Tag: Romantic Suspense

Review: The Woman Left Behind by Linda Howard

Posted May 14, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 5 Comments

Review: The Woman Left Behind by Linda HowardReviewer: Holly
The Woman Left Behind (GO-Team, #2) by Linda Howard
Series: GO-Team #2
Also in this series: Troublemaker, Troublemaker, Troublemaker, The Woman Left Behind (GO-Team, #2)
Published by William Morrow
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 368
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Jina Modell works in Communications for a paramilitary organization, and she really likes it. She likes the money, she likes the coolness factor—and it was very cool, even for Washington, DC. She liked being able to kick terrorist butts without ever leaving the climate-controlled comfort of the control room.

But when Jina displays a really high aptitude for spatial awareness and action, she’s reassigned to work as an on-site drone operator in the field with one of the GO-teams, an elite paramilitary unit. The only problem is she isn’t particularly athletic, to put it mildly, and in order to be fit for the field, she has to learn how to run and swim for miles, jump out of a plane, shoot a gun...or else be out of a job.

Team leader Levi, call sign Ace, doesn’t have much confidence in Jina—who he dubbed Babe as soon as he heard her raspy, sexy voice—making it through the rigors of training. The last thing he needs is some tech geek holding them back from completing a dangerous, covert operation. In the following months, however, no one is more surprised than he when Babe, who hates to sweat, begins to thrive in her new environment, displaying a grit and courage that wins her the admiration of her hardened, battle-worn teammates. What’s even more surprising is that the usually very disciplined GO-team leader can’t stop thinking about kissing her smart, stubborn mouth…or the building chemistry and tension between them.

Meanwhile, a powerful Congresswoman is working behind the scenes to destroy the GO-teams, and a trap is set to ambush Levi’s squad in Syria. While the rest of the operatives set off on their mission, Jina remains at the base to control the surveillance drone, when the base is suddenly attacked with explosives. Thought dead by her comrades, Jina escapes to the desert where, brutally tested beyond measure, she has to figure out how to stay undetected by the enemy and make it to her crew in time before they’re exfiltrated out of the country.

But Levi never leaves a soldier behind, especially the brave woman he’s fallen for. He’s bringing back the woman they left behind, dead or alive.

Linda Howard is a long time favorite of mine, but her more recent books haven’t worked as well for me as her older ones. I went into this with some trepidation, but I ended up really enjoying it. Jina’s strength and determination really came through as she tried to earn her place on the GO-Team. Her snarky attitude and dry wit really carried the book. What might have been a story slogged down with minor details was instead fun and fresh because of Jina. Her constant muttering and threats, plus her sheer strength of will, had me cheering for her from the beginning. I enjoyed Levi and the other members of the GO-Team, as well as the political aspects, though that part of the story definitely took a backseat to Jina’s training.

Where I struggled was Jina’s decision at the end of the book. It was jarring and extremely problematic considering the content of the book. I’d have rather half the book been focused on her training and the other half her doing missions with the team.

View Spoiler »

There were some questions left unanswered and I hope we’ll see more books in the series in the future. Jina’s strength of will and determination made this an engaging read. The ending was problematic and pulled down my overall grade.

3.25 out of 5

GO-Team

three-half-stars


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Guest Review: The Woman Left Behind by Linda Howard

Posted May 9, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 4 Comments

Guest Review: The Woman Left Behind by Linda HowardReviewer: Jen
The Woman Left Behind (GO-Team, #2) by Linda Howard
Series: GO-Team #2
Also in this series: Troublemaker, Troublemaker, Troublemaker, The Woman Left Behind (GO-Team, #2)
Published by William Morrow
Publication Date: March 6th 2018
Point-of-View: Third Person
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 368
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Goodreads
three-stars

Jina Modell works in Communications for a paramilitary organization, and she really likes it. She likes the money, she likes the coolness factor—and it was very cool, even for Washington, DC. She liked being able to kick terrorist butts without ever leaving the climate-controlled comfort of the control room.

But when Jina displays a really high aptitude for spatial awareness and action, she’s reassigned to work as an on-site drone operator in the field with one of the GO-teams, an elite paramilitary unit. The only problem is she isn’t particularly athletic, to put it mildly, and in order to be fit for the field, she has to learn how to run and swim for miles, jump out of a plane, shoot a gun...or else be out of a job.

Team leader Levi, call sign Ace, doesn’t have much confidence in Jina—who he dubbed Babe as soon as he heard her raspy, sexy voice—making it through the rigors of training. The last thing he needs is some tech geek holding them back from completing a dangerous, covert operation. In the following months, however, no one is more surprised than he when Babe, who hates to sweat, begins to thrive in her new environment, displaying a grit and courage that wins her the admiration of her hardened, battle-worn teammates. What’s even more surprising is that the usually very disciplined GO-team leader can’t stop thinking about kissing her smart, stubborn mouth…or the building chemistry and tension between them.

Meanwhile, a powerful Congresswoman is working behind the scenes to destroy the GO-teams, and a trap is set to ambush Levi’s squad in Syria. While the rest of the operatives set off on their mission, Jina remains at the base to control the surveillance drone, when the base is suddenly attacked with explosives. Thought dead by her comrades, Jina escapes to the desert where, brutally tested beyond measure, she has to figure out how to stay undetected by the enemy and make it to her crew in time before they’re exfiltrated out of the country.

But Levi never leaves a soldier behind, especially the brave woman he’s fallen for. He’s bringing back the woman they left behind, dead or alive.

Jina Modell works for an off-the-books paramilitary agency, doing something related to communications. When she’s reassigned to a field unit, she joins Levi “Ace” Butcher’s team. Jina is not prepared for the physical demands of being in the field. Levi is determined to train her harder than the other recruits because he doesn’t want to put his team’s safety in jeopardy for an unprepared teammate. Jina keeps surprising him, and herself, by overcoming each new challenge through sheer grit and determination. As she gets more comfortable with the team, though, it becomes harder to ignore the white-hot attraction between her and Levi. When a dangerous mission goes sideways, Levi and Jina have to make some difficult choices, and it changes them both.

I thought Jina was completely excellent–funny, tough, and so practical. She absolutely made the book for me. I enjoyed reading about her training, even the mundane aspects, because she was just such a great character. She knew how to put the guys in their place without coming across as shrill or unyielding, and I adored that. I really loved Levi too and thought he was a great match for Jina because he cared about her but still respected her abilities. The side characters were excellent too. All the guys on the team were a hoot, and it was fun to read about their dynamic.

But then, nothing much happens. The training goes on and on…and on. Like, literally the whole book was Jina’s training. There are a few smoldering moments between Jina and Levi, but they are few and far between. Of COURSE it wasn’t a good idea for them to get busy. He was her boss and responsible for the cohesiveness of the team. I get that. But it made for a romance very light on the romance. Jina and Levi have almost no one-on-one conversations the entire book–time is mostly spent in Jina’s head (with some glimpses of Levi’s perspective) or with the whole team interacting. When they do finally get down to business it was sexy and great, but that didn’t happen until the book was over.

My biggest problem with the book is indeed the ending. I won’t spoil it (even though I really want to discuss it more!), but I’ll just say I disliked Jina’s behavior at the end. I was ok with her choices but not her reasons. It made her seem wishy washy and didn’t seem to match her behavior throughout the rest of the book. Also, the book tries to squeeze a thousand pounds of plot and a bunch of sex into the last 40 pages. Seriously, little happens for chapter upon chapter, and then suddenly a whole ton of shit goes down in quick succession and boom, the end. We saw glimpses from the perspective of the Congresswoman villain (not a spoiler, it’s in the cover copy) throughout the whole book so you’d think it would have made me more invested in her, but it didn’t. I didn’t understand what her plan was, and when she is taken down at the end I didn’t feel much satisfaction.

I liked the characters in this story and enjoyed reading it, but based on the cover copy I was expecting more action and more survival. That’s not what I got, and I wanted a bit more from the book.

Grade: 3 out of 5

GO-Team Series

three-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
Published by Forever
Publication Date: April 3rd 2018
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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Throwback Thursday Review: Cover of Night by Linda Howard

Posted April 5, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 15 Comments

Throwback Thursday Review: Cover of Night by Linda HowardReviewer: Holly
Cover of Night by Linda Howard
Published by Random House Publishing Group
Publication Date: June 27th 2006
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 352
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Goodreads
two-half-stars

For breathless action, gripping suspense, and intense romance, bestselling author Linda Howard never misses a beat–and her thrilling new novel will have your heart racing.

In the charming rural town of Trail Stop, Idaho, accessible to the outside world by only a single road, young widow Cate Nightingale lives peacefully with her four-year-old twin boys, running a bed-and-breakfast. Though the overnight guests are few and far between–occasional hunters and lake fishermen–Cate always manages to make ends meet with the help of the local jack-of-all-trades, Calvin Harris, who can handle everything from carpentry to plumbing. But Calvin is not what he seems, and Cate’s luck is about to run out.

One morning, the B&B’s only guest inexplicably vanishes, leaving behind his personal effects. A few days later Cate is shocked when armed men storm the house, demanding the mystery man’s belongings. Fearing for her children’s lives, Cate agrees to cooperate–until Calvin saves the day, forcing the intruders to scatter into the surrounding woods.

The nightmare, however, is just beginning. Cate, Calvin, and their entire community find themselves cut off and alone with no means to call for help as the threat gathers intensity and first blood is drawn.
With their fellow residents trapped and the entire town held hostage, Cate and Calvin have no choice but to take the fight to their enemies under the cover of night. While reticent Cal becomes a fearless protector, Cate makes the most daring move of her life . . . into the very heart of danger.

From the Hardcover edition.

Every Thursday in 2018, we’ll be posting throwback reviews of our favorite and not-so-favorite books.

This review was originally posted on April 21, 2008.

How many of you have read Danielle Steel? I used to read her all the time when I was younger, but after awhile the repetitiveness of her writing started to wear on me and I gave up on her. I’m not talking about the constant reuse of key phrases, either, but the way she feels she has to explain the same point again and again and again.

That’s exactly what Linda Howard did in this novel. Contrary to popular belief, I am not an idiot. If you explain something to me once, I get it. I don’t need you to repeat the same point over and over. Truly.

Three years ago, Cate’s husband died of a Staph infection, leaving her a widow with very young twin boys. In an effort to provide financially for them and to escape all of the memories of Seattle, she moves to Trail Stop, Idaho, a very small community nestled in the mountains of Idaho and miles from everything. The town is surrounded on three sides by mountains and has only one road for access.

Life is pretty peaceful for her and her twins. She’s made some friends, though she’s mostly kept people at arms length. The local handyman, Calvin Harris, is at her house almost every day, because it’s an old Victorian and seems to need constant repairs. Otherwise, though, besides one women she considers a close friend, she doesn’t really socialize in town.

Our story begins when she has this guest come and stay who sneaks out the window during the day and leaves all his stuff behind. At first she’s irritated that he ditched out like that, then she’s worried about him, thinking he may have had an accident or something, then she goes back to being irritated when he’s still gone two days later.

In the meantime, we find out that the guest who skipped out the window is actually a CPA who stole some very incriminating evidence from some mobster and is attempting to extort an extreme amount of money from him. Well, as you can imagine, our mobster guy isn’t very happy about that, so he hires this shady PI/Contract Killer guy to go after him. They eventually track him to the B&B in Trail Stop…and this is where the story goes south. Wayyyy South.

The thing about this book is…it wasn’t that interesting BEFORE the contract killer shows up. But AFTER that? It was so over-the-top-unbelievable I was almost in stitches. Seriously.

Here’s the skinny. Contract Killer and his little minion decide to rent a room in Cate’s BB. They overhear Cate and her friend talking about how she’s suspicious of them, so rather than being all stealthy and searching for the things CPA boy left behind, they rush at her with guns and demand his stuff. She’s getting ready to comply when Cal the Handyman shows up to get the mail. She sends him on his way, but on the off chance that something isn’t right he circles back around and…saves the day.

Now, the thing is, up until this point, Cal can’t string two words together in Cate’s presence. He’s painfully shy around her and even turns BEAT ASS RED when he’s near her. I think LH was trying to make us see that he had different sides by throwing a few other scenes with him in it, but it didn’t work. Not for me anyway.

But back to my bitching review. So Cal figures out that Cate’s in trouble, circles around, knocks one of the Contract Killers on the head and takes the other one by surprise and disarms him. In the name of keeping things calm, he hands over CPA Boy’s suitcase and sends them on their way. Yeah, dumb but whatever.

Conveniently, Cate’s mom is visiting from Seattle, and wants the twins for a few weeks, so the next morning Cate sends them on their way, because she’s paranoid and wants them safe. Ok, that makes sense. But it was just too neat and tidy that her mom was there when this went down.

The twins hit the road and the Contract Killers check out the suitcase. Well, well, what do you know. Seems there isn’t any shaving stuff or personal toiletries in the bag, so they figure she’s holding out on them. So what do they do? Well, they decide to take the entire town hostage, of course.

stares

Yes, I said take the entire town hostage. Because Cate may or may not have a shaving kit that may or may not include the thing that Mobster Dude’s CPA stole from him. Is that not the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard?

From there on it was just dumb. The POV’s jumped around entirely too much, but we didn’t get hardly anything from the hero. We come to understand that he’s been in love with Cate since she moved there, and that he was formerly a Marine, so he’s well able to handle the situation, but that’s pretty much it. I really liked what I saw of him, and I liked Cate for the most part, too. Although she could have buckled in the face of such craziness, she rose to the occasion and did what needed to be done. But overall? The character development sucked, IMO. There just wasn’t enough focus on the two main protagonists to make them real characters to me. The twins were sort of cute, but since they only lasted like the first 20 pages or so I can’t really say they grabbed me.

Basically, the storyline was WAY over the top, we didn’t get to see enough from the hero’s POV and she jumped around WAY too much. During one chapter there were seven different POV’s, none of them the hero.

Overall, I wasn’t impressed. At all. It’s not the worst Linda Howard I’ve ever read (All That Glitters and The Independent Wife hold that title) but it was close.

2.5 out of 5

This book is available from Ballantine. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

two-half-stars


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Guest Review: Twisted Truths by Rebecca Zanetti

Posted March 30, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: Twisted Truths by Rebecca ZanettiReviewer: Jen
Twisted Truths (Blood Brothers, #3) by Rebecca Zanetti
Series: Blood Brothers #3
Also in this series: Deadly Silence, Deadly Silence, Lethal Lies, Lethal Lies
Published by Forever
Publication Date: November 14th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 432
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Goodreads
three-stars

You can't escape the past . . .

Noni is desperate. Her infant niece has been kidnapped, and the only person who can save her is a private detective with too many secrets to count--and more enemies than he can name. A man who walked away from Noni without any warning a year ago, a man who broke her heart. But with Talia's life on the line, Noni needs his help now more than ever--and this time, she won't take no for an answer . . .

The moment Denver Jones sees Noni, the memories come rushing back. The fire in her eyes. The determination in her voice. The danger of having her in his life. Denver had to push her away once, but now with vicious criminals threatening Noni and her niece, he'll do whatever it takes to protect them. But enemies from his past are circling, and they'll use anything--and anyone--to get to Denver.

With twists and turns that will blow you away, TWISTED TRUTHS is sexy, action-packed suspense at its very best from New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti.

We finally got the conclusion to the Blood Brothers trilogy and really, to the Sin Brothers trilogy as well. We knew Denver was pining for the one who got away basically since Book 1, and when he finds out that woman has plastered his picture all over the internet in an attempt to find him, he has no choice but to go to her. He still has feelings for her, but even more urgently she’s endangered him and his brothers. Noni only put the picture up because she was desperate. Her niece was kidnapped, and with the child’s mother dead Noni, and Denver, are the baby’s only hope. Denver and Noni have to get the baby back from the gang who is holding her as well as avoid getting trapped by Sheriff Cobb and Dr. Madison.

I still love the brother dynamic. The absolute best parts of this book are Ryker and Heath watching out for Denver and showing him that they love him no matter what. And this book has some really lovely scenes with the Gray brothers (I am now and forever Team Jory!), who consider everyone they love to be part of their extended family. I just adore that aspect of these books. I also liked the fast-paced action. This story is seriously nonstop, and it made me want to keep turning pages.

I definitely feel like this series ran out of momentum a bit with each book, though. The pattern just didn’t change. Denver makes The Rules for Safety. Noni refuses to follow Denver’s rules. There’s an attack by the bad guys (probably because of Noni’s reckless flaunting of the rules) and superhero antics by Denver. They have sex so emotionally stunted Denver can express how he feels with his penis. Then the cycle repeats. It’s the same pattern that was in the other books, too. I also didn’t feel like I understood Noni. She never really talks about herself–she’s just there to be the desperate caregiver searching for the baby and to be a source of angst and boners for Denver. What does Noni care about or want besides the baby and Denver? Why are she and Denver in love? None of that is filled out, just assumed.

I’m happy the story arcs are resolved, and I’m glad the villains got their comeuppance, but even there I was left a bit disappointed. Dr. Madison and Sheriff Cobb were more nuanced in past books, but here I felt they were pretty one-dimensionally “crazy.” It was fine I guess, just a missed opportunity to add some depth. (Plus, what happened to the young brothers we met at the end of the Sin Brothers series? We didn’t heard a peep from them here. Even though I didn’t exactly love this book, I’m kind of curious to see if Zanetti might continue their thread in the future.)

If you’ve read other books in the Sin Brothers or Blood Brothers series, you could certainly jump in with this book, but don’t bother with this one if you’re new to the world or if you didn’t enjoy any of the other books.

Blood Brothers Series

Grade: 3 out of 5

three-stars


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