Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop



Welcome to the Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Jinky is Reading.

Even though there is no Leap Day this year (after all, it’s not a Leap Year), every day is a great day to leap into a new book!

Sometimes you get a “book hangover” and it can be hard to jump out of a terrific book you’ve just finished. But there’s always another book just waiting.

One lucky winner will have a little help leaping into their next book. I’m giving away a $10 Gift Card to the winner’s choice of either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. All you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter below.

If you’re looking for chances to leap into more books, check out the other blogs participating in the Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop.

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Review: Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn + Giveaway

third daughter by susan kaye quinnFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: steampunk, fantasy
Series: Dharian Affairs #1
Length: 348 pages
Publisher: self-published
Date Released: December 13, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

The Third Daughter of the Queen wants her birthday to arrive so she’ll be free to marry for love, but rumors of a new flying weapon may force her to accept a barbarian prince’s proposal for a peace-brokering marriage. Desperate to marry the charming courtesan she loves, Aniri agrees to the prince’s proposal as a subterfuge in order to spy on him, find the weapon, and hopefully avoid both war and an arranged marriage to a man she does not love.

Third Daughter is the first book in the The Dharian Affairs Trilogy (Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter). This steampunk-goes-to-Bollywood (Bollypunk!) romance that takes place in an east-Indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue. And, of course, kissing.

My Review:

Third Daughter is a first-rate fantasy. Especially if you like your fantasy mixed with a little steampunk and a lot of political machinations. It’s also the coming-of-age story about a fascinating heroine who goes from spoiled princess to smart operator through a trial by literal fire.

This fantasy is set in a land based on Indian-influenced customs and legends. Not Native American, but the Indian subcontinent. According to the author, Third Daughter is steampunk and fantasy with a lot of Bollywood.

However you describe the setting, it is refreshing to read a fantasy that uses something other than Celtic mythology and Medieval Europe as its starting point.

The story is the tale of the Third Daughter of the Queen of Dharia. Aniri has grown up in the mistaken belief that her mother does not have a political purpose planned for her, and that she will be able to marry for love the moment she turns 18.

Of course, it is not to be. And a good thing, too.

Aniri has fixed her heart on a courtesan attached to the household of the Samirian Ambassador. She believes that the Samirians are allies, and that Devesh really loves her and wants to help her. Aniri is politically naive, and doesn’t understand that courtesans are also spies.

But the Prince of Jungali arrives just before her 18th birthday, and promises her kingdom a peace treaty in return for marriage to the only unmarried daughter of Dharia. Meaning Aniri. Her mother wants peace with Jungali because the mountain country is rumored to be developing a skyship, a weapon that will change the balance of power between Dharia (currently on top) and Jungali.

Aniri reluctantly does her duty and accepts the engagement, but only after her mother lets her in on the real plot. Aniri is supposed to spy on her new country, and discover whether the skyship is real, or merely rumor. Once her mission is done, she will be free to return to her lover.

But the world is not as Aniri imagines it. Not just because it feels wrong to spy on the man she is supposed to marry, but because the Prince is much more than the barbarian she has been taught that all Jungali are.

Prince Ashoka wants peace. He wants to unite his people, and get rid of the warmongers who have been fomenting trouble between Jungali and Dharia with the help of the Samirians. But the young and handsome Ash also wants Aniri as his Queen. Not just for peace, but for real.

He’ll just have to navigate the plots and counterplots in his own court, and find the way to Aniri’s heart. But first, the would-be princess spy and the barbarian prince will have to cut their way through the secrets and lies that would keep them apart. And survive the assassins.

Escape Rating A-: Third Daughter is terrific fun! The setting feels fresh and new, in a way that makes you dive right into the story as you learn how the world is set up. It feels a bit like a fantasy version of India under the Raj, except that there are no British overlords. Each country is ruled by a Queen rather than the traditional male hierarchy.

Even Prince Ashoka of Jungali can’t unite his country until he finds a Queen who will rule. In Dharia, it is the First Daughter who will become Queen after her mother.

Aniri’s adventures are her coming-of-age story. She starts out rather spoiled, believing that the rules don’t apply to her. She also hasn’t bothered to learn about the conditions of the world around her, or the issues that make government such a burden for her mother.

Being sent to Jungali is the making of her. Aniri has a great adventure, but what makes her interesting to follow is that she learns from her mistakes, and does she ever make a lot of them! She wants to do the right thing, but starts out believing it is going to be much easier than it is.

She also discovers that a lot of people have been lying to her. Learning truths for herself is part of growing up. Aniri changes from willful child to self-sacrificing adult as she navigates her new and unknown country.

Ash is a great foil for Aniri, and also a swoon-worthy romantic hero. He will do anything for his country in order to bring peace. He thinks he’s sacrificing himself when he goes to Dhaira to bring home a bride, but he falls for Aniri and thinks its going to be unrequited. But he continues because he knows it’s best for his country.

It takes Aniri a long time to see the treasure that is in front of her, and to accept the life before her. Working with Ash, traveling with him and seeing his country through his eyes, opens hers.

And the swashbuckling, death-defying adventure climax helps to make Third Daughter one fantastic read.



Susan is generously giving away a $25 Amazon or Paypal Gift Card to one lucky commenter on the tour. For more chances to win, follow the rest of Susan’s tour! The schedule is here at I Am A Reader. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below:
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***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.

Q&A with Carla Neggers + Giveaway

cider brook by carla neggersMy guest today is Carla Neggers, the author of today’s featured review book, Cider Brook, and also the author of one of my new favorite romantic suspense series, the Sharpe & Donovan series.

Q:      You have more than two dozen books on The New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. What does it feel like to have such a loyal fan base that keeps coming back for more?

A: It’s wonderful! My first readers were my three sisters. They found one of my early works-in-progress and read it aloud and then urged me to finish the story, which I did. It was great to have them connect with a story I’d made up. Since then, I’ve met and corresponded with many, many readers, and I’m truly grateful for each and every one. It’s an honor and a pleasure.

Q:      You have taught writing workshops across the country. Do you have anything currently planned for the future?

A: I’m going to be at Thrillerfest in New York City in July. It’s a gathering of writers and readers put on by International Thriller Writers. It’s too early to know my exact schedule, but I look forward to hanging out in New York and talking books and writing!

Q:      What is your strangest writing quirk?

A: I don’t know if it’s strange or a quirk but I don’t eat when I’m writing. You won’t find breadcrumbs or BBQ sauce on my keyboard or notepads. I don’t know if it goes back to my days writing up in a tree as a kid, but it’s one of my few rules. I sometimes will write at a coffee shop or restaurant, but I’ll stick to a latte or pot of tea when I’m actually writing.

Q:      We know you love to travel, but where is a place you haven’t been that has high priority on your list?

A: Italy! I want to see Tuscany, Rome, Venice. My husband does, too. We love to travel. We visit

Ireland often, We head back there this spring. We’ll also take a week to walk in the Cotswolds in England. Of course, there’s the Netherlands, too. I have lots and lots of family there, including in one of the cutest Dutch villages ever. And Montana, Wyoming, the Pacific Northwest…I could go on and on!

Q:      What are you reading right now?

A: I’m reading Home to Seaview Key by my good friend Sherryl Woods. I loved Seaview Inn and couldn’t wait to revisit the endearing people and beautiful scenery of Seaview Key.

Carla NeggersAbout Carla NeggersCarla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 60 novels, with translations in 24 languages. Born and raised on the western edge of the beautiful Quabbin Reservoir in rural Massachusetts, Carla grew up with tales of her father’s life as a Dutch sailor and her mother’s childhood in northwest Florida.At a young age, Carla began penning her own stories on a branch high up in her favorite sugar maple. Now she enjoys spending time at the family homestead (now a tree farm) with her six brothers and sisters and their families. When she’s not writing, Carla loves to travel, hike, kayak, garden, and, of course, dive into a good book. She lives with her family in Vermont, near Quechee Gorge.

To learn more about Carla, visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Carla is giving away a copy of Cider Brook to one lucky (U.S.) commenter. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below:
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Review: Cider Brook by Carla Neggers

cider brook by carla neggersFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook, large print
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Swift River Valley #3
Length: 379 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: January 28, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Unlikely partners bound by circumstance…or by fate?

Being rescued by a good-looking, bad-boy firefighter isn’t how Samantha Bennett expected to start her stay in Knights Bridge, Massachusetts. Now she has everyone’s attention—especially that of Justin Sloan, her rescuer, who wants to know why she was camped out in an abandoned old New England cider mill.

Samantha is a treasure hunter who has returned to Knights Bridge to solve a 300-year-old mystery and salvage her good name. Justin remembers her well. He’s the one who alerted her late mentor to her iffy past and got her fired. But just because he doesn’t trust her doesn’t mean he can resist her. Samantha is daring, determined, seized by wanderlust—everything that strong, stoic Justin never knew he wanted. Until now…

My Review:

After having finished this story and had a chance to think about, it feels like the theme of Cider Brook is finding peace with the ghosts of the past. And that applies whether they are they are the ghosts of the long-dead past, or your own past.

A lot of the characters in the story are seeking redemption for something that they feel they did wrong, or think might have been the wrong thing. Part of the story is that the people they think they wronged have died. So they are searching for peace within themselves.

I feel like I should start the way that A Christmas Carol starts; Duncan McCaffrey was dead, to begin with. Yet the story centers around him and his death, even though he isn’t still around.

Duncan was a larger-than-life treasure hunter and explorer. And so was Harry Bennett, Samantha Bennett’s grandfather, also lately deceased. While cataloging and processing her grandfather Harry’s huge and disorganized collections, Sam comes across a painting of a mill over Cider Brook and a handwritten romance novel between a pirate and an English Lady.

Sam recognizes the scene in the painting and is fascinated with the book. She has been hunting pirates all of her professional life, and the story points her towards Knight’s Bridge. Sam was there once before, when she briefly worked for Duncan McCaffrey.

That’s where Sam feels the need for redemption. She concealed her investigation of Knight’s Bridge and her identity as a member of the slightly infamous Bennett family from Duncan. He fired her because he couldn’t trust her after that.

Now she’s back in Knight’s Bridge chasing her pirate legend, and everyone is pretty wary of her and her motives. She wasn’t exactly above board the last time, after all.

A freak thunderstorm forces her to break into that very same Cider Bridge mill for shelter, and when the place catches fire, she gets rescued by Justin Sloan, the same man who outed her presence to Duncan.

The Sloans do their level best to keep her around while Justin investigates what she is there for. He wants to keep her from treasure hunting, and she’s out chasing pirate legends. They strike sparks from the beginning.

As Sam investigates the local legends, she discovers that her pirate may really have been part of the history of Cider Brook and Knight’s Bridge. Her confirmation of that history lies in a little secret that Justin has been keeping from her all along.

Escape Rating B: In the end, it’s the historical story that turns out to be more interesting than the slow-burning love story between Sam and Justin in the present.
I enjoyed the way that the entire Sloan clan adopts Sam and involves her in the wedding and the other events going on while she is there. Even though I haven’t read the first two books in the Swift River Valley series, Sam’s introduction to everyone served as my introduction as well. (Although I am curious enough about the previous stories that I’m planning to read them!)

Sam and Justin arrive slowly at a relationship; they need to trust each other, and at first they really, really don’t.

But the historical investigation is what held my interest. Sam is trying to find a 17th century pirate, and her trail has led her to Knight’s Bridge. The more she digs, the more she discovers, and the closer she comes to a piece of her own past. The way that this thread circled around to the present was very cool.

Sam’s past with Duncan, and why she felt so bad about what happened, is never quite clear. But the subplot it introduces with Duncan’s lawyer, Loretta, and how she felt about encouraging Duncan to fire Sam, as well as Loretta’s inability to move on after Duncan’s death, was a poignant side-plot.

***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.

Guest Post by Mark T Barnes on Starting in the Middle + Giveaway

When I read The Garden of Stones last spring, it absolutely blew me away. It arrived as a review book from Library Journal, and all I can say is that those can be hit or miss. The Garden of Stones was such a big hit that I gave it a starred review in LJ and included it in my Best of 2013 list.  The Obsidian Heart (reviewed last week) is every bit as excellent, and now I’m stalking NetGalley for The Pillars of Sand.

If you love epic fantasy on a grand scale, immerse yourself in this series. You’ll be utterly lost in this world, and never want to come out.

The Past Informing the Present
by Mark T. Barnes

Garden of Stones by Mark T BarnesWhen I was talking to Marlene about the topic of the blog article, she raised a point about how in The Garden of Stones there was the sensation of being dropped into the middle of a story, rather than getting a gentle introduction.

There’s a line in The Obsidian Heart from Mari’s point of view that says, the ripples of today were stones in the waters of yesterday. We form our truths from the facts of what’s gone before. You can’t separate what was from what is. You can only change what will be. It’s Mari admitting that for good or ill, she is who she because of everything she has seen and done in her life up to that point.

My view of characters is that they should have realistic motivations that are rooted to events a reader can understand. We’re all of us born, our values shaped by history, society, cultural mores, our family, and our friends. Who we are in our own story changes as we progress through life and experience what it has to offer. But none of us started out at the beginning of history, we’re only page one of our own story: there are millennia of civilisation across the globe that precede us, with history that shaped the world in which we live. We in turn will add to that history, leaving part of ourselves for others to find.

The Obsidian Heart by Mark T. BarnesFor that reason I designed the world of Īa before I developed the characters that populated it. Like a lot of fantasy novels it started with a map, which I explored and gave names to things. Names, like all language, have weight and meaning. What kind of people lived in a place called Shrīan? Or Tanis? Pashrea, Ygran, or the Golden Kingdom of Manté? How do these different people see each other, and would their histories provide frictions that added depth to the relationships in the story? From the knowledge of the various races, their cultures, and history, the overarching story concept took place. It was only then that I knew what characters I thought would be interesting, and best suited to telling the stories in The Garden of Stones, The Obsidian Heart, and The Pillars of Sand.

pillars of sand by mark barnesThe decision to start an epic story this way wasn’t without risk, and it’s a different approach to a lot of fantasy stories where the reader starts with a younger and less experienced character. But the story I wanted to tell wouldn’t have worked with a naïve character at the helm: if I was being honest with my story they would’ve been mown down before the end of the third chapter. As it was, knowing my world and my story informed my choice of using experienced characters, each with their own fully formed histories. Even so each of the characters grows and changes throughout the series like any person would, influenced by their own actions as well as the events of the world around them.

Starting characters in the middle of a larger backstory, but at the beginning of their own story arc, is also something I’m doing in the two novels I’m working on at the moment. The device gives the characters a context within which to work, as well as a series of events that the antagonists also react to in a different way.

To tell the Echoes of Empire story the way I did, I:

  • Designed the world so that I knew the geography, history, the cultures that existed, and those cultures related to each other;
  • Planned the story based upon the way the world worked, and the meaningful historical events that underpinned the story arcs; then
  • Designed the characters I felt were best suited to tell that tale and to represent the world, both as point of view characters and supporting cast. It also informed the decision to have the antagonist as one of the point of view characters, as he was the cause of some events, as well as suffering in the effects of them.

There’s a lot of work to write a story this way but that work won’t go to waste. The benefit of the process is that I now have a fully realised world with various nations, species of people, culture and thousands of years of history to bring a level of consistency and gravity to Īa. I also have characters who’ve left their mark on the world, which will be referenced in short stories and later books. It ensures that the world is a living one, and gives fans a literary version of an ‘Easter egg’ when they read different stories set in the same world.

There’s no right or wrong way to start a story, only the right or wrong way for the story itself. Every story will be different, depending on the nature of the world, and the people who live in it. We authors ask for readers to take a lot on faith, and trust that we’ve done what we’ve done for a reason. Then all we can do is hope that the decisions we’ve made resonate with our readers and that enjoy what we’ve done.

mark t barnesMark Barnes lives in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of the epic fantasy Echoes of Empire series, published by 47North. The series includes The Garden of Stones (released May 2013), and The Obsidian Heart (released October 2013). The Pillars of Sand is the third of the series, due for release in May 2014. You can find out more at www.marktbarnes.com, his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/marktbarnes.author, or follow Mark on Twitter @MarkTBarnes.


Mark is generously giving away a signed copy of The Obsidian Heart. And since Mark is in Australia, he is opening the giveaway Internationally. He’ll ship your book to wherever you are!

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Guest Post by Susannah Sandlin on Pirates and Templars + Giveaway

lovely dark and deep by susannah sandlin

Pirates and Templars are not necessarily a natural combination–but Susannah Sandlin does her usual marvelous job making it work in today’s featured review book, Lovely, Dark and Deep

This isn’t the first time that Susannah has “played Pirate”. Her absolutely fantastic Sentinels of New Orleans series (written as Suzanne Johnson) brings Jean LaFitte back to life in a New Orleans where the living, the dead, and the magical collide. (If you love urban fantasy, start with Royal Street. It is awesome and the series just keeps getting better!)

A French Pirate, a Sunken Treasure and the Knights Templar
by Susannah Sandlin

It’s funny where ideas for books or series originate—for me, it’s usually a progression of thoughts that gradually coalesce rather than a single bolt from the heavens. So when I begin thinking about how the idea behind Lovely, Dark, and Deep came to be, I was able to trace it back to early 18th-century pirate Jean Lafitte, who plied the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and ruled an empire of a thousand piratical types south of New Orleans in the early 1800s.

Royal Street by Suzanne JohnsonThe oh-so-delicious Captain Lafitte is a major character in my urban fantasy series written as Suzanne Johnson, so when I heard last summer about the discovery of the remains of three early shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico, I started thinking about what might happen to my undead Jean Lafitte should one of his lost pirate ships be discovered today. (The short answer: he’d want it back, tout de suite.)

Next came research into shipwrecks found off the Americas and what might have been aboard them, which started off as a hunt for Lafitte’s lost ships.

That, in turn, introduced me to the “Death Coast” of the North Atlantic, and I set my pirate aside (sorry, Jean) and got immersed in the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where hundreds of ships since the fifteenth century have met their death and only a fraction have been discovered and salvaged. Pirate ships, Norse explorers, French settlers, British warships, World War II supply ships—all met their deaths on the rocky coastline, carrying everything from gold to household goods to—maybe, just maybe—some of the missing lost treasure of the Knights Templar.

Nothing stirs a writer’s imagination like Knights Templar and lost treasure, right?

Next, my journey took me to study the Templars, much of whose treasure has, indeed, never been found, and to study what was involved in diving off the coast of Capt Breton, specifically around Scatarie Island.

Finally, I began looking at other lost historical treasures, and the idea for The Collectors series, and the first book, Lovely, Dark, and Deep, was born.

The Collectors is a group of international billionaires, the C7—ruthless, amoral, powerful—who have a secret game: they compete to see who can be first to collect some of the world’s most valuable treasures. In Lovely, Dark, and Deep, a C7 member with ties to the White House stumbles upon a legend that makes him believe the long-lost Ruby Cross of the Knights Templar went down in a seventeenth-century shipwreck off the coast of Cape Breton. He puts the screws to the ancestor of the man who lost it and a washed up, on-the-skids deep-water diver, and gives them thirty days to find and procure it for him—or the people they love will die. For the C7 member it’s a game. For Gillian, a biologist, and Shane, the diver, it’s a break-neck race to save the people they love and find a way to turn the tables on their tormenters. And, yeah, there’s some love amid the danger—of course!

As for Captain Jean Lafitte and his own lost pirate ship? That story’s coming within the year, so stay tuned!

Susannah SandlinAbout Susannah:

Susannah Sandlin writes paranormal romance and romantic thrillers from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick.

She’s the author of the award-winning Penton Legacy paranormal romance series, a spinoff novel, Storm Force, a standalone novelette, Chenoire, and a new romantic thriller series, The Collectors, beginning this month with Lovely, Dark, and Deep. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, she also is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. Her Penton novel, Omega, is currently nominated for a 2013 Reviewer’s Choice Award in Paranormal Romance from RT Book Reviews magazine.

Website and blog www.suzannejohnsonauthor.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SusannahSandlin
FB: http://www.facebook.com/SusannahSandlin


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Susannah is very generously giving away the following prizes to lucky commenters on this tour:

1 $50 Amazon gift card
2 $10 Amazon gift cards
2 Author swag packs (books, swag)

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Review: Lovely Dark and Deep by Susannah Sandlin

lovely dark and deep by susannah sandlinFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: The Collectors #1
Length: 200 pages
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Date Released: December 30, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon

When biologist Gillian Campbell makes an offhand comment about a family curse during a TV interview, she has no idea what her words will set in motion. Within days, Gillian finds herself at the mercy of a member of the C7, a secretive international group of power brokers with a dangerous game: competing to find the world’s most elusive treasures, no matter the cost, in money or in lives. To save her family, Gillian teams up with Shane Burke, a former elite diver who’s lost his way, navigating the brutal “death coast” of the North Atlantic to find what the collector seeks: the legendary Ruby Cross of the Knights Templar, stolen by Gillian’s ancestor and lost at sea four hundred years ago.

My Review:

Usually a series is named for the hero, or the heroine. Or maybe a place. Something positive, at least.

The Collectors series by Susannah Sandlin is named after the villains. Those collectors are a group of rich and ruthless men who are playing a high-stakes game together, in secret. They chase after rare, or possibly unique, prizes of great value and significance. They race each other to win.

But there seem to be rules, and while those rules make the game more interested for these competitive, overachieving power-brokers, they are deadly for anyone who is unwittingly involved.

That’s what happens to Gillian Campbell, Shane Burke, and every single one of their friends. The “C7” have set their sights on a Ruby Templar Cross that was stolen by one of Gillian’s ancestors, and they’ve figured out that Gillian and Shane can be manipulated into helping them find it.

One of the rules of the “game” seems to be that the C7 members can’t act directly, the contest is more entertaining for them if innocent bystanders can be forced into doing their dirty work.

In the case of Gillian Campbell, the collector who is after that old Templar Cross starts out by sending her creepy pictures that make it clear they are stalking her pre-school-aged niece, and can snatch the little girl at any time if Gillian doesn’t do what they want.

They also temporarily cut off all of Gillian’s bank and credit card access until she agrees to their terms. Which are: figure out where her many times great-grandfather’s ship, with the cross on board, sank. It’s not just that the location of his shipwreck is unknown, but that she needs to find a qualified cold-water diver and get the cross, in 30 days. In September. In Nova Scotia. Where it is not only damn cold, but where she’ll be breaking the law to get the salvage back to the U.S.

The C7 already has a diver for her. Shane Burke needs the money that she is offering in order to keep his beloved boat from foreclosure. A foreclosure that is, of course, being partially created by the C7. Not that Shane isn’t overdue on the bank note, but he’s always managed to squeak by until now. The manipulators behind the C7 won’t allow any squeaking, or squawking. by anyone.

Shane might be initially intrigued by the money, but when Gillian tells him the whole truth, he’s forced into the fold by a firebombing at his favorite watering hole. If he doesn’t get on board, people near him will start dying.

As much of a burn-out case as Shane is at the beginning of the story, he just can’t let anyone else die if he can prevent it.

Which has nothing to do with how very much he’s attracted to Gillian. Because he’s not ready to let anyone into his life, and these are the worst of circumstances.

Gillian doesn’t want anyone in her life, either. She’s every bit as wary of relationships as Shane, but for different, and equally tragic, reasons of her own.

But as they get caught up in the chase for the missing cross, the threats to their lives, and the lives of everyone they bring into this crazy quest, create a bond that is impossible to ignore.

Only if they can figure out who their mysterious manipulator is will any of the people who helped them have a chance to survive. And only by exposing “Mr. Big” will they have any hope of a future.

Escape Rating B+: Lovely, Dark and Deep is what you get if you mix something like National Treasure with Titanic. You have all the elements of an opposites attract romance mixed with the treasure hunt and the conspiracy-theory plot twists.

Or maybe a better example would be Romancing the Stone, with an underwater treasure hunt instead of searching through jungles.

This is romantic suspense of the “breakneck pace” school of suspense–there’s a plot twist and a new nefarious scheme around every corner. No matter how much progress Gillian and Shane make in the quest for the Cross, the faceless evil collectors seem to be always a step ahead; with another plot up the sleeves for making our heroes stick with the plan and not think too much about how they can possibly get out of this alive.

Even as they fall in love with each other, Gillian and Shane think of their relationship as “foxhole love” and wonder if the bond they’ve forged has a chance of surviving when they are not running for their lives every second. But of course it does.

This is also a type of “road story” as they enlist friends and allies on the trip that takes them from Cedar Key, Florida to Scatarie Island in Nova Scotia. The danger ramps up with each day that passes, because each person they recruit is just one more hostage to fortune.

They recruit a terrific, and quite colorful, bunch of helpers. Each new character adds to the danger without distracting a beat away from the romance.

Their nameless and faceless enemy is a pitiless taskmaster, eliminating all loose ends as collateral damage. The author has done a terrific job of conveying the breathlessness of fear that the protagonists face, so when they finally manage to turn the tables, cheering them on is a treat.

Once you’ve gotten your heart out of your throat.

Lovely Dark and Deep  Button 300 x 225

***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 2-23-14

Sunday Post

This was a terrific week! So many of the books I reviewed weren’t merely good, they were even better than I hoped. I love it when that happens.

The only downside is that I have to wait for the next book in the series. The minute I finish something good, I want to dive into the next book to see what happens next. The Obsidian Heart and Two Serpents Rise were particularly good at giving me “book hangovers”. Their worlds were so fascinating, that I didn’t want to leave.

Current Giveaways:

$50 Amazon Gift Card and 10 copies of Sky’s End by Lesley Young from, of course, Lesley Young

Blade to the Keep by Lauren DaneBlog Recap:

B Review: Sky’s End by Lesley Young
Guest Post by Lesley Young on the First Person + Giveaway
A+ Review: Blade to the Keep by Lauren Dane
A Review: The Obsidian Heart by Mark T. Barnes
A Review: Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone
A Review: All for You by Jessica Scott
Stacking the Shelves (77)

Leap-into-books-hopComing Next Week:

Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Susannah Sandlin (blog tour review)
Death Defying by Nina Croft (blog tour review)
Cider Brook by Carla Neggers (blog tour review)
Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn (blog tour review)
Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop

Stacking the Shelves (77)

Stacking the Shelves

OK. This is all the stuff that didn’t fit into last week’s Stacking the Shelves. I think I’m caught up now.

We binge-watched both seasons of Longmire, and, of course, it made me want to run out and get all the books.

My name is Marlene and I’m a bookaholic, or biblioholic, if you want to make it sound more pretentious. (Foz Meadows’ post yesterday was particularly on point)

I like having choices when I’m picking my next book to read. And they all look so yummy.

For Review:
Archetype (Archetype #1) by M.D. Waters
Conversion by Katherine Howe
The Curse of the Brimstone Contract (Steampunk Detectives #1) by Corrina Lawson
Full Fathom Five (Craft Sequence #3) by Max Gladstone
Ghost Train to New Orleans (Shambling Guides #2) by Mur Lafferty
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
The Glass Sentence (Mapmakers Trilogy #1) by S.E. Grove
Half Bad (Half Life Trilogy #1) by Sally Green
Hell for Leather (Black Knights Inc. #6) by Julie Ann Walker
Laugh (Burnside #2) by Mary Ann Rivers
The Magician by Anne Montgomery
Pure Heat (Firehawks #1) by M.L. Buchman
The Queen of the Tearling (Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen
Slam Dance with the Devil (Demon Rock #2) by Nico Rosso
Unleashed (Sydney Rye #1) by Emily Kimelman

Bloody Lessons (Victorian San Francisco Mystery #3) by M. Louisa Locke
The Groom’s Gamble (Bridal Favors #3.5) by Jade Lee
Maids of Misfortune (Victorian San Francisco Mystery #1) by M. Louisa Locke
Silent Blade (Kinsmen #1) by Ilona Andrews
The Sweetest Thing (River Bend #1) by Lilian Darcy
Uneasy Spirits (Victorian San Francisco Mystery #2) by M. Louisa Locke

Borrowed from the Library:
As the Crow Flies (Walt Longmire #8) by Craig Johnson
The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire #1) by Craig Johnson
The Dark Horse (Walt Longmire #5) by Craig Johnson
Death Without Company (Walt Longmire #2) by Craig Johnson
Doctor Who: Shada by Gareth Roberts and Douglas Adams
Hell is Empty (Walt Longmire #7) by Craig Johnson
Junkyard Dogs (Walt Longmire #6) by Craig Johnson
Messenger (Walt Longmire #8.2) by Craig Johnson
A Serpent’s Tooth (Walt Longmire #9) by Craig Johnson

Review: All for You by Jessica Scott

all for you by jessica scottFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Military romance, contemporary romance
Series: Coming Home #4
Length: 307 pages
Publisher: Forever Romance
Date Released: February 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Can a battle-scarred warrior . . .

Stay sober. Get deployed. Lead his platoon. Those are the only things that matter to Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli. What he wants is for everyone to stay out of his way; what he gets is Captain Emily Lindberg telling him how to deal with his men. Fort Hood’s newest shrink is smart as a whip and sexy as hell. She’s also full of questions—about the army, its soldiers, and the agony etched on Reza’s body and soul.

. . . open his heart to love?

Emily has devoted her life to giving soldiers the care they need—and deserve. Little does she know that means facing down the fierce wall of muscle that is Sergeant Iaconelli like it’s just another day at the office. When Reza agrees to help her understand what makes a soldier tick, she’s thrilled. Too bad it doesn’t help her unravel the sexy warrior in front of her who stokes her desire and touches a part of her she thought long dead. He’s the man who thinks combat is the only escape from the demons that haunt him. The man who needs her most of all . . .

My Review:

Like the previous entry in this series, Back to You, this is also a story that has been hovering in the background of the Coming Home series, at least since Until There Was You, because that’s where we really get to know Sgt. Reza Iaconelli.

until there was you scottIt’s not a good introduction, because when we first meet him, Reza is a mostly-functioning alcoholic, and a fully-functioning man-whore. In Until There Was You, Reza’s alcoholism causes a major screwup at a training exercise that his friends take the heat for, but Reza is given one last chance to sober up for good, or get discharged.

The military is the only home Reza has ever known. But staying sober is more difficult than facing enemy fire. He fights his cravings every single day, and temptation is always within reach.

He’s positive that Fort Hood’s new shrink doesn’t have a clue what makes any soldier tick. Her theories can’t be any match for the realities of facing combat.

But she fascinates him all the same. Especially because Emily Lindberg is willing to put herself in harm’s way so she can figure out how to help.

From the first moment that they meet, Emily can’t get Reza out of her mind. Not just because he starts out challenging everything she says, but because he’s everything she’s convinced herself she shouldn’t want.

But she can’t resist the adventure that he represents. And the more time they spend together, the more she realizes that he needs her to help him wrestle his demons every bit as much as she needs him to help her find the adventurous side of herself that she lost.

They try to convince themselves that it’s just a fling–but whatever they have is too explosive to be that simple.

Escape Rating A: All for You is not an easy story, but it is a marvelous one.

Reza does not start out exactly as romantic hero material; he fits the bill physically but emotionally he’s incredibly damaged. Not just because of his alcoholism, but as a result of everything else that’s wrong in his life. That he has a well-deserved reputation for chasing (and catching) every willing female doesn’t make him a good candidate for a relationship. Especially since he doesn’t believe in anything more than a fling.

Emily is a freshly-commissioned Captain–the rank seems to be an automatic result of her status as a psychiatrist. She doesn’t have combat experience, and she has an incredibly hard task to get any respect for her ideas of how to stem the tide of suicides running through the Base and the service. It’s her desire to help, her need to get the soldiers on her side, that drives her into the Army and into Reza’s path.

Emily’s desire to save lives is so strong that she has broken with her upper-crust family in order to serve. She never wanted to be a society wife, but she also joins the Army to get away from a bad breakup and a family where she has never quite fit. While she isn’t hurting to the degree that Reza is, she certainly needs some healing.

They need each other, even if initially it doesn’t seem to be for the same things. But what they both need is someone who will believe in them, no matter what.

Figuring that out is a hard and bumpy road, but the story of how they finally manage it is so worth reading.

***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.