Dark Demon by Christine Feehan

Dark Demon by Christine Feehan
Publisher: Jove
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full length (500 pages)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Xeranthemum

A female vampire slayer proves as seductive—and mysterious—as the night dwellers she stalks in this novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling Carpathian series.

For as long as she can remember, Natalya has been fighting demons: first in the form of childhood nightmares, then later, immortal creatures that kill and prey on the innocent—including her own twin brother. Whether Carpathian or vampire, she slays those who murder by night, and has no equal—until she is seduced by the very thing she considers her enemy…
A Carpathian who has seen nearly everything in his endless existence, Vikirnoff didn’t think he could be surprised anymore—until he faces a woman who rivals him as a vampire hunter. A formidable and gifted warrior in her own right, Natalya has a nature that is strangely familiar—yet alien—to his own. Who is this mysterious female who fears no one—not even him? Natalya could be the key to the survival of the Carpathians, but all Vikirnoff is certain of is that she is the key to his heart and soul…

If you like classic Feehan then readers should pick this one up if they haven’t already. The newer books seem to have more scenes with the hero and heroine getting physical and up to sexy shenanigans to the point that it can seem overdone. But, in the older books of the series there was more action, good vs. the vampire bad guys, fighting, escapes, challenges, suspense and drama and plenty for readers to sink their teeth into. Dark Demon is one such story. It’s the 13th installment of the long-running series and I prefer the kind of excitement that I find in this novel. It’s a guaranteed page turner.

The biggest asset in this novel is the heroine, Natalya. Not only is she a warrior and a survivor against impossible odds, but she’s got a mouth on her, full of sass, cheek and hysterical pop culture references. She’s relied on herself so often and so long that she has a chip on her shoulder when it comes to trust. Trying to mesh her personality with the demands of her newly found and unwanted hunk of a lifemate, Vikirnoff, provides grins, sighs and excitement consistently throughout the story. I completely enjoyed Natalya.

As for the hero, Vikirnoff, his frustration in finding out that his lifemate is as far from June Cleaver as the sun is to Neptune had me laughing quite a lot. For a man hundreds of years old, during a time in which the culture dictated that women didn’t fight, relied on their men and acquiesced to their wishes, Natalya’s warrior independence constantly confounded, infuriated and, turned him on. I enjoyed watching his progression of unacceptance to ‘he wouldn’t have her any other way’. Eventually Vik falls in love with the heroine just the way she is. Getting there though, is a wild and entertaining ride.

In later novels there is a huge community feeling which makes many books not standalone reads. Dark Demon is better suited to being a standalone because the key focus is specifically Natalya and Vikirnoff; their hot and cold relationship, and their fight to stay alive when forces want the hero dead and the heroine captured for nefarious purposes. Past characters are mentioned but only when the suspense heats up and the critical climax ensues. And, what an action packed time it is in the last few chapters of the novel. It’s so gripping I suggest making sure there are no interruptions when you get to them.

Pick up your own copy to see Ms. Feehan at her best; when the community is still being built, the greatest enemy is diabolically evil, clever and a worthy opponent, and the sexual tension and eventual culmination is the perfect balance for a reader to be completely satisfied. This is an awesome tale of romantic suspense with an effective paranormal cast of characters. The happy ever after is classic Carpathian. Totally recommended!

Maiden Murders by C.L. Shore

Maiden Murders by C.L. Shore
Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (377 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Detective Mark Forbes and his wife, Sarah, find themselves immersed in the hunt for an interstate serial killer. Mark’s assigned to the first victim’s investigation. Sarah is interested in the skeletal remains of a young female found on the second victim’s property. The bones are 1000 years old and likely the result of human sacrifice. Two additional murders take place in a bridal shop and the hunt for the killer intensifies. When Sarah discovers the link between the long-dead sacrifice and the crimes, she knows she could be the next victim.

Does wanting to wait until you are married make you a maiden?

This is a mystery with an interesting plot. I felt like I learned something and enjoyed the reading at the same time. While the author admits her village, called Montauk, was taken from the idea of the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois, it is intriguing and paints an excellent description of an idea of the lifestyle of that possible village hundreds of years ago. This neat mixture of cops and detectives and a young lady anxious to learn more about an ancient society makes for exciting reading with twists and turns. All of this really created a “sitting on the edge of your seat” type mystery.

C.L Shore did a great job of creating interesting characters we could all identify with. While they each had their own personalities (the bad guys as well as the good) they were developed enough for us to recognize them even through their thoughts as well as their words. Obviously from my first paragraph, you can tell I thought the author did a great job describing the surroundings where the scenes take place. I used the term scenes because that is what this was like…a really good movie that you could be a part of. Enveloping you in a surrounding of ancient mounds as well as describing your everyday living in the moment takes us back and forth but in a continuous unsolved mystery. Good reading.

Vic Boyo Doofus Detective by Milo James Fowler

Vic Boyo Doofus Detective by Milo James Fowler
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, HIstorical
Length: Full length (150 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Two murders. One detective. Half a brain.

1931, New York City: Detective Vic Boyo may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but that doesn’t stop him from solving cases as only he can. With a little luck and a whole lot of gumption, Boyo sets out to find the murderer of a local cop. Problem is, Boyo’s more interested in a gorgeous femme fatale accused of killing her husband. She’s destined for the electric chair, but Boyo’s got a hunch she might be innocent. And nobody gets in the way of Boyo’s hunches, not even Vic Boyo himself.

What can I say about a detective story that calls the detective a “doofus”?

This is set in the 1930’s and you have to love some of that terminology to enjoy it. You know, it was the era where a blower was a telephone and a heater was a gun. It is a classic mobster versus cop book. This book has to be read with a sense of fun in mind. That’s actually what it is…sort of a true spoof. Don’t get me wrong, it is a mystery and it does involve a cop and a beautiful lady that needs saving.

This is the type of book that begins with a list of characters, well actually pages of characters. Although I have read and enjoyed many books like this there are enough characters listed to scare you off. I actually had no problem keeping Fowler’s characters straight. They each seemed to have their own personality. It’s just not a wonderful beginning and I hope people don’t put it down because it seems overwhelming.

This book is not at all hard to read but it is different. To enjoy it, you need to step into a slightly different world, one of watching an old-time TV show. It’s not hard to imagine it in black and white. It is narrated by the detective, Victor Ignatius Boyo, and he is a detective that is actually in good standing with and works for the local police department. It’s really good for a few good laughs.

Shadows Of Our Past by Tanya Jean Russell

Shadows Of Our Past by Tanya Jean Russell
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (214 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Jackson Halland has spent ten years running from a mistake that cost him everything, including Amory Jackson, the woman he loved. With his gut wrenching response to her reappearance, he realizes that if she will forgive him, then maybe, just maybe, he can forgive himself.

After ten years of working undercover, Amory agrees to one final mission. Vowing to get justice for the woman she promised, and failed to protect, nothing will stand in her way, not the prolific criminal she’s determined to bring down and certainly not coming face to face with the man she fell in love with on her very first undercover assignment. Even if he has no idea who she really is, or the part she played in his past.

Amory is tired of undercover work and determined to move her life into a different direction. She agrees to do one more job, only this one seems like a catastrophe from the beginning. Jack Davis is her target’s brother and he could easily blow her cover – since Jack was part of Amory’s first operation and she was responsible for sending him to jail. But this job is worth the risk, but Amory doesn’t realise that her heart might be on the line too.

I really enjoyed this character-driven mystery. Amory is an interesting and quite complex character, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her and watching her try to juggle all the various balls in her operation. This story had a bit of a feel of a spy-like thriller to me, Amory needing to keep a whole bunch of people, actions, reactions and counter-reactions all moving along smoothly while simultaneously trying to guess what would happen next and how best to achieve her mission. This alone meant the story was complex and rich – and to my mind made the plot interesting enough it retained my attention throughout the story. Add in the complexity of Jack turning up and being the estranged brother of the key player to Amory’s plan and that just added a delicious extra layer to this story as a whole.

I loved that the romance sub-plot was subtle. I truly feel the mystery – and complex mission – was front and centre, but having Jack around, and the memories he invoked in Amory just added that lovely simmering romantic tension that had me eagerly turning the pages, waiting to see how their reconnection (and hopefully their starting a romance up again properly as adults this time) would unfold. I was delighted to not be left disappointed. While not overly explicit, I did enjoy the steamy sex scenes which I found to be full of love and tension. Amory and Jack have chemistry in abundance – they both have their own reasons for thinking their relationship will go nowhere, but neither are able to resist the lure of love they feel for the other.

I was a little concerned that Amory’s deception to Jack for her work would either become a clichéd or over the top. I felt the author did an excellent job handling Jack finding out the truth. While he was understandably angry and felt betrayed I thought the pacing and level of drama attached to his sorting through his emotions and thoughts was handled really well. It wasn’t drawn out but neither skimmed over, and I was particularly pleased with how Amory acknowledged her part in Jack’s pain – but how she refused to take responsibility for his choices and actions.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this story, finding the plot complex and substantial and the characters vibrant, realistic and engrossing. The author has woven together a fantastic story with some sizzling chemistry and a lovely romantic sub-plot. A great read and one I shall absolutely enjoy again a number of times in the future.

The Nevada Escapists’ Club by Jane Lark

The Nevada Escapists’ Club by Jane Lark
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Suspense
Length: Full Length (339 pgs)
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Zac senses the connection he has with the single stranger within minutes of their meeting. She, like him, sought a place to escape. But she isn’t running anymore. He is. Ali falls into a holiday affair with a troubled young man. She would never choose a man like him if she was at home. So what will happen when the Las Vegas fantasy is over and her sunglasses tinted view of the world returns to reality? She is supposed to forget everything. It was meant to stop there…

This story revolves around Zac and Ali, two wounded souls who find themselves members of a sort-of club, The Nevada Escapists’ Club – those people who find themselves in Las Vegas trying to escape from the reality that is their life. Some people go to Las Vegas for fun, but others because they can’t face what is going on in the real world. But can two such wounded souls help each other or will they bring each other down?

Ali is a successful barrister who discovers that her perfect life is not what she thought it was and leaves England for Las Vegas to put some distance between her and her cheating husband. She’s lived through a lot before this marriage and so her reactions to discovering his unfaithfulness is certainly colored by that.

Zac has his own set of issues he’s trying to escape and, from the first time he and Ali meet, senses they have a lot in common and wants to find out more about Ali.

The Nevada Escapists’ Club starts out like a holiday romance…. boy and girl meet while on vacation…they discover a connection that takes them beyond the holiday. Yet, there are darker undercurrents that the reader discovers and twists that take it out of the romance element. Yes, there is romance, but there is so much more. Jane Lark looks into how our past influences in so many ways our present. Can we really escape being the people that our past has formed us to be.

There were some niggling editing issues that keep this book from being a full four, but that’s the editor in me. The main characters are well-drawn and their story is definitely a page turner. I was able to read the book in just a couple of nights because I was so drawn into their story and wanted to discover how they were going to overcome the issues they were facing.

Good job, Ms. Lark, on facing some tough issues face on and showing that there is hope for the abused to rise above it.

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A Murder of Principle by Susan Coryell

A Murder of Principle by Susan Coryell
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (275 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

A new principal takes Harding High by storm, wreaking havoc with every executive order and every decision, tearing apart the stellar school tenet by tenet.

Teachers, other administrators, students, parents, and the community at large increasingly react to the tremors shaking Harding High as Principal Wendy Storme churns a destructive path through their traditions, values, and protocol. Everyone associated with Harding has a valid motive for murder.

Determined to save her school and friends, English department chair, Rose Lane, and her rookie sidekick, intern Penny Bright, vow to move the hurricane-force Storme out of Harding for good…except somebody beats them to it with the decisiveness of murder.

What mystery about a school wouldn’t have a mean old principal? This one fits the bill starting with Wendy Storme the new mean principal hired to replace the retiring one. Though she is not necessarily eager to be placed in the position of saving the school, Rose, the new English Dept Head, decides to take on the role and show that new incorrigible principal what’s what. It is such a breath of fresh air to see the teachers (or some of them) portrayed in a good light in this mystery. While they may have been somewhat impolitely vocal about well…you already know who I mean…the mean old Principal, Wendy Storme, they are for the most part eager for their school and their students to do well.

I am not always in favor of books that open with the scene of the crime and then step back in time to describe how we got to that point. I’m not crazy about it at all and I was already set not to like Susan Coryell’s book. But then, she caught my attention and I couldn’t let go or at least not until I was all the way to the very end. Her characters were very clear and her school life description very distinct. In truth, what I thought was going to be a book I would not enjoy turned out to be well-written and very readable.

In summary, Put this one on your TBR list and check out her other books too.

Death Al Fresco by Leslie Karst

Death Al Fresco by Leslie Karst
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (320 Pgs)
Rated 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

It’s up to Sally Solari to serve up a killer before their family restaurant’s reputation goes up in smoke.

It’s early autumn in Santa Cruz and restaurateur Sally Solari decides an open-air painting class is the perfect way for her to learn more about Paul Gauguin, the inspiration for the restaurant she has recently inherited. But the beauty of the Monterey Bay coastline is shattered when Sally’s dog Buster sniffs out a corpse tangled up in kelp.

The body is identified as Gino, a local fisherman and a regular at Solaris’ until he disappeared after dining there a few nights before. Witnesses claim he left reeling drunk, but his waitress swears the old man only had two beers with is meal. And then the fingers begin to point at Sally’s dad for negligently allowing an inebriated customer to walk home alone at night.

From a long menu of suspects, including a cast of colorful characters who frequent the historic Santa Cruz fisherman’s wharf, Sally must serve up the tall order of clearing her father’s name in Death al Fresco, Leslie Karst’s third delectable Sally Solari mystery.

Another killer of a culinary cozy murder, Death Al Fresco is aptly named. Delectable dishes do take center stage, from the trendy sorts like Sesame ginger cucumber salad and Tahitian sea bass, to heartwarming faves, like absolutely anything smothered in ‘Nonni’s Sunday Gravy.

Sally is a chef, a restaurant owner, and …an accidental discoverer of an untimely death. She not only recognizes the victim, but worries about the victim’s connection to her Dad’s restaurant. She’s got enough on her plate, what with her own head chef to deal with, and Eric, who she assures herself is not a love interest, and trying to make every situation, dish and advertisement she runs into ‘politically correct.’

Still, Sally is a sleuth at heart and tackles the mystery without hesitation. Its exactly what we readers expect – with a fun twist, here and there. The political-correctness thing can get a bit tedious, but given the gorgeous setting and strong, unique characters, this really is a solid mystery. The mild (and less predictable) romantic elements add a little something too.

Fans of the genre will enjoy this, and it comes with a bonus: a small batch of recipes from the storyline wrap up the book.

Jayden’s Innocence by Sue Perkins

Jayden’s Innocence by Sue Perkins
Publisher: Caishel Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Short story (77 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Life is hard when Jayden is released from prison.

No one wants to employ him and his family want nothing to do with an ex-con. He retreats to a quiet village with no amenities to hide from the world.

Jayden decides the only option is to clear his name. He did not embezzle the money from his employers but knows all prisoners swear they are innocent.

Will anyone believe him?

Sophie lives in the same village and is willing to help him prove his innocence plus she has the skills to do the investigation.

Their quest draws them closer but danger follows every move they make.

Will their search make things worse for Jayden or will they clear his name?

Newly released from jail, Jayden is trying to figure out how to go on with his life. Wrongly convicted for fraud he couldn’t revert back to his old job in finance. With his family refusing to acknowledge him and no one from the local village willing to take a chance and hire him, Jayden quickly starts to lose all hope. Knowing he needed to clear his name to start his life again, Jayden is determined to prove his innocence.

I enjoyed this sweet story – it had the feel of an old-style romance novel. I was a little intrigued by how stand-off-ish the local villagers were. Initially I was quite skeptical – since I know in a small town the comings and goings of other residents is usually frightfully important and talked about endlessly – but it was the reluctant attraction that Jayden felt towards a pretty neighbor, Sophie, that sold me on this story. At first Sophie’s character seemed quite simple to me – a pretty, nice and sweet local village girl. But just like the other residents of the village neither Sophie – nor any of them – are exactly what they seem at first.

With an interesting plot and a few subtle mysteries that unravel at a deliciously slow pace I found this to be a fun and character-driven sweet mystery/romance. Between the plot of who framed Jayden and sent him to jail for embezzling money that he never touched, to what exactly is going on in that strange little village I slowly found myself getting more and more thoroughly invested in both the small town and particularly the characters of Sophie, Jayden and Jayden’s elderly neighbor, Geoffrey. While the story isn’t precisely realistic (Sophie’s occupation and the other villagers’ secret were a little too coincidental/serendipitous for my liking), I did find both the plot and characters to be excellently written and I personally really enjoyed the slower pace of the story as a whole. The romance unfolds slowly and I thought it was very sweet – just a few kisses right near the end of the story – and honestly the mystery and characters were what captured my attention, the extremely light romance was just a bonus, not a main factor of the story to my mind.

Readers wanting a light and well-written mystery with strong characterisation and just a hint of romance should find this as satisfying as I did.

Lie to Me by J. T. Ellison

Lie to Me by J. T. Ellison
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full length (416 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

They built a life on lies

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

The suspense starts from the first page and continues onward. A mystery intro with a warning, a body being found and then Sutton Montclair has left her husband Ethan a note that she needs time away and don’t look for her. Why did Sutton leave? Will Ethan be able to find her? Who is the sinister voice?

The opening quote “Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds” takes on a whole new meaning by the time you finish this book and reflect back on the events. When you get to the end of the book the pieces will come together. It appears that Sutton and Ethan have a strange and strained relationship. There are secrets that should have been revealed before marriage. The chapters alternate from events that are happening now to past events. The plot has many twist and turns with a lot going on. I feel as if the book was so long. I think the beginning half of Ethan’s story was too long while the second part of the book was quick and to the point.

The main character was Sutton; her friends, her past, her family – all about her. There was little mentioned about Ethan but his voice gave him weight in the story. I ended up liking Ethan. He wasn’t perfect and was man enough to admit his wrongs even though he had reason to dispute or not claim his misdoing. Things aren’t always what they appear. At first I thought Sutton and Ethan had a weird relationship of secrets and arguments but as the story is told I knew that Ethan loved Sutton and that he wanted a family with her. Sutton was naive and too open to sharing information. This fault proved to be a part of the breakdown in their marriage.

I figured out who the antagonist was early on in the story but there was more to solve in the puzzle. The ending was not predictable. The book is excellently written, and the plot is well planned and staged out. A sinister plot of revenge and planning to get back at those that have been wronged. Each chapter delivers more clues to bring the reader closer to solving the mystery.

I enjoyed the police women Officer Holly Graham and Inspector Amelie Badeau. They were fair and both were interested in the facts and not going by what was implied. They both worked off of the clues and logic. Officer Graham was up for promotion but instead of calling the case closed she continued to work the case to solve it.

My book club members enjoyed the book and so did I. This is highly recommended for those who enjoy suspense with lots of twist and turns.

Next of Kin by James Tucker

Next of Kin by James Tucker
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure
Length: Full length (337 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

A New Year’s Eve celebration begins with the pop of a champagne cork—and ends with the bone-chilling screams of a killer’s victims. Ten-year-old Ben Brook is the lone survivor of the brutal murder of his wealthy family at their upstate New York compound. But from the moment he evades death, Ben’s life is in constant danger. Can NYPD detective Buddy Lock keep the boy safe from a killer intent on wiping out the entire Brook clan?

When two more massacres decimate the Brookses’ ranks, Buddy’s hunt narrows. But his challenges grow as power, money, and secret crimes from the family’s past stand in the way. With Ben more and more at risk, Buddy steps closer to the edge, forcing a relentless killer to become more brazen, brutal, and cunning. Saving the boy will put all of Buddy’s skills to the test…and risk the lives of everyone he loves.

This is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed from page one to the end. Very well written, a plot that is full of suspense and an unpredictable ending.

Ten-year-old Ben Brook is the lone survivor of the brutal murder of his wealthy family and New York Police Department Detective Buddy Lock is the one that is called to duty to protect Ben from a killer who is intent on wiping out the entire Brook clan. As long as the killer is still on the loose more massacres of the Brook’s family are happening and Ben and those around him are in danger.

I enjoyed the bond that Ben developed with Mei, Buddy’s girlfriend, but I felt that their bond developed way to quick. Buddy wasn’t around Ben that much but Ben quickly developed a fondness and need for Buddy. Ben is stated to be ten years old but by his actions his age seemed to be younger.

I like the formatting of short chapters. The author providing the character’s back story did help with the development of the characters and also helps develop a connection for the reader. The author didn’t delve into too much detail but gave enough insight.

The suspense starts from the first page and continues onward. For me the ending was not predictable. The book is excellently written, and the plot is well planned and staged out. The book kept my interest; the murders kept happening and Ben’s life was constantly in danger. Each chapter delivered an intense page turner bringing the reader closer to solving the mystery. This is an action oriented plot that did have a few instances that seemed unrealistic but still gave the story conflict to keep the level of suspense going.

I enjoyed how the author tied in the story with the Holocaust survivors and victims. Reading this brought something extra to the story and gave it realness by making it seem the events could actually be true.

I am looking forward to the next book in the series.