Saturday, May 30, 2015

Review: The Major's Faux Fiancée by Erica Ridley

Title: The Major's Faux Fiancée
Series: The Dukes of War
Author: Erica Ridley
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: June 1, 2015
Publisher: Intrepid Reads

When Major Bartholomew Blackpool learns the girl-next-door from his childhood will be forced into an unwanted marriage, he returns home to play her pretend beau. He figures now that he's missing a leg, a faux fiancée is the best an ex-soldier can get. He admires her pluck, but the lady deserves a whole man—and he'll ensure she gets one.

Miss Daphne Vaughan hates that crying off will destroy Major Blackpool's chances of finding a real bride. She plots to make him jilt her first. Who cares if it ruins her? She never wanted a husband anyway. But the major is equally determined that she break the engagement. With both of them on their worst behavior, neither expects their fake betrothal to lead to love...

My rating:

***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***

What happened? Where was the comedy? Where were great characters? Where was the great plot and narrative flow I've come to expect in this series?

I'm sorry to say, this was the worst story so far. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't what it could (and should) have been. Both the hero and heroine were annoying. I know Bartholomew's been dealt a shitty hand, but he went a little too far in feeling sorry for himself. He came through as selfish, only thinking of himself, believing he's the only one with rotten luck. Daphne was his perfect match in feeling sorry for herself, but for entirely different, yet also selfish reasons. No one cared about her, no one wanted her, everybody left. People die, so they leave, it's the circle of life, but if you want someone to care, you have to give them a reason to. She never bothered. And then, it turned out, she was doing all her goody-goody work for selfish reasons as well, because she wanted people to know she was doing it, she wanted people to care about her and not about her projects. Sheesh. And she kept pushing people away when they wanted to help (Bartholomew, Katherine...), because she wanted to do it all one her own. For herself, not for the others.

I just couldn't empathize with the two of them, I couldn't relate to them, since I didn't really care about them. They were two selfish, self-centered, egotistical individuals that sort of happened to like each other, be attracted to one another, and ended up being in love. Meh.

I much preferred the secondary characters in this one, and the glimpse into the beginning of the next story. I loved Daphne's friend, Katherine, and I hope she'll find her match in the last book in the series, whose title suggests it's bout a duke. ;) And I'm looking forward to the next story in the series that starts with the wedding of the Duke of Ravenwood who's pretty much given up on marrying for love in order to give Sarah Fairfax the respectability after her fiancé, Bartholomew's brother, knocked her up and went to die in war. I truly hope the dead guy is a step up from his brother.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Review: The Captain's Bluestocking Mistress by Erica Ridley

Title: The Captain's Bluestocking Mistress
Series: The Dukes of War
Author: Erica Ridley
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: March 2, 205
Publisher: Intrepid Reads

Captain Xavier Grey’s body is back amongst the Beau Monde, but his mind cannot break free from the horrors of war. His friends try to help him find peace. He knows he doesn’t deserve it. Just like he doesn't deserve the attentions of the sultry bluestocking intent on seducing him into bed...

Spinster Jane Downing wants off the shelf and into the arms of a hot-blooded man. Specifically, the dark and dangerous Captain Grey. She may not be destined to be his wife, but nothing will stop her from being his mistress. She could quote classical Greek by the age of four. How hard can it be to learn the language of love?

My rating:

***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley***

Jane Downing is tired of giving people Janenesia. She's tired of not being memorable, of being forgettable, of passing through life unnoticed. Yes, her predicament might be a little bit her fault, but she's tired of it. Unfortunately, there's nothing she can do about it, but there is something she can do for herself. Like getting rid of her virginity, for example.

But a man or other won't do. She wants someone she likes to do the honors. Someone she desires, someone she respects...And that someone should be the honorable Captain Xavier Grey. He's no longer a vegetable, hiding from the world inside his mind, so Jane's confident he's up to the challenge. Only, it turns out the real challenge is convincing him.

This was another lovely addition to the The Dukes of War series, although I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with the story. I can't really put my finger on what bothered me (not enough, of course, to drastically lower the rating), there was just something off. The pacing was good, the story had just the right amount of humor to start with, the characters were lovely (even the Satan-cat—can a cat be deemed a character?), the plot and story were nice...

I guess what bothered me was what happened after the deed. Not Xavier's confession of what he truly did during the war, but how Jane dealt with it immediately after hearing it, and her thought process afterwards. It somehow didn't quite fit with the Jane we've been introduced to, the Jane that barged in on a gentleman in the middle of the snowstorm. Granted, she needed time to adjust, but it felt discordant with everything else.
Also, I wouldn't have minded a bit more pages after it, because the resolution (Xavier's reasoning and the final "show") seemed a bit rushed.

I know I'm nitpicking, but the last third of the story didn't seem "in harmony" with the rest of it.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review: The Viscount's Christmas Temptation by Erica Ridley

Title: The Viscount's Christmas Temptation
Series: The Dukes of War
Author: Erica Ridley
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: October 21, 2014
Publisher: Intrepid Reads

Certain individuals might consider Lady Amelia Pembroke a managing sort of female, but truly, most people would be lost without her help. Why, the latest on-dit is that rakish Viscount Sheffield is canceling the fête of the year because he hasn't time for silly soirees. He doesn't need time—he needs her!

When a flash of lightning destroys the venue for his family's annual Christmas ball, Lord Benedict Sheffield intends to enjoy a relaxing holiday for once. But after twelve days of beguiling Lady Amelia's guerrilla tactics, he's up to his cravat with tinsel . . . and tumbling head over heels in love.

My rating:

Lady Amelia Pembroke knows the only way she could get her younger brother, the Duke of Ravenwood, married, is to get married herself. And what better way to find a husband than at the annual Sheffield Christmas ball. Unfortunately, the annual ball is canceled due to a lightning strike, so Amelia decides to help Viscount Sheffield find another venue and organize the ball so she can find a suitable husband. But you know what they say about the best laid plans...

I've been meaning to read this for a while, ever since I enjoyed the first book in this series, but I somehow never took the time. I guess I prefer to read my series in bigger "gulps". So, after receiving the invitation to read the third instalment in the series, I decided it was now time to "dig out my eating utensils". Three books (in a series) in a row, no problem.

After reading it, I can't help but kick myself for not doing it sooner. I loved it. I adored Amelia, the little bulldozer that didn't know what hit her, I adored Benedict, the adorable rake that didn't know what hit him, I laughed at Amelia brother's reaction underneath the kissing ball...I loved everything. It had humor, it had romance, it had lovable characters... The only thing that might have been improved a bit was the length. It was too short. Otherwise, I have absolutely no complaints.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Review: The Liar by Nora Roberts

Title: The Liar
Author: Nora Roberts

Read copy: Paperback
Published: April 14, 2015
Publisher: Putnam
ISBN: 0399174400
ISBN-13: 9780399174407

Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions...

The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed.

Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning...

My rating:

When her husband dies, Shelby Foxworth learns the life she's been living for the past four years had been a lie, and the husband she thought she knew (and loved) had been a liar. So she decides to take her life back, take herself back, and leaves Philadelphia for her hometown with her three-year-old daughter in tow, and a mountain of debt on her shoulders.

She'll soon learn (again), there's no better cure than family, and no better hope than love. But sometimes things are not as they seem, and she'll quickly realize, her newly found freedom and independence might be the biggest lie of them all.

I know I'm repetitive, but you just can't beat Nora Roberts when it comes to writing gripping suspense, great, subtle romance, wonderful characters, and small-towns and their communities. Well, the only one who can beat her at her own game is Nora Roberts, because she keeps outdoing herself with each new book.

This was a great example of NR at her best. The pacing was great, the characters were lovely (I especially loved Callie, Griff, and Viola, Shelby's Granny), the romance was spot-on and nicely timed, the relationships between the characters were great (Griff with Callie, Viola with everybody, Shelby's family...), the humor was wonderful, the suspense intense and gripping...Everything was as it should be, and as I've come to expect from one of my favorite authors.
I had a theory about the Liar and I'm so glad I wasn't wrong. Maybe that makes the story a little predictable, but come on, you have to be blind to just take everything at face value. We're talking about a romantic suspense book, and a NR to boot, and the big clue was right there. The "predictability" didn't diminish my pleasure in reading it, it actually made me look forward to the big reveal, the showdown, and the happily-ever-after that always follows.

I knew I would love the book before I picked it up. I'm so happy when I'm right. ;)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Review: The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts

Title: The Perfect Hope
Series: Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy
Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: Paperback
Published: November 6, 2012
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425246043
ISBN-13: 9780425246047

Ryder is the hardest Montgomery brother to figure out—with a tough-as-nails outside and possibly nothing too soft underneath. He’s surly and unsociable, but when he straps on a tool belt, no woman can resist his sexy swagger. Except apparently Hope Beaumont, the innkeeper of his own Inn BoonsBoro...

As the former manager of a D.C. hotel, Hope is used to excitement and glamour, but that doesn’t mean she can’t appreciate the joys of small-town living. She’s where she wants to be—except for in her love life. Her only interaction with the opposite sex has been sparring with the infuriating Ryder, who always seems to get under her skin. Still, no one can deny the electricity that crackles between them…a spark that ignited with a New Year’s Eve kiss.

While the Inn is running smoothly, thanks to Hope’s experience and unerring instincts, her big-city past is about to make an unwelcome—and embarrassing—appearance. Seeing Hope vulnerable stirs up Ryder’s emotions and makes him realize that while Hope may not be perfect, she just might be perfect for him...

My rating:

Ryder Montgomery has been a pill toward Hope Beaumont from the moment they've met. He never calls her by her name, he's dismissive and snarly, he's sarcastic and downright rude sometimes...And he'd be so much easier to dislike if he wasn't so hot...And sweet and kind, when he wants to be—to others, not to her. And if she didn't feel all hot and bothered in his presence even, okay, especially, when they're sparring...

So what is a girl to do when she's trapped in a locked-by-the-resident-ghost room, but kiss the infuriating, sexy Ryder Montgomery. Because a kiss is the only way the ghost would let them out of the room. Yes, that's the only reason she kissed him...Then why does she want to do it again?

There are books that leave you with a satisfied smile when you finish them, and there are books that you read from beginning to end with a smile on your face. This one falls into the latter category. I couldn't stop smiling (even through a film of tears toward the end, but never mind), and I couldn't prevent myself from ooh-ing, ah-ing, and aww-ing. It was a feel-good story through and through, and a perfect ending to a great trilogy.

I loved Ryder Montgomery from the first scene he's appeared in in The Next Always. He was abrupt, he was prickly, he was sincere to the point of rudeness, yet there was a soft, kind, sometimes tender core underneath the stony exterior, and a big heart. When you meet someone like that, someone you know, despite everything that goes on on the outside, would do almost anything for friends and family (even those not related by blood), you can't help but love them. And hope the best for them.
Then Hope Beaumont made her entrance, went all jittery and "stroke-y" when she saw Ryder, and I knew we were in for a ride. He turned into an obnoxious asshole when she was around, and I couldn't help but grin. Because you know how it is in kindergarten and school, where boys pull girls' pigtails and tease them to get them to notice them. That was Ryder when it came to Hope. Although I don't think the sparring and rudeness was meant to get her to notice him, it was more like a self-preservation technique, to keep her at arm's length. A technique that failed miserably. The first big crack happening in The Last Boyfriend at Owen's New Year's party. I knew their book would be awesome from the start, and that single scene confirmed it.

I adored them together, him more than her, because of the prickliness, and adversity he's been showing since the beginning. It's those people that fall the hardest. I loved how they complimented each other, how opposite they were, yet somehow similar. She kept lists on paper, he kept them in his head, she was organized, he preferred (organized) chaos, she looked uptight, while he was more relaxed, yet they both chose to keep whatever was between them simple and uncomplicated (good luck with that one). She kept surprising him, showing him she wasn't truly what he initially believed her to be, keeping him constantly on his toes, intriguing him, keeping him guessing. The poor guy had no chance whatsoever. Neither did.

I loved it.

And, don't get me started on the whole ghost thing. I knew everything would be resolved in this last book, because, it was the last book, but still. I never anticipated a resolution like this. The connection, not only to Hope, but to the Montgomerys as well. And the way everything was resolved, how both girls got their happy ending. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense, and the resolution could not have been done differently. Something needed to fit just right, click perfectly into place for it to be a happy ending. And it figures it needed to be done on the male part of the pairing. The girl's been waiting a long time, it was time for the boy to get to her. And it made sense it would've been the last brother, the "hardest" of the bunch, to make it right. It fits.

Everything else, Clare's pregnancy, Avery's tavern...It all faded into the background, providing the scenery, the backdrop to the main story, as it should be. The main pairing and their story should be in the driving seat, propelling the story forward, not the other way around, as it happened, IMO, in the second book in the trilogy. No worries with this story, though. Hope and Ryder were there, front and center.

I won't go about the writing, the flow, the voice, because it's a Nora Roberts book, and, in my eyes, she can do no wrong in that department.

But I will finish with how I started. This book made me happy. It made me feel joy. It made me sigh contentedly when it ended. It made me want to start all over again immediately. And it made me smile. It doesn't get better than that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts

Title: The Last Boyfriend
Series: Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy
Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: Paperback
Published: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425246035
ISBN-13: 9780425246030

Owen is the organizer of the Montgomery clan, running the family's construction business with an iron fist - and an even less flexible spreadsheet. And though his brothers bust on his compulsive list-making, the Inn BoonsBoro is about to open right on schedule. The only thing Owen didn't plan for was Avery McTavish...

Avery's popular pizza place is right across the street from the inn, giving her a first-hand look at its amazing renovation - and a newfound appreciation for Owen. Since he was her first boyfriend when they were kids, Owen has never been far from Avery's thoughts. But the attraction she's feeling for him now is far from innocent.

As Avery and Owen cautiously take their relationship to another level, the opening of the inn gives the whole town of Boonsboro a reason to celebrate. But Owen's hard work has only begun. Getting Avery to let down her guard is going to take longer than he expected - and so will getting her to realize that her first boyfriend is going to be her last...

My rating:

Owen and Avery have known each other since they were children, he was her first boyfriend when she was five, his mother was her surrogate mother when her own left, he was there for her when things were good and when they were bad, his family gave her the opportunity to open her first restaurant, his brother's fiancée is her best friend, her father is sleeping with his mother (and yes, it's a little weird), and ever since that surprise kiss in the renovated inn, Owen and Avery have these strange feelings for each other.

But is that just the spur of the moment or maybe residual happiness from the pairing of her best friend and his brother...Is it the matchmaking ghost residing at the inn, or is it the simple fact the two have loved each other all of their lives?

I loved the story, I loved Owen and Avery together, I even loved the mommy-abandonment issues that prompted Avery to sometimes push people she cared about away, because it showed Owen's determination to keep her and not to be shoved aside, thus helping Avery see and realize she wasn't "less".

But, yes, there's always a "but" involved, I couldn't help the feeling this second instalment was just a filler between the first and third book in the trilogy. Granted, I loved Owen and Avery and I adored their story, but I felt like there was so much more we could've known about them, seen about them as a couple.
Instead, almost everything they did and experience together was somehow tied into the preparations for the inn's opening, Beckett and Clare's wedding, and researching Lizzy's (the ghost living at the inn) history. And every conversation, Owen and Avery had, every realization about their relationship and what they wanted in/from it, came as a direct result of something involving the inn, the wedding, and the ghost. Everything they did was more of a reaction than a direct action, and it was rather distracting and somewhat disappointing.

Don't get me wrong, I was excited about the inn (I really have to see it "live"), I was happy about the wedding, and I can't wait to see what happens with the ghost (a very lucky coincidence indeed she's a distant relative of one of the trilogy protagonists, and it explains the initial reaction of said protagonist when she visited the inn for the first time, and met her hero), but I wanted to read more about Owen and Avery "the couple" not as Owen and Avery "the friend/brother/chef/contractor/bridesmaid/organizer".

Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: The Next Always by Nora Roberts

Title: The Next Always
Series: Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy
Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: Paperback
Published: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425243214
ISBN-13: 9780425243213

The historic hotel in Boonsboro has endured war and peace, the changing of hands, and even rumored hauntings. Now it's getting a major face-lift from the Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother. As the architect in the family, Beckett's social life consists mostly of talking shop over pizza and beer. But there's another project he's got his eye on: the girl he's been waiting to kiss since he was sixteen.

After losing her husband and returning to her hometown, Clare Brewster soon settles into her life as the mother of three young sons while running the town's bookstore. Though busy and with little time for romance, Clare is drawn across the street by Beckett's transformation of the old inn, wanting to take a closer both the building and the man behind it.

With the grand opening inching closer, Beckett is happy to give Clare a private tour - one room at a time, in between blueprint meetings and kindergarten pickups. It's no first date, but these stolen moments are the beginning of something that could arouse the secret yearning that resides in Clare's independent heart - and open the door to the extraordinary adventure of what comes next...

My rating:

Beckett Montgomery has been crushing on Clare Brewster for years, way back when she was still a Murphy, dating his friend, but she always saw him as only a friend. She'd moved away, had three children, lost her husband to the war, and came back to her hometown six years ago...So what has made Beckett decide to make a move now, after all this time? Maybe it's the rebuilding of the old inn that feels like a rebirth, starting something new, maybe it's the nice lady ghost smelling of honeysuckle that's walking the halls of the old inn...Or maybe it's just the right time. The right place. And the right woman.

Okay, I have no idea where that introduction came from. Moving on.

I just realized (again) that Nora Roberts is my go-to author when I want to send my brain out for coffee and spend a couple of hours de-stressing with a good book. Her romance novels (the straight-up romances, no suspense required) really help me switch everything off and just enjoy reading, turning pages, visiting wonderful places, and even more wonderful characters. There's romance (without explicit "seduction scenes"—trust me, sometimes less is more), laughter, banter (I adore the back-and-forth between the characters, be it friends, family or lovers), and wonderful relationships between characters.

This first book in the Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy was no different. We're introduced to the three Montgomery brothers that are restoring an old inn, the women they (are destined to) love, their friends and families, and the close-knit community of the town of Boonsboro.
The Montgomerys (along with their mother) were a hoot, Beckett was all adorable with Clare's three sons, he and Clare were a lovely couple, the pizzeria owner was a hoot in her own right...I must say, not a single thing was out of place. Well, maybe I could've done without the "villain", but at least that was resolved quickly.

This book was one of those that, after you finish, you want to start all over again, just because you know you're gonna have fun all over again reading it. And one of those series/trilogy starters that make you itch to read the next instalment ASAP. No wonder I always wait for all the books in a NR trilogy to be released before digging in.

Loved it...And starting on the next one.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Review: Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick

Title: Garden of Lies
Author: Amanda Quick

Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Putnam Adult
ASIN: B00O2BS780

The Kern Secretarial Agency provides reliable professional services to its wealthy clientele, and Anne Clifton was one of the finest women in Ursula Kern’s employ. But Miss Clifton has met an untimely end—and Ursula is convinced it was not due to natural causes.

Archaeologist and adventurer Slater Roxton thinks Mrs. Kern is off her head to meddle in such dangerous business. Nevertheless, he seems sensible enough to Ursula, though she does find herself unnerved by his self-possession and unreadable green-gold eyes…

If this mysterious widowed beauty insists on stirring the pot, Slater intends to remain close by as they venture into the dark side of polite society. Together they must reveal the identity of a killer—and to achieve their goal they may need to reveal their deepest secrets to each other as well…

My rating:

Well, what can someone say about an Amanda Quick novel besides the fact that is an Amanda Quick novel?

There's romance, suspense, intrigue, murder, drama, love, a tad of humor, lovely characters, the usual setting of London with its dangerous, winding streets drenched in fog...All mixed together in a tight, nicely-woven plot with a great pace.

There was not a false step along the way, although I must admit I'm growing a bit weary of AQ heroines that are all so stubborn and convinced they're the only one to be right. Luckily for me, Ursula wasn't so bad. At least she knew when she was out of her depths and let the expert do what the experts usually do. And Slater Roxton, in this case, certainly was an expert. In everything. *wink wink*

Loved it. And I wouldn't mind reading more adventures with Slater and Ursula at the helm.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: Closer Than You Think by Karen Rose

Title: Closer Than You Think
Series: Karen Rose's Interconnecting Books, Cincinnati, OH
Author: Karen Rose
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: February 3, 2015
Publisher: Signet
ISBN: 045146673X
ISBN-13: 9780451466730

Psychologist Faith Corcoran is desperate to escape the stalker who’s made her life a nightmare for the past year—desperate enough to run to the one place that has been her nightmare far longer. Both boon and bane, her recent inheritance of her grandmother’s old house in Cincinnati offers sanctuary in which she can start her life anew, but requires that she face the dark memories that still resonate to this day.

But she has no idea how close to home her fears still are.

Two college girls have gone missing in the area, and FBI Special Agent Deacon Novak is called to work on the case. When his inquiry unexpectedly leads him to Faith, he finds a beautiful and brave woman he can’t help but fall for. Soon they’ll discover that this seemingly simple investigation is anything but. Reaching back decades into Faith’s own past, it will shatter everything she believes to be true and will give terrifying new meaning to
flesh and blood.

My rating:

Faith Corcoran changed her name and left everything behind in order to escape the criminal that wants her dead for putting him in prison...Unfortunately, none of her safety measures have worked, because evil and death has followed her back home to Cincinnati, and there's only one man that can keep her safe.

Well, this is a surprise. Or maybe not, because whenever I'm looking forward to a book, it seldom (there are exceptions, of course) ends well. That's what happened with this book. I've been looking forward to reading Deacon Novak's story since he first appeared in Did You Miss Me?, yet I'm far from happy about it.

Maybe the rating doesn't reflect my "disappointment", but that's because I loved the suspense part of the book. Which dominated the story and kept the plot flowing.
It's the other side of the story that left me cold. Deacon Novak was nowhere near what my imagination made him out to be, the only exception being the scene on page 51 where Faith sees him for the first time. That description was just wow. Pity the rest of it wasn't. The guy that looked like a superhero with his wraparound glasses and leather coat, the guy that had stolen every scene he's been in previous KR books...That guy never made an appearance in his own book. The hero of this story was rather bland, and pretty uninteresting. And despite everything she's been through, so was his heroine.
And because I didn't connect with either of them—I actually preferred to read about Novak's partner (whose story is up next) and cousin that needs anger management therapy (at least he had a personality and didn't appear a cardboard cutout)—their "romance" had much to be desired. Everything to be desired, in fact. Yes, it was too sudden, but while the others were as well (everything happens in a span of just a few days in KR novels) at least they worked. This one didn't. There was no chemistry, there was no connection, Deacon and Faith merely went through the moves. And in the end, I just couldn't root for them.

The suspense, on the other hand, was wonderful, as previously stated. Edge of the seat, chilling, gripping, intense, and though I figured out who the baddie was, it still kept me turning the pages to see how everything would be resolved, and why the baddie was the baddie in the first place. It packed quite a punch. Enough of a punch to earn the book 4 stars.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: Watch Your Back by Karen Rose

Title: Watch Your Back
Series: Karen Rose's Interconnecting Books, Baltimore, MD
Author: Karen Rose
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Signet
ISBN: 0451414101
ISBN-13: 9780451414106

Baltimore Homicide Detective Stevie Mazzetti has suffered losses no woman should have to endure. And, despite it all, she’s still a fighter. When she learns that her ex-partner might have miscarried justice, she’s determined to put the past to rights, even when she becomes a target.

It’s former Marine Clay Maynard’s job to see the risk in every situation, but he doesn’t have to look hard to find the danger surrounding Stevie. Since the minute he first saw her, Clay has wanted to protect the wounded officer, and he started loving her not long after that. So when Stevie attracts the attention of a vicious psychopath, Clay will do whatever it takes to keep her alive. That is, if he can stay ahead of a killer with everything to lose—and something terrifying to hide...

My rating:

To save his own son's life, a man shoots Paul Mazzetti and his son Paulie in a convenience store, not knowing the effect the double murder would have on many lives, even years later.

Eight years after the convenience store shooting, Mazzetti's widow, a police detective, is still grieving, still pushing people away. She might want to rethink that strategy since someone is gunning for her. Ever since she's started digging around her former, and very dead, partner, one of the dirty cops in the BPDP, bullets and knives started flying.

And there's only one man she might trust enough to keep her, and her young daughter safe. The very man she'd sent packing months ago when he'd laid his heart bare to her as she lay in a hospital bed. The very man, that's just about lost all hope of ever having her love him back. Clay Maynard, doesn't have much time left to convince her, because someone really, desperately wants her dead. And they might even succeed...

In my (first) review of the previous book in this series, I bemoaned the fact we wouldn't get to read Deacon Novak's book next, and I had to endure the melodrama that is Stevie and Clay's story. In my second review of said book, my feelings toward them and their "romance" have improved exponentially, hence my second (after a re-read) review of their book has changed accordingly.

Although it was still a tad too melodramatic for my taste with all the baggage and boatloads of issues they both had, I really enjoyed reading about them again. I guess reading the whole series back to back and not having to wait between books improves the reading experience...and mellows my possible animosity toward any of the characters, their choices, and/or their decisions.
I'm not changing the labels/tags, though. I really hoped someone would (bitch)slap both Clay and Stevie multiple times at the beginning of the book (up to page 390 *grin*).
She had absolutely no clue as what she wanted until she almost lost it (the usual romance novel trope), and he, the formidable Marine-turned-cop-turned-PI, was so bloody whiny it made my teeth grit. I still rolled my eyes every single time he had one of his inner monologues about how he loved her, but how he couldn't have her, because she didn't want him...Boohoo. This was a forty-one-year-old guy! I like my book characters in touch with their feelings, but enough is enough.
I kept hoping he'd man up and go through with his plan to leave for good in the end. But I knew it wouldn't happen, because this is Romancelandia we're talking about. It all sorts itself out in the end and lots of HEAs ensue.

Despite all this I really enjoyed the "drama" that was CAS (Clay-and-Stevie as per the betting pool among their friends and colleagues), and I've come to realize they truly were made to be. They fit, baggage, issues, idiocy, and all.
The rest of the story, that this second time around slightly paled, compared to CAS (I'm a sucker, I know), the suspense part, was spot on. It kept the pace going nicely, the plot was tight and gripping, I got to revisit old "friends", saw Deacon Novak again (I'm starting his book today, promise), and it kept me, more or less since we all knew who the villain was, intrigued until the very end as to why this particular villain wanted Stevie dead so badly. I loved it, until somewhere toward the later chapters, when one of the secondary plots about the young cop and assistant ME also looking for answers, that, granted, happened to coincide with the main plot, slowed the pace in some paragraphs.

A nicely woven (and told) story.