Friday, May 6, 2016

Review: How to Manage a Marquess (Spinster House #2) by Sally MacKenzie



Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Zebra (April 26, 2016)

From Goodreads.com: 
In USA Today bestselling author Sally MacKenzie's charming Spinster House series, love is always a welcome guest…

Two possible futures loom before Miss Anne Davenport. The first option: sharing an unhappy home with her father and soon-to-be stepmother. The second: a life of independence at the Spinster House--if only her friend, Cat, would vacate the premises and marry the Duke of Hart. A well-placed whisper about the pair's secret tryst might speed the course of true love. But the duke's stubborn cousin poses an obstacle. A ridiculously handsome, very persuasive obstacle…

Nate, Marquess of Haywood, has spent his life looking out for the duke, hoping to stave off a family curse. The only way to keep his cousin alive is to keep him single. That means convincing the intriguing Miss Davenport that her lovely lips could be put to far better use than gossiping. Kissing, for instance. In fact, Nate is beginning to hope that Miss Davenport's destiny lies not in the Spinster House at all, but with him...

                              
                                                  *******************

My Rating: 4 stars out of 5

To begin with, this is the second novel in her Spinster House series. However, the time-line of this story follows the same time-line as the original story, and you do not need to read the first in order to be able to understand this one. If you read this one, and liked it then I would definitely recommend reading the first one as well. For myself however, part of this story was a major let down. When I finished reading the first novel, there was a blurb that in order to find out what happened with Marcus and Cat we should read this novel - and that simply wasn't the case. Yes, we hear of the romance between Marcus, Duke of Hart and Cat as it is seen from the "others", but we never find out if the curse is a real thing or not, or if the curse was a real thing. I feel as though we still don't have closure to their story. I feel at this point is is safe to assume that there will indeed be a third book to this series featuring the last Spinster House candidate, I can only hope it will be at the conclusion of that story that we finally get closure to the overall story arc. 

However, speaking just on THIS story - I did enjoy it - a lot. It was nice being able to come back to Loves Bridge and spend time with these characters again. And as much as I enjoyed re-visiting the romance between Marcus and Cat, I felt that the new romance between Anne and Nate was much more interesting. These are two people who at first sight couldn't appear to be more different, Nate has promised his dead mother to look after Marcus and to keep him from succumbing to the curse, whilst Anne's father has intentions of marrying a woman a year younger than Anne - meaning Anne must get out of her father's house and into the Spinster House post haste. And the conversations Nate has with his (often over-enthusiastic) penis are simply hysterical. Quite often I found myself laughing out loud at some of his thoughts.  

I also very much enjoyed seeing Poppy again, and enjoying her antics as she pushed another match for two unsuspecting (and maybe a little reluctant) people. Out of all the characters I am convinced that she is my favorite simply because she is just so much fun to read about! 

One last thing that I feel I should mention is that there is a free Prequel novella of sorts included in this novel that focuses on the original Spinster House spinster from this novella (the one who ends up leaving the opening in the house for this series). I really enjoyed this - not only as an added benefit of having something more from this author to read, but also as a chance to see how things had unfolded for her. Not to mention we also learn the origins of how Poppy came to be the Spinster house cat. 

All things considered, not only would I definitely read more from this author, but I would also recommend this novel (and series) to anyone who enjoys a witty and fun read!

DISCLAIMER #1: This novel does include scenes of a sexual nature that occur before marriage (although behind close doors). I mention this only because I know it is a complete turn off for some readers, and feel that they should be informed.


DISCLAIMER #2: I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own. 



********************
How to Manage a Marquess (Spinster House #2) is available from Amazon.com

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

That Darkness (Gardiner and Renner #1) by Lisa Black


Print Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Kensington Books (April 26, 2016)

From Goodreads.com: As a forensic investigator for the Cleveland Police Department, Maggie Gardiner has seen her share of Jane Does. The latest is an unidentified female in her early teens, discovered in a local cemetery. More shocking than the girl’s injuries—for Maggie at least—is the fact that no one has reported her missing. She and the detectives assigned to the case (including her cop ex-husband) are determined to follow every lead, run down every scrap of evidence. But the monster they seek is watching each move, closer to them than they could ever imagine. 

Jack Renner is a killer. He doesn’t murder because he savors it, or because he believes himself omnipotent, or for any reason other than to make the world a safer place. When he follows the trail of this Jane Doe to a locked room in a small apartment where eighteen teenaged girls are anything but safe, he knows something must be done. But his pursuit of their captor takes an unexpected turn.

Maggie Gardiner finds another body waiting for her in the autopsy room—and a host of questions that will challenge everything she believes about justice, morality, and the true nature of evil …



                                                         *******************

My Rating: 3 stars out of 5

This book definitely has a solid concept - and while I'm not usually a fan of criminal stories where you know who the culprit is from the get-go, this one was interesting enough to keep my attention as I watched Jack desperately try to stay one step ahead of Maggie. 

However, I never really felt as though these characters developed beyond concept characters. With the exception of a few scenes near the end, we never really understand what drove Jack to the lengths that he went - what the catalyst was that set him down that path. And as for Maggie - I feel as though I know just as much about her at the end of the story that I did in the beginning. What I don't see is any real character growth. We get absolutely no glimpse into their lives outside of their work (and Jack's murderous hobby). It is almost as though the author would have us believe they do little else. Also, I found the fact that Maggie is supposedly coordinating healthcare benefits for the wife of a friend to be utterly ridiculous. With all of the privacy laws, I fund it difficult to believe these people would willingly discuss someone's medical needs with anyone. Especially with someone over the phone without proper documentation proving they should have access to patient information.

As for the murders, and the police work that goes into solving them - I found the murders to be the most interesting aspect of the entire story (especially when the author illustrated how even the most carefully laid plans can go horribly wrong),  however I felt that the detail surrounding Maggie and getting her "tapings" became repetitive and downright distracting. It is obvious that the author knows what they were talking about in that respect, but it was hard to stay focused and pay attention when the story suddenly went flat. 

Overall, I am sure there are some people to whom this novel will appeal. However, it really wasn't for me, and chances are I won't be continuing on with these characters.

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


                                                         *******************

           
That Darkness (Gardiner and Renner #1) is available from Amazon.com

Monday, May 2, 2016

Review: Color of Danger (Sullyard Sisters Book #3) by Ruth J. Hartman


Print Length: 142 pages
Publisher: EsKape Press (March 23, 2016)

From Goodreads.com: When Patience Sullyard finds a mysterious note tied to a pigeon’s leg, her commissioned panorama at a falconry flies the coop. Instead of painting in hues of brown and beige, her focus shifts to saving a troubled stranger. 

Walter Bexley craves adventure from his boring life. Insinuating himself into Patience’s problem by accompanying her to the falconry might be just the answer.

Will the risk they take be worth the exhilaration, or will Patience and Walter discover the threat is too dangerous?


                                                         *******************

My Rating: 5 stars out of 5

One of the things that I love about all of Ms.Hartman's on-going stories is the fact that she can bring in the same characters again and again, focusing on a different "hero and heroine" each time, and still manage to make each story a unique experience. She has a truly remarkable way of continuing a story over several intertwining books while still making each book a stand-alone (in the sense that they do not have to be read in succession in order for them to make sense - however I would highly recommend you start from the beginning). I love being able to catch up with old favorites and seeing how their lives have progressed since the last story, while all the while being completely immersed with the main characters of the current story. 

Another thing I thoroughly enjoy about her novels is the way that even characters that are related to each other can be so completely different. You can tell that she spent a lot of time prior to writing getting to know these characters and what makes them tick. They all do share one common thing however - their witty dialogues!! 

As for this story itself? I felt that this was a wonderful conclusion to the Sullyard Sisters trilogy! I loved watching the romance between Patience and Walter grow from mild annoyance to attraction - and the mysterious note sender only added to my enjoyment of this story (although not in the way I had originally imagined). That is another thing that I love about her work - you never know when you pick up one of her stories just how it is going to turn out. I was expecting a totally different outcome than the one that I got - and that made the story even more enjoyable for me. 

My only complaint is that there was no epilogue! I would have loved to see a glimpse into their future together - did they finally bring a daughter into the ever growing household of boy babies? Were they able to help a certain "old friend" beyond providing him with their company? Those are the two things I would have liked to learn more about. 

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a well-written and sweet story with a dash of mystery thrown in. 

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


                                                         *******************

                                
Color of Danger is available from Amazon.com

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Review: To Win a Lady's Heart (Landon Sisters #1) by Ingrid Hahn


Print Length: 232 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Scandalous (March 21, 2016)

From Goodreads.com: He has secretly admired her from afar…

England, 1811. When John Merrick, the Earl of Corbeau, is caught in a locked storeroom with Lady Grace, he has but one choice—marry her. He cannot bear to tarnish any woman’s reputation, least of all Lady Grace’s.

She has lost everything but her dignity…

Lady Grace Landon will do anything to help her mother and sisters, crushed and impoverished by her father’s disgrace. But throwing herself into the arms of her dearest friend’s older brother to trap him in marriage? Never.

Corbeau needs to prove that he loves her, despite her father’s misdeeds. After years of being an object of scorn, not even falling in love with Corbeau alters Lady Grace’s determination to not bring her disrepute upon another. However, if they don’t realize that the greatest honor is love given freely without regard to society’s censure, they stand to lose far more than they ever imagined.
 


                                                         *******************

My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
This story has left me with a lot of mixed feelings. To begin with, I adored John AKA Corbeau. He was a sort of unexpected twist on the usual "hero". In private he was articulate and witty - in public - he was secretly battling an anxiety disorder that I feel is not often discussed in this sort of novel. It was interesting to see how he balanced the two - putting on a perfectly respectable persona when amongst people (even when he felt he couldn't). I also enjoyed the fact that he was the kind of Earl that would give his stable-hands a week off at Christmas, not only so they could spend it with their own families - but for the added benefit that he himself could tend to the horses. He was certainly my favorite character, and that was before he made a real effort to court Grace. 

And speaking of Grace.... I did not care for her at all. To begin with, the author presents her in a certain way "due to the scandal surrounding her father's misdeeds". However - the reader never really learns what those misdeeds are. Yes he bankrupted the family to the point where they had to rely on the charity of others, but that is no different than any of the other stories I've read and those young ladies never acted in the same way that Grace did. If the story is to be believed - society looked so far down on them for that reason alone, that she felt associating herself with the Earl would not only drag him down, but his sister as well. All this for gambling? Seriously? I was expecting something a lot more sordid than that. 

Overlooking that little bit of information, Grace tends to come across as very wishy-washy, sending mixed signals at every turn. One moment she's contemplating accepting his proposal and acting upon the feelings she has, and the next she's hurting him with her desire to "protect" him. She even goes so far as to have relations with him before marriage "just to have that one night".

Overall, I felt the romance was really lacking - however - the story was interesting enough that I did finish the story, and I feel the things I may not have liked about this story would not keep someone else from enjoying it.

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


                                                         *******************

                         
 To Win a Lady's Heart is available from Amazon.com

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Blood of the Rose by Kevin Murray


Print Length: 382 pages
Publisher: Urbane Publications (May 1, 2015)

From Goodreads.com: "It started low and soft, but grew slowly, increasing in pitch and volume into an unceasing scream so loud and so desperate it pierced his primeval soul. The detective was stunned, his mind blank. On the ragged edges of his consciousness a prophecy took hold. He could see, with shattering clarity, that there would never again be a time in his life when that scream did not exist"

London, 1986. A newspaper editor is horrifically murdered, his death quickly followed by a series of more brutal, and often bizarre, slayings. The police are baffled, the only clear link between the murders being a single blood red rose left at the scene of every killing. Why? What does the rose mean? What connects the killer to each bloody corpse? Scotland Yard detective Alan Winters leads a hunt for the elusive prey. As the body count rises, Jennifer Chapman, renowned investigative journalist and daughter of the murdered newspaper editor, sets out on a personal quest for revenge. Drawn together in their pursuit of a deadly quarry, Winters and Jennifer unwittingly face a fatal surprise, for the killer is closer than they think. As they close in on the truth of the blood red rose, their unseen foe plots a shattering end to his reign of terror, and death awaits them all.


                                                         *******************

My Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Let me begin by saying that I almost didn't finish this book after reading the first few paragraphs. Now normally, I don't post anything that could be considered a "spoiler" - and I really don't think this fits into that category. In fact, I completely understand that the author may have chosen to use this scene for no purpose other than to show the depravity of the killer themselves. However - I feel this scene may actually be a TRIGGER for some people, so I am mentioning it. 

***POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING ANIMAL CRUELTY AHEAD**

In one of the very first scenes of this novel, the killer targets a stray cat. And not only uses his crossbow on it without remorse, but then stomps its head for good measure. And the author uses great detail about it. Now maybe I'm weird - and in a minority - but you can brutally murder all the adults that you want, but children and animals are off limits. 

**** END POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING****

Even though that scene almost made me decide not to read anymore due to the graphic details provided, I decided to keep reading - after all if the author was going to spend that much time on a scene of that nature, perhaps it was a book worth reading. 

And I feel that it was. 

This was one of those stories that (to me) feels like a realistic representation of how actual police work goes. Evidence doesn't just fall into their laps - in fact the first part of the book showcases how every clue is being followed up, and still the detectives in charge are getting nowhere. It all comes down to not only solid police work - but to a few lucky breaks. As the story progresses, you also get a look inside the twisted mind of the killer (via his own diary) that allows the reader to better understand what has happened in their life and how the darkness has finally overcome them. 

Filled with surprising twists, some personality conflicts, and a tiny bit of romance and betrayal I would definitely recommend this to  anyone who enjoys a gripping and well put together investigative novel.

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


                                                         *******************

                         
 Blood of the Rose  is available from Amazon.com

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review: The Deepest Wound (Jack Murphy Thriller #3) by Rick Reed


Print Length: 360 pages
Publisher: Lyrical Underground (April 26, 2016)

From Goodreads.com: Killing Has Become A Team Sport. To Win The Game, Detective Jack Murphy Will Have To Identify All The Players--Whatever The Cost.

The body parts of a young woman have shown up in the town landfill and homicide detective Jack Murphy is on the case. But when the victim's identity is revealed, the horrific crime takes an even darker and far more personal turn. Nina Parsons was not only a deputy prosecutor, but the rumored lover of the man Jack's ex-wife is about to marry: the Chief Deputy Prosecutor. Now Jack must battle not just his own fears and demons, but the political interference that ensues as he fights with all he has to expose the greed and power that can drive even good men to commit evil acts. 


                                                         *******************

My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Let me being by saying that although this is book three in a series, as a reader I had no problem jumping in and understanding the main characters. 


This is one of those books that you want to LOVE - but it just seems like there is something missing. There were some details that seemed implausible, and some parts that fell a little flat in delivery, but on the whole it was a gripping story. 

For most of the book, I felt that there was almost too much going on, to the point where I found myself having to go back and re-read certain passages to make sure I had everything straight. This is definitely one of those stories that would be better as either a movie series, or a television series where you can SEE the action as it unfolds rather than reading it. There was a lot of action - and even a good sense of whodunit and why. And I will say that I was pleased by the surprise ending, it was certainly not what I had expected!  

All things considered - if you enjoy a decently written police procedure or a thriller novel that will keep you guessing - then I would recommend this novel for you. 

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


                                                         *******************

                         
 The Deepest Wound  is available from Amazon.com

Friday, April 22, 2016

Review: To Lure a Proper Lady (Duke-Defying Daughters #1) by Ashlyn Macnamara


Print Length: 266 pages
Publisher: Loveswept (March 29, 2016)

From Goodreads.com: When Lady Elizabeth Wilde and her sisters are summoned once again to their chronically anxious father’s deathbed, she’s shocked to find that his worries are at last justified. He’s terribly ill, and Lizzie suspects poison. But when she seeks help from the Bow Street Runners, her request is answered by a rough-hewn rogue known only as Dysart. Though his irreverent charm by turns shocks and captivates her, a man of Dysart’s background is an altogether inappropriate choice for a duke’s daughter—isn’t he?

Although Dysart has his reasons to disdain polite society, the promise of supplemental income from a noble’s coffers is too tempting to deny. But if Dysart means to apprehend the culprit who poisoned the duke, he’ll need to avoid any and all distractions—like the delicious swish of Lady Elizabeth’s hips. Yet as the investigation begins to unearth secrets he’d rather remain hidden, Dysart must decide at a moment’s notice whether to hold Elizabeth at arm’s length . . . or pull her dangerously close.



                                                         *******************

My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
This book hit a solid middle of the road for me.  There wasn't anything that particularly stood out for me, but I didn't completely hate it either. 

For the most part, I enjoyed these characters. The Wilde sisters were an interesting bunch, and the supporting characters really brought this story together. I especially liked their Great-Aunt who seemed to know more than she let on. In fact aside from the sisters themselves, she was my favorite. 

One thing I did find a bit hard to believe however is that Dysart - who has made a career out of being a Bow Street Runner - seemed to have such a hard time getting to the bottom of this mystery. In fact it seemed like he didn't even solve the mystery himself, but rather had the answer land almost squarely in his lap. I felt there could be been a lot more done with his character that would have made him seem more realistic. Also, the fact that he seemed determined to paint one character as the villain simply due to a past encounter was a bit annoying. It seemed as though he was entirely too focused on this one individual and that was the reason he was unable to put things together in a more timely manner. 

As for the romance itself, it was sweet. Yes - there is some sexual encounters before marriage (which if this is not your cup of tea, you can just as easily skip over these parts and not miss anything crucial to the story). I felt that they had a romance that sort of blossomed over time, even though you could tell there was an almost instant attraction between them. 

Overall, I would continue on with this series if for nothing else than to see what the author does with the other two sisters, as well as see more of Lizzie and Dysart. I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy a little mystery with their romance. 
DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


                                                         *******************

                         
 To Lure a Proper Lady is available from Amazon.com