Crash Site (Fiona Carver #2) by Rachel Grant

crash site

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Fiona Carver has landed a dream assignment: conducting an archaeological inventory of Ruby Island, a privately owned, pristine gem in the Caribbean. Two months in paradise exploring and mapping a lush rainforest, vast caves, and a seventeenth-century star fort and following up on legends of hidden Spanish gold. Add a simmering reunion with wildlife photographer Dean Slater and it’s enough to take Fiona’s breath away. But the sparkle fades when Dean’s arrival is met with sudden, terrifying danger.

Reunited and determined to see the project through, Fiona and Dean find themselves in a swirl of intrigue as they delve into the complex history of the unspoiled refuge, now a tropical haven for billionaires and their secrets. But the work isn’t easy, as someone appears determined to kill the project—by any means necessary.

As betrayal casts tropical storm clouds over Ruby Island and treasured friendships dissolve into distrust, one thing becomes clear: Fiona and Dean are trapped in a dangerous paradise.

Rating: B

The second in Rachel Grant’s Fiona Carver series, Crash Site is the sequel to 2021’s Dangerous Ground, and it picks up around nine months after the events of the first book.  Although the mystery/suspense plot here is self-contained, the central relationship between the two leads was left unresolved at the end of Dangerous Ground, so I’d advise anyone interested in this one to read that first.  And that being the case, there are spoilers for the previous book in this review.

Naval Archaeologist Fiona Carver has landed herself a dream job on the gorgeous, privately owned (and fictional) Ruby Island in the Caribbean where, together with two other archaeologists, she has been employed to conduct an archaeological inventory of the island and its seventeenth century fort –which comes complete with legends of hidden Spanish gold.  Fiona has known its wealthy owner Jude Reynolds (the island has been owned by his family for generations) for over a decade, from when they met as fellow students at archaeological field school – although they’re not exactly friends; she went on a date with him back then but he behaved like a complete tosser and she hasn’t seen him since.  But the Ruby Island job was just too good to pass up – especially as Jude’s wealth means there will be no budget worries, and he genuinely cares about the work.  He also seems to be working hard to convince Fiona that he’s not the same selfish, entitled brat he was back then – but Fiona isn’t sure how to feel about that.  Sure, Jude is handsome and rich, he’s interested in her and understands her work… but she’s hung-up on someone else.

Wildlife photographer Dean Slater had been on the remote Alaskan island of Chiksook trying to find out what happened to his missing brother Dylan when he and Fiona found themselves stranded in a hostile environment and forced to rely on each other in order to survive (Dangerous Ground). The adrenaline-fuelled days they spent together engendered a real trust and closeness between them, and fed the flames of the mutual attraction that had sparked between them from their first meeting – although a basic incompatibility in their approach to sex and relationships seemed destined to separate them.  Dean is unwilling to risk experiencing the hurt and devastation he felt on the death of his beloved wife from a brain tumor a decade earlier and made it very clear that he doesn’t do relationships, while Fiona has never been one for NSA sex or short-lived flings. It’s clear by the end of the book that they’re head-over-heels for one another, but Dean is adamant that he’s not about to break his no relationships rule and they part, both of them obviously unhappy and not expecting to see each other again.

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

Broken Falcon (Evidence #12) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay & Nicol Zanzarella

broken falcon

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Chase Johnston is leading a double life. After two years of psychological torment, the quiet, highly skilled Raptor operative now has a darker side, and he’s hellbent on bringing human-traffickers to justice – using any means necessary. The only relief he finds for his troubled mind is a woman he’ll never meet in person.

Eden O’Keeffe is also leading a double life. By day she’s a grad student and barista, but at night she sits in front of a camera and provides companionship for those seeking entertainment, titillation, or simple conversation. She enjoys the freedom of being a siren online, but her secret career comes with risks that force her to hide her true identity at all costs.

When Chase walks into a coffee shop and comes face to face with the one person who makes him feel again, it seems his long nightmare may be coming to an end. But in entering Eden’s world, he’s bringing that nightmare – and the danger that comes with it – to her doorstep.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

I’ve been eagerly looking forward to Broken Falcon – book twelve in Rachel Grant’s terrific Evidence series – for months. Ms. Grant is my favourite author of romantic suspense, and I’m always impressed by her ability to craft tense and exciting stories with clever plots and interesting, engaging characters. Also, this book’s hero, Chase Johnston, was an important secondary character in Incriminating Evidence, one of my series favourites – if you haven’t read or listened to it, I’d recommend doing so before this, as Chase’s backstory is incredibly important to this story (note – there are spoilers in this review) and given his role in that book, I was especially keen to find out what happened to him ‘after’ and for him to find love and get his own HEA.

When we catch up with Chase at the beginning of the book, we find out that he’s devoting much of his free time to preventing runaway teens from being sucked into a sex-trafficking ring. Together with Isabel Dawson, the wife of Senator – and Raptor boss – Alec Ravissant, Chase helps the teens to get to a shelter set up specially to help prevent them being sent back to abusive family situations. He’s fairly sure the trafficking ring is linked to a legitimate business, a cam-girl site called Cam Dames – although he hasn’t yet been able to find any evidence to tie the two together. On this particular evening, Chase has cut things a bit fine; it takes longer than he’d expected to persuade the girl he’s ‘intercepting’ to go into the next-door coffee shop to meet with Isabel, and she has only just gone inside when a couple of goons show up looking for their quarry. Chase is Raptor’s expert in unarmed combat (having learned martial arts from a very young age, he’s got Mad Ninja Skillz!) and it doesn’t take him long to run them off.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Concrete Evidence (Evidence #1) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella and Greg Tremblay

Concrete Evidence 2021

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

She wants revenge. He wants her.

Blackballed from underwater archaeology after accusations of artifact trafficking, Erica Kesling has a new job and a new life on the other side of the country and is working to clear her name. She’s closing in on her goal when she’s distracted by a sexy, charismatic intern who makes her want something other than revenge. But Lee Scott is no intern. He’s looking for the lead conspirator in an international artifact smuggling scheme, and Erica is his prime suspect. He’ll do whatever it takes to win her trust and get her to reveal her secrets, even seduce her.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content- B-

I’ve read/listened to and reviewed most of the books in Rachel Grant’s romantic suspense Evidence series, and they’re among my favourites in the genre – sexy, intelligent and fast-paced with well-drawn, interesting characters and storylines that sometimes feel as though they’re taken from tomorrow’s headlines! The first book – Concrete Evidence – is one of the few books in the series I haven’t read, and I’d intended to listen to the audio at some point, but after AudioGals reviewed it back in 2014 and said that the narration wasn’t very good, I instead put the book on the TBR pile of doom.

Unfortunately, the book is still there – so I was delighted when I saw a newly recorded audiobook version crop up at Audible, narrated by Nicol Zanzarella – who has narrated all the other Evidence books – and Greg Tremblay (whose work on the author’s Flashpoint series sent me down a Tremblay/Boudreaux shaped rabbit hole I still haven’t emerged from!). For anyone wondering, the author’s website indicates that she has made a few small revisions and added an epilogue previously only available as bonus material.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Dangerous Ground (Fiona Carver #1) by Rachel Grant

dangerous ground grant

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Archaeologist Fiona Carver has unfinished business in the Aleutian Islands. After an emergency evacuation cut her first expedition short, she’s finally back. But time is not on her side as she races to finish documenting the remnants of a prehistoric village, recover missing artifacts, and track down missing volcanologist Dylan Slater.

Having bluffed his way onto Fiona’s team with fake credentials, wildlife photographer Dean Slater is willing to risk more than federal prison to find his missing brother, but he needs Fiona’s help. She knows the inhospitable terrain better than anyone.

When the two set out together on a perilous journey, it becomes more than a recovery mission. In their fight for survival, nature isn’t the only threat. They aren’t the only ones on the hunt. Mile by dangerous mile, someone is hunting them.

Rating: B

Given the number of disappointing romantic suspense reads I’ve experienced lately, it’s no understatement to say that I’ve been very eagerly awaiting the next book from Rachel Grant, someone I know I can rely on to deliver a fast-paced and tightly-plotted story of mystery and suspense alongside a well-developed steamy romance.  Dangerous Ground is a little bit of a departure for her however, in that it’s the first of a series that will feature the same central couple, so I want to make it clear that there’s no HEA –or even HFN – in this book, although I’m sure our hero and heroine will get there eventually.  Actually, I’m pleased to see an author of m/f romantic suspense taking this approach; most of the really good RS I’ve read lately has been m/m in series in which each book features a self-contained suspense plot while the character and relationship development is ongoing.  So I was in no way put off by the lack of a concrete ending for the protagonists in Dangerous Ground and have high hopes for the further progression of their relationship in subsequent books.

Another reason I always look forward to Ms. Grant’s books is the way she so skilfully draws on her  background in history and archaeology to produce stories that are incredibly well-researched and informative about the various aspects of conservation/preservation/exploration that she includes in them, and this is no exception.  Civilian naval archaeologist Fiona Carver is part of the team assigned to produce an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) of the new submarine base the US Navy wants to build in the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska.  Five weeks before the story begins, Fiona had made a very significant discovery – that of a prehistoric village on Chiksook Island  – but before she was able to do any further excavation, an emergency evacuation was ordered.  Expecting to be back in a few days, she took as many precautions as she feasibly could with the equipment she had available at the time, but now, five weeks later, she fears the site may have been destroyed.  Dangerous Ground opens as she is returning to Chiksook along with a few members of the original team, and a couple of newcomers she hasn’t met before, one of whom is ornithologist Bill Lowell. Objectively, Fiona can see Bill is gorgeous (she mentally nicknames him “Hot Bird Man”)  – but she can also see he’s one of those men who is well aware he’s attractive, and shuts down his attempts at flirting while trying her best to remain friendly.  She doesn’t do field flings (or any type of fling, really) and isn’t about to change her stance on that, no matter how good-looking or charming the guy is.

Wildlife photographer Dean Slater’s twin brother Dylan, a volcanologist, was one of Fiona’s team-mates on the previous expedition, but Dean hasn’t seen him since his supposed return from Chiksook Island.  The last email Dean received from him stated that he was going off the grid for a few months, but that email came from a generic work email address rather than Dylan’s personal account and Dean is certain Dylan wouldn’t just go off like that without at least talking to him beforehand or leaving him some contact details.  And when he gets stonewalled by both the Navy and their contracted engineering company, he becomes increasingly suspicious.  Worried for his brother’s safety, Dean ‘borrows’ the name of an ornithologist he’d worked for years ago and blags his way onto the team.  It’s risky – if he’s found out he could face going to prison – but there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his brother.

The person Dean is most interested in meeting is Fiona Carver.  Dylan’s emails had been full of her and he’d said she was his girlfriend, so surely she must know something?  Yet she shows no sign of knowing anything, and Dean dislikes what he interprets as a total lack of concern for her boyfriend.  Yet despite that – and the fact that she’s “Dylan’s girl” – he can’t help being drawn to her.  She’s beautiful, sure, but there’s more to it than that; there’s a passion for her work, a competence and assurance and fierce intelligence that impress and captivate him.

The first quarter or so of the book is fairly slow going as we’re introduced to the two leads and the author starts to lay out some of the clues that may – or may not – relate to Dylan’s disappearance. Fiona does have some suspicions about what may have happened to him, although she’s wary of making unfounded accusations and doesn’t at first realise his personal safety is at stake.  There are things about Bill that don’t add up, an uncomfortable feeling about a last-minute replacement on the team, and all this, together with her worries over the fact that she may have unintentionally contributed to the destruction of a hugely important ancient site, contributes to a growing sense of unease she just can’t shake off.  The author does a fabulous job of creating and gradually building an atmosphere full of apprehension and suspicion as Fiona starts to wonder who she can trust.  Then things take a sudden and dangerous turn for the worse, and Fiona and Dean find themselves stranded together with no way off the island and no way to survive the harsh conditions unless they can find a way to work together.  But overcoming their mutual mistrust is the last of their worries when they realise that there may be someone else on the island – someone who wants to make sure they never leave it.

Dangerous Ground is a strong start to this new series, boasting a unique setting, smart and interesting characters and fascinating background detail.  Fiona is a terrific heroine; she’s smart, capable and courageous, and I very much liked that she’s not afraid to own up when she’s scared and then pushes herself through it.  Dean is harder to like to start with – he’s pushy and a bit smarmy when he’s pretending to be Bill, although I kind of gave him a pass because the author makes it so very clear just how much he loves Dylan – who is his only family.  He’s basically a decent guy forced to take desperate measures although he does do and say some dumb things, especially in his persistence in believing that Fiona and Dylan are an item when she repeatedly tells him otherwise.  And while I sort of understood the reasons for his playboy lifestyle and aversion to relationships, his ‘love kicked me in the guts and I want nothing more to do with it’ stance is rather stereotypical and it got old fast.

I always come away from a Rachel Grant book having learned something new, but there’s a bit of information overload in this one and I have to admit that some of the technical detail and overly obvious ‘teaching moments’ took me out of the story a few times.

Dangerous Ground is an intriguing, suspenseful mystery with an intricate, well-woven plot, well-written action sequences and an engaging heroine. The romance is clearly going to be a slow burn and I can’t deny that the ending is somewhat abrupt, but I enjoyed it despite my criticisms, and I’ll definitely be back for book two, Crash Site, when it’s released early in 2022.

Tainted Evidence (Evidence #10) by Rachel Grant

tainted evidence

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Some family secrets are deadly…

Inventorying human remains can be difficult at the best of times without a creepy security guard hovering over Maddie Foster’s shoulder. Nervous about being stuck in the crypt with the strange man, Maddie asks a friend of a friend to drop by and pretend to be her boyfriend to force the guy to back off.

Raptor operative Josh Warner recently moved to Oregon to take over as guardian to his troubled niece and open a new private security branch in the Pacific Northwest. Josh doesn’t hesitate to help Maddie and is intrigued by the brainy museologist. His protective nature kicks into high gear as he discovers she may be in very real danger.

Tensions run hot in the summer heat as Josh’s work puts everyone he cares about at risk, and Maddie’s research into the museum collection raises questions better left buried. As their city teeters on the precipice of violence, Josh and Maddie find themselves embroiled in a deadly scheme that could reshape the nation.

Rating: B

Rachel Grant is one of my favourite authors of romantic suspense (if not THE favourite) and I was thrilled when she announced she’d be continuing her long-running Evidence series following the winding up of her excellent Flashpoint trilogy.  Tainted Evidence is the tenth Evidence book, and the author shows no sign of running out of steam, presenting just the sort of high-stakes, clever plot I’ve come to expect together with interesting, complex characters that are easy to root for, and a number of tense, edge-of-the-seat storylines.  One of the things I always enjoy about Ms. Grant’s books is their topicality – I recall some of the scenarios in the Flashpoint books being all-too-scarily plausible for example – and that is definitely the case here, as the suspense plot deals with some sensitive and very current topics about things happening in America today. I know that not everyone is up for a dose of real-life politics in their romance novels, so I’ll say right now that while I do recommend the book, some readers may find certain aspects of it cut a little close to the bone.

Museologist Maddie Foster has been employed to examine over two hundred sets of remains housed at the mansion – formerly a private museum – of the Kocher family in Troutdale, Oregon.  Almost a century earlier, Otto Kocher had looted hundreds of ancient and indigenous graves, stealing both funerary objects and human remains, and circumvented the law about displaying the remains by housing them in underground vaults. But now the state has finally ordered the museum’s closure and the disgruntled family can’t sell the house until all the remains have been catalogued prior to repatriation.   When the book opens, Maddie is on her first day of at least ten in the musty basement of the house – and as if being cooped up for days underground weren’t bad enough, Otto’s grandson Toby, who is – ostensibly – acting as a security guard, is creeping her out.  He stands too close, repeatedly draws attention to the gun and taser he wears, obviously in an attempt to intimidate her, and while she hates admitting it, even to herself, Maddie IS intimidated.  On her lunch break, she calls her best friend, Trina Sorensen (Witholding Evidence), who is now happily married to Keith Hatcher, CEO of Raptor, a high-end private security and military training company.  A few weeks earlier, Trina had mentioned that one of Keith’s best friends, Josh Warner, was moving to Portland and tried to set them up, but Maddie had just gone through a break-up and wasn’t interested in dating anyone.  Now, however, she needs someone to get Kocher to back off, and she asks Trina if maybe Josh would be able to show up and pretend to be her boyfriend for an hour.

Josh Warner grew up in Oregon, and, following his stint in the Navy, has been working for Raptor out of their DC office for the past five years.  When he received news that his brother was being sent to prison, Josh knew he needed to get home to look after his seventeen-year-old niece, Ava, a troubled young woman with anxiety and abandonment issues.  He’s now Ava’s legal guardian and is determined to do his absolute best to provide the safe, loving environment she needs.  But between his responsibilities to Ava, to Raptor and his friend and former comrade Owen, whom Josh has been helping to get back on his feet following injury and addiction, Josh has no time for a personal life  – which is a real bummer, because the minute he sets eyes on Maddie he feels an instant pull of attraction… and knows it’s mutual.

Maddie and Josh have terrific chemistry and move very quickly from that initial attraction to heated making out, but both agree that the timing is bad and that they should put the idea of anything more than friendship onto the back burner.  The trouble is that it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle, and I rather liked what became their running gag about going on ‘not-dates’ and having a ‘not-relationship’, because it was clear as day to them and everyone around them that they were pretty far gone for each other even after just a few days.  That’s not to say that everything is plain sailing for them; the conflict in the romance comes as the result of a bad judgment call and takes considerable effort to undo.

The suspense plot is, as I’ve said, fast-paced and complex, and the author tackles a number of issues that are hugely relevant all the time, but are perhaps even more so at the present moment.  Maddie’s research leads her to uncover a plot by a group of white supremacists to debunk years of scientific exploration and theory as part of a larger scheme to … well, no spoilers, but it’s a doozie;  and Josh comes up with a plan to train groups of volunteers to peaceably protect those wishing to protest the planned rallies by the neo-Nazi White Patriot group.  The author packs a lot of hot topics into the story – political corruption, media perception, doxing, tribal rights, a woman’s right to choose, to name but a few – and weaves them in skilfully, but even though my personal views align pretty closely with hers, there is a degree of heavy-handedness here which I haven’t felt in her other books.  I’m always impressed with the amount of fascinating information Ms. Grant imparts and love it when I can learn new things while I’m being solidly entertained, but some of the hammering home here lacks her usual subtlety.

Josh and Maddie are engaging characters in their thirties who are confident in their abilities and know who they are and what they want.  Josh is one of those heroes with a protective streak a mile wide, something Maddie susses out right away, which prompts her to wonder who takes care of him while he’s so busy looking out for everyone else.  Maddie is determined and resourceful, and I particularly enjoyed her interactions with Ava, being open with her but also setting clear boundaries.  The attraction between Josh and Maddie comes to a boil quickly, but as the book progresses, it becomes clear they really are a very good fit and that they’re prepared put in the work needed to move forward together.

Tainted Evidence is a great addition to the excellent Evidence series, an enthralling, cleverly-plotted, hard-to-put-down novel with a satisfying balance of steamy moments and nail-biting tension.  I enjoyed it, and the reservations I’ve expressed don’t prevent me from giving it a strong recommendation.

Inferno (Flashpoint #3.5) by Rachel Grant

This title may be purchased from Amazon

US Embassy Officer Kaylea Halpert needs a date for a black tie event at a dangerous foreign national’s lavish home. Preferably someone with brains and brawn who can watch her back. Special Forces Sergeant Carlos Espinosa is more than happy to escort the beautiful, brilliant diplomat—who just might be a CIA case officer—to the party. Their night together only gets hotter when he discovers Kaylea burns for him too.

Date night in Djibouti turns deadly when foreign agents target the couple. But who is the intended victim, the covert operator or the Green Beret? As Carlos and Kaylea use their combined skills to escape their captors, they uncover treachery that could ignite relations between the US and Djibouti—already at a flashpoint—and trigger an inferno.

Rating: B+

Rachel Grant’s recent Flashpoint series of romantic suspense novels set in and around the Horn of Africa is one of my favourites in the genre; fast-paced, action-packed, sexy and incredibly politically astute and informative, they’ve pretty much ruined me for all other romantic suspense stories!  So I may just have squeeed a little when I learned the series wasn’t quite over, and the author was publishing a novella featuring two of its main secondary characters, US diplomat (and CIA Case Officer) Kaylea Halpert and Sergeant First Class Carlos Espinosa, another member of the team of special forces operatives based at Camp Citron in Djiboutu.

When Kaylea learns she’s been invited to a party being hosted by Saudi businessman Sheikh Rashid bin Abdul al-Farooq, she isn’t keen on attending.  Al Farooq has only recently emerged as a player on the political stage in the region; backed by the Russian Bratva, he’s positioning himself as a philanthropist and benefactor to Djibouti, and Kaylea is concerned that the traitor Seth Olsen (Firestorm), whom Al Farooq met recently, may have blown her cover and revealed her to be a CIA agent.  In addition, the man has taken a personal interest in her that Kaylea finds worrisome, to say the least.  Seeing her unease, one of her colleagues suggests she takes a date to the party – which gives Kaylea an idea.  She needs someone to watch her back who won’t be easily intimidated – and who won’t shy away from being intimidating if necessary – and who better than one of the Special Forces guys from Camp Citron?  And if that guy just happens to be a certain gorgeous, Puerto Rican explosives expert… well.

Sergeant Carlos Espinosa (Espi) is looking forward to shipping out and returning Stateside.  The mission he and his team have been given – that of training Djiboutian soldiers – has come to an end, and they’re heading home in seven days. It’s been a tough tour and he’s not sorry to be leaving… although he has to admit that he wouldn’t have minded spending a bit more time there if it meant he could get to know a certain CIA operative a bit better.  Kaylea Halpert is his ideal combination of beauty, brains and badass but their paths are unlikely to cross again once his deployment comes to an end.

As Espi and his team head back to camp after a day spent putting the trainees through their paces, they stop in the city to help at the site of an explosion that happened earlier that day near the UAE consulate. He’s not surprised to see Kaylea there – but is surprised when she literally throws herself into his arms and kisses him right out in the open for all to see. He guesses the reason for her unprecedented action right away – “I take it that was for the benefit of that guy in the keffiyeh who’s staring daggers at me?”– and when she asks him to accompany to her to the reception that night at Al Farooq’s brand new palace, he agrees – orders permitting – to help.

This fake relationship isn’t really fake at all.  Kaylea and Espi have been aware of each other for a while; they’re both honest about their mutual attraction and desire for one another and don’t hesitate to act on it.  While there’s a little regret on both their parts that they didn’t make a move sooner, they’re determined to enjoy their night together, as it’s all they’re likely to have.  But Carlos wants more, and tries to persuade Kaylea that they should keep in touch privately to explore the connection he knows they both feel, to explore the possibility of a future they both want; but Kaylea is reluctant, insisting that their current realities and careers are incompatible.

But it doesn’t take her long to realise that she can’t simply close the door on something she can’t deny she wants too.  She hurries to catch up to Carlos after he’s left her apartment – and is confronted with the sight of him being beaten up by three huge men.  In her rush to catch him, she’s left her phone and gun upstairs, so when she sees the men dumping Carlos in the back seat of a Jeep and driving off, she immediately jumps into Carlos’ truck and follows, determined to do whatever she needs to do to free him and get them both out of whatever they’ve stumbled into alive.

Ms. Grant packs a lot of story into a smaller-than-usual page count, but this is a worthy addition to the Flashpoint series, a quickly-moving, tightly-plotted story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats as Kaylea and Espi uncover a tapestry of lies, treachery and betrayal designed to completely wreck the already fragile diplomatic relations between the US and the various governments in the region – and race to put out the fires.  As is the case with all the books in the series, the author’s research is impeccable and she imparts relevant and interesting information without resorting to dry-info dumps.  Kaylea is a kick-ass heroine of the best kind; she’s intelligent, frighteningly competent and does what needs to be done regardless of how little she may actually want to do it; and Espi has her back all the way. Of course he doesn’t like the idea of the woman he’s falling for going into danger, but he admires and respects her abilities and talents; he knows she can handle herself and doesn’t try to stop her doing so. Both of them know their best chance of success is to work together – and they do that spectacularly well.

The shorter length does mean that the romance develops rather quickly, but that’s often the case in romantic suspense novels given that the leads have to work in really close proximity over short spaces of time. The fact that Kaylea and Espi have fancied each other from afar for some time helps establish the connection between them, although it’s a fast progression from that to ILYs.

That quibble aside, however, I was really pleased to be able to spend some more time in this world and with these characters. Inferno is a great way to get your fix of thrills, action, adventure and romance in one small – but perfectly formed – package.

ETA:  The audio version, narrated by the ever fabulous Greg Tremblay is terrific; the way he injects real emotion into his performance goes a long way to making those fast-ish ILYs completely believeable.

My 2018 in Books & Audio

My Goodreads stats for 2018 reveal that I read 256 books in 2018 (I challenged myself to 240, so I just passed that goal!) – although 108 of those were audiobooks.  I suspect, actually, that I listened to more than that, as I know I did a handful of re-listens, and I don’t tend to count those – I re-listen far more than I re-read (I don’t think I did any re-reads last year) – and I think that number of audiobooks is more than ever.  Although I have fifty-six 5 star rated books showing on my stats page, the actual 5 star/A grades only number around a dozen or so; the majority are 4.5 star reads that I rounded up or audiobooks in which either  story or narration (usually the narration) bumped the grade up into that bracket.  I say this because, despite that number of fifty-six, when I came to make my list of what I thought were the Best Books of 2018 for All About Romance, I didn’t have too much trouble making my list, whereas normally, I’ll have fifteen to twenty I could include and have a tough job to whittle it down.

4 star ratings were my largest group (153) – and these include the 4.5 star ratings I don’t round up (B+ books) and the 3.5 star ratings I do round up (B- books), and then I had thirty-three books and audiobooks in the 3 star bracket, nine in the 2 star, one 1 star and one unrated DNF.

The titles that made my Best of 2018 list are these:

You can read about them in more detail at All About Romance.

My Year in Books at Goodreads.

And here are a few more rambling thoughts about the books I read and the audiobooks I listened to last year.

Historical Romance

Historical Romance is far and away my favourite genre, and for years, I read very little else.  Sadly however, HR made a pretty poor showing in 2018 overall, and while there were a few that were excellent, they really were the exception.  The vast majority of the newer authors – and I do try most of them  at least once – can’t generally manage anything that deserves more than a C grade/3 stars (if that) and even some of the big-names just didn’t deliver.  Elizabeth Hoyt’s new series got off to a terrible start with Not the Duke’s Darling, which was overstuffed, confusing and not very romantic with an irritating heroine of the worst kind (the sort who has to trample all over the hero in order to prove herself).  Lorraine Heath’s When a Duke Loves a Womanwhich I listened to rather than read (thank you Kate Reading, for the excellent narration!) – stretched the cross-class romance trope to breaking point and was sadly dull in places, and Kerrigan Byrne’s sixth Victorian Rebels book, The Duke With the Dragon Tattoo was a huge disappointment.  On the plus side though, just before the end of the year, I read début author Mia Vincy’s A Wicked Kind of Husband which was clever, witty, poignant and sexy, and is the first début I’ve raved about since 2016.  Meredith Duran’s The Sins of Lord Lockwood was a triumph, and Caroline Linden’s two Wagers of Sin books – My Once and Future Duke and An Earl Like You – were very good – intelligent, strongly characterised and deeply romantic.  Of the two, I preferred An Earl Like You, a gorgeously romantic marriage of convenience story with a bit of a twist.  Honourable mentions go to Joanna Shupe’s A Notorious Vow, the third in her Four Hundred series, Virginia Heath’s A Warriner to Seduce Her and Stella Riley’s Hazard, and my two favourite historical mystery series – Lady Sherlock and Sebastian St. Cyr (Sherry Thomas and C.S. Harris respectively) had wonderful new instalments out.  K.J. Charles – who can’t seem to write a bad book! – published three titles – The Henchmen of Zenda, Unfit to Print and Band Sinister – all of which I loved and rated highly, and new author, Lee Welch gobsmacked me with her first full-length novel, an historical paranormal (queer) romance, Salt Magic, Skin Magic, a truly mystical, magical story with a sensual romance between opposites.   Bec McMaster’s terrific London Steampunk: The Blue Blood Conspiracy continued with You Only Love Twice and To Catch a Rogue, which were wonderful; fast-paced, intelligent and witty, combining high-stakes plots and plenty of action with steamy, sensual romances.

Romantic Suspense

I’ve turned most often to romantic suspense this year to fill the void left by the paucity of good historical romance – many of them in audio as I backtracked through audio catalogues and got hooked on some series that first appeared before 2018, notably Cut & Run and Psycop.  In print, I was really impressed with Charlie Adhara’s first two novels in her Big Bad Wolf series, The Wolf at the Door and The Wolf at Bay. I’m not a big fan of shifters, but a friend convinced me to try the first book, and I’m really glad I did.  There’s a great suspense plot, two fabulous leads with off-the-charts chemistry, and their relationship as they move from suspicion to admiration to more is really well done.

The final book in Rachel Grant’s Flashpoint trilogy – Firestorm – was a real humdinger and fantastic end to what’s been one of my favourite series over the past couple of years.  Superbly written and researched, topical, fast-paced and featuring fabulously developed characters, Firestorm sees two characters who’ve been dancing around each other for two books having to team up to infiltrate a Russian arms dealing ring, and, when things go south, going on the run in one of the most dangerous places in the world. Ms. Grant is one of my favourite authors and her romantic suspense novels are hard to beat.

My big – and I mean BIG – discovery this year was Cordelia Kingsbridge’s Seven of Spades series which is simply brilliant – addictive.  I’ve raved about it to everyone that will listen (sorry!) and will do so again.  It’s a series of five books (four are out, the fifth is due in March) that tells one overarching story about the search for a clever, devious serial killer plaguing Las Vegas.  Each book advances that plotline while also having another, self-contained storyline that eventually coalesces with the main plot; it’s incredibly well done and the plots themselves are filled with nail-biting tension.  The two central characters – Levi Abrams, a tightly-wound, intense homicide detective – and Dominic Russo – a congenial, much more relaxed guy who has serious problems of his own – are wonderful;  they’re complex, flawed and multi-faceted, and while they’re complete opposites in many ways, they’re no less perfect for each other because of it.  Their relationship goes through terrific  highs and terrible lows, but as we head into the last book, they’re stronger than ever – and I can’t wait for what promises to be an incredible series finale.

Contemporary Romance isn’t a genre I gravitate towards, but for what I think is the first time EVER,  one made my Best of list – Sally Malcolm’s Between the Lines.  I’ve really enjoyed the three books she’s set in New Milton (a fictional Long Island resort); in fact, her novella, Love Around the Corner could easily have made the list as well.  She has a real gift for creating likeable but flawed characters and for writing emotion that sings without being over the top.  And I have to give a shout-out to Kelly Jensen’s This Time Forever series, three books that feature older (late thirties-fifty) characters finding happiness and their forever afters – wonderful, distinct characters, each facing particular challenges and the need to sort out all the emotional baggage that comes with having been around the block a few times.

Audio

I listened to more audiobooks than ever this year – partly, I think, because I was trying to fill the gap in my reading because so much HR was just not measuring up, and partly because the fact that I tend to genre-hop more in audio has introduced me to a number of new (to me) narrators that I’ve begun to seek out more. (Plus, I’ve had some long commutes lately!)  My favourites are still my favourites: Rosalyn Landor, Kate Reading, Mary Jane Wells, Alex Wyndham and Nicholas Boulton are unbeatable when it comes to historical romances; Andi Arndt reigns supreme when it comes to American contemps, Steve West could read me cereal packets and Greg Tremblay/Boudreaux is my hero. But my list of narrators to trust has grown to include J.F. Harding, Sean Crisden, Joe Arden, Carly Robbins, Saskia Maarleveld and Will Damron.

I’ve become hooked on m/m romantic suspense this year, and have been catching up with two long-running series – Cut & Run by Abigail Roux and Madeline Urban and Psycop by Jordan Castillo Price. The Cut & Run books are fast-paced hokum, the sort of thing you see in a lot of procedurals and action films – enjoyable, but frequently full of holes.  But the series is made by its two central characters – Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett – who strike sparks off each other from the get go and fight, snark and fuck their way through nine books I enjoyed to differing degrees.  Unusually, the series has three narrators; the first one (Sawyer Allerde) wasn’t so great, but Sean Crisden and J.F. Harding do fabulous work in books 3-9, and while I know there’s a lot of mixed feeling out there over the later books, I’d still recommend them and the series in audio.

I’ve also been drawn to a number of books that feature psychics in some way or another – I have no idea why – and again, some were more successful than others.  I enjoyed Z.A. Maxfield’s The Long Way Home – which is excellently narrated by J.F Harding – and I’m working my way through Jordan Castillo Price’s hugely entertaining Psycop series (I’ve listened to 6 books so far) narrated by Gomez Pugh who doesn’t just portray, but completely inhabits the character of Victor Bayne, the endearingly shambolic protagonist of the series. I plan to listen to the final three books very soon.

Contemporary Romance is a genre I rarely read and don’t listen to often, as it doesn’t do much for me in general.  Nonetheless, I’ve listened to a few great contemporary audios in 2018, several of them in Annabeth Albert’s Out of Uniform series, notably Squared Away and Tight Quarters, the latter being one of my favourites. Greg Boudreaux’s narration was the big draw for me in picking up this series on audio (although books 1-3 use different narrators) and he continues to be one of the best – if not THE best – male romance narrators around. The praise heaped on Kate Clayborn’s début, Beginner’s Luck prompted me to pick it up in audio, although I confess that Will Damron’s name attached to it factored into that decision as well.  Helen Hoang’s début, The Kiss Quotient was another contemp that generated a huge buzz, which again, prompted me to listen – and the fact that I’d enjoyed Carly Robins’ performance in Beginner’s Luck once again proved the power of the narrator when it comes to my decisions as to what I want to listen to.


As for what I’m looking forward to in 2019?  First of all, I’d like a few more winners from my favourite historical romance writers, please!  Although to be honest, it’s looking a bit bleak, with Meredith Duran on hiatus, and only one – I think? – book due from Caroline Linden this year.  I am, however, looking forward to reading more from Mia Vincy, who has three more books in her series to come, and I’ve already read a fantastic book by K.J. Charles – I believe there’s a sequel on the way, which I’m sure will be equally fabulous.  I can’t wait for the finale in the Seven of Spades series – and for whatever Cordelia Kingsbridge comes up with next, and the same is true of Charlie Adhara, whose final Big Bad Wolf book is due out in April.  There are new books in their respective series coming from Sherry Thomas and C.S. Harris, so I’ll be there for those, and I’m looking forward to Deanna Raybourn’s next Veronica Speedwell book.  Audio often lags behind print, so many of the audiobooks I’m eagerly awaiting are books I read in print this year, such as Amy Lane’s A Few Good Fish (which I read in August) with Greg Tremblay once again doing the honours, and Lee Welch’s Salt Magic, Skin Magic, performed by Joel Leslie, who I’m sure is going to be terrific.  I’m also looking forward to the final book in Kate Clayborn’s Chance of a Lifetime Trilogy, Best of Luck, again narrated by Will Damron and Carly Robbins.

Hopefully, I’ll be back this time next year to let you all know how things have panned out!

Silent Evidence (Evidence #8) by Rachel Grant

This title may be purchased from Amazon

The man of her fantasies is finally hers. Sort of…

Two things haunt forensic anthropologist Hazel MacLeod: the bones of victims of genocide she examines for her work, and former SEAL Sean Logan’s rejection. But within days of moving to her cousin’s estate to take a much needed break, she finds herself faced with both.

First, she’s called in to examine a mass grave in Virginia, then, her politician cousin receives a threatening letter and insists Hazel needs around the clock protection–from none other than Sean Logan. To make matters worse, because the threat to her is classified, Hazel and Sean must pretend to be lovers to hide that he’s her bodyguard.

Sean has spent years trying to avoid his boss’s sexy cousin, but now he’s guarding her twenty-four seven and even bringing her as his date to a romantic destination wedding. As the heat between them intensifies, Sean can’t lose sight of the danger that brought them together. But when bullets start flying, new questions arise. Are the senator’s political rivals really behind the threat, or is someone trying to silence Hazel from speaking for the dead?

Rating: B-

Rachel Grant is my favourite author of romantic suspense and her recent Flashpoint series has been amazing; action-packed, steamy, topical stories featuring complex, engaging characters and edge-of-your-seat plots that have never failed to pull me in and keep me glued to the pages from start to finish.  Now that series is finished (or maybe just on hiatus?), the author has returned to the world of her Evidence series to bring us book eight, Silent Evidence, which once again features a heroine whose area of expertise is related to archaeology (in this case, she’s a forensic anthropologist) and a hero who is a member of Raptor, the high-end private security firm owned by former Army Ranger – now US Senator – Alec Ravissant.  While the plotlines in most of the other books in the series more or less stand alone, Silent Evidence is very strongly linked to earlier stories – particularly Incriminating Evidence (book four) and Poison Evidence (book seven), and I suspect that much of the impact of this story may be lost on anyone who hasn’t at the very least read those books before tackling this one.

Dr. Hazel MacLeod – sister of Ivy from Poison Evidence – has just returned from Croatia where she spent several months working for the International Commission on Missing Persons, examining the remains of the victims of war and genocide.  Not surprisingly, that work has badly affected her mental health, and she had begun to experience nightmares and panic attacks before coming back to the US.   While she recuperates and works out what she wants to do next, she’s staying at the home of her cousin Alec Ravissant and his wife Isabel, an archaeologist.  Isabel is currently working on a time-sensitive assignment, inspecting and recording finds at the site of a drained reservoir before repairs are made, and the discovery of a pile of bones in the water means she needs expert help.  She asks Hazel to come out to the site to confirm these are human remains – and once there, Hazel is appalled to realise that the small pile she’d been called to look at is just the tip of the iceberg, and that there are thousands of bones there, thousands of bones that belong to at least two dozen individuals… a mass grave.

Sean Logan is Raptor’s top operative and one of Alec’s most trusted friends. So when Alec calls him and asks him – without explanation – to get out to the site and bring Isabel home, he’s curious, but doesn’t stop to question and makes his way out there immediately.  On arrival, he’s stunned to recognise the auburn-haired woman standing with Isabel; he hadn’t even known Hazel MacLeod, subject of many an inappropriate fantasy, was back in the states.

Later, Alec reveals why he’d sent Sean to escort Isabel home.  A man in his position gets hate mail and death threats on a regular basis and most of the time they’re insignificant, but he’s recently received one that indicates knowledge of certain events in Alec, Isabel’s and Hazel’s pasts which lead him to take this particular threat seriously.  He’s unable to share details with them because there’s an implication for national security, but they all know Alec, and know that he wouldn’t be telling them anything unless he was genuinely worried.

The immediate problem – and why he’s brought Sean into the mix – is that he and Isabel, along with a large group of friends – are headed to a wedding at the weekend, and Alec doesn’t want to leave Hazel alone.  He insists she accompany them, but Hazel demurs, protesting that she doesn’t know the bride or groom (Cressida and Ian from book five, Covert Evidence) and doesn’t want to crash their wedding, but Alec has that covered and won’t listen to her protests.  Sean is the best man, and Hazel can go with him as his date.

Hazel isn’t keen on the idea, but not because she doesn’t like Sean; in fact, she likes him way too much for her peace of mind, and is worried that having to pose as his girlfriend will tip everyone off to that fact.  Added to this is her lingering embarrassment over an incident some months earlier when she propositioned him and he turned her down; she’s not comfortable around him and can’t see how such a charade can possibly work.

I generally like fake-relationship stories and I was all set to enjoy this one from a favourite author, but something about it didn’t work for me.  For one thing, the mental lusting on both sides – because of course Sean didn’t rebuff Hazel because he wasn’t interested – is pretty excessive, and for another, Sean is so blow-hot-blow-cold towards her that his lightning quick switches between ‘full steam ahead’ and ‘this can’t happen’ made me dizzy.  And he’s not the only one; literally minutes after Hazel tells him he’s not getting any (after he tells her he’s not interested in anything other than sex), they’re shagging  against a tree in the woods.  I know Ms. Grant is capable of creating fabulous sexual tension between her protagonists, but it just didn’t happen here; I liked the idea of Sean and Hazel when Hazel was introduced at the end of Poison Evidence, but their romance is underdeveloped and seems to be based almost wholly on physical attraction and mutual lust.

The suspense plot –when it gets going – is as well thought out and intriguing as ever, and the author highlights a number of very relevant issues with insight and sensitivity.  I was pleasantly surprised when the plot turned out to have links back to the experimental technology that featured in Incriminating Evidence, and I was also glad to see Matthew – aka Dmitri Veselov, from the previous book – playing a major role, as I have a bit of a soft spot for him 😉  But on the downside, all this doesn’t really get going until around two-thirds of the way through; in previous books, the suspense plot and the romance have been really well woven together and have progressed alongside one another but here, after the initial set up, the romance takes centre stage while the plot treads water for a bit, which isn’t normally the case with this author.  There’s a fair bit of padding in the first parts of the novel, and I came away from it thinking that it might have worked better as a novella.

To sum up, Silent Evidence is a bit of a mixed bag, and my final grade is a compromise. Had the whole novel been in the same vein as the final third, I’d have been awarding at least a B grade, but unfortunately, that’s dragged down because the romance didn’t convince me and while the suspense plot was enjoyable, it wasn’t enough to carry a full length-novel. I’m  a big fan of Rachel Grant’s and will be snapping up whatever she comes up with next, but sadly, Silent Evidence isn’t going down as one of my favourites.

Firestorm (Flashpoint #3) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

CIA covert operator Savannah James is after intel on a potential coup in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but she needs a partner fluent in Lingala to infiltrate the organization.

Sergeant First Class Cassius Callahan is the perfect choice, except he doesn’t like her very much. He doesn’t trust her, either, despite the sparks that flare between them, fierce and hot. Still, he accepts the assignment, even though their cover requires Savvy to pose as his mistress.

They enter battle-worn Congo to expose the financing for the coup. A trail of cobalt, gold, and diamonds leads them into the heart of darkness, a jungle in which everyone is desperate to find the mother lode of ore and gems. Betrayal stalks them as they follow the money, but Savvy will stop at nothing to bring down the would-be dictator before he can ignite a firestorm that will engulf all of Africa.

Deep in the sultry rain forest, spy and Green Beret forge a relationship more precious than diamonds, but Cal knows Savvy is willing to sacrifice anything – or anyone – to complete her mission. As they near the flash point, Cal will have to save her from the greatest threat of all: herself.

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – A

I had the same feeling when I finished listening to Firestorm (book three in Rachel Grant’s Flashpoint series) as I did when I finished reading the novel a few weeks back – the urge to stand up, applaud and yell “bravo!” – because it is easily one of the best romantic suspense novels I’ve ever listened to. It’s also a story I’ve been waiting for since the series began; Sergeant First Class Cassius ‘Cal’ Callahan and CIA operative Savannah James have been striking sparks off each other for two books now, and in Firestorm they get their chance to kick ass, take names, and burn up the sheets. (And then some).

Both Savvy and Cal were prominent secondary characters in the other books, and it’s been clear from the off that while Cal doesn’t particularly like Savvy, he’s strongly attracted to her – and that the reverse is true. Savannah is the resident “spook” at the military base at Camp Citron in Djibouti, and pretty much everyone on base views her with suspicion; she’s widely rumoured to be with the CIA, but nobody knows for sure. Whatever her affiliation though, there’s no question she’s extremely competent and is completely focused on getting the job done, no matter what the cost. This ruthlessness is one of the things about her that Cal dislikes intensely; he believes she’ll sacrifice anything and anyone in pursuit of her goals – plus he has his own reasons for being wary of the CIA. So when his commanding officer tells him that Savvy has requested his services for a sensitive operation, he’s not eager to sign up.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

YOU CAN ENTER THE GIVEAWAY AT AUDIOGALS – THERE ARE TWO COPIES OF FIRESTORM UP FOR GRABS – UNTIL WEDS 8th AUGUST.

Firestorm (Flashpoint #3) by Rachel Grant


This title may be purchased from Amazon

CIA covert operator Savannah James is after intel on a potential coup in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but she needs a partner fluent in Lingala to infiltrate the organization. Sergeant First Class Cassius Callahan is the perfect choice, except he doesn’t like her very much. He doesn’t trust her, either, despite the sparks that flare between them, fierce and hot. Still, he accepts the assignment even though their cover requires Savvy to pose as his mistress.

They enter battle-worn Congo to expose the financing for the coup. A trail of cobalt, gold, and diamonds leads them into the heart of a jungle in which everyone is desperate to find the mother lode of ore and gems. Betrayal stalks them as they follow the money, but Savvy will stop at nothing to bring down the would-be dictator before he can ignite a firestorm that will engulf all of Africa.

Deep in the sultry rainforest, spy and Green Beret forge a relationship more precious than diamonds, but Cal knows Savvy is willing to sacrifice anything—or anyone—to complete her mission. As they near the flashpoint, Cal will have to save her from the greatest threat of all: herself.

Rating: A

I’ve been eager to get my hands on Firestorm, the third book in Rachel Grant’s gripping Flashpoint series, for months – and it was definitely worth the wait.  This is one high-octane, high-stakes ride; steamy, complex, intricately plotted, politically astute and emotionally fraught, Firestorm is easily one of the best romantic suspense novels I’ve read in ages and Ms. Grant is clearly an author at the top of her game.

All the books in the series have been set in and around the fictional US base of Camp Citron on the outskirts of Djibouti.  The series is called Flashpoint for a very good reason; the stories take place in some of the most dangerous places in the world (the Horn of Africa, Sudan and Congo), which are – literally – potential flashpoints that turn on a knife-edge; unstable regions and countries open to exploitation by influences both foreign and domestic.  In this story, most of the action takes place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the Russian-backed dictator-in-waiting, Jean Paul Lubanga, is planning to seize power and gain control of the country’s massive wealth in diamonds, minerals and uranium oxide.  Russian control of the DRC would destabilise the already precarious political situation in Central Africa, and most worrying of all, the likely supply of uranium to places like Syria and Iran could be the first step towards World War Three.  The stakes couldn’t be higher, and Camp Citron’s resident ‘spook’, Savannah James, has been tasked with finding out exactly how close Lubanga is to staging a coup.

Savannah – Savvy –  has been a prominent secondary character throughout the series, a coolly enigmatic and ruthless (when called for) woman who is believed throughout the camp to be working for the CIA, although nobody knows for sure.  She’s frighteningly competent and utterly dedicated to getting the job done by whatever means necessary –and sometimes those means aren’t pretty.  Most of the people on camp dislike her and give her a wide berth, although she’s found an ally of sorts in Master Sergeant Pax Blanchard (hero of Tinderbox, book one) and Chief Warrant Officer Sebastian Ford (hero of Catalyst, book two), the latter in spite of the fact that she ordered Bastian to seduce his now-fiancée, Brie Stewart, in order to gain information about the links between Brie’s family and the Russian mafia.  The one man in Bastian and Pax’s circle who makes no attempt to hide his dislike of Savvy is Sergeant First Class Cassius Callahan (Cal); that he also happens to be the one man Savvy wants at her back as she infiltrates a gathering comprising some of the most dangerous men in the world is not about to make life any easier for either of them.

There’s been a strong undercurrent of lust and sexual tension humming between Savvy and Cal since book one; they’re not exactly in denial, they both know they’re intensely attracted to one another, but neither is very happy about it and they keep their distance as far as possible.  But that’s going to be impossible if Cal accepts the mission Savvy outlines; the only way she will be able to gain access to the party being thrown by Radimir Gorov is if she turns up hanging on the arm of an obviously powerful, ambitious and dangerous man.  Which is where Cal comes in.

“Warlords and oligarchs will never accept a woman at the table unless she’s there as a toy… you’re the businessman.  I’ll be your sex toy.”

Cal and Savvy are both strong, likeable, highly intelligent characters who share an intense dedication to doing what’s right and are driven to protect those they care for and those less fortunate.  Savvy is tough as nails and is as highly trained as any special forces operative, yet she has faced – and continues to face – sexism and misogyny, even from those who are supposed to have her back.  When she realises the extent of the manipulation to which she has been subjected by someone she’d trusted implicitly, it’s an excruciating – and ultimately life-threatening – betrayal that sees her and Cal running for their lives.

This is a very personal mission for Cal.  The son of a Congolese mother and American father, his aunt and female cousins were raped and murdered by soldiers in the Second Congo War, and his male cousins disappeared; to this day it’s not known whether they died or have become part of the same rebel group that killed his aunt and her daughters.  Cal may have been born in the US, but there’s no denying the strong kinship he feels with his mother’s homeland, and he’s just as determined as Savvy to strike a blow against the would-be interlopers and criminals who want to strip the Congo of its resources and autonomy.

The fake-relationship trope is perhaps a bit of an overdone premise in this particular genre, but be assured it’s only a springboard for what follows. There is much, MUCH more to this novel than the scorching sexual chemistry between the two leads; we’re plunged straight into a multi-layered story full of danger and nail-biting tension while at the same time we’re seeing the layers of suspicion and distrust built up by both Savvy and Cal being slowly peeled away to reveal the true nature and depth of their feelings for one another.  The author has created compelling and rich personal stories for both protagonists, and, as usual, doesn’t shy away from referring to the atrocities and corruption that are every day occurrences in this part of the world.

I never fail to be impressed by Ms. Grant’s impeccable research and her ability to construct a sophisticated, topical and perfectly paced story that grabs me from page one and pushes me closer to the edge of my seat with each chapter.  Firestorm is a real treat for lovers of romantic suspense; great characters with off-the-charts chemistry, a tender romance, a powerfully compelling plot full of dramatic twists and turns, and one of those against-all-odds finales that has you jumping up and down and punching the air when the good guys triumph over evil.  I think this is the last book in the series and I’m certainly sorry to see it end –although you can colour me intrigued by the little glimpse we’re given of what we might have to look forward to next.

Firestorm is romantic suspense done right and to the max. Don’t miss it.