Publisher: Harlequin

Guest Review: Before the Dawn by Cynthia Eden

Posted July 19, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Before the Dawn by Cynthia EdenReviewer: Jen
Before the Dawn by Cynthia Eden
Series: Killer Instinct #2
Also in this series: After the Dark

Publication Date: July 25th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
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four-stars

The Killer Instinct series from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden continues as an FBI profiler tracks a case that resurrects ghosts from his past

Ex-SEAL Tucker Frost knows that the world is full of evil. He saw it in the face of his own brother, Mason Frost, a cold, methodical, sadistic killer. A killer Tucker put down with his own hands in order to save Mason's final victim—Dawn Alexander, the only girl who got away from the infamous "Iceman."

It's Tucker's up close and personal experience with evil that's made him perfect for Samantha Dark's experimental profiling division in the FBI. Samantha wants agents who have personal ties with killers, who have unique insights into the minds of monsters. And when women start turning up murdered with the same MO used by the Iceman, Tucker is sent back to Louisiana to investigate.

The last person he expects to see is his ex-lover, Dawn. Ten full years have passed since the night that Tucker faced down his brother…and since he last saw Dawn. But the dark need still burns just as hot between Tucker and Dawn. As they grapple with a desire that never died, they must also face the shared shadow from their pasts. Both Tucker and Dawn have the same question—has Mason Frost come back from the dead to hunt again? And this time, will he succeed in killing the victim who got away?

I have been on a major Cynthia Eden kick this year. Fortunately, she’s publishing books nearly as fast as I can read them, plus her back list is huge, so I have plenty to keep me entertained. Before Dawn is the newest book in her Killer Instincts series, which centers around a special FBI team made up of people with some kind of personal connection to killers. Eden has several series going right now, and they are tied together in various ways. For instance, there are a couple Harlequin Intrigue titles that are not marked as part of the Killer Instincts series but that really are tied in. And then I swear some of her LOST series books also crossover, but I could not for the life of me remember which ones and how they tied in. Moreover, because I’m confused about the order, I don’t read them in order, so I keep reading Eden books and being pleasantly surprised to find I’m reading the story of a character I already learned about in some other Eden book. Basically, I’m saying it’s damn confusing and I have no idea how to untangle the threads. You’re on your own.

What I can do is tell you about Before Dawn, though! I really loved the first book in the series, After the Dark. As I said, the series is about this special team of people with connections to killers, which is pretty unbelievable but makes for a superb book premise. This time, we meet Tucker Frost, whose brother was a serial killer. His final attempted victim was Tucker’s girlfriend, Dawn. Tucker killed his brother to save Dawn, but because his brother messed with Dawn’s head, and because he looked just like Tucker, Dawn was understandably traumatized, and her relationship with Tucker didn’t survive. Tucker has spent his life trying to prove he isn’t his brother and atone for what his brother did. Dawn, on the other hand, hardened after her attack and is still dealing with the psychological trauma. When Tucker returns to town to investigate some recent murders that bear a striking resemblance to his brother’s crimes, he and Dawn have to deal with their past and work together to figure out what’s going on.

I liked Dawn and Tucker as characters. Dawn was prickly and smart, but she’s clearly still suffering greatly from her earlier attack. It was a bit hard to read sometimes, especially the flashbacks to when Tucker’s brother had her captive. He was physically brutal and manipulated her into doubting Tucker. It was totally understandable that Dawn would struggle to be around Tucker later. Tucker was great, too. He tried to be there for Dawn after her attack, but when he realized his presence was too painful, he disappeared from her life. My heart hurt for him, because what an impossible situation to be in! I appreciated that he tried to let Dawn set the tone for their interactions, and all he wanted was for her to be at peace.

I did have some niggling doubts about whether Tucker and Dawn could really move beyond their past, though. Dawn was terrorized by a man with Tucker’s face. Was it really possible for her to see beyond that? Dawn clearly still needed a lot of serious professional help to process her trauma. I’m not sure love would be enough, even ten years on. I also felt like the intense alpha-schtick Eden usually writes was a little out of place here. Dawn wasn’t breakable, but I kind of wanted Tucker to tone it down. You’re trying to convince her you’re nothing like your violent brother, so maybe dial it back a bit, huh dude?

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as After the Dark, but it was still a good read.

Grade: 4 out of 5

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

four-stars


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Review: The Impossible Vastness of Us by Samantha Young

Posted July 12, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 4 Comments

Review: The Impossible Vastness of Us by Samantha YoungReviewer: Rowena
The Impossible Vastness of Us by Samantha Young
Published by Harlequin, Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 27th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
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four-stars

I know how to watch my back. I’m the only one that ever has.

India Maxwell hasn’t just moved across the country—she’s plummeted to the bottom rung of the social ladder. It’s taken years to cover the mess of her home life with a veneer of popularity. Now she’s living in one of Boston’s wealthiest neighborhoods with her mom’s fiancé and his daughter, Eloise. Thanks to her soon-to-be stepsister’s clique of friends, including Eloise’s gorgeous, arrogant boyfriend Finn, India feels like the one thing she hoped never to be seen as again: trash.

But India’s not alone in struggling to control the secrets of her past. Eloise and Finn, the school’s golden couple, aren’t all they seem to be. In fact, everyone’s life is infinitely more complex than it first appears. And as India grows closer to Finn and befriends Eloise, threatening the facades that hold them together, what’s left are truths that are brutal, beautiful, and big enough to change them forever…

The Impossible Vastness of Us is the first contemporary YA that Samantha Young has written and at first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to read it. Any of her younger stories gives me pause because of my rage after reading Out of the Shallows. I’m scared to try any other NA books by Young because of my experience with Jake and Charlie.

I’m still not quite sure why I picked this book up, other than it’s a Samantha Young and I enjoy most of her books so I caved and boy am I glad that I did because I enjoyed getting to know India, Finn and even Eloise.

India Maxwell is moving across the country, away from her friends and everything she’s ever known because her mother met someone and got engaged. She moved away from her California suburban home to the upper crust of Boston society. She went from being the popular poor girl to a rich newbie that nobody knew and then thanks to her soon to be step-sister, the rich newbie that nobody wanted to get to know. India hasn’t had an easy life. She’s dealing with a bunch of stuff from her past and having to build defenses against a new school and a new life isn’t easy for her. Her mother is happy with her new love and he’s got a daughter that is India’s age but she’s made it very clear that they won’t be besties. So India does what any normal person would do. She keeps her head down and gets on with life.

She has no interest in becoming a part of the family that her Mom is trying to blend. She’s got issues with male figures of authority and her step-sister isn’t an easy person to be around, especially since she’s got a boyfriend that India is way attracted to.

Against India’s better judgement, she becomes entangled in a friendship that can’t go anywhere and she’s put in a situation that she can’t get out of and there’s so much going on in her new life that she starts to flounder a bit and the reader is treated to some real character growth in India. I thought Samantha Young did a great job of showing us just how much India, Finn and Eloise grew from the beginning of the book to the end. They became a unit that I wasn’t prepared for and the secrets they kept were some pretty big secrets.

I came to learn that not everything is as it seems and pain hits everyone, no matter how poor or rich you are. India had her issues that she was working through and so did Finn and Eloise. I thought Samantha Young did a great job of portraying India’s mothers struggles to fix her relationship with India. I loved seeing India really come into her own and accept her new life and deal with her issues with Theo and separating him from her past. India was a great protagonist that wasn’t perfect but was relatable.

Finn and Eloise were great characters in their own right. Sure, they frustrated me from time to time, especially Finn’s hot and cold attitude but once everything is out in the open and they warm up to India (who never deserved their scorn), my attitude toward them changed. Eloise’s situation was a hard one to read about because I just wanted to hug her close and keep her safe from everything but I was really glad with the way that her story wrapped up.

Overall, this was great addition to Samantha Young’s backlist. I really connected with all of the characters, even bitch ass Bryce and I was cheering them all on to get their happy endings. This was an entertaining read from beginning to end and I definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting a fun contemporary YA with characters that are put through the wringer and come out on top in the end. It’s good, I promise!

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Guest Review: Forbidden Night with the Warrior by Michelle Willingham

Posted June 28, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Forbidden Night with the Warrior by Michelle WillinghamReviewer: Tracy
Forbidden Night with the Warrior by Michelle Willingham
Series: Warriors of the Night #1
Published by Harlequin
Publication Date: June 20th 2017
Genres: Medieval
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four-stars

One wicked night for an heir!

Rosamund de Courcy has always loved Warrick de Laurent, but was forced to marry another. Now her husband's dying command is that she must provide him with an heir. To do so, she will have to spend one sinful night...with Warrick!

The powerful warrior was wounded by Rosamund's abandonment years ago, and Warrick refuses to let her touch his heart again. But this illicit night is impossible to resist, and soon he is determined--he will not only possess her, but reclaim her for his own!

Three years ago Rosamund met and fell in love with Warrick.  She wanted nothing more than to be with Warrick but her father had other ideas about her future – not one where she wed a third son with no property.  Under threat of death to Warrick, Rosamund marries.  Now it’s three years later and her husband, Alan, is dying.  He summons Warrick to him and tells him that he wants him to lie with his wife to produce an heir.  Alan doesn’t want his evil brother to inherit and he knows he can’t produce an heir.  Rosamund is adamant that this not happen but Alan gets his way.

Being with Warrick again brings back all of the old feelings she once had for him.  She knows she never stopped loving him but she is still married to her husband.  When he dies Rosamund fears for her life fro Alan’s brother, Owen, and fleas her home.  Unfortunately Owen is determined to have Alan’s estates as well as Rosamund.

I never am one to read books that involve infidelity but this was a different take on everything.  I still didn’t care for it but I could deal with it better because of the circumstances.  Alan truly gave Rosamund no choice in the matter and that pissed me off.  He even forced it on her by coming to her in the dark –   he wanted her to believe that it was he that she was having sex with.  Of course she knew immediately it was Warrick.  That whole scene had me cringing because Warrick – who I had really liked  up until that point was involved.  It was a bit weird to say the least.

The story revolves around not only the issues with Alan and his wishes for Rosamund before he dies, but the issues with his brother Owen as well.   Then there was Rosamund and Warrick working out their issues from the past as well as the problems they faced currently.  There was a lot going on but as usual Willingham wrote it in such a way that it flowed easily.  She took all the different parts of the story and brought it into one cohesive and very good book.  I really enjoyed all of the parts of the story and definitely recommend this one.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Guest Review: Claiming His Highland Bride by Terri Brisbin

Posted June 15, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 4 Comments

Guest Review: Claiming His Highland Bride by Terri BrisbinReviewer: Tracy
Claiming His Highland Bride by Terri Brisbin
Series: A Highland Feuding #4
Also in this series: The Highlander's Runaway Bride

Publication Date: May 23rd 2017
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three-half-stars

Safe in her Highlander's arms!

After discovering her role in her father's plot to destroy another clan, Sorcha MacMillan risks her life to go into hiding. Her safety relies on her disguise, but she is drawn to a man who could see through her...

Unknown to Sorcha, Alan Cameron has been sent to track her down. He's attracted to the woman in disguise. Even after learning her true identity, he can't overcome his instinct to protect her. No matter the danger, he will keep Sorcha safe...and claim her as his bride!

Sorcha has been told by her father, a clan Chieftan, that she must wed but her soon-to-be fiancé is a horrible man.  The fiancé and her father are planning on ruining another clan by joining theirs and Sorcha wants no part of it.  Her mother has been able to protect Sorcha for years from her father’s machinations but she’s now dying.  The mother knows that Sorcha must escape her fate and tries to help her as best she can by giving her baubles and treasures little by little.  When her mother dies and the time comes for Sorcha and her father to travel to meet the fiancé Sorcha fakes her own death (with help from a friend of her mothers) and runs away.  She plans to run to Skye to become a nun but that plan is interrupted when her mother’s friend dies.  Sorcha is resourceful so she heads to her mother’s people who hide her among the clan.

Alan Cameron is a pawn in his uncle’s games.  His uncle is the man that Sorcha was supposed to marry.  When she disappears his uncle, Gilbert, calls him to find her as he’s the best tracker around.  He can’t find her but it looks like she died.  He’s not positive that was what happened but goes with it anyway.

Alan meets Sorcha, who goes by Saraid, and is instantly attracted to her which is good as she is instantly attracted to him as well.  He’s told that she will join a convent but he’s positive he can change her mind. Sorcha is adamant that she cannot change her mind but love has a funny way of changing people’s minds about the future.

This was a sweet story that had a few twists that I enjoyed.  I really liked Sorcha’s character and was surprised and pleased with her adamancy that she was going to join the convent.  She knew if Gilbert Cameron or her father found that she was alive there would be hell to pay.  I was thrilled she stood her ground for as long as she did but we all know she eventually caved. 🙂  Her actions at the end of the book were quite admirable and I loved the strength she showed.

Alan was a great character as well.  I was surprised that it took him as long as it did to figure out that Saraid was Sorcha.  They said he was a great tracker so why the heck couldn’t he figure it out? Lol  Oh well, it was a better story this way. 😉

Overall it was a good story and one I’d recommend if you’d like a quick historical book to read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Retro Review: Raintree: Inferno by Linda Howard

Posted May 24, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 6 Comments

Retro Review: Raintree: Inferno by Linda HowardReviewer: Holly
Raintree: Inferno by Linda Howard
Series: Raintree #1
Also in this series: Raintree: Sanctuary
Published by Silhouette
Publication Date: May 1st 2007
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Fantasy
Pages: 288
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three-half-stars

Two hundred years after the Raintree clan defeated and abandoned them on a small Caribbean Island, the Ansara wizards are rising again to take on their bitterest foes. Despite their extraordinary powers and supernatural origin, the Raintree have largely blended into the modern world. They are bankers, cops, husbands, wives and lovers in the society of humankind.

But now, from Nevada to North Carolina, the rejoined battle will measure the endurance of their people. It will test their loyalties and relationships. And it will force upon them all new lives they could barely have imagined before.

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

I think about this series every now and again. I may have to go back and re-read it at some point. Just to see if my opinion of it still stands. 

This review was originally published May 14, 2007

I’ve been hearing a lot about this book the last few weeks, most of it not so good. Jane at Dear Author and Rosie both reviewed it and neither had very good things to say about it. I’ve been a LH fangirl for years now, but her last few releases, with the exception of her Blair Mallory books have left a lot to be desired, so I wasn’t too keen on reading this before I read the bad reviews. After? Yeah, so wasn’t going to touch it.

But then last week I read Tara Marie’s review and changed my mind. You see, there are some things I find I can’t stomach in a novel, and brain rape is one of them. From what Rosie and Jane said, I was under the impression there was quite a bit of that in this novel. But Tara Marie shed a bit more light on the subject and I decided to see for myself how bad it truly was.

Side Note: Spoilers below. I don’t think I can say what I truly felt about this book without them. :End Side Note

Lorna Clay has been spending a good amount of time in Dante Raintree’s casino. Normally that wouldn’t be cause for concern – quite the opposite in fact – but she never loses. Never. She’s not winning massive amounts of money at one time, but she’s walking away with enough to make Dante and his main casino dude a bit skeptical. They can’t seem to spot how she’s cheating via video, but they’re sure she is. So they drag her upstairs to “question” her and both she and Dante seem to have a rather…electric connection to one another.

Now, Dante is a Raintree, which is a psychic type of people that have been around for hundreds of years. They have a feud going on with the Ansara clan that’s lasted for centuries, and as soon as Dante figures out that Lorna has psychic abilities, he starts to wonder if she’s Ansara.

To quote Lorna about the Raintree/Ansara situation:

“You’re the weirdo equivalent of the Hatfields and the McCoys?”

She’s not. Lorna doesn’t even realize she has powers. She just thinks she’s really lucky. While in Dante’s office, a fire breaks loose in the main part of the casino, 19 floors below them. As one of Dante’s powers is the ability to control fire, he immediately heads down to help fight it, dragging Lorna along with him.

Now, this is where Jane and Rosie seemed to start having major issues with the book. I’m just going to tell you what happened. This is still relatively early in the book (the 2nd or 3rd chapter, I think) so you probably won’t be hurting yourselves if you read this part, but beware, major spoilers below:

Dante goes down to the main part of the casino to fight the fire and he can’t. He isn’t sure why – if it’s because his powers have been depleted trying to help the guests get out, or if it’s the fire itself – but he can’t get it under control. At this point, he and Lorna are pretty much surrounded by the fire. There’s no way for them to get out alive. He’s placed a protective “bubble” around them, but it’s starting to crack and he knows they don’t have much time left. Plus, the hotel that’s attached to the casino is at full capacity and he’s afraid of how many lives will be lost if the fire spreads that far.

He knows if he had another Raintree there to connect minds with he’d be able to pool their power and contain the inferno, but there’s no one but him and Lorna. That’s when he realizes – duh – she has powers and he could use them to boost his own. That’s when he “brain rapes” her by pushing himself into her mind and combining her powers with his.

I honestly don’t see what the big deal is. When weighing a situation like that, your death along with possibly hundreds of others, or forcing yourself into the mind of another for the greater good, well…I just can’t say I blame the guy. No, it wasn’t pleasant for Lorna and yes it was a gross invasion of her privacy, but he didn’t do it to find out if she was Ansara, or to purposely cause her pain. He did it to save her life. And his. And possibly hundreds of others. No big deal.

What comes next is a bit harder to swallow. He uses a mind “compulsion” to keep her from running once the fire is under control and they’re out of the building. Basically, if he tells her “Don’t move” she’s literally stuck in one spot. Because he’s not convinced of her innocence – in either the gambling or the fire – he binds her to him and forces her to remain against her will. At one point he even orders her to silence.

I had a hard time with this. Perhaps it’s because I’m a fairly independent woman and I would hate to have all control of myself taken away. Or perhaps that has nothing to do with being independent or a woman, but simply a human being. In any case, the next chapter or so was hard for me to get through. The way Dante pretty much forced her home with him and then checked her out to see if she was Ansara left a bad taste in my mouth.

But I persisted and you know…I ended up really liking the book. Really liking it. I can’t say it’s LH’s best work, but it more closely resembled the classic LH I fell in love with than anything else she’s produced in recent years.

Lorna was a fabulous heroine. She suffered numerous shocks in a short period of time, but rather than bowing under them, she kept her chin up and her sense of humor. She was sassy and sarcastic, and though I thought she forgave Dante a little too soon for his mind control of her, her reasons for doing so made a lot of sense.

As for Dante, he was a typical Howard Alpha and I thought he was great for what he was. For those of you who enjoyed some of her earlier category type books and works like Dream Man, you should enjoy him.

The ending was a major cliffhanger, but the relationship aspect of the story was all wrapped up. Since this is the first of a trilogy, I wasn’t too upset with the ending. I am annoyed that I have to wait for the next 2 installments, but otherwise? I highly enjoyed it. Well, once I got over being pissed at Dante, that is.

I’m giving this a 3.5 out of 5.

I’m not sure how I feel about the whole 3 author trilogy, though. Having never read the other 2 authors, I can’t say for sure how excited I am to read them. On the other hand, I am anxious to see what happens next, so I’m sure I’ll purchase them.

The series is as follows:

Raintree: Inferno by Linda Howard
Raintree: Haunted by Linda Winstead Jones (to be released June 1, 2007)
Raintree: Sanctuary by Beverly Barton (to be released July 1, 2007)

This book is available from Silhouette Nocturne. You can purchase it here.

three-half-stars


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