Tag: HQN Books

Guest Review: After the Dark by Cynthia Eden

Posted March 29, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 3 Comments

Guest Review: After the Dark by Cynthia EdenReviewer: Jen
After the Dark by Cynthia Eden
Series: Killer Instinct #1
Also in this series: Before the Dawn
Published by Harlequin, HQN Books
Publication Date: March 28th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

In New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden's gripping new series, a disgraced FBI profiler must save her reputation by stopping a sadistic killer she knows all too well.

Former FBI agent Samantha Dark was one of the most respected profilers in the bureau, an expert on the twisted minds and dark hearts of the most depraved criminals. But when her own former lover turned out to be the serial killer she was hunting, Samantha's career was destroyed. Blamed for the FBI's failure on the complex case, Samantha fled Washington, DC, for the quiet anonymity of Alabama.

Now an all-too-familiar killer is hunting once again. She can catch the sadistic assassin, but that means putting her trust in her former partner, Blake Gamble. Ex-military, Blake is tough, protective, precise. With her entire life on the brink, she knows he wants her back in the FBI…and possibly more.

But someone else wants her, too. A threat is waiting in the dark, a killer who has set his sights on the ultimate trophy victim—Samantha.

Cynthia Eden has become a pretty reliable author for me. Her books never totally blow me away, but they’re always  very solid, enjoyable reads, and After the Dark was no exception.

Samantha Dark was a genius criminal profiler with the FBI, but she left the Bureau in disgrace after her former boyfriend turned out to be a serial killer. She hides away in a small town in Alabama until her old partner, Blake, comes calling looking for help with a case. Blake had the hots for Samantha from the start, but obviously being partners complicated that attraction, and he never acted on it. Now, he wants her back, both in the FBI and in his own life, but Samantha doesn’t trust herself and certainly doesn’t think she’s good enough for a decent man like Blake. However, she’s the only one who can stop the killer who’s become fixated on her.

I really liked the premise of this book. The idea that a profiler could miss that her own friend was a serial killer was very compelling. Plus, Cameron wasn’t just Samantha’s friend but her past lover and confidant with whom she had shared her deepest, darkest secrets. While it’s not really addressed in the book, it seemed to me that Cameron had probably been emotionally manipulating her for years. He convinced her that there was this darkness in her that only he understood, and even after she’s left the Bureau she still holds on to this idea that she’s got some kind of not-entirely-good core. Couple that with her disgraceful exit from the FBI and it made sense why she would be so reluctant to help Blake and to get personally involved with him. It was a unique twist on a serial killer story I haven’t seen before. I also liked that the case wasn’t quite as simple as it first appeared. There were some big twists and turns, and they made for a fast paced and exciting story.

Blake was kind of a mixed character for me. He was one of Eden’s trademark alphas, bossy and in charge. He is the one who comes to Samantha for help, but then he also tries to edge her out when things get dangerous. That was stupid and unnecessary, I thought. Still, his genuine care for Samantha is clear. He stands up to his boss when his boss doubts her, and he isn’t afraid to go after Samantha once he’s found her again. He insists he too has a “darkness” in him, but I didn’t really feel like that went anywhere. To be honest, this story is more about Samantha and her struggle to overcome her past and her self doubt, which was fine by me.

This was an engaging story with a fascinating heroine, and I’m glad I read it.

Grade: 4 out of 5

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

four-stars


Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Guest Review: Miracle on 5th Avenue

Posted December 21, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Miracle on 5th AvenueReviewer: Jen
Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan
Series: From Manhattan with Love #3
Also in this series: Sleepless in Manhattan, Sleepless in Manhattan, Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love, #2), Miracle on 5th Avenue
Published by HQN Books
Publication Date: November 29th 2016
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

It will take a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this perfectly festive fairy tale of New York!
Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she's given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn't expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife's death looming, he's isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn't appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?

It’s the final book in Sarah Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series! I really enjoyed the first two books in the series, and this book was a sweet, Christmas-y conclusion.

This time, the story focuses on hopeless romantic Eva. She’s always been the bubbly, loving, and idealistic one in her trio of friends, with whom she co-owns an event planning business in Manhattan. Her beloved grandmother (her only family) died a year ago, though, and while she has the love of her best friends, the experience has left her lost and reeling. Throughout the books, Eva has befriended an elderly woman who sometimes hires them for small jobs, and when the woman hires her to decorate her grandson Lucas’s penthouse for Christmas while he’s out of town, Eva jumps at the chance. Of course, he’s not actually out of town, and a snowstorm (and stubbornness on both their parts) forces them to spend some quality holiday time together. To say Lucas is different than Eva would be a serious understatement. He writes gritty best selling crime novels, and he’s a widower. He’s dark, distrustful, angry, and completely unhappy, until Eva starts chipping away at his armor. Seeing the two come together was lovely.

In Book 1, I was afraid Eva was just going to be the flighty, silly best friend, but that’s not what she turned out to be at all. She is optimistic and romantic, but she’s not naive. She didn’t exactly have an easy life, but she chooses to look at the positive. I admired her spirit and perceptiveness. She is excellent at reading people and reaching out in a warm and genuine way, a talent she certainly uses on Lucas. For instance, while the snow storm and the job from Grandma serve to get the two in the same place, the REAL reason Eva stays is because she senses Lucas’s alarming despair and pain, and as a caring person Eva can’t ignore that. She quietly starts propping him up before he even realizes it. Lucas, on the other hand, is a miserable SOB. Again, I thought I knew what to expect–sad widower can never love again–but things turned out to be a bit more complicated that they first appeared. While Eva learns some things about herself and life, Lucas is really the one who goes through a major transformation in this book.

I really loved Eva and felt good about her romance, but it’s hard to avoid the fact that she serves as a bit of a manic pixie dream girl here. Lucas is the one wallowing in despair, but Eva swoops in to feed him, bring holiday cheer to his apartment, and challenge him to see the beauty in the world. In some ways that all makes perfect sense, because Eva is so filled with love and caring everyone around her can’t help but be swept into her circle. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have minded a little more focus on Eva and her own challenges. Her history wasn’t one-note–I would have liked to see that explored a bit more. I also wanted more time with her friends. Unlike the previous books, we don’t spend nearly as much time with Paige, Frankie, and the guys, and I missed that.

Still, if you like sweet contemporaries with funny dialogue and some good sexytimes, I don’t think you can go wrong with this series or this book. It’s not overly Christmas-y, but it has a nice little sprinkling of holiday magic if you’re in the mood for that, too. It certainly hit the spot for me.

Grade: 4 out of 5

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

four-stars


Tagged: , , , , , ,

Guest Review: Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

Posted December 15, 2016 by Tracy in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah MorganReviewer: Tracy
Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan
Series: From Manhattan with Love #3
Also in this series: Sleepless in Manhattan, Sleepless in Manhattan, Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love, #2), Miracle on 5th Avenue
Published by HQN Books
Publication Date: November 29th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

It will take a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this perfectly festive fairy tale of New York!

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she's given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn't expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife's death looming, he's isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn't appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?

Eva and her friends own a concierge service and she takes a job decorating a penthouse for Christmas (along with making and freezing meals) for a reclusive crime writer.  The write, Lucas Blade, is supposedly in Vermont writing his latest novel but when Eva gets to the penthouse she’s attacked by Lucas himself thinking she’s broken in.  They quickly figure out what’s going on but Lucas doesn’t want her there.  He’s supposed to be handing in a draft of his latest book in just a few weeks and he hasn’t written one word of it.  Eva has been hired for a job and she’s not quitting just because he feels she’s an inconvenience.

He finally agrees to let her stay but she’s not quiet as a church mouse and keeps interrupting him.  At first he’s not happy about it but he finds that she’s providing inspiration for one of his characters and he’s finally writing.  They spend quite a bit of time together over the next week.  While they have a lot in common they also disagree on one concept – she thinks love is a happy, wonderful thing and can’t wait to fall in love; he believes that love isn’t a happy event at all and once was definitely enough for him.  Eva thinks these two very different people can fall in love but Lucas may just be too scarred to let that happen.

This was such a cute book!  I really loved Eva and her happy go lucky attitude.  Yes, she was lonely by herself now that her grandmother had died and she had no family, but she didn’t let that rule her life of her thoughts that a happy future was impossible.  Lucas couldn’t have been more opposite.  He saw the darkness in people and wanted nothing to do with a happy future.  His wife had died and that was it for love for him.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching Eva change Lucas’s mind.  She was just herself and he couldn’t help but see the good in her.  Sparks just flew as their chemistry was a tangible thing.  I loved watching these two come together!

There was humor in this one a plenty.  Between that and Eva’s almost incurable case of verbal diarrhea I found myself laughing quite a bit.  Lucas said she lived in a fairy-tale land but she called it Planet Eva and really liked it there. Lol.  Overall this was a fun, sweet Christmas romance that I really enjoyed and definitely recommend.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars


Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Guest Review: Sunrise Crossing by Jodi Thomas

Posted September 26, 2016 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Sunrise Crossing by Jodi ThomasReviewer: Tracy
Sunrise Crossing by Jodi Thomas
Series: Ransom Canyon #4
Published by HQN Books
Publication Date: August 30th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

Yancy Grey is slowly putting his life back together after serving time for petty theft. As he rebuilds an old house, he finally has a sense of stability, but he can't stop thinking of himself as just an ex-con. Until one night, he finds a mysterious dark-haired beauty hiding in his loft. But who is she, and what secret is she protecting?

The art gallery Parker Lacey manages is her life—she has no time for friends, and certainly not lovers. But when her star artist begs Parker for help, she finds herself in a pickup truck, headed for the sleepy town of Crossroads. A truck driven by a strong, silent cowboy…

Gabe Snow has been a drifter since he left Crossroads at seventeen after a violent incident. When he accepts a job in his hometown, he'll have to decide whether he can put the worst night of his life behind him and build a future in the community that raised him.

Parker Lacey is an art gallery owner who loves what she does and doesn’t have any plans on stopping until she’s dead.  She’s 37 and since everyone in her family dies young – she’s not planning on being around that long.  When she’s in the LA airport on a trip she runs into one of her artists who is not having a good life.  After hearing Tori’s story Parker decides to help her out and helps her get away to a place called Crossroads, Texas where Parker owns a house.  She always thought she’d use it as a getaway but she’s never gotten away.  She helps Tori escape for a while and is happy to do it.

Parker is having pain in her knee and back and knows that it’s cancer as that’s what both of her parents died from.  She goes in for tests and after seeing the look on the doctor’s face she doesn’t let him tell her what’s wrong before she’s out of there.  She decides that she needs an adventure before she dies so she gets things in order at the gallery and heads to Crossroads herself.  She gets there with the help of her neighbor, Clint Montgomery, and their tenuous friendship ends up turning into the greatest adventure of her life.

Tori is the artist who is trying to escape her life. She’s been a renowned painter since she was 15 years old but she’s 24 now and feels like she’s in prison.  After her father died and her mother remarried her stepfather drove her to do more and more and more.  She’s tired and hates that he has guardianship over her and her money.  She doesn’t care about the money so much as her freedom to live how she wants.  While she’s hiding out in Crossroads she loves walking and ends up in Yancy’s workshed.  Once the two meet they become closer than either thought possible.  What started out as the two just working on wood for his house remodeling project became much, much more.  Unfortunately Tori’s stepfather wants his cash cow back and has the authorities, FBI and even bounty hunters out looking for her and he’ll take her, dead or alive.

Gabe left Crossroads when he was just a kid and was beaten and forced out by his own family.  He was trying to run away with his love but neither family wanted them together.  He never went back to Crossroads and now that he’s a bounty hunter and back to get Tori he’s seeing it with different eyes.  He finds that the family he thought was all dead isn’t and he’s got a relative he never knew about. That one person changes his whole outlook on live and makes him determined to live a better life.

I have to say that when I agreed to read Sunrise Crossing I wasn’t sure if it would work as a standalone.  I haven’t read the other books in the Ransom Canyon series but I’m happy to say that you can read SC and not have a clue about the previous books and still really enjoy the book.

I love the way that Jodi Thomas takes an unlikely collection of characters, puts them all together and makes an awesome story out of their lives and loves.  Tori, Yancy, Parker, Clint, Gabe – all of them were such different people but Thomas brought them in and made them into a cohesive group.  I also love the way that Thomas brings townspeople into the story.  Even though the books aren’t about them they play a large part and it gives the story a more homey feel, imho.

Tori and Yancy were awesome together.  They were quiet artistic people and got on well together from the start.  Yancy had had a tough life and though he’d had first dates – never got a second with anyone.  He loved so much about Tori and just let her be herself which was exactly what she needed to heal from her home life.

Parker and Clint – I could not think of a more unlikely pairing.  He’s a gruff, quiet, rough and tumble cowboy and she’s a city girl with a gallery, designer clothes and not a lot of friends.  Parker really needed Clint’s quiet patience in her life- someone steady to lean on who would be there for her no matter what.  I loved how Thomas slowly got these two together and made it work.  He was so sweet and was just perfect for her.

There was also a very small third romance in the book with one of the deputy sheriff’s that was quite cute as well and that added another lovely element to the story.

Besides the wonderful romances there was the suspense portion of the book having to do with Tori.  This is where Gabe came in and we got to know his story about his life in Crossroads. It was moving and horrifying and I loved that what he discovered in Crossroads changed him.  He had hardened himself from feeling and life and coming back broke the ice around his heart and made him want to be a better person.  It was such a good part of the story and I was so happy that Thomas added this part in.

Overall I really enjoyed this book.  Thomas is one of my favorite authors and I plan on going back and reading all of the Ransom Canyon books.  I’m sure I’ll end up loving the Ransom Canyon books as much as I love her other books.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars


Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Guest Review: Sunset in Central Park by Sarah Morgan

Posted August 31, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Sunset in Central Park by Sarah MorganReviewer: Jen
Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love, #2) by Sarah Morgan
Also in this series: Sleepless in Manhattan, Sleepless in Manhattan, Miracle on 5th Avenue, Miracle on 5th Avenue
Published by HQN Books
Publication Date: August 30th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

In the chaos of New York, true love can be hard to find, even when it's been right under your nose all along…

Love has never been a priority for garden designer Frankie Cole. After witnessing the fallout of her parents' divorce, she's seen the devastation an overload of emotion can cause. The only man she feels comfortable with is her friend Matt—but that's strictly platonic. If only she found it easier to ignore the way he makes her heart race…

Matt Walker has loved Frankie for years but, sensing how fragile she is beneath her feisty exterior, has always played it cool. But then he uncovers new depths to the girl he's known forever and doesn't want to wait a moment longer. He knows Frankie has secrets and has buried them deep, but can Matt persuade her to trust him with her heart and kiss him under the Manhattan sunset?

We finally get Frankie’s story! I admit I was really looking forward to her book because she seemed like a great character, and she definitely was.

To briefly recap the series, it centers around 3 childhood friends, Paige, Eva, and Frankie, who form an events company in New York City after losing their jobs. Paige, the heroine from Book 1, is kind of the take-charge manager of the group. Eva is the bubbly and soft hearted chef. And then there’s Frankie, the florist, who is prickly and introverted. She’d much rather stay home with a book and her plants than do just about anything else, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her friends fiercely. Her circle of friends also includes Paige’s brother, Matt, though Frankie does her best to ignore her low-key attraction to him. When he needs her help with a job, they have to spend more time together, and Matt finally decides to make his own long-time interest in Frankie known. Frankie definitely has an unfavorable view of sex and relationships, though, so Matt sets about convincing her that she’s mistaken.

I really enjoyed Frankie. To be frank (harhar), she’s pretty messed up. She is completely terrified of relationships and believes they can’t last, so she goes to extraordinary lengths to push men away. Her parents had an ugly divorce, after which her mom completely fell apart before spending the rest of her life hopping around from younger man to younger man. At first I was thinking Frankie’s genuine phobia of relationships was kind of overdone. Lots of kids of divorced parents go on to be perfectly well adjusted so I felt like her issues were a bit extreme. But after learning more about her dad’s despicable behavior and seeing how selfish her mom was, it made more sense. It’s still over-the-top, but I could at least see where she was coming from. She certainly had a lot of self-esteem issues as a result of her childhood, too. It was a little hard to read sometimes, because when you boil it down, I think she was actually not sure she was even capable of love. Of course, we know that’s not true because we can see how much she loves her friends.

I could talk about the very steamy sex, the amazing use of the NYC setting, or a dozen other things I like about these books, but by a wide margin, the thing I am loving most about this series is the friendships. Paige, Eva, and Frankie are totally devoted to each other and it is a damn pleasure to read about. They share their feelings, they console, they lift each other up when necessary, and they always have each other’s backs. I know more page time is technically spent on the romantic relationships in these books, but for me the friendships are really the heart of the whole series and obviously the foundation for these women’s lives. I also love that, while not the core, others are also included in the circle of friends. For instance, there’s a really touching scene where Eva gives Matt someone to lean on when he’s hurting near the end of the book. It’s so lovely to see a bunch of grown ups who support each other like family. The dialog between everyone is snappy and funny and just makes me want to get to know these people in real life.

And yet…this book also frustrated me a bit, mostly near the ending. My frustrations started when Matt kept pushing Frankie. Yes, I know you’re in love with her and yes I know she’s almost impossibly skittish, but if she’s not ready to get more serious back the hell off! I kept thinking how none of her behavior should be a surprise to him so why was he trying to change the rules on her, especially when it really hadn’t been THAT long? Ease up and give her some more time instead of making it all about your poor manly heartbreak. And I won’t explain the ending, but I just wasn’t completely sold on the speed of the resolution. Frankie had some genuine, deep-rooted fears that are suddenly just resolved…poof! I would have liked to see a slightly more realistic (for Frankie) ride off into that Central Park sunset.

Despite these issues, I am so, so ready to read Eva’s story now. I wasn’t quite as interested in her in Book 1 but after learning more, I badly want her to get her own happy ending. Now that I know who her hero is going to be I’m extra excited, too. Hoo boy, he ain’t gonna know what hit him!

Grade: 4 out of 5

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

four-stars


Tagged: , , , , , ,