Book Review: The Thing Speaks For Itself by A.S.A. Durphy

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

THE THING SPEAKS FOR ITSELF by A.S.A. Durphy is a unique thriller, gritty detective mystery and a psychological journey all rolled into one page-turning unstoppable read. Serious, violent and comedic all intertwined with characters that stick with you.

Gracie Stratis has moved on from the mayor’s office to training for the Diplomatic Security Service to fulfill her need to travel the world. When her current diplomatic security detail gets attacked, Gracie is seriously wounded and almost dies. She returns to her home in Oakland for months of rehab and recovery. Gracie believes in just pushing through and while this may help with her physical recovery, it leads to some interesting moments in her mental recovery.

Gracie’s family consists of her younger brother and three of his friends. They all grew up together and are all happy that even under the terrible circumstances that Gracie is home. When one of their group goes missing, Gracie is determined to find him.

As Gracie digs deeper into the disappearance, she discovers deception from those she trusted. She is pitted against a corrupt corporation, bribery of government officials and a security team willing to do anything for money. All she has is her skills, with a recovering and still untrustworthy mind and body, a private detective hired by the missing friend’s parents and her ragtag group of a family.

I love a strong female lead. Gracie just doesn’t investigate, she throws in a figurative grenade to see what happens and moves forward from there, no matter the devastation to herself. All of the characters are fully fleshed out and make the story come alive. This story is written in a fast paced format that has each family member narrating at different times throughout the story. This style is a little different, but the story and action pull you in and make the narration changes interesting rather than annoying. I am definitely looking forward to reading more about Gracie and her future adventures.

Book Review: Summit Lake by Charlie Donlea

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

(I reviewed this book last year. I am adding this previously posted review since I am currently reading Mr. Donlea’s second mystery novel The Girl Who Was Taken. I wanted both reviews on my website.)

SUMMIT LAKE by Charlie Donlea is a debut mystery that keeps you turning the pages.

The setting is a small town in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The story is told by two narrators; Kelsey Castle, a true crime journalist, in the present investigating the savage murder and rape of Becca Eckersley and with Becca, a first year law student, telling her own story before her death threaded in between. Both women have secrets that become revealed in bits and pieces throughout the story in tantalizing increments and there are plenty of twists and turns that surprise.

I found all of the characters to be interesting and well fleshed out. The pace of the story is fast and has several twists and surprises. I did have a small problem with the lack of law enforcement involvement and the way Kelsey obtained some of her information just would not realistically happen. The reveal of the killer was truly unexpected and made for a big surprise. Well worth the read and I will be looking for more from this author.

Book Review: The Librarian and the Spy by Susan Mann

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

I have just read an absolutely charming and entertaining start to a new series called The Librarian and the Spy (Librarian and the Spy Escapade #1) by Susan Mann. Not only did I love all of the characters, I learned many things I never knew about reference librarians and their jobs. This book had me laughing out loud and turning the pages as fast as possible as the mystery and suspense took off.

Quinn Ellington is a reference librarian who loves her job solving questions for her library patrons, but she also longs to travel and experience adventures like her favorite spy thriller heroes introduced to her by her grandfather. She hates all the stereotypes of librarians because she grew up as a military brat with a Marine father who taught her to shot and three older brothers that she has always completed with.

On an ordinary day at work, insurance agent James Lockwood comes up to the desk and asks Quinn for her help researching some pieces from a private collection. Quinn can’t believe her luck because not only is James gorgeous, but he has a British accent to die for. As Quinn becomes more involved in helping James, she realizes that all this research is not simply for insurance purposes and James has not been completely truthful with her. He is not British and he is not an insurance agent.

As Quinn and James work together to solve an important puzzle to stop an international arms dealer from acquiring nuclear material, Quinn’s intelligence and abilities become a major asset. She is very capable of thinking on her feet and James becomes even more impressed.

Their cover and flirting as a married couple leads to real feelings that they try to control until the end of their mission. This story has a lot of witty banter, flirting and a steady buildup of their chemistry to a relationship. No sex until the end and it is behind closed doors when it does happen. Even when the plot has been resolved, there is a great twist at the end of the book.

I really enjoyed this book and I was very happy to see that it is a proposed series and not a standalone. I was impressed by the fact that this is Ms. Mann’s first book. A fast paced plot, interesting facts, and entertaining characters make this worth the read. I am looking forward to James and Quinn’s next outing!

Thanks very much to Kensington Books and Net Galley for allowing me to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I am looking forward to many more books in this series.

Book Review: Brothers In Blue: Matt by Jeanne St. James

RATING:  5 out of 5 Stars

What a great addition and emotionally charged finale to the Bryson brother trilogy of books!

BROTHERS IN BLUE: MATT (Brothers In Blue #3) by Jeanne St. James has the youngest Bryson finally returning home after several deployments overseas to a job and extended family that he is finding very difficult to deal with due to PTSD.

Matt Bryson believes his mind is broken. He is not ready to accept help except what is forced on him by his brother to keep his job as a police office in their small town. He has buried his emotions and is barely making it day to day.

Dr. Carly Stephens is Amanda’s obstetrician at the local hospital. She is tall, calm and extremely professional working hard to help her elderly parents and save money to adopt a baby of her own one day that she cannot have herself. When Matt ends up being the brother to rush Amanda to the hospital to deliver, he is attracted to Carly’s calm and leadership. Carly is attracted to the hot police office.

They start out as landlord and tenant, but soon agree to a sexual, no commitment relationship. They are just too different and want different things out of life. Matt with his OCD and PTSD believes he will never be able to love and he never wants children. Carly is too busy earning and saving money for her future home and adoption and just wants the hot sex. But can they truly keep to this arrangement? Hot, steamy sex is great, but soon emotions become entangled and they will have to find a way to compromise or break.

Matt had me all tied up in knots emotionally. There are many forms and degrees of PTSD and I feel Ms. St. James handled Matt’s character responses in a realistic way. I especially agree with the way that Matt had to handle a lot of his decisions on his own and in his own time. Carly was an equally strong character because even though she is a doctor, she knows she can’t heal Matt, she can only love and help him. The plot was a delicate back and forth written with empathy and compassion.

It was great reading about all the characters from the previous two books, also. I am going to miss these brothers, the loves they found and the entire extended family. This is an excellent contemporary romance series with plenty of hot and steamy sex scenes. They can all be read as standalones, but is much more fun to read them all in order and get three HEAs.

Written for and posted first on The Romance Reviews.com.

Book Review: The Mortal Falls by Anna Durand

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

THE MORTAL FALLS (Undercover Elementals, Book One) by Anna Durand is the first in her new fantasy romance series. This story is full of mythical supernatural characters in a parallel realm to ours, a steamy romance and murder.

Lindsey Porter finds a dead body in the woods. From there things get a little crazy for her. An almost naked man runs from the scene and disappears. When the sheriff shows up, the body is gone, but a blood pool remains. He hauls Lindsey in as a suspect and we learn she has a past with this sheriff who has followed her from Texas.

Nevan is an immortal sylph and the almost naked man who keeps popping from thin air into Lindsey’s life. He was turned into a Guardian when trapped into a bargain a century ago by his king, Skeiron. Linsey has to trust this magic wielding man to help her solve the murder she is charged with and both need to learn to trust each other with their pasts. The fate of the mortal and elemental realms depend on these lovers.

The dialogue between Lindsey and Nevan in the first part of the book is somewhat juvenile. I didn’t care that Lindsey was a 32 year old virgin, I felt she should have been more mature in her language and attitude, virgin or not. That said, the relationship between these two takes off when they have sex. The sex scenes are hot and steamy and what I expect in an Anna Durand book.

The beginning of the story has a lot of world-building and character backstory, which I feel bogged down the first part of the book. The interesting characters and their interactions kept me reading on. It was a good fantasy read and a steamy romance read.

Written for and posted first on The Romance Reviews.com.

Book Review: Wynter’s Bite by Brooklyn Ann

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

WYNTER’S BITE by Brooklyn Ann is a historical paranormal romance vampire read that is the fifth book in her ‘Scandals With Bite’ series. This story takes you on the run with a rogue vampire and the mortal love of his life throughout England. This fifth book can be easily read as a standalone.

Bethany Mead is a bluestocking and just being brought out at country house parties. Her father wants a political connection in Parliament and to be rid of his daughter whom he fears will inherit his mother’s madness.

Justus de Wynter is scandalous and not looking for a partner, but he can’t help but feel sorry for the young girl that the other debutants have set up for failure. As he dances with Bethany, he finds she has a love of literature and books just like him, besides being enchanting and as beautiful on the inside as on the outside.

No matter how much they come to love each other, he is a vampire and it is against their law to allow a mortal to know of their kind. Justus will break that law and Bethany accidentally blurts out the truth. Bethany is confined to an insane asylum and Justus is named a rogue and banished.

Eight years pass until Justus finds Bethany again. Together they are on the run across England to find a Master Vampire who will pardon Justus and let the couple be together and safe. On their fast paced trip across England they run into many interesting characters and trials as well as grow to know and love each other all over again.

This is an enjoyable and easy read. Justus and Bethany are definitely deserving of their HEA. I also love when either or both of the main characters love reading and books. The sex scenes are short, but steamy. This story also sticks to the old rules and laws of vampires which makes the historical setting perfect for the story. An overall entertaining addition to the series.

Written for and posted first on The Romance Reviews.com.