Guest Post by Susannah Sandlin + Giveaway

I’d like to welcome Susannah Sandlin, also known as and writing as Suzanne Johnson, back to Reading Reality! Because I always love her books, I usually jump on the chance to get a guest post from Susannah whenever she has a book on tour, whatever name it happens to be written under. If you like urban fantasy, start with Royal Street, the first book in her Sentinels of New Orleans series as Suzanne Johnson. If you prefer paranormal romance, visit the vampires of Pentonville in Redemption, the first book in her Penton Legacy series as Susannah Sandlin. And if you prefer your romantic suspense to be more-or-less firmly grounded in the real world, you can’t do better than starting with today’s review book, Wild Man’s Curse

And now, here’s Susannah to talk about her turn to the fully-human side of the romantic force!

Wild Man's Curse Banner 851 x 315

In Praise of the Human

by Susannah Sandlin

Most—okay, all—of my early work was paranormal in nature—urban fantasy as Suzanne Johnson and paranormal romance as Susannah Sandlin. So when, under my Susannah Sandlin pen name, I branched out into romantic suspense, I feared it might be hard to “go human.”

I’d had a taste of it in my standalone STORM FORCE, where I had a team of former Army Rangers and shifters of various species working together to solve a case of domestic terrorism. In that case, I had to find a way to make my human Ranger hero, Kell, be able to hold equal ground with the shifters who report to him and the heroine, Mori, who isn’t exactly human herself.

It was that book that convinced me I could do romantic suspense. The plots of my Susannah Sandlin paranormals have always been fast-paced and conflict-driven—I’ve called them paranormal romantic thrillers in the past—so the only difference between the books I’d written in the past and the romantic suspense novels was the absence of paranormal elements.

Even the characters aren’t so different. In a good paranormal, the characters are complex. My Penton vampires have ugly pasts, dark secrets, deep emotional wounds—the same things my human heroes have (well, minus fangs and a very high-protein liquid diet). They’re as vulnerable as humans in some ways—a vampire caught in the daylight can’t defend himself, of if he’s found during his daysleep. Humans are omniphotounsensitive. (Yeah, I made up that word.)

Except even in my romantic suspense novels, I’ve never quite been able to get completely away from mystical elements. My first romantic suspense, LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP, dealt with a relic stolen from the Knights Templar, whose lost treasure is one of the world’s great mysteries. The second, DEADLY, CALM, AND COLD, tackled the mystery of the Royal Crown Jewels lost by England’s Bad King John (of Robin Hood fame) shortly before his death in the 13th century—were they stolen by a monk? By his entourage? Stashed away for safekeeping before the landowners could have him dethroned?

When it came time to plot the first book in my new series following a team of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents—think badass game wardens—I knew I had great alpha hero potential and could create complex heroes and heroines similar to those of my paranormal books. But again, I had to bring in a touch of the mystical.

In the case of WILD MAN’S CURSE, it’s the voodoo and Native American mystical elements that come into play. It’s never a given as to whether the rituals of the voodoo practitioner Eva Savoie and her great-niece, heroine Celestine Savoie, are true—but they are true to those characters. And since Celestine is part Chitimacha, a Native American tribe indigenous to South Louisiana, she brings some of their mysticism into play as well. Does it qualify as a paranormal element? In a way, I suppose. Although Eva and Celestine are certainly human, their beliefs help define them and strengthen them—as all belief systems do. And the fact that the villain in the novel fears Celestine’s beliefs, even if he doesn’t share them, gives her an advantage.

Strong heroes, smart heroines, cool stories. It’s what I try to imbue in each of my books, whether the characters are wizards, vampires, shifters, undead pirates—or completely human!

About the Author:
Suzanne-Johnson-Susannah-SandlinSusannah Sandlin is the author of the award-winning Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, including the 2013 Holt Medallion Award-winning Absolution and Omega and Allegiance, which were nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award in 2014 and 2015, respectively. She also writers The Collectors romantic suspense series, including Lovely, Dark, and Deep, 2015 Holt Medallion winner and 2015 Booksellers Best Award winner. Her new series Wilds of the Bayou starts in 2016 with the April 5 release of Wild Man’s Curse. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, Susannah is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Susannah loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV.Web: http://www.suzannejohnsonauthor.com
Blog: http://www.suzannejohnsonauthor.com/blog
Newsletter: http://www.suzannejohnsonauthor.com/newsletter
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorSusannahSandlin
Twitter: @SusannahSandlin
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/Susannah_Sandlin
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sj3523/

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

As part of this tour, Susannah is giving away one(1) $50 Amazon gift card and five (5) $10 Amazon gift cards to lucky participants in this tour!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stacking the Shelves (153)

Stacking the Shelves

I didn’t get a lot this week, probably a good thing. But the one book I want to highlight is the Dark Beyond the Stars anthology. It’s a collection of space opera short stories written by women. While that would interest me anyway, I was alerted to the book by an article at The Mary Sue. It seems that there is an Amazon reviewer troll who used his review of the book to claim that women are incapable of writing good space opera, and oh by the way, he has some space opera that he wrote that is inherently better because he’s a male writer and space opera is, and I disgustedly quote, “a purely male domain.” This is purely bullshit as any reader of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga will heartily attest. My own personal protest to this idiocy was to buy the book. It was well worth $5.99, (and it would have been worth considerably more) to poke this troll in the eye with a sharp “buy this book”.

For Review:
Harvest Moon (Moon #4) by Lisa Kessler
Roth (Hell Squad #5) by Anna Hackett
Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz

Purchased from Amazon:
Dark Beyond the Stars by Blair C. Babylon, Annie Bellet, Elle Casey, Ann Christy,Patrice Fitzgerald, Autumn Kalquist, Theresa Kay, Susan Kaye Quinn, Sara Reine, Rysa Walker, Jennifer Foehner Wells
These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One (These are the Voyages #1) by Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn
These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Two (These are the Voyages #2) by Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn
These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Three (These are the Voyages #3) by Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn

 

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-6-15

Sunday Post

There are just a few days left to get in on the awesome prize pack that Catherine Bybee is giving away. Who wouldn’t have a few dozen uses for a $100 Amazon Gift Card?

This is Labor Day weekend in the U.S. which means two things now that we are back in Atlanta. The number one thing is DragonCon! Downtown Atlanta has been taken over by aliens, superheroes and roving crews of spaceships from near and far. If you’ve never been, it’s fantastic. Also sometimes fantastically overwhelming.

The Decatur Book Festival also takes place this weekend. So our plan is to spend Friday and Saturday at DragonCon and Sunday at the DBF. Reality may turn out to be different, but we’ll have a blast no matter what.

And tomorrow we can recuperate and squee over all the stuff we picked up over the weekend. I really need to find something appropriately geeky to fill in the front license plate holder on my car. I wonder if anyone will be selling “My Other Car is a Starship” somewhere at DragonCon?

Current Giveaways:

$100 Amazon Gift Card (2) $20 Amazon Gift Cards and Weekday Brides Print Box Gift set from Catherine Bybee
Wildest Dreams by Robyn Carr (paperback)

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the paperback copy of If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins is Lysette
The winner if the Nina Croft first in series ebook prize pack is Jennifer

return to dark earth by anna hackettBlog Recap:

B- Review: Keeper’s Reach by Carla Neggers
B+ Review: Sloe Ride by Rhys Ford
B- Review: Wildest Dreams by Robyn Carr + Giveaway
B+ Review: Treasured by Thursday by Catherine Bybee + Giveaway
A- Review: Return to Dark Earth by Anna Hackett
Stacking the Shelves (151)

 

 

 

circling the sun by paula mclainComing Next Week:

Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey (blog tour review)
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (review)
The State of Play by Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson (review)
After Snowden by Ronald Goldfarb (review)

Review: Sloe Ride by Rhys Ford

sloe ride by rhys fordFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: M/M romantic suspense
Series: Sinners #4
Length: 246 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: September 4, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

It isn’t easy being a Morgan. Especially when dead bodies start piling up and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it.

Quinn Morgan never quite fit into the family mold. He dreamed of a life with books instead of badges and knowledge instead of law—and a life with Rafe Andrade, his older brothers’ bad boy friend and the man who broke his very young heart.

Rafe Andrade returned home to lick his wounds following his ejection from the band he helped form. A recovering drug addict, Rafe spends his time wallowing in guilt, until he finds himself faced with his original addiction, Quinn Morgan—the reason he fled the city in the first place.

When Rafe hears the Sinners are looking for a bassist, it’s a chance to redeem himself, but as a crazed murderer draws closer to Quinn, Rafe’s willing to sacrifice everything—including himself—to keep his quixotic Morgan safe and sound.

My Review:

tequila mockingbird by rhys fordI had planned to wait until Friday to review Sloe Ride, since that’s the day it comes out. But I couldn’t wait. I wanted some contemporary, and more important, I wanted to see how the Sinner’s Gin story wrapped up. Tequila Mockingbird (reviewed here) ended on quite a bombshell, and I just couldn’t wait any longer to see how THAT got resolved.

After the events in Sloe Ride, I am even more firmly convinced that the new band’s name should have been Bad News Bears. Or Bad Karma Bears. Or even Love and Near-Death. These guys have some serious bad luck.

However, unlike the previous books in the series, the bad luck this time mostly falls on the Morgan in the story, and not on the guy who hopes to be in the band. Not that it’s all sunshine and roses for Rafe Andrade – more that he’s already inflicted all his bad karma on his own self. His part of this story is him getting his shit all the way back together.

Quinn Morgan’s side of this story is that someone seems to be targeting Quinn with extreme malice – and murdering anyone who gets too close. The question is, who?

Rafe was Quinn’s teenage crush. Rafe is just a few years older, but he was running off to tour the country with a rock band while Quinn was still in school. While Quinn graduated with multiple degrees, Rafe hit the stratosphere as a rock god, then pissed it all away with drugs and bad choices.

Three years post-rehab, Rafe finds himself jonesing for his two remaining addictions – Quinn Morgan and getting back up on stage. Rafe is still a great bass guitarist, and whatever the remains of Sinner’s Gin are going to call themselves, they need a bass player to complete the band.

sinners gin by rhys fordRafe’s adopted family, all those Morgans from Sinner’s Gin (reviewed here), Whiskey and Wry (here) and Tequila Mockingbird, may be the entree that Rafe needs to get an audition. But just as Rafe gets close to his dream of playing again, he discovers that nothing is as important as keeping Quinn Morgan safe, and alive, and in his arms.

Escape Rating B+: I can’t imagine Sloe Ride making sense without having read the other books first. Start with Sinner’s Gin and just wallow. It’s awesome.

That being said, what about Sloe Ride as a book and as a culmination of this series?

There are lots of things to like in Sloe Ride. One of the threads that has run through the whole series is about the way that his family treats Quinn. He’s different. At first, it just seemed that he was different because he went into academia, where nearly all the other Morgans have become cops like dad. (There is one who became a firefighter instead, but he’s the black sheep of the family).

It turns out that it’s not just that Quinn took a different life path, it’s that Quinn really is different. In Sloe Ride, we finally get to see a bit into Quinn’s head, and it’s a fantastic place. Like M.C. Escher painting fantastic. If I were practicing psychology without a license, I would say that Quinn has a high functioning form of autism, probably Asperger’s. Exactly what makes Quinn different is never specifically said, but his mind is definitely wired slightly off-kilter. Particularly in the middle of a family of no-nonsense police officers.

That Quinn is gay is not what makes him different. That’s also cool. Whatever is strange about him has nothing to do with who he sleeps with, and that’s a much more interesting way to tell his story.

We also have a story about making a real relationship with your high school crush/older brother’s best friend. It’s a classic for a reason. There’s been lots of looking without touching, lots of history of friendship that can’t be anything more, lots of bittersweet memories. Again, not because Rafe is gay, but because Quinn needed to grow up first.

And because Rafe went out and made a complete clusterfuck of his life. He reminds me of Ezra Hurley in Lauren Dane’s Broken Open. Both men were rock stars, and both men fell into a vicious cycle of drugs and broken promises. Now both have come out the other side of rehab and are trying to find ways to go on with their lives and make up for their assholery with as many people as are willing to listen.

A big part of this story is about Quinn standing up for himself against his family. They all mean terribly well, and they all treat him as fragile as glass. It’s partly because he’s not a cop, and partly because he attempted suicide in his teens. But now he’s pushing 30, and he wants to stand on his own two feet. He just has to elbow his entire family out of the way to get there.

That they all have had this pattern for so long means that no one sits back and looks at a reasonable way of dealing with what is a very real threat to Quinn’s life until it is almost too late. They’ve all been so busy trying to protect him for his own good that he pushes them away, and it is not an unreasonable reaction on his part – it’s just the one most likely to get him killed.

As much as I adore this series, I’m kind of glad that it’s over. I don’t want anything else bad to happen to any of these guys, I love them and they’ve all been through enough. And I’ll confess that the one part of the story that stretches my willing suspension of disbelief is the way that all four guys have become targets of crazed murderers. No group this small has luck this bad.

And even though the reasons that Quinn, and eventually Rafe, were targeted seem slightly more plausible than in a couple of the other books, it was starting to feel like living in the small town where Murder She Wrote used to take place. Too many crazed killers too close together.

Hopefully, now they are all safe. And YAY! there’s a new band in town and they are awesome.

***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.

Review: Keeper’s Reach by Carla Neggers

keepers reach by carla neggersFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: romantic suspense
Series: Sharpe & Donovan #5
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: August 25, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan, two of the FBI’s most valuable agents, are preparing for their next big assignment—their wedding—when Colin’s brother Mike alerts them that onetime friends from his military past are on Sharpe and Donovan home turf on the Maine coast. Now private security contractors, they want to meet with Mike. One of them, an FBI agent named Kavanagh, is supposed to be on leave. What is he investigating—or does he have his own agenda?

Mike zeroes in on Naomi MacBride, a freelance civilian intelligence analyst who, aside from a few hot nights, has never brought him anything but trouble. Newly returned from England, Naomi clearly isn’t telling Mike everything about why she’s snooping around his hometown, but he has no choice but to work with her if he wants to uncover what’s really going on.

But the case soon takes a drastic turn—Emma is targeted, and a connection surfaces between Naomi and Kavanagh and a recently solved international art theft case. Not every connection is a conspiracy, but as the tangled web of secrets unravels, Emma and Colin face their greatest danger yet. With everyone they know involved, they must decide who they can trust… or lose everything for good.

My Review:

saints gate by carla neggersI got hooked on the Sharpe & Donovan series a few books ago, and at this point I’ve read them all. If you like romantic suspense featuring a couple of smart but opposite FBI Agents, start with Saint’s Gate (reviewed here).

I’m also saying start at the beginning if you’re interested in the new book, because the story relies a lot on past events and relationships. For series fans, it’s a solid entry, but it does not stand alone.

This story takes place in Maine, as much of the series does. Colin and Emma originally hail from two relatively close small towns on the Maine Coast – Rock Point for Colin and Heron’s Cove for Emma. Even though they are relatively close in age, they never met growing up. Rock Point seems to have been mostly blue-collar, and Heron’s Cove is more middle and upper-middle class. Colin’s family owns an inn, and one of his brothers is a lobsterman, while another does wilderness adventure tours on Maine’s Bold Coast.

Emma’s family are world-renowned art detectives. They recover precious art that someone else has stolen. And that’s where a lot of the background of this particular story takes root. For a decade, Emma’s grandfather Wendell has been chasing one particularly challenging thief. In the previous book in the series, Harbor Island (reviewed here) Emma finally tracks the man down, only to discover that her grandfather’s art thief is a wealthy Brit with a dual identity who has covered his tracks way too well.

But now that the jig is up, Oliver Fairbarn/Oliver York has been quietly giving all of his stolen work back to the folks he stole it from. This is mostly a win/win, but Oliver is still rightfully worried that Interpol, or more likely MI5, is going to come knocking on his door.

Instead he gets a freelance intelligence analyst, a secretive FBI agent, and a possible unknown third party who attacks his assistant and takes his insane quest back to the U.S., only to deliver it to Colin Donovan and Emma Sharpe – in a very roundabout fashion.

But that’s what finally gets him caught. Along with thinking that he is much, much cleverer than anyone chasing him.

It almost works.

Escape Rating B-: Keeper’s Reach, as I said at the beginning, is not a good entry point for this series. Everyone in this book knows everyone else, and series readers will be familiar with the background. While the events that happen within the story are well-explained, there is a lot of nuance in the background that newbies will miss.

The story is all about everyone’s past. Colin’s brother Mike is the wilderness tour guide. His self-exile to a remote cabin on the Bold Coast is Mike’s way of finding healing after a lot of shit he went through in the Army. In Afghanistan.

But Mike’s experiences are all coming back to haunt him. The group that he worked with are all coming to Maine to see him, and to see if he can be recruited to do private security work. They are invading his territory, and bringing a lot of shit with them.

The weird thing about the group is that none of them seem to really trust each other. They all worked together, but there’s also the possibility that there was a traitor in their midst even back then. And none of these folks are people to whom trust comes easily.

None of this is helped by Mike’s romantic history with intelligence analyst Naomi MacBride. They had chemistry then, and they have chemistry now, but Naomi has a way of rushing in and putting herself in harm’s way that Mike doesn’t trust.

The story is told in the third person, but the perspective moves from one to another as the scene shifts. This worked well in Harbor Island, but it doesn’t here.

One of the many things that go wrong in this story is that Emma gets kidnapped early on. She rescues herself about halfway through, but her kidnapping takes her out of the main action for too long. I missed her point of view.

With Emma out of the way, a lot of the story is told from Naomi MacBride’s perspective. Naomi may be an intelligence analyst, but she is too emotionally involved in what is going on. She makes an unreliable narrator, in that she doesn’t seem to tell herself everything she’s thinking, and none of the other players in this game trust her (or each other) and everyone is investigating everyone else and keeping important secrets.

The story got much better when Emma got herself out of her prison, but then she shipped herself off to England to investigate that part of the trail. I missed her common sense perspective on events. A lot.

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 8-30-15

Sunday Post

We survived Worldcon. The skies over Spokane looked like Mordor, but we survived. We also came home with con crud, really nasty colds. UGH!

We attended the Hugo Awards Ceremony Saturday night. I personally found the results as satisfying as possible under the circumstances. Mileage on that subject varied widely both during the Con and afterward in the blogosophere. Once the complete vote and nomination numbers were released, seeing the works that should have made the ballot but didn’t because of the slate-rigging was heartbreaking. I’m kind of hoping this will die down a bit until January, when the run up to next year’s nomination process begins. The rhetoric in this mess is even more hyperbole-filled than the U.S. Presidential race. There are plenty of pixels spilled on this topic at File770 and George R.R. Martin’s Not a Blog if you want the excruciating details.

I’m going to go read a book. I need to find more good stuff to nominate next year.

clear off your shelf August[1]Current Giveaways:

Break Out, Deadly Pursuit and Death Defying (2 copies, paperback) + Temporal Shift (5 copies, ebook) by Nina Croft
Nina Croft First in Series (Break Out, Bittersweet Blood and Operation Saving Daniel) ebook prize pack
If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins (paperback)

Winner Announcements:

The winners of the Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop are: Adriana (Back to You), Bethany N. (Armada), Michelle L. (Invasion of the Tearling), Janie M. (Bourbon Kings)
The winner of my ARC of A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd is: Faye G.

nature of the beast by louise pennyBlog Recap:

A+ Review: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
B Review: Tequila Mockingbird by Rhys Ford
B- Review: The Last Time I Saw Her by Karen Robards
B+ Review: Blood and Metal by Nina Croft + Giveaway
Guest Post by Nina Croft on Living Forever + Giveaway
B+ Review: If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (150)

sloe ride by rhys fordComing Next Week:

Keeper’s Reach by Carla Neggers (review)
Updraft by Fran Wilde (review)
Wildest Dreams by Robyn Carr (blog tour review)
Treasured by Thursday by Catherine Bybee (blog tour review)
Sloe Ride by Rhys Ford (review)

Review: The Last Time I Saw Her by Karen Robards

last time i saw her by karen robardsFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: paranormal romantic suspense
Series: Dr. Charlotte Stone #4
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date Released: August 25, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

In this world, Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone skillfully probes the twisted minds of incarcerated serial killers to better understand what makes them tick, and to help nab those who remain at large. But in the next world, Charlotte’s ghostly lover—convicted killer Michael Garland—is facing death yet again. It seem the only way Charlie can snatch Michael from the jaws of oblivion is by proving his innocence. And this dead man’s dead ringer may just be the key.

A mysterious stranger has turned up in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and Charlie is shocked to realize he could be Michael Garland’s identical twin. But she suspects the resemblance is only skin deep—and that behind the handsome face may lurk the perverse mind of a killer. While using all her keen profiling gifts, Charlie risks her life to discover the shocking secret that will clear Michael’s name.

Then a breakout at Wallens Ridge State Prison forces Charlie to contend with a sudden swarm of psychopaths bent on spilling blood. No one has a better chance of tracking down the deadly fugitives than Charlie—unless the rampaging killers manage to find her first and make this case her last. But Michael will move heaven and hell—and even make a devil’s bargain—for the chance to save Charlie’s life, and feel her touch once more . . . if only for the final time.

My Review:

The books in this series have all been train-wreck books for me. When I say train-wreck, I mean in the sense that I can’t turn my eyes away, no matter how awful things get. I’d say they were crack, but having read my reviews of the earlier books in the series, they haven’t always been that good.

But they sure as hell are compelling.

The premise is a grand mix of packages off the troperville trolley. Dr. Charlotte Stone is a psychiatrist who studies serial killers. Why? Because she survived a serial killer’s rampage when she was a child, and she still feels guilty about hiding while her best friend was murdered in front of her.

Charlie Stone also sees dead people. So now we have a psychic psychiatrist.

It gets crazier. Charlie is writing up a study of serial killers at the local prison. She interviews these multiple murderers multiple times. It’s a dangerous job, and Charlie feels like she’s the one to figure out what makes these dudes tick.

Until her sexiest patient is shived right in front of her, and the ghost of serial killer Michael Garland attaches himself to Charlie Stone’s life and work. And this is where we enter crazytown, because Charlie falls in love with the damn ghost. And surprisingly vice-versa.

Hey, if you’re going to be crazy, go all the way!

her last whisper by karen robardsWhen The Last Time I Saw Her starts, Charlie is in a bad way. At the end of the previous book, Her Last Whisper (reviewed here) Michael got sucked off to Spookyville for what looks like the last time. His soul is scheduled for demolition, and the only thing he is hanging on to is Charlie saying that she loves him. The demons that run Spookyville are tormenting him with visions of Charlie in danger, because, of course, she always is.

Consumed by grief, Charlie is at the end of her rope. Then two insane things happen. First, she meets a man who looks like Michael Garland’s twin brother. Second, and much more typical for Charlie, she finds herself captured by a whole gang of escaped serial killers as the entire set of death row inmates at Wallens Ridge State Prison scoop up Charlie and a whole bunch of others in their surprisingly well planned prison break.

While heads will definitely roll at the prison when the escape is investigated, Charlie is much, much more worried that all of the hostages’ heads will roll much sooner. All those men were in maximum security for damn good reasons, and now they’re out and determined to get payback. Breaking Charlie is pretty high on their collective “to do” lists.

Fortunately for Charlie, and unfortunately for the escaped killers, one of the other hostages is Michael Garland’s twin. And while the dude is unconscious, the real Michael makes a deal with his demon captors – if they let him save Charlie, he’ll let them have his soul.

You guessed it, Michael takes over the body of his twin and saves Charlie. They have two days to experience what life would have been like if they’d met under anything like normal circumstances. Then he’s gone forever.

Or is he?

Escape Rating B-: Rating this series is always confusing. I read this on a long flight over the weekend, and was at the 93% mark when the flight landed. I almost didn’t get out of my seat because I wanted to finish SO BAD.

On that other hand, the premise for this series is utterly insane. Psychiatrist gets targeted by serial killers over and over and over, and she sees dead people. She falls in love with the baddest bad boy of them all, and tries to help him cheat death – or the afterlife – whatever.

And for most of the series, it’s not just that he is a convicted serial killer, but that the case is airtight. While Charlie wants to believe that Michael didn’t do it, it’s hard not to think that’s her heart (and other places further south) talking and not her head.

The one thing I didn’t think was remotely possible in this mess was a happy ending, but the author managed to pull one out anyway. The method for doing so is one I’ve seen used in fanfiction a few too many times. Going back and changing the past, in order to make the future come out closer to what you want. This is the point where the story tripped completely into woo-woo territory.

But the ending, as hokey as it was, was surprisingly satisfying. Charlie drove me crazy every single step of the way, but I still wanted her to get her HEA. Even as my eyes roll at the way it was achieved.

All’s fair in love and war and paranormal romance.

***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.

Review: Tequila Mockingbird by Rhys Ford

tequila mockingbird by rhys fordFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: M/M Romantic Suspense
Series: Sinners #3
Length: 250 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: June 27, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Lieutenant Connor Morgan of SFPD’s SWAT division wasn’t looking for love. Especially not in a man. His life plan didn’t include one Forest Ackerman, a brown-eyed, blond drummer who’s as sexy as he is trouble. His family depends on him to be like his father, a solid pillar of strength who’ll one day lead the Morgan clan.

No, Connor has everything worked out—a career in law enforcement, a nice house, and a family. Instead, he finds a murdered man while on a drug raid and loses his heart comforting the man’s adopted son. It wasn’t like he’d never thought about men — it’s just loving one doesn’t fit into his plans.

Forest Ackerman certainly doesn’t need to be lusting after a straight cop, even if Connor Morgan is everywhere he looks, especially after Frank’s death. He’s just talked himself out of lusting for the brawny cop when his coffee shop becomes a war zone and Connor Morgan steps in to save him.

Whoever killed his father seems intent on Forest joining him in the afterlife. As the killer moves closer to achieving his goal, Forest tangles with Connor Morgan and is left wondering what he’ll lose first—his life or his heart.

My Review:

I’m really enjoying this series. I’m reading the back numbers so that when I get to Sloe Ride next month, I’m all caught up.

Caught up in all the fun, that is.

This series blends two rather disparate groups that go even better together than peanut butter and chocolate, even though at first blush (not to mention all the blushes later!) they shouldn’t.

The combination is of a “getting the band back together story” with an interconnected family romance – and the members of the band do not start out as members of the family, and half the band is dead. On the other hand, that solid family are all cops, so if someone is needed to investigate what went wrong, the detectives are right there.

But this series follows a pattern, and it’s a good one (with one minor quibble which we’ll get to later).

sinners gin by rhys fordSinner’s Gin is dead, to begin with. The only surviving member was Miki St. John, and when the book Sinner’s Gin begins (reviewed here) he’s still in recovery, both from grief and from the accident that killed all his friends. When someone starts trying to kill him, he winds up in the very protective arms of San Francisco Police Lieutenant Kane Morgan. And so it begins.

In Whiskey and Wry (reviewed here), we discover that one of the other members of Sinner’s Gin survived. Damien Mitchell is alive and not very well, locked in a sanitarium while guards and drugs try to convince him that he’s someone else, and that Sinner’s Gin is just a coma dream. Until someone tries to murder him, and he escapes to find Miki. He discovers Sionn Murphy, the killer nearly finds them both, and Damien finds Miki at a Murphy/Morgan Sunday dinner.

The other two members of Sinner’s Gin are not coming back from the grave. This isn’t that kind of story. Instead, Miki and Damien need a drummer and a bass player to get back on stage. Into that vacancy walks Forest Ackerman, a young drummer that they met in the way back, when Sinner’s Gin was still scratching their way up, and Forest’s adopted father owned a small recording studio. Their late drummer is the one who got Forest started on the drums. Now it’s his turn to take that achingly vacant place.

But not before an awful lot of shit goes down. Just like in the previous two books in the series, someone is trying to kill Forest, for reasons that are not initially clear. When the killer starts by murdering Forest’s dad, and tries to take out a bunch of cops in the process, Forest finds himself face to face (and body to body) with SFPD SWAT Lieutenant Connor Morgan.

The lust at first contact surprises them both, since Connor has always believed he was straight, and Forest has always believed that no one good could possibly care for him.

As they grope towards each other, and their possible future, the killer continues his attempts to remove Forest from the land of the living. And while it is great that he keeps missing Forest, he does a lot of collateral damage while he tries to zero in on his target.

When he hits Miki and Damien in yet another attempt to take out Forest, he brings the wrath of all the Morgans down on his head.

Escape Rating B: I enjoyed this story a lot. I was on the long flight home from Spokane to Atlanta, and it made the trip fly by. Pun intended. Speaking of puns, I also loved the two plays on words involved in the book. Tequila Mockingbird is a fairly common mangling of the much more famous title, To Kill a Mockingbird. If this doesn’t make sense to you, just say the two titles out loud, one after another. The other bit of wordplay is in the name Forest Ackerman. Forest with one R is one of the protagonists of this story. Forrest Ackerman, with two Rs, is a famous “Golden Age” science fiction writer. Just having returned from Worldcon, which has an award named in Ackerman’s honor, the similarity was a bit hard for this reader to miss, whether it was intended or not..

One of the strengths of this series is the Morgan family dynamic. They are amazing, and being adopted by them would be awesome. It is a family that sticks together and in a good way. In spite of some ups and downs and stresses and tensions, they are something that you don’t often see in fiction, especially the families of the protagonists – the Morgan family is absolutely the opposite of dysfunctional. Not that the members of the family don’t have stuff to overcome, but whatever it is, it isn’t a result of parental abuse or divorce or anything else nasty within the family. Donal and Brigid love and support all of their children and whoever they drag in. And also, the author has made it abundantly clear that the spark between Donal and Brigid is alive and well, even though they’ve raised 8 children to adulthood.

Because the Morgan children mostly have their respective acts together, it stands to fictional reason that the people they bring home with them are particularly damaged, even though they are all very strong in their broken places. Forest is no exception.

His biological mother pimped him out until he was old enough and emotionally strong enough to break away physically if not necessarily emotionally. He was adopted by Frank Marshall, an old hippie who gave him a home and structure and sent him to school, and more importantly didn’t expect to either get a blow job or use him as a punching bag in return. When that old hippie is murdered at the beginning of the story, it sets Forest’s world into a tailspin. Just because Forest is legally an adult doesn’t mean he is remotely ready to let go of the only stable and good person in his life.

Connor steps into the breach, literally, as he is the one who holds Forest as he cries for the man he called “Dad”. What surprises Connor is how much Forest gets under his skin. Connor is the oldest Morgan child, and he always expected to grow up to be his father. That meant becoming a cop, rising in the ranks, finding a wife, having a family. Finding a husband instead has never been on his conscious radar, so falling for Forest throws Connor for an internal loop of epic proportions.

In the middle of the internal angst, there’s the big external elephant in the room. At first, Frank Marshall’s death looks either like an accident or possibly murder for gain. But when someone starts targeting Forest and the studio and coffee shop he inherited, it begins to look like something else.

This is my quibble with the book. As much as I love the Morgans, and loved Connor and Forest together, and I especially loved seeing Forest become part of whatever Miki and Damien’s new band is going to be, the reasons for the suspense in this series are getting a bit further out there.

The band that replaces Sinner’s Gin should probably be named the Bad Luck Bunch, or something along that line. The reason why Miki got targeted in Sinner’s Gin made sense. While the reasons for Damien’s troubles almost made sense, the explanations didn’t quite cover the motives completely. And for Forest, the killer’s motives end up being pretty far out in la-la land. No group this small should be the target of this many completely separate crazed killers. On this score my mind is officially boggled.

sloe ride by rhys fordBut I still love the series and I’m definitely looking forward to Sloe Ride next month. It’s going to be especially fun to see the Morgan in the story as the protectee instead of the protector for a change.

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 8-23-15

Sunday Post

Sasquan_Official_Raven_Mascot_by_Brad_FosterThis is weird. I’m writing this before we leave for Sasquan, but by the time you read it, we’ll be on our way back. From here, I’m hoping that our suitcases won’t be overloaded with books, but that may be a vain hope. I try to resist picking up print books in the dealer’s room, because most of what I see I either have an eARC, or I’m willing to wait to get as an ebook. Howsomever, the one thing that is still better with print is signed books. For that, you need a physical copy. I know John Scalzi will be at Sasquan, which means a print copy of The End of All Things is definitely in my bookish future. As for the rest, we’ll see.

Because I’m writing this so far ahead, it is possible that next week’s schedule will be affected by what I manage to read (and OMG write up) while we are at the Con. In other words, contents may shift as the week (or the box) settles.

clear-off-your-shelf-August-202x300Current Giveaways:

Four books from my shelves in the Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop
A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd (paperback ARC)

pattern of lies by charles toddBlog Recap:

A- Review: Daring by Elliott James
B+ Review: Tales: Short Stories Featuring Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford by Charles Todd
C+ Review: Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville
Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop
A Review: A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (149)

blood and metal by nina croftComing Next Week:

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny (review)
Tequila Mockingbird by Rhys Ford (review)
The Last Time I Saw Her by Karen Robards (review)
Blood and Metal by Nina Croft (blog tour review)
If Only You Knew by Kristan Higgins (blog tour review)

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 8-9-15

Sunday Post

Today is officially National Book Lovers Day!

I’m not sure a single day is sufficient. If you believe in the “so many books, so little time” school of thought then one day barely scratches the surface (or makes a dent in the towering TBR pile). But it is lovely that there is an official day to promote the love of books and reading and to support those of us who are perpetually lost in a good book. Even when we are sometimes lost in a bad book.

The summer doldrums also seem to be over. We have giveaways again, and winner announcements. There are also a couple of giveaways coming up this week, so stay tuned.

eReaderGiveaway_Horz_BPCurrent Giveaways:

Two Kindle Fires, one Kindle Paperwhite, one Kindle Touchscreen plus dozens of author prizes in the Summertime eReader Giveaway
All 6 titles in the Harlequin End of Summer Tour, a limited edition Harlequin notebook plus a $50 Visa gift card in the End of Summer Tour

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Flask of the Drunken Master by Susan Spann is Brandi D.

back to you by lauren daneBlog Recap:

Summertime eReader Giveaway
Guest Post by Lauren Dane – Hurley Family Summer Itinerary + Giveaway
B+ Review: Back to You by Lauren Dane
B+ Review: Charming by Elliott James
B Review: Whiskey and Wry by Rhys Ford
B+ Review: One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron
Stacking the Shelves (147)

 

 

end of all things by john scalziComing Next Week:

Stormbringer by Alis Franklin (blog tour review)
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day (review)
Fearless by Elliott James (blog tour review)
The End of All Things by John Scalzi (review)
Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy (review)