Forbidden Stranger (The Protector #3) by Megan Hart (audiobook) – Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Nina Bronson and Ewan Donahue have put their love to its limits. To Ewan, she’s the only woman he wants to be with for the rest of his life. To Nina, whose memories have been ripped out of her, Ewan is her kind and generous boss who’s helping her recover after an accident she also can’t remember. The more time they spend together, the more she begins to feel for him, but Ewan knows the truth – she loved him once.

As Ewan tries to do whatever it takes to get Nina back to herself without putting her in danger, the two of them have to build a brand-new relationship from the ground up. Sometimes, a lie isn’t a betrayal, it’s a lifesaver. Can Nina forgive Ewan for not telling her the truth about why she lost so much of her memories, or are they doomed to never be together again?

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – B-

Forbidden Stranger is the final instalment of Megan Hart’s futuristic Protector trilogy, in which the overarching storyline pairs a kick-ass female bodyguard with a wealthy billionaire industrialist. I loved the premise of the series, the author’s world-building is terrific, the narration is excellent, and the first book is gripping, but sadly, books two and three suffer from the same problems – too much filler, not enough action and final acts that are rushed. On reflection, this story would probably have worked better as a duology, with the events of book two stripped of the filler and combined with a pared-down book three.

Please note that there will be spoilers for books one and two – Dangerous Promise and Wicked Attraction – in this review.

In Dangerous Promise, listeners were introduced to the author’s vision of a near-future coloured by war, environmental damage and cyber-terrorism. Nina Bronson is one of fifteen former soldiers who were technologically enhanced during life-saving surgery, the nano-chips implanted in their brains enabling them to be stronger and faster than normal humans and to control their emotional and physical reactions. The chips also allow the enhanced to have their memories wiped and for them to be reset after sensitive assignments should their clients so wish. Nina is engaged by billionaire businessman Ewan Donahue, the most vocal opponent of enhancement technology, as his personal bodyguard after several failed attempts on his life.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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Relentless (Somerton Security #2) by Elizabeth Dyer


This title may be purchased from Amazon

Ethan Somerton doesn’t do safe or easy. He’s all about the challenge. The risk. In order to rescue one of his agents, Ethan must infiltrate the ruthless Vega cartel. One tiny error—just one—and he’s dead. Which means he needs Natalia Vega. Bright, beautiful, and cut sharper than the most lethal blade, she’s finally reached her breaking point. Now Ethan must find a way to make her surrender.

Caught between desperate choices and no-win situations, Natalia has survived the unthinkable by becoming dangerous, relentless, and feared. When it comes to protecting her sister, there’s no line Natalia won’t cross. But when Ethan storms into her life with his cocksure arrogance, stone-cold competence, and seductive promises, Natalia wonders if she’s finally found a way out. But discovering whether Ethan is salvation or destruction is going to require the one thing Natalia doesn’t have—trust.

As the cartel implodes and loved ones are threatened, Ethan and Natalia are going to have to choose between love, loyalty, and the lies they cling to. They could run, knowing they’ll never be safe. They could fight, knowing they’ll probably die. Or they can trust in each other…and do something far more dangerous.

Rating: B

I’m always on the look-out for reliably good new authors of romantic suspense, and in Elizabeth Dyer, I think I’ve found one.  Relentless, the second book in her Somerton Security series (and her second published novel), is a strongly-written, fast-paced story featuring a team of ex-military types who work for a specialist security firm that also runs off-the-books black-ops for the government.  While that isn’t an especially original concept, Relentless is nonetheless a very readable tale; the author has created a suspenseful and intriguing plotline that packs an emotional punch in just the right places, the central characters have great sexual chemistry, and the knife-edge walked daily by the heroine is well-depicted. While characters from book one (Defenseless) reappear here, Relentless works perfectly well as a standalone and I didn’t feel as though I’d missed anything by not reading it first.

Natalia Vega’s father was head of the Vega cartel – until, that was, her uncle murdered him in front of her and her sister when Natalia was just seventeen.  When she attacked Hernan Vega in an attempt to protect her mother from his cruelty, Natalia wasn’t strong enough to do much damage, and an enraged Vega retaliated by giving her to an associate of his as payment of a gambling debt.  That night forced Natalie to make a choice, and since then, she has learned to keep her mouth shut and her eyes open, honing her skills with knife and hands to become one of Vega’s most ruthless killers, while at the same time striving to fulfil the promise she made to her dying father to protect her younger sister, Ana Maria. But Natalia is no fool.  She knows she’s expendable and that every day could be her last; Hernan Vega is cruel and unpredictable and she suspects it won’t be long before he decides she’s outlived her use – but until then she will continue to do everything she can to ensure her sister’s safety and that Ana Maria has the chance of a decent life.

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

The Girl in the Moss (Angie Pallorino #3) by Loreth Anne White

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Disgraced ex-cop Angie Pallorino is determined to make a new start for herself as a private investigator. But first, she and her lover, newly promoted homicide detective James Maddocks, attempt a quiet getaway to rekindle a romance struggling in the shadows of their careers. The peace doesn’t last long when human skeletal remains are found in a nearby mossy grove.

This decades-old mystery is just what Angie needs to establish her new career—even as it thrusts her and Maddocks back into the media spotlight, once again endangering their tenuous relationship.

Then, when Angie’s inquiry into the old crime intersects with a cold case from her own policing past—one that a detective on Maddocks’s new team is working—the investigation takes a startling twist. It puts more than Angie’s last shot at redemption and a future with Maddocks at risk. The mystery of the girl in the moss could kill her.

Rating: B+

In this final instalment in her trio of novels featuring Angie Pallorino, Loreth Anne White delivers another compulsively readable, complex mystery that hooks your interest from the get-go and gradually tightens its grip until you literally can’t put the book down.   It’s like reading a snowball; an impactful start sees it start rolling down the hill, gradually getting larger as it picks up and encompasses other clues, plot-threads and information and travels faster and faster until it hits bottom to reach an explosive and immensely satisfying dénouement.  Here, that snowball starts rolling when former detective Angie Pallorino and her boyfriend, Detective James Maddocks are taking a four day trip down the Nahamish River on a quiet, romantic getaway.  It’s been a tough few months for Angie, who was busted down to a desk job after she was judged to have used excessive force to take down a serial killer.  Furious and frustrated, Angie broke the twelve-month probation imposed upon her and went rogue, continuing to work on the case of the bar-code girls (in book two, The Lullaby Girl) which also led her to her discovering the truth about her parentage and true identity as the daughter of a sex-trafficker and major crimelord.  Unable to return to the job she loved, Angie is trying to pick up the pieces of her life, and is now working towards getting her PI license, but given the intense publicity generated by the news of her identity, her backstory as the “angel’s cradle baby” and her part in bringing down a major sex-trafficking ring, there are almost no PI agencies willing to hire her (she’s too high-profile) so she can get the required number of hours under her belt she needs before she can branch out on her own.

Things between Angie and Maddocks are uncertain, too.  He’s the golden boy of the Metro Victoria PD and has been appointed to head up a prestigious new task-force while she is struggling to find out who she is if she isn’t a cop.  She knows she loves Maddocks and wants to be with him, but Angie is subconsciously pulling back – and Maddocks knows her well enough to realise it but is worried that she’ll run if she gets the chance.  Their relationship isn’t in the best place, but they hope that a little time spent together with nothing to interrupt or distract them will get them back on track.  Unfortunately, that is not to be when on their last night at the camp, a skeleton is found near the banks of the river.  It’s going to be the morning before local law-enforcement can get to such a remote location and secure the scene, so Maddocks and Angie spend what should have been a romantic evening, complete with gourmet dinner, wine and hot tub, camped out next to a crime scene.

The remains are eventually identified as belonging to a young woman named Jasmine Gulati who died while on a fishing trip on the Nahamish some twenty-four years earlier.  She had been part of a group of women anglers who were taking part in a documentary being filmed by Rachel Hart, who had chosen her subjects to be from different walks of life and in different stages of their lives.  Much as the producers of shows like Big Brother do today, Rachel had hoped that their differences would produce interesting viewing – but after Jasmine’s death, the project was canned and the documentary never appeared.

A while later, Angie is surprised to receive a phone call from a retired judge, Jilly Monaghan, who explains that Jasmine was her granddaughter and offers Angie a large fee if she will find out what really happened to her.  Her death has been ruled accidental, but the judge wants to know if that is really the case or not; either way, she wants the closure that knowing the truth will bring.

Angie’s investigation soon leads her to suspect that Jasmine’s death wasn’t an accident at all, and as she digs deeper, she exposes the web of secrets, lies and conspiracies that have lain buried in the small community of Port Ferris for almost twenty five years.  The mystery is gripping; tightly constructed and incredibly well-written, and the author makes fantastic use of her wilderness setting, which is both beautiful and terrifying, at the same time brilliantly conveying the insular nature of a small, close-knit community such as this one.  The men resent Angie and what they see as her interference, and are prepared to do whatever it takes to protect their own.  It would be easy to laugh at this unsophisticated group of ‘hillbillies’ but no, they’re actually extremely disturbing and Angie is in real danger, probably more than she’s ever been, considering that she’s no longer a cop and doesn’t have the weight of authority behind her – or a gun.

There’s an intriguing secondary plotline in which Maddocks sets up a new cold case unit placing Angie’s former partner, Kjel Holgerson, at its head.  This storyline serves to bring us back neatly to some of the events of The Drowned Girls, but it also opens up the possibility of more stories set in this ‘universe’;  I would certainly not be averse to reading more about the enigmatic and oddly endearing Holgerson.  I also liked the author’s subtle exploration of the ethics of cold cases; in a situation such as this one, where one family needs closure, another is ripped apart, so it’s difficult – or impossible – to achieve a balance.  But Angie is, as ever, focused on finding the truth, no matter how hard it is.  Her own experiences have taught her that it’s better to know and deal than to deny, and ultimately, the needs of justice have to be served.

My one niggle about the book is that Maddocks is (necessarily) MIA for almost all of it, even though there’s no question he’s a huge presence in Angie’s life and her desire to come to him as a woman who knows who she is and where she’s going is the impetus for her becoming involved in the Gulati case.  Still, the brief glimpses we get of their relationship are well done, and while I’d have liked a bit more of them together, I think they needed the short separation in order to remind one another of exactly what they have together.

A complex, atmospheric thriller with a pervading sense of menace, especially in the second half, The Girl in the Moss is a terrific finale to a terrific series, and I really hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Angie, Maddocks, Holgerson – and Jack-O.

Fatal Mistake (White Knights #1) by Susan Sleeman (audiobook) – Narrated by Rachel Dulude

This title may be downloaded from Audible.

An FBI agent must protect the woman who can identify a terrorist bomber in best-selling author Susan Sleeman’s riveting romantic suspense novel.

Each day could be her last…but not if he can help it.

Tara Parrish is the only person ever to survive an attack by the Lone Wolf bomber. Scared and emotionally scarred by her near death, she goes into hiding with only one plan – to stay alive for another day. She knows he’s coming after her, and if he finds her, he will finish what he started.

Agent Cal Riggins has had only one goal for the past six months – to save lives by ending the Lone Wolf’s bombing spree. To succeed, he needs the help of Tara Parrish, the one person who can lead them to the bomber. Cal puts his all into finding Tara, but once he locates her, he realizes if he can find her, the Lone Wolf can, too. He must protect Tara at all costs, and they’ll both need to resist the mutual attraction growing between them to focus on hunting down the bomber, because one wrong move could be fatal.

Rating: Narration – C : Content – D-

I wasn’t even fifteen minutes into Susan Sleeman’s romantic suspense novel, Fatal Mistake, when I realised I’d made a catastrophic mistake in deciding to listen to it. I’m a fan of the sub-genre and am always on the look-out for authors to add to my “must read/listen” list, but instead, I’ve found one to add to my “must avoid” list. The storyline is trite, predictable and filled with stereotypical characters, info dumps, hackneyed dialogue and more introspection and internal monologuing than one can shake a stick at. The principals seem to have aced “Jumping to Unfounded Conclusions 101”; there’s way too much telling and not enough showing, which means that characters make huge leaps of logic and arrive at conclusions for no reason that is made clear to the listener, and the author completely fails to create even the vaguest sense of sexual attraction between the principals. Reviews the novel are overwhelmingly positive, and the blurb promised a “riveting” read… but all I was riveted to was my watch as I kept checking to see how far I was from the end.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Red Fish, Dead Fish (Fish Out of Water #2) by Amy Lane (audiobook) – narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

They must work together to stop a psychopath – and save each other.

Two months ago, Jackson Rivers got shot while trying to save Ellery Cramer’s life. Not only is Jackson still suffering from his wounds, the trigger-man remains at large – and the body count is mounting.

Jackson and Ellery have been trying to track down Tim Owens since Jackson got out of the hospital, but Owens’ time as a member of the department makes the DA reluctant to turn over any stones. When Owens starts going after people Jackson knows, Ellery’s instincts hit red alert. Hurt in a scuffle with drug-dealing squatters and trying damned hard not to grieve for a childhood spent in hell, Jackson is weak and vulnerable when Owens strikes.

Jackson gets away, but the fallout from the encounter might kill him. It’s not doing Ellery any favors either. When a police detective is abducted – and Jackson and Ellery hold the key to finding her – Ellery finds out exactly what he’s made of. He’s not the corporate shark who believes in winning at all costs; he’s the frightened lover trying to keep the man he cares for from self-destructing in his own valor.

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – A

Please note that there will be spoilers for Fish Out of Water in this review.

Amy Lane’s Fish Out of Water was a fabulous listen; an exciting, fast-paced suspense story, interwoven with a steamy, opposites-attract romance laced with plenty of snark and quieter moments of emotional insight and intensity. Needless to say, Greg Tremblay hit the narration out of the park, so I eagerly jumped into the sequel, Red Fish, Dead Fish, which picks up the story a couple of months later. Following a(nother) near-fatal shooting, private investigator Jackson Rivers is still (and, he insists, temporarily) living with his lover, defense attorney Ellery Cramer, while his house – which was shot to bits in the drive-by in which he was wounded – is set to rights. He’s impatient with his convalescence, he’s jonesing to get back to work and he’s on edge about the status of his… whatever it is with Ellery; Jackson doesn’t do permanence and the deep-seated insecurities that tell him he’s bad news and not good enough for anyone to bother with have him pretty much always poised for flight. Fortunately for Jackson, Ellery has him pegged and is well aware that deep down, Jackson is scared of what’s happening between them and that he’s looking for excuses to run. At least – for the moment – Jackson has nowhere to run TO, and Ellery’s patience and gentle, but inexorable persistence seem to be inexhaustible. Not that Jackson doesn’t drive him nuts at times – he absolutely does – but Ellery is every bit as stubborn as he is, doesn’t take any crap and is prepared to wait for Jackson for as long as it takes.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Her Last Word by Mary Burton

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Fourteen years ago, Kaitlin Roe was the lone witness to the abduction of her cousin Gina. She still remembers that lonely Virginia road. She can still see the masked stranger and hear Gina’s screams. And she still suffers the guilt of running away in fear and resents being interrogated as a suspect in the immediate aftermath. Now Kaitlin has only one way to assuage the pain and nightmares—by interviewing everyone associated with the unsolved crime for a podcast that could finally bring closure to a case gone cold.

But when a woman Kaitlin questions is later found stabbed to death, she fears that she’s drawn a killer out of hiding. It’s Detective John Adler’s fear that the murders have only just begun. Now his job is to keep Kaitlin safe.

As a bond between Kaitlin and Adler builds, the past closes in just as fast—and it’s darker than Kaitlin remembers. Soon, her wish will come true. She’s going to find out exactly what happened to Gina. Someone has been dying to tell her.

Rating: C+

I’ve read and enjoyed a number of Mary Burton’s romantic suspense novels and have generally found them to contain complex, intriguing mysteries with a reasonably-sized helping of romance that is enough to satisfy my shippy little heart.  Unfortunately however, Ms. Burton’s latest standalone title, Her Last Word is a bit of a mixed bag.  The mystery element is once again based on a cold-case, this time the disappearance of a teenaged girl some fourteen years earlier, and there are plenty of red herrings and wrong turns – but the way the story is constructed proved something of a barrier to my becoming fully engaged and the romance, such as it is, is perfunctory; the overall story would have made perfect sense without it and the book’s single sex scene feels as though it has been inserted for the sake of it.

Kaitlin Roe has spent much of the last fourteen years feeling guilty over what happened the night her cousin, Gina Mason, was abducted.  Kaitlin, Gina and two of their friends, Jennifer and Erika had snuck away with a bottle of spiked lemonade and proceeded to get very drunk; Jennifer called her sister, Ashley, to come and get her and Erika, leaving Kaitlin and Gina to make their way home on their own.  Not long after the other two girls were picked up, a man wearing a clown mask grabbed Gina and yelled at Kaitlin to run.  Even though she was drunk and, as it was later revealed, drugged, Kaitlin refused to leave until her cousin’s assailant pulled a knife, put it to her throat and then, when Kaitlin still didn’t leave, cut off Gina’s ear while threatening to do worse if Kaitlin didn’t do as she was told.  So she ran. And Gina was never seen again.

Fourteen years later, Kaitlin – after some years studying and working in Dallas – has returned to Richmond and is now a professor of communications at Virginia University.  She had a reputation for being something of a ‘wild child’  – hanging out with the wrong boys, regularly getting drunk – but now older and wiser, she’s cleaned up her act and is determined to find out what happened to Gina.  She decides to tap into the recent trend for making ‘true-crime’ podcasts, hoping that talking to people who knew Gina and were involved with the investigation may jog memories – either those of her contributors, or people who listen to the finished product.

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

Fish Out of Water by Amy Lane (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

PI Jackson Rivers grew up on the mean streets of Del Paso Heights and he doesn’t trust cops, even though he was one. When the man he thinks of as his brother is accused of killing a police officer in an obviously doctored crime, Jackson will move heaven and earth to keep Kaden and his family safe.

Defense attorney Ellery Cramer grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but that hasn’t stopped him from crushing on street-smart, swaggering Jackson Rivers for the past six years. But when Jackson asks for his help defending Kaden Cameron, Ellery is out of his depth and not just with guarded, prickly Jackson. Kaden wasn’t just framed, he was framed by crooked cops, and the conspiracy goes higher than Ellery dares reach and deep into Jackson s troubled past.

Both men are soon enmeshed in the mystery of who killed the cop in the minimart, and engaged in a race against time to clear Kaden’s name. But when the mystery is solved and the bullets stop flying, they’ll have to deal with their personal complications and an attraction that’s spiraled out of control.

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – A-

It will come as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads my reviews that I will listen to Greg Tremblay read just about anything. When, a few weeks back, I saw a new release with his name on the cover – Red Fish, Dead Fish by Amy Lane – I was keen to review it, but then saw it was the second book to feature jaded ex-cop-turned-P.I. Jackson Rivers and hot-shot defence attorney Ellery Cramer… so I had to find book one, and oh, my – am I glad I did.

Having grown up in poverty, Jackson Rivers has fought hard for everything he has. Neglected and essentially abandoned by his junkie mother when he was a boy, he was lucky enough to fall in with the Cameron family: Kaden – his best friend at school – Kaden’s sister, Jade, and their mother, Toni, a warm, loving woman who was more of a mother to him than his biological parent ever was. The Camerons are the only family Jackson has ever known and he is fiercely loyal and devoted to them. Thanks to Toni’s love and care, and Jackson’s own determination, he grew up ‘right’, and eventually achieved his ambition of enrolling in the Police Academy. But his life was forever changed when, as a rookie, he was paired up with a much older, more experienced – and dirty – cop.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.