Review: Lightning in a Mirror by Jayne Ann Krentz

Review: Lightning in a Mirror by Jayne Ann KrentzLightning in a Mirror (Fogg Lake #3) by Jayne Ann Krentz
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, romantic suspense
Series: Fogg Lake #3
Pages: 320
Published by Berkley on January 18, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The final installment in the chilling Fogg Lake trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz.
Olivia LeClair's experiment with speed dating is not going well. First there was the nasty encounter with the date from hell who tried to murder her and now the mysterious Harlan Rancourt—long believed dead—sits down at her table and tells her she's the only one who can help him locate the legendary Vortex lab.
This is not what Olivia had in mind when she signed up for the Four Event Success Guaranteed package offered by the dating agency. She doesn't have much choice, though, because her psychic investigation firm works for the mysterious Foundation and Victor Arganbright, the director, is adamant that she assist Harlan. There's just one problem—no one knows Harlan's real agenda. His father once ran the Foundation like a mob organization, and Harlan was destined to be his heir. There's a real possibility Harlan has returned to claim his inheritance.
For now, however, it's a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend because others are after the secrets of the long-lost lab. Unfortunately for Olivia, the one thing friend and foe have in common is that everyone is convinced she is the key. Her unique psychic talent is required to defuse the ticking time bomb that is Vortex.
Neither trusts the other but Olivia and Harlan soon realize they must work together to survive and unlock the Bluestone Project's most dangerous secrets before more innocent people die.

My Review:

At least in some variations, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help you,” is one of the three biggest lies. In Fogg Lake, and the paranormally powered world of this series, “We’re from the Foundation and we’re here to help you,” seems to be the psi-powered equivalent.

But so far in contemporary Fogg Lake it actually seems to be true. Well, it’s true NOW. It wasn’t true back in the day. Come to think of it, the government version wasn’t true then or now.

The entire Fogg Lake series, starting with The Vanishing and All the Colors of Night, has been all about dealing with the mysteries and the dangers that remain from the Bluestone Project and it’s offshoot Vortex, that came into being back in that day when both the government – in the form of that top-secret Bluestone Project, and the Foundation were doing their level best to figure out how to enhance and weaponize psychic powers.

Something that never ever ends well. At this point, the Foundation, at least in the person of Harlan Rancourt, is just trying to make sure it ends – before anyone else gets dead in the process. The Vortex process.

Fogg Lake turns out to be part of the ‘Jayneverse’ of connected stories that encompasses the Arcane Society and Harmony. In the Fogg Lake series, that connection is tangential. You don’t have to have read any of the Arcane Society books to get hooked into Fogg Lake in The Vanishing. (But the Easter Eggs sure are fun to find!)

It’s not like we aren’t aware of plenty of shady government projects that have disappeared without a trace – at least in fiction. It’s also possible to see the now-moribund government office that ran Bluestone as the cramped, dusty office that would later house Mulder and Scully.

But Lightning in a Mirror is the last book in the Fogg Lake series, so if contemporary paranormal romantic suspense sounds like your cup of tea, start with The Vanishing.

This story, while the romance is totally encompassed in this one book, the suspense factor is not. The Foundation, both its current directors, Victor Arganbright and Lucas Pine, as well as the investigators of the Lark & LeClair Detective Agency, Catalina Lark (protagonist of The Vanishing) and Olivia LeClair (this book’s heroine), have been hunting for the remnants of Bluestone and Vortex throughout the series.

As this story opens it looks like Vortex is hunting them as well. At least, they’re hunting Olivia LeClair for the Oracle talent that entirely too many people seem to think she inherited from her grandmother. Vortex would have caught her, just as they caught her mother, if not for the intervention of Harlan Rancourt.

Which is where the story kicks into gear. High gear. Rancourt has been hiding from the Foundation for five years, investigating the death of his own father in a mysterious accident. With Vortex on the rise he returns to the fold to prevent the catastrophe that his own talents tell him is coming.

Rancourt is a wild-card to everyone. A chameleon talent who fools everyone, all the time, about the true nature of the threat he presents. But he never fools Olivia. She sees him for the predator he is – and doesn’t run.

At least she doesn’t run FROM him. Running WITH him to keep one step ahead of Vortex – and to stay together – turns out to be just what both of them have been waiting for.

Escape Rating A-: First and most important, the ENTIRE ‘Jayneverse’ is a whole lot of fun – especially if you like a bit of the paranormal mixed with romantic suspense. She writes the historical parts of the series as Amanda Quick, the contemporaries as Jayne Ann Krentz, and the futuristic Harmony as Jayne Castle. And they are all just oodles of fun.

The links between the series are loose, but like a tangled thread, once you pull at one and get invested in THAT part of her world, you’ll be led to the others. (And I prefer ‘Arcaneverse’ as the collective title but that’s a “me” thing)

There are, as usual for this series, two stories blended into the book. One is the overall series arc, which is the suspense part, and the other is the, well, romantic part. Which, as is also usual, isn’t all that “romantic” in a hearts and flowers sense.

Neither Harlan nor Olivia are hearts and flowers kind of people – and that’s been true of the protagonists for most of the series. They meet because they’re on the trail of a serial killer, or a series of serial killers, they’re both in danger and they’re both capable of taking care of that danger themselves (I love that there are no damsels in her series). But they are better – and safer – together than they are apart.

For select definitions of both “better” and “safer”.

So their romance begins with the forced intimacy of being on the run together, combined with the adrenaline thrills and crashes of facing deadly danger together> That rush to romance is ably assisted and enhanced by psychic compatibility that validates the attraction into becoming something more. It doesn’t feel “romantic” in any of the traditional senses, but insta-lust is a real thing and the insta-love that surprises them both does manage to feel earned.

Nevertheless, what captivated me about this book – and about the Fogg Lake series and everything else this author writes – is the overarching suspense plot. I always enjoy a black-ops project/government agency/conspiracy gone wrong kind of story, and this one is a doozy.

It’s not hard to believe that there are government agencies so secret that no one knows about them, because they’re doing things the government can’t afford to acknowledge. In fact, it’s downright easy to believe this and it’s a stock in trade of lots of genres. Bits of it have even happened in real life – just look up the history of the Manhattan Project, secret towns and all.

That such a project would be rife with criminal shenanigans isn’t a stretch either. And neither is the idea that some people wouldn’t be able to let it go. That’s where Fogg Lake and the Bluestone Project sit, at that intersection of conspiracy theories and government black operations.

So the romance didn’t seem all that romantic, but I was all in on the conspiracy parts, and that’s what kept me flipping pages as I poured through this story and this series.

While we may be finished at Fogg Lake, I’m looking forward to visiting another corner of this universe in May, when we return to 1930s Burning Cove, California in When She Dreams.

Review: Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick

Review: Garden of Lies by Amanda QuickGarden of Lies by Amanda Quick, Jayne Ann Krentz
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance, romantic suspense
Pages: 359
Published by Berkley on April 21, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The Kern Secretarial Agency provides reliable professional services to its wealthy clientele, and Anne Clifton was one of the finest women in Ursula Kern’s employ. But Miss Clifton has met an untimely end—and Ursula is convinced it was not due to natural causes.   Archaeologist and adventurer Slater Roxton thinks Mrs. Kern is off her head to meddle in such dangerous business. Nevertheless, he seems sensible enough to Ursula, though she does find herself unnerved by his self-possession and unreadable green-gold eyes…   If this mysterious widowed beauty insists on stirring the pot, Slater intends to remain close by as they venture into the dark side of polite society. Together they must reveal the identity of a killer—and to achieve their goal they may need to reveal their deepest secrets to each other as well…

My Review:

The popular perception of heroines in historical romance is that their lives were restricted and that they were supposed to be innocent even into adulthood and as a consequence were naïve and/or ripe to become damsels in distress who needed to be rescued by the hero.

An image that probably wasn’t true even among the aristocracy, and certainly couldn’t have been outside it. Which doesn’t prevent it from still being a popular perception. But readers aren’t looking for innocent damsels in distress nearly as much as they used to. We’re looking for women we can manage to identify with.

In that sense, Ursula Kern is a fascinating choice as a heroine. She’s a widow. She’s permitted to no longer be innocent or naïve. She’s on her own, and she owns her own business – not as a member of the demimonde – but a respectable business employing respectable women who are able to earn respectable incomes.

Whatever hopes and dreams she may have, she is expected to present herself as a responsible, respectable, professional adult person. She’s been through enough to know that the only person who will take care of her is her. As a woman with neither a husband nor living parents nor male siblings, there is no one to gainsay her determination to make a living for herself and to provide good livings for as many women as possible in her employ.

Ursula may not have family, but she does have friends as well as colleagues and employees. The late Anne Clifton was all of the above; an employee who became a colleague and friend. Ursula Kern is certain that Anne Clifton was murdered. Finding her killer is the last thing that Ursula can do for her friend – and she’s determined to do it.

She just needs a bit of help. Or at least she hopes for it. And that’s where Slater Roxton comes in. Slater, a man with a mysterious incident in his past that has fueled the gossip rags and gutter press for years, is an expert on finding lost artifacts and tombs – where he once got trapped.

(Come to think of it, he’d probably be a contemporary of Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Sr., the father of archeologist, treasure hunter and troubleshooter Indiana Jones. If there turned out to be some influence there I wouldn’t be at all surprised.)

Slater, for reasons of his own, some more obvious than others, can’t let Ursula go off on her investigation all alone. It’s not that he doesn’t believe she quite capable as an adult and as a businesswoman, but ferreting out the truth about dastardly murderers who have so far been successful at making their crimes look like accidents is a dangerous business.

A business with many more dangerous tentacles – or should I say twisted roots and entangling vines – than either Slater or Ursula ever imagined.

Escape Rating A-: I read this for fun. I was bouncing hard off of everything and went looking for a story that I knew would be instantly absorbing. I was highly tempted to read this author’s Lightning in a Mirror which is out next week, but then I remembered that Garden of Lies was STILL on my “Highly Anticipating” Shelf on Edelweiss. In fact, it was the oldest book on that shelf. So here we are.

Garden of Lies was every bit as instantly absorbing and fun as I hoped, even if I didn’t completely buy the inevitable romance between Slater and Ursula. The rest of the story, especially the uncovering of the full scope of the criminal plotting AND the nefarious dealings on both sides of the pond, was absolutely riveting.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the way that all the women in the story, including the secondary characters, dealt with their world in a way that seemed realistically sensible. Not just that Ursula and the women she employs have made their own way independently, but the way that Slater’s mother, the actress who was the lifelong paramour of a titled noble, knew exactly what she was letting herself in for and moved through the world as she found it and not as anyone dreamed or hoped it would be. That his late father was sanguine enough to not merely acknowledge Slater was his but to trust his illegitimate son to protect his legal widow and legitimate heirs from her abusive father.

Their approaches to their world make sense in a way that isn’t always true in historical romance.

The mystery plot was marvelously convoluted and the reveal of it was appropriately painstaking. Ursula starts with the death of her friend, finds evidence that her death was murder, and then begins to dig. The solution is revealed in layers, as each new bit of information leads to a place that no one had foreseen from the opening. The web was woven very tightly, and it takes and appropriate amount of time and effort to unravel it fully.

As Ursula and Slater eventually manage to do. I liked them as partners, I just didn’t see enough of them “falling” in love to buy that they really were in love. But I’m still glad they found their slightly unconventional HEA.

There was no paranormal woo-woo in this standalone book, as there so often is in the author’s Arcane Society series, yet it still had some of the same feel with its nefarious plot, double-dealing, wheels within wheels criminal organization, and the investigation into dirty deeds done in very dark places for both evil and mercenary ends.

But the author has two books with some of that paranormal vibe coming soon, Lightning in a Mirror next week and When She Dreams in April. My reading appetite for both has certainly been whetted!

Review: All the Colors of Night by Jayne Ann Krentz

Review: All the Colors of Night by Jayne Ann KrentzAll the Colors of Night (Fogg Lake #2) by Jayne Ann Krentz
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, romantic suspense
Series: Fogg Lake #2
Pages: 304
Published by Berkley on January 5, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Two psychics plunge into a dark world of deadly secrets in this second installment of the Fogg Lake trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz.
North Chastain possesses a paranormal talent that gives him the ability to track down the most dangerous psychic criminals. When his father suddenly falls into a coma, North is convinced it was caused by a deadly artifact traced back to the days of a secret government laboratory known only as the Bluestone Project. North knows his only hope of saving his father is to find the artifact. He is good when it comes to tracking down killers but to locate the relic, he's going to need help from a psychic who knows the shadowy world of obsessive collectors, deceptive dealers, and ruthless raiders…
With her reputation in ruins after a false accusation, antique expert Sierra Raines is looking for a fresh start. She turns to the murky backwaters of the paranormal artifacts trade, finding and transporting valuable objects with a psychic provenance. When North Chastain approaches her for help, Sierra takes him on as a client, though not without reservations. North represents the mysterious Foundation, the secretive organization established to police the underworld populated by psychic criminals and those, like Sierra, who make a living in the shadows of that world.
North and Sierra soon find themselves at the scene of The Incident that occurred decades ago in Fogg Lake. The town and its residents were forever changed by the disaster in the nearby Bluestone Project labs. The pair unearth shocking truths about what happened that fateful night, but they are playing with fire—someone in town knows what they’ve discovered and will do anything to make sure the secrets stay buried.

My Review:

A long time ago, and partly, come to think of it, in a galaxy far, far away, there were two books written by Jayne Ann Krentz under her various pseudonyms. Second Sight, written as Amanda Quick in 2006, was the very first book in her long-running and century spanning Arcane Society series featuring characters from the Victorian era up through the present day who were gifted – or cursed – or sometimes even both – with paranormal abilities..

But before that, in 2000, or long after in the internal chronology, there was After Dark, written as Jayne Castle, the first book in the Ghost Hunters/Harmony series. The ghost hunters were the people, Harmony was the planet, and it had been settled by refugees who all left Earth because they had, you guessed it, paranormal abilities.

Those series converged in Midnight Crystal in 2010, where the thing I had always guessed was finally revealed, that the Harmony settlers were the descendants of the Arcane Society.

The long arm of coincidence being very long, and the concept that two separate populations of people with psi powers had somehow developed on Earth being too weird to be coincidental, when the marvelous first book in the Fogg Lake series, The Vanishing came out this time last year I was enthralled with the story – and fully expected Fogg Lake to link up to the Arcane Society and Harmony sooner or later.

It’s sooner. But if you’ve never dipped into either of the other series, don’t let that stop you from plunging into Fogg Lake. Because the link is tangential. It’s a hint, not a deep dive into the Arcane Society. Just a couple of brief mentions to answer the curiosity of readers – but mostly to allay the professional snoopiness of The Foundation, the early-21st century organization that is currently organizing and policing the paranormal population.

Because The Foundation has brushed up against the Arcane Society before, and they definitely don’t believe in that long arm of coincidence at all. But the clear but subtle “back off” messages they receive from both Harmony Jones, the Oracle of Fogg Lake, and Ambrose Jones of the paranormal artifacts retrieval agency, The Vault, let them know that the Arcane Society was very, very real and that that’s ALL they’re going to EVER be told.

So not nearly enough to make a new reader desperate to dive back into the other series, but a lovely little tease to let new readers know that if they enjoy their visits to Fogg Lake and want more that there is a whole universe out there to binge read.

All the Colors of Night takes place in the wake of The Vanishing. Not in the sense that the characters continue from that book, but rather that as the series opener The Vanishing literally opens the door to the series as the investigators discover the reason that the residents of Fogg Lake ALL have paranormal power when they find the ruins of the defunct Bluestone Project’s Fogg Lake labs.

Just as the protagonists of that first book are the descendants of Fogg Lake, so too are North Chastain and Sierra Raines, the heroes of this entry in the series.

For both North and Sierra, that inheritance from the “Fogg Lake Incident” is very much of a mixed blessing. They both have strong paranormal powers, but to the point where pretending to be “normal” is beyond them. It’s just too big a secret to keep and keeping it has kept them out of close friendships and romantic entanglements.

Until they meet each other, not in a romantic setting but as business partners forced to work together against their own instincts. But they need each other, at first only in the professional sense, but as they team up to chase down the people who attacked North’s father, they discover that their senses resonate together in a way that can’t be denied.

If they survive.

Escape Rating A-: The story in All the Colors of Night was every bit as fascinating as The Vanishing. This was just one of those books that I couldn’t put down – so it was a good thing I was reading it on a day when I didn’t have to.

The fun of this series so far is the slow reveal of all of the creepy woo-woo secrets and the way that kicks off and inserts itself into the romance. The idea that the government was playing around with the possibilities of paranormal powers is not a surprise – nor is it a surprise that when the government backed out the coverup began.

It would not surprise me AT ALL to learn that the secret government agency in charge of the Bluestone Project, “tiny, woefully underfunded Agency for the Investigation of Atypical Phenomena, a one-desk operation (currently unstaffed), buried deep in the basement of a building somewhere in Washington, D.C.” isn’t the same agency that Mulder and Scully worked out of in the X-Files. Although we’ll probably never know for sure.

But back to this story. North and Sierra aren’t so much investigating as digging for buried treasure – with pirates and tomb robbers chasing them at every turn. North has not one but two personal stakes in this hunt. He’s searching for the men who attacked his father, and he’s hoping to find out the truth about his grandfather’s disappearance way back when Bluestone was shut down.

He finds way more than he bargained for, that the attack on his father wasn’t the first attack on his family. Someone is poisoning him with the intent to burn out his paranormal powers. He’s not sure whether he has one enemy or lots of them – only that Sierra seems to be the one person he can trust. After all, she’s the one who discovered the poisoning.

But the chase that North begins thinking it’s all something in the present really goes back to his grandfather, his grandfather’s research partner, and a long-lost cache of weapons that holds the secret – even if that isn’t what North has been told and the cache isn’t quite what everyone believes it to be.

The romance in this one is very much opposites attract, along with more than a bit of one of this author’s specialties, the damaged hero finding a partner who is far from perfect herself, but is absolutely perfect for him – even if he can’t see it when they meet.

Both North and Sierra are afraid to let anyone other than family get close to them, both because of the powers they have to keep hidden from “mundanes” and because they each feel like they’re missing something or waiting for something to happen. Along with North initially believing that he’s about to lose his powers and fearing what will follow. While North’s situation pushes him even deeper into his own serious and driven side, Sierra comes off as a bit of a flake, job-hopping while searching for her “calling”.

They shouldn’t match, but the way that they do works really well and adds just the perfect touch of Happy Ever After to what would otherwise be a rather dark and serious story. The mix of danger and romance is just right.

While this story is a standalone, it is also clear that there is plenty more to uncover and many more stories to tell in Fogg Lake – and I can’t wait to read them!

Review: The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz

Review: The Vanishing by Jayne Ann KrentzThe Vanishing (Fogg Lake #1) by Jayne Ann Krentz
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, romantic suspense
Series: Fogg Lake #1
Pages: 304
Published by Berkley on January 7, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

From New York Times bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz comes a new gripping romantic suspense trilogy fraught with danger and enigma.

Forty years ago in the small town of Fogg Lake, "The Incident" occurred: an explosion in the cave system that released unknown gases, causing peculiar effects on its residents, such as strange visions and ominous voices. Not wanting the government to get involved, they chalked it up to the hallucinogenic effects of mushrooms. Little did they know these effects would linger through the generations....

Residents Catalina Lark and Olivia Dayton have been best friends for years and own an investigation firm together, using what they call the "other sight" to help with their business. When Olivia goes missing, Cat frantically begins the search for her alone when the town does nothing about it. When scientist Slate Trevelyan shows up, she has no choice but to accept his help even though there's something about him she just can't trust. The duo discovers someone is hunting the two witnesses of a murder in Fogg Lake fourteen years ago—the very one Cat and Olivia witnessed as teens, one that they couldn't prove happened. Cat and Slate's search for Olivia takes them down a rabbit hole that is far more dangerous and mysterious than they ever expected, and with a killer in their midst, neither of them can foresee who will come out alive.

My Review:

This was the book I felt compelled to read this week – no matter what I put in my Sunday Post. I expected to be swept away by Krentz/Quick/Castle’s unique blend of romantic suspense and parapsychological woo-woo and that’s exactly what happened.

I also expect that Fogg Lake will somehow turn out to be just down the road from Scargill Cove, that the Bluestone Project will somehow turn out to be related to “Mad Scientist” Jones’ research or that The Foundation will be outed as a precursor agency to the Arcane Society. Or all of the above.

But in the meantime, The Vanishing stands on its own as the first book in a new series. And it stands proud.

The story does begin a bit in the middle, but not because there have been previous mentions of Fogg Lake. But because by the time that Catalina and Olivia are teenage girls, whatever happened to make Fogg Lake the place it is occurred decades in the past. There was a Fogg Lake Incident that turned the town more than a bit insular. An incident that gave all the residents – and their descendants – paranormal powers of one kind or another. The kind of powers that the so-called normal world treats as a one-way ticket to drugged institutionalization.

Not that The Foundation doesn’t have its own facilities for that sort of thing. It’s one of the reasons that their reputation in the paranormal community is more than a bit tattered. But people with paranormal powers do go off the rails. It’s just that The Foundation is well aware that they are not off those rails merely because they think have those powers.

Catalina and Olivia left Fogg Lake to go to college. After they learned to keep their powers hidden and appear normal. Long after they witnessed a murder in the Fogg Lake caves that everyone else was convinced was a hallucination – even them.

But that long ago incident in their own personal past reaches out to grab them, or at least to grab Olivia, from the streets of Seattle. Just as The Foundation, in the person of Slater Arganbright, shows up at their private investigations agency to hire them. The Foundation needs their help in investigating a couple of crime scenes that just might connect back to Fogg Lake’s incident.

Catalina and Slater join reluctant forces to find the missing Olivia and determine whether their two cases connect.

Coincidences aren’t in either of their worlds. Slater’s crime scenes are all too related to Olivia’s disappearance. And everything ties back to that incident at Fogg Lake. Both the one in the town’s past and the later one in Cat’s and Olivia’s.

And Cat and Slater definitely connect with each other. More than either of them expected – or even thought might be possible.

Escape Rating A-: I got completely lost in this one, which seems appropriate for a story set in a place called Fogg Lake. I was grabbed by the story at the very beginning, with teenaged Cat and Olivia witnessing a murder in the caves – and not being believed.

But that was just a teaser to set up part of the main story. And it so worked.

Because it gives the reader a glimpse of the way that Fogg Lake is while not revealing how it got that way. In the end, that revelation is part of the main story – and it’s clear that we don’t know nearly enough – yet.

The biggest part of this one is the investigation. We follow along with Slater and Cat as they search for the missing Olivia, investigate Slater’s mysterious crime scenes and attempt to discover what the one has to do with the other. All the while, the true history of Fogg Lake hovers just out of reach – until they begin stumbling over its very messy pieces.

Along the way, several fascinating things happen. One is the dive into the paranormal world that Slater and Cat inhabit every bit as much as they do the normal world – if not sometimes a bit more. The whole thing about the secret world existing alongside of the one we know is done well and is very cool as well as a bit creepy in all the right ways.

At the same time we get to know Cat, her abilities and her powers. Part of the fun of that part of the story is discovering just how many people Cat distrusts and has run afoul of, as well as her snarky attitude towards all of the above. Cat’s a woman I’d love to have drinks with – and she’d know if anyone spiked them.

And then there’s the growing tension between Cat and Slater. They don’t trust each other. To be more accurate, Cat doesn’t trust anyone from The Foundation as Cat’s last job for them left her holding the bag on a big mess courtesy of Slater’s uncle. A mess that seems to follow her around throughout the story and with which she has zero patience – and for good reason.

But the same powers that have made both of these people fear relationships with normals have given them an instant and intense awareness of each other that can only lead to one place – if they are willing to take the risk.

And if they can get this case wrapped up before it kills them.

I don’t know when the second book in the Fogg Lake series will be coming out – but I can’t wait to find out more!

Review: Untouchable by Jayne Ann Krentz

Review: Untouchable by Jayne Ann KrentzUntouchable (Cutler, Sutter & Salinas, #3) by Jayne Ann Krentz
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: romantic suspense
Series: Cutler Sutter & Salinas #3
Pages: 336
Published by Berkley on January 8, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A man's quest to find answers for those who are haunted by the past leads him deeper into the shadows in this electrifying novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Promise Not to Tell.

Quinton Zane is back.

Jack Lancaster, consultant to the FBI, has always been drawn to the coldest of cold cases, the kind that law enforcement either considers unsolvable or else has chalked up to accidents or suicides. As a survivor of a fire, he finds himself uniquely compelled by arson cases. His almost preternatural ability to get inside the killer's head has garnered him a reputation in some circles--and complicated his personal life. The more cases Jack solves, the closer he slips into the darkness. His only solace is Winter Meadows, a meditation therapist. After particularly grisly cases, Winter can lead Jack back to peace.

But as long as Quinton Zane is alive, Jack will not be at peace for long. Having solidified his position as the power behind the throne of his biological family's hedge fund, Zane sets out to get rid of Anson Salinas's foster sons, starting with Jack.

My Review:

“They say you can buy anything online these days.” In this case, the “they” in question are the two protagonists in Untouchable. Certainly one of the “anything” you can buy is a good book.

Unfortunately, while Untouchable isn’t a bad read at all, it just doesn’t quite live up to the thrill-a-minute pace of its predecessors, When All the Girls Have Gone and Promise Not to Tell. But anyone who has read the first two really needs to read this one as well. Because Untouchable is where we finally get the closure that we’ve (along with Max Cutler, Caleb Sutter and Anson Salinas) have been waiting for.

Jack Lancaster is the “fourth Musketeer” of the private investigations firm of Cutler, Sutter and Salinas. He’s one of the children that retired police officer Anson Salinas rescued from the fire that was intended to tie up all of the loose ends at Quinton Zane’s cult headquarters. It almost worked. The fire covered Zane’s tracks and killed all the adults in the compound, including the mothers of all three boys.

And it left those boys, along with their foster father, with a burning desire to bring Quinton Zane to justice – no matter how many times Zane managed to fake his own death, or how long it might take.

The cases that Max Cutler (When All the Girls Have Gone) and Caleb Sutter (Promise Not to Tell) have solved have led the team to the conclusion that Quinton Zane isn’t just alive, but that he’s back in the U.S. after years abroad.

Now it’s Jack’s turn to do what he does best – put all the nebulous pieces together and solve the ice cold case that began in so much fire.

Escape Rating B-: I’m putting the rating in early in the review so that I can talk about the story in a bit more detail.

I’m in a bit of a quandary, because the closure provided by this story is really necessary after the first two books in the series. But in the end, it just doesn’t live up to them. I’m not sure that’s a big problem, because it also can’t be read as a standalone. So much of the tension in this story revolves around Jack’s (and his foster father and brothers’) lifelong obsession with Quinton Zane. If you weren’t there for the first books you’re not going be interested in this one.

This book also has a feel that reminds me a lot more of the author’s Arcane Society books. Jack’s talent for lucid dreaming, and the way that it is expressed, reads a lot like the way that Arcane talents manifest in the Dreamlight trilogy, and Jack himself reads a lot like one of the hunters from Harmony.

Winter Meadows’ master of hypnotism also fits right into the Arcane Society. As does the conspiracy theorist Arizona Snow. Both Snow and the little town of Eclipse Bay feature in Running Hot, a story in the Arcane Society series. There’s also a nod to Burning Cove – the location of her currently in-progress historical romantic suspense series under her Amanda Quick pen name.

So this story contains a lot of nods to other places and scenarios that this author has created. Not enough to pull readers unfamiliar out of this story, but certainly enough to put a smile of recognition on the face of those who ARE familiar.

As romantic suspense, Untouchable needs both a mystery/thriller plot and a romantic element. The mystery is provided by the cat and mouse game between Jack and Quinton Zane. The romance is provided by the relationship that springs up between Jack and Winter Meadows.

And while their love scenes are plenty hot, there’s not enough emotional build-up to “sell” the romance. Not that we don’t want them to find their HEA, but we don’t feel with them enough. Or at least I didn’t. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

In the end the wrap up of the series was satisfactory, but the individual entry in it was not. I usually love this author and wish that I’d liked this book better. I’m now very curious to see how her next book, Tightrope, third in the Burning Cove series written as Amanda Quick, works for me – and everyone else.

Review: The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick

Review: The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda QuickThe Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick, Jayne Ann Krentz
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance, romantic suspense
Series: Burning Cove #2
Pages: 368
Published by Berkley on May 8, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Knew Too Much sweeps readers back to 1930s California--where the most dazzling of illusions can't hide the darkest secrets...

After escaping from a private sanitarium, Adelaide Blake arrives in Burning Cove, California, desperate to start over.

Working at an herbal tea shop puts her on the radar of those who frequent the seaside resort town: Hollywood movers and shakers always in need of hangover cures and tonics. One such customer is Jake Truett, a recently widowed businessman in town for a therapeutic rest. But unbeknownst to Adelaide, his exhaustion is just a cover.

In Burning Cove, no one is who they seem. Behind facades of glamour and power hide drug dealers, gangsters, and grifters. Into this make-believe world comes psychic to the stars Madame Zolanda. Adelaide and Jake know better than to fall for her kind of con. But when the medium becomes a victim of her own dire prediction and is killed, they'll be drawn into a murky world of duplicity and misdirection.

Neither Adelaide or Jake can predict that in the shadowy underground they'll find connections to the woman Adelaide used to be--and uncover the specter of a killer who's been real all along...

My Review:

Now that I’ve finished the second book in the Burning Cove series, after last year’s terrific The Girl Who Knew Too Much, I still want to know if Burning Cove is just down the road from Scargill Cove.

While this series does not have the same paranormal elements that the author’s Arcane Society series(s) do, it still has a lot of the same feel. In the case of The Other Lady Vanishes, that feeling includes a surprising touch of the Gothic, particularly for a book set in the 1920s and not the Victorian Era.

The Gothic influence is provided by remote Rushbrook Sanitarium, designed as a creepy Gothic Victorian castle, but situated in a small town in California. And the awful things that happen there are enough to give anyone nightmares.

We meet Adelaide Blake on the night of her desperate escape from Rushbrook. Adelaide is pretty sure she knows exactly why she’s in Rushbrook, and it’s not because she’s crazy. And not in the way that people in asylums say they’re not crazy when they really are.

She is a bit paranoid. But then again, they really are out to get her.

Her parents, a botanist and a chemist, created a hallucinogenic drug that they called “Daydream”, even though its effects turn out to be more of a nightmare. And anyone it is administered too certainly sees nightmares. But while under the influence of Daydream people not only experience terrible hallucinations, but are also highly suggestible – and incapable of lying.

Adelaide was kidnapped and locked up in Rushbrook so that someone could get hold of the fortune she inherited, and so that no one would look too carefully at her parents’ deaths in a lab accident. And so that the unscrupulous people who stole their research would have a guinea pig on whom to test the drug and who would not be missed.

Her escape screws up everything – at least for everyone involved except Adelaide. She may be on the run, nervous and rightfully afraid, but she’s also free. At least as long as she avoids detection by her pursuers. And her paranoia is certainly justified, because she is being pursued.

She’s made a good life for herself, and made friends, in the small town of Burning Cove, where Hollywood stars come to play at the resort and casino. Adelaide has even become a minor local celebrity, developing medicinal tea blends not just for the stars but also for the residents.

And businessman Jake Truett, supposedly in Burning Cove to calm his shattered nerves, comes to her tea room every day for a cup of calming green tea and the opportunity to watch the beautiful waitress with the shadows in her eyes.

When their first date results in the two of them being lured to the scene of a grisly murder, they discover that there’s something rotten in Burning Cove – and that whoever is behind it wants to add both of them to the list of victims.

Escape Rating B+: The Other Lady Vanishes has a much darker tone than The Girl Who Knew Too Much – even though they both begin with fairly grisly death scenes and feature heroines on the run for their lives.

Rushbrook is a very dark place. It sounds like it would make a marvelous setting for a horror movie, one that I personally would not want to watch. Everything that happens there, and not just to Adelaide, is terrible beyond description – even at the beginning where we don’t know the half of it.

The circumstances that placed Adelaide in Rushbrook have left her with a great many doubts about herself and her own judgment. At the beginning of the story, she constantly second guesses herself about her own sanity. And she rightfully fears that if she attempts to contact anyone to investigate her claims, or worse, if she is located by her pursuers, that no one will believe her because she was a patient in a mental institution. And she’s right to worry.

But it makes for a bit of rough reading at the beginning.

It’s only when Jake enters the picture that Adelaide really starts reclaiming her authentic self. But in order for them to have any kind of relationship, even the partnership necessary to investigate all the deadly chaos that surrounds them, they will have to accept each other’s truths.

For Adelaide to reveal her true story feels fraught with as much peril as her pursuers are attempting to drive her into. And it turns out that Jake is in Burning Cove under multiple false pretenses, not just about who he is, but also about why he’s there and what he’s after.

He’s pursuing a blackmailer – she’s running from a conman who locked her up to control her fortune. Those two cases do not seem to be connected – until they are. And while I didn’t totally buy the romance in this one, I certainly enjoyed the way that they worked together to wrap up everything that had gone wrong – for both of them.

At every turn, Adelaide and Jake are confronted by one twist after another. Just when they think they’ve figured everything out, they discover that they haven’t. Just when they, and the reader, think it’s over – it isn’t.

Those twists and turns will keep you turning pages until the very last word.

Review: Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz

Review: Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann KrentzPromise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Series: Cutler Sutter & Salinas #2
Pages: 325
Published by Berkley Books on January 2nd 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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A painter of fiery, nightmarish visions throws herself into the sea—but she leaves her secrets behind . . .

Seattle gallery owner Virginia Troy has spent years battling the demons that stem from her childhood time in a cult and the night a fire burned through the compound, killing her mother. And now one of her artists has taken her own life, but not before sending Virginia a last picture: a painting that makes Virginia doubt everything about the so-called suicide—and her own past.

Like Virginia, private investigator Cabot Sutter was one of the children in the cult who survived that fire... and only he can help her now. As they struggle to unravel the clues in the painting, it becomes clear that someone thinks Virginia knows more than she does and that she must be stopped. Thrown into an inferno of desire and deception, Virginia and Cabot draw ever closer to the mystery of their shared memories—and the shocking fate of the one man who still wields the power to destroy everything they hold dear.

My Review:

When I reviewed When All the Girls Have Gone, the first Cutler, Sutter & Salinas book last year, it read like a stand alone, so I assumed it was. In fact, I was downright thrilled that it was a standalone, because that meant I wasn’t waiting with bated breath for the next book in the series.

I should have remembered that Jayne Ann Krentz, under all of her various pennames (Amanda Quick, Jayne Castle) writes very, very few standalones these days. Because now we have the second book in the series, and I believe there will be at least a third. After all, Max Cutler got his HEA in Girls, and now it’s Cabot Sutter’s turn in Promise. Not only is Anson Salinas entitled to his chance, but Max and Cabot have a brother who deserves his own HEA at some point as well.

So I’m hoping for four books.

The story in Promise is only loosely tied to Girls. The series is following the guys, and it relates to a long-ago trauma that they shared with the heroine of Promise, Virginia Troy. Because that shared-trauma is far back in the past, it is possible to read both books as standalones, and you could read Promise without having read Girls. But it’s certainly creepier if you read both.

Once upon a time, there was a cult lead by sociopath/psychopath Quinton Zane. Both Virginia Troy and Cabot Sutter were children of the cult, and local cop Anson Salinas was the one who saved them when Zane set his compound on fire as part of his disappearing act.

While Cutler, Sutter & Salinas do not believe the reports of Zane’s death, it’s only when Virginia Troy shows up in their office that they have hard evidence that Zane is still alive. And as evidence goes, it really isn’t very hard, unless one is a member of the Zane conspiracy theory club, which they all definitely are.

One of the two grown-up women who survived Zane’s fire either just committed suicide, or just left Virginia evidence that Zane is still alive and was stalking her. As scarred and traumatized as Hannah Brewer was, Virginia doesn’t believe the suicide theory, no matter how much the local cops do.

And neither do Cutler, Sutter & Salinas. Which throws Cabot Sutter and Virginia Troy together as they investigate not just what happened to Hannah Brewer in the recent past, but what happened to Quinton Zane and his cult long ago, in order to figure out why that past has suddenly become a dangerous piece of the present.

Before it’s too late.

Escape Rating A: This is a very hot, slightly creepy, stay up late to finish story of romantic suspense. I pretty much loved every page of it, and can’t wait to see what happens next. While Cabot and Virginia seem to have found their HEA, the hunt for Quinton Zane is far, far from over.

The story, as so many of Krentz/Quick/Castle’s stories do, rests (or rather stays up late) on the portrayals of the two principals, Cabot and Virginia. They are both scarred, and by the same trauma. It gives them an instant bond, because there are things that they understand that can only be understood by people who shared that same experience. They are both driven to make themselves secure however they can, and they have both given up on most relationships. It’s impossible to get close to someone when you either have to keep part of yourself back, or when the other person constantly minimizes an experience that is foundational to your experience, even if its something as terrible as what happened to them. Or even worse, is someone you are attempting to form a relationship with believes that you’re crazy.

So their trust in each other is instant, but convincingly so. Everything else takes a bit longer, but they begin very much on the same page. They are, as it is said in the story, intimate strangers from the outset.

They also work together as partners. Cabot may be the one with the investigative expertise, but Virginia knew Hannah Brewer and the art she produced as her way of dealing with her own demons. When it becomes obvious that whoever was after Hannah is after Virginia, even though they don’t initially know why they do know that Virginia’s insights are crucial to solving the case. As they indeed turn out to be.

The case they end up solving is not actually the one that they thought they were pursuing. And it keeps the pages turning as they uncover more and different secrets under more and more rocks. By the end, they are closer to resolving the mystery of what happened back when they were children, and they have removed the current threat.

But as the story ends, it is obvious that there are more threats coming for them. And I can’t wait.

Review: When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz

Review: When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann KrentzWhen All The Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Series: Cutler Sutter & Salinas #1
Pages: 304
Published by Berkley on November 29th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Jayne Ann Krentz, the New York Times bestselling author of Secret Sisters, delivers a thrilling novel of the deceptions we hide behind, the passions we surrender to, and the lengths we’ll go to for the truth...
When Charlotte Sawyer is unable to contact her step-sister, Jocelyn, to tell her that one her closest friends was found dead, she discovers that Jocelyn has vanished.
Beautiful, brilliant—and reckless—Jocelyn has gone off the grid before, but never like this. In a desperate effort to find her, Charlotte joins forces with Max Cutler, a struggling PI who recently moved to Seattle after his previous career as a criminal profiler went down in flames—literally. Burned out, divorced and almost broke, Max needs the job.
After surviving a near-fatal attack, Charlotte and Max turn to Jocelyn’s closest friends, women in a Seattle-based online investment club, for answers. But what they find is chilling…
When her uneasy alliance with Max turns into a full-blown affair, Charlotte has no choice but to trust him with her life. For the shadows of Jocelyn’s past are threatening to consume her—and anyone else who gets in their way...

My Review:

Like last year’s Secret Sisters, When All the Girls Have Gone is one of Jayne Ann Krentz’s rare (and awesome) stand alone contemporary romantic suspense titles. As much as I adore her Arcane Society/Harmony series, it’s always a treat to read a stand-alone title with that same ability to enthrall me from the first page to the last. And I’m not left mourning the wait for the next title in the series. When all of those girls are finally found, we get to watch our heroine and hero virtually ride off into the sunset. Job well done.

And also like Secret Sisters, Girls is also a story about sisterhood. Both the kind that you make, and the kind that gets made for you.

Charlotte Sawyer gets dragged into this mystery because her step-sister Jocelyn has gone missing. Charlotte discovers this after she learns that one of the women who seem to be Jocelyn’s sisters-of-the-heart turns up dead – and Jocelyn can’t be found.

There are secrets within secrets in this story. One reason why so much of the action happens is the way that the police handle a series of rape cases, then rape and murder cases, and then just plain murder cases. All the victims are women. And all of the various police departments where the crimes take place choose to take the easy way out in solving, or rather not solving, each crime.

When Jocelyn was a college student, she was raped. The police first dismissed her story, did the unfortunate but all-too-usual victim blaming, and then managed to lose the box of evidence that Jocelyn so carefully arranged to have taken at the local hospital.

Now her best friend is dead, and Jocelyn is off the grid. When private investigator Max Cutler picks up the case, he starts looking into the last days of the dead woman. The police think she died of a drug overdose. Because that’s the way the scene has been framed, and that’s the easy way out. Max is certain her death was murder. Especially since someone took all her electronics.

As Max investigates the death of Louise Finch, Charlotte comes looking for Louise, her step-sister’s best friend. Because Louise sent Jocelyn a very mysterious package, and now that Jocelyn is off the grid Charlotte can’t deliver it.

Max ties Louise’ death to Jocelyn’s disappearance, and Charlotte inserts herself into his case – and into his life. Louise’ cousin wants to find out what happened. Charlotte wants to locate Jocelyn. And from there the search expands outward, as Charlotte and Max begin to look into the women in Jocelyn’s circle, and the ultra secret “Investment Club” that Jocelyn refused to let Charlotte enter.

The search balloons outward, from Louise to Jocelyn to the other women and the cause that brought them together. And it contracts inwards, all the way back to Jocelyn’s long ago rape, and the man that thought he got away with it.

But he didn’t.

Escape Rating A-: This is a page turner. Ironically, both the hero and heroine think of themselves as plodders, the kind of people who just put one foot in front of the other and don’t lead very exciting lives. To the point where Charlotte’s ex-fiance broke their engagement five days before the wedding because he said she was boring. In reality, he’s a commitment-phobic douche, but we’ll get back to him.

Both Charlotte and Max are emotionally scarred. Charlotte by the douchey-ex. Also in a small way, her step-sister Jocelyn who keeps trying to protect Charlotte even though they are both adults. Jocelyn interprets Charlotte’s optimism and faith in others as naive stupidity. And they are both wrong.

Max’s history is tragic, and he’s still hunting for the man who nearly killed him and his brothers when they were children. He’s managed to make a life for himself, but things are pretty rough around the edges. But whatever Max and Charlotte are, they are anything but boring. Especially to each other.

Charlotte and Max ground each other. And they are both eminently sensible people in so many ways. Neither of them panics, not even when the situation is extremely dire. But the story isn’t all practicality. The more time they spend together, the more they see that they have the basis for a relationship, if they can manage to reach for it. Which they eventually do, in their own practical, and extremely satisfying, way.

The investigation is one that starts with nearly all unknowns. But Max’s specialty is plodding with incredible sparks of insight. He keeps going, doing the work, until he gets a sudden breakthrough and the pattern emerges. The pattern here takes a while to emerge, but the search keeps the reader frantically flipping pages the whole way. One of the neat things about the way this story was written is that we don’t see into the murk surrounding this case until Max and Charlotte do.

This is romantic suspense, so there is finally a happy ending. But before we get there, we have the inevitable point where the heroine is in extreme danger. One of the things that made the development of the relationship between Max and Charlotte so much fun to read was that Charlotte’s practicality means that she very much participates in her own rescue. The damsel may be in distress, but she is far, far from helpless.

I have one tiny quibble with this story. I said that Charlotte’s ex was a douche, which he was. He comes back during this story. His rebound went back to her ex, and he’s just sure that Charlotte will be grateful to take him back. Charlotte is rightfully pissed, and shows it. Good on her. But his behavior felt just enough over the top that I kept expecting him to reappear and be tied into the skullduggery. He felt unresolved. For me, it felt like an unfulfilled variation on Chekhov’s Gun. Instead we had Chekhov’s Ex standing in the corner, possibly waiting to be slapped – as he so richly deserved.

But I had a ball with this book, and found myself picking it up at odd (sometimes very odd) moments, just so I could read a couple more pages. Isn’t that what bathrooms are for?