Review: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

circling the sun by paula mclainFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, large print, audiobook
Genre: historical fiction
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Ballantine
Date Released: July 28, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new novel, transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.

Set against the majestic landscape of early-twentieth-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

My Review:

“Are you married or do you live in Kenya?” was a common saying about the European colony in Kenya during the early 20th century.

Beryl Markham almost seems to embody the phrase. She was “the other woman” in Karen Blixen’s famous relationship with adventurer Denys Finch Hatton (remember Out of Africa?). But Finch Hatton was “the other man” in Karen Blixen’s marriage to Baron Bror Blixen. Who in turn had another woman whom he married the minute his divorce to Karen was final.

Denys Finch Hatton
Denys Finch Hatton

Finch Hatton was infamously single. He seems to have cut a wide swath through the females of the European colony, whether they were married or not. And Finch Hatton almost seems to be the central figure of Circling the Sun. The story purports to be a fictionalized autobiography of Markham, but reads more like a recitation of her terrible choices in men and her continual angst about Finch Hatton.

Even though the Circling the Sun title refers to Markham’s famous solo flight from England to North America, the first woman to solo west across the Atlantic, I don’t think it is a coincidence that Finch Hatton’s biography is titled Too Close to the Sun. He seems to have been the sun around which Markham (and Karen Blixen) circled from the time they met until his untimely death in an airplane crash.

I read Markham’s own autobiography, West with the Night, several years ago, but it still feels like a much more complete picture of her fascinating and adventurous life than Circling the Sun. For one thing, West with the Night continues her story after her iconic flight.

Circling the Sun reads more like a recitation of Beryl’s many and usually disastrous love affairs. She seems to have continuously leaped before she looked, and ended up in hot water every time.

She was undoubtedly a trail blazer. She was a famous and well-respected horse race trainer, and was the first woman to receive a trainer’s license in the colony. Unlike Karen Blixen, who came to Africa as an adult, Beryl Markham and her family transplanted to Kenya when she was a small child. And even though her mother left Kenya, Beryl’s father and Beryl when Beryl was still a small child. Beryl’s experience of Africa is of growing up without much supervision except from the nearby villagers. Her father was too busy trying to keep his farm financially afloat.

But as Beryl grows up, she goes from one absolutely disastrous relationship to another. I felt a certain amount of irony. On the one hand, she feels like a modern woman, someone who would be more at home in today’s society, where women do not have to marry to have a financial identity or to be considered adults. But on that other hand, because she was a woman in the early 20th century and not the 21st, she kept marrying the wrong man in order to have someone, because Finch Hatton was unavailable.

The flight that cemented Markham’s fame is used in this book as a framing story. We don’t see nearly enough of her preparation for the flight, her decision to undertake it, and absolutely nothing of what happened after.

west with the night by beryl markhamEscape Rating C-: Beryl Markham led an absolutely fascinating life in a time and place that is utterly gone. This version of her story reduces all of her achievements and tragedies to a chronicle of her angst over her catastrophically bad choices in men and relationships.

There were bits of this story I liked, especially the parts about her childhood in Africa, but the deeper the story got into her romantic angst, the less I liked it. If you’re truly interested in this amazing woman, just read West with the Night.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Last Time I Saw Her by Karen Robards

last time i saw her by karen robardsFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: paranormal romantic suspense
Series: Dr. Charlotte Stone #4
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date Released: August 25, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

In this world, Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone skillfully probes the twisted minds of incarcerated serial killers to better understand what makes them tick, and to help nab those who remain at large. But in the next world, Charlotte’s ghostly lover—convicted killer Michael Garland—is facing death yet again. It seem the only way Charlie can snatch Michael from the jaws of oblivion is by proving his innocence. And this dead man’s dead ringer may just be the key.

A mysterious stranger has turned up in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and Charlie is shocked to realize he could be Michael Garland’s identical twin. But she suspects the resemblance is only skin deep—and that behind the handsome face may lurk the perverse mind of a killer. While using all her keen profiling gifts, Charlie risks her life to discover the shocking secret that will clear Michael’s name.

Then a breakout at Wallens Ridge State Prison forces Charlie to contend with a sudden swarm of psychopaths bent on spilling blood. No one has a better chance of tracking down the deadly fugitives than Charlie—unless the rampaging killers manage to find her first and make this case her last. But Michael will move heaven and hell—and even make a devil’s bargain—for the chance to save Charlie’s life, and feel her touch once more . . . if only for the final time.

My Review:

The books in this series have all been train-wreck books for me. When I say train-wreck, I mean in the sense that I can’t turn my eyes away, no matter how awful things get. I’d say they were crack, but having read my reviews of the earlier books in the series, they haven’t always been that good.

But they sure as hell are compelling.

The premise is a grand mix of packages off the troperville trolley. Dr. Charlotte Stone is a psychiatrist who studies serial killers. Why? Because she survived a serial killer’s rampage when she was a child, and she still feels guilty about hiding while her best friend was murdered in front of her.

Charlie Stone also sees dead people. So now we have a psychic psychiatrist.

It gets crazier. Charlie is writing up a study of serial killers at the local prison. She interviews these multiple murderers multiple times. It’s a dangerous job, and Charlie feels like she’s the one to figure out what makes these dudes tick.

Until her sexiest patient is shived right in front of her, and the ghost of serial killer Michael Garland attaches himself to Charlie Stone’s life and work. And this is where we enter crazytown, because Charlie falls in love with the damn ghost. And surprisingly vice-versa.

Hey, if you’re going to be crazy, go all the way!

her last whisper by karen robardsWhen The Last Time I Saw Her starts, Charlie is in a bad way. At the end of the previous book, Her Last Whisper (reviewed here) Michael got sucked off to Spookyville for what looks like the last time. His soul is scheduled for demolition, and the only thing he is hanging on to is Charlie saying that she loves him. The demons that run Spookyville are tormenting him with visions of Charlie in danger, because, of course, she always is.

Consumed by grief, Charlie is at the end of her rope. Then two insane things happen. First, she meets a man who looks like Michael Garland’s twin brother. Second, and much more typical for Charlie, she finds herself captured by a whole gang of escaped serial killers as the entire set of death row inmates at Wallens Ridge State Prison scoop up Charlie and a whole bunch of others in their surprisingly well planned prison break.

While heads will definitely roll at the prison when the escape is investigated, Charlie is much, much more worried that all of the hostages’ heads will roll much sooner. All those men were in maximum security for damn good reasons, and now they’re out and determined to get payback. Breaking Charlie is pretty high on their collective “to do” lists.

Fortunately for Charlie, and unfortunately for the escaped killers, one of the other hostages is Michael Garland’s twin. And while the dude is unconscious, the real Michael makes a deal with his demon captors – if they let him save Charlie, he’ll let them have his soul.

You guessed it, Michael takes over the body of his twin and saves Charlie. They have two days to experience what life would have been like if they’d met under anything like normal circumstances. Then he’s gone forever.

Or is he?

Escape Rating B-: Rating this series is always confusing. I read this on a long flight over the weekend, and was at the 93% mark when the flight landed. I almost didn’t get out of my seat because I wanted to finish SO BAD.

On that other hand, the premise for this series is utterly insane. Psychiatrist gets targeted by serial killers over and over and over, and she sees dead people. She falls in love with the baddest bad boy of them all, and tries to help him cheat death – or the afterlife – whatever.

And for most of the series, it’s not just that he is a convicted serial killer, but that the case is airtight. While Charlie wants to believe that Michael didn’t do it, it’s hard not to think that’s her heart (and other places further south) talking and not her head.

The one thing I didn’t think was remotely possible in this mess was a happy ending, but the author managed to pull one out anyway. The method for doing so is one I’ve seen used in fanfiction a few too many times. Going back and changing the past, in order to make the future come out closer to what you want. This is the point where the story tripped completely into woo-woo territory.

But the ending, as hokey as it was, was surprisingly satisfying. Charlie drove me crazy every single step of the way, but I still wanted her to get her HEA. Even as my eyes roll at the way it was achieved.

All’s fair in love and war and paranormal romance.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Her Last Whisper by Karen Robards

her last whisper by karen robardsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Dr. Charlotte Stone, #3
Length: 353 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date Released: August 26, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Madness and murder invaded Dr. Charlotte Stone’s life when she was just a girl—and made her a woman determined to save others from the horror she survived. An expert in the psychology of serial killers, she’s faced down more than her share of human monsters. But Charlie can also communicate with the spirits of those who die violently, an extrasensory skill that has helped the FBI bring lethal predators to justice. Now, after narrowly escaping death a second time, Charlie’s ready to step away from the edge . . . before her luck runs out.

Too bad Charlie is too dedicated for her own good—and too devoted to federal agent Tony Bartoli to say no when he asks her to ride shotgun on yet another risky mission. Of course, she already has her hands full with Michael Garland: the handsome, roguish ghost with whom she’s hopelessly in love—a spirit who depends on Charlie to keep him from slipping forever into the dark side of the afterlife. But in the mortal world, beautiful single women are vanishing from Las Vegas hotels at night. All signs indicate that a psychopath is on the prowl in Sin City, and Bartoli’s FBI colleague Lena Kaminsky has reason to fear that her missing sister may be just the killer’s type.

In a town full of fast players and few rules, flushing out a smooth-talking stalker like the Cinderella Killer might be a loser’s game. But for Charlie, the only way to cage her quarry is to plunge back into the homicidal hell she vowed to leave behind—and may not leave alive.

My Review:

I can definitely say that Karen Robards Charlie Stone series makes for compelling reading. I started Her Last Whisper in the morning, and couldn’t keep myself from grabbing it at every opportunity; breaks, lunch, bus rides, making dinner, eating dinner, (taking the book to the bathroom with me…) etc. I finished before bedtime, because I couldn’t wait that long to wrap it up.

But there are definitely points where it’s compelling like watching a three-car pileup on the expressway. It’s horrific and you can’t turn your eyes away. It’s a train-wreck book.

First, Charlie falls in love with a ghost. It’s not the first time I’ve read this particular trope, and it can work. Stacey Kennedy’s Supernaturally Kissed is a great example of a story where this trope does work.

But, Dr. Charlie Stone is also a psychiatrist who studies serial killers. She went into that particular line of work because she survived a serial killer when she was a child. But then she goes and falls in love with one of the serial killers she is studying. OK, that actually happens, sort of.

But Charlie goes the “falling for an inmate” trope several stages further. Charlie also sees dead people. And the serial killer that she has fallen for is the aforementioned ghost. She knows this whole scenario is too stupid to live, she even calls herself out on that, but she continues anyway.

And for the cherry on the sundae, Charlie works with an elite FBI unit that chases serial killers, and one of the very much alive FBI agents wants to make their relationship personal. But Charlie is way too hung up on the gorgeous dead guy to give the equally gorgeous living one a chance.

Into this mess we throw the hunt for another serial killer. In this case, the case gets much too close to home, as the serial killer has kidnapped the sister of one of the other FBI agents, and eventually grabs Charlie’s friend as well.

So Charlie keeps dividing her attention between the sexy ghost that follows her every move, and the serial killer that she needs to find before he kills again.

Her Last Whisper should be a thriller about the serial killer. The case is plenty gruesome, especially with the personal angles thrown in. Whoever this guy is, he’s been kidnapping women off the very busy streets of Las Vegas for two years, and it isn’t until the FBI shows up that anyone even figures out that there IS a serial killer.

But the focus, instead is on the relationship between Charlie and Michael Garland, her drop-dead-sexy-but-mostly-just-dead convicted serial killer. Charlie spends most of her energy trying to determine whether Garland was really guilty, and figuring out ways to keep his ghost from going to Spookyville, because whatever he did it made him ineligible for heaven. After six weeks of Garland hanging around, Charlotte has come to rely on his help in her cases, and has fallen head over heels for a man she absolutely can’t have.

Which doesn’t keep her from trying (and occasionally briefly succeeding) through each twist and turn of a very nasty case.

Escape Rating B-: I have to give points for extreme readability. This series is addicting, quite possibly in the way that chocolate is addicting. Or maybe like some kind of drug. Once you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, you absolutely have to keep going. Just when you’re sure it can’t get any crazier, it does.

last kiss goodbye by karen robardsUnlike the previous book in the series, The Last Kiss Goodbye (reviewed here), the hunt for the live serial killer carries equal weight with the angst about keeping her dead serial killer attached to this world. The case that she and the team are trying to solve is chilling, thrilling and disgusting in equal turns.

But Charlie involves a friend who is also psychic in her increasingly desperate attempts to keep Michael Garland around. That involvement makes her friend a target for the live serial killer, just upping the ante on how crazy things get.

As the story progressed, I thought I figured out how the author was going to manage to pull a happy ending rabbit-trick out of relationship-with-the-dead hat. But as the story ended (on a horrific cliffhanger) I decided that I had been on the wrong track.

How many live serial killers can Charlie survive while she continues to be distracted by her feelings for a dead one? Tune in next year (I hope it’s next year and not longer) to find out. I know I will. I’m compelled!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Last Kiss Goodbye by Karen Robards

The Last Kiss Goodbye by Karen RobardsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Series: Dr. Charlotte Stone, #2
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Paranormal Romance
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Number of pages: 333 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, paperback, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Publisher’s Website

Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone has dedicated her career as a psychiatrist to exploring the darkest territory of all: the hearts and minds of serial killers. It’s a job she’s uniquely suited for, thanks to the secret talent that gives her an uncanny edge—Charlie can see dead people, whose tormented spirits cry out to her for the justice only she can provide. This blessing—or curse—gives Charlie the power to hunt down and catch madmen and murderers. It’s also turned her love life upside down by drawing her into a hopelessly passionate relationship with the lingering ghost of charismatic bad boy Michael Garland.

But there’s little time for romance with her supernatural suitor when murder comes pounding at Charlie’s door in the form of a terrified young woman fleeing a homicidal maniac. Saving her life places Charlie squarely in the cross-hairs of a sadistic predator nicknamed “the Gingerbread Man,” notorious for manipulating his victims like pawns in a deadly chess game. And now the queen this psychopath’s bent on capturing is Charlie. Refusal to play will only put more innocent lives in danger. Matching wits with this cunningly twisted opponent will require all of Charlie’s training and expert skills. But even with her devilish “guardian angel”—not to mention her favorite flesh-and-blood Fed, Tony Bartoli—watching her beautiful back, the Gingerbread Man’s horrifying grin might be the last thing Charlie ever sees.

My Thoughts:

I wonder if every book in the Charlotte Stone series is going to have the word “Last” in the title. The only problem is that none of them actually are the last anything. And maybe they ought to be.

You really have to enjoy train-wreck books in order to read this series. I’m serious. The main character is Dr. Charlotte Stone, a criminal psychiatrist who studies serial killers. Charlotte is an utterly classic case of a shrink who really, really needs to see a shrink. Not just because she studies what makes serial killers tick because she is the surviving victim of one, but, because, you guessed it, she’s in love with a convicted serial killer.

Even better, the drop-dead gorgeous serial killer that Charlotte is in love with is quite literally dead. Michael Garland is Charlotte’s very own personal poltergeist. On top of all her other issues, Charlotte sees dead people. Garland is one of the few who can see her–whether or not she’s wearing anything.

The Last Victim by Karen RobardsAnd yes, they’ve had sex, but only after he died. The amount of crazysauce involved in just the set up for the series is enough to make your head spin–a complete 360 degree spin! (If you haven’t fallen out of your chair yet, read The Last Victim, or just this review, for more details)

In spite of (or maybe because of) the wacko setup, it is impossible to stop reading this damn thing. Some of that may be sheer disbelief at the situations Charlotte continues to let herself get sucked into.

I mean, really, it’s one thing to get turned on by bad boys, but ghostly bad boys? I can kind of understand undead bad boys, meaning vampires, but the ghost of a serial killer? Especially when there is a flesh-and-blood FBI agent panting after her? In normal circumstances, the FBI agent would totally be the hero, but no, that’s too tame for this girl.

And then there’s the current serial killer. Yes, really. The actual point of this story, besides the woo-woo sex, is the hunt for a live serial killer. Which totally takes second place to Charlotte’s emotional angst about keeping the ghostly one hanging around long after he should have gone into the light. Or even down into the dark.

I will say that Charlotte is damn good at her day job. Just totally illogical when it comes to her personal life.

Verdict: In her personal choices, Charlotte reads as way past Too Stupid Too Live. She even calls herself out as filling that trope. On the other hand, the train-wreck is so ear-screechingly loud and the sparks from the brakes squealing on the tracking so eye-poppingly bright that you can’t turn your eyes away. This story should not work at all, but I couldn’t stand not to finish it.

It also bears an increasingly strong resemblance to Stacey Kennedy’s Supernaturally Kissed, except that her characters were not as stupid and Kennedy’s ghost hero was a hero in life. Also there was a possibility of an HEA there that does not exist here.

The “find the serial killer” plot line, which is ostensibly the main plot, takes a back seat to the ghost romance. Or the angsting over the ghost romance, which is too damn bad. There was a high suspense factor here that didn’t get exploited as well as it could have.

Rating this feels nearly insane. It is either the best 2 star book or the worst 4 star book I’ve ever read. Therefore:


I give  The Last Kiss Goodbye by Karen Robards 3 very confused stars!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Matchpoint by Elise Sax

Matchpoint by Elise SaxFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: Romantic suspense
Series: The Matchmaker, #2
Length: 290 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date Released: July 30, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Since joining the family matchmaking business run by her eccentric Grandma Zelda, Gladie is always looking for love. But when an unbearable toothache knocks her out of commission and into the dentist’s chair, she prays only for relief. No such luck. Emerging from an anesthetic haze, Gladie awakes to find that not only is her tooth still throbbing, but her dentist is dead—and the lead suspect in the murder, office receptionist Belinda, just so happens to be Gladie’s first real client. Now it’s up to Gladie to find Belinda a man and keep her from being locked up behind bars.

As if that weren’t enough distraction, two gorgeous men are vying for Gladie’s attention: Spencer, the playboy chief of police, and Holden, Gladie’s secretive, gorgeously muscled neighbor. Still, Gladie’s not complaining about having a helping hand or two when the case leads her to a dangerously bizarre cult. She may have met her match—and if she’s not careful, it could be her last.

My Review:

I sympathize with Gladie, I don’t like going to the dentist either! But Matchpoint is about way more than a bloody clever way to avoid getting your teeth drilled.

Gladys Burger is California’s answer to Stephanie Plum. And so far (this is Gladie’s second case) it’s a damn good answer. Because Gladie seems to be making up her mind about a few things. And her zany relatives are both fewer in number and considerably on the sane side of the fence.

Gladie has come to Cannes, California to go into the matchmaking business with her Grandma Zelda. Not only does Zelda really have a gift for making matches, she’s positive that Gladie has it too. So far, Gladie has caught more murderers than she’s matched couples (see An Affair to Dismember for details of Gladie’s first case, oops, I meant match).

Everyone in town remembers Gladie’s gift for matching murderers with police handcuffs, so they want her to catch the killer this time, too. Especially since Gladie was right there at the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, she was knocked out by anesthesia while someone offed the dentist and removed his face. She just had the misfortune to find his faceless (not headless, faceless!) corpse.

Faces are a big deal in this case. One of the two men possibly vying for Gladie’s affections (of course there are two) is the hot manwhore police chief, who is being chased by all the women on Facebook (yes, I do mean Facebook) who all think they are “in a relationship” with him. There’s a “Keystone Kops” aspect to the chase that is much funnier than it should be.

Gladie’s other romantic possibility is her mysterious next-door-neighbor, the man with no past.

And the aliens have invaded Cannes. Okay, they’re not really aliens. It’s a cult that believes the aliens are about to arrive in their UFO. The townspeople are ready to murder the entire bunch of alien-lovers.

But no one is hunting the dentist’s face-stealing murderer. Except Gladie. Naturally, there is someone hunting her. Because no one involved in this comedy of suspenseful errors is exactly who they seem to be. Except Gladie.

Escape Rating B: Matchpoint is every bit as much fun as An Affair to Dismember (review here), or possibly even a bit more.

An Affair to Dismember by Elise SaxGladie has been with her Grandma Zelda four months, and she is starting to settle into life in Cannes. The author has got her characters and background built too. The story is just a bit tighter than the first book, and everything clips along just that much faster.

The citizens of Cannes are an absolute hoot. The sideplot of the police chief’s sleeping around was not just funny but built on the characterization from Affair, as did the hilarious send-up of the Trouble wedding.

I could still do with a bit less of Gladie’s fat-shaming, but the quotes from Zelda’s matchmaker’s tips that start each chapter are winners every single time.

There is a mystery in Matchpoint, and it’s not obvious. The red herrings were quite carefully planted. I kind of figured out who towards the end, but definitely not why. The alien lovers proved a terrific distraction, even if I never did figure out quite what they were up to. Or care. Watching them drive the townspeople into a tizzy was much too much fun.

Most importantly Gladie made a romantic decision, which I will not reveal. It made sense in the context of the overall story arc. I just wonder if she sticks to it. And if he proves that he’s capable and worthy of being stuck to in the long run. In the short run (or short bed bounce) both Gladie’s choices were definitely yummy!

Matchpoint tour banner

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.


Review: An Affair to Dismember by Elise Sax

An Affair to Dismember by Elise SaxFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback, hardcover
Genre: Romantic suspense
Series: The Matchmaker, #1
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date Released: January 29, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Three months has been Gladie Burger’s limit when it comes to staying in one place. That’s why Gladie is more than a little skeptical when her eccentric Grandma Zelda recruits her to the family’s matchmaking business in the quaint small town of Cannes, California. What’s more, Gladie is also highly unqualified, having a terrible track record with romance. Still, Zelda is convinced that her granddaughter has “the gift.” But when the going gets tough, Gladie wonders if this gift has a return policy.

When Zelda’s neighbor drops dead in his kitchen, Gladie is swept into his bizarre family’s drama. Despite warnings from the (distractingly gorgeous) chief of police to steer clear of his investigation, Gladie is out to prove that her neighbor’s death was murder. It’s not too long before she’s in way over her head—with the hunky police chief, a dysfunctional family full of possible killers, and yet another mysterious and handsome man, whose attentions she’s unable to ignore. Gladie is clearly being pursued—either by true love or by a murderer. Who will catch her first?

My Review:

An Affair to Dismember, and The Matchmaker series that it starts, seems like a match designed to appeal to fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. It has the same madcap sense of humor, some of the same family dynamic, and a very similar romantic triangle.

But at least so far, Gladie, short for Gladys, Burger, has a chance of avoiding some of the ennui that plagues long-time readers of the Plum books. At least I have hope.

Gladie has come back to Cannes, California to apprentice with her Grandmother Zelda in her matchmaking business. Any resemblance between Zelda and Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur is intentional but superficial.

For one thing, Zelda the matchmaker may have a terrible case of agoraphobia but she otherwise still has full possession of every single one of her marbles. Plus a few extra, as she quite definitely has a supernatural gift for matchmaking. And she’s got a Ph.D. in the study of human nature.

Gladie’s got the family talent, but most of it seems to lie in another direction. Instead of finding perfect matches, it turns out that Gladie has an instinct for finding murderers. A talent that lands her right in the path of Cannes’ commitment-phobic, but incredibly handsome, new chief of police, Spencer Bolton.

Because there has to be a triangle, Gladie’s next door neighbor is also a handsome, single hunk. The odd thing about the hunk next door is that no one in town seems to know exactly where Arthur Holden came from or what he does. They only know that he’s gorgeous.

No one ever gets murdered in Cannes. That’s why Spencer Bolton decided to become the police chief. He saw too much death as a cop in LA. But then Gladie moves in and suddenly old men start dropping like flies, always in mysterious circumstances.

Gladie can’t help herself, she has to investigate. And neither Spencer nor Arthur can help themselves, they can’t stop going after Gladie, if only to see what happens next!

Escape Rating B: An Affair to Dismember should have a sticker on it: “for a good time, call Gladie at 555-1212” or something like that. Gladie is tons of fun. Not much sense, but absolutely a giggle-fit.

There is one thing that drove me crazy, and needs to stop. Gladie needs to stop fat-shaming every three paragraphs. She worked in a health food store before she moved in with her grandmother and was apparently a size 0. She’s gained 10 pounds and rags on herself every 10 minutes about it, always while eating or talking about food. But the one time she puts on a dress, every man who sees her starts to drool, and every woman who sees her literally turns green with envy. As Grandma Zelda would say, “Enough already!”

Someday, there will probably be a romance, either between Gladie and Spencer, or betweeen Gladie and Arthur. I hope, for everyone’s sake, the author doesn’t drag it on through 19 books. That level of indecision would be much too much. Gladie does deserve the chance to try them both out, as far as this reader is concerned. That could be loads of fun.

The mystery was just screamingly funny. Gladie was learning how her gift worked, so she made lots of mistakes. And it made for terrific excuses for Spencer or Arthur to butt in and/or rescue her. Gladie never claims to be a professional anything, so her errors are mostly funny. We haven’t reached nearly the point where we think she should know better. She’s new.

Matchpoint by Elise SaxBased on An Affair to Dismember, The Matchmaker has the potential to be a terrifically fun and funny light mystery series. I’m definitely looking forward to Matchpoint in July!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

ARC Review: The Saint Who Stole My Heart: by Stefanie Sloane

Format read: egalley from NetGalley
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Number of Pages: 304
Genre: regency romance, historical romance
Series: Regency Rogues #4
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Formats Available: paperback, ebook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon , Barnes & Noble,


Desire, danger, intrigue, and steamy seduction unite a sexy spymaster and an intrepid bluestocking as Stefanie Sloane’s luscious new series continues.

Possessed of a brilliant mind and a love for puzzles, Dashiell Matthews, Viscount Carrington, is a crucial member of the elite Young Corinthians spy league. Assuming the façade of an addle-brained Adonis, he hunts for a notorious London murderer known as the Bishop. When fate causes him to cross paths with Miss Elena Barnes, Dash discovers an enigma that will prove delightfully intoxicating to unravel: a voluptuous beauty as intelligent as she is fearless.

Only the lure of a collection of rare books bequeathed to her family by Dash’s late father could tempt Elena from her cozy rural life to the crush and vanity of London. But if Elena finds his lordship to be the most impossibly beautiful man she’s ever seen, he also seems to be the stupidest. Which made her body’s shameless response to his masterful seduction all the more unfathomable. Yet when she discovers Dash’s mission to track the dangerous Bishop, she willingly risks everything—her trust, her heart, her very life—to join him.

My thoughts:

I think Elena fell in love with Carrington’s library. And she was certainly consumed with lust for Carrington’s person.

Based on the descriptions of both the library and the Viscount, I’m not saying I blame her for either reaction.

Elena Barnes is a bluestocking. She had one season, and she didn’t, well, as one of Carrington’s friends put it, she didn’t take. Elena is also somewhat of a tomboy, and her widowed father gave up on governesses after she drove the fourth one away. With a frog.

Carrington’s late father willed his library to Elena’s father. He’s not quite well enough to see to the cataloging and packing himself. Carrington’s library is, of course, full of rare and wondrous volumes.

The new Viscount has the looks of an Adonis, one who pretends to have the brains of a cabbage. Of course, he’s not an idiot. He’s really a kind of spy, a member of the Young Corinthians.

Poor Elena can’t quite figure out why her body is sending her one signal, and her brain is sending quite another. After all, she’s certain she couldn’t possibly be interested in a man who isn’t actually, well, interesting.

But Carrington finds Elena much, much too interesting. And the longer she’s around the less he is able to keep up the pretense of being a total dim-wit.

I kept looking for a courtship, and there really isn’t one in the usual sense. It’s more of a reveal. The more he drops his mask of stupidity, the closer they get.

What makes Dash stop pretending he’s an idiot? Elena finds a puzzle box in his father’s library. Not just any puzzle, but the key to a mystery that Dash and his friends have been hunting for over a decade, the reason they all joined the Young Corinthians in the first place.

It’s his father’s notes on the murder of his best friend’s mother, Lady Alford. Notes that lead to the leader of a spy ring. Notes that make his enemies, Elena’s enemies. and put her directly into the line of fire.

Once this suspense line of the story got going, I couldn’t put the darn thing down. However, and it’s a big however, too many of the issues it raised were left unresolved. I smell a set up for the next books in the series. And I never did figure out who or what the “Saint” in the title referred to. Hearts definitely got stolen, but no saints were involved in their theft.

I give The Saint Who Stole My Heart 3 1/2 Stars.