Deadly Thanksgiving by Maureen Fisher


Deadly Thanksgiving by Maureen Fisher
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Cozy Mystery, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

The Foster sisters had inherited Grizzly Gulch Guest Ranch at an age when most sensible women contemplated retirement. No one ever called them sensible.

In Book 2 of The Senior Sleuth Mystery Series, events manager Clara Foster must ensure the success of a week-long getaway for lonely retirees—a Boomers’ Thanksgiving Festival. Too bad the arrival of a mini-coach loaded with tipsy seniors gets the event off to a shaky start, especially when one of the guests turns out to be a corpse. Worse, the Mountie assigned to the case is none other than one Hawk McDougall, the man Clara dumped via text message.

Tensions mount when the death appears to be deliberate and the prime murder suspect is Clara’s cousin.

As more suspects emerge, mysterious “accidents” force Clara to join forces (and possibly more) with Hawk to find a killer on the rampage.

Non-stop action bounces from a cantankerous cat named Snuggles to an unfortunate goat yoga incident, a perilous nature walk to a mechanical bull gone rogue, a disastrous wardrobe malfunction to a spitting llama, all culminating in a memorable takedown followed by a Thanksgiving feast the guests will never forget.
Warning: This book may contain nuggets of naughty boomer humor.

Very cute read. Lots of humor and sarcasm which I loved. The match ups and the love hungry residents coming from Lifestyle Manor make for some interesting tete-a-tetes. Nonetheless this is as clean as can be.

Author Maureen Fisher made me feel as if I were there participating in goat yoga, on a hike, or even living in a rather rustic atmosphere at Grizzly Gulch. She didn’t just make me feel I was there; she made me wish I was there having fun. I even enjoyed the new temperamental Chef Armand and his showy culinary delights. I especially enjoyed his alternative choices for a dark Thanksgiving.

A light but very enjoyable read.

Blood Sport by David J. Gatward


Blood Sport by David J. Gatward
Publisher: Weirdstone Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A mysterious red sports car. A bloodied animal corpse. He’s caught the scent of a brutal crime, and he won’t stop until it’s solved…

DCI Harry Grimm is weary of humanity’s evil. Dragged to the middle of nowhere during the darkest of hours, he’s enraged by grisly evidence of a horrific illegal dog fight. And when the mutilated remains turn out to be a gamekeeper’s stolen pet, the gritty detective senses he has a solid lead after learning of a long-running feud.

Immediately putting his team on the case, Grimm worries the stakes may be escalating when the animal’s owner is beaten and left for dead. And though the tough investigator puts his nose to the ground and follows the bloody clues, he fears there’s only one shot to apprehend the real monster.

Can he bring a loathsome criminal to justice before the savagery turns deadly?

DCI Harry Grimm is now the permanent DCI for their small community, and he feels he’s finally settling right in. So, when a friend and local calls Harry in the middle of the night, upset at finding blood and the signs of a fight he’s not worried about the lack of sleep. Only all indications of the crime scene indicate there’s a ring of dog fighters and Harry knows too well how insidious – and dangerous – such criminals and actions can be. Will they be able to stop things before they get out of hand?

I’ve been really enjoying this series and found this book to be a solid addition to it. While there’s quite a few smaller plots that are linked in to this dog-fighting ring I feel readers who haven’t read any of the previous stories should be able to follow along quite well without any problems. Those of us who have read the previous installments however should be very happy – I was thrilled that quite a few of the previously unsolved issues got cleaned up in this book and felt quite satisfied with how those plot-arcs were resolved.

There is a fair bit of character growth in a number of Harry’s team in this book and I found it overall a really well written and interesting book. I was pleased to see this progress and feel it will likely make a lot of other readers happy too. I was glad the animal scenes weren’t too gritty and there was no titillation in these scenes – no graphic descriptions of abuse or cruelty to animals and indeed I was very pleased that the police are shown as taking this kind of cruelty and criminality every bit as seriously as abuse and damage to humans.

Readers looking for a country feel but still strongly police procedural and mystery solving story should absolutely try this series. Personally, I feel the books are better read in order, but I think they can be read out of order and still enjoyed.

Discovering Rafe by Sara Blackard


Discovering Rafe by Sara Blackard
Stryker Security Force, Book 5
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Her brother’s best friend has always held her heart. Now that she has his attention, will her happily ever after be ripped away?

Piper Fields finds contentment in managing her cousin’s music career from the safety and anonymity of staying behind the scenes.
Since her parents’ death at barely thirteen, Piper’s fear of losing others has kept her focused on caring for those she loves. Meanwhile, her own dreams have been left backstage. Not that it really mattered anyway. Her dreams were out of reach and so was her brother’s friend, Rafe Malone.

Rafe Malone approached life with a firm desire to safeguard those who couldn’t protect themselves and have fun in the process. That all changed the day a mission for the Army turned south, forcing him to take the life of a child soldier. Now, the jokester mask he wears to hide his pain is put to the test when his best friend’s sister needs his help. No matter how hard he tries to convince himself he shouldn’t taint her with his tarnished soul, her nurturing presence tempts him to break the bro code of staying away from your friend’s sister.

Can Rafe keep Piper safe when the evasive threat turns deadly? Will Piper trust what she’s discovered in Rafe or is it just another childish daydream?

This is another awesome book sure to please romantic suspense readers. Rafe had a stronger role in the last story, Crashing into Jake, because it’s a tag-team setup for Discovering Rafe. In the last story, Chloe and Piper were cousins in trouble from a stalker. In the end, readers found out that Chloe wasn’t the target, Piper was. Discovering Rafe picks up from there. Interestingly enough, this book could still be read as a standalone because the first two chapters recaps what triggered book 4, but this time the hero is Rafe and it’s from his perspective. I really enjoyed the extra details that the author included this time around. It brings the enjoyment factor to a whole other level because I’m getting the whole picture. This time I got to see Piper’s point of view at my favorite bonfire scene from the previous book. It’s just as fun and yet it has a more robust feeling to it because now, I get to see inside Rafe’s head as he sees Piper for the first time in a style of clothes she’d never worn before. The password still is cute, but I got to see a tiny bit more backstory to it, which made me smile.

One of the conflicts is a well-known one – don’t break the bro-code and date or show more than brotherly interest towards your best friend’s little sister. That’s a major no-no, and it’s also one of the rules most fun to break – if done right. I believe Ms. Blackard did it right.

Like I mentioned above, the other conflict is external – the stalker that is after Piper. That’s the major mystery that causes stress, suspense and a great plot mover.

Another thing I liked about this novel, is reading all about Rafe and Piper’s childhood memories and their relationship. It made their romance that much more interesting and heartwarming. Until it wasn’t. Until the very thing Rafe worried about comes to pass. He broke the bro-code and has to face the music. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the stalker is even more tech-savvy than anyone gave him credit for. Readers are in for some intense scenes that, for me, made it almost impossible to put the book aside and go to bed at a decent time. Nope, I lost some serious zzz’s powering through this novel. I couldn’t leave myself with a cliffhanger. Who could sleep wondering if Piper would escape? Would she be rescued? Would they get to her time? Who WAS the stalker? How did he keep finding her? The answers amazed me, floored me and kept me wide awake.

As for whether I like the hero and heroine. Absolutely. Piper is loyal, caring, a bit of a worrywart and always puts other’s needs ahead of her own, including her cousin Chloe. Their relationship is more like best friends than merely cousins. Piper has a guardian-type personality and while that’s good, Rafe recognizes, eventually, that she deserved more. Who’s looking out for Piper? That’s when it solidified for me that they were perfect for each other, that their love was going to be a strong force which in turn brought out the best in each other, for the other. It’s wonderfully romantic, well, between the scenes of sheer terror, excitement, and the great climactic confrontation with the stalker.

I made light of the internal conflict of the bro-code regarding Rafe, but there is a darker issue that plagues the hero. His jokester persona has taken a hit and he’s now using it as a cover to hide behind. It is a serious conflict and I know for a fact that it’s a real thing, that it can haunt a soldier to the point of despair. It’s a bleak reality no matter that it happens in a time of war – it’s killed or be killed – but knowing that fact doesn’t make it any less painful. It’s another reason why I am so very happy that he gets his own happy ever after with Piper. If anyone can help him heal, it’s her. They are awesome together.

There’s a lot more that goes on in the story that I could go on and on about. I do have to mention secondary characters – Derrick. There’s a scene where he reminds Rafe about Hunter and his words of wisdom from the Bible. I haven’t read Hunter’s story but I’m going to. There are so many references to him throughout the series, I feel like I should know him too. Anyway, that scene with Derrick really made an impact on me. The way the author wrote it was powerful and Rafe’s response, even more so.

I simply can’t get enough of this series. Their romances are sweet, almost sensual, and the restraint the heroes and heroines practice even though passion rides them hard at times, shows amazing strength of character. It also makes a lot more sense to me than those other stories out there where, in the middle of do or die crisis situations, somehow the main characters always seem to dive into heavy-duty make out sessions. I don’t need that in my romantic suspense stories, and I’m so glad I discovered Sara Blackard’s books. They have top-notch writing, awesome heroes and heroines, and plots and stories I can really sink my teeth into. The pacing is always spot-on and never once, in any of the books I’ve read so far, have I been tempted to fast-forward. Every chapter, piece of dialogue, action scenes or passages of description and details, worked for me. Even the HEA was awesome. I am a very happy reader.

Seven Bridges by LJ Ross


Seven Bridges by LJ Ross
Publisher: Dark Skies Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Ryan’s most explosive case yet…

It’s been five months since a killer walked free and DCI Ryan is preparing to leave Newcastle to hunt him down – this time, for good.

But Ryan’s plans are scuppered when events take a dramatic turn and he is forced to stay and face his past one last time, or watch a friend suffer the consequences.

Amid the chaos, another killer is preparing to strike. When the Tyne Bridge explodes, Ryan’s team are faced with a frantic race to uncover a deadly foe who won’t stop until every bridge is burned, along with everybody on it…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

Just as DCI Ryan is considering a sabbatical to hunt a killer that has got away, two very serious, new threats appear. One is a bomber terrorizing everyone by blowing up important bridges that keep everything connected, and the other is a danger far closer to home for Ryan and his team.

I enjoyed the somewhat faster pace of this story. With two strong plotlines interwoven together at times there was hardly a chance for Ryan and his team to catch their breath and I felt the author expressed this hurry-hurry-hurry mentality very well to the reader. I feel part of the faster, more action-oriented style of pacing was because the bombings occurred with short notice. Additionally, letters were given to the media first, which meant they were relayed out to everyone with the police left perpetually chasing afterwards. So while this wasn’t a traditional “who dun it” murder mystery it definitely fit the bill in other respects and was a solid police procedural style of book.

The other main plot which took up a good portion of the storyline was the death of Detective Chief Superintendent Jennifer Lucas. There isn’t a lot I can say without treading into spoilers but suffice to say I strongly feel this element of the story added a huge amount of emotions and turmoil – both from the present and the past – for the team as a whole. I was very pleased this plotline was given an almost equal share of time to the bomber plot. I could understand if some readers would feel this might make the murder feel a little drawn out or given too much exposure – but I really feel emotionally and for the characters in the team this plotline had a significant impact on everyone. To some degree – particularly a personal one for the team members – it might even have been more important than the bomber threatening everyone’s daily lives and sense of normalcy. Personally, I was pleased the author didn’t cut this aspect of the plot nor dim its impact down. For a few main characters this really was quite world-shattering and I was pleased it was given the attention and space it was.

In many respects I feel this book could absolutely stand alone. The bomber plotline was very self-contained and I don’t feel readers need any particular prior understanding to thoroughly enjoy it. Even the Superintendents death was very well explained and quite detailed. While I feel the strength of the impact and the fallout from it might be better enjoyed by readers who have read at least a few of the previous books and have an emotional attachment to the main police team and the characters – I feel anyone could pick up this story and easily follow along with what’s happening and help put the pieces together.

A strong book with a good, fast-paced action style of plot this is a great mystery. This is an author and series I’d definitely recommend.

September Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Duck For Cover & Other Tales: A Collection Of Short Stories by Barbara Venkataraman


Duck For Cover & Other Tales: A Collection Of Short Stories by Barbara Venkataraman
Publisher: Next Chapter
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Fourteen short stories with a twist, Duck for Cover & Other Tales is filled with surprises.

The Yes Man is about a woman who looks after her elderly father with dementia, only to discover he still has life lessons to teach her. Living My Best Life tells the story of an aging rock star who finds his legacy lives on in a way he hadn’t imagined. Thicker Than Blood is about the dilemmas caused by modern technology when a trio of siblings is asked to make the hardest decision of their lives. The Devil’s Workshop is the story of a young man being scared straight from a life of delinquency by a clever probation officer and an ex-con.

Topical, relatable and just plain fun, these and many other stories in this collection deal with friendship, kinship and the complexities of the modern world, and are sure to leave you with a smile.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Crashing into Jake by Sara Blackard


Crashing into Jake by Sara Blackard
Stryker Security Force, Book 4
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

An injured ex-soldier struggling with being a bodyguard. A country music darling with an eerie stalker. Can he resist her allure to get the job done?

All Jake has ever wanted was to serve his country, get married, and raise a family.
When a mission goes wrong, leaving him with a prosthetic leg and raging nightmares, his plans for the future lie shattered like his career. He joins his brothers-in-arms at Stryker Security Force to help protect others, determined to find contentment in his job as a bodyguard — until protecting Chloe Rose makes him long for more.

Chloe Rose dreams of getting her break as the next country music superstar.
Though her parents would rather she buy her way in, Chloe will make it on her own or not at all.
An invitation to a Colorado music festival has Chloe believing her time has finally come. But when frightening messages arrive on her doorstep, she’s forced to hire protection. Jake is an attractive surprise, and sparks fly when he shows up.

Can Chloe trust Jake when the malicious attacks threaten all she’s worked so hard for? Will Jake’s disability keep him from saving Chloe and the love he’s found in her?

I don’t believe I’ve ever read about a heroine who has to deal with celiac disease before. It was eye-opening for those like me who really don’t understand how it affects a person’s life. The one thing about Chloe, and it caused me to respect her character, is that she refused to dwell on what she couldn’t do, but on what she could. It helped that she had her wonderful and supportive cousin, Piper, who is an important secondary character throughout most of the book, at her side. Their relationship was a strong part of why I liked this story so much.

The first chapter delves into Chloe and Piper’s backstory and provides key information for things that happen further on. What tickled my funny bone was the question, “When have I steered you wrong?” and the other person started listing all the crazy things they did, which got me to laugh. It also dogged my memory as to where I heard that phrase before until I remembered, and I laughed all the harder. Cleo from Clifford, the Big Red Dog always said that phrase right before she did indeed steer T-Bone and Clifford into some zany escapade. Gosh, my kids haven’t watched that in years, yet I still remember. And Chloe, in Crashing into Jake, totally had those ‘Cleo’ vibes going when she suggested they have a clothing bonfire. Yeah, that didn’t go quite as planned. *insert snicker*

If Chloe is an unusual heroine, her match is the equally fascinating and unique hero, Jake. If you read the first three stories, then you know that he suffered an injury in his last assignment for the military. Readers don’t have to read the books in order since they are pretty solid as standalones, but for those that have, they’ll remember Jake lost his leg below the knee. His prosthetic doesn’t slow him down, it doesn’t stop him from being perfect hero material, but it does challenge him, and he ends up using the device in a most unusual way. It was pragmatic, but it still made me grin.

The external conflict stems from threatening notes Chloe receives. It creeps them out badly enough that when Piper’s brother calls and they fill him in, the next thing I know, guys from Stryker Security Force are at the girls’ door. That is when the story takes off and the adventure begins. It turns out that both ladies know one of the two men that respond, Rafe. He’s a secondary character in this book, but like Piper, is integral to Chloe and Jake’s story and romance. This is also the point when I realize that this book series is starting to sound like a family community, and it feels nice.

All the chapters afterwards are filled with awesome dialogue between Jake and Chloe, Piper, Rafe, Zeke, and my favorite little princess, Eva. There are balloon rides, an avalanche, and a restaurant scene that showed Jake’s hero side when the ordered food was practically everything that could kill Chloe. That’s when I think the relationship started to change, and Cupid’s little arrow started to have its effect. Then there are the scheduled ‘kissing times’. I’m not about to explain what that means – it would spoil the fun. I was entertained and I enjoyed watching their love grow, until their own internal conflicts mucked it up. Sometimes more communication leads to not enough communication. Leave it to little Eva to stomp her feet and give ‘Uncle Jake’ the what-for when he needed it most.

I enjoyed the romance, the story and all its characters. They’re really growing on me. The affirmation of Jake and Chloe’s love was very public and wonderful. I’m not sharing how that comes to pass. Also, there is an epilogue but it’s more of a teaser into the next book, which, as it turns out, is Rafe’s story. I am extremely curious what I’ll find when I read his book. He’s a jokester, the one that smiles and somehow finds the fun in any situation. But, as in real life, those that laugh the loudest and work the hardest while making it look easy in order to make everyone smile around them, oftentimes are the ones that hide deep pain. As a hook, it’s perfect. You know what I’ll be reading next. As for Crashing into Jake, it’s a great read with a wonderful romance story filled with great character development, camaraderie, dialogue from all the cast members, and a happy ever after ending that satisfies. It’s another keeper to go with the first three books, that’s for sure.

Celebrating Tina by Sara Blackard


Celebrating Tina by Sara Blackard
Stryker Security Force, Book 3
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A K-9 handler determined to prove she belongs. A detective with an unwavering plan. Can they overcome their painful pasts and accept the gift of love?

Tina West has spent her life feeling like she stood on the outside, but since taking a job at Stryker Security, life seems to be turning for the better.

Tina never imagined when she took a job as a nanny she’d end up training for search and rescue. Yet, when her boss shows up with a retired military dog and the opportunity to train with him, Tina snatches up the chance to help those who are lost.
If she saves enough people, maybe she could find meaning in a life that left her with nothing but a bruised heart and a tarnished picture of family. As holiday festivities loom before her, she wonders if she’ll ever shuck the regrets that haunt her dreams and keep her from connecting with others.

Milo Bishop’s every move has been to take care of his mom and younger brother.

Since his father’s murder, Milo has worked hard to make sure his mom and brother were provided for. He joined the police force straight out of high school, took night classes so he could move up to investigator, and put his life on hold until his brother graduated from college. But when he is rescued on Thanksgiving Day by Tina West, his well-laid plans take a sharp detour.

When a series of kidnappings threaten to ruin the holidays, can Tina and Milo put aside their doubts and find the abducted children before it’s too late?

Can Tina trust her instincts when they’re put to the test or will children being harmed hit too close to her past for her to deal with? Will Milo put his desires above his family’s needs when a chance at love catches him by surprise?

When was the last time you heard of a nanny turning hero and saving the day? This is the same nanny who had the bomb under her car in Capturing Sosimo. She had guts then and she shines in her own story, Celebrating Tina.

The story opens with her in the mountains, training with her dog for mountain rescue. No fainting young miss, that’s for sure. Tina ends up saving the hero. Again, when has a story started with a heroine saving the hero? I was fascinated by this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Milo is a wonderful hero, even though he needs rescuing in the beginning. He has a chance to redeem himself and becomes integral in helping to solve a suspenseful plot of missing children in the community. One second, they’re with their parents, and the next second they are gone. A parent’s worst nightmare. Tina and Milo eventually work together as a team to try to figure it out. The final discovery was shocking. There was a clever red herring the author threw in the mix, and I was really confident about my choice. Boy was I wrong. The reality was kind of sad in a way, but crime has consequences and justice will be meted out – just not to whom I expected. That actually made this story even better, because for me, I couldn’t say “I told you so’, and I prefer it when a book can surprise me like that.

Another aspect that this romantic suspense has going for it is that Tina and Milo aren’t strangers. They have a past in the town, and yet they really don’t know each other well at all. That changes during the course of the story. Some of the revelations could be a trigger for some readers even though it’s a subject that is shared as a past event. It’s still disturbing because it again involves young children. This time around, Tina isn’t a kid, she’s not helpless and she ends up taking an active role in helping the police with her rescue dog, Scout, at her side.

It’s not all serious though. The scene when Tina meets up with the rest of Milo’s family and shares why she has the car she does, made me laugh. The writing brought their reactions to life, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her explain herself. When Milo met the men from Stryker Security, it was like having to meet the dad before taking the daughter on a date, except there were a lot of intimidating ‘dads’ facing Milo down and giving him ‘mean face’. Wow, that was fun to read. The little girl, Eva, is still as adorable and loveable as she was in the first two books in the series. I cracked up when she called “Uncle Rafe” a stinky winner. Too cute.

Through all the stress and worry about the missing kids, Milo and Tina have time to learn more about each other and slowly their love and relationship grows. When it comes time to show Tina just how he feels for her, Milo turned the romance factor up high and melted my heart. What a wonderful hero.

The wrap up was sweet and wonderful, and included a bit of a surprise from Rafe to top off the celebration. This story isn’t as action-packed as the first two, but it definitely compliments the series and was a pleasure to read. I enjoyed seeing a woman grow in strength and overcome a rough childhood only to find that her perfect partner in life had been in the same town all along. It just took a little hiking accident in the mountains to bring them together. Celebrating Tina was a good read and a nice romance story.

A Dark Sin by JM Dalgliesh


A Dark Sin by JM Dalgliesh
Publisher: Hamilton Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Our darkest secrets are best left buried…

When a local journalist is found dead in an isolated spot on Roydon Common, lying beneath a hangman’s noose on the anniversary of a teenager’s suicide, DI Tom Janssen is asked to take on the investigation as a favour to local colleagues and must unpick the deceased man’s life to discover how he came to be there.

The dead man was working on something, a story he was keeping close to his chest and even those closest to him, loved ones and colleagues, were kept in the dark. He had his own secrets, a side to his character that he rarely showed to others unless they were unlucky. But what did he know that was so damaging as to be worth killing for?

As the team delve into his life, past and present, the investigation pulls in successful business people, grieving family members, and a local celebrity with fascinating stories to tell. As the investigation develops it becomes clear that more than one person is harbouring a secret… but are they secrets that are worth a man’s life? As past sins threaten to be exposed, will someone be forced into killing again?

Set within the mysterious beauty of coastal Norfolk, this fast-paced British detective novel is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end when the final shocking twist is revealed.

DI Tom Janssen is called out as a favour to look over the finding of a journalist’s body hanging in the Common. Only there are factors to the scene that don’t add up, so Janssen and his team begin to investigate the journalist’s life and work. Soon, a few small questions grow into something far larger, and it quickly becomes clear this was not a suicide but something far darker.

This is the eighth book in the Hidden Norfolk series, and I am really enjoying them all. I have found this – like all the previous books – to be a strong, police procedural style of murder mystery book. I thought the plot was decently plotted and complex enough to retain my interest from the opening pages, but with a slow enough pace I could really enjoy it and not feel like the action or characters were getting away from me. Set in Norfolk, I thought there was a good blend of large country town style of bustle but still with the slower pace and more “everyone knows everyone” type of connectivity. I enjoy this balance and find it really helped sell the book and storyline to me.

I also enjoyed how the characters of Tom’s team and the main characters – like Eric’s fiancée and Tom’s long-term girlfriend and young daughter – all were important in the story. This added an emotional depth to the police mystery style plot and helped me feel like this wasn’t only a murder story but also a part of a larger whole. I personally really enjoy this balance but also feel the author does a really good job of not having too much of the characters past cloud over what’s currently occurring. I feel this makes it really helpful for readers who have not read all the previous stories and helps this book stand far better on its own.

While I definitely feel readers will have a stronger emotional investment in the main characters and their happiness having read the previous books, I don’t feel it’s strictly necessary for readers to enjoy this particular story. The plot in particular is very self-contained inside this book and the characters are well introduced – so readers shouldn’t feel shy about picking this up and enjoying it regardless of whether they’ve read any of the previous books.

A well plotted murder mystery with excellent characters and a complicated but not overly convoluted plot, I really enjoyed this British story and am eager to read more by this author. Recommended.

Capturing Sosimo by Sara Blackard


Capturing Sosimo by Sara Blackard
Stryker Security Force, Book 2
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A billionaire inventor hiding her identity. An ex-soldier determined to protect her. Will her lies compromise their chance at love?

There’s nothing Sosimo Rivas hates more than liars.

But in his new job with Stryker Security Force as private protection for the rich, he sees his fair share of them. Sosimo spends most of his time working on old engines and keeping their clients safe. The first he loves. The second he tolerates — until he meets June.

June’s made billions inventing gadgets for the military.

But the person in the spotlight is a fake, someone she created to hide behind. Her ruse was working perfectly — until her latest invention attracted the attention of the wrong kind of people. Now, she’s forced to hire a bodyguard who tempts her from her solitary life.

Will June be able to trust her protector when all she’s built is threatened? And will Sosimo stand by the only woman he’s ever loved when he discovers the truth?

This story was a surprise. For a change, the heroine is the one with a fortune and she’s an inventor of really cool gadgets. She’s got it all together and things are good. Until the emails come. Until one of her cool gadgets in development garners interest from a mysterious and suspicious person or persons and it’s freaking her out. How do the guys at Stryker Security Force get involved? June, a/k/a Reagan MacArthur, has a dad who can pull some strings that June wants nothing to do with. The compromise? Hire security.

I ‘met’ Sosimo Rivas in the first book, Falling for Zeke, and he intrigued me. Now I get to see what makes him tick. The hero has some personal issues that stem from when he was growing up. It left a lasting impression on his sense of self-worth. You wouldn’t think so since he was and is part of such an elite team of alpha men, but no one is as they seem. The author delves into his background a little bit and I was impressed with his protective instinct. He also had a deep love and respect for his family and his heritage. I totally felt empathy for Sosimo and completely agreed he needs his own happy ever after. But what a ride to get there!

This is an effective romantic suspense that has some teeth. Speaking of which, the scene when June bites into her juicy hamburger made me snort and giggle. The author used her descriptive words and brought the scene to life to hilarious effect. It goes on for a few more lighthearted moments, then the sensual action kicks in for the next chapter. Hot Tamales – I’m not the only one who likes the candy. The plot gets hot in other ways when gunfire breaks out. I was on my seat, scrolling/flipping those pages as fast as I could. The suspense and intensity of the moment was clearly described and tight – written for the most impact. The external conflict was fascinating. The internal conflicts though – those are what grab the heartstrings. They’re the kind that can break the relationship that is slowly building between the two. Building is an apt word. The sensual tension is palpable and June and Sosimo are strongly affected.

Just when I thought there was going to be a breather, a bomb threat rolls in. Yikes! Then Sosimo and June have to go on the run, and somehow, they’re tracked. How?!? That is one of the questions that kept me glued to the novel’s pages. The story turns into a who-done-it because someone is leaking info but who and from where? The suspense was tight. Good thing they picked up a Marine to help out along the way. He was a nice character addition.

I could go on and on about the great dialogue between characters, the depth of their development, how the author gives a reader a little lighthearted breather, like biting into an apple, before sending them down another rollercoaster dip of excitement and thrills. There is so much to recommend this story that I know I have to stop before I stumble and share a spoiler. I mean, there’s a secondary character named Lena who ties in with the beginning of the security force so that link fascinated me, and June’s relationship with her dad kept me guessing if it was good or not. Then came the shocker and I was blown away.

Seriously, Capturing Sosimo is another gem and has to go on my keeper shelf like the first book. So far, the re-readability factor is high and I’m so glad I discovered this series. But like potato chips, I can’t stop at two. I hear there’s another story waiting for me in the wings. I can’t wait to read it!

Falling for Zeke by Sara Blackard


Falling for Zeke by Sara Blackard
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

An ex-Army Special Operations member burned once by love. A single-mom stalked by a powerful enemy. Can he risk his heart for her safety?

Zeke has everything he could want.
A multi-billion dollar inheritance allows him to protect others…
… and with the camaraderie of his brothers-in-arms.
He spends his time growing his security firm and keeping his head down. Love is the last thing on his mind, until Samantha and her daughter are in need of his help.

Samantha used to have a comfortable life.
Now she waits tables to put food on her own.
Forced from the life she had built, Samantha works to restore what was lost. With her daughter in tow, she begins a new life in the Colorado mountains. It’s not perfect, but it’s all theirs. But when the tempting Zeke offers to help her, she begins to wonder if love could heal her shattered life.

What will Samantha do when past troubles come knocking? Will Zeke protect his heart or will Samantha shatter his defenses?

Have you ever come to the end of a story and realize you just discovered book candy? Falling for Zeke bowled me over and left me craving more. Especially if the other books are anything like this first romantic suspense story in the Stryker Security Force series; I want to meet EVERYONE on the team.

The book opens with this obviously alpha man being flummoxed and frustrated over a common accounting program. The author’s descriptions made me smile right from the start. I was left in no doubt just how disgusted he was with the whole computer program. I haven’t used it myself, but I’ve heard tell and his thoughts of revenge fit right in with what others have experienced. But none of their stories have entertained me as much as Zeke Greene’s.

The heroine is kind of typical. A single mom, trying to keep herself and her child safe, fed and housed while holding a job that a reader knows from the interchange, is doomed. The author did a wonderful job of building the sympathy for Samantha and her daughter, Eva. I truly believe readers are going to fall in love with little Eva. Sometimes, I swear she steals the show. Samantha has a serious anchor around her neck, people from her past are going to stir the plot and give the hero and his team a chance to shine. But the heroine has some remembered motherly advice from her own mother’s experiences and that plays a role in some of the internal conflict. Family has a tendency to inspire things like that.

The story doesn’t waste any time getting into the drama and suspense when someone tries to steal Eva from school. That starts the ball rolling and it puts Zeke and Samantha right in the thick of it. The pace of this novel is perfect. It more than kept my interest; I was glued to my seat and didn’t want to stop until I read the whole book. There were so many things that happened, lots of great dialogue, and a lot of people to get to know, that I had a ball. Zeke and his team showed that they were more than co-workers, they were a family. I adored how Eva wrapped all the guys around her little finger and scenes that had her and the guys interacting were some of my favorites.

This is a romance story with lots of ‘steamual’ tension … I made that word up because it just fits with how all those kisses and accidental touches affected the hero and heroine. I have no doubts that they both felt the building steam and sensual sparks that flowed between them. If this was another type of story, for sure they’d end up acting on it, but as this novel is a clean romance book, I was able to enjoy a full plot, great character development, and a romance that grew through adversity, respect and trust. Their relationship brought out the best in both Zeke and Samantha; they complimented each other. Nothing proved that better than the scene when a guy tried to once again take Eva and Samantha stepped up to the plate. It was glorious. It was perfect. It was fist-pump time.

I read Falling for Zeke in eBook format and it came with a bonus epilogue. It’s like being told you can have extra hot fudge for free in your sundae. It gave me the happy feels. I enjoyed this book so much, I am stoked to read the next book in the series. If you’ve never read a book by Sara Blackard, then you are in for a treat. This is an awesome introduction to this author’s wonderful writing style. Try it out and see for yourself.