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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ARC Review: Barbarous by Minerva Spencer

Format: E-bookBarbarous.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Outcasts, #2
Publisher: Zebra
Hero: Hugh Redvers
Heroine: Daphne Davenport
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: October 30, 2018
Started On: September 29, 2018
Finished On: October 02, 2018

Minerva Spencer is a Canadian author, who writes Regency Era romance. With two of her published works out, both in the series entitled The Outcasts, I came across her work when acclaimed historical romance author Elizabeth Hoyt recommended her books in one her tweets. I have loved almost everything that I have read from Hoyt and believe her to be a sensational author. So when she recommends an author whose books have spoken to HER, well, needless to say, I needed no further urging.

I did not read this series in order and read Barbarous first. In doing so, I did not feel like I had missed out on understanding the characters or felt that any of the story line was missing. So it is safe to say that this can be read as a standalone.

Barbarous begins when Hugh Redvers returns from the “dead” fifteen years after he was presumed to be so. A handsome daredevil who had stolen bits and pieces of Lady Daphne Davenport even when she had been an impressionable child when Hugh had been banished by his uncle, the older and mature version of him, scarred as he is, is a sight to behold.

Daphne’s first impression of Hugh upon his return is explained in a manner that does justice to what his character brings to the story. “Daphne knew she was gawking, but she couldn’t stop. His sun-bronzed skin and golden hair were an exotic surprise against the pallid gray of the spring sky. But it was the black eye-patch that covered his left eye and the savage scar that disappeared beneath it that were truly arresting. He lacked only a battered tricorn and cutlass between his teeth to be every maiden’s fantasy of a handsome pirate. Was he lost on his way to a masquerade ball?

Daphne’s biggest fear upon Hugh’s sudden return is that he would find out her “deception” and the fact that she had robbed him of his rightful inheritance. Daphne’s marriage to Hugh’s uncle is one that Hugh cannot wrap his head around, and he knows that he no right to be entertaining such wicked thoughts about his “aunt” – spread for him to feast upon, in all her wanton glory.

Daphne knows that she is not the type of woman that would excite a man like Hugh. But the manner in which Hugh slowly seduces her is reason enough to drive her ever slowly out of her mind. Even if she is determined to stay unmoved, there is no helping the fact that her body responds to the proximity and wicked looks that Hugh throws her way. However, for Daphne and Hugh to have their happily ever after, the need to face their past and reconcile with it is a must, before the dangers closing in from all sides could destroy what they have, even before their entwined life could begin.

Before I start gushing about this book, I just have to put this out there. I have the utmost respect for Canadian authors. The few Canadian authors, whose books I read, have wowed me in ways I cannot even comprehend. Some of them are the reason I continue to read the genre even when most tales in the genre today have grown pale in comparison to what my reader tastes are like. In Minerva Spencer, I believe I have found one more author that I will continue to watch out for, because she has a flair for bringing all the elements together that makes a romance work, which makes reading no hardship at all.

Barbarous was amazing in its prose and delivery – no two ways about it. I loved how both Daphne and Hugh’s characters were crafted. Daphne is the ultimate bookworm, a bit lost inside her head, and has a heart that is warmth itself. Her difficult past, the way she had found a sanctuary in being married to her deceased husband, and the twins that had been borne out of horrible circumstances, but whom she would give her very own life for; all this and more define Daphne. The way she responds to Hugh, that innocence of hers, her curiosity, and the way she loves and accepts Hugh wholeheartedly, for all that and more, I loved her character.

When it comes to Hugh, he is a man who strides into the story, giving it a vitality that I am hard pressed to explain. He is like a warm beating heart, pulsating with life, giving energy to the rest of the elements that makes up the story. His kindness above everything else, made me fall like a ton of bricks for him. His wicked, wicked nature when it came to the slow seduction of Daphne made me want to hoot and give out a catcall, especially when he strip teased for her. A hero doing the teasing in that manner is something I have seldom come across in romance novels, especially when it comes to the historical genre. His possessiveness was just the right touch, the balm that soothes the heart and soul of someone like Daphne who considers herself to not have anything much to offer a man like Hugh.

The cast of secondary characters definitely brings added color to the story, with every character multi-faceted in a way that lends credence to the unfolding story. Even the “villain” had his own story to share, which makes one think along the lines of how under similar circumstances, good and bad can thrive and persist, even beyond human comprehension.

If scrumptious love scenes, an interesting cast of characters, and excitement of the kind that would keep you turning the pages is what you want, Minerva Spencer is the author for you. I cannot wait for the next couple of books (which I am hoping the author is working on) to be out!

Final Verdict: In Barbarous, Minerva Spencer delivers a delectable tale of a larger than life hero who returns home to find himself scandalously in lust with his uncle’s widow. To say that sparks fly would be an understatement. Definitely recommended!

Favorite Quotes

Tendrils of her luxuriant hair had come loose as she played. Some spiraled wildly, glinting pale gold in the light, some lay damply against the exposed skin of her throat. Each time Hugh turned a page, he bent lower than necessary, breathing her in, inhaling her. She smelled clean, unper-fumed with anything but the vague scent of soap. Never had Hugh realized just how heady another human’s natural scent could be.
By the time the final notes came to a crashing conclusion, Hugh ached with the effort of holding his body in check. The cavernous music room was silent but felt crowded and small, the atmosphere heavy with a maelstrom of emotions he had no interest in examining.
Her arms trembled with the mere physicality of the past moments and a slight shudder passed through her, as if she’d just come out of a trance. She followed his hand—which rested on the piano—up to his face and blinked, surprised to find she wasn’t alone.
Hugh gazed into her heavily lidded eyes and was astounded by the violence of his need to touch her—embrace her. Instead, he took a small step back, even that much a struggle.
“You are magnificent,” he said, his voice hoarse.

His handsome features were taut and intense, but no longer angry. “Daphne—” He stopped and shook his head. Daphne stared into his emerald eye, mesmerized by the gold shards that glinted in the green, like slivers of sunlight through a forest canopy. His fingers tightened and his disconcerting gaze traveled from her eyes to her mouth and then back.
He gave a low groan of frustration. “Oh, bloody hell,” he muttered, just before his mouth crushed hers.
Daphne closed her eyes.
Finally
. The word echoed so loudly inside her head that, for a moment, she feared she’d spoken out loud.
If she had, Hugh did not appear to notice.

Daphne shuddered and grabbed onto his body to steady herself as his gentle sucking set off colorful explosions behind her eyelids. The tautly bunched muscles of his upper body were hard and hot beneath the smooth wool of his coat and her hands traveled the broad expanse of his shoulders toward his neck, lightly grazing his cravat before she pushed her fingers into his thick, surprisingly wiry curls.
He growled and inched even closer, releasing her lip and then pushing at the seam of her mouth with his tongue, as if he was trying to . . . enter her.
Daphne inhaled sharply and the room shifted beneath her feet as he took her face in both hands and tilted her, stroking into her . . . tasting her . . . licking her.

He traced the gentle curves with the tip of his tongue, teasing the thin silk barrier that molded to her lithe body. As he’d suspected—a million years ago at the wretched dinner—her nipples were less than an inch below the tissue-thin fabric of her gown.
Daphne shifted and arched as he suckled her through the silk, bringing the tip to tantalizing hardness before moving to the other, working her until the noises coming from deep in her throat were so hungry he had to see her.
He held her at arm’s length, staring into her sleepy eyes. “You are so beautiful,” he said, his hands moving to the damp, stretched fabric that barely covered her.

She lightly dragged the very tip over his lips, as if drawing his features, leaving a searing trail of heat as she kissed and licked and nipped her way up his scar, pulling his head lower and feathering the torn, tender skin with the lightest of kisses. Before Hugh knew what she was doing she’d untied the ends of the strap that held the patch over his eye.
He moved to grab it, but she flung it away and then clutched his face in both hands and pulled him lower.
“I want all of you.”
He hadn’t believed he could become any harder; he’d been wrong.

He circled his hand over her, stroking her pelvis from side to side until her hips pressed against his palm on the next sweep over her sex.
Hugh smiled at the familiar gesture of need and cupped her in his hand before dipping a finger between her swollen lips. She reacted with a convulsive thrust and he probed deeper, working her with a gentle but persistent rhythm, each stroke a little deeper, a little harder. She swelled around him and her hot wetness told him when she could take more. A second finger joined the first and her hips responded eagerly, thrusting in time to the motion of his hand.
“God, you’re so wet. So sweet and tight,” he whispered, the words causing her body to shake.
Hugh felt as though he’d barely begun when she contracted, her hips bucking hard, as if she couldn’t get him deep enough.

Holding her gaze, he withdrew almost all the way and then filled her with a single slick thrust. Her eyelids fluttered and her body tightened around his and a groan tore out of his chest.
“Touch me, Daphne. Stroke me while I stroke you.” Again he pulled all the way out and drove himself home, harder this time. Her hands began to roam his body, exploring his torso, his chest, his buttocks. He moved faster and pumped harder, driving into her with powerful, deep thrusts, holding nothing back.

She met him stroke for brutal stroke, until his body was about to fly apart. He was afraid he could no longer wait when she contracted around him.
“Yes, Daphne, yes. Come for me.” He punctuated his words with one savage thrust after another. She sank her teeth into his chest, her crisis coming fast and hard and triggering his own petite mort.
Hugh threw back his head and yelled something mindless as he drove himself home and spent deep inside her.

The sculpted muscles of his back and shoulders bunched with controlled power as his blond head moved rhythmically, his skilled tongue and fingers working their magic. Daphne gave herself up to pure pleasure and rode the crest of the wave that had been a long time coming. A wave that built and built until it crashed, taking her with it and pummeling her body over and over, until she was weak, breathless, and limp.
“Hugh,” she whispered, her hands slipping from his hair, where they’d somehow become tangled.

“I—I want . . .” Daphne had no recollection of what she’d meant to say.
He laughed wickedly. “You want . . . this?” He entered her in one slick, endless thrust, driving her in to the mattress with the force of his action.
Daphne groaned, her head falling back, her eyes closing. It was . . . too much, too intense, too—
And then he began to pound her with merciless, measured thrusts, each invasion deeper than the last.
“Your body is heaven,” he gasped, halting his savage thrusting and instead pushing slowly into her, inch by inch by inch. “Take all of me, darling.”
She wrapped her legs around him, tilted her pelvis, and tightened.
“My God, Daphne!” He shuddered violently enough to shake the four-poster bed, lifting her higher, his fingers digging into her hips while he drove into her, his body taut and slick with the strength of his need.

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

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ARC Review: Dark Water by Tricia Tyler

Format: E-bookdarkwater.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Hero: Nick Garrison
Heroine: Evangeline Marie Broussard
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: September 24, 2018
Started On: September 09, 2018
Finished On: September 22, 2018

There’s a killer hunting in the backwoods bayou town of Barfleur, which is where FBI Agent Nick Garrison is headed, as a favor to his army buddy. Three victims thus far, with no clues whatsoever as to how the killer was selecting victims. That is until heroine Evangeline Marie Broussard (Evie) comes into the picture.

Evie is a gifted psychic, who works as a private investigator. However, working on crimes like the one her cousin Remy Boudreaux is trying to solve takes a lot from Evie. But knowing that there is something she could do to help before the killer strikes again is something that Evie cannot turn her back on. Even if it means facing the scorn and contempt on the face of the FBI agent who comes along for the ride.

Nick has had his run in with psychics and learnt the price for it. He has never forgiven, nor forgotten the way people can abuse a family’s grief for their five minutes worth of fame. There is nothing Nick would love to do better than dissuade the notion that Evie could be of any help in the investigation, at all.

However, even with all the disdain he feels, Nick is man enough to accept and acknowledge the fact that no woman has moved him in the way Evie was, ever since he walked into her life. For Evie, the connection is just as intense. No matter how much she tries to protect herself from the onslaught on her senses, she finds that it is a game she is going to lose, spectacularly.

As the killer draws in, taking someone whom Evie considers to be very dear, it’s time for the hunted to become the hunter. There is no stone that Evie would not turn to get her friend back, which is how she is led right into the lion’s den, with nothing but her wits to use in the fight for her life.

I picked up Dark Water on a whim when I happened across the title on netgalley. I seldom request books on netgalley now because I usually do  not end up reading them, unless they are authors whose work I am already familiar with. However, I have always loved me a good suspense, and with the cover calling to me, I decided to check this one out. I am so glad I did (even though the review is a tad late than I would have liked), because I enjoyed reading Dark Water immensely.

I loved the sexual tension that is palpable and intense throughout this novel. I loved how the author brought the sizzle into the scenes and made me sit up and take notice, even when there was plenty happening otherwise. When sexual tension reaches its peak and the culmination of it all is as explosive as what took place in this story, then the author has done it right.

Nick was a delightful hero. Sexy, broody, and the take charge type with a core of sensitivity that works well when it comes to Evie. His need to create and restore beauty in contrast with the kind of darkness that his job usually invites was a fascinating aspect to him. I loved seeing both sides of him, and it helped me see a long term future for both Evie and Nick because there was so much more than just good sex, hot enough to scorch your reader, between them.

I liked Evie just as much. Her vulnerable nature is evident once you see her through her grandmother’s eyes. The visits that her grandma’s spirit does was a charming facet to the novel. Evie’s preference to be alone was also understandable given the weight of the ‘gift’ that she carries, and how her past has taught her to be stingy with her trust when it comes to love.

The only thing more I could have asked for  was more details on the villain in the story. I wanted to learn about what created the monster residing within, rearing it’s ugly head until the desire to kill is satisfied. A good romantic suspense delves deep into the darkness that manifests within the killer as well, and I felt a bit cheated out on that aspect. Regardless of that little fact, I enjoyed the suspense that went into the story, and how the dots were connected towards the end.

Recommended for those who love the slow heat that comes with romances packed with the Southern charm. This little number certainly delivers. I hope this novel serves as a debut to a “series” because I definitely want more!

Final Verdict: Dark Water delivers a story that thrums with the tightly wound sexual tension and the dark and evil energy of a killer who had lost his way a long time ago. Definitely recommended!

Favorite Quotes

“This is a mistake.” His body gave lie to his words as he settled deeper into her. The rough material of his jeans rubbed against the sensitive skin of her thighs, heightening her senses to a fever pitch. Every move, every shift, sent a craving through her until the only thing left was a deep hungering need for more. An ache thrummed within her lower belly, spreading until it encompassed every part of her. Bon Dieu, she was in serious trouble. He’d barely touched her, and she was ready to explode.
“A mistake? Yes…most definitely,” she said, shaking her head slowly back and forth. It was one her body desperately wanted to make. Giving in to her body’s demands, she rubbed herself against him. She knew exactly what she was doing to him. It was empowering to realize the effect she had on him. He was a prisoner to the same hunger controlling her own reactions.

His grip on her hair tightened. He released her hands, sliding his slowly down her arm and across the length of her body until he cupped her ass, pulling her up and closer. Frantic, she blindly reached for his shirt. Buttons flew until smooth hard muscle lay beneath her fingertips, threatening her sanity. Sucked in by her own body’s traitorous reaction, all she could do was enjoy the ride. She didn’t give a rip at the moment about the little voice of reason inside her.
Jolts of heat ran up and down her spine like little devils racing in a marathon.
Bon Dieu.

He pulled in another ragged breath. Reaching between them, he grabbed the string along the side of her thong and yanked it off without regret. He’d buy her a new one. Hell, he’d buy her a drawer full as long as the last barrier between them disappeared. Catching her gasp with his mouth, he drove his tongue inside as he slid and plunged two of his fingers into her. Hot and wet, her muscles clamped around him.
Fuck!
“You’re so damn tight,” he mumbled against her mouth.
“It’s…it’s been too long,” she gasped, her body writhing beneath his ministrations.
Satisfaction swept over him knowing she hadn’t been with anyone in a long time. He refused to dig too deeply into why he felt that way. If he did, it might scare the hell out of him.
“Sweetheart, you’re killing me.”

“Bon Dieu…I want to feel you inside me now,” she begged. “Please, Nick. Now.”
He claimed her mouth as his own in a quick, bruising kiss. “Tell me you’re ready,” he demanded, not sure he could hold out any longer.
Her legs gripped him tighter, pulling him against her. He meant to go slowly, but the warmth on his cock sent him over the edge. He plunged fast and deep with the first stroke. She closed around him tight and sweet, and the rest of his body wanted to follow. All thoughts of taking it slow fled.

“You’re mine.” He lowered his head until they were nose to nose. “Say it.”
Her breath hitched, and her pupils dilated.
He lifted his hips until only the head of his dick remained inside her. The need to hear her say the words overwhelmed him and scared the shit out of him all at the same time. The need was stronger.
“I want the words, Evie.”
“Yours. I’m yours.” The words tumbled out on a shuddering breath, filling him with relief.
“And you’re mine,” she whispered, her expression fierce.

She tightened her muscles and bit the inside of her cheek, attempting to clamp down on the fire spreading through her. It was neither the time nor the place, and not the right man for God’s sake. Unfortunately, no other man had ever made her feel this way with just one look.
“Fuck. You can’t look at me like that and not expect me to respond,” he said, with an edge to his tone. He stepped in closer crowding her against the vehicle, determination engraved in the lines of his face. Reaching out, he clasped her face with both hands, and his lips crashed down on hers. Fast, deep, and hot. Oh…so very hot.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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ARC Review: The Girl in the Moss by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-book
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Angie Pallorino, #3
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: James Maddocks
Heroine: Angie Pallorino
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: June 12, 2018
Started On: July 11, 2018
Finished On: July 19, 2018

The Girl in the Moss by Loreth Anne White is the final book in the Angie-Pallorino series. Each installment has carried “individual” stories that can be read as standalones, but I would still recommend that the books be read in order for the reader to get a true grasp of the depth of characterization that has gone into these stories Loreth has crafted.

Loreth is a writer of darker edged suspense, with just enough romance in the mix to appease readers like myself. If Loreth chooses to write pure suspense, I would still buy her books because she is an author who always gets it right, regardless. The darkness in her books calls to a part of me, which perhaps even I do not understand. Loreth’s deep understanding of human nature, and the way she tells it as it is; all that and more are reasons why I would always keep coming back for more.

The Girl in the Moss begins when the body of a woman is uncovered in the moss, in an area where both ex-cop Angie Pallorino and Detective James Maddocks goes to get away from the stress of city life, their jobs, and the countless other issues that has plagued their union from the beginning. When the body is discovered, Angie and Maddocks are the first detectives with experience to arrive at the scene. However, with Angie now no longer being part of the active police force, her resentment which is always at the surface flares up, at which point everything starts heading downhill.

The tables turn when Angie is summoned by the grandmother of Jasmine Gulati, the woman whose body was discovered, with the grandmother willing hire Angie’s services to find out certain aspects related to Jasmine’s disappearance 25 years ago, and the circumstances surrounding Jasmine’s life before the incident had taken place. At first Angie is reluctant, even as intrigued as she is about the elements surrounding Jasmine’s disappearance and death by accidental drowning as the coroner had concluded. But as Angie delves deeper into the case, she puts the final nail in the coffin that drives her boyfriend Maddocks away, and in the pursuit of the truth, uncovers more than she bargained for.

Small town alliances, familial relationships, the unchecked sexual power and hedonistic nature of one woman and how it had played out for her in the end; all of that and more are at the heart of this story. How the brutal sexual assault and violation of a boy with developmental issues at a tender age made him more reclusive, and creates amidst a close-knit society a killer in the gentle giant he is otherwise. It was hard to abhor a character of that nature, even when he had performed such evil, when his troubled past is taken into account.

Explosive secrets that could rip families apart surface, and age old wounds that some didn’t even believe existed, but were festering underneath the daily grind of life open up and along comes Angie, pricking and prodding, doing what she does best. Stubborn to a fault, like a dog with a bone, that is in essence who Angie is. How two different investigations collide, bringing to light the full picture, that alone was reason enough for this book to deserve commendation.

Even with all her faults, Angie still makes for a likable heroine. There are so many facets to her character that makes you want to shake her, and shake her good. Her stubborn and dogged determination does not apply to her work alone, but to her personal life as well. With a past such as hers, colorful to say the least, with memories of the kind that would cripple anyone’s emotional well-being, Angie fights all of it, and fights those who try to get close to her.

Maddocks finally calling it quits made me admire him on a level I cannot explain. Maddocks has always been a larger than life figure in this trilogy, even though the main focus has always been Angie. Loreth’s ability to craft such characters and give them voice has the reader wanting more, definitely more. Maddocks is absolutely that kind of character. Though his role in this last book is almost nonexistent, his presence is somehow felt throughout. That is the kind of brilliance that Loreth brings to the table as a writer.

Reading through my notes for this review has made me appreciate the story all the more. This is a novel that runs through the reader’s mind like a movie that unfolds right in front of you giving deep insight and clarity. It is the kind of story that is rare, and perhaps because of that very reason, all the more coveted. Loreth is an author who deserves more recognition as a writer, whose books deserve to be sensationalized, if that hasn’t happened already. It would be redundant for me to say at this point that I am looking forward to the next book, The Dark Bones set for release in May next year.

The Girl in the Moss is the kind of book that makes choosing the next book to read that much harder. All because you know deep down inside that nothing would ever live up to where your last read took you to. I just wish that there were more books in the series, even though I can sense the need to end the trilogy at this point. The best kind of series are those than an author completes, giving the due closure needed, and at the same time, leaves the reader wanting more.

Recommended for those who love tangible suspense and tension that unfurls and coils around you as you delve deeper, books that you can sink yourself into and forget the rest of the world.

Final Verdict: Just when you think that Loreth wouldn’t be able to surprise you, she brings on plot twists that just leaves you speechless. Excellent plot & fantastic execution. To see the changes Angie has undergone was the icing on the cake.

Favorite Quotes

Maybe it wasn’t just truth. Maybe at the heart of it all, at the heart of all that was human, even in the dark, was love.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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ARC Review: The Lullaby Girl by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookthelullabygirl.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Series: Angie Pallorino, #2
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: James Maddocks
Heroine: Angela Pallorino
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 14, 2017
Started On: May 14, 2018
Finished On: May 20, 2018

The Lullaby Girl by Loreth Anne White is the second book in the Angie Pallorino series, books centered around the lead female detective, aka Angela Pallorino (Angie). These are not standalone books, so if you want to immerse yourself in the ‘dark’ escape that this series provides, you will have to read the books in order. I say dark escape because Loreth’s books delve into the darker side of suspense with just enough romance going for it to suit readers like myself.

The Lullaby Girl begins two weeks or so after The Drowned Girls end, rather eventfully I must add. With Angie taking down a serial rapist turned killer (Spencer Adams) working her now life partner (of sorts), Sergeant James Maddocks, Angie’s life had considerably turned upside down since the hunt for Spencer had started. Angie, who had then being working sex crimes, had been partnered with James, the man she had tied to a motel bed and drowned herself in him on her way to oblivion – Angie’s method of escape from the voices that hound her.

Since then, Angie and Maddocks had managed to bust wide open a case that has all the elements that makes society gasp in indignation and fear. A rapist & killer who mutilated his victims, who had found easy pickings aboard a ‘pleasure vessel’ known as Amanda Rose, which had also exposed dirty politicians that had benefited from the operations.

While Angie had been placed on leave until the investigation into the culmination of the Spencer Adams angle in the case had ended, Maddocks meanwhile had continued the probe into the human trafficking of young girls and how far the tentacles of the case reaches.

Angie had in the meantime, started inquiries into her childhood, the lies which had pretty much defined her existence having come out into the open during the strenuous hours spent on the case. It is as Angie digs her heels into finding out more, that two detectives seek her out on a cold case of a DNA match with Angie’s, bringing home the possibility that Angie must have family somewhere that could possibly have been looking for her all these years.

With her position as a detective in the department at peril and placed in the social media division, Angie has no choice but to go along for the ride, if only for the ‘benefits’ being on the job would bring in the line of her own investigations. But resent the punishment, she definitely does.

So finds Angie going along with the investigations into her past, while Maddocks pursues the leads on his case, which takes on Russian organized crime amidst international human trafficking angle which brings takes the case to a whole new level. But it is when these two separate and distinct investigations collide that things take a turn which brings the whole house of cards tumbling down.

The Lullaby Girls proved to be just as engrossing a read as it’s predecessor. Angie’s character was just as thorny, perhaps more so owing to the different upheavals that her life has been subjected to along the way. Angie doesn’t see the destructive path she is on, though it is hard not to empathize with what she’s going through as well. She has had her whole world turned upside down, and to come to know that she had had a life that was vastly different from what she remembers to be her childhood, enables her to understand her affinity with crime solving and sex crimes in particular.

The inability to see the “difficult” side of her character prevents Angie from seeing the punishment she is given at the department for what it is; that it had been owing to her actions and behavior along with her strained relationships with her partners, and her lack of ability to follow orders while keeping a level head about it.

This of course makes Angie lash out, and lash out she does, which makes things pretty difficult for Maddocks. Because for Angie, there is nothing more vulnerable than letting someone into her life to a point where he would have the ability to destroy her whole world, if it ever comes to that. Angie likes control, well let’s be honest, who doesn’t. But then again, Angie’s need for control makes it almost impossible for her to see the damage she is doing to her own life, the relationships she forges with everyone around her, and her inability to connect with people long enough to forge meaningful relationships with them.

And then there is Maddocks. Whose own life has clearly not been a walk in the park. The case which forces him to return to his old haunts brings back the memories of a failed marriage, his idealistic views on what his life should have been like, his frayed relationship with his daughter, and most of all, his tendency to be attracted to the broken that needs fixing, which explains Angie and his need for her in his life.

Like I said in my review of the first book, if it were any other man but Maddocks, he would have washed his hands off of Angie and walked away a long while back. But there are reasons which makes Maddocks stay, reasons which I as the reader see for myself when I keep wading through the complexity that is Angie. There is that damaged side to her character which is hard not to empathize with, and there is that wonderful person she could be if there wasn’t so much darkness clouding her life, a person that peeks through from within the layers every once in a while that makes Maddocks’ patience worth it.

Angie coming full circle with her past and uncovering the roots of her beginnings was something to behold. I enjoyed every single minute of it, rooted for Angie with every fiber of my being, and held my breathe every single time things started heading south. But life holds little meaning, if it ain’t for the struggles which you triumph through.

Recommended for fans of thrillers and suspense novels that keeps you at the edge, because a book that doesn’t make you sweat for the characters you root for, ain’t a book worth reading.

Final Verdict: The Lullaby Girl delves deeper into the psyche of Angie and brings to the forefront the horrors of sex-trafficking, taking on the world of transnational organized crime, delivering a story as informative & unsettling as they come.

Favorite Quotes

People don’t understand the toll that job can take on a police officer or his family. They don’t know how we all have to tiptoe around the ugly side of the job, the mood swings, the depression, the drinking.

He caressed the line of her jaw with his thumb. And something fierce and angry erupted inside her—a desperation to burn down her own insecurities, to kill the pain, to blind herself to the fear of what her own memories might reveal, the realities that she might have to face about what had happened to her in childhood. She grabbed his tie and yanked him closer. Drawing his head down, she reached herself up and pressed her mouth hungrily to his. His lips were cold from outside. He hesitated a nanosecond before suddenly cupping her buttocks and jerking her hips tightly up against his pelvis. His mouth bore down on hers, forcing her lips open. He slid his tongue inside, met hers. Lust blinded Angie as she felt his erection stiffening against her belly.

His eyes, intense, held hers as he allowed her to pin his wrists above his head against the floor. Angie straddled his hips and slid the crotch of her skimpy panties aside. Widening her knees, parting her thighs, she sank down onto the hot, hard length of him. With a bliss-filled sigh she spread her thighs farther, making him go deep, deeper. And she began to rock her hips, creating friction deep inside the core of her body. Her breaths came fast, faster. She rocked harder. She became slick around his erection. Her body began to tingle. A hot, raw anger exploded, ripping through her gut, driving her wilder. She closed her eyes, put her head back, mouth open wide, panting, her skin going damp. And she rode him hard and fast and half-clothed, forcing her mind back, mentally reliving that very first night she’d spent with him at the Foxy Motel. She gasped suddenly, froze, then cried out as muscle contractions slammed through her in rolling waves, taking control of her body.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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ARC Review: My Roommate’s Girl by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-bookmyroommatesgirl
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: New Adult
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Aidan Shannon Shaw
Heroine: Aster
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: June 12, 2017
Started On: May 04, 2018
Finished On: May 08, 2018

I have been a fan of Julianna Keyes ever since I discovered her from one of those chance reads I took on Netgalley. Julianna has a way of writing that delivers stories that maintain a realistic edge, and at the same fulfill the yearnings of the romance reader for the angst-ridden and sexy reads that make our day. Plus, Julianna always has a unique tangent to her writing, with twists to existing tropes that makes her books so worth your while.

My Roommate’s Girl toting a gorgeous cover, is written in the first person, told from both Aidan Shannon Shaw, the hero’s, and Aster, the heroine’s point of views. Aidan meets Aster through Jerry, his roommate, whose girlfriend turns out to be none other than Aster. From the moment Aidan lays eyes on Aster, he wants to have her for himself, he needs to have her. But there is of course that little pesky problem of the boyfriend who stands in his way. So sets Aidan on the course that would deliver Aster into his arms, as conniving and manipulative as it sounds.

What unfolds next was not by any means predictable. One would think it would be, given where the story was headed, but the way Julianna peeled back the layers to both Aidan and Aster was truly masterful.

Aidan’s character is easier to figure out in a way; the troublesome background, the way it had been easier for him to fall in with a bad crowd and lose his way. Until a judge had seen through his belligerence and decided to give him the chance to clean up, or else. But like a tweet I came across just today, “the devil works hard but peer pressure works harder”, and that is exactly the case with Aidan as well.

Now Aster, she is the true gem of the story. Her character managed to surprise me at every single turn, and that is no mean feat for someone who reads through so many romance novels and can often predict character behavior from a mile away. But damn, Aster certainly managed to shake my preconceived notions and then some. I felt proud of her for identifying with what had happened, and even fighting back just as dirty to get even. But then again, Aster did not take into account how seductive it is to be stripped bare of all the fronts she has put up, and to be seen exactly for who she is; not the image of perfection that she presents to the rest of the world, but a woman with faults and flaws of her own, someone who learnt from her past and aims to never go down that path again.

Like every single hero I have read from Julianna, Aidan is sexy personified. From his dirty blond hair and that raw physique of his, to the way he wants Aster with every fiber of his being; all that and more made him pretty alluring. Even though the only way Aidan knows to get what he wants is to fight dirty, with Aster, he finds that his conscience doesn’t allow him to be half the douche bag he could really be. For him, Aster is the woman that makes it all matter; she makes him want to stand steadfast on the path of the straight and narrow.

I loved Aster just as much. The fact that she had been able to leave a difficult past behind and clean up her act, that spoke volumes when it comes to the strength of her character and the kind of person she is. And she proves to be just that, honest and kind where it matters. I loved the ending, the way it all came together and how everything worked out. There is nothing better than a happily ever after for a couple you root for from the very beginning, even when that beginning might be the furthest thing from perfect.

Recommended for fans of romances that deliver unusual twists and turns that makes the book that much more worth it.

Final Verdict: My Roommate’s Girl delivers a succulent tale that is trademark Julianna Keyes, with characters that are relatable, and a happily ever after that I rooted for from the very beginning!

Favorite Quotes

I kiss her.
I don’t even think about it, I’m just acting on instinct. The hand on her hip slips around to the outside of her arm, up to her shoulder, her neck, fingers curling into her nape. She doesn’t move, doesn’t look away from my mouth, and the soft flutter of her lashes is the last thing I see before my lips touch hers.
She makes a tiny sound when our mouths meet, and I feel a tremor roll through her, like a frisson of energy arcing from her body into mine. I fumble behind me to stick the spoonful of melting ice cream back into the carton, only fifty percent sure I manage the task, a hundred percent sure I don’t care.
I cup her face with both hands, feel her silky hair teasing my fingers, the softness of her mouth, her breasts pressed against my chest. The tip of her tongue touches my bottom lip at the same moment her hand comes up to stroke my cheek, and I leap away like I’ve been electrocuted.

“Aidan,” she moans again.
“What…do…you…need?” I grunt out. Sensation is rocketing up and down my body, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, things I’ve never felt before and don’t know what to do with.
When I first saw Aster, first thought of fucking her, I didn’t think it would be like this. I thought she’d be prim and proper, maybe ride me like a dainty cowgirl. I thought I’d dirty her up, scandalize her a bit.
Now I don’t think I could scandalize Aster if I tried. She fucks like it’s the most natural thing in the world, like my hands pulling her hair is the thing she likes most. Like my mouth on her nipples and my cock plowing into her is something she lives for. I want to earn those responses. I want to hear them. I want to taste them.

When I first arrived at Holsom, I was terrified. It was new and strange and even among thousands of students, I felt hopelessly alone. Meeting Jerry helped, but I never truly relaxed. Never felt like I belonged. I thought I might, one day, but even after a year of dating I knew that deep down, he never really knew me because I never really let him.
Aidan knows me. I only let him know me because I thought I’d never see him again, but here we are, out in the middle of nowhere, and I don’t feel alone at all. I feel like he sees me and he’s totally okay with what he sees. Scars and all.

At long last I’m seated, his cock buried inside, taking a moment to adjust to the aching fullness. I grind my forehead into his shoulder, feeling him, feeling everything, and he lets me take my time, no pressure, no hurry.
I shift so my lips find his neck, his racing pulse betraying his laidback demeanor. I flex my thighs and lift up slightly, then slide back down, finding an easy, unhurried rhythm that makes everything inside me go soft and molten.

Aidan drops his hands from my hair and I see him digging his fingers into the sand at his sides, trying to hold on. Trying to wait for me.
That’s what sends me over. The sight of this man, weak but still so strong. Hard, solid, tough, sweet. A study in contradictions.
I come with a soft cry, stifling the sound in the curve of his neck, tasting his sweat on my tongue. My body spasms in long, slow waves for what feels like an eternity, and when the orgasm ebbs away Aidan jerks beneath me, hips pushing into mine as he anchors me with his hands on my waist, holding me in place while he takes what he needs.
My limbs feel like jelly, like there’s no earthly way I can stand, no possible way I’ll be able to hike back. I lift my head and absorb the quiet forest, the pristine lake, the boundless sky. This is the farthest from civilization I’ve ever been, but out here, with just me and Aidan, I’ve never felt closer to home.

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

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ARC Review: A Cold Dark Promise by Toni Anderson

Format: E-bookacolddarkpromise.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Cold Justice, #8.5
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Alex Parker
Heroine: Mallory Rooney
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 14, 2017
Started On: November 15, 2017
Finished On: November 24, 2017

A Cold Dark Promise by Toni Anderson is a novella that fans of the Cold Justice series would adore. One reason being that this novella brings to readers the wedding of Alex Parker and FBI Agent Mallory Rooney, the main protagonists from the debut book of the series.

Alex’s character was one of the main reasons why I fell in love with the Cold Justice series initially. Toni Anderson’s way of putting a story together is another, and there was ruthless edge to the story that made me think of Anne Stuart’s books as well, which I obviously adored. Having come a long way since, A Cold Dark Promise takes place with a 27 week pregnant Mallory, getting ready to tie the knot with Alex, in order to celebrate their love, and make things official before the baby were to arrive.

However, a member from Alex’s dark past comes calling, and even though Alex wants to turn away from the plea put forth by a grieving mother, he finds that he is not as ruthless as he thinks himself to be, which is how Alex finds himself in the south of France, where a mission that he had thought would be simple, turns out to be anything but.

I absolutely adored this novella. I am mostly never a fan of short length novels, because though they rarely serve their purpose, and they usually fail to deliver just enough to satisfy readers. But I had no such complains with this little number and I believe that Toni has done a remarkably impressive job out of delivering a well rounded story that readers can sink their teeth into.

I loved Alex and Mallory’s shared moments as described in the story. There is a normalcy to their whole relationship that makes their love that much more real and relatable. There is no dramatic flair to it, but yet it is deep and as meaningful as they come, which is why I adored the bits of their lives that Toni brought to light in this story.

Moments of truth like Mallory grappling with the fact that she doesn’t particularly like it when Alex might be in the line of danger while she herself wants the independence to put herself on the line when it comes to her work as an FBI agent; those are the things that struck me the most in the story.

I also enjoy how Toni brings together the cast from various other stories in the series. I sometimes have a problem with how some authors seem to have too many cooks spoiling the broth so to say, when too many protagonists from other stories seem to become the centre stage of the story. Toni also does an impressive job of portraying male friendships; rather than making them sappy in a way some authors tend to do, or go overboard trying to generate the whole “bro” vibe, I think Toni’s understated way of handling things works beautifully.

The mini secondary romance tucked into the story was just the icing on the cake – Reilly being a wonderful, wonderful hero that I fell in love with, just as hard and just as fast.

Definitely looking forward to more in the series. Toni sometimes describes her imagination as being dark – but I love just how dark it can get, with the possibility of there always been more.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Warm fuzzies is not what I would normally associate with a Toni Anderson, but this little number does it!

Favorite Quotes

Licks of pleasure spiraled into a cyclone of lust. His fingers dipped between her thighs and she moaned. Finding her ready, he turned her away from him, arranging a pillow beneath her baby bump and another cushioning her head. This was her favorite position now she was pregnant and he knew it. Alex moved behind her and slid deep inside and she came with a deep shudder. He leaned up, squeezed her nipple even as he thrust slowly in and out. She could lie like this for hours, days, it felt so good. She shook with pleasure, and she couldn’t bear for it to change but…
“More, Alex. Deeper.” It was a private joke between them, but the hoarseness of her voice took her by surprise. He got to her every single time.

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

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