Stacking the Shelves (120)

Stacking the Shelves

As you read this, I am at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference, which is being held in Chicago. While voluntarily going to Chicago in January may seem strange, it could be worse. Last year the conference was in Philadelphia. We may be cold in Chicago, but we’re not snowed in. Or out.

Actually out might not have been so bad. It is way warmer back home in Atlanta than it is in Chicago in January. Oh well, the June conference is in San Francisco. But then again, there’s that famous Mark Twain quote: “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.”

For Review:
Behind Closed Doors (DCI Louisa Smith #2) by Elizabeth Haynes
The Belles of Williamsburg edited by Mary Maillard
Below the Belt (Worth the Fight #3) by Sidney Halston
BiblioTech by John Palfrey
The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley
The Diamond Conspiracy (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #4) by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Footsteps in the Sky by Greg Keyes
The Kill Shot (Jamie Sinclair #2) by Nichole Christoff
Never Too Late by Robyn Carr
The Poser by Jacob Rubin
Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Purchased from Amazon:
Against the Cage (Worth the Fight #1) by Sidney Halston
Full Contact (Worth the Fight #2) by Sidney Halston
Kingston 691 (Cyborgs: Mankind Redefined #2) by Donna McDonald

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Review: Ghost Phoenix by Corrina Lawson

ghost phoenix by corrina lawsonFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Phoenix Institute #3
Length: 277 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: October 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

Richard Plantagenet, self-exiled prince of an immortal court, is content living the uncomplicated life of a California surfer. Until his brother’s sudden death and his Queen’s wasting illness wrest him from his ocean-side solitude for one last quest.

The Queen needs a cure. To get it, Richard needs assistance from someone with a singular—and slightly illegal—talent.

As the latest of a long line of ghost-walkers, Marian Doyle can, literally, walk through walls—bringing objects with her. Her gift comes in handy for her family’s shady antiquities business, but Marian’s had it with breaking the law. She wants a life of her own choosing.

Instead, she gets Richard.

Their mission seems simple: Find the body of Gregori Rasputin and procure a small sample of his DNA. But when they discover the Mad Monk of Russia is very much alive, the prince and the phantom must form a bond to battle a man who desires to remake the world in fire.

My Review:

I read The Phoenix Institute series all in one giant binge, and I’ll admit that Ghost Phoenix is the point where it almost jumped the shark. But the romance between the hero and heroine was so much delicious fun that it pretty much jumped back.

phoenix legacy by corrina lawsonThe evil dude in the previous book, Phoenix Legacy, went by the name Edward P. Genet V. At the end of the story we discover that his real name is Edward Plantagenet, briefly King Edward V of England. Back in the late 1400s.

If the name rings any bells at all, it’s because Edward V was also one of the famous Princes in the Tower. Shakespeare claimed that Edward and his brother Richard were killed by their uncle, the recently discovered Richard III. (Contrarians say that the Princes were murdered by their sister’s husband, King Henry VII. We may never know)

But it turns out that the people that the Phoenix Institute has discovered are not the only folks out there with special gifts. The Plantagenets have a strain of self-healing in their DNA, making some of them effectively immortal. Edward was one such, as was his brother Richard. In this scenario, they weren’t killed after all – they disappeared into the shadow court of their immortal queen, who turns out to be Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Eleanor is wasting away of some unknown malady that is preventing her from accessing her healing talents. Edward’s pursuit of Delilah and Drake’s genetically engineered baby was all part of his plan to create someone with the talent to heal others. However, messing with Drake’s family was a guaranteed way of getting killed. A sword through the heart will kill anyone. Even a self-healer can’t heal around a big honking piece of sharp metal in a truly vital organ.

Grigori Rasputin

Grigori Rasputin

Richard is forced back to court by his duty to his brother, and to his queen. He never approved of Edward’s methods, but now he has to find out what truly happened to his brother, and find a cure for the queen. Since Drake and Delilah’s baby is now out of reach, the court has discovered another possible method – studying the corpse of the mad Russian monk Rasputin, who was also had the power to heal others – as well as being a charismatic and nuttier than a fruitcake. Legend has it that Rasputin was poisoned, shot and drowned, so it is assumed that one or all of those methods overcame his self-healing ability.

Richard thinks he’s looking for a valuable corpse. So he hires Doyle Antiquities, especially Marian Doyle, to dig up (if necessary literally) the body of Rasputin. The Doyle family is known for possessing a rare psychic gift – the ability to turn to mist and go through walls. Marian is the only member of the family in this generation to possess the gift – as well as a talent for researching where lost treasures might be found.

Richard discovers that Marian is the most pleasantly surprising person he has met in centuries. She is intelligent, beautiful and talented, and always manages to do the unexpected. As they hunt what they think is an artifact, they discover that in spite of the centuries, they belong together. If they can survive the mess they have gotten themselves into.

Rasputin is still alive, and his followers are every bit as fanatical in the early 21st century as they were in the early 20th.

Escape Rating B+: The combination of the immortal Plantagenet court with Rasputin went really too close to the “believe three impossible things before breakfast” idea. In a world where multiple people have some kind of psychic/telekinetic talent without having had the equivalent of a mutated spider bite them in a lab, it is logical that there would be others with some talent.

There are so many stories about Rasputin, that it isn’t a stretch to believe he had some real power. He and his followers certainly thought he did. But adding the Plantagenet court into the mix almost went over the top.

But Richard Plantagenet is surprisingly empathetic as the surfer dude who could be king. He has rejected much of the isolation of the court and become a surfer in California. He may love the queen, but his attachment is to contemporary life. Watching him straddle both worlds makes him more human. He is still an autocrat at times, but he also knows how to value the short-lived human lives around him – and he knows there are lines that can’t be crossed, a lesson his brother never learned.

Richard meets with the Institute and Philip Drake, yet everyone walks away with their organs intact. He mourns his brother, but acknowledges that Drake’s actions were more than justified. He would protect himself and his to that same extreme – he can’t fault Drake for doing the same.

However, it is Richard’s relationship with Marian that grounds him and makes him human enough to feel for. He needs to win her love and approval, and she keeps him on the relatively human straight and narrow.

It is also her talents that discover the truth about the Queen’s illness. He needs her, and she needs him to boost her confidence so she can break away from the family that uses her and takes her for granted. In the early scenes, where Richard puts her overbearing grandfather in his place, that makes the reader first see him as “one of us” and not “one of them”..

sci fi romance quarterlyOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

 

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Q&A with Linda Lael Miller + Giveaway

Linda Lael Miller’s Parable Montana series got me hooked on contemporary western romance. I loved the series so much, that I was thrilled when she continued to feature stories in the nearby Bliss County. The Marriage Pact (see review) was lovely, and today’s review book, The Marriage Charm, is a terrific way to keep up with people I really enjoy. Here is a  Q&A from Linda Lael Miller, all about The Marriage Charm.

marriage charm by linda lael millerQ: In The Marriage Charm, Melody Nolan falls in love with Chief of Police, Spence Hogan. Spence has a reputation that he’ll never settle down. Is his reputation deserved? And just what is it about Melody that has grabbed the attention of womanizer Spence Hogan?

A: Spence has actually cultivated his reputation as a player, in order to avoid settling down, and it’s served him well—until now. He and Melody were in love, years before, but the time wasn’t right for marriage; Spence knew that, but Melody didn’t. Now, following their mutual friends’ romantic wedding, the old attraction is back.

Q: Female friendships play an important role in The Marriage Charm. Do you have female friends that support you the way Hadleigh and Bex support Melody?

A: Oh, yes. I have a number of very close female friends, people I can confide in, and most of them go way back. I wouldn’t know what to do without these strong, smart, funny women. Through all the ups and downs, we’ve always been there for each other.

Q: Melody is a talented jewelry designer and her pieces sound absolutely gorgeous in the book! Did you do research on jewelry design and jewelry making before writing the scenes where she’s working on some of her creations?

A: Some research, yes. I’m an artist myself, and I love beautiful jewelry, so this career made sense for Melody.

Q: There’s some real danger—and mystery—in The Marriage Charm. How did you decide to work suspense into this story? Was it always a natural part of the plot or did you want there to be some mystery involved?

A: Sometimes an element of suspense fits the story and characters, and I decide to go with it.

Linda Lael MillerAbout Linda Lael MillerThe daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than one hundred historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, the self-confessed barn goddess now lives in Spokane, Washington. Linda hit a career high in 2011 when all three of her Creed Cowboys books—A Creed in Stone Creek, Creed’s Honor and The Creed Legacy—debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.Linda has come a long way since leaving Washington to experience the world. “But growing up in that time and place has served me well,” she allows. “And I’m happy to be back home.” Dedicated to helping others, Linda personally finances her “Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women,” which she awards to those seeking to improve their lot in life through education.More information about Linda and her novels is available at her website. She also loves to hear from readers by mail at P.O. Box 19461, Spokane, WA 99219.

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Linda is kindly giving away a copy of The Marriage Charm to one lucky winner! (Contintental U.S. only) To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Review: The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller

marriage charm by linda lael millerFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: Contemporary romance, Western romance
Series: Brides of Bliss County #2
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: January 27, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The women of Bliss County have a pact—to find husbands. The right husbands.

One already has: Hadleigh Stevens, who married rancher Tripp Galloway a few months ago. Now Melody Nolan thinks it’s her turn. Melody has recently found success as a jewelry designer, and her work is the focus of her life. She’s not exactly unhappy, but she wants more. She’s always been attracted to Spence Hogan, the local chief of police, but she’s convinced that Spence, a notorious charmer, isn’t what you’d call husband material.

Spence is a good cop who isn’t scared of anything—except love. And he’s done everything he can to preserve his reputation as a womanizer—a reputation that keeps marriage-minded women, including Melody, at bay. And yet…there’s something about Melody he can’t forget. Something his heart can’t ignore.

My Review:

Bliss County Wyoming is a place where second chances at romance turn into happily ever after on a wonderfully regular basis. It’s also a place where lifelong best friends don’t just stay friends, but help each other find, or maybe finally recognize, the loves of their lives.

Of course, nothing wonderful ever happens without a few challenges along the way.

marriage pact by linda lael millerIn the first book in this series, The Marriage Pact (reviewed here), we meet Hadleigh, Bex and Melody, three women who have been friends all their lives. Now that they are all pushing 30, they make a pact – none of them are going to settle for second-best. They all want the whole thing, happy marriages with men who adore them, and whom they love completely in return. Children if they want them, but most importantly, a marriage where they never feel like they settled for anything less than someone who loves them unquestionably as they are, successful and happy with themselves and who they have become. .

Melody, the jewelry maker among them, makes them each a charm bracelet to symbolize the marriage pact. In that first story, Hadleigh finally recognizes that her happiness lies with the man who slung her over his shoulder and carried her out of her first attempt at a wedding. Tripp was right, Oakley was no good. It takes them ten years to admit they belong together.

Sheriff Spence Hogan slings Melody over his shoulder to rescue her and her impossibly high heels from Hadleigh and Tripp’s wedding reception. It’s not the first time Spence has swept melody off her feet. Ten years ago, for one glorious summer, Spence and Melody were everything to each other. But Melody was still in college, and Spence did the right thing and let her go.

Unfortunately for him, he let her down by refusing her offer of marriage. Since that awful day, Melody and Spence have tried their best to avoid each other whenever possible – difficult in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business.

The wedding of their best friends has thrown them back together, and made them both think, not about what might have been, but about what might yet be now that they are both adults and more sure of who they are and what they are going to be.

The road to a possible happy ever after has more than a few roadblocks. Spence’s refusal of Melody’s long-ago proposal has left her untrusting of men in general, and Spence in particular. Spence has spent the last decade looking for a woman who might take Melody’s place in his heart – and everyone in town knows just how wide that net has been cast, even if they didn’t know the reason for it. Spence has acquired quite the reputation as a player, a fact that doesn’t engender any trust in Spence’s motives when he pursues Melody again.

Not that Melody runs very fast, but just because they still have amazing sexual chemistry (and way more knowledge about what to do with it) doesn’t mean that they are both heading down the same road.

Melody wants a happy ever after or nothing. Spence’s refusal all those years ago wasn’t all that tactful – enough to make Melody sure that he isn’t ready to settle down with anyone, including her. And she has zero interest in being a notch on what is rumored to be Spence’s well notched bedpost.

Adding a little zest and some serious danger into Spence’s and Melody’s mutual pursuit is an antiques thief who is robbing anyone in town who might have some antiques or even just unique and valuable items in their Mustang Creek homes. While the thief is targeting any home where there are antiques on the mantle, he or she seems to have a special vendetta against Spence and Melody. Or maybe because Spence is finally after Melody.

While Spence is glad of the excuse to get Melody to move in with him, he’s seriously concerned about the series of thefts on his watch, and the very real danger to the woman he loves.

Escape Rating B+: Just like Thunder Point in Robyn Carr’s series (see Tuesday’s review of The Chance), Mustang Ridge is one of those places that sounds like it would be terrific to live in, especially if you want to live in Big Sky Country. The town in the heart of Bliss County seems almost, but not quite, too good to be true. And the people are terrific.

One of the things that is great about this series is the celebration of women’s friendships. Hadleigh, Bex and Melody really are BFFs forever. They grew up together and with each other. Even though their lives are changing, they still make time for each other and support each other. They also tell each other the unvarnished truth, the kind that you may not want to hear, but that you need to hear. In the end, they’ll support each other even when one of them (in this case Melody) is being pig-headed.

Spence broke Melody’s heart ten years ago. He also did exactly the right thing. She was only 20, and she needed to get out and see the world a bit, finish her education and decide (or not) that Bliss County was where she wanted to be. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell it to her quite that way. He may have thought his seeming heartless was for her own good, but it left her with a lot of justified resentment.

The background mystery in this love story wove into the main thread remarkably well for a second-strong plot. While I had a guess at what kind of person it was, narrowing down the actual suspect was difficult, not just for me but also for Spence. And it was terrific the way that the whole town came together to root out the perpetrator.

marriage season by linda lael millerThis series is a delight to read. I’m looking forward to Bex’ story and seeing who her friends matchmake her with. Unlike Hadleigh and Melody, there is no one in Bex past for her second chance. The full story will be in The Marriage Season, coming in May.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: On a Rogue Planet by Anna Hackett

on a rogue planet by anna hackettFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Series: Phoenix Brothers #3
Length: 218 pages
Publisher: self published
Date Released: November 16, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

Unlucky-in-love salvage mechanic, Malin Phoenix, didn’t intend to get caught up in a coup and kidnapped by a sexy cyborg. But she finds herself swept into an adventure to help the deadly, emotionless CenSec, Xander Saros, retrieve an ancient Terran artifact and save his planet.

Soon she’s racing across uncharted space and is magnetically drawn to the cyborg whose strong arms and muscled body ignite a desire that burns brighter than a supernova. But Mal can never let herself forget that she can’t fall in love with a cyborg who can never love her back.

The crowning glory of the Centax Security program, Xander is heavily enhanced, his emotions dampened to nothing to allow him to be the most efficient, lethal killer in the galaxy. As he and Malin hunt for the remnant of the galaxy’s first computer, the Antikythera Mechanism, their quest leads them into the lair of a dangerous technomancer. But Xander can’t identify his greatest threat—the enemy or the fascinating woman who’s making him feel.

My Review:

games of commandTake a smidgen of Firefly, a pinch of Babylon 5, a tiny bit of Deep Space Nine and a heaping helping of Linnea Sinclair’s Games of Command, and you’ll have something that might get within a couple of parsecs of Anna Hackett’s On a Rogue Planet – and I mean that in a totally awesome way.

So far, this series has simply been oodles of science fiction romance fun, while still telling a terrific science fiction story.

We have a bunch of space mercenaries, except these aren’t your usual mercenaries, well, not unless Indiana Jones was conducting his treasure hunting in outer space. (Wait a minute, there was this ship with the funny name and the furry co-pilot…but I digress, just a bit)

at stars end by anna hackettThe Phoenix brothers, as introduced in the first two books of this series, (At Star’s End and In the Devil’s Nebula) are intergalactic treasure hunters. One brother is the business brains – also the captain – one is the pilot, and one is the xenoarchaeologist. Notice that none of these guys is a mechanic.

Phoenix Enterprises is a family company, so their engineer is also family. Malin Phoenix is more than a bit like Kaylee in Firefly, but not quite as innocent. She also isn’t just a mechanic or engineer, she also a genius at salvage, which is where this story begins.

She’s in the salvage yard on Centax, picking out the most excellent scrap with a friend, when the planet is attacked and she ends up running for her life across the salvage yard with a cyborg who wants to hire her brothers to steal the artifact that confers power on Centax.

Except Xander isn’t just a cyborg, he is the head of Centax planetary security, and he just got caught with his figurative pants down as his planet was betrayed. He’ll do anything to get it back. (That his brother is the planet’s political leader and has been captured also figures into his decision just a bit, even though Centax Security cyborgs aren’t supposed to feel much in the way of emotions. Xander clearly starts out with more feelings than he expresses or believes he has.)

When Xander seeks out Malin in the scrap yard, his only intent is to get off planet and hire her cousins. Meeting Malin adds a whole new dimension to his plans. He finds within himself the sense that he MUST protect and save her, no matter what the cost. It’s entirely possible that the EMP weapon that temporarily fried his cyber-circuits knocked out all his emotional filters.

But no matter how hard he tries, he’s never able to get those emotional filters back up. Everything else, absolutely yes. Suppress his growing feelings for Malin, absolutely no.

Malin can’t help but be attracted to Xander, at least when he shows her his more human side. The problem is that Malin knows that Centax Security cyborgs simply don’t have feelings. And even if Xander did, his planet needs him way more than one mechanic possibly could make up for. She knows he’s going to rip her heart out when he leaves. She just doesn’t know if he even has a heart to break.

Escape Rating A-: Just because I recognized some of the story’s antecedents doesn’t mean I didn’t have one hell of a good time reading it. And want more.

Linnea Sinclair is an awesome fairy godmother for any SFR story to have. She always did an excellent job of integrating the romance fully into the science fiction world she created, and she always created a fascinating SF world, even if, or perhaps because, some of them were places you wouldn’t want to live in.

Xander Soros is very much like Branden Kel-Patten in Games of Command. Not just because he is a combination of man and machine, but because Xander, like Branden, is not supposed to have emotions. He’s certainly not supposed to feel love or even lust. Discovering that he does feel, and that he can love, is a revelation for Xander, and a miracle that Malin can’t make herself believe in.

She has a history of falling for men who use her, then let her know that they just aren’t interested in a woman with engine grease under her fingernails. As far as she is concerned, Xander is just a different kind of wrong, and she can’t compete with an entire planet that needs him back on his “A” game.

The prize they hunt for is an old Terran computer. While I still can’t figure out which one it might be, the point is that the rulership of Centax still belongs to whoever manages to hold and keep the old thing. Their quest to find it and steal it back leads to a planet without a star that travels its own route through uncharted space. The rogue collector on that rogue planet runs Xander and Malin through a robotic gauntlet that tests their ingenuity, their will to survive, and their ability to work as a team.

When they win through, Xander believes he’s won everything he never knew he wanted. Malin is certain it’s the beginning of the end. Which one of them is right?

If you enjoy SFR, particularly if you miss Linnea Sinclair’s marvelous tales, take a look at Anna Hackett’s Phoenix Brothers. You’ll be glad you did.

p.s. If you’re wondering about that SF pedigree I mentioned at the beginning, well, Malin is Kaylee’s sister from another universe, and they have to go into the uncharted black. By way of a stable wormhole (Deep Space Nine) that operates like a Babylon 5 jumpgate, complete with hardware. Enjoy!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: The Chance by Robyn Carr

Chance by Robyn CarrFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Thunder Point #4
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: February 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

With its breathtaking vistas and down-to-earth people, Thunder Point is the perfect place for FBI agent Laine Carrington to recuperate from a gunshot wound and contemplate her future. The locals embraced Laine as one of their own after she risked her life to save a young girl from a dangerous cult. Knowing her wounds go beyond the physical, Laine hopes she’ll fit in for a while and find her true self in a town that feels safe. She may even learn to open her heart to others, something an undercover agent has little time to indulge.

Eric Gentry is also new to Thunder Point. Although he’s a man with a dark past, he’s determined to put down roots and get to know the daughter he only recently discovered. When Laine and Eric meet, their attraction is obvious to everyone. But while the law enforcement agent and the reformed criminal want to make things work, their differences may run too deep…unless they take a chance on each other and find that deep and mysterious bond that belongs to those who choose love over fear.

My Review:

Now that I’m on my fourth book in Robyn Carr’s Thunder Point series, I have come to a couple of conclusions.

Thunder Point is a really terrific small town, one that I might like to live in. Possibly live in more than visit – it seems like it is not unconscionably far from Portland, or even Seattle, but still has the small-town feel that turns newcomers into friends very easily.

Thunder Point also seems to be the place where second chances finally make it all the way to the finish line, no matter how much has gone wrong in between. Sometimes its a second chance at a first love, and sometimes its a second chance in life. Most of us need one of those sometime in our lives, so that idea has a lot of resonance.

(Bliss County Wyoming, in Linda Lael Miller’s Brides of Bliss County series, seems to be another place of the same lovely type. More on that Thursday)

Back in Thunder Point, Eric and Laine are both people who have come to Thunder Point for a second chance at something. Eric is there for a second chance with the daughter he never knew he had. (The mother of said daughter married the sheriff back in The Newcomer (reviewed here))

The Hero by Robyn CarrLaine was the undercover FBI agent who rescued Devon and her daughter Mercy, and helped shut down the cult in The Hero (reviewed here). Laine is taking some leave from the FBI to recuperate from her gunshot wound and to do some reassessment about what she wants from her life. She’s also on the west coast to get as far away as possible from her father on the east coast. Dad has always disapproved of Laine’s career in the FBI, but on her last visit, he said that she wasn’t saving lives or doing anything important by being an agent, and that he wasn’t interested in watching her get a medal for wasting her life.

If you think there is something wrong with that scenario, you are not alone. Because the other chance that Laine needs is a chance to have a real relationship with her father, before it is too late.

Eric and Laine gravitate towards each other instantly, even though neither of them is looking for a relationship. Eric is working all hours starting a new business in town, and Laine is only planning to be in the area for six months at the most. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, neither of them is the type of person for casual sex. They are both in their 30s, and casual hookups have lost their appeal.

They are the last two people who should ever get together. Laine is an FBI agent, and part of Eric’s past where he never checked up on the possibility that he left his girlfriend pregnant all those years ago included 5 years in prison for a crime committed by his friends. But they had involved parents, and he was wild and on his own. But those 5 years made him examine his life and turn it around before it was too late.

So Eric and Laine walk into this relationship trying not to think about the expiration date until they are both in much too deep to think of walking away. And then a kind of backwards miracle happens.

Laine’s father shows up on her doorstep, with no luggage but an intense desire to straighten out their relationship while he still can. Her father is a doctor, and has been self-medicating for Alzheimer’s for several years. His time to make amends is running out. But as his symptoms increase, Senior not only needs Laine more than ever, but he has finally come to appreciate her.

Laine finally has the relationship with her father that she always wanted, but at a terrible price. He is slipping away, but in order to give him the best care she can, Laine has to go back east and make arrangements that take forever.

Nearly letting her relationship with Eric slip away in her exhaustion and frustration. The rest of her family has to stage an intervention to get her to go back home to see if the man she loves is still waiting for her.

Escape Rating B+: Having read four of the books in this series, it’s starting to feel like one single long and lovely story. Each book flows right into the next, almost seamlessly. And while I think you could pick up the series at almost any point, I can’t imagine why anyone would. Thunder Point is a terrific place and its a joy to spend time there.

The Wanderer By Robyn CarThat being said, each book does have a defined beginning, middle and end, and the major threads of the single story are pretty much resolved by the end of the book. (The exception to this is the first two books, The Wanderer and The Newcomer. That really is one story.)

In this fourth book, we do get glimpses of people we’ve met in the previous books, especially the ones who helped rescue Liane and Devon’s daughter Mercy at the end of The Hero. They are all important people in Laine’s life, and she feels a lot of gratitude, as well as the experience of shared danger that never goes away.

Because the big problem in this stoy is about Laine’s relationship with her dad, rather than a direct crisis in her relationship with Eric, we see a lot more of Laine than we do Eric, or we spend more time inside her head. She wants her father’s approval, and she feels she has never had it. It’s a gaping wound in her life that she can’t move past. Most of us have difficulty moving past issues with our parents.

Laine didn’t do what was expected, the way that her brother did. So it seemed as if her father gave Pax his conditional approval and benefit of the doubt, where Laine always got an argument. Most parents would be proud of Laine’s job. Most parents would also be scared to death. But with our parents, our logic and theirs tends to go out the window. Dad wanted her safe, and he acted as if the only way to achieve that was to suppress who she was. The way that their relationship gets patched up in the middle of a dreadful crisis was sadly wonderful.

Laine’s dilemma was realistically portrayed. Her father really does need her, and he clings to her. She has the relationship with him that she has always wanted. She is also caught in the mental and emotional trap that the only way to take care of him properly is to do it all herself. Which is unrealistic and exhausting and emotionally draining, but Laine past the point where she couldn’t find a solution through her exhaustion.

This was a bittersweet happy ending that felt emotionally right.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman

baltimore blues new cover by laura lippmanFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Formats available: ebook, large print hardcover, paperback, mass market paperback, audiobook
Genre: Mystery
Series: Tess Monaghan, #1
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Released: October 13, 2009
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Until her paper, the Baltimore Star, crashed and burned, Tess Monaghan was a damn good reporter who knew her hometown intimately — from historic Fort McHenry to the crumbling projects of Cherry Hill. Now gainfully unemployed at twenty-nine, she’s willing to take any freelance job to pay the rent — including a bit of unorthodox snooping for her rowing buddy, Darryl “Rock” Paxton.

In a city where someone is murdered almost everyday, attorney Michael Abramowitz’s death should be just another statistic. But the slain lawyer’s notoriety — and his noontime trysts with Rock’s fiancee — make the case front page news…and points to Rock as the likely murderer. But trying to prove her friend’s innocence couls prove costly to Tess — and add her name to that infamous ever-growing list.

My Review:

Even though the two books were written a decade apart, I found myself comparing Baltimore Blues, the first book in Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series, to One for the Money, the introduction of Stephanie Plum.

In both books, we have a relative young woman who is currently down her luck – her career has stalled and died, and she is left putting the rent money together through freelancing, odd jobs, and falling back on the refuge of her family. Both women are firmly in the middle to lower middle class. Neither expects or even dreams of rescue by billionaire.

Both families have some less than savory dealings in their immediate history. Vinnie’s Bail Bonds seems to operate at the edge of legality, and Tess’ uncle is a time-server in the Baltimore City Government because he wasn’t quite bad enough to indict.

And Stephanie works for Vinnie, while Tess works for her uncle. In both cases, the jobs are charity. No one really believes that Stephanie will become a bail bond agent, and Tess’ uncle is paying her out of his own pocket so that he has an excuse to give her money and someone to keep him company in his empty office a couple of hours a week.

Both women get thrown into private investigating through a back door. Stephanie really does become a bail bonds agent, no matter how crazy or accident prone. One of Tess’ friends is sure that her failed career as a newspaper reporter give her all the tools she will need to investigate whether his girlfriend is cheating on him or up to a different kind of no good.

Of course, Tess’ involvement makes things worse. She does find proof that Rock’s fiance is cheating on him – also that she is a shoplifter. But Tess discovers that she can’t do the really hard part of being a P.I. – she can’t bear to give her friend the bad news. So she tries to blackmail the girlfriend into a confession.

Tess has only made things worse. Because the girlfriend will do anything to get to Rock’s bank account, including lie. Let’s face it, she already cheats and steals, so lying is all that’s left. Instead of having an affair with her boss, what she tells the poor sap is that her boss threatened her job if she didn’t screw him.

If only any of this had actually been about sex, it would have been a LOT easier for Tess to sort out.

The boss is found dead, and Tess’ friend is the only suspect. His lawyer hires Tess to help her friend find a way out of the mess that Tess has gotten him into.

Instead, it takes a long time and the following of a lot of red herrings for Tess to zero in on who and what got the lawyer killed. And what connects the trail of bodies that turn up in his wake.

Escape Rating B+: While I compared Tess to Stephanie at the beginning of the review. I’ll say now that I like Tess better, at least in her first outing. While there isn’t as much of the zany madcap in Tess, her adventures turn out to be less hilarious and more grounded in a universe closer to reality.

Admittedly, a reality where your friends end up murdered and being murder suspects in the same case.

Tess is in a life that has been on hold since she was laid off in a newspaper consolidation. This is something that feels real, both in that the newspaper industry is shrinking at an astonishing rate, and that she can’t find something she loves anywhere near as much as she loved being a reporter. She can’t move on.

Her love life, so far, also has one of those familiar aspects to it as well. Tess can’t get past her relationship with Jonathan, one of the star reporters at the surviving newspaper. She hasn’t found anyone she wants more, so she lets him stop by for a booty call whenever he feels like it, in spite of his having a fiancée somewhere in the suburbs. After the death of her newspaper career, Tess just doesn’t think enough of herself to boot Jonathan out of her life. Until circumstances force a final decision.

Tess does solve the case. Not by being stupid and lucky, the way that Stephanie often is, but by being persistent and dogged and not letting go. Also by using every resource available to her in her own experience, her friends and colleagues, and when necessary, her family.

So Baltimore Blues is the portrait of a young investigator in a blue-collar city who falls into this new gig by accident and does get her friend cleared of all charges. Sometimes by doing the right thing, and sometimes by doing the wrong thing the right way. Tess is worth following.

TLC

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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