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Romantic Suspense

Paranormal Protection Agency Volume 2 by Mina Carter

Paranormal Protection Agency by Mina CarterThe first Paranormal Protection Agency volume wasn’t all that. More of an erotica, the platform of a Federal Paranormal agency was used mostly as just that. A platform, with very minor agency business carried out. It was more “bow chicka bow bow” than the solid Paranormal Romance/Suspense that I had expected from Ms. Mina. It was OK, but just that.

The second volume was much better to my way of thinking. The stories revolve around the Dragon twins, Duke and Baron. Abandoned only days after their birth, the boys grew up knowing nothing of who and what they really were other than that they were dragons. Research as they grew taught them they were Shadow Dragons, able to take the form of the very shadows themselves. But much searching gave little information, and no others of their kind appeared.

Hired by the PPA, they work as a team, but always as part of a larger group. Well, you can’t really blame Illiona, their boss, when ‘one’ of the twins (no, no saying which one!) has a tendency to snack on the clients pets – especially their very expensive horses . . . just sayin’. Then, they get their first solo job, guarding the daughter of a very wealthy client. Once who the police are sure is running illegal paranormal fight clubs around the city.

And here is where Dragons Honor and Dragons Chase differ from the original books. Both are strong entries in the Paranormal Romance/Suspense genre. The agency storyline comes into full bloom, the characters are more well rounded, and the world building more well defined. I completely enjoyed these two stories. Where the originals (in volume 1) has potential that was never reached, these two stories were actual stories that contained a few sex scenes while the first books were sex scenes searching for stories.

Overall, these two stories gave me confidence that I will read more Mina Carter. Not all her writing is going to appeal to me, that is a given at this point, but she wrote a couple of readable works here that I actually enjoyed quite a bit.

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Resurrection River: Men of Mercy – Lindsay Cross – Romantic Suspense

Resurrection River (Men of Mercy #2)“How many women get to watch their husband murdered on live television?”

Amy did. She watched as the bloodsucking monsters, better known as “The National News,” splashed the video of her husband, on his knees at the feet of Afghan terrorists, a black bag over his head, take a bullet to the back of his head. Thanks, Army, for not even letting her know her husband was captured.

No body to bury. Nothing but pain, and emptiness, and horrific loneliness, as everyone around her makes sympathetic noises. But nobody is going to pay her bills. So, to keep her farm, and to raise the child her husband never even knew he had, she goes back to crop dusting. An ancient plane, an illegal immigrant farmhand and his son, and her daughter are the only things Amy has left. Well, and the completely vicious, psychotic mother-in-law from hell who is determined to make sure that Amy and her daughter suffer because her ‘oh-so-special’ son never came back from the war. Oh, and a whole flock of circling scavengers, better known as “the press,” camping on her lawn, determined to feed off her pain and grief.

Determined to give her child a good life, eight months later she is doing her best, keeping her ancient plane in the air on a wish and a prayer, bubble gum and baling wire. Her life is OK. But all that changes in a single day when the past rears up to punch her in the face. One of her husband’s old Army buddies is back in town. And that isn’t all – oh, no. For there is a Mexican Cartel boss sniffing around Amy, her farmhand, and his son. Suddenly, Amy and her tiny family are surrounded by danger. She needs help, but does she dare trust Ranger James and his team to protect them? Or is there no safe place to hide from the monsters in the dark?

On the surface Resurrection River is a romantic suspense novel on a level with all the other “Big strong military dude comes along to save the little woman and they all live happily ever after” novels on the market today. Let’s face it – soldiers are sexy, right? But there is a lot more here as well. Lindsay Cross’s work (this is the second in the “Men of Mercy” series) touches on troubles we are all much too familiar with. Drug cartels, warlords, women and children being sold into sex slavery, terrorism and the horrors of PTSD. It is a mad, bad, ugly world out there, and Cross weaves all these themes through her book.

We all need a light read sometimes, and ‘sexy soldier’ is a common trope, yes. But this is more than that, and I am glad it is. We get the ‘fun’ stuff. But along with it, you get a big dose of the serious as well, and that was a treat.

What killed it for me, and dropped it two whole stars, is how BADLY this book needs an Editor! The authors gives kudos to her ‘”Beta Readers” but they did a Horrible job. The book is filled with so many problems, at times I found it hard to translate what the writer was trying to say, and the whole mess was truly disappointing from that angle.

Review: Target Engaged: A Delta Force Novel by M. L. Buchman #WomenInCombat #MilitarySuspense #RomanticSuspense

The Afghanistan war has been something of a testing ground for women in combat, with coalition members including Canada, Germany, Poland, and Sweden deploying women in frontline units for the first time. No significant problems were reported in the British survey, and some militaries found that women officers were more effective at some tasks, such as gathering intelligence from female civilians. – Joshua E. Keating, “Foreign Policy: Women on the Front Lines” February 3, 2012

Women in combat. Wow. Now there is a discussion as ‘hot-button’ as religion in the US. And M.L. Buchman pushes that button, hard, in his “Target Engaged.” And he does a Kick Ass job of it.

Buchman’s book couldn’t be more “up to the moment.” The news for September 11, 2015 was full of the results of the Marine Corp study carried out to test women in special operations combat situations. There was some good news, but mostly bad. The worst? The Marine study didn’t follow the guidelines set up for the test!! Instead of doing what they would do with the men special ops candidates, i.e., choosing the very best the Corp has to offer to go through special training, they chose “average.” AVERAGE??? Oh, cut me a freakin’ BREAK! AS IF they would choose “Average” males to go through special ops training! So, they got the results they were going for. Most of the women failed. Well, here is a little secret – Most of the men failed as well! That’s why they call it ‘special’ training. They weed out the weak. Of course, the articles you find on the net are varied by exactly who was writing them. Hampton Roads put the worst (read, most misogynist) spin on the results, while Stripes Okinawa was the most balanced I could find. I am embarrassed for the Marines, that they thought it necessary to try their best to skew the results for a bad outcome.

Where Buchman gets it right, and thrills me that I was offered his book for review, is in how he handles this issue with his Delta aspirant, Sergeant Carla Anderson. Carla is what the Marines should have aspired to in their test. She is no unbelievable Superwoman. She is simply a Soldier. An Army Sergeant with experience, intelligence, and above all, a drive to succeed that is unparalleled. And Buchman makes her believable. She is the kind of woman I always dreamed of being. Tough and ready to face the pain, but at the same time she is kind. She doesn’t take shit, but she doesn’t turn away from it either. She faces it all head-on. And when you dunk a fellow recruit’s head in the slit trench when he tries that misogynistic, hateful crap on you, well, the others have a tendency to stand back and let you do what you are going to do.

Buchman takes you through Delta training without pulling punches. I, of course, have no idea if what the recruits go through is realistic, but hey, it didn’t feel ‘unrealistic’ so I am going with it.

And, hey. Marines? You should read the book. Of 104 who started, all but Carla male, only seven graduated to the next level of training. And only five of those survived. Now THAT is realism in your training, kids.

Anyway. After a month of weeding out the weak, another of perfecting and tuning, the five remaining members of the class, including Anderson, are sent on their first operation. Venezuela, home of the “elected dictatorship” that runs on guns and drugs. And of course, having a woman on the team, especially one who has gone through Delta training and has a perfect, healthy body is, well, the perfect distraction for a drug lord’s guards. Just swagger across the compound with your shirt unbuttoned and everyone’s attention is riveted – enough to assure that picking them off is a piece of cake!

With that CIA run mission taken care of, they move immediately to the next. And the next may take them all out before they have been on the job for a week.

This is high-action, ladies and gents. Well written, exciting, and believable I found myself glued to my reader screen. Who needs food? Or sleep? Not when I can be reading Buchman! I had never read his work before, but I am loading all of his work into my Wish List.

The only thing that made me uneasy? This is a member of the “romantic suspense” genre. As such, Carla and Special Forces Sergeant First Class Kyle Reeves, one of the five, have a relationship. Buchman actually handles it well, but the very fact of the relationship aspect gave me pause. One of the things that women in the military face is sexual harassment. One of the things the military faces is women in the military being in relationships, and getting knocked up by, other soldiers. This is something that soldiers like Lance Cpl. Callahan Brown, one of the two women who survived the recent Marine test, has to face every day. All she wants is to be the best possible combat soldier. However, it is made harder than it should be, not only by the military brass and their fellow soldiers, but by other women who don’t have the fortitude to “Ovary-up” and concentrate on business, not what is between their legs. Buchman handles it fairly well, but it was still a concern for me, that Carla was distracted a couple of times from the business at hand by drooling over her fellow soldier. Of course, he was distracted at times as well, so goose and gander.

PUBLISHING DECEMBER 1, 2015

I received Target Engaged” from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

 

Review: Blind by Sidney Bristol #RomanticSuspense #SerialKiller

Blind: Killer Instincts“Human nature is evil, and goodness is caused by intentional activity.” — Zun Zi

“As human beings we have the most extraordinary capacity for evil. We can perpetrate some of the most horrendous atrocities.” — Desmond Tutu

Plato, bless him, was wrong. No matter how intelligent he was. He said, To prefer evil to good is not in human nature.” Possibly it was simply a blind spot. Or a “if wishes were horses” sort of thing. Because people, no matter who they are, or what they believe in, are balanced on a knife’s edge of savagery. Some more than others, of course. But for some? For some, there is no other choice but the darkness. Twisted, rotting souls, aching for the pleasure of blood and agony. Needing the death, the pain they bring to others. Then there are the soulless ones – the ones born with no conscience, no light. Those who live only for the game of death. A game. Simply a game.

Emma know about the game. Her grandparents were pawns, many years ago, when the TBK Killer took their lives. As if “took their lives” could possibly portray the horror of their deaths. Torture. Blind. Kill. Only, the truly cruel part? They left her father alive. Her father, who never recovered. Who lives in hiding, drunk and brutal and broken. So, Emma tries to understand. She gathered all of the monster’s letters to his victims she could find. Created files. Notes. Timelines. She learned everything she could about the monster who destroyed her family. She isn’t educated, she likes big trucks and dirt bikes, and she has only a single friend. But she is holding it together, working as a mechanic and sculpting in left-over metal and junk parts. She is alive. Sort of.

Jacob. Jacob is different from Emma, but in many ways the same. His father was the cop who brought down Mitchell Land, the TBK Killer. Mitchell Land, who killed himself in prison. Jacob’s father was never the same after that case. Bitter, silent, he never recovered. His father treated Emma’s horribly – hounding the child until he broke from the pressure. Until Emma’s father collapsed under the weight of not only what he saw, but the brutality of the police who were so determined to catch the killer, they destroyed the child’s soul. So. Much. Pain.

Now, years later, Jacob is a cop himself. And one day, he receives a letter. Then another. Letters which, while not exactly the same, reflect those of the TBK Killer. When his politician lieutenant refuses to listen, blowing off the letters as the work of kids or a creep with a personal grudge and knowledge of Jacob’s history, Jacob turns to Emma, hoping her collection will help him to discover if what he thinks is true. There is another serial killer out there – and his next target is Jacob.

Now, the bodies are piling up. And all of them have a connection to Emma. The two of them will have to work together to save one another. And with the FBI shutting them out, can they protect one another from a monster? Oh, but there is more to it than that. A lot more. A type of sick savagery that is both horrific – and yet totally believable. A truth that surely has Plato rolling in his grave.

This is one twisted tale, delving into the darkest depths of what is so lightly called the ‘human soul.’ Or rather, the very fact that, realistically? There are a lot of people out there who simply don’t have what we so blithely call a soul. Homo sapiens so dark, so evil, that even giving them the name isn’t truly realistic.

Homo pravissimus.*

This is a dark and bloody tale, and totally, completely compelling. Well, I can say that with a proviso of sorts. Sidney Bristol is a romance author who happens to write “romantic suspense.” So, there is a lot of sex in the book. I found it disappointing, actually. I am fine with romantic suspense. I like it in fact. But it is when an author like Bristol, who is such an exceptional suspense writer, puts so much sex into a book that it overshadows the suspense, well, I am disappointed. Of course, others will find the sex part to be exactly why they like the book, so to each their own. Be that as it may, I am glad I was offered the opportunity to read the book.

I received Blind from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own and are based upon personal literary tastes. The cover gets a D for being boring and common. I wouldn’t have picked the book up on my own based on the cover.

  • prāvissimus(Latin) Adjective – ‎(superlative of prāvus) 1. most or very deformed; 2. most or very depraved

 

 

 

 

Review: The Blind by Shelley Coriell

The Blind (The Apostles, #3)“Scapegrace leaped up. “I am the Killer Supreme! I make murder into an art form!”
Skulduggery hit him again and Scapegrace did a little twirl before falling.”―
Derek Landy, Playing with Fire

“Terrorist bombings, like rampage shootings, are events that maximize the amount of publicity per amount of damage. That’s why people do them, because they know they will set off a media frenzy.” – Steven Pinker

The Apostles. A highly specialized Special Criminal Investigation FBI team, under the aegis of Parker Lord, the best that the FBI has to offer when it comes to those cases that can’t, but must, be solved. Those cases that walk the edge of destruction of everything humans hold dear. Whether serial killer or child molester, terrorist or sociopath, Parker Lord has an agent to handle it. Under direct management of the President of the United States, they go where they need to be, when they need to be there. And they don’t quit.

Coriell’s third book in the Apostles series, after The Broken and The Buried, is The Blind. And it is everything that I love about romantic suspense. Evangelina “Evie” Jimenez is a five-foot crackerjack, in more ways than one. Lord’s bomb specialist, Evie is ex-military, tough as nails, and completely focused on her work. She is the best – even though the President has, in order to cover his own backside, put Evie in ‘time-out’, smearing her name across the news and destroying her reputation. But when a bomb is ready to go off in a high school gym in Bar Harbor, Maine, the home of the Apostles, Evie goes against the President’s orders in order to disarm the bomb, an IED – a simple blow and go, the type of stuff she could do in her sleep.

The blow and go worked, just as expected. But what wasn’t expected is the man who followed her down an alley – a man with an offer. An offer that comes with a promise. Brady Malloy works for Jack Elliot, CEO of Elliot Enterprises, one of the richest companies in the world. Jack wants Evie in California, now. Because he has something that no one else has – information on the next Angel Bombing.

The Angel Bomber has terrorized Los Angeles for three months. Three women have died horrifically – blown to pieces by a sadistic bomber. Several more people have been killed or maimed. The next victim is only days from being taken, and Evie can’t turn down the opportunity to save lives, to stop the bomber. And to get her reputation back.

What follows is classic Coriell. Her women characters are strong, independent, and totally tough – but though they hide it well, they also have a soft side, an ability to empathize with victims, see both sides of situations, and do the right thing, no matter the cost. There is terror, suspense, thrills and chills in The Blind, but there is also romance, of course. If I do have one problem with this particular book it is that the romance felt rushed to the point that I found it unrealistic. From meet to love at warp speed – though people meeting under stressful circumstances often do fall for one another quickly. The thing is, love at warp speed often fizzles out just as fast.

Other than that bump in the storyline, I loved this book, just as I loved the other two. Characters from the other books make return appearances – I was thrilled that Smokey Joe is back. Blind, elderly, and full of spit and vinegar, Smokey’s ‘little accident’ (driving off a cliff – yes, driving), his constant running-off of his aides, and his refusal to move in with Kate and Hayden (from The Broken) makes his case worker decide that he can no longer live alone on his mountain. While The Apostles race to find the bomber before he kills again, Smokey Joe lends his help, throws a temper, and pretty much lends that bit of gravel to the character list. Awesome. It is going to break my heart when he passes away one day. I hope Shelley keeps him around as long as possible!

This book was received from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. Shelley has solid “shelf” space in my reader any time she publishes a new book!

Pub Date: Jul 28 2015

Forever (Grand Central Publishing)

Shelley_Coriell[1]About the author:

A former newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and restaurant reviewer. These days Shelley writes smart, funny novels for teens and big, edgy romantic suspense. A six-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Finalist, she lives and loves in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue Weimaraner. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her baking high-calorie, high-fat desserts and haunting local farmers markets for the perfect plum.

Social Media Links:

Shelley_Coriell[1]

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Review: Targeted by Katie Reus

“And I’ve fallen.

So hard.

I’ve hit the ground. Gone right through it. Never in my life have I felt this. Nothing like this. I’ve felt shame and cowardice, weakness and strength. I’ve known terror and indifference, self-hate and general disgust. I’ve seen things that cannot be unseen.

And yet I’ve known nothing like this terrible, horrible, paralyzing feeling. I feel crippled. Desperate and out of control. And it keeps getting worse. Every day I feel sick. Empty and somehow aching.

Love is a heartless bastard.”  – ― Tahereh Mafi, Destroy Me

Targeted: Deadly Ops, Book 1 | Katie ReusA bad start to a book can stop my read in its tracks, and this one started out, well, bad. Not because the writing is bad, it isn’t, but because I thought it was going to be just another series of bedroom calisthenics with no real story to back it up. Thankfully, the premise sounded promising, so I gave it a couple of chapters to see if it would be worth reading.

I am glad I did. Targeted surprised me – in a good way. The story, once you get past the immediate problem, is tightly written, well-paced, and surprisingly free of excessive nookie at the cost of story. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a ‘romantic suspense’ – but it does mean that it is much more suspense than romance, which is just what I like.

The premise is interesting – not ‘Oh, I have never seen that before’ interesting, but though I have seen it done before, I have never seen it done this well before. Sophie Moreno had a hard life growing up. A very hard life, until she met Sam. Placed in the same foster home, Sophie and Sam form an unbreakable bond. But when placed separately for their last months in the system, and Sophie is brutally raped by her new foster father while her new foster mother stands by, Sophie is broken, unable to bear the agony and shame she feels. And the pain of Sam not being there to protect her from the monster. Contrary to what the sickos into BDSM think – Rape Is NOT Sexy. And Sophie is certain that no one will ever love her again. Not like Sam did, before she was brutalized. Turning her back on him, she sends him away, determined to protect herself from his disgust at what has happened to her.

Now, thirteen years later, Sam is no longer Sam but Jack Stone, an undercover agent for an undercover agency hidden within the NSA. Back from a grueling undercover operation in the bowels of a human trafficking ring, Jack just wants to rest, relax, and decompress. But his boss, Wesley Burkhart, Deputy Director of the NSA, has something different in mind. Something that will bring Jack right back to Sophie. For Sophie has seen something she shouldn’t – and a vicious cartel boss will do whatever it takes to track Sophie down and kill her. Now Jack is determined to protect her, while keeping his identity a secret. But their old bond is still there, and keeping his secret may destroy them both.

This book, the first in the Deadly Ops series by Katie Reus, shows promise. The action is well written, the characters intriguing, and the storyline kept me riveted. There were some continuity issues that had me scratching my head, but not enough to make me turn off my listen. I am hoping that the same issues don’t show up in the next book, Bound to Danger. These are the only two on Audible, but there are more in the series at Deadly Ops.

Sophie Eastlake does a beautiful job of narration. She has quite a catalog with Audible, including the Elder Races, Nikki Glass, and the Chicagoland Vampires series. I would have enjoyed listening to the book just for her narration.

If you are looking for a romantic suspense where the suspense is the star, you might give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed. Not a five star read, due to a couple of odd content issues, but a good listen nonetheless.

Review: Irresistible Force by D.D. Ayers

Irresistible Force“Your mission is clear cut and well defined. The set of philosophies you develop in order to achieve  that mission will determine whether you make a beneficial contribution to the role police dogs play in modern law enforcement or whether you become a liability which undermines the good work of many men and women before you.” – Bruce Jackson, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, Washington

I love stories with animals. A story with a military or police dog? Even more. Humans choose to be police or military. Their dogs do it out of love. Love for their handler first and foremost. Love for their work, pride in what they do. They lay their lives on the line for the handlers they love.

Bogart is just such a dog. A Belgian Malinois, Bogart has been police officer, best friend, and companion to Officer James Cannon in their positions with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Now, Bogart has been kidnapped, and James will do anything, including going against direct orders, in order to track down and bring back Bogart.

Finally locating Bogart at a small cabin outside of Raleigh, James intends to arrest the woman he believes is his kidnapper. But things aren’t like he thinks – and Bogart, or “Prince” as he is now called – is determined to protect not only James but also Shay, the woman who rescued him from the doggie gas chamber and brought him home with her.

The story is a bit typical, but I identified with Shay. Her history, ongoing terror and hyper-vigilance are well done, and punched me in the heart. Her stalker? Very believable, as was the treatment she went through at the hands of the police as a child. There could have been a well-written literary novel built on these same bones, going further into Shay’s background and what happened to her throughout her life. I would have really enjoyed that very much. James was a good guy, very patient with a deeply damaged Shay. His obsession with getting Bogart back was believable, including his ‘not quite legal’ stalking of Shay, as was Shay’s determination to keep the dog she rescued from the doors of the gas chamber. All in all, I enjoyed the book, though it isn’t one I would call ‘outstanding’. Bogart/Prince was the best part of the story, and the narrator’s pronunciation of the German terminology used in handling Bogart was beautifully done. Jeffrey Kafer is an excellent narrator, and I am always interested to hear what he is narrating next.

Those who gave their lives

Tears

To learn more about K-9 heroes, both police officers and military dogs, click on the heading, or the photo. These wonderful dogs have all given their lives to protect their handlers, other officers, soldiers and civilians. They are TRUE heroes. Often, the handlers who die in battle do so saving their partners and best friends – just as their canine companions would do for them.

“Called To Give My All”

I am a deputy in a canine crew.
I’ve been trained to see it through.

When danger’s near my ears perk up,
they taught me that as a little pup.

I’m often there to protect your rights,
my presence sometimes hinders fights.
I never attack with thought to kill,

when subduing one, my job I fill.

I never worry a single thought,
as to how I’ll fare at a certain spot.
The love I have for a handler’s care,
is all I need, each day to fare.

And if some day my luck turns bad,
I’ll relish all the joys I’ve had.

To be with men who stand for
good, in a special kind of brotherhood.

The story’s end by now you know,
of how I tried for a better show.

I did my best, though I did fall,
when I was called and gave my all.

Author Unknown

Review (and yes, a RANT) for Elisabeth Naughton’s Fatal Pursuit

Fatal Pursuit (The Aegis Series) by Elisabeth Naughton“I want to say a little something that’s long overdue, the disrespect to women has got to be through. To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends, I wanna offer my love and respect till the end.” – Adam Yauch

That. Is. IT. You work your fingers to the bone, set everything up just so, design and plan and make sure that everyone is as safe as can possibly be expected given the fact that the people you work with are security experts with darn dangerous jobs, complete with guns and knives and things that go boom. Oh, it isn’t bad enough that your boss, a domineering jerk with a superiority complex and an ego so overinflated he had to buy a whole other building to store it in, won’t let you go out on field work, because apparently since your reproductive organs are on the inside and not the outside, you aren’t good enough – even though your father spent every hour or your life from the time you were big enough to haul a rucksack and pull a trigger teaching you to be good at field work (although, once you got old enough to actually DO said field work, see above…) NOW the unmitigated JERK changes the whole game on you DURING an op – and leaves you sitting there with your thumbs up your bum and feces on your face while he waltzes in and does what he likes. OH! And yes, apparently everyone else knew he changed up everything – and didn’t even tell her… Well, yep. That. Is. IT.

After three and a half years of working to keep Jake Ryder’s teams safe in the field, of being patient and banging her head against the wall, all the pent up frustration of being shoved to the back of the room, disrespected, ignored, and refraining from pointing out Jake’s idiocy, biting her tongue to keep the peace, well. Anything can happen in a split second in the field – lives depended on being able to be fast on her feet as the Ops Manager, on being on site to handle any of a million complications that can cost lives – but Ryder’s determined that “her place was anywhere besides in the field”. Gender bias, anyone? But this is the very last straw on a very large pile of straw that caused the whole thing to fall down. Marley is out of there – maybe he expected her to do what he wanted, when he wanted, no questions asked. And yeah, maybe she had put up with it for long enough that she had nobody to blame but herself. But this sort of disrespect? Holding her back. Treating her like she is expendable, a mindless tool, after all she has done to keep them safe? Just down right not trusting her? This is finally IT.

“You know what, Jake? You want to do things on your own? Go ahead and do them. Be my guest and do them all. I’m done with this.”

And just as she is walking out the door, who should ring her up but her ex-boyfriend. Her dead ex-boyfriend. Well, everyone thought he was dead, killed on an op gone bad in South America. What perfect timing. In a cold fury, Marley borrows Jake’s jet and pilot and soon finds herself in the jungles of Columbia on a rescue mission. Gray McKnight was alive – and her own father had lied to her about his death – had left Gray behind.

How much more betrayal can a woman take?

Let’s call a spade a spade. Jake Ryder is one of the more obnoxious jerks in the annals of obnoxious jerkhood. Spoiled rotten, self-centered and totally clueless. He works Marley like a slave, gives her no respect, no positive input, basically blows her off and just expects her to be there, like a good little lap dog, when he needs her. And then, when she finally is “done with this” . . . He is shocked?!?!? Where is his good little lap dog, fetching his slippers and pipe and waiting for him to kick her across the room when she is done??

Garg. I wanted to punch them both in the face – Jake for being Jake, and Marley for putting up with it! Because, you know, she isn’t really done, she plans to come back to heel as soon as her rescue is done. It’s not like she couldn’t find a better position, with a boatload more respect, somewhere away from Jake and her dad, someplace where she is appreciated for her excellence at what she does. Nah, she is sure she will come back and, yep, things won’t change, she is just taking a little vacation. In Columbia. In the Jungle. Amongst the drug runners and cartel members and armed psychos. Have I mentioned the armed psychos? Oh, and let’s not forget Grey. There is something odd there – but that is to be seen, because Marley can’t leave him down there, not like her father did.

And then, here comes SuperJake. (Insert 1970’s Superman theme music here.)

Convinced Marley is just “playing a little game” (how demeaning is That, I ask you?) he blows into Puerto Asis, Columbia, all filled with sanctimony and enough pomposity I photowanted to kick his ya-ya’s up between his eyeballs . . . And oh, Doy,One thing registered. That she was still mad. But he couldn’t tell if it was because he’d changed that op, or if there was more going on.” Ya THINK?? Sigh. And, OMG!! When he finally find her in Pureto Asis – GASP – she is With. A. Man!! Well, he certainly didn’t want her for a girlfriend – “He’d sure as hell never pick Marley”.

So, why’s he got his panties in a twist?

Of course, unable to keep his nose out of things that are definitely NOT his business, Old Jakey has to get all up in her business, and she has to drag his incompetent backside through the jungle on her quest to rescue McKnight. And he really is the most incompetent supposed Special Forces dude I have ever come across in a long history of loving suspense and thrillers. Marley actually has to elbow him in his side to get him to shut up when they are within feet of paramilitary soldiers armed with automatic weapons who are determined to track them down and kill them. Really? His lack of jungle skills, fear of creepy crawlies and general incompetence had me rolling my eyes nearly out of my head.

The shame is, the story could have been a lot better. The concept was good, even though there were many times when I found myself screaming at the characters. “Even after everything they’d already been through on this trip, he still thought she couldn’t hold her own.” She showed him up, time and again, in jungle survival, in pulling his ignorant backside out of the fire more times than I cared to count, and he still disses her. The thing is, it really is her own fault. . . . would she forever be stuck in this role-standing on the fringes, waiting for someone to view her as capable, waiting for him to see the real her?” Well, sister, you let everyone push you around long enough without standing up for yourself, why should you be so surprised when they just keep doing it? Jake spends all his time calling other people dumb, idiots, etc… but his actions pretty much proved that posts have a bit more savvy than he does, and yet she still allows herself to be treated badly.

There were many other things that irritated me about the book, most especially the What City Has the Most Spoiled Children?idiocy that occurred after they return to the States. There is the completely obnoxious, “I don’t want her, but you can’t have her, and by the way, I am going to boink her against a wall during your engagement party – you know, the one where you are celebrating your engagement to her – and she is going to let me” thing going on that drove me to drink.

Oy. I put this review off for three days, thinking I would calm down and write a ‘fair and balanced’ review. Nah. There were some spots that were well done, some spots that weren’t too irritating, and a lot of things that just made me yell and throw things and wind up with a killer migraine.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. Definitely a disappointment to me, though ooey-gooey, starry-eyed romantics will probably find it to be just dandy.disappointed

Review: Last Shot by Eve Gaddy

25342525“My mother detested me. Don’t try to tell me she didn’t. She did. Ask anyone who lived here when she was alive. She wasn’t shy about bad-mouthing me.” – Della Rose, Last Shot

This is what starts it, for the hated child. From this point, no love, no safety, no hope. No loving hugs or kisses for skinned knees. No warm meals or being tucked in at night with a song or a story. This is what starts it. The night terrors, the strange men creeping into your room in the middle of the night when mom is too drunk to notice – and if she is awake, blames you for her scummy boyfriends advances – no matter that you are only six, or nine, or twelve . . . This is what starts the pain, the terror, the loneliness. The choices that must be made, in order to survive. And survival sometimes means doing things, suffering things, which are unimaginable to “normals”.

This was Della’s life. Hated, abused, and made to suffer unimaginable things – things that led to even more unimaginable things. Life has been brutally hard for Della from the time she was born. But now, life is finally stabilized. Oh, she and her daughter Allie aren’t rich, not by any means, but Della’s job as a waitress at the Last Shot Bar and Grill, working for Charlie, her good friend and supporter, cranky old good-hearted man that he is, keeps Allie in clothes and food and a roof over their heads, and her friendship with Mary Lou means that there is always someone home when Allie gets home from school. Life is calm, stable, and more than Della has ever had.

Then, in one night, and a blaze of gunfire and death, everything changes – and Della, Allie and Mary Lou’s life will never be the same. With Charlie dead, and one terrible thing after the other happening, they are all in danger from unseen forces who are apparently searching for something valuable – something they think Charlie had – and that they think Della now has access to. And they are willing to kill to get it.

I have ranted lately about how the perception of women in romantic suspense novels has been canting towards the “Oh, save me, Big Handsome Man! Save poor pitiful me!” mentality. Ugh. Women are no longer the swooning Victorian era victims they once were, and contemporary literature should reflect that. “Last Shot” restores some of my hope for the possibilities of strong women characters.

Della is NOT a victim. Far from it. Instead, after all that has happened to her, all the horrors, all the pain, she comes across as strong and self-sufficient – almost to a fault. She takes nothing from anyone, making her own way, taking care of her daughter. And she certainly HATES cops… for very, very good reasons. So imagine her surprise when she finds herself attracted to Nick, the visitor to their small town of Freedom, Texas. Someone she pegged as a cop the minute he walked in the door. Della hates men, is terrified of them – but cops are on the very top of her list of “kill them all and sort it out never”. But Nick? Well, Della feels things she has never felt before. And that oddity has her off-balance, frightened, and terribly confused. Why can’t she take her eyes off of him? And why, when she despises the touch of a man, is she so fascinated with this one? A hated cop?

Nick has his own issues. Issues which leave him screaming up out of sleep, reliving the horrors of his last case – a case that may have broken him for good as a detective. Can these two discover what the murderers were looking for, find out why Charlie was murdered before their eyes? It doesn’t help that Police Chief Brumford Hayes is everything that Della expects him to be – dirty. And Officer Kingston Knight is definitely “off”. Are they involved in what is going on, or are they just despicable?

Eve Gaddy has done spectacular research for this novel. I honestly wondered if she had been subjected to the things that Della was in her childhood, in her life. Apparently not – she is simply that good at doing the research and writing realistically about what a person who has suffered what Della has goes through – how she handles herself and others. Having been through a lot of what Della has, I found Eve’s portrayal of the mindset to be spot-on. I completely identified with Della. Even the part that apparently irritated a one-star reviewer. The first time I was actually attracted to a man as an adult, I was, literally, fascinated. How could this happen? Why? I had never felt attracted to “any” man! It was as if I had lost my mind… all I could think about was what his skin would feel like. I wanted to touch. How did THAT happen? I was, in a word, obsessed. This obsession is shown here as well, so I guess I wasn’t as perverted as I thought I was at the time. All I can think is that ‘one-star reviewer’ has had no experience with, or friends who, have gone through anything like what Della has. The vituperation rained on Ms. Gaddy’s head is unwarranted – but lack of knowledge in this case is based upon valid arguments, even if they don’t apply in this particular scenario. I never carried out my own “lust” for that fascinating guy – which makes Della a great deal braver than I am. Removing oneself from the wasteland of pain, fear and asexuality isn’t something that everyone can do. I wish I had been as brave.

Overall? I loved this book. It is well researched, well written, and touches on issues that, even today, are not addressed nearly enough. Issues of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, dirty cops, and a system that betrays the most fragile and helpless amongst us. It is going on my “Keeper” shelf, and I will be adding Eve Gaddy to my “Must Read” shelf.

WARNING: There are remembrances of rape and child abuse in this book. If you can’t read these sorts of things, please take note.

I received this book from the publisher in return for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. Highly recommended.

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