Drawn by Carsen Taite

Carsen Taite’s latest novel, take us back to Dallas and drops us write in the middle of a murder mystery with a heaping dash of romance. Taite excels at writing this type of novel, she drew me in and give me a ton of anxiety. I was reading feverishly to find out how the damned killer was.

Riley Flynn is an up and coming artist who just landed a deal with a highly sought after Dallas art gallery. This is the big break she has been working for. On the flip side, life is throwing more at her than she needs right now. She needs to focus on her art, not deal with her father, and the bucket loads of drama that him being back entails. Frank Flynn, Riley’s dad was convicted of a brutal murder fifteen years ago. Frank has been released from prison because new information and DNA samples have shed new life on his case. He has always proclaimed his innocence, but that does not erase the terrible years that Riley has had to endure because of his trial. Upon his release and weeks from her gallery show, a murder near Riley’s neighborhood in Dallas have made both Frank and Riley suspects.

Claire Hanlon is the lead homicide detective on the murder of a young woman who has been strangled and left with an urban art sketch in her suit pocket. There is a lot of heat on her to wrap this case up as fast as possible. The higher-ups want a Flynn to be brought in, but Riley knows that this will just create a media frenzy. Claire is not convinced Riley or her dad had anything to do with this heinous crime. She just can’t prove it yet, and the pressure to wrap it up quickly and her attraction to Riley is not helping matters at all.

The story leading up to finding out who the killer is is really good. You have a detailed story with shifting POV and it draws you in. You have multiple layers of the plot that give the story depth and really engage you, the reader. My only complaint is the story is too short. We needed more, to wrap up the ending and we needed more one on one with the mains. The romance felt like a side note, and while I got lust. I didn’t get true love. I needed Taite to show me more than the attraction between Riley and Claire. A few more chapters would have made this book go from good to great. Even with all that said, this is a book well worth your time.

3 out of 5 stars

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/drawn-by-carsen-taite-3271-b

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Heart of the Storm by Nicole Stiling

This book, one-word problematic! Imagine falling into love with your child’s stepmother. Yikes, that going to have some awkwardness at family gatherings.  You have crimes, you have murder, a whole big mystery to solve and a lot of romance. Nicole Stiling has written one heck of a dynamite read. This book is a must read!

Juliet Mitchell is living a god life as a single mom, small town police officer. She loves her life, her career and the only thing missing is true love. She’s okay though, she has the company of lady or two when the need arises but for the most part, she is content with her day-to-day existence in Shell Creek. As a small-town policewoman, she spends most of her time dealing with small crimes and domestic disturbances until the day beloved librarian, Richard Kowalski is found dead in the outside the local library.

Sienna Bennett has finally acknowledged to herself and her husband that their marriage is over. It has been for years but its finally time to break it off so she and Will can move on with their lives without each other. A spur of the moment trip with her stepson Declan and his mom, Juliet brings friendship into her life again. Add on to the fact that Sienna, a victim’s advocate, will be working with Mrs. Kowalski and Juliet on the case of the murdered librarian.

Both of our two leading ladies are great characters. You love them for their strengths and flaws. The relationship begins as friends and then evolves into more even though both ladies know that this could be a disaster for their family relationships. You cannot help but root for their love.

This is a great book that has a damn fine romance and mystery. The author does a perfect job of balancing them both and weaving the story together. Loved it!

4 out of 5 stars

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/heart-of-the-storm-by-nicole-stiling-3351-b

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Breathe by Cari Hunter

You know when you pick up a Cari Hunter book you are in for one hell of a ride. This writer can really write a book! In her newest novel, Breathe, she gives you amazing characters, thoughtful dialogue and a plot that just won’t stop.

Jemima Pardon is an accident waiting to happen. She’s klutzy and just one of those people that is a magnet for disasters. Jem just happens to be the best damn paramedic in Manchester. While Jem is on her own on night trying to help a patient she gets a ton of help from police officer Rosie Jones. These two quirky characters hit it off right from the start. Both Rosie and Jem’s characters are full of complexity. Their backgrounds make them who they are today, and Hunter takes us on the ride of bringing their past to their present if that makes any sense. She gives us enough detail and emotion to bring them to life. I loved their banter and wittiness even in the most harrowing situations.

This is a great book to pick for when you really want to escape. As with all Cari Hunter books you are getting a quality story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

4 out of 5 stars

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A Curious Woman by Jess Lea

I picked up A Curious Woman by Jess Lea on an impulse. I was looking for something different and was struck by the book’s description of quirkiness and fun. I’m down for a good rom-com and I am always curious about a new author from Ylva Publishing.

Bess Campbell is learning to live a grounded grateful life. She has an off the grid tiny house, a handful of chickens and a job she absolutely loves at a hip and zany museum of oddities. Bess is a total hipster who lives her life quoting self-help mantras. She is a ray of positivity and light, with a heart of pure gold.

Margaret Gale is Bess’s direct opposite. Margaret is stern, rigid and has guarded herself against everyone in her small seaside town. She is an outcast whose past is shrouded in gossip and rumors. Margaret comes across very cold and unforgiving but really has built a fortress around herself not to let anyone hurt her again.

These two are thrown together when Bess’s boss and Margaret’s rival, Leon is murdered. Everyone in Port Bannir immediately thinks Ms. Gale is the killer and is ready to pin it on her. Bess comes to Margaret’s defense and they begin a journey of uncovering who done it in this sleepy small town.

What I liked about this book is 100% about Bess and Margaret. They were fascinating characters and their interactions together were delightful. The murder mystery was interesting but nowhere near as gripping as the romance. I wish there had been more of it. I’m hoping that this is a series where we get to see Bess and Margaret take on the bad guys again. For Jess Lea’s first book I thought she produced an amazing debut. She is definitely an author whose works I will be reading again.

3.75 out of 5 stars

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Payback by Charlotte Mills

Oh wowzers! Payback is a solid whodunit with smart twists and turns that keep you turning the page. You are working just as hard as the detectives to keep up with this one. Charlotte Mills has written a delightful police drama filled with romance, banter, and suspense. Did I mention this book was smart?

Detective Constable Kate Wolfe has been sent to Warner, a small rural town as punishment for a screw-up. We don’t know what Kate did but it must have big enough for the brass to send her away far away from London. She super sullen about being sent away and her attitude towards everyone speaks volumes about her level of pissed off. Kate’s arrival just happens to coincide with an unexpected rash of crimes. So she might be mad but she’s also busy.

Detective Chief Inspector Helen Taylor had her time in a big city. For years she worked in Manchester but decided to leave the urban epicenter for the laid back life of Warner. While Kate is sullen and prickly, Helen is cheeky and fun-loving. She knows Kate is mad and she prods her with humor and sass until she finally chips away at the walls of the new detective. From the moment these two formidable ladies meet there is heat and attraction. How Mills writes the interactions between Kate and Helen is skillful and dynamic. It keeps you on your toes much as the crimes everyone is trying to figure out.

You really feel like you are in the investigative process of two highly skilled detectives juggling multiple cases. Often times in crime based novel the romance is a lesser part of the whole story. Not this one! Charlotte Mills does a fantastic job of balancing both the romance and crime aspects and weaving them together to make an excellent story. Not to mention there is a monster holy moly guacamole moment. Damn, I never saw it coming and that was awesome. This is a great book you will not regret picking up.

4 out of 5 stars

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Against All Odds by Kris Bryant, M. Ullrich & Maggie Cummings

Against All Odds takes on a journey of finding love in the aftermath of a disaster. A mass shooting takes place at a local bridal boutique and through that carnage, two amazing women find love in its aftermath. Bryant, Ullrich, and Cummings come together to weave a fabulous story or strength, love, and survival.

Peyton Clarke is an off-duty police officer who is finally getting her dress fitted for her sister’s upcoming wedding. A bit hungover after a night out with friends Peyton is struggling with a pounding head. Another customer also in the boutique for a bridesmaid dress fitting takes pity on her and offers her water and some friendly banter. Tory Stevens, a real-estate agent is immediately taken by Peyton. She cannot help but flirt with the gorgeous stranger. Minutes away from asking each other out these two ladies encounter a worst-case scenario.

Bradley Richter is going to steal away his ex-fiancée. She left him, destroyed his life and now is planning to marry another. Bradley is going to steal her back and make everyone pay for ripping them apart. He is a nutcase in every sense of the word. Bradley arrives at the bridal boutique and opens gunfire on everyone, killing eleven and leaving Peyton fighting for her life.

The three authors take the voice of Peyton, Tory, and Bradley and weave a story full of love, survival and well, in Bradley’s case disturbed. Our two leading ladies have an adorable chemistry and a sweet love story. This isn’t as heavy as a story as it could have been. Which I liked. The main focus is on their romance and coming together in the aftermath of a disaster. A lovely story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Against All Odds

Easy Nevada and the Pyramid’s Curse by Georgette Kaplan

Indian Jones meets Die Hard. Hot damn this is a good read!

Easy Nevada is one badass mother bleeper. She has zero moral compass! Totally broken, she chunked that sucker years ago. What she is though is a take no prisoners, hilarious, shoot you in the face tomb raider. Easy is smart as a whip and tough as nails. When she sets her sight on something, she’s going to do whatever it takes to make it hers. She is like no other character I have ever encountered.

Quick Plot Overview: Easy has her sights set on an artifact buried in a newly discovered pyramid in Sudan. She plays the part of a journalist to get access to the dig site and meets the gorgeous and super annoyed, Dr. Candice Cushing. She is really annoyed that Easy continues to refer to her as Candy but that is part of the tomb raiders insufferable charm. Candice’s mother is a Sudanese woman, and she wants more than anything to give back this piece of history to Sudan. Easy just wants to rob it! Then one night everyone’s plans are foisted when ISIS shows up to stop everything and kill everyone.

So you can probably guess that this book is one hell of a ride. Understatement of understatements. Crazy, zany, wackadoodle, smart, awesome, badassness! Yeah, it’s all that and so much more. I love Georgette Kaplan’s style of writing. It’s fast, it’s smart, sarcastic and so different from anything else out there. She is one of my absolute favorite writers. While all of her books have been great, this one is out of the park good. I am so ecstatic that this one is a series. I cannot wait for the next adventure with Dr. Cushing and Easy Nevada.

An easy 5 out of 5 stars!

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Secrets of the Last Castle by A. Rose Mathieu

Welcome back Grace Donovan and Elizabeth Campbell, two characters who I have missed. These two badasses have a murder to solve in Secrets of the Last Castle and unfortunately this time around they are on opposite sides. Drama, suspense, betrayal all with smoldering hot tension, you really cannot ask for more. A. Rose Mathieu comes out swinging with her sequel to Sins of Our Father.

Elizabeth is asked to take the case of a young African American male that is accused of murdering an elderly Caucasian woman in an alleyway. The young man swears he didn’t do it and Elizabeth has full faith in his denial. Grace is on the other side of the coin. What evidence the police do have unfortunately points right to Elizabeth’s client. They are both in a rock and a hard place and this case will take its toll on their romantic relationship. It’s and tense and bumpy ride for these two leading ladies.

This book has twists and turns all over the place. This is a fascinating story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. This mystery has tons of history woven throughout this who done it. You will be so glad you read this one. Oh, and if you have not read Sins of Our Father, don’t skip it. You can read these out of order, but really you don’t want to. Both are fabulous reads.

5 out of 5 stars

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Lucy’s Chance by Jackie D

Lucy’s Chance by Jackie D was just what I needed after a long week of craziness that just won’t quit. A great escape, that didn’t overthink what it really was, two ladies with a life-long bond that even after twelve years of separation, the love was still there.

Lucy Rodriguez made a terrible decision at the age of twenty. Caught up in the razzle-dazzle of undergrad she decided to break up with her girlfriend to see what dating life was all about. She has regretted that decision every day thereafter. She broke her true love’s heart and has spent every day thereafter paying the price. She works and she works with very little else in life. A renowned journalist who covers the crime beat for San Diego and has Pulitzer for her stories from the Middle East, her works is her lifeblood.

Erica Chance is a small town police officer in Northern California. Erica has spent the last decade of her life trying to repair the hole in her heart Lucy left behind. She doesn’t let any woman close to her heart anymore. Four months of casual dating and then that relationship must end. Erica’s regimented life is thrown out of orbit when dead college-age women appear in rapid succession. It also brings Lucy Rodriguez back into her life.

Add a bit of conflict, add a bit of angst, a derail killer and you have a really good read. Is this anything revolutionary? Not so much. What this book is a great escape. You have a few hours to decompress from real-life’s craziness, and enjoy a quality story with interesting characters. Well minus the psychopath murderer, but you know what I mean.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Lucy's Chance

Sawmill Springs by Gerri Hill

Gerri Hill is one of my favorite go to writers. She has beautiful style and while every book might not be a 5 star it’s almost guaranteed a four star, that saying something pretty spectacular, right? That you can rely completely on her books being quality reads time and time again.

Mandi Murphy moves from Houston to Sawmill Springs after a horrible case goes wrong and ends up resulting in the death of a friend. She decides a slower pace is needed and she takes a job offer in sleepy Sawmill Springs. Expecting to give traffic tickets and break up the occasional bar fight, Murphy no way expects to start her career with a murder case that continues to escalate daily.

Kayla Dixon is the Police Chief’s daughter, she just happens to be a former FBI agent as well. Kayla leaves Dallas to escape a terrible breakup and the frantic pace of the FBI. Her dad offers her a job on his staff and she jumps at the chance to come home. Thank goodness she does, because Murphy and Kayla are the only officers in town that can handle a killer on the loose.

Kayla and Murphy are partnered together. They both are new on the Sawmill Springs police force to solve a multiple murder case. This case is one with very little clues, and a whole town frightened by the turn of events. As the case increases in intensity, so does their friendship and attraction.

This one is a great murder mystery with a heavy dose of romance. The interaction between our two mains is cute and the dialogue is well written and believable. A really good story, my only complaint, and it is pretty small, it I wish just a little more time was spent on the mains interacting with each other outside of solving the case. Take that chemistry up one notch and it would have been stellar.

4 out of 5 stars

Sawmill Springs - Paperback