Watch Me by Jody Gehrman

Watch Me by Jody Gehrman
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (308 pgs)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

For fans of dark and twisty psychological thrillers, Watch Me is a riveting novel of suspense about how far obsession can go.

Kate Youngblood is disappearing. Muddling through her late 30s as a creative writing professor at Blackwood college, she’s dangerously close to never being noticed again. The follow-up novel to her successful debut tanked. Her husband left her for a woman ten years younger. She’s always been bright, beautiful, independent and a little wild, but now her glow is starting to vanish. She’s heading into an age where her eyes are less blue, her charm worn out, and soon no one will ever truly look at her, want to know her, again.

Except one.

Sam Grist is Kate’s most promising student. An unflinching writer with razor-sharp clarity who gravitates towards dark themes and twisted plots, his raw talent is something Kate wants to nurture into literary success. But he’s not there solely to be the best writer. He’s been watching her. Wanting her. Working his way to her for years.

As Sam slowly makes his way into Kate’s life, they enter a deadly web of dangerous lies and forbidden desire. But how far will his fixation go? And how far will she allow it?

A gripping novel exploring intense obsession and illicit attraction, Jody Gehrman introduces a world where what you desire most may be the most dangerous thing of all.

I hadn’t read a psychological thriller in what seemed like forever and had high hopes for this one. I liked the opening of the story which is told in two points of view, Kate and Sam, first person, present tense narration which seems to be the norm now. Having said that, with this immediacy I felt I should have connected with one of these characters…I was hoping it would be Kate as she was the one being stalked, but I just couldn’t.

The story line is great, college professor being stalked by student who seems to come more unhinged as the story progresses. However, I couldn’t feel as scared for Kate as I’d like to because I just didn’t like or really feel like I was worried what might happen to her. Sometimes she came across as someone who you couldn’t believe is mature enough to be a professor. Other times, other than the literary connection between Sam and Kate, I couldn’t see why he was so obsessed with her.

Having said that, some of the dialogue is dazzling and their inner thoughts sometimes funny, especially in the opening chapters. The pacing is fast and I think this is a story that you really need to stick with because it’s thrill and creepy factor does pick up toward the second half of the book.

I know I’m a reader who likes to really connect with a character and that’s probably the reason this book didn’t resonate with me but it might for you, especially if you prefer plot driven books.

My Daring Duchess by Julie Johnstone

My Daring Duchess by Julie Johnstone
Publisher: DBA Darbyshire Publishing LLC
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (190 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

When a lady bent on ruining rogues and a duke set on revenge attempt to derail each other’s plans, passion erupts into a love for the ages.

After being left brokenhearted by a duplicitous rake, Anne Adair no longer desires a husband—she wants justice. She’s traded in her foolish dream of happily-ever-after for the much more sensible one of thwarting the blackhearted lords who prey on innocent debutantes. But her first mission proves rather complicated when the dashing, devilish Duke of Kilmartin comes to the aid of her target.

Simon Sedgewick, the newly titled Duke of Kilmartin, never thought he would return to England, let alone attend a ball full of simpering lords. But when his oldest friend’s reputation is being smeared and Simon discovers that the perpetrator is none other than his enemy’s granddaughter, his long-festering desire for vengeance flares to life.

The moment Simon spies Miss Anne Adair across the glittering ballroom, he knows that the ravishing beauty is the perfect instrument for the retribution he thought lost to him. He does not know, however, that Anne has devised a scheme of her own. And soon, these two wary hearts will discover that the best laid plans are no match for love.

This is a lovely regency book with a daring heroine and a revengeful hero. Anne sets out to get revenge or reform a rogue who has ruined her friend. As she plans her attack she meets Simon who also has a reputation as a rogue. The plan falls into place, but she begins to have doubts. Is all as it seems or has someone been lying to get their revenge?

This is one of the better books that steps outside the bounds of Regency propriety. Well written, although there are a few typos, but these are easily overlooked in the flow of the story. Anne’s quest brings the past into the Regency present which will hopefully solve a lot of bitter heartache.

Although this book didn’t grab me and make me sorry to put it down, it was still a very pleasant read with lots of intrigue and excitement.

Engaged to Her Ravensdale Enemy by Melanie Melbourne

Engaged to Her Ravensdale Enemy by Melanie Melbourne
Publisher: Harlequin Presents
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (186 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

In bed with her nemesis…

When Jasmine Connolly’s third engagement is broken off, she decides to make her man jealous by enlisting the help of her enemy, playboy Jake Ravensdale! Jasmine may never have forgiven him for his rejection years ago, but the heartless lothario is the perfect candidate for her plan.

As tensions build, the line between love and hate increasingly blurs, teetering on the brink of explosion! Jasmine might be wearing Jake’s ring, but she can’t let go of the hurt he once caused her. Because if she does, what’s to stop her from falling prey to the Ravensdale playboy’s charms…?

Some books make you feel more emotions than others. This one hit them all. I laughed, got angry, felt sad, compassion and then felt all mushy, but now I’m all bubbly. It’s a mild case of book glow for sure. Engaged to Her Ravensdale Enemy by Melanie Milburne is part of her series ‘The Ravensdale Scandals.’ I didn’t know that until after I finished the book – not that it matters because it can be read as a standalone.

I fell for the hero, Jake Ravensdale. I really didn’t want to. I know he was gorgeous and rich but his rejection to the heroine, Jaz, was cruel. I was quite angry with him. Even though it was seven years ago, I could feel the sting of it as I read about it. I totally sympathized with Jaz. I felt sad when I read about Jaz’s history with her parents but it helped me to understand her life choices. I was able to feel compassion towards her and I respected how she dealt with the side character, Emma. I couldn’t help but to laugh when Jake and Jaz bickered back and forth. They were so quick-witted and snarky with comebacks that I only wish I could be quick-witted like that. The synopsis was spot on when it mentions how the author wrote a delicious balance between love and hate that “teetered on the brink of explosion”; I ate it all up.

Was the plot believable with three broken engagements? Was the plot thread with Emma realistic? Does it matter when we’re talking about the charming Jack Ravensdale? The author’s writing style made it all work. I was entertained and isn’t that why we read books? Sometimes I find it nice to sit back and relax with a mushy romance that makes me feel all goofy even if it might be a bit unrealistic. It could have happened to somebody somewhere. Who am I to say if it’s realistic or not. This was an easy, fun and enjoyable book from beginning to end that I was able to read in a few hours.

I would consider reading the other two books in this series based on how satisfied I was with this one.

Lera’s Sorrow – Darkliete, Book One by Gail Gernat

Lera’s Sorrow – Darkliete, Book One by Gail Gernat
Publisher: Andrea James Publishing
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (58 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Lera and her cousin have completed their long childhood and their training as healers. Sent to their grandparents back in Madean, they must negotiate the strange new world, attain their werwinstans. Fate intervenes in the shape of handsome young Ian, very human and very poisonous to the elven. Trying out her independence for the first time in her life, what will Lera decide? Where will she discover her loyalty to lay, with love or with duty?

Elves, I love elves! This is a story with a difference as Lera has come to her grandparents to be officially accepted as a healer. During the celebrations she bonds with.a human prince and this causes untold problems which is not helped by the lies of a pooka.

For such a short book, this story is full of emotion and intrigue, plus there’s an evil queen and a handsome prince. What more could a reader want when opening a fantasy book? Lera’s healing helps her through bad times but also puts her in danger which adds a bit of spice to the story.

Well written, easy to read and gives satisfaction. Recommended.

The Soldier’s Final Mission by Laura M. Baird

The Soldier’s Final Mission by Laura M. Baird
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short length (43 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When Special Forces Soldier, Bob meets Becca at his cousin’s weekend party, they share one night of explosive passion. But when Bob’s called away on mission after mission, he wants Becca to have a life instead of waiting on him, and tells her to move on. Shocked and hurt, she does, moving to San Diego to eventually marry and have a son, only to divorce shortly after.

Six years later, when a mission incident nearly ends Bob’s life, he reflects on what could have been, never having forgotten the woman who loved him. Bob realizes he’ll do whatever it takes to have Becca back in his life—if she can see past his scars.

Bob had met Becca, his cousin’s room-mate, years ago, before he’d been deployed and shared one special night together. Out of the country far more than in, Bob and Becca had drifted apart until an accident ended Bob’s military career. Broken, but home, Bob was determined to try and turn the chemistry between them into something more than just the one night they’d shared.

This is an interesting short story that I enjoyed reading. Bob was a dedicated solider and most of the story was from his perspective so I liked getting a good understanding of his character and understanding why he acted the way he did. I found the back-and-forth mental time jumps a little choppy, often not following clearly whether Bob was recalling the past – ie how he met Becca – or whether it was present day. Quite a few times I had to back-track and pick up the thread again and sort out whether Bob was reminiscing or whether the story was in the current time. This made the story feel a bit jolted to me, personally, though I admit I enjoyed learning about Bob and Becca’s past. Their history made their relationship more complicated and interesting, but a part of me just wished the author had started with their meeting then jumped forward (only the once) in time while Bob was deployed. I feel this could have easily made the whole story feel smoother to me and helped me not get lost in the timeline.

Once the past and present merged, however, I really enjoyed watching Bob and Becca get to know each other properly. They’d both gone on living their lives, Bob in the military and Becca on the West Coast, far from Bob’s family and her old life. They each have a child and I found it both romantic and satisfying to read them both coming together to form a loving family unit.

There’s only a couple of sex scenes, though I was pleased to find them both descriptive and explicitly written. Readers wanting a hot-and-heavy, highly sexual story might find the erotic side of this story a little lacking, but I personally was pleased that the character development and plot aspects of the story were more heavily portrayed than the sex itself. This made the story feel more complex and emotional to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought this was a good read and an author I will happily read again in the future.

Luska by Will Robinson

Luska by Will Robinson
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (478 pages)
Rating: 3 stars
Review by Peony

The caretakers of the galaxy, the Idrix, are destroyed by an unknown force, breaking down the order that had dominated humanity for nearly a millennium.

Eidi is a unique, precognitive student, who lives on the divided planet of Luska and knows that their future is full of death and destruction, but can she stop it?

Sreiwa is a fanatical spy and assassin who helped enable an invasion of her own planet and becomes a pawn in the deadly intrigue of a Byzantine and brutal culture.

Sellen is an Idrix soldier who escaped the destruction of his fleet only to find himself in a jungle hellscape where his only salvation is in the form of a sworn enemy.

Cigva is an enigmatic AI who joins Eidi to struggle against shape-shifting, mind-controlling deities, nightmare simians, deadly parasites, and a surprising, tyrannical foe from her home planet of Luska.

The real danger lies in the showdown that is taking place between a long-dormant alien race called the Spearfinger, and the anti-alien, god-like Eth, where the ramifications of their confrontation could decide the future of the galaxy and the direction of humanity.

Will Robinson fills the need for a dramatic space opera with his pulse pounding Luska, an exciting adventure with action, a little bit of romance and the depth you’ve been pining for. Part of Robinson’s Spearfinger series, of which more books are the come, the Luska universe already contains three thrilling stories to wet your apatite about Wil’s expansive world building. It can be hard to find a sprawling novel that tries to build a world like Tolkien or Martin, but Will definitely takes aim at the stars.

When embarking on a space adventure, there are certain things the genre brings to mind. You as the reader will come to expect complex characters with a diverse set of motivations that equates to far more than just good or evil. On top of that these sorts of stories usually include organizations and families with their own problems and motivation to deal with. Does it sound like this is a description of a genre? It is, but it also perfectly encapsulates what you can expect when you dive into this novel. The sheer number of characters and groups and the different ways they rub up against one another will make the world feel living and breathing and quickly illustrate the time, love and care that Robinson put into crafting it.

There is a very real risk when trying to make a story this dense. From a reading prospective there can be a lot to absorb and without a clueless outsider to ask the questions for you in the story, there may not be a way to know and understand all the aspects of the world. Luska does have a lot going for it with a complex and evolving world, but this comes at a cost. With a whole host of dense reading, names and places that you’ll have to memorize, if can start to resemble homework. Some people, especially those familiar with epic tales will be excited by this, but for those who are not, the effort does pay off eventually.

Realism is another key factor when writing these sorts of stories, actions have to have reactions that make sense or the whole universe falls apart. That is probably one of the aspects of the grand adventure stories with copious world building that garners them the most praise and failure to do so the most scorn. There are lots of times in this book with a great deal of high tech that decidedly low tech solutions are used instead. Solutions that we wouldn’t even consider using in our pre space age civilization, so the times when it comes up in this story are especially jarring. There are other examples where the actions or motivations do not make a great deal of sense, but no spoilers. You’ll just have to decide how high a standard you hold up to realism in a fantasy or sci fi setting.

However you feel about reading epic space operas, there is one thing that this book conveys without a doubt. The sense of relief and satisfaction when you finish this book is quite unique in that not only do you get a wildly interesting world, but the sense of embarking on your own adventure to finish it. You’ll trudge through the arduous journey with the characters, you’ll struggle as they struggle through sections of tension and tedium, empathetic of their plights. If you decide to pick this book up, there will certainly be that pay off when you finally put it down. Book two isn’t out as of this writing, but there is a lot to enjoy here and with the two accompanying novellas already.

Angelica by Clabe Polk

Angelica by Clabe Polk
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full length (400 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

A long time ago, Angelica Vicetti did some very bad things with some very bad men. Now she’s built a new life for her family, far from Las Vegas. Now it’s all about to come crashing down. Angelica Vicetti of Las Vegas has become Angela Cassetta of Poplar Bluffs, just outside Atlanta, Georgia. She’s built a successful real estate agency, and the son she rescued from Vegas when he was a youngster is now a high school baseball star and destined for great things. But the mob bosses in Vegas who forced her underground haven’t forgotten about her. A string of hit men come to town to kill her, but each time she saves herself and her son, with the help of her friends and Mike Eiser, a local Sheriff’s detective who has seen far worse. Then things get even more complicated, when one of the hit men changes his mind and becomes strangely important to Angela in a whole new way … and a team of Federal agents come to town and ratchet up the odds. Suddenly, sleepy little Poplar Bluffs is awash in blood. Angelica will have to take it all the way to the edge and beyond – into murder, kidnapping, and lying to the Feds – to save herself and her son. But … can she survive the fight for her family’s freedom?

Did you ever think you’d like to run away and start all over? What if it became a reality, a frightening one?

Angelica, the title of this book, is the lead character in this series written by Polk titled “The Detective Mike Eisner Series”. She really got swept into the wrong crowd of people and while you might think that’s each individuals own business, it’s different when you have a child.

This is a really good storyline; lots of action and action written so that you can “see” it; in other words so that you can follow and understand. Truly Crime Fiction involving a lot of mob type characters and also the best cop of course…Detective Mike Eisner and his soon to be wife. At least all of the couples around are hoping they will tie the knot. It was very amazing to me that Polk could involve so many of the good guys and the bad guys in this story, and yet make them be very clear to the reader. When an author is good at writing dialog it is quite an accomplishment and I think that is the key here. I think this author happens to be very good at writing dialog and without our realizing it, a good book and a good story has passed and we’re sad it’s the last page.

This is listed in his book as the 4th book in the “Detective Mike Eisner Series”. There are 5 titles in the series in his book. Let’s hope Clabe Polk is working on number 6.

Crystal Coast Christmas by Sierra Brave

Crystal Coast Christmas by Sierra Brave
Publisher: Loose ID
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday (Christmas)
Length: Short length (72 pages)
Other: M/F, Anal Play, Toys, Spanking
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

After escaping a bad relationship and moving into her aunt’s guest quarters, marine biologist Jessica Butler has sworn off love and relationships. Still, she can’t resist a night of no-strings passion with hunky soldier, Captain Chase Culpepper. Their evening sizzles, leaving Jessica satisfied but wary. Her ex did a great job of destroying her self-confidence, leaving Jessica reluctant to take the plunge into romance again. While Chase is asleep, Jessica runs.

Chase can’t believe he’s found his sexual equal in Jessica. When he wakes up alone the next morning, he’s determined to make Jessica his, in spite of her reluctance to put her heart on the line.

Jessica’s sworn off men for good, but the faster she runs, the more Chase finds to love about her. What will it take for him to win her trust and her love?

Jessica is not in the Christmas spirit. Alone after her now-ex cheated with a woman Jessica considered a friend, she just can’t find it in herself to get into the holidays this year. Chase loved Crystal Coast and was enjoying his usual morning jog when he literally bumped into Jessica. They got off on the wrong foot but Chase is pleased when he has the chance later to make it up to her.

This is a light and fun Christmassy story. Jessica has been pretty badly burned by her ex and carries that baggage around for a fair bit of the start of this story. I felt this made the book drag a little and personally would have preferred if she’d had a bit more time (off-screen) to come to terms with the betrayal. While this did admittedly add a good dose of conflict into the story, I just didn’t like how Jessica wasn’t really open to Chase emotionally in the beginning, and how she kept on expecting him to turn into a jerk.

Despite this – Jessica was more than happy to jump into bed with him, which I found weird since she clearly didn’t trust him and I wasn’t even convinced at their first intimacy that she even liked him. It felt a bit too much to me like rebound sex. Jessica was thrilled that Chase paid her attention and was flirting with her, and since he was handsome she decided to have sex with him and didn’t expect it to go anywhere. While it struck me as realistic, it certainly wasn’t romantic and I felt pretty bad that Jessica had been so messed up emotionally by her ex. Considering Jessica’s poor opinion of most men and her running away before Chase woke up the next morning a small part of me was hoping Chase would go off and find some other girl who could love and appreciate him.

While I never really warmed to Jessica’s character after such a difficult beginning, I was extremely relieved how as the story progresses Jessica manages to stop acting silly enough for me to want her out of the story. When her ex keeps on trying to drag her down Chase works overtime to build up her self-confidence and finally Jessica realizes that not every man in the universe is a jerk like her ex and so she starts to become more emotionally and romantically available for Chase. I found the jump from here into sex-hungry kinky woman a bit of a stretch, but have to admit I did love the steaminess of the sex scenes between Jessica and Chase and certainly felt that their emotional and romantic connection improved a huge amount. There’s some very light spanking and a few toys, a little bit of anal play and the last quarter of the book just flew for me in a very happy manner. I do feel it was worth sticking through to reach this far happier space.

This is an emotional story with a fair bit of baggage, about Jessica finding her way again after being seriously burned. While the heroine annoyed me a fair bit I found the ending of the story to be rewarding. With a smoking hot hero who is perfection in almost every way this was a decent read with some steamy sex scenes that helped me keep turning the pages.

Doubly-Dead Angel Thief by Marc Whelchel

Doubly-Dead Angel Thief by Marc Whelchel
Publisher: Open Books
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full length (243 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Meet V.C. Almond, Mastermind Sleuth, Jack of Some Trades, and the Delmar Loop’s Private Investigator Ordinaire.

V.C. Almond’s life is in the gutter. Divorced and broke, he’s living in a rat trap apartment above the loudest punk music venue in the Delmar Loop. Worse, his dear friend Jake Kennedy, son of crime boss Big Jamie Kennedy, has just committed suicide.

The night of Jake’s funeral, V.C. returns home to find a surprise on his floor: Jake’s freshly murdered, bullet-riddled body. Soon realizing Jake’s double death appears destined to go unsolved, V.C. reluctantly agrees to help private detective Aldous Lewie crack the case.

Stumbling upon the body of a man who’s supposed to already be dead is just the first leg of V.C.’s journey down the rabbit hole.

A funny, sarcastic somewhat whimsical book

Very witty dialog coming out of funny, odd, one-of-a-kind characters. Nothing like having a friend die and then having him die again. Must be where the “doubly” in the title comes from.

I did think the story jumped around a little and the excerpts throughout the book made it a little hard to follow. But this is an eccentric type of story. You have to like the sort of nutty (or crazy) characters with their sarcastic and dry humor. The author has built his story line around a quick, back and forth dialog. I think this is something that is possibly enjoyed more by a specific type of reader. There are some off-color words in this story. Somehow it was not offensive to me. The language fits the funny characters and the dialog. It seems as if I’ve used every possible word to describe Whelchel’s characters but oddly enough, he did a wonderful job of developing them. I think that’s why they are so memorable to me. While this may be as I mentioned a little hard to follow, it is an interesting storyline. A sort of slap stick comedy in a noir mystery.

If slap-stick comedy is your thing, this is even a more modern use of it in a dialog. This is pulled together in a good storyline in a mystery that seems to move very quickly. Definitely worth reading.

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.

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