Category: Romantic Suspense Review

Recent Reads: Catching Up

Having read a bunch of novels recently, I decided to quickly post summaries of my thoughts before I move on.

Spoilers likely!

The Last Sister* by Kendra Elliot (2020)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When Emily Mills discovers a man dead hanging in a tree, she is disturbed by the memories of finding her own father hanging under similar circumstances twenty years before. Her phone call to report the crime to the FBI brings special agent Zander Wells with his partner special agent Ava McLane to the scene. When Zander begins to investigate her father’s death to see if the crimes are related, Emily wonders about her older sister’s involvement and what she really witnessed all those years ago.

Notes:  The Last Sister drew me right in. It was enjoyable not to notice any frayed edges or issues, but just disappear into the story.  There were some interesting twists, most of which were believable. I also like that author Kendra Elliot uses a few law enforcement (FBI special agents) characters from previous novels, but shows them in a different light or brings someone who was a secondary character in a previous book up front to be a main character. It is less confining than a series with only one main character, yet there are familiar faces.

Although I totally get that the crime has to be of a certain type for the FBI to be called in, the hate crime/racism aspect was pretty disturbing.

Love meter:   ♥♥♥♥

Vanished by Kendra Elliot (2014)

 

Summary:   When eleven-year-old Henley disappears on her way to school, the FBI is on the case. Special Agent Ava McLane stays with the family to keep them safe and informed. Police detective Mason Callahan, who was once married to Henley’s stepmom, also arrives to help find the girl, even though someone he knew through work has just been murdered.  As clues are uncovered, Ava begins to suspect that more is going on than a simple kidnapping and other family members may be targeted as well.

Notes:  Once again, it was easy to lose myself in this novel. I liked that the family was a complicated one, with step moms and step dads in the mix. Although they all had the same goal, conflicts still arose because of their histories. The plot moved along smoothly and the characters were for the most part well developed. I liked the romance that emerged, also. It added some spice.

Love meter:   ♥♥♥♥

 

The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day (2020)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Alice Fine works in a construction office with her dad by day and volunteers with an online group that matches unidentified bodies (“Does”) with missing persons at night. Unlike many of the other members of the group — who started because they have missing relatives — Alice was drawn to the work because she herself was a missing person when she was very young. She was rescued in less than a day, but her kidnapper was never caught. When Alice recognizes a man from a photograph on the missing persons website, she soon realizes he is the one who kidnapped her so long ago. With the help of other volunteers, Alice delves into the mystery of who he was and why he took her.

Notes:  I really like this book. I like that the author was inspired to write it by real events in her neighbor’s life. I like that the amateur sleuths were based on actual volunteers who run The Doe Network website.  I like that Alice’s memories may or may not be reliable, but that her present day narration is reliable.

My only criticisms were that a couple of the male characters had odd character arcs or seemed to get tossed into and out of the story randomly. One example was Jimmy, who was the son of one of the co-owners of the construction business. Jimmy stole Alice’s backpack and hated the fact she secretly owned the business that he thought he would inherit. Except he was in love with her in the end/climax scene?

Merrily’s potential love interest(?), Vasquez, more or less also randomly shows up at the end climax scene. It isn’t clear what his motives are, who he is investigating, and why he keeps popping up except that Merrily needs a guy.

Still, the rest works very well.

Love meter:   ♥♥♥♥♥

The Secret Place by Tana French (2014)

 

Summary:  A teenage student at a boarding school for boys, Chris Harper, was murdered a year ago, but the perpetrator was never found. When sixteen-year-old Holly from the neighboring girls’ school shows up at Detective Stephen Moran’s  desk in the cold case division with a clue, he uses it to join Lead Detective Antoinette Conway of Dublin’s Murder Squad as she reopens the case. Nothing is as it seems, however, as Holly’s friends and rival cliques are determined to muddy the waters.

Notes:  Finally, a Tana French novel to truly love (see my complaints of other novels on the author page). The writing is still gorgeous, as with all the others, but this time the police do their jobs and the ending is satisfying. Yes, Tana French can pull it off.

What is most delightful in this novel is the theme of lies and deception. It is a merry-go-round ride as Moran and Conway try to deceive the girls they interview into revealing what happened and the girls do their best to lead the detectives astray. For that matter, Moran is trying to butter Conway up so he can move to the Murder Squad. Who is lying for the “right” reasons? Perhaps they all are.

Love meter:   ♥♥♥♥♥

Rough Day: Detective Lottie King Mystery Short Stories* by Shelley Coriell

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Author Shelley Coriell introduced Detective Lottie King as a minor character in the first book of her Apostles series, The Broken (reviewed here). Lottie was so popular, Shelley decided to write more about her. By the way, Shelley is a bit of a foodie and she includes Lottie-inspired recipes — and drinks(!) — between each chapter.

The stories range from Lottie working with her granddaughter’s Girl Power group to solve a locked room mystery, to helping a twelve-year-old boy find his missing grandfather.

Notes:  Given that this is a collection of short stories, it is easy to put it down between chapters, which I did over a year ago. When I picked it up again, I had forgotten how much I loved Lottie. She plows right in and gets the job done, all the time wearing the most amazing shoes.

I went to see if Shelley Coriell had any new novels out, but her last apparently was another collection of Lottie short stories published in 2017.  Hope that is remedied soon.

Love meter:   ♥♥♥♥

#BookBeginnings The Last Sister by Kendra Elliot

 

 

Today I’m reading The Last Sister by Kendra Elliot –thanks to a giveaway at Bea’s Book Nook — for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

The Last Sister* by Kendra Elliot

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:   When Emily Mills discovers a man dead hanging in a tree, she is disturbed by the memories of finding her own father hanging under similar circumstances twenty years before. Her phone call to report the crime to the FBI brings special agent Zander Wells with his partner special agent Ava McLane to the scene. When Zander begins to investigate her father’s death to see if the crimes are related, Emily wonders about her older sister’s involvement and what she really witnessed all those years ago.

First Sentence:

She wrapped her shaking fingers in the hem of her sweater to avoid damaging any fingerprints as she slid open the rear patio door, following the trail of blood.

Discussion:

That beginning makes me shiver, but I also want to find out what is going on.

Friday 56

Let’s join The Friday 56 hosted by Freda’s Voice, too.

The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

“Looks perfect,” said Ava. She already had a fluffy bite on her fork, headed for her mouth. Her blissful expression after her bite reminded Zander why he’d once been half in love with her.

This scene reveals glimpses of the private lives of the two agents without getting bogged down in back story.

What do you think? Would you keep reading Kendra Elliot’s The Last Sister? Have you read any Kendra Elliot novels?

Answer to #Mystery Author Whodunit Challenge 5

Did you recognize the mystery/suspense author from last week’s Whodunit Challenge #5Janet Evanovich was the author with the popular series mixing romance and mystery genres. You probably would have recognized her if we revealed the protagonist in the series is bounty hunter Stephanie Plum.

Janet Evanovich started out writing romance novels. She readily admits she collected rejection letters for 10 years prior to publication. In fact, she said she had filled a crate with them . One day she decided to burn the letters, give up, and got a job at a temp agency.  Fortunately for readers everywhere, one of her submissions that was still out caught the eye of an editor and soon she was able to quit the temp agency to write full time.

We were “counting down” to her newest novel because the books in the series all have a number in the title. For example Janet Evanovich’s most recent release in the series is Tricky Twenty-Two: A Stephanie Plum Novel.

If you have a few minutes, you can learn more mystery author Janet Evanovich and Tricky Twenty-two from this interview at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore on Livestream.

Series: Stephanie Plum
Publisher: Random House (November 17, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0385363230
ISBN-13: 978-0385363235

Newest Book:

The next in the series, Turbo Twenty-Three: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich, is due out November 15, 2016. According to Evanovich’s website, Stephanie goes undercover at an ice cream factory and someone gets their “just desserts.” (groan)

Publisher: Random House  (November 15, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0385363249

For Writers:

If you are a writer, you also might want to look for How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich and Ina Yalof.

In the book Janet Evanovich reveals a highly personal view of all aspects of writing. Starting with writing tips, such as how to plot, she takes the reader through revising, publishing and has a whole section on what it is like to be a writer. She has an amazing ability to create quirky, believable, and relatable characters. It isn’t a surprise, therefore, that Part 1 of the book is dedicated to “Creating Great Characters.”

Whether you are a reader or a writer, our whodunit challenge mystery author Janet Evanovich has some sensational books for you.

whodunit-challenge-5

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@ShelleyCoriell’s The Apostles Series: The Blind

After a brief hiatus, today we’re going to discuss the third book in The Apostles series, The Blind by Shelley Coriell.

 

(Affiliate link to Amazon)

In what has been described as the best of the series, The Blind features a strong female protagonist, FBI bomb specialist Evie Jimenez. Evie is thrown in with art expert Jack Elliott to solve a bizarre series of bombings where the killer poses people in real life replications of famous art works and then blows them up. Will Elliott be a major help or a major distraction? Will they catch the killer before Evie becomes his next victim?

How on earth does Coriell come up with these twisted serial killers? Her villains are certainly unique and complex, pulling off bizarre, one-of-a-kind crimes. You certainly won’t recognize these bad guys (and gals) from last week’s news.

Once again, Coriell gives us a wonderful behind the scenes look at the writing of this book on GoodReads. The story behind the book is as compelling as the book itself. For example, she revealed the title of the book was almost The Burned, but she thought that was too close to The Buried.

On a personal note, I was sad to finish the last page of The Blind because Shelley Coriell has indicated she has no plans for further books in The Apostles series at this time. They were so good, I suspect I will be rereading the series again soon. Plus, hopefully the Lottie King short stories will help stave off withdrawal symptoms.

If you are a fan of well-written romantic suspense that leans heavily toward suspense, then pick up Shelley Coriell’s The Blind today.

Related:

Book 1, The Broken Review

Book 2, The Buried Review

 

Series: The Apostles (Book 3)
Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Forever (July 28, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1455528471
ISBN-13: 978-1455528479

 

art-supplies

(Public Domain Photo via VisualHunt.com)

Disclosure: This book was my personal copy. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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@ShelleyCoriell’s The Apostles Series: The Buried

Today we are continuing with Shelley Coriell’s romantic suspense series The Apostles. The second book, The Buried, FBI Agent Theodore “Hatch” Hatcher and his state prosecutor ex-wife, Grace Courtemanche race to find a serial killer who buries victims alive.

(Affiliate link to Amazon)

As a member of The Apostles, Hatch Hatcher specializes in crisis negotiations. His office is a sailboat where he retreats between jobs, ready to respond to a call on his satellite phone at a moments notice. When the call comes to tell him he has a son he didn’t know about, things start to tumble out of control. Running into his ex-wife who is chasing a serial killer further complicates matters. Can the two of them put their personal feelings aside long enough to catch the killer?

Because each book in The Apostles series features a different set of characters, they could be read as stand alone titles or in any order. In The Buried the romance side is less steamy and more of a slow burn than in book one. Once again, the suspense side is dark, complicated, and the author throws in a whopper of a plot twist at the end.

As with The Broken, the setting helps add to the atmosphere of the book. The Buried is set in Cypress Grove, a town in the Florida panhandle. The background oozes swamps and alligators, adding to the suspense.

At the workshop I attended, Shelley disclosed that she actually put off working on this novel for two years. It wasn’t until she added a teenage character did she find the right mix to move the plot forward. I would say the teenager was a brilliant touch because he adds backstory and conflict in a way that ignites Hatch as a character. She also revealed it was difficult to write about the killer, who has a complicated and painful/sad backstory. She talks more about writing the book on GoodReads.

This title won’t remain “buried” in your TBR pile. The Buried is a compelling story that will keep you hooked to the very end.

Related:  Review of The Broken by Shelley Coriell

Series: The Apostles (Book 2)
Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Forever (October 28, 2014)
ISBN-10: 145552851X
ISBN-13: 978-1455528516

 

egret-florida-white-bird-wildlife-nature-wild
(Public domain photo via Visual hunt)

This review is based on my personal copy of the book.

@ShelleyCoriell’s The Apostles Series: The Broken

Having spent an inspiring day at the Arizona MysteryCon yesterday, I’m ready to review some of the mystery and romantic suspense novels I discovered.

Let’s start with Shelley Coriell’s romantic suspense series featuring members of a special FBI unit known as The Apostles. In book 1, The Broken, FBI Profiler Hayden Reed is trying to catch a serial killer who brutally stabs broadcasters. Hayden’s best lead might be a former broadcaster who went into hiding after she was attacked. Will he be able to find her?

(Affiliate Link to Amazon)

Romantic suspense can be a difficult genre to pin down. In this case, the suspense part is a dark, complicated mystery that will leave the reader guessing until the end. Without revealing too much, on the romantic side a relationship between Hayden Reed and victim Kate soon heats up.

The author introduces several characters who the reader will want to see again. Besides Hayden Reed, we meet other members of The Apostles, some of whom will be the main characters of later books in the series, as well as a feisty Sergeant named Lottie King. Once you encounter bighearted Lottie King and her outrageous shoes, you will see why she needed to be the protagonist of her own series of short stories (reviews coming).

colorado

 

The setting for the story roams throughout the West, with scenes in Colorado, Nevada and Tucson, Arizona. The wide open expanses add to the feeling of isolation in some of the scenes.

During her presentation, Shelley gave a heartrending account of how this novel was born from a tragic event in her life. Her father had a stroke and then an accident that nearly cost him his life. During his difficult recovery, Shelley began telling the story as a way to distract him from his health problems. Soon they were working out the details together. She told us her father is the model for one of the characters and helped her decide what he would do in a certain scene. More about how the book came to be is included in the back matter in a section called “The Dish:  Where Authors Give You the Inside Scoop.”

The Broken is an entertaining read with a complex and twisty plot, plus characters you will want to root for. Find out why Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author and pick up a copy today.

Related:

Book 2:  The Buried Review

Book 3:  The Blind Review

Series: The Apostles (Book 1)
Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Forever (April 29, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1455528498
ISBN-13: 978-1455528493

 

(This book is my personal copy)

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