Review: Hard Justice by Lori Foster + Giveaway

Review: Hard Justice by Lori Foster + GiveawayHard Justice (Body Armor, #2) by Lori Foster
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: romantic suspense
Series: Body Armor #2
Pages: 384
Published by Harlequin Books on March 21st 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Playing it safe has never felt so dangerous
Justice Wallington knows how to harness his strength and intimidating sizeskills he put to good use first in the MMA cage and now as a bodyguard at the Body Armor agency. But no opponent has ever left him feeling as off balance as his new client, heiress Fallon Wade. Far from a spoiled princess, she's sweet and intriguingly innocent. It's a risk-free assignment, until he's required to fake a relationship with her in order to blend in.
Sheltered from the world after a family tragedy, Fallon longs to experience lifegoing to bars, dancing, talking to strangers. Not easy with a huge, lethal-looking bodyguard shadowing her every move. Justice seems like her polar opposite, but pretending to be a couple stirs undeniable heat. And when danger strikes again, it's not just her safety in jeopardy, but a passion that's real, raw and absolutely against the rules"

My Review:

This one was just plain fun. I read it in a single day. I stayed up until 2 am to finish. Admittedly, not on a “school night”. But still. One day. Because I couldn’t put it down.

And it proved that all of my fears about the series, after my read of Under Pressure, were totally and completely unfounded.

Like Under Pressure, Hard Justice is also a variation on the classic theme of The Bodyguard, where the guard and his protectee fall head over heels for each other. But this is one where we really do see them both fall, not just succumb to the intensity of being on the run together, because they aren’t. On the run, that is. They definitely fall for each other.

There is a bit of a mystery in this story, but it isn’t any of the expected ones. At first, Justice Wallingham can’t figure out who or what Fallon Wade needs to be protected from. Her uptight parents, particularly her father, seem to be adamant that Fallon needs to be protected from pretty much everything and everyone in the universe.

Fallon, on the other hand, is a surprisingly down-to-earth 24-year-old who just wants a chance to finally experience the things that people her age normally do, or have done. The reason for all that overprotectiveness isn’t obvious, except for the continuing reappearances of Fallon’s douchebag ex, Marcus, a guy who can’t seem to take “no” for an answer.

And can’t seem to overlook the scars that Fallon hides under her all-covering clothes. Marcus is just sure that their shared backgrounds make them perfect for each other, and that any man would be put off by her scars. He’s sure that he’ll get used to them in time, if he makes an effort. Of course he’s wrong on all counts.

Justice, on the other hand, wants to flatten the guy from the word go. Because Fallon’s scars, and her survival of the trauma that caused them, make her even more precious, and more beautiful, in his eyes. Which he’s having an increasingly difficult time keeping on the lookout for possible threats, because he’s too busy just watching Fallon.

Until it starts looking like someone is really out to get her. Or him. Or possibly both.

Escape Rating A-: It may be a case of the right book at the right time, but I just plain loved this one. Sometimes books are like that.

Part of the charm of this series, and the Ultimate series that it spun off from, is the rowdy bunch of fighters, and their wives, who make up the close-knit group who live, work, and train in or near Cannon’s gym in small-town Ohio. It’s always great to see the gang again, and find out how everyone is doing. They are great people and always wonderfully accepting of anyone new.

But the success of this particular book rests on the characters of Justice and Fallon, and their developing relationship. And they are absolutely adorable together.

One of the things I liked best about Hard Justice is the way that it set the woman in danger trope on its head. There’s an unfortunate tendency in romantic suspense, and it applied to both Under Pressure and several of the titles in the Ultimate series, that the way to put a woman in jeopardy and in need of protection is to give her a creepy sexual predator stalker, whether the asshat is her ex or just someone who is fixated on her. I am really, really tired of that trope, because it always ends up robbing the woman of her agency.

Hard Justice was fun because it doesn’t go there. Even better, it makes you think it’s going there, and then it actually doesn’t. Marcus does turn out to be a bit of a douche, but not that big of a douche. Instead, the real villains were revealed as a bit of a surprise, and the motives for threatening Fallon were not sexual. For this reader, the story worked much better this way.

I can’t wait for the next book in this series, which looks like it’s going to be Close Contact, coming in November.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Lori and Harlequin are giving away a $50 Gift Card to one lucky entrant on this tour!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Under Pressure by Lori Foster

Review: Under Pressure by Lori FosterUnder Pressure (Body Armor, #1) by Lori Foster
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: romantic suspense
Series: Body Armor #1
Pages: 384
Published by HQN Books on January 24th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

He can protect anything except his heart

Leese Phelps’s road hasn’t been an easy one, but it’s brought him to the perfect job — working for the elite Body Armor security agency. And what his newest assignment lacks in size, she makes up for in fire and backbone. But being drawn to Catalina Nicholson is a dangerous complication, especially since it could be the very man who hired Leese who’s threatening her.
What Catalina knows could get her killed. But who’d believe the sordid truth about her powerful stepfather? Beyond Leese’s ripped body and brooding gaze is a man of impeccable honour. He’s the last person she expects to trust — and the first who’s ever made her feel safe. And he’s the only one who can help her expose a deadly secret, if they can just stay alive long enough...

My Review:

As Lori Foster so often does, her new Body Armor series is a spinoff from her previous series, Ultimate. The character who ties the two series together is Leese Phelps, who began Ultimate as somewhat of a jerk of a side character, but ended the series as a solidly good guy who realized that while he might be a good MMA fighter, he was never going to be a champion.

We get enough of his background in Under Pressure that it isn’t necessary to read Ultimate to see where he’s coming from – but the series is a lot of fun if you like sports romance at all.

As Under Pressure begins, Leese is now the number one bodyguard at Sahara Silver’s Body Armor agency. Sahara, as the new owner of Body Armor, recruited Leese from the MMA because she has a plan. She plans to transform the image of bodyguards from suited thugs carrying ill-concealed guns to something charming, appealing, deadly and ripped. With the addition of Leese and his friend Justice, she’s off to an excellent start.

The body that Leese has been assigned to guard is that of Catalina Nicholson. The contract is a bit mysterious, as her wealthy stepfather has paid Body Armor upfront to protect Cat from anyone and everyone, including himself, who might come after her. Whatever is going on here, it is obviously way more than meets the eye.

And so is Cat. Leese finds her attempting to sneak into the bus terminal, dragging a busted suitcase in the snow, facing down the thug who clearly plans to grab her and rape her, just for starters. When Leese sends the bastard scurrying back to his lair, Cat decides to give Leese limited trust. She has to trust somebody – she’s been on the run for six weeks, and is worn down to her last frazzle.

But as much as Cat wants to trust Leese, she has some serious trust issues, and with good reason. The very first person on the list of people she is running from is that same stepfather who paid for her bodyguards. Unfortunately for Cat, Leese, and the entire crew at Body Armor, he is far from the most dangerous on that list.

And Cat is too scared, and a bit too selfless to give up that list of names. Because she is just sure that in a contest of reputations, she will always come out the loser. And that her best chance of saving everyone else is always going to be to give herself up to what she sees as her inevitable fate. She just doesn’t want to take anyone else with her.

Especially not after she makes the classic mistake of falling for her bodyguard. And Leese makes the equally irresponsible mistake of falling for not just the body he’s guarding, but also for the woman inside it.

Escape Rating B-: This is very much a mixed feelings review. There were a lot of things about Under Pressure that I liked, and one that turned me completely off. Unfortunately, the part that turned me off looks like a repeating pattern from Ultimate, and not one of the good ones.

As the first book in the series, there is a lot of set up in this story. While the gang from Ultimate does appear near the end, this is all about the new gang at Body Armor, and we, as well as Cat, get introduced to Sahara and the team she is building. Sahara has some big plans for her new agency, and readers will also end up hoping that Sahara gets resolution on her own issues, particularly the issues surrounding her missing and presumed dead brother. But hopefully that’s another book.

The story in Under Pressure is one of the classic tropes – the bodyguard and his protectee falling for each other in the intense atmosphere of danger and ongoing death threats. In the case of Leese and Cat, it does seem like insta-lust that morphs into love rather quickly. From the descriptions, the insta-lust is very easy to understand, but the story doesn’t quite sell the development of the emotional relationship, at least not to this reader.

But it’s Cat’s need for protection, and the reasons behind it, that drive the suspense part of this plot. Cat overheard her wealthy stepfather, an even wealthier and more influential U.S. Senator, and their two bodyguards plan to cover up a murder. In particular, the murder of a young woman who said “no” to the Senator’s more depraved tastes. Cat can’t sort out just how deeply her stepfather is involved in this shitshow, so she runs. And keeps running. They really are after her.

Cat’s understandable fear is that no one will believe her. The Senator is rich, influential and beloved. He has perfected a sterling reputation as a kindly, twinkly grandfather, albeit one who hides a sack of slime underneath his expensive suits. On that other hand, her stepfather has given their inner circle the impression that Cat is flighty and unstable, just because she’d rather be a teacher than live the life of a pampered society princess.

And of course the Senator has bought off more than a few police departments and probably government agencies. The murder cover up that she heard is far from the first. And she knows that hers is next.

So Cat’s unwillingness to trust is at least somewhat understandable. She knows that the rich can buy off anyone they want, she’s seen it happen. And she knows that the Senator’s reputation is above reproach. No one will WANT to believe what she heard.

But of course her lack of trust in Leese and Sahara puts more people in danger than her trust ever would. This becomes another story where the heroine looks foolish for not letting other people help her, even if she needs to give up some of her agency to get that done. However, this wasn’t the part that really made me grit my teeth.

Cat is in plenty of trouble. They really are out to get her, and they really will kill her if they catch her. Even more, they really will kill anyone and everyone around her to get to her, and she is the kind of person who will see those deaths as being all her fault. But there’s an added element here. One of the killers is the Senator’s bodyguard, who in addition to being a cold-blooded murderer, also has an extremely unhealthy interest in imprisoning Cat and breaking her to his will. The addition of the crazed sexual-stalker murdering arsehole felt over-the-top. It is not necessary for their to be a sick sexual component for a woman to be in extreme danger. And it’s an added element that I’m just plain tired of as well as completely creeped out by.

I hope that the creepy-stalker-sexual-predator thing is not a big part of the story in the next book in this series, Hard Justice. I really liked Justice’s character in Under Pressure, and I’m looking forward to him being the hero of the next story.

Review; Law and Disorder by Heather Graham + Giveaway

Review; Law and Disorder by Heather Graham + GiveawayLaw and Disorder by Heather Graham
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: romantic suspense
Series: Finnegan Connection #1
Pages: 256
Published by Harlequin Intrigue on January 17th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads


Trust the enemy?
Desperate to escape her kidnappers, Kody Cameron can turn to only one man—and he's holding a gun. Outnumbered and trapped in the deadly Everglades, she has little recourse, but something in this captor's eyes makes her believe she can trust him. Does she dare to take the risk?
Undercover agent Nick Connolly has met Kody before and knows she might very well blow his cover. Though determined to maintain his facade, he can't let Kody die. He won't. And his decision to change his own rules of law and order are about to make all hell break loose.
The Finnegan Connection

My Review:

A while back, I read some of Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunters series and really liked them. But it’s a big series and I’m going to need a large round tuit to get caught up. So when Law and Disorder came up as the first book in a new series, it seemed like a great chance to get in on the ground floor.

But I’m not sure that I did.

Law and Disorder is a quick and enjoyable read, but it doesn’t feel like the first book in a series. There are lots of references to the main characters in her other recent started series, New York Confidential. To the point where the Finnegan Connection feels like a side-series to New York Confidential. That connection being Finnegan’s Pub in New York City, which seems to be the centerpiece for the other series.

Nick and Kody, the hero and heroine in Law and Disorder are both friends of those Finnegans, and they actually bumped into each other, very briefly, one night at Finnegan’s. A chance encounter that helps to set up what would otherwise be a case of insta-love in Law and Disorder, mixed with just a bit of Stockholm Syndrome.

That earlier encounter takes the romance out of squicky territory, considering the way that the couple meets in this story. She thinks that he’s an upstanding (so to speak) member of the criminal gang that has just taken her and her entire staff hostage while they search for a mythical treasure. When she finally remembers where she’s seen him before, she also remembers that he’s no criminal, but rather an FBI agent who must be undercover in this mess.

She’s still kidnapped, and her captors still want that mythical treasure. Even weirder, they expect her to find it. And she just might.

Kody Cameron is an expert on her family’s strange heritage – the former home of mobster Jimmy Crystal and its extremely checkered history. A former resident of the Crystal Palace left tantalizing clues to a never recovered bank heist of gold and gems, and the kidnappers think that if they put enough pressure on Kody she’ll be inspired to discover a trove that may have been swallowed by the Florida Everglades.

And so might they.

Escape Rating C+: Law and Disorder is a relatively short book, somewhere in that uncomfortable length between novel and novella. And it probably should have been just a bit longer.

It’s a quick, fun read, but that skimpy length forced the author to short a bit on both character development and on background. And this is a story whose plot relies on a lot of that missing background.

It is possible that some of the missing character development is in Flawless, the first book in the New York Confidential series that introduces the Finnegans and Nick’s FBI handler on this case, Craig Frasier.

It’s also possible that we’re meant to just go with the instant connection between FBI agent Nick Connolly and Kody Cameron. After all, he does rescue her. But I am left wondering.

The big piece of background that feels missing is the history of Kody’s Crystal Palace and the mob bosses of Florida. Kody’s expertise on the topic is the reason that Kody gets swept up into this mess. The particular treasure trove in question has been missing for decades, and lots of things and people have been swallowed up by the Everglades. The way that Kody sifts through the tiny clues and puts the pieces together is a process that usually takes days and lots more research. The treasure hunt alone could have made a fascinating story as well as all the dirt on what happened long ago and how Kody figures it all out now. I would love to have read that book.

It might also have explained how and why the ringleader of this band of thugs became so obsessed with the old stash. It all feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

All in all, this was a fun, quick read. And it whetted my reading appetite for the New York Confidential series, which is only two books in. Finnegan’s sounds like a great place!

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Heather and Harlequin are giving away a $25 Gift Card to one lucky participant in this tour!

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Review: Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Echoes in Death by J.D. RobbEchoes in Death (In Death, #44) by J.D. Robb
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense
Series: In Death #44
Pages: 384
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 7th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

This chilling new suspense novel from #1
New York Times
bestselling author J.D. Robb is the perfect entry point into the compelling In Death police procedural series featuring Lieutenant Eve Dallas.
As NY Lt. Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband Roarke are driving home, a young woman—dazed, naked, and bloody—suddenly stumbles out in front of their car. Roarke slams on the brakes and Eve springs into action.
Daphne Strazza is rushed to the ER, but it’s too late for her husband Dr. Anthony Strazza. A brilliant orthopedic surgeon, he now lies dead amid the wreckage of his obsessively organized town house, his three safes opened and emptied. Daphne would be a valuable witness, but in her terror and shock the only description of the perp she can offer is repeatedly calling him “the devil”...
While it emerges that Dr. Strazza was cold, controlling, and widely disliked, this is one case where the evidence doesn’t point to the spouse. So Eve and her team must get started on the legwork, interviewing everyone from dinner-party guests to professional colleagues to caterers, in a desperate race to answer some crucial questions:
What does the devil look like? And where will he show up next?

My Review:

Although the In Death series is as far from a cozy mystery series as it is possible for mystery to get, I still read them for the same reason that I keep up with some of the cozies. I love the cast and crew, and want to check in and see how everyone is doing. Especially Galahad, the big grey cat.

Sometimes the mystery is enthralling or chilling or captivating or all of the above. And sometimes I just get the chance to hang out with the gang for a while. This particular installment of the series turned out to be one of the “hang out with the gang” types.

And that’s not a bad thing.

The case in this story starts out fairly spectacularly. Dallas and Roarke, on their way home from a late dinner party, almost run over a young naked woman in the middle of a blizzard. She’s bloody, bruised, incoherent and hypothermic, but that’s not all. She’s also the victim of a home invasion, where she was raped and her husband was murdered. Which makes her case Eve’s case, and brings a whole bunch of skeletons out of a whole bunch of closets. Not just for poor Daphne Strazza, but also for Eve.

This is one of those cases that tests the motto of Eve’s homicide department. They stand for everyone who is murdered, even the assholes. And Dr. Anthony Strazza was definitely an asshole. He may have been a brilliant surgeon, but he seems to have had the worst “life-side manner” on record. No one had a nice word to say about him. Not his colleagues, not his patients.

And his widow is obviously still scared to death of the bastard, and was so obviously abused by him. If she weren’t such a wreck, she’s be the obvious suspect. And if this wasn’t at least the third in a string of similar, equally heinous, crimes.

This is just the first time that the perpetrator has escalated to murder. But it won’t be the last, and everyone knows it.

But Eve’s objectivity has a few cracks in this one. She sees too much of her abused child self in Daphne, and too much of her cruel and abusive father in Anthony Strazza. And she’s right on all counts. Which never stands in her way. Nothing ever does.

Escape Rating B: I enjoyed spending time with the gang again. And I always like watching Dallas and company do their cop thing, running through the evidence and making the case against the killer.

secrets in death by jd robbBut this was one of their outings where I figured out who done it much, much too early. And once I knew who it had to be, a lot of the work of catching the sick bastard became anticlimactic. I did enjoy watching Eve bait him into a cage and kick the door shut behind him. Watching her wrap a suspect up in his own knots is always fun.

And Galahad’s antics always make me laugh. Eve and Roarke’s byplay about and with the cat will be familiar to anyone owned by a feline.

I already have an ARC of the next book in the series, Secrets in Death. I’m looking forward to another trip to Eve’s New York in few short months.

Review: Tough Justice Countdown by Carla Cassidy + Giveaway

Countdown: Part 1 of 8 (Tough Justice #2.1) by Carla Cassidy
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genres: romantic suspense
Series: Tough Justice Countdown #1
Pages: 85
Published by Harlequin Special Releases on February 1st 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Tick. Tock. BOOM. FBI Special Agent Lara Grant had thought that she'd put her past behind her--finally--with her last case. But now a serial bomber is targeting Manhattan's elite power players, offering them a choice between saving hundreds of lives or seeing their darkest secrets exposed. Lara is working with the Crisis Management Unit to stop the bomber, but how will she react when she's the one who has to choose between truth...or death? Part 1 of 8: an explosive new installment in the thrilling FBI serial from New York Times bestselling author Carla Cassidy and Tyler Anne Snell, Emmy Curtis and Janie Crouch. Praise for Tough Justice: Exposed (Part 1 of Series 1) by Carla Cassidy: “This story charges from the gate right away, dropping the reader into a tense, boiling hot crime drama that will suck readers into its vortex from page one." -Night Owl Reviews “A wonderful start to this chilling, pulse-pounding series with a storyline that not only entertained through strong dialogue and engaging characters, but left me wanting more." --Harlequin Junkie

My Review:

tough justice countdown by carla cassidy et alThis is kind of a teaser of a book. An interesting teaser, but definitely a teaser.

What’s being teased? The entire Tough Justice series by Carla Cassidy, Tyler Anne Snell, Emmy Curtis and Janie Crouch.

Countdown is actually the second Tough Justice series. The first came out last year, also with 8 episodes by mostly the same cast of authors.

The story here is about a very tough FBI Agent, Lara Grant. In this new case, Lara and her Crisis Management Unit are on the hunt for a serial bomber. Whoever he is, he’s targeting Manhattan, and as the case begins in the first episode of Countdown, neither the FBI, the NYPD or Homeland Security have a clue as to either his motives or his identity.

As the first episode draws to a close, there’s a possibility that they’ve located the first link in the chain, but it is clear that there is more to be revealed as the case continues. It’s obviously going to be a long and bumpy ride for Lara and her team.

This is a story that opens with a literal bang, and keeps the reader gripped and absorbed until you’re wrung out at the end of the installment, eager to dive into the rest of the series, which makes this a great opening episode.

Because this is Lara’s second outing, a lot of stuff happened in the past (that first series) that looks like it is going to have a major impact on events in the second. But in spite of the brevity of this episode, readers new to the series, like me, still get all the background they need on Lara and her team to get immersed in the action without feeling left behind.

Lara might not reveal much of what she is feeling to her teammates, but she doesn’t hide from herself (or the reader) in her inner thoughts. We know who she is and what she wants and why she does what she does. She remembers what went down before, and how it led her to where she is now.

It’s enough to get the new reader into the action here, while still leaving enough details out to tempt that same reader into picking up the first series.

Escape Rating B: This installment does have an ending, but it’s obvious that the story isn’t complete. Nor should it be. As a reader, I have mixed feelings about episodic books, but this is a case where all the episodes came out together, so there’s no waiting to find out who done it or why. Or to find out what fresh hell Lara finds herself in.

Lara reminds me more than a bit of Eve Dallas from the In Death series. Like Eve, Lara lives for her job and doesn’t plan on letting emotion get in her way. She also comes from a scarred background and is still haunted by the traumas in her own past. Although the details of those scars and that trauma are different, the way that they have reacted has similarities. Enough similarities that I hope Lara eventually finds her balance. But not too soon, because the obsessions that drive her is what makes her such a kick-ass heroine.

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

I am giving away an ebook copy of part 1 of Tough Justice Countdown to one lucky entrant on this tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Review: Absolute Trust by Piper J Drake + Giveaway

Review: Absolute Trust by Piper J Drake + GiveawayAbsolute Trust (True Heroes, #3) by Piper J. Drake
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: romantic suspense
Series: True Heroes #3
Pages: 320
Published by Forever on December 20th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

LOVE IS THE GREATEST RISK OF ALLAfter multiple tours of duty, Brandon Forte returns to his hometown on a personal mission: to open a facility for military service dogs like Haydn, a German shepherd who's seen his share of combat and loss. It also brings him back to Sophie Kim, a beacon of light in his life . . . and the one woman he can't have. But Forte's success means he's made enemies in high places. Enemies who are now after Sophie . . .
When Forte enlisted and left without saying goodbye, Sophie did her best to move on. But with her first love back in town, looking sexier than ever, she's constantly reminded of what they could have had. Then after he risks himself for her, Sophie realizes she'll have to put her life in the hands of the man who broke her heart, knowing the danger -and the sparks between them- could consume them both.

My Review:

This was a case of the right book at the right time for me. I really needed a straightforward romance suspense, and with its terrific combination of hot romance and nail-biting tension, Absolute Trust completely filled that need.

With a tiny bit of quibble at the very end. We’ll get there.

The story is all about Sophie and Brandon (and Haydn and Tessa) and getting out of the “friend zone” and moving towards the future. If everyone survives, that is.

Brandon and Sophie were friends in high school. And they are friends now. In the middle, there was a giant rough spot that Brandon wants to paper over and Sophie needs to just get over. But first she has to know what happened way back then.

Sophie has always loved Brandon. And seemingly vice-versa. But Brandon never believed he was good enough for Sophie, and her father certainly agreed with that assessment. So instead of sticking around and pursuing a relationship, Brandon joined the military the night of their high school prom.

Sophie never even got to say goodbye. And she never got over him. She also never managed to get past that her first lover dumped her without a word, turning all the dreams they shared that one night into dust. Brandon may have bravely run into the fight, but he also rather cowardly ran away from Sophie.

Brandon comes home after his deployments, and opens Hope’s Crossing Kennels. And Sophie steps up to be his friend, because that’s all she believes they can ever have. And she believes it’s worth staying in the “friend zone” just to keep Brandon in her life.

Until someone plants a bomb under her car, and she barely escapes certain death through sheer luck. Brandon just happened to be out walking Haydn, a new “recruit” at the Kennels. The big German Shepherd dog has a prosthetic leg, and a nose for sniffing out explosives. It’s Haydn’s alert that saves all their lives.

And plunges Sophie’s entire world into chaos, leaving her with her life in tatters and only Brandon to hang onto. Hiding from Sophie’s would-be killers, on the run for their lives, Brandon and Sophie finally manage to open all the cans of worms they’ve been stepping around for years.

Once all the baggage is finally dropped, can they have a future together? Do they have a future at all?

Escape Rating B: I picked up Absolute Trust after I discovered that Piper J. Drake is also PJ Schnyder. I loved her science fiction romance series, both London Undead and The Triton Experiment, so I was thrilled to see that she was still writing in a different space.

From her SFR, I knew she was good at mixing romance with suspense. The worlds of both series are not exactly safe or sane. And that she was good at throwing her hero and heroine together in the midst of life-threatening danger.

So it proves in Absolute Trust. Whatever they were before, the relationship between Brandon and Sophie in this story has to survive a crucible of fire, as do they. And whatever baggage they have hanging around, and it’s a ton. They also have to figure out if they have a chance as the people they are now. Brandon in particular has been tried by fire, under fire, and the compartmentalization necessary to be a military operative is still very much a part of him. He is scared, and rightfully so, that the deadly side of his nature might frighten Sophie away.

But because he has managed to paper over all the issues that made him leave Sophie the first time, he has difficulty understanding that the biggest problems between them aren’t in the present, but in the past. He left her once without a word. How can she ever trust that he won’t do it again?

True Heroes SeriesAbsolute Trust is the third book in the author’s True Heroes series. Although this is the first book in the series that I have read, I did not feel lost at all. The previous heroes and heroines appear just enough to provide a sense of continuity and the feel of a working community, without being so much a part of the story that the reader needs more than the background provided. This story isn’t about the past of the group, it’s about the past between Brandon and Sophie, and that’s all here.

I also liked Brandon and Sophie as the hero and heroine quite a bit. Absolute Trust is a twist on the friends-into-lovers trope, and its done well. The very real dilemma of whether it is worth risking their solid friendship to grab for more is handled well on both sides. As is Sophie’s intense realization that she has been taking the easy, non-conflict path her entire life, instead of doing the hard work of sticking up for what she truly wants. I loved the way she figured out that she needed to make some serious changes, whether or not Brandon remained a part of her life.

Something I particularly enjoyed about this story is that the danger to Sophie was caused by her work. She didn’t have a stalker or a vicious ex. She wasn’t a victim in need of a rescue. Her difficulties were the result of her own actions rather than her inactions, in spite of the fact that her epiphany about her life did have to do with taking a too easy path. There are too many suspense stories where men become endangered because they did something, where women become endangered merely because they are women. I liked this trip to the danger zone much better.

The one issue I had with Absolute Trust is that it didn’t quite stick the dismount. The story is completely absorbing from beginning to end, but it doesn’t seem to end with complete resolution. Sophie and Brandon are still trying to work things out. They need a bit more time for the ending to feel like an HEA. At the same time the bad guys that they are fighting against don’t seem unequivocally gone. Probably gone, but not quite certain. If there is a fourth book in the series I hope that some of these issues get resolved.

Haydn and Tessa were the secondary stars of this show, and provided heroism and comic relief at the appropriate moments. As a tiny feline, Tessa seems to just embody “cat”. Brandon’s description of her pointedly washing ALL her bits right in front of him as the equivalent of a cat giving him the finger was perfectly hilarious. Also perfectly true.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

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Piper and Forever Romance are giving away 10 copies of Absolute Trust to lucky winners on this tour.

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Review: Hanging the Stars by Rhys Ford

Review: Hanging the Stars by Rhys FordHanging The Stars (Half Moon Bay #2) by Rhys Ford
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: M/M romance, romantic suspense
Series: Half Moon Bay #2
Pages: 206
Published by Dreamspinner Press on December 5th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Angel Daniels grew up hard, one step ahead of the law and always looking over his shoulder. A grifter’s son, he’d learned every con and trick in the book but ached for a normal life. Once out on his own, Angel returns to Half Moon Bay where he once found…and then lost…love.
Now, Angel’s life is a frantic mess of schedules and chaos. Between running his bakery and raising his troubled eleven-year-old half-brother, Roman, Angel has a hectic but happy life. Then West Harris returns to Half Moon Bay and threatens to break Angel all over again by taking away the only home he and Rome ever had.
When they were young, Angel taught West how to love and laugh but when Angel moved on, West locked his heart up and threw away the key. Older and hardened, West returns to Half Moon and finds himself face-to-face with the man he’d lost. Now, West is torn between killing Angel or holding him tight.
But rekindling their passionate relationship is jeopardized as someone wants one or both of them dead, and as the terrifying danger mounts, neither man knows if the menace will bring them together or forever tear them apart.

My Review:

fish stick fridays by rhys fordIf it wasn’t for bad luck, the Harris family in Half Moon Bay wouldn’t have any luck at all. Or so it seems. In the first book in the series, Fish Stick Fridays, Lang Harris is being stalked by a deranged ex-lover. While Lang does get his happy ever after, it only comes though a LOT of pain.

In Hanging the Stars, the story switches from Lang to his twin brother West. And someone is trying their damndest to kill West. So far, they keep missing, but not by much. They get close enough often enough that West retreats to his remote retreat, a house outside of Half Moon Bay.

It’s where Lang, along with his husband Deke and their niece Zig (the stars of Fish Stick Fridays) can look in on West frequently, and where West has the opportunity to spoil Zig at every turn. West’s and Lang’s relationship has always been a bit fraught, thanks to the way that their icy-cold father pitted them against each other at every turn. But West’s relationship with chaos-agent Zig is a thing of beauty. And joy. Both brothers seem to be lavishing the little girl with all the affection neither of them got as children.

But there’s something else waiting for West Harris in Half Moon Bay, and it’s something that he has been avoiding for years. His past. And that past is all wrapped up in the person of Angel Daniels, the only man that West has ever loved. Even though they left each other behind, in pain and tragedy, back when they were teenagers, no one and nothing has ever gotten that close to West since.

Angel hasn’t moved on either, at least not in that sense. But Angel now has other demands on his time and his heart. He’s become the default guardian for his kid brother Roman, a pre-teen boy dealing not just with the vicious onset of puberty, but also coping somewhere on either the ADHD or autism spectrum, or possibly both.

And someone recovering, just as Angel still is, from their physically and emotionally abusive father.

Angel is also coping with managing the Moonlight Hotel in Half Moon Bay, a decrepit fleabag of a place that he has somehow managed to cobble into a last chance home for all of the town’s misfits. He became the manager of the old hotel, and the owner of the adjacent bakery, in a deal with West and Lang’s grandmother.

It’s all that Angel has, and all that keeps Child Protective Services from sweeping Roman into foster care. And West’s company has been trying to take it away from him, in order to build expensive condos on beautiful Half Moon Bay.

When the threats against West’s life escalate, he’s forced to come back to Half Moon Bay, to confront his past, his company’s rather rapacious present, and all his unresolved feelings for Angel.

While somebody takes potshots at both of them from the shadows.

Escape Rating A-: The mystery here is quite a puzzle. Someone is after West. Someone is also after Angel. And that same someone, whoever it is, keeps trying to pin those crimes on the two would-be victims. In other words, someone is doing a damn good job of making it look like Angel is behind the attacks on West, and vice versa. That nefarious someone doesn’t succeed, but they do make a damn good try of it.

In addition to living through seemingly random attempts at murder, arson and kidnapping, some of which are more successful than others, West is also forced to deal with the discovery that one of his best friends and business partners has been robbing him blind. But that “friend” can’t be the person behind all the mayhem, because the dangers keep escalating after the bastard gets himself killed.

The hits just keep on coming. But in the middle of all the fires, and gunshots, and everything else that keeps going wrong, West and Angel manage to grope their way back to each other. Sometimes through broken glass.

And they start making a home for Roman. It looks like West is planning to spoil Roman every bit as much as he does Zig. Watching the family dynamic start to come together is awesome.

But there is a whodunnit behind it all. I’ll admit that I figured out who must be doing it, or at least part of it, fairly early on. Angel was so worried, and rightly so, about one basty-assed-nastard coming back into their lives that it was bound to happen. I’ll also admit that the motives behind the mess were not completely what I expected.

As much as I loved this book, and as much as I enjoy this series so far, I’m wondering where things go from here. In the author’s Cole McGinnis series, because Cole was a private investigator, it made sense that he kept dodging baddies and bullets, But the level of violence that Lang and West both had to face doesn’t seem organic to what would otherwise be a marvelous small-town romance series. So, even though both characters needed to work through a lot of pain to figure out what they really wanted out of life, I hope that in future installments either the danger ratchets down, or it attaches itself to someone who faces those dangers for a living. No family has this much bad luck.

Or at least I sure hope not. My last name is Harris too!

Review: When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz

Review: When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann KrentzWhen All The Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: romantic suspense
Pages: 304
Published by Berkley on November 29th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Jayne Ann Krentz, the New York Times bestselling author of Secret Sisters, delivers a thrilling novel of the deceptions we hide behind, the passions we surrender to, and the lengths we’ll go to for the truth...
When Charlotte Sawyer is unable to contact her step-sister, Jocelyn, to tell her that one her closest friends was found dead, she discovers that Jocelyn has vanished.
Beautiful, brilliant—and reckless—Jocelyn has gone off the grid before, but never like this. In a desperate effort to find her, Charlotte joins forces with Max Cutler, a struggling PI who recently moved to Seattle after his previous career as a criminal profiler went down in flames—literally. Burned out, divorced and almost broke, Max needs the job.
After surviving a near-fatal attack, Charlotte and Max turn to Jocelyn’s closest friends, women in a Seattle-based online investment club, for answers. But what they find is chilling…
When her uneasy alliance with Max turns into a full-blown affair, Charlotte has no choice but to trust him with her life. For the shadows of Jocelyn’s past are threatening to consume her—and anyone else who gets in their way...

My Review:

Like last year’s Secret Sisters, When All the Girls Have Gone is one of Jayne Ann Krentz’s rare (and awesome) stand alone contemporary romantic suspense titles. As much as I adore her Arcane Society/Harmony series, it’s always a treat to read a stand-alone title with that same ability to enthrall me from the first page to the last. And I’m not left mourning the wait for the next title in the series. When all of those girls are finally found, we get to watch our heroine and hero virtually ride off into the sunset. Job well done.

And also like Secret Sisters, Girls is also a story about sisterhood. Both the kind that you make, and the kind that gets made for you.

Charlotte Sawyer gets dragged into this mystery because her step-sister Jocelyn has gone missing. Charlotte discovers this after she learns that one of the women who seem to be Jocelyn’s sisters-of-the-heart turns up dead – and Jocelyn can’t be found.

There are secrets within secrets in this story. One reason why so much of the action happens is the way that the police handle a series of rape cases, then rape and murder cases, and then just plain murder cases. All the victims are women. And all of the various police departments where the crimes take place choose to take the easy way out in solving, or rather not solving, each crime.

When Jocelyn was a college student, she was raped. The police first dismissed her story, did the unfortunate but all-too-usual victim blaming, and then managed to lose the box of evidence that Jocelyn so carefully arranged to have taken at the local hospital.

Now her best friend is dead, and Jocelyn is off the grid. When private investigator Max Cutler picks up the case, he starts looking into the last days of the dead woman. The police think she died of a drug overdose. Because that’s the way the scene has been framed, and that’s the easy way out. Max is certain her death was murder. Especially since someone took all her electronics.

As Max investigates the death of Louise Finch, Charlotte comes looking for Louise, her step-sister’s best friend. Because Louise sent Jocelyn a very mysterious package, and now that Jocelyn is off the grid Charlotte can’t deliver it.

Max ties Louise’ death to Jocelyn’s disappearance, and Charlotte inserts herself into his case – and into his life. Louise’ cousin wants to find out what happened. Charlotte wants to locate Jocelyn. And from there the search expands outward, as Charlotte and Max begin to look into the women in Jocelyn’s circle, and the ultra secret “Investment Club” that Jocelyn refused to let Charlotte enter.

The search balloons outward, from Louise to Jocelyn to the other women and the cause that brought them together. And it contracts inwards, all the way back to Jocelyn’s long ago rape, and the man that thought he got away with it.

But he didn’t.

Escape Rating A-: This is a page turner. Ironically, both the hero and heroine think of themselves as plodders, the kind of people who just put one foot in front of the other and don’t lead very exciting lives. To the point where Charlotte’s ex-fiance broke their engagement five days before the wedding because he said she was boring. In reality, he’s a commitment-phobic douche, but we’ll get back to him.

Both Charlotte and Max are emotionally scarred. Charlotte by the douchey-ex. Also in a small way, her step-sister Jocelyn who keeps trying to protect Charlotte even though they are both adults. Jocelyn interprets Charlotte’s optimism and faith in others as naive stupidity. And they are both wrong.

Max’s history is tragic, and he’s still hunting for the man who nearly killed him and his brothers when they were children. He’s managed to make a life for himself, but things are pretty rough around the edges. But whatever Max and Charlotte are, they are anything but boring. Especially to each other.

Charlotte and Max ground each other. And they are both eminently sensible people in so many ways. Neither of them panics, not even when the situation is extremely dire. But the story isn’t all practicality. The more time they spend together, the more they see that they have the basis for a relationship, if they can manage to reach for it. Which they eventually do, in their own practical, and extremely satisfying, way.

The investigation is one that starts with nearly all unknowns. But Max’s specialty is plodding with incredible sparks of insight. He keeps going, doing the work, until he gets a sudden breakthrough and the pattern emerges. The pattern here takes a while to emerge, but the search keeps the reader frantically flipping pages the whole way. One of the neat things about the way this story was written is that we don’t see into the murk surrounding this case until Max and Charlotte do.

This is romantic suspense, so there is finally a happy ending. But before we get there, we have the inevitable point where the heroine is in extreme danger. One of the things that made the development of the relationship between Max and Charlotte so much fun to read was that Charlotte’s practicality means that she very much participates in her own rescue. The damsel may be in distress, but she is far, far from helpless.

I have one tiny quibble with this story. I said that Charlotte’s ex was a douche, which he was. He comes back during this story. His rebound went back to her ex, and he’s just sure that Charlotte will be grateful to take him back. Charlotte is rightfully pissed, and shows it. Good on her. But his behavior felt just enough over the top that I kept expecting him to reappear and be tied into the skullduggery. He felt unresolved. For me, it felt like an unfulfilled variation on Chekhov’s Gun. Instead we had Chekhov’s Ex standing in the corner, possibly waiting to be slapped – as he so richly deserved.

But I had a ball with this book, and found myself picking it up at odd (sometimes very odd) moments, just so I could read a couple more pages. Isn’t that what bathrooms are for?

Review: Honor Bound by B.J. Daniels + Giveaway

Review: Honor Bound by B.J. Daniels + GiveawayHonor Bound (The Montana Hamiltons, #6) by B.J. Daniels
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: romantic suspense
Series: Montana Hamiltons #6
Pages: 384
Published by HQN Books on October 18th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads


Protecting her life will mean betraying her trust 

Ainsley Hamilton has always been the responsible one of the family. As the oldest daughter of presidential candidate Buckmaster Hamilton, she's also a potential target. For months she's sensed someone following her. When an expedition to scout locations for a commercial takes a terrifying turn, she's rescued by a natural-born cowboy who tempts the good girl to finally let loose. 
Sawyer Nash knows just how reckless it is to fall for someone he's gone undercover to protect. Yet masquerading as an extra on set, he starts to see beneath Ainsley's controlled facade. And with the election—and a killer—drawing closer, Sawyer stands to lose not just his job and his life but the woman for whom he'd gladly risk both.

My Review:

wild horses by bj danielsHonor Bound is the sixth book in the author’s Montana Hamiltons series. As someone who has not read the rest of the series and got totally lost in this book, I highly recommend that if you think this book sounds interesting, or if someone recommends it to you, and you haven’t read the rest of the series, start at the beginning with Wild Horses, or don’t start at all.

All the loose plot threads from all of the previous books get wrapped up in a bow in this one, and some of those plot threads are absolute doozies. For faithful readers of the series, this book serves as the perfect ending for all of what came before, but for readers just starting, like me, it comes off as too many subplots and too much stuff going on to be packed into one book.

I felt like the long arm of coincidence (or as we call it around here, co-in-key-dink) got much, much too long. Too many crazy things happen all at once, and it pulls at the willing suspension of disbelief. Of course, for those following the series, all of those converging subplots are cathartic, as everything gets wrapped up and tied off.

Considering that I read this as we were gearing up for the final presidential debate this season, having the book start out with a Republican being elected President by a landslide was more than a bit bizarre on a number of levels. However, Buckmaster Hamilton is a way different brand of Republican than the current candidate.

The series overall has followed his candidacy, as well as providing an HEA for each of his six daughters in turn. Honor Bound is oldest daughter Ainsley’s chance for her HEA. FBI Agent Sawyer Nash arrives at the remote Montana valley where Ainsley is scouting locations for an advertising campaign to investigate her reports of a stalker. Unfortunately for both Ainsley and Sawyer, her stalker ramps up his interference after seeing the relationship between Ainsley and Sawyer heat up.

There are multiple coincidences, or so it feels, in Ainsley’s situation. One of Sawyer’s ex-lovers is also undercover at the location shoot, but Kitzie is investigating a ring of jewel thieves who seem to be operating within the production company. Kitzie is jealous of Sawyer’s interest in Ainsley, and steps way, way, way outside the lines of professionalism in an attempt to sabotage their developing relationship. And in spite of every terrible thing that Kitzie does, in the end she is still one of the “good guys”, for select definitions of both “good” and more obviously “guys”.

The overarching plot that has driven this series, as a counterpoint to Buck Hamilton’s election campaign, is the story of his wife Sarah. As the series began, Sarah, who had been missing and presumed dead for 22 years, returns with no memory of the intervening years. No one seems to trust her and her motives – with good reason.

Sarah led a double-life. Not only did she marry Buck Hamilton and have six children with him, but she was also a notorious terrorist code-named “Red”, at least in college and possibly later. “Red” may have been the true leader of The Prophecy, a terrorist group with ambitions to take out as much of the U.S. government as possible. Sarah doesn’t remember it all. But her ex-lover, and the current leader of the group, Joe Landon, is stalking Sarah and threatening her family if she doesn’t cooperate. And there’s a very, very shady doctor in the background who claims to be the person who removed Sarah’s memories, and who also claims to be able to put them back.

That’s a whole lot of plot for one book. Without the previous background, the separate and unrelated stalkings of Sarah and Ainsley strain credulity. Not having read the previous books put this reader at an extreme disadvantage.

But for those who have been through the whole saga, this feels like just the wrap up they’ve been looking for.

Escape Rating C: In the end, I came to the conclusion that this just wasn’t my cup of tea, which explains why I haven’t read the rest of the series.

It felt like too many long-shot coincidences, and too many subplots and too many perspectives for a single book. Knowing that this is the end of a series makes those things make sense, but it doesn’t work for someone who is not in on all the action.

When it comes to the central love story in Honor Bound, Ainsley and Sawyer’s relationship comes off as a very serious case of insta-love. Not that that doesn’t happen in real life, but they needed a bit more time together for this reader to buy into their romance.

And I’ll admit to a personal pet peeve about 34-year-old virgins. It just didn’t seem realistic, and it made it difficult for me to identify with Ainsley. It made her feel like a throwback to the old days of formula romances, when the heroines were always virgins and the heroes were always experienced. And dominant. As I said, that is very much a personal pet peeve, and your mileage may vary.

To recap from the very beginning of this review – if you are a faithful follower of the series, you will probably want to run and not walk to get to this concluding story. If you are a newbie, this is not the place to start.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

B.J. and Harlequin are giving away a $25 Gift Card to one lucky entrant on this tour.

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Review: Black Diamond by Susannah Sandlin + Giveaway

Review: Black Diamond by Susannah Sandlin + GiveawayBlack Diamond (Wilds of the Bayou, #2) by Susannah Sandlin
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: romantic suspense
Series: Wilds of the Bayou #2
Pages: 255
Published by Montlake Romance on October 18th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

For some people, the untamed beauty of the bayou is a place to hide. For Louisiana wildlife agent Jena Sinclair, it’s a place of refuge—one where she can almost forget the tragedy that scarred both her skin and her soul. But when the remains of yet another fisherman turn up, Jena realizes that Bayou Pointe-aux-Chenes is not safe for her…or anyone else.
The mysterious deaths aren’t her only problem. A dangerous drug known as Black Diamond is circulating through Terrebonne Parish, turning addicts into unpredictable sociopaths. Jena’s investigation leads her to Cole Ryan—a handsome, wary recluse struggling with his own troubled history—who knows more than he’s willing to admit. If they want to stop the killer, Jena and Cole must step out of the shadows of their pasts and learn to help each other…before the evils lurking in the bayou consume them both.

My Review:

Drug mules are always bad news, but in Terrebonne Parish some of the drug mules have four legs, a tail, and seventy-two big, sharp teeth. In other words, there’s a crazy fool using live alligators to smuggle drugs.

While karma is bound to catch up with these idiots eventually, the agents of the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife can’t wait that long. The new drug being smuggled, Black Diamond, is a nearly instant addicting drug of the bath-salts type. One user has already shot himself in broad daylight from the top of a drawbridge.

And newly returned LDFW agent Jena Sinclair has just come home to find her kid brother Jackson at their house, higher than a kite, and a stash of Black Diamond in his room. This case has just hit way too close to home.

wild mans curse by susannah sandlinAfter the events in Wild Man’s Curse, Jena has come back to the LDFW scarred and more than a bit fragile. Being forced to return to her parents’ toxic household in New Orleans for her rehab was very nearly the death of Jena. And she’s still not all the way back at the beginning of this case.

Hunting down drugged gators and crazed drug dealers leads Jena straight to the equally scarred and still somewhat fragile Cole Ryan. Cole is living completely alone and off-the-grid after his wife, daughter and mother were killed by a teenager hopped up on meth who decided to shoot up a shopping mall to get revenge on his ex-girlfriend. He missed the girlfriend and wiped out Cole’s family, and a whole lot of other families, instead.

When he meets Jena, Cole sees her as a kindred spirit and an attractive woman, and discovers that his time alone on the bayou has healed him way more than he thought. But the isolation that Cole found so healing is just the kind of isolation that the drug dealers need for their insane “catch and release” program for their toothy drug mules.

Once Jena traces the clues, with Cole’s help, it’s a fight to the death to stop the dealers before the dealers stop them – permanently.

Escape Rating A-: I absolutely adored the first book in this series, Wild Man’s Bayou, and loved Black Diamond almost as much. This is a romantic suspense series where the suspense is front and center (and suspenseful!) and the romance, while not in the forefront of the action, backseat drives this story at all the right moments.

This story has a big whodunnit aspect, as Jena and the LDWF, along with every other law enforcement agency for miles around, is desperately trying to figure out who is smuggling the Black Diamond into the parish, and how. While it is pretty clear from early in the story that the gators are somehow involved, working out the who, how and why takes center-stage.

Along with Jena struggling to get her feet back under her and her game face on. Jena is the first cop to leap to the idea of the gators as the mules, but has a difficult time shoring up her confidence to even suggest the possibility to the powers that be.

We see her search her soul for the reasons that she doesn’t want to take the charge she knows she has to, and we feel for her every step of the way. As we do for Cole Ryan, as he just about brings himself back from the dead to reach out to Jena and save them both.

However, if we never see Jena’s parents in any future books in this series, it will be just fine with this reader. Much of Jena’s self-doubt can be laid at her parents’ door, and I found myself wanting to slap them until they got their heads out of their asses about both of their children. I digress just a bit.

The ending of Black Diamond is bittersweet, as we discover the ways that good people do very bad things for very unfortunate reasons. And it feels right.

I love this series, as I have nearly everything that the author has written under both her Susannah Sandlin and Suzanne Johnson names. I sincerely hope that the Wilds of the Bayou series continues, because I want to read more about this fascinating place and these marvelous people.

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~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Susannah is giving away 1 $50 Amazon gift card and 5 $10 Amazon gift cards to lucky entrants on this tour.

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