21 Hours by Dustin Stevens – REVIEW

21 Hours - Dustin Stevens_1

Blood-pumping, exhilarating excitement that cannot be missed!


Blurb: Felix “O” O’Connor is an ex-con from central Ohio that has spent the seven years since being released from prison working on a ranch in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Rarely does he venture out into the world and never does it come looking for him. Both of those things change when his twin sister Alexa “Lex” Borden calls from Columbus, Ohio to ask for his help.

Earlier that afternoon, she and her husband were both beaten unconscious and their two year old daughter abducted from their front yard. Nobody saw a thing, the police are stumped, and it is a well known statistic that if a child isn’t found in the first 48 hours, they rarely are.

O immediately drives back to Ohio and finds himself with just 21 hours to find his beloved niece before potentially losing her forever. Plunging himself into a world he’d long ago left behind, he crosses paths with criminal masterminds, human traffickers, gun runners, drug smugglers, blood-thirsty spectators and suspicious detectives all in the name of bringing her home.

Review:

I absolutely LOVED 21 Hours, a perfect action thriller suspense following the love and determination of an ex-con and uncle willing to do anything to save his niece after she is kidnapped by a gang of criminals during a violent attack of her parents. This story is packed full of tension, action, emotion and pace, leaving the reader no opportunity to disengage.

Not only do we have such an intense situation to begin with, but to add to the tension further we have the time aspect. After realising the police have no leads and seem to be lost, ‘O’ is told that it happens to thousands of children a year – many of whom are never found, and those that are found safely are usually found within 21 hours.

Written in first person, the reader can follow every thought, every move of ‘O’. This sets the reader up knowing that ‘O’ will not stop until the very end or until he no longer can. The pace of 21 hours is therefore fast, exciting, powerful, intense and strongly emotive.

Whilst 21 Hours has it’s fair share of violence, blood and gore it is all necessary for the story. It adds to the tension, action and excitement. There are shootings and fight scenes that become inevitable as there are times when ‘O’ simply has no choice, when it’s his only chance of defence and when he is quickly running out of time. The gangsters and criminal masterminds he is dealing with have no compassion, or remorse, and would shoot him dead in a second. Therefore, the reader is left in no doubt as to the measures ‘O’ is willing to take.

A fascinating aspect of 21 Hours for me was the relationship between ‘O’ and the lead female detective in the case, Watts. Watts is a strong and determined character, who believes she has summed up ‘O’ from her first meeting with him. She and her colleagues have suspicions that ‘O’ could be involved and with his track record of being an ex-con it is a possibility that his past has something to do with this.

Watts provides ‘O’ with another challenge as her methods of investigating and his are completely different. Unfortunately, Watts has seen and heard of too many of these kind of cases, and with no leads she is left to play the waiting game in the hope that the abductors call for a ransom. ‘O’ on the other hand doesn’t want to waste precious time, considering he may only have 21 hours. This is a situation that is certainly unique to ‘O’ and extremely personal, whereas one could argue that Watts has no emotional tie and is not a stranger with working and hearing of these types of situations.

There is a clash between these characters from the offset but the beauty of this is when Watts’ eyes are opened to the different sides of ‘O’. It almost becomes a love/hate relationship. One of which I hoped to blossom into something more. I would love to hear from these two characters again as I believe they are too good to leave alone.

I cannot express how much 21 Hours is right up my street. Being brought up watching many action films of the 1980’s and 1990’s this novel fits easily into this category with many similarities (most notably with Lethal Weapon, Commando, Ransom, and Con-Air for me), and yet still remaining original and exciting to read.

What the reader can’t escape is the sheer desperation ‘O’ has to saving his niece and bringing her home. The reader finds themselves cheering him on and when he becomes injured you feel the need to jump into the novel, pick him up, brush him down and tell him to ‘go get ’em’!!


A copy of 21 Hours was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest and fair review.

21 Hours by Dustin Stevens is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

The Lakeside Legacy (a South Carolina Romantic Suspence, Book 1) by Jean Jennett

Jean Jennett large

Mystery, action and a HOT romance! (Warning: recommended for 18yrs+)

Book blurb (please scroll down for the review): What Krista Lucas finds when she arrives in picturesque Camden, South Carolina, is beyond all expectations. Her biological father, a man she never knew, has left her a large house in town and beautiful lakeside wooded acreage. How he came to own the property is a mystery Krista needs to solve for her own peace of mind.

Jake Thornton maintains that his family owns the house and land, and he can prove it with a document his own father left.

… Or can he?

Jake isn’t the only one with an interest in the property. His three brothers are ready and eager to develop the land, and nothing is going to stop them.

Including Krista Lucas.

With Krista’s life in danger, whose side will Jake take? His family … or Krista? Will the truth be discovered in time?

Early readers have said that The Lakeside Legacy has it all: suspense, danger, mystery, romance … and love.

The Lakeside Legacy is the first book in the South Carolina Romantic Suspense series.

WARNING: This book contains graphic sexual descriptions.

Review:

I LOVED The Lakeside Legacy. It is more than a love story. It has everything: romance, mystery, action, suspense and sensual scenes. Not only is there a great romance blossoming between Krista and Jake, it is like a Romeo and Juliet scenario. These two strong characters are from opposing families where the house and land surrounding the lake are concerned. Both believe that they are the proprietor, and both believe they have the proof.

Initially, Krista is oblivious to another claim for the ownership of the land, believing it to be her inheritance. And so, after moving to South Carolina to her new home and being befriended by Jake she feels that she is moving forward with her life. Her feelings for Jake become apparent and the possibility of romance is close.

I love the way in which Jean Jennett builds up the love scenes. This really takes the intensity to an almost unbearable pleasure as it is so good. And at a moment when Krista feels comfortable to love again, after what happened to her in Manhattan, Jake’s family and the developers have other plans, making any chance of a romance impossible.

Jake’s family and developers are quite relentless and will do all they can to get Krista out of the picture. But what is Jake to do? Does he stand by his family, to claim the house that he was once raised in, the land that could be developed, or does he choose to protect Krista?

There are some dark, fearsome moments with threats and attacks towards Krista that really put the reader on edge. The suspense is quite intense and the reader has no clue as to what will happen next. The following excerpt is written in context of when Krista is alone on a dark evening. Most of the townspeople are being entertained at a festival and she decides to walk on into the town alone.

She didn’t notice a pickup truck parked a block up the street, didn’t see it roll forward with its lights off, and didn’t see a man jump out of the passenger side at the end of her driveway.”

The Lakeside Legacy provides a great deal of mystery: who does the house/land really belong to? What will become of Krista? What happened all those years ago between their fathers? Who will the property be left to and how will this affect Krista and Jake’s feelings for each other?

This novel also holds a smaller mystery as to what happened in Manhattan with Krista. As the novel continues and unfolds the reader is given an insight every now and again into what happened. This makes the reader understand why Krista does not run from this threatening situation. In some way she is facing her own demons. After what happened in Manhattan, she is not going to let this one ride. She is defiant and will fight for her rightful inheritance until the bitter end.

One of my favourite aspects of this book is that, although the reader is provided with Krista’s point of view, we also have an insight into Jake’s. This allows the reader to connect strongly to both of them and understand both claims. The reader sympathises at times with Jake’s predicament, whilst still annoyed that he befriended Krista in the beginning.

I love reading about significant background characters, even if they only show a brief appearance. And Frank Arcola is a great character who I would have liked reading more about. It would be a shame to elaborate much more without spoiling the story but he is a very strong and meaningful part of the story. I also liked reading about Jake’s brother, Nick, who was someone to confide in, someone to talk to, and someone who could try to put the other brothers straight. I was hoping to read a little more of him towards the end.

I clearly enjoyed this book very much. Whereas most authors tend to concentrate on the one genre in particular, I found that there was always an element of meaningful action and love in The Lakeside Legacy. There is never a dull moment. And the sexy scenes in The Lakeside legacy are fantastic. It is a great suspense. I’ll look forward to reading the next book in the South Carolina series.

I would like to thank the author, Jean Jennett, for providing a copy of The Lakeside Legacy in return for an honest and fair review.

You can find The Lakeside Legacy on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Enchanted Immortals 4: The Vixen by C.J. Pinard

Enchanted Immortals 4: The Vixen (Enchanted Immortals, #4)Sexiness, sassiness and sophistication are what you can expect from Kathryn Jones in C.J. Pinard’s fourth instalment in this brilliant urban paranormal Enchanted Immortals series, The Vixen. The Vixen takes the reader on a journey through Kathryn’s past, from the death of her parents and her sleazy, rough life in Chicago, right on through to Kathryn becoming an Immortal.

After leaving Chicago Kathryn settled in LA, but after having a tragic experience and then focusing completely on policing the vampires and shapeshifters, does she then meet the man of her dreams? Although The Vixen concentrates on Kathryn’s character and her story I do love how the various groups, i.e. shapeshifters, vampires, sylphs and Immortals, have their own agendas/stories – but it is the Treaty that all of these species have all made with the Zie Council which bring them all together.

We begin The Vixen with a dramatic and effective prologue which engages the reader from the off. Poor little Kathryn as a youngster, desperate cold and hungry, being led by her mother to a shelter to escape her father. The reader already has a sense that Kathryn’s father is violent and abusive and can therefore understand why her mother is running. However, Kathryn is a scared little girl; scared of her father and scared of running to the unknown.  The Vixen has it’s fair share of action and horror and the prologue is no exception to the latter! From this short piece of writing alone, the reader is connected to Kathryn and you have to continue on the journey of this desolate soul.

As with all of the Enchanted Immortals books, The Vixen switched from past to present. C.J. writes in such a way to make the story easy to follow and keeps the excitement flowing as one moment we’re reading about the 1920’s and then present day, back to the 1930’s. The story is constantly keeping pace and going back and forth between the vamps, shifters, immortals, etc, keeping the reader informed on the different events taking place. The reader is reminded of how Kathryn met up with Jonathan, how Thomas became an Immortal and also Tony Bianchi – an investigator with the BSI (Bureau of Supernatural Investigation).

The reader is also reminded of the shifter, Sheena, and what happened to her. For those that do not know and have not read the previous books of the series – this is a revelation and as well as a great recap, making The Vixen well written and informative enough to read as a stand alone. However, I would recommend that all books of the series should be read as they are all fantastic and each book focuses on a different character (please click on the links below to read our reviews):-

Enchanted Immortals – Thomas’ story

Enchanted Immortals 2: The Vortex – Jonathan’s story

Enchanted Immortals 3: The Vampyre – Pascal’s story

Having each book focus on a different character enables the reader to come up close and personal with each one and thus helping to empathise and connect with each character as well as providing a full background for the whole series.

Before reading The Vixen I viewed Kathryn as a more supportive character as Jonathan and Thomas, espeically Jonathan, were seen to be the heroes. In the Vixen Kathryn comes to the fore and I now see her as an equal, especially as she is so bold. The Immortals also have their own superpower: Jonathan is extremely strong; Thomas is very fast; and Kathryn can read minds. This makes all of them individually capable of surviving well on their own. As a team they are extremely  powerful.

Poor Thomas is left waiting for news of pregnant Malina as she has left their apartment for a short while to contemplate what to do about her future. Being a sylph, after giving birth she will become a mortal, leaving Thomas and her child to carry on without her once she dies. Malina has experimented with the Enchantment in the hope that she would keep her immortality, however thus far no experiment has worked. Thomas is prepared to become a mortal with her, however this would leave their child, not to mention his best friend, Jonathan, without him. Sylph Serina is put into a difficult situation as Malina stays with her but would rather Serina not mention it until she has had time to think.

Shapeshifters Seth and Malachi are desperate to be released from the Island’s prison. Being cooped up is not doing them all that good, especially when they need to turn and their instinct urges them to hunt. However, after asking for Melina on several occasions, will she finally allow for their release? Not only are Seth and Malachi seeking their release, there is also a discovery that they make. How will this affect them? Has prison helped them learn their lesson, or are they still up to no good? I must admit there was a part of me that felt sorry for Seth. Meanwhile, a new bar, The Polecat, is opening up in town and is run by shapeshifters. The Immortals and BSI go quietly to check it out.

Since the demise of vampire Pascal, Angel is looking for a more suitable leader for the remaining vamps. Brandon has taken it upon himself to lead but it seems to have all gone to his head and the others are quite young to lead. Angel visits an elderly human/ex-vamp, Darius, to discuss her plans. The reader is instantly given the impression that Darius is similar to Samuel L. Jackson in both looks and personality. After I thought this, I smiled to myself when it was mentioned in the book which is an example of how clear C.J. Pinard writes.

Although the end of the story does wrap up quite nicely, the epilogue leaves the reader hoping for more. What becomes of Angel? Will Seth and Malachi revert to their old ways after the revelation they have learnt? The Vixen, unfortunately is meant to be the concluding book of the series and in all honesty the series could be left as it is. However, there are so many characters that could go on to do more that I cannot help but try to persuade C.J. to write another.

There is the novella, BSI: Bureau of Supernatural Investigation, that will be released at a later date. I cannot wait for this as the reader experiences an ‘X-files’ feel when reading about these guys. It is absolutely fantastic stuff – C.J is one of my favourite authors as her work is so full of life, full of different characters, so exciting and action-packed. If you haven’t had a C.J. Pinard experience yet then you have to buy these books. You won’t be disappointed!

At the time of writing this post you can purchase the Kindle Editions of the first two books of the series for only 77p at Amazon UK or for $1.17 at Amazon US!

I received Enchanted Immortals 4: The Vixen from the author, C.J. Pinard, gratefully. In return for her kindness and because I absolutely love this series I have written an honest and fair review.

If you would like to contact C.J. Pinard you can reach her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CJPinardAuthor or you can e-mail her at cjpinardauthor@gmail.com.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

The Purple Haze, a short story by Gary Richardson

The Purple HazeIf you are a fan of the movie ‘Dawn of the Dead’ or a fan of the tv series ‘The Walking Dead’ then this is certainly a novel for you to read. I find it even more intriguing, being English, as it is set in England.

This short story is very exciting from the very beginning. If you imagine a bank robbery scene from ‘The Sweeney’ tv series, this is how the novel begins. However, a few chapters into the book and it completely changes into a horror/zombie type novel. It actually reminds me a little of ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’.  One moment it is a crime/thriller and the next it is some action-packed horror. I found this to be an exciting, fast-paced read with well written characters and a well thought-out plot.

Also, because of the turn of events, it forces characters to work together when they should be opposed to each other, i.e. bank robbers working with civilians and the police, etc. This adds another layer of tension amid the main story.

Some could say a negative about this novel is that similar stories have been written, but if you are interested in this type of story I would urge people to read it.

I also like the fact that the author, Gary Richardson, has written a couple of pages at the end explaining where the idea came from for the novel and how it became a part of his life.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

I have been meaning to post this review on A Reader’s Review Blog for a while. Written prior to our blog being created, I have decided to post my original review as it is written with the feelings I had at the time of reading ‘The Purple Haze’ and this short story is one I haven’t been able to forget!!! You can find ‘The Purple Haze’ on Amazon UK for 99p or on Amazon US for $1.54!

Charades, by Ann Logan

17801498[1]-001Reviewed by Tina and Caroline (below)

Tina’s Review

High Octane Powered Tale of Love and Deception

Charades, by Ann Logan, is a thrilling tale of love and deception, where no one is who or what they seem. Caught in the centre is an innocent young woman, Mercedes Fuentes. Mercy not only has to face ghosts from her past she did not know existed, but she also has to cope with a man to whom she has given her heart but who betrays her trust.

In Charades, Mercy, whose parents are deceased and who has been sequestered in academia for years, is offered an opportunity she cannot refuse. Her task is to pose as girlfriend to Wulf Rheinhart who needs a fake fiancée for a week to close a business deal. In return, Mercy will receive a large sum of money to pay off much of her student debt.  Although Mercy is shy around men, she is persuaded by Hazel, who was a friend of her mother’s that Wulf will pose no threat as he is an honourable man and she decides to go ahead with the deal.

As soon as Wulf and Mercy meet there is a mutual attraction. Mercy senses that Wulf is a good man and something of a kindred spirit as he appears a little awkward and devoted to his work. She quickly places her trust in him as his non-threatening demeanour disarms her. Once Wulf’s business deal is secured the couple fall in love and Wulf persuades Mercy to accompany him to Germany, to meet his parents.  However, once in Germany, Mercy learns that Wulf is not the man she thinks he is. In fact she discovers that his very mission was to lure her there for another purpose entirely. She soon finds that her very life is on the line and she does not know whom to trust. Her heart tells her one thing but her mind another. Sinister forces are at play in this suspenseful tale that is full of humour, danger, adventure and plenty of romance.

I liked how Mercy’s character grew in strength throughout the novel. When we first meet her she is nervous around men, favouring dowdy clothes that hide her femininity and being prone to panic attacks. We soon learn that this is due to an experience she had when she began her studies. However, once she falls in love with Wulf she gains a lot of confidence and is able to draw on an inner strength to enable her to cope with the many difficult revelations and events which follow. I think that she surprises herself, Wulf and others with what she is capable of. However, she still retains her overall sense of vulnerability, innocence and goodness, which makes her such a likeable heroine for whom the reader wants to see a HEA.

Wulf, the hero, stole the show for me however, as he is such a lovable character. He is uncomfortable with his mission from the onset, more so when he discovers what an innocent he has to deceive. However, he feels compelled to go through with the task, for reasons that I will not divulge as it would spoil the plot. He soon falls for Mercy and rises to the occasion when he realises that she is in very real danger and uses all of his resources to keep her safe.

I loved the growing relationship between the couple, which was beautifully orchestrated. I felt that their courtship was very realistic and the lovemaking scenes sweet, Wulf being a masterful lover who soon overcomes Mercy’s fears and inhibitions. You could really tell that they were destined to be together, despite the difficulties the plot threw at them. I could understand Mercy’s misgivings when she discovers Wulf’s initial deception and other times when he did not put her fully in the picture.  I also felt Wulf’s angst at having to deceive the woman he loves.

There were many other characters in the plot, which transports the reader from the US, to Germany and to Mexico. Of special note is Hazel, who was instrumental in bringing Mercy and Wulf together and Anton, Wulf’s boss and mentor. These characters, in addition to the others, have an interesting back story and are not whom they first appear to be.

I liked the author’s writing style, which I feel gave a good balance of romance, suspense and plot twists which kept me entertained throughout. I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy romantic suspense or contemporary romance, where there are strong elements of intrigue, danger and adventure. I would read another book by the author.

 Reviewed by Tina Williams

 Caroline’s Review

‘Charades’ is an absolutely enthralling ride of love and deceipt. The apt title of this novel explains the story very well, as for poor Mercedes Fuentes one charade snowballs into many more, causing an avalanche of confusion and leaving her uncertain of where to turn. Does she remain on this path with her new-found acting fiancé, Wulf Rheinhart, or does she run? This story, characters and plot, become bigger and better as the story moves on. From the beginning when the reader believes that they are reading a contemporary romance the novel unfolds to suspense romance, thriller, crime, action, adventure and espionage.

Mercedes, more familiarly known as Mercy, has hidden herself into a life of academia, building up student loans, in order to avoid the male population. However, when a family friend offers her a chance to pay off most of the loans, Mercy cannot help but take on the offer. Mercy meets with her friend, Hazel, who has a job lined up for her to act as Wulf Rheinhart’s fiancée in order for him to make a huge business deal with his oil company. Wulf feels like he needs to portray himself as a family man and so needs Mercy to act as his fiancée for a week to secure the deal. Over the course of the week, as well as being attracted when they first met, they begin to develop a love interest for each other and, once the deal is done, Wulf takes Mercy to meet with his family in Germany.

Once in Germany, the naïve and shy Mercy discovers that she has a grandfather in Germany that once was an SS Nazi soldier and had stolen a great deal of money from the Jewish population at the time of the Second World War. It is then that she realises that Wulf’s intentions to bring her to Germany were not for the reasons she thought. Wulf has lied to her and deceived her. Now she is in paramount danger with people that seek this enormous amount of money, knowing that she is the granddaughter, with a man  that betrayed her and in a country away from anyone she trusts. On the one hand she could try and run, but where would she end up if she was alone? Her only other option is to stay with Wulf, as even though he has betrayed her, he seems to be the only one that wants her to be kept alive and safe!

I really like the name and the character ‘Wulf’ in Charades. His name sounds heroic, strong, domineering, decisive and exciting. Along with his physical appearance of being tall, rugged and muscular, this makes for a fabulous hero, one of which the readers will adore and he is perfect for the role in which he plays with Mercy. I’m sure any reader would be at his mercy given the chance! The tension between these two characters is brilliant. One can really sympathise with both characters as the reader is given both points of view as the story moves on. On the one hand Wulf has deceived Mercy on many levels by lying to her, mostly for her own safety. However, it is clear that he hates this situation. He longs to be honest with Mercy but can only do so when it is safe, therefore, Mercy only hears the truth in fractions at a time. This also leaves the reader screaming in parts for Wulf to open up more.

The story itself keeps the characters on their toes with espionage, car chases, kidnapping, threats and plenty more action from America, across to Europe, then Mexico and back! Charades is one hell of a ride. The further into the story you read the reader faces more puzzles and confusion. Ann Logan has written in such an exciting manner that the story becomes bigger and bigger. I think it reflects in the novel that Ann has a wide knowledge of visiting different countries and throughout the book there is always a deep sense of family. It definitely rings true to life in some areas as it made me wonder about my extended family and past generations. What did they get up to?

One of the interesting sides this novel has is the growing of Mercy’s character. At the beginning of this novel she was a naïve student, wary of all men and shy. She blossoms as does her relationship with Wulf and towards the end of the Charades Mercy is no longer as naïve as what she was. In the short time she has known Wulf, he has given her an insight into so much, helped her overcome a fear and she finds out how deep some people will go for love. She is now a worldy wiser woman, well aware of her sexiness and attraction and could possibly deal with any scenario she was faced with. As a reader, I found myself feeling proud of her. She is a great heroine.

Charades is definitely a fascinating read. What began as a contemporary romance for me, with love at it’s core and some really passionate sensual scenes, became a fast-paced thriller with a great plot, plenty of action and crime too. This story has it all!!

Charades was received by A Reader’s Review Blog gratefully from the publisher, Book Hub Inc. for the purpose of an honest and fair review.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Charades cover art by Bri Bruce

Published by Blue Star Books 

Vampire Wake (Kiera Hudson Series One #2) by Tim O’Rourke

Vampire Wake is a brilliant book. With Keira back at Havensfield she is trying to come to terms with what happened at The Ragged Cove and get her life back on track. However, this is not as simple as it sounds! To begin with, there are not many people who believe her story and, therefore, her mind is occupied with trying to find any information she can on the whereabouts of her beloved mother and her Vampyrus friends: Luke, Murphy and Potter.

She is then asked to ‘babysit’ Lady Hunt’s sixteen year old daughter, Kayla, which Keira is reluctant to do at first but her thirst for work exceeds this reluctancy. Hence, life has not completely returned to normal for Keira but has provided her with something different to occcupy her time with.

Keira’s character is very alert and she is able to piece a puzzle/mystery together with her ability to ‘see’ details and process them very quickly. And it is this, coupled with her drive, determination and curiosity that makes Keira a really likeable character.

I have to say, after reading the first two novels of this series, that the character Potter is possibly my favourite. I love that his dark, impolite side can swiftly turn into cheekiness and that there is something more about him underneath his harshness. Although it is well hidden for the most part, he does appear to have a soft side.

I do feel that Vampire Wake is largely the set-up for book three, Vampire Hunt. There are more revelations in this second novel but after the build up and some brilliant action scenes the reader is left desperate to begin the third book, knowing that plenty more adventure and action scenes are on the way.

Again, there is a great connection to the readers’ reality as Tim O’Rourke writes with great imagination and knowledge of modern day Britain. For example, with current music being played on Keira’s iPod this aids the reader to connect with the characters of the book. It allows the story to have a hint of realism and therefore, makes it more believable.

I have begun reading Vampire Hunt, book three, and it does not disappoint!

Reviewed by Caroline Barker