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.

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Man Down by Tracy Tappan

Man Down by Tracy Tappan
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full (371 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

After being shot down by the Taliban on a Special Operations mission, a Navy pilot and Navy SEAL rescue a beautiful humanitarian doctor. While the three of them evade capture in a race for their lives across northern Pakistan, the two former boyhood friends heal a 10-year breach, and the pilot and doctor find a way to let go of their painful pasts to find love.

Content guidelines: Contains profanity and adult situations. Sensitive readers might find a scene depicting the death of a pet upsetting.

Filled with action, lots of military jargon and enough romance to satisfy, Man Down kept me turning pages from the start.

First, I have to say how grateful I was for the easy to use glossary in the book. One click on an unfamiliar military term took me to the definition, and one more click took me right back to where I was in the story. Loved that feature!

While the book was presented to me as romantic suspense, I’d be more inclined to call it an action novel with romantic elements. Yes, our H/h met near the beginning of the book and there was clearly attraction between them, but not much more than that until nearly the end of the book. And, actually, I didn’t mind that at all. One complaint I often have with fast-paced “thriller” type stories is how the characters manage to take time to heat up the sheets while their lives are on the line. That didn’t happen here, and made things feel more realistic and authentic. When they did finally get physical, though… WHEW! The heat was on for sure!

I’m not typically a fan of stories told through flashbacks, though, and this book is packed with them. I understand what the author was trying to accomplish, and that the information needed to be shared with the reader; the flashbacks were a fantastic way to put the reader in the moment and let us feel what the characters were actually going through (and some of the things that happened were incredibly horrific–note the warning in the blurb), but even so, the time jumps were frequently frustrating for me. Other readers may not have the same trouble with them.

The characters were interesting and well-rounded. I got very invested in them and worried a lot during their trip out of danger. I really enjoyed Farrin and how open and honest and caring she was. It was a little surprising, given her background, and I was pleased to see she hadn’t been permanently scarred by her treatment as a child. I was utterly horrified by Jason’s upbringing, though, and I read one scene right before bed that I couldn’t get out of my mind for some time after.

All-in-all I was impressed by this author. I’ve never read anything by her (and as an aside, this is part of a series, but stands alone just fine) but I fully intend on reading the next book. I have got to know what happens to Shane!

Allegiance by Marilee Brothers


Allegiance by Marilee Brothers
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (312 pgs)
Heat: Hot
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Transplanted California girl, Melanie Sullivan, vows to stay in Oregon until she nails the killer of her best friend, Dani. Mel’s ability to search a soul for innocence or guilt is a big plus. Her love for Billy the Kid, former Marine and now a detective with the 3 Peaks police department is also a factor in her decision. She’s not quite sure what’s going on with Billy. Has the PTSD from his Middle East deployments returned?

When a hate crime is committed in 3 Peaks, Mel is recruited by sexy Homeland Security agent, Mick, who requires her soul-reading ability. Mick doesn’t hide his feelings. He’s more than eager to step in if Billy steps out, a complication Mel doesn’t need or want. As she goes undercover, Mel embarks on a dangerous journey, aided by her Uncle Paco and devoted friends. Along the way, she learns a valuable lesson about the power of forgiveness.

Filled with interesting and unique characters, and a heroine with a unique ability, Allegiance was absolutely entertaining.

We jump right into the story, after an off the page quickie with her boyfriend, Billy. Mel is sure she knows who killed her best friend and is basically stalking him in order to prove it. She’s asked for help from another friend, Mick, who wants to be more than friends… but then more things start happening.

Okay, first the one and only thing I didn’t like about this story: the point of view. It’s told in first person, present tense and it honestly drove me crazy. Had I known this ahead of time, I likely wouldn’t have selected it for review, because it’s the one POV I can not stand. Despite the engaging stories and characters here, I kept putting the book down and struggled to make it through simply because of the chosen POV. This is absolutely a personal preference, but I had to put it out there because it overshadowed everything else for me.

That said, the author’s done a fantastic job populating her story with interesting, quirky characters. While it’s clear there was a story previous to this, I had no issues at all keeping up with this book. Perhaps my experience would have been richer if I’d read the first book, but I honestly didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

I liked Mel. I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes…the ability to “read” a person by looking into their eyes would be both disturbing and annoying. As much as we might profess the desire to know the truth, it’s a heavy burden to bear.  She handles it quite well.

I definitely had my preference for which of the two men who wanted her I liked best. I’m not going to say here because I want to avoid spoilers, but I don’t think my preference was the same as Mel’s despite the way things were situated at the end of this book.  I didn’t feel like she had honest feelings for the one she’s with at the end, so the next book should be interesting.

The mystery kept me engaged and turning pages and the wrap up was solid and believable. But the strength of this story was absolutely the characters. I’m a huge fan of character driven fiction, so that was a huge plus for me.

All in all, Allegiance is a good book. Likely had a different POV been chosen, I’d have rated it higher and enjoyed it more. If that type of thing doesn’t bother you, then I highly recommend it… it’s a solid book.

Stormchaser by Cherry Adair

Stormchaser by Cherry Adair
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (353 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

DESIRE RUNS DEEP

Somewhere off the coast of Greece, a king’s ransom in gold, emeralds, and silver coins lies waiting at the bottom of the sea. Finding this ancient treasure would be a dream come true for marine archeologist Calista West. But that’s not why she’s here. She didn’t climb aboard Jonah Cutter’s magnificent yacht seeking fortune or fame. She’s come for revenge—against the sexiest, most seductive, modern-day pirate she’s ever encountered…

Like his famous half brothers, Jonah is a master of salvaging ships—and driving women mad with his movie-star looks and raw animal magnetism. Tall, dark, and devastating, he manages to make Callie forget her mission. Every moment they share under the hot Mediterranean sun is an erotically-charged adventure neither can resist. But when Callie discovers what he’s really after—the lost city of Atlantis—is it too late to change the course of her heart…or go all in with the lover of her dreams?

Looking for Atlantis! Wow, so not what I expected. Stormchaser is third in a series. I wasn’t aware of this when I selected it, and I had no issue following the story, though–as always–it will likely be a richer experience if you’ve read the others.

This is my second Cherry Adair book, and she definitely has a “way” that she writes. Regardless of the storyline, attraction between the H/h is hot, erotic and immediate. Looking for a seriously sexy story? Look no further.

Jonah reminds me of any good, fictional “pirate”. Yes, he’s the captain of a ship, but I could picture him hundreds of years earlier underneath the skull and crossbones. Dark, strong, mysterious. However, he’s far to honorable for that.

Callie isn’t as honorable, and it took me some time to warm up to her. She’s on his ship on a lie, a big one, and it was tough for me to forgive her for it because I liked Jonah.

The premise of the book was interesting, too … I love the idea of potentially finding Atlantis. It’s this big mystery that lingers and makes a person wonder. Very well handled by the author.

The only hiccup I had was the lack of a true connection between Callie and Jonah. Heat? Oh yeah, in spades. Lots of sheet time here. But that little “spark” that makes a romance reader’s heart go pitty-pat? I didn’t feel it authentically.

Still, Ms. Adair’s writing is strong, descriptive and very clear and visual. I’m only just now finding her, but thankfully, she has a full backlist for me to explore. And I assuredly will.

Blood Dragons by Rosemary A. Johns

Blood Dragons by Rosemary A. Johns
Publisher: Self
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full (294 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Escape into a supernatural world of love, revenge and redemption, where vampires are both predator and prey.

TRUE BLOOD MEETS NEVERWHERE
1960s London. Kathy is a seductive singer. But she’s also human. Light knows his passion for her is reckless but he’s enchanted. Yet such a romance is forbidden. When the two worlds collide, it could mean the end. For both species.

When Light discovers his ruthless family’s horrifying experiments, he questions whether he should be slaying or saving the humans he’s always feared. What dark revelations will Light reveal at the heart of the experiments? Will he be able to stop them in time? The consequences of failure are unimaginable. Unless Light plays the part of hero, he risks losing everything. Including the two women he loves.

A rebel, a red-haired devil and a Moon Girl battle to save the world – or tear it apart.

Blood Dragons is the explosive first instalment of the new fantasy series Rebel Vampires from the critically acclaimed author Rosemary A Johns. Experience a thrilling new twist on urban fantasy with vampires, Rockers and dark romance.

First off, I need to state that I’m not calling this a romance, despite being (somewhat) marketed as one. More, it’s an autobiographical novel written by Light, a vampire. It’s written (ala the Notebook by Nicholas Sparks) in order to remind his human love, who is aged and suffering from dementia, of their past. Much of the book doesn’t even really include Kathy.

The author has done a stellar job, though, of capturing Light’s unique voice. Given that it’s in first person and essentially being “told” to us, it’s remarkably engaging and well written. He’s a tough character to like, at least at first. He’s so angry and rough… but as we get to know where he’s from and how he became who he is now, it’s understandable and he becomes more sympathetic. I’m honestly surprised at the depth of skill shown by the author to write the book in such a fashion and make it ultimately so readable.

I did, however, truly struggle with the abundance of British slang. I’m familiar with much of the commonly used words (like “chuffed”, or the fact that in the UK what we call a trunk here in the US is the boot). However, in this book, nearly ever page is packed with slang/British words I simply didn’t understand and often times couldn’t infer their meaning from the use. It was exceptionally frustrating and pulled me out of the story constantly. It made reading the book, which should have been a joy because of the author’s talent, more of a chore than I would have liked.

Additionally, I’m a big fan of happy endings. I don’t read Mr. Sparks’ books for that reason. This book tugs deeply at the heart-strings, and really can’t possibly end well (immortal in love with a mortal is just asking for heartbreak, yes?).

However, I’m still in awe of the writing itself. Descriptive, interesting, evocative. For folks who enjoy perhaps more “literary” paranormal fiction that will challenge the brain a bit, and creates an entirely new vampire mythology, then I highly recommend it. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the slang, and the impossible-to-be-truly-happy but understandable and ultimately, the only ending it could have in order to be satisfying, this author has writing chops.

Absolute Doubt by Cherry Adair

Absolute Doubt by Cherry Adair
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full (360 pgs)
Heat: Hot
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Poppy

In a situation this volatile, something is bound to blow!

Three. . .

T-FLAC operative Asher Daklin is running out of time in his race to end the production and sale of the word’s most deadly explosive before a cataclysmic terrorist event occurs. This op isn’t just his last chance at redemption, it’s deeply personal. Because of him, E-1x took his brother’s life and nearly incapacitated him. Now, with the timer counting down the remaining hours, he has to go deep under cover at the home of the mastermind producing the deadly explosive and stop him. Daklin can’t allow anything, or anyone, to distract him from his mission.

Two…

Lingerie designer River Sullivan is on a mission of her own—to find her genius brother. When millions of dollars are inexplicably wired to her account she knows he’s trouble. Traveling to the small mining town of Los Santos, situated in the mountainous jungles of Cosio, she accepts the hospitality of her brother’s employer and searches for clues as to Oliver whereabouts. If only she wasn’t overcome with inappropriate lust for one of the other houseguests- a gorgeous bishop with a warrior’s body and laser-sharp eyes that hint at deep, dark secrets.

One!

River and Daklin find themselves in a race against time, hampered by staggering odds and overwhelming desire. Daklin has one final, desperate chance to prove himself, keep River safe, and save the day. . .

What a wild ride!

I’ve never read anything by Cherry Adair. I’ve heard her name, seen her books around, but never made the jump until now. And, I have to say she’s got mad talent!

The start of this book nearly broke me… the prologue is about the death of Daklin’s brother. Ms. Adair clearly showed the fear and desperation inside Daklin as he rushed, without success, to save his brother. I know it was necessary to give Daklin the impetuous to do whatever it took to get the bad guy, but man, was it crazy emotional.

I loved the heroine in the book, River. She was hell on wheels (or maybe that should say “heels”). Gorgeous, but tough and determined, she was exactly (and the only) the kind of woman Daklin would fall for. I loved so much that his undercover assignment was as a Catholic bishop! Talk about a fly in the ointment for their attraction.

The action was non-stop and the reveal of the bad guy surprising, as well as how crazy he was. Be warned, though, the sex in this book is borderline erotic, there are fairly constant sexual references throughout, and there are touches of BDSM mentioned (in some cases, it’s used for controlling another person). But, Daklin is a rough guy, and it would follow that sex for him would be down and dirty. I’m not usually one to read spicier books, but it absolutely didn’t stop my enjoyment and for those who enjoy it, this will certainly meet your approval.

I understand that this isn’t the first time Ms. Adair has written about T-Flac, but I had no problem following the story and I never felt lost. I’m sure there were things I might have missed that followers of the series will see, and it will certainly make their experience even richer.

All in all, a really good, sexy, action adventure. Recommended!

Luke’s Redemption by Anni Fife

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Luke’s Redemption by Anni Fife
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (386 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Chased by her criminal kingpin father, Katya Dalca runs to New Orleans and straight into the arms of Luke Hunter. Sucked into the carnal world of the French Quarter, she succumbs to Luke’s potent sexuality. He not only steals her breath, he steals her heart and the only leverage she has against her father. She is left with no choice except to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life alone.

Undercover DEA agent Luke Hunter thought his newest assignment—recover a stolen flash drive to gain the trust of the Russian mob—was like any other. But his target brings him to his knees, and after one taste of her intoxicating beauty, he’s in too deep. Doing his job means walking away, leaving his heart behind with nothing but a promise to reunite. It’s a promise he can’t keep.

When Katya’s past reaches out and her world unravels, her only hope is the one man she is most vulnerable to—Luke.

Wow, what a ride! Luke and Katya basically fall for each other after one hot night together, but lies, duty and betrayal pulls them right apart again.

Katya is horrified her father wants to marry her off to a creepy son of a Russian mobster, so she runs — but not before grabbing a flash drive her father prizes above all else as insurance. I have to admit, if I were on the run from my mobster father, I’d have left with nothing and given him less reason to track me down, so that didn’t gel with me entirely. Still, without the flash drive, we have no story, so I told my niggling voice to shush and kept reading, mostly because I really, really liked Luke.

Luke was awesome. Hot, sexy, smart, caring. His friendships were solid, especially with Gray, and (except when doing his covert job) he was honest and just a good guy. Although I get that he’s tough and a man’s man, it did get old that he used the F word as adverb, adjective and punctuation. After awhile, it’s just annoying. But, since that was essentially his only flaw, I could overlook that.

Katya annoyed me a bit at first. I was wondering why it was okay her father was a horrible human, but it took the threat of marriage to make her leave. She also did some incredibly thoughtless and impetuous things occasionally, bringing her perilously close to the TSTL (too stupid to live) precipice. Still, she did some changing and growing over time, and under it all it was clear she had a good heart, so I was willing to give her a chance. I’m glad I did.

The writing was solid and well crafted, and I didn’t notice any glaring editing problems. Honestly, the only thing that drove me a little wonky was the author’s choice of using third person POV for Luke, and first person POV for Katya. I’m not sure why she opted to write it this way, especially since each POV change has the person’s name noted so we know whose POV we’re in every moment. It was jolting, and off-putting for me. I honestly hope her follow up books don’t use this.

And for those of you who love a hot, explicit sex scene (or ten), this is a good book for you! Luke is an amazing and thoughtful lover to Katya, and she’s one lucky girl!

Kudos, too, for Ms. Fife for creating some wonderful secondary characters, especially those who were part of King Security. Gray was especially awesome, but that may only be because we got to know him the best. I look forward to reading more about all of the guys.  It’s a great set up for more exciting, sexy romantic suspense stories. Well done!

The Second Man by Emelle Gamble

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The Second Man by Emelle Gamble
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: Full Length (246 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Poppy

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Jill Farrell’s college reunion is coming up, but she wants no part of it. The man she once loved, Swedish exchange student Max Kallstrom, is rumored to be attending, but that doesn’t tempt her as Max disappeared from her life the night before the graduation, and has never been heard from since.

When her ex-husband, Andrew Denton, knocks on her door and announces he wants to make nice, and, “oh, by the way, one of their class alumni might be a murderer”, Jill’s resolve to avoid the event hardens.

Jill shuts Andrew’s efforts to reconnect down, and tries to put Max out of her mind. And that’s that, until a second man knocks on her door, and the emotions of a time long ago overtakes her. Max Kallstrom tells Jill she’s the reason he has come to California. He asks her to please let him explain why she hasn’t heard from him for fifteen long years.

She’s willing to listen to what he has to say, but immediately realizes that her memories must guide her through a wrenching and dangerous few days. While her heart remembers a handsome young lover, she and her classmates are all different people now, and the reality of a murdered friend proves she can’t trust everyone.

What’s not so clear is if she should trust anyone . . . especially Max Kallstrom.

Once again, Emelle Gamble has written a book that enthralls.

From the first, I was wrapped up in Jill’s life. The story starts with her decision to move her mother, who has Alzheimer’s, into a nursing home. It utterly breaks her heart (both having to move her and realizing that her mother doesn’t really even see her or know her anymore), and it broke mine as well. Then one after another, more heart-rending things happen. Her ex wants to talk to her, her one true love, Max stops by and wants to explain why he left her … and then a friend is murdered.

Poor Jill has way too much going on and doesn’t know where to turn. Thankfully, she has her best friend, Carly to talk to, along with Carly’s husband, Ham. Things start escalating pretty quickly both with Max and the murder mystery. All fingers point to Max as the bad guy, but she has a hard time thinking he could commit murder. In fact, she knows she’s falling in love all over again.

Ms. Gamble has populated the story with exceptionally real characters, all different and unique, with character strengths and flaws. There are plenty of secondary characters (it does involve a class reunion, after all). The town, too, is well written and the descriptions are all clear without being over bearing. It was a nail-biting experience and the reveal at the end was a huge surprise! Well done, Ms. Gamble!

If you’re looking for a strong, well-written romantic suspense that will keep you guessing, I recommend The Second Man. It’s definitely a winner.

The Lullaby Sky by Carolyn Brown

LEAVE A COMMENT BETWEEN 10/31/16 – 11/04/16 TO BE ENTERED TO WIN A PRINT ARC OF THIS BOOK (US ONLY)!

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The Lullaby Sky by Carolyn Brown
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (321 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

After seven years of misery and abuse, it’s all over—Hannah O’Malley is officially divorced. Hallelujah. It’s like every Christmas in her life all rolled up into one glorious day. Not only does Hannah get to keep her grandmother’s spacious old house, but she has full custody of her sparky five-year-old daughter. All Hannah has to do now is put the past behind her.

And now that she’s free, she wants to make a difference. With the help of her warm, close-knit circle of friends—including her high school crush, Travis Wilson—Hannah begins turning her home into a safe house for other women who’ve endured the pain she’s known. But even as life and laughter return to Hannah’s home, she’s haunted by the memory of her dangerously unstable ex. With a second chance at love on the horizon, Hannah must face down her past in order to let the sunshine back into her life.

Not what I expected from the blurb, but still a satisfying novel.

Honestly, from the blurb I expected something a little more Sleeping With the Enemy, but the focus of this novel isn’t the heroine trying to remain safe from her abusive husband. He’s really just not a threat at all to her. What this novel is about is the journey Hannah takes to become a strong, secure woman and how she helps others to become the same.

She has a solid set of friends and family to support her, and the strength of this novel is their interactions. While there are certainly strong romantic elements in this story between her and Travis, I don’t feel that it’s a romance at the heart of it. It’s more women’s fiction in that it’s about Hannah, and her growth and development, and not about the romance. I absolutely feel as if Travis could have been no more than a good friend and the story itself would still stand.

That’s not a complaint at all. Once I shifted my head from “romantic suspense” to simply enjoying the story, I really had a wonderful time. I loved Aunt Birdie, Rosie, Liz and Darcy as well as Travis. They were interesting, believable and unique. And the relationship between Hannah and Travis grew organically and was also believable, considering Hannah’s background of abuse.

If you enjoy books with a small town feel, populated with fun primary and secondary characters and writing that feels so easy and flows without any bumps, I’d recommend The Lullaby Sky. It’s the first book I’ve read by Carolyn Brown, but it won’t be my last.

Black Diamond by Susannah Sandlin

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Black Diamond by Susannah Sandlin
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: Full (266 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

For some people, the untamed beauty of the bayou is a place to hide. For Louisiana wildlife agent Jena Sinclair, it’s a place of refuge—one where she can almost forget the tragedy that scarred both her skin and her soul. But when the remains of yet another fisherman turn up, Jena realizes that Bayou Pointe-aux-Chenes is not safe for her…or anyone else.

The mysterious deaths aren’t her only problem. A dangerous drug known as Black Diamond is circulating through Terrebonne Parish, turning addicts into unpredictable sociopaths. Jena’s investigation leads her to Cole Ryan—a handsome, wary recluse struggling with his own troubled history—who knows more than he’s willing to admit. If they want to stop the killer, Jena and Cole must step out of the shadows of their pasts and learn to help each other…before the evils lurking in the bayou consume them both.

It was good to catch up with Jena Sinclair and the folks from the bayou. The book starts with a bang–a rather gruesome and honestly tragic death-by-alligator that broke my heart. It plopped Jena right back into an investigation after she was cleared to start working again. Everyone but Jena herself trusts her to do the job and make good choices, even (or maybe especially) her loquacious new partner, Mac.

But the crimes don’t stop with that body…there’s also a new drug in town, Black Diamond (or BSC, for “bat shit crazy”) and Jena finds out her younger brother is using. She brings in her former partner, Gentry, to help her make the right choices about that.

Cole was an interesting person. When we first meet him, he does something that makes me wonder if he’s at all trustworthy. Understand, I read an ARC that didn’t have a blurb, so I didn’t know who Jena’s love interest would be. Thankfully, Cole redeems himself. He’s a loner, true, and scarred (by the end, he’s scarred inside and out, but healing), but it’s those very characteristics that make him appeal to Jena. She’s scarred too, from nearly dying in book one, to doubting herself and her looks. She doesn’t think anyone could possibly find her attractive again.

Filled with plenty of twists, Black Diamond kept me turning pages. Nearly 1/3 of the book had Cole, Mac and Jena in a lot of peril and left me a bit breathless. I do wish a little more time had been spent developing their relationship (the book is definitely heavy on the suspense), but it still worked for me. Additionally, if you’re looking for a book with lots of sex, this isn’t the one for you. I think the physical part of the relationship between Jena and Cole was handled just right, but any more books seem really heavy on the sex. I was pleased that the author focused more on emotions than putting tab A into slot B.

I’m really enjoying the series and look forward to the next… who will be up next time? There are a couple folks Ms. Sandlin can choose from. I can’t wait.