Tag: Helenkay Dimon

Guest Review: The Pretender by HelenKay Dimon

Posted March 21, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: The Pretender by HelenKay DimonReviewer: Jen
The Pretender (Games People Play #3) by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Games People Play #3
Also in this series: The Fixer, The Enforcer (Games People Play #2), The Negotiator (Games People Play #2.5)
Publisher: Harper Collins, Avon
Publication Date: December 26th 2017
Format: eARC
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 368
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three-half-stars

“Sexy, emotional, funny . . . Dimon gives it all to her readers.” New York Times Bestselling Author Jill Shalvis

They say it takes a thief to catch a thief, and Harrison Tate is proof. Once a professional burglar, he now makes a lawful living tracking down stolen art. No one needs to know about his secret sideline, “liberating” artifacts acquired through underhanded methods. At least until one of those jobs sees him walking in on a murder.

Gabrielle Wright has long been estranged from her wealthy family, but she didn’t kill her sister. Trouble is, the only person who can prove it is the sexy, elusive criminal who shouldn’t have been at the island estate on that terrible night. She’s not expecting honor among thieves—or for their mutual attraction to spark into an intense inferno of desire.

Under the guise of evaluating her family’s art, Harris comes back to the estate hoping to clear Gabby’s name. But returning to the scene of the crime has never been riskier, with their hearts and lives on the line.

The Games People Play series is all about a group of men with traumatic, messed up childhoods who create a found family and go on to become extremely successful (of course). Book 3 is about brother Harrison Tate. Harrison is what might be termed a cat burglar. Apparently in the past he was more indiscriminate in his thieving, but now he’s a “good” thief who only steals from people who deserve it…supposedly. When the book opens, he is in the middle of a job and happens upon a recent murder. He runs out, but not before the victim’s sister catches an unidentifiable glimpse of him. Fast forward to the present, when Harrison, with the help of Wren, has returned to the scene of the crime posing as an art appraiser. His main objective is to help the sister, Gabrielle Wright, who was never charged but has fallen under suspicion for having killed her sister. Harrison knows she didn’t do it, and he’s been wracked with guilt that he didn’t do more to help before. He’s back to protect Gabrielle and see justice done. Gabrielle is hiding some pretty big secrets herself, and Harrison is lying about who he is. When they start falling for each other, it adds a complication neither one particularly welcomes.

I liked Harrison, in a way. He is very sweet and gentle in a way I think some of the other brothers aren’t. I enjoyed the verbal dance he and Gabrielle do as they circle each other. They both know they are attracted but that it’s a bad idea to get involved. I really felt for Gabrielle, too. She has a lot of unfair shit happen to her, and it made me so sad to see. She gives so much to protect the people she loves, and she really deserved her happy ending.

It’s a bit hard to get around the fact that Harrison is a thief. “But he steals for good reasons” was kind of a cop out, in my mind. Hell, the whole catalyst for this book is that he was stealing from Gabrielle’s sister–there were “good” reasons involved but she certainly wasn’t a villain. I didn’t quite love that. An even bigger issue is the lying, my own personal hot button. I sound like a broken record about lying, I know, but Dimon keeps including these major lies in her books and it keeps yanking me out of the stories! (Clearly this series is based around characters lying and hiding secrets and I am a glutton for punishment for continuing to read them.) Unlike the lies in Book 2, which come out in the middle, Harrison doesn’t ever fess up to Gabrielle until the very end. I totally understand why he kept lying, but there is no way it was not going to go badly when the truth finally came out. Gabrielle never got a chance to know him or come to terms with what happened. There are all kinds of meager justifications for why he kept silent and how he was trying to protect Gabrielle behind the scenes, but I was just not liking it. Still, I felt awfully sorry for Harrison when he realizes he fucked it all up. I was actually tearing up at the end when he comes into a work meeting and realizes Gabrielle’s there…ack, he is so heartbroken it pained me! If he had confessed earlier on, I would have been a happier reader.

I think you could easily begin this series at this book, although Book 1 was my favorite and I’d absolutely suggest you start there. I know I enjoyed, but didn’t love, Book 3. If you have an easier time overlooking the hero lying than I do, this may appeal even more.

Games People Play Series

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Guest Review: The Negotiator by HelenKay Dimon

Posted March 19, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: The Negotiator by HelenKay DimonReviewer: Jen
The Negotiator (Games People Play #2.5) by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Games People Play #2.5
Also in this series: The Fixer, The Enforcer (Games People Play #2), The Pretender (Games People Play #3)
Publisher: Harper Collins, Avon Impulse
Publication Date: November 14th 2017
Format: eARC
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 128
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Goodreads

Lauren Gallagher’s life changed almost three years ago. After her husband disappeared at sea, she was left with a failing pleasure boat company and more than a few secrets. Now, after years spent rebuilding the business and paying off the pile of debts, she finally feels in control. But when she finds her husband, actually dead, on the floor, she becomes the leading suspect in his murder investigation.

Garrett McGrath wants Lauren in his bed, not his heart. He doesn’t do emotions, but every time he sees her, holding himself back gets harder and harder. When Lauren comes under suspicion for killing her previously presumed-dead husband, he knows he has to help her, any way he can.

But as the danger becomes more intense and Garret and Lauren grow closer than either planned, they’re in danger of losing everything…including their hearts.

Did you read any of the other books in the Games People Play series? If so, you encountered Garrett McGrath. He works for the hero from book 1, Wren. Garrett is…Wren’s assistant? Right hand man? I’ve never been entirely clear on his exact role, but he’s kind of the go-to guy who helps Wren with all manner of tasks. He’s also very funny, snarky, and kind, which is what made me fall in love with him in book 1. Unfortunately, his book 2.5 story wasn’t as good as he deserved.

When the story opens, Garrett has apparently been getting friendly (actually friends, no friends-with-benefits!) with Lauren, the best friend of the heroine from book 1. He really likes Lauren and wants something more than friendship, but that’s all she’s comfortable with so he takes it. When it turns out her supposedly dead husband shows up very much alive, but then is murdered in her house, Lauren turns to Garrett for help. He works for The Fixer, remember, so fixing is literally his business. He has to help Lauren figure out why her husband disappeared in the first place, why he returned, and who murdered him for real. And of course, he’s hoping along the way Lauren is willing to take a chance on a relationship with him.

I got frustrated with Lauren’s standoffishness at times, but I didn’t think it was unreasonable given what happened with her awful ex. It made sense that she would be cautious and not trust easily. I enjoyed that she wasn’t perfect but that her choices were a product of the messed up lessons she’d learned from her past. The problem was, I never felt like I understood why Garrett loved her. This story was just too short. We are told that Garrett and Lauren have been hanging out, but we missed all that. Instead, we see them at this crisis point and have to trust that they did indeed have a friendship going beforehand. I wanted to see a bit more of their relationship growing. It was difficult to step into a story that felt like it was ⅓ of the way through already.

I really wish Garrett had gotten a full-length story. He’s hilarious and sweet, and I wanted to see more. Still, the dialog and humor in this series are wonderful, and it’s sexy. I enjoyed getting to know Garrett and Lauren, and I was happy to read it.

Games People Play Series

Grade: 3 out of 5


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Guest Review: The Enforcer by HelenKay Dimon

Posted March 14, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 5 Comments

Guest Review: The Enforcer by HelenKay DimonReviewer: Jen
The Enforcer (Games People Play #2) by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Games People Play #2
Also in this series: The Fixer, The Negotiator (Games People Play #2.5), The Pretender (Games People Play #3)
Publisher: Harper Collins, Avon
Publication Date: April 25th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
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Goodreads
three-stars

Security expert Matthias Clarke hunts down people who don’t want to be found. His latest prey: the sole survivor of a massacre that killed his brother years ago. Kayla Roy claimed she was a victim of the carnage. Then she disappeared. Matthias thinks Kayla may have actually been the killer—and he wants justice.

Kayla Roy never stays in one place too long and never lets a man get too close. But keeping Matthias at arm’s length may be impossible. Dark and enigmatic, Matthias draws Kayla in from the start. She knows nothing about his connection to her dark past, or his thirst for vengeance. She only knows their attraction feels overpowering—and very dangerous.

Matthias’s suspicions about the sensual Kayla clash with his instinct to protect her, especially when he realizes her life is in danger. But Kayla’s not looking for a savior—especially one who seems hell-bent on tempting her down a lethal path.

Matthias Clarke owns a security company, and he’s the adopted brother of the hero from Book 1 of the series, Wren. All the brothers had profoundly lousy childhoods, and Matthias’s past comes back to mess with his life in this story. His biological mom, who has shown no interest in him up to now, comes begging for help. She wants to catch the person who murdered a house full of college students, one of whom was the brother he never met. The only survivor of the massacre was Kayla Roy, and Matthias is suspicious that she may have been involved in the murders somehow. He tracks her down and uses false pretenses to get to know her. The more he learns about her, the more he doubts she could be involved, but if she’s not guilty why has she been running away for years, and why is she hiding so many secrets? For her part, Kayla feels drawn to Matthias, but she’s afraid and knows if she lets herself go, it could be her downfall.

This book is full of some pretty dark issues, not least of which is the massacre that began the whole thing. (Trigger warning, there is a pretty graphic description of Kayla finding the bodies at the start of the book.) The plot is fairly fast paced, which I enjoyed. There is a lot going on here, and while sometimes it felt like too much, I thought all the threads were satisfactorily resolved by the end. I also appreciated that while Matthias lies longer than I would have preferred about who he is and why he’s there, it comes out early enough that Kayla has time to adjust. I also liked that Garrett from Book 1 has a presence in this book, because his humor and banter add some light balance to the darkness of the subject matter.

In the end, I didn’t particularly like Matthias OR Kayla, though. They both do some pretty unsavory things, and they both are pretty prickly. In particular, there’s a big twist towards the end that was frankly pretty unbelievable and made me really dislike Kayla. It was just darker than I wanted, and for that reason I wasn’t as invested in the relationship as I should have been. 

I am absolutely down to keep reading this series despite my lukewarm response to this book, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the brothers are like.

Games People Play Series

Grade: 3 out of 5

three-stars


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Guest Review: The Fixer by HelenKay Dimon

Posted January 11, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: The Fixer by HelenKay DimonReviewer: Jen
The Fixer by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Games People Play #1
Also in this series: The Enforcer (Games People Play #2), The Negotiator (Games People Play #2.5), The Pretender (Games People Play #3)
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: December 27th 2016
Format: eARC
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
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Goodreads
four-stars

He’s known only as Wren. A wealthy, dangerously secretive man, he specializes in making problems disappear. A professional fixer, Wren hides a dark past, but his privacy is shattered when Emery Finn seeks him out—and what she wants from him is very personal.

Some people disappear against their will. Emery’s job is to find them and bring closure. Wren is the only person who can help solve Emery’s own personal mystery: the long-ago disappearance of her cousin. Just tracking down the sexy, brooding Wren is difficult enough. Resisting her body’s response to him will prove completely impossible.

Anonymity is essential to Wren’s success, yet drawn by Emery’s loyalty and sensuality, he’s pulled out of the shadows. But her digging is getting noticed by the wrong people. And as the clues start to point to someone terrifyingly close, Wren will have to put his haunted past aside to protect the woman he loves.

Emery Finn’s cousin disappeared when they were kids, and Emery has dedicated much of her life to finding her. She comes across the name “Wren” in connection with the case and sets about tracking him down, a task much easier said than done until Wren himself steps in to convince her to stop asking questions. He requires privacy because he is a highly sought after “fixer” who makes problems disappear for the wealthy and powerful, but somehow he just can’t stay away from Emery. He starts to help her against his better judgment, and when dangerous things start happening he goes all in!

This book really worked for me, mostly because of Wren! He is domineering, autocratic, and amazing at everything he does, but he’s a little more than your average alphahole. He doesn’t have great social skills and struggles to relate to others beyond a few long-time friends. Even better, he KNOWS he’s kind of weird and autocratic and wants to make better choices when it comes to Emery. Now, he doesn’t always succeed, and he very seriously oversteps at one point, but what redeems him for me is that after he’s done instinctively reacting in the moment, he pauses and checks in with Emery before he goes any farther. He wants to fix his mistakes and respect her autonomy and wishes.  We also meet his good friend Garrett (who better get his own book some day!), and the fact that Garrett clearly trusts Wren but also acknowledges that he sometimes oversteps gives the reader permission to do the same. And crucially, Emery doesn’t let him get away with that shit. Right from the start, she won’t stand for bossiness, but she also doesn’t hold his awkwardness or lack of social skills against him. She brings light and energy to his pretty dark life. I loved them together. They also have some great sexual tension as they circle each other and try to decide how much they can trust the other. Yum!

The relationship is what made this book a winner, because the rest of the book didn’t exactly blow me away. The mystery is a bit of a stretch, and the villain was kind of odd. There also aren’t many details given about Wren’s work. What precisely does a “fixer” do? You get the sense it’s somewhat unsavory but not exactly bad either, but that’s about it. While we find out about Wren’s background, we don’t really get much about his current life. 

I liked this one a lot, and I can’t wait to read more of this series.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

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

four-stars


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Guest Review: Under the Wire by HelenKay Dimon

Posted June 30, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Under the Wire by HelenKay DimonReviewer: Jen
Under the Wire (Bad Boys Undercover #4) by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Bad Boys Undercover #4
Publisher: Harper Collins, Avon
Publication Date: June 28th 2016
Format: eARC
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
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five-stars

The Bad Boys of the Alliance—a top-secret military security agency—are back for more in HelenKay Dimon’s sexy, action-packed series.

Only one thing could pull Reid Armstrong away from a vacation he’s earned with every muscle in his finely honed body—learning that his former fiancée has disappeared on a top-secret science expedition in the middle of nowhere. Second chances don’t come often in Reid’s business, and he needs to prove his worth to Cara Layne or die trying.

Waking up to find her camp destroyed and her colleagues missing, Cara is a walking target. She can’t trust anyone, least of all Reid. Even if his skills get them out alive, he’s a heartache waiting to strike twice. Yet being in close proximity proves their connection burns hotter than ever.

The body count is rising, the enemy is getting closer, and soon Reid will be right back in the position that cost him everything—forced to choose between the woman he loves, and the job that’s his only hope of saving them both . . .

I’ve been dragging my feet on reading the rest of the books in this series after how much I really disliked Book #1. (It’s the kind of dislike that has only grown over time the more I have thought about that story and how much that hero pissed me off. Grrr.) Something about the blurb on this one grabbed me though, and I generally like Dimon’s voice, so I gave it a shot. Woo, it was awesome!

This is a second chance love story, between Reid Armstrong and Cara Layne. Reid is a member of the top secret Alliance agency. He heads to the Russian wilderness because Cara, a geologist and his ex-fiance, failed to check in with her brother while on an expedition. (Yes, Reid literally flies around the world and illegally sneaks into Russia, dragging his colleague Parker along, to see if she’s ok. It’s a bit flimsy, but just go with it!) When he gets there he finds her (absurdly easily), but the rest of her team has disappeared. When she comes clean about the fact that their expedition was about more than just science, Reid, Cara, and Parker get embroiled in something, though they can’t quite figure out what happened to the science team, who is after them, or why. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, Reid and Cara have some massive baggage between them after Cara abruptly broke off their short engagement a year ago and smashed Reid’s heart to pieces. They have to stay alive long enough to solve the puzzle of what is going on as well as work through their personal issues.

The thing I loved most about this book is the way it balanced the action with the relationship development. Though I love them, romantic suspenses/adventures are not always great at tackling emotional development and character growth, but Dimon does it beautifully in this book. Cara and Reid have so much hurt and mistrust between them. At first, I was 100% team Reid. He obviously loved Cara deeply. They were only together during a short and stressful time, but he never doubted his love for her, which is why he proposed so quickly. As the reader, it was so clear that it wasn’t a whim to him; he was in it for the long haul. He simply grabbed what he wanted immediately because, given his dangerous job and terrible childhood, he knew you have to take your happiness when you find it. When she dumps him, it shatters him, and that didn’t endear Cara to me. But little by little, we get to hear more about Cara’s side of the story, and her reasons for leaving were valid, too. Both of them made mistakes and let their own insecurities and hang ups get in the way of their relationship, but they don’t magically fix it with just one conversation. The two of them slowly chip away at the pain and misunderstandings through the course of the book, and seeing them come to a place of love and forgiveness at the end was a great payoff.

The plot is exciting and kept me guessing too. There are so many players involved, and untangling their motivations kept Reid, Cara, and Parker on their toes. There are tons of dead bodies (but not tons of gore), some explosions, hiding in caves, spies and secret agents, and a doomsday bomb. Certainly Reid and his colleagues are larger than life and do the action-movie heroics, but nothing felt so crazy or unbelievable that it yanked me out of the story. Plus, we spend a lot of time with Tasha in this book. (She’s the head of Alliance and the heroine from Running Hot, the prequel to the series.) To be honest, I’d be happy to read an entire series just of her kicking ass and taking names, so I was thrilled to get so much time with her in this book. Smart and lethal woman who can lead a group of the toughest men on the planet–what’s not to love?

I know this book has some small flaws, but it hit so many of my favorites in one story: a brilliant scientist heroine, a hero madly in love, international intrigue, funny dialog, a snarky friend for the hero, adventure through a remote countryside, and some very steamy moments. It’s definitely the best adventure romance I’ve read in a while, and I’m so happy I decided to give the series another chance.

Grade: 5 out of 5

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

five-stars


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