Guest Review: Lethal Lies by Rebecca Zanetti

Posted June 22, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Lethal Lies by Rebecca ZanettiReviewer: Jen
Lethal Lies by Rebecca Zanetti
Series: Blood Brothers #2
Also in this series: Deadly Silence, Deadly Silence, Lethal Lies
Published by Hachette Books, Forever
Publication Date: May 16th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 416
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three-half-stars

New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti brings us the second book in a thrilling romantic suspense series.

A deadly secret can't stay buried forever . . .

Revenge. It's the only thing that will help Anya Best sleep at night. The serial killer who murdered her sister is on the loose, and Anya will stop at nothing to put him behind bars-even use herself as bait to lure him out of hiding. But she can't do this alone.

Private investigator Heath Jones's job is to bring bastards to justice. This time it's personal. He knew the Copper Killer's latest victim so when her sister asks for his help, he's all in. But when Anya uses the media to taunt the killer, she exposes Heath's identity, putting them both in jeopardy. Now, secrets buried long ago are coming to light and the forces determined to destroy him are watching Heath's every move, waiting to exact their own revenge. And they'll use anything and anyone to get to Heath.

With twists and turns that will take your breath away, LETHAL LIES is sexy, action-packed suspense at its very best from New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti.

In this next Blood Brothers book, we meet Anya Best, who’s out for revenge against her sister’s killer. She decides to use herself as bait to catch the killer, but unfortunately she entangles Heath Jones in her plot. Heath is a PI already investigating the killer so he’s game, plus he’s majorly drawn to Anya, but the ploy puts Heath and his brothers at risk. Can they stop the killer and get justice for Anya’s sister before the other people after the Jones brothers catch up?

I love Zanetti’s Sin Brothers series (loooooove it), and I was pretty into the first Blood Brothers book, but I felt like Lethal Lies was a bit less exciting for me. I enjoyed it and had a good time while reading it, but it didn’t really stick with me.

Anya in particular got on my nerves. She concocts a half-assed plan to catch her sister’s killer, but she never thinks through the ramifications, and doesn’t really have any serious plan for how she will stop this horrific killer that even her FBI-trained sister couldn’t handle. She doesn’t know anything about self-defense or catching a criminal. I just…couldn’t get behind her. Even worse, she barely knows Heath but involves him in her dangerous public plot. I get that she didn’t fully understand the risk she put Heath and his brothers in. She didn’t know their history and couldn’t know how her throwaway comment naming him in the press could literally kill him and his brothers. Fair enough! But she never really deals with that fact, even once she does know the truth. It felt glossed over but never explored. Her selfish need for “justice” could have killed them all! I definitely wanted some remorse or at least clear understanding from her, but we never got that, and Heath never holds her accountable either. I didn’t like it.

I did like Heath and Anya together, though. Heath is so damaged, so unhappy. All the Jones Brothers (and all the Gray Brothers, for that matter), feel such love and responsibility for their family that it just melts your heart. Even though Heath thinks he’s a lone wolf, Anya shows him what it means to truly be alone, and I liked his own newfound appreciation for his family after he is reminded of all the support he does have. He is also a great support for Anya, and he backs her up no matter what. Their relationship was super steamy, too, and the sexual tension was great.

I loved seeing the Gray Brothers a bit, though I admittedly didn’t understand why they didn’t jump in all the way when the Jones Brothers were clearly in a pickle. Still, I always enjoy being in this world, and I look forward to more installments from Zanetti.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars

Guest Review: Sworn to Protect by Diana Gardin

Posted June 22, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Sworn to Protect by Diana GardinReviewer: Tracy
Sworn to Protect by Diana Gardin
Series: Rescue Ops #1
Published by Forever Yours
Publication Date: June 4th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 368
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three-half-stars

To keep her safe, he'll have to uncover all her secrets...

Rayne Alexander. A face I never thought I'd see again, and one I never could forget. Nine years ago, she left town-and me--without a backward glance. But now she's back, with a haunted look in her eyes and a feisty attitude that didn't exist when we were teenagers. Seeing this grown-up--and sexy--Rayne is something I wasn't prepared for... and it's bringing up feelings I'd thought I'd buried years ago.

Although I want to demand answers from Rayne, working on black ops at Night Eagle Security has taught me that it's sometimes better to keep my mouth shut. So when I catch her hiding a photo of a little boy, I'm curious. When I see her jump as her phone rings, I'm concerned. But the second I notice a car following her home, I know she's hiding something. Something dangerous. And while I may not know why she left or why she's back, if there's someone out there Rayne is afraid of, I'll make damn sure that threat is eliminated.

Rayne was working late at her job in Phoenix, AZ one night when she came across some info on her boss’s desk that she shouldn’t have. The kind of information that could ruin him and put him in prison. He doesn’t catch up with her as she runs from the building but she knows that she needs to get the hell out of Dodge.  She takes her eight-year-old son, Decker, and runs back to her hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina.  When she had first moved to Phoenix she had changed her name so she figures going back to her old name will hide her sufficiently. Not the case.

Rayne moves into her sister’s house as her sister is out of town and gets a job at Night Eagle Security.  She never planned on seeing her high school boyfriend, Jeremy Teague, ever again but the minute he walks into NES – cuz he works there – all of the old feelings start to come back.  Rayne had gotten pregnant by Jeremy when she was a teen and then was cast aside by Jeremy, his grandparents who raised him and then her own parents.  She knows she shouldn’t have any feelings toward Jeremy except disdain but that’s not what happens.  When Jeremy finds out that Decker is his (because he never knew she was pregnant) he’s so excited and wants nothing more than to be with Rayne and Decker and make them a family.

Rayne’s old boss, however, wants her captured and brought to him so that he can take care of her the way he wants.  Jeremy will do anything to keep Rayne and Decker safe but will he be able to in the end?

Sworn to Protect is a good little second chance at love romance/suspense story.  It had a lot of ins and outs and things going on.

Rayne is back in her hometown.  She loved Jeremy when she was younger but his grandparents told her that he wanted nothing to do with the baby when in fact they never told him she was pregnant.  Then her parents took to a clinic to get the baby aborted and she ran.  She’d been living the last 9 years thinking that Jeremy betrayed their love but that wasn’t the case at all.  Once Rayne and Jeremy are together again things fall into place and all is good.  Except for her old boss that’s threatening her.  I was a little confused about the boss, quite frankly.  He was at first after her because of the things she knew about him but then it turned to the fact that he didn’t want her dead he wanted to keep her and tame her sexually – ew.  It was more than a little creepy, to say the least and kind of a weird, expected twist.  Then Jeremy’s grandfather got involved and it was a bit too much.

Of course NES gets involved as that’s what they do but it all seemed a little too easy.  IDK, there was just some aspect of the story that was missing that made this a good book, but not great.  The elements were there but there was something in the execution that was lacking, imho.  The characters were good, the story was a decent one but I definitely didn’t end the book thinking, “Wow, that was really good!”

So in the end a decent read but it wasn’t something that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars

Retro Post: Fifty Shades of Grey is Not Romance

Posted June 21, 2017 by Holly in Features | 19 Comments

Retro Post: Fifty Shades of Grey is Not Romance

I (Casee) love this post. I have these books in my TBR pile. This is the second time this post has been reposted, but I feel that it is deserving. This post was originally posted in 2012 (when the books were published) and again in 2015 (when the movies were released).

It seems everyone is talking about Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. Whether you read it or didn’t, loved it or hated it, I bet you’ve either talked about it with someone or read about it somewhere. Maybe you only heard the title mentioned and know nothing else about it. Or maybe you’ve read it 18 times and can recite it line-by-line. Whatever the case, it’s out there.

First, let’s just get this out of the way: I read all three of these books in a day and a half. As soon as I finished the first one, I bought the second. Likewise with the third. I paid $9.99 PER BOOK for digital copies. It’s possible I was drunk at the time (or should have been). Especially while reading the third. That was just a big ball of WTF rolled up in 500-something pages.

There’s been a lot of criticism on many fronts for this trilogy. I’m not going to touch on the fanfic aspects, because frankly I know nothing about fanfic and I’d only come off sounding like a moron (if you’re interested, author Kate Davies posted an interesting piece about fanfic and Dear Author did an entire series about it) . I’m also not going to address the “mommy porn” label that’s been ascribed to these books. The term makes my head want to explode and I have too much to live for. I will say that “mommy porn” is insulting and it makes me want to punch someone in the junk (because I’m sure a man came up with that).

I would like to address two misconceptions that bother me greatly about this series.

This is a romance novel.

I disagree. While there are many similarities, what keeps this from being a romance in my book is the nature of the relationship between Christian and Ana, the main protagonists. Yes, it has many of the same tropes we find in romance: Billionaire, Tortured Alpha Hero becomes intrigued with Virginal, Malleable Heroine. She thinks she can save him and he only wants her for sex – but then becomes intrigued by her and decides he wants to keep her. On his terms, of course. Which she, naturally, doesn’t agree to. Much angst ensues. Until finally, Happily Ever After (complete with rainbows and unicorns a meadow full of wildflowers and mention of tasting breastmilk).

I know what you’re saying to yourself. You’re saying OMFG what do you MEAN tasting breastmilk??? “Gee, Holly, this sounds an awful lot like a romance novel to me.” And yes, I know on the surface it seems that way. But the truth is, at its core, this is a book about a sad, troubled man who tends toward being abusive and the woman who enables him in being this way.

After reading this trilogy I wanted to write a post titled Why Stalking Is Not OK. Actually, I still kind of want to write that post. But for now I’ll just say it here. Stalking Is Not OK.

I know some novels in recent years have glorified stalking. Most notably for me – probably because it’s marketed to young adults – is the Twilight franchise. But Edward sneaking into Bella’s room to watch her sleep without her knowing was nothing compared to this.

Let me outline a few examples for you.

A. Ana drunk dials Christian one night and he freaks out over the fact that she’s drunk and demands to know where she is. She hangs up on him. 15 minutes later he shows up at the bar. When questioned, he reveals he tracked her cell phone to find out where she was.

“How did you find me?”

“I tracked your cell phone, Anastasia.”

Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal? Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind. (Grey p.57)

B.  Christian sends Ana gifts to and drives her home.  Only, she never mentioned where she lives, so how did he know?

“He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live – yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone-tracking, helicopter-owning stalker wouldn’t.” (Grey p.74)

C. He returns unexpectedly from a trip because she meets a friend for a drink instead of going straight home. Yes, he actually cancels a business trip because she met a friend. He specifically told her to go home and when she didn’t, he rushed home to spank scold her.

D. Despite having only known him for a few weeks, he knows her social security and bank account numbers. And he accesses them without her permission.

Now, Ana does call Christian out for his behavior. But she does it in a way that says she doesn’t think it’s a very big deal. Personally I would have stabbed him in the throat called the cops the very first time he said he used my cell phone to track my whereabouts 5 days after I met him. But that’s just me. Ana sort of laughs off most of the things he does. If she does become angry and points it out to him, he apologizes and she forgives him. And then he does it again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

As I was reading, I kept wondering in what world it’s ok to do the things he did. Were we, the readers, supposed to accept his behavior because Ana did? Or perhaps I was supposed to accept his behavior because he was just a sad little boy on the inside? One who was “Fifty shades of fucked-up” from the emotional and physical abuse he suffered as a child? Because that doesn’t work for me. Honestly, that just freaks me out even more. An unbalanced, self-proclaimed “fucked-up” guy is stalking me at my place of work, knows every detail about my life and follows me around town without my knowledge or permission? I don’t laugh it off and say “now, now, be a good boy”. I run screaming in the opposite direction.

This is a healthy, loving relationship.

No. This is a sad, destructive, abusive relationship. Over the course of the three novels it becomes slightly less destructive and abusive, but only slightly. When I finished the third book I did so with a heavy heart and a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, they are eminently readable. But they’re also depressing as hell.

The mind games and emotional bullying Christian indulges in to get his way; The fact that Ana seems more like a victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome than a woman in a healthy, loving relationship. These are textbook signs of an abusive relationship. Cutting her off from her friends unless he’s with her or can control the environment she meets with them in, following her on a trip to see her mother even though she expressly asked for time alone to digest things, having her followed and spied on, buying her a computer and a Blackberry and a car, so he can get in touch with her whenever he wants, ordering for her and steamrolling her when she complains:

“Two glasses of the Pinot Grigio,” Christian says with a voice of authority. I purse my lips, exasperated.

“What?” he snaps.

“I wanted a Diet Coke,” I whisper.

His gray eyes narrow and he shakes his head.

“The Pinot Grigio here’s a decent wine. It will go well with the meal, whatever we get,” he says patiently.

“Whatever we get?”

“Yes.” He smiles his dazzling head-cocked-to-one-side smile, and my stomach pole vaults over my spleen. I can’t help but reflect his glorious smile back at him.

These are not signs of a healthy relationship. That Ana tolerated this behavior – and even excused it, or worse, came to enjoy it – does not make it okay.

I think the worst part, however, is the way he casually dismisses her feelings. Especially in the beginning when it comes to being a submissive. The first time he spanks her, she’s very upset afterward. She tells him she felt demeaned and abused. His response?

So you felt demeaned, debased, abused & assaulted – how very Tess Durbeyfield of you. I believe it was you who decided on the debasement, if I remember correctly. Do you really feel like this or do you think you ought to feel like this: Two very different things. If that is how you feel, do you think you could just try and embrace these feelings, deal with them, for me? That’s what a submissive would do.

And naturally, she’s thrilled he thinks of himself as hers, and brushes aside the fact that he’s told her to get over her feelings and let him humiliate and debase her.

As the series continues, Ana learns to stand up for herself a bit more and Christian learns to give in to her occasionally – oh wait, no. That didn’t actually happen. The author told us that’s what happened, but the actions of the characters didn’t change a whit.  Christian still ordered Ana about, cutting her off from her friends and managing her life whether she liked it or not. And she let him.

This does not a romance novel make.

Are these books very readable? Yes. Are they enjoyable? I would say no, but I think that depends on the individual person reading them. Are they romance novels? Not even a little bit.

Fifty Shades of Grey is not a romance.

*I made some minor editorial changes to the revised post

Guest Review: Silver Silence by Nalini Singh

Posted June 21, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Silver Silence by Nalini SinghReviewer: Tracy
Silver Silence by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy/Changeling Trinity #1, Psy/Changeling #16
Also in this series: Silver Silence, Silver Silence, Caressed By Ice, Mine to Possess, Hostage to Pleasure, The Magical Christmas Cat, Kiss of Snow, Tangle of Need, Slave to Sensation, Tangle of Need, Heart of Obsidian, Shield of Winter, Shield of Winter, Visions of Heat, Mine to Possess, Caressed By Ice, Branded by Fire, Blaze of Memory, Mine to Possess, Hostage to Pleasure, Hostage to Pleasure, Shards of Hope, Shards of Hope, Heart of Obsidian, Caressed By Ice, Branded by Fire, Blaze of Memory, Play of Passion, Allegiance of Honor, Kiss of Snow, Tangle of Need, Shield of Winter, Shards of Hope, Allegiance of Honor, Allegiance of Honor, Wild Embrace, Wild Embrace, Wild Embrace
Published by Berkley Books
Publication Date: June 13th 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 464
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh returns to her extraordinary Psy-Changeling world with a story of wild passion and darkest betrayal...

Control. Precision. Family. These are the principles that drive Silver Mercant. At a time when the fledgling Trinity Accord seeks to unite a divided world, with Silver playing a crucial role as director of a worldwide emergency response network, wildness and chaos are the last things she needs in her life. But that's exactly what Valentin Nikolaev, alpha of the StoneWater bears, brings with him.

Valentin has never met a more fascinating woman. Though Silver is ruled by Silence--her mind clear of all emotion--Valentin senses a whisper of fire around her. That's what keeps him climbing apartment buildings to be near her. But when a shadow assassin almost succeeds in poisoning Silver, the stakes become deadly serious...and Silver finds herself in the heart of a powerful bear clan.

Her would-be assassin has no idea what their poison has unleashed...

Silver has been Silent since she was very young.  She had to be as it was the only way to save her life.  She is now the director of EmNet and doing a wonderful job at it.  Unfortunately she keeps getting visits from Valentin Nickolaev, the Alpha of the StoneWater Bears.  She should be sending him away on a regular basis but for some reason she’s not.  On one of these visits Valentin saves her life as she had just been unknowingly poisoned.  The only people that could have poisoned her food was family so her grandmother and Valentin work out that Silver should stay in StoneWater territory until they find out who tried to kill her.  Silver hates the plan but figures she’ll recover and then move out asap – probably within a few days.

Once at StoneWater Silver finds a different kind of life than one she’s used to seeing.  Valentin makes no secret of the way he feels about her and when he finally talks her into breaking her Silence she loves every minute of their time together.  Unfortunately as I said earlier she was Silent to save her life.  She has a Psy designation that will soon kill her if not fixed.  She’s loved not being Silent but isn’t ready to die.  A surgery by Ashaya Aleine and her sister, Amara, may save her life but then she’ll probably be 100% Silent.  Valentin is willing to deal with any outcome as long as Silver is alive.

I have to say that reading about Silver in previous books didn’t make me want to read her story.  Kind of like with Kaleb’s book I was, of course, pleasantly surprised.  Silver was a wonderful heroine and I loved her dry sense of humor and the fierceness of her love for Valentin.

Valentin was one persistent bear and I loved that about him.  He knew that Silver was his mate but wasn’t about to let things set just because she was Psy.  He approached slowly but when he had his opportunity he took it and ran with it.  He was a good, good man and had so much love for Silver, his family and the entire bear clan.  It truly warmed my heart to read about this amazing hero.

We also got to learn more about other characters, the Consortium and events that happened with Bowen Knight.  I have no idea what’s going to be happening next in the series but I can’t wait!

Great book, definitely recommend it – like, read it NOW. 🙂

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars

Review: Revenge by Lexi Blake

Posted June 20, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Revenge by Lexi BlakeReviewer: Rowena
Revenge by Lexi Blake
Series: Lawless Series #3
Also in this series: Ruthless, Satisfaction, Satisfaction, Revenge
Published by Berkley
Publication Date: June 20th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 352
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

Passion and danger collide in the latest contemporary romance featuring the Lawless siblings—from New York Times bestselling author Lexi Blake.

When Drew Lawless discovers a fatal flaw in his plan to avenge his parents’ deaths, he turns to the one woman he'd promised he wouldn't touch. He offers her a deal, one that will bring her into his investigation, his life, and his bed.

Investigative reporter Shelby Gates never dreamed how twisted the case would become—or how fascinated she would be with Drew. Every day they spend together binds them. And every night brings her closer to realizing he might be the man for her.

As Drew's feelings for Shelby grow, so does the danger. From the streets of Dallas to Austin’s high-tech business world, Drew and Shelby play a game begun twenty years before—a game they will win, or die trying.

Revenge is the third book in the Lawless series and it follows the eldest of the Lawless siblings, Andrew. Andrew Lawless is a super geek with vengeance in his heart. Nothing will stop him from protecting his siblings and when a new threat (introduced in the last book, Satisfaction) arises, he sets about trying to take the bad guy down.

Drews got a plan to bring the bad guy down without including his siblings. They’re happy and moving on with their lives so he feels that keeping them out of everything is for their own good. His plan brings Shelby Gates into his life and she changes everything. She was hired to do a job by Drew and that job included pretending to be his girlfriend. Drew, Drew, Drew…you know fake relationships never work out the way that they’re supposed to.

So the plan is to do as much undercover research on their target as possible and the only way that Drew can keep Shelby safe is by moving her into his home and watching over her himself, even though including her, puts her life in danger. None of that matters to Drew Lawless because he’s so focused on keeping his family safe that everyone else is collateral damage.

Drew was a punk ass jerk face for his original plan. He’s always been a freaking jerk but the amount of love he had for his family kind of mitigated my frustration with him. At his core, he’s a good guy but he didn’t know how to act around people. He could only focus on the problem at hand, not understanding all of the shit he was stirring everywhere else. He’s intentions were good and his heart was in the right place but he did some shady shit to get things done.

Shelby is probably my favorite heroine in this series. She is strong and independent but she was also caring. She cared and she loved deeply. She was also loyal to a fault because even when Drew didn’t deserve her loyalty, he had it.

Seeing these two come together and then be split apart and then come together again was fun. I loved that Drew’s outlook on certain things changed but he didn’t change too much that he was a stranger. I loved that Shelby fell in love with asshole Drew and made him want to be a better person for her and the family. Their romance was hot and sweet and everything that a romance should be. They were great characters apart who went through fire for each other. Their story wasn’t an easy story but it was action packed and fun to read.

It was good to see the Lawless siblings and meet a very unexpected and new character that I hope to see more of in a future book. I really liked the way that this story wrapped up and I loved seeing Drew meet his match in Shelby. She didn’t let him get away with being a shithead and he became such an awesome hero in the end. I always liked him, despite him being a total dick but it was good to see his character really grow and change. There’s a lot going on in this book, lots of stuff that blew up Drew’s world but I loved seeing the family gather round and help bring the bad guy down. I love that stuff.

Overall, this was a great addition to this series and Lexi Blake did a great job of wrapping things up. I was a happy camper and I definitely recommend this one.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

four-stars