In Wild, the 5th novel and the 7th story in the romantic suspense series Aftershock, Jill Sorenson returns to the day an earthquake devastated the San Diego area. Helena Fjord is an experienced animal keeper at the San Diego’s Wildlife Park. The quake damages the zoo, endangering the lives of her colleagues and putting the whole city in danger when many predators escape their enclosures. As the most senior staff member on site, she and Josh Garrison, the zoo’s deceptively charming and easy-going Chief of Security must do what they can to secure the Zoo.
Although extremely popular with the staff, Helena has always dismissed Josh as an un-serious surfer man-child and is forced to re-examine her opinion of him, and learn to respect his knowledge and judgment. A former Navy Seal, Josh might take many things lightly, but not his job. Their working relationship has been civil, distant and somewhat strained since the day Josh asked her out, unaware she had a live-in-boyfriend, and was coldly turned down, much to the amusement of their co-workers. Sure he asked her as joke, she has avoided close contact with him ever since. Although Helena appears to others to be coolly confident and remote, her detachment is protective response to years of childhood teasing and loss. Josh is aware that she avoids him but continues to nurse an interest in Helena, whose Amazonian figure and demeanor he hasn’t stopped admiring. Before the earthquake, with Helena’s long-time boyfriend recently relocated out of town and their relationship in flux, Josh had hope he could finally breakthrough and make a positive impression on Helena. After the earthquake, Helena and Josh come to learn how wrong they have been about each other and how much they must depend on each other to survive. The close quarters and deeply terrifying experiences have them responding to each other physically and which only complicates the hot-cold dynamic of their relationship. Their reactions to each other are messy and occasionally very ugly, but grow naturally from their fraught relationship.
A secondary storyline follows Josh’s younger sister Chloe, her toddler daughter and Mateo the young Panamanian soccer player that rescues them from the Coronado Bridge. They must make their way through the ruined coastline to the evacuation site while dodging looters and other dangers.
I enjoyed returning to the day of the earthquake, and seeing how the rest of the city was fared while many of the characters in the first Aftershock novel were trapped under a collapsed overpass. I continue to appreciate how Sorenson allows her strong male and female characters to experience weakness and failure. They don’t save everyone, they make stupid mistakes, they get hurt and ache. I was particularly impressed that she had Helena confront the consequences of becoming involved with Josh before ending her relationship with Mitch. Having her face up to the hurt she caused Mitch (her long-distance boyfriend) and acknowledge that she underestimated his feelings for her and accept how much of the breakdown of their relationship stemmed from her having stopped communicating with him in order to avoid conflict, is not something you usually see a hero or heroine in a romance do.
I still have a hard time with how much time Sorenson’s characters spend in their own heads. It works well with some of her characters including reserved and introspective Helena, but less so with more impulsive and emotional Chloe.
A review copy of Wild was provided by the author, Jill Sorenson. Publication date is November 3, 2014, and is available for pre-order at all the usual places.
Some time last year I noticed that I was in the midst of Historical Romance slump. The genre that once had been my favorite comfort (having been raised watching the A&E P &P and reading Austen), was no longer very interesting to me. I tend toward being a binge reader, so I am actually quite used to burning through genres and sub-genres, reading way too many of one kind of book and ruining myself for it for a long while. I have rarely been able to revive an interest in a genre I have abandoned after binging, after all there is always some new kind of genre to explore.
My favorite historical rom writers had been Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh and Julia Quinn whose extensive back-lists were available on my library's Overdrive collection when I first started reading romance. One of the first signs of my slump was my disinterest in their newer novels. I read and enjoyed the work of Nicola Cornick, Eloisa James, Anna Cowan, Christina Dodd, Madeline Hunter, Grace Burrowes, Cecelia Grant, Tessa Dare, Amanda Quick, Courtney Milan, Sherry Thomas, Sarah Maclean, Anne Stuart, Miranda Neville & Sophia Nash. While I enjoyed these authors books I found that just couldn't bear to read about another ball or Rake after over-indulging in the sub-genre. I had stumbled through too many novels by lesser authors, ingested to feed my historical romance dependency and they had ruined me for good books. I was just plain tired of lady's maids, phaetons, and gleaming Hessians. Before long the very themes and settings that first attracted me, bored me. New books by once trusted authors failed to inspire my interest, and I found myself skimming books I knew were perfectly nice, but I just wasn't in the mood for anymore. Before I quite realized it, contemporary romance had edged almost all historicals off my kindle. While once I would read a dozen historicals a month, I had a hard time remembering the last one I read and enjoyed.
So last December I signed up for DearAuthor's "One Historical a Month" challenge. At the start of every month we check in with each other and report our positive and negative attempts at rekindling our interest in Historicals. I made an effort to read historicals by authors I hadn't read before, rather than counting toward my goal new installments in series I was still enjoying (Courtney Milan's The Brothers Sinister & Maclean's Rules of Scoundrels). I was challenged to push to beyond Regency, Victorian & Medieval Romances, to try book set in different eras and countries. By forcing myself to try new things I hoped to find something to remind me why I used to find such comfort and amusement in the genre.
Through the challenge I found myself taking a chance on settings I would have not explored in the past. Through the challenge I found myself reading Edie Harris' western "Wild Burn" & Jenn Bennett's Bitter Spirits, a historical PNR set in 1920's San Fransisco. I also finally got around to reading Jeannie Lin's Lotus Palace set in China during the Tang dynasty. These books were little treasures that reminded me I could still enjoy the right historical romance if they book was good enough, but they didn't revive my interest in the sub-genre as whole because they were unusual rather than typical.
that I found myself diving into a new-t0-me Victorian era series with enthusiasm. I had read Jennifer Ashley's PNR books, and found them fun but not life-changing. However "Madness of Ian MacKenzie" was just as wonderful and different as Elisabeth Lane had promised. Ian was a very different kind of hero, and not just because he is autistic and Beth was delightful. I loved that she had loved her first husband so well, and that the poor vicar had been such a good man. I also loved that she didn't feel a like modern woman in period dress.
After reading it, I did what I hadn't done in more than year, immediately read a second historical, then a third. I've read about half the series now, and I am waiting for copies of the others to become available from the library. But most significantly my interest in historical romance is no longer limited to just the MacKenzie and McBride series, but it has prompted me to finally get around to reading several historical romance ARCs that had been languishing in my TBR.
My issues with historical romance as a whole remain, but I am in the mood for them again. Anyone else prone to slumps like mine? What genres and sub-genres have you burned out on? Do you have genre-slump-breaking book to recommend?
For as long as I've been online, I've gone online to talk about books. Back in the 1990's it was on small websites and discussion boards, in the 00's on social media and blogs. The internet for me above anything else has been a place where I find other readers with which share opinions and perspectives. The kinds of books I went online to talk about has changed from Fantasy & Sci-fi to Comic Books & YA to Romance but talking about books and participating in online communities of readers has always been a huge part of my online life. The friendships and connections I've made online are real ones. The people behind the screen-names matter to me, their opinions matter to me and their real lives matter to me. My life is made richer because over the years I've been able to talk about books I love with a stay-at-home mom in the deep south, teachers in Quebec, Pennsylvania & California, doctors in Indiana, a teen-ager from No.Cali, the "baron" in New England and a reporter in Memphis among the many others.
Auth0rs have sometimes been part of my reading communities and I haven't had a regretful interaction with one yet. Nearly every author I've interacted with online has been gracious, respectful and encouraging, passionate about books and readers themselves. I am thankful for the lovely email Anne McAffery wrote back to my sister in 1992, the emails I've exchanged with Mr.Shanower about his comic books series Age of Bronze over the years, and the tweet exchanges I participate in today with some of my favorite Romance novel writers.
However positive my interactions have been, however lucky I've been, other bloggers, readers and reviewers have not been. I've seen author verbally abuse readers, some have been harassed by street teams, been subjected to tantrums and now most appallingly been subjected to stalking, while their stalker is applauded. I am just plain angry to see that kind of behavior rewarded and supported, and to see fantastic voices quieted out of fear or disgust.
On this blog I regularly review books I obtain directly from authors or from publishers via NetGalley or Edelweiss but I am not someone's else's promo platform. This blog is my platform where I alone choose which books I want to review. If I love a book, I will praise it and promote it. If I dislike it I will do my best to articulate why that book didn't work for me in a way that someone else might be able to recognize if it is or is not a book for them. I don't end up reading all the books I receive, but I do try to review all the review books I actually read. I always strive to write fair, honest and articulate reviews.
Even though my reviews tend to be positive (I rarely finish books that bore me, or enrage me, and I don't often write DNF reviews), I reserve the right to be critical of story elements or choices that didn't work for me. My reviews are my opinions and reactions, and they are not absolutist judgements, but I hope they are valuable and helpful to other readers. This might be my hobby but I strive to be professional in all my interactions.
One of the best thing about online reader-reader friendships and relationships is learning how something that appeals to one reviewer is the very same thing that repulses me. Something that crossed the line for me, was the very thing someone else is looking for. The trope or HEA one reader loved is the very same I dislike. There is also something precious when you find a fellow reader whose reviews you can trust to lead you to good books because you have a reading kinship.
So today I join other book bloggers in choosing not to publish any new book reviews for a week. I've not yet decided what I will write instead. I do this out of respect for fellow reviewers & readers and out of a desire to show support to those who are having their lives disrupted because of hurtful and abusive author/publisher behavior.
Beth Faraday grew up knowing she had a special skill set, one that allowed her to become one of the world’s most-sought-after assassins. But when something goes terribly wrong on a mission in Kabul Beth abruptly retired. She left her work and family behind to assume a new identity, and try to find a new way to live. But someone from her past has put out a hit on her, and her Spy, the last man she ever expects back in her life is back.
This was a pulse-pounding, mind-cracking, absorbing tale. Spies, double agents, assassination attempts & stolen moments of passion and danger. Edie Harris constructed an explosive non-linear narrative, that has us moving backwards and forwards through Beth and Vick’s history together. Each scene clicks neatly into place, complicating current and past interactions. I loved how the story of their past keep twisting and changing, creating a complex picture of two people tied together in mutual longing. Theirs is a story of obsession, deep loneliness, unvoiced desires and feelings.
Beth’s Spy is Vick Raleigh, a loyal servant in the Queen's MI-6 intelligence services. Whatever disguise or identity he is assuming, Beth has always been able to recognize him. Their paths intentionally and unintentionally cross through out Beth’s 10 year career as an assassin. Each time they meet, they are drawn together, and they steal little moments of intimacy and connection, despite having to deny each other even the most basic of foundations for trust, the truth of who they are and why they are there.
I loved that both Beth and Vick struggle to know what to expect and want from each other, having built up complicated fantasies around each other during their long separations. I love how this leads them to hesitate in expressing what they really want out of fear of losing both the fantasy and the reality. They fail to say too much which hurts them more than outright lies.
Vick carries around the burden of his solitary work, and longs to have someone who will see him and truly know him. In Beth, Vick sees the potential of partner who can truly know all of him, but feels unworthy of her attention and care. Beth is a Faraday, youngest daughter of a legendary family in the intelligence community. Feeling like the unexceptional one in a family of remarkable people, she became an assassin, assuming an emotionally self-destructive role, in order to find a way to protect and serve in the family business and earn her place in it. For Beth, Vick has always tantalizing puzzle, a dangerous flirtation, her well kept secret. Spotting him, drawing him to her, always brought a little joy to her deadly missions. But after Kabul, she finally recognizes that she can’t keep living the way she had been, going from mission to mission, disgusted by a world where no one avenges the lives that really matter and leaves her family behind to start a new life in Chicago. While she is out of shape and practice, pursuing a career as art curator she hasn’t left everything behind. Her new life feels like an extended mission, she is still paranoid, observant and suspicious, haunted by her failures and regrets and when Vick steps back into her life, she needs to figure out what it will take for her to truly build a new life.
This was heart-stomping and all-around good book. I loved how Harris played with my emotions, and upended my expectations. The twists and betrayals made me wondered how Harris would be able to make it all work, particularly when it comes to balancing the heavy weight of truth and honesty in Vick and Beth’s relationship and the consequences they both have to bear for failing to speak or listen to the truth when they had a chance.
As this book features spies, assassins, those with triggers connected to torture & abduction should steer clear. However I can’t wait to read the rest of the Blood Money series.
Blamed by Edie Harris published by Carina Press, who provided me with a advanced review copy via NetGalley.
There was a time in my life where mystery and detective novels dominated my reading. I loved Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, PD James & Patricia Cornwell. I read everything from hard-boiled noir to cozy cottage mystery. But I reached my breaking one night with a particularly gruesome Ian Rankin novel that had me spending too much time in the serial killer’s head (Red Right Hand). After that my mystery novel reading tailed off, and while I still pick up a mystery story from time to time, and I still addicted to Masterpiece Mystery if I read a mystery now, I've picked it up for its romantic elements. Last month when Sunita and others recommended Binary Witness on twitter, at the time priced at only .99 cents, I took a gamble and order it and requested the sequel Code Runner from Netgalley. I loved them both.
Binary Witness (Amy Lane Mysteries #1) is set in Cardiff and opens with a young woman stalked and attacked outside her house. We are then introduced to Jason Carr, an ex-con former street tough trying to pull his life together. He is unwelcome in his old neighborhood and has strained relationships with his mom Gwen and sister Cerys with whom he lives. He has secured a low-paying job as a cleaner. The work is hard and disgusting but it is honest. Jason doesn't have a lot of opportunities in his life, never has had, but he can't return to his former life and he isn't content to live on welfare.
One of his first assignments brings him to Amy Lane’s doorstep. Amy is a reclusive & neurotic hacker who works as un-official consultant to the Cardiff police force. Her sister in Australia has arranged for the house cleaning service to come and check in on Amy, knowing she often forgets to eat and maintain her house. None of the other cleaners has made it into her house but Jason convinces her to let him in. Once in he sets out to disinfect Amy’s lair, and make her eat. Jason is there when the Cardiff police officers Bryn and Owain arrive to ask for Amy's help in finding a pair of missing girls. Amy who only has fuzzy awarness of the what Jason's actual job duties should be starts treating him as pseudo-assistant and errand boy, and since Jason is captivated by the case as is all of Cardiff he rolls with it. Jason’s street connections and gift of gab become valuable assets to Amy, helping her when she hits dead-ends in her digital sleuthing. Both Amy and Jason frequently over-step legal boundaries in their investigations while Detectives Bryn and Owain look the other way in mild-horror but deep pragmatism.
While the mystery is top-notch what really drew me to the story were the genuine relationships. Amy and Jason’s friendship and partnership is fascinating. I loved how they watched out for each other, their crabby bickering and value they give to each other’s lives. I particularly loved Bryn's suspiscious, hostile yet eventually grudgingly admiration he develops for Jason. While I was completely satisfied with the resolution of the mystery, I was very happy I had Code Runner to jump right into because I wanted to spend more time with Amy and Jason.
4.5 stars to Binary Witness
Code Runner (Amy Lane Mysteries #2):
Code Runner starts several months after the events of Binary Witness. Amy and Jason have found new routines, thriving when busy with cases but struggling with the changes when not caught up in cases. Jason is now employed full-time as Amy’s live-in assistant, and the change in expectations and schedule has caused more than a few conflicts.
Jason takes a couple days of holiday away from Amy to camp at the beach with his mother and sister and stumbles upon a dead body. His first instinct after calling the police is to take pictures for Amy and that nearly gets him arrested. Amy and Jason can’t resist an open case and Jason ends up investigating against the wishes of the police force. In this case Jason’s old gang world and his new world intersect in ways he never anticipated. Framed for the murder of the younger brother of one of his old associates, Jason is arrested and imprisoned. Jason will have to trust Amy to solve the crime without him and do his best to stay alive. Amy has to work without his assistance, outside the usual channels, deprived of her best tech & without the approval of her usual associates.
I read Code Runner in one sitting, once I started I couldn’t put it down. The relationships established in Binary Witness were complicated and tested in Code Runner. I loved that the more Jason and Amy are drawn together the more they are keeping from each other out of fear of destroying their partnership. I really hope there are more Amy Lane Mysteries on the way.
Recently I had the opportunity to read two m/m novellas by Amy Jo Cousins. In both the stories the main characters have to strip away protective layers of prejudice and defensiveness in order to move beyond sexual chemistry to real intimacy and the possibility of love. All the characters have access to plenty of sexual partners for casual encounters but want more. The tension lies not in whether they will notice each other and find sexual release together but whether that moment is one that marks the end of the relationship or its start.
Dance Hall Days is the the second to last novella in Dreamspinner Press’ “All in a Day’s Work” Anthology. Frank Armstrong is a bouncer at a dance hall catering to gay men in Depression era London. Large, solid and serious, his job is to watch the door, but he can’t keep his eyes from wandering all over Laurie. Laurie is a singer who performs in glittering drag and not all the kind of man Frank usually goes for. Laurie is not circumspect or conflicted about his interest in Frank and ends up unequivocally dedicating a torch song to him. Instead of reciprocating, Frank flees the dance floor, retreating back to his post. Embarrassed and vulnerable Laurie nurses his broken-heart by going home with all the wrong men. Feeling used & teary after yet another empty and specially hurtful encounter with a posh patron, Laurie is mortified when Frank finds him in the coat-room sniveling. Frank is gruffly and awkwardly trying to comfort Laurie when they hear the terrifying high-pitched whistles that signal a police raid. In desperation, Laurie hurriedly forces Frank into a hidden closet so they can avoid being arrested. In the dark of the closet it is Laurie’s turn to comfort and be strong for Frank who suffers from claustrophobia. There Frank accepts Laurie’s caresses but Frank and Laurie will both have to strip off their prejudice and misconceptions about each other if they want more than a few moments of sexual release with each other.
Cousins did a wonderful job re-creating both the glittering yet grimy ambiance of the illicit dance hall, both refuge and ghetto. She captures the isolation, desperation and loneliness of living on the fringes of society, sought after and used. How differently Frank and Laurie respond to the pressures of being gay in society that doesn't accept it makes it difficult for them to reach for each other. My happiness as they walk off together into the night is tempered by worry and wonder about what the future holds for them.
From the Anthology I can also recommend reading My OTP by Bru Baker and Not Quite 1776 by Therese Woodson.
My OTP by Bru Baker is about a pair of myth-busting TV personalities, whose easy chemistry and camaraderie inspire fans to fill tumblr with saucy gifs. But it is not just the fans who are shipping them and hoping to figure out if they are really a couple. Fun and breezy, a lovers to more story.
Not Quite 1776 by Therese Woodson was also worth reading. Henry is a historical interpreter who excels at one-night stands and flees from emotional entanglements in pursuit of his own vision of liberty. Owen is the sexy historical reenactor that inspires him to want something a little bit deeper and to not retreat from his offer of more.
I appreciated receiving a review copy of “All in a Day’s Work” from the author, Amy Jo Cousins.
Devin is an amazing older brother. Ten years ago, he stepped in to defend his pregnant sister Lucy, deflecting the brunt of his parents wrath by coming out. He then dropped out his master’s program to take a job that would help him pay their bills. Since then he has been active uncle and generally put his own life on the back burner. Other than trips to the gym he rarely makes times for himself, and contents himself with occasional casual hookups. When he loses yet another bet to his sister, he finds himself on a blind date with a beautiful young man he would never dream of approaching otherwise, the first of 5 dates to be arranged by his sister to settle his debt.
Jay is young, hip and incredibly angry when he discovers that Devin’s sister used a ten-year old photo on the dating site profile. While Jay does find Devin attractive, he is not at all the kind of man he is looking for anymore. Jay is adamant about not wanting to date another “daddy”, having just ended a painful relationship with a older more educated man who subtly and consistently denigrated him.
An embarrassed and apologetic Devin is able to convince him to stay for the dinner & Devin’s persistence and good nature eventually pierce Jay’s angry bubble and they end up enjoying each others company despite the awful start and then share a scorching parting kiss. Devin is well aware of Jay’s confusion and anger with himself so he leaves it up to Jay to make the next move, despite being completely infatuated with him. What follows are a series of false starts, sexy texts,interrupted dates, self-torture, & bad moves as Jay tries to reconcile his fears about getting involved with an older man and his attraction and growing feelings and desire for Devin.
This novella was fun despite touching on many serious background issues such as teen pregnancy, familial rejection, racism, stereotyping and power inequalities in some gay relationships because the main characters are more than a collection of hurts. There is a HEA, with the promise of more but it just feels like the beginning of a story to me. They have fallen in like for each other, but they will need to have a lot more dates before they fall in love.
I wrote a guest post for Limecello about the romance tropes and story-elements that I connect with the most as a Latina and the books and series where I have found them. Go read it! I am very proud of the post. It was challenging to write & trying to tease out which story-elements and tropes I liked because they reflected my personal experiences as Latina.
It is 1905 and Sir Thomas Featherstone is a wealthy baronet and art patron in London. He has come to the Evensong Agency in search of secretary that will help him organize his business affairs, and help him launch an artist colony and art foundation. Ms. Evensong the wily proprietor of the agency, manages him deftly and before he quite realizes he has hired or more accurately Harriet Benson has agreed to work for him at an exorbitant salary.
Harriet is an experienced and hardworking secretary, who trying to return to work while dealing with the lingering after-effects of an emergency appendectomy. Harriet Benson loves working as a secretary, organizing and managing but what she loves the most is her ability to provide for her family and ensure her brothers the education they need through her salary. Her father however deeply resents her career and is looking for any excuse to bar her from working even if it means huge problems for their family financially. Sir Thomas Featherstone with his reputation associating with artists and half-dressed models is a scandal waiting to happen and Mr. Benson is sure he will soon cause his daughter’s ruination.
Little does Mr. Benson know that Sir Thomas although extremely dazzled by Harriet’s beauty and efficiency, is not an accomplished seducer. Despite the allowances he pays to several opera singers and chorus girls, and antics reported in the papers, Thomas is actually a virgin. He is technically a virgin despite of years of consorting with mistress, because he is too fearful of having his scandalous reputation exposed as a fabrication and too easy going to press for more. With Miss Benson, Thomas’s easy charm stumbles, and he often finds himself tongue-tied around her, so he meekly follows her lead in keeping their relationship as professional as possible.
However their relationship takes a dramatic turn when Harriet’s father comes home drunk after losing his job strikes her and locks her in her room, convinced she has been corrupted by Sir Thomas. Harriet flees and ends up on Sir Thomas’s doorstep. Sir Thomas insists on looking after her, and while trying to console her they end up embracing. Discovering their mutual attraction and inexperience and due to Harriet’s insistence in refusing direct financial help, they up writing up a contract, making Harriet Sir Thomas’s temporary mistress. Like it always seems to happen with these temporary arrangements they both fall deeper for each other than they intended,and as the end dates looms ever larger as Sir Thomas tries to figure out a way to convince Harriet to stay in his life, and not run off for quite life in the country after collecting her settlement.
The tone of the story was light and highly comedic, almost farcical, similar in tone to Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest. I generally enjoyed the humor, and I think Robinson did a good job developing Sir Thomas’s inner voice, so that we could see his genuine if somewhat bumbling affection and admiration for Harriet. While I could understand Harriet’s attraction, affection and genuine concern for Thomas, I was less than convinced by some of the out of character choices she makes late in the novel in her attempts to facilitate the ending of their relationship, however her change of heart was believable as was her commitment to being the most proper wife for Sir Thomas despite her background.
I am thankful for the copy of the Unsuitable Secretary made available to reviewers by Penguin InterMix via NetGalley.
Thea is an amazon, a senior partner for a music industry PR firm. She is fantastic at her job and looks great doing it. Not too long ago her heart was bruised when she discovered her then fiancee was cheating on her, but the real damage he did was in the big and small ways he tried to diminish her skills and failed to appreciate her. David Rivera is a client, drummer for Schoolhouse Choir one of the most successful bands Thea works with, but he is also a friend. Over the years David has been there with a kind word, an easy smile and conversation whenever Thea needs him. David would love to be more than just a friend to Thea, but when Thea expertly deflects his attempt to ask her on a date, David is heartbroken but backs off. Thea notices his withdrawal to careful cordiality and feels the loss, but still isn’t willing to cross the line of dating a client and risk compromising herself professionally.
Any hopes of a relationship might have faded if not for the fact that Thea’s very observant half-sister Molly realizes how crazy David is for Thea and encourages him to write Thea a memo, knowing Thea’s inability to ignore her email is the chink in her armor. The novella takes an epistolary turn as Thea and David exchange scorching memos on their attraction, compatibility and their odds in making a relationship work.
After long work related separations Thea and David finally come together and decide to see if they can sizzle in person as much as they did on paper and whether they can figure out how to be there for each other’s despite their busy lives.
When I read Rock Addiction I was annoyed at the intentionally vague references to the climactic crisis in Thea and David’s relationship, which I felt intruded and didn’t inform so much as annoy. Now having read Rock Courtship, I am convinced that instead of overlapping the same time period Rock Addiction it would have worked better for the bulk of this novella including its climax to have occurred after the end of Rock Addiction. While that choice diminished Rock Addiction it doesn’t negatively affect Rock Courtship. I really enjoyed how the romance between David and Thea is set up as a negotiation. I liked how the crisis arises naturally from tensions and insecurities introduced from the start of the story and its resolution was well earned.
4 out 5
I am thankful for the review copy of Rock Courtship provided by Nalini Singh & TKA Distribution via NetGalley.
This is Jill Sorenson’s first foray into Motorcycle Club Romance, and it was a natural fit for the Romantic Suspense expert. Mia Richards (formerly Michelle Ruiz) is psychologist, who entered the Witness Protection system after Phillip, her husband was murdered and she was left for dead during a home invasion perpetrated by bikers connected to the White Lightning MC. Three years have passed and Mia, thirsty for revenge, jumps at the opportunity offered by shady DA investigator Damon Vargas to take part a mostly-off the books operation against the Dirty Eleven MC. Mia is to monitor the psychological health of their informant Cole “Shank” Shepherd. After the death of his brother and with prison life turning too dangerous after retaliating against the Aryan Brotherhood who killed him, Cole has agreed to provide information on his uncle’s criminal activities as head of the Dirty Eleven Motorcycle Club. In Cole, Mia sees the perfect instrument of revenge but as she plots to seduce Cole, she finds that after three years of numbness, he has sparked both her body and her feelings and believes she can’t callously use him as she intended. Cole has come back from prison changed. The deaths of his brother and cousin have reinforced a sense of his mortality, and made him increasingly uneasy with the criminal partnerships his uncle has made. He is wary of old friends, he is thinking too hard, noticing too much and knows from the start Mia wants something from him. Cole and Mia’s relationship was complicated enough when she was trying to seduce him into being her instrument of revenge, but simply trying to be together nearly destroys them both.
Sorenson did a wonderful job combining MC elements with her excellent romantic suspense plots. Sorenson doesn’t sugarcoat the machismo & violence of the MC life but is still able to exploit the erotic potential Cole’s possessiveness & crudeness holds for Mia. Cole deeper interest in Mia was also realistically developed. While they both develop intense attraction from the beginning, their relationship is given time to build, through multiple therapy sessions, & then in furtive and conflicted encounters. The tension of Cole is seeking intimacy beyond sex for the first time in his life, and Mia struggling with the reality of giving him anything other than her body (such a her true identity) will endanger them both.The external and internal obstacles Mia and Cole face were so realistic and intense I had a hard time imagining how Sorenson could bring it a believable resolution but she did. I am eager to read more of the Dirty Eleven series.
Side-note: I really liked how Sorenson depicted Mia’s Mexican-American heritage. I liked how it was introduced and how it then lent a playful note to Mia and Cole’s otherwise heavy and secretive dates.
4.5 out of 5 stars
I received a review copy of Riding Dirty from its author, Jill Sorenson.
Reaper's Stand (Reaper's Motorcycle Club series, book 4) by Joanna Wylde:
Reaper’s Stand is the fourth book in Joanna Wylde’s popular Reapers Motorcycle Club series. Throughout the series Reese “Picnic” Hayes has a been recurring and imposing figure. Picnic is the long-time president of the Reaper’s, and father of Emme, heroine in the Devil’s Game. In previous books he has been established as a tough, very protective of his daughters, and very promiscuous since the death of his beloved wife.
In his early 40's, Picnic only ever seems to have young women in his bed, not because he doesn't find older women attractive but because the young club groupies won’t stand up to him, or put up a fuss when he doesn’t call them up the next day. He can get plenty of sex without developing relationships.
London is in her late-thirties,a serious and hard-working small business owner. She is foster mother to her impulsive and troubled cousin, a hard and thankless role that ended her marriage. She is not a biker groupie or hanger-on, she just cleans after them, having landed a lucrative contract cleaning the Reaper’s two legitimate business, their pawn shop and strip club.
The book opens with London putting together a plate of food for Reese and preparing and failing to shoot him in the back. Wylde then jumps us back in time to the first time Reese ever laid eyes on London, and declared her off limits to himself and all other club members and then forward again another 6 months to the event that brought London to Reese’s door. Her troubled cousin has disappeared into the Reaper’s clubhouse for one of their wild parties. While Jessica is legally of age, she has awful decision making skills along with other health issues due to her mother’s drug abuse while pregnant. After exhausting all other options London finds herself knocking on Reese’s office door to ask him for help. Reese is in the midst of receiving a very enthusiastic birthday blow-job from one of the club groupies and is initially thrilled to see London turn up thinking she is part of his birthday celebration. Instead London uncomfortably but persistently persuades Picnic to interrupt his private party to help her find her cousin but doing so leaves her in his debt. To full-fill her obligations to Picnic, London agrees to become his part-time housekeeper, making meals and cleaning house for him. London’s constant presence in his house but not in his bed are a challenge and frustration for Reese.
Wylde pulls the readers in two different directions as she develops Picnic in this novel. In previous novels we have read many references to his first wife, and the solid and loving relationship they had and how he hasn't quite let go of her. Since his wife’s death, Picnic has been having conversations of a sort with her his head. Picnic is still angry at her for abandoning him and their daughters when she died, and she wants him settled with a strong woman who will be his equal partner (she is rooting for London), while he doesn’t want to risk the vulnerability losing someone again. Despite revealing the feelings of abandonment that are the root of his behavior, I found Wylde's made Picnic less charming, more threatening and juvenile when he interacted with London than he had been in the previous books. Justifying Picnic’s childish antics as resulting from experiencing emotions he hasn’t felt for a woman since his teenage years when fell in love with his first wife, was less than convincing. I felt Picnic doesn't realize till much too late the horrible mixed messages he is sending London, trying to pressuring her into a casual sexual relationship and then getting mad at her when she doesn't turn to him for more. I found myself liking him less and less through the course of the novel as he blackmails, incites and eventually attacks London.
In nearly all the Reaper’s books the heroine is sexually menaced or kidnapped by the hero at some point in the story. And this book is not exception. Although both London and Reese feel the violence of that encounter is justified, I felt it went too far, and I had a hard time embracing the resolution, despite having liked the idea of them up to that point. It was no comfort to learn that Picnic and his first wife has similarly fraught and complicated relationship history. The compatibility of London and Reese’s devotion to their children, their fierceness in fighting for them and their sacrificial love for them, while one of the strongest threads in the book, was not enough to overcome the violence of the encounter for me as I felt it diminished Picnic beyond redemption.
3.5 out 5 stars.
I am thankful for the review copy provided by Berkley via NetGalley.