Tag: Harlequin Intrigue

Guest Review: Man of Action by Janie Crouch

Posted June 24, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Man of Action by Janie CrouchReviewer: Jen
Man of Action by Janie Crouch
Series: Omega Sector: Critical Response #4
Published by Harlequin Books
Publication Date: June 21st 2016
Genres: Romance, Suspense, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 288
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Goodreads
two-stars

He was a man of action—especially when it came to protecting his new undercover partner…

At nineteen, Andrea Gordon's life was forever changed. After proving herself instrumental in a bank hostage crisis, she became one of Omega Sector's top agents. Four years later, her skill at reading people is unrivaled—until she meets fellow profiler Brandon Han. Paired together to track a serial killer who has been targeting at-risk women, the two become entangled beyond the case. Their mutual attraction deepens as they get closer to the truth. But when Andrea's own sordid past surfaces, they will both be forced to question everything about the assignment…and each other.

I have been reading the Omega Sector and Omega Sector: Critical Response books by Janie Crouch for a while now, and while they’re not exactly ground breaking, they’ve been solid Intrigue series, so I was looking forward to the newest title. While I appreciated the somewhat ambitious themes the author took on in this book, I got so damn frustrated with the hero. The more I thought about the book, the more angry I got at him, so here I am to review rant.

Omega is an elite federal law enforcement team that handles “special cases.” I’m a little fuzzy on their precise mission, but they seem to help local law enforcement with tricky cases, hunt down terrorists, you know the drill. In this book, Agent Brandon Han and Andrea Gordon are assigned to help catch a serial killer. Andrea is not technically a field agent, but she’s called into this case because of her incredible abilities to read people and because the murders are taking place in her hometown. Brandon is the agency’s top profiler and a literal genius, and he is not happy about being partnered with the very young, standoffish Andrea. For her part, Andrea is not happy either because her hometown holds nothing but terrible memories, and she’s terrified someone at Omega will find out about her past. Andrea has to come to terms with her past, and Brandon has to help her, until he screws it all up (more on that later).

Andrea is interesting and my favorite part of the book. She’s only in her early twenties but she has achieved a lot, even if she wouldn’t agree. She grew up with an abusive uncle, running away from home when she was still a teen to live in her car and work menial jobs until finally getting a job as a stripper to support herself. When she accidentally helps Omega catch a bank robber using her uncanny ability to read people, they recruit her. She has major insecurities born out of her abusive childhood and the fact that she’s dyslexic, so to protect herself she acts standoffish and remote to her colleagues. She dropped out of high school, though once at Omega she got her GED and started on some college courses. You can imagine how a very young, very shy, and very intimidated young girl would feel way out of her league at an elite law enforcement agency, especially one that employs geniuses like Brandon. Seeing Andrea start to recognize her talents and give herself credit for all her very hard won successes was awesome!

Right from the start, though, Brandon is an entitled, selfish dickhole. He instantly judges her as an ice queen because she keeps to herself. He thinks she’s lazy because she doesn’t read the case notes he gives her right away (instead she stays up half the night in her hotel room so she can read them alone and concentrate, so fuck you Brandon). He assumes she won’t be prepared to meet with local police and is shocked when she shows she does in fact have some skills. But lots of books start out with a case of misinterpretation, and it didn’t bother me until he just keeps up the judging. It all comes to a head when Andrea reluctantly goes undercover as a server at a strip club to try to help catch the killer. Based on a few minutes simply watching her (not, you know, a conversation with her or anything), Brandon decides she’s enjoying herself too much and therefore she’s a slut who likes other men to leer at her. What the actual fuck?! He knows she hated her past and only went undercover to stop more murders, and even if she DID like it screw him because there’s nothing wrong with it! Andrea, who is already massively ashamed of her past and miserable that she’s forced to be back doing the work she hates, even temporarily, is heartbroken by his withdrawal and the disdain he’s obviously communicating. Keep in mind, this is AFTER he learned about her abusive past and how she ran away, AFTER she’s confessed her shame and insecurities, AFTER they’ve slept together several times, and AFTER he claimed to understand and admire her.

Now, I want to be fair and point out that the book itself wasn’t slut shaming Andrea. Many characters go out of their way to highlight that there is nothing wrong with what she did, and in fact she should be admired for surviving. My issue was specifically with Brandon. I grade books, in part, on how much I believe in the couple and in their compatibility. I did not believe Brandon deserved Andrea–he deserved a swift kick in the junk, and she deserved a much better hero. I might have gotten over his behavior if a) it had taken place earlier in the story before he really knew Andrea, b) it had just been a minor thought that his genius brain quickly discarded because clearly everything he had learned about Andrea contradicted this interpretation, or c) he had done a major, massive, epic grovel to make up for it. Instead it happens later in the book, the big man-baby whines about it for days, and he only offers up a weak AF apology after two separate people had to put him in his place. Moreover, the whole thing felt like an awkward device to add conflict. Brandon can pick up on the most minute details of facial expressions and behaviors–he should have been able to read Andrea. I guess we’re supposed to think it’s because his judgment is clouded by love, but nope, I’m not buying it.

I love reading Intrigues specifically because I like the shorter length sometimes, but in this case I actually think this story really needed more pages. Besides the relationship conflict, there was a lot going on in this book, with a complicated murder investigation, confrontations with people from Andrea’s past, and this tension between genius and “darkness” in Brandon that really didn’t get fully explored. I wanted to see more of Andrea’s self-actualization, and I wanted to see more of Brandon genuinely supporting her in that process. I think with some more pages to develop and more time for Brandon to actually show learning and growth, I would have believed in this HEA. While I’ll happily keep reading the series, this book left me thinking Andrea could do so much better.

Grade: 2 out of 5

two-stars

Sugar and Spice Valentine’s Day Blog: Angi Morgan Talks the Sweet Things Heroes Do

Posted February 1, 2016 by Rowena in Promotions | 18 Comments

Harlequin 2016 Valentine's blog tour image_800-x-400

SWEET THINGS HEROES DO

A guest post by Angi Morgan, author of Bulletproof Badge

I only recently began celebrating Valentine’s Day with my husband after almost thirty tries. Most years he’s traveling for his job. He’ll be the first one to admit that he has to be reminded not to wait until the last minute to make plans. I learned very quickly in our relationship to appreciate the little things he did–when he did them. One surprise gift was a hand cut heart for my office with our initials that I’ll always treasure.

Angi Morgan-A&T Heart

My Intrigue heroes have a difficult time doing special things for their heroines, too. Mainly because they’re normally on the run for their lives. But there are a few times I may have gotten their actions just right.

This is from Therese S.:
Brandie to Mitch in THE RANGER (West Texas Watchmen #3)
“I love you.” She closed her eyes and leaned her head on his shoulder. “Not just for everything you’ve done in the past couple of days. It happened months ago. After one of those long, protective looks you gave me standing in the doorway of the garage.”

This is from Linda B.:
Cord to his ex-wife Kate after they’ve just had to fight off and kill some of the guys sent to kill them in PROTECTING THEIR CHILD:
“Thing is, babe…” He took a knee next to the chair so he could see her downcast eyes. “I wouldn’t hesitate to protect you again. Not a second. Let another bastard try.”
swoon They’ve been broken up for months, they’re already divorced…and yet he’d still do anything to keep her safe.

This is from Brenda R.:
One of my favorites is when Jake rescues Bree’s handicapped pup and keeps Dallas for her in THE MARINE’S LAST DEFENSE:
“Kyle Wilder sent my pup, Dallas, with an officer when we landed at the airport. She could be at the pound for all I know. And that’s not going to happen. I’ll make my statement when you find my dog.”

I hope you can celebrate Valentine’s Day each time your significant other does something special for you.

BULLETPROOF BADGE is book one in a four-part series about Company F in Texas Rangers: Elite Troop.

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About the Author

ANGI MORGAN writes Intrigues where honor and danger collide with love. Her work is a multiple contest finalist and Publisher’s Weekly best seller. She drags her dogs–and husband– around Texas for research road trips so she can write off her camera. They now have a map with highlighted roads they’ve traveled. Every detour somehow makes it into a book.

Website || Facebook FB Fan Page || Twitter @AngiMorganAuthr || Book Trailers on YouTube

Blog Tour: THE REBEL by Adrienne Giordano

Posted October 8, 2015 by Rowena in Promotions | 2 Comments

the rebel

 

Bad to the bone…in all the right ways

A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider—at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching.

But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn’t want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.

Chapter 1

“Come on, boy. Another quarter mile and we’re done.”

Larry McCall whistled for Henry, his black lab, who needed exercise more than Larry, to move along. Sunrise illuminated the sky, streaking it in shades of purple and orange that made even a grisly homicide detective marvel at the beauty of nature on an early fall morning.

With Henry busy sniffing a patch of dirt, Larry paused a moment, tilted his head back and inhaled the dewy air. Another two weeks, all these trees would be barren and the city would come in and scoop up the leaves. At which point, his body would make excuses to stay in bed rather than hoof it through ten acres of fenced-in fields on Chicago’s southwest side.

Half expecting Henry to trot by him, Larry opened his eyes and glanced to his left, where the dog always walked. No Henry. Since when had he gotten subversive? Larry angled back and found Henry still at the spot he’d been sniffing a minute ago. Only now he was digging. Hard. Terrific. Not only would he have dirt all over him, but he’d also probably snatch a dead animal out of the ground and drop it at Larry’s feet. Here ya go, Dad.

Not happening. He whistled again. “Leave it,” he said in his best alpha dog voice.

His bum luck was that Henry had alpha tendencies, too, and kept digging. He’d have to leash him and pull him away before a dead squirrel wound up in his jaws.

Years earlier the city had torn down three low-income apartment buildings—the projects—because of the increased drug and criminal activity surrounding the place. All that was left was the fenced-in acreage that made for great walking. Problem was, there could be anything—rodents, needles, crack baggies, foil scraps—buried. Needles. Dammit. Larry hustled back to the dog before he got stuck. Or stoned.

“Whatever you found, Henry, we don’t want any part of. Leave it.”

He snapped the leash on, gently eased Henry back and was met with ferocious barking. What the hell? His happy dog had gone schizo.

“What is it, boy?”

Holding the dog off the hole he’d started, Larry bent at the waist to focus on something white—dull white—peeking through the dirt.

Henry barked and tugged at the leash.

“Okay, boy. Relax. Let me look at it.”

He led a still barking Henry to a tree, secured the leash around it to keep him at bay and walked back to the spot. Using the handkerchief he always carried—yes, he was that old school, so what?—to protect his hands, he cleared more of the loose, moist dirt from the top, and more white appeared. He tapped the surface. Solid. Rock solid. And Larry’s stomach twisted in a way it only did on the job.
Stop. Twenty years of working homicide told him he should. Right now. Don’t go any further; call it in.

Birds chirped overhead, the sound so crisp and incessant it sliced right into his ears. Henry apparently had riled `em good. Still squatting, Larry scanned the desolate area. Beyond the fence at the end of the last quarter mile, the early morning rush began to swell on Cicero.

Henry barked again. Normally calm as a turtle, he wanted to dig.

Larry cocked his head to study whatever peeked through the dirt, and once again his stomach seized. After all these years, only one thing futzed with his stomach.

Crime scene.

But, truth be told, he had a tendency to overthink things. Something else years on the job had done to him. Hell, he could be staring at an old ceramic bowl. And how humiliating would it be to call this in and have it wind up being someone’s china?

Just hell.

Henry barked again, urging him on, and Larry gave in to his curiosity and pushed more loose dirt around. At least until he hit a depression and his finger, handkerchief and all, slid right into it. Gently, he moved his finger around, hitting the outer edges of the depression, and a weird tingling shot up his neck. His breathing kicked up.

What’d this dog find?

He cleared more dirt, his fingers moving gently, revealing more and more of the surface of whatever was buried here. Once again, his fingers slipped into the depressed area and he knew. Dammit.

He’d just stuck his finger into an eye socket.

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Giordano Author Photo

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery. She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction.

Connect with Adrienne: Website / Newsletter / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

Guest Review: The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

Posted October 8, 2015 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: The Rebel by Adrienne GiordanoReviewer: Jen
The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano
Published by Harlequin Intrigue
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-half-stars

A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider—at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching.

But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn’t want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.

As the book opens, an off duty detective finds a skull in an empty lot in Chicago, obviously the victim of a murder. Years later, he’s still bothered by the unsolved crime and approaches artist Amanda LeBlanc to see if she can do a reconstruction to aid in identifying the woman. Amanda wants nothing to do with it, but the conversation is overheard by Pamela Hennings, wife of a famous lawyer-turned-investigator. Mrs. Hennings decides that this cold case needs solving, so she asks her son David to help convince Amanda to do the reconstruction. He manages to convince her to try a reconstruction, and he is pleasantly surprised by their mutual attraction. When disturbing things start happening to Amanda, she and David have to also investigate why someone might be causing trouble for her.

My favorite part of the book was David and Amanda’s relationship. I appreciated that they were open and honest with each other. Amanda lets David know what she needs to self soothe, and she stands up to David when she needs to. David in particular isn’t shy about letting Amanda know he’s interested. He admits he feels something new and exciting for her, and I like that just he wants to explore it instead of immediately tossing around words like “forever” like so many do in romances. While the two have an immediate attraction, for the most part they get to know each other before they really act on it. The story still takes place in a matter of days, but it doesn’t feel too rushed in the timeline of the plot. Their dialogue was snappy and fun. I’m always a sucker for a book set in Chicago, too, though I did wish the author made a little more use of the setting.

In contrast to their great moments of honesty, at other times David and Amanda both read as immature. Amanda is almost compulsively averse to emotional upheaval, even the good kind. She obviously has some unexplored angst due to her childhood. David has tons of issues with his family, and that’s where I felt like he seemed particularly immature. It’s not that I didn’t think the conflicts with his family were believable, but the way he handles them made him seem more like a young man than a grown man, which was unappealing. For instance, at one point he has a fight with his sister and gets mad at Amanda because she didn’t take his side. He actually says she needs to be on “Team David” at all times. I rolled my eyes there. I just didn’t enjoy that petty, immature side of him, and it didn’t mesh with his character elsewhere. I also really disliked his sister Penny. Penny is the heroine from an earlier related book, The Defender. I suspect she comes across very differently in her own book, but here she was unpleasantly sharp and mean. David was no saint, but I couldn’t help feeling like he was making much more of an effort to get along than Penny was. I certainly don’t feel inclined to read about her perspective in her own book. The mystery in this book was also just a touch flat. I liked the premise, but I felt like the villain came out of left field, and the whole thing relied on a few too many coincidences for my liking. It had good bones, but maybe needed a bit more fleshing out to feel realistic.

Overall, this book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I felt like there were some missteps, but I still enjoyed myself.

Grade: 3.5 out of 4

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

three-half-stars

Guest Review: Leverage by Janie Crouch

Posted September 7, 2015 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

leverage
Jen’s review of Leverage (Omega Sector #4) by Janie Crouch.

He’d been hired to transport precious cargo–and it put a beautiful twist in his solitary life

Former operative turned pilot Dylan Branson has one mission: deliver vital codes to Omega Sector before millions of lives are lost. Surprisingly, the codes reside in the photographic memory of Shelby Keelan, a beautiful computer expert who’s so far survived two murder attempts.

Used to doing things solo, Dylan will get Shelby to Washington, DC, then walk away. So he’s stunned to discover she’s as much a loner as he is–and how much that appeals to him. Now, with both their lives in danger after his plane is sabotaged midair, Dylan no longer thinks of Shelby as just a job. Or that he’ll be able to let her go once it’s over.

This book is the final installment in the Omega Sector series, which I’ve really enjoyed. The series centers on a “covert interagency task force” and the four Branson siblings who work there. Not a new concept and nothing particularly groundbreaking in the series, but it’s got solid hooks and some interesting characters and it kept me reading. You can enjoy this book without reading the others, but there is a larger storyline throughout the books, so you’ll get the most out of it if you read them all.

Leverage is about the fourth Branson sibling, Dylan. Actually, Dylan USED to work for Omega but quit to be a private pilot after his wife and unborn child were murdered as part of an operation gone wrong. He’s a loner and while he loves his siblings, he keeps major distance between him and anyone else since losing his family. He agrees to help Omega by transporting Shelby Keelan, who has vital information that could stop DS-13, the terrorist organization Omega has been battling. Shelby too is a loner, mostly due to social anxiety. She’s a computer programmer and genius with numbers, but she doesn’t like being around people and gets easily overwhelmed by social interactions. When it becomes clear someone is targeting Shelby, Dylan’s simple delivery mission turns into a job keeping Shelby and himself alive. They have to make their way to DC, decipher the code, and discover who in Omega might be a mole trying to sabotage their mission.

Let me just start by saying I love Shelby. She is brilliant and kind and weird in the best ways. I loved her almost as much as I loved Megan, the also-genius heroine from book 2 and Shelby’s best friend. Even better, Shelby is a tough lady. She’s not an agent and doesn’t do heroics, but she isn’t a complainer, isn’t overly dramatic, and is self sufficient. She knows how to take care of herself emotionally, and she’s not afraid to say what she thinks. She has self-doubts, especially because most people in her life are not accepting of her quirks, but she doesn’t fall apart when Dylan jerks her around. I imagined her as a kindred spirit, and I wish I could be friends with her in real life!

I liked Dylan too, but I didn’t like the way he flip flopped through most of the story. He says some incredibly obnoxious things to Shelby when he’s hurting, and he keeps doing it until way too late in the book. I can understand being wary of getting emotionally involved, but the mean things he said to her were unacceptable. I love the way he tries to make up for it in the end–he demonstrates that he understands Shelby and loves her for who she is–but I would have liked a bit more to prove he’d changed. I did feel like they were a good match, though. It’s almost comical when Dylan realizes he’s met a woman who likes to be alone even more than he does! Neither feel the need to fill silence with idle conversation, both appreciate solitude, and both are good at giving non-verbal support. They were complimentary and could understand the other in a way most others could not.

I liked the plot and the way the larger series threads were tied up, but I felt like the pacing was a little uneven in the book. There were periods of action, but then lots of periods of strategizing and waiting. I felt like the last part of the book dragged a little bit because of it. I think the other books did a better job of balancing the action with the mundane. I also felt like there was a bit too much time spent with the previous heroes/heroines even though I liked them all. My favorite parts of Leverage were when it was just Dylan and Shelby on the run. I would have liked more of that, less of everyone else.

Now that many Harlequin category titles are $4.99 (or close to it), I find myself being a bit harsher with them than I have been in the past. IMO, that’s a lot of money to spend on short books that frequently turn out to be not worth reading! (I received a review copy of Leverage, but I purchased the other books in the series.) I can’t say whether its “worth” it for every reader, but as someone who enjoyed Intrigues, I think this book and series are above average. The plots are engaging and the romances are touching. Book 2 was my personal favorite, but they all were entertaining. (Trigger warning: book 3 deals with the aftermath of an assault and rape.) I’m happy I found this series, and I’ll be looking forward to more from this author in the future.

Grade: 3.75 out of 5

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