All the Little Truths by Debra Webb

All the Little Truths by Debra Webb
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Legal investigator Finley O’Sullivan has dealt with her share of shady characters, but the firm’s latest client has an even darker past than most. In fact, Nashville Metro Police seems to think he’s a murderer.

Finley isn’t so sure. Her investigation into Ray Johnson’s history focuses on the unsolved murder of a teenager who died thirteen years earlier. The case went cold, but questions remain. After the girl’s death, people close to her started disappearing—Ray’s brother first, then the girl’s mother. But why?

As Finley races to solve a decade-old murder, she uncovers new clues and long-buried secrets that could blow the case wide open. But whoever killed the girl all those years ago may still be a threat—and now the chase is on.

Secrets can be dangerous and even the smallest truths might make a difference if they are revealed.

This book had me engrossed from the first page. “All the Little Truths” follows Finley O’Sullivan with her unusual skill set for finding out the truth; it does not matter if her client’s innocence or guilt is discovered in the outcome. This is book three of the Finley O’Sullivan series and Finley is tasked with solving a high-profile cold case murder that happened thirteen years ago.

The book is part of a series however I was able to follow along and understand the events that took place in the previous book. How thoughtful of the author to give a refreshing overview of what happened in the series previously to those that read the earlier books. I am sure new readers will appreciate the recap as I did, it helped to give some insight into what happened to Finley previously. The tide bits about what happened to Finley’s husband piqued my interest, and now I want to go back to read the previous books in the series.

The author’s writing is always enjoyable to read and easy to follow. The plot is suspenseful although I did figure out early on who the killer was, finding out how all the other parts fit into the story kept me reading. The story did not lag at any point, however there were times when I felt the story was taking too long to get to its full truth. There was not a dull moment in this book, the multilayered plot made sure of that. Not only is Finley working on solving the Lucy Cagle murder, she is working to find out what happened to Ian Johnson, Finley is also mentally dealing with the aftermath of what happened to her and her husband. She discovered her neighbor Helen Roberts passed out in the backyard and takes the time to visit her in the hospital, and she makes the decision to run for District Attorney all the while a stalker is following her. See what I mean? A lot happening, but the author did not miss a beat in keeping each plot point moving with sufficient details and making sure all had closure. I could not even think of one question. Skillful writing and editing make for wonderful reading pleasure.

Finley’s drive and determination is evident, she holds true to only caring about finding out the truth even when it looks like her father may have some involvement in what happened to Lucy. Finley is juggling a lot, but she does it well. She is a character to be admired and one I want to read more about.

The novel’s end was very unexpected for me, this astonishing twist was unsettling and unusual. The author’s craft in mystery writing is intense and descriptive and it is evident that her goal is to keep the readers interested. That goal was achieved. The places and details mentioned show that she does her research into the structure of her novels. This is characteristic for a Debra Webb book, and her well-structured suspenseful plot will surely ignite enough curiosity to keep readers reading in one session. Recommended.

Untouchable by Jayne Ann Krentz

Untouchable by Jayne Ann Krentz
Publisher: Jove/Berkley New York
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Quinton Zane is back.

Jack Lancaster, consultant to the FBI, has always been drawn to the coldest of cold cases, the kind that law enforcement either considers unsolvable or else has chalked up to accidents or suicides. As a survivor of a fire, he finds himself uniquely compelled by arson cases. His almost preternatural ability to get inside the killer’s head has garnered him a reputation in some circles–and complicated his personal life. The more cases Jack solves, the closer he slips into the darkness. His only solace is Winter Meadows, a meditation therapist. After particularly grisly cases, Winter can lead Jack back to peace.

But as long as Quinton Zane is alive, Jack will not be at peace for long. Having solidified his position as the power behind the throne of his biological family’s hedge fund, Zane sets out to get rid of Anson Salinas’s foster sons, starting with Jack.

Jack Lancaster is a renown FBI consultant with a particular talent for hunting down cold cases related to fire. His true interest lie, however, in tracking down Quinton Zane – the charismatic cult leader responsible for murdering Jack’s mother and burning their retreat down and nearly killing the many women and children residing there. Winter Meadows is a therapist assisting Jack with some of her talents. When Winter is threatened and Jack fears it’s linked to his own past can they work together and each survive the fiery path ahead of them?

I am a pretty long-term fan of Krentz’s having enjoyed her romantic thrillers for many years now. While this trilogy hasn’t been one of my favourites of hers, you can always be guaranteed of a solid and enjoyable read from her and this book is no exception. Vibrant, layered and interesting characters, coupled with some steamy chemistry and a well-woven and solid plot this book has a lot going for it. As the final book in the trilogy I have to admit at least a passing understanding of the history and bigger picture will probably give a reader far more enjoyment with this story. The author does an exceptional job in filling in the backstory but it might feel a bit too much for a reader fresh to this storyline to catch up on.

That said I greatly enjoyed a number of the small links to previous books and series, especially the cameo from Arizona Snow – and feel this really added some depth and texture to the story as a whole. In the beginning there was a fair bit of backstory – to Jack as well as Winter – that needed to be laid down and while I feel this slowed the pace of the story as a whole I have to admit it fleshed out the characters wonderfully for me. I was really invested in both Jack and Winter and don’t feel I would have been so connected to them had this attention and detail been given near the start of the book.

Once the plot and action began, this book was a live-wire. The pace became exceptional and the suspense and plot really grabbed my focus to the point I got annoyed when I had to put it down for real life stuff. This – for me, at least – is the hallmark of reading a Krentz novel. They all usually grab me to some degree and don’t let go. This book was no exception. I felt the speed and pace of the story after it gained momentum was exciting and I felt the chemistry between Winter and Jack was believable and steamy. I thought the author balanced these two aspects of the story well too – with neither the plot nor the romance crowding the other out.

Readers who enjoy a steamy and well plotted romantic suspense probably already are well versed with this author. She has tons of books out and this was another excellent read. I’d probably suggest readers go back and read the two previous books in this trilogy – but it’s not strictly necessary to enjoy this book itself. I felt this was strong and entertaining read and a weekend well spent.

Match Point by Cassie Cole

Match Point by Cassie Cole
Publisher: Juicy Gems Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Dicentra

For the past decade, I’ve put my love life on hold to focus on tennis.
Now I’m retired and ready to relax.
Until three swoony men from my past come walking back into my life.

First there’s Dominic deGrom, the chiseled all-American boy who stole my heart when we were teenagers.
Then there’s Tristan Carfrae, the tall Australian whose serve is as undeniable as his quick smile.
Finally there’s Gabriel Moreau, the suave French player whose cocky attitude is completely at odds with the softer personality I see behind closed doors.

These three tennis pros are competing against each other at the biggest tournaments in the world,
While fighting for my love off the court.
Can I choose which of them I want to spend the rest of my life with?
Or will all three of them end up winning the match point?

Cassie Cole has always been one of my favorite authors with books available, and her latest release Match Point was another smash hit. The book starts with our four main characters as teenagers at a tennis academy, where the guys all share a single kiss with heroine Miranda during a party game. Sadly, nothing happens at that point and things fast forward fourteen years to where Miranda is a tennis pro who recently decided to retire after earning the #1 ranked spot. By some happenstance of fate, Miranda runs into all three of her past crushes (within days of each other) and they have to figure out how to make things work now that they’re all grown up.

For those who might not be familiar, a reverse harem romance is a book where a single female protagonist has three or more male love interests. It can also be referred to as a why-choose romance. In terms of spice, I would rate this at around a 4 or a 5 (descriptive and explicit intimate love scenes, bordering on intense).

As opposed to other authors in the reverse harem genre, Ms. Cole’s books always include a great plot and show evidence of lots of research being put into crafting a believable story. I don’t know much about tennis or sports in general (outside of what watching the Olympics or playing on the Wii has taught me haha) but Ms. Cole made it easy to follow the scenes with lots of technical descriptions. There were also a lot of names I recognized as other real life tennis pros and real life tennis tournaments (i.e. Wimbledon and the US Open) being referenced in the book which was cool. All of the characters in the book had a part to play and were amusing to read about, and I really enjoyed how the ending turned out for the quartet.

Overall, Match Point was another stellar read from Cassie Cole. Her books are a perfect choice for when you’re looking for a fun and steamy reverse harem romance you can finish in an afternoon. If you’re not into reverse harem stories and are looking for a more traditional romance read, I highly recommend checking out her pen name K.T. Quinn where she writes monogamous happily ever after romance stories (with the same amount of spice).

*The Last Close Call by Laura Griffin

*The Last Close Call by Laura Griffin
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group. Berkley
Genre: Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

A talented genetic analyst and a detective who’s haunted by an elusive cold case team up in the new standalone romantic suspense from New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin.

Forensic genealogist Rowan Healy has made a name for herself by helping investigators trace the family trees of violent criminals who have eluded justice for years. But the pressure of police cases left her burned out, and she’s shifted her focus to helping adoptees find their biological parents.

Austin detective Jack Bruner has spent his career successfully tracking down vicious criminals—with the notable exception of the West Campus Rapist, a meticulous offender in Texas who has never been identified. When the latest two victims come to light, Jack sees his target is escalating his violent behavior—and only with Rowan’s help does he stand a chance of cracking this case.

Moved by Jack’s dedication and the brutal details of the attacks he lays out, Rowan agrees to help. When her ground-breaking DNA research sheds new light on the criminal’s background and helps them zero in on a search radius, Rowan and Jack must race against the clock to find a ruthless killer who’s growing bolder the longer he evades the law.

Laura Griffin writes a compelling story filled with mystery, romance and lots of suspense. The Last Close Call, her latest book, had me on the edge of my seat, quickly turning the pages to find out what would happen next.

This enthralling story takes place in Texas. The two main characters Rowen, a genealogist and Jack, a detective meet while working on a case involving a serial rapist. Jack and Rowen have an immediate connection, a lot of chemistry and I enjoyed all of their interactions. They are both dedicated to their jobs and don’t have time for relationships, but the pull they feel toward each other is impossible to resist.

This intriguing story was the perfect mixture of romance and suspense. The plot is interesting and the story held me spellbound. I felt like I was right there with Jack and Rowen and this story kept me interested until the very end. I enjoyed reading about all the behind the scenes police work Jack is doing trying to catch the serial rapist. Jack feels a lot of pressure because he knows time is running out, until the rapist strikes again. Laura Griffin is one of my favorite authors because she knows how to write an intriguing romantic story and she never disappoints me.

Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle by Jennifer Ivy Walker

Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle by Jennifer Ivy Walker
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical Romance
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Gabrielle is a flame haired, fire hearted French princess who dreams of becoming a Valkyrie warrior queen like her Viking ancestors from Normandy. Sent to Paris to learn the proper etiquette for a future French queen, she is called home to le Château de Beaufort for a forced marriage to a man she loathes when her father the king’s precarious health takes a sudden turn for the worse.

Chivalrous, solitary knight Sir Bastien de Landuc suffers an impossible love for Gabrielle, the unattainable princess he can never have. Without a title of nobility, he is ineligible to compete in the tournament for her hand in marriage, despite his unparalleled equestrian skills and inimitable swordsmanship.

Yet, Yuletide wishes for a wondrous winter solstice in the glorious Crystal Castle might make impossible dreams come true.

Can the valiant knight win the coveted hand of his Viking Valkyrie?

Ms Walker takes us into the time of King Arthur and introduces us to friends and family of Sir Lancelot. Lancelot’s mother and two of her friends have their own wishes for the upcoming winter solstice.

Gabrielle is called home because her father, King of Finistere, has suddenly become ill and wants to see his daughter safely married before his death. Unfortunately, there are many men who would like to get their hands on the princess and her kingdom, so the king devises a plan for her to be sworn to a winner of a joust.

It is obvious from the beginning that Gabrielle and Bastien de Landuc, her champion and her protector, are meant for each other, but there are numerous things that stand in their way – Bastien’s lack of nobility, forces from without. Ms. Walker leads us through the twists and turns of bringing them together with her wonderful storytelling ability.

I thoroughly enjoyed the research that went into this book and the scattering of French phrases lends a touch of realism. There were, however, some words and phrases that, in my opinion, were overused. This could very well be because I’m an editor in my other life and may be more conscious of things like this than the normal reader, so it may be something that wouldn’t bother any other reader.

If you enjoy medieval romances, winter traditions, and a helping of passion, give this book a try.

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Wicked Secrets by Anne Marsh

Wicked Secrets by Anne Marsh
Publisher: Harlequin Mills And Boon
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Before Mia Brandt and Tag Johnson rediscovered each other on Discovery Island, they shared a memorable one-night stand. Eight hours of dancing, laughter and red-hot passion before they both shipped out to serve overseas. Tag didn’t think he had any regrets about loving and leaving his strong-willed Master Sergeant, but he’s about to be proved deliciously wrong…

Former military pilot Mia Brandt is on a cruise ship with her cousin as part of a bachelorette party. Only a few months out of service, Mia has plenty on her plate and even in her worst nightmare she hasn’t come up against anything like this bachelorette hell. And then at one of their ports, Mia runs into Navy rescue swimmer Tag Johnson – a one night stand she’s never managed to forget. Events get out of hand and soon Mia find herself left behind on the small island with Tag, and in the space of a few short days their secrets begin to grow out of control.

I found this a delightful romp of a story and easily got sucked into Mia and Tag’s chemistry. I particularly loved how they each were very much the take charge type of character and yet they never let it interfere too much with their chemistry or trust. Both of them were used to giving and receiving orders, and in so many ways Mia and Tag were evenly matched I found it a real pleasure to read about them working out how to come together as a team and find the common ground between them.

I found the whole story quite refreshing and modern, and I particularly enjoyed how it didn’t slot into one of the usual romance novel tropes or genres. Mia had some flashbacks from her service – which I found so refreshing and realistic – and Tag initially wasn’t ready to settle down but slowly came to the realization that he wanted the fake engagement between himself and Mia to become the real deal. It was wonderful and I just couldn’t put this book down once it got going.

Fresh and different I thoroughly enjoyed this spicy romance story and I know I’ll enjoy re-reading it again sometime soon.

The Christmassy Cactus by Beth Ferry

The Christmassy Cactus by Beth Ferry
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Holiday, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Tiny Cactus loves Christmas!

But she doesn’t love that her little girl seems to be spending more time with the giant sparkly tree in the living room than with her. Maybe if she were decorated like the Christmas tree, her little girl would notice her again.

And so Tiny Cactus makes a wish—to be special, to be noticed, to be a part of the magic of Christmas. With the support of her friend and some Christmas magic, Tiny Cactus learns that wishes can come true if you believe hard enough.

It’s not really Christmas until everyone is included.

Jealousy comes in many forms, but it generally isn’t talked about in books about this holiday in my experience. I liked the fact that the author acknowledged how celebrations can accidentally leave some people – or cacti – out of the fun and what someone should do if they feel like they’re being left behind. This was a thoughtful exploration of how to deal with a difficult emotion and how to think the best of others even if their actions sting a little.

I was surprised by the fact that no one in this story thought to decorate Tiny Cactus, especially given how much she was loved by her little girl. When I was a child, I put small, light decorations on my family’s house plants at Christmas time. It would have been nice to know why these characters didn’t think of that solution as it was a pretty simple fix for the conflict.

One of the other things I liked about this tale was how realistic it is. Other than the fact that the cactus could talk, everything else was firmly rooted in what could really happen that would make the holiday season more memorable for everyone involved without requiring the intervention of anyone wearing a red suit and passing by in a magical sleigh. This is an uncommon choice for this genre, but it worked really well for the subject matter.

The Christmassy Cactus was heartwarming.

Stonebridge by Linda Griffin

Stonebridge by Linda Griffin
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Paranormal, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

After the death of her mother, Rynna Dalton comes to live with her imperious great-grandmother and her bookish, disabled cousin Ted at Stonebridge Manor. Almost immediately she is aware of a mysterious presence, which she believes is the spirit of her mother’s murdered cousin, Rosalind. Rynna is charmed by Rosalind’s lawyer son Jason Wyatt, who courts her, and she agrees to marry him. Meanwhile, Ted and Rynna become good friends.

But Stonebridge holds secrets that will profoundly affect her future. Why is Ted so opposed to the match? Why does Rosalind seem to warn Rynna against it? And how far will Jason go to possess Stonebridge—and the woman he professes to love?

Family is forever.

Ms. Griffin had a smooth writing style that makes reading her stories a delight. She seemed to know exactly when vivid details were required and when it was better to allow the audience to imagine certain moments for themselves. That is not an easy thing to balance, but it’s one of the reasons why I try to request as many of the books she submits to Long and Short Reviews as I possibly can. Whatever else may happen with the plot, I know that I’m always going to want to read just one more page of the polished stories she writes.

I would have liked to see more character development, especially when it came to Rynna. She had a habit of making rash decisions and not listening to the people around her who had serious concerns about her life choices. While this flaw definitely made her interesting to read about, I also wondered why she behaved that way and why she was so stubborn at the worst possible moments. If only that had been better explained, but this is a minor criticism of a tale I otherwise found enjoyable.

It was amusing to see how the author mixed the romance, mystery, and paranormal genres together. The plot weaved its way among all three of them. While more attention was paid to the first two, the third one popped up in some creative ways as well that other readers should discover for themselves so that I don’t spoil anything for them. There is definitely something to be said for blending so many different types of storytelling together, especially when they all bring out important aspects of the plot that might have otherwise not had a chance to shine.

Stonebridge was a memorable and exciting read.

How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney? by Mac Barnett

How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney? by Mac Barnett
Publisher: Candlewick
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When Santa arrives at a child’s house on Christmas Eve, does he go down the chimney feetfirst or headfirst? What if he gets stuck? What if there’s no chimney? Maybe he slides under the door, as thin as a piece of paper? Or is it possible he pours himself through the faucet? What happens once he’s inside? Whether it’s shape-shifting or impromptu laundry use, Mac Barnett’s iconic talent for earnest deadpan humor and Jon Klassen’s irresistibly funny art honor the timeless question with answers both ridiculous and plausible, mounting in hilarity as the night continues. Channeling a child’s fanciful explanations (and begging for further speculation), this latest collaboration by a New York Times best-selling team will find a secure spot among family holiday traditions.

A little magic is all Santa needs.

The creativity of this tale made me chuckle. I laughed out loud at an early scene showing the reindeer gently lowering Santa into a chimney head first, and the answers to this riddle only grew wilder from there. They reminded me of the way small children think about the world and how they can sometimes expect large things like a person to magically fit into small spaces with a little effort. It was delightful that the authors were able to tap into this portion of childhood and really dig deeply into the wacky side of how Christmas Eve visits from a magical elf might work.

As amused as I was by the premise, I would have liked to see a bit more character and plot development. Almost all of the pages were dedicated to coming up with all sorts of ways that Santa may enter homes even if there’s no chimney to climb down. I kept expecting the narrator to eventually share a solution that seemed more likely than the rest, and I was a little disappointed when that never happened.

With that being said, I did appreciate how the author wrote this to appeal to all sorts of children. Whether a little one wholeheartedly believes in Santa, is skeptical about the idea but still hopes it is true, or doesn’t believe at all, there were scenes in here to amuse a wide variety of audiences. I should note that this could easily prompt kids to discuss their differing beliefs about Santa if this is read in a mixed group of opinions, but I think that can be a good thing for everyone involved if handled well. Differences should be celebrated, not ignored!

How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney? was a cute and cheeky read.

Embracing Love by Sara Ohlin

Embracing Love by Sara Ohlin
Rescue Me, book 4
Publisher: Totally Entwined
Genre: Romance, Erotic Romance, Contemporary
Rating 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

When a broken woman risks her heart for the neighborhood hottie, heat rises from the ashes…

Once broken and abused, Sasha Kincaid is slowly rebuilding her life in the quiet town of Corvallis near her brother, his new wife and their group of friends. She’s content to work quietly at the bakery she secretly owns while learning to rebuild her trust in people. But when she starts to have steamy feelings for Connor Duggan, Sasha doesn’t know how to handle her emotions.

Neighborhood hottie and town favorite, general contractor Connor Duggan has only had eyes for Sasha Kincaid ever since she stepped foot in Corvallis a year ago. When she gives him an opening, he jumps at the chance to make her his, no matter how long it takes her to feel comfortable.

Connor’s warmth and patience allow Sasha to fall into a friendship, then an amazing sexual relationship with him—but believing it will be temporary and that’s all she’s worth. As they grow closer, Connor realizes he must win over her heart, not just her body, meaning he must push past his own insecurities of being rejected to battle Sasha’s fears and ghosts.

But the biggest obstacle is Sasha herself. Can she learn to trust again, and believe that she deserves a beautiful life with Connor?

Two people finding love again after some serious strife…this is the right book.

I love Sara Ohlin’s writing style. It’s breezy, quickly paced and keeps my attention. The characters are well-rounded and like reading about real people. I love that. I like the idea of escaping, but I also like reading about people I could know. That’s what this author does best.

The connection between the characters is quick, but it’s not rushed…if that makes sense. I knew they were the ones for each other, but I liked how the story slowly unfolded. It wasn’t forced. They had baggage and got time to sort it out before being thrown into a relationship. It was great to read. Connor is handsome and the stuff of book boyfriend dreams. Sasha is great, too, because she’s relatable.

If you’re looking for a fun book with a solid romance, then this one is the one for you. It’s the fourth book in the series, but don’t let that stop you. Consider it a reminder to pick up the rest in the series. I will be.