Tag: Brenda Novak

Review: Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak

Posted September 16, 2016 by Casee in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda NovakReviewer: Casee
Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: August 30th 2016
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 432
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble

First in an electrifying new series from New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak
THE HUNT FOR A SERIAL KILLER Evelyn Talbot knows that a psychopath can look perfectly normal. She was only sixteen when her own boyfriend Jasper imprisoned and tortured her—and left her for dead. Now an eminent psychiatrist who specializes in the criminal mind, Evelyn is the force behind Hanover House, a maximum-security facility located in a small Alaskan town. Her job puts her at odds with Sergeant Amarok, who is convinced that Hanover is a threat to his community…even as his attraction to beautiful Evelyn threatens to tear his world apart. BEGINS WITH AN ESCAPE FROM HER PAST Then, just as the bitter Alaskan winter cuts both town and prison off from the outside world, the mutilated body of a local woman turns up. For Amarok, this is the final proof he needs: Hanover has to go. Evelyn, though, has reason to fear that the crime is a personal message to her—the first sign that the killer who haunts her dreams has found her again. . .and that the life she has so carefully rebuilt will never be the same…

Dr. Evelyn Talbot has dedicated her life to gain a better understanding of the mind of a psychopath. Hanover House is a place that has opened after years of dedication and hard work. Evelyn runs Hanover House, but she can still be held accountable for her decisions.

Evelyn has been obsessed (that’s the only word to use here) with the psychotic mind since she was sixteen. Abducted by her high school boyfriend and subsequently tortured and raped, Evelyn was left for dead. It was only a stroke of luck that left Evelyn alive and able to get help. No one had a clue what Jasper was capable of, including Evelyn herself. That’s what got her obsession started. Ever since then, it has run her life.

Sergeant Amarok is the only law enforcement in Hilltop, Alaska. When a body turns up shortly after a storm hits and the power goes out, Amarok is sure that his fears about Hanover House have finally come true. Evelyn, of course, isn’t so sure. She is sure that Jasper is back to finish her off. All the signs are right there with how the body is left, how it’s someone close to her, and how the killer leaves clues that mock Evelyn.

Amarok isn’t a detective, but as he digs deeper, he is more inclined to believe Evelyn. He still thinks it has something to do with Hanover House, but now he thinks it is someone on the outside of the bars.

This was a psychological thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat. There were so many twists and turns that I felt like a pretzel. What I didn’t like is Evelyn’s obsession. It really seemed to overtake anything else in the book. The romance, the suspense, the mystery. It was just so prevalent that I couldn’t forget it long enough to really get into the book. I understood it, but things she did at the risk of her own life and safety almost made her TSTL.

It doesn’t matter enough that I’m not hooked. I love the idea of Hanover House and already read the chapter for the next book. It seems that Evelyn has a genius psychopath on her hands and I can’t wait to see them go head to head.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.

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Review: The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak

Posted August 2, 2016 by Casee in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: The Secrets She Kept by Brenda NovakReviewer: Casee
The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak
Series: Fairham Island #2
Published by MIRA
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The rich and powerful Josephine Lazarow, matriarch of Fairham Island, is dead. The police say it's suicide, but Keith, her estranged son, doesn't believe it.

Keith bears scars—both physical and emotional—from his childhood, but he's worked hard to overcome the past. After walking away from his mother and her controlling ways five years ago, he's built a new life in LA. He's also accumulated a fortune of his own. But as soon as he learns of his mother's death, he returns to Fairham. He feels he owes it to his grandfather to put the family empire together again—and he's determined to find his mother's killer.

Problem is…coming home to Fairham puts him back in contact with Nancy Dellinger, the woman he hurt so badly when he left before. And digging that deep into his mother's final days and hours entails a very real risk.

Because the person who killed her could be someone he loves…

Keith was an unspeakable ass in The Secret Sister, which was book one in this series. He was a drug addict and he took advantage of everyone he could, including Nancy Dellinger. On one hand, I want to forgive him because I know that being an addict is a real problem. OTOH, I can’t forgive him for all the people he hurt. I also can’t believe that Nancy fell in love with him. Nor can I believe that she’s been pining after him for five years.

Keith left Fairham Island five years ago and has been estranged with his mother Josephine since he left. He has kept in touch with both his sisters. He’s cleaned himself up and made a success of himself in real estate. A call in the middle of the night changes everything. His mother is dead. An apparent suicide. Keith doesn’t believe for one moment that the mighty Josephine Lazarow would kill herself and he flies to Fairham Island determined to prove it.

Oh the secrets and lies. This book read like a soap opera. A somewhat trashy soap opera. Then enter Nancy back into the picture. At first she wants to stay away from Keith. Then she wants to take what she can get before he leaves and goes back to California. Then she decides she wants to have some semblance of self-respect so she decides she needs to stay away from him. Then she decides she needs to take what she can get before he leaves because he’s the love of her life. Oh boy, girl can’t make up her mind.

In the meantime, Keith is stirring up a hornets nest by asking questions about everything to everyone on the island regarding Josephine. He doesn’t like the answers he’s getting either. In the end, it wasn’t surprising to know who the killer was. It was all tied up in a nice neat little bow. The end was a little to neat for me, especially Keith and Nancy’s relationship. It was just too pat for me. It doesn’t happen that easily, not in books. There was plenty of angst on Nancy’s part, but anytime Keith came calling, he got what he wanted. It was maddening.

I enjoyed The Secret Sister much more.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


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Guest Review: When Snow Falls by Brenda Novak

Posted October 23, 2012 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 0 Comments

Judith’s review of When Snow Falls (Whiskey Creek Trilogy #2) by Brenda Novak 

After growing up in cheap motels, moving from town to town with her sister and mother, Cheyenne Christensen is grateful to be on her own. She’s grateful, too, for the friends she found once her family settled in California. But she’s troubled by the mystery of her earliest memories, most of which feature a smiling blonde woman. A woman who isn’t her mother.

Although Cheyenne has repeatedly asked for explanations, the people who could help aren’t talking. Cheyenne is set on finding answers, but without so much as a birth certificate, it won’t be easy.

Things get even more complicated when her closest friend is attracted to the man Cheyenne has secretly loved for years. For Eve’s sake, she decides to step aside — which lands her right in the arms of Dylan Amos, oldest and baddest of the hell-raising Amos brothers. He’s the kind of guy she’s sworn to avoid. She can’t afford to make a mistake, not when she finally has a chance to learn who she really is and change her life for the better. But . . . maybe there’s more to Dylan than she thought. Maybe letting him go would be a bigger mistake.

Set in a picturesque small community in Northern California, not really very far from Sacramento or San Francisco, this emotional and pain-filled novel examines the experiences of a woman who was introduced in the first novel in this series as a group of individuals who regularly get together for coffee, have grown into a close-knit group and who all went to school together in Whisky Creek.  They are, for the most part, upwardly mobile and relatively successful.  For Cheyenne Christiansen they are like family–like no group of people she has ever experienced before.  They have been her stability and in accepting her have given her the only sense of worth she has had her entire life.  Her mother is dying of cancer, her sister is a on-and-off drug user and irresponsible about most things, always needing money, yet trying to carry her load in helping care for their mother, a woman who has dragged them both through every conceivable social and emotional knothole.  The stability and acceptance Cheyenne has found in Whiskey Creek is so important that even when she finds herself involved with a less-than-socially-acceptable man she waffles in her willingness to make their relationship public because she doesn’t want to lose the good opinion this group has of her.  Yet in Dylan Amos she finds a kindred spirit, a man who understands her sense of loss in a way no one else ever has.

This book looks at the damage an unprincipled and self-centered woman causes, not only for her daughters but for the others whose lives she touches with her evil and her ability to hurt.  That Cheyenne has any morality or any sense of the “normal” is almost a miracle.  It is also a story that is written with such realism that the reader will feel deeply the sense of being “odd man out” with her mother and sister as she tries to deal with old but persistent memories no one will acknowledge or help her understand.  The reader will also be deeply aware of the struggles in Cheyenne’s heart–the importance of keeping her best friend, the old “crush” she has on Joe but whose growing attraction she must deny  because of that friendship, the desire to know what it is like to be sexually desirable as well as recognizing the sense that Dylan has that his growing love for Cheyenne has no hope of being returned.  It’s a book that deals with real life during a period in this young woman’s experience when all her best friends are gone and she must finally make decisions about her own path forward.  Her maturity and the way she deals with her struggles, her deep loyalty to her best friend and especially to her sister is truly amazing and makes this a story that won’t be easily forgotten.  The action in this story takes place right around the Christmas holiday season and could justifiably called a “holiday romance.”  However, it can be read at any time of the year and still be enjoyed just as much.

Brenda Novak has that knack of writing stories that get under your skin, that make a reader aware of a slice of life that we don’t often encounter.  Her love scenes are full of heat and her lovers raw and gritty.  In this story you also encounter a hero who has weathered his own dastardly storms and has had to find a way to live with betrayal and being abandoned by both his parents in favor of keeping his brothers together, of becoming their anchor and the center of their family when he was almost too young to know how to do that. His anger and hurt were overwhelming and his way of handling those issues weren’t socially acceptable, but he has matured and come full circle.  He need’s Cheyenne’s healing love as badly as she needs his.  Not too many authors feel secure in giving us heroes who “miss the mark” and who are “less than” what society deems acceptable.  Even as he struggles with his own fear of Cheyenne’s rejection, his deep caring and his tender heart are pushing him to offer her support and comfort.  He is, in every sense of the word, a good man.

I found this book to be another Novak winner and am delighted to have been able to read and review it.  It is a book that really demands to be read and enjoyed and the story is one that will challenge any reader to move beyond our safe lives as we consider many in our society who long for the security of love and family.

I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

The Series:

Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.

This novel will be released by Harlequin MIRA  in October, 2012.

This book is available from Mira. You can buy it here or here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

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Guest Review: When Lightning Strikes by Brenda Novak

Posted September 4, 2012 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 1 Comment

Judith’s review of When Lightning Strikes by Brenda Novak

Welcome to Whiskey Creek- Heart of the Gold Country! Simon O’Neal’s causing trouble again. And it’s up to Gail DeMarco to stop him. Gail DeMarco left Whiskey Creek, California, to make a name for herself in Los Angeles. Her PR firm has accumulated a roster of A-list clients, including the biggest box office hit of all- sexy and unpredictable Simon O’Neal. But Simon, who’s just been through a turbulent divorce, is so busy self-destructing he won’t listen to anything she says. She drops him from her list-and he retaliates by taking the rest of her clients with him. Desperate to save her company, Gail has to humble herself by making a deal with Simon. The one thing he wants is custody of his son, but that’s going to require a whole new image. He needs to marry some squeaky-clean girl who’ll drag him off to some small, obscure place like Whiskey Creek…. Gail’s the only one he can trust. She agrees to become his wife-reluctantly. But she isn’t reluctant because he’s too hard to like. It’s because he’s too hard not to love!

She was well and truly away from Whiskey Creek, or so she thought. A little town filled with people she loved but who smothered her with their insistent caring and overwhelming need to know everything about everyone. She was successful and living among the beautiful people, yet her heart was cold and her love life sterile. She was certain of her place in the scheme of things until an arrogant and overbearing, out-of-control actor upended her world and necessitated a return to her home town in order to give her husband-in-name-only a chance at a new and stable life in order to reclaim his son.
This is a complicated story in some ways, examining the inner workings of the thoughts and feelings of two people, both of whom need a change in their lives and who must begin to recognize the value within themselves and each other as well as the values of that small, close-knit community that nurtured Gail during her early years. It is in Whiskey Creek that Simon reclaims his love of creating things, of learning the true nature of love, of recognizing inner beauty as well as external sex appeal. Simon must fight the demons of his budding alcoholism, his desire for fame and fortune, his love of the adoration of the crowd. Gail must deal with the fact that her relationship with Simon of short duration, that regardless of her coming to love him, he will be out of her life eventually, possibly sooner rather than later. There is a growing tension that continues to build throughout the novel so that it is left to the reader to wonder how these two main characters can every find their way toward one another.
As always, Ms Novak writes a story that is engaging and well worth the time and effort to read. It is a love story at its core but to a greater extent this is a story about the healing that kindness and a strong sense of community can bring into hearts and souls that are torn by deep pain and a sense of failure, deep loss and the knowledge that one has lost the company of those most loved. Simon may have been at the peak of his movie career but he was locked in the doldrums of loss and failure at his deepest personal level. Whiskey Creek and Gail gave him back his life. It is how they did this that form the core of this story.
I love novels like this that lift up the warmth and spirit of giving found in communities like Whiskey Creek. It is a reassuring kind of story, one that helps the reader to encounter the hopes and dreams that make the human spirit proud and which give a person new awareness of one’s intrinsic value. I am delighted to have read this novel and highly recommend it as another fine example of very good writing from an author with a proven track record for very good romance fiction. Don’t miss it.

I give it a rating of 4 out of 5

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place
This book is available from MIRA. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

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Guest Review: The Bastard by Brenda Novak

Posted February 24, 2012 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 0 Comments

Judith’s review of The Bastard by Brenda Novak.


To some men honor is just a word…

Jeannette Boucher, a young French beauty from a family left penniless by the revolution, must marry against her will to save them all from ruin. But almost immediately after the vows are spoken, she learns that her old English husband is impotent—and in his desire for an heir, he plans to compromise her in the worst way. Determined to escape such a fate, she stows away on one of His Majesty’s frigates. But a woman alone is in constant danger.

To Lieutenant Treynor, honor means everything…

Born a bastard to a wayward marquise, Lieutenant Crawford Treynor was given to a poor farmer to raise and was maltreated until he ran away to join the Royal Navy. Treynor is determined to prove he’s as good as any other man and rise to captain his own frigate. But once he finds Jeannette aboard The Tempest he must decide whether to return her to the man he knows would abuse her—or risk everything, even his life, to keep her safe.

The politics of the English aristocracy–and indeed, any aristocratic society of the past centuries–rests on the legitimacy of its inhabitants. Being born “on the wrong side of the blanket” was not an uncommon occurrence, but it was not a welcome one in high-born circles. Early 19th century English society was as starchy as they come, and being illegitimate or–as it was commonly thrown around–a bastard was the death knell for any kind of ascendancy professionally or acceptance of one’s worth. There was always a legitimate aristocrat around who was happy to step on a person’s knuckles or kick them in the ribs, or allow inuendo or rumor to do its dastardly work. The Royal Navy was particularly rife with this kind of inequity, so it was a credit to Lieutenant Treynor that he had even risen to officer rank of any kind.

Perhaps it was his early experiences as the recipient of abuse that made him more aware of the stresses that were the realities in the lives of his sailors. Because of his intelligence and his empathy, he was a favorite of his crew, much to the chagrin of another higher ranking officer whose knowledge of the sea and inherent leadership skills were largely missing. Yet because he was the son of a high ranking aristocratic family, he could make Treynor’s life miserable. Thus, Treynor’s championship of the bedraggled cabin boy who came aboard quite unexpectantly became the issue which gave the other officer means to remove Treynor from his hard-earned position.

Those who know Ms Novak’s writing in several romance genres know that she does not write simplistic novels. Her characters are complicated, usually caught up in situations that are seldom easy to understand or difficulties that are never easy to resolve. This novel is no exception. Treynor’s professional challenges were only a part of the burden he carried. His mother refused to tell him the identity of his father and the relationship they endured was laced with anger, resentment, and painful memories. Because of the terrible abuse he had to endure early in his life, he was determined that he would keep clear of the fairer sex except to “meet his needs” when they could no longer be ignored. Yet at his core he was always an honorable man who was even willing to take the flogging for a youngster (who was really the heroine) whose ignorance of naval law put him/her in danger.

This story is also based on the politics of marriage, the practice of securing “good marriages” for daughters in order to regain wealth or in Jeanette’s case, to regain lost aristocratic standing because of their misfortunes due to the French Revolution and having to flee for their lives, thereby losing everything. Being dependent on a distant English relative–being the never-appreciated poor relations–made it necessary for Jeannette to marry a well-heeled and high ranking aristocrat. Unlike Treynor, he was NOT a man of honor.

This novel will take time and effort to savor and enjoy. It is one of those novels that completely engages the mind and yet, through it all, is woven the love story of these two people who are both caught in the machinery and manipulations of the aristocracy. I know that some may see this as a novel wherein the author was trying to too much into it. I don’t see it that way. Life is messy and millions of people have lived with circumstances that, no matter how they try, just keep on getting worse, more complicated, and ultimately are overwhelming. So it appears with Treynor and Jeannette’s involvement with each other as well as their wider issues. There are lots of twists and turns, unexpected developments, and a hefty amount of surprise for the reader. It is never boring. But don’t expect a simplistic boy-meets-girl with the inevitable happily ever after. The reader will probably have to wait almost until the end to figure out how it’s all going to pan out.

Fans of really good historical romance will delight in this story. It is rich and intellectual, romantic and filled with sexual tension. The reader will have no difficulty feeling the deep emotions that are often a part of the narrative. Even the ultimate future of an unhappy stowaway becomes an important part of Treynor’s story. It is really a terrific book and one I will be re-reading. I don’t think it is possible to get it all the first time through.

I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Brenda Novak, Inc.. You can buy it here in e-format.

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