Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review: Black at Heart by Leslie Parrish

Title: Black at Heart
Series: Black CATs
Author: Leslie Parrish
Read copy: eBook
Published: September 1, 2009
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
ISBN: 1101136235
ISBN-13: 9781101136232

Wyatt Blackstone has done his best to mask his romantic feelings for Lily Fletcher, the brilliant but fragile young woman whose technical skills have helped him track countless violent Internet predators. But now he must fin out if the woman he loves has become a rogue agent obsessed with cold-blooded revenge...

My rating:

On the night of Lily Fletcher's memorial service, someone dialed Wyatt Blackstone's number, a voice from the grave begging for help...

Now, seven months later, someone is offing in-the-closet pedophiles, luring them to out-of-the-way motels through known deviant websites, using very familiar names. The murder scenes are similar, the evidence of murderous rage, no usable fingerprints, no possible DNA samples, but the killer always leaves a lily blossom beside the victim's body.

Wyatt Blackstone, the rather mysterious and reserved leader of the new CAT unit dealing with Internet-related murders, is particularly interested in this case, so interested in fact, no one in his team (but one, Brandon Cole, the IT specialist he's asked for help that night seven months ago) knows about it.

Wyatt refuses to believe the convenient clues, but the nagging doubts won't go away, until he talks to the only suspect he has...

Whoa, what a ride. After the heart-breaking prologue (with a nice kick in the end), we're immediately thrown into a gruesome murder scene and in the very thick of the investigation. The fact Wyatt is playing this pretty close to the vest should've been a good indication of just what exactly was going on, but still the truth surprised the heck out of me...Lily Fletcher, that voice calling Wyatt from the grave, is alive, recuperating in his beach house in Maine.

The second surprise of the day was Lily herself. Gone was the shy, quiet woman, in her stead we meet the strong, determined, scarred (both inside and out) warrior. The surprise was very pleasant indeed, I never much cared about the Lily from the past, but this new Lily, the Lily shaped by that horrible night when all went wrong and the seven days that followed it, now this was a woman to be reckoned with and admired.
The details of what she's been through were never fully explained, which I couunt as a blessing, because the mere tidbits we've been fed were reason and explanation enough for me.
This new Lily at first appeared cold, but it was (as usual) only a defense mechanism, she was strong, she was skilled, she knew what she wanted...Closure and the man she's loved for quite a while, her enigmatic boss, Wyatt Blackstone.

And can you blame the girl? I've been itching to know more about Wyatt from book one in this amazing trilogy. He was a true enigma, a man evidently burying his emotion deep, aloof, unflappable...Gorgeous and sexy as hell. It was heart-breaking to learn the truth about his past, it was rather annoying to see him resist the temptation that was Lily, and it was HOT to see him finally lose some of that famous control.

The suspense part of the story (the major part) was yet again amazing, with the serial killer on the loose, wondering if it was possible Lily was behind it, the hunt for the Lovesprettyboys bastard who kidnapped Lily and held her for seven days, the bomb that the truth about it was, and the tension after learning the true identity of the murdered and his reasons that was strung until the epilogue.

I loved the Black CATs, it was evident how the team progressed from virtual strangers to a group of people that would do anything to protect one of their own (without judgment, without needing all that much explanation), even putting their careers on the stake. It was nice to revisit those "old" friends (Dean and Alec), learning of how their lives went on after their own stories. It was wonderful receiving some sort of vindication when learning just what went down after the failed pedophile bust seven months prior.

But in this story I did miss the romantic aspect a little. A tiny little bit.
Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of tension, wondering whether to do something or not, tapping around the edges, and when the moment finally came it brought a relieved sigh and a "It was about time!" to my lips, but I find it wasn't enough. I wanted to see more of that Blackstone control slip, I wanted to see Wyatt and Lily happy together (I've been rooting for them since the beginning, despite the fact Lily wasn't my favorite character back then), it just wasn't meant to be, I guess. I'm not disappointed with the romance subplot, I just wish there was more. Only a little bit, maybe.

Anyway, with the tight-strung suspense, good pacing, chills and thrills, great action, gripping tension, that little bit of romance (that could've been more ;)), and wonderful characters Black at Heart presents a wonderful finale to this great and highly-recommended series.

A 5-star keeper!

Review: Mysterious Millionaire by Cassie Miles

Title: Mysterious Millionaire
Author: Cassie Miles

Read copy: eBook
Published: March 1, 2008
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1426814186
ISBN-13: 9781426814181

Liz Norton's part-time P.I. gigs were run-of-the-mill custody disputes - until she went undercover on the wealthy Crawford estate. Posing as an unobtrusive housekeeper in what was supposed to be a routine case, she soon found herself in serious danger. But with a dead body on her hands and feuding relatives pointing fingers, the only one she could turn to was Ben Crawford - an enigmatic, single father fighting to keep his young daughter. Except joining forces with the ruggedly handsome businessman only made her yearn to drop the charade, which could prove fatal, with a killer prowling the darkest corners of the mansion....

My rating:

Part time P.I. Liz Norton is hired by Victoria Crawford to dig up the dirt on her estranged husband, Ben, in order to circumvent the prenup and gain sole custody of their daughter. She even made Liz's job easier. Apparently Ben beside being a millionaire and a playboy also has a little drug habit.

Liz stakes out the dealer's house and truly catches Ben in flagrante. But before she can safely stash her camera and the photos, her partner is spotted, there's a shootout, and Liz's windbreaker with the camera in the pocket is gone...Which means Liz needs another angle. A party planned at the Crawford estate gives her the perfect opportunity to infiltrate the house. As a maid.

Her rather pathetic attempts at being a helpful maid fail miserably, but she manages to catch Ben's eye...And she doesn't mind doing a bit of ogling herself. The guy is a hottie.

But Liz definitely needs to put on the breaks. He might be a hottie, but he's also a druggie, though the more she gets to know him, the more bizarre that notion sounds (but she did see him making the buy). Not only that, he might also be a murderer. His grandfather's young wife has been found dead in Ben's workshop and a witness saw Ben carrying the woman.

Now, Victoria has a new assignment for Liz. Find out anything that might convict Ben...Liz is more than happy to venture in her first investigation, but with a different purpose entirely. She will do anything in her power to prove Ben's innocence, even at the cost of her own life.

Heck, yeah. Another HI winner for me. I absolutely adored this little gem of a story.

It had it all, a gorgeous millionaire, a headstrong P.I. with loads of attitude, a rich-people dinner party that ended up with murder, a battle for inheritance, lots of snarky dialogs (courtesy of the P.I. heroine), loads of chemistry (courtesy of the P.I. heroine and gorgeous millionaire hero), and a sniper thrown into the mix.

I loved Liz and Ben together. They somehow complimented each other. Liz with her 'tude and straightforward action-first mentality, balanced loner and silent type Ben out, and vice versa. And the sparks just flew off these two from their first scene together.

I had a bit of a doubt with how the author might explain Ben's drug addiction and the eyewitness seeing him carrying the victim into his workshop. The first alternative that came to mind was the evil twin, but there was no mention of a twin anywhere and he admitted buying the drugs to Liz.
But luckily he had a good reason for the drug-buy and the eyewitness was unreliable (the way most unstable people are).

The murder investigation aspect of this story was great. Nicely-written, nicely paced, keeping the reader guessing. Well done, Ms. Miles. Of course we knew who was behind it (okay, hoped we knew), from the middle on, we knew why, we just didn't know who cast the final blow.

Wonderful characters, good pacing, great chemistry and dialogs, and gripping suspense make this a truly great (and highly recommended) read.

Review: In the Manor with the Millionaire by Cassie Miles

Title: In The Manor With The Millionaire
Author: Cassie Miles

Read copy: eBook
Published: July 1, 2008
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1426819471
ISBN-13: 9781426819476

He was a self-made millionaire, but it was his young son who mattered most to Blake Monroe. So when a beautiful teacher appeared on his rainy doorstep, her car overflowing with her every worldly possession, and immediately bonded with the boy, Blake hired Madeline Douglas on the spot. Under Madeline's care, the child thrived. And in her presence, Blake's defenses crumbled like the walls of the manor he'd been hired to redesign. But something sinister lurked along the foggy cliffs of this remote village, and suddenly Blake had his hands full protecting his ready-made family. Was it the curse that had pervaded the town...or had his own tortured past finally come back to haunt him?

My rating:

Completely broke, Madeline Douglas hopes with all her heart she'll be able to get the tutoring job for famous architect's Blake Monroe's six-year-old son. Duncan has special needs, being diagnosed with a high-functioning type of autism.

Despite their butting heads about what is best for the child and Blake firing her two times in less than 24 hours, Madeline stays and under her care little Duncan prospers.

But not all is well in the old manor Blake is renovating. Its owner stalks the premises until he ends up dead, there are rumors of a curse, a strangler lurking nearby and little Duncan apparently sees ghosts that warn him of imminent danger. But not him...It is Madeline that ends up being in danger.

I don't know what to say. Again a book that was a little crammed with everything remotely suspenseful. Gothic atmosphere with an old manor on a cliff that plays an important part in the local "curse legend", a serial killer on the loose that likes to strangle his victims with seashell necklaces, an autistic (or empathic) child who talks to ghosts and "feels" people, a mercurial loner of a hero, a rather sneaky owner of the manor that ends up dead (after causing an epidemic that killed a few people in town), a hidden passage leading from the manor to the beach...And to top it off a hidden stash of diamonds.

The chemistry between the hero and heroine was good, the sparkage was definitely there, the child was a great character (even though sometimes a portent of doom), the suspense though not chilling was good, pointing at different suspects at the same time...It's just that this story really had too much of everything, or I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to read it.

A rather disappointing read.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Review: Pitch Black by Leslie Parrish

Title: Pitch Black
Series: Black CATs
Author: Leslie Parrish
Read copy: eBook
Published: August 4, 2009
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
ISBN: 1101106700
ISBN-13: 9781101106709

Former profiler Alec Lambert would give anything to catch The Professor, a serial killer who lures his victims with Internet scams. Now working with reclusive scam expert Samantha Dalton, he finally has his chance. But as they draw ever closer to discovering The Professor's identity and stopping his murderous rampage, they realize Sam is the psychotic killer's new obsession—and possibly his next target...

My rating:

Alec Lambert had gotten too close to a witness a few months back. A serious lapse in judgment that had cost Alec a stint in the hospital, his girlfriend, and his dog (taken by the said girlfriend), not to mention the life of a fellow FBI agent...And now, even Alec's certain promotion to Supervising Special Agent in his BAU unit.
Actually he's been brought down a heap of notches, stuck in the new CAT unit lead by Wyatt Blackstone. A unit investigating Internet-related murders. Knowing the Black CATs reputation, Alec isn't very pleased, but at least he's still an FBI agent, isn't he?

His appreciation of his new team, his new position, and his new boss's cunning comes the first day of Alec's new position. A serial killer, the Professor, the BAU has been after for years, has switched on-line, luring his victims using different Internet scams.

Just hours before his untimely demise, the Professor's latest victim had been in contact with a woman who's made her life calling to warn Internet users of such scams, Samantha Dalton a.k.a. Sam the Spaminator.

Alec and his new partner immediately head onto Ms. Dalton's doorstep, unwittingly pulling the woman into the dangerous cat-and-mouse game that is about to get even more perilous and deadly.

This is the second book in the Black CATs trilogy by the talented Leslie Parrish, and if it's at all possible, even better than the first book, Fade to Black.

The plot was as good as the first book, with all its intricacies and different POV, but the pacing (while dragging a little at the beginning of the first book) has definitely improved, remaining consistent throughout the story.

Ms. Parrish has introduced another Blackstone's CAT member to the mix, someone mentioned only in passing in the first installment, but that proved to be an invaluable addition to the mixed team. I adored Alec, with all his little contradictions (the hardened FBI agents don't appear too hardened after all when the right person is involved ;)), that twinkle in his eye, and the protective streak a mile wide.

I had some problems with Sam Dalton at the beginning, the woman was a real mess. I've never been divorced myself, so I wouldn't know how it felt, but after a year you'd think she'd have moved on. Well, she did in the course of this story and I ended up loving her just as much as every other "misfit" in Wyatt's CAT group.

The suspense was even more gripping, firmly crossing the threshold into thriller territory, IMHO. The serial killer was utterly twisted without having gone into stalker territory, but a stalker-ish serial killer...Talk about creepy. And yet again, his identity was once again a huge surprise, a nice respite from some other RS books when the villain's identity is so transparent it almost makes you cry.

Yeah, I definitely loved this book. The plot was nice and twisty, the pacing great, the characters, though some already familiar, still interesting, their dynamic has apparently grown even more from Fade to Black, the villain was a complete wacko and a complete surprise, the suspense chilling, thrilling, and unrelenting, the familiarity of the Internet world and its scams (and the dread that something like this might happen in real life, we've all received a similar message in our inbox), and that extra touch of romance (a bit hotter this time, maybe?) combined in a perfect mix.

The only real problem I've encountered in this book was the CAT IT specialist Lily Fletcher. I knew from the start of Fade to Black that she would be a real wild-card, despite her emotional side or because of it, and kept hoping she'd finally see reason. She didn't, (almost) destroying the most important factor in the dynamic of the entire team - trust. What happened to her wasn't "nice", but it wasn't unexpected either...But now, having read the blurb for Black at Heart, the final installment in this amazing trilogy, that completely confirmed my suspicion about the shy IT and the big boss (*wink wink*), I'm really looking forward to reading the last book and see what Ms. Parish would come up with.
I can't wait!!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: Fade to Black by Leslie Parrish

Title: Fade to Black
Series: Black CATs
Author: Leslie Parrish
Read copy: eBook
Published: July 7, 2009
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
ISBN: 110108054X
ISBN-13: 9781101080542

After transferring out of violent crimes and onto the FBI's Cyber Action Team, Special Agent Dean Taggert is shocked to encounter a case far more vicious than any he's ever seen. A cold and calculating predator dubbed "The Reaper" is auctioning off murder in the cyber world and is about to kill again—unless Dean and beautiful sheriff Stacey Rhodes can stop him.

My rating:

Special Agent Dean Taggert, member of a special Cyber Action Team (CAT) dealing in Internet-related murders, comes into the small town of Hope Valley, Virginia, pursuing a case that might have something to do with a missing person reported seventeen months ago.

Up until now, everybody in Hope Valley, Sheriff Stacey Rhodes included, though local girl Lisa Zimmerman had simply taken off with one of her druggie boyfriends. A video, found on a "specialized" website catering to the lowest of the low on the humane scale, appropriately called Satan's Playground proves them all wrong. Lisa had been murdered that night seventeen months ago...And she knew her killer.

Having literally escaped back home to Hope Valley from what she's seen and experienced during her stint in state police, Stacey Rhodes, can't believe blood and death have invaded her small, serene home town. And that the killer, with a deadly handle of The Reaper, still on the loose, slowly but inexorably letting go of his grasp on reality, could be someone she knows, someone she works with, someone she loves.

With the time between the murders escalating and the Reaper becoming more and more brazen with his Internet murder-auctions, Stacey, Dean and his CAT team race against the clock to uncover the Reaper's identity and save his next intended victim...

This is the first book in a suspense/thriller series (it appears a trilogy for now) by Leslie Parrish. Fade to Black started with a compelling and utterly chilling prologue, and the suspense didn't let up until the fast-paced, completely unexpected finale.

The plot was great, well-developped and well-written, the pacing great (thought it dragged its feet a little at the beginning, but that's to be expected with a first book in any series), the characters were nicely drawn and "fully-dimensional", the dynamic was great and the chills and thrills throughout the story compelled me to finish this one in one sitting.

Though some might find the multiple-character POV and procedural part of the story somewhat boring and uneventful, it helped develop the reader's understanding of the characters and what made each of them tick, brought the whole apprehending-the-killer procedure a little closer to the reader's understanding, along with nicely sketching the initial team dynamic, which, as the story progressed, developped into true team-work. Six completely different characters, literally forced to work together sight unseen, developped a new, strong team-bond throughout the story, promising even more excitement in the future.

I absolutely loved the cat-and-mouse game between the killer and his pursuers, the clues that seemed to bring them closer to the killer, yet contradicted themselves at the same time. The suspect list was an arm long, with new clues pointing in different directions and possibilities with each page, and I loved the utter surprise the Reaper's identity presented. Never saw that one coming.

The different twists and turns, smaller sub-plots, great characters, wonderful pacing, the chilling suspense, and that little touch of romance (though I wouldn't miss it if it weren't there) make Fade to Black a truly wonderful and compelling read. A great first installment in this series and I can't wait to read the rest.

P.S. Shawna, thanks a bunch for pointing me in the direction of this beauty. ;)

Review: Passion To Die For by Marilyn Pappano

Title: Passion to Die For
Series: Calloway Brothers - Copper Lake
Author: Marilyn Pappano
Read copy: eBook
Published: October 1, 2009
Publisher: Silhouette
ISBN: 1426841310
ISBN-13: 9781426841316

"I wish to God you were dead."

Little did Ellie Chase know those would be the last words she ever spoke to her estranged mother. When Martha's body was found the next morning, all eyes were on Ellie... who couldn't remember what she'd done that night. So when Tommy Maricci—the man she refused to let herself love came to her rescue, she couldn't say no.

Tommy believed in his former girlfriend's innocence—no matter how damning the evidence against her was. She may have broken his heart, but he took her into his home for protection. Because if Ellie wasn't the killer, someone had set her up. And Tommy refused to let anyone hurt the woman he loved.

My rating:

Ellie Chase thought she was safe in the little town, where the only pain she had to endure was watch her ex-boyfriend bring another woman to dinner at her restaurant.

But the evening wasn't over yet. Fate had another surprise in store for Ellie, a ghost from her past. A ghost that could and surely would destroy everything Ellie has worked so hard to obtain.

Well, this book is great proof why you should stick with something until the very end (or at least until the middle). Because it started so slow and rather boring, I was seriously contemplating leaving it be and read something else. But something told me to keep reading...And I ended up finishing it in one sitting (okay, maybe I was a little more horizontal, but let's not split hairs).

Anyway, yeah, it started slow, uneventful, yet another story where the guy dumps the girl, leaving her pining...But it turned out quite differently. It was the girl that sort-of dumped the guy when he gave her the ultimate ultimatum - "I want it all or nothing". Imagine that. The guy wanted to get married, have kids, the works, and the girl dragged her feet.
Talk about refreshing.

And of course, six months later she was still dragging her feet, pining after him as much as he pined after her (didn't these people ever heard of communication?), when her past came marching back into her life...And we learned she had a pretty good, solid reason for dragging her feet, for not daring to hope, trust, love. Talk about emotional scars and baggage. She had it all, an probably a T-shirt to prove it.

Though this story was, of course, heroine-centric, I came to love the hero the most. Though not possessing a very manly name (I know he was of Italian descent, but Tommy!?), he was true hero material. He defied the heroines belief he would want nothing to do with her after he learned the truth, he stuck by her when things got rough, when most people would give up and turn their backs on her, forgave her for lying to him, forgave her for pushing him away, and still loved her in the end.
He truly made me wish I lived in Romancelandia.

The only problem with this book was the suspense part. Sure it was gripping and nail-biting worthy when it started, but when the truth came out and the culprit and the reasons were known, it just struck me as a little far fetched.

Besides the rather unsatisfying suspense plot (and ending) and the slow start, there were absolutely no other obstacles for me to really enjoy this story.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Review: The Christmas Stranger by Beth Cornelison

Title: The Christmas Stranger
Series: The Bancroft Brides
Author: Beth Cornelison
Read copy: eBook
Published: October 1, 2009
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1426841337
ISBN-13: 9781426841330

Deck the halls with danger!

After her husband's death, Holly Bancroft Cole knows Christmas won't be the same this year. Still grieving, she decides to complete the renovations on her North Carolina farmhouse and hires a construction worker. Drawn to his piercing eyes and gentle manners, Holly can't shake the feeling that secrets lie behind the handsome stranger's warm smile.

Haunted by memories, Matt Rankin can't remember the joy that simple pleasures bring until he meets Holly. When a harrowing attempt is made on her life, Matt realizes he can't live without this beautiful angel. Now he must protect the woman he loves at all costs - even if it means risking his own life.

My rating:

I honestly don't know what to say about this book. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't extraordinary either, taking a safe, solid middle ground. I'm not even sure it could be categorized as a romantic suspense story, since it only got remotely suspenseful toward the end, and the "villain" could be spotted from the very beginning.

I had the most problems with the heroine in this one. She was a walking contradiction. Chipper, kind, too trusting (she just invited a complete stranger into her home and a few days later asked him to move in with her!), and too gullible. It was the latter that got on my nerves the most. Because she believed just everything people told her (even if it was hinky and later on clearly a lie). And because she believed what people told her, she quickly reverted course and took that trust away, hiding behind anger and bitterness. Honey, have you ever heard of consistency?

The hero was rather plain, blending in with the background, bringing his own woes into the picture. Woes that, oh so conveniently, tied him to the heroine's, oh so conveniently, murdered husband.

But the disappointment came with the final showdown and the big reveal of why Ryan was murdered (the "by whom" was obvious from the start). The reason and motive was completely out there and utterly bogus.

Sad, but so true.

Review: The Latin Lover by Lucy Monroe and Trish Morey

Title: The Latin Lover
Author: Lucy Monroe, Trish Morey

Read copy: eBook
Published: October 1, 2009
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 142684087X
ISBN-13: 9781426840876

The Greek Tycoon's Inherited Bride by Lucy Monroe

Phoebe's betrothal to Spiros Petronides' brother meant she was forbidden, and honor was the code the Greek billionaire lived by. But with one kiss Spiros knew he had to claim her as his!

Back in the Spaniard's Bed by Trish Morey

Leah left Alejandro Rodriguez because she'd overstepped the boundaries of a mistress and fallen in love! The Spaniard's arrogance angered her, but his touch ignited her. So when Alejandro storms back into her life, how can Leah deny him?

My rating:

I've never encountered an anthology so "nicely" proportioned.

The first story was the absolute worst I've read recently (and that's saying a lot). It didn't sound like something happening in this century, no matter how traditionalist Greeks can be. The hero was an idiot and the heroine even worse. I literally wanted to jump into the story and slap her silly, and grab her by the shoulders and shake her until her teeth rattled.

I hated this story.

The second one was the complete opposite. I loved it, despite the traditional hero-bent-on-revenge-because-she-dumped-him theme Harlequin Presents authors are so fond of.
It was a combination of several elements that made me like it despite the cheesy and so overly-done theme. The writing was good, the story flowed nicely, the H/h had a great chemistry together, the hero was simply drool-worthy (all tall, dark, handsome with a Spanish accent that makes you all tingly inside), and the bitchy sister was just bitchy enough for me to dislike her with a passion and gloat when all her well-laid plans went up in smoke.

So let's make some rudimentary math... 1 star and 4 stars make an average of 2.5 stars, but since the second story is still so fresh and nice in my mind, I'll give this unfortunate two-story collection a 3 stars and add a note to self that the next time (if that time comes) I read this, I'll skip directly to Ms. Morey's story.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review: Colorado Abduction by Cassie Miles

Title: Colorado Abduction
Series: Christmas at the Carlisles
Author: Cassie Miles
Read copy: eBook
Published: October 1, 2009
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1426841396
ISBN-13: 9781426841392

A city slicker like Burke had no business being on her Colorado ranch.

But Carolyn Carlisle knew she needed him. Not only was the Carlisle Ranch a target for sabotage just weeks before Christmas, but also her family had been threatened and danger lurked around every corner. Carolyn was used to being in charge, but incredibly sexy FBI agent J.D. Burke had other ideas. He was domineering, stubborn and vowed never to let an assignment turn personal. Still, with the enemy just as elusive as the agent's penetrating gaze, Carolyn secretly hoped Burke would let down his guard and act on their intense chemistry. Even if one amazing night ended up breaking her usually hardened heart.

My rating:

Carolyn Carlisle, CEO of her family's beef exporting company, quickly returns to the family ranch when her younger brother informs her the barn's been burnt down. Thankfully, her horse, Elvis, is safe, but she doesn't get the feeling her brother's marriage is equally so.

She overhears the spouses arguing and minutes later Nicole storms off on horseback. Carolyn hears shots, jumps on Elvis and goes to investigate. Nicole's bodyguard has been shot and Nicole is nowhere to be found.

Looks like kidnapping and Carolyn knows there's only one outcome - contact the FBI.

Two and a half hours later the calvary arrives, presided by the tall, dark, handsome, and taciturn Special Agent J.D. Burke. He exudes confidence and take-charge attitude and Carolyn knows they're bound to butt heads. She's not wrong...And she's not disappointed.

Well, girls (and occasional boy), I didn't think it was possible, I was despairing in fact, but I did it. I got meself a winner here! Yes! *pumps fist into the air* Yes!

This book was one of the best (Jenna Ryan 's stuff is still my favorite) Harlequin Intrigues I've read. Great plot, great pacing, great suspense, great tension, great UST, great characters, great interaction, great chemistry. I absolutely loved it.

The author veered from the usual Intrigue patterns of a sometimes obtuse and TSTL damsel in distress with emotional baggage and a hero with even more emotional baggage.

The main suspense plot did somewhat involve the heroine, her sister-in-law has been kidnapped, but the main conflict didn't center around her. Also, Carolyn was 33 years old, a mature woman that knew what she wanted, knew how to get it, and though she appeared rather unapproachable, stoic, stubborn and cold at the beginning, she had a pretty good reason. As the only woman on a cattle ranch, she had to learn to take charge at an early age, as a powerful CEO she had to prove herself on a daily basis. And that "take charge don't take orders" attitude just didn't go away as soon as the sexy FBI agent showed up.
But despite her nature, she knew when to back off, she knew when she was out of her depths, and knew when to let the big boys do their thing. I liked her from the start. She established and marked her territory, never raising her voice, never stopped being polite, but she made herself understood and heard.

And Special Agent J.D. Burke respected that. These two were two peas in the pod, which explains Carolyn's initial thought they would soon butt heads.

I loved Burke. For once we got a leading man without a painful past. Okay, there had been some pain, but that didn't prevent him from shutting off emotionally, it didn't make him shun commitment. Actually he was the first to say the C-word and the first to say the L-word. You gotta love a guy like that.

There were actually two villains in this story, two separate cases for the FBI to solve, and while one of them was solved to satisfaction (even with some bullets flying), the other was a real doozy. And that's the only complaint I have about this story. The rather abrupt ending and a whopper of a twist just before it. But since this is the first in a miniseries (the next two books, Bodyguard Under the Mistletoe and Secluded with the Cowboy coming in November and December), I guess I'll get my answers eventually. Along with, hopefully, some more details about Carolyn and J.D.

Yes, this one was definitely a winner. Out of the HI norm, wonderful characters, gripping suspense, lots of action, realistic portrayal of law-enforcement procedures, with perfectly placed humorous inserts to tone down the tension a bit when needed.

"Unputdownable" and a 5-star keeper!