Review: Duchess by Deception by Marie Force

Review: Duchess by Deception by Marie ForceDuchess by Deception (Gilded, #1) by Marie Force
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance
Series: Gilded #1
Pages: 320
Published by Zebra on January 29, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In New York Times bestselling author Marie Force's dazzling historical romance debut, the clock is ticking for a wealthy Duke who must marry by his thirtieth birthday—or lose his title...

Derek Egan, the dashing Duke of Westwood, is well aware of his looming deadline. But weary of tiresome debutantes, he seeks a respite at his country home in Essex—and encounters a man digging on his property. Except he's not a man. He's a very lovely woman. Who suddenly faints at his feet.

Catherine McCabe's disdain for the aristocracy has already led her to flee an arranged marriage with a boorish Viscount. The last thing she wants is to be waylaid in a Duke's home. Yet, she is compelled to stay by the handsome, thoughtful man who introduces himself as the Duke's estate manager.

Derek realizes two things immediately: he is captivated by her delicate beauty, and to figure out what she was up to, Catherine must not know he is the Duke. But as they fall passionately in love, Derek's lie spins out of control. Will their bond survive his deception, not to mention the scorned Viscount's pursuit? Most important, can Catherine fall in love all over again—this time with the Duke?

My Review:

I finished Duchess by Deception feeling sadly disappointed. I wondered if it might be me, that this might be a genre that just didn’t work for me anymore. Because I expected a whole lot better from the author of the Fatal romantic suspense series.

Then I looked at some of the other reviews on Goodreads and discovered that I am far from alone in my feelings. Which leaves me feeling better about the other historical romances in my virtually towering TBR pile – but somewhat at a loss for words about this book.

Duchess by Deception is a historical romance that includes an extended ride on the “Troperville Trolley”. There are enough all-too-common tropes and cliches packed into this book for three stories – and it might have been better if it had been three separate stories.

Because there are three stories here. The first is the one about the Duke of Westwood and his nuptial deadline. If he doesn’t marry by the day of his 30th birthday he’ll be forced to relinquish the title in favor of his nasty, greedy, grasping uncle. And his birthday is at the end of the week as the story begins.

So of course he runs off to his country estate instead of staying in London to find a bride. He discovers a young man digging holes at his estate who is immediately revealed to be not merely female but actually a damsel in distress who is on the run from a fate worse than death.

Yes, my eyes are rolling.

That they fall instantly in love is, of course, a given.

Then the misunderstandammits start rolling in. Because he doesn’t tell her he’s a duke since she hates the aristocracy, even though she is part of it. And he doesn’t tell her he has to marry by the end of the week because, well, he’s already lying to her about being the duke’s estate manager instead of the duke himself.

So when the dastardly villain her father has literally sold her to starts investigating the area around the duke’s estate, he whisks her away to Gretna Green for a hasty marriage over the anvil.

Then the same thing nearly happens to her sister. And that’s not the half of it.

Escape Rating D+: I haven’t dragged the D+ out in a while. I didn’t so much finish this book as skim it to see how it ended. Because there is a third plot thread that is even crazier than the first two.

There’s a whole lot of insta-love going on here, well past the point where it’s believable or even plausible. Not only does the duke fall instantly for his future duchess when she faints in his arms, but then his cousin falls equally precipitously for her sister across a crowded ballroom.

Really? The family seems prone to falling sickness, or possibly insanity.

We don’t have a chance to see either relationship actually develop. What we do get is a lot of sex scenes substituting for the development of the romance. I like a good sex scene as much as the next romance reader, but porn-without-plot is not a substitute for an actual plot. YMMV.

The villains of the piece were both caricatures, and yes, there are two. One is a leering pig of a villain, and the other is a greedy, grasping, murderous villain. Who have no relationship to each other. Which stretches the long arm of coincidence a bit too long for a single book.

And both women forgive their father for selling them to the leering pig WAY too easily.

This story had promise. Actually, it had multiple promises. It just didn’t live up to any of them.

Review: Fatal Chaos by Marie Force

Review: Fatal Chaos by Marie ForceFatal Chaos by Marie Force
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Fatal #12
Pages: 416
Published by Hqn on February 27th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

First the calm. Then the storm...Escaping DC during the dog days of summer is one of the smartest moves Washington metro police lieutenant Samantha Holland ever made. Beach walks aren't quite as romantic with the Secret Service in tow, but Sam and her husband, Vice President Nick Cappuano, cherish the chance to recharge and reconnect--especially with a scandal swirling around the administration.No sooner are they back home than a fatal drive-by shooting sets the city on edge. The teenage victim is barely older than Sam and Nick's son, Scotty. As more deaths follow, Sam and her team play beat the clock to stop the ruthless killers. With Nick facing his greatest challenge--one that could drastically change all their lives and even end Sam's career--will the mounting pressure deepen or damage their bond?

My Review:

I read the first two books in this series (Fatal Affair and Fatal Justice) a couple of years ago. I always intended to go back, but couldn’t seem to get a round tuit. So when Fatal Chaos came up on my radar, in spite of it coming ten books after my first foray in this series, I decided to see if I could pick this Washington DC power couple back up where I left off, without reading the intervening books in the series.

And it turns out that I could. And that they remind me even more of an early 21st century Dallas and Roarke than they did upon earlier reading. And that’s still marvelous company to be solving crimes in.

(And yes, I realize that’s an awful lot of ANDS.)

There’s enough backstory to get new or new-ish readers right into the action. Sam Hollands is a Detective Lieutenant with the slightly fictional DC Metro Police Department. Her husband, Nick Cappuano, who was a senator’s chief of staff when first we met our heroes, has moved up in the world, mostly reluctantly. Nick is now Vice-President, after a series of deaths and scandals not dissimilar to the way he became Senator in the first place.

Nick is VP the same way that Gerald Ford was, or perhaps the way that Nelson Rockefeller was, albeit a whole lot better looking than either. He was appointed by the President after the office was vacated mid-term. I think I remember that the President who appointed Nick was also appointed rather than elected, hence the reference to Nelson Rockefeller, the appointed VP of an appointed P.

Come to think of it, this series also begins with a scandalous crime at the Watergate. Hmmm.

But as seems to always be the case with this series, Nick and Sam are under a lot of pressure, both separately and together. The President is in big trouble over the events in Fatal Threat. His son was on a murderous campaign to get Nick and Sam out of the way. Even though said son was well into adulthood, the press and the Democratic Party are having a difficult time believing that he knew nothing of what his son was up to. Impeachment is on the horizon, something that Nick and Sam dread possibly even more than the President does.

Nick isn’t sure he wants to ever be President, and he’s dead certain he doesn’t want to be President right now. Sam is absolutely sure that she doesn’t want to be First Lady, which will require her to have a Secret Service detail and force her to give up her career as a homicide detective.

Speaking of homicide, the case that Sam and her department are desperate to solve involves what initially appear to be a series of random drive-by shootings. However, those shootings are so accurate that the squad can only locate one person capable of committing the crime – a retired Metro PD sharpshooter who has been missing during the entire crime spree.

So Sam has to do what Sam does best – see just how many of her brothers and sisters in blue she can royally piss off before she catches the killers. All while burying her head in the sand over all the other threats to her life and happiness that loom on the horizon.

Escape Rating B+: When I read the first two books in this series, I said then that they were reading crack, and I’ll stand by that description. They are excellent reading crack. I finished this one in an evening, because I couldn’t put it down.

Sam and Nick are marvelous protagonists. They have found true love in the midst of extreme chaos, are not the least bit shy about showing it, and absolutely refuse to let it go, no matter what.

But there are an awful lot of those “whats” in their life together.

The big elephant in the room is the possibility that Nick might become President, with all of the changes that will cause in their life. Sam, like Eve Dallas in the In Death series, was made to be a cop. While there is a possibility that some day she might be willing to give up being a homicide detective, she is relatively young and that day is definitely not yet. It’s pretty obvious that it will kill an important part of her if she has to stop. So the threat to their happiness is very real, and hangs over most of the story.

The immediate problem is Sam’s case. Someone is killing at random, including children. Nothing seems to link the victims. But the method of the crime begins to narrow down the possibilities, and that’s where Sam gets herself in trouble. Again.

There’s a long history of some of Sam’s colleagues resenting her for her relatively quick rise through the ranks. And an unfortunate history of those same resentful colleagues exhibiting the kind of behavior that gets them thrown off them force, usually after Sam discovers what they’ve been up to. She’s already dealing with two different past incidents during this book, and at least two more crop up. Sam’s a busy woman, and does not let anything stand in her way when she’s on a case, not even the demands of her own body to get some rest after more than 24 hours on duty.

She’s certainly not about to let a philandering detective or an overly cautious commander protecting an old friend get in her way – not that she won’t pay for both of those incidents later, in another book.

And a big part of what makes this book and series so good, and also deepens the resemblance to the In Death series, is the way that Sam’s squad has developed into a terrific unit of friends as well as colleagues, and the way that they always have each other’s backs, especially hers.

While Sam may be the star, in the end it’s the team and their teamwork that solve the case. And that’s awesome.

I suspect that for readers who have kept up with the entire series, there is a lot more depth in the scenes that focus on the team and their friends and loved ones, as there are clearly lots of looks back at previous books and previous couples who have found their HEAs within Sam and Nick’s orbit. But even without having that deep background, and in spite of all the curveballs and crises that life keeps throwing Sam and Nick’s way, this is still a terrific piece of romantic suspense.

I’m looking forward to going back for more.

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Review: Fatal Justice by Marie Force

Review: Fatal Justice by Marie ForceFatal Justice (Fatal, #2) by Marie Force
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Fatal #2
Pages: 279
Published by Carina Press on January 3rd 2011
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

She looked into the dead face of the man she'd dined with the night before
Standing over the body of a Supreme Court nominee, Lieutenant Sam Holland is hip-deep in another high-profile murder case. The fact that she was one of the last people to see Julian Sinclair alive just complicates things even more. On the plus side, her relationship with Senator Nick Cappuano is heating up—but it's also attracting a lot of unwanted media attention and blinding flash bulbs.
The pressure is on for Sam to find Sinclair's killer, but a new lead in her father's unsolved shooting puts her in unexpected danger. When long-buried secrets threaten to derail her relationship with Nick, Sam realizes that while justice can be blind, mixing romance with politics has the potential to be fatal...
94,000 words

My Review:

I’m convinced that Eve Dallas and Sam Holland are sisters under the skin. And for those of us who wait with bated breath for the next installment in the lives of Dallas and Rourke and the denizens of the NYPSD, Sam Holland and Nick Cappuano make a terrific early 21st century alternative.

In this second installment of the Fatal series, Sam and Nick are still negotiating the terms of their relationship. Sam is a newly minted Lieutenant in the fictional Washington DC Metro Police Department, and Nick is an equally newly minted U.S. Senator. The book begins with their back-to-back swearing in ceremonies.

But even before the second ceremony ends, Sam is out on another homicide. And it looks like the horrific domestic disturbance gone wrong may have ties to her father’s unsolved case. Deputy Chief Skip Holland is a quadriplegic as the result of a bullet lodged in his spine by an unidentified assailant, and Sam is determined to bring the perpetrator to justice.

If only she can figure out who the hell it was. And if only she can catch a break in any of her ongoing investigations.

But life and work spiral out of control for both Sam and Nick, as their relationship runs into a few rocks. Nick isn’t sure he can handle being the significant other of someone who puts their life on the line every day. And Sam doesn’t believe that she’s capable of being a political wife.

Especially when their personal lives, his political career, and her caseload keep careening into each other. Nick has to deal with the murder of yet another close friend, while Sam finds herself investigating the death of someone they just had dinner with. The profile of the cop and the senator has risen so high that gangs have put bounties on their lives. And someone is digging into the dirt in Sam’s past in order to smear it all over Nick.

Politics is a dirty business, and seems to be getting dirtier all the time.

And Sam’s case, the murder of Nick’s friend, is right in the thick of it. Along with a story about just how deeply hate and bigotry can corrupt a system, a person, and especially a family.

Escape Rating B+: This series is absolutely fantastic reading crack. I needed something that would be utterly absorbing, and Fatal Justice completely took me away from the real world for a few much needed hours.

However, as much fun as I had with Fatal Justice, I also see that I’m going to need to pace myself just a bit. Series like the Fatal series, and also the In Death series that it reminds me so much of, are fun in onesies and twosies, but the patterns get all too clear if one attempts to read three or four very close together.

fatal affair by marie forceThat being said, this story, just like Fatal Affair, was a whole lot of fun. Sam and Nick are both very likable characters. The reader wants them to work through their problems, which are realistic and over-the-top at the same time. For example, one of their issues is that every time Nick hears that a cop has been wounded or killed, his immediate response is to drop everything and make sure Sam is okay. While that seems laudable on the one hand, on that other hand Sam seems to be in harm’s way every other minute. At the same time, she can’t stop being a cop or doing her job because he’s worried. It is part of who she is.

But in spite of the recent spate of horrible real-life events, most cops do not face as many life-threatening situations in their entire careers as Sam seems to face in an average week. Likewise, Nick’s friends are being murdered at an alarming rate. If this keeps up, he soon won’t have any left among the living.

Though it makes for terrific drama. Or perhaps melodrama.

The case that Sam has to solve in this story is a lesson about the price of hate and bigotry. And as current as it must have seemed in 2011, it seems frighteningly real in 2016. This is a story where hate and bigotry literally kills. Which it so does.

Review: Fatal Affair by Marie Force + Giveaway

Review: Fatal Affair by Marie Force + GiveawayFatal Affair (Fatal, #1) by Marie Force
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Fatal #1
Pages: 294
Published by Carina Press on June 21st 2010
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Washington, D.C., Metro Police Detective Sergeant Sam Holland needs a big win to salvage her career--and her confidence--after a disastrous investigation. The perfect opportunity arises when Senator John O'Connor is found brutally murdered in his bed, and Sam is assigned to the case. Matters get complicated when Sam has to team up with Nick Cappuano, O'Connor's friend and chief of staff...and the man Sam had a memorable one-night stand with years earlier. Their sexual chemistry still sizzles, and Sam has to fight to stay focused on the case. Sleeping with a material witness is another mistake she can't afford--especially when the bodies keep piling up.

My Review:

I think the Fatal Series is going to be my new reading crack. Fatal Affair was over the top in all the best ways, and now I’m itching to read the rest of the series. Whenever I need a guaranteed good read to turn to, I have a feeling that Fatal will be it for a while.

I can’t figure out why I didn’t read this when back when it came out. I seem to have downloaded it multiple times, but just never got a round tuit. My mistake.

Fatal Affair is definitely in the romantic suspense category. There are at least three different plots boiling along in this book, all bubbling nicely throughout the story, until they make a marvelous stew by the end.

The romance is of the second-chance-at-love type. Sam and Nick had a hot one-night-stand six years ago. Nick called Sam repeatedly afterwards, but she never called back. So he eventually gave up. Which doesn’t mean that he hasn’t compared every woman since to “the one that got away”.

Sam always wondered why Nick never called back. Eventually she married the guy who provided her with a shoulder to cry on while she wondered how her judgment about what happened between them could have been so off. It wasn’t. But her judgment about the guy who comforted her certainly was.

Yes, we have entered into crazy ex territory. That thread of the story is just part of the over-the-top-ness when Sam and Nick meet again. Over the dead body of Nick’s boss, the suddenly late junior Senator from Virginia.

We have a scandal at the Watergate again!

Someone hated the Senator so much that they “Bobbitized” him and stuffed the offending appendage into the deceased’s mouth. So as much as everyone says that everyone loved John O’Connor, someone obviously did not. And with extreme prejudice.

It’s up to Sam to figure out whodunnit, in a high-profile and high-pressure case. The first item on her agenda is to clear Nick, because they are headed straight back into the relationship they didn’t have six years ago. It’s bad enough that Sam is lead investigator on a case where she has a previous relationship with one of the material witnesses. It would be a career-ending move if Nick had any involvement with the murder.

But he doesn’t. Only an involvement with Sam that he wants to take to the next level. The minute she lets him.

And in that minute, her crazy ex throws himself into an already complicated case. Sam hates being the focus of an investigation, yet again. But if she doesn’t dig out all the truths, she’ll never be safe again.

And neither will Nick.

Escape Rating B+: I had so damn much fun with this, but it is definitely reading crack. There’s a slight soap-opera-ish feel to the story. Too much happens to Sam personally, it feels like too many things center on her as an individual for just one book. But it was just enough to be fun while not being so much that it threw me out of the story.

It helps that I liked Sam and Nick as characters a lot. I want them to be happy together.

Sam is a Detective Sergeant in the slightly fictional Metropolitan Police Department in Washington D.C. Her father is a retired Deputy Chief who was wounded on the job and is now a quadriplegic. She grew up in the force, and her uncle is now Chief. Her Lieutenant has a vendetta against her, believing that she got where she is because of who she is. And it’s partially true. Not that she isn’t capable, but her bosses have let a couple of things slide that they probably shouldn’t.

Her ex is a whack job. And while I did not like seeing the wacky-stalker-ex trope again, at least in this book the story is resolved. I really don’t want to read about him in subsequent books – Nick and Sam already have enough going on.

A lot of the story is about the uses and abuses of power. If the Senator’s father (and former Senator)  hadn’t abused some of his, this whole tragedy would never have happened. But the need to hide long-buried secrets almost derails the entire case. And almost delivers some nearly just desserts.

In the end, the reasons for the crimes are as much sad as they are malicious, and a whole lot of chickens come home to roost, carrying the red herrings that the author successfully salted throughout the story.

As I read Fatal Affair, I realized that Sam and Nick remind me a bit of another fictional power couple, Eve Dallas and Rourke. And that’s fine company to be solving crimes in.

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

fatal series button

Marie and Harlequin are giving away a paperback set of the entire Fatal Series to one lucky entrant:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And for those who can’t wait to get their hands on the latest entry in the series, there is also a preorder promotion giveaway for Fatal Identity

fatal identity preorder giveaway

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