Between Venus and Mars by S.C. Mitchell


Between Venus and Mars by S.C. Mitchell
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi
Length: Short Story (141 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Once Upon a Galaxy . . .

Zana Starchild is on a mission to restore her tribe’s livestock and save herself from one more meal of kelp. Sure, it’s technically illegal to visit Old Earth, but to a rim rat like Zana, galactic laws are really just guidelines. Her wrecked starship just means she’ll need to use her backup plan to get off the abandoned world, an old Earth legend her uncle passed down to her.

Pulled from a relaxing shower, across the galaxy to Old Earth, Galactic Marshall Kyle Kepler finds himself naked and marooned with a quirky rim rat. Zana’s broken more laws than Kyle can count, and he plans to arrest her, just as soon as he can find transport off the planet and a pair of pants.

A junk heap of a starship, a magical tree, and a roving gang of mutant kangaroos are just the beginning of rollicking intergalactic journey filled with laughs, love, and adventure.

This is the kind of Science Fiction I adore!

I’m not a huge hardcore Sci-Fi fan…sometimes the explanations of how things work can get a bit dry, but this story doesn’t bore the reader in any way. More Space Opera than sci-fi, it’s a fun romp through the galaxy. From the moment Kyle is dropped in front of Zana, butt naked and confused, the laughs never stop.

This is my first Soul Mate Tree book and I enjoyed the magic behind the tree bringing together pairs of people who belonged together. Of course, in this book, Kyle isn’t so sure about the whole “belong together” part, at least not at first. After all, Zana is breaking laws, and he’s supposed to be enforcing them.

Zana is a smart-mouthed woman full of sass and determination. I liked her, though I could have used just a tad bit less cussing. It does get a little old after awhile. Kyle was smart, sexy and upright and it was fun to read about how he was able to justify things with Zana after some time.

I did feel a little like a missed some things because I hadn’t read the first books in the series, but not enough to stifle my enjoyment or confuse me in any way. Just enough to know that it would likely have been a richer read for me if I’d been involved in the series from the start.

The author’s writing style is fluid and enjoyable. I really enjoyed his voice and humor. I do love a book I smile through the entire way. Like romance, laughs and a little space opera? I can’t recommend another book more highly than this one to fit the bill.

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Betting on Cinderella by Petie McCarty


Betting on Cinderella by Petie McCarty
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (434 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Garrett Tucker inherits his grandfather’s casino empire and steps into the reclusive billionaire’s shoes as the “Prince of Vegas.” His first act is to buy a bankrupt casino in Biloxi. When he discovers embezzling in his new operation, Garrett goes undercover. His prime suspect is the new finance supervisor—the spitfire brunette who stole his heart at first sight.

Andi Ryan moves to Biloxi to care for her godmother and takes a job as finance supervisor for the renovated Bayou Princess casino. She discovers someone is skimming from the till and starts her own investigation, worried she will be blamed for the theft when the new owner discovers her godmother has a gambling addiction.

A rival Vegas competitor has sent a spy in to ruin the Bayou Princess, and Garrett and Andi are forced to work together to prove her innocence and discover the identity of their casino spy.

Filled with interesting, colorful characters this most recent take on Cinderella certainly entertains.

Andi is a fun character, caring and loyal. Garrett is a picture perfect hero, except for that pesky detail he forgets to tell Andi as they become embroiled in a relationship. Flora, as the “fairy godmother” in this tale is just a hoot. And we have an evil stepmother and step-sister to seal the deal.

While not a suspense novel, this story does have some of the elements: an embezzler, crime, mystery…but it’s handled with a light touch and the emphasis is on the romance. The relationship is sweet (Andi has a few hang-ups about sex, so the couple keeps it pretty chaste outside of a few steamy kisses) and I admit to thinking Garrett was a little too good to be true. Perhaps the author painted him thus so it was even harder for Andi to accept his secret later on? I won’t say that the “surprises” surprised me much (well, maybe one), but they weren’t the point of the book.

At its heart, this is a romance. It covers all the right things to fit tidily into the romance genre and fans of the genre will thoroughly enjoy the book. It’s not earth-shatteringly unique or a book I’ll likely remember years from now, but it was one that made me smile and kept me reading until the very end and, ultimately, isn’t that what romances are all about?

Last Resort by Amber Malloy


Last Resort by Amber Malloy
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (173 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

African American socialite and bestselling crime writer Cayden Young returns to her high school stomping grounds to solve a cold case. Unfortunately, her hot business partner is in her way. In love since high school, they couldn’t work out their rich-girl, poor-boy differences. While she attempts to put the past to rest, she ends up unearthing a more than a decade-old secret that could get her killed.

Former Marine Levi Scott is ready to take over his family’s resort fulltime. The only problem is he needs to buy out his partner, who he happens to be in love with. Always on unsure footing with the wealthy beauty, he is determined to get her out of his life for once and all, and decides the best way to do so is offering to help her solve a thirteen-year-old cold case. Soon, they figure out the murderer may still reside in their posh resort town … and Cayden could be next on their list.

Intriguing mystery, amazing chemistry and awesome characters make this story a pleasure to read.

I like Cayden. Yes, she’s a rich girl, but she’s not snobby or annoying about it. She’s a strong, confident woman, and I liked her take charge attitude throughout the story. Levi was interesting, too. Yes, this is the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks and the rich girl, but despite the old trope, the author makes it interesting. They have some awesome scenes together and I love their snappy dialogue. They’re both well rounded and real. And, boy oh boy, do they have sparks! Hot, hot, hot! Be prepared for some smoking hot fun between the sheets in this one! I really liked them together, so while there’s plenty of sex, it’s meaningful and helps to advance their relationship and not just there for titillation.

The mystery is well written, too, and kept me guessing. I do have to say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the time jumps in here and honestly, they are the only reason this didn’t get a 5 star rating. They would jerk me out of where I was in the story and each time, it took me awhile to get back into it.

No complaints about the author’s overall skill. This is a good book and I can easily recommend it, especially to fans of the genre.

Year One by Nora Roberts


Year One by Nora Roberts
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (419 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

It began on New Year’s Eve.

The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed―and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magick rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river―or in the ones you know and love the most.

As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

Get ready to read something unlike anything you’ve read by Nora Roberts before. I hadn’t even read the blurb before I picked up a copy of Year One and so had no preconceived notions of what I should expect. I’m really glad of that, though I will say that this book starts a trilogy that’s completely different from her previous works. It’s not romance, not really, though there are obviously relationships in the story and it’s not her typical annual trilogy following sets of people (either three or four women and men) who have some goal to reach and end up falling in love on the way.

Now that I’ve said what this book isn’t, let me tell you what it is. It’s fairly dark and depressing, and after the initial near-extinction of the human race, a battle of good and evil begins that is exceptionally reminiscent of The Stand by Stephen King. The book starts by showing us the unleashing of evil, in the form of a plague that kills more than 5 billion people. Additionally, many of the immune develop unexpected powers (they become witches or fairies or shape-shifters or other paranormal beings). There are good and bad in both the “uncanny” and those without new powers. Just like anything else, how things are used depends on the character of those who use them.

The story follows a few groups of people who ultimately merge together. We have Max and Lana, two lovers who were already somewhat aware of their powers prior to Doom (the name given to the plague), but became exponentially more powerful after. Then there is Arlys, a TV reporter who does her best to honestly and factually report about the demise of humanity and the world as we know it. Next is Jonah and Rachel, an EMT and a doctor. Each begins the trek out of the city (New York) on their own, and each set of folks pick up others on their journey.

This is not an uplifting romance, or a tale with much that is light. There are pockets of happiness, but they are few and far between. The world is ending. Violence is on the rise. The uncanny are being hunted, tortured and murdered. Evil is growing. Despite the fact that dark stories are not usually my preferred reading, I had a hard time putting this book down. I was completely invested in the characters, especially Eddie and Jonah who really grabbed me by the heartstrings. I needed to see what happened to everyone–but be prepared, just as in real life, not everyone is going to make it to the end.

There is also “the one”… the person who will apparently be the one who can save the world. I honestly found this a tad corny and struggled with the idea, but am reserving judgment until the next book which I imagine will give me a chance to be a bit more accepting. I also didn’t like the character arc Ms. Roberts gave Lana. I want to avoid spoilers, but I found her behavior at the end (a change of heart, you might say) to be a bit difficult to believe.

I’ve heard from others that they didn’t even bother to read past the first few chapters because this isn’t a typical Nora Roberts book. While I wish they’d have given the book a little more of a chance, they’re right. I recommend you pick up this book not expecting that. Instead, just be prepared to be engaged. Don’t force your own preconceived notions about what the book should be, enjoy it for what it is. I certainly did and can’t wait to read the next in the series. I, for one, am glad to see Ms. Roberts spreading her wings a bit and endeavoring to not just churn out something usual or clichéd. Despite the darkness here, she still engaged me and did the one thing I think she does best: created characters that mattered to me. Ultimately, that’s why I read books and it’s one of her strongest abilities.

Grab a copy. Read it. Then let me know what you thought.

Where Danger Lies by Donna Del Oro


Where Danger Lies by Donna Del Oro
The Jake Bernstein FBI Series, Volume 3
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Suspense/Mystery
Rating: Spicy
Length: Full (278 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

FBI Special Agent Jake Bernstein is recruited to help investigate two apparently unrelated cases while on medical leave in San Diego. A female officer assigned to Naval Base Coronado has been killed and a Muslim woman is viciously beaten and left for dead.

Meg Larsen is in San Diego pursuing additional teaching credentials but is interested in becoming an active volunteer and helping Jake in his investigations. She’s more than ready for Jake to commit to her and give her a reason to alter her career plans but also gets drawn into the danger that surrounds his cases.

Jake must use his training and skill to keep everyone safe but there’s a chance that even if he’s successful in solving the cases, his relationship with Meg may be a fatality.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. I haven’t read the first two in the series, so I worried a bit about being able to understand the undercurrents between characters and the backgrounds and such. While I do think my experience with the story might have been richer if I’d read the others, and I would have understood Meg and Jake’s relationship more fully, I never felt lost during my reading of this book.

The plot was solid and interesting. The author does a good job with red herrings and mysteries and leaves the reader wondering just which way is up. There are plenty of misleading clues, along with solid ones, so we are just as deceived and confused as Jake and his NCIs are. It takes some sorting and sleuthing to figure it all out, but the mystery definitely comes to a satisfying ending.

The romance, for me, wasn’t the strongest part of the book, and this may be where my not having read the first two stories may have put me at a slight disadvantage. In the beginning, it seems as if Meg doesn’t trust Jake (she grills him a bit about whether he was with another woman when he traveled for work) and that made me not like her as much as I wanted to. Of course, we’re in Jake’s POV and can see that he wasn’t being unfaithful, and can also see how he feels about Meg, so that may be part of that, too. I was already on his side and didn’t like Meg questioning his loyalty.

There were some odd word choices, and some phrasings throughout, that were a bit awkward for me. It’s very likely a personal issue and may not bother most readers, but they did pull me out of the story on occasion.

That said, I really did like Jake and enjoyed watching him (with help from a few other folks) unwind the mystery of the murder and assault. He’s a good, honorable guy with plenty of smarts (and looks) and made a great hero for this romantic suspense novel.

All-in-all an enjoyable read. I do wish I’d read the first two books, but only because I really liked Jake and wanted to know more about him and his background. My TBR pile is incredibly tall, but I may have to add the first two Jake Bernstein books to the top!

Falling for Hope by Eryn LaPlant

Falling for Hope by Eryn LaPlant
Publisher: First Born Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (260 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Alexander Bronwyn keeps his heart well-guarded, except when it comes to his son, Elliot. When his son’s declining health requires a dire bone marrow transplant, adopted Alexander must delve deeply into his past to find those who share the same DNA.

Elaine Hannel thought she lost her first-born forty years prior during childbirth. That is until he came to her uncovering a decades’ old mystery she didn’t know existed. Shocked, Elaine is forced to relive the past she’d put behind her so long ago, with a former lover and the death of her child she only met for a blink of a moment.

While the rest of the Hannels are confused, and feel deceived, Lucy Brooks is the only person accepting and sympathetic of Alexander and his plight. A single parent herself, she sees in Alex a man who will do anything for his son, no matter the pain and conflict it causes. What she doesn’t see is the soul connection to a man so overburdened with life, all he has left is to let go and let her take some of that away for him.

I know this is a romance, but I’m telling you right now… Elliot is my favorite book character of the year.

Falling For Hope follows the stories of two people whose love lives up to this point have been abysmal. Neither has a good record for choosing a partner, and yet they’re both still so big-hearted and loving. Both Alexander and Lucy are adorable folks and I thoroughly enjoyed following their story. And I loved the entire group of characters we get to see — I haven’t read the other books in the series, and while it was clear I’d missed something (the other couples would casually mention how they’d met, and there were clearly some very exciting stories there) this book stands solidly as a standalone.

I did think Alexander’s story was believed too easily. Yes, I know Elaine’s story was a secret and folks couldn’t have known it easily, and apparently he resembled his father, but the Hannels are a very well-to-do family and would be an easy mark for a con man. So I did have some reservations at how quickly Elaine was willing to welcome him into the fold with no actual proof. Of course, the kids had their issues, but it was one of those things that poked at me. Also, as much as I loved Elliot (and I really, really did) he was pretty darn precocious for his age. Also, given their love life backgrounds, I was honestly surprised at how quickly our two main characters fell madly in love.

However, those concerns aside, this is ultimately a story about love, in its many forms. Above and beyond the romance between Alexander and Lucy, we get Elaine’s story (and boy, does her husband love her), the story between mother and son (Lucy and Cameron), the story between father and son (Alexander and Elliot) and so much more. It tugged the heartstrings and made me feel and that’s the sign of a really good story.

Hearts at Seaside by Addison Cole


Hearts at Seaside by Addison Cole
Publisher: World Literary Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (280 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Sweet with Heat: Seaside Summers features a group of fun, flirty, and emotional friends who gather each summer at their Cape Cod cottages. They’re sassy, flawed, and so easy to relate to, you’ll be begging to enter their circle of friends!

Hearts at Seaside by Addison Cole is the sweet edition of New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster’s steamy romance novel Seaside Hearts. The stories and characters remain the same and convey all of the passion you expect between two people in love, without any explicit scenes or harsh language.

In HEARTS at SEASIDE…

Jenna Ward is vivacious, spontaneous, and confident—except when she’s around the man who stole her heart years earlier, strikingly handsome, quiet, and reliable Pete Lacroux. After years of trying to get his attention and overwhelmed from dealing with her mother’s new cougar lifestyle, Jenna’s giving up on Peter—and is ready to explore other men.

As the eldest of five siblings, with an alcoholic father to care for, boat craftsman Pete Lacroux always does the right thing and has no time for a real relationship. He’s looking forward to seeing his friend Jenna, a welcome distraction who’s so sexy and painfully shy that she equally entertains and confuses him.

When Jenna picks up a hard-bodied construction worker, jealousy ignites Pete’s true feelings, and he’s unable to ignore the desires for Jenna he never realized he had. But Pete’s not the quiet guy he appears to be, and his life is anything but conducive to a relationship. Can Jenna handle the real Pete Lacroux—the most alpha male she’s ever seen—or will she crack under pressure? And can Pete reclaim the life he once had without tearing apart his family?

Hearts at Seaside is a light read with plenty of fun and sizzle. Don’t let the “sweet” tagline fool you…much.

I’ve never read a book by this author, but was glad I chose to this time. While clearly part of a series, it’s easily read as a standalone (though I imagine a reader would pick up on more “in” jokes, depth, etc., if they’ve read the previous books).

Jenna has spent her last six summers pining over hottie, Pete. But whenever she’s around him, she’s completely tongue-tied, leading him to believe she’s a shy mouse who’d not really interested. Lots of mixed messages between them at the start, but when Jenna starts dating another hottie, Charlie the construction guy, all bets are off. It wakes up Pete’s feral side and he’s determined to claim Jenna for his own.

My absolute favorite thing about this book was the friendship between the four ladies who spent their summers at Seaside. They’re very different, yet very devoted to one another. Their playful interactions kept a smile on my face the entire time.

I was surprised at how much the book revolved around sex and sexual talk and hot, hot, hot foreplay. Yes, the actual bedroom door might be closed, but this is not a typical “sweet” romance. So if you go into this (as I did) expecting that, you’ll be … surprised. Depending on your preferences regarding sex in romance will decide whether that’s a good or bad surprise for you! “Sweet with Heat” is definitely a good descriptor. There’s plenty of heat!

I think the one drawback to my not having read the first two books was that I felt Jenna and Pete got very hot, very fast without very many pages going by. I realize they have a past — years’ worth of past — but it was still surprising. And Pete is pretty forceful, something Jenna appreciates, but occasionally came across as bossy/pushy to me. However, the fact he rescued a puppy and also the care he takes with his father adds a lot of points. He might be a little pushy, but his heart is huge and loyal.

Also, despite this being a pretty light, fluffy read, there is some dark/depth to it when it comes to Pete’s father–an alcoholic who desperately misses his late wife. The parts with him about broke my heart, and it also creates the only actual conflict for our couple’s relationship. Jenna’s mom getting over her divorce was treated a little more lightly, but is still a heart-string tugger, at least for me.

All-in-all, the writing was solid, the editing clean, the characters interesting and well-created, the storyline fun and believable–a solidly good read I can recommend to lovers of romance.

One Truth Revealed by Robena Grant


One Truth Revealed by Robena Grant
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (268 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

At thirty-five-years of age, and with pressure from her adoptive mother, Lina Bright is ten days away from undergoing Artificial Insemination in London. She doesn’t need a husband. She travels to Oldcastle to meet her biological mother, a spinster who runs a village teashop. To keep her mother’s secret, but determine her father’s identity, she creates the cover of scouting for property to start a new school.

A bachelor at forty, Drew Compton is an English Professor in Oxford. Diagnosed with “poor swimmers” his fiancée left him. He plans to live out his life alone, with his books. Disliking his mother’s secrets and controlling ways, he seldom returns to Oldcastle. But a chance meeting has him intrigued. Who is this chic Londoner?

As Lina’s plans for a school become a reality, romance blossoms, but roadblocks ensue.

Will Lina and Drew trust in each other to overcome the difficulties and create a future together?

With a passel of adorable characters to drive this story, One Truth Revealed was both entertaining and enchanting.

I have to admit first off that I didn’t love the start of this book. Lina felt vaguely “stalkerish” when she saw a cute guy in a car and follows him to his destination, then positions herself in a manner to meet with him. I don’t think he realized what was going on, but I was a little icked out by her behavior. Drew, however, was absolutely charming and I could see why Lina was intrigued by him. Conveniently, he was on his way to the same small town she was. And once I got to know Lina better, I was definitely on her side.

Once they reached Oldcastle, things really got fun and busy. I really adore small town stories, because everyone is always all up in everyone else’s business and it’s just a hoot. While not laugh-out-loud funny, I did have a smile on my face quite often while reading. I just adored so many of the folks there!

I appreciated Lina’s attempts to figure out who her father was and I loved how she integrated herself into the townspeople’s lives. She was as charmed as I was–most of the time. But there are so many secrets and lies, some generations old, that it causes problems with her goals, and with her relationship with Drew. I appreciated the somewhat slower pace of the book as it felt exactly right with the setting and characters as well.

If you like a character driven story, with a romance between somewhat more mature characters (Lina is 35, Drew is 40) I can definitely recommend this. My quibbles were few and my enjoyment was high.

Temptation Trials by B. Truly

Temptation Trials (Part 1) by B. Truly
Publisher: Self
Genre: Sci-Fi (dystopian/futuristic)
Length: Full (261 pgs)
Heat: Hot
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Poppy

Will You Be Tempted? Will Love Save Your Soul?

One nation under his reign.

Cardinal sins of man caused humanity to pay the price. Cali Nasser grew up in a world succeeding World War III. The aftermath forced the world dictatorship that she must now live in. A new Regime arose from the ashes. They demanded obedience and cooperation from every citizen, even in matters of the heart.

One domain … One accord … One nation. That is the moral code. In Cali’s eyes, it all revolves around a twisted plot for control.

It used to sicken Cali how people would allow the Regime to test their love through the Temptation Trials. That is, until she met Kincade. Cali’s entire point of view changes when she falls for him. She struggles with herself, debating if she should challenge the government’s law of arranged marriage.

Cali’s childhood friend, Stefani, always kept a positive perspective about their lives until she was threatened with the same dilemma, at odds over the man she loves.

Now Cali and Stefani face a desperate choice—submit to the Regime’s will, or fight for what they value most—love. Although lust, mistaken for love, could lead to damnation. Do they give up on love or sign up for the Temptation Trials, a reality TV show where every temptation is laid before them?

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Can love save their souls?

An interesting premise … sort of “The Bachelor” meets “Temptation Island” with a touch of the Hunger Games.

Set in our future, post-WWIII, there is a all-powerful leader who’s set down a number of rules in order to maintain order and control. One of these rules involves who you can marry. No one gets to marry for love anymore, but all marriages are assigned based on assumed compatibility. However, if you think you’re in love with someone, you can marry them if you make it through the Temptation Trials.

Cleanly written, the story certainly has an interesting premise. I liked our heroines (and heroes, though we don’t see them as much once the trials start — the story is told through alternating POV of two heroines) and admired their determination to do what they thought was right. But weeks in the company of other men, being forced into dating several of them and then having to choose one to spend the last part of the trials with … it’s more than most people would be able to resist. Our ladies are no exception.

I did find the story a little sparsely written … the author seemed to be in a bit of a hurry to get from place to place, and some description was lacking. Also, though there weren’t overt grammar errors or typos, there’s more to good editing than that. The story had a bit too much “telling” instead of “showing” and I don’t think a character ever “said” anything. It was blurted, screamed, announced, shouted, pointed out, etc. I have to admit it drove me a little nuts, but it may not be the same for you.

That said, though, I definitely got caught up in the characters. There are quite a few to keep track of, but their names and personalities are unique enough it’s not too hard. There is lots of sex talk and plenty of sexual action (not all intercourse) but this isn’t surprising. The idea of the trials is to show people that love isn’t true and they should fall in with the ruler’s decisions.

There is some mystery involved as well, and the story ends in a cliffhanger, so be warned. However, if you’re looking for a smoking hot, futuristic story to sink your teeth into, this one is a decent choice for you. I’d read the second one, if only to find out who ends up with who!

The Recipient by Audrey J. Cole

The Recipient by Audrey J. Cole
Publisher: Gum Tree Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full (301 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

A year after serial killer Michael Rhodes is executed and allowed to donate part of his brain as an organ transplant, Sergeant Wade McKinnon gets called to a murder scene that shares uncanny similarities to those of the late Michael Rhodes. Other similar killings happen around Seattle, and Wade seems to be the only person still alive who knows enough about Michael Rhodes’s murders to be able to replicate them. When evidence found at one of the crime scenes points to Wade as the killer, he races to find the real culprit before it’s too late to clear his own name.

Elle is overjoyed when her husband, Brian, gets a second chance at life when he receives a partial brain transplant after suffering a debilitating stroke at the age of thirty-seven. Their lives seem to return to normal, but Elle notices a disturbing change in Brian’s behavior. When Elle learns that her husband’s brain cell transplant came from Michael Rhodes, she fears that Brian now has the mind of a serial killer.

A psychological thriller — my favorite kind of story — with a twist.

The Recipient follows a couple of folks… one is Wade, a cop and a recovering alcoholic who, six years prior had arrested the person called the Seattle Slasher, who was subsequently put to death by the state. However, new murders start to occur, with details known only to those closest to the case and this puts Wade under the microscope. People in his own department begin to think he could be committing copy cat murders.

The other main character is Elle. Her husband receives an experimental brain cell transplant, which restores his former health after a stroke, but he starts behaving oddly and out of character. When Elle finds out the cells came from the Seattle Slasher, she wonders if personality characteristics can also be transferred with those cells.

I love that Wade is not perfect. He has problems and doubts. His best friend and partner was killed during the apprehension of the Seattle Slasher, and he’s never completely recovered from that. He’s been sober just over a year now, and is doing his best to stay that way, but the new murders test that resolve. Elle loves her husband, or at least loves the man he was. She grows to be afraid of this new man, and eventually she works with Wade in trying to discover just exactly what is going on. Wade needs to prove his innocence, and she wants to discover just exactly what is happening to her husband. Both of these characters really tugged at my heart. They’re good people; earnest, kind, caring. And stuck in a set of circumstances neither could have ever imagined.

I’m not a fan of infidelity, and have to admit I was worried originally as I read it, that this book might stray into that territory. It doesn’t, really, though both characters do grow to have some feelings for one another. This is, first and foremost, a mystery and a well written one at that. The story and the characters drive this book forward, and made me want to keep reading. It’s smoothly written, and the only time I had any issues with the writing was the use of “alright” instead of “all right”. It’s actually used quite a bit, especially near the end, and it’s one of my language pet peeves (blame an exuberant junior high teacher). Also, the way the ending panned out had a frequently used technique that I’m just not a fan of in mysteries (I can’t be more specific without spoilers — and I promise, you do NOT want this story spoiled for you). Those were the main reasons, both based on things that are personal to me and may not bother you, that this story didn’t get the full five stars.

I really liked Wade and Elle. I noted on the cover of this book that it’s “An Emerald City Thriller” and I’m hoping this means we’ll see more of these two in the future. I’d sure like to see how they move forward after all the trauma of this book.

I highly recommend The Recipient to fans of the genre and look forward to reading more from this talented author.