Review Round-up Aug ’15

Hi readers, Love certainly has been in the air for us this summer at A Reader’s Review Blog! I know romance is usually at the core of many of the stories we review, but this summer I have been left with a calm, serene and warm feeling, especially after just reviewing Laurette Long’s HOT BASQUE! Katherine McIntyre’s SOUL SOLUTION certainly left a mark on me, and Laura Barnard’s DOPEY WOMEN will have you in stitches, as well as enjoying a dangerous romance!

Tina has been reviewing some dark erotica books with Annika Martin & Skye Warren’s PRISONER, and HER MASTER’S COURTESAN by Lily White. Please note that the latter is most certainly not a romance though, and is definitely for the Adult 18yrs+ reader!

To meet your paranormal needs, along with Soul Solution (Katherine McIntyre), we have SOUL RELEASE, the last of C.J. Pinard’s Rebel Riders series, as well as a YA paranormal fantasy in Pat Spence’s TRUE BLUE (The Blue Crystal Trilogy #2).

And if mystery, crime and thriller are calling we have Niki Danforth’s STUNNER, and SILENCE OF A STRANGER by Elizabeth Bailey.

We hope you enjoy our selection. (As always, please click on the titles for more info and to read our reviews!)

Caroline & Tina 🙂

soul solutionsSoul Solution (Beyond Fairytales #1) (novelette) by Katherine McIntyre, dark paranormal/romantic suspense (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: For Erik Anderson, the Copenhagen line is his curse. He takes the train every night en route to collect souls. Like any lovelorn fool, he bargained his own long ago, and now pays the price—a lifetime of loneliness as a grim reaper. Stay distant—that’s been his mantra and what keeps him sane.

Until Mina Castner drops into his life like a whirlwind, one spilled drink leading to staying up until dawn with the woman. He believed one night couldn’t hurt, but he sorely underestimated her determination. Every encounter between them is reprieve from the guilt of reaping souls every night, but it can’t last. Even if she sparks long buried feelings, and even if her sheer presence intoxicates him, he can’t let this continue. For humans, his touch is poison, and if he slips up, it could cost her life.

Lily whiteHer Master’s Courtesan by Lily White, dark erotica (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: (N.B. This is not a romance novel. Adults 18yrs +)

I am a Master.

You must know this fact to understand my story.

I capture women.

I break them down.

And I rebuild them.

If they are lucky, they are sold into the professional hands of another Master. If they are less fortunate, they are buried beneath the ground, never to be thought of again.

I lust for the control, I demand absolute submission and my body yearns to warp the minds of those I train.

Power is the only thing I’ll ever need and I am addicted to the feeling of ultimate control.

I am wealthy, good-looking, educated and charming.

And I am – in no way – a good man.

I do not want love.
I do not want kindness.

She thought she could change me by giving me the two things I knew I never wanted.

She was wrong.

23303963Prisoner by Annika Martin & Skye Warren, dark erotic romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: He seethes with raw power the first time I see him—pure menace and rippling muscles in shackles. He’s dangerous. He’s wild. He’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. So I hide behind my prim glasses and my book like I always do, because I have secrets too. Then he shows up in the prison writing class I have to teach, and he blows me away with his honesty. He tells me secrets in his stories, and it’s getting harder to hide mine. I shiver when he gets too close, with only the cuffs and the bars and the guards holding him back. At night I can’t stop thinking about him in his cell. But that’s the thing about an animal in a cage—you never know when he’ll bite. He might use you to escape. He might even pull you into a forest and hold a hand over your mouth so you can’t call for the cops. He might make you come so hard, you can’t think. And you might crave him more than your next breath.
 
Prisoner is Book One of the Criminals & Captives series.

DOPEY WOMEN

Dopey Women by Laura Barnard, contemporary romantic comedy/chick-lit (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: Sadie had a bumpy upbringing but she’s still managed to drag herself out and carve a career for herself. That all comes crashing down when she, along with the women she manages; Mags, Lexi & Steph, get made redundant. She’s screwed. In hindsight she shouldn’t have attacked her colleague in a moment of rage. There goes the reference.

When they all bump into each other a few months later at the job centre Sadie finds she’s not the only one in a hole. Steph’s boyfriend has left her holding the baby, Lexi’s stuck in an abusive relationship and poor Mags has breast cancer. They’re all struggling to keep on top of their bills. They all need money to get out of their situations, its as simple as that.

Mags mentions that some women find marijuana helps ease the sickness caused by chemo. With the desperation mounting and the coffee spurring them on they somehow decide to start growing it. They’re only going to sell to ladies going through chemo, so its not too bad, right? They’re not going to be proper drug dealers. And its only temporary.

They didn’t bet on the business taking off so well though. Before they know it they’ve got orders coming out of their ears, a sexy detective on their trail, suspicious neighbours and drug dealers angry they’re working on their patch.

Can Sadie pull them out of this dangerous world they’ve found themselves in? And can she do it before they end up in prison?

STUNNER, Niki Danforth - CoverStunner (An Accidental Lady Detective series – A Ronnie Lake Mystery #1) by Niki Danforth, mystery crime thriller (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: Beautiful. Bright. And possibly deadly…

That’s all Ronnie Lake knows about her soon to be sister-in-law, Juliana. But Ronnie is determined to find out the truth about her wealthy brother’s new lover—before he throws away his happiness, his fortune…maybe even his life. Who is this mysterious woman, and where did she come from? What is she hiding? And how deep could the deception go?

First the family receives strange phone calls. Then a disturbing package appears at their estate outside New York City. Ronnie—a divorced, downsized, 50-something—seems an unlikely detective. But she soon finds she’s got an instinct for this type of work, as she falls ever deeper into a sinister world where people will do anything to escape their past. And Juliana may be the most desperate of them all.

True BlueTrue Blue (The Blue Crystal Trilogy #2) by Pat Spence, YA paranormal romance/fantasy (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: As the word ‘tomb’ came into my head and my predicament hit home, I lost control and hammered on the lid, screaming ‘Help, get me out of here’ over and over, until my throat hurt…

In just two weeks, Emily must undergo the blue crystal initiation ceremony or face death from the secret order that protects it. But is she ready to spend eternity with the beautiful and irresistible Theo de Lucis, or can best friend, Seth, offer an alternative? And can she stay alive long enough to make the decision?

As Emily considers her future, she becomes an unwitting pawn in a dangerous game of life and death, caught up in a supernatural world of ancient enemies, old grievances and dark forces. Tested to the limit, she must draw deep to ensure her survival.

Heart-rending and horrifying, True Blue is the second book in the ‘Blue Crystal’ trilogy, with a colourful cast of characters, a fast-moving plot and surprises at every turn. Keep turning the pages. You have to know what happens next….

An old enemy of the de Lucis family waits in the shadows, desperate for the crystal and preparing to exact a terrible price…

lunchtime eavesdropperLunchtime Eavesdropper (short story) by Joanie Chevalier, contemporary psychological drama/self-belief chick-lit/humour (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: Meet Marlee, a woman who lives a comfortable but simple life with her loving partner, the adorable Larry. She discovers that covertly listening in on other people’s conversations during lunch hour excites her and adds to her otherwise humble life. When she overhears unpleasant gossip about herself, she becomes obsessed with changing her personality and makes the bad decision to become someone she’s not. After her total makeover, Marlee suddenly finds herself basking in the attention of her co-workers and is ecstatic when she’s finally invited to sit at the “popular” table at work. But is a personality change really worth the price? Is being popular worth losing herself, possibly the love of her life and/or redefining her own definition of happiness?

Come and take part in Marlee’s life, even though it’s only for a short time, and experience her yearning to belong and be accepted for who she is. You may be surprised by the unexpected twist in her story.

statelypleasures (2)Stately Pleasures by Lucy Felthouse, erotic ménage (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Three’s a magic number in this steamy love triangle set in a British stately home. Alice Brown has just landed her dream job. Property manager at Davenport Manor, a British stately home. It’s only a nine-month contract to cover maternity leave, but it’s the boost up the career ladder she so desperately needs. Unfortunately, things don’t get off to the best start, when Alice finds her boss, Jeremy Davenport, in a compromising position. Far from being embarrassed by what’s happened, Jeremy turns things around on Alice and makes her out to be the one in the wrong. So when he and his best friend and head of security, Ethan Hayes, throw an ultimatum at her, she’s so stunned and confused that she goes along with their indecent proposal. When the dust settles and Alice has time to think about things, she realises that perhaps it isn’t such a bad thing. There are worse things she could be doing to advance her career, after all.

Soul Release - Rebel Riders 3Soul Release (Rebel Riders #3) by C.J. Pinard, paranormal romance/urban fantasy (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: His heart wants love. His mind craves revenge. His soul needs peace.

Faced with the horrible reality that he’s been tricked by Eva, Nolan sets off in a mad rage to find the evil red-haired succubus and end her once and for all. When the search for her falls flat, he turns to Kovah and the Rebel Riders for help. Not only fueled by wrath, a now sudden fear and sadness has also overtaken his heart: Where is his love, Charity?

With Joel Reichert searching deep for what the Justice Department knows about the supernatural of New Orleans, he’s not going to be of any help to Nolan – especially once Nolan finds out what Kovah and the Riders are planning for Joel and his hotel of vampires.

Can they all work together to find Charity and rid Louisiana of her evil succubus sister once and for all? Or will pride, egos, and longstanding feuds and hatred tear them all apart before she can be found?

Find out in this third and final instalment of the Rebel Riders Series.

silence of a strangerSilence of a Stranger (novella) by Elizabeth Bailey, romantic suspense (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Secrets, danger and an enigmatic stranger, a twentieth century mystery romance.

Is Bea’s life more at risk than her disobedient heart?

SILENCE OF A STRANGER

Her car broken down, Bea Russell goes for help and walks straight into hell. Three armed men and no answers. Held captive, strip searched, her dignity in shreds, Bea is horrified when she responds to the attraction of the man who grabbed her out of the dark.

Who is the fugitive Rad? Escaped rapist or spy? No one will talk. Yet Bea is forced to share the danger, fleeing across rough fields in the deep night hours. At a deserted house by the sea, she looks fate in the eye. One wrong move could change her life forever.

COVER HOT BASQUEHot Basque (A French Summer Novel #2) by Laurette Long, contemporary romance (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: Sit back with a glass of chilled rosé and let yourself be carried away to the white sands and pounding surf of the French Basque coast. What could be more relaxing? Find out what’s going on at the Villa Julia, where Caroline and her honey are enjoying the song of the crickets, the glow of the stars and happy romps in the boudoir. Caroline is also doing some matchmaking between best friend Jill and the hot Basque himself, Antoine, he of the smouldering eyes and perfect teeth. And Annabel the sister from hell, is miles away, no need to fret about her. What could be more idyllic? Not a cloud on the horizon…well, maybe it’s looking a bit black to the north, but nothing to worry about, surely??

**REVIEW** STUNNER (A Ronnie Lake Mystery #1) by Niki Danforth

STUNNER is the first book in Niki Danforth’s Ronnie Lake mystery series. The Ronnie Lake series is an accidental lady detective mystery series, that is written in a fun, light-hearted manner with a more serious undercurrent. After digging into the past of her brother’s new girlfriend, Ronnie finds herself in a little bit of trouble after she realises that her playing detective isn’t as subtle as she’d have liked!

STUNNER, Niki Danforth - CoverAuthor: Niki Danforth

Title: STUNNER (A Ronnie Lake Mysery #1)

Genre: Mystery, thriller, crime

Release date: August 31st, 2013

Released by: Pancora Press

Length: 381 pages

Blurb: Beautiful. Bright. And possibly deadly…

That’s all Ronnie Lake knows about her soon to be sister-in-law, Juliana. But Ronnie is determined to find out the truth about her wealthy brother’s new lover—before he throws away his happiness, his fortune…maybe even his life. Who is this mysterious woman, and where did she come from? What is she hiding? And how deep could the deception go?

First the family receives strange phone calls. Then a disturbing package appears at their estate outside New York City. Ronnie—a divorced, downsized, 50-something—seems an unlikely detective. But she soon finds she’s got an instinct for this type of work, as she falls ever deeper into a sinister world where people will do anything to escape their past. And Juliana may be the most desperate of them all.

About the Author – Niki Danforth

Niki Danforth, daughter of a Cold War covert intelligence officer, has the “thriller/adventure” gene in her DNA. After a career as a successful TV/video producer and director in New York, this empty-nester is picking up her first love of mystery books and recreating herself as an author in the genre. Danforth lives in the New Jersey countryside with her husband and two drama-queen dogs.

For more information, you can check out Niki Danforth’s website. You can also visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NikiDanforthAuthor, and her Twitter account at https://twitter.com/nikidanforth.

REVIEW ***** (5* rating)

I really enjoyed Stunner. It is a fun, light-hearted read despite the mystery of Ronnie’s brother, Frank’s new girlfriend, Juliana. Ronnie, in her mid-fifties, downsized and living alone, with the exception of her dog, Warrior, has already faced losing one brother, Peter, since his wife practically whisked him away and didn’t want much contact with his family. Her other brother, Frank, has not long been made a widower since the death of his wife, Joanie, but now he has a new girlfriend in Juliana who doesn’t appear to have much of a past. Ronnie simply can’t allow her only close sibling to be distanced from her.

The opening scenes of Chapter One instantly grabbed my attention and made me smile as Ronnie is taking an Aikido class. I particularly love how the author has taken small Japanese phrases used in the appropriate manner and explained them to the reader. These little details make reading all the better for reining in the reader.

Being a mystery thriller I did question, after reading the first page, if the author was going to use the Aikido to make Ronnie’s character be an ass-kicking heroine, which would have been unbelievable. However, the author twists the idea on the following page, making it clear that of course being in her fifties, Ronnie is using Aikido as self-defence. The way in which it is written did amuse me; whilst taking control of her opponents power, in mid-stance with the opponent on her back:

“Hold that image! Hey, the decade of my twenties with my body feeling immune to injury was ages ago. So why would I even consider acting like Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan and stack an aggressive attacker onto my fifty-five-year-old aching back? Commmme onnnn.”

Stunner is written in first person from Ronnie’s point of view. The reader soon realises that Ronnie is a flawed character. Although merely looking out for Frank, Ronnie becomes too nosey for her own good, which lands her in a little trouble at times. She pushes herself too far, especially when interrogating those she believes had a connection with Juliana in the past. Instead of keeping it fairly general, she asks too many personal questions that raises suspicion. She is playing detective, and enjoying it, but throws herself in at the deep end without thinking of the consequences. I like this about her. After all, she’s human; we can all open our mouths at times when we wish we hadn’t, and this is something I could easily see myself do. This makes Ronnie’s character believable and really fun to read.

Another amusing moment for me was a thought of Ronnie’s when after following Juliana one day, she witnesses her meet up with a shady, lowlife male who surely can’t be part of beautiful, glamourous Juliana’s past?

“Pretty soon a motorcycle roars up, and a guy with shaggy black hair and a leather jacket shuts down the engine and gets off. He removes the jacket, revealing a torn tee-shirt. His arms are loaded with tattoos all the way down to his wrists. His jeans hang low on his behind creating a sight that only a mother could love…. He…walks into the coffee shop…

…Another thirty minutes go by before Juliana and Mr. Butt-Crack come out the door of the coffee shop.”

However, the light-hearted and fun moments do not always last as Ronnie finds herself in a spot of trouble when she is confronted by him in an alleyway. This scene provides some suspense and tension, which really reminds the reader just how dangerous Ronnie is playing this detective game. She is shaken up a little and is aware of her silly, amateur behaviour.

“What the hell did I think I was doing back there, going into that alley without Warrior? I’m not a professional private eye like Will Benson, just an idiotic, nosy amateur trying to look out for her brother. And an amateur who turned useless when the time came to defend herself. A coward. What happened to all my Aikido? Where was it when I actually needed it?”

Will Benson is an interesting character, being introduced to Ronnie by her Sensei, Isabella, Ronnie realises that one of her opponents in class is a Private Investigator. After explaining her situation to him, Will shows that he is willing to assist where he can. He can sense Ronnie’s eagerness to find out all she can about Juliana, but he is also aware of her lack of experience and dishes out warnings and advice to her where he can. Throughout his involvement the reader can sense a growing friendship and possible relationship between him and Ronnie which provides a nice, warm feel to the story when everything else becomes darker.

Ronnie’s ultimate goal throughout is to find out Juliana’s true identity and past, to ensure that Frank isn’t being played for money, and to ensure that her brother isn’t taken away from her by a woman in the same way that Peter had. However, going behind Frank’s back, checking up on his girlfriend and running the risk of getting found out (or even having to confront him with what she is doing) all run the risk of him never talking to her again. She is treading on ice, but surely Frank is vulnerable after losing Joanie, and maybe he just can’t see the many faces of Juliana? Either way, Ronnie feels she has no choice but to continue with her venture.

The reader can really sense Ronnie’s true meaning for her actions. She genuinely loves her brother and cares for his welfare. When she is made aware of strange happenings with strange phone calls and delivered parcels for Juliana she just can’t stop herself. Her suspicions and curiosity take over. Once she starts and finds herself deeper and deeper, it is hard for her to walk away. She must see it through to the end – even if she runs the risk of losing everything.

Another little treat from this story is the music soundtrack that the author has incorporated into the story. Each song is carefully chosen, fitting the scene perfectly. Some tracks that really stood out to me were ‘Glory Days’ (Bruce Springsteen), ‘Invincible’ (Pat Benatar), ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’ (Tom Petty), and The Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’.

If you are looking for a mystery with a sense of adventure, but nothing too dark, then Stunner is certainly a story you will enjoy. Written at a nice pace and in a manner that is easy to follow, with a light-hearted sense in parts, any reader will find it a quick and memorable read.

A copy of Stunner (A Ronnie Lake Mystery #1) was provided by the author in return for a fair and honest review.

BiblioCrunch - STUNNER, Danforth - Audio CoverIt is available at Amazon US and Amazon UK.

The audio book released on April 3 2014, is available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

**GIVEAWAY x8** Crime thriller ‘STUNNER (A Ronnie Lake Mystery)’ by Niki Danforth

STUNNER, Niki Danforth - CoverWe are very excited to host this FANTASTIC 8x (yes, 8x!) GIVEAWAY of Niki Danforth’s crime thriller, ‘Stunner (A Ronnie Lake Mystery #1)’!!! We have 3 signed paperbacks up for grabs, as well as 5x Kindle editions. For more info on the giveaway please read on 🙂

 

Synopsis:

Beautiful. Bright. And possibly deadly…

That’s all Ronnie Lake knows about her soon to be sister-in-law, Juliana. But Ronnie is determined to find out the truth about her wealthy brother’s new lover—before he throws away his happiness, his fortune…maybe even his life. Who is this mysterious woman, and where did she come from? What is she hiding? And how deep could the deception go?

First the family receives strange phone calls. Then a disturbing package appears at their estate outside New York City. Ronnie—a divorced, downsized, 50-something—seems an unlikely detective. But she soon finds she’s got an instinct for this type of work, as she falls ever deeper into a sinister world where people will do anything to escape their past. And Juliana may be the most desperate of them all.

STUNNER is the first book in Danforth’s Ronnie Lake mystery series. After a recent promotion on Amazon.com the book peaked at #1 in the Crime, Private Investigators, and Women Private Investigators categories, and #5 in the Mystery Category, with over 20,000 total downloads.

BiblioCrunch - STUNNER, Danforth - Audio CoverThe audio book released on April 3 2014, is available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

We will also be reviewing this fab read at a later date, keep checking in!!

About the Author – Niki Danforth

Niki Danforth, daughter of a Cold War covert intelligence officer, has the “thriller/adventure” gene in her DNA. After a career as a successful TV/video producer and director in New York, this empty-nester is picking up her first love of mystery books and recreating herself as an author in the genre. Danforth lives in the New Jersey countryside with her husband and two drama-queen dogs.

For more information, you can check out Niki Danforth’s website. You can also visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NikiDanforthAuthor, and her Twitter account at https://twitter.com/nikidanforth.

GIVEAWAY INFO:

For a chance to win one of 3 signed paperbacks give us a follow on Twitter  – @areadersreviewb  – and retweet our Stunner giveaway.

Alternatively, ‘like’ us on Facebook – A Readers Review –  and leave a comment or share our post on Stunner.

For a chance to win one of 5 Kindle copies all you need to do is add your name in the comments box below, or on our Facebook page post at http://facebook.com/AReadersReview

The closing date is Sunday 22nd June 2014. The winners will then be randomly selected and notified as soon as possible.

GOOD LUCK in advance to all of those who enter 🙂

Caroline and Tina x