The Search by Nora Roberts

This is a tale of intrigue, murder, and a copy cat killer on the loose. And yet, I must say I found one of the most disturbing scenes in this novel to revolve around a soft drink. At one point a friend of our main character goes over to her house and is offered a cold beverage, at which point the friend requests a Coca-Cola. Our female lead responds that she just has Pepsi. Diet Pepsi. And the friend…proceeds…to drink it. Now, whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi I think we can all view this scene as an affront to human nature! You can’t just flip flop between the two!! Let alone accept diet when you wanted regular (for the record Coca-Cola is the best).

What’s it About?

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To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life—a quaint house on an island off Seattle’s coast, a thriving dog-training school and a challenging volunteer job performing Canine Search and Rescue. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare. Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf Killer, who shot and killed Fiona’s cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona has found the peace and solitude necessary to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He’s an intensely private wood artist and the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy named Jaws. As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona’s life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands.

First Impression

This novel presents us with a rather odd blend of romantic comedy and murder mystery. On the one hand, we have Fiona, our strong-willed dog trainer who happens to find love with a new client who is having trouble with a rambunctious puppy. On the flip side, a killer has his sights set on Fiona, as she escaped from the clutches of this copycat’s mentor years before. I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of disorienting to be laughing at the crazy antics of our untrained puppy while also remaining fearful of the evil we know is lurking in the background. Personally I felt the novel focused a bit too much on the light-hearted romance aspect. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a cute romantic comedy, and it was refreshing at times to be presented with another funny furry shenanigan after a rather brutal murder scene. However, it was also jarring to have so many cute scenes, and then suddenly switch gears to a short chapter involving our demented killer. In my opinion, the novel would have benefited from a more evened balance of romance vs. suspense.

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Give it To Me Straight

Now, I know what you all are wondering. Sure, we have a killer out there terrorizing young college females out for solitary runs through the woods. But…do any of the dogs die? Don’t lie, that’s exactly what you were wondering! Well, to all those pet lovers out there, let me take this moment to give you a brief spoiler alert so you know whether or not to give this novel a chance. When it comes to the question of whether or not any beloved canines lose their lives, the answer is…sort of. Ok, yes, a dog dies. BUT! We only hear a quick retelling of a story where a dog dies by getting shot. It’s not a dog that we develop any emotional connection to. That being said, if you’re anything like my mom, I’m sure some of you will see this as a reason to avoid this book entirely. However, trust me when I say you can get past it! The dogs in this story are adorable, strong and heroic. You might even pick up on a few training techniques, so it just might be worth the read!

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Red Scarf Killer 2

While our killer was in no means a fun character to be around, I felt that we didn’t get enough of a focus on him to truly understand his drive behind these killings. When it comes to the original killer, we are presented with a clear motive which revolves around a troubled childhood and a neglectful mother. For our copycat though, we are briefly introduced to a familial undercurrent, but the desire for fame and celebrity status apparently overrides all else. However, considering he hadn’t committed any crimes before coming into contact with this original killer, it seemed like we missed the driving force, the impetus if you will, behind why he felt the need to suddenly carry out such violent and devious crimes. Unless the true reason really was to make a name for himself. In which case…well that’s just freakin’ depressing.

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The Final Confrontation

In the midst of all our puppy training and developing romance, we know that the whole book is gearing up to a final confrontation between Fiona and the copycat killer who has slowly been making his way closer and closer to her island sanctuary. Our killer starts out his murderous spree in the exact image of his mentor, but as things progress he diverges more and more from the original killer’s teachings, and his killings become increasingly violent. Consider yourself warned that some scenes are pretty disturbingly graphic, dealing with the killer’s dark desires surrounding pain, torture, and even rape. When we finally get to the ultimate confrontation between Fiona and our copycat killer, I must say it wasn’t as climactic of a final face-off as I was expecting.

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Kind of a let down considering we spent the last 400 pages or so waiting around for it to come about. I will say though, in the end it was probably more realistic that Fiona wouldn’t be caught alone and unawares to be kidnapped by a psychotic killer for a second time in her life. Pretty much from page 1 we see how Fiona is the ultimate bad ass, trained in self-defense, and is constantly surrounded by her three loving canines who would do anything to protect her. Throughout the novel I became increasingly worried that we would ultimately be confronted with a scenario where Fiona would suddenly be found separated from her dogs, friends and new lover to be left as a sitting duck for our Red Scarf Killer. While that doesn’t happen, and our female lead does retain her bad ass status when eventually confronted with the killer, it made for a less exciting finish than I was expecting after so much build-up. In the end, the confrontation ends pretty quickly, and without much mystery or surprise.

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Series: Stand-alone.

Should you read it? Oddly enough, we probably could have removed the killer element completely from this story, and still have been left with a perfectly well-rounded romantic comedy. It was kind of bizarre to have this darker murderous element built in at such seemingly random times. In the end I’d have to say the biggest setback to this being a well-balanced suspenseful romance was the length of the novel. If it had been about 100 pages shorter, and with a handful less dog training scenes, it would have been damn-near perfect. The lead characters, both human and canine, have extremely strong and loving personalities. At times our male lead is a bit too fearful of admitting his feelings of love and commitment to Fiona, but in the end they have a special bond that even a killer can’t break.

Smut Level: You’d think it’d be tough for these two to find a moment alone, considering all the dogs constantly surrounding them. But…well that’s the benefit of a shower, now isn’t it?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. $5.88 Hardcover Price. Berkley Publishing. 497 Pages.

The Dark Side by DB Kennison

Farm life on a cattle ranch can be such an interesting thing. I mean, it seems like one of the only legitimate businesses where one can honestly say they had to take a day trip on the weekend to go buy some cow semen.

What’s it About?

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Addiction, greed, envy…They say every person has a dark side. All it takes to set it off is the right trigger. With the woman who tried to kill her behind bars, private investigator Randi Lassiter is still suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress nearly a year later. And just as she and her cop boyfriend, Jon Bricksen, have finally settled into the routine of a happy couple, someone in town is murdered and the news threatens to send her down the rabbit hole again. What Randi needs now is a case to focus on. When a missing person case waltzes into her office, Randi embraces the chance like the lone life preserver on a sinking ship.

Unfortunately, the client is her ex-husband, Stuart, and the missing person is the woman he’s now married to—her former best friend. Randi’s decision to help the man she’s sworn to loathe for all eternity is so out of character that Jon questions not only her judgment, but her mental health as well. To make matters worse, Randi begins to keep secrets from him, the kind that could ruin a relationship. When Stuart is suddenly arrested for murder, Randi stubbornly stands by her ex and tries to clear his name, despite the evidence Jon has against him. Now pitted against one another, not only is the couple’s love tested, but their survival against the dark side of a killer.

First Impressions

Phew, I think…yes I believe I can finally take a full breath and stop clutching my Kindle in a death grip. To say this book is a suspenseful read that’ll keep you guessing from start to finish is an understatement, just like book 1 in the series! This one probably has even more moving pieces than the first, and at times I was really wondering how it was all going to fit into place, but it was almost surprising when it did all come together like one perfect jigsaw puzzle. Looking back, there wasn’t one piece that was left out, and in the end you could tell how well orchestrated the entire plot was. Everything comes full circle, and you’ve gotta hand it to the author for being able to reign everything in at the last moment.

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Who Dunnit? 

Unlike book 1 where we had to wait until the very last moment to discover who our villain was, we actually find out earlier on in this book who is pulling the puppet strings. Granted, we don’t find out right away, so you do still have the fun of suspecting basically every character in the novel of ill-doing at some point. The true brilliance with this book is that once we finally discover who that villain is, if anything the suspense level heightens even more as our main characters are still left in the dark. We also don’t necessarily understand the full motive or end game of our evil doer, but with every turn of the page I found myself starting to rock back and forth a little more in agitation just wanting to yell to our detectives, “you’re so close!”, or “no, don’t discount that theory, it’s right there!!”. And of course, my personal favorite, “Just answer your damn phone!!!”.

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A Bump in the Road

In book one we saw how Randi and Jon had to work together to solve a string of murders that arrived in this small Wisconsin town. With the start of this second book we see how their relationship has lasted through Randi surviving an attempt on her life by the killer from the first book, and you can’t help but smile at their fun-loving relationship. But when murder pops up again in this small town we see their relationship put to the test on multiple fronts. Will this chief of police be able to cooperate with this private detective looking into his crime scene? Or will he push her away in the hopes of saving her from the details of death once again? And when Randi’s cheating ex-husband comes into the picture, well let’s just say the dynamics of their relationship are pushed to the breaking point.

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Cell Phones and Breaking Bad

I will say at times there were certain aspects of this novel that seemed slightly far-fetched. First and foremost, the cell phones. My goodness this must have been the most frustrating part of the book for me. Not only would Randi and Jon continually ignore the most important phone calls at the most important times (repeatedly!!!), but of course we have the joys of cell phones losing their charge right at the climax. Now I get it, stuff like that happens, but after a while it did start to feel almost like a cop-out to show it’s the only possible way these characters could get into these kinds of situations. Honestly, I’d probably prefer a lost cell phone to characters constantly ignoring calls from their significant other during a time of crisis. Just saying. In the grand scheme of things though, that’s really just me searching for something to nitpick. Maybe I just didn’t like that it simply ratcheted up the intensity of the story!

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As for the criminal activities in the book, I will say they felt a bit too Breaking Bad at times, which is funny considering the show is mentioned at least once in the book. One of those big-time crime issues in such a small, tight-knit community definitely isn’t impossible, far from it, but again it was one of those aspects I’d have to say was slightly over-the-top. Overall though, still a really interesting plot point! Again, throughout the whole thing you’re wondering how everything’s gonna come together, and who will survive. Just keep in mind that there are dark sides to this book, as hinted in the title. People die, and normally in violent or disturbing ways. Nothing too egregious, but just something to keep in mind if murder isn’t your cup of tea.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Randi Lassiter, book 2. Another good addition to the series, and just as suspenseful as book 1.

Should you read it? This one might be too dark and suspenseful for the beach, but would be great on a cold and rainy/snowy day. This one will probably knock up the blood pressure a bit with the intensity level. Even though we know the identity of our villain earlier on in the novel, that doesn’t detract from the mystery of it all. Overall, a good murder mystery that definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.

Smut Level: The steamy scenes in this book are few and far between as more attention is placed on the murder investigation at hand, not to mention the fact that our lovebirds have some rocky moments in the book that test the strength of their relationship That being said, the few moments we do get are rather saucy.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. W.R. Publishing. 371 Pages

Nowhere to Hide by Louise Lyndon

This has got to be, hands down, one of the most intense and thrilling books I’ve read so far this year. Simply amazing!

What’s it About?

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Forty years ago the Australian rural town of Burrawang Bend was the scene of a brutal murder, and the townspeople are still calling for justice. Marlee Moore, the suspect’s and victim’s granddaughter, is fighting to clear her grandfather’s name. And no one is going to stand in her way. But when things take a dangerous and deadly turn, Marlee must turn to the one man she was determined to run out of town.

Devon Reilly, investigative journalist for his hit TV show, Justice Served, is in Burrawang Bend to solve the forty-year-old cold case murder. But, he didn’t bargain on Marlee keeping him from investigating the case and he soon questions where her loyalties lie. With the living? Or with the dead? But when Marlee and her son’s life are put in danger, Devon knows he is the only man who can keep them alive. But what happens when he soon realizes he is the bigger threat to the woman and kid he loves?

First Impressions

Goodness gracious, where to begin?! I don’t really know what I was expecting from this book before going into it, but let’s just say I got a whole hell of a lot more than I bargained for. Before you know it the plot takes on a life of its own, sucks you in, and I found myself having to remember to breathe a few times from holding my breath in anticipation. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’ve found it really does take a lot to surprise me when it comes to romance novel plot lines. This one? Left me absolutely floored and took off in a direction I never saw coming.

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Small Towns Can Be Deceiving

Marlee lives in a small town in the middle of nowhere Australia. It’s a quiet town, and nothing ever happens there. Except of course the murder of Marlee’s grandma 40 years ago. The prime suspect? Marlee’s own grandfather. But it’s now a cold case, and her grandpa was never arrested for any crime. Marlee has spent the last few years trying to sway public opinion and convince the town that her caring grandpa is truly innocent. Just when she feels like she’s starting to make some progress, Devon comes rolling in. He’s the host of a crime TV show, and he’s intent on finding out who the real killer is behind this cold case.

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You Can’t Fight Chemistry

Marlee is determined to hate Devon with every fiber of her being. Here is this outsider, dredging up painful memories and accusing her grandfather of the most heinous of sins. But, she’s inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. I’ll admit, it did seem kind of strange how often these two would blatantly check each other out when having such intense arguments about her grandfather’s innocence. But on the other hand? Hell, we’re all human! Sometimes you can’t easily tell your body to simmer down!

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Who Do You Trust?

This novel was like a psychological puzzle of mayhem. Marlee is convinced of her grandfather’s innocence, but when Devon arrives he presents her with some other possible scenarios of what went down 40 years ago. Could it be possible her grandfather isn’t as harmless as he appears? Who should she trust? A good looking stranger, or her beloved relative who took her and her son in when nobody else would? Has she been blinded by family loyalty, or is Devon merely presenting her with false information that would make for a good TV episode? So…freaking…amazing! You’ll question everything and everyone!!

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Mr. Protector

And then there’s Devon, a TV personality who’s drive for success links back to his past, and the unsolved murder of his twin brother. He still hasn’t brought his brother’s killer to justice, so he strives to help other families find peace where his could not. Then he meets Marlee. He’s trying to find justice for her grandma, but his main suspect is also her own flesh and blood. He finds himself being drawn closer and closer to the enchanting Marlee, as well as her young son Max, who by the way is the most adorable freakin’ character everrrr. Anyway, Devon is drawn to them, but believes if he gets too close he’ll fail to keep them safe, since he failed to keep his brother safe as well. Such depth! Such inner struggle! Such awesomeness!!

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Getting Down and Dirty

Alright, let’s talk whoopie. Believe it or not, this was the one part of the novel which kind of…confused me. You see, Devon likes to walk on the wilder side. Apparently, Marlee was aware of some of his secret desires because of a magazine article published by his ex. Hey, as long as we’re dealing with consenting adults, I’ve got no problem.

My confusion however was two-fold. One: for pretty much the first half of the novel, Devon is extremely hesitant to start anything physical with Marlee, believing it could compromise his investigation. He’s constantly pushing her away, yet when they finally cave to their baser desires, it was like, well holy hello Mr. Dirty Talker!! You wanna put what where exactly?! I guess it was just a rather jarring switch to go from 0 to 120 mph in the span of a page.

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Then there’s Marlee’s reaction to it all, which was my second area of minor confusion. She craves more. She wants him to be even rougher, and delights when he tugs her hair, and even grasps her neck. Marlee claims it’s because in those moments she can live in oblivion and find peace from all the drama and craziness going on with her grandpa’s investigation. Ok, I kind of get it, but considering how much was actually going on in her life I probably would have settled for a bubble bath and a good back rub.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Justice Served, book 1. What’s next?! Gimme, gimme!

Should you read it? I just loved this one, and had trouble putting it down! You can feel Marla’s inner dilemma at how she should view her grandpa. Loving caregiver, or sick killer? Then we have Devon, who feels like he has to protect everybody, and solve every case to make up for failing his brother. A thrilling read with some sexy times thrown in too.

Smut Level: The primary focus of the novel is on the cold case, so actual romps don’t come until after the halfway point, but there are quite a few smoldering looks beforehand. They both like it rough, yet nothing too outlandish. Most out there thing they do is anal, and there’s quite a bit of description involved.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Loose Id LLC.

Crazy About You by Katie O’Sullivan

Ah, there’s nothing quite like a summer at the Cape…mixed with a touch of murder! Mua ha ha!

What’s it About? 

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Climate scientist Chase Anderson races from one project to the next, unwilling to slow down in his quest to save the world’s oceans. He has no time for family or relationships until he crashes into an impetuous blonde with a quirky sense of humor. One sizzling kiss makes him seriously reevaluate his priorities. And his sanity.

Emma Maguire left her small Cape Cod hometown years ago, seeking the fast pace and anonymity of New York City. She’s not sure what she’s searching for, but when a family crisis brings her home to Provincetown she’s caught in a crazy tangle of half-truths and mistaken identity… and falls for the handsome stranger who broke her cell phone. Will untangling the web of lies drive them crazy, or lead to something even crazier – like love?

First Impressions

Emma and Chase literally bump into each other. After going through the necessary back and forth misunderstandings required of most any romance novel, they admit they have an obvious connection, and decide to explore things further by going on a date. I’ll admit, initially I had no real idea where this story was going after having such a classic/cheesy meet cute. But before you know it they come across a dead body on their date, and get wrapped up in mob family business. Did NOT see that coming!

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Some Twists

What you think will be a quick summer fling love story suddenly twists into a suspenseful story of murder. Who knew?! What I really loved about this book was that Chase stood by Emma through everything, even though they just met. The story might have some elements of mob intrigue, but it still maintains the underpinnings of a classic romance, and sticking together through the worst of any situation.

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I do think Emma and Chase may have had one too many misunderstandings which led to arguments seemingly on repeat. For example, Emma’s best friend Tony is linked to the mob, and she must insist multiple times throughout the novel that they never dated. Come on Chase, she’s already said so 5 times, I think you can believe her when she says it for a sixth. That being said, Emma also makes a few questionable/not-so-intelligent decisions surrounding Tony’s mob connections, so I guess it goes to show that nobody’s perfect. Definitely keeps the story interesting though.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-alone!

Should you read it? A bit frustrating at times when Emma puts herself in seemingly obvious danger, and the constant misunderstandings between her and Chase. That being said, the kooky townsfolk are one of the best features of the book, and you’ll wonder how everything will come together in the end.

Smut Level: Some intense kisses lead to something hotter than the August weather at the Cape!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 332 Pages.

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