Tag: Harlequin Romantic Suspense

Guest Review: Bayou Hero by Marilyn Pappano

Posted November 3, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 9 Comments

Guest Review: Bayou Hero by Marilyn PappanoReviewer: Jen
Bayou Hero by Marilyn Pappano
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication Date: January 6th 2015
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 288
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In this book from USA TODAY bestselling author Marilyn Pappano, one family's scandal is responsible for a rising body count…

Even for an experienced NCIS agent like Alia Kingsley, the murder scene is particularly gruesome. Someone killed in a fit of rage. Being the long-estranged son of the deceased, Landry Jackson quickly becomes a person of interest. But does Landry loathe his father as much as the feds suspect?

It's clear to Alia that Landry Jackson has secrets, but his hatred for his father isn't one of them. Alia feels sure Landry isn't the killer, but once more family members start dying, she's forced to question herself. What if the fierce attraction between her and Landry has compromised Alia's instincts?

I haven’t been able to get this book out of my head for DAYS, and I’ve been sitting on this review, trying to balance my desire to tell someone about this ambitious book with my uncertainty about how I really feel about parts of it. This is a good book…possibly even a great book, but it’s complicated, so this review is gonna be long!

Let me start out with a huge trigger warning: This book deals with the rape of children. There is nothing graphic, but this issue is THERE in a painful and persistent way through much of the book. So, take care!

Alia is an NCIS investigator assigned to look into the murder of an Admiral in New Orleans. He and some of his household staff were brutally stabbed. His son Landry absolutely hated his father, so he is naturally a suspect. When other people connected to the family start showing up dead, too, Alia and Landry start to realize the killings are connected to the family’s dirty secrets.

What did I like?

  • Alia is tough and smart and I want to know her in real life! I love her dedication to her job, her occasional gallows humor, her good-natured bickering with her ex husband, her quiet support for Landry, and her love for food. She’s also part Vietnamese and her heritage actually seems like a part of her life, not just window dressing. She brings a much needed lightness to the book, and I loved her.
  • Even though we never “meet” Alia’s family in person I loved them too, based on a couple short phone conversations and what we know of them from Alia. I thought it was so important to get an example of a healthy family (and a healthy military family, at that) to contrast with the sick dynamics of Landry’s family. Alia’s parents aren’t perfect, but they love her unconditionally and support their daughter in her endeavors without trying to be overprotective or bossy. Hooray for functional families!
  • It’s set in New Orleans and uses that city to excellent advantage. The sticky heat, the hidden wealth behind the wrought iron gates, the amazing food, the tourists who come without seeing the real city…all of it is evocative without being some kind of caricature of New Orleans.
  • There is no instalust, no lightning bolts from the sky, no uncontrollable pants feelings. Alia and Landry act like two normal people who at first can’t trust each other for very legitimate reasons. The attraction builds slowly, and even once they start spending social time together they move slowly because of Alia’s job investigating Landry’s dad’s murder. (The romance does still move pretty fast in terms of actual days, but in page numbers it’s well paced.)
  • THEY DON’T CREATE A CONFLICT OF INTEREST BY SLEEPING TOGETHER! Yes I am yelling because I am not sure I can think of another romantic suspense I’ve read, and I read a lot of them, where the solution that Alia and Landry use here has ever come up. I won’t tell you what the solution is, but it is mature and responsible and why the fuck have I never seen it before?
  • I haven’t mentioned Landry yet. Don’t get me wrong, I liked him too, though maybe not as much as Alia. What I did appreciate about him is that he isn’t afraid of his feelings for Alia. He knows he feels something serious for her, and he knows he wants it to be long term. He isn’t a closed off, broody a-hole, which would have been the easy route to take with this character.

And now for some very spoilery discussion, because this gets at the heart of why I wasn’t sure exactly how to feel about parts of this book.

As a child, Landry was repeatedly raped by a group of his father’s male friends for years before escaping with the help of a distant relative. The friends actually traded their kids around as sex objects; Landry’s younger sister and all the male and female children of the friends were also raped routinely. It is completely horrifying and disgusting, and reading about it made me nauseous. There aren’t any graphic descriptions at all, but Landry’s pain is excruciating to read about.

I’m always leery of books that use rape as a backstory or sensational plot, and it’s hard to escape the fact that the rapes do add a level of sensationalism to the story, although I think the author is careful to portray it as the awful crime it is. On the other hand, there are almost no romances where the hero is the one who was raped, and I worry it’s because authors and readers think it makes the hero seem less manly. So perhaps this is a story that is important to tell, if it’s done properly.

Part of why I hesitated to write this review was because I was going over all the details in my mind searching for mishandling of this topic. Overall, I do think the sexual abuse was handled sensitively. Landry certainly has issues, but he is able to have a largely functional life and build relationships with other people. The book makes it crystal clear he doesn’t do it on his own, though. He needs years of therapy with a skilled doctor, and even then he is still struggling with certain things. He has heartbreaking moments where he feels ashamed or angry at himself, though he talks himself down from those moments by recalling his therapist’s advice. And most importantly, Alia and the other characters in the book don’t treat Landry as less-than because of his trauma. To my untrained eyes, it felt respectfully handled. 

So why my complicated feelings? Most of my hesitation was due to the killer. I could see it coming, and I didn’t like it. The killer had their own very serious mental health issues, which were less gracefully handled. Was it too cartoonish? Was it a cheap “crazy killer” cop out? Was it just there for sensationalism? I’m honestly not sure, but I do know that I didn’t want that character to be the killer. While Alia and Landry get a happy ending, nobody else really does.

To be honest, I am impressed with Pappano and Harlequin for even trying to tell a story like this, because I sure as hell did not expect this when I picked up the book! This was much deeper, more nuanced, and more gut wrenching than your average category romance. While I’m still not exactly sure how I feel about some elements, I am not sorry I read it. 

Grade: 4.25 out of 5


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Guest Review: Lethal Lawman by Carla Cassidy

Posted February 27, 2014 by Judith in Reviews | 0 Comments

Genres: Romantic Suspense

Lethal LawmanJudith’s review of Lethal Lawman (Men of Wolf Creek #2) by Carla Cassidy

Marlene Marcoli made the mistake of falling in love and almost lost her life. Hoping to put her abusive marriage behind her, Marlene moves to Wolf Creek, Pennsylvania. But danger follows her once again when her apartment is vandalized. To make matters worse, the sexy detective working the case is distracting her beyond reason.

Detective Frank Delaney hasn’t been interested in dating since his wife died—until Marlene comes to town. Irresistibly drawn to the blonde, he’s got to find a way to make her trust him. And when Marlene’s life is threatened, Frank must race to protect her—if they both hope to have a second chance at love.

It is an unfortunate commentary on our society that spousal abuse is so much a part of the relational scene these days.  Thus this scenario has found its way into the romance fiction genre, as it should.  It is a part of real life and it is the part that is, for me, one of the most scary contexts for a love story.  There is so much that law enforcement either can’t or won’t do.  I guess it depends on the community and the policing in that area.  In this short novel the heroine has run for her life back to the haven of her family, or so she thought.  Even the safety of her family does not prevent her abuser to continue searching for her in order to prove to her that she can never hide from him.  The vandalism and all that continues to disrupt her life keeps her aware that she is not safe, and that is truly the kind of psychological abuse that can defeat one’s deepest sense of self.

The detective is nurturing some significant wounds as well, only he has become a master at beating himself up over his wife’s suicide.  Yet being drawn into Marlene’s life does indeed begin a cycle of moving out of that inner world of self-destructive thinking and begins to move him toward wanting and needing a new “someone” who will care about him and help him to renew his joy of living.

This is a really nice read–good length with a complete story, fine characters and a story that moves along.  There is sufficient tension from the mystery surrounding the activities of Marlene’s abuser, but the sensual content is really toned down.  Nevertheless, this is indeed a romance and while it’s not getting hot between the sheets kind of story, there is the sensual tension between two people who recognize someone who is potentially special.  I enjoyed the fact that Marlene knew she had somewhere to go when she needed to leave her abusive marriage.  I liked knowing that the community and her family were “there” for her.  So this was a very heart-warming story for me and one that was easy to read and which filled an evening nicely for me.  Of course, Ms Cassidy is one of those tried and true authors who have built a following and whose stories are anticipated and appreciated for their good writing and plot development.  Her books are also written with good language skills and give evidence that the author knows her way around the task of crafting a story so that it all “hangs together.”  I guess that is one of the main reasons I enjoy her work.

This is the second novel in her series about Wolf Creek and I am looking forward to her next effort.  I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.

The Series:
Book Cover Book Cover

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place

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

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Guest Review: Alpha One by Cynthia Eden

Posted January 3, 2013 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Alpha One by Cynthia EdenReviewer: Judith
Alpha One (Shadow Agents, #1) by Cynthia Eden
Series: Shadow Agents #1
Publisher: Harlequin, Harlequin Intrigue
Publication Date: January 2nd 2013
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 224
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Series Rating: four-stars

"Julie's missing. You have to get her back."

The minute he got the message, undercover agent Logan Quinn sprang into action. Getting Juliana James out of Mexico alive was the Elite Ops covert agent's only priority. But once the senator's daughter was safely back in their Mississippi hometown, Logan had a new mission: to get another chance with the woman he couldn't lose again.

Juliana had never forgotten the day, ten years ago, when Logan left her heart in pieces. Now he was back in her life, sworn to protect her from the ruthless weapons dealer who wanted her dead. As passion blindsided her --and she was once again thrust into danger -- Julie realized how much she'd risk for one more day in Logan's arms.

They’re “shadow agents” and they have the fear-inducing knack of getting in and getting out without anyone knowing they’re coming or that they’ve even been there.  Ten years ago they rescued the senator’s daughter, saving her from a burning building.  She worried for years about the other prisoner who was being harrassed and tortured by the leader of a weapons cartel.  Yet she never knew what happened to him.  Now she is once again in the sites of that ruthless criminal and once again Logan is called upon, with his team, to protect her and keep her alive.  What comes alive once again is the passion they shared and the possibilities Logan walked away from a decade ago.

This is another cover-ops suspense novel but it is so very well done.  There are mysteries galore here, unanswered questions piling up as the story proceeds and in the middle is a woman’s life that Logan and his team never seem to be able to get out of range of those who would destroy her.  And in the midst of all this tension and secrets, there is the sexual tension between these old lovers, both of whom still know that a greater portion of their hearts belongs to the other.  It’s a fast a furious read, never letting the reader get comfortable, not taking up a great deal of time as it is not an overly long story.  But the author has packed every page with action and tension and suspense while pairing it with the frustration these lovers are experiencing as they try to find their way back to one another.  Juliana also makes some discoveries that upend everything she thought she knew about herself and her life so that there are twists and turns, secrets revealed and some of those are life-threatening.

This could be classified as a short novel, but this line of novels has been one of Harlequin’s best in recent years.  It’s the kind of novel that you can read in a relatively short space of time and one that will never be boring.  As a fan of that curious mixture known as romantic suspense fiction, I was delighted to find this novel and as one who has enjoyed Ms Eden’s work in the past, it was really great to find out that once more she has nailed the genre and given her readers a terrific story.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.

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


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Review: Copy That by Helenkay Dimon

Posted September 10, 2012 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Copy That by Helenkay DimonReviewer: Rowena
Copy That by HelenKay Dimon
Publisher: Harlequin, Harlequin Intrigue
Publication Date: August 7th 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 288
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Returning from his latest Border Patrol assignment, Jeremy Hill seeks sanctuary in his twin brother's home. The last thing he expects to find is an armed man already inside, or Meredith Samms, a gorgeous tenant caught in the cross fire. Then he discovers that the gunman's attack is meant for his twin brother, who is nowhere in sight, and Jeremy must take matters into his own hands. Searching for his brother while trying to protect this girl next door, Jeremy finds himself caught up in the danger he'd become all too familiar with. In his world, everyone's a target and anyone can be a suspect, so Jeremy has no room for emotions. But what Meredith stirs within him may complicate this unexpected mission to the point of no return….

This was a pretty quick read and one that I enjoyed a lot. This book follows Jeremy Hill and Meredith Samms as they try to stay alive so that they can act on their attraction that quickly became so much more.

Jeremy Hill works for the border control and has lately been working under cover trying to bring down a bad guy. Now that bad guy is in jail and wants Jeremy’s blood. Jeremy has a twin brother who works for the DIA and does black ops stuff so he’s got lots of enemies as well. After the under cover operation wraps, Jeremy is given some time off for R&R so he heads over to the house that he co-owns with his twin brother Garrett and finds a whole lot of stuff that he wasn’t expecting. Surprises that come with loud booms and lots of fire.

In the midst of all the booms and fires, Jeremy meets Garrett’s tenant Meredith Samms and saves her life. He takes her under his protection and they get real close. There’s attraction simmering underneath the surface and even though the timing is way off, it’s there and there’s really nothing that either of them can do about it.

Meanwhile, Jeremy’s twin brother is going through a rough patch with his fiancee’ and he’s trying to make things right at the same time that he’s trying to keep everyone he loves alive because the bad guys took Sara (his fiancee) captive and so he had his hands busy trying to save everyone.

For such a short story, Helenkay Dimon did a great job with the telling of it all. Having to tell an entire story in such a short space can’t be easy and while I wished for more at the end, I still enjoyed the story as a whole. There was action, there was steamy sexual chemistry with the main couple and an interesting backstory. It didn’t take me long at all to finish the book because I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what was happening next. This is why I don’t read many Harlequins because a lot of the time, the shortness of the stories don’t really work for me but this one did and I’m glad.

If you’re looking for something short with loads of action and steamy romance, this definitely fits the bill.

Grade: 4 out of 5

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


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Review: Negotiating Point by Adrienne Giordano.

Posted July 18, 2012 by Rowena in Reviews | 3 Comments

Rowena’s review of Negotiating Point by Adrienne Giorgano.

Hero: Gavin Sheppard
Heroine: Janet Fink

As a hostage negotiator for Taylor Security, Gavin Sheppard has just been given the toughest assignment of his career: securing the release of his boss’s pregnant wife. He’s uneasy negotiating a rescue without the involvement of the police, but with the life of a woman and her unborn child on the line there’s no time to play by the rules. He’ll have to work closely with the one woman who could prove to be a distraction…

Janet Fink, the agency’s tech geek, is conflicted about working alongside the man she’s irresistibly attracted to. Though she’s determined not to risk her career by getting involved with a coworker, especially a superior, she can’t forget the passionate kiss they once shared…

With the kidnappers’ deadline fast approaching, Gavin and Janet must combine their skills to bring the missing woman home alive. But their undeniable chemistry is making it difficult to keep their relationship purely professional…

This was a really short read. It’s only about 25,000 words and about 5 chapters so really, it was short. In this short story, Gavin Sheppard and Janet Fink get their happy ever after. They work together and they kissed three weeks ago. Gavin can’t stop thinking about the kiss but won’t pursue it because he’s in a supervisor role at work and Janet is support. He didn’t want to go there but when they’re thrown together on a case to help bring back their boss’s kidnapped wife, things are going to happen.

Janet has had a thing for Gavin for a while now and she wasn’t going to act on it until she thought he was going to die and when that happened, all bets were off.

I haven’t read anything by this author and I’m glad that I read this book because even though it was short and the tactical guy got on my hot damn nerves, I wanted to know more about this group of characters. I wanted to see them in action again. This short story whet my appetite for more from both Gavin and Janet. I wanted this story to continue, even after it finished because I wanted more from the romance between Gavin and Janet. The way that it was, everything happened much too fast and it was hard to move on when I wasn’t finished with them. But still, it was a good story and I’m definitely going to check out more stories from this author.

Grade: 3 out of 5

This book is available from Carina Press. You can buy it here in e-format.

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