Crime Feed

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt (Maiden Lane #1)

511l7Y14dfL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire, is infamous in London society for his very specific sexual predilections.  When his long-time mistress Marie Hume is murdered, he feels compelled to seek out her killer. At every turn he faces apathy, suspicion and danger. He needs a trustworthy guide to help him navigate St.Giles so he can complete his investigations.

Temperance Dews has dedicated her life to carrying for abandoned children since the death of her husband Ben. She runs a foundling home in St.Giles with her brother Winter. The foundling home is floundering, unpaid bills stacking up, after the death of their patron.  Mrs.Dews accepts Lord Caire proposal out of necessity. She will show him around St.Giles, introduce him to those who might have know Marie and he will help her find a wealthy patron for the home by escorting her to society balls and soirees.

Temperance and Lazarus are superficially an unlikely pair.  Mrs. Dews is rigidly repressed while Caire is crude and shameless in his debauchery.  Soon Caire seemingly comes to care more about tempting and inciting Temperance than in finding Marie's killer.

This book was both compelling and problematic for me.

There were a ton of intersecting storylines, most of whom were simply being set up, and are left dangling at the start of the book.  Some are obvious throughlines, like "Who is the Ghost of St.Giles" and others smaller,  "What will become of Silence?", What is going on with St.John?", "How did Winter get that cut?", "How does Asa make a living?"...etc.  There are countless smaller ones I haven't even mentioned. This leads to a very crowded somewhat confusing book which built my frustration with the haphazard way the murder plot was handled.  I appreciated the color and world building Hoyt is doing but the main story really suffered.  I rather have had better development of Temperance's past, rather than having it basically info-dumped near the end.

While I really liked Lazarus and Temperance's individual struggles,  I wasn't thrilled with the resolution to Caire's struggle with touch. It felt cheap and unlikely that a life-long affliction would be cured so simply. Lots of people are shaped by childhood trauma, and find lasting love without being cured of their pain.

I was also fascinated and troubled at points, by the way, kink, particularly Lazarus's use of bondage was presented. I am not done sorting through my feelings about it. It seemed like at point its was presented as an exciting way to spice up one's sex life and at others as a symptom of a damaged psyche. It made little sense to me that he was so skilled at bringing Temperance to sexual satisfaction, while at the same time having spent the majority of his life, caring absolutely nothing for his sexual partners and their satisfaction.

Mrs.Dews, character, her desire, and repression however, made a great deal of sense to me. I fully understood her tortured feelings toward her sexual desires, and her complicated feelings of guilt she carried.  Her horror at having hurt Caire in the way she did during their dark moment was incredibly well done. I do wish we knew more about the specifics of her religious background.  The Makepeace family clearly are from some unconventional/Quakerish background and that informs their charity and family life but it is little explored. 

I listened to this book as an audiobook narrated by Ashford McNab. I wasn't fully satisfied with the narration. I did not like the voice used for Caire, which I found grating and whiny more than seductive and enticing, but I rather liked the female voices and for the secondary male characters.

Wicked Intentions was an ambitious but flawed book, But despite all these flaws and frustrations, I still rather liked the book. I liked the world of Maiden Lane (I've the two most recent novels) and  I enjoyed the banter and  compelling relationships, but I simply wasn't comfortable with the book as a whole.  


Mini-Reviews: Reaper's Fall, Glory in Death, Fool Me Twice and A Midnight Clear

24582414Reaper's Fall (Reapers MC #5) by Joanna Wylde:  Levi "Painter" Brooks, is the king of mixed messages. While he undeniably lusts after her, he pushes Mel Tucker away at every opportunity. Their romances becomes a complicated  on-but-never-quite-off five year plus slog, as these two dance around each other, failing to trust or communicate. She fears being abandoned, and Painter is a master at being wishy-washy.  I think I am pretty much over these books.  There were really good moments in this, but I skimmed the long involved biker politics plot, I didn't like the sexual dynamics between Mel and Painter (he continues to sleep with who ever he wants while claiming to be with Mel, and trying to interfere in her dating life).   It honestly read more like a cautionary tale, "don't sleep with possessive but wishy-washy bikers"

268601Glory in Death (In Death #2) by JD Robb  Eve faces off against a serial killer targeting prominent and powerful women, while questioning her increasingly serious relationship with Roarke and her fear of learning more about her past.  Once again I figured out who the murder was very early on, and I once again didn't care. I am here for the romance and watching Eve struggle with figuring out how to let herself have normal emotions and relationships while continuing to be good at her job. There were some odd and uncomfortable depictions of people of color and racial dynamics in this one.  I wasn't sure what Robb was going for but it made me uncomfortable and sad.

18143986Fool Me Twice (Rules for the Reckless #2) by Meredith Duran  Olivia Mather goes undercover in the recently-widowed and reclusive Duke of Marwick's house in order to steal some incriminating information the Duke has on a man that has been threatening her life for almost a decade.  Her plans are complicated when she discovers that the household is in utter disarray with the Duke refuses to leave his room. I hate listened to the first half of this book. I really couldn't stand how Olivia became infatuated with the dangerously gaunt Alistair. The book didn't begin to click for me till around chapter 10, when Alistair discovers why Olivia has been in his house.   The book really picked up steam for me at that point, and I really found the second half very very strong, with great conflict and characterization.

27505814A Midnight Clear by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner: This novella is set in Annapolis in 1949, a dozen years before Star Dust and is the story of Joe Reynolds (another Perseid astronaut) and Frances Dumfries.    Frances is an Admiral's daughter, who constantly must fend of the attentions of ambitious midshipmen who want to rub shoulders with her father.  Joe, while ambitious and dedicated only has eyes for Frances.  The novella is sweet and romantic, as Joe sets out to impress Frances with his desire to seek her happiness above his own.  The conflict and resolutions both seemed real and believable. Barry and Turner did a wonderful job developing a great supporting cast without stealing any time from the young lovers.


TBR Challenge Review: Naked in Death by JD Robb

October's TBR challenge theme is Paranormal or Romantic Suspense. I chose to read the first in JD Robb's best-selling futuristic sci-fi romantic suspense series "In Death". It was very daunting to even consider starting a 40 book deep series, but I bought the 1st "In Death" back in January when it was on sale. It has been sitting in my TBR taunting me since then. I mostly listened to "Naked in Death", reading chapters when I couldn't wait till my next convenient listening time.  

I loved the book. It was more graphically violent than I expected but I was completely engrossed in the story and the romance even though I figured out who the killer less than a third of the way through the story.

Eve Dallas is a tough cop in New York hundreds of years into the future.  While the culture and tech have in some ways radically changed the way people crime, motives and policing have only changed superficially. While Dallas carries a laser, and uses crime-analyzing computer, she is still buried in piles of reports, bureaucratic red-tape in chronically under-staffed department with a chief of police more interested in returning political favors than solving crimes.  While sex work might be legal & space-travel commonplace, money, political power and sex continue to deeply intertwined.  The more things change, the more things stay the same.

A demoralized, emotionally raw Eve is called to the scene of a murder just hours after surviving a traumatic encounter with a child murderer.  She finds a once vibrantly beautiful politically connected sex-worker murdered, possibly by a new serial killer. Eve drives herself nearly to her breaking point trying to find the killer and stop him before he kills again, against the strong headwinds of political pressure.

Roarke is a self-made billionaire with a mysterious past whose acquaintance with the first victim and large collection of antique guns make him a suspect.  Rourke quickly becomes fascinated with Eve. Her determination to solve the crime and refuse to be intimidated or swayed by his money and power catch his attention. Despite his alpha-pushiness and boundary crossing (more like trampling), his humor and emotional vulnerability make him incredibly attractive. He is baffled at his own response and desire for Eve, but proves again and again that he will put her needs above his every chance he gets. Unlike ruthless billionaire heroes Roarke almost always makes himself emotionally vulnerable in ways he doesn't demand from Eve. While he is used to getting his way, and getting whatever he wants, he doesn't see Eve as someone to acquire as much as he wants her.  His interventions on her behalf never diminish her. Their love affair has all the markings of a fascinating and genuine partnership.

Their first love-making scene was epic.  I am sure someone has written scads on the marital-violent language of their first encounter, because craft-wise it was a master class on writing truly un-skippable sex scene, that has ramifications to the whole story. While Eve's instincts tell her that Roarke is not a suspect, the scene is filled with tension, because he is not truly cleared yet and getting involved with him, even if he means her no harm is truly dangerous to Eve's career, which is the only thing that matters to Eve.

The series is not for the faint of heart but it is fantastic blend of romance and police procedural, and I will be coming back for more.

The audiobook was capably narrated by Susan Ericksen.  

PS.  I am embarrassingly behind on my ARC reading and reviewing.  =(


RT Review Round up

I reviewed a ton (4) of books for RT last month.

One of the most interesting things about my RT reviewing is that I read a lot more books by a lot of new-to-me authors.  Some I quite enjoy like Seressia Glass's Sugar  others I leave me conflicted like  Virma DePaul's Billionaire boss romance Filthy Rich and others I simply struggle with like Meg Adams's In From the Cold, a Christmas/nanny romance.

I did get to read a book from Jill Sorenson, whose work I have read and enjoyed in the past. I enjoyed Shooting Dirty   as much as I enjoyed the first book in her Dirty Eleven series, Riding Dirty which I had reviewed last year when it was first released.

 


Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh

Rock-Redemption-186x300Singh's  Rock Kiss series has gotten better and better with each book.  Rock Redemption in the story of Noah St. John and Kit Devigny.  Kit is the daughter of a world-famous supermodel and champion tennis pro. Despite her star-studded childhood, she has been building a career as an actress under her own name for the last decade, slowly moving from Soaps, to small indie films and is finally on the verge of mega stardom. Along the way she has grown close to the "Schoolboy Choir" bandmates, through her friendship with Fox, the band's lead singer.  They are her brothers in fame but one band member was once almost more than that.

Noah St.John broke Kit's heart when after months of building an increasingly intimate if platonic relationship he orchestrated it so that Kit would walk in on him and groupie.  Kit received the message loud and clear,and walked out of the room and out of his life.  Noah has resisted apologizing or contacting her for months, till the night he hit rock bottom and called her in drunk stupor from red-light district motel. 

This is a second-chance at love story that truly acknowledges how hard it is to trust against after an intentional betrayal. Noah is exposed & vulnerable and Kit is angry and wary. Noah had been incredibly thorough in wrecking their relationship they start off very hesitantly and haltingly. The fractures, and absence of their former ease with each other is deeply felt. They are both hyper-aware of what has been broken. Kit knows Noah is refusing to tell her some very important details about his motivations and rightly holds back and resists reestablishing  even a casual friendship. Noah is big bag of mixed signals, terrified of letting her close.  

Their efforts at rebuilding are put to the test when paparazzi catch wind of their renewed friendship and spin it in the media budding romantic relationship. Caught in the swirl of media attention at a very sensitive time in her career, Noah volunteers to pose as her boyfriend till attention winds down, and they can exit the relationship gracefully partly as penance and partly out of selfish desire to keep her close to him. 

I really loved that the demands of fame plays a very real toll on their lives and relationships. I also thought that Noah's secret pain that motivates his fucked up actions was really well done. Although I wanted to rail at him for making such poor choices, I understood the messed up way he got to them. Noah's messed up views of sex did really great things to the books dynamic.  Sexual tension didn't naturally lead to sex. Sex is something  the hero is actively trying to avoid moving towards. In Romance that is rare and it throws everyone off balance.

I was less thrilled with the stalker subplot.  I intellectually understood the role it was playing, thought it was well developed and even clever, I just didn't like that two of the heroines have been stalked in the course of series.  

I received advance review copy of Rock Redemption from Singh via NetGalley.

Rock Redemption is up for pre-order and is expected to be released on Oct. 6, 2015


Never Loved by Charlotte Stein

23433442After spending most of her young life held captive by an unstable and abusive father, Beatrix is finally free. She is free to live a normal life & do normal things, and forget everything that came before, starting over and building a new life in a new town & new country. That she doesn't quite know how to be normal is not going to stop her, she is going to fake it till she makes it and hope that no one ever learns of her messed up past.  When her troubled brother goes missing, Beatrix finds an unlikely knight in a large, surly street-fighter named Serge. Serge is an inexplicably kind and soft-spoken giant of a man. He intervenes on Tommy's behalf and is always there to protect and rescue Beatrix.  But Serge holds himself apart from Beatrix.  Although clearly attracted and protective of her, Serge is baffled by Beatrix's interest in him.

In Never Loved, Stein brings together a young woman learning to be normal with a man who has never had that option. I found myself wanting to have Serge's POV instead of Beatrix's, which is the first time I have ever felt that way reading a Stein novel. The story as it was told was still very interesting but I found Serge's struggle to accept and see himself as worthy of Beatrix's desire more compelling.  I did enjoy how enthusiastic Beatrix is about everything that Serge thinks should scare her away, from his rough appearance, his crazy hair stripes and his almost uncontrollable desire for her.  By claiming Serge, Beatrix claims herself and her desires for the first time, inspiring her to build authentic relationships with other people. 

 

I received a review copy of Never Loved from the publisher via NetGalley.

 

 


Sweet Agony by Charlotte Stein

71CjSOZuQbL._SL1500_Gothic in setting and naughty in tone, Sweet Agony was a delight. While Sweet Agony was clearly inspired by Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Sherlock, Sweet Agony is much more. 

Molly Parker is a young but very determined woman.  She bluffs and retorts her way in to Cyrian Hanford's house to become his housekeeper, despite the many physical and emotional obstacles he puts in her way. The Gothic dark house, with it dark paneled rooms and odd corners is a refuge, its library a wonderland.

Cyrian Hanford is a reclusive repressed eccentric who is both awkwardly handsome and possessing of a cutting wit. He is secretive, deceptive but also generous and perceptive. Mr. Hanford at turns avoids Molly or baits her, seeking a way to push her out his life.  Molly persists however not only to see through his bluster but to recognize his goodness, kindness and his desire. 

Sweet Agony was incredibly funny and sexy. I found myself startling my family with my laughter and struggling to find a polite/family friendly way to explain it (there is really no good way to explain why a read-out-loud of pornographic Victorian text is hilarious, without mentioning that it was a pornographic Victorian text). Stein's trademark first person magic is used to great effect in this novel.  Limited as we are by Molly's knowledge we are held in supsense and discover along with her Cyrian's secrets.

While Cyrian and Molly are both sexually inexperienced they make up for it through curiosity and hunger. Their halting but scorching sexual encounters were great.  Molly and Cyrian might be mismatched in many ways with the vast gaps in their social class, education and personal wealth, but they value and treasure each other like no else would. They have both been horrifically hurt through neglect and abuse by their families of origin but in each other find kindred spirits, play and love.

 As with almost all my previous Stein books, I'm left wanting more, but I trust Cyrian and Molly to have a HEA that pleases them even if it confounds others.

 

Disclosure: I am friendly with Charlotte Stein on twitter/FB, and just love her distinctive voice. I received a review copy pf Sweet Agony from Ms. Stein.


Grave Phantoms by Jenn Bennett

GRAVE-PHANTOMS_COVER_MED-438x706I loved Bitter Spirits and Grim Shadows, but I have been impatiently waiting for Bo and Astrid's story since Bennett introduced them in the first book.

Grave Phantoms is Paranomal suspense romance set at the end of the Roaring 20s. The mood is heavy with a looming sense of uncertainty and change.  Astrid and Bo's flirty friendship has been interrupted as they have been apart for half a year with Astrid away at college. Heavy winter rains and flooding threaten Magnusson warehouses, distracting Bo & Winter and spoiling Astrid's homecoming plans.  Then a long-missing yacht full of occult artifacts and amnesiac survivors crashes into the Magnusson docks.  When Astrid accidentally touches one of the artifacts she blackouts and starts seeing visions.  Bo and Astrid must race to figure out the provenance and purpose of the artifact to insure Astrid's safety.

The big occultist plot in the novel involving pirates, pre-Columbian magical artifacts and eternal life, is interesting but I hardly paid attention to it. It did give Astrid and Bo excuses to be out together investigating and meeting interesting people, and it did get quite scary at points, but the real stakes of the story are firmly on whether Bo and Astrid can figure out a way to love & live together in a way neither is diminished. 

Bo Yeung is Winter Magnusson's  right-hand man. He has risen from foiled pick-pocket and errand boy to second in command in the Magnusson bootlegging operation because of his intelligence, initiative and loyalty. Winter has welcomed Bo into his home and treats him like family. 

Astrid Magnusson is Winter's little sister.  She has come of age in the flapper era, reveling in being young, blonde, rich and daring.  But adulthood has Astrid pushing boundaries more than ever as she tries to figure who she is, other than a bootlegger's sister.  A semester away at college has clarified what she wants but not how to get it.  She is scared that her attempts at making Bo notice and think of her as woman have pushed him away.

Bo is hurt and confused by Astrid but still undeniably in love with her.  Bennett did a great job teasing out some of the pressures Bo is under as Chinese American man in early 20th century San Francisco.  He is much more sensitive to the pitfalls of a relationship between them as he crosses as between Chinatown & the Magnusson's Pacific Heights neighborhood routinely, and living in both worlds has made him sensitive to the problems they would face.

The social censure and the practical realities of their inter-racial romance always loom in the background. Where would they live, how would they support themselves if Winter disapproves are all issues that Bo has spent a great deal of time thinking about. In the past being out and about with Astrid has been easy, because he was just her driver or bodyguard, but it is completely different for them to be out together as a romantic couple. The way they have to acknowledge power dynamics & negotiate how they can be together in public without Astrid unintentionally emasculating Bo was very powerful.  For Astrid it means not smoothing things over, or covering them up even if that is easier.  She needs to accept that it will sometimes be ugly and uncomfortable and that saving them from rudeness by lying will hurt more in the end.  Astrid is used to having Bo in her world, but she needs to see him in his before she can really start imagining how they can make space for themselves in the world together.  

I fascinated and surprised by how central Astrid & Bo's sexual histories would be to the romance. They both had to grown and accept that they had sexual pasts with other people. They want to be jealous, and I appreciated how painful it is for them both to face up to the fact that they had both pursued other sexual partners & relationships while becoming emotionally attached to each other. Learning to live with that an accepting that is part of becoming adults, and I loved the resolution to that romantic conflict.  I loved the Epilogue and the new lives the Magnusson-Yeung clan have created for themselves.

 I received a review copy from the publisher, Penguin Group: Berkley via NetGalley


Ride Me Hard by Shari Slade (The Devil's Host MC, Book 1)

RideMeHard-200x300Star is waitress at dead-end diner. She hates her job and is close to losing her apartment. Star has no one good in her life, her boss is awful, her cousin a low-life and the local cop keeps his eye on her not because he wants to protect her but because he wants to feel her up.  In walks Noah, big, bad bruiser and enforcer for the Devil's Host MC. Everything about him signals danger and destruction but Star is fascinated even as she comes close to being paralyzed with fear. He is not there for Star, but for her cousin who owes debts to his club. When her cousin runs out the backdoor, Star is left behind alone.

Ride Me Hard is first of a projected five installment biker-romance serial following the same couple with a HEA at the end. The first story was short but action packed. Slade uses many familiar biker tropes to good effect and introduces a heroine that is believable even as she makes extremely risky choices. 

Star's lack of self-preservation instinct is convincingly presented as being fueled by having nothing to lose and her desire & attraction to Noah.  Noah is  harder to pin down. Protective but undeniably dangerous, the king of mixed messages,  reassuring her one minute, saying something scary to his club brother the next and Star doesn't know if she can trust him. Whether Star has misread Noah, and what he plans to do with her beyond continuing to sex her up are questions left to be resolved in the next installments.

I thought it this was great start, interesting and hot, establishing the stakes and the characters well and I liked what I read enough that I will return for more.

I received a review copy of Ride me Hard from the author Shari Slade.

Ride Me Hard will be available at all the usual places on May 1st.


Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

DeadHeat_bigDead Heat is the fifth story in Patricia Briggs' Urban Fantasy series, Alpha & Omega.  I discovered the the Alpha & Omega series a couple of years ago when I ran out of her excellent yet heart-wrenching Mercy Thompson books to borrow from my library's audio-book collection.  Set in the same universe, the series follows Anna and Charles a mated wolf pair, who track and destroy supernatural threats to shifter and human communities.  

Charles is one of the son's of the Marrok, the leader of all the werewolves in North America.  He is his father's problem solver and enforcer.  Anna is an  Omega wolf, a very rare kind of wolf that exists outside the strict hierarchical werewolf pack power structure.  She can not be forced to submit to the will of even the strongest Alpha, and has the power to pacify and neutralize the most dominant of wolves.  

In Dead Heat, Charles and Anna travel to Arizona to purchase a new horse for Anna.   Instead of a relaxing visit with one of Charles's oldest non-werewolf friends, Joseph and his horse-raising family Charles and Anna arrive just in time to intervene when some of Joseph's extended family  are attacked .  The attack heightens inter-family tensions that threaten to derail their search for the powerful Fae responsible for trying to harm Joseph’s grand-children and the abduction of a preschooler. I really loved this book but I almost didn't make it past the first 20% because children were the targets of the attack.  If you are a person who is triggered or other has a hard time with children in peril stories, this might not be the book for you.  Through the book there are multiple references to children being abducted and harmed.  There is HEA and the good and righteous prevail but there was a lot of suspense, terror and tension before everything is resolved.

One of the things I love about the Alpha and Omega series is that while the stories are full of great crime solving/detective/action adventure elements, the stories in the end are really about Anna and Charles’s relationship.  Briggs does not flinch as she has portrays the many hurdles and difficulties pair have to overcome to be happy together.  Briggs strength in these books is that she has balanced the portrayals of conflict, pain, with those of growth and joy.  One of the major themes in this book is family, what it means, who belongs, and what kind of responsibilities they have to one another. I loved how complicated family was in this book, as we have pack, tribal, legal and emotional bonds inter-crossing and complicating everyone's lives. I was very satisfied with how Anna and Charles come to resolve their tensions over Anna's desire to have children and the roots of Charles' hesitance.

One thing I didn't like was the amount of horse lore packed into this book.  Joseph's family raises Arabians and I felt there was a lot of info dumping about horses in general and Arabian's particular. Some of it paid off in the end, but it was overwhelming.  But it didn't ruin the book for me.  It continues to be incredibly satisfying to read  about Anna and Charles falling and growing into love while defeating  yet another dangerous supernatural threat.

But I what I would really love is for Ms. Briggs to spin-off Bran and Moira into their own monster-fighting series.  I would love to read about the Marrok, rolling up his sleeves and calling in my favorite blind-wolf-mated Witch to hunt down monsters that really need killing. Their odd couple team-up in this book delighted me.