provided a lukewarm version of both. The suspense—the gravitas, the heart-pounding action and the high-octane action—was simply put aside in favour of the reunion between Bellamy and Liam and that part of the plot which I liked, built up nicely over the prologue and first chapter, lost its momentum and faded into NA shenanigans that had me both bewildered.

That there was too much time given to the tiresome to-and-fro about Bellamy’s insecurity about Liam and her inability to steer her own life and letting Liam dictate her next course of action was frustrating. It did pick up a little towards the end though even that stuttered to a halt with an unsatisfactory conclusion that didn’t tie very much else together apart from some revelations that helped me piece together Bellamy’s backstory.

I did expect much more from Hebert in this new series, but sadly, found ‘Avalanche’ an overall disappointment, and my waning excitement probably means I wouldn’t continue this.

two-stars

Fast Justice by Kaylea Cross

Fast Justice by Kaylea CrossFast Justice by Kaylea Cross
Series: DEA FAST #6
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, Kaylea Cross Inc. on March 17th 2018
Pages: 352
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Sacrifice is a requirement of the job. Rowan Stewart walked away from the love of a lifetime to focus on the demands of her job as Assistant US Attorney. Now she's working on the biggest case of her career, prosecuting one of the Veneno cartel's most notorious members. Except the case presents unexpected challenges-including the man she can't forget...and a threat she could not foresee. But this time, it could cost her life. Special Agent Malcolm Freeman is FAST Bravo's point man. On an op he's the first one through the door, leading the way for his team. Professionally, he's at the top of his game. His personal life is a different story. After Rowan ripped his heart out a year ago he closed himself off to any relationships. When fate throws them together he steps up to ensure she's protected, even though it might mean getting his heart broken again. But protection isn't enough. The enemy is determined to use Rowan to get what they want. With her life hanging in the balance, Malcolm and his team race to find her before it's too late. He lost her once. He can't lose her now. This time, failure is not an option.

Finally, finally, finally.

‘Fast Justice’ reminds me of all the reasons why I read Kaylea Cross’s books and having ploughed through the somewhat lacklustre stories from the previous stories in this series, having Rowan/Mal’s tale kick my enthusiasm back to life (measured in terms of the loss of sleeping hours) has been beyond a pleasant surprise. The hints of their broken romance in the previous book had gotten me intrigued and Mal, who is predictably gun-shy about starting up with Rowan again, finally gets his due…in a story that provoked a range of emotions from me.

Apart from the thoroughly engaging suspense, Cross writes about a woman who is willing to own up to her mistakes, who swallows her pride and grovels because she knows she’d left a heartbroken man in her wake…and finally goes after what she wants. I loved the excruciating moments of tension between Ro/Mal, the reluctant truce that breaks down because Rowan decides to shake it all up and her lead role in trying to build them back together again as she tries to mend the damage that she had done to them. For this reason, I couldn’t help but love a woman who’s brave enough to show this sort of maturity when too many cowardly characters that have recently come across my feed have nearly made me thrown several books against the wall in frustration. (Proverbially speaking, because I use an e-reader.)

By and large, this was a compelling read. The entanglements with the Veneno Cartel are woven deep into ‘Fast Justice’ and the developmental arc is more tightly spread over the last few books. In fact, I was surprised at how much of the events that happened in the previous books spilled over into this, wondering if it might be somewhat difficult for ‘Fast Justice’ to be read as a standalone. Cross does provide some explanation—though some parts might still be confusing to readers who step in at this point in time—and without shying away from the brutality of cartel activity, throws in a few twists and turns that helped balance the angst of Rowan/Mal’s situation.

The hasty conclusion after the climax and the loose threads that aren’t tied up by the end are probably my only complaints. It’s evident that Cross intends to continue this arc until the baddies drop dead one by one, but it’s going to be a wait that will span several books before this happens. But until that happens, I’m happily going to go back to the good bits that had me gnawing down my own teeth.

four-half-stars

Recipe for Disaster by Tracy Solheim

Recipe for Disaster by Tracy SolheimRecipe for Disaster by Tracy Solheim
Series: Men of the Secret Service #1
Published by Tule Publishing on May 7th 2018
Pages: 237
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
one-star

Secret Service Agent Griffin Keller always gets his man. And his woman. In pursuit of an international counterfeiter known only as "The Artist", Griffin stumbles across paintings stolen from the White House and swapped with forgeries. His only clue to the thief's identity–a dish towel from the White House kitchen.

White House pastry chef Marin Chevalier desperately needs a date to her cousin's society wedding. Unfortunately, her busy schedule leaves her little opportunity to meet eligible men. When a sexy Secret Service agent shows up in her kitchen—and just about everywhere else she goes—Marin believes she's finally met the perfect date. But when a series of frightening accidents and near misses plague her, Marin must rely on Griffin as more than just her "plus-one."

As dead bodies begin to pile up around Marin, Griffin is convinced she’s the link to The Artist. Too bad the curvy chef has gotten under his skin like no other woman. When the clues finally fall into place and Griffin realizes Marin is not the suspect, but instead the target, he'll risk everything in his arsenal to keep her safe.

Having gone into this thinking this was straight up romantic suspense with the rather unusual pairing of a Secret Service Agent and a well-connected White House pastry chef, I wasn’t entirely too sure personally, if ‘Recipe for Disaster’ really fell into this category.

It’s perhaps best called a mix of some mystery and some romance, as all the parties involved seemed nicely ensconced in their white-tower (or house, is this case) in a way that made it difficult to relate to them, let alone get invested in a pairing that felt forced together only because a special set of circumstances that caused their paths to meet. The huge cast of characters that came in also felt more like a distraction than a boon to the story, seemingly padding out the narrative just to show how they interacted with each other without really achieving anything significant.

When it came down to the protagonists, I found Marin too weepy (or at least on the verge of sobbing) and her constant deep blushing almost anachronistic for our times; her insecurities regarding her body and her elevation of Griffin as the man who wouldn’t date women like her was annoying after a while, as was the insertion of Griffin’s FBI ex-fuck-buddy who flitted in and out of the picture. That Griffin found her resilient and strong baffled me, and the repetitions of the way he thought about her soon came across as a case of the author trying to convince us of Marin as a heroine worthy of Griffin.

Sad to say, while I was very excited about the premise of this from the blurb, ‘Recipe for Disaster’ ended up being a story I struggled to plough through, so clearly this is not the book for me and to use a trite and clichéd phrase…’it’s not the story, it’s me’.

one-star

Hot Target by April Hunt

Hot Target by April HuntHot Target by April Hunt
Series: Alpha Security #4
Published by Forever Yours on April 10th 2018
Pages: 94
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS . . .

How did a nice girl like Rachel Kline end up in a jail cell in Vegas? Don't even ask. She came to Sin City to find her missing friend and accidentally got swept up in a police raid. Even worse, she's being bailed out by the last man she wants to see right now: the irresistibly sexy, infuriatingly cocky Alpha op who rescued her a year ago. What are the odds?

Logan Callahan is six-and-a-half feet of solid muscle and Texas charm, a hard-fighting ex-Marine with a soft spot for Rachel. He's more than obliged to hang up his cowboy hat and help her out. But when someone takes a shot at her, he knows there's a good chance what happens in Vegas won't stay there. With targets on their backs and killers on their tails, it's one high-risk game they're playing. And it's not just their hearts that are on the line . . .

Sometimes, not being able to remember the plots of previous books in a series can be a bloody bane. As a result, ‘Hot Target’—a novella to boot—felt like a zany read that had me tumbling into the craziness of Vegas with Rachel and Logan with a backstory that I struggled to remember despite the bits of retelling in this short story.

There was ample material to get on board with however, despite the brevity of the book (this came in at about 90-ish pages) and the plot, once in locked in place with the details hammered out, moved at a fast clip as Logan and Rachel finally stopped their year-and-a-half-long dance around each other. Logan/Rachel were an entertaining couple, though I particularly loved seeing Logan with the many faces he wore around people and the way that fell off when it came to Rachel.

Several unfamiliar characters that flitted in towards the end made me a little confused but I’ll probably remember this for the very, very charming Logan whom I wished had his own full novel-length novel just to get him in action.

three-stars

Deadly Intent by Pamela Clare

Deadly Intent by Pamela ClareDeadly Intent by Pamela Clare
Series: I-Team, #8
Published by Pamela Clare on February 21st 2018
Pages: 238
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

Secrets buried in the sand…

Former US Army Captain Mia Starr has built a new life for herself in Denver, far away from camel spiders and sand—and the terrible secrets of her first deployment to Iraq. She isn’t looking for a relationship, especially not with an intrusive photojournalist. Joaquin Ramirez might be sexy, but in her experience, photojournalists only want to make a buck off other people’s suffering. Still, the universe must have a sick sense of humor because it keeps throwing her together with Joaquin, making the desire she feels for him harder and harder to resist.

An undeniable attraction…

As a Pulitzer Prize-winning news photographer, Joaquin has everything a single straight guy could want—except the right woman. When he meets Mia while shooting a crime scene, he immediately sees beyond her cold exterior to the vulnerable woman beneath. Though the police consider her a suspect, he’s sure she’s innocent. Someone is killing soldiers—and trying to pin the blame on her. Unable to resist the pull between them, Joaquin stands by her only to find himself snared in the killer’s net as well.

A twisted soul hungry for revenge…

Mia can’t help it when the heat between her and Joaquin melts away her preconceptions. As their passion explodes, danger draws ever closer. When it becomes clear that Mia is the killer’s true target, she must trust Joaquin with a secret that could ruin her … or risk losing the love of a lifetime.

‘Deadly Intent’ is a reminder of how much I’ve missed Pamela Clare’s I-Team series, or rather the kind of romantic suspense that I’ve always associated Clare with, given the sharp ring of authenticity that comes from the author’s own journalistic background.

A bit of a confession here: it did take me a while to warm up to the idea of Joaquin Ramirez having his own story—I’d frankly forgotten about him after Zach/Natalie’s book—but Clare has a way of shaping him into a romantic hero that I championed wholly by the first quarter of the story.

And how far he’d come since then.

As a photojournalist, Joaquin broke some moulds which won me over quickly: instead of the gun-toting alpha male with bulging muscles who was ex-military (nor did he occupy expensive real estate in a security company while running around jaded and cynical), we got red-hot salsa moves and an impressive amount of heart he had for people around him. For that alone, I was sold on this very compelling protagonist whom I knew needed someone special to see him for who he was.

For all the heroines I’d ever imagined for Joaquin, I never expected the idea of a former military Captain as his other half but had no problem falling straight into this pairing hook, line and sinker once their relationship progressed beyond their rocky start. Much of their story was riveting enough—from their first dance that had me fanning myself to the seamless buildup and their crackling chemistry—that I got through ‘Deadly Intent’ in a matter of hours, then itched immediately to go back and re-read it.

The writing style is a little different here but ‘Deadly Intent’ is an excellent example of a more straight-forward RS read, not quite carrying the same complexity or unpredictability (plot-wise) as a few of Clare’s other I-team books, yet still well-paced with multifaceted protagonists whom I knew I could cheer for. It also bears the hallmarks of Clare’s collaborative efforts with another RS writer Kaylea Cross (another author whom I follow) and consequently, has a different feel to it, carrying a mesh of styles and subject-matter, along with the darker overtones of sexual assault and harassment of women in the military resonating deeply in the wake of the #MeToo hashtag dominating the media of late.

All things considered, I thought this was still a fabulous read. Revisiting the I-Team simply reminded me how much I liked Marc/Julian’s bromance and while catching up with Clare’s other couples was a hoot, I’m hoping that even with Joaquin/Mia’s iron-clad HEA, Clare has more in the works to come.

four-stars