#BookReview: My Dearest Mackenzie by Rachel Blaufeld

#BookReview: My Dearest Mackenzie by Rachel BlaufeldMy Dearest Mackenzie by Rachel Blaufeld
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: 40s Love and Romance #3
Pages: 217
Published by Rachel Blaufeld Publishing on April 25, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Frankie Burns, brash and bold on the outside, divorced and scarred on the inside, is determined to figure out what really happened with her Paps and his long-lost love, Rosie. Understanding why the duo didn’t find their happily-ever-after is her biggest mission. With every inch of her five-foot-two frame, she’s determined to discover why they were separated and forced to live a life without one another, convinced it will fix her own unhappiness.
Mackenzie Miller, handsome, rich, and one of New York’s most eligible bachelors, keeps everyone at an arm’s length and believes the only barometer to happiness is how wealthy and powerful he becomes. Shoving back his grandmother Milly’s wishes for him to find an everlasting love, he is successful in every other area of life. Abandoned by his mother, fairy tales are not part of Mack’s world, but running his makeup and perfume empire is paramount.
That is… until a feisty blond woman blasts into his life and won’t accept no for an answer when it comes to looking for a connection between his beloved Milly and her beloved Paps. He doesn’t understand the severity of her search. She needs to know the story to fill a gap in her own life.
The twist neither of them expects is falling for one another in the process…

My Review:

It’s not exactly a meet-cute, although Mackenzie Miller thinks that Frances Burns is plenty cute – also feisty and ferocious – which is how she managed to barge her 5 foot nothing self into his usually well-guarded office.

Frankie has a quest that Mack doesn’t even believe in – and he’s not remotely willing to hear her out. He’s pretty sure that her quest is for his money – and he’s been there and done that and is way, way over any further attempts.

But Frankie doesn’t care about his money – or the cosmetics and perfume empire he inherited from his beloved grandmother Milly.

Although that’s not quite right. Frankie is interested in one product and one only. A perfume that is now considered old fashioned and was discontinued long ago. Frankie only cares about “Rose’s Lily” because it was named for the love of her late grandfather’s life.

Frankie found the letters that Milly wrote to James Burns during the year that they fell in love – back when her grandfather and Mack’s grandmother were seventeen. Milly’s father – Mack’s great-grandfather – dragged the young lovers apart and got Milly married off before she even turned eighteen because Milly was Jewish and James Burns was not – and in those days that mattered and it mattered a lot.

But neither James nor Milly EVER forgot the person who was their “One” – not over the course of their long and relatively successful, but separate, lives.

Frankie, whose own tilt at the “Happy Ever After” windmill went down in flames, feels like she needs to learn what happened to that young woman her grandfather loved and lost in order to get some closure on the loss of the person who meant the most to her in this world.

At first, Mack doesn’t believe her. Then again, his mother’s abandonment of him to his grandmother’s waiting arms left him with a whole trunk of emotional baggage that he mostly deals with by running away, including a belief that romantic love doesn’t really exist.

But the irresistible force has met the immovable object – and sparks have been struck no matter how much both Frankie and Mack deny it – and each other – at every turn.

Escape Rating B: This isn’t exactly a dual-timelines story. It is a bit, but not really. Mack and Frankie’s tempestuous relationship – whatever it might be at the time – is always front and center in the story. What they discover about the past really doesn’t change things for them – although it does change some of the dynamics in their present-day relationships with others.

Their journey of discovery, both of their grandparents’ past and of their mutual present, is a story of two steps forward and one step back for multiple reasons – although the biggest reason is that every time they get close emotionally Mack runs away. Often literally. Once leaving Frankie behind in the Hamptons with no transportation.

(Not that ride-sharing isn’t a thing, and not that she doesn’t call one, but really, that’s a douche move. Or at least the move of a man who’s scared of touching his own emotions – let alone anyone else’s. And his behavior dovetails all too well and very badly with Frankie’s fears of abandonment.)

Each time they discover something about the past – it temporarily derails their present. Not because the revelations are so terrible, but because each one peels back a layer of reserve and self-protection and neither of them is really all that great at handling any of THAT.

Even though they should be as both are well into adulthood – and for the most part are doing a decently successful job of adulting. But that also means that their emotional scar tissue is many layers deep – and that scraping at it hurts rather a lot.

I really enjoyed that this was a romance between two people at midlife – and not fresh and dewy 20somethings. Their baggage is real and heavy, but the rewards feel that much sweeter because they were much harder to earn.

At the same time, the story they are searching for, Paps and Milly’s blighted young love, had a lot of resonance for this reader. Not because there’s something like their story in my own family’s history, but because the idea of it, that young lovers could be forcibly separated by a difference in religion – to the point of disownment or declaring the one who married out to be deceased – was very real in my own family. It’s a practice that has changed over time, but there were a few cousins of my parents’ generation who disappeared from family gatherings only to reappear decades later with non-Jewish spouses after the immigrant generation of the family had passed on.

Also, Milly’s real name was Rose and so was my own grandmother’s. So there’s that.

Returning to Frankie and Mack – as the story itself does frequently and often. I liked their midlife romance. I felt that their emotional baggage had weight and heft and made a huge difference both in what brought them together and what kept them apart. I really did enjoy their journey, but as a reader I felt like the book should have ended a bit sooner. The last few chapters dragged a bit because it felt like everything had been resolved and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And it finally did, but when it dropped it was more of a whimper than a thud and didn’t seem to quite justify those last “slice of new life” chapters. Not that it wasn’t nice to see their HEA get firmly planted, but the lingering last bits did, well, linger a bit too long.

But I still did enjoy My Dearest Mackenzie with its dip into the past and its exploration of midlife romance in the present. I didn’t learn that this is might be part in a series until I finished, so I’ll be looking for the author’s loosely connected 40s, Love and Romance series that starts with The Back Nine, the next time I’m in the mood for a bit of romance.

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#BookReview: Knightqueen by Anna Hackett

#BookReview: Knightqueen by Anna HackettKnightqueen by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction, science fiction romance, space opera
Series: Oronis Knights #3
Pages: 221
Published by Anna Hackett on May 2, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

A queen and her battle-scarred guard are on the run on an alien planet…with a relentless enemy hunting them.
Knightqueen Carys of Oron lives a life of duty to her people and planet. After the murder of her parents, she worked hard to become a fair and dedicated leader. She never expected to be abducted by the vicious Gek’Dragar and locked in a mountain prison, but having her head knightguard at her side makes it bearable. Older, scarred Sten is duty personified, the one man she’s always been able to trust.
He’s also the only man she’s ever loved, not that she’s ever told him that.
Knightguard Thorsten Carahan has sworn to protect his knightqueen, and lives and breathes her safety. He works hard to keep his mind on his duty, and not on the too young, too beautiful, and too kind queen who is way out of his league. But now they’ve escaped their enemy’s prison and are on the run on a dangerous planet. When they learn that the Gek’Dragar have created a lethal weapon to use against the Oronis, Sten knows he must get Carys home. But with danger at every turn, lines get blurred.
With only each other to depend on, Carys and Sten’s bond of duty and respect tangles with forbidden desire and need. As passion flares, they can no longer deny their connection, and they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people…and each other.

My Review:

When last we left our heroes – actually, in this particular case, it’s more like “when first we met our heroes” back in the first book in the Oronis Knights series, Knightmaster. In the first story, the Oronis had just welcomed a delegation from Terra, our very own Earth, in the hopes of forging an alliance to fight the rapacious Gek’Dragar.

The Terrans had already formed a similar alliance with the Eons, in spite of a somewhat rocky beginning, as part of the stories told in the marvelous Eon Warriors series. The Eons are long-standing allies of the Oronis, and now all three planets face the same enemy, the Gek’Dragar.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” as that saying goes. Not that this alliance was EVER smooth sailing, as it began back in Knightmaster with the Gek’Dragar kidnapping the Oronis Knightqueen and her Knightguard, and framing the Terrans for the crime.

But once that misdirection got straightened out, the Oronis and the Terrans have been on a joint mission to rescue the Knightqueen – assuming that she and her Knightguard don’t manage to rescue themselves, first.

Which is where we left those heroes at the end of the second book in the series, Knighthunter. That hunter team blew open and blew up the prison where the queen and her bodyguard, were being held, and Carys and Sten escaped in the chaos.

Meaning that they unknowingly ran away from their rescuers, jumped out of the frying pan into the fire – sometimes literally – and have spent the past several days outrunning their Gek’Dragar pursuers, throwing off the effects of the drugs they were injected with that suppressed their normally formidable powers, and generally running themselves into the ground.

Because the monsters on this hellhole planet are just as deadly as the Gek’Dragar – if not maybe a bit worse – and Carys and Sten have no weapons or armor until their powers return.

All they have is each other. Which has always been more than enough – even if neither of them has ever admitted that to themselves – let alone each other.

It’s not right, it’s not proper, for a Knightqueen to fall in love with her Knightguard. But this time, it’s inevitable.

Escape Rating B+: Knightqueen is the culmination of the whole, entire Oronis Knights series – which is only three books long. Meaning that, on the one hand, you really do kind of need to start at the beginning with Knightmaster, while on the other hand, three novellas is just a lovely amount of reading for a rainy spring weekend – of which there are PLENTY this time of year!

Knightqueen is a bodyguard romance. Maybe not exactly like the movie – certainly the SFnal setting if Knightqueen is literally light years away from the movie – but the trope is the trope is the trope – and it’s ALL here in Knightqueen.

Except the music, so you’ll just have to bring your own. I kept hearing Whitney Houston singing “I Will Always Love You” in the back of my mind as I read – and it took the longest time to figure out why.

Unlike the movie, the ending of Knightqueen results in a resounding HEA. That may seem like a bit of a spoiler, but all of this author’s stories end in either an HEA or an HFN depending on just how FUBAR the world they are set on happens to be.

It is part of why I enjoy her work so much.

But this particular entry in the series hit one of my less than favorite tropes pretty hard. The relationship between Carys and Sten does have its questionable aspects, she’s queen, he’s her bodyguard, he’s over a decade older which isn’t itself enough to make things squicky but he watched her grow up which is at least on the border of questionable.

As it’s usually not so much the years as the mileage, it’s not the age difference per se so much as it is that Carys is inexperienced with romantic relationships – which is not a surprise as she’s been queen from a very young age and it would never have been politically safe for her to go on dates or experiment with either love or sex.

Nevertheless, the trope that this fell into that put me off a bit was that Sten had a really bad case of the “I’m not worthy’s” that was a whole lot more personal and ingrained in his psyche than just the difference in their respective stations. This is a “me” thing and may not be a “you” thing.

Putting it another way – I did love the bodyguard romance but wasn’t thrilled with how little the bodyguard thought of himself in it. Your reading mileage obviously may vary.

That being said, I still had a grand time with the entire Oronis Knights series and am a bit sorry to see it come to end even though I’m happy to see the Gek’Dragar put in their place – a grave.

As this series has come to a close – and doesn’t end with teasers for a spinoff, it looks like the author will be turning back to contemporary action adventure romances for most of this year. Leaving this reader looking forward to the next book in her Unbroken Heroes series, The Hero She Craves, coming next month!

#BookReview: Fury Brothers: Burn by Anna Hackett

#BookReview: Fury Brothers: Burn by Anna HackettBurn (Fury Brothers #3) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Fury Brothers #3
Pages: 274
Published by Anna Hackett on March 13, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

I have one goal—arrest billionaire businessman Kavner Fury.
I’m dedicated to my job as a Treasury agent, and taking down crooked financial criminals. Just like the one who destroyed my family.
Kavner Fury is wealthy, powerful, and ambitious, a combination I know too well. He’s New Orleans’ favorite billionaire. Sure, he’s also handsome, charming, with a hard body no man who sits behind a desk should have, but I have no plans to let that distract me.
He’s my enemy, my nemesis…and pure temptation. I won’t let our scorching attraction derail my investigation. But as my money laundering case leads me into dangerous territory, I find myself under attack.
Injured and betrayed, I’m shocked that there is only one man I can turn to. One man who can keep me safe.
Now I’m working with Kavner, side by side, and I uncover a protective man who’s taking a blow-torch to my icy defenses. I get to see the real man beneath the gorgeous exterior, and I’m having trouble keeping my hands off him.
Suddenly, the only man I trust is my enemy, and we’re both caught up in a fiery attraction that could leave us both burned.

My Review:

Treasury Agent London Coleman investigates white collar crimes. She’s back in her hometown of New Orleans on the trail of someone laundering money for the cartels by buying expensive works of art with dirty money, shipping that art out of the U.S. to sell, and returning the ‘cleaned’ money to the cartel to do more of whatever terrible things they do with their money – which is mostly drugs.

London is happy to be back home, not just because she gets to spend time with her sister Lexxie, but because she honestly loves the city that made her who she is. Literally as London looks like the Creole descendant that she is, while the genetic gumbo that made her and Lexxie gave them completely different skin tones as well as looks.

As this third entry in the Fury Brothers series opens, the person of interest, both in her case and personally – even though she’s not ready to admit the second part even to herself – is billionaire businessman Kavner Fury.

His name has come up more than a few times in her investigation. She thinks it’s because he’s dirty and she hasn’t found the evidence yet. In reality, it’s because Kavner’s rich, he likes art, and he especially likes donating art to museums and galleries where kids just like the ones he and his brothers used to be have the opportunity to view beautiful things in just a little bit of peace and safety to help them hold on and survive until they can live their own dreams.

Just as he and his brothers did when they were all in the foster system and all too frequently at the mercy of neglectful, abusive or just plain violent caregivers.

London may not be willing to admit it, at least not yet, but keeping Kavner in her sights does put her in the places where whoever is hiding in the shadows is doing their dirty business. And he’s much too easy on the eyes, and too smooth in his business dealings, not to raise a few red flags.

That those red flags have more to do with her past than anything Kav has actually done is another secret that London is doing her damndest to keep to herself and out of her investigation. Something that proves utterly impossible when the cartel starts gunning for her, directly and literally – and Kav is the only one standing at her side and watching her back.

Escape Rating B+: Burn is a quick, hot read that is a whole lot of fun – for both parts of the category ‘romantic suspense’ into which this book and its series most definitely fit.

Like the first two books, Fury and Keep, this one is told in alternating first-person viewpoints, meaning that first we see inside London’s head and then we get Kavner’s take on what happens next.

Her head is a bit of a hot mess. The case has been long, drawn out, and utterly frustrating. The powers-that-be are hammering her boss hard. London has more than a bit of tunnel vision, seeing Kavner as a stand in for the fraudster who suckered her own father in and ruined the family’s life. She’s fixated on him being in this scheme up to his neck, when really it’s that she’s in the River DeNial up to hers.

Kavner isn’t worried about London’s investigation because he knows there’s nothing to find. He may hide the darker details of his origin story in the foster system before he and his brothers met, he may have taken on a much more polished veneer than he’d prefer because it’s good for business, but his money was legally earned, all his businesses are completely legit as well as profitable, and he really does give back a tremendous amount of money and effort to the city he loves.

And he has all the money he needs to get himself out of any ‘manufactured’ trouble. That’s what money and the lawyers it can buy are for, after all.

Which means that while London is focussing on Kavner as a suspect, Kav is keeping his sights on London as a woman – in ways that make him think, not just sexy thoughts, but also romantic and protective ones. The kind of thoughts he’s been avoiding all of his adult life, too busy being focused on buying and creating financial security for himself and his brothers, and their whole extended family.

What made this story work well for this reader is the way that London and Kav worked against some familiar tropes. He does not have a case of the ‘I’m not worthy’s’ that happen entirely too often. He’s just been too busy to think about settling down. London is definitely in distress, but she’s no damsel. She stands her ground and maintains her own boundaries even in the face of Kav’s protectiveness. She doesn’t get rescued by Kav and his brothers – she gets assistance in her own rescue.

There’s a whole lot of push-pull between these two workaholics and it’s fun – and filled with sexytimes – to see them work towards each other and their happy ever after. Often in spite of themselves. Making Burn the kind of read that will make any reader burn up the pages in one sitting.

There are two Fury Brothers left, Reath and Beau. Currently neither of them are even thinking about looking for an HEA of their own but that’s about to change. Their stories are coming in the fall, in Take (probably Reath’s story) and Claim. In the meantime, I have Knightqueen, the climactic final book in the author’s science fiction romance Oronis Knights series to look forward to. And I most definitely AM!

A- #BookReview: The Hero She Wants by Anna Hackett

A- #BookReview: The Hero She Wants by Anna HackettThe Hero She Wants (Unbroken Heroes) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Unbroken Heroes #2
Pages: 220
Published by Anna Hackett on January 25, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

The last thing he wants is to trek into the jungle to save the President’s daughter.
Shepherd “Shep” Barlow left the military behind. All he wants is to stay on his Colorado mountain—alone, with no interruptions, and no people. He especially likes to avoid people.
Then his former commander arrives, asking him to risk his life on a deadly mission to Central America. A mission to rescue the archeologist daughter of the President of the United States.
Once a member of a covert Ghost Ops team, Shep has the skills to get in quietly and rescue Ms. Sinclair. And as much as he wishes otherwise, he can’t leave an innocent woman in danger.
Hayden Sinclair loves her work. It keeps her far away from the liars, cheats, and phonies in Washington D.C. But when she’s abducted from her archeological dig in Nicaragua, she’s plunged into a life-or-death situation. Her captors plan to use her as a bargaining chip, and Hayden knows she has to escape.
What she never expected was to collide with the world’s biggest, grumpiest rescuer.
On the run in the jungle with six and a half feet of rugged, muscular, scowling man, she finds Shep rude and annoying. But as her captors ruthlessly hunt them, she also discovers a man who’ll risk his own life to protect hers.
Neither of them are looking for love, especially when they have to fight to survive…besides, there could never be a happy ending for the daughter of the President and a grumpy, battle-scarred soldier, could there?

My Review:

Archaeologists make the best protagonists – because there are just SO MANY WAYS they can get into trouble. Just ask Indiana Jones – or better yet, his father, Professor Henry Jones.

That rule certainly applies to this author’s work, as her very first heroine, in her very first book, At Star’s End, was an archaeologist among the star-scattered human diaspora. It’s a theme that has cropped up again and again, not just with the entire Treasure Hunter Security series (distant ancestors of the crew in that first book, but, also in this latest work with Dr. Hayden Sinclair, expert in pre-Columbian Central American history.

An archaeologist who also happens to be the daughter of the sitting President of the United States.

Hayden was determined to go on this dig, and determined to do it as a working archaeologist and not as a visiting dignitary or show pony or whatever. This is her job, and she’s determined to do it well and more importantly without a whole squad of Secret Service agents guarding her every step.

No matter how much, as it turns out, she might need them. Or, at least her teammates and fellow archaeologists do. Or did.

After all, the kidnappers plan on keeping her alive so that she can be auctioned off to the highest bidder looking for leverage on the U.S. President. The rest of her colleagues are merely…collateral damage.

Hayden Sinclair, is tied up and held captive in the middle of a compound full of the men who just killed her team and her friends. She should be at her lowest ebb – and she kind of is. But that doesn’t stop her from rescuing herself.

Only to walk straight into the arms of the one-man rescue team that has been sent to take care of that job FOR her.

Shep Barlow may be just a bit behind on Hayden’s jailbreak, but he’s EXACTLY the man she needs to walk beside her every step of the way home. No matter what it takes. No matter what he has to give up.

Because he’s the hero she wants, and she’ll do anything and defy anyone to keep him. Even her own father. Even Shep himself.

Escape Rating A-: This whole, entire series so far gives me a giant earworm. Everytime I even think about either of the books in this series so far, I get the chorus of Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” playing in my head. Or even better – or worse depending on persistence – the scene from Shrek II.

Although Hayden doesn’t actually NEED a hero. She’s already rescued herself. Not that she can’t use Shep’s help and survival skills, because she certainly can. But she’s no delicate flower and doesn’t need anyone who will treat her like one.

The title of this entry in the series says it all. Hayden doesn’t NEED a hero, but Shep Barlow is certainly the man she wants – precisely because he knows better than to treat her like she needs rescuing. Not even her father is able to figure that out.

What makes the story in this one such a compulsive page-turner is the way that Hayden and Shep jump together out of the frying pan and into yet another fire, over and over again, as her kidnappers do their damndest to close off all avenues of escape.

What makes the romance in this one sing and zing is that this is a romance of equals in spite of the heroine-in-jeopardy start, a romance that has to carry both partners’ heavy baggage until they finally figure out they can drop it all and hold onto each other for dear life. For the rest of their lives.

The Unbroken Heroes series has been terrific so far, beginning with The Hero She Needs and continuing with this second book, The Hero She Wants. The third book in the series, The Hero She Craves, is coming in June and I expect that terrific streak to continue. What I’m loving about this series so far is that, although the link in the series is through those heroes, it’s the heroines who stand up, take charge, and participate oh-so-actively in their own rescues.

There are no delicate flowers here, and that’s the way I like it. One of the other things I like is that this particular set of heroes has interesting friends in some very high and dangerous places, like Hayden’s father-the-president, and the stories have high stakes that extend beyond the mutual rescue and the heart stopping romance.

Which is reminding me quite a lot and very much of M.L. Buchman’s romantic suspense series(es), particularly his Miranda Chase series, where smart civilians find themselves walking the halls of power to find the loves of their lives and keep the country safe along the way. So if you’re looking for something to tide you over between Anna Hackett’s heroes, consider this a recommendation for M.L. Buchman’s books as excellent readalikes with lots to explore.

Meanwhile, I’ll be waiting for Anna Hackett’s next entry in her action/adventure romantic suspense Fury Brothers series, Burn, coming in March.

Grade A #BookReview: Gryphon by M.L. Buchman

Grade A #BookReview: Gryphon by M.L. BuchmanGryphon (Miranda Chase NTSB #14) by M L Buchman
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure, political thriller, technothriller, thriller
Series: Miranda Chase NTSB #14
Pages: 370
Published by Buchman Bookworks on January 23, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

With the rising threat of Russia, Sweden joins NATO for its own protection. But someone wants to make them pay—in blood. Sweden’s home-built, world-class jet fighters, the Saab JAS 39E Gripen—named for the mythological Gryphon—are falling out of the skies. The stability, the very existence of NATO could be torn apart, as if trapped in the Gryphon’s mighty eagle claws. Can Miranda’s team of air-crash investigators solve the crisis before the powerful lion-half shreds them asunder?

My Review:

Like all of the previous entries in the Miranda Chase series from the very first page in Drone, Gryphon is an edge-of-the-seat political technothriller with World War III looming over every action on every page.

What makes this OMG FOURTEENTH book in the series stand out is that this is the one where all of the hyper-competent people that we have come to know and love over the course of the series so far are anything but.

Not that they don’t still manage to get the job done – because of course they do! – but rather because it’s clear from the opening page that all of the members of Miranda’s team are broken after the events of Osprey – and Miranda herself is the most broken one of them all.

It’s hard to lead anyone anywhere when your heart, your soul and your entire psyche are lying in pieces on the ground at your feet.

But time, tide, plane crashes and international catastrophes wait for no one. Even if not a single one of Miranda’s team remotely has their shit together, between them they still have enough to figure out exactly which enemy is responsible for the recent series of disasters plaguing Sweden’s civilian and military aviation.

Although Sweden doesn’t have a whole lot of enemies. Which doesn’t make Ian Fleming’s old truism any less true, that “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” It’s just that this time around they’ll have to start by identifying just who they have to stop.

Escape Rating A: Gryphon is a hard read for fans of Miranda Chase and her team. Which isn’t to say that it’s not a good read, because it oh-so-definitely is. But rather, it’s hard to see people that we’ve come to like and respect and care about act this observably broken.

It’s a heartbreaking response to the events of the previous book, but damn it hurts to watch.

But it does make it easy for someone, actually a few someones, to slip a whole lot of things past them all – because they are all very much NOT at the top of their respective games. More like at the bottom.

The crisis is a conundrum, because it only makes sense in bad ways. Either the Swedish aviation industry is having the worst luck in the universe, over and over, or someone is out to get them. And yet, the usual suspects are all quiet.

And on the third hand being held behind someone’s back, considering the current crisis in the Ukraine, blaming Russia for everyone’s troubles is a damnably easy conclusion to jump to. So it becomes a question of whether Russia has faked out literally everyone – or whether someone else is trying to make it look that way in the hopes of, what? Causing World War III? Who is crazy enough to want to ring that bell?

A question which, in its own way, is at the center of what makes this series so damn good. Because both the question and the solution in each entry in the series isn’t about the techno part of the thriller. It’s always about the human factors. Technology may make the events and crises and calamities and near-catastrophes possible, but it’s always human beings who set them into motion for all too human reasons.

And it’s the humans of Miranda’s team – pulling together and putting it all together – that have to stop the worst from happening.

Not that the tech isn’t fascinating and not that we don’t get a lot of it while following Miranda and her team – but it’s the humans we feel for and with and it’s the human cost of the disaster they’re trying to prevent that make us keep turning pages until they pull literally everyone’s fat out of whatever particular fire they’re facing this time around.

And all of that is just, well, harder in Gryphon because the humans on all sides of this particular equation are all broken, The villains are broken because the game they are playing is not worth the cost, and the ‘good guys’ are broken because they’ve been pulling separately instead of pulling together, so they’re a mess and getting messier by the day.

Whether the radical solution they come up with to begin to start fixing their broken places is something that we’ll all get to find out in the next book in this awesome series, Wedgetail. Until that comes out this summer, we’ll all just have to hope right along with the rest of the team.

A- #BookReview: Port in a Storm by Rhys Ford

A- #BookReview: Port in a Storm by Rhys FordPort in a Storm (Sinners #8) by Rhys Ford
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance, M/M romance
Series: Sinners #8
Pages: 192
Published by Dreamspinner Press on January 23, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

San Francisco SWAT Lieutenant Connor Morgan and Crossroads Gin drummer Forest Ackerman make an odd couple. Connor, an Irish-born cop from a tight-knit family, never imagined he’d find his happily-ever-after with a raised-on-the-streets musician, but Forest had the gentlest soul he’d ever met. After a long, hard road of heartbreak, murder, and trouble, they fell hard in love and married.
Then Fate intervenes and throws their lives into a chaos neither one of them is prepared for.
During a brutal SWAT raid, Connor stumbles on Tate, an abused, vulnerable little boy caught in a shoot-out with his father’s drug-running gang. As heavy fire riddles the walls, an injured Connor rescues Tate from the fray… only to be struck numb when a caseworker pries a sobbing Tate from his arms.
Scarred from his own childhood experiences, Forest doubts he can be a good enough father, but Connor assures him they can give Tate what he needs and more. Soon they are on an insane ride where trust and affection are hard-earned, especially when coming from a little boy raised in society’s filthiest gutters. Facing down every challenge thrown their way, they battle to give Tate what Connor treasures and Forest never had—a family to call his own.

My Review:

Port in a Storm, the long-awaited final book in the utterly awesome Sinners series combines coda and confirmation into one beautiful if sometimes heartbreaking package, coming full circle halfway around the world to end where it all began. With a dog named ‘Dude’.

We first met the Morgan Family and the members of Crossroads Gin back in 2012, in Sinner’s Gin – although I personally didn’t discover the series until five years later after falling in love with the author’s characters and work through her Cole McGinnis series.

Either way, it’s been a long road, getting from there to here. But here we are just the same.

As this story opens, it seems as if the current generation of the Irish-American, mostly SFPD cops of the Morgan family have found their various happy ever afters, often by pairing up with one of the members of Miki St. John’s resurrected band, Crossroads Gin.

That’s certainly true for Kane Morgan and Miki himself, whose meeting, facilitated by a dog that neither of them has ever fully admitted is theirs – honestly they are his, anyway – kicked off the entire series back in that first story.

But SFPD SWAT Lieutenant Connor Morgan and the band’s drummer Forest Ackerman, as happy as they are together – and they most definitely are – discover that there’s a child-shaped hole in their lives that they need to fill with Tate Robinson, a seven-year-old boy that Connor rescues in the midst of a drug raid.

A raid that was intended to net the major drug cooker listed as ‘father’ on Tate’s birth certificate.

Connor’s team may have come up empty-handed as far as the drugs or their maker were concerned, but left with a heart full of the need to get one desperate child out of the foster care system that still gives his husband Forest so many nightmares.

The battle in Port in Storm isn’t the Morgan family’s usual fight against criminals and drug dealers nor is it an attempt to break up or break down the band or any of its members. Instead it’s the battle against an overworked – at best – foster care system that seems to be more about ticking off boxes and protecting bureaucrat’s asses than it is about making the right decision for a young child even though that right decision has been handed to them on a silver platter.

Escape Rating A-: Those of us who are fans of the Sinners series were pretty convinced that book six, Sin and Tonic, was the ending – a happy ending that all the characters had earned and deserved – especially Dude.

And that the short story collection, ‘Nother Sip of Gin, was basically lagniappe. A lovely treat, a bit of a filling in of the corners, a chance to visit with old and dear friends one last time.

Until this. Until Port in a Storm and this nearly heartbreaking but ultimately just happily teary story that confirms that happy ending for everyone and ties it up with a really marvelous bow. Even better because we weren’t expecting it so we’re all crying a bit that it’s over but smiling because it happened.

(In other words, treat the above as a huge hint not to start here OR with either ‘Nother Sip of Gin or Sin and Tonic, because these are the endings. Start with Sinner’s Gin and settle in for a fantastic read!)

The actual story in Port in a Storm – is about just that. About a young boy finding his very own port in own storm with a badass cop and a rockstar drummer who also happens to be a foster care survivor himself. It’s about Tate Robinson finding the best home he could ever have found, with two men who have stepped up to be his dads in every single way, backed by friends and families who will help them figure out how to be dads and help Tate himself figure out how to love and trust again in spite of everything he’s been through.

That the social worker and agent of the system who does her damndest to break up their family is an avatar for Dolores Umbridge – complete with pink suits and simpering non-smiles – says all that needs to be said about how wrong the system was in this case and how right Connor, Forest and their whole entire family are for Tate.

And I’ll admit I wish we got just a bit more explanation of why and how she got involved and was so determined to break their family apart. But that was the only tiny niggle in one whole, entire, utterly marvelous wrap to a terrific series. So I’m left being just thrilled that we got to see everyone’s HEA confirmed and with bells on.

And that’s awesome – but maybe it’s time to go back and read the whole saga from the very beginning. Because that would be awesome too!

 

Review: The Hero She Needs by Anna Hackett

Review: The Hero She Needs by Anna HackettThe Hero She Needs (Unbroken Heroes Book 1) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Unbroken Heroes #1
Pages: 223
Published by Anna Hackett on December 7, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

The last thing he expects to catch in his river is a billionaire heiress.
Loner Boone Hendrix left the military with ghosts that haunt him. He lives with his dog Atlas on a farm in Vermont. Alone. Just the way he likes it. Until he rescues a half-drowned, beautiful brunette from his river.
Gemma Newhouse is the daughter of the richest man in America, and from the abrasions on her wrists and her drugged state, she’s on the run from someone dangerous. She’s nothing like Boone expected—sweet, smart, and likes baking—and she ignites a fierce need inside him.
Being a member of a covert Ghost Ops team taught him deadly skills, and he’ll use them all to keep her safe.
Gemma can’t remember the last twenty-four hours. All she knows is that someone abducted her. Someone dangerous. Her only goal is survival and she’s used to taking care of herself. She’s a constant disappointment to her driven, successful parents. She doesn’t want a brilliant career, all she wants is to bake and make people smile.
Finding herself in Boone’s strong arms wasn’t on her plan. Nor was his rugged face, hard body, and gold-brown eyes. She sees how much he’s cut himself off from life, how he believes he’s broken.
Thrust together, she realizes this quiet hero will do anything to protect her. Despite the danger around them, they can’t resist their growing attraction, but her captors are hunting her…
And Boone is the only thing standing in their way.

My Review:

When Gemma Newhouse runs away from her mysterious captors in the middle of densely forested nowhere, she doesn’t have time to hold out for a hero, she needs one right NOW. She doesn’t know there’s one just down the river – literally – so she does her damndest to get herself out of her kidnappers’ hands.

She doesn’t merely find one hero, she finds two. Or rather, one of those heroes pulls her out of the river that has been carrying her away from whoever grabbed her off the street in Los Angeles – just not as far or as fast as she would have liked.

If she were still conscious, that is.

But Atlas is a Very Good Boy, so he alerts his human that there’s something in the water that needs to be rescued. Which is exactly what Boone Hendrix does. Because that’s what he does – even if, or especially because – there was no one to rescue him when he needed it the most.

But, maybe that’s now after all, and maybe Gemma is that rescue. If he can just keep her alive long enough to deliver her to safety and figure out who is after her and why. While somehow managing to keep his hands off of her – even if that’s exactly where she wants them to be.

Unless, just maybe, she’s his rescue too.

Escape Rating A-: I always love it when the heroine rescues herself or is an active participant in her own rescue. Which is EXACTLY what Gemma Newhouse does. Everything that happens in this action adventure romance happens because first and most importantly, Gemma Newhouse put on her big girl panties and escaped from her captors.

She’s not a badass agent, she’s not a cop, she’s just a more-or-less ordinary woman that a bunch of asshole men believe is at their mercy for reasons she doesn’t even know yet. But as soon as she can get her feet under her after the drugs she was injected with even start to wear off – she’s off and running.

Boone – and Atlas – are her reward for taking care of her business. She just doesn’t know it yet.

The romance between Boone and Gemma is sweet and hot and funny, all at the same time. (Although a lot of that fun is that Gemma doesn’t want Atlas to witness any of the human’s ‘funny business’.)

Speaking of Atlas, he is a very good boy and is every bit as fine and good at the end of the story as he was at the beginning – if not a little better because he has two humans to spoil him instead of just one. So don’t worry about Atlas.

There’s more than enough to worry about between Gemma and Boone. Gemma is a combination of poor-little-rich-girl and bird-in-a-gilded-cage, but again, she’s doing a damn good job of filling her own well of purpose and happiness and kicking the door off the gilded cage. (OTOH, if she’d kept the bodyguards her dad wanted her to have she probably wouldn’t be in her present fix. OTOH, that might just have resulted in a couple of dead bodyguards as the stakes in all this are pretty high.)

It’s also excellent and different that Gemma’s relationship with her wealthy parents is still a loving one even though that relationship has a bunch of sharp edges in it. They’re not terrible, she’s not a misbehaving fuck-up, it’s just that they are not remotely on the same wavelength and everyone gets a bit hurt by it. Except for her parents’ megabucks, that relationship feels grounded in the real, which made it more interesting and all the better to empathize with.

Boone is one of the author’s classic too-damaged-to-think-he’s-good-enough heroes. He used to be a member of Vander Norcross’ Ghost Ops team (Vander’s book is The Powerbroker), and those ops left plenty of scars that may never heal. So Boone’s got a bad case of the I’m-not-worthies when it comes to a relationship with Gemma, but he’s all in on saving her life and is absolutely the right man for that job.

So, soft and sweet but with a core of steel goes head to head with hard and brittle with a core of marshmallow. The sweet treat that gets baked in that fire means that a good time is had by all the characters and absolutely for the reader as well.

I had a great reading time with this first entry in the author’s Unbroken Heroes series, and I can’t wait to see what happens with her next hero early next year.

Review: Fury Brothers: Keep by Anna Hackett

Review: Fury Brothers: Keep by Anna HackettKeep: A Grumpy Single Dad Romance (Fury Brothers Book 2) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Fury Brothers #2
Pages: 250
Published by Anna Hackett on October 19, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

My boss is a tough, grumpy bounty hunter—and a hot single dad—and now he’s sworn to keep me safe, whether I like it or not.
My name’s Macy, and I always look on the bright side of things. Life’s too short not to. Super grump extraordinaire Colton Fury is the total opposite. Luckily for him, along with the muscled bod, tattoos, and rugged face, it works for him.
When I start getting creepy calls at the office and someone breaks into my house, it becomes clear I’m a target, and Coltsort of…loses his mind. He turns even bossier and more protective.
Now I’m living with him and his super cute daughter, and trying very hard to remember that I can’t let myself fall for him.Before long, there’s kissing, touching, and a whole lot more. Colt tells me—okay, more like growls at me—that he doesn’t do relationships. And I promise him no strings or complications.
Every day that passes, the complications are growing and I’m starting to realize I want them. All of them.
But soon, it’s not only me in danger, and it’s not only Colt who’ll risk it all to save the people he loves.
The Fury fierce, loyal, and live by their own codeFive men who grew up in foster care and became brothers by choice. They vow to always have each other’s no questions, no doubts, no hesitation. They protect their own…always.

My Review:

Colton Fury and Macy Underwood are each firmly of the opinion that they have their lives together all by themselves. Separately, that is.

Neither of them does relationships – at least romantic relationships. Macy’s certainly all in on her job as Colt’s office manager, wrangling the arrangements for his frequent trips to capture the latest escaped criminals while coercing him to deal with the resulting paperwork as often as needed.

Macy feels needed, the job pays well, and the problems she left behind in San Francisco are well back in her rearview mirror. Or at least she believes they are. And believes that big, tough successful bounty hunter Colt Fury – along with his equally fierce and protective brothers – take care of their own when anything goes wrong.

As evidenced by the way they all gathered around Dante Fury and HIS bartender turned love-of-his-life Mila when her past troubles came calling for her in the first book in the series, Fury.

Colt, on the other hand, doesn’t do relationships because the way he sees it his life is already full up. Not with romance, because he doesn’t think he deserves that, but with the loyalty of his brothers and the heartwarming and heartstopping love between Colt and his niece-turned-adopted-daughter, seven year old Daisy Fury. Making sure that Daisy has everything she needs is a full time job all by itself, and he thinks he can’t afford to split his heart’s focus to find a more adult kind of love.

When Macy starts receiving prank calls she assumes it’s nothing that needs anyone to handle it besides herself. Just like her free-spirited mother taught her.

At least until the pranks escalate to life-threatening accidents, and Colt Fury can’t stop himself from stepping in and taking over Macy’s security and a bit more of her life than either of them ever planned on. Not that they haven’t both had entirely too many seriously hot daydreams about all the delicious possibilities.

But Macy’s ex didn’t take no for an answer then, and doesn’t plan on taking one now that he’s chased her down to New Orleans. Unless the Fury Brothers take him down before its too late for both Macy AND Daisy.

Escape Rating B+: I liked Keep better than Fury because I was able to get inside Macy’s head in a way that I wasn’t Mila’s or even Dante’s. I also enjoyed Macy more as a character because she was getting on with her life and living her best one in spite of the EvilEx™ lurking behind her in San Francisco. She’s not focusing on him, she’s not constantly looking over her shoulder at him, she’s not even thinking much about him until he turns up like a bad penny and puts himself back in her life.

One of the fun things about this series so far is that the romances haven’t been insta-love. We enter the story at the point where the relationship turns so fast on its dime that it almost seems that way, but Colt and Macy have been working together for months when their story begins. They are already part of each other’s lives – and part of each other’s daydreams even if neither of them is willing to admit that.

Well, Macy is willing to admit to the occasional sexy daydream, but recognizes that it’s not a good idea to go there because they work together. Colt, on the other hand, has a bad case of “I’m not worthy” that he’s only able to start getting over when Macy needs him to protect her.

There’s also a bit of ‘Kidfic’ mixed in, as Colt is an excellent dad to Daisy, and part of the whole Fury Brothers brotherhood is wrapped around taking care of little Daisy Fury. When Macy goes all in on being another one of Daisy’s caregivers it gives the story a gooey center that just worked for me. (I’ve been reading a whole lot of 9-1-1 fanfic recently, in spite of having never watched the TV series, and a whole lot of that fandom is kidfics – which are awesome if the kid is awesome and Daisy so is!)

Of course Colt gets over his stupidity in thinking that he’s a) not good enough for Macy and b) gets to make that decision for her. Meanwhile, Macy, in spite of a bit of stupid decision making over a threat to Daisy, manages to rescue the little girl and sets up her own rescue quite handily in the process, proving to herself and the reader that she’s the perfect addition to the Fury Brothers’ family.

One final comment. This series so far has books with VERY long subtitles. The subtitle for Dante’s book, “a fake dating workplace romance” was only true for a little while. Not that it wasn’t a workplace romance, but the fake part of their fake dating didn’t last very long at all.

Very much on the other hand, Colt is a grumpy dad from the very first page of his story until the last. Grumpy is part of Colt’s core personality. That grumpiness hides a heart of marshmallow when it comes to his family, but he’s a grump through and through. That gets to a place of being considerably happier in his grumpiness over the course of this story adds just that extra bit of sweetness – albeit still covered in a crusty – but delicious – exterior. (Come to think of it, Colt is a bit like a s’more – or at least Macy certainly thinks so!)

Ending this entry in the series on a high note, at least for this reader, it looks like business mogul Kavner Fury will be going head to head with Treasury Agent Coleman in the next book in the Fury Brothers series, sometime next year. I always love it when the heroine is able to kick ass and take names alongside the heroes, so I can’t wait to see Coleman do her level best to take Kav down – one way or another!

Review: Osprey by M.L. Buchman

Review: Osprey by M.L. BuchmanOsprey (Miranda Chase NTSB, #13) by M L Buchman
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure, political thriller, technothriller, thriller
Series: Miranda Chase NTSB #13
Pages: 392
Published by Buchman Bookworks on September 17, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

Russia teeters on the brink of collapse, spoiling for a battle to end all wars. All it needs? One thin excuse. World War I began with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. World War II launched with the invasion of Poland. As for Russia's invasion of Ukraine... A Russian flyby of an American CMV-22 Osprey tiltrotor goes desperately wrong over the North Sea. Will the tipping point for World War III break the moment a favored daughter of the Oligarchy goes down in flames? When the NSA's secret military base at Menwith Hill in the UK needs specialized expertise, they call in Miranda Chase. She and her elite team of air-crash investigators must avert a crisis like none before. A crisis that unravels her past, batters at her autism, and threatens to crush her team in the ultimate grinder of East vs. West. "Miranda is utterly compelling!" - Booklist, starred review "Escape A. Five Stars! OMG just start with Drone and be prepared for a fantastic binge-read!" -Reading Reality

My Review:

Osprey, in addition to being about the investigation of a series of airplane crashes, as the books in the Miranda Chase series always are, is fundamentally the story of a woman who has based her life on a series of truths that turn out to be lies.

Miranda Chase is not merely A lead investigator for the National Transportation and Safety Board, but at this point in the series, THE premiere investigator for the NTSB. Miranda, along with her team, are the people that not just the NTSB but federal government all the way up to the President call whenever the crash is either too thorny for a regular investigator OR, as is very much true in this particular case, has the potential to start World War III and/or bring about the end of the world.

Considering the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and other countries, they are likely to be one and the same.

Which is what drags Miranda and her team out of their vacation in Yorkshire, hiking the Herriot Trail, all the way to the top secret US/UK communication and intelligence support station at RAF Menwith Hill, which is, according to Miranda’s teammate Holly Harper, the place where the world ends. Because, on Holly’s last mission for Australia’s SSAR, Menwith Hill’s sister station in Pine Gap ended Holly’s.

This time around, they’re about to end Miranda’s – even as she and her team prevent the end of pretty much everyone else’s in the whole damn world.

Escape Rating A+: This was one of those books that turned out to be a much harder read than I was expecting – even as it sucked me right in and wouldn’t let me go until the end. By saying Osprey is a ‘hard read’ I mean that in the sense that, 13 books into this series, I’ve become very fond of Miranda and her team and hate seeing any of them in serious distress. But it’s clear that this is the 13th book in the series for a reason in that it seems like all the bad luck and worse trouble in Miranda’s life comes home to roost in this one and probably won’t leave anytime soon.

Like all of the books in this series so far, starting with the marvelous Drone and continuing through ALL of the team’s compelling adventures along the way, each story pretty much has two plots. The first is the actual plot that results in the crash that Miranda and company are tasked with investigating. The second line is tied up in a particular team member’s personal circumstances, whether that’s how they become part of the team, falling in love with either a fellow team member, a friend or an enemy, or when those relationships crash and burn.

With the case in Osprey it’s a question of which will burn first, Miranda or the entire world, which makes the stakes the highest they can be on both sides of that equation.

The initial crash could have, and in other circumstances would have, been put down to pilot error combined with a bit of stupid people doing stupid things. In other words, humans just being human – unfortunately at tens of thousands of feet in the air while piloting state of the art aircraft.

The situation escalates, and fast, because the initial less-than-stellar piloting was on the part of a Russian military jet playing ‘chicken’ with a brand new U.S. craft that is capable of switching from taking off like a helicopter to flying like an airplane. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? But when the jet’s wings got tied up in the Osprey’s proprotor, everything went to hell in a handbasket and both countries, already über tense – as they are in real life – were on the brink of nuclear war.

Figuring out how that crash occurred, and the even stupider one that followed, is all in a day’s work for Miranda and her team. The President of the U.S. is thrilled to take her very expert word that the crash was merely the stuff of stupid and not a deliberate provocation to war.

But the Russian side of this equation is a whole lot messier. A mess which raises questions about just how Miranda’s parents REALLY died – because the newly discovered and always obscured – evidence makes it clear that it didn’t exactly happen the way that the world, even the CIA’s hidden world, believed it did. And that’s only the beginning of how Miranda’s world falls apart, even as the rest of the world gets put back together. At least for now.

The reader knows most of what’s coming – at least as far as Miranda’s parents’ deaths are concerned – from the very first scene, so that’s not exactly a spoiler. We know it’s going to be devastating, and we’re waiting for that shoe to drop through the entire book. It’s agonizing. It’s also not all she’ll have to contend with, but getting into that would be a spoiler.

Let’s just say that on Miranda’s personal front, this is a heartbreaking story and it’s hard to watch her even begin to go through the inevitable fallout. Howsomever, as one of the strengths of this series is the way that the characters and relationships change and grow over time, Miranda’s situation is one that I expect to see explore and change and resolve over the next several books in the series, starting with Gryphon, coming in late January of 2024.

One final note; there’s a surprising bit of a parallel to The Last Devil to Die, the most recent book in the Thursday Murder Club series. The leaders of each series, Miranda and Elizabeth, are brought low by heart-shattering personal catastrophes, and it’s up to the other members of their teams to keep the case on track even as their leader, rightfully and righteously, falls apart for an understandable bit. It’s terrible seeing those leaders stumble and fall, but lovely to watch the other members of their teams carry them and carry on.

 

Review: Fury Brothers: Fury by Anna Hackett

Review: Fury Brothers: Fury by Anna HackettFury: A Fake Dating Workplace Romance (Fury Brothers Book 1) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Fury Brothers #1
Pages: 286
Published by Anna Hackett on September 3, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

I’m not looking for a hero, and definitely not a fake relationship with my new boss, nightclub owner Dante Fury—over six feet of dark, hot, and dangerous.
But he isn’t taking no for an answer.
The plan was to run, live under the radar, survive. My life’s been destroyed by some very bad people and everything I know is gone—career, friends, family. I thought I could hide as a bartender at New Orleans’ hottest new club, Ember.
I can’t trust anyone, but after I’m attacked, Dante is determined to play protector by claiming me as his. No one would dare touch the woman of one of the Fury brothers. Suddenly, I’m living at his place, and he’s touching me, kissing me, taking care of me…
Dante makes it very hard to remember this relationship isn’t real. He makes my heart race, but he’s way out of my league, and he’s protecting his own broken pieces.
Nothing this fake should feel this right.
The bad guys won’t give up, but I’m starting to think the biggest danger to me is Dante Fury.
The Fury fierce, loyal, and live by their own code. Five men who grew up in foster care and became brothers by choice. They vow to always have each other’s backs; no questions, no doubts, no hesitation. They protect their own…always.

My Review:

In spite of the subtitle, the ‘fake dating’ between Mila Clifton and Dante Fury doesn’t last very long at all because there is nothing fake about their attraction to each other even before they attempt to ‘fake date’.

The only people they are really ‘faking’ are each other, as Mila is on the run from some very bad people who have left a trail of dead bodies behind her in their pursuit of a woman who worked too hard and heard too much on one dark night she wishes she could get back.

Dante Fury doesn’t seem to believe in love – or at least doesn’t believe that it’s for him and his four brothers, men who survived foster care by sticking together and protecting themselves from anyone and everything.

Now the Fury Brothers protect their corner of New Orleans from anyone who thinks they can bring bad shit onto their turf. Cleaning up ALL of NOLA is WAY beyond even the Fury Brothers’ capacity, but keeping their own territory secure is right up their alley.

At first Dante does his level best to convince himself that he’s only looking after Mila because she’s ‘one of his’, a bartender who works at his nightclub, Ember. But he’s only fooling himself and it doesn’t take him long to realize it.

Mila, on the other hand, has seen every person she’s turned to while she’s been on the run get murdered, one after another. She trusts herself, and fears for anyone that her pursuers might believe she’s gotten close to. So she doesn’t.

Not until Dante Fury wraps his protection around her and refuses to let go – or to let her slink off into the night. No matter who or what stands in his way. Not even Mila herself.

Escape Rating B: It’s no secret that this author’s science fiction romances are my favorites, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get a lot of reading pleasure out of her contemporary, action-adventure romances, sometimes in spite of myself.

Fury is one of those ‘in spite of myself’ kinds of reads. Which means that any negatives I bring up are a ‘me’ thing and quite possibly not a ‘you’ thing.

Except maybe this first one. Fury is told in alternating first-person perspectives that switch between Mila Clifton and Dante Fury – which makes sense because at the beginning they aren’t on the same page with each other. Come to think of it, at the beginning they aren’t even on the same page as themselves!

But I didn’t really feel like I was in either of their heads, so the ‘I’ voice didn’t quite work for me. It’s also not the author’s usual style and I wasn’t expecting it. I DO like first-person narratives, even dual or dueling ones, as you’ll see in my review of Prophet later this week, but I couldn’t get into either Mila’s or Dante’s heads in spite of being, well, in their heads.

I do have to say, and this is completely a me thing, that being in Mila’s head was particularly uncomfortable because of the ‘heroine in jeopardy reacting by running’ trope isn’t one of my favorites, although I was grateful that this time it didn’t go all the way into the trope by having Mila on the run from a stalker or an abusive ex. Still, it makes for a reactive rather than a proactive heroine, and that’s just not my jam.

Which means I liked the whole thing a LOT better once Mila started standing up for herself and standing her ground. Especially because she was totally, completely and utterly in the right – it just took the Fury Brothers standing with her to get her to take back her life and I was absolutely there for that part.

Two things I do love about this series so far are the setting AND the vibe between the Fury Brothers. I always love a story set in New Orleans, and even the glimpse we get of the city in this first outing has me itching for more.

And the Fury Brothers themselves are fascinating, both in their origin story and in the way they’ve pulled together and pulled themselves up in spite of their rough starts in life. The whole concept of them creating a solidly bound family of choice and the way they maintain it and even add to it is fantastic, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of them.

Which means I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, Keep, which is looking like it will be Colt Fury’s story about raising his niece while running away from the paperwork involved in his own business – along with the determined woman who will hunt him down and make him take care of ALL his business – including, most definitely, herself.