Avid reader/reviewer and editor. I don't pull punches when I review, love it or hate it, you get what I think.
I did something with this fourth book in the Gabriel's Inferno series that I haven't done in quite some time. I finished the book, then I sat back and stewed about it for a while. Then I stewed about it some more. I enjoyed the first three books in the series, and while it took me a bit in the first book to warm up to the contrariness that is Gabriel, warm up, I did, and I liked this couple together. Julia has this way of giving in to Gabriel while somehow, still getting her own way, and there is no doubt of his dedication to her. That dedication takes on a new element with Gabriel's Promise. This pair is learning to be parents, and they're both completely devoted to baby Clare. Gabriel, Julia, and Clare are just the sweetest family, and of course, we get lots of extended family as everyone gathers round to welcome the new baby, which means some catching up with favorites from the series. Of course, there's a bit of angst with some secrets between our couple, but if you're familiar with the series, and you really should be before starting this one, then a few disagreements between these two won't be enough to do them in. Instead, we get some danger by way of a mystery character, one who may or may not be from Gabriel or Julia's past. This is where I ran into problems, and it's what brought about my stewing. What it boils down to is that the conclusion for this book is kind of open-ended, and it feels a little unfinished to me. Now, I don't know if there are plans for another book in the series. Honestly, I expected this to be the finale for this couple, but now, I'm not so sure. If there is another book in the works, the unfinished ending along with unanswered questions would make sense because the series has been a continuing story. But, if this is the last book, I feel like the author took the easy way out with the suspense angle here. I really expected so much more, especially after a certain big thing happened. It really had great potential, but it ended up being a little like a secondary storyline just to have the mystery included, and it starts to fizzle after that above mentioned big event. To sum it up, I loved getting to revisit this couple, but I wasn't sold on the suspense, especially with how it was left.
Husband Material is kind of a cross between RomCom and women's fiction, and I'm not sure it quite knew which it wanted to be. Dealing with the death of her husband, even five years after the fact, is emotional and heartbreaking, but it doesn't always come across that way. A lot of the book leans toward what I would call quirky and amusing, and there is certainly nothing amusing about grief at the loss of a spouse. The book is well written, and the characters are interesting, but I still struggled to get invested in the story, and I think it goes back to the serious subject matter with such an upbeat tone. I did start to come around about halfway through, and in the end, the story is worth the read, but be prepared for a slightly different take on what would normally be a very emotional read.
Theme Music has a brilliantly chilling start that had me all geared up for an equally chilling tale. And it does deliver on that in a lot of ways. The setting and atmosphere don't lack on the creep factor scale. Even though the house has been updated and seems to be in a good neighborhood, the writing and tone of the story give it an almost gothic feel.
The author has quite the imagination, and it is shared with us in graphic detail. The problem with that is I too have quite the imagination and most times, I can imagine it worse than a book can describe it. So, I usually find that less is more when it comes to the gory details. The gore and graphic details run rampant in this one, and while I would agree that those details were probably necessary to give us a good visual of the scene, it becomes repetitive all too quickly between Dixie's imagination and crime scene photos. Speaking of, I'm still trying to figure out why the detective, who is now retired, would've still had any files or photos from the scene, or why anyone related to the family would be given access. Wouldn't those have been part of a case file on record?
Anyway, back to those repetitive details - am I the only one who started getting really worried about Dixie's gag reflex? Seriously, about halfway through, I was already tired of Dixie's need to throw up or actually going through with it. There are other reactions to fear and turmoil, and I wouldn't have minded seeing a few of those in place of the all too frequent vomiting - freeze, pass out, freak out, scream your bloody head off, just do something other than throw up.
Despite all that, we do get some solid suspense reading with Theme Music. Is Dixie crazy? Is she haunted? Was someone else involved? All of those questions are bound to go through a reader's mind at least once while reading this one, and the author does get tricky with some of the happenings. We also have the equivalent of a couple of decent red herrings to wonder about as things progress along with some pretty good twists, especially in the last quarter or so of the book. There is also a supernatural element, which I didn't mind and felt like it worked with the story.
In the end, this one had things I liked and other things that I didn't, landing me firmly in the middle. I do think it was way longer than it needed to be, and with a bit of trimming down on the repetitiveness, this could easily have been a more entertaining and even creepier thriller. As I mentioned earlier, the author does have a great imagination and based on many things in this debut novel, I will be interested to see what she does next.
The Vanishing Season is an impressive debut from Joanna Schaffhausen, and an equally impressive series start. All too often lately, I've been sucked in by a great prologue only to be let down by what follows, but that was not a problem at all with this book. The mystery is suspenseful and kept me on my toes, the procedural part of the story was interesting and thought-provoking, and the characters were terrific - even the ones I didn't like. Our main characters, Ellery and Reed are both likable and even though I've never been in either's shoes, they were still relatable. Ellery makes for a great protagonist. She's stubborn, determined, and will stop at nothing to solve this case even when no one else thinks there is a case. Does she always make the right decisions? Not even close, and she's also a bit broken by her past and keeping secrets that could come back to bite her. She's got plenty of reason to keep secrets, and who wouldn't messed up by what she's been through. She lived through a nightmare and is still pushing through the other side. Reed is equally likable and also a little broken. His story tugs at the heartstrings as he deals with things in his personal life while also trying to help Ellery. I really liked Reeds chapters and the way his mind worked as they raced to find a killer before someone else could be taken. The mystery is laid out very well, and the author does give us a pretty good red herring or two as the story progresses. I did guess the killer's identity, but that didn't diminish my enjoyment of the story, and I will say that the author had me second-guessing myself more than once. All in all, this is a great start to the series, and I can't wait to see more of these characters.
Forever My Duke ended up being just okay for me. Granted, I don't read a lot of Regency romances these days, but based on my experience with the genre, this one didn't bring anything new to the table. I expected it to be unrealistic, and it is. So much so, that it kind of felt like a bunch of people pretending to be from that era. It has a rather slow start, and once the story gets going, it's terribly clichéd. Despite all that, I did rather like Hadrian and Natalie and had this been set in a more current time period, I would've loved this couple. Natalie is a bit too progressive for the time, which is one of the many issues I have with the setting. In the end, the story was somewhere in the fair to middlin' range for me. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. I suppose I just wanted more than the typical.
The Kill Club is dark and twisted and grabbed hold from the very beginning. This one is definitely a thriller with its many sit up and take notice scenes as we follow Jazz from one crazy situation to the next. Whether we should or not, it's easy to empathize with the vigilantes in this one, including Jazz and her determination to save Joaquin. The story does move at a fast pace with a steadily rising tension with the exception of a few lags here and there, and we also get a couple of solid twists. I'm usually pretty good at guessing the big bad in these types of stories, but I admit that I didn't see the big reveal coming, although looking back, I should have. We do have some hints if we're looking for them, but they aren't obvious by any means, and you have to think outside the box a bit to get there. I do think the story went on a bit longer than necessary after that reveal, and the extra twist at the end really wasn't needed. The book was already good, and the added twist at the end was just overkill in my opinion. Nevertheless, the story did hold my interest, and Jazz is a truly great character, one who is easy to like and root for. She's got a great sense of wit and sarcasm, and it shows up with perfect timing. In the end, this one did have a couple of issues with the lags and that extended ending, but I still enjoyed the thrill and would have to say that The Kill Club is my favorite book from Wendy Heard so far.
A new book by the author of the Dexter series? Absolutely, sign me up. Now, before I get into my thoughts on Just Watch Me, let me add that I haven't read the Dexter series, but I enjoyed the television series quite a lot. So, I suppose Riley Wolfe is supposed to be to thieves what Dexter was to serial killers? If so, something got lost in the translation for me because I didn't find anything likable about Riley. He is stealing from the rich and powerful who didn't exactly earn their money honestly, but I can't really say the same for the caper he's planning in this book. Nope, this is just because he's bored and wants a challenge, so why not attempt to steal the unstealable? Riley's talent for thievery reminds me a little of Neil from White Collar except for one thing - Neil was likable. Riley just isn't. Not even a little bit. Now, I have no problem with an unlikable main character, but I didn't find any of the characters in this one particularly likable. It's quite possible that I'm comparing apples to oranges with this book and the Dexter series, but if that's so, maybe it shouldn't have been used in the blurb. We're promised "a new, mesmerizing bad guy we can root for," and I didn't find that here.
As far as the storyline and writing style, Just Watch Me starts off well enough, and it certainly piqued my interest with the caper Riley pulls off. Sadly, it fizzled from there with some serious lags in the story. The dialogue is often stilted with way too many dialogue tags. The "he said" "she said" after almost every line in conversation was repetitive and tedious, especially when only two people were talking. In the end, this one left me underwhelmed at best, and with the lags in the story, I had a really hard time getting through it. With that, I think it's safe to say that I won't be continuing with the series.
Christmas in Silver Springs brings a bit of redemption and second chances. This one isn't really what I would consider a Christmas romance. It's Christmastime, but the romance is more about moving on and learning your own heart. I will say that I didn't much care for the timing on Harper's end. It reminded me of an old expression I heard once - the best way to get over one man is to find another. It was just too much like a rebound relationship. That said, Tobias is such a sweetheart that I couldn't help but root for him. He does have a jaded past, and I liked that the author didn't make him the victim in it all. He's paid for his mistakes, and he's only looking to get on with his life. Despite the bad timing on Harper's end, I still liked her. She had some stuff to work through and did the best she could with what she had. I may have started with reservations about it, but Brenda Novak certainly won me over with a romance that is just the right mix of sweet and sexy, and a couple that is thoroughly lovable, faults and all.
An Alaskan Christmas is more holiday adjacent than what I expect in a holiday romance. Nevertheless, the setting in Alaska always intrigues me, so I curled up to see where this one would go. I admit I had a bit of trouble getting into this romance mostly because it didn't feel much like a romance to me. Erika isn't very likable in the beginning, and I'm not sure if the back and forth between her and Reed is supposed to be fun banter or not, but I wasn't a fan. That said, she does redeem herself, and as the story goes on, the reason for her prickly nature is explained. The middle of the story is a bit more sex than substance, and I did end up skimming some of that. I have no problem with some steamy goodness, but this one was a bit of overkill for me. That said, the conclusion did win me over as far as rooting for this couple, and it's hard not to like Reed. He's much more considerate in the beginning than I felt like Erika deserved. In the end, there were things I liked, and things I didn't about this romance, but this couple did make for an interesting opposites attract romance.
Guilt, unrequited love, grief, family drama - all of that boils down to angst, lots and lots of angst. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing except when you have angst just for the sake of angst, and after a while, this started to feel that way. Nevertheless, we do have a sexy cowboy to swoon over, and Caleb is such a sweetheart. He's a little bit too guilt-ridden in my opinion, which holds him back, but he's still lovable, and it's hard not to want to see him get his happy ever after. Ellie made me a bit crazy with her back and forth. I get her reasons for being so gunshy, but the repetition of her inner monologue caused a few eye-rolls for me. The conclusion was the saving grace in Cowboy Christmas Redemption, and I have to hand it to Maisey Yates - that scene between our couple, once they have their epiphany, warms you all the way to your toes. In the end, this one had things I liked and things I didn't, but the story was definitely worth the read, and that conclusion leaves you with all the warm fuzzies a Christmas romance should.
I wasn't sure about this one at first. I definitely wasn't sure about Elizabeth, and it all felt a little depressing for a holiday romance. Nevertheless, the author pulled me in with the rich characters. Reservations or not, I wanted to know the answers, I wanted to understand why things happened the way they did and what would happen between Luke and Elizabeth. I won't go into details because almost anything more than what I've said will give spoilers, so I'll just say that it may not have started out with a holiday feel, but this one will certainly warm your heart as things play out. The characters are well-drawn and each one adds something to the charming town of Haven Point. It's impossible not to love Luke with his big heart and generous nature, and it was heartwarming to see that rub off on others throughout the story. Coming Home for Christmas is part of the Haven Point series, but it easily stands on its own, and now that I've read about these wonderful characters, I will be adding the earlier books to my to be read pile.
I've heard great things about Story of L, so I finally dove in and checked it out. Now, I don't pretend to understand a BDSM relationship, and I can't say that I would even consider some of things Liv so readily accepted. I will say that Debra Hyde does know how to set a scene, but that fine attention to detail is sometimes detrimental to the story. There's a fine line between giving a good visual and dragging it out a little too far, and sometimes, this one went over the edge. The story is - well, it's erotica, plain and simple. It's one woman's journey to complete submission. However, I would not consider this a romance. Oh, it generates plenty of steam, but sexual attraction and steamy goodness is lust, not love, and I don't feel like this one ever got deep enough with these characters to call it love. The book is okay for what it is, but I prefer a better connection between the characters, something more than just attraction. Basically, I wanted some substance, something to show that these two women are as compatible outside a BDSM scene as they are in one. So, if you're looking for FF BDSM erotica, this is it, but if you want some real story, I can't say that I found that here. In the end, Story of L was worth the read, but it isn't something I would revisit.
Unmanageable is the second book in the Forbidden Cove series but can be read as a standalone. It is a bit similar to the first book, at least in terms of the romance or lack thereof. Veronica and Brian do seem to do a lot of talking, and there is certainly chemistry, but chemistry and sexual attraction don't necessarily equal love and romance. These two just didn't seem very compatible to me. Veronica is a hard character to like, and I'm not really sure that I ever really got there with her. She comes across as self-centered, selfish, and judgmental, and just when I would start to think there was more to her, she'd do or say something else that just frustrated me to no end. She had reason for some issues, but instead of making her more relatable, she acted like the whole world revolved around her. On the flip side, Brian is just a genuinely likable guy. He's warm and friendly, and an all-around good guy. He does have a secret, but the big reveal of that secret was a bit blown out of proportion in my opinion. It really had nothing to do with Veronica or the relationship, and it felt like her response was just angst for the sake of angst. In the end, this one was just okay for me. I really wanted more depth in the relationship, and maybe a more likable main character.
Remember all those great meet-cutes from the movies? Well, we get to see them all again in Would Like to Meet, only those scenarios don't work out quite the same way for our main character, Evie, as they did on the big screen. Some are hilarious and some are downright cringe-worthy, but the one thing Evie's meet-cutes have in common is they all come together for an over-the-top bit of escapism. This story is not at all realistic, and it's packed with almost every cliché you can name in chick lit and romantic comedy. It's also quite predictable, and all of those things combined would usually be something I would scoff at, but in this story and with these characters, it all just worked. The story is fast-paced and just plain fun. The only drawback in this one is the lack of romance. It's not hard to figure out who Evie will end up with, and there are some hints at romance here and there, but I really wanted more on that front. The characters are what really made this book for me. Clichéd or not, the characters each have their own distinctive personalities. They aren't just window dressing. And my favorite would have to be young Annette, who stole the show every single time she appeared on the page. So, over-the-top? Absolutely. Clichéd? Yep. Predictable? You betcha. Nevertheless, Rachel Winters' debut novel kept me turning pages and laughing out loud from start to finish. This wonderfully witty tale is perfect for curling up and forgetting the real world for a while, and I'll be interested to see what this author does next.
A Cowboy Like You pretty much falls in line with the rest of the Heart of Texas series in terms of my feelings about the book. The story has some things I like and some I don't, landing me somewhere in the middle. The suspense is pretty good, and domestic violence is a serious topic when the main focus is supposed to be a romance. And that's where I started running into problems with this one. Not the domestic violence topic, I'm all for shedding light on a subject that was only whispered about for way too long. However, the romance in this one came up sorely lacking for me. I get that Skylar and Danny already knew each other, but it's not like they saw each other every day either. There should have been some getting to know each other time before they were madly in love. And speaking from experience, Skylar should not have been so willing to trust, especially while everything was still going on. The love story here just didn't ring true. The ending felt a bit rushed also, but when you consider the romance, it fits. In the end, this one was just okay for me.
Weekend Fling is a terrific mix of sweet, funny, angsty, and well, it's just plain good! Trey and Willow are so good together that it's impossible not to root for them. Willow has more than her fair share of problems to deal with, and Trey is one of those good guys who is genuinely just that, a good guy. He's also got just the right amount of stubborn to keep going after what he wants. The story does have its emotional moments and not just with the romance. It touches on a hard topic for many to discuss, and the author handled it very well while still keeping this couple and their love story at the forefront. This newest addition to Stacey Lynn's A Crazy Love series does stand on its own while still giving readers a chance to catch up with some past favorites. That said, this couple is my favorite in the series. The story is well-written, the romance is sexy and sweet, and the characters are engaging and thoroughly lovable.