Posts by mvbookreviewer

A lover of all things romance, from Maldives.

Review: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Format: E-Bookprettygirls_ks
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Thriller
Series: Standalone
Publisher: William Marrow
Hero: NA
Heroine: Claire Scott
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: September 29, 2015
Started On: January 05, 2019
Finished On: April 04, 2019

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter is my first foray into books written by the author. Dark, morbid, and portraying a wealth of knowledge and insight into the most evil of humans that walk among us, Pretty Girls is powerful in a way that had me shook, right from the very start. Pretty Girls is brutal in its depiction; there is no prettifying the ugly side for you in this number. It is a story that kept me continually guessing, at the edge of my seat, nervous and panicky & frightened out of my wits at certain points in time.

Pretty Girls is the story of the sister that disappeared and a family that was never the same again. It is the story of the father who never gave up searching for what happened to his daughter, even at the cost of his marriage to the woman he has loved unlike any other. It is the tale of how the members of the family left behind struggle to find a balance and never quite find it, the two sisters who go their separate ways until catastrophe brings them together again.

Pretty Girls delves into the life of Claire Scott, with her seemingly perfect marriage to husband Paul. Claire believes she struck lucky having landed a husband as Paul, who is conscientious in the extreme, taking care of her in a way she had needed. However, when Paul is taken from her life all of a sudden in a brutal and senseless attack, Claire is left to pick up the pieces and start taking care of her own self from that point forward.

Claire, who is at first unable to even comprehend doing anything by herself, suddenly finds herself confronting what could be the ugly reality behind a man she had thought to be a godsend. The sickening pieces of evidence is what propels her estranged sister Lydia to come back into her life, as reluctant as she might be, given how ugly things had turned when Claire had turned her back on Lydia.

As the sisters put together the stark and ugly reality of what Paul stood for, the role he could have played in the events that had begun since the disappearance of their elder sister is one that knocks you down in more ways than one. While Pretty Girls is definitely a page-turner, I had to actually leave the story aside and read something less intense in order to catch my breathe and then return to the story again. Yes, it was that intense. But I would not have had it any other way.

Except for bits and pieces of the story towards the latter half where Claire seemed so indecisive that it grated a little on my nerves, everything else just fits in perfectly into the story. Even as irritated as I was with Claire, I understood where she was coming from – what drove her to do what she did was understandable. What made her so inept in taking charge was also evident given the life she had been leading up till that point.

The ending throws into stark relief the hunter who becomes the hunted, and the truth finally revealed for the world to see. The voice that I loved the most in the novel was that of Claire’s father, whose determination to find the truth proves to the reader the lengths a loving father would go to save his daughter from hell and beyond, even when the odds are stacked against him. Even when he knows that knowing the truth might render him insane and unable to face the ugliness of the world, ever again.

Highly recommended for fans of dark, and I mean really dark thrillers. Slaughter certainly does not disappoint.

Final Verdict: For the shock factor alone, I would recommend this book. The nightmares that plague you at all hours of the day afterwards is totally worth it.

Favorite Quotes

You look up at me. I am startled. Suddenly, quite miraculously, you are a grown-up beautiful woman. You look so much like your mother, but you are still uniquely you. You have thoughts I will never know. Desires I will never understand. Friends I will never meet. Passions I will never share. You have a life. You have an entire world in front of you. Then you smile, and you squeeze my hand, and even in my sleep, I understand the truth: No matter what happened to you, no matter what horrors you endured when you were taken away, you will always be my pretty little girl.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: Cold & Deadly by Toni Anderson

Format: E-Bookcoldanddeadly.jpeg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Cold Justice: Crossfire, #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Dominic Sheridan
Heroine: Ava Kanas
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 12, 2019
Started On: March 25, 2019
Finished On: April 01, 2019

Cold and Deadly is the debut book in the Cold Justice: Crossfire series by Toni Anderson, one of my favorite romantic suspense authors out there. Cold and Deadly begins with a funeral proceeding for FBI retired agent Van Stamos, who had allegedly taken his own life with the service weapon FBI had gifted him after thirty years of service. Special Agent Ava Kanas is the only one who doubts that Van had taken his own life, which brings her under the focus of Supervisory Special Agent Dominic Sheridan, who at first is skeptical of what Ava has to say and suspicious of her motives.

In his mid-thirties, Dominic is an expert in the Crisis Negotiation Unit, and comes from well connected family. Ava is a rookie agent, having being mentored by Van before he left service. Even though Van had all good things to say about Ava when they had crossed paths prior to his death, Dominic is not a man as easily persuaded, which is why he has a hard time at first when Ava comes out with her theory that Van could not have taken his own life. That is until the funeral proceedings is interrupted by a deadly sniper willing to take as many lives as possible with every bullet fired.

Once Dominic discovers that there could be truth to Ava’s hunch, that is when things get interesting in the story, bringing in favorites from the Cold Justice series to complement the team we meet in this book. Ava, acting as Dominic’s bodyguard, comes face to face with a past she would rather forget if she could, and the close quarters in which they both operate breaks down the walls holding the tide of desire between them at bay.

With the hunt fully on in pursuit of a killer who is cunning in the extreme, it is a race against time that Dominic and Ava embark on, to find the truth behind the spate of killings targeting specific FBI agents.

I loved Cold and Deadly to bits. Now here is a story that delivers on both fronts; romance and the suspense, in spades. A hefty dose of sexual heat and romance, with nail biting suspense is what any romantic suspense fan could ask for, and Toni Anderson certainly delivers with this number.

Though Ava started off as a bit defensive in the story, understandable given where she was coming from, I fell in love with her soon after. Her dogged determination to pursue the truth, even at great cost to her own career and reputation is one reason why I loved her. There are no pretenses to be had with Ava, which is how I love my heroines. Any character that acts wily and plays hard to get just because, gets on my nerves big time. But Ava is a perfect balance of independence, vulnerability, and playfulness which came to light during scenes of passion between her and Dominic.

In Dominic (sigh, Dominic), Toni created the perfect male specimen (if ever there is such a thing). I am not kidding. Dominic is off the charts hot in a way that is indescribable. He just walks into the story and practically owns the page he strode on. There is arrogance that comes from multiple years in service, and given that he is a top notch hostage negotiator who got where he is by honest work when he could have taken the easier path to “success” was what earned my admiration for him. Bottom line? I loved Dominic and could definitely read more about heroes like him. A reader can send out hints, can’t she?

What was most intriguing about the story for me was the case that brings about all of the present events, culminating in the deaths of multiple FBI agents. That kind of premise deserves its own book, so that readers like myself can crawl under covers with our Kindles and get startled every time the wind blows a hefty gust, bringing with it thoughts of creepy houses in woodlands and makeshift graveyards that haunt.

Can’t wait to see where Toni takes characters like Charlotte Blood and Dominic’s boss, Chief Negotiator of the FBI, Unit Chief Quentin Savage. I even checked Toni’s website to look up a date of release for the next book to no avail. That is how excited I am!

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: Cold & Deadly is wonderful debut striking that perfect balance between romance and suspense. With fascinating new characters and favorites from the Cold Justice series; what more could a reader ask for?

Favorite Quotes

God, she felt good. Tight. Hot. Aroused. He made sure every thrust hit all the good spots, angling her hips to doubly make sure. His injured shoulder was feeling no pain right now.
He wanted to take it slow, but the desire cruising his blood was stoking his body to a boiling point. He counted to one hundred in French to stop himself losing it. Even when Ava spasmed around him he held on until he could breathe again, slowing it down, wanting it to last forever.

As she started to tighten around him for the second time, he locked his arms around her hips and slammed into her so forcefully he was worried he might hurt her. Then she cried out again and they climaxed together, him gripping her tight and holding back a roar that would have brought backup bursting through the door.
Ava shuddered and sank against him, their hearts beating in unison.
Holy shit.

She straddled his thighs and he watched, glad that the light from the adjoining room spilled through the open doorway brightly enough to reveal every detail.
He slid his hands between her legs. Her pupils widened as he sank two fingers inside, driving her up onto her knees in shocked surprise. Her muscles clamped around him as he found her g-spot and made her cry out.
Her post-orgasmic smile made his toes curl. She inched forward and took hold of him, rubbing the head of his cock against her clit until he was the one squirming.
“Dear God, Ava, if I don’t get inside you soon…” he pleaded.

She held herself still long enough for him to catch his breath, and then she started moving. Riding him slowly at first, finding a rhythm and a depth that pleased her. And he hung on for the ride, gripping her thighs like a man dangling off a cliff. If she didn’t have bruises tomorrow it would be a damned miracle. And still he couldn’t let go. Finally, her breath caught, and he drove harder, deeper, pushing for that climax. Wanting and needing nothing except to share that moment with this woman.
It started like an explosion from his balls to his tip, a warm rush that filled him with exquisite joy.

“I guess you’re awake.” Her voice rose sharply as he pinched the tip her breast.
“I’m awake.” His voice was deep and sent a ripple of anticipation through her body.
She heard the rustle of a wrapper, and her mouth went dry with want.
He parted her thighs and didn’t even check that she was ready for him. He knew. He knew how turned on she was and how desperate she was for him to fill her up.
She groaned when he did. Panted and clawed the sheets as sensation rocked her. His thrusts made her want this never to end, never to stop. To lie here forever with that delicious friction gliding through her body, ratcheting the tension higher and higher until her nerves felt like guitar strings about to snap.

“Dom,” she groaned.
He lay flat against her, taking most of his weight on his elbows, but still immobilizing her with his strength, only the tip of him inside her, making her hungry for more, making her want to back into him and take him deeper.
“What?” His breath brushed her ear before his teeth bit gently into her earlobe.
“Please…” It was as close to begging as she’d ever get. As close to telling him how much she wanted him—not just his body—but him, all of him.
What was it about this man that hooked into a woman’s blood stream and made her addicted? No wonder women turned up on his doorstep with offerings.
Fuck me and I’ll bake for you. Fuck me and I’ll do anything…

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: Prisoner of Night by J.R. Ward

Format: E-Bookprisonerofnight
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novella
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #16.5
Publisher: Gallery Books
Hero: Duran
Heroine: Ahmare, blooded daughter of Ahmat
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 07, 2019
Started On: March 20, 2019
Finished On: March 25, 2019

Prisoner of Night by JR Ward is a novella set in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, released just this January. The story begins with Duran, a male vampire held under captivity by another known as Chalen the Conqueror, is tortured both physically and mentally with the sole purpose of breaking him. When the story continues, it is Ahmare, the blooded daughter of Ahmat, a teacher by profession, thrown into extraordinary circumstances, in pursuit of her brother who comes seeking Chalen at his “home”.

It is Chalen who throws Duran and Ahmare together, which kick starts a journey into something both never foresaw coming. Even with all Duran had undergone at the hands of those who worked for Chalen, from the moment Ahmare steps into close proximity, Duran recognizes her as the one he belongs with, even though there is a wealth of issues that he needs to work through, a past he needs to confront, and his own father to contend with. Ahmare, while at first, is distrustful of Duran, she slowly comes to identify that the male with her is one of worth, someone she could definitely fall and fall hard for.

I found Prisoner of Night to be a bit jarring, having enjoyed the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, some books more than others up to this point. But Prisoner of Night had no reason nor rhyme to it, falling into place just like that, with characters that we have never come across before. Of course, the novella Dearest Ivie was also of the same variety, but it was a novella that I enjoyed because there was emotional depth to the story that I could relate to.

Prisoner of Night wasn’t relatable in any aspect. Except for Duran’s character and Ahmare’s considerate nature toward him, there is little in the story that held my attention. There were gory details of violence that just seemed out of place, especially at the points where Duran was first being held captive, and more so where Ahmare was having flashbacks into how she had performed her first kill.

I felt disconnected from both Duran and Ahmare in a large way and because of that the story that unfolded. For me, Prisoner of Night was just a collection of paragraphs about violence and sex. I had problems with how Duran, a vampire who had been violated so badly, multiple times over, found it that easy to be intimate with Ahmare, his very first female. Zsadist’s story was believable after everything he went through because Ward took care and time with his character, to get deep into his psych so that readers were right there with him when things changed for him for the better.

There is also one more aspect to these novels that has gotten kind of tiresome over the years. The continued looking down on humans in general. How are vampires any great as a race than humans when it comes right down to it? Humans are crappy, needy, self-righteous, greedy, and all of those character traits that makes us annoying. But vampires, beyond their ability to live for centuries, aren’t that great either in my opinion. The beginning of the race itself had been steeped in divisiveness, elitism, and a culture that had created a great divide between the glymera, the ruling class, and the normal vampire folk who pretty much have as hard a time as humans do to make ends meet, to survive.

Even though Wrath has at this point in time embraced his role as the King of the species fully, it was his dillydallying that put the entire race in danger, the lack of strong leadership that had actually created the vacuum which had seen his role as king threatened from within the glymera itself. How is that for greatness of the race? Ward needs to tone down a bit on hating humans, because at the end of the day, the vampire race is just as lacking, with the same set of problems that humans face, equipped with an angel who just helps out the elite “brotherhood” with problems they face in their love lives. *mic drop*

Recommended for diehard fans of the BDB series.

Final Verdict: Prisoner of Night was a letdown in every sense. While new characters are welcome, the deep disconnect that is felt from the characters contributed to making this a paltry reading experience.

Favorite Quotes

Duran planted his palms on the tile wall, his great arms bowing out, and then he got to the grind, his abs rolling under his tight skin, his hips working, his lips finding hers until the rhythm got too intense. Looking down her body, beneath her breasts, she watched him go in and out of her, the sight so erotic, she came again.
And again.
And . . . again.
He was filling her up on the inside once more, marking her as males did when they had bonded, mating her in the rawest sense of the word. His face, as he strained and powered over her, was intense, his eyes glowing, his fangs bared as his lips curled off his canines in pleasure.
He was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
And he was alive.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: Bitterleaf by Lisa Gregory

Format: Paperbackbitterleaf
Read with: Paperback
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Jove
Hero: Jeremy Delvin
Heroine: Meredith Whitney
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 01, 1983
Started On: March 15, 2019
Finished On: March 18, 2019

Bitterleaf by Lisa Gregory aka Candace Camp was first published when I was just barely one year old. Since this book has never been released in the eBook format, I purchased a used paperback copy of the novel sometime back. This book was listed in one of the recommendation threads I had been searching through way back, in my attempt to find novels where plenty of angst is to be had in a story that brings together two strong willed characters in a marriage of convenience.

When Bitterleaf begins, 21 year old Meredith Whitney, considered plain and gawky because she is taller than average and is not considered a beauty that would turn a man’s head, goes to Charleston with her stepfather Daniel Hurley. Meredith’s mother had died sometime back, leaving her with her stepfather, whom she had grown to love and respect in time. Under Daniel’s hands, Bitterleaf, the homestead where Meredith had grown up, had flourished and prospered, making Meredith a wealthy woman in her own right.

It is when Meredith, in her bid to escape the companionship of her vapid cousin Phoebe steps out into the market with her stepfather that she faces the man who would change her life in ways she would never have thought possible. Jeremy Devlin, a member of the aristocracy, whose uncle finally has enough of him and sends him on his way to the colonies as an indentured servant, finds himself purchased by none other than the man accompanied by the haughty woman whom he promises to teach a thing or two, if he ever has the chance.

Even though Jeremy finds Meredith to be plain and lacking in terms of beauty, there is something about her that draws him to the “Amazon” that she is in his mind. Jeremy prefers women who are more comely, but it is Meredith and the way she looks at him, with innocent wonder in her eyes that makes him burn.

For Meredith, laying eyes on the tall and sapphire-eyed Jeremy is the end to life as she has known it. Meredith, who had considered herself above those ruled by their want for pleasures of the flesh, finds herself wanting something that she herself does not even understand. It is perhaps owing to this and Jeremy’s frustration with Meredith that culminates in the resulting events, causing a rift that practically defines the whole story from that point onward, casting a dark shadow on every interaction that takes place between Meredith and Jeremy, especially when they are “forced” into a marriage of convenience.

I wanted to like the story, I really did. After all, this had all the ingredients that should rightfully satisfy my appetite for the less than conventional/accepted romances by readers today. To a certain point in the story, everything did work for me. But from the point where Meredith couldn’t seem to come clean about what was bothering her, how she started to continually grate on my nerves (now imagine poor Jeremy who actually had to put up with her?) was the point of no return for me when it came to my dislike for Meredith as a character.

Meredith turned out to be a tiresome, hateful in some ways, unable to look beyond her own insecurities that are of course ingrained deeply in her psych. However, for me, just like a man’s inexcusable behavior towards the heroine is not forgiven all because of what he may have faced during his childhood, I hold the heroine too to the same standard. I found Meredith wearisome especially when it came to not being able to see Jeremy’s desire for her for what it truly was – desire for the woman he wants above anything and anyone else.

Meredith never gives Jeremy the chance to explain things, which once again puts a black mark against her already laborious character. I dislike couples who detract from the enjoyment of the angst that should rightfully be present in a book such as Bitterleaf, but Meredith’s way of being unable to open her mouth without something scathing coming out of it, her self righteousness above everything else was certainly the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to Meredith and the story itself.

I felt that the story would have been better had Jeremy left and Meredith finally had to face the erroneous assumptions she had made about a man who would would have given her everything. She should have learnt the hard way that Bitterleaf alone wouldn’t give her lifelong happiness. The way one of the secondary characters left the story was also a bit of a sore point. While I understood Meredith’s jealousy, I found her inability to forgive and move on a sore point, especially when nothing had actually happened. For me whatever good that was Meredith was overshadowed in a large way by her critical nature. Her inability to look beyond and see the larger picture.

In the end, I skipped through huge chunks of the story just so I could reach the ending because I had invested a lot of time in reading Bitterleaf, not to to mention the first half of the story that was enjoyable.

Final Verdict: Bitterleaf’s name is synonymous with a character trait that defines the heroine. I expected more from the story than a woman who could not look past her own insecurities.

Favorite Quotes

“Jeremy, what are you doing? Stop this at once.”
He chuckled. “Your voice lacks conviction.”
“You startled me, that’s all.”
An eyebrow quirked in disbelief. He dropped her glove on the ground and placed his hands on either side of her face, imprisoning her head and forcing her to look at him. For a long moment, he stared into her green-brown eyes, and then his face lowered. Meredith closed her eyes and sought to pull away, but his grip held her firm. Jeremy’s lips took hers gently, moving upon them in exploration as if he had all the time in the world before him.

At first his kiss was harsh and angry, more a demand than an expression of feeling, but at the touch of her soft lips it didi not remain so for long. His lops gentled as he tasted the sweetness of her mouth. He worked at her with tongue and lips and teeth, exploring, hungry, until she responded with a whimper and her arms came up to curve around his neck. Her tongue met and matched his, easing tentatively into his mouth.
Jeremy shudderedm hurled violently into a relam beyond reason, aware of nothing but the supreme pleasyre he held in his arms. He rained wild kisses across her face and neck, mouthing the soft flesh of her throat, nibbling her sensitive earlobes. Meredith moved in his arms, unable to absorb the multitude of delights he showered upon her.

Suddenly his lips dug into her fierecely. He wrapped his arms around Meredith, pulling her down with him until they both knelt on the floor. Jeremy pressed her torso against his firm body, savoring the thrust of her breasts against his chest. “Meredith,” he breathed. Holding her, he lay back on the floor, pulling her on top of him. It seemed to Meredith a surprisingly natural place to be.
With one hand he shoved down the bodice of her dress, and his mouth trailed down her neck and chest to explore her breasts. He made asoft, wordless noise as he took her nipple into his mouth and felt it harden at the touch. The sound stirred Meredith almost as much as his caressing tongue. She felt strangely weak and melting, itching, yearning.

Jeremy drew back, panting. “God, you tempt me. But I won’t take you like this, on the floor of the study. Not the first time. We shall splendidly be married and marvelously naked in our own bed. I wanted to give you a taste of what you’re ‘buying.’ Perhaps there will be women who snicker, but you can bet there isn’t one who wouldn’t trade places with you, because you’ll wake up smiling. They’ll pretend to pity you, but in reality it’s envy they’ll feel, thinking about the nights you spend tumbling in my bed, well-serviced, while their own husbands are out wenching at the tavern or sporting with a slave girl or too tired or lazy or old to give their wives pleasure. They yearn, my love, they hunger for a young, healthy male like a mare in heat. Believe me, they’d grab at what you have. They’d pay any price to have the sleepy, well-loved look your face will wear. Maybe you bought me on the auction block, but I’ll give you more than you could ever pay.”

“Jeremy,” she sighed when his mouth released hers.
He nibbled at her earlobe, sending bright shivers all through her. “Say it again.”
“Jeremy?”
“Yes.” His breath came hard, in short gasps, his skin as burning and damp as that of a man in the throes of a swamp fever. “My name. You’ve never said it. Jeremy.”
“Jeremy,” she repeated in wonder that he should want her to say his name.
“Oh, Meredith, Meredith.” His mouth was running wild over her neck and shoulders.

“Oh, Jeremy, you won!” Meredith’s eyes sparkled.
The hand that had lifted her up fastened behind her neck and turned her to him, his mouth sinking into the softness of hers. The warmth that had mushroomed in her belly now shot through her enture body. Meredith didn’t give a thought to the other spectators. Instead, she wrapped an arm around Jeremy’s neck and pressed her lips against his. He was hot, his shirt damp beneath her hands. Her nostrils were filled with the pungent odor of horse and sweat. Boldly, instinctively, her tongue flicked out to scoop up the tiny droplets beading his upper lip. Her movement interruped their kiss, but Jeremy didn’t seem to mind. He made a startled, almost animal growl deep in his throat. His free hand slipped beneath her volumnious cloak, straining her against his body, and he kissed her with even more passion, his tongue raking her mouth.

His hands went to the sash of her wedding gown, untying the knot and letting the belt fall. Slowly, savoring the moment, he shoved back the heavy velvet robe, exposing her body clad only in the almost transparent nightgown. She heared him catch his breath and glanced up. His face was flushed, the eyelids heavy, shuttering the intense blue gaze. The dressing gown crumpled silently to the floow as he studied her. All mockery fled from his face as he looked at the swelling mounds of her breasts, nipples dark against the thin material. His eyes moved downward, taking in the smooyth line of her legs, hazily revealed beneath the cloth, all the more tantalizing for their faint concealment. Meredith watched him, braced for a jest or offensive mark, but none came. She sucked in her lower lip, Jeremy’s eyes darkened to a deep midnight blue. “Meredith.”

He began to move within her, but unlike their earlier lovemaking, he thrust again and again. Instead of satisfying her ache, it seemed to make it grow until Meredith involuntarily rolled her head from side to side. Jeremy pounded into her, and she arched up to take him in more fully. She wanted all of him. And something more. She didn’t know what, but the urge was deep and driving.
But Jeremy knew. At her whimper of frustration, he began to move faster, his hips churning, carrying her with him to a new universe of blinding pleasure. He hurled her higher and higher, until she was gasping for breath and clutching at his back, her nails digging unthinkingly into his skin.

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks

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ARC Review: The Dark Bones by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookthedarkbones
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Thriller, Romantic Suspense
Series: Dark Lure, #2
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Ash Haugen
Heroine: Rebecca North
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: May 21, 2019
Started On: April 13, 2019
Finished On: April 19, 2019

Sergeant Rebecca North returns to her hometown in Cariboo Country upon the death of her father. Rebecca’s regrets are deep when she returns to the scene of her father’s death, all evidence pointing to him having taken his own life. However, Rebecca is determined to do right by her father, who had reached out to her on the day of his death, telling her of how he was being followed, of his case notes being rifled through, all circling around him digging up a cold case that is inexorably tied to Rebecca’s past, the past that had kept her from returning home.

Now a hot shot white collar crimes investigator, Rebecca puts all her efforts into finding out the events surrounding her father’s death. On the eve of the first day of her return, she runs smack dab into Ash Haugen, the man she had avoided for far too long, the man whose actions on the day of the disappearance of the woman who had been tied with the scandal that had driven Rebecca to flee from life as she had known it.

As Rebecca retraces the steps of her father on the days leading up to his death, she uncovers something far more deeper, darker, and sinister surrounding the cold case her father had been unable to let go. Rebecca takes on an investigation that has her stepping on toes of those would kill to keep their secrets buried, the mysterious events surrounding the disappearance of two key people who had left destruction in their wake of the kind they had no inkling of.

The Dark Bones takes place in the same setting as that of A Dark Lure, a definite favorite of mine and countless other readers when it comes to Loreth Anne White. Her mastery over bringing scenery to vivid life, the chills that runs up and down your spine owing to the evil that can lurk in your midst; all of that and more makes The Dark Bones just as highly readable.

I loved how the story developed up to a certain point. Don’t get me wrong, I truly did enjoy the book from start to finish. But I felt that there was a disconnect from a certain point onward in the story, from how it was at first initially developed to how everything was eventually resolved. Perhaps this was felt mostly owing to the fact that the villain(s) in this story wasn’t as prominently characterized as some of the books I have read from Loreth. I believe one of the most fascinating aspects of Loreth’s books is the fact that she care bring pure evil to life in a way that still has you questioning certain things, even when you know that there are no excuses to be had for their behavior in the end. I missed that in this story, mayhap one of the reasons why I felt that disconnect towards the latter half of the book.

In Rebecca North, Loreth creates the kind of strong heroine that her books always deliver. Independent, strong headed and strong willed, with a stubbornness that I can relate to being a woman myself. Rebecca’s role in the book as the lead detective through most of the story was fascinating; she after all had her considerable experience as a white collar crime investigator up her sleeve. Her determination to keep Ash at arm’s length, because she wanted him and didn’t trust him in equal doses played its role.

While I understand the need for strong female leads, I sometimes wonder if society at large has built up these expectations around women that we have to do everything by ourselves, if we are to show that we are strong and capable. We have come to a point in our debates on feminism and the role of women in society in which leaning on a man for support is often seen as weakness, which I do not believe it to be.

I did recognize where Rebecca’s character was coming from – she had her reasons to distrust Ash and his intentions. But for two people with such a strong connection that practically leaps off the pages from the moment they come into close proximity, I had a hard time envisioning Rebecca’s need for Ash, which somehow seemed mismatched when it comes to reciprocating how Ash views her. She had been all that he had dreamed of, everything he had wanted, until he had been forced to give up on his dream, tied to his own actions, born out of a need to answer deeply disturbing questions about his own self.

Ash’s character is the kind of hero that Loreth writes so well. I was drawn to him on an inexplicable level, Loreth’s mastery over characterization making it no hardship to fall deeply for Ash. I felt immensely sad and disturbed by his childhood, a truth that most had not seen. I found it odd that Rebecca’s father who had been a cop himself, had not seen the truth when it came to Ash, had never discovered the dark secrets that lay buried in Ash’s tortured soul. At the same time, I know how deeply seated these issues in society can be, especially in smaller communities where victims could end up being accused for the very atrocities that they desperately needed to escape from.

I wanted to shower Ash with love. I wanted to hug him close, wishing I could have saved him from way back when he needed it the most. I wanted to weep for him. Long after having turned the last page, I still cannot seem to get over his past, something that Loreth never delved deep into. Rebecca was center stage of the novel, and it is only through her pursuit of the truth that Ash’s past comes to light. If I could, I would reach through the pages, pluck Ash out of them, and give him the longest hug ever recorded in history. That is how deeply I felt about him and his character. It may also have something to do with the fact that even with all that he had endured, there is a wealth of kindness, love, & integrity inside of him, having survived horrors of the kind that I cannot even fathom.

I also wished Loreth had delivered just a bit on the tangible sexual and emotional connection between Ash & Rebecca. I do not think it would have taken away anything from the main story. Instead, I believe that it would have only added more nuance to a story through exploration of a facet of both Ash and Rebecca’s character that Loreth brought so strongly to life amidst the backdrop of everything else that was going on. After all, the connection between Ash and Rebecca had been what kickstarted the events from years back, what had driven Rebecca away while Ash had been forced to stay behind, what had in essence led to Rebecca’s return home in the end.

On a side note, Sergeant Grace seems to be an interesting character. The strong, capable, and the do-not-need-anything-else-in-my-life kind of strong heroine that Loreth loves to write.

Recommended for fans of Loreth Anne White and for those who love tangible thrillers and mysteries. The Dark Bones definitely delivers.

Final Verdict: Loreth Anne White’s masterful manipulation of the world she draws her readers into is one reason why The Dark Bones stands out. Recommended!

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Crazy Like a Fox by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookcrazylikeafoxas.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Peter Andrew Delacroix Jaffrey
Heroine: Margaret O’Rourke Jaffrey
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 01, 1997
Started On: March 09, 2019
Finished On: March 14, 2019

Crazy Like a Fox by Anne Stuart begins when Margaret O’Rourke Jaffrey, with her nine year old daughter Carrie in tow, finally makes her way to her deceased husband’s family in order to recoup and find her footing once again. Having had a less than stellar marriage with Carrie’s father Dexter, it was the last thing that Margaret wanted; to finally admit defeat and seek the help of the Delacroix family.

In the midst of the Delacroix family, Margaret finds the mysterious Peter Andrew Delacroix Jaffrey, the Delacroix who by all accounts is a lunatic, looking for a reason to go off the hinges at any moment’s notice. Margaret cannot explain why she is drawn to Peter, why she finds him fascinating when she rightfully shouldn’t, and at the same time has distrust for him running through her veins.

Peter has been in a jail of his family’s and his own making ever since the events surrounding the death of his former wife. A man who had everything he could have desired, Peter’s downfall had come from his marriage to a woman who had wanted more. Along with her death, the blame of which had fallen squarely on him, Peter had found himself biding his time, waiting for his cousin Wendell to prove his innocence, sort of lost in the midst of the sea upon which he had been tossed adrift. That is until Margaret walks into the family home and makes him want again.

Crazy Like a Fox sounds like a title that would deliver a humor-filled read. While the book has its witty moments (it is Anne Stuart after all with her acerbic wit), the book delves into two characters who have been lost for a long while. Margaret had made the mistake of marrying a man who had wanted the next high that gambling would bring his way, a wayward character if ever there was any, leaving both herself and Carrie destitute when he had left this world.

Peter is the character that is truly intriguing, Anne Stuart’s masterful creativity bringing forth a someone you cannot figure out at first. Peter is a character that is revealed to readers in layers, his story emerging in bits and pieces that makes the story that much more intriguing. I loved the unveiling of his character as much as I loved the connection forged between the two lost souls himself and Margaret are, and the resolution to a mystery that had been a miscarriage of justice right from the start.

Anne Stuart’s intelligent heroes & equally witty heroines always reel you into the story without fail. An innocent man doubts his own sanity while the madman responsible for it all lives among them, waiting and biding his time. The wildcard that changes it all proves to be Margaret and her daughter Carrie, infusing Peter’s life with the vitality and vigor it had been lacking since a long while back. Loved the awakening, the connection, and the happily ever after.

Definitely recommended.

Final Verdict: Anne Stuart’s books age so finely that you don’t even remember how long ago the book was written, because each word inexorably woven with the other presents readers with sheer magic.

Favorite Quotes

Taking her arm, he pulled her away from the tomb, away from an approaching group of tourists, back into one of the shadowy alleys. They were alone, sheltered from sight, separated in time and space from the crowds around them. “That’s Marie’s speciality,” he said, reaching his hands up to cup her face. “Trust her.” His mouth moved down to touch hers, softly. “Trust me.” And he kissed her again, just as lightly, his mouth teasing hers, drawing her into a response she couldn’t help but give.
He tasted of champagne and pancakes. He smelled of the night and smoke from the ceremonial flambeaux. He felt warm and solid and real, no phantom at all. Sliding her arms underneath his cloak, she made a small, whimpering sound of surrender, of a longing so deep she couldn’t begin to understand it. And her mouth opened beneath his.

“Thank you for everything,” she said, knowing she sounded stilted. “Goodbye.” She turned and opened the door.
She was unprepared for his reaction. Catching her arm, he whirled her around, enfolding them both in his voluminous cape, and this time when his mouth met hers it wasn’t gentle, or teasing, or quietly seductive. His kiss was harsh, full of demand and despair, and she wrapped herself around him and returned the kiss, lost in the same sense of desolation.
Then abruptly he released her and she sank back against the doorway of the old building, her breathing rapid, her eyes shut.
“Next time, Marguerite,” he whispered, “I want to see your red hair.”

His hands moved down to cover her breasts, and she made a tiny, almost indistinguishable sound of protest. That protest drifted into a sigh of pleasure, and she dropped her head back, her hair flowing over both of them as he caressed her breasts through the thin lacy barrier of her bra.
And then the barrier was gone. His hands were warm and rough skinned against her sensitive breasts, and his mouth was at her neck, drawing her, drawing her. She turned, opening her eyes for a moment, staring up at him with a dazed expression, and then his mouth caught hers.

Deliberately he pulled her toward him, his hands rough on her arms, not allowing her any escape.
She had no intention of escaping. She slid her arms around his waist, moving against him, and her mouth reached up for his.
He stumbled against her, pushing her up against the wall, his body covering hers, pressing against every square inch of her, and his hands cupped her face, holding her still for his devouring mouth. He kissed her lips, her eyelids, her cheeks, her nose, then returned to her mouth, slanting across her soft, giving lips and drinking deep. She gave a little cry deep in the back of throat, one of desire and acceptance. She didn’t care.

“Let go, Peter. Let me leave, drive away from here, out of your life. Please, Peter. Let me go.”
And they both knew she wasn’t talking about anything as simple as his hand on her arm.
“Marguerite,” he said, his voice low and sorrowful. “Chère. I’m not that crazy.” And he pulled her slowly, carefully, into his arms, giving her plenty of time to pull back, to fight, to resist.
“Oh, Peter,” she whispered. “I am.” And rising up on her toes, she kissed him, pressing her mouth against his, opening it slightly, touching her tongue against his lips.
His response was a muffled growl of longing as he threaded his long, beautiful fingers through her hair and kissed her back.

He yanked his clothes off, his eyes never leaving hers. He stripped off her jeans and threw them halfway across the room, and then he covered her body with his, with his long, lean, muscled beauty that was unlike anything she’d ever seen. She wanted to touch him, to treasure him, to delight in him, but his mouth was on her breasts again, suckling them deep, his hands were between her legs and she was damp and aching for more. She reached down to hold him, but he’d already moved on top of her, between her legs, hot and heavy and ready for her.
“I can’t wait,” he whispered, his voice harsh with desire and an impossible restraint. “Come to me, Marguerite.” And he sank into her, deep and hard and wonderful.

“Scream for me, Marguerite,” he whispered in her ear. “I want to hear you scream.” And he reached between their bodies and touched her, deftly, as he surged against her.
She did scream then, as he’d wanted, as she never had in her life. She felt her body dissolve, even as he surged and shuddered against her, and the flames engulfed them, destroying and devouring them, until there was nothing left but ashes.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: Cinderman by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookcinderman_as
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: More Than Men, #4
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Daniel Crompton
Heroine: Suzanna Molloy
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 01, 1994
Started On: March 02, 2019
Finished On: March 07, 2019

Suzanna Molloy, an investigative journalist, breaks into Beebe Control Systems International to prove a hunch she has regarding the sort of experimentation that is being undertaken by the mega corporation. These are desperate times for a reporter like Suzanna, who has become persona non grata owing to her impertinence in asking too many probing questions about their corporate structure, for which she was being refused interviews. But a reporter like Suzanna is never deterred, which is how she finds herself on that fateful night, breaking into the laboratory of none other than Dr. Daniel Crompton himself.

Daniel is all about science and minimal distractions. Daniel likes living in his own mind, far too intelligent to be taken for a fool, deeming it a waste of his time to get into the politics of the organisation itself. However, when he finds Suzanna inside his lab, just minutes before everything literally blows up, Daniel has little inkling of how both their lives are going to change, so very drastically.

With Daniel and Suzanna on the run for their lives, Daniel harboring a secret which does not stay that way for too long, it is an interesting journey the two takes, where Daniel takes Suzanna to her dream home, nestled in the mountains, far away from prying eyes. Bit by bit, Suzanna discovers that she had been wrong about the man behind the scientist that is Dr. Crompton.

Daniel has never gone for intelligent women. He used to believe that he had no use for that in a woman. But in Suzanna he finds intelligence striking, his libido undergoing a drastic change, perhaps under the influence of the chemicals that had been absorbed into his body – or so he thinks. When Daniel finally gives in, and Suzanna understands that there is no going back, that was beautiful in itself, and the epilogue making me laugh out loud with sheer enjoyment.

I loved both Dr. Crompton and Suzanna. I love heroes or heroines for that matter, whose intelligence levels makes them different from most, and that is what I found most intriguing about Daniel. Daniel with his beautifully built home that seduced Suzanna. Daniel with his classic good looks that made him irresistible to Suzanna. Daniel with his ferocious need for all that is Suzanna that ultimately won her over.

In Suzanna, I found Daniel’s match in every way. A woman who could keep up with the way his brain works, a woman who would understand his wandering mind, a partner who would give him her all, in return for all the love he would shower upon her.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Send me a “pirate” like Dr. Crompton any day, everyday! Loved!

Favorite Quotes

For a moment Suzanna couldn’t move. He stood only a few feet away from her, in the middle of his soulless living room, dressed in a faded pair of jeans that clung to his narrow hips and long legs. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, despite the coolness of the morning air, and Suzanna decided then and there that a scientist shouldn’t have such a chest. He should have been pale and soft and flabby. Not toned and tanned and subtly well-muscled.
He hadn’t bothered to tie back his hair, and it hung around his strong-featured face, making him look like a pirate, not a biochemist with a Ph.D. in physics on the side.

He’d unbuttoned his shirt, and she could see his smooth, sleekly muscled chest beneath the denim shirt. She reached out a hand, to touch his forehead, to see if she could gauge his temperature, when his eyes flew open to meet hers.
“Look but don’t touch,” he said in an unbearably quiet voice.
She was mesmerized, by the darkness in his eyes, by the stillness in his face.
“Why?” she whispered.
“Because if you touch me, I’ll take you. And I don’t think you’re ready for that.”

Her body warmed, softened, flowed against his. She lay curled in his lap, her hands clutching his shoulders, as he kissed her, kissed her until he was ready to go up in smoke, breathless, mindless, crazy with the heat and the need. She was soft and sleepy against him, and her tongue met his, shyly, with a touch of eagerness that just about destroyed him. He broke away, trailing slow, hungry kisses down the slender column of her neck, and she arched against him as his hand closed down over one breast.
It fitted his hand perfectly. Cool through the silky material, it wanned, swelled against him, and he wanted to taste her there, too.

The silence, the heat in the room, was palpable. “I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “Come here, Suzanna.”
The wariness in her body flared into a moment of outright panic. It had been leading to this for a long time. Longer ago than the moment he’d come back to his lab and found her there. It had started with their very first confrontation, at one of Beebe’s unctuous public relations efforts. She’d clashed with him then, and she thought he’d dismissed her with his typical scientific arrogance. She knew otherwise now. He remembered that first clash. He was remembering it now.
“Don’t,” she said, trying to shut it off.
“Come here, Suzanna.”

He leaned down and kissed her then, very gently, a wordless reassurance that it was going to be all right. And she realized that, conscious decision or not, she trusted him. With her life. With her body. With her soul.
With her love.
She opened her mouth beneath his, deliberately inviting him. And then there was no gentle wooing.

His hands cupped her hips, pulling her more tightly against him. His mouth crushed hers, and she heard him, the words, sifting through his mind, love and lust and longing, striving for an end that was only a beginning. She clutched at him, shivering, building, shattering once more as she felt him explode in her arms, a white hot flame of passion that seemed to last an eternity.

He was huge, and hard, and damp for her. He didn’t need to say a word—she knew what he wanted, she could hear his desperate longing in his mind, and it matched her own. She leaned down and put her mouth on him, taking him deep inside, her hands clutching his hips.
He didn’t touch her, and she knew why. If he touched her, he’d take over, and he knew she needed to do this. Needed to take control, to learn him, without fear of the consequences. She needed to do just what she wanted, and she needed him to lie back and let her.

He waited until she’d taken him fully. Waited until she leaned forward, her breasts against his hot chest, her hands sliding up his outstretched arms to cover his hands as they clutched the iron railing. He waited while she moved, awkwardly at first, unsure, and then suddenly she was fluid, light and darkness, heat and desire, taking him, owning him, and he was trembling, shaking apart beneath her, and she was trembling, shaking apart, and then the world exploded. She screamed, unable to stop herself, and she was lost, as he finally began to move, thrusting up into her, taking her, filling her with his heat, his seed, his life.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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