Author: Jen

Guest Review: Be a Good Girl by Tess Diamond

Posted October 5, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Be a Good Girl by Tess DiamondReviewer: Jen
Be A Good Girl (FBI, #3) by Tess Diamond
Series: FBI #3
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 336
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Goodreads
two-half-stars

In Tess Diamond’s third romantic thriller, an FBI agent teams up with the one woman who can offer the salvation he needs as they search for a serial killer . . .

As the head of an elite FBI unit, Special Agent Paul Harrison seems to have everything figured out, but beneath the surface, an internal war is raging. When he returns to his rural hometown for the first time in a few years, he’s faced with the memories that led to his losing the love of his life.

Fifteen years ago, Abigail Winthrop’s best friend, and Paul’s girlfriend, was murdered by the infamous serial killer Doctor X. Now an investigative journalist, she’s determined to find the truth. But when Abigail discovers evidence that clears Doctor X, she realizes the real killer is still out there and is striking again when local young girls begin disappearing.

Turning to Paul for help, Abigail joins forces with him. As an undeniable attraction develops between them, they must heal deep wounds from their past—and find a relentless psychopath who could extinguish their hopes for a future together.

It’s always hard to write a review for a book that just didn’t grab your attention–this is one of those books!

This book doesn’t exactly break new ground, with the hero and heroine coming back together to investigate their teenage friend’s murder and some new similar murders. Abby is an investigative reporter and Paul is an FBI agent, which sounds like a recipe for a book I would like. And it’s true that there were a few thrills, especially in the flashback scenes and some of the intense scenes of present suspense. Abby is fairly smart and dogged in her investigation and her belief that something wasn’t quite right with the old investigation.

The rest of the book is pretty forgettable, however. Paul gets virtually no character development in this book, though apparently, he has appeared in earlier books in the series. Without reading those, though, I didn’t really understand much about him beyond that he’s suffering from PTSD. Most importantly, there isn’t much romance in the book. I just didn’t feel a connection between Abby and Paul. For instance, Paul thinks about his mental health issues but there are no conversations with Abby about it. They don’t talk about much beyond the case or their past history. They’ve each been living separate lives for a long time, but there’s no real catching up. Shared history and trauma is not enough to build a relationship, and I couldn’t buy it.

I was interested enough to keep reading and not put the book down, but not interested enough to muster up much enthusiasm for it when it was over. Perhaps earlier books in the series would be a better introduction, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend reading Be a Good Girl if you’re not already invested in this world.

Grade: 2.5 out of 5

FBI

two-half-stars


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Guest Review: Hidden by Rebecca Zanetti

Posted October 4, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 3 Comments

Guest Review: Hidden by Rebecca ZanettiReviewer: Jen
Hidden (Deep Ops, #1) by Rebecca Zanetti
Series: Deep Ops #1
Also in this series: Hidden (Deep Ops, #1)
Publisher: Zebra
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 400
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Goodreads
four-half-stars

Hide. That’s all Pippa can do to escape the terror chasing her. But now that she’s off the grid in a safe house, she finds plenty of interesting things to watch through the window. Like her new neighbor, with his startling green eyes, killer smile, and sexy bad-boy tattoo . . .

Run. Malcolm West is fleeing the hell he unleashed in his last assignment as an undercover cop. A backwoods bungalow sounds like the perfect place to start over. Until he discovers he’s been set up . . .

Fight. Someone’s gone to a lot of trouble to bring them together. No matter how much he resents that, and his own driving needs, Malcolm will have to dig deep and let loose the banished killer inside himself, or Pippa’s fears could come true faster than the flip of a bolt in a lock . . .

Pippa lives essentially in the middle of nowhere, secluded except for the sexy new guy who moved into the only nearby house. Malcolm is also running from his life as an undercover cop and the demons of his past. It turns out someone wants Malcolm for a new operation, though, and Pippa is his target. She might be involved with a terrorist plot, and while Malcolm just can’t believe she’s a terrorist, he knows she’s lying and hiding something. Malcolm has to learn to work with his new team and get the info they need about Pippa, although that gets increasingly difficult as he gets to know her. Neither Malcolm nor Pippa can trust the other, but if they don’t they may not be able to stop an attack.

I loved this book. Pippa and Malcolm were richly drawn and interesting characters, both with their own baggage and their own hopes. Both of them were so damaged by their past, though both have channeled that in different directions. Pippa was traumatized by her childhood, experiencing panic attacks and terrible nightmares and largely cloistering herself in her house out of fear. In many ways, though, she’s better off than Malcolm–she is in (online) therapy, has a fulfilling job that doesn’t require her to leave her house, and isn’t self-medicating with alcohol like Malcolm. Malcolm has been working undercover for years, and the stress of being so deep undercover for so long has taken its toll on him. He’s got some serious PTSD and some unhealthy coping mechanisms, and it was tough to read about at first. The way Pippa sees Malcolm’s pain and wants to offer comfort was just lovely, and Malcolm realizes he wants to do the same for her.

There was a bit of a different tone from many of Zanetti’s other books. Malcolm is still WAY alpha, but he demonstrates a deep awareness of how he might appear threatening to Pippa, and he goes out of his way to avoid that not for self-serving reasons but because he doesn’t want to contribute to her fear. There’s also a lot more consent talk than Zanetti’s books usually feature. Of course, he still is bossy and gets off on dominating her in bed, but I honestly appreciated that Malcolm isn’t as much of a cave man as Zanetti’s usual heroes. (The book was still way sexy too.) I hope she continues that trend.

By far my favorite part of the book is Malcolm’s new team of “Homeland Defense Department” agents. They are all misfits and outcasts, people with secrets in their past that got them sent to the middle of nowhere to handle the cases no one else thinks are important. They start to develop friendships in this book, and it’s clear they will become a tight knit and top notch team. Each and every one of them is fantastic, especially the dog Roscoe who provides a ton of comic relief. I CANNOT wait to read about all of them in future books.

This book did have a few inconsistencies, like how Pippa warmed to Malcolm and started falling for him so quickly. I also would have liked Pippa to find out the truth about Malcolm a little earlier. She does find out early enough to resolve some conflict and have a role in stopping the attack, but I would have preferred just a little more time for her to come to terms with Malcolm’s lies.

These are pretty minor quibbles, though. Mainly I just had a great time reading this book, and I am beyond excited to see it continue.

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

Deep Ops

four-half-stars


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Guest Review: Tempted by Love by Jennifer Ryan

Posted October 3, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 4 Comments

Guest Review: Tempted by Love by Jennifer RyanReviewer: Jen
Tempted by Love (Montana Heat, #3) by Jennifer Ryan
Series: Montana Heat #3
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: August 21, 2018
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 400
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Goodreads
three-stars

She was this Montana Man’s greatest temptation . . .

Alina Cooke—little sister of his two best friends—is the last woman DEA agent Jay Bennett should be waking up next to on the day of her brother’s wedding. But their powerful attraction ignited a powder keg of desire, and their once simple friendship has just become impossibly complicated.

Alina’s always been steady, focused, and lived on the safe side of life. Jay is totally devoted to his dangerous job. She knows a future with him will be filled with worry that one day he won’t come home. She’s done it with her brothers. She’s not sure she can face that uncertainty with the man she loves. Yet being in his arms is a bad idea they keep repeating, again and again.

When Alina is run off the road, Jay fears his job has made her a target. But the threat in Alina’s life is closer than they think. As the enemy gets more ruthless, Alina proves she’s no easy target and Jay will do anything to bring them down. Because surviving and being together is the only thing that matters.

Alina Cooke is the sister of the previous heroes of the series. She’s a pharmacist, not involved in the scary, larger-than-life world of her DEA agent brothers. When she and DEA agent Jay Bennett have a drunken hook up at a wedding, Alina is pretty sure Jay and his dangerous lifestyle is not what she needs. But soon there is danger surrounding Alina too, and she and Jay have to figure out why, as well as whether they both can handle all that comes with letting another person into your heart.

I have sort of mixed feelings about this series, and this book was no exception. On the one hand, there is a lot of action. With some small exceptions in this book, no one acts too stupid or reckless. The love between Alina and Jay was so, so sweet, and while I am sure it will come across as overly saccharine to some, I enjoyed the dynamic of their relationship for the most part. I also really liked seeing Jay doing his job and interacting with his colleagues. They have good camaraderie and it was fun to read. I thought the plot was interesting, and while there is no mystery the action keeps things exciting.

The relationship between Alina and Jay does move VERY fast, however. I perhaps could have gotten over that if they had been closer before, but the book makes it very clear that while they’ve known each other a while they’ve never really talked much or had much to do with each other. So for them to go from “getting to know you” to “this feels life-changing” in mere moments seemed excessive. Couple that with a lot of overwrought descriptions of how wonderful the other person makes them feel and how momentous their interactions were in every second together and it got a bit ridiculous. In addition, there wasn’t much keeping them apart other than their own hang-ups. They easily could have gotten together forever after only a fraction of the book, but of course, there was still 10 lbs of plot to resolve at that point. There was also no reason, other than to draw out the story, that Alina and Jay wouldn’t have figured out the villain’s plan earlier. There were many clues and suspicious happenings, and each time they are brushed away with barely a thought. Alina is brilliant and Jay is a hyper-suspicious DEA agent–there is no way all these mounting clues would have escaped at least their notice. It was contrived.

I liked these characters and I’m pretty interested in the larger story arcs that were continued in this book. Even if this series isn’t my favorite, I plan to read the next book.

Grade: 3 out of 5

Montana Heat

three-stars


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Guest Review: Highland Conquest by Alyson McLayne

Posted August 28, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: Highland Conquest by Alyson McLayneReviewer: Jen
Highland Conquest (The Sons of Gregor MacLeod, #2) by Alyson McLayne
Series: The Sons of Gregor MacLeod, #2
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Format: eARC
Point-of-View: Third Person
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 355
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Goodreads
three-stars

HE WAS LOOKING FOR VENGEANCE

Laird Lachlan MacKay never planned on leading his clan, but when his older brother was murdered, he was left with no choice. His vow to avenge his brother has led him to the MacPherson clan—and their bewitching healer, Amber.

INSTEAD HE FOUND HER

Amber MacPherson is desperate. Dressed as a boy to escape her clan's treacherous leader, she runs right into Lachlan—who orders her detained. At first she causes him nothing but frustration, especially when she blackmails him into helping her clan. But when she's threatened by the same man who murdered his brother, Lachlan will do whatever it takes to keep her safe—and by his side.

The most I can say about Highland Conquest is it was…a Scottish romance. There were a few nice moments, but overall it didn’t leave much of an impression on me.

Amber MacPherson is an interesting character. She was abused (TW: for threats of rape) and held captive, but she managed to escape by sneaking out of the MacPherson keep dressed as a boy. She happens to be escaping just as Lachlan MacKay is doing a sneak attack on the castle, and not knowing quite who or what she is, he captures her. When the truth comes out and the villain escapes, Lachlan takes over the MacPherson clan temporarily, and they both try to figure out how to stop the bad guy.

I liked Amber, at least in theory. She’s a healer and she’s very good at it. I like that she quickly and competently helps Lachlan’s clan, even at first when he’s not sure he can trust her. She knows her herbs and medical treatments, at least what passes for medical treatments at this point in history, and she’s calm under pressure. She’s a bit wishy washy and naive, but largely that was due to the trauma she experienced for most of her life. Lachlan is ok too, I suppose. He’s brawny and tough and Scottish, you know the drill. He has some decent chemistry with Amber, but they move somewhat slowly, partly due to her inexperience and partly due to her past. Things don’t really heat up significantly until fairly late in the book, although it was sweet and sexy.

This isn’t my first book in the series (though you don’t need to read the first one to enjoy this one), and one of the best parts of the series is the interactions between the adopted brothers who were all raised by Gregor MacLeod. We get to see Gregor and the other brothers in this book, and their interactions are excellent. There is some great family banter, but I especially enjoy that the men discuss their feelings and relationships. It’s fun to read.

Otherwise, though, this book didn’t stand out that much for me. The villain is over-the-top and wily past the point of believability. There’s also a bit I didn’t like where Amber and Lachlan are essentially railroaded into marrying. Sure, deep down they DO want to get married, but I wanted them to come to the conclusion themselves rather than getting pushed into it.

Honestly, writing this review I had a hard time coming up with anything I particularly liked or didn’t like about this book. This book scratched my itch for a Scottish romance, but that’s about all I can say.

Grade: 3 out of 5

The Sons of Gregor MacLeod

three-stars


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Guest Review: Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston

Posted August 23, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Hot and Badgered by Shelly LaurenstonReviewer: Jen
Hot and Badgered (Honey Badger Chronicles, #1) by Shelly Laurenston
Series: Honey Badger Chronicles, #1
Also in this series: Hot and Badgered (Honey Badgers Chronicles #1)
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Format: eARC
Point-of-View: Third Person
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Goodreads
four-half-stars

It’s not every day that a beautiful naked woman falls out of the sky and lands face-first on grizzly shifter Berg Dunn’s hotel balcony. Definitely they don’t usually hop up and demand his best gun. Berg gives the lady a grizzly-sized t-shirt and his cell phone, too, just on style points. And then she’s gone, taking his XXXL heart with her. By the time he figures out she’s a honey badger shifter, it’s too late.   Honey badgers are survivors. Brutal, vicious, ill-tempered survivors. Or maybe Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan is just pissed that her useless father is trying to get them all killed again, and won’t even tell her how. Protecting her little sisters has always been her job, and she’s not about to let some pesky giant grizzly protection specialist with a network of every shifter in Manhattan get in her way. Wait. He’s trying to help? Why would he want to do that? He’s cute enough that she just might let him tag along—that is, if he can keep up . . .

A series featuring honey badger shifter sisters? YES PLEASE!

This is yet another spin-off from Laurenston’s eternally growing shifter books, and it is a great addition to the world. The series centers on the three MacKilligan half sisters: Max, Stevie, and Charlie, the heroine of this first book. The women have a crappy father who takes “deadbeat” to a whole new level. They’ve basically spent their entire lives trying to extricate themselves from their dad’s schemes and the incredible danger he constantly puts them in. (And let’s face it, they are constantly making their own enemies too!) In this book, their lives are once again in danger thanks to their dad, and they come to the attention of the secret shifter organization we’ve see in the other books, called The Group. Charlie also meets Berg, a large and sweet bear shifter. When Berg takes a liking to Charlie, he starts to help them and quickly gets himself and his two siblings sucked into the MacKilligan’s bananas world.

I love these sisters! Charlie, Max, and Stevie are all messed up in their own ways, but they never fail to support each other. They argue and give each other a hard time, but they always have each other’s back. This is some fierce female love right here. (Figurative and literally fierce–these ladies are violent and aggressive, as you would expect from honey badgers!) I also love Berg and his siblings. They are triplets, and while they are infinitely more well-adjusted than the MacKilligan sisters, they are just as devoted to each other. I know it’s rare in real life to have sibling relationships like these, but I love the fantasy in my books.

Charlie is an excellent character, too. She is an organizer, a manager, and a people handler. She’s the one who often talks them out of the messes her sisters and her dad get them into. Her talents aren’t as flashy, or scary, as her sisters’, but she’s really the glue that keeps them all together and functioning. In a way she reminded me of Toni Jean-Louis Parker from Laurenston’s Wolf with Benefits (and we see a bit of Toni in this book too), but without so much of the type-A arrogance that makes Toni a bit off-putting at times. Berg is a great match for Charlie as well. He’s a quiet, strong support for her and does so without dampening her strengths or trying to get between her and her sisters. You can tell Berg is the first person who’s simply supported Charlie without any expectation of something in return, and it takes Charlie a while to figure out what to do with that kind of love. Once she does, though, it’s adorable.

This book is very much in the vein of Laurenston’s other shifter books, but I do think the MacKilligan sisters are some of her most interesting and fun characters so far. I loved this book and can’t wait to read more.

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

 

four-half-stars


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