Scandal Never Sleeps by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake

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Scandal Never Sleeps by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (400 pages)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

They are the Perfect Gentlemen of Creighton Academy: privileged, wealthy, powerful friends with a wild side. But a deadly scandal is about to tear down their seemingly ideal lives . . .

Maddox Crawford’s sudden death sends Gabriel Bond reeling. Not only is he burying his best friend, he’s cleaning up Mad’s messes, including his troubled company. Grieving and restless, Gabe escapes his worries in the arms of a beautiful stranger. But his mind-blowing one-night stand is about to come back to haunt him . . .

Mad groomed Everly Parker to be a rising star in the executive world. Now that he’s gone, she’s sure her job will be the next thing she mourns, especially after she ends up accidentally sleeping with her new boss. If only their night together hadn’t been so incendiary—or Gabe like a fantasy come true . . .

As Gabe and Everly struggle to control the heated tension between them, they discover evidence that Mad’s death was no accident. Now they must bank their smoldering passions to hunt down a murderer—because Mad had secrets that someone was willing to kill for, and Gabe or Everly could be the next target . . .

Everly’s world took a nose dive when her friend and boss died in a plane crash. Now she has a new CEO who may fire her on the spot, cyber-security issues that threaten the company and a one night stand that feels like so much more…and those are the easy problems.

Hold on to your hats fearless readers, this is a bumpy ride with so many twists, turns and layers, I thought I was going to need oxygen at one point.

Both Lexi Blake and Shayla Black are known for writing intricately built worlds where just when a reader thinks they are going to zig, they zag. I couldn’t help but love every single minute of it. I’ve read everything Ms. Blake has ever written and this new series holds true to her writing skills. I got lost in this world of the privileged where life isn’t nearly as cushy and smooth as having money should make it. I loved the whole premise of a group of friends who share a bond forged by a common distaste for the life they’re forced into. They all know their futures are planned out and they have a duty to fulfill. It doesn’t mean they have to like it and it certainly doesn’t mean they have to fall in line quietly. In fact, thanks to the ring leader of this band of high society sons, Maddox Crawford, they’ll draw all kinds of attention before they assume their rightful places. But then Maddox had to go and die. It changed everything.

Gabriel Bond, Gabe to his friends, stands to both win and lose the most with Mad’s death. I like how Gabe is both alpha male and yet it’s clear his feelings for his friends and family run deep. It made him seem reachable and vulnerable and yet I had no doubt he’d get to the bottom of the problems Mad’s death caused. Gabe is also faulty. He has a short temper that tends to make him say things before his brain has time to consider otherwise. It gets him into hot water more than once in this novel. At the same time, when Gabriel wants to be smooth, he’s practically silk. Everly didn’t stand a chance.

Everly is one those heroines that I love pretty much immediately. She’s a geek and truly nice to everyone who isn’t crazy mean. I say that because there is a crazy mean girl in the picture. Seriously, this girl has issues but she isn’t Everly’s main problem, just a side slice of pain in her behind. I had no problem at all in cheering for Gabe and Everly’s HEA. They had so much chemistry. I also love that she isn’t afraid to walk away from Gabe, she doesn’t want to but she’ll stand up for herself even if it means losing him.

Readers who enjoy a hot romance with lots of non-sexual action and suspense outside the bedroom should give this series a read. This is book one in the Perfect Gentlemen series. It gives the overall back story and introduces the men who’ll star in the next books. They’re all so different and I can’t wait to be a part of their stories. This is a must read!

November Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll

Murder in Cherry Hills by Paige Sleuth

Murder in Cherry Hills by Paige Sleuth
Publisher: Marla Bradeen
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Short Story (70 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Kat Harper has only just returned to her small hometown of Cherry Hills, Washington when she discovers the dead body of her neighbor, Mrs. Tinsdale. Matilda, Mrs. Tinsdale’s orphaned rescue cat, just might be the only eyewitness to the murder. But how do you convince a cat to reveal “whodunit”?

Lately I’ve been in the mood for some lighthearted mysteries and decided to read two cozies featuring animals. This was the second one and like the first one also featured a cat sleuth and I found it an overall entertaining read.

Kat Harper is back in Cherry Hills, Washington but it’s not long before she runs into trouble. A cat named Matilda leads her to her owner’s apartment and it’s there that Kat discovers her neighbor, Mrs. Tinsdale has been murdered. With no one else to look after Matilda, Kat decides to give her a home.

Soon, Kat, with the help of her new fur baby, unravels a mystery and the motive behind the murder. There are a host of characters who were equally likely suspects in the crime. While Kat was busy trying to figure out who’s responsible for her neighbor’s death, it’s Matilda’s typical cat like behavior that points the finger, or in this case the paw, at the murderer. While all this is unraveling, there’s also a hint of a romance in later books for Kat and the detective.

This is the first book in a series but can be read alone as all loose ends are tied up. It’s a short read that can easily be handled in one sitting. It’s lighthearted and a fun story when you want your mystery fix but don’t have a lot of time on hand.

This first book has intrigued me enough to want to read more to see where Ms. Sleuth takes the series.

I’ll Never Let You Go by Mary Burton

I’ll Never Let You Go by Mary Burton
Publisher: Zebra
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (367 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Poppy


He promised to kill her. One night four years ago, Leah Carson’s husband almost succeeded. Philip stabbed her twenty-three times before fleeing. The police are sure he’s dead. But fear won’t let Leah believe it.


It starts with little things. Missing keys. A flat tire. Mysterious flowers. All easily explained away if the pattern wasn’t so terrifyingly familiar. Leah has a new veterinary practice and a new life with no ties to her nightmare. But Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent Alex Morgan suspects something. And when another woman’s body is found, stabbed twenty-three times, Leah knows her past has found her.


As Leah and Alex untangle the horrifying truth, he watches her, ready for the perfect moment. Until death—that was the vow they made. And a killer always keeps his word…

Far more suspense than romance, I’ll Never Let You Go had a heart-stopping plot.

The heroine, Leah, is incredibly strong. She (barely) got away from her abusive husband once and is determined to never be a victim again. She has a lot of deep-seated fears and a little bit of OCD behavior (like checking and re-checking her locks), but who could blame her. She manages to lead a pretty normal life despite it all. I really loved how she recognized her weaknesses but took steps to overcome them. Leah was a woman to be admired.

Alex is part of the internal affairs department at the police department and not well-loved by his fellow officers (except his family, who are all involved in law enforcement in some manner). Still, he has strong values and convictions and manages to not let it really affect him. And when he has to investigate Leah’s best friend, he uses Leah to get information, not realizing that eventually he’d find himself legitimately attracted to her. I got a kick out of Alex and his interactions with his family. He’s an awesome guy, but almost a little too perfect. I don’t think he honestly had any flaws. He was handsome, smart, honorable … but he was also likely exactly what Leah needed. Her former husband certainly had his share, so perhaps Alex in all his perfection was the only thing that would have worked for her.

The story is packed with twists and turns. While I wouldn’t say it was a non-stop, adrenaline pumping suspense, it certainly kept me thinking and wondering. All the hard evidence from the past points to Leah’s husband being dead, but everything happening now screams that he’s alive. I knew there had to be a twist somewhere, and there is, but you won’t find out until the very end!

The main reason I chose the rating I did here, though, was because the book is marketed as romantic suspense and it really isn’t. The romance is nearly nil. Calling the heat “spicy” is almost a misnomer—as there is one very briefly described (no sexy details) sex scene and honestly, the first three-quarters of the book, it’s really as if Leah and Alex are barely friends. Yes, there is a HEA for them, but it’s a pretty quick turn of events. Believable, I suppose, but I really missed seeing the relationship truly develop over the course of the entire book.

So, don’t go into this expecting romance like I did. You’ll likely be disappointed. Go into this for a mystery instead and then you’ll get the most enjoyment from the story. Mary Burton is a very good writer, with a clever mind and clear description. The next time I pick up a book of hers to read, though, I’ll know what to expect.

The Counterfeiter-Catching Cat by Alannah Rogers

The Counterfeiter-Catching Cat by Alannah Rogers
A Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mystery
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Short Story (84 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

The leaves have turned and autumn has finally come to the small town of Ashbrook, New Hampshire. Beatrice Young, the sixty-two-year-old owner of the Cozy Cat Café, is busy slinging coffee for tourists. Yet when her ever-perceptive Maine Coon cat, Hamish, sniffs out a fake twenty-dollar bill, the hunt is on to find its maker. And then there’s the fact that Jordan Clark has disappeared – he was seen walking out of a bar towards the woods, never to be seen again.

With the help of the ever-grumpy sheriff, her black cat Lucky, and her ex-husband and best friend Matthew, Beatrice finds intriguing links between the two mysteries. Jordan has a complicated past, one that could draw out a dangerous killer and place him squarely in Beatrice’s path. In the end, it’s up to her feline companions to find the clues that will keep her safe, put the culprit behind bars, and restore order to Ashbrook once more.

The Counterfeiter-Catching Cat is the first book in the Beatrice Young cozy cat mystery series.

There’s nothing like a good whodunit and add a few cats into the mix and you’ve got yourself a fun read which exactly what this book was for me. As a mystery fan who sometimes wants to break from the dark and gritty tales I read, this story fit the bill.

I loved the setting of this story, small town New Hampshire with its cast of characters including main one, Beatrice Young who runs the Cozy Cat Café. She’s somewhat of an amateur sleuth and always accompanied by her two cats, Hamish and Lucky. And then there’s Beatrice’s ex, Matthew. I liked the way these two weren’t bitter enemies that you see in lots of stories, but buddies who accept that while they aren’t marriage material, they’re certainly always be there for one another.

The mystery in this first book in the series revolved around counterfeit money being found in various stores in town and then someone goes missing followed by the uncovering of a dead body. Beatrice and the cats, and of course, with the help of Matthew, are on the case. There’s humor, there’s sleuthing and I thought the way the mystery was solved was realistic.

Although this is part of a series, this book is a standalone one with all loose ends tied up. If like me, you like a short, lighthearted mystery once in a while then I think you’ll really enjoy this one too.

The Good Cop by Dorien Grey

The Good Cop by Dorien Grey
A Dick Hardesty Mystery, #5
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Historical
Length: Full Length (151 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

All Tom Brady wanted was to be a good cop; to keep a low profile and prove to a notoriously homophobic police department undergoing its own internal upheavals that gays deserved the right to be among them. But when he and old friend Dick Hardesty go out for a quiet evening, an incident leads to Tom shooting two thugs attacking patrons of a gay bar. Dick finds himself trying to protect Tom from being outed, while heading off a violent antipolice rebellion by the gay community.

The world is changing, but not as quickly as it should.

Dick has really grown as a person since the first instalment in this series. While it isn’t strictly necessary to read The Butcher’s Son, The Ninth Man, The Bar Watcher, and The Hired Man first, I’ve deeply enjoyed seeing how this character has changed over time. Just like living people, his personal growth hasn’t always been steady. Sometime it stalled or happened so slowly that I could barely notice any difference in him. When I compare the sometimes reckless Dick I knew four books ago to the much more thoughtful one I met this time, though, I’m amazed at how much he’s learned from his life so far. His maturation process has been a lot of fun to witness, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he changes in the future.

At times the subplots threatened to overwhelm the main plot due to how many of them there were and how long it took to introduce all of them. While I was interested in them, I would have liked to see more attention paid to figuring out what was going on with the fallout from the shootout that Tom was involved in early on in the plot. There was a lot of interesting information about those events that never had all of the time they needed to be explored because so many other things were happening simultaneously.

With that being said, Mr. Grey definitely knows how to keep me guessing. One of the things I appreciate the most about his writing style is how much time this author spends exploring the world his characters live in. Having such a clear understanding of what life was like for gay men in the 1980s only made me want to know what was going on in the moments before the crime Dorien investigates even more earnestly because of how steeply the cards were stacked against justice ever being served for the victim or the LGBT community as a whole at that point in history.

I’d recommend The Good Cop to anyone who is in the mood for a mystery set in the recent past.

Monsterland by Michael Phillip Cash

Monsterland by Michael Phillip Cash
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Horror, Futuristic (Dystopian), Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (223 pgs)
Rated: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

Welcome to Monsterland – the scariest place on Earth. All guests can interact with real vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by an actual werewolf on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville.

Wyatt Baldwin, a high school student and life-long movie buff is staring bleakly at a future of flipping burgers. Due to a fortuitous circumstance, Wyatt and his friends are invited to the star-studded opening of Monsterland. In a theme park full of real vampires, werewolves and zombies, what could possibly go wrong?

Not quite horror (despite some gore), but certainly plenty scary in parts, Monsterland was a great read.

First off, I have to say this: author Michael Phillip Cash has serious writing chops. From the first line I was plunged into the story with his clear, vivid descriptions and interesting scenes. The characters were so clearly drawn I felt as if I sat right there with them on the couch in the home watching the TV. I was really impressed.

The story was interesting. Occasionally scary, occasionally funny, sometimes desperately sad, I was completely engrossed. Is it an unlikely scenario? Absolutely. Most dystopian-type books that I read I’ll nod and think, “Yep, I can see that happening.” but not so much this one. Did that diminish my enjoyment? Not really. But, honestly, that’s mostly because I was so crazy about the characters. There were a few places where I really had to suspend my belief in reality for this, but I didn’t care. I’d have followed Carter and Wyatt anywhere.

The story does start a little slowly, but it sort of had to in order to introduce us to what’s going on…a town that’s on the brink of collapse, a virus that turns people into zombies, a wealthy businessman who’s going to save everyone with his theme park and Carter’s suspicion of the guy’s motives.

I really loved Carter. He’s trying so hard to be a good dad to his step-kids, both of whom are teens so it makes it that much harder for him to connect with them. They have the “you’re not my dad” syndrome, but he doesn’t give up. He’s a great guy. Despite wanting to slap the boys now and then, they grew on me and definitely did some growing up and maturing during the story.

There is some strong language and descriptive gore throughout, so be warned if that’s not your thing. But if it is? You should definitely give this book a go. It was a winner for me, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more from this author.

Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong

Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Dutton – An Imprint of Penguin Random House
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (453 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown


Olivia Jones is desperate for the truth. The daughter of convicted serial killers, she has begun to suspect that her parents are innocent of their crimes. But who can she trust, in a world where betrayal and deception hide in every shadow?


Liv does have one secret weapon: a mysterious sixth sense that helps her to anticipate danger. The trouble is, this rare power comes with its own risks. There are dark forces that want to exploit Liv’s talents – and will stop at nothing to win her to their side.


Now Liv must decide, before it’s too late. Who does she love? Who is really on her side? And can she save herself without burning down everything that matters most?

Deceptions and illusions at every turn.

Olivia Taylor-Jones has just had her life upended. She has discovered she’s adopted and her real parents are convicted serial killers. Hiding in the small town of Cainesville to escape media attention, she finds herself at the center of a very different sort of plot that may or may not involve the true nature of her parents. Behind the lies and pretty fakery lie the twisted secrets of the fae and their trickery runs deep.

There are several aspects to this novel. One is the Welsh mythology that runs throughout. I found that fascinating in the extreme. Without having read the first two books however, I was utterly lost and floundered around like a misplaced fish. So-take my advice and don’t pick this book up until you’ve had the pleasure of reading the first two. They are now on my list. With all the mysteries dredged up, the plot kept me guessing and summarily scratching my head. I just didn’t have the correct context in which to read the book in the middle of the series. The author has too many things going on and you need to have the solid background for the book to flesh out in the appropriate fashion.

Another appealing facet of this book was the love triangle between Olivia, Gabriel and Ricky. There was tension in the air and wow…you can feel something building here. Sort of Twilight-ish. Ricky is perfect-in my mind almost too perfect for a biker. Gabriel is moody and I’m not altogether sure where things are going to lead but either way, it’s going to be interesting.

The nightmarish quality of Olivia’s visions was the part that intrigued me the most. Her heritage brings her down all manner of dark passages and leaps in time and space. And bodies for that matter. Despite not knowing exactly what I was reading, I was transfixed by the sheer creep factor of Olivia being inside of her mother’s body while she was in the asylum watching her relative-and seeing the true nature of the nurse as a shining one. So cool. The rage. The thrumming emotion. It was as vibrant as any painting. There is a lot of fear of the unknown and it floods the pages, making any lover of horror, romance or fantasy just revel in it.

My rating of 4/5 is mostly based on the fact that picking up the book, I wanted to be able to understand what was going on and at least be able to have a point of reference without having to have read the others in the series. I didn’t have that and was quite frustrated. If not for that, this would be a five star all the way. The characters were alive. The sex scenes-the ones that there were-were hot and appropriate for the story line. The dialogue was spot on. The mythology nicely woven into the fiber of the book. With Kelly Armstrong I would expect nothing less. She is one of my favorite PNR authors and has been for years. I will be going back and investing time and money in the other books in the series because now I simply have to find out what the heck is going on. The mystery is too compelling for me not to.

Read them in order-but read them. And be sure to sleep with the lights on.

His Diamond Queen by Lena Hart

His Diamond Queen by Lena Hart
Queen Quartette IV
Publisher: Maroon Ash
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (286 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

the forbidden gem…
Rachelle Silva is used to getting what she wants. As the beloved secret daughter of a ruthless crime boss, she wants for nothing–except freedom from her overprotective father. But when her identity is compromised and her life is threatened, Rachelle is given the one thing she’s always hated most: an escort.

Former fighter Jay Price stays connected with Vegas’s criminal underbelly, and for the right price he’ll take on any job. But when he’s hired to babysit self-centered “princess” Rachelle, he finds himself captivated by the beautiful, spoiled socialite–and annoyed by his sudden attraction to her.

Confused by her own attraction to the tattooed “thug,” Rachelle sets out to make Jay as aware of her as she is of him. Unfortunately the threats to her life are all too real, and Jay is forced to bring her into “his world” until the threat is…dealt with. But he has an even bigger fight on his hands–his desire for the one woman he’s forbidden to have.

Two young people with a complex family life find their introduction in His Diamond Queen. Jay Price had a not so fortunate up bringing, while Rachelle Silva has anything her heart desires at her disposal. But is that a good thing when her mother has been a mistress for 25 years? Rachelle’s father is a man of power and status, and this brings about many enemies, which in turn opens up a position for Jay Price as Rachelle’s personal body guard.

Besides their chemistry and attraction drawing them together, I just didn’t see this couple fitting together with conversation of things they have in common nor did I see them growing as a couple. Though the attraction was one that could not be denied the sex scene just seem forced or out of place to me. It was kind of like they realized they were alone and said hey let’s have sex. There was no type of romance or special evening planned just straight to the do. In the first part of the book their relationship wasn’t one I enjoyed reading about. In the beginning they were hating each other as well as denying their attraction; they had sex and then were in love and were inseparable. I would have like to see them spending quiet moments together first and then working their way to the intimate moments. The author didn’t let me down though. After about half way the book is when they started sharing moments, spending time as a couple talking and sharing interest. From that point I did start to like the time Rachelle and Jay spent together at home and the time they spent with Jay’s friends.

I liked the mystery and the suspense of finding out what was going on and why Rachelle was in danger. Finding out who was behind the attempted kidnapping and break-ins was sort of a surprise. I thought someone else was behind it, but I was wrong. It didn’t take me long to read the book, and even though the storyline was predictable it was a cute read. I enjoyed the action scenes as well. Even though this is a love story I appreciate the author including a few good action scenes. The writing is pleasant, easy to follow and moved fairly quickly.

I am a fan of the author but this book didn’t completely win me over like the prior series of Queen Quartette books. The author has the same type formula of women in distress, and attractive men that just happen to be right there to save them. In this series Jay is a former bad boy which added dimension to the character and also brought about the scenario of bad boy meets good girl. The variety of their up bringing brought about an interesting combination and entertaining read.

Though this is one I wouldn’t announce as a must read, it still would be a good read for those that enjoy a book with no cliffhangers and that has a happy ending.

Locked, Loaded and Lying by Sarah Andre

Locked, Loaded and Lying by Sarah Andre
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (408 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

He might be innocent.

Or he might be very, very guilty…

Olympic skier Lock Roane was on top of the world: smashing world records, collecting medals, and basking in the love of a nation and his beautiful heiress girlfriend. It all comes crashing down after Lock discovers his girlfriend had an affair – then wakes from a drunken bender to find himself covered in her blood. Disgraced and dethroned, Lock awaits his murder trial with dread, not knowing if his girlfriend died at his own hands.

Journalist Jordan Sinclair is out of options. To satisfy her blackmailer, she must get the inside scoop (and its cash reward) on Lock Roane. An attraction to the arrogant athlete was not part of the plan. Neither is trying to find out what really happened that night. Now Jordan risks everything – including her life – to help the man she’s falling for. A man who just might be a cold-blooded killer…

He only wants to prove his innocence while she’s looking for the story of a lifetime. While Lock Roane is content to hide out until the murder trial of his girlfriend Tiffany begins, Jordan Sinclair, a freelance journalist, has other ideas. She’s running out of time and in order to keep herself and her mother safe, she’s going to have to commit the ultimate betrayal. But can she do it or has Lock and Load already gotten too far under her skin?

I’m not going to lie – I really liked Lock from the beginning, even when he was being a bit of a jerk to his extremely drunk girlfriend. He has this vibe of ‘yes, I’m being a jerk, but it’s for your own good’. As you get to know him better, you come to understand, mostly through Jordan’s eyes, that the cocky, jerky exterior is his ‘Lock and Load’ persona, that of the world-famous skier. The one he needs to survive in that world. His strained relationship with his brother only enhances his softer side, the one he doesn’t want anyone to see.

Jordan I wasn’t as sure about in the beginning. She had her reasons for doing what she planned to do, but I kept expecting her to quit lying and come clean long before she did. If I were in her position, I probably would have stuck it out just as long as she did, but I still held out hope. In the end, she did the right thing, though, so she does have that going for her. Although she’s both troubled and in serious trouble, she really does care for both Lock and his brother, Leo.

Although the mystery of who really killed Tiffany was a little obvious, this isn’t the kind of book you read for the mystery. It’s the kind of book you read for the bonding, the friendship, and the budding love story. I especially enjoyed watching Lock and Leo repair their relationship that had been damaged for too many years. Well written and intense, Locked, Loaded and Lying is a story that kept me engaged until the very end.