Review: It Had to Be You (Lucky Harbor, Book 7) by Jill Shalvis

it had to be youHeroine: Have you ever been broken up with by a text message? Well, Ali Winters sure has. When trying to give him a piece of her mind, she finds out her boyfriend, Teddy, has been cheating. When had they gone from being together to being roommates? Now he’s claiming she stole money from his office during a fundraising event and the whole town believes him. To top it all off, she’s about to be kicked out of her house, because the cheating louse of a boyfriend didn’t tell her the lease was up until it was too late.

Hero: Detective Lieutenant Luke Hanover returns to his hometown after a particularly nasty case with a three-ring media circus. He’s going to use the downtime to fix up his house and discovers Ali Winters naked inside. What’s going on and why is this female in his home? She’s an interloper! When she tells him what is going on, he finds himself doing the one thing he was certain he wasn’t going to do – investigate. But he can’t not help!

Review: Luke is a great alpha hero – he’s a gogetter, tough, strong, kind, and tender. He plays the role without being an overbearing blockhead in the process. Ali is also tough. For a gal that was dumped, homeless, losing a job, and about to be arrested for something she didn’t do, she kept herself pretty together. She didn’t give up even when she was feeling really down. And when it gets to be too much, Luke is there to pick her up. For two people who see the end coming before they start, they find they can’t help themselves. Then they find they are both willing to do what it takes to make it stick. Hot!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: It Had to Be You (Lucky Harbor)

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Review: Murder, Mayhem & Mama by Christie Craig

murder mayhem and mamaReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Calie McKay is in Hopeful, Texas. She’s a teacher and her mother recently passed away. Her boyfriend, Stan, isn’t very sympathetic. Detective Brit Lowell works in the Hopeful’s Homicide Division. He’s currently working the graveyard shift.

One night Cali comes home and Stan’s not there. When she goes to sleep her mother fits prominently in her dream. You would think with the title Christie used that it might be a little dark but it has some quirky moments – not to give too much away but “I hear dead people”.

I think that this book would make a great murder mystery movie. Christie gives us the dark side of murder. We get to see how the police department works to solve the murders that have occurred. And she makes us laugh a little when we see the ghostly side of the story. We would need actors that can be serious one moment, make us laugh the next, and then talk to people they cannot see. Who would you choose to play the parts?

There was one scene that just started getting to the interesting part and then we cut to another scene. You’re left wondering “what happened, what happened!” But this is what makes a great page turner. We have to keep reading so that we can see what’s going to happen next.

Christie shows her readers how officers feel, and act, after one of their own has been killed. This hit home for me after one of our area towns had an officer that was killed in the line of duty. And as I read this story, I’m reminded how my own mother passed away several years ago. I would like to think that she’s somewhere looking after me.

One thing that I found a little predictable, probably from watching too many cop shows on TV, was how the cops believe that somehow Cali is involved with what is going on. Brit surprised me too when there were times he could be romantic. He seemed like such a jerk. You’ll love the nickname that Cali gave him.

I have read some other of Christie’s work and this is another good one. Her story flows right from the beginning. She makes us think that guardian angels are possible. It also shows that our men, and women, in blue go through a lot to protect us. If you get this read within the next couple of months, you will be ready for her blog tour that starts toward the end of August. If you visit her web site, http://www.christie-craig.com/, you will find out what book will be involved with the tour.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Murder, Mayhem and Mama

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Review: Demonically Tempted (Frostbite, Book 2) by Stacey Kennedy

DemonicallyTemptedReviewed by Susan S.

A riveting story that’s freaky-creepy good! I haven’t rooted this much for star-crossed lovers since reading Romeo and Juliet’s sonnets. Let’s hope that Kipp and Tess circumnavigate tragedy and defy all odds…soon!

Summary: Frostbite Series, Book Two Tess Jennings (heroine) is working with Memphis police detectives on a decade old cold case. Because of her “special” gifts, she’s an invaluable member of the police department. Tess can see and communicate with ghosts. Discarnates popping in on her may be a constant annoyance occurrence, but at least it’s an expected one. Now a malevolent demon? That, that’s completely unexpected!

Yes. There’s a great deal on her plate. Her ghost lover (Kipp) is missing, she needs to banish a demon, and let’s not forget- locate a girl who’s been dead for 10 years. Can Tess do all of the above? But can she do it without being…demonically possessed?

Review: I’m going to begin at the end. Those of us, who’ve read Supernaturally Kissed, are going to have a jaw-dropping reaction to book two’s ending. Talk about leading me down that garden path. Clever! Very clever. I can’t wait to see how the author plans to tie up that loose end, or if she ever will. We can only hope!

Demonically Tempted may be darker than book one, but no less wonderful. Stacey Kennedy gives me that soap opera feeling. I liked what happened this time, but oh my gosh! What’s going to happen next?

Recommendations: This novel will attract readers who loved the supernatural TV drama Medium and the show Paranormal State. It’ll call to those who walk the darker streets of paranormal romances. And if you ever saw the movie Constantine and loved it-then you really must read this novel. It includes suspense, mystery, and it’s sure to give you plenty of fear-inducing piloerections.

Disclaimer: I received this novel free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Others in the Series:

Supernaturally Kissed (Frostbite, Book One)

What’s Next?

Mystically Bound- Book Three (Fall 2012)

Book trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXL2rueMVpg

Review-O-Meter Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Demonically Tempted (Frostbite)

Self published, Copyright 2012, Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance, eBook, 167 Pages, ASIN# B007TB5ZF8, ISBN# 978-1-4763-4187-3.

Review: Accused (Pacific Coast Justice Series, Book 1) by Janice Cantore

Reviewed by Susan S.

Accused is a powerhouse of suspense!

Summary: Pacific Coast Justice Series-Book One As a law enforcement officer, C. Edwards, has always upheld the law and followed her agency’s protocols. And prior to becoming a divorcée, she was also the faithful wife. No one would categorize Carly’s life as perfect, but at least it has a semblance of stability. Now all that’s about to change!

As Carly searches for answers regarding who murdered Mayor Teresa Burke, she’ll uncover deeply protected secrets. Secrets those in power would kill to keep. With body counts rising, Carly will find herself in a race to stay alive! She never would’ve guessed it, but she’ll have to rely on the two people she’s been avoiding the most. Her ex-husband (Nick) and God.

Review: Janice Cantore is a new-to-me author. And the first thing that impressed me was the flow of the story. Everything flowed perfectly! There were no abrupt and jarring scene changes. It was one continuous smooth storytelling. Secondly, the suspense is top-notch. Furthermore, as a former police officer, Cantore’s uniform dispatch signals were accurate. As a civilian, I also found her descriptions of police procedures insightful.

Recommendations: Recommended for readers who enjoy police stories and inspirational tales of faith and hope.

What I Enjoyed:

Element: I liked the police officers’ sobriquets: Carly is Crash, Joe is Control, and Nick is Face.

Scene: There’s a scene where an officer risks his life for another. I wept copiously! I wouldn’t say I used an entire box of tissues, but it was close!

Extras: After the story there’s an author interview; that was a novel element.

Disclaimer: I requested this novel from NetGalley because of my interest in police stories.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Accused (Pacific Coast Justice)

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Copyright 2012, Literature & Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, Religion & Spirituality, Romance, ISBN-13# 978-1-4143-5847-5, Pages 416.

Review: Heartwishes by Jude Deveraux

Reviewed by Susan S.

Edilean Series: Book Six

Heartwishes combines a charming setting with an intriguing plot, and then sprinkles it with a magical feel; presenting you with a comfort read you just can’t put down.

Summary: Gemma Ranford, heroine, was hired to piece together the family history for one of Edilean’s founding families-The Fraziers. Gemma relishes reading documents dating back to sixteenth century England. Perhaps working for Mrs. Frazier will help her decide on a dissertation topic.

As Ranford’s research progresses, two things will occur. She’ll uncover documents relating to a magical stone, and acknowledge her growing desire for the Frazier’s eldest son and Edilean’s sheriff, Colin. A professional thief now means to acquire the Heartwishes Stone; placing Gemma in harm’s way. But what about the repercussions of her involvement with her employer’s son? There’s the wrath of Colin’s former-maybe-current girlfriend (Jean), the possibility of being unemployed, disappointing Mrs. Frazier, losing credence with her adviser, not to mention, giving the town gossipmongers a new topic of discussion. Gemma has only one question to answer. Is love worth everything she’s risking?

Review: Heartwishes is the first novel I’ve read from the Edilean Series. I enjoyed it so much- my next course of action is to read Scarlet Nights. Would it have anything to do with the hero being a detective, and my loving novels with law enforcement officers? Don’t look at me! I’m not telling.

Because Heartwishes causes flare-ups of can’t-stop-reading-itis, I’m recommending you drink at least one heavily caffeinated drink “before” reading this novel. The most common symptom of my can’t-stop-reading-itis is the what ifs curiosity. And boy, did I suffer into the wee hours of the night. What if the antagonist finds the Heartwishes Stone? What if it really does have magical properties? What if Jean hurts Gemma in a jealous rage? Then again, what if Colin hurts Dr. Aldredge because of his own blinding jealousy? After all, the good ol’ doctor isn’t old at all. He’s gorgeous, smart, has dark black hair, blue eyes, and likes Gemma very much. All right, I’m being too polite. He’s freakin’ hot!

My Favorite Characters: Dr. Tristan Aldredge and Shamus Frazier

Why? Because Tristan is freakin’ hot. Lol. Actually, he’s also very attentive to people’s needs, is a great listener, can help you when you’re sick, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes.

Colin’s youngest brother, the artist, has real depth. He’s a young man with few words and a big compassionate heart. I fell in love with him. Instantly!

Favorite Scenes:

Number 1: Colin’s dad is at home in Virginia, while his mom is in California visiting her daughter, Ariel. They find out Shamus is missing and they call Colin at the same time. One’s on the cell, the other is on the home phone. Colin places both phones together so they can scream at each other (while they pass the blame).

Number 2: When Tristan kisses Gemma in front of Colin.

Number 3: (The kitchen scene). Gemma’s in the kitchen hiding. When one by one, the Frazier men make their way into the kitchen. She gives them mashed potato lollipops. (Think what happens when you swirl a spoon into mashed potatoes.) All’s well until Mrs. Frazier discovers them and proceeds to berate them.

Others in the Series:

  1. Scarlet Nights
  2. Days of Gold
  3. Lavender Morning
  4. Promises Novella by Vook
  5. The Scent of Jasmine

Review-O-Meter Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Heartwishes: An Edilean Novel (Edilean Book 6)

Atria Books, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., Copyright 2011, Hardcover, Print Pages 363, Contemporary Romantic Fiction, ISBN-13# 978-1-4391-0800-0.

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Review: Her Biggest Fan by Sharon Donovan

by Susan S., guest reviewer

Summary: Heroine, Tess Kincaid, is a NY Times bestselling author; who’s inherited her late father’s New England estate. Tess is looking forward to leaving all her worries behind. Especially those involving a threatening letter. It was written by someone claiming to be “her biggest fan.” But enough of the past, on to the future. A New England future! One which seems a whole lot brighter with Sheriff Mike Andretti next door. Mike (hero) has country charm, a stallion tattoo (not saying where), and a great ass! Told you! Whole…lot…brighter!

That is, until everyone begins to question Kincaid’s sanity. She sees fires which don’t exist, claims the movie projector turns itself on, and that someone planted anti-psychotic pills in her purse. Could the death of her father have caused her to snap? Or is it the obsessed fan wanting her to lose her head? (Figuratively and literally)!

Review: If you’re not familiar with Donovan’s writing, let me say this, “They have a very Hitchcock-y feel to them.” For readers who enjoy suspense, thrillers, and romantic suspense, that’s a plus. Sharon also has impending doom down to an art form. In the scene where Tess is hospitalized for a mental evaluation, you can feel the heroine’s distress and desperation. Extremely well written.

Preferences: Mike uses the endearment darlin’ in his conversations with Tess. I’d`ve preferred the hero mix it up a bit; adding angel or sweetheart sporadically.

Favorite Scenes:

Number 1: I loved when Tess’s grieving dam breaks, and she’s screaming to her late father. All her pent-up anger, confusion, and utter pain just burst forth.

Number 2: When Tess and Mike make breakfast together. It shows how wonderfully they relate to one another.

Comedic Touch: Sir Galahad (Mike’s talking bird). Loved him!

Disclosure: I won Her Biggest Fan in an online contest. Didn’t have to review it/ wasn’t asked to review it/simply wanted to.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Her Biggest Fan (Men in Uniform), Her Biggest Fan (UK)

The Wild Rose Press, First Crimson Rose Edition, Copyright 2010, Suspense, Print Pages 268. ISBN# 1-60154-813-3.

Review: White Heat by Brenda Novak

by Susan S., guest reviewer

Case Number ISBN-13# 978- 0-7783-2795-0

Organization Name: Department 6

Specializations: Undercover assignments

Female Agent: Rachel Jessop, heroine.

New Identity: Mrs. Rachel Mott

Male Agent: Nate Ferrentino, hero.

New Identity: Mr. Nate Mott

Assignment: 1. Discover any illegal activity within commune. 2. Find missing girl, Courtney Sinclair. 3. Infiltrate religious cult named Church of the Covenant.

Cult Leader: Ethan Wycliff a.k.a the Holy One.

Then: Six months ago, Rachel dipped her pen in company ink; once. And ever since, her boss Nate has kept the company ink under lock and key. She’s humiliated enough, but Rachel’s got a job to do and innocents to save. This mission will have her working closely with Nate. She’ll have to like it or lump it. Looks like, she’ll be lumping it.

Now: They’ll have to endure a ten hour car drive from L.A. to Paradise, Arizona…with no A/C. She can ignore him, sleep with him…again, or throttle him. What’s a girl to do with an ex-Navy SEAL, who’s over 6’ tall, has green eyes, and 210 lbs. of delicious muscle? I mean, what would you do?

Possible Outcomes: This assignment has the potential for disaster written all over it.

Plan B: There is no plan B, lives are at stake!

Underlying Theme: Betrayal. This novel draws to mind a Latin phrase from a Shakespearean tragedy. When Julius Caesar utters, “Et tu, Brute?” A key player will commit…the ultimate betrayal.

Content warning: m/f and some m/m elements. Not for the faint-of-heart! Contains a ritualistic rape scene I found disturbing. Mind you, Novak only implies what happens. Had she actually detailed the occurrence, I’d feel even more perturbed.

Further commentary: I’d’ve used only one Charles Manson reference.

Well written: Has nail biting suspense! Bravo on the dialogue challenges between hero/heroine and Abby, a young deaf girl. Novak expertly conveys the desperation Nate and Rachel feel when trying to decipher Abby’s signing; which hold vital clues regarding the life within the commune. You’ll fear for Rachel’s safety, and feel how the suspense crescendoed- once Rachel is initiated as a Covenanter.

White Heat is the first installment from Brenda Novak’s Department 6 Trilogy.

Recommendations: Pick up a copy if you generally read romantic suspense, or suspense/thrillers. You won’t be disappointed, if you grab novels hoping to find one with a happily-ever-after. White Heat has one.

Rating: 4 Badges

MIRA, 2010, Contemporary Romantic Suspense, eBook pages 442.
Case Number ISBN-13# 978-0-7783-2795-0.

Next Assignment: If your jonesing for another suspense fix, Body Heat, Novak’s second Department 6 book is coming soon. Should release within the next month.

Buy: White Heat

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My Writing Hats

by Julia Spencer-Fleming, guest blogger and author of One Was a Soldier

I wear two hats while writing. I have more hats, of course – there’s my publishing business hat (a sensible wool newsboy cap) and my mom-of-three hat (comes with safety pins, folding money and a spare set of keys stuck in the brim.) But I have two writing hats.

One of them is charcoal-gray checked fedora. That’s the hat I wear when I’m considering what evil is going to arrive in the little Adirondack town of Millers Kill. I pull the brim low over my eyes and chew my lip while I trace a tangle of motives and opportunities and selfishness and desperation. I tip it back to appear smart while describing lividity and ballistics and blood spatter reports and investigative techniques. I hold on tight to the crown, following the members of the 8-officer police force as they chase down clues and suspects and false leads.

My other hat is a dove chiffon number with a huge brim and a sweeping veil. I wear that hat while watching the town’s police chief bring coffee to the ordained woman he knows he can never have. I let it shade me from the heat of the minster’s passion for justice, and mercy – and a married man. I toss the veil over my shoulder as I walk beside the two not-quite-lovers, their conversation frank and open, their hearts hidden away.

Lots of folks in publishing want authors to be one-hat wonders. It’s easier to categorize – ie, sell – someone who only ever wears a spacesuit helmet. Or a frivolous fascinator. And there are lots of writers who are just more comfortable with their well-worn stetson or deerstalker. They don’t want to go messing with the fantastical, or – God forbid! – the romantic.

But romance authors and romance readers seem to delight in tossing hats on and off. Which, I suspect, is why they’ve been so welcoming to my Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series. When I slide from a police procedural to a love story or from a thriller to a slice of small-town-life, they’re happy to follow along. Thank heavens for that. I can’t imagine writing a novel from just one perspective – while wearing just one hat. As a reader, I love to have my romance charged up with action and suspense, and my crime fiction swept away with a stirring love story. Like this:

She was coasting down Depot Street, gritting her teeth every time she had to accelerate, when the cruiser swung in behind her. Its lights came on. She sighed, signaled, and rolled to the curb. Russ got out. She cranked the window down as he strode toward her. She looked up into his face, set in grim lines. “What seems to be the problem, officer?”

“What the hell were you thinking?” His eyes were hot and hard. “You didn’t know who that woman was. For all you knew, she could’ve had a gun. She could’ve been mentally ill. She could’ve­” he banged his fist against the edge of her door, starting her in her seat. “God, Clare.” He shook his head. “Lean forward.”

“Why?”

“Eric said you scraped up your back.”

“It’s not that bad.” She dropped her head against the edge of the steering wheel, too tired and achy to argue.

He sucked in a breath. “Oh, darlin’.” He glanced at his unit. “Can you drive?”

“Of course I can drive. I was driving home when you stopped me. Probably would have been there by now.” Lord, she sounded like a five year old who’d missed her nap.

He gave her a look. “You were straddling the center line, going ten miles below the speed limit.”

“Oh.”

“How’s your ankle?”

“Eric gave you the whole report, did he?”

“Just tell me,” he said patiently.

“It hurts,” she admitted.

“Okay. I’m going off duty. I’m going to follow you back to the rectory. If it gets too hard to use the accelerator, pull over and I’ll drive you the rest of the way home.”

“Russ…”

“Clare…”

She threw in the flag. Pulling into the rectory drive, she stumbled out of the Jeep to discover that her ankle, swollen and purpling, now resembled an overripe eggplant.

“Stay there.” Russ crossed her drive in three steps and scooped her up in his arms.

“I do not need to be carried into my own house.”

He huffed. “Anybody ever tell you you’re too damn independent for your own good?” He trudged up the steps to her kitchen door. She angled toward the door and unlatched it.

“I’m impressed.” He lugged her into the kitchen, kicking the door closed behind him. “Didn’t think you knew how to lock doors.” He glanced at her ancient refrigerator, wheezing in the corner. “That ankle needs ice.”

“I have a wrap in the freezer. But what I really want is a shower.” Her hair was stiff with sweet tea and her skin was layered in sweat and alley dirt.

Russ sniffed at her. “Good idea.”

“Oh, my hero. You can just let me on down now.”

What hats do you wear as a writer? As a reader?

Julia Spencer-Fleming is the Agatha and Anthony-award-winning author of the upcoming One Was A Soldier, the seventh Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter.

One Was A Soldier is available for preorder at: Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-A-Million Borders Powell’s Books and your locally owned independent bookstore.

Letters to a Soldier, with exclusive content and an excerpt from One Was A Soldier is a free download at Amazon.

Buy: One Was a Soldier: A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery (Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries)