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.

The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz

The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz
Publisher: Jove
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Decades ago in the small town of Fogg Lake, The Incident occurred: an explosion in the cave system that released unknown gases. The residents slept for two days. When they woke up they discovered that things had changed—they had changed. Some started having visions. Others heard ominous voices. And then, scientists from a mysterious government agency arrived. Determined not to become research subjects of strange experiments, the residents of Fogg Lake blamed their “hallucinations” on food poisoning, and the story worked. But now it has become apparent that the eerie effects of The Incident are showing up in the descendants of Fogg Lake.…

Catalina Lark and Olivia LeClair, best friends and co-owners of an investigation firm in Seattle, use what they call their “other sight” to help solve cases. When Olivia suddenly vanishes one night, Cat frantically begins the search for her friend. No one takes the disappearance seriously except Slater Arganbright, an agent from a shadowy organization known only as the Foundation, who shows up at her firm with a cryptic warning.

A ruthless killer is hunting the only witnesses to a murder that occurred in the Fogg Lake caves fifteen years ago—Catalina and Olivia. And someone intends to make both women vanish.

Catalina and Olivia grew up together in a small town called Fogg Lake. Having gone into the private investigator business together the two life-long friends are surprised but happy to find they not only enjoy it but are quite talented at it too. But when Olivia goes missing and Slater Arganbright turns up on her doorstep seeking help and an offer Catalina can’t refuse, their lives suddenly become a whole lot more complicated.

I have been a huge fan of Krentz and her various series for a number of years now. I have always thoroughly enjoyed her romantic suspense series and I was curious when she clearly started this new series (the Fogg Lake trilogy) as a new paranormal romantic suspense. Readers who have enjoyed her Arcane series, or the Harmony based books under her pseudonym Jayne Castle should find this book runs along a similar vein and enjoy it. I could understand though if readers who pick this book up having not read anything previously by Krentz might find that there’s a fair bit of terminology and references that they have to catch up on. Personally, I wouldn’t let coming to this book cold stop me from giving it a try – I strongly feel that Krentz is a superlative writer and she excels at romantic suspense. I absolutely feel this book is well worth a bit of effort in understanding her paranormal powers and world, but I could understand if it might not suit every readers tastes.

While the paranormal aspects to the story are very strongly influential to the plot, I did feel the more usual mystery/suspense (the plotlines of who killed the paranormal artefacts dealer and what happened to/who kidnapped Olivia) are still very well written and gripping each in their own rights. The romance blossoming between Catalina and Slater was very well written and quite steamy in places, but I have to admit I felt for much of the book this took a somewhat back seat to the other more vibrant plotlines going on.

Also understandably since this is the first book in the trilogy there was a bit of world building and scene setting – which I quite enjoyed, but other readers might feel slowed the pace of the plot in the very beginning of the book. Personally I’d have thought not setting the scene properly – explaining who Catalina and Olivia are, what the circumstances of day-to-day life was in Fogg Lake etc would have been highly unusual and likely lessened my enjoyment of the story, but for a modern romantic suspense often a breakneck pace and having the plot be highly action orientated is considered necessary. Additionally, while the main plots of this story are well rounded and fully resolved – there is clearer a larger story arc that encompasses the whole trilogy, so there are still plenty of questions left revolving around this much larger arc.

An exceptional writer, I find Krentz almost never misses the mark and this was yet another excellent story to add to my shelf of hers. Interesting characters, a few gripping plotlines all neatly interwoven and a steamy romance really had me eagerly turning the pages well into the night. A brilliant read and one I can strongly recommend.

When All The Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz

When All The Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz
Publisher: Jove
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When Charlotte Sawyer is unable to contact her stepsister, Jocelyn, to tell her that one of her closest friends was found dead, she discovers that Jocelyn has vanished.

Beautiful, brilliant, and reckless, Jocelyn has gone off the grid before, but never like this. In a desperate effort to find her, Charlotte joins forces with Max Cutler, a struggling PI who recently moved to Seattle after his previous career as a criminal profiler went down in flames—literally. Burned out, divorced and almost broke, Max needs the job.

After surviving a near-fatal attack, Charlotte and Max turn to Jocelyn’s closest friends—women in a Seattle-based online investment club—for answers. But what they find is chilling…

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Max Cutler enjoys his work as a PI even though his first career as a profiler for the FBI – along with his marriage and the home he’d made for himself – all went down in flames during his last case. When he agrees to take on a client who insists his cousin’s death isn’t what it looks like Max meets Charlotte and together they discover the unusual link between Charlotte’s step-sister’s mysterious vanishing and Max’s suspicion, death. Soon they’re working together, each determined to find some answers.

Jayne Ann Krentz has been a staple of my reading material for more years than I’m comfortable remembering. This book really brought home to me just how amazing she is as a writer, because over the years (gulps: decades!) she has continued to grow and thrive in her writing style. She has always been an exceptional writer but I found this book really exceeded even my own high expectations.

For example – this book had a good number of strong, varied and interesting secondary characters (the investors group of four friends, the nursing home residents and Max’s family as just a few). Whereas there is almost always some secondary characters to help flesh out the world and situations – I thoroughly enjoyed that this book really had a higher than usual number and yet the quality and interest in this large group remained high. I also really enjoyed how the plot wasn’t linear – numerous threads all wove slowly but steadily together and the story-telling around this and weaving the pieces together was not just artful but entrancing to me.

As I admitted above I’ve been a fan of Krentz’s for ages, but like all relationships it ebbs and flows. Some books hit the mark better than others and while they’re all good – there are different levels of “good”. I adored this book and it really hit a number of my “excellent” buttons so I rate this book above a number of her other recent works. Now sure, there are the usual tropes which are as comforting and enjoyable as they are predictable – Charlotte is smart, savvy and has a “crash and burn” relationship in her near past, Max has his own issues and a far bigger “life-altering moment” in his past and they each are dealing well with their respective histories and baggage. They’re both strong characters, attracted to each other but cautious of getting burned again and focused on the mystery and task at hand – all the usual tropes. But that doesn’t detract (for me, at least) one inch from the enjoyableness of the story, and for sure it doesn’t lessen the intensity of their characters or the situation at all. Indeed the comfort and known quantity of these aspects helps me enjoy the tension and weaving of the multiple plots more than if I was trying to grapple with their character and objectives. I know this style of characters and can enjoy the plot and circumstances more because I’m not questioning or catching up on other parts of the story.

Readers who love a fairly traditional style of romantic suspense should definitely give this book a whirl. If you haven’t read Krentz before you can pretty much look into anything of her backlist in the last 10-15 years and chances are good there’s a number of decent stories there awaiting your perusal. Krentz is a go-to for me for solid, enjoyable, believable and interesting romantic mystery/suspense. This is definitely one of my favourites though they’re all of a high quality. The romance is a slow-burn and while the bedroom door is left open the focus of the romance is more emotional and Charlotte and Max connecting and working their investigation together with a bit of bedroom sizzle thrown in – this is not an explicit or heavily graphic romance story, but a solid mystery/suspense with a good dash of romance woven in and balanced well.

A solid and thoroughly enjoyable read, I was delighted by this and can heartily recommend it.

The Kindred Spirits Supper Club by Amy E. Reichert

The Kindred Spirits Supper Club by Amy E. Reichert
Publisher: A Jove Book published by Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Jobless and forced home to Wisconsin, journalist Sabrina Monroe can tolerate reunions with frenemies and kisses from old boyfriends, but not the literal ghosts that greet her in this heartwarming tale of the power of love and connection from acclaimed author Amy E. Reichert.

For Sabrina Monroe, moving back home to the Wisconsin Dells–the self-described Waterpark Capital of the World–means returning to the Monroe family curse: the women in her family can see spirits who come to them for help with unfinished business. But Sabrina’s always redirected the needy spirits to her mom, who’s much better suited for the job. The one exception has always been Molly, a bubbly rom-com loving ghost, who stuck by Sabrina’s side all through her lonely childhood.

Her personal life starts looking up when Ray, the new local restaurateur, invites Sabrina to his supper club, where he flirts with her over his famous Brandy Old-Fashioneds. He’s charming and handsome, but Sabrina tells herself she doesn’t have time for romance–she needs to focus on finding a job. Except the longer she’s in the Dells, the harder it is to resist her feelings for Ray. Who can turn down a cute guy with a fondness for rescue dogs and an obsession with perfecting his fried cheese curds recipe?

When the Dells starts to feel like home for the first time and with Ray in her corner, Sabrina begins to realize that she can make a difference and help others wherever she is.

Can someone make a movie based on this book? I am not overstating when I say that this novel is seriously wonderful – it made me feel cozy warm and happy all over. The Kindred Spirits Supper Club is charming, funny, emotional, romantic and incredibly well written. The characters are solid, well-developed and full of personality; truly full of life; even the ghosts.

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Most of the story is told through Sabrina’s point of view, but the hero, Ray, has his moments too. There are also a few flashback scenes in this novel plus sized story, one being Molly’s, that flesh out the background of the characters so a reader can better understand the driving force behind everyone’s current state in life, or unlife.

Erika was a convincing thorn in Sabrina’s side. She’s the rich high school bully who never outgrew her cattiness and continues to torment the heroine. Erika instigated a continual state of anxiety and was a stress attack trigger for Sabrina. Oftentimes I felt miffed and angered on the heroine’s behalf. People like that really do exist and I totally understood all the emotions and frustrations that Sabrina felt because I had experiences like it. Not to the degree the heroine did, but those moments never seem to lose their bitter flavor no matter how much time has passed. I got it.

The absolute best part about Erika’s moments on stage is when Ray reacts and makes it plain under no uncertain terms that Sabrina counts and is worthy of respect. How he does it, what he says, the decisions he makes and the action he takes made me cheer and want to hug him. Ray is completely, totally, beyond super awesome as a hero in this book. His little quirks, his drive to stand on his own two feet, to honor his uncle and his role in the community, all are commendable. But, the most romantic of all was his restrained passion for Sabrina. He is a man. By that I mean that he has self-control, self-respect and respect for the heroine. The almost kiss, the first taste of passion kiss, the second that is hotter than Sabrina can handle, all lead to that just-right moment when everything comes together. The bedroom door is completely closed but I was not left in any doubt that not only did their chemistry explode but it was satisfying and eye-opening for Sabrina. I guess all that describes a sensual level of heat but the way he looks into her eyes, I felt the hotness. So sigh-worthy, it was awesome.

As for seeing ghosts – I know it’s been done before but the books I’ve read in the past didn’t have the emotional, poignant and charming effect that The Kindred Spirits Supper Club had on me. There was a bit of angst but it didn’t overshadow and darken the tone of the book. The author kept it low key by involving Sabrina’s whole family. The heroine’s adorable cousins helped keep the cool factor alive by treating it with awe, excitement and normalcy. The scene when Ray, the hero, puts two and two together, and his reaction to realizing ghosts can be seen is romance-story-genius.

Oh, I have to mention Ray’s parents. The author is a clever one. First impressions are not always the full story and Ms. Reichert totally surprised me. Surprised the heck out of Ray too. It was actually kind of funny.

I really could go on and on. There are so many more things I could mention, like Frank the dog, the recipe at the end of the novel, the importance of cheese, Sabrina’s emotional growth, the mystery of the diary, duck boats – seriously, this book is chockful of details, wonderful descriptive prose, excellent dialogue, healthy family dynamics and a romance with a happy ending that totally satisfied on so many levels.

Like I said in the beginning, The Kindred Spirits Supper Club should be made into a movie because it’s that stunning, special, heartwarming, fun and complicated. I adored this story and I heartily encourage fans of feel-good romances to read it. The paranormal element just adds to the fun but I assure you that the focus is on the growing romance between two people ripe for falling in love and the people and ghosts around them who know they are perfect for each other and want to help them along. This is a great read!

Desolation Road by Christine Feehan

Desolation Road by Christine Feehan
Publisher: Jove
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Suspense/Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Torpedo Ink is Aleksei “Absinthe” Solokov’s whole life. They’re his brothers, his family—his everything. But that doesn’t stop him from wanting something that only belongs to him. That’s why the tough biker has spent the last six weeks at the library, reading every book he can get his hands on and watching the prim and proper librarian who makes his blood rush.

For the past six weeks, Scarlet Foley has been fantasizing about the handsome, tattooed man whose eyes follow her every move. She senses he’s dangerous. She wants him to get close enough to touch. She wishes she could let him know the real woman, not the one she pretends to be. But Scarlet has a plan to carry out, and she can’t afford any distractions.

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There is no doubt that Absinthe, the hero, needed his own HEA. Readers and fans of the Torpedo Ink series are sure to agree. He is a broken man, a damaged, hard man with mad skills in so many areas, yet he, like his brethren, yearn for something more, something that can balance the darkness trapped inside. Ms. Feehan gave him Scarlet, the librarian. What a bright light she turned out to be. And, a very big surprise.

First, I’ll touch on the writing. It’s solid. The action scenes were hard hitting, effective and powerful. The bad guys were so deviant, cruel and abhorrent, that when they received their justified comeuppance, it was boomerang brutal. That which they did to kids, and other innocents, was visited back upon them. The victim with the most loss was the heroine herself, Scarlet. It’s tragic and yet all too believable. Criminals with money seem to think that they can get away with anything. I wish there were heroes like Torpedo Ink out there – making the difference for those without voices. True, their methods are outside of accepted practices, and that’s an understatement. Then there is the paranormal element regarding the brothers and sisters of Torpedo Ink’s skills or ‘powers’. Sometimes I wish things like that were real. As uncomfortable as I might be with the descriptions, the end result delivers closure, permanent closure. For criminals like the ones in this book, that’s a good thing. Ms. Feehan has a way of writing that grabs my attention and keeps it even while she’s describing some heinous activity or scene. There is no way a reader can be unmoved by her characters’ pain and demands for justice.

Absinthe was shaped by the criminals he was forced to be tutored under from a young child to a young adult. That kind of stuff is hard to read. At times, extremely hard to read. It is in every book of the series. More details get dropped in each installment and it always amazes me that they are as sane as they are. Yet, all those hardships they survived keeps feeding the yearning in me for all of them to find their happy ever afters. It’s said that there is someone out there for everyone – and Scarlet has to be one in a million. I say that, not just because she’s a strong, and surprisingly skilled heroine, but because she is perfect for the hero. She has some unusual needs also and although not initially at the level as the hero’s needs, she is more than game enough to not only try, but to be the absolute best.

Here is where I have a hard time writing what I want to say. I heard that Ms. Feehan knows perfectly well that the kind of things that Absinthe needs Scarlet to do, might be a tad controversial, even hard to read for some. It plunks the story smack dab in the middle of erotica fetishes. It’s a hard-to-read fetish that drives the hero, and again, knowing what he was exposed to for all of his formative years, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. There is not one member of Torpedo Ink that hasn’t been damaged in that way. The need however, is different for each one. I’m assuming that the author had to do some serious research to get the details as vivid as she did in the story. It’s consensual, no two ways about it. It’s also not something that I even knew existed! So, on one hand, I saw the beauty in the jeweled gifts that Absinthe gave to Scarlet. Their meaning, and the amazing talents of the craftsman who made them, meant that they were all the more precious. On the other hand, it’s a very demanding fetish for the partner, on a level I just didn’t understand. Nor do I wish to. It’s enough for me to know that Scarlet has within her personality the needs that exactly match the needs of the hero. It’s their HEA and it works.

I know that there are many, many fans that are going to write reviews more glowing than mine. I did enjoy the story. I’m so happy Absinthe has found love. I think Scarlett is wonderful for him. Ms. Feehan’s skills as a storyteller are honed to a fine point and her exploration into the various fetishes that exist in the world must sometimes be eye-raising and perhaps quite stimulating. She knows how to match them to her heroes quite well. I’ll read the next book in the series because I’m hoping it’s going to be Savage’s turn. That man’s story is sure to be a challenge for me to read as well, but I’m up for it. I may not feel 100% comfortable with portions of Desolation Road, but that doesn’t mean I won’t recommend it to someone. I most certainly will. Everyone in Torpedo Ink has earned their right to an HEA and Ms. Feehan always delivers.

Vengeance Road by Christine Feehan

Vengeance Road by Christine Feehan
Publisher: A Jove Book, Berkley
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (418 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Breezy Simmons was born into a ruthless motorcycle club—and now that she’s out, she’s never going to be that girl again. But when her past catches up with her, Breezy must go to Sea Haven to seek out the man who almost destroyed her. The man who chose his club over her and left her feeling used and alone.

As vice president of Torpedo Ink, Steele is ride or die for the brothers he lived through hell with. He never thought he’d find something as pure as his feelings for Breezy, or that keeping her safe would mean driving her away with cruel words that turned her love for him to ash.

Now, Steele won’t let her walk away twice. He’ll do whatever it takes to make Breezy his woman again—especially when he learns the real reason she came to him for help, and that the stakes are higher than he ever could have imagined…

I’m hooked. I mixed up Ms. Feehan’s, Torpedo Ink novels with her Shadow series and I ended up reading a book I didn’t expect. This is the second book in the series and I didn’t feel lost because I hadn’t read the first. When this novel was through putting me through an emotional wringer, I found I have to spend more money, not only on the previous book but the end of the last Sea Haven series where Torpedo Ink was introduced. Like I said, I’m hooked.
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You saw the page count of this book, right? I read it in one day. One day. Stayed up until 1 A.M. to do it and yes I was dog-tired the next day at work. It was worth it.

If a reader is used to the action/violence of the vampires with her Carpathians, the style in this series blows it through the roof. Fortunately, Ms. Feehan only shares enough for a reader to get that lump in the stomach feeling, the horror and uncomfortable twitching that went on with me when Steele shared with Breezy just what he went through growing up and being groomed to be the ultimate assassin in Russia, for Russia. Understand that it’s not gratuitous that the author put this stuff in there – a reader needs to know the whys and hows that created such a dysfunctional, messed up and anti-social anti-hero hero. Yes, anti-hero hero. Why? Because Steele and his MC family do things that are not nice, legal or normal and would have every legal agency after them should it be known just who and what they were. And yet, these men and women of Torpedo Ink need saving the most. They need strong women/partners who will stand up to them while giving them what they need to heal emotionally and mentally.

I didn’t list the subject matter that made this book fall into the erotic side of things because not all of it was ‘bedroom door wide open for everyone to experience, and hey! Let’s participate! never mind see’ – yes, the door is open, but it’s not solidly voyeuristic, or exhibitionist or classified as BDSM. It’s mentioned but not an active part of the sex between Steele and Breezy. It’s backdrop. Sort of. Steele is incredibly dominant and when Ms. Feehan described for a reader the oral part of Breezy with Steele’s …. steel, it was so graphic and clear, and yes well written, that for the first time, I could visualize just what actually happens when a heroine is mouthy with the hero. I’m not a fan of that stuff but I now have a clearer understanding of the process. It actually sounds like a lot of work! But if you love someone, and Breezy most definitely loves Steele, every dark and naughty, scary and strong part of him, it fits.

As for the villains of the novel, there are a lot, and every single one of them gets what they deserve. Again, it’s rather violent but the crimes the bad guys perpetrate on the innocent are so heinous, only people the caliber of Torpedo Ink can exact a fitting level of justice. I appreciated it greatly when the author had Breezy, and that means the reader too, leave the scene before it became too shocking and ghastly. However, a reader has no problem imagining the rest. That was enough for me.

Another thing I found fascinating was the terminology. I’m starting to see so many books out there that I think it’s become a genre – MC romances. MC is Motorcycle Club and I am so glad that the author included a glossary at the end. I figured things out mostly by inference, but it was nice to have a solid explanation. I just wish I’d known about the glossary beforehand.

There is no doubt that Christine Feehan is a talented and creative word artist, but she pushed the envelope farther than I expected. Yet, she is so professional that I will continue to read about this new world she’s created, even if it seems darker than her Dark series. I like the characters she’s introduced me to and I found the men and women of Torpedo Ink worth the effort of saving. It’s the ‘how’ of it that fascinates me. Breezy is perfect for Steele but that doesn’t mean it’s easy between them. It’s not. There’s a history and a lot of water under the bridge that they have to reconcile in order for them to have a future. They are successful and it’s their journey that engaged me, gripped me and had my emotions bouncing like a pogo stick. Very cool.

So, in conclusion, if a reader is into gritty, no apologies alpha men with dark, tragic pasts with the strength to face their demons and pulverize them, then I suggest really giving Vengeance Road a try. I totally recommend it.