Tag: Katee Robert

Guest Review: The Surviving Girls by Katee Robert

Posted July 26, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 5 Comments

Guest Review: The Surviving Girls by Katee RobertReviewer: Jen
The Surviving Girls (Hidden Sins, #3) by Katee Robert
Series: Hidden Sins #3
Also in this series: The Devil's Daughter
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date: May 29, 2018
Format: eARC
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 282
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Goodreads
four-stars

A fierce survivor and a fearless FBI agent battle a copycat serial killer in a gripping thriller from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Katee Robert.

Twelve years ago, Lei Zhang and her friend Emma Nilsson miraculously lived through the notorious Sorority Row Murders that left twenty-one of their sisters dead. Still wrestling with the trauma but finally out of the limelight, Lei and Emma are now devoted to helping other victims find closure. But most disturbing for Lei—beyond the gut-wrenching survivor guilt—is that the killer was her boyfriend. He’s behind bars, but she’ll never lower her guard again.

When a copycat killer targets Lei and Emma, FBI Agent Dante Young is put in charge of anticipating the sociopath’s every move. But what he doesn’t expect is his immediate and overpowering attraction to Lei. The closer they get to each other, the more desperate and terrifying the questions become: Who wants to finish what the killer started—and why?

Now Agent Young vows to protect Lei at all costs. If they have any chance of a future together, first they have to stay alive…

I can’t even tell you how long I had this book sitting on my phone unread. I probably started it 5 times, read a few pages, and put it down because I just didn’t have the stomach for it. It’s a dark book, and it was just too intense for me to handle at times. (Trigger warnings for graphic violence, gore, and some mentions of rape.) Once I was in the right mood, though, I finally dove in and enjoyed it.

This book focuses on two girls who survived a horrific massacre at their college sorority house. Lei Zhang and Emma Nilsson had their own reactions to the trauma they endured. While Emma has developed a pretty severe panic disorder and various other mental health challenges in response to her fear, Lei’s response to fear is to fight harder and push farther. That’s not to say Lei’s not deeply affected too, because she clearly is, but she just channels things differently. When a new killer surfaces who bears a resemblance to the man that terrorized them years ago, the FBI and Agent Dante Young get involved. Dante and Lei have a somewhat inconvenient attraction to each other, but they have to put it aside while they figure out who seems to be hunting the women again.

As you can imagine, this book is chock full of trauma. Lei and Emma are, of course, profoundly affected by what happened to them, and it is very painful to read about. They have all kinds of coping strategies, some healthy and some not-so-healthy, that have gotten them through.  It’s hard enough at the beginning when their fears seem understandable but perhaps hyperbolic, but it gets downright horrifying as the book progresses and you learn how much danger they’re actually in. For me, this book was creepy and shocking, and it was only when I was in the right mood for those things that I could enjoy it. The plot twists do get a little overblown toward the end, but by that point I was in deep enough to buy in!

Lei and Emma are not pushovers. Lei is the obvious fighter and battles her fear with a sheen of anger, but Emma has more strength to her than others give her credit for. In particular, I loved seeing the women support each other. They did perhaps use each other as a crutch too often, but who the hell could blame them? They never wavered in their love for each other and their desire to keep the other one safe. I really liked that aspect of the book.

I also really liked Dante and Lei together. Dante is calm, cool, and collected, which is a real balm for Lei. He doesn’t have a magic cure for her, though. There is an excellent scene near the beginning where Dante says something kind of paternalistic and Lei rightfully puts him into his place. I was 1000% there for it. Even better, Dante realizes that while he didn’t intend it that way, he was absolutely playing savior and not respecting the hard work Lei did, and still does, to handle her own trauma. That moment sold me on Dante and Lei together!

Unfortunately, while there is a lot of awesome chemistry, there is no sex in this book. I know, I know…that’s normally a problem for me too, but honestly I don’t see any way sex would have worked in this book. The original sorority massacre happened twelve years ago and Lei has had relationships with other men in the interim, so that’s not the issue. But there is just too much genuine danger in this book, and too much horror that keeps being dredged up. Sex would just have been out of place. Things never get farther than some very sexy making out, and for a change I was ok with that.

When did I learn this was in the same series as another Robert book I liked, The Devil’s Daughter? Literally right as I was typing this sentence and I looked up the book on Goodreads! My point is, while it’s a series clearly there is no harm in reading them out of order, because I haven’t read Book 2 and had no clue it even existed. I am really liking Robert’s voice in this series, and I will certainly be backtracking to read the book I missed.

Grade: 4 out of 5

Hidden Sins

four-stars


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Guest Review: The Last King by Katee Robert

Posted April 30, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 5 Comments

Guest Review: The Last King by Katee RobertReviewer: Jen
The Last King by Katee Robert
Series: The Kings #1
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: April 3rd 2018
Format: eARC
Point-of-View: Third Person
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Goodreads
five-stars

Ultra wealthy and super powerful, the King family is like royalty in Texas. But who will keep the throne? New York Times bestselling author Katee Robert introduces a red-hot new series.

THE MAN SHE HATES TO LOVE

Beckett King just inherited his father's fortune, his company-and all his enemies. If he's going to stay on top, he needs someone he can trust beside him. And though they've been rivals for years, there's no one he trusts more than Samara Mallick.

The rebel. That's how Samara has always thought of Beckett. And he's absolutely living up to his unpredictable ways when he strides into her office and asks for help. She can't help wondering if it's a legit request or just a ploy to get her into bed. Not that she'd mind either one. After all, she likes to live on the edge too.

But soon the threats to the King empire are mounting, and the two find family secrets darker than they ever imagined and dangerous enough to get them both killed.

Beckett King is the heir to Texas’s number one oil company and member of the infamous and dysfunctional King family. His company’s top rival is run by his estranged aunt Lydia, and his nemesis at that company is Samara Mallick, his aunt’s number two. Beckett and Samara are in a constant war to outmaneuver each other when battling for contracts, as well fighting the sizzling attraction they feel for each other. When Beckett’s father dies suddenly, it leaves Beckett with no other family and majorly set adrift. Lydia clearly intends to take advantage of Beckett’s situation, and she plans to use Samara to attack Beckett’s weaknesses. Samara can’t throw away all the hard work she’s put in to get where she is, but neither can she fight the pull she feels for Beckett. As Beckett learns more about his dad’s death and his family secrets, both he and Samara have to decide what is worth fighting for.

Holy shit, did I love this book! I loved (just about) everything, starting with Samara and Beckett. Samara is amazingly good at her job, very competitive, and determined to succeed in whatever she does. She takes no shit from Beckett, and she makes no apologies for her ambition. Her banter with Beckett is so good! She’s not intentionally cruel, however, and clearly does not share her boss’s ruthlessness. I also appreciated that she doesn’t immediately roll over and give up her rivalry with Beckett just because he’s giving her awesome orgasms. She cares about her career, just as she understands Beckett cares about his. While she tries not to play dirty if she can help it, she didn’t get good at her job by being soft. Beckett has to earn softness from her, and I really enjoyed that.

And Beckett…ah Beckett is just the best. He certainly grows up in a life of privilege, but he isn’t the lazy rich playboy his aunt seems to think he is. He works hard, and while he doesn’t exactly have a passion for the oil industry he cares about his family’s legacy and, more importantly, the people who work for the company. There’s no whining about how he has to take over the company; he simply does what has to be done. Unlike some of his family, though, he has a strong sense of ethics. Best of all, he is so, so sweet and loving to those he cares about. His mom died when he was young, and after that his relationship with his dad fell apart. Since his dad was estranged from his sister and her children, Beckett basically grew up alone, and when his dad dies he feels the loss keenly despite their problematic relationship. He’s basically just a little boy who’s realized it’s too late to ever get his dad’s love, and it’s heartbreaking. (The book doesn’t wallow too much in the angst, however.) As he gets to know Samara he wants so desperately for her to love him the way he comes to love her, and it was damn adorable.

This book is really sexy in a great way. It’s not at all erotica, but there are plenty of both hot and sweet sex scenes to keep you reading. There is tons of sexy consent talk as well, which is always my jam. I love they way the sexual attraction between Beckett and Samara draws them together despite all the very, very good reasons they should stay away. The sex doesn’t sustain the relationship for long, though. Pretty quickly they realize they genuinely LIKE the other person and are attracted to their personalities, not just their bodies. It was awesome.

One big theme in the book is power–who holds it and what they do with it. Beckett and Samara explore this a bit in the sex scenes, although I think more could have been done there. More compelling, I thought, was the power dynamics elsewhere. Samara is extremely aware that Beckett holds more power in their relationship than she does at the start. Her own father was a rich man who abandoned her mom before she was even born, so Samara is understandably hyper-sensitive that on the surface, her relationship with Beckett has a similar power imbalance. She knows Beckett can’t lose his job or his livelihood like she can, and for that reason she bears the brunt of the risk if they start a relationship. I loved that Beckett understands Samara’s hesitation once he knows her story, but I would have liked a discussion about the very tidy ending and what it means for Samara. Still, I enjoyed the “forbidden love” aspect and appreciated that they also acted like grown ups who were free to make their own choices.

For me, this book was darn close to perfect. The suspense plot was a little bit of a stretch at times, but not egregiously so. This book definitely focuses more on the relationship between Beckett and Samara as well as Beckett and his family, and it totally worked for me. This is the start of a new series, and the characters I presume will be the future heroes and heroines already piqued my interest. The Last King is my favorite book of 2018 so far, and if you like enemies-to-lovers with some light suspense thrown in, I think you’d like this book, too.

Grade: 5 out of 5

The Kings

five-stars


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Guest Review: The Devil’s Daughter by Katee Robert

Posted January 24, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: The Devil’s Daughter by Katee RobertReviewer: Jen
The Devil's Daughter by Katee Robert
Series: Hidden Sins #1
Also in this series: The Surviving Girls (Hidden Sins, #3)
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date: January 24th 2017
Format: eARC
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 301
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Goodreads
four-stars

Growing up in a small town isn’t easy, especially when you’re the daughter of a local cult leader. Ten years ago, Eden Collins left Clear Springs, Montana, and never once looked back. But when the bodies of murdered young women surface, their corpses violated and marked with tattoos worn by her mother’s followers, Eden, now an FBI agent, can’t turn a blind eye. To catch the killer, she’s going to have to return to the fold.

Sheriff Zach Owens isn’t comfortable putting Eden in danger, even if she is an elite agent. And he certainly wasn’t expecting to be so attracted to her. As calm and cool as she appears, he knows this can’t be a happy homecoming. Zach wants to protect her—from her mother, the cult, and the evil that lurks behind its locked gates. But Eden is his only key to the tight-lipped group, and she may just be closer to the killer than either one of them suspects…

Zach Owens is the police chief in the small town of Clear Springs, Montana. When a local teenage girl is found murdered and another goes missing, suspicion falls on the local cult. Then Eden Collins shows up claiming someone sent her a crime scene picture of the murdered girl. Eden is no random stranger, though. She is an FBI agent who specializes in cults, and she’s also the daughter of the local cult leader. Eden escaped her mother’s clutches years ago, and being back in town is frightening and painful for her, but she feels compelled to help catch the murderer and stop it from happening again. Zach isn’t sure he can trust Eden, but because of her inside knowledge of the cult he needs her help. The closer she gets to the truth, though, the more it seems like Eden herself may be tied up in the case in ways she never expected.

This was an exciting book that kept me hooked till the end. I admit I’m sort of darkly fascinated by cults, so for me the plot of this book was creepy and engaging. The cult leader, Martha Collins, was a great complicated character. She’s a twisted, Machiavellian genius, and Robert kept me guessing about Martha’s motivations right up to the end. Even better, Eden was kept guessing, too. She would think she knew the truth, but then she’d talk to her mom and suddenly have a small seed of doubt. Her mom was a master of gaslighting, so Eden was constantly questioning her judgments and reminding herself that her mom was a manipulator. It made for a tense story, and it highlighted the challenges Eden faced coming back to Clear Springs.

Eden was definitely my favorite part of the book. She didn’t just have a bad childhood; she had a horrific childhood. As one would expect, she has a whole lotta emotional problems as a result, like a compulsion towards perfection and a severe fear of intimacy. But the fact that she was able to rise above her childhood and lead a fairly successful adult life was awesome. What I liked best was her confidence in herself. Given her mother’s tactics and manipulations, it would have been perfectly understandable if Eden was plagued with self doubt. While she can’t escape some of that, overall she trusts herself, which is what allows her to mostly avoid the emotional traps Martha sets for her. She’s not TSTL, and she works hard to put aside her personal issues in order to look at the case objectively. For instance, when she starts to suspect that the case somehow relates to her personally, she doesn’t just brush it off. She acknowledges that maybe she’s too close to look at things clearly and calls in outside help, even though it means admitting to her boss that she’s in over her head. I loved her intelligence and professionalism!

The romance was…fine. I liked Zach well enough, and I did like that right off the bat he doesn’t see Eden as a quick lay. He isn’t dreaming of marriage or anything, but he wants to get to know her and explore whether there might be something more there than simple lust. Because the murder plot was fast paced and tense, though, there wasn’t as much time as I would have liked for Eden and Zach to get to know each other. The ending is definitely a HFN, which I thought made sense. I wasn’t entirely convinced that Eden and Zach could make it work, however, at least not without some major compromises that I’m not sure either would be prepared to make. That left me feeling a little bittersweet about the ending.

This was a fairly dark, gritty book, but it was fast paced, complex, and exciting, and it worked for me.

Grade: 4 out of 5

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

four-stars


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Guest Review: Lovers Unmasked Anthology by Katee Robert, Cari Quinn, Tessa Bailey and Samanthe Beck

Posted March 22, 2014 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

18282728Jennifer’s review of Lovers Unmasked Anthology by Katee Robert, Cari Quinn, Tessa Bailey and Samanthe Beck

Lovers Unmasked is an anthology of four Halloween-themed contemporary romance stories (though I wouldn’t say the holiday plays a really major role in any of them, just sort of background flavor).

Seducing Mr. Right, by Katee Robert
Grayson and Danielle work in the same building and have been meeting for coffee for a while now. They are both planning to attend the company Halloween party, and unbeknownst to each other, they both plan a seduction. The problem is, Danielle really likes Grayson, but she doesn’t “do” relationships. Grayson is certain he wants Danielle for more than just one night, but he’s keeping a huge secret from her that he knows might ruin his chances. The characterization was strong and I felt like I knew these two as well as you can in a short story. The sex scenes were quite sexy indeed–turns out mild-mannered Grayson is very bossy in the bedroom! The problem was that there wasn’t really enough time to get over Grayson’s big secret once it was revealed. I appreciated that while initially furious, Danielle doesn’t act intractable and looks at the situation maturely. I didn’t think Grayson did enough groveling, though, and there just wasn’t enough time to adequately resolve the issue, in my mind. Still, these were two interesting characters and I believed that they’d work it out eventually. Grade: 3.75 out of 5

Tempted by His Best Friend, by Cari Quinn
Steff, Lan, and Craig have been best friends since college, but in the last year Lan has pulled away. This has hit Steff particularly hard because she’s been in love with Lan for years. In desperation, she concocts a plan to prove to Lan that she’s not the same old Steff. Things get a bit out of hand at the Halloween party though, and Steff freaks out and never reveals her identity to Lan. The problem is, Lan already has feelings for Steff but has been trying to distance himself in an effort to preserve their friendship. I really liked Steff as a character. I could feel her frustration at not being able to shift Lan’s old image of her as “just one of the guys.” Lan seemed so shocked that the girl he always hung out with was actually a sexy, fun, intelligent woman, and I liked seeing his view of her evolve as Steff puts more of herself out there. As with the last story, though, I felt like the big secret that comes out near the end wasn’t given enough time to resolve. I would have liked a bit more talking about why BOTH of them behaved the way they did. Plus, I was pretty bothered by Lan’s obsession with the girl he met at the Halloween party. Yes, by the end he does say he put her out of his mind, but even after he and Steff start testing out a sexual relationship, he was still thinking about the Halloween encounter. Coupled with his fairly callous treatment of Steff for most of the book, it just didn’t quite sit right with me. Grade: 3.5 out of 5

Wicked Games, by Samanthe Beck
This is a romantic suspense novella, which is really hard to get right! I think Samanthe Beck does get it right, though. The story focuses on some secondary characters from one of Beck’s previous books (which I haven’t read). Stacy is a stripper-turned-actress, and Ian is her homicide detective ex-boyfriend. Stacy dumped Ian because she didn’t think she was good enough for him given her shady past. She sees Ian’s lack of protest about their break up as evidence that he didn’t want her, while he thinks the break up is just one of Stacy’s tantrums and if he waits it out, she’ll come back to him. Stacy starts getting threatening letters, and while she brushes them off, her sister Kylie brings them to the attention of her homicide detective fiance and his partner, Ian. Stacy is scheduled to attend a Halloween party at a strip club, so Ian comes to help keep her safe. The two have a very, very steamy encounter that actually takes up a good chunk of the book, and the sex scene really helps you understand the two better as people. You can see Stacy’s vulnerability and some of Ian’s obtuseness (as well as love) when it comes to Stacy. While a touch dramatic, I didn’t think Stacy’s reasons for ending things with Ian were completely preposterous, and while she shares the blame, Ian certainly had some ground to make up to get Stacy back. There was some suspense, though it was very, very compressed into mostly the last handful of chapters as Stacy’s mysterious letter writer finds her. No subtle build-up of tension here–just one intense encounter. As in many romantic suspense stories, it’s the danger that finally makes the hero and heroine realize how they feel about each other, and it’s what pushes them past their previous superficial obstacles. Throughout the story, you can see each character’s progression and how they’ve ended up in a different place than where they started. Grade: 4 out of 5

Protecting What’s Theirs, by Tessa Bailey
This story follows a couple from one of Bailey’s previous books (Protecting What’s His, which I have not read). Ginger has a boutique furniture shop where she sells her hand-decorated creations, and Derek is her cop boyfriend. Ginger and Derek both have major news to share with the other, but they each make a different decision about what to do with that news. Ginger plans to tell Derek her information, but Derek makes the decision to keep his news a secret from Ginger to spare her feelings. Derek’s secret forms a wedge that starts slowly driving the two apart. Even though I didn’t read Ginger and Derek’s original story, I could sense that Ginger has some deep-seated issues with trust and intimacy, and Derek’s secret rips opens all those old scars. I did have a little trouble understanding why he would do such a thing, knowing how hard it has been for Ginger to build up trust in the relationship. I thought Ginger was an awesome character–she’s smart, strong, and mature. Even when she thinks her relationship might be over, she is in pain but knows she can survive, and I loved that about her. Derek is not normally the kind of hero I like. He’s extremely alpha, overprotective, and jealous. He’s domineering in the bedroom, which I don’t mind, and out of it, which I sometimes do mind. I didn’t think he did enough groveling at the end. Oh, he does grovel, but given the hell he put Ginger through I didn’t think it was quite enough. Still, he has this intense tenderness and devotion for Ginger that shines in the spaces between his asshole moments. The scene where he finally discovers the news Ginger has been trying to tell him actually had me tearing up a little. I guess I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Derek! This was my favorite novella in the collection, and I already find myself itching to reread it. Grade: 4.25 out of 5

Overall, I thought this was a fairly well done anthology. While I liked some of the stories better than others, I enjoyed reading all of them, which I find is rare in anthologies like this. While the Halloween theme wasn’t particularly strong in any of these stories, they would be a fun way to get in the mood (pun intended!) for the holiday.

Overall grade: 4 out of 5

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


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