Truly Dead by Anne Fraiser

Evocative, dark, and searing, this latest book in the Elise Sandburg series by Anne Fraiser may the best yet. Fraiser creates and brings to life powerful, memorable characters. Even her secondary characters are complex and multifaceted.

In Elise Sandburg, Fraiser has created one of her most amazing characters. If Fraiser has a niche, it is her ability to explore the psyche of a strong woman dealing with catastrophic trauma in her past.

In this novel, , Elise returns to Savannah with her partner, David Gould, in triumph. They had successfully solved a murder in Chicago. There is a demand for the services of their new company. But a friend on the police force contacts them for assistance when a boy’s body is found during the demolition of a building.

As they attempt to find the killer before any one else is harmed, both Elise and David must face their innermost demons as well as the monster killing children. The emotional journeys in this novel are just as engrossing as the murder mystery. When Elise finally reveals her grotesque and disfiguring scars to another person, there is a gut wrenching honesty to the scene. In the meanwhile, her partner, David must decide whether he should move on with his life rather than waiting for Elise to return his feelings.

This is a murder mystery. The mystery is engrossing, frightening, and well plotted. There are red herrings and distractions. Fraiser creates strong visual, action scenes. In fact, it is very easy to see this novel translate into a movie or television show.

This book can be read as a standalone. It isn’t necessary to have read the first three books in the series.   I highly recommend it.

Trulydead

The Chosen by JR Ward

This is the 17th book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Since early in the series, I have been waiting for a happy ever after for Layla. Layla is not a kick ass heroine. She is kind, nurturing, and self-sacrificing. She was raised to serve the needs of others and have the children of the Primale.  When  Phury, the Primale, releases all of the Chosen from this duty, Layla lost the main purpose of her life. But she continue to serve and feed members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

Then she is tricked into feeding and nourishing a rebel, who plans to overthrow the King. Xcor, deformed from birth with a harelip, is immediately enchanted by Layla. He feels unworthy of her. He even blackmails her into keeping company with him.

In the meanwhile, Layla goes into her time of need. Her friend, Qhuinn, has sex with her and she becomes pregnant with his children. Qhuinn is happy about the children.  Layla intends to raise the children with Qhuinn and his husband, Blay.

All of this action has occurred over a series of novels in the series and before this novel begins.

This novel begins with Xcor,   a prisoner of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Layla is distraught over his inevitable execution. When it is discovered that Layla had fed Xcor and then had spent time with him, she is threaten with banishment and the loss of her infant children.

Layla deserved a happy ending and she gets it in this novel. Xcor adores her. He will willingly sacrifice himself for her and her happiness. Layla fights for her children and her happiness.

The most concerning part of the novel is Qhuinn.  Qhuinn is a domestic abuser. This behavior first became apparent in Lover At Last.  In Lover At Last, Qhuinn engaged in emotional abuse toward Blay. In this novel, Qhuinn is emotionally abusive toward both Layla and Blay. Then the emotional abuse bleeds into violence. He points a gun at both Blay and Layla. He threatens to shoot Layla. Contrary to what I read in other reviews, none of this behavior is justified. It is abuse, pure and simple.

Which made the happy ever after and the all too easy reconciliation between Qhuinn, Blay and Layla at the end hard to swallow.  But JR Ward is an extremely smart writer. Qhuinn has engaged in this behavior in two novels. In this novel, Blay confronts him on his behavior and makes an ultimatum. I fully expect her to confront this issue in a future novel. When she does, I will happily buy it.

The Chosen

Lover At Last by JR Ward

** spoiler alert ** Acck, Acck, I am trying to get rid of the nasty artificial taste of saccharin left by the epilogue of this book.

I had some trepidation over this book and the “hot gay sex scenes” to quote one reader. But the gay sex scenes were a non-issue for me. On the other hand, I could have done without the skanky sex scenes between heterosexuals. The only sex scenes between heterosexuals were between vampire males and women for whom they had no respect. Which bothers me. Considering the vampire prostitute provided much needed sustenance to the outlaw vampires, you think that they would be more respectful.

The problem with this book was the lack of romances. While Blay and Qhuinn were having hot sex everywhere, the friendship and love were missing. The nice thing about Blay and Qhuinn has been their friendship and love for each other. While Blay may have been his usual kind caring persona with other characters, it was lacking in his interactions with Qhuinn. Yes, there were hot sex scenes. But I did not like Qhuinn abasing himself, by offering himself sexual as his only means to be with Blay. In fact, Qhuinn had to spend too much time demeaning himself in this book, including his confession that his out of control promiscuity was just his way of denying his homosexuality. Too much sex, not enough sexual tension and meaningful connection, left this romance wanting. Which made the surprise mating ceremony in the epilogue just too much.

One of the huge draws of this series is the anticipation of the growing romances of other characters. Unfortunately, Layla is the only character who I want to have a romance. The new character Assail is yet another drug dealing vampire. Trez and his love interest, the chosen, Selma,( or is she a princess in disguise) does not really interest me. All of the Brotherhood has found a mate. The new characters introduced are not as interesting. Honestly, I was disappointed that Qhuinn did not get a cool brotherhood name like Rhage in his induction. I think that J.R. Ward needs to find some more members of the Brotherhood to save this series. So I am happy to see that the next story involves Wrath and Beth. The Black Dagger Brotherhood is my favorite guilty pleasure. But it needs great characters like Rhage and Zsadist. Assail and Trez just are not as interesting. Also, I would like to see some more bad ass females.

(This review was first published on Goodreads. LoverAtLast

The Turn by Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison has my number. I have loved each and every book that I have read by her.  Her Hollows series featuring Rachel Morgan was an addicting must buy.  In this novel, she returns to the same world, but it is before the Turn. The heroine of The Turn could not be more different from Rachel Morgan. Trisk is a brilliant geneticist, but her ambitions are thwarted by two facts: she is a female and she is a dark elf. Passed over by the elite elf genetic labs, she works at a human lab.Instead of solving the elf’s declining birthrate, she is working  on commercial crop plants. While perfecting a drought proof tomato, she makes sure a new biological weapon will not threaten paranormal species.

But the young scion of teh Kalamack clan has been a life long thorn in her side. When he shows up at the lab, Trisk knows that he is spying on her. What she doesn’t know is how far Kal will go to destroy her reputation.

Trisk is a fascinating, complicated character. She must deal with the sexism of the 1960s and the bigotry of the elf clans. But her greatest obstacle may be her ambition.

It was delightful to read about the young Quen, who silently loves Trisk. As for Kal, who is the father of Trent Kalamack from the Rachel Morgan series, it is easy to see why he is so despised by Algaliarept.

Kim Harrison can write no wrong in my book. The Turn

 

Wed to a Spy by Sharon Cullen

Simon Marcheford is loyal to Queen Elizabeth. Despite his desire to retire to his estates with his younger sister, he does one last mission for his Queen. His mission leads him to the court of the Scottish Queen Mary. Where Queen Mary forces him to marry and spy on the beautiful French woman, Aimee. Aimee is a most reluctant and inept spy. But in order to marry her true love, she must spy on the pregnant Scottish Queen. Forced to marry Simon, she is barely adjusting to marriage when assassination and a palace coup forces her to depend on him to save her life.

This is a well written enjoyable historical romance. It is nice to read about the Scottish Court of the ill-fated Queen Mary.  here is plenty of sizzle between Simon and Aimee. Moreover, there isn’t any silly, contrived differences between the couple. They are involved in the deadly dance of espionage played by the kings and queens of Europe. wedtospy

Wrong Number, Right Guy by Elle Casey

wrongnumberWow, I loved this book.  It is a straight up romance and it fit my mood perfectly. May Wexel gets a text from her stressed out single mom sister. Who is texting from a shady biker bar. What is Jennifer and the kids doing at a biker bar? No worries, Auntie May comes to rescue with her trusty sidekick, Felix the continence-challenged chihuahua.  She doesn’t find her sister, but she finds trouble with bullets flying and a scary, hairy biker dude dragging her out the back door.  This book has the right amount of sexual tension, humor, and hot sex scenes.  Looking forward to the next story in this series.

 

Wait for It by M. O’Keefe

waitforit

In the previous books in this  erotic romance series, Tiffany Edwards was introduced as a young mother with three children and an abusive husband. In this novel, she has managed to get away from her abusive husband. It was done at the expense of her pride. She took a bribe from her brother-in-law by agreeing to never contact her husband’s family.

When her abusive husband locates her new apartment, she and her children must flee in the night. Her only hope is her former trailer park neighbor, Annie. At Annie’s home, she runs into the condemning, controlling Blake Daniel, her brother-in-law.

This novel is a departure from the previous novels in this book. In those books, there was an emphasis on the erotic. In this novel, there is an emphasis on the romance. Which is perfect. Tiffany has been emotionally, physically, and financially abused. It is critical that she regain her personal power.

This book is plenty hot. There is chemistry between the heroine and hero.  But the relationship building between Tiffany and Blake took center stage. It was a wonderful romance.