Confessions of a Dangerous Lord (Rescued from Ruin #7) by Elisa Braden

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Never judge a man by his cover…
Society knows the affable Earl of Dunston for his flashy waistcoats and rapier wit. Lady Maureen Huxley knows him as Henry Thorpe, her best friend—an irresistibly kissable, strictly platonic friend. Which means her dreams of marriage, motherhood, part-time cookery, and full-time domestic bliss must be fulfilled elsewhere. But after three seasons and a parade of fickle suitors, Maureen’s hopes are fading. Worse, she suspects Henry is to blame.

Never trust a man with too many secrets…
Years spent hunting his father’s murderer through London’s dark underworld have honed Henry Thorpe into a deadly blade with one purpose—catching a killer of fathomless evil. Nothing mattered more until Maureen Huxley came along. To keep her safe, he must keep her at arm’s length. Yet he can’t resist drawing her close, making her laugh, dreaming of doing wicked things to her lush body. Very well, perhaps he also dissuaded some of her suitors. But what’s a little deception between friends?

Never provoke a man as dangerous as this one…
With his enemy growing bolder and Maureen contemplating marriage to another man, Henry is caught in the crossfire between his mission and his heart. Any move could exact a devastating cost. But losing the woman he loves is one price he refuses to pay.

Rating: B+

Confessions of a Dangerous Lord is the seventh book in Elisa Braden’s Rescued from Ruin series, and although it features a storyline that has obviously been present in some of the earlier novels, this is the first of Ms. Braden’s books I’ve read and I was able to follow along quite easily.  I won’t deny that there were a few times I wished I’d had a stronger grasp of how that plotline had evolved, but that’s down to me, and not any lack of skill on the part of the author – and anyway, it in no way detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book. The writing is strong and the opening scenario drew me in straight away, quickly supplying some necessary back-story without being an info dump.  The two principals are well-drawn, attractive characters, with the hero being one of those Pimpernel-esque types I’m particularly fond of; the garrulous society favourite who is widely believed to be interested only in horses and fashion but who is, beneath it all, fiercely intelligent, highly competent and utterly deadly.

Maureen Huxley has been in love with Henry Thorpe, Earl of Dunston, for pretty much the whole of the two years she has known him.  He’s wealthy, deliciously handsome, charming, kind, clever and makes her laugh – in short he’s perfect for her, apart from one small thing.  He doesn’t want her.  Or rather, he isn’t interested in her romantically, much preferring to remain on terms of friendship with her.  Reckoning that half a loaf is better than no bread at all, Maureen hides her disappointment at his rejection and they continue as friends, but lately, she has begun to wonder if her friendship with Henry may be scuppering her chances of making a suitable marriage.  She has been out for three seasons and hasn’t received so much as a single offer; she longs for a husband and family of her own and realises that the only way she is ever going to stand a chance of getting those things is to cut ties with Henry and try to make room in her heart for someone else.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

Where the Dead Lie (Sebastian St. Cyr #12) by C.S. Harris (audiobook) – Narrated by Davina Porter

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

London, 1813. Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is no stranger to the dark side of the city, but he’s never seen anything like this: the brutalized body of a 15-year-old boy dumped into a makeshift grave on the grounds of an abandoned factory. One of London’s many homeless children, Benji Thatcher was abducted and tortured before his murder – and his younger sister is still missing. Few in authority care about a street urchin’s fate, but Sebastian refuses to let this killer go unpunished.

Uncovering a disturbing pattern of missing children, Sebastian is drawn into a shadowy, sadistic world. As he follows a grim trail that leads from the writings of the debauched Marquis de Sade to the city’s most notorious brothels, he comes to a horrifying realization: Someone from society’s upper echelon is preying upon the city’s most vulnerable. And though dark, powerful forces are moving against him, Sebastian will risk his reputation and his life to keep more innocents from harm….

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A

It’s the rare author who can reach the twelfth book in a long-running series and still keep coming up with fresh ideas and interesting developments, but C.S. Harris manages to do both those things and more in her latest Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Where the Dead Lie. In this new instalment, our aristocratic sleuth becomes involved in the search for the perpetrators of the most horrible crimes upon the weakest, most vulnerable members of society – London’s street children. It’s a disturbing listen at times – as it should be, given the subject matter – and Ms. Harris doesn’t pull her punches when describing the plight of these often very young children who have been left parentless and homeless through no fault of their own, and how they are repeatedly betrayed by those privileged few who should be helping rather than taking advantage of them.

This is one of those series where the books really need to be listened to in order, and I would imagine it’s difficult to just pop in and out, reading some books and not others. Each of the mysteries is self-contained and reaches a satisfying ending, but just as compelling as those individual tales is the overarching story of Sebastian’s search for the truth about his birth and what happened to his errant mother, his difficult relationship with his father, the Earl of Hendon, and the intense animosity lying between Sebastian and his father-in-law, Lord Jarvis, cousin to the Regent and the power behind the throne.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities #2) by K.J. Charles

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

In the sordid streets of Victorian London, unwanted desire flares between two bitter enemies brought together by a deadly secret.

Crusading journalist Nathaniel Roy is determined to expose spiritualists who exploit the grief of bereaved and vulnerable people. First on his list is the so-called Seer of London, Justin Lazarus. Nathaniel expects him to be a cheap, heartless fraud. He doesn’t expect to meet a man with a sinful smile and the eyes of a fallen angel—or that a shameless swindler will spark his desires for the first time in years.

Justin feels no remorse for the lies he spins during his séances. His gullible clients simply bore him. Hostile, disbelieving, utterly irresistible Nathaniel is a fascinating challenge. And as their battle of wills and wits heats up, Justin finds he can’t stop thinking about the man who’s determined to ruin him.

But Justin and Nathaniel are linked by more than their fast-growing obsession with one another. They are both caught up in an aristocratic family’s secrets, and Justin holds information that could be lethal. As killers, fanatics, and fog close in, Nathaniel is the only man Justin can trust—and, perhaps, the only man he could love.

Rating: A

The feeling that washed over me when I finished An Unnatural Vice isn’t one I experience all that often, but I suspect we all know what it is; that wonderful sense of awe and sheer elation that settles over you when you’ve just read something incredibly satisfying on every level.  A great story that’s excellently written and researched; characters who are well-drawn and appealing; a book that stimulates intellectually as well as emotionally… An Unnatural Vice has it all and is easily one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

The Sins of the Cities series has been inspired by author K.J. Charles’ love of Victorian Sensation Fiction, stories full of intrigue, murder, blackmail, missing heirs, evil relatives, stolen inheritances… I’m a big fan of the genre, and I absolutely love the way the author has brought its various elements into play in terms of the plot and overall atmosphere. The events in An Unnatural Vice run concurrently with those of book one, An Unseen Attraction, so while this one could be read as a standalone I’d definitely recommend reading the series in order.

Handsome, well-educated and wealthy, Nathaniel Roy trained in the law, but now works as a crusading journalist, dedicated to exposing social injustice and waging campaigns against industrial exploitation.  His editor has asked him to write an article about the mediums who prey on the wealthy, and as part of his research, he arranges to attend a séance held by the so-called Seer of London, Justin Lazarus.  Highly sceptical and determined to expose him as a fraud, Nathaniel is nonetheless fascinated by the man’s skill at what he does while being frustrated at not being able to work out how the hell he is manipulating the various objects in the room without touching them.  Worse still, however, is the unwanted spark of lust that shoots through him when he sets eyes upon the Seer for the first time, a visceral pull of attraction he hasn’t felt in the almost six years since he lost the love of his life; and the way Lazarus seems able to see into the very depths of Nathaniel’s soul is deeply unnerving and intrusive. He hates it at the same time as he is fascinated by the things Lazarus tells him and finds his convictions shaken and his thoughts consumed by the man over the next few days.

As far as Justin Lazarus is concerned, the gullible and credulous who make up the bulk of his clientele get exactly what they deserve and he refuses to feel guilty over giving them what they want – deceit and lies and sympathy – while they watch the people around them steal, whore or starve in the streets.  But a sceptic like Nathaniel Roy represents the sort of challenge Justin can’t pass up; he isn’t surprised when the man requests a second, private, meeting, and he uses it to push all Roy’s buttons, opening up the not-fully healed wounds of his grief while playing on the lust Justin had recognised at their first meeting.  The air is thick with suppressed desire and not-so-suppressed loathing as the two men trade barbs and insults – and even Justin recognises that this time, he’s probably gone too far and made an implacable enemy.

Mutual enmity notwithstanding however, Nathaniel and Justin are destined to be thrown into each other’s orbits once again when Justin receives a visit from two men who are trying to locate the children of a woman named Emmeline Godfrey who, they tell him, had been part of their “flock” until they ran away aged fourteen.  Justin recalls the desperate woman who visited him a year earlier asking about her twins, and the men want him to find them.  Sensing an opportunity, Justin puts on a show without telling them anything and thinks that’s that – until he remembers seeing an advertisement in the newspaper offering a reward for information about the same twins, giving Nathaniel Roy’s name as the person to contact. Always on the lookout for a way to make money, Justin decides to approach Roy with what he knows – but their discussion quickly descends into an erotically charged slanging match in which the mutual lust and hostility that has hung in the air between them since their first meeting boils over into a frenzied sexual encounter.  Despite having been turned inside out by “one of the better fucks of the nineteenth century”, Justin is still keen to focus on what he can get for his information, while Nathaniel just wants him gone, berating himself for having been so damned stupid as to have let things go so far.

Readers of the previous book will recall that Emmeline Godfrey was the name of the woman the now-deceased Earl of Moreton married in secret some years before contracting a later, bigamous marriage.  This means that the male twin is now the rightful earl, but with money and estates at stake, someone is going to great lengths to silence those who could reveal the truth – and now, Justin Lazarus has unwittingly put himself in the firing line.  A solitary man who has built a life in which he answers to and depends on nobody, Justin has no-one to turn to when he finds himself on the run from the men threatening him – no-one, that is, apart from the man who despises him and has sworn to expose him as a fraud – Nathaniel Roy.

On the most basic level, this is an enemies-to-lovers romance, but in the hands of K.J. Charles it is so much more than that.  Nathaniel is a man who is going through life by the numbers and doesn’t quite realise it; frozen by grief, he doesn’t expect ever to feel love or desire again and certainly not for a shifty bastard like Justin Lazarus.  Nathaniel finds it difficult to understand why a man gifted with such perspicacity and insight would choose to make a living by cheating the weak and vulnerable; but when Justin turns to him for help and Nathaniel glimpses the clever, amusing and desperately lonely man lying beneath the tough, prickly exterior, he is unable to deny the truth of his feelings any longer and admits to himself that he is coming to love Justin in spite of everything.  Justin is unapologetic and suspicious at first; born in a workhouse to a mother he never knew, his has been a hard life and he’s done what he had to in order to survive. He’s made something of himself through hard work, quick wits and sheer strength of will and doesn’t want to be beholden to anyone.  He tries to push Nathaniel away and dismisses his assertions that Justin is a better man than he believes himself to be, but Nathaniel’s obvious belief in him gradually starts to break down his emotional barriers.  The chemistry between the pair is off the charts, but amid all their snarling, vitriolic banter, come moments of real tenderness and understanding and watching these two damaged and very different men fall for each other is gut-wrenchingly beautiful. By the end of the book there is no doubt that they are deeply in love and in it for the long haul.

The writing is exquisite and the book is full of incredibly evocative scenes, whether it’s the descriptions of the thick, poisonous pea-souper that envelops London or the excitement of the opening séance, which is a real tour-de-force.  The mystery of the missing Taillefer heir is smoothly and skilfully woven through Justin and Nathaniel’s love story and the ending brilliantly sets up the next book, An Unsuitable Heir, due for release later this year.  But while the mystery is certainly intriguing, the real heart of the book is the complicated, messy but glorious romance between two bitter enemies.  An Unnatural Vice is a must-read and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick (audiobook) – Narrated by Louisa Jane Underwood

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

At the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel on the coast of California, rookie reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool. The dead woman had a red-hot secret about an up-and-coming leading man, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist. Seeking the truth about the drowning, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception.

Once a world-famous magician whose career was mysteriously cut short, Oliver Ward is now the owner of the hotel. He can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago. With Oliver’s help Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past – always just out of sight – could drag them both under.

Rating: Narration – C-; Content – D+

Anyone who has read or listened to even a small number of Amanda Quick’s historical mysteries will have realised that her books tend to be somewhat formulaic. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing; Ms. Quick’s particular formula – independent heroine meets mysterious, slightly dangerous hero and they solve a mystery while falling in love (and have their first sexual encounter anywhere else but a bed!) – is a popular and successful one, and I have no problem with formulaic when it’s done well. I wanted to listen to The Girl Who Knew Too Much mostly because the setting of 1930s Los Angeles is a departure from the author’s usual setting of 19th Century England, and being a bit of an old movie buff, I was looking forward to a noir-ish mystery with a touch of good old Hollywood glamour. Sadly, however both the noir and the glamour were missing and the mysteries – there are two of them – were very predictable.

Adding to my disappointment was the narration by Louisa Jane Underwood, which did nothing to help an already lacklustre book and in fact, made listening to it a chore rather than a pleasure. Had I not been listening for review, I’d have DNFed and returned it to Audible.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Turn Me Loose (Alpha Ops #6) by Anne Calhoun

This title may be purchased from Amazon

When she was on the verge of adulthood, Riva Henneman committed a crime and got caught red-handed. Luckily, she was busted by a HOT young cop…who also had a big heart. A one-time SEAL candidate, Officer Ian Hawthorn knew how it felt to have your dreams derailed. So he gave Riva a choice: face prison time or work for him as a confidential informant. But even a get-out-of-jail-free card comes with a cost. . .

Years later, Ian still remembers beautiful, innocent Riva–and the smoldering attraction they shared but both tried to ignore. Will they have a second chance, now that they’re back in each other’s lives? Riva’s work with inner-city children has led to a surprise run-in with Ian, who has his own agenda–one that could put them both in grave danger. Is their desire worth the risk this time?

Rating: B+

Although Turn Me Loose is billed as the sixth book in Anne Calhoun’s Alpha Ops series, the author includes enough relevant information about previous situations and characters to make it work as a standalone, although I will admit to having re-read AAR’s review of Under the Surface in order to remind myself of a couple of things. This book turns the spotlight on Lieutenant Ian Hawthorn of the Lancaster PD, an ambitious officer with his eye on a captain’s stripes – stripes he hopes to earn by finally bringing down a large drug cartel and convicting the cops who are taking bribes and turning a blind eye to its operations. Turn Me Loose isn’t overly action-packed – there aren’t many car chases and shoot-out set-pieces – but I didn’t mind that because the story the author is telling is more character driven and that focus works well. The lack of action doesn’t mean there’s a lack of suspense, however – that comes from the protagonists’ proximity to the bad guy and the ever-present sense of danger the author creates as a result; and ultimately, I was absorbed in the story from beginning to end.

When she was just eighteen, Riva Henneman was arrested when she attempted to sell drugs to an undercover cop. Given the choice of prison or working as a confidential informant for Ian Hawthorn, Riva chose the latter, and helped him to bring a major dealer to trial. They haven’t seen each other since they parted seven years ago, and in the intervening years, Riva has turned her life around and now runs a scheme to help disadvantaged kids in the Lancaster area. She owns a small farm and a restaurant – Oasis – and is part of the growing farm-to-table movement which is dedicated to harvesting and cooking the freshest seasonal produce. She can’t believe her eyes one night when Ian Hawthorn walks in and asks for a table, his mere presence churning up feelings she’d thought dead and buried seven years ago.

Ian is equally surprised and unsettled to see Riva there, unable to believe the strength of the pull he still feels towards her after seven years. She is obviously not pleased to see him and at the end of the evening, asks him not to return, but fate has other ideas. When one of her young trainees is arrested for assisting his drug-dealing brother, Riva steps in to help secure his release by offering Ian some information she omitted to tell him when she was working for him – namely that back when he’d busted her for dealing, she had been working for her father, Rory Henneman, and that he is the man behind the pipeline of drugs flooding into Lancaster.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

Relaunch Mission (The Galactic Cold War #1) by Robyn Bachar

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Living mission to mission on the fringes of civilized space, Captain Lindana Nyota has managed to keep her crew paid and her ship in one piece. Barely. The privateer’s life of stealing Soviet supplies for the Alliance is taking its toll on everyone. Down a crew member, she now has to take on a new intel officer and hope it’s someone she can trust.

Lieutenant Gabriel Steele knew Lindy wasn’t expecting him to walk out of the air lock and back into her life, but he didn’t think he’d get his nose broken. As an intelligence agent for the Alliance, Gabriel has spent his career in deep cover, his sense of self crushed under layers of deceit—starting with the lies he had to tell Lindy years ago when he left her. A fresh start is all he wants, but the Alliance and his secret orders have already jeopardized that.

When an infamous pirate and friend of Lindy and her crew is reported alive and in possession of knowledge of a powerful Soviet weapon, finding her before the enemy does is paramount. But Gabriel can’t do it without regaining Lindy’s trust—and hopefully rekindling what he once sacrificed in the name of duty.

Rating: B-

This is the first in Robyn Bachar’s new Galactic Cold War series of science-fiction romances, and when I saw it touted as  ‘Firefly meets James Bond’  I couldn’t resist!

Set in a future in which the Cold War never ended, the story features the crew of the privateer ship Mombasa as it operates on the fringes of known space carrying out missions for the United Alliance of Democratic Nations – which mostly consist of raiding Soviet ships for supplies.  Captain Lindana Nyota and her tightly knit band of officers live a difficult existence; times are hard, their ship is in dire need of parts and repairs, and their last few jobs have gone badly wrong, resulting in the deaths of two crew members to whom Lindana was particularly close.

One of those people was the ship’s intelligence officer, and it’s imperative to their continued operation that they obtain a new one as soon as possible.  Arriving at the neutral  Tortue Station, Lindana is shocked and more than a little pissed off to discover that her new crew member is Lieutenant Gabriel Steele, the man who broke her heart fifteen years ago.

(As an aside, I had to chuckle a little at the description of Gabriel – he’s gorgeous, British, upper class, well-dressed and from a posh family… basically, he’s a space-duke 😉  It seems there’s no getting away from ‘em in romance – even in outer space!)

Not only is Lindana furious at the idea of having to work with the bastard who betrayed her so cruelly, she’s furious at herself for the fact that even after so many years, Gabriel still makes her feel things nobody else ever has.  Unfortunately, she has little choice but to agree to his appointment – but she doesn’t have to like it.

For the past fifteen years Gabriel  has worked as an intelligence officer (spy) for the Alliance, but that life has begun to pall and he’s tired of living a lie.  He requested the posting to the Mombasa because he wanted to see Lindana again and try to make things right, but he then receives orders to track down the Soviet spy responsible for the ship’s recent run of bad luck.  And of course, he’s not authorised to share that information with anyone – even Lindana – which pretty much puts paid to his idea of regaining her trust and asking if they can make a fresh start.

The story is action-packed and fast-paced, and Ms. Bachar packs a lot into a fairly small page count.  If anything suffers, it’s the romance – which is fairly perfunctory – but all the other elements of the story – the setting, the background, the action – are well done and kept me engrossed and entertained.   The political shenanigans between the Alliance, the Soviets and the breakaway Core Colonies Collective (C3) are clearly explained, and in a way that adds information at relevant times so there’s no feeling that you’re being subjected to an info-dump; the plotline is complex without being unintelligible and the author ramps the tension up nicely in the later chapters, when the crew of the Mombasa is on the trail of a ‘super weapon’ developed by the Soviets and beset by betrayal from their own side.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

The Hangman (Forgotten Files #3) by Mary Burton

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Julia Vargas is a cop with a mission. When she’s not chasing down bad guys, Julia dedicates her time to investigating the Hangman serial killer… the same unsolved case that her father, Jim Vargas, was working on when he supposedly shot and killed himself three decades before. While rumors continue to swirl around her father’s death, Julia attempts to hunt down the truth.

The case once again hits dangerously close, however, when a woman’s bones are discovered in a historic downtown home, together with a photograph of Jim and Julia as a young girl. As horrifying as this discovery is, it may just be the break Julia has waited for. Working alongside Tobias Novak, a homicide detective with whom she shares a complicated—and steamy—history, she’s forced to confront her own past even as the Hangman looms in the shadows. But as the mysterious killer circles closer, Julia can feel her own noose begin to tighten…

Rating: B+

The Hangman is the third title in Mary Burton’s Forgotten Files series of romantic suspense novels, in which the protagonists find themselves investigating ‘cold cases’, unsolved crimes dating back many years, which hold a particular significance for them. The principals in each story are different, so although some characters from the previous books appear in secondary roles, there’s no need to have read them to enjoy this one, which works perfectly well as a standalone. I have yet to read the first book, The Shark, but I thoroughly enjoyed book two, The Dollmaker, and was very impressed with the author’s ability to weave together a number of seemingly unrelated plot-threads and then to bring them together into a cleverly devised, complex whole.

We met Agent Julia Vargas of the Virginia State Police briefly in that book, and it was immediately clear that she’s one tough cookie. Her dad, Jim Vargas, was also a cop, and was a somewhat controversial figure; his undercover work brought down a number of dangerous criminals over the years, but the need to constantly be someone else took its toll on his personal life, and he committed suicide twenty-five years earlier, when Julia was just a child. Julia followed in his footsteps, becoming a cop, working undercover to bust criminal gangs and drug rings, but her most recent assignment went pear-shaped towards the end, and she suffered a vicious assault at the hands of the leader of the drug cartel she had infiltrated. Following a lengthy convalescence, Julia now works homicide alongside her partner, Dakota Sharp (hero of The Dollmaker), and has decided, during her vacation, to re-open her father’s last, unsolved case, that of the Hangman, who murdered two women back in the early 1990s, the moniker relating to the way the murders were committed and the bodies left hanging as though on display for all to see. In fact, there were those who actually suspected Jim Vargas of being the Hangman because the victims were known to him – and Julia wants to see if she can find anything in the old files that will help her to completely clear her father’s name. Or prove his guilt. She just wants the truth.

Detective Tobias Novak of the Richmond police isn’t overly happy about being dragged from the warmth of his bed –and the woman in it – to attend the scene of a fire in an old, downtown home. The body of a young woman has been found in the basement; the degree of decomposition indicates that it has been there for quite some time and the marks and injuries on what is left of the corpse indicate that this was death by homicide. Looking through the victim’s personal effects at the scene Novak is shocked to discover a photograph of Jim Vargas and his daughter (aged seven, he discovers later) in the woman’s purse. He puts in a call to Julia Vargas – the woman with whom he’d been in that warm bed – to ask her to come to the crime scene, and when she arrives, shows her the photo. Julia has absolutely no knowledge of how it could have got there, and doesn’t know the dead woman, but the discovery of her body, bearing all the hallmarks of The Hangman’s unique style, could be just the thing to kick-start her own investigations into the other unsolved killings and her father’s suicide.

Julia enlists the help of Shield Security, the high-tech security firm who had assisted Dakota Sharp in his investigations into the Dollmaker killings and part of whose remit is to assist law enforcement officers dig into cold cases using technology not previously available to uncover new evidence and unearth new leads.  But when another young woman is murdered – seemingly by the Hangman – the stakes are raised.  Is this the work of a copycat, or has the Hangman come out of retirement?  And upping the ante still more is the fact that Julia knew the victim from her last undercover operation.  The Hangman is sending Julia a message loud and clear – and she and Novak know it’s only a matter of time before the killer tries to make good on his threat.

The mystery is cleverly plotted and skilfully delivered as Julia gradually pieces together a picture of the father she had never really known while at the same time discovering the truth of his connections to the decades-ago victims of the Hangman’s crimes.  Like her dad, Julia is very self-sufficient and careful not to let anyone get too close, keeping her emotions under wraps and details about herself and her life close to her chest.  Her relationship with Novak began only recently when they hooked up after an event, and she’s keen to keep things between them strictly no-strings while it’s clear that he wants more.  I enjoyed watching their relationship progress, with Novak’s calm steadiness acting as the perfect foil to Julia’s more impulsive temperament, and eventually providing her with the safe place she needs to finally be able to drop her guard and let him in.

Novak and Julia are together throughout pretty much the entire book, and although the romance is fairly low-key, there’s an ever-present sense of attraction and awareness between them throughout.  The ending is nicely done and we leave the pair with an HFN that I fully expect to have turned into a longer term HEA by the time of the next book, which I’m hoping will feature Shield Security’s Garrett Andrews.

The Hangman is a well-paced mystery that kept me eagerly turning the pages into the early hours to see what would happen next.  Ms. Burton’s meticulous plotting provides plenty of twists and turns, and her central characters are engaging and nicely-matched.  Highly recommended for fans of the author’s and for anyone who likes a complex, solidly written mystery with a dash of romance.