Tag Archives: romantic suspense

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! 🙂

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! 🙂

Tonya Burrows’ Honor Reclaimed Gets Sexy New Cover

27 May

Honor ReclaimedTonya Burrows is one of those writers who doesn’t know how to write a bad book (thank heavens), so I was interested when Entangled announced that her terrific book, Honor Reclaimed, the second in her HORNET series about a motley group of mercenaries, was undergoing a redesign. The previous cover (designed to tantalize us into pre-ordering book #2 – mission accomplished) had plenty of chiseled ab goodness, so no one was complaining, but this cover is much better, largely due to the intense facial expression of the model.

The first book SEAL of Honor (which was AMAZING) was full of romantic suspense and some sex scenes that almost set my iPad on fire, so I’ve had Honor Reclaimed pre-ordered since November 2nd. Take a gander at my review of SEAL of Honor for an introduction to the series and some of the characters.

Here’s the blurb for Honor Reclaimed, and all military romance and romantic suspense fans will especially want to take note of this book (and series).

Former Marine scout sniper Seth Harlan is new to HORNET and anxious to prove he can still do his job despite an ongoing battle with PTSD. He remembers all too well what it’s like to sit inside an enemy camp, praying for rescue and waiting for death. So when a black ops soldier contacts HORNET to rescue a buddy who was left behind, all sorts of nasty memories strain his newfound stability.

When an interview with a runaway Afghan child bride leads photojournalist Phoebe Leighton to an arms deal involving a suitcase bomb powerful enough to wipe out a mid-sized town, she realizes this is one battle she can’t win on her own. Forming an unlikely alliance with a ragtag team of military and government delinquents, she meets Seth, a sniper carrying as many emotional scars as physical, who impresses her with his steely will and ignites passions within her she thought long dead.

Suddenly this mission is about a lot more than an abandoned soldier. Racing against the clock, Seth, Phoebe, and the rest of HORNET struggle to stop that bomb before it reaches it’s final destination: The United States.

Fabulous, yes? To celebrate the redesign and the publication of Honor Reclaimed, Entangled Select is having a Rafflecopter giveaway so be sure to check that out. Want to learn more about Tonya Burrows (and believe me, you do if you haven’t read anything by her yet!)? Here’s all the places you can find more about this terrific author.

Website: http://www.tonyaburrows.com/

Blog: http://www.tonya-burrows.blogspot.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tonyaburrows

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tonyaburrowsauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/Tonya_Burrows

Newsletter: http://tonyaburrows.us6.list-manage2.com/subscribe?u=e03d7c5ec1a8fdc67db99bac3&id=3cafb9c112

Stay tuned for my review of Honor Reclaimed and 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. 🙂

 

 

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!

Oyster Brings a Netflix-like Model to Romance Reading

23 Oct

I was thrilled to find out that a new platform has come on the market for readers, Oyster. Looking to Netflix as a subscription model, readers pay $9.95 per month and have access to all of Oyster’s library (about 100,000 in copyright books), with the ability to “play” any book they want – books don’t download onto your device (which I imagine means you need to have a connection at all times).

For heavy readers this becomes an affordable alternative, particularly as more and more publishers release titles onto Oyster’s platform. Having read about Oyster and watched videos about how it works, I nevertheless wanted to have a better sense of what it could offer romance readers, but I wasn’t willing to pay for a month in order to test the water. Lucky for me, Oyster recently announced a free month to trial the platform for people wanting to test it out (in honor of their iPad app release).

A major caveat before downloading the app – originally designed for the iPhone, the iPad version of the program is meant to be enlarged using the 2x button. This means that users not running the latest iOS are going to notice highly pixelated text which makes it hard on the eyes. People running iOS 7 on their phones and iPads will have no problem.

The iPad is a natural first device upon which to launch considering its level of infiltration in the market.

But what does Oyster have to offer romance readers? I found the offerings to be diverse and hitting several big name authors – Amanda Scott, Debbie Macomber, Lisa Kleypas, Sarah Maclean, Julia Quinn, Katherine Ashe, and Tessa Dare were some of the historical romance authors (they even have most of Kathleen Woodiwiss‘ backlist) and paranormal authors like Christine Feehan, Jeaniene Frost and Lyndsay Sands were represented as well. A few erotica books were in there, as well as category romance from Crimson Romance’s imprint, and romantic suspense authors like Carla Swafford and Elizabeth Lowell.

I didn’t like that so many non-romance books were mixed in (because it makes it look like Oyster doesn’t know what the definition of the genre), but it is true that romance readers often cross-genres, particularly with mystery, historical fiction and women’s fiction – nevertheless, I don’t want to see them when I’m looking for romance. There’s plenty of contemporary romance, romantic comedy and inspirational romance and they even divide up historical romance, highlighting Regency and medieval titles. It’s pretty snazzy.

Could there be more titles? Sure. But the above authors are damn good ones and there was a nice mix of books I’ve read and books I want to read – considering I read around 350 romance novels a year, I find this pretty snazzy and I’m sure it will only get better as Oyster will have to acquire more titles in order to stay competitive, particularly with other subscription read services about to launch.

So take a look at Oyster (for free) to see if you’ve got the hardware to see if it has something to offer you as a romance reader. I think that you’ll find it may offer readers a wonderful romance library to draw upon (for only $9.95 a month.

Dancer of the Nile Brings Romantic Suspense (Ancient Egyptian Style) to Veronica Scott’s Gods of Egypt Series

22 Oct

Dancer of the Nile (Gods of Egypt #3) by Veronica Scott (Jean D. Walker, October 5, 2013)

I was so taken with the world of ancient Egypt in Veronica Scott’s Warrior of the Nile, that I immediately went out and bought it’s predecessor Priestess of the Nile, which I also enjoyed. Naturally, being a completionist and feeling confidence in Veronica Scott‘s writing, I pre-ordered Dancer of the Nile (which came out on October 5th) and am now able to tell you that it definitely lives up to the overall excellent quality of the series.

Kamin is an Egyptian general, cousin to Pharaoh, undercover in Hyksos territory and captured as a spy (which he is). Amid the cruel Hyksos army, he notices a bedraggled but brave woman riding in the leader’s chariot, a woman quickly identified as a captured dancer. She’s clearly Egyptian but what can one woman do to help his situation? He wishes he could help her, but starved and bound while being walked through the desert doesn’t put him in a powerful position.

Nima actually does have some tricks up her sleeve. She’s a dancer who, up to yesterday, had dreams of leaving her sketchy dance troupe and forging a real life for herself, until the inn fire drove her into the arms of her Hyksos captors. Purportedly she’s being kept because the Hyksos general wants her to “dance” for him personally, but that’s not stopping the leader of the soldiers from periodically terrorizing her and making her wait on the soldiers. She’s angered at how the brave captured Egyptian is being treated and determines to use everything in her power to release him so they can both get away.

Priestess of the Nile (Gods of Egypt #1) by Veronica Scott (Carina Press, 2012)

And so begins Kamin and Nima’s adventure. I felt that while there has been excellent political or paranormal conflict propelling all the books in the series, Dancer of the Nile felt most like a romantic suspense novel as Kamin and Nima have obstacle after obstacle thrown at them as they race to inform Egypt of the Hyksos’ stronghold location. Along the way, these two characters – one noble born, one a peasant but both blessed with a pure and brave heart – are drawn together and fall in love. There is no way to not adore the hero and heroine, and Kamin particularly stole my heart with his indomitable will to let nothing stand in the way of his winning Nima, even under the worst possible circumstances.

As with the other books in the series, although to a slightly lesser degree, gods and goddesses are involved with saving Egypt and rescuing the protagonists from the worst situations. After the third book, I’m definitely feeling like I could begin picking Egyptian deities from a line up!

Can we talk for a minute about what an unbelievable value these books are? Both Priestess of the Nile and Warrior of the Nile were put out by Carina Press (the digital division of Harlequin) and are currently priced at only $1.99 each. Dancer of the Nile, which is not by Carina (kudos for continuing the flavor and quality of the cover art, Veronica), nevertheless is only $2.99, completely reasonable for a book just out (or any other time).

Historical romance writers (who don’t mind the occasional god or goddess interfering) looking to break away from yet another Regency and taste something different would do well to try the Gods of Egypt series. This series does not disappoint!

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!

R. C. Ryan’s Josh Is Great Western Suspense in Her Wyoming Sky Trilogy

17 Oct

Josh (Wyoming Sky #2 – Josh and Sierra) by R. C. Ryan (Forever, 2012)

Sometimes I just wake up, look at my to-read list and think, “Today, I really need a Western romance.”

I’m not 100% sure what spurs it, but the feeling has something to do with wanting independent people working for themselves on land that speaks to them. Horses and cowboys are always great, but not required, and if the author really, truly can bring a region to life – to the point of making me practically breathe in that fresh air – then I’m happy as a clam.

R. C. Ryan is just this kind of author and Josh, the second of her Wyoming Sky trilogy about three brothers living with their father and grandfather while working the family ranch, satisfied my every craving.

Josh Conway has always loved the Teton Mountains which back up to his family’s ranch, Devil’s Wilderness, in the Big Sky country of Wyoming. Since he was a child, he has disappeared for hours on end to seek solace in the ridges and wildlife of the mountains, and even as an adult is often called upon by the Park Rangers to help find lost hikers because of his intimate knowledge with the land.

When he’s asked to find one stray wildlife photographer, Sierra Moore, he feels mostly annoyance at having to face the bad weather to hunt down yet another person who didn’t know their limits. He’s therefore shocked to discover not only is she fine in her snug tent but she’s indignant that he assumed she needed rescuing.

Sierra actually does need rescuing but not from the climb. When the handsome rancher accompanies her back to the ranger station, Sierra is dismayed to find a threatening note from the man she fled Paris to avoid. It seems he’s followed her all the way to Wyoming and is intent on making her his, no matter the cost. After a lifetime of trusting no man and not believing in love, Sierra finds herself surrounded by the loving Conway family who demonstrate daily how love can be a bedrock to build a life upon, with Josh Conway in particular indicating that his feelings for Sierra run deeper than just the fling she anticipated.

I feel so hard for both the hero and heroine of this novel! Sierra has had a crap childhood with distant, hippie parents and a series of boarding schools, yet she is so open to life personally and professionally in her photography that she spreads a brand of sunshine wherever she goes. Josh and his family respond to it, even as they circle the wagons against the threat of the wealthy European stalker she’s picked up along the way. Josh is the quiet type, but not a brooder (thank heavens) – just a man who feels nature and his mountains deeply and is thrilled to see them through Sierra’s enthusiastic eyes.

Quinn (Wyoming Sky #1 – Quinn and Cheyenne) by R. C. Ryan (Forever, February 2012)

There are several terrific elements that bind these three books together. The first is the sense of loss – grandfather Big Jim lost his beloved wife Clementine and five sons (all buried in the family graveyard and he talks to Clemmy often) and Cole’s wife, his beloved Seraphine, just disappeared one day. The family has no idea what happened to her and the pain of that mystery has been handled in different ways by the Conway men.

Of course, the minor characters of the two women who have worked at the ranch for over 20 years – Phoebe and Ela – as well as the townspeople further reinforce the sense of tight community bonds which support the Conway family. And the Conway family is exactly the type that romance readers love to read about. A tight, loving Irish family who work and play together with plenty of yelling and laughter, well, that’s exactly what the doctor ordered when it comes to romance, isn’t it?

I expected the suspense plot to be an afterthought but there are really two layers here. One, the immediate danger to Sierra with her Euro-stalker in all his glory and two, the mystery of the Conway boys’ missing mother. It provides a nice juxtaposition as each of the Conway men feel almost more protective of the women in their lives after losing the grandmother and mother who meant so much to them.

It should not be shocking that R. C. Ryan does suspense well – you’ll note that the cover blurb for Josh is from none other than Nora Roberts. It turns out that R. C. Ryan is the contemporary pen name for historical and romantic suspense author Ruth Ryan Langan, who has actually published stories in multiple anthologies with Roberts when she writes as J. D. Robb. Quite an endorsement, eh? I think so, too.

I plan on devouring the other books in the Wyoming Sky series as I have found a family I’m ready to be a part of (and they have a jetted tub in the guest room – sign me up!). R. C. Ryan has crafted an emotional romance with three-dimensional characters in a setting that calls for facing fears and living life fully. Happy reading!

Fatal Strike by Shannon McKenna Shoots for Heart with Pulse-Pounding Romantic Suspense

11 Oct

Fatal Strike (McClouds & Friends #10) by Shannon McKenna (Kensington, September 24, 2013)

I’m finding that the authors who emerge as some of my favorite writers are ones who aren’t afraid to push the category envelope. Whether it’s the explosion of ebooks which allows publishers to promote new novels under a variety of categories (versus the bookstore model where there was only one shelf a book could sit upon) or just reader demand, stories that involve multiple elements make me putty in the hands of a good writer.

Shannon McKenna’s McClouds & Friends series is just such an example. I fell in love with a NetGalley copy of One Wrong Move, instantly intrigued by her combination of romantic suspense, paranormal elements and an alpha hero teetering on the edge of asshole. Her writing is tight and suspenseful with McKenna unhesitant in continuing detailed story arcs of villainous bad guys and their evil henchmen who must fall (or at least retreat) in the face of the McClouds and their allies in each book in the series.

Fatal Strike not only met all my expectations but it melted my inner marshmallow with the evolved hero, Miles. It’s been easy to love gentle Miles over the series as he assisted the McClouds with his high tech wizardry and suffered at the hands of McCloud in-law, the slutty Cindy, who would always cheat on him until he cut her loose. But the final showdown in One Wrong Move left Miles in a coma after brutal torture with psi-powers and he has emerged a changed man.

In his opinion, it’s not been a change for the better. His psi-ability is now off the charts, and while he has invented an elaborate shield in his mind in an attempt to initially protect himself (and now to control his ability), he nevertheless is constantly being fed physical and environmental data that has elevated him from techno-geek to official badass, finally unleashing all the skills the McClouds have attempted to teach him for his own protection over the years.

The only thing that makes him feel better as he lives in the wild and hide from his friends is when the image of Lara Kirk – the woman Miles searched for over the course of months and never found – slips right through his defenses and comes to visit. She’s a beautiful dream and one so erotic that their encounters exceed any actual physical sex he’s ever had, but she’s also a symbol of how crazy he’s become and her recurring presence has him pondering how long he has before his friends have to commit him to a mental hospital.

One Wrong Move (McClouds & Friends #9) by Shannon McKenna (Kensington, June 2013)

A major wrinkle in his thinking is that Lara is not a dream. By focusing on her over all those months of searching, Miles unknowingly created a back door for her to enter his mental refuge and his shield is just that – a refuge of safety – to Lara as well. She’s being held and tortured with psi-drugs developed by a man bent on “saving humanity” from itself, and part of that plan appears to be unleashing Lara’s powers. She doesn’t know who the erotic sex god who occupies this lovely Citadel is exactly, but he’s the only thing that helps her cling to sanity.

It’s only when a series of events reveals to each of them that this isn’t fantasy – the realization which helps Miles free Lara from her prison – that their dream world becomes a living nightmare. Because even with their strong psychic connection and intense physical attraction, a man continues to stalk them, bent on using both of them to kill thousands if not millions of people.

Is there anything sexier than the geek turned total alpha hottie? (Don’t answer. That was a rhetorical question.) Of course not! Miles, who we know is a love of a guy, is so damaged and yet trying to do the right thing even when no one around him understands, that your heart breaks right at the beginning of this book. I found myself clinging to Lara as much as Miles did because I understood that to each of these broken people, the other person was going to be their refuge and their salvation.

McKenna’s ebook bundles of the early books in the series are terrific deals in your local library isn’t carrying them (or you just want them on your ereader!).

Lara was a terrific heroine who had just as pure a heart as Miles and yet whose fragility masks intense strength, even when she wasn’t ready to see it herself. I love it that she always called Miles on his bullshit (McKenna never writes a hero who doesn’t at some point turn into a complete asshole – for good reasons in his head, but still) and that she could love him even when she was angry at his behavior. There are a few scenes that make you want them both to see a therapist, but they are luckily the work of the situation and hardly a permanent dynamic. McKenna also possess a real talent for the three-dimensional villain, who has you understanding his twisted motives even while you’re busy hating his nefarious plans.

I’m sure with Fatal Strike the tenth book in this long-running series some readers might be hesitant about jumping in. Don’t be. McKenna has the talent of writing each of her books in such a way that while you recognize other characters clearly have their own back story, you do not need to have read those books in order to appreciate the novel in question. Fans of the series will love the appearance of so many of the previous couples and their burgeoning families, however, with their presence much more visible than in One Wrong Move.

It’s worth mentioning that McKenna has bundles of the first books in the series available for ereaders, with the first five going for under $15 or the first seven books costing a smidgen over $20, both excellent deals as her books run in the 350 to 400 page range. I think readers who love paranormal psychic storylines and/or lovers of romantic suspense will both find so much to admire and enjoy in Shannon McKenna’s McClouds & Friends series. Walk don’t run to your bookseller or library to pick up a copy!

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