Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Close Contact


Close Contact (Body Armor) by [Foster, Lori]

















Close Contact (Body Armor series)- Lori Foster
HQN Books
Release Date: November 28, 2017

Rating:
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Synopsis: MMA fighter Miles Dartman’s casual arrangement with personal shopper Maxi Nevar would be many men’s fantasy. She seeks him out, they have mindblowing sex, she leaves. Rinse, repeat. Yet lately, Miles wants more. And when Maxi requests his services via the Body Armor security agency, he’s ready to finally break through her defenses—and protect her day and night.

Receiving a large inheritance has brought chaos and uncertainty into Maxi’s life. Her ex has resurfaced, along with lots of former “friends,” and someone is making mysterious threats. Then there’s Miles, who doesn’t ask for anything…except her trust. Pleasure is easy. Now Maxi has to give her heart as well as her body…or risk losing a man who could be everything she needs.


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Maxi Nevar has been spooked since she moved into her late grandmother's farmhouse, but has convinced herself the incidents were nothing.  Until she wakes up outside, clearly having been drugged.  That sends her to Body Armor, where she knows MMA fighter Miles Dartman now works.  What was supposed to be a one night stand left Miles thinking about more- but he couldn't find Maxi until she walked into Body Armor and hired him.  Now he has to juggle his attraction to her with his doubt about her crazy story, and then with trying to protect her from the mysterious threat that is becoming more violent by the day.

Close Contact is a great addition to Lori Foster's Body Armor series (Under Pressure, Hard Justice) of MMA fighters who have made the move into being elite body guards. Miles is the latest fighter to change careers and he meets his match with Maxi Nevar.  After a brief, no-strings attached fling it was Maxi who walked away and Miles who found himself feeling rejected.  As hurt as he feels about that he doesn't think twice about protecting her from whatever is going on at her house. Maxi tried keeping him at a distance because between the craziness in her life and her bad track record with men, she figured this was the wrong time, wrong place.  But Miles is the whole package: smart, strong, brave, loyal, and incredibly good-looking. They have combustible chemistry and Maxi doesn't stand a chance at not falling in love with him. It was fun watching their good intentions (Miles at taking it slow, Maxi at keeping her emotions out of it) fly out the window.  There was just enough history between the two of them that it felt like perfectly picking up an ongoing story, without feeling like we were missing any backstory or getting impossible insta-love. Foster does her usual excellent job of building a relationship based on respect and a developing friendship as well as chemistry.

There's also enough of a suspense story to keep the reader on edge and without it feeling like an afterthought.  I enjoyed how Foster kept us guessing until the very end at who was responsible for the threats against Maxi- and why.  While recurring characters from other books make some cameos, you don't have to have read the other books to thoroughly enjoy Close Contact. Long-time readers will enjoy seeing Leese, Armie, and the regular MMA crew pop up, as well as Foster continuing to set up Brand and Sahara's story (Fast Burn- coming March 2018!).  

Close Contact is everything we've come to expect from a Lori Foster book: fast-paced writing; fun, layered characters; humor; and danger. Add in some sexy fighters and about a million cats and this book will keep you hooked! Warning: plan on reading in one sitting, because you won't be able to put Close Contact down once you start!

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Curious Affair of the Witch of Wayside Cross


The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross: (From the Casebooks of Jesperson & Lane) by [Tuttle, Lisa]
















The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross (from the casebook of Jesperson & Lane)- Lisa Tuttle
Hydra/ Random House
Release Date: November 28, 2017

Rating:
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Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Synopsis: “Witch!” cries the young man after stumbling unexpectedly into the London address of the consulting-detective partnership of Mr. Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane. He makes the startling accusation while pointing toward Miss Lane . . . then he drops dead. Thus begins the strangest case yet to land—quite literally—on the doorstep of Jesperson and Lane.

According to the coroner, Charles Manning died of a heart attack—despite being in perfect health. Could he have been struck down by a witch’s spell? The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site reputed to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. There they sift through the local characters, each more suspicious than the last: Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft.

But when an innocent child goes missing, suddenly Jesperson and Lane aren’t merely trying to solve one murder—they’re racing to prevent another.

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When a man falls dead at their front door, private detectives Jesperson and Lane decide to discover why he died and what brought him to their door in the first place.  The coroner says it was a heart attack but Charles Manning apparently had a great deal of interest in witches- could he have angered one into killing him?  The detectives travel to the countryside of Aylmerton where superstition and folklore live side by side with more 'modern' thinking and religion, where Manning was rumored to be courting a young witch, and where people are highly suspicious of outsiders.  Soon one questionable death turns into several and Jesperson and Lane have their hands full trying to prevent another.

Advertised as a paranormal Sherlock Holmes story, the Curious Affair promised to be full of mystery,  magic, and brilliant detectives.  I found it to contain very little of any of those.  Throughout the book you find yourself wondering if the magic and paranormal advertised are actually believed in and real, like Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, or a mere ruse with a devious but perfectly scientific explanation, like Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles. Even a confirmed fairy siting doesn't really answer the question as far as the rest of the characters go.  Does Manning's friend Felix Ott genuinely believe in returning the Old Religions and gods to England or is it a way to trick money from others?  Did he kill Manning over a business disagreement? 

The mystery itself was never more than mildly interesting to me, which was surprising.  You'd think a man dropping dead of unknown causes would lead to a pretty good whodunit.  But so many other things began to get piled on to the plot that sometimes you forgot about Manning altogether.  Yet none of the other mysteries- several other unexplained deaths and then the disappearance of an infant- really kept the plot moving for me either.  The book mostly revolved around a series of unlikeable characters who went from country hospitality to chilly and insulted in an instant.  Diana Bulstrode (the supposed witch of Wayside Cross) was the only character I found at all interesting and even she had a tendency to become annoying quickly.  The main characters of Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane never gained any depth or particular background to make them interesting, unique, or likable. Even Miss Lane, who gives a Watson-like first person account of the case, isn't much more than a cipher to tell the story.  We get a brief and politely social background to her life before becoming a detective and more than halfway through the book are finally told her first name (although after finding out what it is you understand why she doesn't advertise it).  But the reader gets no real backstory to them: no explanation of how Miss Lane met Jespserson, why they decided to become detectives, what their relationship is, or anything else about them.  Maybe some of this was mentioned in Tuttle's first book (The Curious Affair of the Somnabulist and the Psychic Thief) but I haven't read that book.  Nor, after the Witch of Wayside Cross, do I really care to.  While things get interesting at the very end, by the time everything is revealed I was left with the feeling that all the murder victims got what they deserved and only vaguely sympathetic of the lives ruined in the process.

Tuttle does a good job describing the English countryside, but neither the characters nor the mysteries stood out to me as a way to make the book enjoyable.  Doyle enthusiasts and paranormal mystery lovers alike should probably skip this addition to the inspired-by-Sherlock shelves.  Weak and unlikeable characters overshadow what could have been an interesting set of mysteries to leave a book that sounded better in the description than in the reading.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGallery in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cherish Hard

Cherish Hard (Hard Play Book 1) by [Singh, Nalini]
















Cherish Hard- Nalini Singh
TKA Distribution
Release Date: November 14, 2017

Rating:
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Warning: Possible Spoilers Ahead!

Synopsis: Sailor Bishop has only one goal for his future – to create a successful landscaping business. No distractions allowed. Then he comes face-to-face and lips-to-lips with a woman who blushes like an innocent… and kisses like pure sin.

Ísa Rain craves a man who will cherish her, aches to create a loving family of her own. Trading steamy kisses with a hot gardener in a parking lot? Not the way to true love. Then a deal with the devil (aka her CEO-mother) makes Ísa a corporate VP for the summer. Her main task? Working closely with a certain hot gardener.

And Sailor Bishop has wickedness on his mind. As Ísa starts to fall for a man who makes her want to throttle and pounce on him at the same time, she knows she has to choose – play it safe and steady, or risk all her dreams and hope Sailor doesn’t destroy her heart.

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Isa Rain knows exactly what she wants from life: a loving husband, a happy home, and a job she enjoys- the opposite of her life growing up.  No hot gardeners who are married to their business need apply.  Unfortunately the hot gardener in question, Sailor Bishop, keeps popping up and flirting with her.  There may be some serious chemistry between them, and Isa may be falling more in love with Sailor every day, but is she ready for the inevitable time when he choses business over her? 

Cherish Hard brings us back to the Bishop-Esera family that Nalini Singh readers first fell in love with in Rock Hard, Gabriel Bishop's story and one of my most favorite books of all times.  Cherish therefore had a pretty high bar to reach and I was thrilled that it lived up to my every expectation.  Gabriel's younger brother Sailor is working hard to make his dream landscaping company a reality.  He's also working to prove to himself that he is nothing like the pathetic excuse for a man who fathered him.  Isa Rain wants to live a quiet life as an English teacher writing poetry and supporting her younger brother and sister.  But she's fought every step of the way by her mother, a shark of a CEO who plans for Isa to take an active interest in her company.  Both spend the book fighting their own preconceived notions about themselves and their futures, their plans and where they are willing to be flexible. I especially loved Isa- a smart, creative, and caring woman who refuses to give in to the cold corporate example her parents have set.  Instead of believing she is undeserving of love, Isa has vowed that she will come first in her husband's life.  She's willing to fight for what she wants and brave enough to take risks with her heart.  

Cherish Hard is beautifully written, full of heart, humor, and heat.  Sailor and Isa have incredible chemistry on every page, but are just as compelling in scenes with family or friends.  Now we just have to wait for the other Bishop boys to grow up a little so they can have their own stories!

A must read for Singh fans and a great book for new readers!


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Daring Arrangment


A Daring Arrangement: The Four Hundred Series by [Shupe, Joanna]

















A Daring Arrangement (The Four Hundred Series #1)- Joanna Shupe
Avon Books/ HarperCollins
Release Date: October 31, 2017

Rating:
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Warning: Potentail Spoilers

Synopsis: Lady Honora Parker must get engaged as soon as possible, and only a particular type of man will do. Nora seeks a mate so abhorrent, so completely unacceptable, that her father will reject the match--leaving her free to marry the artist she loves. Who then is the most appalling man in Manhattan? The wealthy, devilishly handsome financier, Julius Hatcher, of course....
 
Julius is intrigued by Nora's ruse and decides to play along. But to Nora's horror, Julius transforms himself into the perfect fiancΓ©, charming the very people she hoped he would offend. It seems Julius has a secret plan all his own--one that will solve a dark mystery from his past, and perhaps turn him into the kind of man Nora could truly love.

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Lady Honora Parker has been sent to New York after a scandal in London involving a man her father deems unsuitable for her.  Nora hatches a plan to get engaged to an American so outrageous that her father will have no choice but to call her home and agree that her artist is a good choice after all.  And the incredibly rich, handsome, and scandalous Julius Hatcher fits her plan perfectly.  Julius needs to get into Society to solve a mystery, but riches alone won't buy him entry.  Nora's crazy scheme of a fake engagement seems like the perfect answer.   To Nora's dismay, the scandalous bachelor turns into the perfect fiancΓ© - and to Julius' dismay, Nora turns out to be his perfect match.

A Daring Arrangement is an entertaining story of (seeming) opposites attracting and a conveniently fake engagement turning into one both parties wish was real.  Despite very different backgrounds Nora and Julius are quite similar beneath the surface: both are intelligent, daring, and determined in all aspects of life.  One of the big themes to the book is change: circumstances change, people change, goals change, and the only way to live life is to accept that and be flexible enough to allow change to be a part of your life- sometimes at the difficult expense of pride.  Julius determined he would never marry or have a family because of the tragic, drunken ramblings of his father.  When he discovers how much he enjoys Nora's company, her wit, her conversation, and the intense chemistry between them he's still not willing to consider changing his mind about marriage. Nora was sure her artist Robert was the love of her life, and she's horrified with herself when she develops feelings for Julius.  How can she be so inconstant?  Fortunately her aunt has enough experience with life and love to explain to her the difference between a first love and a true love. 

Secondary characters like her aunt and Julius' friend Tripp don't get quite as much development or 'on screen' time as they deserve but they make the most of every second they have. It's obvious Shupe has done plenty of research into New York and the Gilded Age of the 1890s.  The city and time period are practically characters themselves, immersing the reader in the glittering life of the ballroom and the earthiness of New York dance halls with a perfection that matches her earlier Knickerbocker Club series (MagnateBaron).

I was hoping for more to the mystery that Julius is trying to solve.  He wants revenge against the Society men who ruined his father- but he doesn't know who they are or have much of a plan on how to figure it out. Nora comes up with a scheme to draw them out, but the whole revenge idea fades disappointingly into the background.  As a plot point it had great potential, especially for the emotional dilemma Julius finds himself in on discovering one of the names, but it pretty much fizzled out.

Despite hoping for a bit more depth to the plot, I enjoyed A Daring Arrangement - especially Julius and Nora and the great chemistry between them (both mental and physical!) and am looking forward to Joanna Shupe's next Gilded Age story.