Review: The Beast by J. R. Ward

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Series:  BLACK DAGGER BROTHERHOOD #14

Listening Length: 18 hours and 4 minutes  Publisher: Penguin Audio

Release Date: April 5, 2016           ASIN: B01AIQP6ZO

Rating:   5*

THE BEAST by J.R. Ward is the fourteenth installment in Ward’s BLACK DAGGER BROTHERHOOD paranormal series.  This series focuses on an incredible group of vampire warriors, their King and their enemies called the Lessening society. THE BEAST is a continuing story of Rhage, and his shellan Mary Luce and tells more of Rhage’s alter ego who breaks out more in this story than ever before in any of the other installments.

Followers of this series have seen that Mary and Rhage’s relationship has been strained as of late and they seem to  have have drifted from the open communication they once had.  The rest of the Black Dagger Brotherhood family continues to grow settling in and having young.   Rhage finds himself facing a future missing ‘something’  and not knowing what it could be.  Both he and Mary are still much in love but even Mary consoling an orphaned child at the woman’s shelter known as ‘Safe Place’ is feeling the same sense of incompleteness.

***   While a large portion of THE BEAST focuses on Rhage and Mary Ms. Ward includes so many other subplots to her stories including the ongoing story of The Chosen known as Layla who is carrying twin babies in a very high risk pregnancy.  Layla has been on bed rest for the longest time in order to save her young from coming too soon but somehow she senses that the man she has fallen in love with (a mortal enemy of the Brotherhood) is somewhere near her.  Layla’s anxiety is not good for her pregnancy but who one falls in love with can never be determined logically for the heart always has the last say.

Another great storyline that is a continuation from previous tomes  is that of  Assail, a cocaine-addicted vampire who is lost after he let the one woman (a human) he truly loves slip away.  Assail has to come to terms with both of his addictions and work to rid himself of the one that is ultimately killing him and reach out to his soulmate before its too late.

In her estimable style, Ms. Ward keeps you in suspense, emotionally invested and wanting more and more.   She has created a family in which this reader feels a part of and hopes never ends…

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Stolen Kisses by Merryn Dexter

stolen-kisses

Sadie Burrows-King has lost her grandmother and goes in search of a place to belong. Crashing into Los Lobos, quite literally, brings this lonely little wolf something she has dreamed of. Home, family, acceptance and at long last …. love. Easton Quaid might be an orphaned wolf, who barely survived the cruelty of the former alpha, but he knows family and he knows what he wants and Sadie is it!

I love visiting The Black Hills Wolves and Los Lobos, the whole series is so much fun to revisit. Author Merry Dexter knows how to throw steamy, funny, thoughtful, heart touching and roll it into a read that you can’t put down. Her Black Hills characters are a pleasure to revisit and I love seeing another wolf who had been kicked around get his happily ever after. I enjoyed the winter solstice scavenger hunt that Sadie and East were chosen to finish. (Just a little hint … that’s were the title comes in to play but is done in a funny and rather sneaky way.) I did like that Sadie got the answer to her grandfather’s disappearance and was able to answer the Alpha Drew Tao’s question when she asks about possibly joining the pack. I always get the feeling that he knows so much more than he lets on. I also found myself admiring East’s work ethic, he wasn’t above doing little jobs for anyone who needed his help. The townsfolk kept him busy and felt protective toward him as if he were a member of their own family.

If you want a story that will keep you glued to the pages and a mixture of happy (for the couple who got their HEA) and sad when it ends (because it ended) then “Stolen Kisses” is just what you are looking for.

Review: A Bend in the Willow by Susan Clayton-Goldner

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January 18, 2017

Tirgearr Publishing ASIN: B01N0HL432

Contemporary Fiction Rating:  5*

In Willowood, Kentucky 1965, after a severe beating and rape Robin Lee Carter set a fire that killed her rapist and ran.  The resulting rape left her pregnant and after having the babe which she gave up for adoption she left again to reinvent herself.   Legally changing her name to Catherine Henry, she went to school and later married a medical school dean living in Tucson, Arizona. In 1985, when their 5-year-old son, Michael, is diagnosed with a chemotherapy-resistant leukemia, Catherine is desperate to find a bone marrow match and must return to Willowood.  There she will face her family and her 19-year-old son, a product of her rape, whom she gave up for adoption.  Though her return will likely lead to a murder charge, Catherine is willing to lose everything, including her life, and beg in order to save her dying 5 year old son.

Wow, it has been a long time since I actually sat and read a book cover to cover in one sitting, but this was one of those rare times where the reader becomes so invested in the outcome that you simply cannot put it down!  Not only was A BEND IN THE WILLOW that compelling and written so powerfully, it was also a new author I had never read before! My only issue and it is so minor, was reconciling the title with the story.

The early portion of A BEND IN THE WILLOW held the story of a struggling family, with a loving mother, her three children, and their father who suffered from PTSD following his service in Vietnam. A changed man from the loving, caring man her mother described to a young Robin Lee.   And with the beginning portion fully covered the reader gets to see and feel the emotional impact of all the motivations that lead to this powerful character driven novel.

Bottom line:  Loved this story!  I can’t describe more without giving spoilers, but this is a powerful story and  I could see this on the big screen as a major motion picture.   One note to new readers, have some tissues handy as there are parts where you will definitely need them.   Ms. Clayton-Gardner wrote beautifully capturing real emotions of real people who have struggled through life and you will have to lay this novel down more than a few times to re-compose yourself in order to continue.  VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: House of Silence by Sarah Barthel

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December 27th 2016                               Kensington Publishing Corporation

ISBN 1496706080                                      Rating 4*

In the setting of Oak Park, Illinois, 1875 young Isabelle Larkin’s future seems to be set. She is engaged to the very handsome, charming, and politically ambitious Gregory Gallagher.  Isabelle envisions her happy future to be one of  a grand house, becoming an important political hostess and filling her home with wealth and beautiful children.  But then she witnesses a murder of a young maid being strangled by her very own fiancé.  When she tries to tell her mother and the doctor who cares for her, no one wants to believe her, and worst of all her mother continues to insist that she go through with her marriage to Gregory who denies it all.

Fearing for her life, Isabelle thinks of only one escape, she will pretend a mental breakdown that renders her mute and forces her mother to whisk her away to the Bellevue sanitarium.  After many episodes of trying to convince the doctor that she is indeed unstable and not ready to be released Isabelle does make the acquaintance and friendship with a fellow patient, Mary Todd Lincoln who was committed years after her husband’s assassination.  After a time, Isabelle and Mrs. Lincoln become unlikely allies where Isabelle is able to share her secrets, she must still continue her charade of mentally unstable because her mother refuses to give up her dreams of Isabelle marrying Gregory.

*** The threads of real life and fiction woven together made HOUSE OF SILENCE a fascinating read and the details of what life was like in the Bellevue Sanitarium were quite interesting – much different than what I expected and yet so much more.  Where I expected some of the cruelty and inhumanity associated with mental issues in the early century, Bellevue was like a rest home with assigned tasks to try to keep the patients relaxed. The author gave enough of background information  for some of the other patents that made this even more of story than just Isabelle trying to stay hidden and alive away from Gregory.

However, in the end it was a real thrill with edge of the seat action as the madness of Gregory came to the forefront and the reasons for it became exposed.   Bottom line:  HOUSE OF SILENCE was a truly interesting and well paced book that kept me up until the wee hours.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Kill Without Shame by Alexandra Ivy

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Series: ARES Security #2                                  Rating:  4*

Publication: December 27th 2016 by Zebra      ASIN: B01DRXCGBC

ARES Security was formed when five brave military heroes came home after surviving captivity in the hell of a Taliban prison. They take on the civilian missions no one else can.  They’re highly skilled, intimidating, invincible and one by one tested over and over again. 

Lucas St. Clair’s prestigious family had their political expectations all worked out for him and they didn’t include Mia Ramon, his high school sweetheart from the other side of the tracks.  Under pressure, Lucas gave up both Mia and his family walking away to war from the homestead in Louisiana.  Now based in Houston, TX Lucas is questioned by law enforcement on a dead body, who just happens to have held Lucas’ name and address in his dead hand – along with a picture.

It took a moment for Lucas to recall the dead man but less than a second to recognize the picture of the girl with the threatening words scrawled over it, and Lucas knew he had to do everything in his power to protect her.   If only he could get close enough to speak to her after breaking her heart and leaving her high and dry 15 years ago.

What a great storyline!  I love smart and independent heroines combined with a sexy alpha male!  Fifteen years is a long time to nurse a broken heart, but when your life is being threatened it does make sense to allow the heart-breaker back into your life and maybe into your….

The protagonists and other members of the ARES security team were all fleshed out and introduced to whet your appetite for more of these sexy hard-assed and so very capable heroes.  The villain was kept pretty much a secret although I did have my suspicions.  Regardless this seems like a series I can highly suggest for an entertaining read.

Marilyn Rondeau

 

Review: Tycoon By Joanna Shupe

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Series: The Knickerbocker Club   Print Length: 102 pages

Publisher: Zebra (February 23, 2016)  Sold by: Penguin Random House

ASIN: B00Y6RB2TQ Rating:  5*

Obviously at 102 pages this was a quick read, but regardless of the length, TYCOON was an excellent read and one I totally enjoyed.   Starting it,  I hadn’t realized that TYCOON was novella length but the writing was so crisp and dialogs so witty that I just immersed myself to enjoy a great story.

Ted Harper was simply minding himself on a train platform when a beautiful young lady rushed up to embrace him and give him a smack on the cheek and talking a mile a minute so that he couldn’t get a word in edgewise!

Clara Dawson, shop girl from a department store hadn’t been intending to board a train fleeing from New York but after witnessing her bosses murder by a notorious politician and his police bodyguard who would believe her!

The chemistry between Ted the stranger, and Clara was great especially when he offered her a seat in his private car.  He’s everything she ever desired even if a little stiff, but as a very nice bank clerk, she supposed that was how he should be. However as the danger slips in and Clara doesn’t tell him the truth of why she’s anxious to leave the city, Ted  suspects she is just another female trying to ambush him into marriage.  By the time he does come to believe her story, will it be too late to see her and lose the one female he has come to adore?

Bottom Line:   I loved this story, the character fleshing, and great writing!  Can’t wait to read more of the Knickerbocker Club!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Highland Sinner by Hannah Howell

highlandsinner

Zebra Published December 27, 2016

ISBN13: 9780821780015 Series:  Murray Family #16

Setting:  Scotland, 1478 (United Kingdom)    Rating:  5*

Yes, Tormand Murray was a rogue, a womanizer and may indulge in spirits more than he ought, but, he was definitely not a callous murderer.  Yet how exactly can he explain waking up next to the butchered body of one of his many former ex-lovers?  Anyone who knows Tormand can tell you he just isn’t that type of man.  But how to explain the next few bodies, all previous ex-lovers of his, that are turning up dead and butchered?  Obviously, someone wants Tormand framed for these murders with his own.

There is one possibility of proving him innocent, that of reaching out to Moraine Ross, a reclusive and sensual, beautiful woman known as the Ross Witch.  Skeptic that he is, Tormand would never believe the stories that anyone really had second sight and could have a vision to discover who the madman is who is butchering these women.  But as the deaths started the townspeople talking of lynching him, Tormand was willing to agree.

Moraine was skeptical of a man who didn’t accept that her visions were real, but she had feelings, for Tormand she’d never experienced before.  Although Moraine had to think, would her participation then mark her as another victim to be murdered who was connected to Tormand.

***  As expected whenever I pick up a book by Hannah Howell, I become immediately hooked, not only with the fact that it is a connected book to the wonderfully gifted Murray Clan series, but I know that it will be something fresh and new!  No disappointment there!   Moraine is of course a wonderfully strong and feisty heroine and a perfect match for Tormand.   I loved how he finally had come to a conclusion as he made a list of previous lovers, that his conscience came to life and he realized he didn’t particularly like the man he’d become.

Ms. Howell, threw in a LOT of zingers in HIGHLAND SINNER with new characters who had big impact on the plot and also some twists that were truly surprising.  Naturally, it was completed with one randy rogue who had to learn a lot about how to woo a woman, he knew was too precious to let slip through his fingers.    Bottom Line:  A great read and wonderful romance!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: An Import of Intrigue by Marshall Ryan Maresca

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A murder has been committed, but the clues seem to be more red herrings than helpful. Inspector Third Class in the Constabulary, Satrine Rainey, and her partner, Inspector Minox Welling, will have to sort through the various cultural differences to determine who the murderer is. Meanwhile, Minox is struggling with his uncircled mage abilities and may be more hindrance than help. Can Satrine and Minox uncover the real murderer before the tensions in the Little East neighborhood explode past their breaking point?

AN IMPORT OF INTRIGUE is the second book in The Maradaine Constabulary series and is probably best appreciated in the context of the series. Marshall Ryan Maresca now has several books set in this fantasy world as there is another series, Maradaine, with yet a third series soon to launch.  Each book adds another element to the overall world building and so far I’ve enjoyed them all.  I have to admit that The Maradaine Constabulary series is my favorite of the two series as I love the detective aspect.

Marshall Ryan Maresca takes AN IMPORT OF INTRIGUE in an interesting direction. We’ve had glimpses of the various cultures that inhabit his fantasy world but AN IMPORT OF INTRIGUE gives us a hard and close look at the differences and tensions steaming under the surface.  The plot is a timely one, considering today’s current political tensions, and I like how Marshall Ryan Maresca doesn’t sugarcoat the prejudices and ignorance that can exist.

Minox is my favorite character out of all of Marshall Ryan Maresca’s books to date. Minox struggles quite a bit in AN IMPORT OF INTRIGUE as his powers, coupled with his family’s history of mental health issues (although they aren’t identified as such in this fantasy world) are starting to become problematic for him. I’m curious to see how Marshall Ryan Maresca is going to continue to develop this plot, especially considering some of the revelations we learn.

And Satrine… if you ever wondered how Satrine had the skills and grit to enter the Constabulary the way she did, AN IMPORT OF INTRIGUE will answer those questions. I love the glimpses we get into Satrine’s past although I now have many more questions as well.

Marshall Ryan Maresca continues to impress me with each new book. I’ve fallen in love with the world of Maradaine and I look forward to seeing what we’ll learn from the new series. Highly recommended!

The COYER Challenge is Here: COYER BLACKOUT!

COYER Challenge

I love participating in COYER! Not only is the challenge itself fun, but I get to spend time visiting some great bloggers. This time the challenge is a little more complicated, as all of the books must be acquired prior to the start date of December 17, 2016, and all of the books must cost under $1.00. *Big gulp* I’m not sure how I’ll do but I’m willing to tackle the challenge and see what happens. More details are available at the official COYER sign up page.

I haven’t even started a reading list yet but I know I have some Netgalleys that I can work on. I’m going to give it a try and see what happens. Happy reading!