Dual ARC Review: Hot Ticket by Olivia Cunning

hotticket-236x360Format Read: ARC provided by Publisher courtesy of Netgalley for Review
Length: 400 Pages
Series: Sinners On Tour, Book 4
Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Formats Available: eBook, Kindle, Nook, Trade Paperback
Purchasing Info: Publisher, Author’s Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Powell’s, The Book Depository, Kindle, Nook

Book Blurb:

He needs her to mask his pain…

When Jace walked through the doors of Aggie’s dungeon, the last thing he expected was to find self-forgiveness and the love of a remarkable woman. But when a terrible accident sidelines Jace during the band’s tour, the burdensome chains of his past wrap ferociously around his heart.

She needs him to forgive himself…

Determined to crack through Jace’s armored shell, Aggie must go beyond her usual methods to mend his heart to love again.

Our Thoughts:

Marlene: If you have been following Olivia Cunning’s Sinners on Tour, when you read the opening of Hot Ticket, you might have the feeling that you’ve been here before.

And you’d be right.

Lea: The timeline of this one was a deja vu situation and I liked it in some ways because it refreshed my memory after such a long break since the release of Rock Hard. On the other hand there were times when it all seemed “more of the same” from a different character’s perspective. Also with reading Double Time late last year, we knew a lot of what was coming.

Marlene: The opening of Hot Ticket is the same scene as the opening of Rock Hard, just from a different perspective. Instead of Jessica going on stage at the strip club and being hauled off by Sed, we have Aggie going on stage and being mentally stripped by Jace.

At least Jace has a bit more self-control. He doesn’t start the barroom brawl. He only finishes it.

But then, control is one of Jace’s issues. And Aggie’s. Because Aggie uses her dancing at the club to find clients for her real business, being dominatrix Madame V. It’s Madame V. that Jace needs. Jace thinks that he needs to be hurt, that he deserves it. He’s long past the point where he’s mixed up pleasure and pain.

Being a domme is Aggie’s business. Helping Jace, finding a way for Jace to work through his real pain, becomes her mission.

Lea: Well put Marlene. Initially at least, I found Aggie challenged to the point of mental derangement because she cannot get Jace to submit to her domination. And, it isn’t for lack of trying, she beats him with every implement imaginable and he asks for more. Maybe it’s my nurturing instincts, but I found Jace’s heartrending emotional pain enticing. I just wanted to hug the poor guy and sooth his tortured soul.

When I first started this book and Aggie was wielding her bullwhip in the club, playing her tough dominatrix role, I nearly dropped my Kindle on the floor, I’m not good at all with brutal sadism. I was glad I persevered and thought Cunning did a good job of making Aggie’s sadistic tendencies palatable to readers by characterizing this tormented man who needed physical pain to lessen the emotional. Aggie gives him what he needs and eventually helps him to work through his insecurities and very low self esteem which was actually quite moving, to a point.

Marlene: Jace needs the release that Aggie gives him to keep the demons at bay. But Aggie sees that sweet, tortured Jace is deserving of all the love, and all the respect, in the world. If only he would ever let himself believe it.


I’ll admit that I had a lot of mixed feelings about this story. Surprisingly not about the BDSM aspects. While they exist, they did not seem to be as huge an element of the plot as the blurb makes you expect.

Jace has confused pleasure and pain because he is hurt on the inside. That’s the part that is really painful. And because he can’t admit to himself that he enjoys the pain. He’s decided he deserves it for reasons that are part of the story. He’s a walled up emotional mess.

He can’t believe he deserves anything good in his life. His need for pain is just part of that. And we do find out why in the story.

Lea: I agree regarding your analysis of what the author was trying to relate to readers regarding Jace and his inner turmoil. He certainly learned to suppress his pain as a defense mechanism. Jace also doesn’t believe he is worthy of love, which was heart breaking.

I too had great difficulty rating this story, I loved Jace to the point of swooning (and I never swoon) but I was also conflicted with regard to Aggie. It wasn’t the pleasure/pain part of their relationship, it was her whole amateur psychologist gig. I just didn’t buy that she would be so insightful and able to heal all of this guy’s horrific emotional wounds. I got there was a great love developing between them, and they both fed each others fetishes but thought was rather unrealistic. While I know, it’s to be expected (it is the Sinners’ modus operandi after all) but there was so much exhibitionism, voyeurism and sexual excess going on, on that tour bus I became desensitized at times. Which brings me to Eric, this guy is the ultimate voyeur, and the scenes with him, Jace and Aggie made my eyes bug.

I did like that once Aggie and Jace were together they stayed together, there was plenty of conflict but it was satisfying to see them work through their mega issues without the ultimate relationship break-up, then getting back together. I felt there was an overabundance of sentimentality with Aggie, she is supposed to be this bad-ass dominatrix but turns over the top mushy with Jace. As well, her meddling bothered me.

Marlene: What we don’t find out, and it does bug me, is why Aggie is so unwilling to commit. We do find out why she became a dominatrix, but I didn’t get enough of why she spends so much of the book completely unwilling to commit. Not just to Jace, but to anyone. It’s a pattern that’s not explored.

She also has a terrible relationship with her mother, who comes off as a stereotypical bad mother. This entire series has a parade of bad parents, and absent parents. Did no one have a good childhood?

Lea: Yep Marlene, there is that. lol Not one of them seems to have any sort of foundation of parental normalcy which is why they are such a bizarre, dysfunctional bunch. There has been a strong sense of loyalty established within the Sinners ‘family’, and it’s good to see how they support each other. I liked seeing more of Sed’s leadership strengths and despite his arrogance, he lends support to his fellow band-mates.

Marlene: Another big issue for me was that the out of order release impacts the story. A chunk of the beginning of this story is Rock Hard re-hashed from Aggie and Jace’s perspective. We know what’s going to happen because we know how that story ended. On top of that, we know how this story ends because Double Time was released out of sequence. We already know about the bus crash and its aftermath because that’s in the past in Double Time. And we know that Aggie and Jace are together in the future.

That’s not the author’s fault, but it makes reading Hot Ticket, well, not as hot as it might have been.

Lea: Again, I agree.

The thing I’ve so enjoyed about this series is the humor, Cunning always makes me hoot with laughter! The Sinners are so irreverent and crazy and you never know what is going to come out of these guys mouths. I am curious to see what will happen with Eric, we met the woman he is matched with in Double Time but it will be interesting to see how Cunning will manage his voyeuristic tendencies and I will give his book tentatively entitled Snared a try when it’s released this fall. I’m wondering if there will be a spin off series featuring the Exodus End band?

Marlene gives Hot Ticket 3 1/2 roped and tied Stars

Lee gives Hot Ticket 3 1/2 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: 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.