Q&A with Authors Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne

shadow ritual by eric giacometti and jacque ravenneShadow Ritual (reviewed today here) is one of those books that just reached out and grabbed me. It wouldn’t let go, or I couldn’t, until I turned the last page a few brief hours later. I was absorbed and enthralled.

The history and mystery that fuels this story is one that most of us don’t know well. The Freemasons and the history of the Masonic Order is shrouded in mysteries and secrets for those of us on the outside. In this Q&A, the authors tell a bit about how they chose as their protagonists a police detective who is a Mason and a security officer who is beyond derisive of those practices, as well as a glimpse of how much truth in wrapped in their absorbing piece of fiction.

Just to whet your appetite for this book, an excerpt is included at the end. This is one of those book tours where I wish that there was a giveaway attached. However, the publisher is doing a book tour at the same time as this one, and it does have a giveaway. Check here for details.

And now, on to the questions…

1. How did the two of you come together to write SHADOW RITUAL?
Many things led us into this adventure. First of all, Jacques is a Freemason, and Eric had investigated scandals linked to freemasonry. We had two different visions of this brotherhood. Second, Eric had already written a mystery and his French publisher was encouraging him to write another one. Thirdly, we had known each other since our teenage years together spent in Toulouse, in the south of France, when we shared a passion for esoteric mysteries and secret societies. At the time, while others were flirting, we were exploring Cathar castles and Templar outposts, certain we would find some lost treasure, perhaps even the Holy Grail. We always kept a bit of that feeling of wonder. All of this came together with the idea of a Freemason inspector. Two other inspirations fed Shadow Ritual: the little known story of Freemason persecutions in Nazi-occupied France, and the true story of French Freemason archives stolen by the Nazis in 1940, recovered by the Soviets in 1945 and only returned to France in 2000. What secret did they hold?

2. How does the fact that Jacques is a Freemason and Eric is a Profane affect the portrayal of the relationships between your characters?
It gives us a more balanced view of freemasonry: one that is not too indulgent and not too full of fantasy.

3. What was the inspiration for the characters Antoine Marcas and Jade Zewinski?
Antoine embodies an upright Freemason who believes in his ideals, but is aware that the brotherhood is not perfect. He is always doubting, and that is his strength. Jade is hostile to freemasonry and challenges Marcas, by asking him all the questions the Profane have about this secret society.

4. The Inspector Marcas series is an international phenomenon! Has the success of the series changed your life?
The success of the series has allowed us the freedom to write and earn a living from it, which is a real luxury.

5. How did you decide to write a series with a freemason as the protagonist?
We though thrillers are an excellent way for readers to discover the world of freemasonry. Then, we were doubly lucky: at the time, nobody in France had had the idea of creating a positive Freemason protagonist, and Dan Brown published his Da Vinci Code a year before we brought out the first Antoine Marcas mystery in French. We were the first French authors to benefit from the Dan Brown effect.

6. SHADOW RITUAL deals with actual Freemason history and the potential implications of a breach; has SHADOW RITUAL ruffled some feathers?
At first, Jacques’s brothers were a little thrown off. But over time, freemasons have become fervent supporters of Inspector Marcas. The rituals and meetings described in the books are genuine, and readers can understand a little bit more about the brotherhood.

7. How much research do you have to do, which are the most difficult types of scenes to research, and have you ever had to go to extreme or unusual lengths to research a scene?
We spend a lot of time in libraries, often in Freemason libraries, which have many rare books. We also meet with scholars. This is a fascinating part of the work, but it’s important not to get lost in the research or to recount too much of what we found in books. The hard part is building a plot and adjusting the mechanism to work like clockwork.

8. What are you reading now?
The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a fascinating book about the unforeseeable events that change the destinies of nations.

9. Who or what has influenced your style of writing?
Jacques’s influences are very literary, as he was a French professor and a Paul Valery scholar. Eric’s are more thrillers (both books and movies).

10. What’s up next for you, Eric?
I’m heading to New York for Thrillerfest in July. I can’t wait to meet other thriller writers. And next year, there will be another Antoine Marcas thriller in English, one with surprising Freemason information about the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.

11. What’s up next for you, Jacques?
Las Vegas in August to celebrate my son’s twenty-first birthday, and shared impatience with Eric for the next Marcas adventure.

Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

1945
BERLIN

The bombings had redoubled at dawn, and the ground trembled. The man’s razor slipped a second time. Blood dribbled down his stubbly cheek. He clenched his jaw, grabbed a damp towel, and dabbed the cut.
Designed to last a thousand years, the bunker’s foundations were showing signs of weakness.
He looked in the cracked mirror above the sink and barely recognized his face. The last six months of combat had left their mark, including two scars across his forehead, souvenirs of a skirmish with the Red Army in Pomerania. He would celebrate his twenty-fifth birthday in a week, but the mirror reflected someone a good ten years older.
The officer slipped on a shirt and his black jacket and shot a half smile at the portrait of the Führer, a mandatory fixture in all the rooms of the Third Reich Chancellery’s air-raid shelter. He put on his black helmet, adjusted it, and buttoned his collar, fingering the two silver runes shaped like S’s on the right.
His uniform had such power. When he wore it, he soaked up the fear and respect in the eyes of passersby. He reveled in the gazes that oozed submission. Even children too young to understand the meaning of his black uniform pulled away when he tried to be friendly. It reactivated some primitive fear. He liked that. Intensely. Without his beloved leader’s national socialism, he would have been a nobody, just like the others, leading a mediocre life in an ambitionless society. But fate had catapulted him to the inner circle of the SS.
Now, however, the tide was turning. Judeo-Masonic forces were triumphing again. The Bolsheviks were scampering, ready to take over like a swarm of rats. They would spare nothing. Of course, he hadn’t either. He’d left no prisoners on the Eastern Front.
“Pity is all the weak can be proud of,” Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler liked to tell his subordinates. That same man had given him—a Frenchman—the Iron Cross for his acts of bravery.
Another tremor shook the concrete walls. Gray dust fell from the ceiling. That explosion was close, maybe just above the bunker in what remained of the chancellery gardens.
Obersturmbannführer François Le Guermand brushed the dust from his lapels and examined himself again. Berlin would fall. They had known this since June, when the Allies invaded Normandy. But what a year it had been. A “heroic and brutal” dream, to borrow the words of José-Maria de Heredia, the Cuban-born French poet Le Guermand loved.
A dream for some and a nightmare for others.

It began after he’d joined the SS Sturmbrigade Frankreich and then the Charlemagne Division, swearing allegiance to Adolf Hitler. This came two years after he’d marched off with the Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism. Marshal Pétain’s spinelessness had disgusted him, and he had set his sights on the Waffen SS units that were taking foreign volunteers.
He had fought bravely, and one day a general invited him to dinner that changed his life. Anti-Christian comments filled the conversation. The guests praised old Nordic religious beliefs and championed racist doctrines. Le Guermand listened with fascination as they related the strange and cruel stories of the clever god Odin, the dragon slayer Siegfried, and mythic Thule, the ancestral homeland of supermen, the real masters of the human race.
Le Guermand was seated next to the general’s liaison, a major from Munich who explained how SS officers with pure Germanic blood had received intensive historical and spiritual training. “The Aryan race has waged battle with degenerate barbarians for centuries,” he said.
Before, Le Guermand would have mocked the words as the wild imaginings of indoctrinated minds, but in the candlelight, the magical stories were a powerful venom, a burning drug that flowed into his blood, slowly reaching his brain and cutting it off from reason. Le Guermand was caught in the maelstrom of a titanic combat against the Stalinist hordes, and at that moment, he understood the real reason he had joined this final battle between Germany and the rest of the world. He grasped the meaning of his life.
On that winter solstice in 1944, in a meadow lit up by torches, he was initiated into the rites of the Black Order. As he faced a makeshift altar covered with a dark gray sheet embroidered with two moon-colored runes, he heard the deep voices of soldiers chanting all around him: “Halgadom, Halgadom, Halgadom.”
“It’s an ancestral Germanic invocation that means ‘sacred cathedral,’” the major told him. “But it’s nothing like a Christian cathedral. Think of it as a mystical grail.” The major laughed. “In a Christian context, it’s like a celestial Jerusalem.”
An hour later, the torches were extinguished. As darkness swallowed the men in ceremonial uniforms, Le Guermand emerged a transformed man. His existence would never be the same. What would it matter if he died? Death was nothing but a passage to a more glorious world. François Le Guermand had joined his fate with that of this community. It was cursed by the rest of humanity, but he would receive sublime teachings promising new life, even if Germany lost the war.
The Red Army continued to advance. Le Guermand’s division took a battering. Then, on a cold and wet morning in February 1945, when he was supposed to be leading a counterattack in East Prussia, Le Guermand received orders to report to the Führer’s headquarters in Berlin. There was no explanation.
He bid good-bye to his division, only to learn later that his fellow soldiers, exhausted and underequipped, had been decimated that very day by the Second Shock Army’s T-34 tanks.
The Führer had saved his life.
On his way to Berlin, Le Guermand passed countless German refugees fleeing the Russians. The radio broadcast Dr. Goebbels’s propaganda: Soviet barbarians were pillaging houses and raping women. It made no mention of the atrocities committed by the Reich when they had marched victoriously on Russia.
The lines of frightened runaways went on for miles.
How ironic. In June 1940, his family had pulled a cart along a road in Compiègne, France, fleeing the arriving Germans. Now he was a German soldier, and he was retreating. From the backseat of his SS car, he contemplated the dead German women and children lying on both sides of the road, some in an advanced stage of decomposition. Many had had their clothing and shoes stolen. This de- pressing spectacle was nothing compared with what he would find when he arrived in the capital of the dying Third Reich.
Past the northern suburb of Wedding, he gazed at the burned and crumbling buildings, the victims of incessant Allied bombings. He had known Berlin when it was so arrogant and proud to be the new Rome. Now he gawked at the masses of silent inhabitants trudging through the ruins.
Flags bearing swastikas hung over what remained of the rooftops. His car came to a stop at an intersection on Wilhelmstrasse to let a convoy of Panzer Tiger tanks and a detachment of foot soldiers pass. Le Guermand watched as a man spit at the troops. Before, such behavior would have led to an arrest and a beating. On this day, the man just went on his way.
A banderole remained intact on the side of an intact building—an insurance company—that hadn’t been destroyed. “We will vanquish or we will die,” its large gothic letters read.
Arriving at the chancellery guard post, he found the bodies of two men hanging from streetlights. They hadn’t been as lucky as the man who had spit at the troops. The dead men were wearing placards: “I betrayed my Führer.” Probably deserters caught by the Gestapo and immediately executed, Le Guermand thought. Examples. No Germans could escape their destiny. The bodies, their faces nearly black from asphyxiation, swayed in the wind.
To his surprise, there was no officer to meet him at the bunker, but instead, an insignificant civilian. His thread- bare jacket bore the insignia of the Nazi Party. The man told him that he and the other officers of his rank would be assigned to a special detachment under the direct orders of Reichsleiter Martin Bormann. His mission would be explained in due time.
The man led him to a tiny room. Other officers, all detached from three SS divisions—Wiking, Totenkopf, and Hohenstaufen—had received the same orders and were lodged in nearby rooms.
Two days after they arrived, Martin Bormann, secretary of the Nazi Party and one of the few dignitaries to still be in Adolf Hitler’s good graces, called the Frenchman and his comrades together. With a cold, self-confident gaze on his bloated face, he looked at the fifteen men gathered in what remained of a chancellery meeting room. Then Hitler’s dauphin spoke in a strangely shrill voice.
“Gentlemen, the Russians will be here in a few months. It is possible that we will lose the war, even though the Führer still believes in victory and has put his faith in new weapons even more destructive than our long-range V-2 rockets.”
Bormann let his eyes drift over the group before continuing his monologue.
“We need to think about future generations and remain committed to final victory. Your superior officers chose you for your courage and loyalty to the Reich. I speak especially for our European friends from Sweden, Belgium, France, and Holland who have conducted themselves as true Germans. During the few weeks we have left, you will be trained to survive and perpetuate the work of Adolf Hitler. Our guide has decided to stay to the end, even if he must give his life, but you will leave in due time to ensure that his sacrifice is not in vain.”
Le Guermand looked around. The other officers were murmuring and shifting in their chairs. Bormann continued.
“Each of you will receive orders that are vital for our work to continue. You are not alone. Other groups such as yours are being formed throughout German territory. Your training will begin at eight tomorrow morning and will last for several weeks. Good luck to all of you.”
During the two months that followed, they were taught to live an entirely clandestine life. François Le Guermand admired the organization that persevered, despite the impending apocalypse. He felt detached from his French roots, from that nation of whiners that had prostrated itself at the feet of Charles de Gaulle and the Americans.
Le Guermand was cloistered in underground rooms and went days without seeing sunlight. A rodent’s life. There was no rest between the lectures and coursework. Soldiers and civilians introduced him to a vast network that was especially active in South America, as well as Spain and Switzerland.
They were trained in covert bank transfers and identity management. Money didn’t seem to be a concern. Each member of the group had a duty: to go to his assigned country and blend with the population under a new identity. Then wait—ready to act.
By mid-April, the Soviets were just six miles from Berlin. Three hundred French survivors of the Charlemagne Division were guarding the bunker. That was when the liaison officer from Munich arrived. Bormann deferred to the major, as though he were a superior officer. Le Guermand ate a quick lunch with the major, who called Hitler an evil madman and then held out a black card embossed with a white capital T.
“This card marks your membership to an ancient Aryan secret society, the Thule-Gesellschaft,” the major explained. “It has existed since long before the birth of Nazism. You have been chosen for your courage and devotion. If you survive the war, other members of the Thule will contact you with new orders.”

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
shadow-ritual-giacomettiravenne2012_credit_melania_avanza

Jacques Ravenne is a literary scholar
who has also written a biography of the Marquis de Sade
and edited his letters.
He loves to explore the hidden side of major historical events.

Eric Giacometti was an investigative reporter
for a major French newspaper.
He has covered a number of high-profile scandals
and has done exhaustive research in the area of freemasonry.

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR
Anne Trager loves France so much she has lived there for 27 years and just can’t seem to leave. What keeps her there is a uniquely French mix of pleasure seeking and creativity. Well, that and the wine. In 2011, she woke up one morning and said, “I just can’t stand it anymore. There are way too many good books being written in France not reaching a broader audience.” That’s when she founded Le French Book to translate some of those books into English. The company’s motto is “If we love it, we translate it,” and Anne loves crime fiction, mysteries and detective novels.
***
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Review: Shadow Ritual by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne

shadow ritual by eric giacometti and jacque ravenneFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, hardcover
Genre: thriller
Series: Antoince Marcas #2
Length: 270 pages
Publisher: Le French Book
Date Released: March 25, 2015
Purchasing Info: Authors’ Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

An electrifying thriller about the rise of extremism. Two slayings—one in Rome and one in Jerusalem—rekindle an ancient rivalry between modern-day secret societies for knowledge lost at the fall of the Third Reich. Detective Antoine Marcas unwillingly teams up with the strong-willed Jade Zewinski to chase Neo-Nazi assassins across Europe. They must unravel an arcane Freemason mystery, sparked by information from newly revealed KGB files. Inspired from the true story of mysterious Freemason files thought to hold a terrible secret, stolen by the SS in 1940, recovered by the Red Army in 1945 and returned half a century later.

My Review:

This is the second book in the series featuring Antoine Marcas, and based on this entry in the series, I hope that the publisher gets the rest of the series translated tout de suite. Meaning, as fast as the translator Anne Trager can get them out.

Shadow Ritual is edge-of-the-seat thrilling, very much in the vein of The Da Vinci Code but with much better editing. The pace is taut, and the story, even the parts about rituals and history and the secret society background of this mess, moves along at a rapid clip.

Just enough to feel the horror (at the appropriate points), but not so long as to dwell on it.

The prologue takes place at the end of Nazi Germany. One young French SS officer, along with a cadre of fellow fanatics, is tasked with smuggling important papers out of Germany and setting himself up as a sleeper agent in a sympathetic country to wait until his masters need him again. His masters are not exactly the Nazis – but a philosophical splinter group called the Thule. Who manage, in their own evil, world-domination type ways, to be even worse than the Nazis.

Without the extra-terrestrial power boost, the Thule remind me a bit of Red Skull in the first Captain America movie. I know this is just slightly off topic, but the brands of megalomaniacal pure-Aryan BS feel surprisingly similar..

The story in Shadow Ritual moves to the 21st century, and a sudden string of ritual murders. The ritual murders are tied into Freemasonry, a subject that sets more than a few of the investigators as well as the perpetrators into absolute fits, but only the Thule actually foam at the mouth.

The string of murders imitates and corrupts a big piece of Masonic ritual. Someone is killing people, not just Freemasons but anyone connected with the secret being pursued, in a way that sends a calling card to any Masons who see the victims or read about the results.

Antoine Marcas, a detective in the Paris Police, is a Freemason with an interest in Masonic history and documents. When a Masonic researcher is killed at the French Embassy in Italy, Marcas is paired with a hard-boiled Embassy security officer who hates the Masonic Order and anything connected with it.

As partnerships go, this is not a happy one.

But Jade Zewinski’s Foreign Service bosses don’t all love the Masons either, so they are happy to have someone in charge of the investigation who will not report to the Order first. At the same time, they need Marcas because all the clues are steeped in Masonic ritual and don’t make much sense to anyone who is not intimately familiar with the Order.

Their uneasy but ultimately productive partnership unearths a trail of dead bodies – and puts them squarely in the sights of an underground society that blames the Masons, the Jews, and anyone they just plain don’t like for what they see as the suppression of the true World Order – one that puts the Nazi Thule back on top of empire – with everyone else crushed under their heel.

Starting with Marcas and Zewinski.

Escape Rating A: This is one of those books that just grabbed me. I loved the deep dive into unfamiliar history – especially because that exploration was encapsulated into a thriller that kept me enthralled up to the very end.

Part of what made this story work was the two protagonists. They don’t like each other at all. Zewinski is openly hostile about everything that Marcas believes in. And we don’t know why until the very end – just that she acts like a bitch at every turn.

At the same time, they definitely respect each other. Even though she often treats Marcas like dirt, she also respects his abilities as a detective. Likewise, even though Marcas is often infuriated by Zewinski’s attitude and hostility, he also respects her ability to get the job done. He sometimes questions whether she wants to leave him behind, or is hoping that he won’t measure up in some way, but there is certainly mutual respect.

They manage to rely on each other as partners even though they drive each other crazy.

Also, Zewinski is in some ways the stand-in for the audience. The history and mystery that is driving the action is deeply embedded in the Masonic rituals and history. Marcas knows those secrets intimately, and Zewinski has spent her life actively avoiding anything to do with Freemasonry. In order to them to solve the crimes together, he has to explain the mysteries to her, and that provides a logical way to explain them to us.

For most of us, Freemasonry is shrouded in secrets and legends, and it was fascinating to get a glimpse behind the curtain. Lots of stories have exploited this desire to find those secrets, including The Da Vinci Code and the movie National Treasure. Mixing the secrets of the Freemasons with their persecution by the Nazis makes for a chilling read.

Like The DaVinci Code, Shadow Ritual is the second book in the series featuring its code-breaking detective. Also like The DaVinci Code, you don’t need to have read the first book about Antoine Marcas to enjoy the second.

Not that I don’t want the first book. And the rest of the series. ASAP.

***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: First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan + Giveaway

first time in forever by sarah morganFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Puffin Island #1
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: February 24, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Windswept, isolated and ruggedly beautiful, Puffin Island is a haven for day-trippers and daydreamers alike. But this charming community has a way of bringing people together in the most unexpected ways…

It’s been a summer of firsts for Emily Donovan. From becoming a stand-in mom to her niece Lizzie to arriving on Puffin Island, her life has become virtually unrecognizable. Between desperately safeguarding Lizzie and her overwhelming fear of the ocean—which surrounds her everywhere she goes!—Emily has lost count of the number of “just breathe” pep talks she’s given herself. And that’s before charismatic local yacht club owner Ryan Cooper kisses her…

Ryan knows all about secrets. And it’s clear that newcomer Emily—with her haunted eyes and the little girl she won’t let out of her sight—is hiding from something besides the crazy chemistry between them. So Ryan decides he’s going to make it his personal mission to help her unwind and enjoy the sparks! But can Puffin Island work its magic on Emily and get her to take the biggest leap of trust of all—putting her heart in someone else’s hands?

My Review:

Get it out of my head! It took me way too long to recognize where I’d heard the phrase “First Time In Forever”, but once I did, I couldn’t get the song from Frozen out of my head. The ear worm is driving me crazy.

At the same time, the song is a perfect descriptor for the story. And also Frozen. It gets damn cold on Puffin Island in Maine in the winter. Not that we experience one during this particular book, but as the series continues, I bet we see at least one snowstorm before we’re done.

Both Ryan and Emily have faced the sudden responsibility of caring for young children at different points in their lives. It provided them with a shared experience, and some of the same reactions to that experience. It means that they understand each other from the beginning of the story, even if they don’t quite see it.

Ryan was forced into adulthood at 13, when his parents were killed in a crash. He became an adult while caring for his younger siblings, including his then 4-year-old sister Rachel. While Ryan was not the responsible adult in the household (his grandmother had custody), she relied on him as if he were an adult, while his baby sister looked to him as the one stabilizing force in her young life.

While he wouldn’t miss the close relationship he still has with Rachel, he did escape the Island the minute he got old enough. He never had the chance to be a teenager, but he did move out to have child-free adventures all over the world as a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter. Then he came home, and started a business on the island.

But his experience raising his siblings gave him a life-long aversion to having children of his own, or even of settling down and getting married. He likes children – they all go home with other people. He just doesn’t want to feel that tied down ever again.

Until Emily arrives on the island. Emily, along with her college friends Brittany and Skylar, came to the island while they were in college. Brittany’s grandmother Kathryn owned a cottage that now belongs to Brittany. All three women vowed to return to the cottage whenever they needed a place to be safe. And Emily needs one now.

She is on the run from the paparazzi that chased her famous sister Lana into a fatal accident. Emily is protected Lana’s 6-year-old daughter Juliet from reporters and cameramen who have invaded her home in search of their “big story”. Juliet is six and traumatized. Emily, who hadn’t seen her sister in years, is now the guardian of a 6-year-old that she never met, and is an instant parent who never planned to have children.

Emily’s last experience guarding a child scarred her forever. She blamed herself for a tragedy that should never have happened, not because Emily screwed up, but because her alcoholic mother left her 6 year old self in charge of her 4 year old baby sister. Emily never got over the result, and never let anyone else into her heart.

Until little Juliet, who she renames Lizzy to protect her from the paparazzi, comes into Emily’s life and steals her heart away, a heart that Emily believed was no longer there to steal.

Lizzy is a good little heart thief – she steals Ryan’s too. But can either of the adults in this trio manage to admit that they love the little girl, and each other?

Escape Rating B: In Puffin Island, the author has created a marvelous place, not without its ups and downs (particularly of the economic variety) but a place where the characters, and the readers, can feel like they belong.

The story starts out because of friendship. The enduring strength of the friendship between Emily, Brittany and Skylar shines every time the women are together, or even talk about each other. They have all found a solace in this family-of-choice that none of the had in their birth families, even though the reasons for that vary wildly.

We don’t even meet Brittany in person, but she is still very much a part of this story. Also, it is her past and her friendship with Ryan that starts his initial involvement, and allows Emily to trust him at the beginning. The absent Brittany serves as much-needed glue, both for Emily’s initial panic and the start of her bond with Ryan.

Speaking of Emily’s panic, it did feel as if Emily was a bit too panicked for too much of the story. She comes into this suffering from a huge childhood trauma that has never been resolved, and is scared to death of the paparazzi. While that last part is a reasonable fear under the circumstances, she was so scared in so many different directions that it was amazing that she functioned at all. It felt a bit like the author piled on her so that she would need Ryan, and then he gets to be her white knight. I might have liked her more if she had one tick less to panic about at the beginning.

There are two secrets that hang around the first half of the story – the nature of the traumatic mess in Emily’s past, and the event that caused Ryan to retreat back to the island to start over. Ryan’s secret in particular felt like it hung in limbo a bit too long, looming over events more than it perhaps warranted. There was a point where I just plain wanted to KNOW already, and then the reveal felt anticlimactic.

some kind of wonderful by sarah morganThat being said, I enjoyed Ryan and Emily together. Their shared experience of becoming sudden surrogate parents before they were ready was unusual, but it gave them a strong bond. I love the relationship between Emily, Skylar and Brittany, and can’t wait to see more of them, and how their HEAs unfold. Skylar really needs to get a clue and drop the guy she’s with. He’s not a bad person, he’s just bad for her. It’s too bad that the author is saving Skylar’s story for book 3. The next book is Brittany’s story, so it will be great to have her be back to the island in person in Some Kind of Wonderful. (OMG it’s another song title. I feel the ear worm coming in for another turn!)

 

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Thanks to Sarah and BookTrib, one lucky reader will be able to take their own virtual trip to Puffin Island with a copy of First Time in Forever.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***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: Harbor Island by Carla Neggers + Giveaway

harbor island by carla neggersFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: romantic suspense
Series: Sharpe & Donovan, #4
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: August 26, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Emma Sharpe, granddaughter of world-renowned art detective Wendell Sharpe, is a handpicked member of a small Boston-based FBI team. For the past decade Emma and her grandfather have been trailing an elusive serial art thief. The first heist was in Ireland, where an ancient Celtic cross was stolen. Now the Sharpes receive a replica of the cross after every new theft—reminding them of their continued failure to capture their prey.

When Emma receives a message that leads her to the body of a woman on a small island in Boston Harbor, she finds the victim holding a small, cross-inscribed stone—one she recognizes all too well. Emma’s fiancé, FBI deep-cover agent Colin Donovan, is troubled that she’s gone off to the island alone, especially given the deadly turn the thief has taken. But as they dig deeper they are certain there is more to this murder than meets the eye.

As the danger escalates, Emma and Colin must also face do-or-die questions about their relationship. While there’s no doubt they are in love, can they give their hearts and souls to their work and have anything left for each other? There’s one thing Emma and Colin definitely agree on: before they can focus on their future, they must outwit one of the smartest, most ruthless killers they’ve ever encountered.

My Review:

Declan's Cross by Carla NeggersI was introduced to the Sharpe and Donovan series with last year’s Declan’s Cross (reviewed here), the third book in this romantic suspense/mystery series. Being a completist, I went back and read the prequel novella, Rock Point, and the first two books in the series, Saint’s Gate (review) and Heron’s Cove (review), so that I could get up to speed.

All of that catching up certainly came in handy when I got to Harbor Island, because all of the characters who have had important roles in the previous books get major parts (and have major parts of their arcs resolved) in this story. And, the quest that has been driving the entire Sharpe family of art detectives crazy for ten years also acquires some new twists and turns.

That bit is resolved, and it isn’t, both at the same time, which was pretty cool. But I’m not giving it away.

Sharpe and Donovan are two FBI agents who fell in love while investigating a murder. Both Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are Mainers, but Emma Sharpe grew up in middle-class Heron’s Cove, while Colin Donovan spent his childhood in the rough and tumble fishing village of Rock Island.

Emma’s family are well-respected and relatively well-to-do art detectives. Colin’s family were fishermen and innkeepers. They came to the FBI from very different roads, and have very different jobs. Emma uses her knowledge of art history to track down art thieves. Colin is an undercover agent.

When one of her art thieves turned out to be his mob boss undercover assignment, they found each other. For the moment, her art thieves have turned up so many murders that Colin has been able to have a relatively regular assignment with the Boston High Impact Team, where Emma is stationed.

Harbor Island is yet another convoluted case where Emma’s art thieves turn to murder and mayhem in both New England and olde Ireland, allowing the chase to involve their friend Sean Murphy, a senior investigator with the Garda.

The Sharpe family of art detectives has been investigating a string of high end art thefts that have been going on for ten years, starting in Sean Murphy’s patch at Declan’s Cross. When a woman starts probing that string of art thefts for a possible movie, someone turns to murder.

But no one who has ever been involved in the case thinks that it’s their thief. So who is targeting Emma, and why?

saints gate by carla neggersEscape Rating B+: There has been a large cast of fascinating characters involved in the entire Sharpe and Donovan series, and it seems like every single one of them has a part to play in Harbor Island. As much as I enjoyed Harbor Island, and I did very much, I was extremely glad that I had read the other books first. These people have a lot of intertwined relationships, and the story is better if you know who the players are and what parts they are playing. (Start with Saint’s Gate)

Emma is the primary investigator (and target) in this one. The crime seems to be wrapped up in her family’s long-running search for that mysterious thief. Not only was the first victim following in the Sharpe family footsteps, but she was poking her nose into lots of lives and secrets that no one wanted revealed–even in a fictionalized version.

As the victim’s last movements are traced from Boston to LA to Maine to Ireland and back, it seems as if she stirred up multiple hornet’s nests; accusing relatively innocent parties of being the notorious thief, and alienating her family with her relentless pursuit of her project, intending to use someone else’s money to make it happen.

There’s always a question, did the thief kill her, did she expose something else she shouldn’t have, or did her family finally explode? The answers are a surprise.

And in the background, we have a forbidden love story simmering, and the second chance at a happy ending for an estranged married couple, mixed with a fascinating exploration of art and murder.

~~~~~~TOURWIDE~~~~~~

We’re giving away a copy of Harbor Island to one lucky (U.S.) commenter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***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: No Limits by Lori Foster

no limits by lori fosterFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, mass market paperback, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Ultimate, #1
Length: 432 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: September 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Cannon Colter is quintessential hero material: chiseled jawline, shredded body—the works. He’s also the guy who rescued Yvette Sweeny from kidnappers, only to put an end to her romantic dreams. These days, she’s older, smarter, determined to face whatever life throws her way. Even the prospect of sharing a house and business with Cannon.

Cannon knew Yvette wanted him three years ago. But she was young—and some things are worth waiting for. Thrown together by her grandfather’s legacy, he realizes how deep Yvette’s scars really go, and how much danger lurks in their quiet town. As pent-up desire explodes between them, protecting her becomes the only fight that matters. And he’ll break all the rules to do it….

My Review:

No Limits is a Lori Foster story that ties together the alpha romance of her SBC Fighters series with the romantic suspense of her Love Undercover series.

dash of peril by lori fosterIn fact, the beginning of Cannon and Yvette’s relationship, including the horrific event that sent Yvette running to California, is part of the case that Dash and Margaret finally solve in Dash of Peril (reviewed here).

The way that Cannon and Yvette’s story begins in Dash of Peril, Cannon helps the police solve a serial rapist/murder case by trying his best to protect Yvette from the perpetrators. Although the bad get their just desserts, Yvette still suffers the terrible trauma of being kidnapped and doused in kerosene, threatened with rape and immolation, and forced to watch as another woman is raped.

Cannon is angry with himself because he wasn’t able to protect her, even though he was merely a neighborhood do-gooder, and not a police officer.

Yvette has always had a crush on Cannon, but he’s sure she’s too young for him. But she’s 20, not 18, and he never knew. She also throws herself at him, just before she leaves town to heal.

He never forgot her. He also kept kicking himself for thinking she was younger than she was. In three years, he’s been hoping for a way to start over, or to start where they didn’t quite leave off. Her grandfather’s death gives him that opportunity. Grandfather left his property in equal shares to Yvette and Cannon, not because Cannon needs it, but because Yvette’s grandfather is certain that Yvette needs to find a reason to come home to stay, and that Cannon will provide that reason if he ties them to each other.

Cannon’s perfectly willing to get with that program, its Yvette who balks. Everyone in their small Ohio town knows exactly what happened three years ago, and Yvette hates being the center of everyone’s attention, and especially their pity.

In California she can be exactly who she wants to be, and has carved out a life that allows her not to lean on anyone. She hates feeling like she’s still a victim.

Unfortunately for Yvette, there is more than one person in her town who is all too eager to make her a victim, yet again. But this time, she definitely has Cannon in her corner, and moving in to her life.

It’s up to her whether her inability to let herself lean on anyone will keep her from relying on Cannon and his friends when she really needs them, or whether she can finally let herself live her life.

hard knocks by lori fosterEscape Rating B: No Limits is the first full-length novel in Foster’s Ultimate series, after the short and sexy novella Hard Knocks (reviewed here).

No Limits does a terrific job of filling in the stage and providing further background and setup for the characters, while letting long-term readers get a glimpse and what our old friends are going from the two previous series.

Cannon is definitely an alpha hero in Foster’s marvelous of pattern of strong, sexy men who can’t help their protective instincts, while still believing that the women in their lives have agency and control over their actions. He’s there to keep Yvette safe because the things that are after her are beyond any single person’s control. She’s being stalked by an ex who has lost his marbles and really wants to hurt her.

It’s not that she’s not capable, but that there is more going on than any one person can handle. She’s willing to let her friend Vanity look out for her, but it takes her longer to accept that she’s become part of Cannon’s inner circle, and that all the guys want to watch out for her.

She has a huge chip on her shoulder about the attack from three years ago. It’s a small town, and everyone knows what happened. Her desire NOT to be the center of any more attention is understandable, even if she does take it way too far.

That there is someone in town who seems determined to both attack her and make her the center of even more negative attention adds suspense and makes Yvette want to retreat back into her shell.

Everything that happens gives Yvette further reasons to doubt herself and any relationship with Cannon. His patient but relentless pursuit is surprisingly sweet, while his eventual “catching” of her provides some serious heat.

I really enjoyed Cannon’s character and all the guys at the rec center. It was fun to see where the next relationships are going to be, and who is getting involved with whom often in spite of themselves.

I wish that the chip on Yvette’s shoulder hadn’t been quite so large. I wanted to shake her and get her to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee pretty often. Still, it’s obvious at the end that she realizes both how lucky she is, and what a close escape from danger she had. Again.

She gets by with a little (sometimes a lot) of help from both her own and Cannon’s friends..

***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.

Q&A from Author Susan Mallery + Giveaway

Today I’d like to welcome Susan Mallery, who recently published the 15th novel in her Fool’s Gold series, Until We Touch (reviewed here). Please enjoy this Q&A:

UntilWeTouch_BadgeFRONT

Question: In what ways do you think every woman can relate to Larissa Owens?

Larissa is a sweetie. She’s not rich; she’s working as a personal assistant and personal masseuse for Jack. She gets to go to work in yoga pants and touch sexy guys all over. (Dream job!) Until We Touch is my nod to the boss/secretary story, one of my favorite kinds of romance.

Larissa has a pure heart, and when she sees someone hurting, she doesn’t just think about helping. She does help, with whatever resources are available to her. Fortunately for her, since she’s been working for Jack, he has allowed her to use his wealth and connections in service to her causes. In fact, he likes it. With Larissa using his money to try to save the world, he can feel like a part of something without actually putting himself out there. It’s a very comfortable arrangement for them both… until Larissa’s mom tells Jack that Larissa is in love with him, and everything changes.

Question: What about Jack McGarry makes him like no leading man we’ve ever seen before in Fool’s Gold?

I think what makes people relatable—both in fiction and in life—are our imperfections and our vulnerabilities. From the outside, Jack’s life appears perfect. He’s rich, handsome, famous. He was a pro quarterback who retired on top and is now experiencing the same phenomenal success in the private sector with Score, the PR firm he co-owns.
But Jack has a secret pain that makes him protect himself from feeling too deeply, from caring too much. He lost someone dear to him when he was young, and he felt responsible. The lesson he took from that loss was that it’s safer on the surface.

Larissa works for him, so she knows he’s not a good bet when it comes to relationships. She has watched a string of temporary girlfriends come and go. She even bought the parting gifts. Despite that, despite her better judgment, she likes the man. He’s a good guy, a great friend, and he’s the sexiest man she’s ever met.

Question: If Until We Touch were made into a movie, who would you envision playing Jack and Larissa?

I’m going to go with Chris Pine with black hair and Amy Adams as a blonde. (We must keep the Hollywood hairstylists employed!) Both could handle the funny scenes and the moments of honest emotion.

Of course, one of the funniest scenes in the book would probably have to be cut in order to keep the R rating. No spoilers, but I will say that Larissa is a massage therapist, and as their feelings for each other change, new situations—ahem—arise.

Question: Larissa keeps her romantic attraction to Jack a secret at first, before her mother spills the beans. Do you think you should ever keep that secret from a friend you’re falling for, or is it better to confess your love?

In the case of Larissa, she didn’t realize she was keeping a secret… she kept her feelings a secret even from herself. Until her mother’s assertion, Larissa didn’t think she was in love with Jack. Just by saying those words, Larissa’s mom changed everything. These two friends and colleagues are suddenly thinking of each other in a whole new way. Which is inconvenient, to say the least.

As for whether someone in real life should keep her feelings for a friend secret or confess all, I’d have to say it really depends on the situation. Friendship is the best foundation for lifelong love, but not all friends-to-lovers stories end happily. I think you’d need to examine your heart and ask yourself, honestly, what is the best action for you to take.

Question: You have written well over 100 books. How do you keep developing such unique storylines and characters that keep your fans coming back for more?

It’s a challenge! The truth is, every love story is unique. We all know dozens of couples who met, fell in love, and married. The framework may be similar—first glance, first kiss, deepening feelings, declaration of love—but the nuances are different. Which means that as a writer, I need to start with the nuances and build from there. What makes these two individuals unique and uniquely suited for each other? What events in their past color their actions and emotions today? As I develop their characters, I look for aspects that put them in conflict with each other, but also for aspects that will make them a couple you can believe will make it for the long haul. The conflict has to last nearly the length of the book, but the things they have in common have to take them through the rest of their lives.

Question: What do you think is the recipe for a perfect romance novel?

A perfect romance should carry you away from your everyday world and fill you with emotions as you read. When you put down the book before you’re finished, it should call to you. Chores can wait, dinner can wait. It should be a challenge for you to turn off the light to go to sleep, even when it’s way past your bedtime. You should want to read just one more chapter, and then just one more after that, and then just one more until you’re done because you can’t bear to put it down until you know the characters are happy and in love. And when you do finish this perfect romance, you should feel happy, with a renewed feeling of faith in the power of love to overcome all obstacles.

Question: What’s next for Fool’s Gold?

Next up, Kenny and Bailey will fall in love in Yours For Christmas. Readers are in love with Kenny already, started asking for his story right away. He was introduced in When We Met, and readers could immediately sense that there are hidden depths beneath his happy-go-lucky façade. Kenny is one of Jack’s partners at Score PR. What he wants more than anything is a family, but he was burned badly by an ex. The one thing he won’t do, no matter what, is fall in love with a single mom. And then he meets Bailey…

Yours For Christmas was originally slated to be an ebook exclusive novella. However, Harlequin has decided to release it simultaneously in print on October 28. It will be printed at the back of the mass market paperback reissue of Christmas on 4th Street. Both Yours For Christmas (ebook) and Christmas on 4th Street combined with Yours For Christmas (print and ebook) are available for pre-order now.

Question: Any fun summer plans?

I’m going to soak in as much of this rare and precious Seattle sunshine as I can before the rainclouds descend again! Seattle in the summertime has to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I swear, there are a million shades of green, and every single one of them is on display as we walk the dog around the city.

SusanMallery_photoAbout Susan Mallery

Susan Mallery is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has entertained millions of readers with her witty and emotional stories about women and the relationships that define their lives. She has published more than 100 romance and women’s fiction novels beginning with two books the same month when she was just out of college. Susan has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and went on to get a master’s in writing popular fiction and has extensively studied story structure in screenwriting courses. Her goal, always, is to give readers a story that will move them, populated with characters who feel like real people. Born and raised in California, Susan now lives with her family in Seattle, where she survives the dreary days of winter with the help of a “happy lamp” and plenty of coffee.

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Susan is kindly giving away a couple of Until We Touch to one lucky winner. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Until We Touch by Susan Mallery

Until We Touch by Susan MalleryFormat read: paperback provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, mass market paperback, audiobook
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Fool’s Gold, #15
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: June 24, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

After a family tragedy, former football hero Jack McGarry keeps the world at arm’s length—a challenge now that his PR firm has moved to neighborly Fool’s Gold, California.

Larissa Owens knows where she stands—Jack sees her as just another one of the guys. No matter what her heart wishes, Jack’s her boss, not her boyfriend. But then Larissa’s big secret is revealed…by her mother!

When Jack discovers the truth about Larissa’s feelings, her touch suddenly becomes tantalizing, and he’s not sure he wants to resist. But if he gives in to desire, heartache is sure to follow. Friendship or true love—will Jack go for the ultimate play?

My Review:

I’ll say upfront that I have not read the rest of the Fool’s Gold series, but I didn’t feel a bit lost. So if you’re looking at this and don’t have the time to invest in the first 14 books of the series, fear not. There is plenty of introduction to make you feel like Fool’s Gold is a terrific place to be, and that the people are ones you would want to have for dinner or out for drinks. The way that they catch up with each other gives new readers plenty of info to help you slip right into the story.

About the story…what we have here is a combination of the friends into lovers trope with a heaping helping of the assistant and the boss taking their relationship outside the office. I’m not calling it the assistant has a crush on the boss, because that’s not how this thing works.

Larissa and her boss Jack have a symbiotic relationship on pretty much every level, then her mother comes barging in and jerks the blindfold off of everyone’s eyes. And even though she’s right, I’d be mortified down to my soul (and soles) if my mom pulled a stunt like that. Although it’s what moms do.

Larissa and Jack have all the benefits of a committed relationship, but without the sex that either sends things to a higher level, or messes them up beyond repair. The problem is that this relationship provides for almost all of both of their emotional needs. Jack has other women for sex, and Larissa throws herself into her causes (tons of them) so that she keeps her life full and doesn’t even think about what she’s missing.

Her mother is right that being with Jack keeps Larissa from finding a real relationship and falling in love and getting married. (I’m not happy with mom’s stated goal and making sure that Larissa gives her more grandchildren. Having children to make someone else happy is bad for the children and the adults. My 2 cents.)

But once the blindfold is off about the way that their best-friends with everything but benefits relationship keeps them both fairly happy, Larissa and Jack both lose the ability to be “just friends”, although Larissa does a much better job managing things than Jack does.

Now that they know there might be something more between them, neither of them can stop thinking about the possibilities. And that’s where the trouble begins.

One of the things that Larissa does for Jack is get him involved with her causes, and with the community of Fool’s Gold, while letting him maintain the emotional distance he’s always had. She throws her heart over every fence, and he writes the check that takes care of the details. (Jack is a retired NFL quarterback with a successful PR firm. He can afford those checks.)

As Jack finds himself thinking about the possibility of more with Larissa, his famous distance erodes, completely. It feels as if suddenly everyone in town and in his life is after a piece of the heart he’s kept hidden. So he drives everyone away. He’s the biggest asshat he can be to everyone in his life, including Larissa.

And once he’s alone, just the way he asked, he discovers that being alone isn’t what he wants anymore. What he wants is Larissa, as close as he can get her. But did he go so far in driving her away that he can’t get her back?

Escape Rating B-: Fool’s Gold is a fantastic town to visit. I loved meeting everyone, especially Mayor Marsha. The partners at Jack’s PR firm, Taryn, Kenny and Sam, are great friends and it seems like a marvelous place to work.

220px-ChihuachshundI’m also still laughing about the rescue of the hoarded chiweenies.

Larissa and Jack’s relationship at the beginning is interesting to watch and seems totally plausible. They are friends. Best buds. They are each the person the other relies on most, and takes the most care of. Their friendship is so important to both of them, that it’s easy to understand why they wouldn’t want to risk it by adding sex into the mix.

But they can’t navigate the new territory that Larissa’s mom’s meddling has thrown them into. Larissa figures out how to handle things, but Jack doesn’t. He’s spent most of his life being afraid to be involved, because caring makes you vulnerable. Too many people that he has loved have died, and he is unwilling to risk any kind of closeness.

When everything gets too much, he withdraws and makes an ass of himself. With everyone possible and then some. I think that most readers will be cheering for his friends when they punch him. There’s a reason he doesn’t defend himself–he deserves every shot.

He wallows in self-pity.

Larissa, on the other hand, as much pain as she is in (and it’s a lot) picks herself up and moves on with her career. Her heart may not be healing, but she soldiers on, knowing that someday things will get better. She takes care of herself. I liked the way she handled things.

Jack does eventually get his head out of his ass, and apologizes profusely to everyone he has hurt. Some of those apologies work better than others, but by the end, I still wondered if Larissa couldn’t do better.

***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: Dash of Peril by Lori Foster + Giveaway

dash of peril by lori fosterFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, large print, audiobook
Genre: romantic suspense
Series: Love Undercover #4
Length: 480 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: March 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

To bring down a sleazy abduction ring, Lieutenant Margaret “Margo” Peterson has set herself up as bait. But recruiting Dashiel Riske as her unofficial partner is a whole other kind of danger. Dash is 6’4″ of laid-back masculine charm, a man who loves life—and women—to the limit. Until Margo is threatened, and he reveals a dark side that may just match her own.

Beneath Margo’s tough facade is a slow-burning sexiness that drives Dash crazy. The only way to finish this case is to work together side by side…skin to skin. And as their mission takes a lethal turn, he’ll have to prove he’s all the man she needs—in all the ways that matter.

My Review:

Lori Foster’s Love Undercover series comes to a smoking hot conclusion in Dash of Peril. If you enjoy your romantic suspense long on the romance and short on the suspense, this story is a winner.

And while it’s absolutely not necessary to have read the whole series to get totally into Dash of Peril, there is lots of input from characters previously introduced in the series that are much sweeter if you know all the players.

getting rowdy by lori fosterAlthough the romance starts almost as soon as the book does, this is not an insta-love story. Margo and Dash have been dancing around their attraction for each other since the second book in the series, Getting Rowdy (reviewed here). It’s just taken several months (and one more book) for things to reach a point where Margo is pretty much forced to acknowledge that whether or not she’s ever been taught that it is okay to need someone, she definitely needs Dash Riske, and for more than just his body in her bed.

This is where the suspense takes a second place to the romance. One of the parts of the overall story is that there used to be a LOT of corruption within the police department, a department where Margo Peterson is a detective and a lieutenant. Dash’ brother Logan is one of her trusted officers (his story was told in the excellent series starter, Run the Risk). Her other trusted officer, and Logan’s detective partner, is Reese Bareden, the human hero of Bare it All. (The canine hero is pretty awesome too!)

Bare It All by Lori FosterBut Margo’s father is the retired chief of police, and we discover that there is a cloud around his retirement. (Also that Margo’s family redefines dysfunctional).

There’s a case that fuels the suspense part of the story. Someone is kidnapping and drugging young women, and raping them while filming the entire disgusting episode for amateur porn. Two women are dead, and two other women will need years to get their lives back. Margo has been hunting for the perps.

Suddenly they are hunting her. There’s a contract on her life, and the way she discovers that there is a price on her head is when someone t-bones her car, on purpose in a smash and run. Only Dash’ presence on the scene saves her from being finished off right then.

Now that Margo is wounded (a concussion, her elbow is dislocated, and seriously ouch!) she needs help. And she needs an able-bodied person to stick around until she’s healed enough to get back to work and use her gun hand.

Dash has been trying to find a way into Margo’s life since she first let him be her unofficial partner in an undercover sting on this same set of villains.

Dash takes the opportunity to help Margo figure out that she can still be the alpha cop at work while letting herself be something else on her off-duty time. And that it’s important to have some off-duty time!

But while they are redefining their surprisingly hot and inventive relationship, someone much closer to home is bringing the bad guys to Margo’s door.

Escape Rating A-: I enjoyed Dash of Peril the most of the entire series, and I liked all of them! But this one I just couldn’t put down at all. As absolutely hot and sexy as Dash seemed to be, what really made the story for me was Margo. I could identify with the woman who had to be in such control at work, and with good reason, that she had a hard time letting go in any way when she wasn’t on the job. So she let her work consume her life and her identity.

Once she lets herself admit that she has feelings for Dash, he is able to get into her life, and help her to achieve, let’s call it a better work/life balance, where before she didn’t have any balance at all.

Run the Risk by Lori FosterThe way in which her family dynamics are totally screwed up gave me even more sympathy for her. Lots of people wouldn’t have done half as well. But those same family dynamics help obscure the identity of one of the villains, and in a way that keeps the readers guessing until the very end.

Dash of Peril also wraps up the long-simmering tension in the police department, and in a way that provides resolution for the characters and the reader.

As an added bonus, a couple of the great guys from Foster’s SBC series make a cameo appearance, as a way of kicking off (or punching out) the beginning of her next series, starting with Cannon, Rowdy’s friend and a very appealing side-character in this series. I can hardly wait!

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Lori is giving away a print copy of Dash of Peril to one lucky commenter below (US/CAN only).
a Rafflecopter giveaway

***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.

Q&A with Author Anderson Harp + Giveaway

retribution by anderson harp My guest today is Anderson Harp, the author of the action-adventure/political thriller Retribution. (Retribution is also today’s review book). If you’re looking for a meaty and complex story just like Tom Clancy used to write, Retribution is a terrific place to start!

Q: Why did you write “Retribution”?

A: I enjoy the challenge of writing and, to some degree, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was reportedly frustrated with the criminal novels of his time, I was frustrated with what I had been reading in the military thriller world. Some had implausible plot lines and didn’t connect to what I saw in military operations centers. Likewise, putting the plot together and making it authentic is the challenge. I wanted a plot that both propels the reader forward and leads to an unexpected ending. It places you in the true world of military operations with credible threats, accurate technology, and real action. And giving you what we all hope for – a hero that is complex but hardened steel. The guy that we all wish could be there when we needed him.

Q: Who is Anderson Harp?

A: Not William Parker, but close. Someone who enjoys challenges and is loyal to his fellow Marine. Someone who has fun doing crazy things like climbing Mount Fuji, or surfing the North Shore (with his daughter -not very well), or hunting around the world. A past member of the All Marine Track Team and national level runner, and someone who held the school record at his university for the 800-meter run for over a decade. And someone who has been dedicated to helping out servicemen and women by creating Operation Thriller, a USO Tour of authors to hazardous duty zones and who has served in operation centers both at the Pentagon and in support of Marines responsible for the invasion of Afghanistan. Someone who was the chief instructor for the Marine Corps mountain survival and cold weather training school.

Q: What is “Retribution” about?

A: Despite our best intentions, there remain bad guys, jihadists, and terrorists in our world. And the planet has gotten so much smaller. Without a guard at the door, anyone can step on a commercial airplane in Pakistan and be in your neighborhood the next day. Borders are only challenges. They are not insurmountable. We need someone who will stand at that door for all of us. William Parker, given the chance, stands at that door. We just need heroes. “Retribution” is an intense, plot driven, mission-oriented thriller that combines what is going on out there in the jihadist world with our response to that threat.

Q: How real is it?

A: VERY. The world is in flux, our military and intelligence agencies are constantly changing, upgrading, modifying in response to threats. So our military changes rapidly, but, nevertheless, the jihadist is consistent. He updates his strategy too, but remains a constant danger to our world. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, which are always at risk. The tribal territory is only a short distance from those nuclear cores. We think the danger is an assembled weapon, but the chance of a dirty bomb can have long effects. Thus, we need William Parker.

Q: What does your military background and being in the Marines thirty years bring to your writing? What is unique about this experience in the world of military thrillers?

A: In my life, I’ve been involved at different levels in the service with several world crises and helped with our nation’s response to those threats. It’s a unique opportunity in the thriller world to have been a first-hand participant in events like these. There are experiences from the small to the large that give depth to the story. For example, I spent thirty years being trained and qualified as an expert in firing weapons. The recoil of an M-14 is different from an M-16 or the 9mm is vastly different from the 45. The use of a suppressor affects much. On the larger scale, calling in artillery and air support require certain coordination’s of fire control. Operations centers are vastly different between the battalion and the Pentagon. All of this affects the realism of the story.

Q: Will we see William Parker in other books?

 A: Yes, Will Parker reflects a unique warrior with special skills. He has this ability to be comfortable speaking any language. Language skills are the only way to merge with and into a culture. He is a bit of a loner who lives for the challenge. He isn’t pushed by a normal life. He likes a marathon. He is a survivalist. And he gets angry when wrongs have been committed.

Q: What motivates a Yousef  al-Qadi?

A: The jihadist Yousef al-Qadi is damaged goods. He came from Saudi wealth and essentially a broken family. He doesn’t fit and his jihadist beliefs are a vehicle to place him in history. He is guided by his beliefs of a disjointed Muslim world where the fundamentalist believes everything is wrong. Women are not to be treated as equals. Non-believers must be removed from the Holy Lands no matter the cost. Brutality is accepted. It matters little if a prisoner is buried alive. He is not alone in this. He wants to establish another fundamentalist Muslim nation in the ruins of Afghanistan and western Pakistan. He is repeating history to some degree, as that area was kingdom centuries ago. He is ruthless but believes he is righteous. In “Retribution” he is disconnected from his mother. She is the daughter of the oil magnate’s gardener. He is half royalty and half pauper. And his mother dies an early death. His world is complicated as amplified by the traditions of the Arab mind.

Q: You mention that some children recruited by the Jihadists are drugged for missions.  Is this a common practice?

A: Yes. Recruiters persuade children and even family members with promises of their entering a land full of flowers and food. The children come from the deepest depths of poverty where a bundle of tied together plastic trash bags are a substitute for their soccer ball. To ensure that some do not hesitate, drugs are provided. Like the Japanese kamikaze, a warrior that is most dangerous is one that believes his death or the death of others is for a value worth more than his life or the life of a child. We have good reason to be fearful of this enemy.

Q: Are you already writing another book?

 A: Absolutely!  The whole special operations world has changed our forces, our capabilities, and our military structures. And William Parker was a special operator before these new commands were invented. Plus, he is a light warrior. Our men and women today fight with tons of gear and technology. For instance, the most decorated soldier of the European campaign in World War II was Audie Murphy. He received the Medal of Honor for single handedly attacking a German force. He received many more decorations for his bravery. (And went on to be a movie star as well.) When he enlisted in the Army, Audie Murphy was 112 pounds and stood five feet five and a half inches. The gear that some Marines carry today is close to 112 pounds. So a light warrior like a Will Parker is important.

Q: You started the USO author’s tour named Operation Thriller. And you did two tours. What has this achieved that hasn’t been achieved in other USO Tours?

A: I had the honor and pleasure of both creating and chairing Operation Thriller. Also, I had the chance to participate in the 2010 Tour and 2012 Tour. In 2010, we covered several bases in Iraq. And in 2012, we did a whirlwind tour of bases in the Gulf. Most locations were in hazardous duty zones. It was an absolute pleasure to meet our service men and women and say thank you where they served. It gave them the chance to meet the creators of heroes that they have read and even seen in the movies. I have written articles on this experience for CNN Larry King Live, The Huffington Post, Newsmax and the ITW. Some of my co-authors that went on the tours had never served in the military, had never held a weapon and had never been in an operations center. It was great to see both the military appreciation of these writers and the writers gained appreciation of those that serve.

Q: Are soldiers a great audience for thriller writers?

A: They are for two reasons. First, as a good friend and combat Ranger said to me, “we need heroes too!” In this world, we need Will Parkers who win. We need Will Parkers who understand the threats. And second, the military, particularly when in combat or in a hazardous duty zone, has tons of down time. Nothing helps pass twenty hours on a military flight (my longest was twenty four hours stopping for refuel) like a great thriller.

 

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Review: Retribution by Anderson Harp

retribution by anderson harpFormat read: paperback provided by the publisher
Formats available:
Genre: Thriller
Length: 528 pages
Publisher: Pinnacle Books / Kensington
Date Released: February 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The remote and impenetrable Pakistani mountains have offered refuge to the worst enemies of civilization since the time of Alexander. Now, the world faces a new challenge. Reared from birth to harbor a seething hatred, a lone man is about to unleash a firestorm that will rage for centuries. And the window of opportunity to stop him is shutting much faster than Washington D.C. can hope to deal with.

My Review:

If you’re looking for a way to get your Tom Clancy fix, Retribution is a great place to start!

I read the early Tom Clancy books, and loved the fast pace of the adventure, as well as the neverending skullduggery involved in the politics, but the later books felt a bit bogged down to me.

The action in Retribution never lets up.

Although the story focuses on ex-Marine William Parker, the point of view switches between Parker, the man he is hunting, and the politicians who want to make sure that there are no loose ends when his mission is completed.

Retribution is a complicated story, because “retribution” is something that every character seems to want–they just have wildly different perspectives on who should get retribution for what.

The plot and counter-plot revolve around a man who wants to become a second Osama bin Laden, but his ambitions are greater. The goal of Yousef al-Qadi’s jihad is to recreate a mythical pure Muslim kingdom in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, without giving a damn about the governments that currently hold those territories. He also wants to wipe out the Western influences from Saudi Arabia and its rulers.

He already has an army, he’s planning to use that army to steal nuclear material from Pakistan and hold the world hostage.

The plan that William Parker comes up with to eliminate the threat is equally as deadly; Parker plans to infiltrate Yousef’s inner circle and expose everyone in it to a disease as deadly as the black plague, and nearly as infectious.

Getting in turns out to be much easier than getting out; especially since there are plans back in Washington to make sure that Parker doesn’t survive his mission. And there are forces in Yousef’s camp willing to do anything to ensure that Parker pays in blood for his acts.

They wanted the best for this mission, and they got the best. The best at surviving, the best at succeeding, the best at turning the tables on his enemies.

Escape Rating B+: Parker is a great point of view character not just because he is so good at what he does, but because his reasons for doing it are so complex.

He is an adrenaline junkie who still takes missions just to feed that particular habit. He’s also intelligent and multi-talented, that’s what makes him both a hero and a survivor. But this particular mission has a goal for him beyond removal of the threat. His parents went down on Pan Am Flight 103, over Lockerbie Scotland. His reward for the Yousef mission is to find out the unvarnished truth about the Lockerbie bombing conspiracy, by seeing the secret and unredacted U.S. Government files.

It’s the one mystery he’s never been able to solve, and he needs to know–even if the truth includes culpability on the part of the government he serves.

If Parker is a bit larger than life, so is Yousef. It’s difficult to know whether his particular jihad, or the reasons behind it, have a basis in a real person; I definitely saw him as a threat, but his character felt more like an amalgam of possible dangers than a complete character. (YMMV)

The last third of the book goes along at a “can’t stop reading” level of adrenaline, especially as the action focuses in on the actual mission and relatively few characters. In the beginning, when a large number of people and a lot of background are thrown at the reader all at once, I would have killed for a dramatis personae list.

By the end, I was practically biting my fingernails to see if Parker’s mission succeeds, and the various missions to stop him are finally foiled.

***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.