Dad-o-mite Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Dad-O-Mite Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June, not just in the U.S. but in plenty of other countries around the world. It looks like most if not all of the countries in the world have a celebration dedicated to fathers at some point in the year – just not necessarily the SAME point in the year. It’s not JUST a Hallmark holiday, although it must help the greeting card company’s bottom line even today.

And I’m reminded that once upon a time, my own father was in the greeting card business, as the accountant for a small company based in Cincinnati that eventually got swallowed by Hallmark’s rival American Greetings a long time ago. Time flies.

This year’s Father’s Day (this very Sunday!) is going to be special for lots of folks. While our fur-children have been with us every day, there are a lot of families for whom this will be the first time it will be safe enough to travel and to gather in large groups and share those backyard barbecues with friends and loved ones in person to celebrate the day and the dads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more terrific prizes for dads – or for yourself – be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Review: The Summer of No Attachments by Lori Foster

Review: The Summer of No Attachments by Lori FosterThe Summer of No Attachments by Lori Foster
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: Chick Lit, contemporary romance, women's fiction
Series: Summer Friends #2
Pages: 336
Published by Hqn on June 22, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Summer flings with no strings mean nobody gets hurt.At least, that was the plan…
After putting the brakes on her dead-end relationship, local veterinarian Ivey Anders is ready to soak up this summer on her own terms. The way she sees it, no dating means no disappointment. Why complicate life with anything long-term? But when she meets Corbin Meyer—and his troubled young son, Justin—Ivey’s no-strings strategy threatens to unravel before she can put it into practice.
Trust doesn’t come easy for Ivey’s best friend, Hope Mage, a veterinary-clinic assistant who’s affected by an incident that’s colored every relationship she’s had. Though Hope’s happy for Ivey, she can’t quite open her own heart to the possibility of love. Not just yet… Maybe not ever. Soon, however, she’s faced with a dilemma—Corbin’s older brother, Lang. He’s charming, he’s kind…and he may just be the reason Hope needs to finally tear down her walls.
And as the sweet summer months unspool, the two friends discover love won’t give up on them so easily.
"Brimming with heart, heat and humor."—Jill ShalvisNew York Times bestselling author, on Worth the Wait

My Review:

The irony of The Summer of No Attachments is that the first thing that Ivey does after declaring that she isn’t going to get attached to anyone this summer is that she immediately gets attached to someone.

However, as Ivey is a veterinarian, that she finds herself instantly attached to a slightly skittish rescue dog named Daisy – along with all of the puppies that Daisy gave birth to practically in Ivey’s lap – is not all that big a surprise.

But Daisy and her puppies are all adorable, so we all do fall right along with her. That Daisy is the first Jack-A-Bee dog I’ve heard of or read about made her extra cute. (A Jack-A-Bee is the result of mating a Jack Russell Terrier with a Beagle and the whole idea just oozes cuteness.)

Ivey’s romance with Daisy would have been an adorable story, but that’s not what we’re here for. And honestly, that’s not what Ivey is there for, either. Okay, it is part of what she’s there for, but not ALL of it.

As the story opens, Ivey finds Daisy and Daisy has her puppies at the end of what has already been a very long day for Ivey and her best friend and veterinary assistant Hope Mage. When Ivey finally makes it home, her boyfriend of two years is lounging on her couch bitching about her being home late.

It’s the latest in a string of disappointments in that relationship, and it’s the last. Ivey kicks Geoff to the curb and vows to have a summer of hookups with no need to fall into another relationship.

Haven’t we all made those kinds of vows?

Ivey’s promise to herself turns out to be about as successful as you might expect. The meet cute in this story isn’t between Corbin Meyer and Ivey Anders, although they certainly do meet. But the real cute in that meeting is the one between Corbin’s son Justin and Daisy and her pups.

There’s something about Justin, scared, shy and uncertain, that reaches out to Daisy – and surprisingly vice-versa for the boy and the dog. That the dad and the vet can’t resist seeing the two fall in love and help each other heal makes this a lovely story with a lot of heart.

And doggie kisses!

Escape Rating A: I just plain fell in love with these characters, this place and this story, to the point where I was up until 4 am because I couldn’t resist reading just a little longer – all the way to the very heartwarming conclusion with its happy ever afters all around. HEAs for everyone turned out to be just what I needed.

The primary story is in not just the romance between Corbin and Ivey, but in the way that they both fall in love with Justin and build a family together out of some pretty shaky circumstances.

As the story begins, Corbin and Justin are still walking on eggshells around each other. Justin’s mother dumped him on Corbin, after telling Corbin that the child she never bothered to inform him existed was his and it was time for him to take over childcare full-time while she ran off. As the truths about Justin’s circumstances are slowly revealed – not just to the reader but to Corbin – the scope of the tragedy-in-the-making becomes both clearer and wider.

So Corbin is adjusting to having a pre-teen son he never knew about. He hasn’t really got the time or the energy for a relationship and Ivey is more than a bit gun-shy about diving into a relationship with anyone at all. (Not that her ex was evil or anything, but she feels like she just climbed out of a rut and is worried about climbing into another one.)

But they do it anyway, in spite of themselves, two steps forward and one step back, while Corbin’s family rallies around and life goes on.

The secondary characters were icing on a very tasty cake, especially the romance between Corbin’s brother Lang and Ivey’s bestie Hope. That could have been a whole romance all of its own, and it would have been a great one even by itself, but the story was even better in the contrast between the kind of second chance that Corbin, Ivey and Justin are reaching for and the much more difficult one that Hope needs to let herself have after trauma and betrayal.

The depth of the friendship between Ivey and Hope was beautiful, and added something special to the whole story. A story that was just plain special all the way around.

Goodreads says that this book is the second book in The Summer Friends series that begin with The Somerset Girls, which I have but have not read. Although now that I’ve visited Sunset, Kentucky, I’m sure I’ll find my way back!

Review: Shiftless by TA Moore + Excerpt + Giveaway

Review: Shiftless by TA Moore + Excerpt + GiveawayShiftless (Night Shift #3) by T.A. Moore
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: M/M romance, paranormal, urban fantasy
Series: Night Shift #3
Pages: 112
Published by Rogue Firebird Press on June 19th 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Night Shift is the city's thin, silver line- and some nights it's thinner than others.

It isn't the fact he almost died last night that's thrown Night Shift officer Kit Marlow. He's used to that. It's the fact that instead of a werewolf trying to rip his throat out, it was his friend and colleague who tried to put him in the ground.

Well, 'friend.'

Now Marlow's been framed for a murder he didn't commit by a man who's committed more than his fair share. Half the cops in San Diego want to see Marlow behind bars for what he's supposedly done, and the other half want him dead before he can tell his side of the story. The problem is that he can't tell them apart.

There's only one person in town that Marlow can trust, even though he knows he shouldn't drag Cade Deacon into his problems. The sharp-tongued CEO of a private security firm might have gotten close to Marlow over the last few weeks, but taking on the SDPD is a lot to ask.

Marlow doesn't have much choice, though. If he can't clear his name before the last full moon of the month sets, he might not see another one. That'd be a shame since Marlow would really like to spend the night with Cade without needing protective gear.

My Review:

The one thing I knew going into this book was that she couldn’t do it to me again. Thank goodness.

Shiftless is the final novella in the Night Shift trilogy, which meant that the author simply couldn’t end the book on a damn cliffhanger the way that she did the first two books, Shift Work and Split Shift.

Honestly, if she’d managed to do it again anyway I’d have figured out a way to reach through the screen and deliver a Howler from up close and personal because damn that would have been the absolute limit.

Not that I won’t be riveted, again, if the author ever returns to Marlow and Cade’s world. Because it’s fascinating and they’re snarky, hot and a whole lot interesting to follow.

Escape Rating A-: First of all, the Night Shift series isn’t so much a “series” as it is a single story split into three bite-sized pieces. So if you love paranormal romance, if you enjoy enemies-into-lovers, if a world where even though it isn’t quite ours the story still captures your attention from the first page, takes you away and still manages to say quite a bit about our world into the excellent bargain, start with Shift Work and settle in for a compelling ride – and read.

This is a world where werewolves rule, and the laws are bent to fit them, because they have all the power and it seems like a fair amount of the money. One of the things that makes this world a bit different is that being a werewolf also seems to be completely normal – it’s the so-called “nulls” that are weird.

If you’ve ever heard of the 80/20 law, it’s kind of like that, only the proportions aren’t nearly so even. Some people, not a big percentage at all, can’t be turned. They don’t “wolf out” the three nights of the full moon and can’t be changed to do so.

Kit Marlow is one of those nulls. He’s a police officer, a member of the “Night Shift” who works those three nights. Because someone has to serve and protect the people who don’t have an inner wolf – and sometimes even the werewolves need to be protected from themselves or each other.

The problem Kit has – well, he has two, come to think of it. He can’t trust his fellow officers at his back. Too many of them are tied in with the dirty cop he sent to prison a few years ago – and the rest looked the other way. The one person he can trust is the one person he really shouldn’t. Because three nights of the month, Cade Deacon thinks Kit Marlow is dinner – and not in any good way from Kit’s perspective.

But Kit has been framed, and Cade is his only hope of something. Whether that’s rescue, protection or the opportunity to clear his name is to be determined. What they’ll be at the end of it all, if Kit will still be anywhere at all, is anybody’s guess.

So a big part of this story is Kit trying to clear his name. An important part of the story is Kit and Cade trying to figure out what they are to each other, as neither of them has any experience with relationships to begin with – and theirs has the possibility of being especially fraught. The occasionally-partially-resolved sexual tension between the two of them heats up the entire story.

The third part is, in its way, even more interesting. Because Marlow needs to figure out who he’s going to be when this whole mess comes out the other side. Unless he’s dead or in prison and then dead which is still a possibility. He trusts a person who’s supposed to be an enemy way more than anyone who is supposed to be at least a colleague if not a friend. There’s a whole lot wrong with that picture and what that says about the Night Shift in specific and possibly about the real world in general is still keeping me thinking.

I’m going to miss Marlow and Cade and their very fascinating world. While they seem to have reached as much of an HEA as either of them is capable of, I’d love to explore this place more. Lots, lots more.

Guest Post from TA Moore + Chapter 2 of the Night Shift short (check out Chapter 1 at Love Bytes)

First of all, thank you so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here with my new release, Shiftless by TA Moore, which completes the Night Shift trilogy! I believe it is still technically a novella, although it’s the novella that kicked the other novellas out of the nest and ate all the food!

For the blog tour I’ve written a short story set in the Night Shift world. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter Two

Warden Brunell stepped back from the door and waved Marlow into the hut. He glanced over at the crowd of people still stuck behind red tape and reminded himself that there was only one way to find out what he needed to know.

Or only one he could think of.

Associate Warden Brunell’s office was warm and faintly ripe with the odor of old sweat and recent fear. There was no shame in that. Brunell spent the full moon with only pre-fab walls and chains between him and a few dozen hungry wolves, and not even a single silver bullet for emergencies.

Doesn’t seem fair, does it? The quiet echo of Piper’s voice bounced around inside Marlow’s skull. Shouldn’t there be a level playing field?

It sounded reasonable, but Piper always did. That was why Marlow was here and not at the bar with the rest of the squad. He wanted to make up his mind before Piper made it for him.
Brunell extended his hand. “Officer…?” he trailed off, one eyebrow raised expectantly.

“Marlow.”

“First or last?”

“Yes.”

There was a pause, and then Brunell laughed. It sounded scratchy and exhausted, but genuine.

“There it is,” he said. “Never met a Night Shift officer who wasn’t an asshole. No offence. Midnight under the full moon, that’s a survival instinct. Sit down. How can I help you?”

Brunell waved Marlow to one of the chairs—metal and folding. Like everything else in the hut, it was portable and cheap… just in case—as he went back behind his desk. There was a stack of folders by his elbow, intake forms that needed to be matched with the release forms being signed right now, and a glass of something that probably wasn’t water by one hand.

“Kit,” Marlow provided as he sat down. “Thirsty work running the Crate?”

“It is,” Brunell agreed, unphased, as he took a drink. If it was liquor—and Marlow would put money on it that it was—Brunell didn’t flinch as it hit the back of his throat. “But while I can’t leave until the last inmate has gone through their exit interview, my shift ended at the same time as yours. So, technically, I’m not drinking on the job. Want one?”

It was tequila, and it wasn’t good tequila. Marlow recognised the bottle that Brunell pulled out of a drawer. The idea of it made Marlow’s mouth twist in a confused mixture of parched and revolted. He might want a drink after last night, but the idea of getting cheap tequila drunk didn’t appeal.

“I’ve plans for the day I need to be upright for,” Marlow said. “At least, for part of the day.”

Brunell chuckled and winked at Marlow. “Enjoy it while you can. Night Shift don’t die in bed, so make the most of the time you do spend there, that’s what I say.”

He raised his glass in a toast. Marlow didn’t have the heart to disillusion him.

Night Shift could get laid, that was true. Sleep was more elusive. Given a choice between the two…

Okay, most of the time they’d pick sex. On the second day of the Full Moon? An empty mattress, cool sheets, and no-one who needed anything from you? Then it was a harder question.
Marlow’s only plans for his bed involved him, slightly more Tylenol than recommended on the bottle, and a good six hours of not doing anything at all. He didn’t want any company. If it got Brunell onside, though, let him think that Marlow had a much more Piper-like life.

“Doctor Ben Crenshaw,” Marlow said.

“Who?” Brunell asked, head cocked to the side.

“Could you check your records?” Marlow asked. “See if someone by that name checked out last month?”

Catch the next chapter tomorrow at Book Gemz and follow the tour for the rest of the story!

 

About the Author:

TA Moore is a Northern Irish writer of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance novels. A childhood in a rural, seaside town fostered in her a suspicious nature, a love of mystery, and a streak of black humour a mile wide. As her grandmother always said, ‘she’d laugh at a bad thing that one’, mind you, that was the pot calling the kettle black. TA Moore studied History, Irish mythology, English at University, mostly because she has always loved a good story. She has worked as a journalist, a finance manager, and in the arts sector before she finally gave in to a lifelong desire to write.

Coffee, Doc Marten boots, and good friends are the essential things in life. Spiders, mayo, and heels are to be avoided.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads |

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-13-21

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of Freddie as the “Prince of Quite A Lot” of paper products. His “throne” has been raised to new heights!

I have to say that this week’s schedule gets a bit iffy after the blog hop on Wednesday. There will be posts – there will always be posts! But I’ve found myself feeling different books than the books I thought I was going to feel for the last couple of weeks and it could happen again!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Berry Good Giveaway Hop (ENDS TOMORROW!!!)

Blog Recap:

B+ Review: A Rogue’s Company by Allison Montclair
A+ Review: Beyond the Empire by K.B. Wagers
A- Review: Death with a Double Edge by Anne Perry
B+ Review: Stargazer by Anne Hillerman
B Review: Practical Boots by C.E. Murphy
Stacking the Shelves (448)

Coming This Week:

Shiftless by TA Moore (blog tour review)
The Summer of No Attachments by Lori Foster (blog tour review)
Dad-O-Mite Giveaway Hop
While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams (review)
Reality and Other Stories by John Lanchester (review)

Stacking the Shelves (448)

After reading All the Feels several months early, I couldn’t resist looking for more of Olivia Dade’s books – just in case I need another reading pick-me-up sometime soon.  Because of course I will. I don’t know about you, but HAVING to read something was always the kiss of death when I was in school. Sometimes I still feel that way – or sometimes I’m just not feeling the book I happen to have in hand!

On an entirely different note, my curiosity bump itches something terrible about the Laurell K. Hamilton book. I loved the first few books of the Anita Blake series before it got to the porn-with-little-plot point, and kept reading them long after I should have stopped. I can’t help but wonder if this new series is going to be more like those early books – or more like the later ones. We’ll see.

For Review:
Bloodline by Jess Lourey
Bombshell (Hell’s Belles #1) by Sarah MacLean
Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes
Dear Miss Metropolitan by Carolyn Ferrell
A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli
The Lady Gets Lucky (Fifth Avenue Rebels #2) by Joanna Shupe
The Mixtape by Brittainy Cherry
Scream to the Shadows by Tunku Halim
A Secret Never Told (Lady Dunbridge #4) by Shelley Noble
Shiftless (Night Shift #3) by TA Moore
The Singles Table by Sara Desai
A Terrible Fall of Angels (Zaniel Havelock #1) by Laurell K. Hamilton

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
40-Love (There’s Something About Marysburg #2) by Olivia Dade
The Haunting of the Desks (Sparks and Bainbridge #2.5) by Allison Montclair
Practical Boots (The Torn #1) by C.E. Murphy
Sweetest in the Gale (There’s Something About Marysburg #3) by Olivia Dade
Teach Me (There’s Something About Marysburg #1) by Olivia Dade


If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page

Please link your STS post in the linky below:


Review: Practical Boots by C.E. Murphy

Review: Practical Boots by C.E. MurphyPractical Boots (The Torn #1) by C.E. Murphy
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genres: portal fantasy, urban fantasy
Series: Torn #1
Pages: 101
Published by Miz Kit Productions on June 4, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

These boots are made for walking...

The disappointing daughter of a Lord of the Torn, Cat Sharp was dumped in the shapeless Waste to prove herself or die. Seven years later, she's honed the Artificer magic that saved her in the Waste, and her courier business is booming: after all, no one else can step from one location to another almost instantaneously, as Cat can with her seven league boots.

Each passage through the Waste takes her one step closer to the only thing she's ever wanted to find...but even the Torn-born become careless at times. When Cat's father catches up with her again, Cat must make a choice between her own dreams and an innocent's future...or try once more to forge her own way through two worlds, neither of which she quite belongs in....

My Review:

The practical boots that Cat Sharp fashioned for herself out of the stuff of the Waste have existed in folklore and fiction for centuries, but in real life, not so much. They’re the “seven-league boots” that have cropped up – or strode across – stories ranging from Jack the Giant Killer to The Innocents Abroad to Howl’s Moving Castle to even trip The Light Fantastic of the Discworld.

But Cat made her own when her aelfen father (they don’t call themselves “elves” thankyouverymuch) tossed her out of the Torn – the fae lands where she was born – into the Waste. The Waste is what lies between the truly magical lands of the Torn and the World – the world that we humans live in.

Cat is neither and both. Her mother was human, her father was Torn, and Cat’s half-and-half nature allows her to be a bit of both but fully a part of neither. When her sperm donor – or whatever it is the aelfen actually have – tossed her aside into the Waste – she made her boots and walked her way into our world.

Where she became a high-priced, highly sought after, highly exclusive courier. Being able to go from New York to LA in one step and the blink of an eye is a lucrative talent in a world where time is all too often literally money.

When the story begins, the courier job that Cat has taken turns out to be a trap that leads directly to her manipulative father. She’s barely finished – even on a temporary basis – dealing with that asshole, when she’s jerked into another trap. Which pushes her right into – you guessed it – a third trap.

Getting out of THAT leads her right back to where this journey began – chasing her sperm donor into yet one more…trap.

But as Cat jumps out of the frying pan and into the fire, we learn what makes her tick, how her walks between the worlds work and even a little bit of just what it is that makes Cat so special that so many people are trying to use her for their own ends.

Or to create the means that they can use for those ends.

All Cat wants to do is stay out of everyone’s clutches – especially her father’s. So she can keep on hunting – for her mom.

Escape Rating B: When I saw Practical Boots on this month’s Must Haves over at The Book Pushers I grabbed it immediately. Because I have fond memories of reading the author’s urban fantasy series, the Walker Papers (start with Urban Shaman) a long time and several cities ago. I still have them.

But when I read Practical Boots I kept having the feeling that I’d read it before – and not in the Walker Papers, as the setups are completely different. Practical Boots just came out, so I can’t have read this before but I have read things that have bits of this plenty of times. The father/daughter relationship is very like the one in House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas – and every bit as manipulative and abusive. The mechanism, the travel between the World, the Torn, and the Waste has echoes of the travel between the worlds in Charlie Stross’ Merchant Princes series.

Practical Boots also feels like it has echoes of other urban fantasy series, like Lindsay Buroker’s Death Before Dragons (start with Sinister Magic), and Ilona Andrews’ Innkeeper Chronicles – particularly Sweep of the Blade as well as Andrews’ Edge series that begins with On the Edge.

And it could just be that this is a portal fantasy, where people move between our world and semi-attached magical realms, and that’s been done many times because it has so much potential for terrific stories.

Practical Boots certainly lives up to that potential, even in the relatively small bite we get of it here. It works – and admittedly for some readers it won’t – because we experience the whole story through Cat Sharp’s very sharp and snarky perspective. We know what she’s thinking, we know what she’s feeling. We also know that she’s an unreliable narrator who lies to herself most of all.

She is stuck in a situation that she’s trying to make herself believe is temporary – but probably isn’t. She’s trying to make sure that her talent serves herself first, her friends and loved ones best, and her enemies as little as possible. But she might not succeed.

Through her eyes and her mind we get enough of a flavor of all of her worlds to understand who she is and what she wants – even if her explanations of how her magic works seem either arbitrary, deceptive, self-serving or all of the above.

Cat is on a quest to find her mother. A quest I suspect is going to take a long time and is not going to end happily. But I do expect her to have plenty of fascinating adventures along the way!

Review: Stargazer by Anne Hillerman

Review: Stargazer by Anne HillermanStargazer (Leaphorn & Chee, #24) by Anne Hillerman
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Leaphorn and Chee #24, Leaphorn Chee and Manuelito #6
Pages: 318
Published by Harper on April 13, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Murder, deception, Navajo tradition, and the stars collide in this enthralling entry in New York Times bestselling author Anne Hillerman’s Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito series, set amid the beautiful landscape of the American Southwest.
What begins as a typical day for Officer Bernadette Manuelito—serving a bench warrant, dealing with a herd of cattle obstructing traffic, and stumbling across a crime scene—takes an unexpected twist when she’s called to help find an old friend. Years ago, Bernie and Maya were roommates, but time and Maya’s struggles with addiction drove them apart. Now Maya’s brother asks Bernie to find out what happened to his sister.
Tracing Maya’s whereabouts, Bernie learns that her old friend had confessed to the murder of her estranged husband, a prominent astronomer. But the details don’t align. Suspicious, Bernie takes a closer look at the case only to find that nothing is as it seems. Uncovering new information about the astronomer’s work leads Bernie to a remote spot on the Navajo Nation and a calculating killer.
The investigation causes an unexpected rift with her husband and new acting boss, Jim Chee, who’s sure Bernie’s headed for trouble. While she’s caught between present and past, Chee is at a crossroads of his own. Burdened with new responsibilities he didn’t ask for and doesn’t want, he must decide what the future holds for him and act accordingly. 
Can their mentor Joe Leaphorn—a man also looking at the past for answers to the future—provide the guidance both Bernie and Chee need? And will the Navajo heroes that stud the starry sky help them find justice—and the truth they seek?

My Review:

It’s not exactly a surprise – or a spoiler – for a mystery to open with the discovery of a dead body. But when that discovery is immediately followed by a voluntary confession to a circumstance that the police haven’t yet even determined is a homicide, well, that is kind of a surprise.

Although in real life the police would probably be thrilled to have a case wrapped up so neatly and tied with such a pretty bow, in mystery fiction that easy resolution could end the book – with 300+ pages or so left to fill.

So, the reader is pretty sure that there must be more to this story from the very beginning. Luckily, so is Officer Bernadette Manuelito of the Navajo Police. Once upon a time, when Bernie was in college, she and the confessed murderer were roommates, while the victim was the bilagaana lover who whisked her friend off to Hawaii for marriage, a son, and a later breakup.

It’s not that Bernie can’t imagine that her once-friend isn’t capable of murder, because after ten years on the force she knows too well that every person is capable of killing someone in the right – or wrong – circumstance. But THIS murder doesn’t match the person she knew.

Particularly as the confession is a bit threadbare, to say the least. The supposed murderer isn’t saying much of anything about either how or why – and the circumstances just don’t add up. But the circumstances do conspire to keep Bernie on the case, even though the crime was not committed on Navajo land and therefore not in Bernie’s jurisdiction.

She’s, not happy about driving back and forth the four hours between Shiprock and the county sheriff’s office in Socorro but she is more than a bit relieved to get away from her substation, where her husband, Sergeant Jim Chee, is currently also serving as the supervisor – and Bernie’s temporary boss.

Bernie and Chee need their captain to get back from his meetings in Window Rock before their marriage suffers any more stress than is normal for two cops married to each other. And Bernie wants to make sure that she does right by her old friend.

The more times that Bernie makes that long drive, the more certain she is that her friend’s convenient but threadbare confession doesn’t hold up to any examination whatsoever. But if the woman won’t help herself and tell the police – and Bernie – something, ANYTHING to make the whole thing make sense, the system is going to grind her under and spit her into prison whether she deserves it or not.

It’s up to Bernie to find the answers – to the crime, to her marriage, to her relationship with her mother and even to the future of her own career – on those long, solitary drives before it’s too late to fix any of the messes that she’s stuck in the middle of.

Escape Rating B+: I read this series because it’s a comfort read. It’s been a comfort read for decades at this point, as I started the series back in the 1990s when I had a really long car commute, and the then Leaphorn & Chee series written by the author’s father was one of the few things available in audiobook at my library. What a long, strange trip it’s been!

So I know and love these characters, and visiting them again is as comfortable as a warm pair of slippers – even if the case they end up investigating turns out to be considerably less warm and fuzzy. This week, when I wasn’t feeling all that great, I found myself searching out comfort reads – and lo and behold, here’s Bernie Manuelito, her husband the Cheeseburger, and the Legendary Lieutenant Leaphorn to see me through.

There are two threads to this story. The primary thread, of course, is the case. The second thread is the part where this being an ongoing series comes into play, as Bernie, Chee and even Leaphorn are all facing decision points, whether large or small, in their lives.

The case, although it’s a twisted mess, is the easy part. Or the easy-er part, anyway. It’s fairly obvious from the beginning that the confession doesn’t really solve anything. Partly because the book would end at that point if it were correct, but mostly because it doesn’t make sense, whether to Bernie or to the reader.

There’s no there, there. To the point where it was obvious, at least to this reader, that the woman confessed in order to protect someone else. The questions then become who is she protecting and why is she protecting that person? The protection was, as I said, obvious, but the who and the why weren’t nearly as obvious as they seemed. I bit down on that red herring pretty hard and didn’t manage to extract myself until close to the point where Bernie extracted herself.

And even then I was half right after all, making the mystery of this entry in the series not quite mysterious enough.

The parts of the story that deal with the life-decisions that the characters have to face were much more interesting – at least to this long-time reader of the series. Leaphorn’s decision isn’t all that earth-shattering, but Chee and Bernie are on the horns of some pretty big dilemmas, both together and separately.

It’s always Bernie’s decisions that interest me the most, because she’s the point of departure from the original series. And because she faces conflicts that neither of the men will ever have to. Bernie’s caught between her career, her marriage, and her love of and duty towards her aging mother. All of her decisions are hard, and they all impact each other, because they face in different directions.

So I love this series. Sometimes for the mystery, sometimes just to keep up with these beloved characters and their lives. Often a bit of both. I’m looking forward to my next visit to Four Corners, hopefully this time next year. And if you’re looking for a fresh take on a well-loved series, you can get hooked back into these characters and this place in Spider Woman’s Daughter, the marvelous mystery where the author picked up the threads that her father dropped and made them her own.

Review: Death with a Double Edge by Anne Perry

Review: Death with a Double Edge by Anne PerryDeath with a Double Edge (Daniel Pitt #4) by Anne Perry
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery
Series: Daniel Pitt #4
Pages: 304
Published by Ballantine Books on April 13, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Daniel Pitt's investigation into his colleague's murder leads him through London's teeming underbelly to the suspicious dealings of one of England's most influential shipbuilding magnates in a thrilling novel from New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry.
When junior barrister Daniel Pitt is summoned to the scene of a murder in the London district known as Mile End, he knows only that the victim is a senior barrister from the same firm. To Daniel's relief, it is not his close friend Toby Kitteridge, but the question remains: What was this respected colleague doing in such a rough part of the city? The firm's head, Marcus fford Croft, may know more than he admits, but fford Croft's memory is not what it used to be, and his daughter, Miriam--Daniel's friend and sometime sidekick--isn't in the country to offer her usual help. And so Daniel and Kitteridge must investigate on their own, lest the police uncover something that may cast a suspicious light on the firm.
Their inquiries in Mile End lead them to a local brothel and to an opium den, but also--unexpectedly--to a wealthy shipbuilder crucial to Britain's effort to build up its fleet, which may soon face the fearsome naval might of Germany. Daniel finds his path blocked by officials at every turn, his investigation so unwelcome that even his father, Special Branch head Thomas Pitt, receives a chilling warning from a powerful source. Suddenly, not just Daniel but his whole family--including his beloved mother, Charlotte--is in danger. Will Daniel's devotion to justice be the undoing of his entire life, and endanger Britain's defense at sea? As ever, the fates of family and history are inextricably intertwined in this spellbinder from Anne Perry.

My Review:

For all of its early-20th century setting, Death with a Double Edge is a story about power and privilege that could take place here and now as easily and as effectively as there and then.

Not just because many of the trappings of that time could be easily extrapolated to the present. And certainly not just because human nature doesn’t seem to have changed much in millennia, let alone in a mere century.

But because all of the causes of the series of crimes that keep pushing this story and this case forward, and especially because all of the reasons for officialdom to turn a blind eye, happened then, happen now, and quite probably will go right on happening ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

A young woman is beaten to death. A young man is accused of killing her. A lawyer defends him and the system seems to be working as it should. But when the accused is exonerated and both he and his lawyer are also killed it shines a bright light onto a dark deed that no one seems to have wanted to investigate too closely.

The young woman was a nobody with a “bad” reputation who was killed at a “fast” party. The young man’s father was rich and influential, meaning that he had the money to pay for an excellent lawyer – which he did. Although this was a case where justice was actually not bought. The young man was innocent – merely convenient.

It’s only when the lawyer turns up dead of a slit throat that Daniel Pitt enters the case. Because the lawyer was a senior member of his own chambers (read that as law firm) and the man’s death opens up every case he ever worked so that the chambers can make sure that all of his unfinished cases are taken care of. And so that it can make sure that its own hands are clean.

And that’s where things get interesting – and very nearly go pear-shaped. Daniel Pitt, still rather young and idealistic in spite of his profession, is stuck investigating men he respects and even in some cases, reveres. He’s all too aware that murder investigations uncover dirt that may have nothing to do with the crime being investigated but are still dirty and have the potential to ruin reputations and lives – possibly even his own.

He doesn’t want to discover that those he respects have played fast and loose with the law they’ve all sworn to defend. So much of this case is about Daniel’s loss of innocence.

At the same time, this operates on a second level. Because Daniel, as he often does, bounces ideas off of his father, Sir Thomas Pitt, now the Head of Special Branch. These days, the elder Pitt investigates terrorism and treason, but once upon a time he was a beat cop. His experience makes him an excellent, if sometimes involved, sounding board for his son.

But Daniel’s investigation wanders too near that accused young man’s wealthy father, and the elder Pitt is officially warned off. Repeatedly. Even as the case draws tighter around this wealthy man who has money, power, and influence – and whose business is building ships that the British Navy is going to need for the war that is coming.

Officialdom wants this case to die quietly, because Britain needs those ships. But neither Pitt can stop asking questions, because the law they both serve says that one murder is too many to overlook.

No matter what the powers-that-be are willing to tolerate for “the greater good”.

Escape Rating A-: The story of Thomas Pitt and his wife Charlotte – who met over the body of her murdered sister – are the featured characters in the author’s long running series that begins with The Cater Street Hangman. During the course of that series this mismatched pair, gamekeeper’s son Thomas and aristocratic daughter Charlotte, met, married and solved cases together as Charlotte adjusted to living as a cop’s wife and Thomas rose in rank, got himself fired because he has always been incapable of looking the other way, and then rose in rank again to become the Head of Special Branch.

In the details of their life together we meet all of their children, so it was lovely when their son Daniel became the focus of this new series in Twenty-One Days.

While I think Daniel’s series stands separately from his parents’, just as Daniel has begun a new life on his own as a young lawyer, there are plenty of hints from his parents’ storied past threaded through Daniel’s own series, just as our lives are influenced by our own parents, whether for good or for ill. Meaning that if you haven’t read the earlier series (I haven’t read them all but I read many once upon a time), you won’t feel left behind because enough of the details are present in their son’s series. But I remember the whole series VERY fondly.

But this feels like the first time that Thomas has had an actual full-on case arise from Daniel’s legal and investigative practice, and this series and its characters feels like it is established enough that Thomas’ case complements his son’s without overshadowing it – although some of the events that occur nearly bring both of them to their knees.

Everything in the story turns on power and privilege. Daniel fears that his late colleague cut corners in the law, and that he’ll be the one to uncover it. He is also mortally afraid that a man he reveres has allowed those corners to be cut, whether out of greed or because he is no longer capable of managing the chambers that he founded.

Daniel knows that justice can be bought and paid for by the rich and powerful, but he fears that the firm he hoped to spend his career in has been complicit. Even worse, that the father of his dearest friend has aided and abetted the practice.

Thomas, on the other hand, fears that the government that he serves is willing to condone and cover up multiple murders – and he is unwilling – in fact constitutionally unable – to allow it. He knows that the time to stop evil is when it is smaller and weaker – not after it’s been allowed to commit larger and worser acts and has become too powerful to overcome.

What keeps this story going is the way that, as the investigation continues, and the noose seems to close around the one neck that the government wants to pretend is not a suspect, the danger to everyone around both Daniel and Thomas Pitt grows ever greater. As the story becomes a race against time, the reader can’t turn the pages fast enough.

Who done it is easy to guess. Whether they will pay the price for doing it is the question that drives the story – and drives it very hard indeed.

Review: Beyond the Empire by K.B. Wagers

Review: Beyond the Empire by K.B. WagersBeyond the Empire (The Indranan War, #3) by K.B. Wagers
Format: eARC
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: science fiction, space opera
Series: Indranan War #3
Pages: 416
Published by Orbit on November 14, 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The adrenaline-fueled, explosive conclusion to the Indranan War trilogy by K. B. Wagers.
Gunrunner-turned-Empress Hail Bristol was dragged back to her home planet to take her rightful place in the palace. Her sisters and parents have been murdered, and the Indranan Empire is reeling from both treasonous plots and foreign invasion.Now, on the run from enemies on all fronts, Hail prepares to fight a full-scale war for her throne and her people, even as she struggles with the immense weight of the legacy thrust upon her. With the aid of a motley crew of allies old and new, she must return home to face off with the same powerful enemies who killed her family and aim to destroy everything and everyone she loves. Untangling a legacy of lies and restoring peace to Indrana will require an empress's wrath and a gunrunner's justice.

My Review:

This rose to the top of the TBR pile because my husband is playing the Mass Effect Legendary Edition and has been for the past three weeks. We’ve both played the Trilogy before, so we both know how the story ends. I picked up Beyond the Empire because I was looking for a female-led big space opera story (he’s playing as FemShep) that hopefully doesn’t have as heartbreaking an ending as Mass Effect 3 did. Does. That entire third game is a goddamn farewell tour and it just hurts. I may not replay it after all because as the old song says, “you won’t read that book again because the ending’s just too hard to take.”

The action of Beyond the Empire follows directly upon the events of After the Crown, which, in its turn, started just about the minute after Behind the Throne ended. In other words, this is not the place to begin Hail’s story. If you love big space operas with snarky heroines and dirty, rotten underhanded politics as much as I do, start with Behind the Throne and be prepared to immerse yourself in a fantastic binge read.

As this story begins, Hail and her company of friends, advisors and found family are on the run. In trilogy terms, this beginning is similar to the opening of The Return of the King, where the situation looks desperate and Aragorn and the Rangers have to take the Paths of the Dead while Sam has started out alone for Mordor. In other words, the situation is in a very dark place but there are ways they can retake the empire IF they are willing to take a hell of a lot of risks.

Empress Hailimi Mercedes Jaya Bristol, the empress formerly known as the gunrunner Cressen Stone, is always up for entirely too many risks. She’s just not used to so much and so many people riding on her success – or dying for her failure.

But a gunrunner-turned-reluctant-empress is the only person who could possibly rescue Hail’s friends, her found family, her loved ones and especially her empire, before it’s too late for them all.

Escape Rating A+: This was, again, the right book at the right time. Both for the Mass Effect Trilogy with a less destructive ending (any ending is less destructive and heartbreaking than the end of that saga) and for its “woman in charge who takes no prisoners” heroine. Because I’ve read too many books recently where women are at the mercy of men, and I just wasn’t there for THAT again at the moment. (Although there’s an irony in that desire that turns out to be part of the denouement of this trilogy that I’m not going to go into here.)

As Hail and company close in physically on the home planet and the capitol, and close the noose around their enemies, they also finally draw close to the architect of everything that has happened, not just in this trilogy, but in pretty much everything that has gone wrong or strange or tragic in Hail’s life since her father was killed and she ran away to become Cressen Stone and chase down his killer.

I’m referring to the mysterious “Wilson” who seems to be more ghost than man. Who has disappeared and reappeared to wreck destruction in Hail’s life over and over for the past 20 years, and who seems to be the architect – or perhaps the puppet master – behind all Hail’s recent tragedies.

The mystery of who and how and why Wilson has been after Hail’s family and her empire has lain behind every event in this series. As Hail closes in on Pashati and retaking the seat of her empire, she and her companions also close in on Wilson’s true identity and the reasons behind his decades-long campaign to destroy the Indranan Empire and its ruling family.

Wilson is clearly out for revenge for something – even if Hail has no idea what.

But, as that other old saying goes (a lot of old sayings seem to be turning up in this one), if revenge is a dish best served cold, then this story, in fact this whole trilogy, turns out to be a case study in what happens when someone lets their cold revenge warm up. Wilson has let his revenge heat to a boiling point, along with his temper, his ego and his aggression, and that revenge curdles as much and as badly as you think it will. But the story that results from that curdle is absolutely EPIC.

Having finished Beyond the Empire in a few all-too-brief hours, and after picking it up because I wasn’t ready to deal with another big space opera with a heartbreaking ending, I’m “pleased as Punch”, as that saying goes, to say that while Hail’s butt seems to be firmly on the throne of the Indranan Empire at the end of Beyond the Empire, her adventures are FAR from over. Her future adventures form the second trilogy in this series, The Farian War, beginning with There Before the Chaos – a fitting title if ever there was one, as Hail is usually around before, during AND after the chaos. I have it in both ebook and audio, and I’m looking forward to diving into it the next time I need a reading pick-me-up.

Review: A Rogue’s Company by Allison Montclair

Review: A Rogue’s Company by Allison MontclairA Rogue's Company (Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery, #3) by Allison Montclair
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery
Series: Sparks & Bainbridge #3
Pages: 352
Published by Minotaur Books on June 8, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In Allison Monclair's A Rogue's Company, business becomes personal for the Right Sort Marriage Bureau when a new client, a brutal murder, two kidnappings, and the recently returned from Africa Lord Bainbridge threatens everything that one of the principals holds dear.
In London, 1946, the Right Sort Marriage Bureau is getting on its feet and expanding. Miss Iris Sparks and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge are making a go of it. That is until Lord Bainbridge—the widowed Gwen's father-in-law and legal guardian—returns from a business trip to Africa and threatens to undo everything important to her, even sending her six-year-old son away to a boarding school.
But there's more going on than that. A new client shows up at the agency, one whom Sparks and Bainbridge begin to suspect really has a secret agenda, somehow involving the Bainbridge family. A murder and a subsequent kidnapping sends Sparks to seek help from a dangerous quarter—and now their very survival is at stake.

My Review:

I’ve just realized that the title is a pun – or a spoiler, take your pick – on multiple levels. Iris Sparks, co-owner of the Right Sort Marriage Bureau, is keeping company with Archie Spelling, a known gangster. Quite willingly and fairly often.

Gwen Bainbridge, her friend and co-owner of the agency, very much on the other hand, has been forced to keep company with a gang of rogues because they’ve kidnapped her while she was in the unfortunate company – and unfortunately in the company – of her douchecanoe of a father-in-law, Lord Harold Bainbridge.

That Harold is a complete and utter rotter is not a spoiler at all. I think I rage-read the first half of this book because Harold’s douchecanoe nature and general all-around misogynistic asshattery is on display from practically the first page of the book.

I hated not just every scene the man was in but every time Gwen was forced to deal with the power the man had over Gwen’s – and every other person in the household’s – life. A power that he indulged to a disgusting degree at every possible turn as well as at plenty of turns that one wouldn’t have thought were possible, if only because he was willing to insult and demean everyone except his cronies in front of any audience at all. Going completely against that whole idea that one didn’t air one’s dirty linen in public.

Harold has power over Gwen because he had Gwen declared mentally incompetent when she was unable to maintain the proper British stiff-upper-lip in the face of her husband’s (Harold’s son’s) death during the late war. Along with that declaration, Harold captured custody of Gwen, her son Ronnie (his grandson) and all of the shares in Bainbridge Ltd., that his son left to his wife in his will.

And thereby hangs a good chunk of the tale. For Gwen, it’s all about little Ronnie, and not letting Harold send her 6-year-old boy off to the boarding school that his father hated and that turned his grandfather into the disgusting, overbearing ass that he became.

As Gwen grabs hold of her courage and her will and begins to finally fight back, she – with the aiding, abetting and more-than-able assistance of her partner Iris – puts her very superior brain to work to figure out what’s behind her consignment to her father-in-law’s clutches, along with exactly what’s behind his consignment to the clutches of his (their) kidnappers.

It’ll be the making of Gwen – if she survives. Even if calling in favors from her friendly neighborhood gangster puts Iris’ future happiness at risk.

Escape Rating B+: I picked this up because I loved the first two books in this series, The Right Sort of Man and A Royal Affair. In the end, I loved this one too, but not as much as the first two because, well, see my comments about rage-reading the first half located above.

I’m starting to think I’m just allergic to stories that feature women caught in impossible situations because men are entitled assholes whether the jerks in question are actually titled or not. Gwen Bainbridge’s situation has always been a bit precarious vis a vis her titled, overbearing, petty dictator of a father-in-law, because he’s always held the whip hand in their relationship and seems to enjoy using it. Her husband – his son – died in the war and Gwen’s mourning of him did not exactly exhibit the stiff upper lip that Brits are known for. She was labeled as a “hysteric” and placed under the guardianship of her late husband’s family. Under the thumb of her father-in-law who threatens and demeans every single person with whom he comes in contact at every possible turn – including his grandson, Gwen’s 6-year-old son Ronnie. The dinner party scene with the toasts was particularly horrific in this regard – but it was just the latest in a continuing line of horrors in that household.

It’s not a surprise that both Sparks and Bainbridge, along with nearly every other person who comes into contact with the man, wants to commit some kind of mayhem upon his odious person. It’s only a surprise that it didn’t happen sooner – and more often.

I’m going to try to stop ranting now. It’s more difficult than I thought it would be. Gwen’s asshat-in-law has the same name as my ex-husband, so there might be a teensy bit of transference going on here.

Moving right along…

This story isn’t about Gwen’s family troubles, although it certainly is about families, and troubles, and the trouble that we will put ourselves through for our families – or at least for the members of our family that we love.

Because the other half of this story starts out with a bit of a dilemma for Gwen and Iris. They have a new client – well of course they do, that’s the whole raison d’etre of the Right Sort Marriage Bureau after all. But their new client causes them to question a whole host of assumptions that they both had when they began their enterprise.

Their new client, Simon Daile, is African. Not a Brit who has gone to Africa to make a fortune – like the odious Lord Bainbridge – but a man from Africa who came to England to study agriculture and got stuck there during the war. He’s the first black client the agency has had, and they are surprised. Then they are surprised that they are surprised.

And finally, they figure out that they’ve been missing out on clients because they assumed that all their clients would be just like themselves. White. And that they need to throw their assumptions out the window, no matter how comfortable clinging to them might have been.

Their bit of soul searching feels like it’s handled reasonably well, at least right up until the point where Gwen’s bit of sixth sense about when people are lying to her kicks in. Because Mr. Daile is lying about something. Or she thinks he is. And she’s afraid that her intuition has gone off or is leading her astray because she’s uncomfortable. Which is logical, merely incorrect in this case. Also, that she’s just second-guessing herself because Lord Bainbridge does nothing but try his worst to make her feel small, incapable and lacking in pretty much everything at every turn.

(Speaking of comfort, my soapbox is apparently a bit too comfortable. Moving right along AGAIN…)

It turns out that she’s both right and wrong, and that the wrongness ties into the mystery genre’s convention about coincidences. There are two threads to this story, Mr. Daile and the kidnapping of Lord Bainbridge and Gwen. Those threads connect – just not in any of the ways that Gwen – or the reader – might have initially suspected..

And Gwen rescues herself. Not just from the kidnapping, but from Lord Bainbridge. And it’s glorious! Now that she’s gotten THAT albatross off from around her neck. I have really high hopes for future books in this series! Meanwhile, I’m going to take a look at The Haunting of the Desks, a short story in the series that looks like oodles of fun!