Review: The Blushing Bounder by MelJean Brooks

Blushing BounderFormat Read: ebook.
Formats available: ebook, paperback (in Novellas & Stories).
Genre: Steampunk Romance.
Series: The Iron Seas #0.4.
Length: 50 pages.
Date Released: November 26, 2013.
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon Barnes & Noble.

In The Iron Duke, Constable Newberry helped save all of England. But before the events of that novel, Constable Newberry’s faced a danger of another kind: to his heart, by the woman forced to marry him. What will it take for this prudish bounder to convince his wife to stay?

My Thoughts:

I began reading MelJean Brooks’ Iron Seas series because of the steampunk cyborgs, nanoagent zombies, and all manner of other awesome creations. I firmly classified the series as Steampunk, and just, well, overlooked the romance. Because I Do Not Read Romance. Or at least I do not enjoy reading romances. (I may have deleted the clearly romancey covers from Ilona Andrews’ The Edge series in order to perpetuate said delusions.)

Mina Wentworth and the Invisible CityThe worldbuilding in The Iron Seas is top-notch and keeps me coming back for every installment. Which gets me to poor Constable Newberry, who, despite his status as a Blushing Red Giant, always manages to fade into the background. Unless he is being mocked by another character.

They made good time to his small, cozy flat on the second level of a converted mews, where Newberry’s sensible—and very pregnant—wife asked him to cut and wrap hunks of cheese, bread, and salted boiled eggs while she chatted with Mina. Newberry blushed for a record length of time after Temperance checked on his progress and complimented his skillful use of a knife, then again when she laid a farewell kiss on his cheek.
So sweet. It still surprised Mina that the prudish bounder had ever taken off his clothes long enough to make a baby, and she’d have wagered that he’d been fiery red the entire time.*

See? Even when he’s scoring free food, he’s still the butt of every joke. Newberry has more than earned his chance to shine – and so we travel back in time to the events that initially brought him to London. As usual, the world building was spectacular. This outing provided some much needed insight into the Mind of the Average Bounder, but……

It’s only 50 pages. There is no Kraken to battle, Slavers to defeat, or Zombies to slaughter. It really is just the story of how Newberry got his groove back. Which means that I was forced to admit I was reading – and enjoying – a romance. GODDAMNIT.

I’m not saying the story is flawless. It’s really not. As with many a romance, it generates conflict by the characters failing to discuss a Super Important Issue that really could have been resolved with one or two sentences. As it ultimately was.

Despite this, I found myself entirely engaged in Newberry’s relationship with his wife (thank god they didn’t name her Prudence), and invested in the outcome of the story. Especially since Mina was there to mock the Bounders.

“You think she’ll become a zombie, constable?”
“Yes,” Temperance answered for him. “Won’t she? This is what we’ve been told. What we’ve always been told.”
“And I’ve been told that bounders believed this, but didn’t think they were that stupid. But they are?”
“Apparently, sir.”

Poor Newberry, nobody wants to be branded a epic moron on their first day. Though this does explain why he elects to remain silent through much of the series.

Escape Rating: B- for forcing me to reconsider my ban on all things romance. Any fan of The Iron Seas will enjoy this prequel story, though I would not recommend it as a first outing into the series. In such a constrained space there is not a lot of room to explain the complex world we’re playing in.

*Quote from Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City. A short story that takes place shortly after The Iron Duke, and is, once again, unapologetically romantic in nature. Though it will be a worthwhile read for anyone who thought Mina’s story ended just a tad abruptly, it was tragically short on zombies.

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

Review: The Last Kiss Goodbye by Karen Robards

The Last Kiss Goodbye by Karen RobardsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Series: Dr. Charlotte Stone, #2
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Paranormal Romance
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Number of pages: 333 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, paperback, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Publisher’s Website

Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone has dedicated her career as a psychiatrist to exploring the darkest territory of all: the hearts and minds of serial killers. It’s a job she’s uniquely suited for, thanks to the secret talent that gives her an uncanny edge—Charlie can see dead people, whose tormented spirits cry out to her for the justice only she can provide. This blessing—or curse—gives Charlie the power to hunt down and catch madmen and murderers. It’s also turned her love life upside down by drawing her into a hopelessly passionate relationship with the lingering ghost of charismatic bad boy Michael Garland.

But there’s little time for romance with her supernatural suitor when murder comes pounding at Charlie’s door in the form of a terrified young woman fleeing a homicidal maniac. Saving her life places Charlie squarely in the cross-hairs of a sadistic predator nicknamed “the Gingerbread Man,” notorious for manipulating his victims like pawns in a deadly chess game. And now the queen this psychopath’s bent on capturing is Charlie. Refusal to play will only put more innocent lives in danger. Matching wits with this cunningly twisted opponent will require all of Charlie’s training and expert skills. But even with her devilish “guardian angel”—not to mention her favorite flesh-and-blood Fed, Tony Bartoli—watching her beautiful back, the Gingerbread Man’s horrifying grin might be the last thing Charlie ever sees.

My Thoughts:

I wonder if every book in the Charlotte Stone series is going to have the word “Last” in the title. The only problem is that none of them actually are the last anything. And maybe they ought to be.

You really have to enjoy train-wreck books in order to read this series. I’m serious. The main character is Dr. Charlotte Stone, a criminal psychiatrist who studies serial killers. Charlotte is an utterly classic case of a shrink who really, really needs to see a shrink. Not just because she studies what makes serial killers tick because she is the surviving victim of one, but, because, you guessed it, she’s in love with a convicted serial killer.

Even better, the drop-dead gorgeous serial killer that Charlotte is in love with is quite literally dead. Michael Garland is Charlotte’s very own personal poltergeist. On top of all her other issues, Charlotte sees dead people. Garland is one of the few who can see her–whether or not she’s wearing anything.

The Last Victim by Karen RobardsAnd yes, they’ve had sex, but only after he died. The amount of crazysauce involved in just the set up for the series is enough to make your head spin–a complete 360 degree spin! (If you haven’t fallen out of your chair yet, read The Last Victim, or just this review, for more details)

In spite of (or maybe because of) the wacko setup, it is impossible to stop reading this damn thing. Some of that may be sheer disbelief at the situations Charlotte continues to let herself get sucked into.

I mean, really, it’s one thing to get turned on by bad boys, but ghostly bad boys? I can kind of understand undead bad boys, meaning vampires, but the ghost of a serial killer? Especially when there is a flesh-and-blood FBI agent panting after her? In normal circumstances, the FBI agent would totally be the hero, but no, that’s too tame for this girl.

And then there’s the current serial killer. Yes, really. The actual point of this story, besides the woo-woo sex, is the hunt for a live serial killer. Which totally takes second place to Charlotte’s emotional angst about keeping the ghostly one hanging around long after he should have gone into the light. Or even down into the dark.

I will say that Charlotte is damn good at her day job. Just totally illogical when it comes to her personal life.

Verdict: In her personal choices, Charlotte reads as way past Too Stupid Too Live. She even calls herself out as filling that trope. On the other hand, the train-wreck is so ear-screechingly loud and the sparks from the brakes squealing on the tracking so eye-poppingly bright that you can’t turn your eyes away. This story should not work at all, but I couldn’t stand not to finish it.

It also bears an increasingly strong resemblance to Stacey Kennedy’s Supernaturally Kissed, except that her characters were not as stupid and Kennedy’s ghost hero was a hero in life. Also there was a possibility of an HEA there that does not exist here.

The “find the serial killer” plot line, which is ostensibly the main plot, takes a back seat to the ghost romance. Or the angsting over the ghost romance, which is too damn bad. There was a high suspense factor here that didn’t get exploited as well as it could have.

Rating this feels nearly insane. It is either the best 2 star book or the worst 4 star book I’ve ever read. Therefore:


I give  The Last Kiss Goodbye by Karen Robards 3 very confused stars!

***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 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.

Trio Review: Beer and Groping in Las Vegas by Angela Quarles

Beer and Groping in Las Vegas by Angela QuarlesFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: Dec. 19, 2012
Number of pages: 52 pages
Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Can a djinn and a magic slot machine bring two geeks together?

Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, smart chicks never look at him twice.

Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna would rather immerse herself in work than be the girlfriend-of-the-moment. Stranded in a Vegas hotel, she accidentally makes a wish—a night of hot sex with the man of her dreams. It’s granted. She agrees to dinner, but afterward, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they’re surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.

Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romantic comedy.

Our Thoughts:

Cass: (Pre-Read Impressions) They DARE invoke Firefly?! Ballsy. Taking Firefly’s name in vain can lead to hordes of angry Browncoats. The devastation would be unspeakable.


Marlene: Unfortunately, most of us geeks know that Syfy doesn’t broadcast much real Sci-Fi any more. Which should have clued me in that this wasn’t going to be quite what I thought it was.


Jackie: I was afraid that my lack of recent exposure to anything scifi, particularly all things Firefly, would leave me at a disadvantage but I think this would have been better categorized as “pop culturally aware” as opposed to geekish/ scifi content.  Monty Python and Marvin the Martian are not hardcore scifi, right girls?


Cass: Seriously. I call bullshit on her Geek Cred. Saying this is for “fans” is like saying the Kate Daniels is for goths. You know, because Julie is going through a goth phase. As evidenced by a couple casual references to her room.


Marlene: Based on the description in Goodreads, I was expecting geek romance. What I got was a lot more like something that should have been published through Decadent Publishing’s 1Night Stand series, with a lesser djinn standing in for Madame Eve. Emphasis on lesser.


Jackie: Call me crazy, but I was thinking it might resemble Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson…then again, if it did I wouldn’t know cause I haven’t read it yet, but I thought this might have given me a taste at least. I’m almost positive there aren’t any genies/djinn in Thompson’s stuff, although he may have hallucinated them over the years. If that’s what the author was going for at all, it was subtle and clever.


Cass: I didn’t get any Geek from this story. Or nerd. Or comprehension of the English language.


The author opens with a reference to all the “trademarks” used in her book. What kind of lunatic would encourage someone to trademark fandom? You want fans to be obsessed with your copyrighted material so they spend all their money on it. Not restrict their ability to do so.


What kind of author wouldn’t be intimately familiar with copyright and how it works? She’s either a moron, or using the list as an affectation of Geekdom. Somebody is in serious need of Geek Therapy:


Marlene: Instead of “talk dirty to me” the subtitle of this one should have been “talk nerdy to me”, except wait, that title is already taken! A lot of geeky in-jokes substitute for foreplay. And I’ll never think of Marvin the Martian quite the same way again.


Jackie: I’m sure I missed a bunch of the references, but I did get the one about the red shirts and the away mission. *Jackie pats herself on the back*


Cass: I was just so wrapped up in all the intrigue surrounding the bed sheets. Clearly a crucial aspect of a 40 page short.


How do you expect me to believe these two had amazing sex if you don’t specify whether or not the sheets were organic 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton? Might as well have just stuck with missionary position. These kinds of issues can make or break the masturbatory potential of your sex scenes. People can only take their suspension of disbelief so far. Vegas genie? No problem. Sexytimes on generic sheets? Blasphemy!


Marlene: Underneath a story that provides endless possibilities for snarky humor, there is a lot of geeky inside snarky humor. There’s also a bit of wish-fulfillment, which is where the djinn rather improbably steps in, rather like the naughtier cousin of the guardian angel in It’s a Wonderful Life.


Cass: Wish fulfillment? Have you broken open the WorldCon libations a bit early?


This whole scenario is creepy as fuck. As soon as Mirjam found out her “bartender” wasn’t actually an employee of the casino, she should have been screaming “What the fuck did that psycho put in my drink?!” and running to get a medical exam. Not mindlessly obeying the instructions of a complete stranger who knew everything about her (down to her bra size), broke into her hotel room, and ordered her to strip after dragging her out of the very safe public area she was standing in.


Riley had it right when he opened with “How the fuck…”. Because that is the only acceptable response to this kind of situation.


I propose a title change to “Roofies and Stalking in Las Vegas.”


Mirjam’s willingness to just roll with this increasingly bizarre, and totally unsafe, series of instructions puts her in the TSTL category. I’m stunned she didn’t compare herself to Sookie Stackhouse. They have similar senses of self-preservation. (i.e. none).


Jackie: No, I wouldn’t be following any instructions that popped out of a slot machine unless I had someone to watch my back but it is fiction, so we are supposed to suspend reality for a bit anyway. Readers should just be aware of the whole “don’t try this at home” rule.


Marlene: The second-chance at love angle is supposed to help the readers get over the very fast “insta-love” aspects of the story. Insta-lust is totally believable, insta-love, not so much. These are two workaholics who have both been going through a seriously long dry-spell, so insta-lust, absolutely.


Cass: I’ll give credit where credit is due. They had safe sex. And there was unambiguous consent. Even if they didn’t consider the very real possibility that their sex-shack was set up with spy holes and hidden cameras in addition to the candles and fancy sheets. Hope you enjoy your futures as online porn stars! Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.


Jackie: I’m not sure that they were both on the same page when it came to the whole ‘high school residual feelings’ thing but it did speed up the story appropriately for a short. It took me a while after finishing to figure how Marvin ended up where he did, but at least Riley was consistent in his enthusiasm for “the one that got away.”




Marlene: I picked this up hoping for more of a sci-fi-con-romance type story (based on the description) in anticipation of WorldCon. In that sense, it was disappointing. The story is an erotic romance where it just-so-happens that the participants are both geeks. Their geekiness is what they have in common.


On the other hand, it was a moderately fun and occasionally hot story to read over my lunch, providing that one is willing to suspend some disbelief about going along with the djinn and the slot machine. But I wouldn’t call it romance as much as light PWP (that’s porn-without-plot). I will say that having the acid test for whether or not someone is a potentially geeky enough long-term partner be their reaction to one’s Serenity tattoo made a weird kind of sense (says the woman with both TARDIS and Star Trek earrings)


However, the title is awful and doesn’t describe the book very well. It makes it sound like an orgy at a frat party. Or worse.


I give Beer and Groping in Las Vegas by Angela Quarles 3 pink stars


Cass: I slammed my computer shut in disgust and walked away at least four times. Because what.the.fuck.


I give Roofies and Stalking in Las Vegas 1/2 star. The half star I contemplated adding for the unambiguous consent was taken away by the sheer absurdity that so-called geeks would be in the same hotel as a big Con and not even contemplate going.


Jackie: I kind of agree with Marlene about the title but from another viewpoint: when the beer bottle showed up on the balcony, I thought things were going to go to a weird place for a minute. Thankfully, they didn’t. I enjoyed this quick read and feel it offers a bit of steamy fun with a smidge of hope for us geeks out there still looking love. I give Beer and Groping in Las Vegas 3 thrusts…I mean stars! (Seriously, though, I’m pretty sure their first time was that quick, no?)


***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 and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.


Review: Die On Your Feet by S.G. Wong

Die On Your Feet by S.G. WongFormat Read:ebook provided by the author
Number of Pages:215 pages
Release Date:May 27, 2013
Publisher:Carina Press
Genre:Paranormal, Noir, Mystery
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Author’s website | Publisher’s website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

Crescent City, 1934

In Crescent City, the dead are always close.

At the point of death, people can choose to become Ghosts, tethered to the living. They can remain with their loved ones as invisible companions—or in the case of Crescent City’s ghostly mayor, remain in office forever.

Being a P.I. in Crescent City isn’t easy or glamorous. Luckily Lola Starke has an edge: her Ghost, Aubrey, who can gather valuable clues from other Ghosts in the Ether. When they accept a simple missing-persons case, they’re drawn into a complicated web of lies and double-crosses that involves the most powerful people in the City—including Lola’s own mother, Grace McCall, a famous film star and the mayor’s former lover.

As Lola races to untangle the deceit ensnaring her, she discovers an old enemy at its center carefully orchestrating the perfect moment to betray Lola and destroy Aubrey forever; unless Lola and Aubrey can stop them first.

My Thoughts:

I was never quite sure whether the “Crescent City” setting of Die on your Feet was meant to be merely a paranormal analog for Hollywood in the 1940’s, or whether we’d moved to a completely parallel world or other dimension. I wish the author had been a bit less coy about the setting.

It seemed that Crescent City was more than a noir-type 1940’s Hollywood, but it definitely was that. Lola Starke, our heroine, is a private investigator who carried at “gat” rather than a gun. She also talked as tough as any private dick out of the Sam Spade or Raymond Chandler tradition.

But the difference in S.G. Wong’s Crescent City is that many citizens have their own personal “Ghost” accompanying them. Aubrey haunts Lola day and night. The questions abound. Why does he? Why did she agree to this? What does he get out of it?

Aubrey used to be her mother’s dresser. Not the furniture, a person. There’s the Hollywood touch. Lola’s mother, Grace McCall, is a famous Hollywood actress. Her late father, Butch, was a Crescent City cop. And her mother’s lover was Mayor Matteo Esperanza. Except that now he’s just known as Mayor. Not the Mayor. Just Mayor. He’s the one and only ghost in Crescent City so powerful that he doesn’t need a person to haunt.

Lola starts the story by taking a missing persons case. A man wants to find his best friend. Sounds simple, right? Except his friend is a former heroin addict and the guy who hires her is so obviously lying through his teeth.

Then a former school mate who Lola hated (with good reason, the woman was so obviously one of the mean girls) and clearly vice versa, has Lola kidnapped and forces her to take a case. Forces how? Threatens Lola’s family. Her former school “chum” is now a seedy and greedy public official.

So we go from a lying client to a strong-arming client. And things get even more complicated from there. It has to do with the ghosts. And politics. And ghostly politics!

Did I mention that Lola does NOT have a very good relationship with her mother? Throw family politics into the mix. Definitely. And murder.

Verdict: There were a lot of very cool concepts in this story, but maybe one too many. The ghosts were interesting, but it’s clear at the end that having a ghost is a double-edged sword. They can be friend or jailor.

The history of Crescent City took a definite turn from our own history. Crescent City came to be Chinese-dominated instead of gwai, but the author didn’t explain enough to keep the reader from being confused, or at least this reader. Most of the obvious effects seem to have been in who controlled gambling, the nature of the gaming, and that it was legal. But there was probably a lot more that I just missed.

Lola was a hot mess. She seems to hate and distrust everyone from beginning to end, including her ghost. We don’t know why their relationship is so bad, except that she’s never forgiven her mother for leaving her father. Things don’t get much better during the course of the story, either. Lola solves the mystery in the story, but we don’t learn a lot about her.

The case gets more and more complicated as things go on. Missing persons to bureaucrat-on-the-take to political power play to sorcery. It might have been one turn too many. The villain was obvious from the minute she came onstage. Her motivations seemed a bit out there, even for this alternate world.


I give Die On Your Feet by S.G. Wong 3 smoking stars.


***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 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.

ARC Review: Love, Technically by Lynne Silver

Love Technically by Lynne SilverFormat Read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Number of Pages: 127 pages
Release Date: July 29, 2013
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

Billionaire CEO and computer whiz Noah Frellish is a king among geeks. Women are attracted to his money, but he’d love to meet someone who’s actually interested in him. When he helps the sweet and sexy Michelle Kolson with a printing problem, she confuses him for a help desk technician. Noah knows he should clear up this case of mistaken identity, but would she still like him if she knew he was the boss?

Michelle thinks life in Chicago is perfect, as is the whirlwind romance with her smoking-hot coworker. When she unexpectedly finds her job on the chopping block and the man she fell headfirst into bed with running the company, will she abandon her dreams?

Noah must convince the small-town girl to stay in the big city—and that he really is the man she fell for.

My Thoughts:

I picked Love, Technically because it sounded like it was going to be a geek romance. I love geek romances for reasons that are pretty darn obvious to anyone who knows me.

As per usual, I digress.

But Love, Technically isn’t quite a geek romance. It almost read like an anti-geek romance. It also tripped over my willing-suspension-of-disbelief meter.

Explanation follows…

Michelle seems to be a complete patsy at the beginning. She’s working late because she’s totally clueless about what makes sense in the workplace. She’s scanning and printing timesheets in a not merely leading-edge, but downright bleeding-edge software company because her low-level supervisor is a tinpot dictator. She’s also not tech-savvy enough to know that she should check which printer she’s print to. The whole scenario doesn’t add up.

Mark ZuckerbergThen the uber-famous inventor of the company walks in and rescues her printer problem. She doesn’t recognize him and thinks he’s in tech support. This would be like someone working for Facebook not recognizing Mark Zuckerberg back in the early years (pre 2008ish)

In other words, I had a really hard time believing in the meet cute.

I understand Noah’s dilemma. He started the company because he wanted to do really neat things. Lots of programmers get into it because they want to do cool stuff. He still wants to do cool stuff, not corporate crap. He’d rather be “Sark” the geek in tech support that Michelle thinks he is, than play big business shenanigans.

Except when he starts pulling strings so she can get a better job than the one that gets outsourced out from under her. While he still hasn’t exactly confessed that he owns the company or that he’s stage-managing things so that she has a better shot at a new job.

And they do fall in love. Even though there is this huge misunderstanding hanging in the air. He thinks she knows who he is, and she thinks she knows who he is, but of course, they don’t mean the same thing. He never does talk about the details of his work, he thinks because he doesn’t want to emphasize the gap between them, but it seems contrived. If he thought he’d really explained things, it wouldn’t have mattered, would it? But of course, it does. It really, really does.

Verdict: The meet-cute was both too cute and too unrealistic. Michelle should have figured out who Noah was a whole hell of a lot sooner. There would still have been a story, just a different one. Her continuing not to know, when every single person around her did, made her seem like a fool, and she was no fool in any other way. In some ways, she had her head on straighter than Noah, even though he was more outwardly successful.

Michelle walks away when she realizes that she’s been made a fool out of. Her whole story has been to figure out what her real dream is, and she finally figures out that it isn’t an administrative assistant’s job in Chicago. Her dream is to finally go to college. So she starts.

It takes Michelle kicking him to the curb for Noah to realize that the company he’s ended up with isn’t his dream. Programming neat stuff is his dream, so he walks away from the company he created and took public to start something new. But that’s not his only dream. The other part of that dream is building something new with Michelle, if he can get her back. She makes him grovel this time.

The ending worked for me. It was the beginning that didn’t quite.


I give Love, Technically by Lynne Silver 3 micro-chipped stars.


***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 and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: A Riveting Affair by Candace Havens, Lily Lang, Patricia Eimer

Riveting Affair by Havens, Lang, EimerFormat Read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Number of Pages: 339 pages
Release Date: March 25, 2013
Publisher: Entangled Ever After
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Candace Havens’ Website | Lily Lang’s Website | Patricia Eimer’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast

Rose Verney wants to fulfill her father’s dying request: to complete construction of the teleportation device he designed. Knowing just who can help her succeed, she seeks out Sebastian Cavendish, her father’s brilliant former student.Sebastian hasn’t left his home since he returned from the Civil War. He’s a broken man, his prosthetics a reminder of the terrible destruction his inventions brought to the battlefield. He wants nothing to do with Rose and her father’s masterpiece, but when she barges into his abandoned lab and begins construction, it’s everything he can do to resist getting involved. Especially when she charms her way into his monstrous heart.

Demon Express

Professor Maisy Clark, professional demon hunter, is on the trail of an evil scientist responsible for the deaths of hundreds. Julian is worse than the monsters he creates, but he’s also obsessed with Maisy and willing to kill anyone who gets too close to her. Just when she thinks she has Julian cornered, the sexy marshall Jake Calloway insists the investigation is his, and everything goes to hell. Maisy came to Texas to corner the scientist whose macabre experiments have taken so many lives, and Calloway is just another distraction she doesn’t need. Julian is her responsibility, one she’s not about to share. Even if Calloway can help, Julian will know Maisy is falling for the marshall, and she’s not willing to risk his life.

The Clockwork Bride

When engineer Aida Mulvaney attends a masquerade ball at the home of a staunch Luddite earl with a personal vendetta against her father’s company, she doesn’t expect to end the night married to the earl’s son Julian Capshaw, a brilliant engineer in his own right. The marriage will allow both of them to pursue their love of science, without interfering parents and ridiculous social stigmas. Though they escape to the Continent to start new lives, Julian’s father will have none of his heir’s disobedience. Before long, a marriage begun for the sake of convenience becomes a union of passion, but will it survive the machinations of an earl determined to destroy everything they love?

My Thoughts:

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast by Lily Lang

This retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” was definitely my favorite story in the book! For one thing, this one was just the right length, not too long and not too short (more on that later). It began and ended within its frame.

This is a redemption story, as all the best reworkings of Beauty and the Beast generally are. Sebastian feels that the only way he can repay the world for all the killings done by his war machines is to suffer physical and mental anguish and to never create or use another machine again. Rose needs him to be her partner, to help her finish her father’s legacy. She remembers how he used to be when he was her father’s student. She doesn’t care about how he looks, what she cares about is his spirit, his desire to create and invent…the sharp mind that was the equal of her father’s.

Rose engages his mind, and brings him back to the land of the living. She brings his house back to life, too. They become partners first, and friends. Even though the very first scene is Sebastian being extremely beastly, in the end, they fall in love because they know each other well.

The story never drags. I almost got sucked into reading it again writing the review!

I give Beauty and the Clockwork Beast by Lily Lang 4 and ½ stars


The Clockwork Bride by Patricia Eimer

Master Engineer Aida Mulvaney reluctantly goes to a masquerade ball with a friend and ends up eloping with Julian Capshaw, the son of a Luddite Earl,who also happens to be an engineer. Their fathers also happen to be long-standing enemies, to the point that maybe the M and C last names could be Montague and Capulet instead of Mulvaney and Capshaw.

And this is Victorian-era steampunk, so anti-Irish prejudice is in full-flower. You guessed it-Aida Mulvaney is Irish, or her family certainly is. The elopement part was actually fun, they don’t pretend this is a love match. But when things go downhill, Capshaw’s father’s schemes and machinations come off as too bwahaha evil when we don’t know enough about his motives.

Julian and Aida’s stay in poverty because of said machinations took up too much story, especially since we don’t know enough. That part of the story dragged. Then a whole lot of melodramatic froth got ladled on at the end.

I give The Clockwork Bride by Patricia Eimer 3 stars


The Demon Express by Candace Havens

When I read The Demon Express I had the feeling that I had been dropped into the middle of a story that had been started somewhere else. It felt like there was a whole lot more story going on than what I was reading in that one story. I want the rest of it.

I was left with a lot more questions than I had answers. Actually, the story didn’t end so much as it stopped. Maisy is clearly more than human, but in what way? Julian is some kind of monster, but what kind? What happened between them? More important, how does he track her? Does he really know what she’s feeling, or is he just a master manipulator?

The Demon Express felt like the teaser for a “real” story that I hope is coming later. I don’t like being teased this way without knowing that there is a full-length novel on the horizon. For certain.

I give The Demon Express by Candace Havens 2 and ½ stars.


***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 and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Like Hearts Enchanted by Kathleen Tudor and Cecilia Tan

Format Read:ebook provided by the publisher
Number of Pages:74 pages
Release Date:May 31, 2012
Publisher:Circlet Press
Genre: Fantasy romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website

Book Blurb:

Love is a universal ideal transcending time and place and occasionally even dimensions. Anyone who has ever been in love knows that there is something magical about it, but what happens when real magic gets involved in matters of the heart? From love spells, to the ability to open the eyes and the mind, to a special little something that can make you downright irresistible, anything is possible when magic and love mingle.

Prepare to be enchanted and aroused as these five original short stories help you answer the important questions, like “What if love is right in front of you, and all you need to do is let it in?”, “What happens when you mix steampunk, love potions, and a sexy strip tease?”, and of course, “What’s the best course of action if you accidentally summon a demon of lust into your living room?”

Sweet love will take you by surprise in “Violets” by Annabeth Leong. In “Summer’s Breath” by Deb Atwood, love, magic, and need intertwine and show you a hidden world. Heart’s desire is not always what it seems in “Knight of Her Dreams” by Kathleen Tudor. “By the Book” by Elizabeth Thorne takes us on a laugh-out-loud journey through lust, and delivers us to Ann Foster’s “The Captain,” a steampunk romance with a twist.

True love, red-hot sex, enlightenment, salvation, or anything in between; when matters of the heart and matters of magic collide, watch out! Love is in the air, and these five tales of love, sex, and enchantment will capture your senses and whisk you away to a world (or worlds) where anything is possible.

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

Although the subtitle of this collection is “Erotic Tales of Love and Magic” the stories didn’t seem like erotica. They were very definitely love stories, I’m just not sure that they all fell into the erotica category. As they say, your mileage may vary.

What they all have in common is that the magic involved in each story is pretty much magic of the witchcraft variety. Magic of the more homely sort. There are no dragons here. Nothing showy happens. There are only two otherworldly creatures in this collection, a fae and an incubus, and even the incubus gets caught up in a simple love spell.

The thread that binds these stories together is that the magic of love, or when someone involves magic spells in dealing with love, surprising things happen.

My favorite story in the collection is Elizabeth Thorne’s “By the Book”. Catherine summons a gorgeous naked man into her living room using a spell from a library book. When he looks bored inside the summoning circle, she unsummons him, really, really fast. He may be gorgeous, but she’s tired of being with men who don’t want to be with her. 20 minutes later, he’s back. Clothed this time, and at the front door. He’s not bored anymore, either. He’s annoyed.

Nobody’s ever turned him down before. He’s intrigued. It’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to him. He wants to talk about it. The talk leads to a pillow fight. And an explanation of why love spells don’t work. Except this one that did.

The other really good story in the collection is Annabeth Leong’s “Violets”. Helen desperately wants to keep her best friend Silvia from returning to her boyfriend Jared, who has just given her a black eye. Again. She wants to help Silvia find a good man this time, and not another loser. So she goes to Silvia’s aunt. Why? Because Silvia’s aunt is a bruja, a wisewoman from Puerto Rico, who can provide both a love spell for Silvia, and maybe a curse for the bastard who gave her the shiner.

But there’s a catch. The love spell must be prepared by someone who loves Silvia. Who better than her best friend, Helen? And maybe the preparation and application of this love spell will finally let these two women realize that the best person for them, the one who really loves them, is each other.

Verdict: Like most collections, there are hits and misses. The two stories highlighted above are definitely the hits in this collection, at least as far as I am concerned.

“Knight of her Dreams” by Kathleen Tudor and “The Captain” by Ann Foster were both pretty good stories as well. “Knight” was a bit predictable, but the story was well-told. “The Captain” is the steampunk story in the collection. The steampunk aspects were minor, but the interesting part of the story was the way the tables got turned on the main character.

Unfortunately, one story didn’t work at all for me. That was “Summer’s Breath” by Deb Atwood. A summer fae comes to earth and needs to submit herself to someone before the winter solstice or she will be lost. I got that part. It was the ending. I think this story might have been bigger than the format. It sounded interesting, but there just wasn’t enough to figure out everything that happened. Too bad, too.

I give Like Hearts Enchanted 3 stars.


***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 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.

Dual Review: Tundra 37 by Aubrie Dionne

Format Read: ebook provided by Publisher
Number of Pages: 288 pages
Release Date: 7th of February 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Series: A New Dawn #2 Genre: Sci Fi Romance
Purchase links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads


Gemme is a hi-tech matchmaker who pairs the next generation of Lifers aboard the Expedition, a deep space transport vessel destined for Paradise 18. When the identity of her lifemate pops up on her screen, she’s shocked that he’s the achingly gorgeous and highly sought after Lieutenant Miles Brentwood—a man oblivious to her existence. Believing everyone will think she contrived the match, she erases it from the computer’s memory.

Just as comets pummel the ship and destroy the pairing system forever.

With the Expedition disabled, the colonists must crash land on the barren ice world of Tundra 37 where Gemme is reassigned to an exploratory mission, led by Lieutenant Brentwood. Only in the frozen tundra does she understand the shape of his heart and why the computer has entwined their destinies.

Our Thoughts:

Has: I have mixed feelings with this series, I adore the world-building and the premise of a future where humans are forced to flee the Earth due war, famine and disease. And to survive people travel in generational star ships to find new planets to colonise and to restart civilisation. Tundra 37 is the 2nd book of the series and follows the ship, the Expedition which is forced to crash land in a frozen planet after an accident.

Gemme, the heroine is a tech who match-makes pairings on the ship and to ensure that they are compatible genetically and psychologically. However she is shocked to see that she is paired with Miles Brentwood who is being groomed to take over the leader on The Expedition. She is afraid to be partnered with him because he is popular and very desirable and because of her position as the person who matches up couples. But the ship crash lands, and the remaining survivors have to find a way to safeguard the ship and to find new supplies to ensure their survival.

I have to say, I loved the main plot for the mission to survive and the search for supplies, but the romance subplot, wasn’t that strong and the weakest part of the story for me. I felt, that Gemme’s actions especially with her position as a matchmaking tech and to dismiss the original results of her pairing with Miles wasn’t that strong an obstacle for them. I also disliked  the character of Luna who I felt was one dimensional and despite the ship’s edict of ensuring human matches have to be genetically compatible was very focused on pairing with Miles despite the fact he was reluctant to be in her company. This aspect of the plot was forced and very weak and detracted from the main story of the ship’s mission and survival

Marlene: The New Dawn series seems to have more of a “space opera” feel to it than truly science fiction romance. The plot that drives all of the stories is the human diaspora plot–humankind’s need to distribute itself among the stars because we have totally frakked up planet Earth. This is a well-used and well-loved trope in science fiction, and the author has done some neat things with the generational ships and the base human drives that managed the people who initially populated them.

The romance subplots have taken a “back seat” in the stories (that has a tendency to be true in space opera in general).

Gemme’s job was to check over the computer’s genetic matches to make sure that the computer hadn’t missed any nuances that a human would catch. With such a relatively small gene pool, this cross-checking was required. Computers don’t do nuance terribly well. Gemme didn’t “make” matches, but she could prevent them if she saw something the computers didn’t. Of course, that gave her an enormous amount of very subtle power.

Miles has the overt power, but he doesn’t see it as power. He sees it as taking care of the crew. This is what makes him a good leader. And that’s why he’s been made a leader. What gets lost in the romance is why Gemme and Miles are attracted to each other at the beginning. Not why the computer matched them, that could just be genetics, but why they get lost in each other. Insta-connection, OMG.

And don’t get me started on Luna. She was so one-dimensional that she was flat. Except her boobs, which seem to have been positively ginormous. A factor which otherwise adds to her one-dimensionality. So to speak. Luna exists in the plot simply to be self-serving, to point out how self-sacrificing Miles and Gemme are. Luna in Tundra 37 is the equivalent of Astor Barliss in Paradise 21. She’s the bully.

Has:Yep! I totally agree although I did find Astor’s character more developed and fleshed out. But I found that the fact they were on a dangerous mission, and outside on an alien world, it was verging on ridiculousness about the romantic sub-plot. I wished there was some real build-up especially for the tension and for the feelings between Miles and Gemme because there was no explanation on how and why they should feel like this and I hate insta-love trope, it never really works for me as a trope and it never makes me believe in the romance.

I did like the subplot, involving the Twin navigators, Mestasis and Abysme who were melded to the pilot computer of the ship, introduced an interesting dynamic and I found their relationship much more interesting. It also had more depth, especially with the introduction of alien artifact on Tundra 37  which draws the ship’s attention like a moth to a flame and is the cause of the crash. Although I do wished there was more background on why this artifact was buried there and if there were any links to aliens in the first book in some way because it was a bit random.

Marlene: I’m so with you, Has, when it comes to insta-love. The only insta-anything that feels real is insta-lust. That one, I think can be pretty darn instantaneous. Anything that requires emotions takes a bit of time. And at least a few conversations!

Something about Tundra 37’s emotional chords that struck me was that all the depth comes from the backstory, and mostly occurs in flashback. Whatever happened between Luna and Gemme that made Gemme kowtow to that witch happened when they were kids. It’s supposed to make the reader understand, but we don’t get enough. Gemme’s and Miles insta-connection is fueled by past lives, which they relive through the alien tech. The Twins’ shared experience, and the sadness of Mestasis’ lost love back on Earth, are experienced in their dead memories through the artifact.

The emotional present gets shorted. And you’re right again about the past of the artifact. Where did it come from and does it have any bearing on anything else whatsoever?

Has: I thought it was interesting about the flashbacks adding the depth and it did help with the buildup and contrast that with the insta-love it just highlighted the lack of development of the romance especially. I also wanted to know about the future of the survivors, because it ended abruptly, although there was hope they would be able to survive despite not them reaching their goal planet. The fact they end up on a desolate cold world was sad, and it also felt the story just got going for me. I hope we do get to revisit them and to see if there is more to come for this crew and if there is more developments with the alien artifact and its origins.

Marlene: I wonder how all the survivors turn out. The point of a diaspora story is usually to spread the survivors as far apart as possible so that there are as many chances of human survival as possible. Being a science fiction reader, I can think of a bunch of ways that we could legitimately check back on the surviving groups. I wonder if the author will pick one.

The alien artifact is interesting because it showed past lives, not just memories. How did it know? Were they true? It opens up a world (no pun intended ) of story-telling possibilities. Who were those aliens? Will they be back?

The ending, with that rousing speech, reminded me a lot of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, and some of Adama’s speeches. But then, the Seers hooked into the ship reminded me a lot of Helva from Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang. Science fiction recycles a LOT of tropes.


Has: Tundra 37 had a fantastic premise but the romantic subplot, for me was the weakest element of the story. However the flashbacks involving Mestasis own tragic romance who is the featured hero in the prequel, A HERO RISING, had depth and was much more engrossing, and heart-wrenching and I was drawn to her character and that of her sister which really made the book and story alive for me. Although I wished the ending didn’t end abruptly, the world-building and the story threads which link and tie in with the other books in the series, is engaging and keeps me interested in the story. I just wished the romance subplot was developed and didn’t fall into trope pitfalls.

I give Tundra 37 3 stars.


Marlene: I also thought that the premise behind Tundra 37 was terrific. The human diaspora story is excellent, and the survival adventure part of the story was well-done. But the romantic elements felt slightly underdone. The romance between Mestasis and James, centuries ago, held more passion than the current living love between Miles and Gemme. Flashbacks are a great story-telling device, but they shouldn’t bear the entire burden of holding up the romance. The ending was upbeat and in a pretty good place, hope and inspiration for the future, before the hard work begins. But that particular ending is a common science fiction trope.

I give Tundra 37 3 stars for too many trips to troperville.

Review: The Reluctant Amazon by Sandy James

Format Read:ebook provided by NetGalley
Number of Pages:258 pages
Release Date: September 3, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press
Series: Alliance of the Amazons #1
Genre: Contemporary fantasy romance, paranormal romance
Formats Available: ebook, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

The last thing Rebecca Massee expects on her wedding day is to go from jilted kindergarten teacher to Amazonian Earth warrior. But when she causes an earthquake after her groom says I don’t, she discovers that not only does she possess incredible powers, she is one of four lost chosen sisters who must fight to keep humanity safe from rogue gods and demons. Luckily she has help: ruggedly handsome Scottish warrior Artair MacKay, her protector and teacher.

An immortal, Artair has trained countless warriors for more than four hundred years. He understands Rebecca’s confusion at the new world she’s been thrust into and worries she is too emotionally vulnerable, but that doesn’t stop his growing feelings for the beautiful and fearless woman.

When an evil force threatens to destroy the Amazons, Rebecca must claim her full powers–but they come at a cost. Can she sacrifice the man she loves if it means saving the world?

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

If my groom said “I can’t do this” at the altar, in front of the officiant, I wouldn’t just punch him in the nose, I hope I’d take another shot at him…and aim considerably lower and with more force. Assuming the jerk has anything down there to hit, considering that he called off the wedding to go back to mommy. His actual mommy. No joke. (Except possibly on Rebecca for thinking she might want to marry him in the first place!)

Calling up the earthquake was definitely a bonus. Artair showing up, looking utterly delicious and wearing a kilt, offering Rebecca a way to walk out of her own called-off wedding with her head held very high, seemed like manna from heaven.

Until she saw the beaten up van he was driving, and the gorgeous redhead he was traveling with. Then her inner wise-woman told her that Artair was too much bad boy for her. Not to mention, threesomes were definitely out of her league. Then the zombies showed up, and all hell really broke loose.

As kick-ass beginnings go, this was a doozy. It’s too bad the rest of the story doesn’t live up to it.

After that wild and crazy beginning (the closest thing to it I’ve seen is the beginning of the movie Monsters vs. Aliens, and that was a blast!) The Reluctant Amazon settles down to a fairly traditional contemporary fantasy romance story.

It turns out that Rebecca is one of four Amazons, each of whom is the avatar for a particular element, Earth, Air, Fire or Water. Those are the traditional elements, too. Rebecca is Earth. When the world faces a particularly terrible evil, the Amazons are called. Think World War II.

Rebecca is called because the previous Earth Amazon is missing, and the Amazons need to be at full-strength. Someone is now targeting them. That other woman in Artair’s rust-bucket van is the previous generation’s Fire Amazon. Her task is to teach the new generation what only Amazons know. Artair is the immortal (of course he’s immortal, it’s part of the trope) Sentinel. He’s their weapons trainer. Think of him as their drill sergeant, only much better looking.

When he dropped out of mortal life 400 years ago, he was entitled to wear that kilt. It figures, doesn’t it? But he’s seen generation after generation of Amazons train, fight, and die on his watch. He may not look old, but he’s seen too many deaths. He wants his humanity back. He wants to live a normal life, find a woman, have a family. And grow old and die when that time comes. He’s had enough.

Of course, Rebecca is the woman that he wants. And he can’t have it both ways. If he gives up being the Sentinel, he’ll be made to forget the Amazons. The regular world can’t know about the otherworldly evils. There would be widespread panic.

And the Amazons are not immortal. They are longer lived than normals, but they do die. Even if they aren’t killed in the line of duty, as all too often happens. And Amazons can’t bear children. Not just because it would be a distraction, but because the process of gaining their powers makes it impossible.

Rebecca is a normal woman who does not believe she is, effectively, a superhero. She fights the belief that she can, literally, move mountains. She always believes that she is less than the women who are now her sisters, because her powers are less flashy. It’s only when they are threatened that she begins to see that she has great, and sometimes terrible power of her own.

Verdict: The Reluctant Amazon has an absolutely fantastic beginning. The sound of her ex-fiance’s nose crunching has a wonderful echo. In an earthquake. How cool is that? But then we head straight for the insta-love romance between Rebecca and Artair, with a side-plot of jealous patron goddess, which is very not-cool.

Likewise, the concept that all the different manifestations of the cultural pantheons are all simultaneously valid and still active, was actually both cool and worked, especially when Rebecca’s head almost exploded as she tried to wrap her mind around it. Mine would too. I love mythology, but suddenly finding it had any basis in even supernatural reality would leave me shaking in my boots, too.

Other hand again, the Amazons as a force for good, fantastic. Having female superheroes, double-fantastic. Making part of the plot hinge on your heroine being a literal unknown goddess-daughter, that went too far into the trip to cliché-city.

Did I have fun reading this? Oh yes! The mish-mash of myth, tech, love and sisterhood is incredibly appealing. I want to see what happens in the rest of the series. There are three more Amazons whose stories have yet to be told, and the big evil got away. I just want the rest of the series to live up to the promise of that first chapter.

I give The Reluctant Amazon 3 stars, one for each remaining Amazon. This universe has serious potential.

***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 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.

Dual Review: The Last Victim by Karen Robards

The Last Victim by Karen Robards

Format Read: e-book provided by NetGalley courtesy of Publisher for Review
Length: 336 Pages
Genre: Paranormal Romantic Thriller
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Random House
Formats Available: Hardcover, Nook, Kindle
Purchasing Info: Publisher, Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Nook, IndieBound, Kindle

Book Blurb:

Dr. Charlotte Stone sees what others do not.

A sought-after expert in criminal pathology, Charlie regularly sits face-to-face with madmen. Obsessed with learning what makes human monsters commit terrible crimes, Charlie desires little else from life—no doubt because when she was sixteen, she herself survived a serial killer’s bloodbath: A man butchered the family of Charlie’s best friend, Holly, then left the girl’s body on a seaside boardwalk one week later.

Because of the information Charlie gave police, the Boardwalk Killer went underground. She kept to herself her eerie postmortem visions of Holly and her mother. And even years later, knowing her contact with ghosts might undermine her credibility as a psychological expert, Charlie tells no one about the visits she gets from the spirit world.

Now all-too-handsome FBI agent Tony Bartoli is telling Charlie that a teenage girl is missing, her family slaughtered. Bartoli suspects that after fifteen years, the Boardwalk Killer—or a sick copycat with his M.O.—is back. Time is running short for an innocent, kidnapped girl, and Bartoli pleads for Charlie’s help.

This is the one case Charlie shouldn’t go near. But she also knows that she may be the one person in the world who can stop this vicious killer. For Charlie—whose good looks disguise a world of hurt, vulnerability, and potent psychic gifts—a frantic hunt for a madman soon becomes a complex test of cunning, passions, and secrets. Aiding Dr. Stone on her quest to catch a madman is a ghostly presence with bad intentions: the fiery spirit of seductive bad boy Michael Garland who refuses to be ignored, though in his cat and mouse game they may both lose their hearts.

Dr. Charlotte Stone sees what others do not. And she sees the Boardwalk Killer coming for her.


Our Thoughts:

Marlene: This was…different. And not always in a good way. It’s like there were three competing tropes going on. The “I See Dead People” psychic trope, the ghost-romance, the ultimate bad-boy romance, and the catching serial killers angle. Okay, make that four tropes.  There are more, but that’s enough to start with.

Lea: I have to agree with Marlene regarding this read being different. As Marlene indicates, there are a number of themes in play up to and including Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone’s romantic life….or lack thereof. This is a third person narrative told from Charlie’s perspective and I will say I had a good understanding of what was happening with all the characters at any given time. A word of caution, there is a prologue in this book that opens with a grisly murder scene and shows readers the trauma and horror that Charlie witnessed. There are more than one such scene in the story so it is best to caution that The Last Victim is not for the faint of heart.

Marlene: While the idea that Charlie took her teenage trauma and used it to forge a career as a criminal pathologist makes fictional sense, the idea that the FBI would scoop her up and put her back in harm’s way with the Boardwalk Killer again didn’t. She was the only surviving witness, and serial killers supposedly don’t like to leave loose ends.  In spite of her expertise, protective custody would have made way more sense than exposure.

Lea: I didn’t have a problem with the FBI approaching Charlie to assist with the investigation given her background and expertise, however there were aspects of the team’s management of her safety that did bother me. And, in the same vein, Charlie is a brilliant woman who is intimately aware of the inherent dangers posed by a sociopathic serial killer, she has made these monsters her life’s study for goodness sake. Further, this is a woman who has lived like a nomad her entire life, moving from one destination to the next depending where her research takes her. Charlie knows the fact she has never settled anywhere is because she has looked over her shoulder since experiencing that horrible trauma as a teen. There is this prevailing, “he’s out there somewhere and could get you at any time” feeling that would cause a lesser person to become a committed agoraphobic but Charlie has channeled her fear in a positive direction, which is good. I did feel sorry for her though, she has no close girlfriends, her life has been devoid of passion, her one goal is to use her expertise to help devise some type of early serial killer detection system. Granted, she reticently steps into the devils sight when the FBI comes to call, but still… I did empathize with her need to do whatever she could to try and save another young girl’s life if at all possible. I didn’t dislike this heroine, but at times I couldn’t help but ask: What the hell is she doing?

Marlene: Lea, you’re right. I empathized with Charlie’s desire to help, but the management of her safety was lacking, to say the least. There were other ways the FBI could have consulted with Charlie without putting her in front of the press, even inadvertently. The case was so high-profile, the press were going to find out eventually, after all. Speaking of the FBI, Agent Bartoli accepts Charlie’s psychic gifts way too easily. On the other hand, Agent Kaminsky is skeptical of Charlie, even as a psychiatrist, to the point of being rude and dismissive. Police departments routinely use psychiatrists or psychologists to profile serial killers, so Kaminsky’s hostility went over-the-top to the point of unbelievability. The agent couldn’t have gotten as far as she had within the Bureau if she “played” that badly with professionals who would regularly be utilized by her team.

Lea: Bartoli’s awareness and acceptance of Charlie’s psychic abilities didn’t bother me. As for Agent Kaminsky? Yes, she did get on my last nerve at times and I agree with Marlene–her attitude toward Dr. Charlie Stone was unprofessional and degrading. I did enjoy it when Charlie starts giving Kaminsky back some of her own, and Charlie’s come-backs are great, she is a psychiatrist after all. I also couldn’t buy into Kaminsky’s personal issues with, and feelings for, fellow team member Agent Buzz Crane. I don’t personally know any FBI Special Agents, but given what I’ve previously read, these individuals are no nonsense and brooding relationships resulting in sarcasm toward fellow team members would be strictly verboten.

Marlene: And then there’s Garland. OMG my eyes started rolling and didn’t stop. He may have been killer gorgeous, but he was also in prison as a convicted serial killer who preyed specifically on women. Charlie was righteously afraid of him when he was alive, but she falls in love with him once he’s dead and his ghost is “attached” to her? The fact that he’s now a ghost and can’t harm her is supposed to make her forget the rest of his character? Or are the hints that he drops that maybe he wasn’t guilty intended to make the reader believe he isn’t as bad as he’s painted? He lied to get his victims into his clutches. He could be, most likely is, lying to Charlie. She should know better.

And ghost-sex by astral projection? Give me a break. Please!

Lea: Michael Garland is certainly intriguing and as the plot progressed I couldn’t help but feel the author had much more to reveal to readers about this guy–particularly given what happens during the conclusion of the story. As for Charlie’s sexual relationship with Garland, yeah, “weird, sister, weird”. O_o I felt the astral projection was a contrived device to get the two of them in the sack.

Then there was Charlie’s possible, maybe, perhaps, not sure, that was a meh/nice kiss, relationship with Bartoli? THAT I found eye-rollingly painful.

Marlene: All I can say is, poor Bartoli. But you’re right, Lea. I can see that the author is planning to reveal more about Garland, but Charlie doesn’t know that yet! And even if Garland turns out not to be a villain, or at least not a serial killer, he’s still dead. Which should carry its own red-flag warning in the romance department. Except for that astral projection thing. OMG that one still makes my head hurt!


Marlene: In spite of everything, I couldn’t turn my reader off. Possibly in the way of watching a train wreck, but just the same, I had to find out how this thing ended. The serial killer does get found, and it both is, and isn’t, a copycat. But a love triangle between a criminal psychiatrist, a dead murderer’s ghost, and a live FBI agent has nowhere to go but heartache. And Charlie should know better about Garland. (For a more satisfying ghost romance, I liked Stacey Kennedy’s Supernaturally Kissed much better (my review here) although the BLI reviewers thought differently. At least the hero is a good guy from the beginning!)

Lea: There were aspects of The Last Victim that I really liked, parts that dragged and finally there was the “OMG this is ridiculous”. However, despite the negatives it was compulsively readable, I had to know how Karen Robards was going to solve the case and kept turning the pages to discover what was going to happen next regarding what can only be described as a vicious, heinous killing spree. There are surprising plot twists. This book is the first in a series, I’m still pondering whether I’ll read the next one. Call me a masochist but I can’t help but want to read the next book to find out more about Michael Garland. LOL

Marlene gives The Last Victim 2.5 Stars

Lea gives The Last Victim a very tepid 3 Stars

***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 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.

About Marlene:

Marlene is a librarian, ebook advocate, science fiction fan, and RPG fan who lives in the Atlanta suburbs. She and her husband are owned by four cats, just ask them. She’s a geek and a nerd and proud of it. She’s also an avid reader of everything, including the back of the cereal box, and has been blogging since April 2011 at Reading Reality and is a reviewer at Library Journal as well as active on Goodreads. She is also the publisher of Ebook Review Central.