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Lone Wolfe Protector By Kaylie Newell Brings Gothic Overtones to Contemporary Romantic Suspense

1 Sep

Lone Wolfe Protector (Wolfe Creek #1 – Maggie and Koda) by Kaylie Newell (Entangled: Covet, August 25, 2014)

I love paranormal and I also adore romantic suspense, but I was surprised and inordinately pleased to see that the combination of the two in the hands of author Kaylie Newell became something more than the sum of these two genres.

Lone Wolfe Protector is filled with chills which are occasionally thawed by the building heat between the hero and heroine and finished off with a whodunit suspense that I did not see coming. The ghostly town of Wolfe Creek – with its suspicious mountain folk and troubled beginnings – lent the entire novel a creepy tone I can best describe as gothic, that brand of romantic 19th century fiction in which the setting lends such a tone to the horror of the novel that it becomes another character.

Maggie Sullivan has spent a year grieving. A year ago, her road trip with her friend Aimee ended in disaster when Aimee disappeared from the bathroom of the lone gas station in the Pacific Northwest town of Wolfe Creek. Despite her friends and family telling her to move on from the tragedy, Maggie has never given up hope that the mystery of Aimee’s disappearance will be solved, even appearing on television shows and criticizing the law officials who have come up with no leads in all that time. Determined to take matters into her own hands, Maggie leaves her job as a copywriter, taking up indefinite residence at the bed & breakfast in the center of Wolfe Creek.

The dark, lush forest of the Pacific Northwest, even in the cold, works as another character in the novel.

The dark, lush forest of the Pacific Northwest, even in the cold, works as another character in the novel. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

While friendly former-stripper-turned-waitress Candi is happy to befriend her and help, Maggie discovers more questions than answers. Deputy sherriff Koda Wolfe and his n’er do well brother Zane keep turning up at the inn where Maggie is staying since the woman who runs it is their aunt and the former foster mother of both the brothers and Candi. Descended from the founding fur trapper and his Native American bride, the brothers know the town history and the stories of the people in it, but can’t bring themselves to point to even the most nefarious resident as a murderer. Protector Koda finds himself drawn to the elfin but stubborn Maggie despite his disdain for how she’s chosen to criticize the law. The more time they spend together, the more they are drawn inextricably toward one another, but both the person responsible for Aimee’s disappearance as well as Maggie’s suspicions of that person’s identity might tear the new couple apart.

Rather than an obvious villain or hero as in most paranormal novels, the wolf in this one occupies a grey space regarding its role in the attacks in the town. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Rather than an obvious villain or hero as in most paranormal novels, the wolf in this one occupies a grey space regarding its role in the attacks in the town. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

While so much modern paranormal suspense is either more world-building about the supernatural (in this case, werewolves) or places emphasis on the villain (who you can spot by page 30), Newell defies these conventions. She manages to establish a history of werewolf lore within the Native American community of the Pacific Northwest but doesn’t really labor over the werewolf piece in this novel putting her energy (correctly) into tone and character development. It’s clear that future books focusing on other characters will naturally explain more of the curse the Wolfe sons continue to suffer, but for now Koda and Maggie’s dilemma takes center stage. I liked that the author chose to forgo insta-love and instead showed our main couple slowly taking the time to get to know each other, attracted to one another despite their best instincts.

The mystery was outstandingly well done with a villain you are happy to hate and a twist at the end that just begs for future books. Zane and Candi have a distinctive past (and with my dislike of on-again, off-again relationships while the people hook up with other partners, I’m not sure how I’m going to handle that particular novel) but I’m certain this book was too good for me not to read the next one in the series and forego my usual reservations.

I was wowed by my first Kaylie Newell novel and hope the next one is out in time for some windy fall or winter evening if it manages the same spooky tone as Lone Wolfe Protector. At the introductory rate of $.99, I suggest paranormal romantic suspense readers take advantage of the price. You’ll be baying to the moon in praise of this story!

Happy reading! 🙂

Undercover Cops and Prophetic Dreams Make Dream Huntress by Michelle Sharp Fabulous Paranormal Suspense

30 Jun
Dream Huntress (Dream Seeker #1 - Jordan and Tyler) by Michelle Sharp (Entangled: Ignite, June 23, 2014)

Dream Huntress (Dream Seeker #1 – Jordan and Tyler) by Michelle Sharp (Entangled: Ignite, June 23, 2014)

I’m not actually sure that there is such a category as “paranormal suspense” but there should be. Mostly focusing on the romantic suspense storyline, but with distinct paranormal elements, Michelle Sharp‘s Dream Huntress would appeal to both lovers of solid romantic suspense as well as readers who love a dash of paranormal.

Jordan Delaney has jumped the gun by getting a job in a hick town’s stripper bar as a cocktail waitress a week ahead of schedule. An undercover narcotics cop in St. Louis, she witnessed two members of her team get gunned down attempting to apprehend members of the cartel pushing China White heroin. When her department agrees to again partner with the FBI, together they come up with the idea of getting her in the bar that’s a local supplier for a nearby college. Her long blond hair and body qualify her to wear the standard short shorts and bikini top and, with the club’s handsy son interested in her, Jordan is hoping she can crack the supply line wide open, and she’s not about to wait for the okay from her uptight FBI supervisor to organize a wire and backup.

A problem of being undercover for Jordan, though, is that she is plagued by the dreams she’s had since childhood – dreams of either murders to come or murders that have already happened. She’s used these dreams to help solve or prevent the crimes using the guise of her position, but since she has to live through them via the victim, it makes a tough assignment even harder, particularly when she again dreams of her family’s death, an incident which Jordan believes she could have stopped if she had only tried harder. When a local cowboy comes to her aid in the bar, taking her to the hospital after a patron blindsides her, Jordan is astonished at the wave of connection she feels to disgraced cop Tyler McGee. Hoping to minimize distractions while she’s focusing on work, she’s dismayed when he takes a job as head bouncer of the club. The potential to have a real relationship – something she’s managed to avoid all these years – is not what she needs right now.

Jordan’s waitressing “uniform” makes this one look like full coverage.

Tyler is first wowed by Jordan’s killer body and gorgeous face, but his initial assessment categorizing her as a blond bimbo waitress is blown out of the water the instant he’s subjected to her lethal wit. She’s a puzzle he’s desperate to figure out, particularly as she comes alive in his arms in a way he’s never experienced with another woman. Having allowed himself to get shunted off the force for his own purposes, Tyler is determined to find out what is really going on at the strip club, particularly as he’s sure it connects to a recent, very personal loss of his own. Keeping Jordan safe while uncovering her secrets is one of his top priorities, but Tyler might not be able to handle what she has to tell him.

I cannot say enough about Michelle Sharp’s outstanding debut novel! Her writing was laced with great attention to detail (the horror of Jordan’s furnished rental was particularly wonderful) and she wields a tight, excellent use of subplot with Tyler’s family loss and Jordan’s workplace tensions. There was a realistic heat between the couple, one that still was fueled by an extra connection perhaps brought about by Jordan’s paranormal abilities, which, while central to the plot, did not take up an inordinate amount of page space, making this novel slightly more suspense than paranormal. I loved the nice depth of Jordan’s FBI colleague who could have easily been a cardboard cutout but instead was a fully fleshed out person with his own motivations. While so many suspense (and paranormal) novels flag at the end, Sharp gave a fantastic resolution by revealing the true story behind the death of Jordan’s family and her strong connection to her father.

Since this book has the benefit of falling under Entangled Publishing’s $.99 early release price, I think it’s easy to sample this new author, who has clearly listed this novel as the first in her Dream Seeker series, so pick it up at that price while you can. To celebrate the release, there is also a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $50 gift card (!), so get on that as well. Michelle Sharp is an author I’ll be purchasing again, for sure.

Happy reading! 🙂

Delicious Heat and Plenty of Romantic Suspense Fills Teri Anne Stanley’s Debut, Deadly Chemistry

23 Jun
Deadly Chemistry (Sex, Lies, and Science Geeks #1 - Mike and Laura) by Teri Anne Stanley (Entangled: Ignite, June 23, 2014)

Deadly Chemistry (Sex, Lies, and Science Geeks #1 – Mike and Laura) by Teri Anne Stanley (Entangled: Ignite, June 23, 2014)

A natural extension of the cultural phenomenon of not just tolerating but celebrating the nerd (understandable in an economy increasingly based on information and scientific development) is to see this trend turn up more frequently in romance novels, which reflect popular culture. Add to that mirroring the fact that a lot of writers were undoubtedly…ahhh…a bit bookish growing up, and you have a recipe for a kick butt portrayal of the sexy nerd.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to hear that new author Teri Anne Stanley might have also worn that moniker (her love of superheroes in her biography is a giveaway), as her debut book, Deadly Chemistry, is spot on, both in terms of its wonderful romance as well as its depiction of lovable brainiacs. Since this is the first in her Sex, Lies, and Science Geeks series, I am rubbing my hands gleefully together knowing that there are more books coming.

Mike Gibson has a pretty stressful life. A disgraced former cop, he is using his position as maintenance man at Tucker University to ferret out that institution’s connection to a new designer drug that’s hitting city streets. He wants to capture the drug dealer he let get away last time in favor of rescuing his younger brother who had joined the gang, and since that same brother is currently working in the science building of the university, Mike has a sinking feeling there’s a connection. That dread is the opposite of the feeling he gets when he spots Laura Kane, the gorgeous scientist whose innocuous-looking algae is possibly spreading addiction and violence. Mike’s gut, however, is telling him that the woman who feeds possum in a garbage can on the sly is not a drug dealer by any stretch of the imagination. While he knows he needs to clear his name and save his brother, this former cop wonders if what’s been missing from his life is Laura and the feeling of rightness he gets when she’s in his arms.

I love a smart heroine and a good lab environment. Thanks, Teri Anne Stanley!

I love a smart heroine and a good lab environment. Thanks, Teri Anne Stanley!

Scientist Laura Kane harbors a serious crush on the hunky maintenance guy who is related to her wonderful student lab assistant. She’s horrified at the discovery that the latest drug problem she’s heard on television could possibly be her research baby, but her stage 2 solution has been providing suspiciously low yields prior to its being processed into an innocuous pain reliever, and Laura knows that until that change occurs, it’s more addictive than heroin. As she spends more time with Mike, she sees that he’s not only sexy and funny, but an honorable man trying to do the right thing by redeeming his name and pulling his brothers together as a family, no matter how hard they are all fighting it. But Laura has seen in her own mother how love and family derails a career, and she’s determined to not let that happen to her, no matter how tender and hot Mike can be. When danger rears its head, Laura realizes that she might have only one chance to save her future – both her career and the man she loves.

The reason for the veracity of the lab environment in Deadly Chemistry is because the author (like so many romance novelists) is a scientist and her description of lab work and attachment to algae is definitely something anyone who has done research can attest to be 100% real. Since for me the best books are smart books, ones that teach me something or have me pondering an intellectual idea while I am also enjoying a great romance unfold, Teri Anne Stanley has been shunted into my “buy” pile. That she also can write a hot romance laced with plenty of humor puts lots of yummy icing on the romance cake (and let’s face it, we love icing!).

Considering that Entangled Publishing makes it very easy to try a new author with their terrific $.99 deal for new books, I’d run not walk and download Deadly Chemistry into your ebook reader ASAP to get that price. Stanley and Entangled are also hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway and participants can win a $25 Amazon gift card or $25 Paypal credit, so be sure to enter. Wouldn’t it be nice to offset your summer reading with this kind of windfall?

I’m overjoyed that Teri Anne Stanley has joined the romantic suspense scene and hope I don’t have to wait too long for the sequel to Deadly Chemistry.

Happy reading! 🙂

Honor Reclaimed by Tonya Burrows Gives Military Romance Fans a Wounded Warrior Worth Fighting For

27 May

Honor Reclaimed (HORNET #2 – Seth and Phoebe) by Tonya Burrows (Entangled: Select, May 27, 2014)

My God, Tonya Burrows simply doesn’t know how to write a book that doesn’t blow my socks off.

I adored the first book in the HORNET series, SEAL of Honor, as it carried Burrows’ brand of steamy, emotional romance featuring spunky heroines and super hot military men, but with Honor Reclaimed I’m in awe of just how far the very damaged Seth Harlan has clawed his way into my heart.

Our ragtag group of misfit mercenaries are once again off on another mission and former Marine sniper Seth Harlan is slightly astonished to be included. His severe PTSD has him botching training missions right and left, to the point where he isn’t exactly part of the group, no matter how stern the orders from their commander are to integrate him. That this mission is to find a POW taken while on a black op no military branch will claim, and that said captive is in Afghanistan, dredges up the horrifying nightmare that was Seth’s own torture for over a year.

Despite time having passed, the damage was so extensive – physically and psychologically – that Seth doesn’t even consider himself human anymore. The fact he lost his team as well, and that some particularly torrid branches of the media spun the story as one in which Seth caused their deaths, just made the healing that much harder. He doesn’t speak to his family, doesn’t reach out to his friends and hasn’t been able to talk to the families of his fallen team members. The instinct to look over his shoulder only gets worse when they land in Kandahar, particularly when one woman in a blue chadori starts acting suspicious. Grabbing her for questioning reveals a pretty, copper haired American and what’s worse, she’s a journalist who clearly recognizes Seth.

SEAL of Honor (HORNET #1 – Gabe and Audrey) by Tonya Burrows (Entangled: Select, May 28, 2013)

Phoebe Leighton should recognize Seth since she was the one responsible for ruining his life. Her pictures of him sold to a particularly heinous tabloid were what allowed them to spin that ridiculous tale about him being responsible for his team’s demise. She was so disgusted with herself and her willingness to whore her ethics for her so-called career that she changed her name, divorced her unhappy husband, and resolved to do nothing but good with her life. Taking back her maiden name and using her middle name gave her a kind of rebirth, but it’s nothing like the good she’s been able to do with her photojournalism. When her current assignment on child brides brings her to a women’s shelter and a particularly brave 16 year old running from her husband, Phoebe’s assignment brings her right into Seth’s path.

Realizing she can help him with his mission and maybe also help him heal has her withholding the revelation of her role in his vilification. Yet as the two of them are drawn together and as Seth begins to trust her enough to tell her about his captivity and torture, Phoebe realizes that there is never going to be a time when telling Seth what she did doesn’t seem like the ultimate betrayal.

For his part, Seth can’t believe that Phoebe has the ability to get under his very scarred skin. No matter how many times he pushes her away or is cruel to her, she just calls him on his behavior and makes him live up to her expectations. Her courage and openness shines a light into his inner darkness and Seth finds himself not only beginning to feel happy but also experiencing sexual desire, both previously dormant emotions. However when he discovers her betrayal, it’s up to Seth to decide if he will let that same numbness reclaim him or if he can work through his past and reclaim both his honor and the woman he loves.

Oh, wow. While there is an abundance of sexual tension throughout the book, this volume is understandably less heated than the fan-yourself previous novel, SEAL of Honor, and that is exactly as it should be. I had my doubts in the beginning of the book how Burrows was going to pull off getting Seth into a place where he could actually have anything resembling a relationship, but her skill as a storyteller is so profound that she pulls it off in the most believable way. Phoebe is a woman embracing the present and working to correct her past and even when you are cringing at every missed opportunity to tell Seth who she is (or in her case, was), you understand that she is reacting to the fragility he projects into their burgeoning relationship. I usually have zero patience for a hero who blows hot and cold but Seth received an unending supply based on what he endured. I appreciated that his PTSD was never sugar coated, and the other physical and emotional issues on the team were also boldly confronted.

Not only was this book amazingly heart-wrenching (in the best possible way) but I continue to be impressed that Burrows has given us further insight into the team members who will undoubtedly be starring in the future books of the series. She has brilliantly laid the foundation for their romances and I am salivating over the potential (Quinn! Jean-Luc!!).

Honor Reclaimed is another brilliant addition to Burrows (and Entangled’s) body of work as well as military romance as a genre. Don’t forget to check out the Giveaway Info (for a blanket with the her four covers on it + swag) at this link for a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Happy reading!

Mystery and Murder in a Private School Setting Makes You Again by Ashlee Mallory a Page Turner

2 Apr
You Again by Ashlee Mallory (Entangled Ignite, March 24, 2014)

You Again by Ashlee Mallory (Entangled Ignite, March 24, 2014)

One of the reasons I am so faithful at trying out Entangled Publishing’s new authors is because they do such a good job picking new talent that I am rarely disappointed. Ashlee Mallory, with her debut book, You Again, is just such a talent, combining strong writing, excellent plot structure, and a unique voice to give readers a wonderful romantic suspense novel, yet one completely devoid of the military/mercenary/investigative reporter characters so overdone in that genre.

Having worked at private schools for most of my working life, You Again‘s setting of a private school in the heart of Salt Lake City was downright juicy and immediately sucked me in. The heroine, Allie McBride, patiently waits with her extended family for a relative to get back from his two-year mission. While Allie is Catholic, her stepmother and sister are Mormon and everyone has come to terms with loving each other while not necessarily sharing the same faith. With her mind wandering, she’s shocked to see none other than her high school crush Sam Fratto walk through the airport. He’s now a best-selling true crime author and any heart flutters she experiences upon looking at his still-athletic body are quickly quashed when he 1) doesn’t recognize her and 2) makes a dick comment about one of Allie’s nephews.

Sam is less than thrilled to be back in Utah. His distant father died a few years ago and when his mother was recently diagnosed with Stage Three breast cancer, Sam made the decision to take time away from his teenage son and come home at least for a while. Disillusioned about his parents marriage years ago, his own experience with women has only bolstered his distrust of the fairer sex, yet he can’t help having a strong reaction to seeing the blonde from the airport. Unfortunately, it’s in the principal’s office at Sam’s alma mater, St. Andrews, and the gorgeous and understandably icy blonde in question is his fellow English teacher. Sam was happy to fill in when he heard one of the older teachers had some health issues, but the lovely Allie does not appear to be welcoming.

A lovely shot of Salt Lake City with the surrounding mountains and distinctive architecture. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

A lovely shot of Salt Lake City with the surrounding mountains and distinctive architecture. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Both of them are shocked the next day, along with the entire community, when the school’s under construction Peace Garden reveals the dead body of a former English teacher – one who had been a mentor to both Allie and Sam. Allie’s proposal to include a short tribute video as part of the school’s upcoming centennial celebration is met with a mixed response and her digging quickly results in a series of threats and attacks, a circumstance that has all Sam’s protective instincts rushing to the fore. Yet with his track record of not trusting women, he’s not sure he can negotiate the many feelings he’s having for Allie, particularly when what she uncovers opens up the closet on some family secrets.

I loved the eccentric secondary characters as well as the well-drawn hero and heroine with their strengths and weaknesses. Mallory’s writing has a clear, distinctive personality and I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a range of Mormon characters handled in such an honest and respectful way. Of course, being an Ignite book means that the entire, single love scene is behind a very closed bedroom door, but that’s what their readers enjoy. The romance in an Ignite book is always secondary to the suspense plot, but Mallory handles the mystery element with such aplomb that I sincerely hope she keeps writing them. I’ll keep reading them!

What a great debut novel for a wonderful writer who has clearly found a supportive home with Entangled. I look forward to reading her future books and hope she has a terrific response from readers! She made this one quite happy. 🙂

 

 

High-Heeled Wonder by Avery Flynn Combines Fashion and Revenge in a Suspenseful Love Story

27 Jan

High-Heeled Wonder (A Killer Style novel) by Avery Flynn (Entangled Ignite, January 27, 2014)

I have got to hand it to the editors of Entangled’s Ignite line, they know how to choose romantic suspense stories that have me yelling out things unhelpful to the hero and heroine during the last few pages (things like “No, look out!” and “Oh my God, be careful!”). You should see me at a Jaws viewing.

With a clear emphasis on fashion, I worried that High-Heeled Wonder would be the typical bodyguard falls for fluffy woman with a heart of gold. It’s not that there is anything wrong with this trope per se, but I did not expect the emotional and extremely well-crafted story I actually got from Avery Flynn (thank you, Avery!). Having never had the pleasure of reading anything by her before, I have my eyes fully open now. This is an author who offers the reader deep characters carting a complete Samsonite set of baggage behind them, not all of which is dealt with in the course of the novel (which I appreciate).

Sylvie Bissette is having a phenomenally bad 24 hours. She’s supposed to be a cheerful, serene bridesmaid for her sister Anya, but in actuality she’s about to yak into a potted plant due to the whiskey bender she chose after catching her boyfriend going down on a waiter…a male waiter. With two dads, she thought her gaydar was well-developed but apparently not. Being the daughter of famous fashion designers means Sylvie is as much a target of public attention as the bride, so she’s trying to put a pleasant smile on her face and just tough it out. It’s hard to do when her anonymous fashion blog, High-Heeled Wonder, is getting increasingly more violent threats. But for Sylvie, she is going to tell it like it is and operate business as usual, putting out of her mind deceptive boyfriends and someone who hates her enough to possibly hurt her.

I was worried this novel would be an homage to fashion, but it's really pays due to women who enjoy looking good and feeling confident. Who can't get behind that? (Public domain image via Pixabay)

I was worried this novel would be an homage to fashion, but it’s really pays due to women who enjoy looking good and feeling confident. Who can’t get behind that? (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Those unpleasant emails are the reason that her fathers have asked her to take on a bodyguard, none other that the uber-hottie she almost kissed on Anya’s wedding day. Tony Falcon has been hired by her family to watch over Sylvie and hopefully discover who this mystery threat is. With a list as long as her arm of important people she’s pissed off, this is not an easy job, particularly when you could boil water with the heat between them. However, Tony not only doesn’t succumb to lust for his clients (no matter how hot they are) but he also doesn’t begin to fall for a woman when he’s secretly investigating her family for murder, right?

This situation was like watching a freight train crash, yet Sylvie and Tony have so much to offer each other you just can’t look away. While my favorite character was undoubtedly the 150 pound Newfoundland dog with a hankering for peanut butter, Sylvie was the perfect blend of vulnerable and smart, a fact Tony caught on to pretty quickly. He was an excellent hero, blinded to doing things the right way by his sense of guilt and desire for vengeance. With revenge the point of the mystery antagonist bent on destroying Sylvie’s work and taking her life, there were actually some pretty big themes in this novel, all of which were well-executed.

Based on the fact that the book is being marketed as “a Killer Style novel,” I can only hope that this is the first of a series since Tony has a few security firm compatriots I’d like to see more of and Sylvie’s friends are pretty winning as well. Please note that Avery Flynn’s excellent website is having a TERRIFIC giveaway in honor of the book’s debut, with a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $100 DSW gift card, swag, and several ebooks that are part of Entangled Ignite’s recent releases.

Happy reading!

You’ll Sweat in the Desert Heat Reading Molly Gets Her Man by Julie Rowe

27 Jan

Molly Gets Her Man by Julie Rowe (Entangled Ignite: January 27, 2014)

Entangled’s Ignite line for romantic suspense (or mysteries or thrillers) appears well named. Despite absolutely frigid temperatures outside, I found myself reaching for a cold beverage while vicariously sweating in the Las Vegas heat with the new novel from Julie Rowe, Molly Gets Her Man.

This came as a surprise to me since I had only heard Rowe’s name in association with a trilogy of interesting historical romances set in Europe during World War I (they are on my to-read shelf). A Canadian with a medical background, I gather that Rowe has had success with some medical romance stories and even her historicals utilize her knowledge base as the characters are often doctors and nurses, albeit with a different level of medicine available to them in their era.

After reading Molly Gets Her Man, I was impressed that someone without a suspense background could write such an excellent debut in this subgenre. Rowe managed to have a relentless plot pace which had me turning the pages to figure out how our hero and heroine were not only going to work through their emotional baggage to find love, but how they were just going to survive all the twists and turns of their predicament.

Molly McLaren cannot seem to catch a break. With some demons in her past in the form of an abusive father and an ex-boyfriend who wanted to follow in his footsteps, she’s shy of large men, especially angry ones. Her anxiety actually led to the loss of her last job as an interpreter for the court system when she was deliberately intimidated by a convict, an incident that frightened her so badly that she quit her job. Now she’s dressed in uber-tight capri pants, a glittering top and enough make-up to work a department store counter in order to be a hair dresser, albeit one that speaks seven languages fluently.

The seamy backdrop of Las Vegas is perfect for this tale of drugs and organized crime. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

The seamy backdrop of Las Vegas is perfect for this tale of drugs and organized crime. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

That unusual ability has just bitten her in the ass as she overheard a client arrange the assassination of a congressman three days from now. Although she reported it to the police, she’s got a bad feeling, enough that she called her former military brother in California to ask for help. He’s relayed that help will be appearing on her doorstep in the form of a truck driven by his friend and it’s none too soon as two Russian enforcers are searching for her in a deserted parking garage. She manages to get away, not before they get off a few shots at her, only to find herself trapped in the cab of a semi, with the biggest, angriest guy she’s ever seen. Cue anxiety.

Grey Wilson is trying to redeem his career from the major cock-up that was his last mission, one that involved discovering his former girlfriend was a drug addicted woman using him for information and resulted in his almost losing his leg after getting shot. He’s currently on the path of a Russian group smuggling drugs in and out of Vegas, using the cover of a truck driver to gather information. Helping a former military buddy’s bimbo sister is not what he signed up for, but it quickly becomes apparent that the nervous Molly is no intellectual lightweight and that she is in really deep trouble, trouble that intersects with his mission. As the two of them succumb to the attraction between them, can they each work through their past betrayals to find something real before they have to part from one another?

This was a great story about two people forced by circumstances to look beneath their surface and discover the error of their first impressions. Molly is obviously a brilliant linguist and Grey a gentle soul around Molly who would shoot his good leg before her hurt her (he’s a badass around a perp, however). The suspense plot was well done with a few really good red herrings and twists I enjoyed, and I’m hoping that Molly’s brother crops up in a future book. If I have any criticism, it’s that Rowe’s sex scenes are rather brief and seem to be more about releasing sexual tension rather than about revealing more character development or inspiring a closer connection between the hero and heroine.

I would definitely encourage Julie Rowe to continue to develop her astonishing versatility between subgenres and continue to write romantic suspense since her first offering was such a good one. I’m glad Molly got her man and hope that Julie Rowe continues to get her contracts so I can enjoy more books by her.

Happy reading!

Tonya Burrows Has Not One But TWO Great Series in HORNET and Wilde Security

5 Nov

SEAL of Honor (HORNET #1) by Tonya Burrows (Entangled Select, May 28, 2013)

I’m beginning to make Entangled a go-to publisher since I’ve yet to read a bad (or even a mediocre) book from these folks. With authors like Tessa Bailey, Gina Maxwell, Laura Kaye, and Samanthe Beck, they’ve earned quite a bit of my trust in finding outstanding fresh new voices in romance fiction, writers who combine emotion, intelligence, and singe the sheets sex for an unbeatable combination. Bless you, Entangled!

I now have another author to add to my pre-order pile, the wonderful Tonya Burrows. While I am classifying her under romantic suspense since each of her books has a strongly written suspense plot, military romance fans will find much to love as each hero is a former member of the armed forces.

But this author, who only began publishing this past May, has emerged with one not but TWO interrelated series – her HORNET series featuring a mercenary group made up of a hodge-podge of wounded males practically bleeding testosterone (yum) and her Wilde Security series about five brothers, orphaned at a young age, who one-by-one finally find the women meant to cut through their respective shells.

Let’s cover these in order, shall we?

SEAL of Honor – #1 in the HORNET series

Gabe Bristow definitely feels like his life is scraping rock bottom. Surviving a horrible car accident along with his best friend has left both of them without the direction of their SEAL careers and Gabe has to get around with a cane much of the time adding insult to his injury. Goaded by that same best friend, Quinn, Gabe agrees to take a job with a private mercenary hostage rescue group and quickly finds himself with a job.

Unfortunately he also has a motley team (at least Quinn is his XO), many with rather checkered pasts, who have had zero training time together. A billionaire has been kidnapped in Columbia and the insurance company has hired HORNET to get him back so they won’t have to pay his hefty $60 million insurance policy. Praying that his fledgling team can work well together, Gabe is astonished when he arrives on the ground to come face to face with a gorgeous and terrified woman, the victim’s baby sister, Audrey Van Amee.

Honor Reclaimed (HORNET #2) by Tonya Burrows (Entangled, May 27, 2014)

Audrey may be a free spirited artist living on the beach in Costa Rica and shunning all her brother’s attempts to support her, but he and his family are still all the family she’s got. With her fluency in Spanish and possessing the last clues of his disappearance (they were videoconferencing when he was taken), she wants to figure out how she can best help. Scared out of her mind after a group of burly military types break into her brother’s apartment and then knock her unconscious was not how she pictured the calvary arriving, but now that she knows of their existence, she’s determined to stick close. And sticking close to their leader, Gabe, is hardly a problem. She’s not sure she even likes him, but, boy, do they have chemistry in spades.

Gabe is more than aware of his chemistry with Audrey but getting involved with her while on a mission would not only be unprofessional but she’s the forever type and his outlook won’t let that be part of his future. He may be an okay brother, but with parents like his, he has no role model for being a good husband in a relationship. Yet as the case tightens around them both, they can’t help but succumb to the heat between them, even knowing that Gabe will feel the need to just walk away.

Gabe is the uptight, uber-Alpha with a mushy center when it comes to the right woman, and the fun, direct, artistic Audrey is definitely the right woman. It’s impossible not to fall for them both, particularly when, from the moment they meet, the air between them becomes combustible. Don’t believe me? Check out the entry I made for Entangled Brazen’s #dirtytalker Appreciation Month (and this book didn’t even come out under the Brazen line, but it should have):

Burrows, SEAL of Honor

*Fans self* Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to get a glass of water. Feeling better? Great. But there is going to be more, so I’m just warning you to brace yourself. 🙂

The first novel does an outstanding job setting up the rest of the series, with clear personality sketches for each member of the crew – a crew who carries so much collective baggage that it’s a wonder their mercenary group doesn’t need an additional plane for missions. SEAL of Honor not only possesses two smokin’ hot, sympathetic lead characters, but secondary characters to drool over while a taut romantic suspense plot unravels in interesting directions. What’s not to love? The next book will feature the man not even on the team roster yet, the much debated Seth Harlan, a phenomenal sniper just about broken from his torture and captivity. His book is entitled Honor Reclaimed and will come out in May 2014. And yes, I have already pre-ordered it.

Wilde Nights in Paradise (Wilde Security #1)

Wilde Nights in Paradise (Wilde Security #1 – Jude and Libby) by Tonya Burrows (Entangled Brazen, June 2013)

Jude Wilde is the baby of the family and it shows in his devil-may-care attitude and his shit-starting ability. While he acts like nothing ever affects him and he’s not about to get serious about life, there was one thing in his life he was once incredibly serious about, Libby Pruitt. A beautiful college student when he met her, he screwed their relationship up royally and has had to live without the one person he wanted more than anything for eight years. Now out of the Marines and working with his brothers, he’s startled to see her father and his former commander walk through the door with the announcement that Jude is the only one who can protect his daughter.

Libby is a successful assistant ADA but somewhere along the line she seems to have acquired a determined stalker. Believing it to be tied to a case soon to go to trial (and whose defendant is currently out on bail), her high-handed father has taken it upon himself to hire a bodyguard. Once Libby would have no problem handing over her body to Jude Wilde for guarding (or anything else), but his cheating on her after he had proposed two days before put the kibosh on her girlish dreams. Yet her father is right – being seen in Jude’s company simply looks like they’ve gotten back together – and an obvious attempt on her life while with Jude convinces her to accept his protection. But she doesn’t have to like it.

Yet both of them head to the house of Gabe’s sniper friend Seth Harlan (see the second book in the HORNET series above) in Key West to wait out Libby’s case posing undercover as a reclusive honeymooning couple. Despite her firm intentions, Libby can’t be around Jude without having him awaken all those lustful feelings like when she first met him. That’s exactly what Jude wants, and he’s determined to break down all Libby’s defenses in order to have a second chance at a relationship with her. She’s determined that any physical fling between them would be “just sex” and he’s just as determined to use all his talents to prove to her that they are meant to be together. And that eight-year-old fire between them? If anything it’s hotter. Here’s my entry for the #DirtyTalker entry for this book:

Burrows Wilde Nights 1

Oh, it is so worth it, let me tell you! Jude was as much a victim as Libby was all those years ago, and seeing these two fight to get Libby’s trust back is nothing short of heart-warming. As seen above, the sex scenes are certainly sheets-warming, 😉 so you get everything with Wilde Nights in Paradise – a reunion romance, hot sex in a romantic setting, and some pulse-pounding moments when the real danger to Libby emerges.

Wilde for Her (Wilde Security #2)

Wilde for Her (Wilde Security #2 – Eva and Cam) by Tonya Burrows (Entangled Brazen, October 28, 2013)

Wilde for Her actually opens on Libby and Jude’s wedding in Key West (and you’ll be interested to note that Gabe and Audrey from SEAL of Honor as well as Seth Harlan are all in attendance) with Cam Wilde standing up as groomsman with Jude as Libby comes down the aisle. Cam has brought his best friend and former cop partner, Eva Cardoso as his date, and seeing Eva dressed uncharacteristically in a sexy dress is twisting Cam up inside, giving him all kinds of naughty ideas. But he’s a player and Eva means too much to him to mess up their relationship. Right?

Eva had all her naughty thoughts about Cam when he first became her partner years ago, but after determining he wasn’t interested she put them all aside and simply valued him as her best friend. Having recently broken up with her boyfriend after realizing that he didn’t want to get married, she wants everything her mother never valued – marriage, children and security – and doesn’t plan on being with a man who doesn’t feel the same way. But being confronted with that same ex in the hotel bar – with his fiancee – deals her a serious blow to the ego. He just didn’t want to marry her and Cam decides to take her mind off her problems by daring her to a round of the most horrifying shots she can swallow. She accepts and, their inhibitions lowered, you can guess what takes place:

Burrows Wilde for Her

The sex between them is mind-blowing, but Eva – completely freaked out by how amazing it was – sneaks off the next morning, leaving a naked Cam to get kicked out by housekeeping, making him totally livid. Back in DC, he realizes that he is going to have to play it cool to make sure Eva doesn’t bolt on everything they might be able to be to each other. But wooing her takes backstage to the fact that someone has taken out a hit on Cam, and when that fact intersects with a case Eva is working, Cam is in a tight spot of wanting to protect the woman who means everything to him while not losing her with his deception.

Ohmigod. Where to begin with this one? Friends to lovers is one of my favorite tropes so this was actually the first Tonya Burrows book I read (and I think I was a third of the way through it when I went and bought the other two), so I was so on board with Eva and Cam getting together. We get to know the brothers much better in this book, particularly Cam’s dickish alpha twin, Vaughn (who I’m praying will be the love interest of the next book!) and it’s clear Cam and Eva are perfect for each other. This is in part because they are two of the most oblivious, stubborn people I know, so I’m really pulling for pre-marital counseling that helps them work out their communication issues. I swear, there were so many times I wanted to smack Cam – he of all people must understand Eva’s background and her insecurities yet he never comes out and says he (the notorious player) actually wants a serious relationship with her? WTF, Cam? It’s a good thing you are so freaking sexy and such a good guy otherwise I’d be pulling for the hit man. (Do yourself a favor and go over to Burrows’ website to take a look at her dossier – complete with pictures – of the various brothers. But take that cold drink you got a few paragraphs ago with you.)

There is no way that you don’t want more (lots more) of this series, with Vaughn clearly entangled with the woman Eva’s ex left her for and Eva’s just-pulling-it-together younger sister, Shelby, identifying the mystery man in the coffee shop who regularly eye-fucks her as being none other than Cam’s brother, Reece. Nice connections, and Burrows establishes enough sizzle between these parties that I find myself getting extremely impatient for their stories.

Tonya Burrows has taken her place in the stable of tremendous (often debut) talent at Entangled with these three books which were so excellent that I have clearly added her to my “pre-order it, dammit!” list. I’m grateful that her unique voice is added to the wonderful world of romance fiction and thank her for adding not one but TWO terrific series to the world of romantic suspense. Thanks, Tonya!!! 🙂

Operation Blind Date Brings Tenacious Romance and One Canny Dog to Romantic Suspense

18 Oct

Operation Blind Date (Cutter’s Code #3 – Teague and Laney) by Justine Davis (Harlequin, July 1, 2013)

I’m going to admit it, if you build a romantic suspense series around a dog with a sixth sense, it’s going to get read.

By me, that is!

That is the premise of prolific author Justine Davis’ Cutter’s Code series (which is sadly not properly linked on Goodreads, so I can’t connect to a nice string of all three books for you). Since the woman has published over 80 books since the 1980s, mostly in category romance, the fact that this book is a nice, tight, highly suspenseful read really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

In Operation Blind Date, private operative Teague Johnson is happy to go pick up his boss’ dog Cutter from the groomers. When he arrives, he’s surprised to discover that the lovely groomer, Laney Adams, has clearly been crying. While a woman’s tears make him distinctly uncomfortable, Teague realizes from Cutter’s behavior that the dog expects him to find out more, and while that seems crazy to anyone else, for the men who work for the Foxworths it means a new case is at hand.

Laney is incredibly worried about her best friend, Amber. Having inadvertently introduced her to a man that Laney repeatedly turned down for a date but who seemed innocuous enough, Laney has been getting strange texts and zero phone calls from her best friend since grade school – a woman who has never been out of regular contact for even a day. She’s gone to the police but they’ve told her that Amber is obviously blowing her off for the new guy in her life, but she knows something is very, very wrong. Her gut is telling her that Amber is in danger and that she’s responsible for it.

The gorgeous Belgian Malinois dogs are known for being outstanding police and military dogs due to their agile frame, high energy levels, and keen intelligence.

Fortunately for Laney, the Foxworths run an agency that gives help to people who can’t otherwise afford it. Even though Laney is astonished that the beautiful Belgian Malinois and his owner, the lovely fiancee of the head of the agency, take her concerns seriously, she’s not sorry to spend more time with Teague while investigating what happened to her friend. But Laney and Teague are blindsided by their attraction during what seems like the worst possible time, since Laney has to find her friend before it’s too late.

Because of the limited page length of a category romantic suspense novel, I usually go into them with low expectations. Davis startled me with her strong writing and good characterization in this novel, however, with a plot that kept twisting in expected (and very pleasurable) ways regarding what happened to Amber. There is definite heat between Teague and Laney, an attraction they try to fight, yet both are similar in that they aren’t used to that feeling, which is far outside the caution they normally exercise around the opposite sex.

My only complaint was with the ending, which I felt could have been more emotional than the calm, rather anti-climactic revelation it was. Nevertheless, I thought this book a delight for anyone who enjoys a quick dose of romantic suspense and I plan on reading the other books in the series. With great additional characters including the enigmatic sniper Rafe and the boss’ powerful and feared brother, Charlie, the author gives us a clear indication that other great love stories are coming down the pike (a fact Davis confirms on her website). Yay!

Cutter more than deserves a series built around his nose for someone who needs help. Let him lead you to the next book destined for your romantic suspense pile!

A Lady’s Secret Weapon by Tracey Devlyn Combines Old-Fashioned Spy Thrillers with Hot Historical Romance

16 Oct

A Lady’s Secret Weapon (Nexus #3 – Ethan and Sydney) by Tracey Devlyn (Sourcebooks, October 1, 2013)

Back when I was cutting my teeth on historical romance in the 80s, there were many novels that heavily featured spies bent on foiling Napoleonic agents during the height of the Peninsular Wars. These books had complex spy plots and incorporated plenty of history in addition to the romance developing between the hero and heroine.

I loved them, but as Regency became modernized (and thank heavens it did) for some reason the spy piece seemed to suddenly take a back burner. Oh, it was still there, clearly, but not in the same smart way it existed before. The romance piece got better as well, and since I really did read them for the romance, that was a reasonable exchange, although I found myself still wistful for the well-written spies and villains.

Enter talented author Tracey Devlyn and I have no more reason to pine for the days of those page-turning plots. With her excellent Nexus series, readers manage three books in one: a pitch-perfect historical romance, a mystery as a new angle of the story arc is uncovered, and a thriller to heighten anticipation and keep those pages turning. Yum!

The Nexus is an elite group of British spies heavily involved with uncovering the next move of the Napoleonic network, either in France or right on England’s shores, and readers have already met several operatives in the first two books of the series. A Lady’s Secret Weapon in fact stars Ethan deBeau, the rogue Viscount renowned for charming one woman after another into his bed, only to ferret out their secrets for his cause. Less well-known are the many deaths for which he is responsible and the knowledge of the often innocent lives he’s compromised – as well as the dirty feeling he carries from his meaningless sexual encounters – have made him not just jaded, but someone who regularly takes refuge in alcohol and whores when frustrations arise.

Ethan made these sacrifices for his country so he can attain one goal, taking over the Nexus network and finally filling his dead father’s shoes in service to England. But when it seems that’s not going to happen, he’s not just thrown but resentful. A helpful distraction takes the form of one Sydney Hunt, a stunning young woman who Ethan feels he knows from somewhere although she’s not telling. Her focus on an orphanage that has come onto the Nexus’ radar is more than a coincidence and it quickly becomes apparent that there is much more to Miss Hunt than meets the eye.

A Lady’s Revenge (Nexus #1 – Cora and Guy) by Tracey Devlyn (Sourcebooks, April 2012)

That’s the truth. Sydney hides her own painful past and while her work as the proprietress of an employment agency helping servants find safe positions in noble households is a priority, her secret work as “the Specter” has her using a network of underground spies to help the Nexus anonymously. Her time with Ethan has her rethinking her opinions about noblemen but she’s uncertain as to whether he won’t run just like other men in her past when he finds out the nature of her ghosts. For this man, Sydney realizes she might just be willing to take her stolen moments when she can, as his layers clearly hide more than just a talented rogue and spy.

It was a little hard for me to like Ethan initially as Devlyn shows him making the decision to pursue alcohol and visit a whorehouse after he’s met our heroine. Tsk, tsk. Granted, there’s nothing yet between them, but I always find myself having to overcome that mental hurdle (and sometimes, not managing it) when an author decides to show that side of the hero. Yet she manages to help him come back from it, with the incident simply illustrating just how damaged Ethan is that he needs this form of escape. He’s literally never let himself be in love and Sydney is really his first in many ways, despite all his experience of women.

Sydney was enormously easy to love, surrounded by people who care about her and with a deeply admirable mission, but she never strays into goody two-shoes territory. That she has channelled much of herself into both her day job and her secret spy work clearly is due to her being convinced that she will never have a romantic future due to her childhood. Ethan’s patient uncovering of each of her secrets breaches her walls one by one and his lack of judgement at each hurdle helps grow the trust between them. It’s actually quite lovely to witness, with their climatic love scene one of the most tender I’ve read in a while.

Checkmate, My Lord (Nexus #2 – Sebastian and Catherine) by Tracey Devlyn (Sourcebooks, February 2013)

For readers who have enjoyed the first two books in the series, there is plenty of time to revel in those characters (when exactly are they all getting married, anyway?) since they make regular appearances. But for people who want to try this book out first before making the investment, fear not – Devlyn’s writing is so deft that you will lack no understanding or appreciation if you start with A Lady’s Secret Weapon. Playing catch up is effortless regarding both story arc and characters in the hands of this talented author.

The important thing to keep in mind when reading a Devlyn book is that the spy element drives the romance. I initially found myself very impatient as a good portion of the book progressed before my hero and heroine began inching toward one another even though there was a strong attraction. Partly this was their personalities and backgrounds coming into play but it was also because the various elements of the plot had to be well-established. The delay has the nice side effect of making the descent into a relationship more natural in terms of the timeframe (no insta-love here) and – once I realized the intent – I was able to relax and enjoy it.

Keep in mind also that Devlyn’s intelligence, immediately apparent after just a few pages, bleeds into other areas of her professional life. She’s got an excellent website and strong social media presence, and is also a founder of the Romance University website which I follow religiously. How cool is that? I love it when an author’s talent is matched by her professional savvy, so yay for me at finding another woman who is cleverly making an impact on the world of romance publishing.

Tracey Devlyn’s entire Nexus series, but A Lady’s Secret Weapon in particular, combines outstanding writing with cross-genre appeal. Mystery, thriller, and historical romance lovers fear not – you’ve just got another author to add to your end table. Enjoy!

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