Review: Heat Exchange by Shannon Stacey

Review: Heat Exchange by Shannon StaceyHeat Exchange (Boston Fire, #1) by Shannon Stacey
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Boston Fire #1
Pages: 336
Published by Carina Press on August 25th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Lydia Kincaid's shipping back to Boston, but she's not happy about it. She left to get away from the firefighting community—her father was a firefighter, her brother's a firefighter and, more important, her ex is a firefighter. But family is number one, and her father needs her help running the pub he bought when he retired. Soon, Lydia finds it hard to resist the familiar comfort and routine, and even harder to resist her brother's handsome friend Aidan.

Aidan Hunt is a firefighter because of the Kincaid family. He's had the hots for Lydia for years, but if ever a woman was off-limits to him, it's her. Aside from being his mentor's daughter, she's his best friend's sister. The ex-wife of a fellow firefighter. But his plan to play it cool until she leaves town again fails, and soon he and Lydia have crossed a line they can't uncross.

As Aidan and Lydia's flirtation turns into something more serious, Lydia knows she should be planning her escape. Being a firefighter's wife was the hardest thing she's ever done, and she doesn't know if she has the strength to do it again. Aidan can't imagine walking away from Boston Fire—even for Lydia. The job and the brotherhood are his life; but if he wants Lydia in it, he'll have to decide who's first in his heart.

My Review:

I plucked this out of the towering TBR pile because I’m reviewing the fourth book in this series, Hot Response, for a tour next month. While I don’t have time to read the middle books before my tour date, I did want to take the opportunity to see where it all began.

The series features the firefighters in one particular Boston Fire company, as well as some of the regulars at the bar that most of them use as a second home. That the bar is owned by a retired member of their company probably has a lot to do with that.

Lydia Kincaid has kind of run away from home, and from that home-away-from-home known as Kincaid’s Bar. Between the bar and the firehouse, it’s a very close-knit community, and Lydia was tired of everyone knowing her business – especially since that business includes a divorce from a firefighter. Not to mention that Tommy Kincaid, the owner of the bar, is her father. His expectation that both Lydia and her sister Ashley would work at his bar and nowhere else is just the beginning of his attitudes.

He still seems pissed that Lydia divorced her lying, cheating ex-husband instead of giving him yet one more chance. Dear old dad is a bit locked into 1950s.

But that tendency of the bar regulars to know and be up in the Kincaid’s business is currently more than her sister Ashley can handle. Ashley and her firefighter husband Danny are separated, and she can’t cope with every single bar patron commenting on her life and her choices.

Sister to the rescue! Lydia comes home and takes Ashley’s place behind the bar, as well as her guest bedroom. It’s all supposed to be temporary, until Ashley and Danny either figure out how to fix what’s gone wrong, or figure out that it can’t be fixed. Then Lydia will run away again, as far from Boston as she can stand.

Lydia’s plans are derailed when Aidan Hunt happens to them. She’s known Aidan forever – he’s her younger brother Scotty’s best friend. And he’s Scotty’s partner in the fire company, which means that he should be off limits to her. From the perspective of the story, it’s much more that she should be off limits to him. Both as his best friend’s sister and because any relationship drama will ruin the cohesiveness of a fire team that has to have each other’s backs every moment.

But their chemistry can’t be denied. And instead of fighting it, they give in, both believing that the whole thing is only temporary, and that nothing good will happen if they tell either her brother or her father that they are seeing each other.

Of course, they’re only half right.

Escape Rating C+: I loved many of Shannon Stacey’s earlier books, including her Kowalskis series, and I really wanted to like Heat Response more than I did. Instead, I have a lot of mixed feelings.

The overall feeling I got from this story is that it is a “bros before hos” story, to put it bluntly. Lydia and Aidan are both single and completely unencumbered. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the two of them getting together, whether it’s just a hookup, a friends with benefits relationship, or something more.

But they both know that her brother Scotty and her father will be pissed that Aidan and Lydia are seeing each other, so they keep it secret. And, of course, when the lies are finally exposed it makes the situation exponentially worse. The problem for the story is that it feels as if all the tension created by their relationship and its secrecy is false. It feels unneccessary, especially as there are plenty of real sources of tension between Lydia and Aidan without adding a fake one.

Lydia left Boston because she found the close-knit atmosphere of the firehouse and the bar stifling. Her relationship with her father is contentious at best, and her previous marriage to a firefighter was disastrous. Her ex was a lying, cheating jerk who used his uniform and his job to find more opportunities to cheat and more ways to hide his cheating from Lydia. Her dad seems to have put his job and his brotherhood ahead of his family. Lydia is tired of playing second-fiddle to a fire company, and has no desire to get into any kind of relationship with any more firefighters than she already is between her dad, her brother, and her currently estranged brother-in-law.

Her vow to stay away from relationships with firefighters along with her frequently stated plan to leave Boston as soon as Ashley is back on her feet, provide enough reasons for Aidan to be wary of a relationship with her, because she’s clear from the beginning that she’s not planning to stick around.

That means that there were plenty of problems to provide conflict for their relationship without adding the lying and the eventual fighting between Aidan and Scotty. Or at least that’s my take on it.

I found the secondary romance between Ashley and Danny to be much more interesting, and wish we’d seen a lot more of it. They’re separated, not because either of them did anything wrong, but because Danny suppresses all of his emotional reactions. Ashley feels lonely all the time, because Danny just isn’t emotionally present. It is a big and very, very real problem, and it takes them most of the book to finally start talking with one another. I loved seeing them start working things out, and I wish I’d seen more of their story.

Review: Reluctant Mate by Lauren Dane

Review: Reluctant Mate by Lauren DaneReluctant Mate by Lauren Dane
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genres: paranormal romance
Series: Cascadia Wolves #0.5
Pages: 50
Published by Carina Press on December 12th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

"I can't touch you yet. Once I do, it's over."

As daughter of the ruling Pack family, Layla Warden is under pressure to settle down. Find a nice wolf mate from a nice wolf family and have nice wolf babies. Layla has other plans, but when you're a werewolf, biology trumps plans. And when Layla meets Sid, the sex is so intense, so hot, so consuming, it's more than just a connection. It's a mating bond.

Sid Rosario wasn't expecting to find his mate so soon—some wolves never find theirs. Now that he's found Layla, he's never letting her go. But lust and desire alone aren't enough to secure their bond. If they want this incredible happiness to last, there's one more thing they'll have to do…

My Review:

reluctant by lauren daneReluctant Mate is a re-issue of Reluctant, the prequel novella for Lauren Dane’s Cascadia Wolves series. Which I somehow managed never to read, so when the first two books in the series, Reluctant Mate and Pack Enforcer, popped up on NetGalley, I decided it was time to give the series a try.

Reluctant Mate is a terrific teaser for the series, so I’m glad that I grabbed it.

This introduction is short, and has its sweet moments, but it is a sex-into-love story that is very heavy on the sex, and light on the romantic angles. And that makes sense in this particular world, as this is also a fated mate story, and it does some nice things with what is otherwise an often tried trope.

Layla Warden is not looking for a mate. She’s not looking for love, either. A few hot nights between the sheets, on the other hand, is what she has on her mind when she meets Sid Rosario. And that’s all she has on her mind.

Layla is way more invested in her ten-year-plan to reach the top of the corporate ladder. She’s just received a promotion to a corner office, and the raise to go along with it. But keeping her head above water with her new responsibilities has been all work and no play.

Her best friend drags her to a werewolf only club for a girls’ night out, and that’s where Layla meets Sid. He’s an artist from Phoenix, visiting Seattle for a few weeks to carry out a commission. A brief fling is all he has in mind, until their mating bond kicks in. And Layla, literally, heads for the tall timber.

This is so not what she wants. She wants to focus on her career. She’s seen what happens to the other females in her family when the mating bond kicks in, and she’s not ready to let a man take over her life.

So she runs. Instead of dealing with the issues, she runs far and she runs fast. But she can’t outrun the bond that will kill her if she doesn’t give into it in time.

Escape Rating B: This is a hot and steamy little teaser for the rest of the series. The reissue wasn’t updated much, and doesn’t seem to suffer for it. The story is so tightly focused on Layla and Sid and the bond she can’t escape that the differences in the world between the mid-1990s and now don’t really register.

Except for the mullets. Thank goodness that hairstyle went out of fashion in a hot minute, and stayed that way. I’d forgotten just how ugly they were.

What makes this treatment of the fated trope just a bit different, and just a bit more interesting, is what makes Layla run. She wants her job and her life, and she’s happy with them. She doesn’t want to give anything up for a man, but she wouldn’t mind including a man in that life. Sid is a great choice, in spite of the circumstances that give them no choice. His career is not location-dependent, and he’s happy that Layla has a career of her own that is a bit steadier than his. He wants to blend their lives, not take over hers.

pack enforcer by lauren daneIt just takes her a while to figure that out. She flails a bit, but she flails in the way that anyone would who just discovered that their life has been turned upside down, and can’t be turned back.

Now I’m sorry that I missed this series the first time around, but am very happy that it’s back so I have the chance to see where it all leads. Pack Enforcer looks like a much deeper, and much more interesting, dive into this world. I’m looking forward to it.

Review: The Emperor’s Arrow by Lauren D.M. Smith

Review: The Emperor’s Arrow by Lauren D.M. SmithThe Emperor's Arrow by Lauren D.M. Smith
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genres: fantasy romance
Pages: 160
Published by Carina Press on July 18th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Grand Prize Winner of Harlequin's 2015 So You Think You Can Write contest
Debut author Lauren D.M. Smith delivers an epic fantasy romance in this soaring tale of a kickass warrior and the emperor she's honor-bound to defend
The bride candidates have been summoned. Their numbers are many, yet only one is an Amazzi warrior. Only one would give her life to protect him.
Evony of Aureline, warrior of her people, has no intention of becoming a hideous old man's bride. Though her people have sworn their loyalty to the legendary emperor Galen, Evony knows little of courts and intrigue. It's simply not her world.
Yet it's on the palace training grounds where Evony's archery skills gain her the respect of soldiers and legates alike. The emperor himself takes notice of the beautiful, ruthless warrior. In turn, the young, steely eyed Galen is nothing at all what Evony expected.
This man could very well conquer her heart. But does he feel the same?
As the rivalry among the remaining bride candidates intensifies and the plot for the throne unfolds, Evony must make a grave choice: fulfill her destiny and protect her people or follow her heart and pursue true love.
Either way, the honor of the Amazzi people and the future of the empire now rests with Evony of Aureline. For she is the Emperor's Arrow.

My Review:

Based on the description, I was expecting The Emperor’s Arrow to be a bit like The Champion of Baresh or The Empress Game. And there are resemblances, but not nearly as close as I expected. Instead, the slightly Roman flavor to the setting and the romance between an emperor and a barbarian remind me a bit of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera. All books terrific company to be among.

The Emperor of this fantasy empire calls on all of the noble houses under his rule to send a daughter to compete to be his bride. And therefore his empress. While the nobility see this as a true competition, Emperor Galen has a different agenda in mind.

And, while he wouldn’t mind finding an empress, what he is really looking for are hostages. The competition is a nonthreatening way to get all the noble houses to send him a person who can become a hostage for their good behavior – if he needs one.

He knows that some of his nobles have made repeated attempts to assassinate him – one of those attempts took the life of his beloved sister. But he doesn’t yet know which one. Or even worse, which ones. Hence the bride competition.

While parts of the bride competition read like a fantasy version of The Bachelor, there is a real contest being conducted. Contestants are eliminated, not necessarily for their performance, but because it has been ascertained that their families are loyal.

Some of the contestants remain, not necessarily because they have a chance of becoming empress, but out of a need to, as the old adage goes, “Keep one’s friends close and one’s enemies closer”.

And then there’s Evony, an Amazzi warrior of the Aureline. Her people are unquestioningly loyal to the emperor, but they are also numbered among the first families of the empire, even as isolated as they generally are. Evony answers the summons to the bridal games because her people’s honor demands it.

The Emperor plans to use her unwavering loyalty to provide him with eyes and ears among the contestants. Evony plans to use the competition to find a man to sire her child.

Neither of them counts on falling in love.

Escape Rating A-: Harlequin was right, this author definitely can write. The author of The Emperor’s Arrow was the Grand Prize Winner of Harlequin’s 2015 So You Think You Can Write contest. This book shows that she absolutely can, and it is marvelous.

The story is wrapped in multiple layers. Evony is a terrific character. On the one hand, she is a fish out of water, so any necessary explanations to her of how the court works and what is going on within it, also work as explanations to the reader.

Evony herself is a great character to follow, because her perspective on court life and court intrigue is so refreshing. Evony is a warrior. She is also an extremely straightforward person, to the point of being very, very blunt. She looks at all the decorative women in the bridal competition and can’t figure out why anyone would allow themselves to be kept from learning to defend themselves, or why some of these women believe that they have no choices about their fate and their future.

She is not unusual among her people in being a warrior. Her tribe has many more female children than male children, and every person is trained in self-defense. Many, many of the women are warriors. She sees herself, her independence, her agency and her self-respect as being normal. Anyone who doesn’t have those things she feels a bit sorry for.

Her people also do not elevate their leaders above their people. So she sees the emperor as just another warrior, albeit one with more responsibility and at the center of more danger. She argues with him, disagrees with him, and calls him by his first name. She tells him things he doesn’t want to hear.

The one thing she never does is bore him. And he trusts her because it is clear from the very beginning that she does not have a political agenda. Until she falls in love with the emperor, and refuses to obey his orders to remain safe and far away. From that point on, her only agenda is to keep him safe and help him catch the people who want him dead.

And in the middle of the romance, there is also a wonderful female friendship between Evony and another of the bride candidates – the shy and somewhat diffident Admina. They discuss their lives, their hopes and their futures, and bond from two very different perspectives. It is refreshing and wonderful that their relationship is not about discussing men, but about who they are and who they want to be. It passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors.

In the end, The Emperor’s Arrow is an absolutely marvelous fantasy romance. I am looking forward with great pleasure to much, much more from this author.

Review: Fatal Justice by Marie Force

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

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
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: romantic suspense
Series: Fatal #1
Pages: 294
Published by Carina Press on June 21st 2010
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

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.


fatal series button

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

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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

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Valentine’s Day Blog Tour: Guest Post by Edie Harris + Giveaway

Harlequin 2016 Valentine's blog tour image_800-x-400

As part of the Valentine’s Day Blog Tour, I’m hosting Edie Harris, talking about the latest book in her Blood Money series, the very appropriately titled Crazed. Because the characters, the plot and the adrenaline-drenched story are all crazed, as a man discovers that the wife he thought was dead is alive, well, a DEA informant and about to marry a drug-kingpin in Medellin. The story is a thrill-ride a minute, and adds even more danger to the series.

How do I know? I reviewed Crazed for Library Journal, and I was thrilled form beginning to end. You will be too, especially if you start he series at the beginning with Blamed.

A Wilder Love Story

A guest post from Edie Harris, author of Crazed: A Blood Money Novel

Every time the brutally cold Chicago wind blasts me in the face as I walk to my corporate office, I have the following thought: If Laura Ingalls Wilder could survive The Long Winter with no electricity and no grocery stores, so can I. Every single time.

You’d be surprised at how much of my Midwestern life has been shaped by Laura Ingalls Wilder from the Little House on the Prairie books. I started reading the fictionalized-yet-autobiographical Little House books with my mother when I was in kindergarten. We read most of the titles together, until I was old enough to manage the narratives solo. When I reached These Happy Golden Years–the story of Laura’s courtship to Almanzo Wilder–I had no idea I was reading a romance; all I knew was that the description of Almanzo’s attentive yet subtle wooing of Laura made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I was ten years old. The next year, I would read my first two romance novels, both set in the American frontier: My Darling Melissa by Linda Lael Miller and Legend by Jude Deveraux. In fact, my first full-length romance novel was a western, Wild Burn (2013), and to-date, as an author, it remains “the book of my heart”…and it’s a romance that, indirectly, owes much to the Wilder love story.

Almanzo Wilder, who’d saved their small town during The Long Winter by traveling miles to buy wheat for starving settlers during a blizzard, was already a local hero in 15-year-old Laura’s eyes. At age 25, he began driving her from her teaching job home to her parents every weekend. Teaching ends, sleigh rides begin, followed by outings in his horse-drawn buggy…followed by calling cards, handmade valentines, and social outings. After three years of charged glances and exciting hand-holding, he offers her an engagement ring and finally, finally, they kiss.

Be still my fluttering pre-adolescent heart! As young as I was, I imprinted on that type of hero. The steady, capable man, whose quiet but unwavering love and support of his woman strengthens her in all her endeavors. The man you can’t shake or tempt away, but whom you can always, always depend upon.

My current series with Harlequin’s Carina Press is a thrilling, action-adventure romantic suspense, and, on the surface, nothing like Wild Burn–or These Happy Golden Years, for that matter. But deep down, each hero I write mirrors stalwart Almanzo in the most basic of ways, and for that, I must thank Laura Ingalls Wilder, buggy rides, and kisses on the prairie.

About the book: 

crazed by edie harrisCrazed: A Blood Money Novel: Casey Faraday was a soldier before he was a spy, but family always came first, no matter what.

When a member of the Faraday clan is snatched off the streets and dragged halfway across the world, it’s Casey who follows the kidnappers’ trail to South America. Thrust into the heart of the cartel he barely escaped during an undercover assignment four years earlier, he’s unprepared for the shock awaiting him on Colombian soil.

Ilda Almeida—the only woman to ever tempt Casey into madness, the beautiful wife he’d mourned for years—is very much alive. And keeping a secret that will forever change life as he knows it.

Casey can’t control his hands—or his heart—around Ilda, but neither can he abandon his rescue mission. When cartel violence turns the jungle into a bloodbath, he can only protect one family: his.

edie harrisAbout the author: EDIE HARRIS is the author of cinematic, compelling, James Bond-esque romantic suspense. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. During the day, she does corporate things and subsists on caffeine and pastries. Her nights, however, belong to the world of romance fiction. Edie lives and works in Chicago.


Harlequin is graciously giving away a prize pack of ALL the books featured in this tour, plus a limited edition Harlequin notebook and a $50 Apple Gift Card to one lucky contestant.
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Review: At Blade’s Edge by Lauren Dane

Review: At Blade’s Edge by Lauren DaneAt Blade's Edge by Lauren Dane
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, urban fantasy, vampires
Series: Goddess with a Blade #4
Pages: 177
Published by Carina Press on December 14th 2015
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Rowan Summerwaite is no ordinary woman. Raised at the knee of The First and honed into a weapon by the Hunter Corporation, she wields ancient knowledge from the Goddess Brigid…and is newly married to a powerful Vampire scion.Though she'd hoped the deadly events in Venice would end the threat to The Treaty she is sworn to protect, Rowan found evidence of a grander conspiracy to destroy the fragile peace that holds humans, Vampires and those with magic back from war. A war that would only hurt the weakest and destabilize the world as we know it.It's not so much that someone ordered her assassination that makes her angry—people try to kill her all the time—as it is the risks those she cares for, especially her new husband, now face. Clive Stewart has never tried to pen Rowan in or control her choices. He has his own fires to put out now that he's married to the most powerful non-Vampire in their world, and Rowan knows it's a challenge to support her the way she needs while not being too much or not enough.The organization that gave her a purpose, a home, roots and a path when she'd run from The Keep at seventeen has betrayed her. Now, instead of on a much-anticipated honeymoon, Rowan is in London gathering her allies and the evidence necessary to drive out the rot within Hunter Corp. and expose whoever is at the top.Rowan is a predator and this threat is prey. She'll burn it down and salt the earth afterward. On her terms.See how Rowan's fight began in Goddess with a Blade, available now!

My Review:

blade on the hunt by lauren daneWhen I reviewed Blade on the Hunt last year over at The Book Pushers with my friend E, one of the things that I said was that the action in Hunt probably would lead directly to Rowan’s need to straighten out the mess at Hunter Corporation, and with extreme prejudice against some of the leaders of that mess.

And that turned out to be a big chunk of the story in At Blade’s Edge. Rowan knows who the guilty parties are, but she still needs to discover just how deep the rot goes. And even worse, she needs to provide proof beyond a shadow of a doubt, because there are way too many paper-pushers at the Hunter Corp. motherhouse who think that political double-dealing is their most important product.

It isn’t. All members of Hunter Corp. have sworn to maintain the balance between the regular humans, the vampires, and the magic users. That balance requires that all three groups are equally strong, and maintain equal vigilance against those who would attempt to upset that knife-edge balance of power, whether they do it deliberately or simply as unwitting pawns.

Rowan Summerwaite may be a lot of things, but she is NEVER anyone’s pawn. Not her foster father’s, who is the head of the Vampire Nation, and not her new husband Clive Stewart, the appointed Scion of Vampire North America. And certainly not paper-pushing scumbags at Hunter Corp.

Because Rowan is the avatar of the Goddess Brigid, and is the official Liaison between the Vampire Nation and Hunter Corp. And because Rowan is a power in her own right, as Goddess, as Hunter, and as daughter of the Vampire Nation’s First.

But Hunter Corp took her in and trained her when she was young, scarred and scared, after her escape from her foster father’s Keep and his abusive power. That Hunter Corp has betrayed her and all Hunters in the field cuts deep. So she resolves to cut deep into Hunter Corp to exorcise the rot.

Only to discover that fixing Hunter Corporation isn’t nearly enough. Someone is targeting all the organizations that serve the balance, determined to undermine the world in order to strike at Rowan. And determined to strike at Rowan any way they can in order to keep her from destroying them first.

Escape Rating A-: The first 9/10ths of this book are a lot of fun. We see Rowan very much in her element, doing all sorts of sneaky things to get the goods on the baddies in Hunter Corp. We get to see her with all of her allies, and watch with glee as she hoists the self-centered evildoers very much on their own petards. At the same time, while fun, the action doesn’t move forward a lot. Rowan is cleaning up crap from the previous book and you need to have read that previous book for these events to generate much feeling. I love Rowan, so I was happy to read about her kicking ass, taking names and making lots of people feel even more uncomfortable than she is at points. But it seems like wrap up. Concealed within that wrap up is a gathering of the allies, the importance of which isn’t obvious until that last, crucial 1/10th of the story.

In the middle of her hunt for the evidence, Rowan is also forced to meet and greet her new in-laws. The game that her new mother-in-law plays on her is an absolute hoot. Rowan’s attitude towards pretentiousness and preciousness in general and her mother-in-law’s game playing in particular remind me a lot of Eve Dallas in J.D. Robb’s In Death series. Eve and Rowan both have the same inability to understand cliches and idioms. And they are both marvelous deadpan snarkers.

As much fun as that first 9/10ths of the book is, the book ends in a shocking cliffhanger. We find out that the rot in Hunter Corp is not the only thing that Rowan has to contend with, and that her enemies will commit any heinous act in their attempts to get her off balance and to make her back off. The ending of this story left me absolutely gasping with shock and horror. And scrambling to find evidence of when the next book will appear.

For a series that I at first wondered if there would actually be a series, Rowan Summerwaite has gotten deeper and darker with each entry, to the point where At Blade’s Edge ends in a moment of “things are always darkest before they turn completely black” moment. I want more NOW.

But it sets the stage for the next level of this conflict. Rowan and her allies will need to root out the evil in all three organizations; Hunter Corp, the Vampire Nation, and the Conclave of Magic Users, in order to have a chance at maintaining the balance of world order. This is the job that Rowan has been trained for all of her dangerous and bloody life. It’s time to fulfill her destiny. She is going to have to wade in the blood of her enemies, and not be able to stop to mourn those of her own who fall along the way.

It’s going to be an awesome and epic adventure. And now I am on pins and needles, desperately searching  (so far in vain) for the author’s announcement of the next book in the series.

goddess with a blade by lauren daneIf you love urban fantasy where the heroes and heroines have layers, the cohort of good bands together to fight the most excellent fight, and evil is darker than you first imagine, start this series now with Goddess With a Blade.