Review: The River House by Carla Neggers

Review: The River House by Carla NeggersThe River House by Carla Neggers
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, women's fiction
Series: Swift River Valley #8
Pages: 352
Published by Mira Books on March 27th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

In this charming novel about the search for love, home and family, New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers takes readers on a journey to an irresistible town they’ll want to return to over and over again

Felicity MacGregor loves organizing social events for others but her own personal life is a different story. After a brief but failed attempt at a career as a financial analyst, she returned to Knights Bridge where she enjoys running a thriving party-planning business.

Then Felicity’s life gets a shake-up when her childhood friend Gabriel Flanagan returns unexpectedly to their tiny hometown. Now a high-flying businessman, Gabe always vowed to get out of Knights Bridge, but he is back for the local entrepreneurial boot camp Felicity’s been hired to organize. Together again, they’ll finally have to face each other—and their complicated past.

Gabe and Felicity soon realize their reunion is stirring up long-buried emotions. While Gabe has big plans for his future, Felicity is discovering that hers doesn’t depend on fate—she must choose what’s right for her. But if they can find a bridge between their diverging paths, they may just discover that their enduring connection is what matters most.

My Review:

Knights Bridge Massachusetts is not just a nice place to visit, it also seems like a really nice place to live – except for those New England winters.

In this story, for both Felicity MacGregor and Gabe Flanagan, it is also home in the Robert Frost sense, the one about “home is the place that when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

Felicity went back about three years before the story begins, opened up her own events planning business, and has been finally getting her life on track after a decade of doing what she was expected to do instead of what she wanted to do. Where she failed, repeatedly and over and over again, as the financial analyst her family expected her to be, she’s independent and successful in the career she found by accident.

Gabe Flanagan, on the other hand, has been a successful entrepreneur from the day he dropped out of college, or so it seems. He’s just sold his latest venture for “gazillions” of dollars, as Felicity put it, and he’s at loose ends.

Just in time to come home to Knights Bridge to speak at his brother’s one-day boot camp for budding entrepreneurs.

And to see if he can finally mend fences with the woman who used to be his best friend, Felicity.

They grew up together. They’ve been friends since nursery school. And once, just before they went their separate ways for college – they were lovers. They remained besties even through their first jobs, his ups and down with various start-ups and all her downs as she struggled through one financial analyst job after another.

Their breakup came when Gabe’s very tough love shoved at Felicity’s need for comfort and a place to land. She was broke again, having been fired from yet another position, and couch-surfing at Gabe’s apartment. He was in the midst of what turned out to be his first big success. And in his very blunt and possibly tactless fashion, he told Felicity the bald truth that she had been avoiding for a decade – that whatever she was meant to be and do, it was clear that being a financial analyst made her utterly miserable to the point of failure, and that she needed to get her act together – at something else.

He was right. His delivery sucked, but he was right. And she was gone.

Now she’s living in Knights Bridge, the proud owner of the house that Gabe and his brother built on the site of their grandfather’s old campgrounds. The site where Felicity and Gabe’s friendship morphed into something more, for that one night. The place where Gabe was Felicity’s first lover.

They say you never forget your first. Felicity certainly can’t forget Gabe – he’s wrapped into all her memories of her childhood and adolescence in Knights Bridge. But when he comes back to town, the question is whether she ever got over him – and whether she ever wants to.

Escape Rating B: It feels like The River House is more of a women’s fiction story than a romance. While the relationship between Felicity and Gabe is front and center throughout the book, most of that story is about them rebuilding their solid and life-sustaining friendship. There is sexual tension under the surface, but for most of the story it feels like the focus is on whether they can be besties again, rather than either of them actively looking for more.

Not that more doesn’t eventually find them.

Because they were besties for over two decades, they have a lot of backstory together. And Gabe’s return to Knights Bridge brings up all the events since he left. That means there’s a lot of the past that gets uncovered and turned over. While longtime readers of the series may find the backstory repetitive, for those of us who have read few (one in my case) or none of the previous entries will probably see the backstory as a way of catching up to the cast of characters – which is fairly large and very interconnected.

I really liked the people of Knights Bridge and felt a great deal of empathy for both Felicity and Gabe. Like Gabe, I have also been accused, and rightly so, of being much too blunt. Like Felicity, my dad didn’t figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up until he was also about 30, and fell into the job that became his career with a similar lack of planning. I understood where they both were coming from.

This was the kind of story I happened to be looking for when I picked it up, and I fell right into it.

As much as I enjoyed the setting and the characters, there was one person in the mix whose involvement pushed the book down to a B, and that’s the intrusion of Nadia. She starts by trying to inveigle her way into the entrepreneur boot camp and never lets up until the very end. She comes off as “crazy stalker ex”, but she is not Gabe’s ex. Instead, she’s a former colleague and the ex of the douchebag who bought Gabe’s company for those gazillions of dollars and then left her without a job as well as a husband – not that he was any great loss.

But Nadia becomes a constant, niggling annoyance throughout the entire story. Her lies, her constant interference and her continued unwanted intrusions and overall shadowy presence cast a pall over a whole lot of the events. It feels as if she is being built up to be a villain – and then her plot line kind of fizzles. I’m not sure what she brought to the table and I wish she weren’t there at all. She’s a Chekhov’s gun that misfires with a whimper.

However, I really enjoyed the rest of the story and will happily look for an excuse to go back to Knights Bridge at some point, especially if I get to jonesing for something in the author’s romantic suspense series, Sharpe & Donovan.


THE RIVER HOUSE Review & Excerpt Tour Schedule:

March 19th

Nerdy Dirty and Flirty – Excerpt

Reading Keeps Me Sane – Excerpt

Reads All the Books – Excerpt

March 20th

Always a happy ever after – Excerpt

It’s All About the Romance – Excerpt

Ramblings From This Chick – Excerpt

March 21st

Devilishly Delicious Book Reviews – Excerpt

Nose Stuck in a Book – Excerpt

Novel Addiction – Excerpt

March 22nd

Hearts & Scribbles – Excerpt


Reading Between the Wines Book Club – Excerpt

What Is That Book About – Excerpt

March 23rd

Books n Wine – Excerpt

Cathy Reads Books – Review & Excerpt

Ficwishes – Excerpt

Reading Reality – Review

White Hot Reads – Review & Excerpt

March 24th

Nicole’s Book Musings – Excerpt

Shannon’s Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

Smut Book Junkie Book Reviews – Excerpt

Tfaulcbookreviews – Excerpt

March 25th

Book Magic – Under a spell with every page – Review & Excerpt

Evermore Books – Excerpt

Ripe For Reader – Excerpt

TBR Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

March 26th

A Literary Perusal – Review & Excerpt

Have Words Will Scribble – Review & Excerpt

Nice Ladies, Naughty Books – Excerpt

The Ghost Pepper Babes – Excerpt

March 27th

Book Nook Nuts – Excerpt

Kick Back & Review – Excerpt

Literary Misfit – Excerpt

The Bookish Sisters – Review & Excerpt

March 28th

JordansBookReviews – Excerpt

Read more sleep less – Excerpt

Read-Love-Blog – Review & Excerpt

Two Book Pushers – Excerpt

March 29th

Blushing babes are up all night – Review & Excerpt

Sip Read Love – Review

Thoughts of a Blonde – Excerpt

Words We Love By – Review & Excerpt

March 30th

Bobo’s Book Bank – Excerpt

Jax’s Book Magic – Excerpt

Kindle Friends Forever – Review & Excerpt

Scandalous Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

March 31st

Books are love – Review & Excerpt

G & T’s Indie Café – Excerpt

Inside The Mind of an Avid Reader – Review

The Fairest of All Book Reviews – Excerpt

Review: Hexed by Kevin Hearne

Review: Hexed by Kevin HearneHexed (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #2) by Kevin Hearne
Format: audiobook
Source: purchased from Audible
Formats available: paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: Iron Druid #2
Pages: 296
Published by Brilliance Audio on June 7th 2011
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty—when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of World War II.

With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

My Review:

The usual pattern with urban fantasy is that the hero or heroine finds themselves going into darker and darker places, fighting bigger and more powerful evils, as the series continues. But when you open the series by defeating a vengeful god, it’s a bit difficult to get anything bigger or more powerful.

That doesn’t stop things in Hexed from upping the darkness scale, finding Atticus and his allies fighting the witches that seem to have fanned the flames of World War II – with even more flames.

In this second entry in the series, the one and only remaining Druid, now calling himself Atticus O’Sullivan, is dealing with the fallout from events in the previous book, Hounded. And while I think that enough backstory is provided that a person could read Hexed without reading Hounded, I’m not sure why anyone who likes urban fantasy would ever want to.

Atticus’ epic battle with the Celtic god Angus Og at Tony Cabin in the Superstition Mountains created a whole lot of collateral damage, beginning with his Viking vampire lawyer (say that three times fast) and Leif’s hate-on for Thor. Not that there’s not a long line of people who hate Thor. He’s not a quarter as handsome or reasonable as the movie version.

But in this universe where not only all the pantheons but all the versions of all the pantheons seem to exist, Atticus is not exactly eager to step up to the plate and bat at all the various versions of Thor, one after another.

He has enough problems dealing with the version of Coyote who shows up at his doorstep, expecting Atticus to kill one of the leftover demons from his fight – the one that is messing with Coyote’s people in Tempe. Not that Atticus doesn’t get tricked in the process, because that’s what Coyote does.

In the end, the big bad that Atticus has to take care of in this story is one that he has wanted to beat on for years, decades in fact. There’s a coven of very evil witches that wants to move to Tempe to unseat the local coven. A local coven that is now vulnerable and at reduced strength, after having gotten caught in the middle of Atticus’ fight with Angus Og.

While Atticus doesn’t really trust witches, he is about to sign an alliance with the remainder of the local coven. He may not exactly trust Malina and her coven, but he is convinced that he, they and the werewolf pack are a big part of what’s keeping Tempe a nice place to live.

And he’s been hunting for their mutual enemies (and vice versa) since the dark days of the Holocaust. He wants payback – but so does everyone else. Even with the help of the local witches and that Viking vampire lawyer, the good guys may have bitten off more than they can chew.

They might get chewed, instead. And not in a good way. Not even like one of Oberon’s tennis balls.

Escape Rating A: If you are ever looking for an audiobook with while to while away untold numbers of hours while going from laughs to thrills to giggles to chills and back again, I can’t recommend the Iron Druid series as read by Luke Daniels enough. I listened to most of Hexed while on a treadmill, and it made the miles just fly by.

Admittedly, the people who were next to me probably wondered about the shit-eating grin on my face. The story is told by Atticus O’Sullivan in the first person, in Luke Daniels’ Audible Narrator Hall of Fame voice, and this is a case where the first person perspective really, really works.

Especially since the reader/listener gets to hear the thoughts in Atticus’ head, which are usually even snarkier than whatever comes out of his mouth.

As the second book in the series, Hexed offers readers an even deeper dive into both its main character and the world in which he lives, including much more information about his friends, associates and enemies. Including his nosy neighbor with the rocket launcher in his garage.

A big part of Hexed is Atticus being forced to look back at a past he usually buries – his actions as a maquisard in World War II, helping to smuggle Jews out of occupied France to reach the port in Lisbon where they could leave Europe’s charnel house. His recitation of this particular snippet of his history is absolutely riveting.

This story also marks a turning point for Atticus, as he comes to the realization that he is no longer on the run from Angus Og, as he has been for almost the entire Common Era. He finally figures out that he has put down roots in Tempe that are worth defending, and has made friends that he wants to keep and needs to protect from anyone else who might – make that almost certainly will – come after him in the future.

Hexed has absolutely everything that those of us who love urban fantasy read it to find, a terrific, kick ass, thoughtful and snarky hero, a great bunch of sidekicks and irregulars, and a world full of magic that just might be our own.

I can’t wait to get Hammered, and I probably won’t.

Review: The Darkest Promise by Gena Showalter

Review: The Darkest Promise by Gena ShowalterThe Darkest Promise by Gena Showalter
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal romance
Series: Lords of the Underworld #13
Pages: 384
Published by Harlequin Books on March 27th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

New York Times
bestselling author Gena Showalter returns with a sizzling Lords of the Underworld story about an iron-willed sovereign and the somber beauty who melts him with a glance

Possessed by the demon of Misery, Cameo isn't allowed to experience joy. If she dares, her memory is wiped clean. With no other recourse, she sneaks into a land more fantastical than any fairy tale, determined to find the one man with the key to her redemption.

Lazarus the Cruel and Unusual rules his kingdom with a single unwavering focus: to build his army and annihilate his enemies. Nothing distracts him - until Cameo. He is relentless in his quest to make her smile and seduce her into his bed.

As dark forces conspire against them, threatening to destroy the fragile bond they've forged, the once-calm Lazarus grows crazed. Every heart-stopping kiss and wicked touch causes Cameo to teeter on the brink of happiness. But if she falls, she risks forgetting him forever

My Review:

The Darkest Promise is the hopefully lucky 13th book in the Lords of the Underworld series. It is appropriately just a bit different from the previous books, because the demon in this particular entry inhabits Cameo, the lone woman among the men who became Lords of the Underworld by hosting a demon.

As Cameo herself puts it, she’s the lone Smurfette among all the Smurfs, always having to be twice as hard and four times as badass to get the men to take her seriously.

Unless, of course she lets her demon out. Cameo’s demon is Misery, and when she lets him out, everyone takes her very seriously – about as seriously as a heart attack. Or the deepest darkest depression ever known. When Misery talks, everyone around them cries, runs away and tries to slit their own wrists.

Of course, Cameo’s demon Misery does not just inflict himself on those around Cameo, his greatest victim is Cameo herself, who has him stuck inside her head and is therefore always available for him to do his worst to. And he does, every single day of her long and miserable life.

But even though Misery makes her forget the few times that Cameo manages, well, not to be completely miserable, she is aware that there is one male in the cosmos who made her happy, however briefly. All she has to do is find her way back to the Spirit Realms to see if Lazarus the Cruel and Unusual, Lord of the Realm of Grimm and Fantic, is willing to make her happy yet again.

And if he’s willing to tell her everything that Misery made her forget.

Unfortunately for both Lazarus and Cameo, he isn’t merely the one man who is immune to her demon. Because Lazarus is cursed by his own blood to be turned into a crystal chrysalis by constant exposure to the one woman who is his mate – his obsession. For Lazarus, Cameo is that woman, and her initial visit to his realm has already begun the deadly process of crystallization.

Lazarus has vengeance to wreck before he becomes to enfeebled to carry out his plans. Being with Cameo dramatically shortens the time he has available.

But she is his obsession, and he can’t resist. He isn’t even sure that he wants to. While Cameo, knowing that she will be the cause of her love’s death, opens herself even further to the demon within.

Escape Rating B: As long as this series is, I’m not sure that this book will make any sense without reading at least some of the previous entries. Particularly as this is not the first time we’ve met Cameo and Lazarus and watched them interact. And that’s a good thing, because without those previous meetings this book would smack of insta-love.

The premise behind this whole series is still a fascinating one. The Lords of the Underworld are the warriors who made the extremely foolish mistake of opening Pandora’s Box. When the box was opened, all those escaped demons needed a place to live (and work their worst) so they inhabited the bodies of the warriors near them. A fitting punishment.

But as the series has progressed, those warriors have managed to find love and happiness in spite of the demons they harbor. And with the help of their friends and allies, they are closing in on the location of the Box and perhaps a cure for their “condition”.

Of course, as immortal warriors they have also gathered a whole lot of equally immortal enemies, and often find themselves caught in the crossfire between rival factions. In the case of this entry, they are caught up in the ongoing warfare between Hades and Lucifer.

And yes, this is a story where all the pantheons seem to be real. And active.

The romance in this paranormal romance is between two beings who expect to be hated and reviled – Lazarus, son of the monster Typhon and Cameo, Mother of Misery. These are two people who have zero expectations of a happy ever after, or of ever finding happy at all, and yet, they are perfect for each other – if they can leap over the baggage that they carry and get past millennia of negative expectations and destroyed hopes.

In the end, love does conquer all, and in a way that the reader has been expecting pretty much from the beginning of the story. But it’s an interesting read watching her work for it.

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Review: Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Review: Fools and Mortals by Bernard CornwellFools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction
Pages: 371
Published by Harper on January 9th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell makes a dramatic departure with this enthralling, action-packed standalone novel that tells the story of the first production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream—as related by William Shakespeare’s estranged younger brother

Lord, what fools these mortals be . . .

In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft and a silver tongue. As William’s star rises, Richard’s onetime gratitude is souring and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty.

So when a priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing him onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London. Entangled in a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal which threatens not only his career and potential fortune, but also the lives of his fellow players, Richard has to call on all he has now learned from the brightest stages and the darkest alleyways of the city. To avoid the gallows, he must play the part of a lifetime . . . .

Showcasing the superb storytelling skill that has won Bernard Cornwell international renown, Fools and Mortals is a richly portrayed tour de force that brings to life a vivid world of intricate stagecraft, fierce competition, and consuming ambition.

My Review:

If the title sounds familiar, it should. It’s a bit of one of the many famous lines from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” It is apropos for this book in multiple ways.

This is a story about the writing of, the stealing of, and the first performance of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. And the mortals within the story, and not just within the play, are certainly fools, but only in the sense that all humans are fools at one time or another.

And some of them play fools in the play itself, but that could almost be considered beside the point – being foolish, after all, is one of the hallmarks of the human condition.

The fools in this particular book (and play) are the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the company of players that included as its most famous member, William Shakespeare, as well as his ne’er-do-well younger brother Richard.

As the story begins in 1595, during the first flourishing of what will become professional theater, Richard, now around 20 or so, is lamenting that he is still relegated to playing women’s parts in the company, and that he seems to have an undetermined, and often underpaid status that is neither “boy” nor “hired man”. He knows that he’s a good player, and he is certain that it is time for him to play men’s parts. He’s also equally certain that his famous older brother neither likes him nor wants him around, but can’t quite figure out what to do with him.

Into this winter of Richard Shakespeare’s discontent is introduced a new playhouse, the Swan, that is in desperate need, not of players which are a shilling a dozen, but of plays. There is a conspiracy afoot to steal William Shakespeare’s two latest plays, both of which are still works in progress.

But even with what is completed and what is rumored, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet are the stuff of which reputations are made, for players, for playwrights, and for theater companies.

Richard Shakespeare is caught in the middle, between his untrusting brother, the sniping, backbiting and jealous company known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the Puritans who want to shut down all the playhouses and the nobles who will stop at nothing to ensure the success of their players and no other.

There is as much magic in Richard’s adventures as there are in the Forest of Arden on that famous midsummer night – even if Richard feels that it is as much nightmare as it is dream.

And it is glorious.

Escape Rating A: I love historical fiction, particularly of England in the Tudor and Stuart periods. Bernard Cornwell is an author who has been repeatedly recommended to me (he’s best known for the Sharpe series) but I’ve never managed to find the round tuit. Until now.

The first part of Fools and Mortals sets the stage (pun intended in this case) for what is to come. So much has been written about what little we actually know about William Shakespeare, so it was especially interesting to see this dive into historical fiction from a perspective we do not know – that of his younger brother Richard.

Sibling rivalry seems to have been just as big a problem in the 16th century as it is in the 21st. Richard may be aware of his brother’s genius as a playwright, but he is all-too-often focused on the man’s failings as an older brother, which seem to have been legion. Or it may have been that like so many geniuses, William Shakespeare’s focus was on his art to the exclusion of everything else, including both his birth family and his wife and daughters back home in Stratford.

Richard is somewhat of an unreliable narrator, or perhaps simply an unreliable person. But he can only be what his life and circumstances have made him. His “training” to be a player as well as a small time thief does not make for easy remembering for the character or reading for the reader.

At first, the story moves a bit slowly, as the stage is set. Not just our introduction to Richard, but our immersion in his world and his brother’s company. The 1590s represent the first flowering of professional theater, and it was in the midst of several different types of chaos.

One aspect that is so much different from the present is the complete lack of anything resembling copyright and the resulting paranoia and secrecy that surrounds the writing of a play and the desperate protection of any and all copies of it. Good plays were a company’s lifeblood, and in the case of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, William Shakespeare was the fount of that blood.

At the same time, the political and religious upheaval had a marked effect on the nascent theater. The rise of the Puritan strain of Protestantism was gaining influence, and it preached that theaters, players and all forms of entertainment were the work of Satan and must be eradicated at all costs. The theaters were all located outside the city boundaries of London in order to mitigate this problem, but they were still harassed at every turn.

(Readers who are interested in this time and place and these events should also take a look at Shakespeare’s Rebel by C.C. Humphreys. It is excellent historical fiction, to the point where the reader just about smells the smells, and covers this same time period.)

As fascinating as the plots and counterplots outside the theater are in Fools and Mortals, the magic of the book is wrapped up in the very first performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And the author has done a marvelous job of putting the reader right there, with Queen Elizabeth and that first ensorcelled audience as the magic happens and the audience is transported to the Forest of Arden, and we along with them.

Review: Fast Burn by Lori Foster

Review: Fast Burn by Lori FosterFast Burn (Body Armor, #4) by Lori Foster
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Body Armor #4
Pages: 384
Published by Harlequin Books on March 20th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

For the woman who’s his perfect match, he’s willing to break the rules…

The moment Brand Berry meets beautiful, driven Sahara Silver, the connection between them is electric. It’s also something he can’t pursue. Sahara wants him, sure—to join Body Armor, where his MMA skills, size and cocky attitude make him perfect for her elite crew of bodyguards. For Sahara, the agency always comes first, and Brand needs more. Yet when she’s kidnapped by men searching for her missing brother, he doesn’t hesitate.

Somewhere along the way, flirting with Brand for the sake of business turned very personal. Despite his refusal to join Body Armor, it’s Brand who steps up when Sahara needs him most. Now there’s no more time for games, and no point denying the hunger they both feel. They’ll escape together or not at all. But if they survive, can Sahara finally surrender control to claim this blazing passion?

My Review:

Fast Burn is the fourth and it looks like final book in the Body Armor series. I’ve had a mixed reaction to the books in this series. I loved books two and three, Hard Justice and Close Contact, but had a lukewarm reaction to the first book in the series, Under Pressure.

My feelings about Fast Burn are all too similar to my feelings about Under Pressure. Let me explain…

This series is romantic suspense. That has meant that the bodyguards from the Body Armor Agency, former MMA fighters all, have a tendency to fall in love with the body they are guarding. But Fast Burn is a bit different, because the body that needs protection in this case is the owner of the agency, Sahara Silver.

And the man who wants to guard her is not part of Body Armor. Not that she hasn’t tried to recruit Brand Berry, but that Brand has refused to be recruited, in spite of Sahara’s patented full-court press.

Brand is interested in Sahara and not her Agency. He does not want to work for a woman that he wants to date. And a whole lot more. It makes sense to this reader. They can either have a personal relationship or a working one, but not both – especially not in their case, where both of them have the need to be in control of absolutely everything all the time. Compromise is not going to be easy for either of them.

One of the underlying plot threads in this entire series revolves around Sahara’s missing brother Scott. Scott has been missing and presumed dead for a couple of years now, after his boat was found with his girlfriend’s dead body on it and plenty of his own spilled blood along with hers. But his body was never found, and Sahara believes that Scott is out there, still alive.

When a bunch of thugs kidnap Sahara in order to get back the money that Scott owes them, one way or another, their leader believes that putting Sahara in danger will bring Scott out of the woodwork. He might be right, but before that can happen, it brings out the protective instincts of every one of the guys that Sahara has hired at Body Armor. As well as the one that she hasn’t, Brand Berry.

Sahara is now the person with the target on her back, and Brand is more than willing to step up and protect her – 24/7. But not as a member of her staff. Not at all. He just wants to protect her, and wipe the floor with the guys who are after her. Sahara isn’t sure that she can give up being in charge 24/7 in order to let someone take care of her, even for a second.

But the sharks are circling, and it’s a race to the finish. But whose?

Escape Rating C+: One of the things that made the Body Armor series so good was the character of Sahara Silver. As the owner of the agency, she has been part of every single book, and generally a fairly large part. She’s been the person that many of the women in the stories initially turn to, and she’s been kind, understanding and helpful without either giving up any of her femininity or any of her take charge agency. Either the actual agency, Body Armor, or her own personal agency as a mover and shaker in each story.

She loses all of that in Fast Burn. The whole story is all about all the guys, but particularly Brand, patting her on the head and letting her know that they’ve got this and that she really should let them take over and not worry her pretty little head. Whenever she tries to contradict or correct them, they pretty much ignore whatever she says.

While the possibility of her missing brother not only being alive but protecting her from the sidelines is certainly enough to make anyone just a bit crazy, Sahara seems to go off the rails and fall apart, giving Brand the chance to swoop in and protect her – whether she needs it or not.

As one of the characters says in one of my favorite video games, “swooping is bad”.

The men, but particularly Brand, do their level best to keep Sahara from participating in an operation that is all hers – it’s both all about her brother and all about a gang of idiots that keep trying to kidnap her and even succeed more than once. She also runs off half-cocked and puts herself in danger in ways that are definitely outside her character until this book.

This included an added filip of a trope I dislike, the one where the villain has a hard on for the female in danger and has the strong desire to take her and break her. This particular villain was much less vile than most, but that added element wasn’t necessary to ramp up the amount of danger Sahara kept landing herself in.

At the same time, I really love the character of Sahara, and I wanted to see her get her HEA as well as solve the mystery of what happened to her brother. I’ve liked all of the men that she has recruited for Body Armor, and it was fun to catch up with them a bit and see just how much they all care about her boss. I just wish it hadn’t been necessary to take away so much of Sahara’s agency to protect her.

I hope we see more characters like Sahara has been in the previous books, women who are intelligent, capable and very much in charge while still being happy and proud to be women. And we shouldn’t have to watch them sacrifice who they are to get their HEA.

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-18-18

Sunday Post

This week marked my first A+ Review for the year, for Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon. If you like epic fantasy at all, this one is not only awesome, but also complete in a single not-quite-a-doorstop volume. I picked this one because The Map of Moments by these same two gentlemen is one of my absolute favorite books about post-Katrina New Orleans. That one is urban fantasy rather than epic, but equally awesome.

I also have three blog hops going on, and these will last until the end of the month. When not only will the April Book of Choice Giveaway Hop begin, but my Seventh Annual Blogo-Birthday week will commence. I’ll be giving stuff away all week to commemorate the OMG seventh anniversary of the start of Reading Reality as well as my own birthday. There should be something to appeal to everyone!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the All About Diversity Blog Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the March into Madness Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the $10 Gift Card or $10 book in the March Book of Choice Giveaway Hop is Valentina.
The winner of the ebook copy of Surrender My Heart by L.G. O’Connor is Alli.
The winner of the print copy of Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan is Dianna.

Blog Recap:

B Review: A Dangerous Game by Heather Graham
A+ Review: Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
B+ Review: Good Guys by Steven Brust
Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop
March into Madness Giveaway Hop
Stacking the Shelves (279)

Coming Next Week:

Fast Burn by Lori Foster (blog tour review)
Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell (review)
The Darkest Promise by Gena Showalter (blog tour review)
Court of Lions by Jane Johnson (review)
The River House by Carla Neggers (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (279)

Stacking the Shelves

Thank Dog I neither bought any books nor picked up any from the library this week. Because this isn’t just a stack, it’s an absolute haul.

And it’s absolutely marvelous. There are so many books in here that were on my anticipated list that I can’t wait to dive in! So many books, so little time, so much fun!

For Review:
Arabella the Traitor of Mars (Adventures of Arabella Ashby #3) by David D. Levine
A Borrowing of Bones (Mercy Carr #1) by Paula Munier
The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
City of Ink (Li Du #3) by Elsa Hart
The Cottages on Silver Beach (Haven Point #8) by RaeAnne Thayne
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
Kill the Farm Boy (Tales of Pell #1) by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Leverage in Death (In Death #47) by J.D. Robb
Live Long and…What I might Have Learned Along the Way by William Shatner and David Fisher
Mary B. by Katherine J. Chen
The Monster Baru Cormorant (Baru Cormorant #2) by Seth Dickinson
Night Fall (Secret Histories #12) by Simon R. Green
Owl and the Tiger Thieves (Owl #4) by Kristi Charish
So Say We All: the Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Battlestar Galactica by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman
The Spy of Venice (William Shakespeare Thriller #1) by Benet Brandreth
A Study in Treason (Daughter of Sherlock Holmes #2) by Leonard Goldberg
Total Bravery (True Heroes #4) by Piper J. Drake
A Touch of Flame (Cowboys of Colorado #2) by Jo Goodman

March into Madness Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the March into Madness Giveaway Hop, hosted by MamatheFox!

Do you care about March Madness? By that I mean the NCAA college basketball tournament. Do you follow along? Does your place of work have a contest to see who can pick the best brackets?

While there can only be one winner of the NCAA’s March Madness – or possibly even the pool where you work – there are plenty of chances to win in this March into Madness Giveaway Hop.

I’m giving away the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 book from the Book Depository. Just fill out the rafflecopter for your chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And for the rest of the fabulous prizes, just visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop for 2018, hosted by Bookhounds.

Do you feel lucky?

Do you feel like you might be lucky enough to win a prize in this blog hop? Fill out the rafflecopter for your chance to win your choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 book from the Book Depository.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And to try your luck for more fabulous prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!

Review: Good Guys by Steven Brust

Review: Good Guys by Steven BrustGood Guys by Steven Brust
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genres: urban fantasy
Pages: 320
Published by Tor Books on March 6th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Donovan was shot by a cop. For jaywalking, supposedly. Actually, for arguing with a cop while black. Four of the nine shots were lethal--or would have been, if their target had been anybody else. The Foundation picked him up, brought him back, and trained him further. "Lethal" turns out to be a relative term when magic is involved.

When Marci was fifteen, she levitated a paperweight and threw it at a guy she didn't like. The Foundation scooped her up for training too.

"Hippie chick" Susan got well into her Foundation training before they told her about the magic, but she's as powerful as Donovan and Marci now.

They can teleport themselves thousands of miles, conjure shields that will stop bullets, and read information from the remnants of spells cast by others days before.

They all work for the secretive Foundation...for minimum wage.

Which is okay, because the Foundation are the good guys. Aren't they?

My Review:

If you take Magic Ex Libris by Jim C. Hines SPI Files by Lisa Shearin, Paranormal Scene Investigations by Laura Anne Gilman, and mix them with a bit of cold war spy fiction and a heaping helping of noir, you’ll get something like Good Guys.

Both SPI Files and Paranormal Scene Investigations involve organizations that investigate and clean up after crimes in magical versions of our own world. Libriomancer and its Magic Ex Libris series are part of the mix because in that version of our world, magic is hiding in plain sight, and part of the duty of the magical organization is to protect the world from the knowledge that magic exists. Add in that the libriomancers are fighting a conspiracy both from without and from within, and the magic side of Good Guys is pretty well covered.

Because the story in Good Guys follows one particular operations team for the mysterious and magical Foundation as they chase around the world making sure that a magical serial killer does not expose the existence of real magic in the world, even as they investigate the patterns to see if they can both figure out what his game is – and catch him before he reaches its end.

Or his. Or theirs.

The more they discover about the whys and wherefores of the crime spree, the more they have to ask themselves, are they really the good guys? Or are they just battling their own bureaucracy and running around the world on behalf of an organization that is no better than the one they fight against.

Escape Rating B+: It’s been a long time, possibly too long, since I read anything by Steven Brust. I’ll admit that I was expecting a bit more snark. (If you love snarky fantasy with an epic-ish/urban-ish feel, his Vlad Taltos series (start with Jhereg) is marvelous reading crack as long as you don’t try to swallow too many of them at once.)

The story in Good Guys is a fairly deft mixture of mystery/investigation with magic, and very much a part of the urban fantasy tradition of magical detectives solving mysteries in a contemporary world that is just a bit sideways from reality.

What keeps the reader glued to their chair is the way that the whole thing works. Because we’re both following this one rather eclectic, or possibly eccentric, team of investigators while also watching them plumb the depths of their own organization – and not liking what they find in those depths.

There’s a lot of murk, and the frequent changes in perspective between the team leader, the criminal, the new recruit and the bosses on all sides of this mess occasionally muddies waters that are already pretty clouded. While the reader gets invested with Donovan and his team, the perspective shifts sometimes make it difficult to retain that focus. Especially as the author attempts to keep the reader in the dark while showing the criminal’s own thoughts and feelings. It might have worked a bit better, or it would certainly have worked a bit better for this reader, if we’d stayed with Donovan.

Which does not mean that the story wasn’t absolutely fascinating, and a whole lot of fun – because it certainly was. The investigation was every bit as twisting and convoluted as the best mystery, while the magical additions gave the forensic side of the equation lots of new toys to play with. Of course, that magic also gave the criminals new toys to play with as well.

And Donovan’s constant fight with, and continued attempts to work around, the bureaucracy that is as big a problem as it is a game, will find resonance with anyone who has worked in an organization containing more than three people. Paper-pushing procedures and internal politics are enemies that we all face.

In the end, the question of whether Donovan and his mysterious Foundation are really the good guys remains an open one. But their search for the answer is a whole lot of fun.