Venetia by Georgette Heyer
Joint Review of Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt: A conversation with Elisabeth J Lane

Recent Reads: Nalini Singh, Carolyn Crane, Joanna Bourne & Julie James

Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh:  This is the 14th novel in Singh's sprawling Psy-Changeling series.  In this installment Singh is laying the groundwork for new threats to the stability of the Psy-Changeling world while tying off loose ends from the first fall of the silence story-arc .  However the romance between the two long-time Arrows partners is always center stage. I loved the friends to lovers dynamic been Zaira and Aden.  I loved the over-the-top deeply possessive, blunt, fierce and unfiltered dialogue she gave to Zaira. Both Aden and Zaira have blood on their hands, guilty consciences but deeply love one another.   I am very eager to see where Singh goes next in the Psy-Changeling universe.

Aden was groomed by his parents to be the perfect rebel, but he surpassed their meager expectations to become the undisputed leader of the Arrows, winning their total loyalty by freeing  them from those who sought to use them as a disposable & mindless killing squad.  But Aden also wants to lead them to a new future where the group created to be the guardians of Silence, learn to live full lives and truly become a family. Many fear this change and are uncertain how to move forward.  He must make plans for a new future while facing new threats from within and without.

Aden know he can't forge a new future for the Arrows without  Zaira at his side. Their friendship was forged when he reached out to care for her feral, dangerous, abused child abandoned to the cruel hands of the Arrow trainers.  Zaira survived and pledged herself to always proetect Aden but she questions her sanity and fitness to live in a post-Silence world.  Aden must work to convince Zaira that she is precious and the only person he wants as his partner and mate, despite her wounded soul. 

Behind the Mask by Carolyn Crane: When her twin sister is traded to the head of a drug cartel, Zelda, a retired CIA agent reluctantly returns to the field to take her sister's place & infiltrate the cartel. The assignment does not go as planned when she is traded to El Gorrion. Zelda is then unexpectedly rescued & taken captive by Hugo Martinez. Zelda suspects Hugo to be Kabakas, a mythical vigilante she once obsessively hunted. Hugo and Zelda must overcome mutual suspicion and compromising attraction to protect the town of Buena Vista from El Gorrion. 

Carolyn Crane continues to impress in her 4th Undercover Associates book.  Crane delivers pulse-pounding action and suspense while skillfully developing a complex & intensely erotic romance that packs an emotional punch.  Crane clearly communicates character motivations and vulnerabilities. Her dark, emotionally and physically wounded heroes and heroines act believably in extreme circumstances, even while falling in love with the wrong people at worst time.

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne: Annique "The Fox's cub" is a legendary French spy facing an impossible choice when she becomes guardian to ruinous war plans coveted by everyone. Trapped and facing torture from one her despicable superiors, she teams up with Grey, an English spymaster  imprisoned in the same dungeon.  Their alliance is brief and fraught, and they develop deeply intimate but impossible relationship.   Both Grey and Annique are passionate, patriotic professionals who are nearly torn apart by their dangerous game of cat and mouse.

I had heard very good things about this series, but I was still blown away.  The layers and layers of subterfuge, betrayal and  pain Annique uncovered took my breath away. Bourne set up fantastic internal and external conflicts for this couple to overcome and I was a sucker for their star-crossed, enemies to lovers story. The supporting cast was fascinating too so  I will definitely be reading the rest of this series.

Suddenly One Summer by Julie James:  Victoria Slade, a highly successful but cynical divorce lawyer needs a new place to live when panic attacks triggered by a recent unsuccessful home invasion start interfering with her sleep and everyday routines.  Ford Dixon is doing his best to keep busy, diving deep into his investigative reporting work and remodeling his apartment to avoid dealing with his grief over his recently deceased alcoholic father. When Victoria temporarily moves in next door to Ford, sparks fly but they get off on the wrong foot. However they end up teaming up to help Ford's sister with a sensitive issue that requires both their skill sets. 

I love Julie James's Chicago based FBI/US Marshall series.  The series has been one big breezy ball of banter-y competence porn. Her heroes and heroines work hard, play hard and look good doing it. But while they look like they have everything together they are missing something crucial in their lives.  In some ways Ford and Victoria are no different.  Both are highly successful in their chosen careers, are surrounded by supportive friends and both are doing their best to not let their vulnerabilities show. However I really connected with the reasons behind Victoria's and Ford's commitment issues and they what they had to do to overcome them.  I particularly appreciated the positive depiction of therapy. I also thought that James did a great job presenting Victoria estrangement from her Cuban American family and indirectly from her Cuban American heritage. It rang very true, as I have seen it in my own family.

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