Review: Smoking Ruin by D.R. Martin

smoking ruinReviewed by Karin

This book was quite a read and quite different. I liked it a lot.

It is not a typical romantic suspense. It is higher on the suspense level and the who-dun-it is hidden until the last pages. I guessed the right character(s) fairly early on, but I didn’t guess the whole of it or the why of it.

And it is extremely well written, lots of wonderful color, lots of great descriptions that never got old, very good character development. And a mystery with increasing danger and perhaps two intertwined or intersecting plots.

Minneapolis PI Marta Hjelm is the main character as well as the voice of the book. She is at the edge of burnout because of losing a woman to her abusive husband a year before. She and her live-in/live-out boyfriend have just argued over whether she should give it up (he’s a photographer) and when they argue to that level, he goes to his brother’s house, which is where he is for nearly the entire book, although the two interact. Any sex, and there’s not a lot, takes place off page. But there is definitely love.

Out of the blue Marta’s ex-husband shows up and offers her a job with an advertising company. This doesn’t set well with the boyfriend, as you can imagine. Considering she really wants nothing to do with him, why she lets him in and why she accepts the job (the money to help her and her boyfriend with his photography business) — even she can’t figure it out.

And before you know it, her life is in danger — and the lives of others also. It seems like there is a terrorist plot against the advertising company.

In many ways, it’s a setup, and not just for Marta.

Very clever book — there was one word I’d never heard of and a couple that aren’t used very often.

It was a good read. I’d like a second.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Smoking Ruin

Review: Don’t Mess with Texas by Christie Craig

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Main characters are Nikki Hunt, artist and art gallery owner. Dallas O’Connor, private investigator and owner of Don’t Mess with Texas Private Investigations.

We first see Nikki going to meet her ex-husband Jack. Jack happens to be a lawyer – a very stuffy lawyer. They meet for dinner at a very fancy restaurant. We see how Nikki just wants to piss him off. Jack leaves and it appears that he’s left Nikki to pay the bill. We see how much luck Nikki has! Then she finds something in the trunk of her car and gets sick in the process.

Dallas owns his own business and has two partners, Tyler and Austin. Dallas has a brother, Tony, that works for the police department. You’ll see that Dallas likes to fight for the underdogs of the world.

This is where our suspense begins. You will love how Nikki and Dallas meet – it is unusual to say the least. You will see that Christie loves to add humor into her story – even at times that you think the moment should be somber. You’ll also love Dallas’ dog. He gives us a lot to laugh about – seeing what he’s going to do next will make you want to turn the page.

I noticed that there is an “ex’s” theme going on in this story. Dallas and Nikki each have an ex and Tony is close to having an ex. But you find that you will keep your fingers crossed that Tony and his wife LeAnn will get back together.

You have to feel sorry for Nikki. Her luck is just about nonexistent. She’s broke, she’s being framed for murder, and she finds out that a good friend has been badly injured. What else can happen to her? She needs something good to come along – something to change her luck.

Christie does a great job of depicting Dallas’ brother, Tony, as a police officer. He would fit right in on a series like “Law and Order” (think a hunky Lenny Briscoe). Tony acts like the tough cop but he has a soft and sensitive side – especially where his wife is concerned.

Christie puts a different spin on the suspense. You usually expect to find the suspense dark but this book is more like reading a comedy. If you like her humor, you will definitely love the beginning of chapter 14. At the end of one of her funny moments comes Dallas’ and Nikki’s first kiss. They share a really hot kiss, but then in true romance novel fashion, Nikki puts a stop to it.

I’m impressed how Christie has made Dallas a nurturer – he takes care of people. First it’s a kid being wrongfully accused and now Nikki. But Nikki has her doubts and those doubts keep getting in her way – “once burned, twice shy”. Nothing in this story seems forced it all flows from one chapter to the next. You will not want to put it down.

If you’re looking for a book with a lot of sex, you won’t find it here. There is just the right amount but I think the book would have been fine even without it – using just hints and innuendo. This is a definite must read and watch out for book 2 – Tyler’s story “Blame it on Texas”.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Don’t Mess with Texas

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Review: Face of Danger by Roxanne St. Claire

by Cara Lynn, guest reviewer

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Roxanne St. Claire, but it won’t be my last.  She keeps you hopping as you figure out the twists and turns.

OK, I confess, I read the ending at some point before I finish the book.  And then I reread it when I get to it.  So, for that reason, having a print copy is nicer than having it for my Kindle, because it is easier for me to do that.

Here’s the scoop: Vivi Angelino is a private investigator with her own company.  She is good at what she does, and she comes across as a brass and ballsy woman with heart.  We first meet her at a skateboarding park that she helped get built.  She tends to mask her femininity — can you guess why? Sure you can.

Colton Lang is an assistant special agent who has worked with Vivi in the past.  He lost his fiance in a case gone bad, so he is trying to protect himself from ever feeling such hurt again.

Oh yeah, and did I mention they are drawn to each other.  This is a romantic suspense novel after all.

The case: Colt has an opportunity to move ahead if he goes to LA, and wouldn’t you know it, Vivi is doing her best to get a case in the same town.  Someone is murdering academy award winners, and Vivi just happens to look a lot like one of the future ones, if she has the right hair/wig/walk/etc.  She offers to be a body double.  And wouldn’t you know, Colt is assigned the same case, because it appears there might be a serial killer.

But the non-disclosure clause is not something anyone in their right mind would ever sign.  No, no, no.  It was definitely stacked in the actress’ favor.

The action: Right off the bat, Vivi is in a lot more danger than she expected.  And lucky for her, Colt is able to save her.

Peripheral characters: Everybody should have a family like the Angelinos.  They’ve got your back.

And the characters surrounding Cara, the actress, my namesake, are equally well drawn — her sister, the housekeeper, the assistant…

The location: It reads somewhat like a gothic romance.  Creepy house.  Creepy secret passageways.  Creepy housekeeper.  Creepy assistant.  Strange sister.

Other aspects
, warning: No story is complete nowadays without some sort of PC type story line.  This one includes date rape and rape (both off the page and in the past.)  Also, an assorted murder or two. And it includes human trafficking of children, of the worst sort, mostly off the page.  Human trafficking seems to be the storyline of the times.  Now if it would only push us to work to stop it altogether.  In this book it didn’t seem to be gratuitous; it worked in the story line.  IRL you would not want to meet these characters even in a bright alley.

And the sex: Oh yeah, did I mention the sex is hot.  H~O~T.  Where is Colt when you need him.  (Well, y’all, you know this is why we read this!)

Personally, I always think sex scenes in the bath tub, in water anywhere, are kind of funny.  Yes, they read sexy, but IRL, they don’t execute so well.  And girls, you know what I mean, if you’ve ever done it that way.

Nonetheless, we suspend reality for these books and for good reason.

Now where’s my next St. Claire book?

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Face of Danger (Guardian Angelinos)

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Review: The Curse of A Mind by Destiny Booze

by Sharon S., guest reviewer

This story has kind of stumped my brain. I wanted to love it. There are parts that I really enjoyed. I was riveted by the suspense and action as our heroine, Chris, hunts for a killer while he is picking off her team one by one. The romance between Chris and her client, the smexy Aidan Wolfe, is woven nicely into the action. The secondary characters were well developed and I liked them. The author addresses domestic violence and autism and does an excellent job of showing how these things can affect a family.

There were some things I had a problem with. Our heroine, Chis, is too damaged. It is like the author came up with a list of all the bad stuff she could throw at this poor girl and all sorts of negative character traits and decided to use it all. I really didn’t like her in the beginning of the book.

I had the biggest problem with the villain. I understand the author was trying to show us how the loss of a child and the need for vengeance can warp someone’s mind. I think she meant to make us somewhat sympathetic to his plight, but I couldn’t do it. His actions at the end of the book weren’t true to the character that was being presented to us (trying not to give anything away ). I also didn’t like the POV of the villain. He talked to the reader. It didn’t work for me.

The author seemed disconnected from her characters for the first quarter of the story. The prose was flat and I had thoughts of putting it down. I am glad I stuck with it, because the writing improved and it turned into a great thriller. If you separate out the elements of the story they are wonderful, but the pieces didn’t work together for me. So I am going to give this book two ratings (I hope this is allowed )

2 Stars for the writing
3.5 Stars for the plot and suspense

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: The Curse of a Mind

Review: Legend of the White Wolf by Terry Spear

by Susan S., guest reviewer

Spear’s latest novel is bursting with romance, suspense, and heart-pounding excitement!

Legend of the White Wolf is the fourth book in Terry Spear’s werewolf series.

Does it stand alone? Yes.

Recommendations: This novel will appeal to readers who enjoy both paranormal romance, and romantic suspense.

The heroine (Faith O’Malley) is a forensic scientist working with the police dept. in Portland, Oregon. She’s also a woman on a mission. Faith is traveling from Oregon to Maine, in search of her soon-to-be, ex-boyfriend Hilson. Apparently, he just stole her father’s research.

Meet Cameron MacPherson, a sandy haired, blue-eyed gorgeous hero. He’s a physically fit private investigator, and former police officer. Cameron has a mission of his own, to find his missing partners, Owen and David.

But, when Faith and Cameron stumble onto a murder scene, their plans are not only sidetracked, but they are now persons of interest in a murder-mystery.

Will they find the person(s) responsible, or will they become the next targets?

More importantly, can two jilted people learn to love and trust their hearts again? Read Legend of the White Wolf to find out.

Here are some things I enjoyed: There’s a scene, where Cameron runs a towel over Faith’s wet hair. I thought it was both simple and utterly romantic. The author’s description of an Aurora Borealis was also beautifully written.

What will you enjoy? Hunky- wolfish men shedding their clothes, wolf bites, hotel clerk’s key mix-ups, and the reference to the Sleeping Beauty trio.

Legend of the White Wolf will leave you howling for more! Don’t worry, Terry Spear promises to feed our wolf addiction with books five and six, set to release by fall of 2010. Both novels will be published by Sourcebooks, Inc., Casablanca-titled Seduced by the Wolf and Wolf Fever.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Legend of the White Wolf

Paranormal Romance, ARC, Series, Sourcebooks, Inc., Casablanca, February 2010, Mass Market Paperback, Print Pages, 367. ISBN-13# 978-1-4022-1905-4.

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Review: Wicked Illusion by Bethany Michaels

by Susan S., guest reviewer

Preface: Who hasn’t heard that when it comes to love, opposites attract? Everyone has that ying to their yang, that moon to complement their sun. In Wicked Illusion, we have a hero and heroine that not only possess different thoughts and personalities, but they also come from different worlds, literally. Read on…

Summary: Jeremiah Black, hero, is a master illusionist who’s enjoyed great success in Vegas. But, he isn’t in Vegas by choice. As a matter of a fact, he’s not even on Earth by choice! He committed a crime, and the Council sentenced him to 150 years on Earth. His sentence is almost up, but when he finds a pesky human prying in his luxury suite, well, he’s going to break another rule. The one about not revealing himself to humans.

Erin McKay, heroine, is the aforementioned pesky human. She’s also the one who holds the key to his freedom. When she vehemently refuses to help Jeremiah, he’ll try by hook or by crook to gain her compliance. Black will be damned, if he spends one extra minute more than necessary on Earth.

Will Erin finally succumb, and give him the freedom he desperately seeks? Or, will Jeremiah realize there’s something more important than freedom?

Review: I had some reservations about the hero’s character development. We’re introduced to Jeremiah as a being with no remorse or regret. He dislikes humans, is blasé, and not above using deception to get what he wants. When the author attempts to mold certain human characteristics into the hero, I expected a stronger struggle on Jeremiah’s behalf. And once I formed a mental image of the hero, it took some undoing to find him more relatable.

My favorite scene: Erin’s hiding in an armoire; thinking of plausible excuses for hiding in case Jeremiah finds her. As a new private investigator, she’s funny.

Recommendations: This book will appeal to persons who generally read science fiction and paranormal romances.

Review-O-Meter Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: Wicked Illusion

Publishing Info: eRed Sage Publishing Publication, eBook, Copyright 2010, Contemporary Paranormal Romance, Pages 148. Adobe PDF ISBN# 9781603105149 160310514X.

Name the Authors- Contest # 2

questionmarkby Susan S., guest blogger

LRP readers are you ready for round two? Right now, I’m sipping an iced mocha while eyeing 2 beautiful Harlequin Blaze romances. If you’d like a chance to win one, get your fingers ready to google. I’ve reduced the number of questions from 20, down to 10. Not only will this make it easier on your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but guess what? Some of these have the book title, yes you read correctly. Easy peasy right? Before we begin though, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is this month’s contest is easier; the bad news is you’ll have to work out the answers without Ms. Merryweather’s help. If you’ll recall, Ms. Merryweather was our kind librarian. For some reason she resigned, we can find neither hide nor hair of her. I haven’t seen her since, well, um…since the day of our last contest. No matter, I’m sure you’ll do just fine on your own. Remember I only need author names, titles are not necessary.

Prizes: The Right Stuff by Lori Wilde or Always Ready by Joanne Rock.

Winner #1 with the highest number of correct answers will have 1st choice; winner#2 will win the remaining book. If there’s a tie for either or both positions, the winner(s) will be drawn from the tied entries by a random generator. You must be 18 years or older to participate. Good luck!

Beginning date: September 5th, 2009
Ending date: September 12th, 2009

Author #1 The title of her new book was a song from the movie soundtrack An American Werewolf in London.

Author #2 Her heroine is a telepath; that gets erotic with a sexy private investigator.

Author #3 If you need a reason to ring in the year 2010, how about Velvet Haven.

Author #4 Are you part of team Edward or team Jacob? I’m neither, being such a Jasper fan and all.

Author #5 Go to Breathlesspress.com, look under erotic heading. The cover art shows a woman holding one wicked looking sword hilt.

Author #6 Mei Ling orders Chinese takeout, but doesn’t understand why the restaurant is listed under the escort section.

Author #7 It seems little red riding hood is all grown up, sure wouldn’t mind being bitten by that Wolfe.

Author # 8 Cover shows a wolf on the top portion of the book and a couple on the brink of kissing towards the bottom. Hint: Author’s last name rhymes with Dodgers.

Author # 9 Lover Avenged from the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series.

Author # 10 & this concludes our contest. If you visit her website you’ll see a cemetery with a red headed, red lipped, green glowing eyed woman on the right hand corner. Spooky! Hint: Author writes urban fantasy romance.

Photo Credits: Leo Reynolds