Blue Galaxy

So I read Mako’s Bounty a little while ago and really liked it. Then I remembered that I had another little SFR treat by Diane Dooley tucked away on my iPad.

Diane Dooley’s Blue Galaxy is a short, romantic and sexy science fiction romance. It’s a story where you think you know the characters; the hard-bitten, hard-drinking ship captain on his last voyage and his last credit, and the naive upper-class young woman who will redeem his honor, while he saves her from life as some older warlord’s chattel bride.

If that were the story, as long as it ended in an HEA, if the characters were written well and the adventures were fun, (and the sex was smokin’ hot) it could make for a damn fine story.

Captain Javan Rhodes is pretty much as described. Han Solo without Chewie, if Leia had told him to take a hike. Only way further down on his luck and he never loved her anyway. He’s a war hero that slid really far down the seamier side of the space lanes.

However (ahem), Sola is much, much more than the innocent blue-blood Javan thinks she is. Is he rescuing her, or is she rescuing him? And exactly how much of the galaxy is chasing after them?

Escape Rating B+: This was just plain fun. I loved the twist at the end. I just wish I knew more about the world. And I wish there were more story. Are there any more Javans out there?

Word to the wise ebook romance junkie. Subscribe to the Carina Press newsfeed from your purveyor of choice, be it email, Facebook or Twitter. Their sales or specials are worth knowing about. For their one-year anniversary they gave away an ebook a day, Blue Galaxy was one of the books I “bought” during that giveaway, and I’m so very glad I did.


Peacemaker is the third book in Lindsay Buroker’s Flash Gold Chronicles. When I finished the last page, I was already pining for book four. I hope I don’t have too long to wait for the next episode in these steampunk adventures of a self-taught tinkerer and her bounty hunter business partner.

Kali and Cedar are tremendous fun. Especially because the scrapes Kali gets into (and gets herself out of) read like a Girl’s Own Adventure version of the Perils of Pauline. Or maybe more like “Dudley Do-right and Snidely Whiplash”? But in Ms. Buroker’s tales, Kali McAlister never waits for any man to rescue her, and her partner Cedar is much, much smarter than Dudley ever hoped to be.

Cedar needs to be smarter if he’s ever going to have half a chance with Kali. But there are Mounties hanging around. Peacemaker takes place in Dawson City, Yukon during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.

During the Gold Rush era, “Peacemaker” was a nickname for a Colt Single Action Revolver.    Between 1949 and 1959, “Peacemaker” was also the nickname for the Convair B-36 strategic bomber. In this steampunk wild west where airship pirates steal gold from men who shoot back with six-shooters, both nicknames turn out to be strangely apropos.

Dawson was a dangerous place. All Gold Rush towns were. But Dawson is particularly dangerous for Kali and Cedar.

There’s a serial killer on the loose. He’s targeting Native girls, and he doesn’t just kill them. He tortures and rapes them first. Then he butchers them. Jack the Ripper might have been the killer’s teacher, or his student.

The worst part is he’s trying to lay the blame on either the Natives, or animals, or superstitious nonsense. In any case, he escapes clean every time. Finding out just how he does it is a big part of the story.

The absolutely worst part is that the crimes appear to be the work of the same serial killer who struck in San Francisco just before Cedar left–the crimes that Cedar was accused of. There’s a Pinkerton agent on Cedar’s trail, and he’s come to Dawson to get his man.

Cedar isn’t the murderer. But the murderer is tracking Cedar, knowing he can lay the blame at Cedar’s door. And Kali is half-Native. Adding her to the body count will serve two purposes; it will hurt Cedar, and it will make him look even more guilty. After all, that’s how it worked in San Francisco. The last victim there was someone Cedar cared about, too.

About that bomber: Kali wants an airship. Attempting to get her hands on one lands her, and everyone around her, in all sorts of trouble. Read the book and find out how she gets herself out.

Escape Rating A: I was happy that Peacemaker was a bit longer than Flash Gold and Hunted, because I didn’t want it to be over. I really like Kali as a character, and I didn’t want to let her go.

We see more of her background in Peacemaker, and she’s come a long way. Kali is a child of two worlds, and feels like she doesn’t belong in either one. Seeing that she has made a way for herself that takes the best of both makes her a truly interesting character.

I do hope that someday Kali and Cedar get a happy ending. These are not romances, so that’s not part of the story. But these are two people who have had some rough times, and as a reader, you hope they get rewarded. They’re just good together.


Heat Rises

Every time we watch a few episodes of Castle, I experience the irresistible urge to read another one of the Nikki Heat books. It’s a compulsion, I can’t help myself. I know there’s another potato chip in that bag, and it’s calling my name.

The third Nikki Heat book is Heat Rises, and so far, they are maintaining the illusion that the books are written by Richard Castle. What can I say? So far, it’s working for me. As a matter of fact, it’s working pretty darn well. The Nikki Heat books may be mind candy, but they are very tasty mind candy.

Heat Rises starts out with Heat and Rook enduring a separation in their slightly undefined relationship. However, the lack of definition in their relationship is more a question of whether their heated fling has turned into an exclusive relationship that involves four-letter words like “love”. All Nikki knows is that she misses Rook pretty badly while he is undercover in South America doing research on one of his dangerous in-depth articles, this time on illegal arms trafficking. He’s out of reach and she’s starting to want to know where they stand.

And it’s the middle of a very cold winter in New York City, and she’s also missing the warm body to sleep with at night. And not just for sleep.

Then the dead body turns up. In a dominatrix’ dungeon, strapped to a piece of bondage equipment. Unfortunately for the victim, where he was found is the last place he should have been seen, dead or alive. The homicide victim turns out to have been a Catholic priest.

The situation goes from bad, to worse, to crazy.

Her captain investigates the victim’s residence, alone. Then Internal Affairs starts breathing down his neck. Captain Montrose hasn’t been himself since his wife died a year previously, but something about this case sends him totally off the rails. He boxes Nikki in, hamstringing her investigation.

Meanwhile, Rook returns, and screws up. He has dinner with his editor, and gets his picture splashed all over the gossip columns, before he comes to see Nikki. The future for their relationship starts looking none too hot.

Last but certainly not least, the results of Nikki’s Lieutenant’s exam come in. Well, the rumors of those results leak out, all over the place. Nikki Heat scored higher than anyone in decades. Suddenly there are administrators from 1PP courting her as a rising star, while her Captain’s star is falling through the floor of his office, along with his entire career.

Suddenly her world collapses. She takes her investigation of the priest’s death out of the box the Captain has imposed. A professional hit squad guns for her. The Captain eats his gun. And Internal Affairs takes her shiny new, almost there promotion and doesn’t just whisk it away, but suspends Nikki Heat from the NYPD.

So who does she turn to? Jamison Rook.

Escape Rating B+/A-: If you’re looking for a few hours of pure escape, it’s all here. There’s a murder to solve, there’s a relationship to figure out, and there’s absolutely wonderful cop shop banter to chuckle over. I couldn’t put this one down.

I knew it had to parallel the third season of Castle, so I was looking for that, but at the same time, there are definitely differences. The case that brings Captain Montrose down, and why, is not the same one that brings Montgomery down. It does have to do with something from his past, but that’s the only similarity. And that’s part of why Heat Rises was so good. It used the story from the show as a jumping-off point, but didn’t slavishly follow events.

The dedication of the book to Montgomery is excellently done. I love the way that the books refuse to break the fourth wall. I’m looking forward to Nikki Heat’s next case, Frozen  Heat, in September.

Merrick’s Destiny

Merrick’s Destiny (exclusively available at All Romance Ebooks) by Moira Rogers is book 1.5 in her Bloodhounds series. It’s a very short and extremely steamy story that takes place between Wilder’s Mate and Hunter’s Prey. It stands alone well enough to serve as an introduction to this series, but it works even better if you’ve already read Wilder’s Mate!

Merrick Wood returns to consciousness in either the best of all possible worlds, or the worst. There’s a pretty woman straddling him, and he knows she’s his mate. On the other hand, there’s a crashed airship on fire about a hundred yards away.

That blazing inferno will act like a beacon to vampires for miles around. And there are plenty of vamps, since the ship crashed in the middle of the Deadlands. Merrick just has to get himself and his mate to safety before the new moon compulsion drives him out of his mind for three days.

Of course, if the lady is willing, it could be a very enjoyable three days–if the vampires don’t find them first.

Paralee Colton is an airship pilot. She’s always loved her freedom more than anything else in the world. Merrick just might make her rethink a few things if he can convince her that he wants her for herself, and not just a convenient female to spend his moon madness with.

Merrick needs to remember how or when or why she became his mate. Then he needs to convince her that she’s his destiny.

Escape Rating A-: This is a very fun, hot, short read. That being said, for a short story, it really does wrap up all the loose ends. One of the things that usually drives me crazy about short stories is that either the loose ends aren’t all tied up, or that I don’t find out enough backstory to understand how things got the way they are. Rogers ties everything up very well, and because this is book 1.5 in the series, it builds on some material established in Wilder’s Mate.

I picked Merrick’s Destiny initially because the cover absolutely floored me. The model, whoever it is, is dead-ringer for Jonathan Frakes from his days as Commander Riker in Star Trek Next Gen. The picture at the right is from the movie Generations, and the Enterprise-D is about to crash into a planet. But the resemblance to Merrick is startling to say the least.

Wilder’s Mate

Wilder’s Mate by Moira Rogers turned out to be the perfect story for reading on a chilly winter’s night. Not only is this first entry in Rogers’ Bloodhound series a terrific blend of romance, steampunk, and steamy sex, but the hero is even described as having a higher than normal body temperature!

But the story of Wilder’s Mate starts with the “mate” in question. Her name is Satira, and she’s the apprentice to a Guild inventor named Nathaniel. The only problem is that Nathaniel’s just been kidnapped. Satira wants to assist whichever Bloodhound the Guild sends to recover him. One tiny detail: she’s trapped in the elevator.

Nathaniel’s inventions, including the steam-powered elevator that was currently vexing Satira, were the reason he was kidnapped by the vampires inexorably taking control of the very wild West in this steampunk version of the post-Civil War United States.

The vampires represent the lawless, and the Guild represents the law. In order to combat the powerful vamps the Guild has created a weapon of their own, creatures known as Bloodhounds. The Hounds used to be mere men, but alchemy has transformed them into powerful beings that can hunt and kill vampires with terrible speed, as well as claws and fangs. Bloodhounds are werewolves, the traditional enemy of the vampire.

These Hounds have a weakness. Not the traditional one. They don’t change into wolves at the full moon. They change into wolves at will. But at the new moon, they must have sex. A lot of it. For three days and nights. The Guild pays a network of brothels to be available for the Bloodhounds, and they pay well for the service.

The Bloodhounds also have a secret. Like wolves, they mate for life. If a Hound finds his mate, he has to protect her at all costs. If she dies, he follows within months. The alchemy that created the Hounds was not intended to pull this particular rabbit out of its hat, but there is no denying the fact that it has. The Guild doesn’t want the Hounds to find their mates, but when it happens, there’s nothing they can do.

Satira knows a lot about Hounds. Her mother lived with an old Bloodhound named Levi for about a dozen years. Levi helped to raise Satira, and Levi found her the place with Nathaniel before he died. Satira never knew that her mother was Levi’s mate. Her mother probably didn’t know either. But when her mother died, so did Levi.

Satira also enjoys the heat, the adventure, the roughness of sex with a Hound. She just doesn’t understand why none of the Hounds who have ever shared her bed have never come back. She thinks there’s something wrong with her.

But the Hound who pulls her out of that busted elevator knows exactly why none of those other Hounds have ever stayed, because it’s taking every ounce of restraint he has not to take her the moment he sees her. And Wilder Harding isn’t ready to do that until Satira understands exactly what’s at stake for both of them.

Because Satira is his mate.

Escape Rating A-Wilder’s Mate is one of those stories where you just buckle up and hang on for the ride. This was an absolute blast from beginning to end. The story is very, very steamy, but there is a story and there is a romance and a happily-ever-after.

The story elements reminded me of several bits I’ve read before, but since those were all things I’ve liked, I didn’t mind. Satira’s situation is similar to Jaines Cord in Shona Husk’s Dark Vow, the woman apprentice to a steampunk-type gunsmith because women aren’t allowed to be master gunsmiths. The Bloodhounds mating-for-life compulsion being an unexpected side-effect of their change has some eerie similarities to the Breeds in Lora Leigh’s series. But it definitely works in both series!

For a short book, Wilder’s Mate wrapped all its loose ends very nicely. Great story and fantastic beginning to a series. I’m definitely looking forward to more!

Naked Heat

Richard Castle books are a lot like potato chips–you can’t read just one. As soon as I finished Heat Wave (see review) I started craving another Castle book, and I caved in within a couple of days and started Naked Heat. It was pure indulgence, and I loved every sinful page of it.

This story starts with Lt. Nikki Heat and her two detectives Raley and Ochoa discovering Jameson Rook at the scene of a recent homicide, listening to his iPod, with the body of the victim in the next room. (Any resemblances between events in the book and episodes of seasons 2 and 3 of Castle are undoubtedly intentional).

Heat hasn’t seen her former shadow and occasional lover, journalist Rook, for a few months. Not since his article in First Press magazine about his “ride-along” with her and her detectives was published. That article made her the focus of the piece, and brought her a lot of unwanted attention. Nikki only wants to be a cop, not a media darling. And the article made her look like a one-woman crimefighter, totally shortchanging her team.

No one at the Precinct really wanted to see Rook again. He’d screwed all of them in that article, one way or another.

But the dead body in the next room was Cassidy Towne, mud-slinging gossip-raker extraordinaire…and Jameson Rook’s current subject. Without, as he explained to Nikki, the sex.

Even if none of the team wanted Rook back, they needed him this time. He was the insider, both in the publishing world, and on the subject of Cassidy Towne’s current projects and potential enemies.

So they were stuck with Rook after all, trying to charm his way into everyone’s good graces again, and back into Nikki’s bed. All the while, trying to help the police solve the case of Cassidy Towne’s death before the killer strikes again.

Escape Rating B: I was struck by how much Nikki Heat reminds me of Eve Dallas in the J.D. Robb In Death series. And through Dallas, Sigrid Harald from Margaret Maron’s series as well. The tough female detective with the damaged past who builds a family out of the members of her precinct house, and eventually finds love in a most unlikely place. Nikki, Eve and Sigrid are all sisters under the skin.

But if Nikki is an avatar for Eve Dallas, Jameson Rook is no Roarke. Not on Rook’s best day and Roarke’s worst. I like Jameson Rook as a character, but there’s no resemblance. The analogy just doesn’t stretch that far, in spite of the similar names.

Jameson Rook, unlike Richard Castle, is a magazine writer, and presumbly doesn’t make as comfortable a living. So Rook has to supplement his earnings by writing under a pseudonym. And what does Jameson Rook write, and as whom? Under the name Victoria St. Clair, Jameson Rook writes romance novels. And he’s not the first fictional hero to make his living this way, either. In Tanya Huff’s Blood series, Victoria Nelson’s vampire partner, Henry Fitzroy, also wrote historical romances. I keep imagining Henry and Rook meeting at a romance writers’ convention. It would have to be at night, of course.

I read this book just for fun. I’m posting this review in the middle of the ALA Midwinter Conference because there are a lot of librarians out there on the conference floor picking up Advance Reading Copies to read, just for fun. Even more importantly, a big part of our jobs is to select books that folks in our communities we hope will be dying to read, just for fun.

Naked Heat is one of those books.

Heat Wave

I read Heat Wave by Richard Castle just for fun. We’re in the middle of a Castle marathon and I just couldn’t resist the impulse. And this was definitely a case where an irresistible impulse turned out to be a totally excellent thing!

“It’s raining men.” What a great way to open a case. This is just the kind of snark that comes with any potboiler, whether on television or in police procedural-type mysteries. Because what makes these shows watchable, or these books readable isn’t just about the case, it’s about listening to the characters smart-off with each other.

It always begins with a dead body. There’s a victim. Matthew Starr. He was the man who rained down, in this particular case. And as his death is investigated, any superficial resemblance to a low-budget Donald Trump is strictly intentional, but that is one reviewer’s humble opinion.

In all murder mysteries, it’s the victim’s life that gets taken apart. Matthew Starr is dissected piece by piece, and not just on the autopsy table. When the story ends, the detectives will know more about the victim than anyone in his life. They have to so they can figure out who murdered him and why.

And the readers learn a little more about the detectives and what makes them tick. And a little more about how they tick along together.

And how well one particular pair are going to tick together outside of “work”. Whether that’s going to be a one time thing or maybe more?

Escape Rating B+: The mystery had plenty of twists and turns. The case threw out the usual school of red herrings and I fell for a couple of them. I had most of it figured out, but one thing threw me. I had fun. But I’ll admit I’m not sure how well it will work for someone who isn’t a Castle fan.

This book is the introduction to a police procedural mystery series. Whether you swallow the whole Castle-thing or not, it still has to do what the introduction to any cop-based mystery series has to do, which is introduce you to the cop shop characters and their dynamic and get you to like them enough to get the next book. It worked for me. I’ve already got Naked Heat and Heat Rises on my iPad for the next time I need a fun book to read.

If you are a fan of Castle and you like reading mysteries, just give into the impulse now and buy the book. You know you want to. Stop resisting. You’ll be glad you did.

Just for Fun Reading Challenge

This is the last challenge that I signed up for. Because I absolutely, positively couldn’t resist this one.

After all, I started writing book reviews because I love to read, and I wanted to share that love. But one of the things that happened was that I ended up reading a lot of books that I had committed myself to, and not as many books “just because”.

Not that I have not enjoyed the books I’ve picked out to review. Far from it.

After all, I only choose books I think I’m going to like. Occasionally I’m wrong.

Sometimes I’m really, really wrong. (The Windup Girl comes to mind)

Lori at Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book is hosting the Just for Fun Reading Challenge this year on Goodreads. The challenge is really simple. Every month, I get to, not have to, but get to, read one book just for fun. Not because I’ve committed to review it, but just because I want to read it. Just for me.

This doesn’t mean I can’t review it after I’ve read it. I probably will, if only to keep track of what I’ve read. And I’m allowed to count it toward one other challenge. So if I drag something out of the back of beyond (my TBR from hell pile), I can count it for that. But the idea is to read a book I just want to read.

Oh goodie! Just try and stop me.

The House of Silk

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz is a new/old Sherlock Holmes story. And I’m an absolute sucker for Sherlock Holmes stories.

Why do I call it a new/old Holmes story? On the one hand, it is written in the style of the Conan Doyle canon. Watson is writing up one of Holmes’ cases. On very much the other hand, the case he is writing up is about a subject that proper Victorian gentlemen did not discuss. There are, after all, much worse things than prostitution.

So we come to the case of the House of Silk. This is purported to be a case that Watson is writing up very late in his own life, after Holmes has died in Sussex. It is written in the tone of a man reflecting back, and sometimes you can hear the nostalgia, and of knowledge of later times impinging on the then-present.  In “Watson’s” preface to the story, he states that the case was too shocking to appear in print and too close to the halls of power to appear during wartime. He purportedly left the manuscript with his private papers, with instructions to his solicitors to have the manuscript published in a century.

And so we have the adventures of The Man in the Flat Cap and The House of the Silk.

The story itself takes place in 1890, a year before that infamous affair at Reichenbach Falls. Watson is still married to his first wife, Mary Morstan that was, but she has just left to nurse one of her former charges through a bout of influenza, and Watson has taken up his bachelor quarters with Holmes at 221B Baker Street for the duration.

An art dealer named Edmund Carstairs engages Holmes (and by association, Watson) to investigate the man in the flat cap who is terrorizing him. It should be an open-and-shut case. Carstairs returned from America a year ago. While he was there, he agreed to sell four impressionist masterpieces to a collector in Boston. The sale would have made his gallery a fortune. The paintings arrived in the States, but, the four Turner paintings just happened to be caught in the middle of a train robbery that went horribly wrong, and were burned to ash. Insurance covered the loss, but the buyer in Boston decided to go after the robbers. The gang, known as the Flat Cap Gang, were killed by the Boston police. All except one. Carstairs believes that the one remaining member of the gang, Keelan O’Donaghue, has followed him to London and is now following him around, leaving messages and generally terrorizing him. The question is, “to what purpose?” Not to mention, “why wait a year to follow?”

Holmes is intrigued by those questions. He is on the trail of a case that is, as usual, more than it appears. But in the process of finding the man who is trailing Carstairs, Holmes employs his “Baker Street Irregulars”, the band of street orphans that he hires to watch out when he cannot be everywhere at once. A new boy, Ross, finds not just the man in the flat-cap, but something to his own advantage, or so he thinks. After he collects his guinea from Holmes, he tries a bit of blackmail of his own, and is not just killed for his trouble, but tortured first. And his body left for Holmes to find with a bit of white silk ribbon tied to wrist as a message.

Holmes takes the message to heart and the investigation takes a more personal turn. When Mycroft comes to 221B in person to warn Holmes off, the younger Holmes delves even deeper, because he knows he is on the trail of something that someone does not want him to find. And that’s when the situation becomes truly dangerous, possibly even for Sherlock Holmes.

Escape Rating B+:I enjoyed this visit with Holmes and Watson, but it didn’t quite fit for me. For one, I figured it out before the end. For another, the non-Conan Doyle version of Holmes that now lives in my mind is Laurie R. King’s, so any variant that has Holmes deceased, especially without Mary Russell, just sounds wrong to me. And the only time Watson survives Holmes is after Reichenbach, and we all know how that turned out.