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Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina Bocci

Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina BocciRoman Crazy by Nina Bocci
Published by Gallery Books on September 13th 2016
Genres: Romance
Pages: 326
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
one-star

Avery Bardot steps off the plane in Rome, looking for a fresh start. She’s left behind a soon-to-be ex-husband in Boston and plans to spend the summer with her best friend Daisy, licking her wounds—and perhaps a gelato or two. But when her American-expat friend throws her a welcome party on her first night, Avery’s thrown for a loop when she sees a man she never thought she’d see again: Italian architect Marcello Bianchi.

Marcello was the man—the one who got away. And now her past is colliding with her present, a present where she should be mourning the loss of her marriage and—hey, that fettuccine is delicious! And so is Marcello…

Slipping easily into the good life of summertime in Rome, Avery spends her days exploring a city that makes art historians swoon, and her nights swooning over her unexpected what was old is new again romance. It’s heady, it’s fevered, it’s wanton, and it’s crazy. But could this really be her new life? Or is it just a temporary reprieve before returning to the land of twin-set cardigans and crustless sandwiches?

A celebration of great friendship, passionate romance, and wonderful food, Roman Crazy is a lighthearted story of second chances and living life to the fullest.

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If I had been feeling better yesterday and this morning I would have been rage updating all freaking day at Booklikes and Goodreads. This book has ticked me off in so many ways that it’s going to have to be a spoiler review because otherwise you won’t get why this whole book irked me and was even called a romance. Too bad it wasn’t in the New Adult genre so I could at least blame something else on that genre.

“Roman Crazy” starts off with Avery Bardot walking in on her husband (Daniel) having sex with his secretary. She thought they were happy all these years (not really, we will get to that in a second) and can’t believe she’s expected to just ignore what he did in order to get jewelry (per her mother in law). So after having her best friend Daisy on mute during this whole insane conversation, Daisy tells Avery to come to her in Rome and get away from the craziness that is Daniel and Boston at the moment. So far so good right? I liked the beginning and liked Daisy. I stupidly thought the book was going to be differing first person POVs from both Avery and Daisy. Oh, how I wish.

Instead Avery arrives in Rome and is whisked out to meet Daisy’s coworkers and comes across a man named Marcello. See several years ago when Avery was abroad studying, she had a crazy hot affair with Marcello. Problem was that Avery was dating Daniel at the time so she was still keeping in touch with him while doing hot and heavy things with Marcello.

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So I told myself at this point okay, maybe it will get better. I am not a fan of cheating, but maybe this can get cleaned up a bit. No dear friends, it gets worse.

We find out that Avery returned to Boston to break things off with Daniel, but you know, felt comfortable with him again, had sex with him, got pregnant and then promptly ghosted the hell out of Marcello. Daniel proposed, they got married, and they lost their child. I maybe rolled my eyes a million times at this. This all is apparently supposed to be used as reasons why Daniel and Avery were not really meant to be with each other instead of reasons why they both should have saw a damn counselor.

Anyway, tra la la, Avery is back in Italy with Marcello and these two fools start dating. And Avery never tells him that she’s technically still married and anything that really went down years ago.

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So you are reading this book in disbelief at times because I think Clayton thinks we are supposed to be rooting for these two when all I can see is trouble ahead. And trouble we get.

Of course eventually Daniel shows up and everything is resolved in like 5 seconds there. But, what you don’t know is that a woman that Avery saw Marcello with the night they re-met was seeing him the whole time and Marcello has been sleeping with both of them. When Avery finds out to confront him, he calls her a hypocrite due to what she did to him years ago with sleeping with him and still dating Daniel.

I HATE THEM BOTH.

And then Avery runs to Daisy who has the nerve to act like Avery is in the wrong here. I wanted Daisy to tell her that you both are too immature to even date each other and leave each other alone. Nope, Avery goes and apologies and they have some sex and then tra la la, happy ending. There was some other stuff in there, but honestly I hated this book.

The characters were not well developed, and frankly I wish that Clayton had just broken this up into a dual POV with Avery and Daisy. I was wondering what Daisy’s backstory was since she had left Boston behind. Was she in touch with her family (didn’t sound like it). Sounded like she came into her own in the country too. Avery was one dimensional and she sucked. I had to keep reading about how she gave everything up for Daniel, but no one asked her to, she apparently did that herself after the death of their baby. I wish she had been more honest about it and maybe realized she wasn’t ready to be with anyone, let alone some damn guy who was sleeping with another woman cause he didn’t trust her to ghost him again.

The writing was typical Clayton, some raunch here and there. I was just bored and was wishing I could go back and re-read “Nuts” or “Cream of the Crop” again. I honestly got through this one pretty quick. Who knew rage made you read faster? Apparently it does.

The setting of Italy felt stereotypical as hell by the way. Clayton doesn’t really add any depth here unfortunately. I have been to Rome and recall being kind of disappointed it wasn’t all glamorous people all over. I got that when I got Milan and Florence it felt like.

The HEA ends up with Avery deciding to stay in Italy to work and Marcello giving up a great opportunity cause they are in love. I dry heaved. Mainly though cause I was still sick, but also cause this book.

one-star

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

On Second Thought by Kristan HigginsOn Second Thought by Kristan Higgins
Published by HQN Books on January 31st 2017
Genres: Romance
Pages: 480
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
four-stars

Ainsley O’Leary is so ready to get married—she’s even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn’t anticipate is being blindsided by a breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her older half sister, Kate, who’s struggling with a sudden loss of her own.

Kate’s always been the poised, self-assured sister, but becoming a newlywed—and a widow—in the space of four months overwhelms her. Though the sisters were never close, she starts to confide in Ainsley, especially when she learns her late husband was keeping a secret from her.

Despite the murky blended-family dynamic that’s always separated them, Ainsley's and Kate’s heartaches bind their summer together when they come to terms with the inevitable imperfection of relationships and family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.

The biggest issue for me in this romance was besides there not being that much romance to really sink my teeth into, I ended up disliking one of the story-lines in this book. One of my friends who adores romance has one rule that she never breaks. She hates reading romance books when a spouse either dies during the book or has died before the book. That’s because she hates how the authors always either change the backstory of the spouse (ie all of a sudden they had a secret life and didn’t really love the wife/husband as initially thought) or she hates how fast an author has them getting over that death. I tend to not mind it that much. Until now. Now I think I may have to add that rule to my romance reads cause I was a bit incensed while reading this book this past weekend.

“On Second Thought” has half sisters Kate and Ainsley having to deal with sudden changes to their lives. For Kate, she gets hit with sudden widowhood to man (Nathan) that she has only been married to for four months. For Ainsely, it’s realizing (and God one wonders how she just realizes it) that the man (Eric) she has devoted herself to for almost 12 years is a self absorbed asshat that dumps her in order to figure out his journey. FYI, these are not spoilers, this shows up in the synopsis for the book.

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Now per usual when there are multiple characters, there tends to be one that I like more than the other. For me, it was Ainsley this time through. Ainsely reminded me a bit of me honestly. She has to deal with the most surreal upbringing ever (will not go into it here in the review) and due to that has an overwhelming need to belong. Even though a blind man could see that Eric was not about a damn thing she still kept hanging on since he kept telling her that one day they would get married and have kids. It doesn’t help that she adores his family and they adore her. I have to say that all the parts with Eric are rage inducing and they will make you laugh, but also make you wish he was a real life person so that you could knee him over and over again in his crotch.

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I initially liked Kate’s story. I can’t imagine being married such a short time and losing your husband like that. But though Higgins goes a different way in showcasing Ainsley’s storyline, I don’t know why she went for the old you don’t know who your husband really is because reasons. I won’t go into them here, but I had a hard time not rolling my eyes. I rather have seen Kate interact more at her therapy group since it reminded me no lie of “Go On” and I loved that show on NBC.

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If there had been more of that I would have loved it. Instead we get an entirely outrageous story-line resolution for Kate that I had a hard time with. I maybe coughed “BS” a few times and went happily reading Ainsley’s parts.

Higgins does a great job rounding off the other characters in this book. Kate’s mother and Ainsley’s stepmother was a hot mess. I mean seriously. I would love it if someone made this into a movie or tv show cause I was just floored by these people.

Kate and Ainsley’s dad though was not present very much in the book, but you get why when you read the whole story. Kate and Ainsely’s brother though was missing a lot, and I didn’t get a good sense of him or his family besides the fact he and his wife are doctors and she’s African American. I would have loved another perspective in this book from him. It would have maybe rounded it off a bit more for me.

We also get the specter of Nathan (sorry dude, I have nothing good or bad to say about you) and the asshatery of Eric (I swear to you all I have dated this idiot in real life) and also Ainsley’s boss who was written very well too.

I loved the writing cause like I said I was cracking up a lot while reading this book and also shrieking. I shrieked a few times. I can’t say that I cried once though. Maybe if we spent more time with Kate and Nathan and oh yeah if Kate’s storyline didn’t take that left turn for me I would have cared more, but instead I just shrugged and went on my way.

I wish I had my book in front of me to add in some hilarious quotes from the book. But I unfortunately left it at home. Honestly just read the sections when Ainsley starts to realize what a nightmare she has been dating for years. I was snort laughing.

The flow was a bit off due to switching to Kate and then Ainsley’s POV. I also didn’t like how Higgins ended the book and with us finding out about Ainsley via Kate’s final POV. I would have liked it if both sisters got their own goodbye to us readers. And as I said before, Ainsley’s chapters were so funny to me that things didn’t flow back and forth between Ainsley and Kate very well after about the 50 percent mark to me.

The setting of the book is some suburb in New York. I have never heard of it and am too lazy to see if it exists. There is some discussion of Brooklyn a lot though.

The ending of the book ends with Kate and once again I wasn’t buying her storyline resolution. I did love how things ended with Ainsley though.

four-stars

Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay

Difficult Women by Roxanne GayDifficult Women by Roxanne Gay
Published by Grove Press on January 3rd 2017
Genres: Short Stories
Pages: 260
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
four-stars

Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed State—which earned rave reviews and was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, NPR, the Boston Globe, and Kirkus—and her New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial). Gay returns with Difficult Women, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection.

The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the marriage of one of them. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.

I honestly didn’t like some of the stories which is why I ended up giving this collection as a whole 4 stars. Gay writes extremely well though. I can honestly say that I could picture everything that she was describing in her stories. To the point a few times I had to hug myself at the end of a story. I am happy that I bought this though since I can see myself in the future re-reading some of my favorite stories, and that’s how you know you have a home-run with me that even without it being a 5 star rated book by me, I have every intention of coming back and thinking about what was written. I honestly wish that Gay would come back and revisit some of these characters in future works.

“I Will Follow You” (5 stars)-The love that a pair of sisters have for one another. This story sets the stage for the rest of the collection. I actually re-read this one twice just because I wanted to let the story live longer with me. Heartbreaking and full of hope at the same time.

“Water, All Its Weight” (3 stars)-I honestly was confused with this one. It definitely had a fairytale aspect to it. But after reading the previous story, I guess I wasn’t in the headspace for something I found to just be quirky.

“The Mark of Cain” (3 stars)-This one was weird. A woman pulled between two brothers. I honestly didn’t get why she made the choices she did. I think throughout the whole story I was just confused. I don’t know why anyone would say to themselves this is a good life. But maybe that was the lesson that Gay was trying to get across.

“Difficult Women” (5 stars)-I loved how Gay breaks down all of the cliches we have all heard before about women. Breaking things down so that you can see the woman behind the loose, frigid, and crazy. About seeing what mothers and even dead girls think about. Wonderful from beginning to end.

When a Crazy Woman is Misunderstood

It started with a phone call after a third date where she followed him home and they had sex, nothing memorable, but overall, adequate.

They had breakfast at the diner next door.

He ate eggs, scrambled soft.

She had pancakes, doused in syrup and butter.

“I can’t believe you’re a woman who eats,” he said.

“You’re a goddamned dream.

 

FLORDIA (5 stars)-Once again Gay breaks down a community of women that live in a gated community in Florida.

La Negra Blanca (4 stars)-A look at a woman who is passing as white who uses what she has body wise to pay for school. I like the story, but think adding in the customer to it made it a little too Hollywood movie for me. He was also a gross figure and the whole ending left me with chills. I maybe made sure my door was locked at the end of this story.

“Baby Arm” (2 stars)-My least favorite of all of the stories. I don’t know, I feel like this is something that I maybe once upon watched on Adult Swim at night one time. Only in anime form or something. I also started giggling remembering 30 Rock with Liz Lemon.

“North Country” (5 stars)-I loved this story from beginning to end. Reading about a woman learning to love again and a man who works his way into her heart was great. I would love to see this brought to film one day. The narrator’s story of how she ended up where she was to meet Magnus was great.

“How” (3 stars)-Eh. I think that it was just okay. I didn’t have any big takeaways from it. And I hate how the character of Hanna never did reveal what her mother had to say.

“Requiem for a Glass Heart” (2 stars)-I didn’t really care for this story much. Once again based on what went before, it was just okay.

“In the Event of My Father’s Death” (3 stars)-I hated the ending.

“Break All the Way Down” (5 stars)-Once again this story brought to film would be wonderful. I loved it. I also got why the main character was punishing herself. When the reveal comes out you will get it too.

“Bad Priest” (3 stars)-Just made me think about the Thorn Birds. Nothing Earth shattering here.

“Open Marriage” (4 stars)-The shortest of the short stories and the one that did crack me up.

“Best Features” (5 stars)-I loved Milly and sat and thought to myself how many of my friends and even me have had that thing drilled into our heads due to what is considered undesirable. I was made fun of for being light skinned and would often sit outside to make myself darker. For some African American men I am too dark, for others, not light enough, for some white men definitely too dark and for some of them they want someone dark skinned to make things more “exotic.” With Milly being heavy weight she always feels as if she has to give in anytime a man shows her interest since she knows that she is not seen as desirable like thin women are. Just loved the whole story. It really made me think.

“Bone Density” (5 stars)-The ins and outs of marriage. I am pretty happy that I am single after reading this story.

“I Am a Knife” (3 stars)-Once again I didn’t get this until almost the end. But I have to say that I got bored with reading the word knife over and over again.

“The Sacrifice of Darkness” (4.5 stars)-I liked this one though I found most of it to be odd. If you can get your head past the central premise of the story you may like it too.

“Noble Things” (4 stars)-Way too soon after the US election and Gay imagines a world in which we have another Civil War. I liked this story, but thought the ending didn’t quite get there.

“Strange Gods” (5 stars)-A powerful ending to this collection. Until you get to the reveal you don’t get what is happening with our narrator. You just know that she loves the man she’s with and is in a stream of consciousness writing tell him her beginning that he is unaware of right now.

I liked for the most part that in every story that the women/girls within it were not just white and that so many issues were brought up in this collection: rape, spousal abuse, lying, sexual needs, faith, sin, hope, I can go on. Definitely worth a read!

four-stars

Memory in Death (In Death #22) by JD Robb

Memory in Death (In Death #22) by JD RobbMemory in Death by JD Robb
Published by Penguin USA on June 27th 2006
Genres: Romance
Pages: 375
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
five-stars

Eve Dallas is one tough cop. It should take more than a seemingly ordinary middle-aged lady to make her fall apart. But when that lady is Trudy Lombard, all bets are off. Just seeing Trudy at the station plunges Eve back to the days when she was a vulnerable, traumatized young girl—and trapped in foster care with the twisted woman who now sits smiling in front of her.

Trudy claims she came all the way to New York just to see how Eve is doing. But Eve’s fiercely protective husband, Roarke, suspects otherwise—and a blackmail attempt by Trudy proves his suspicion correct. Eve and Roarke just want the woman out of their lives. But someone else wants her dead. And when her murder comes to pass, Eve and Roarke will follow a circuitous and dangerous path to find out who turned the victimizer into a victim.

Happy sigh. This is one of my favorite re-reads. I tend to read it around the Christmas season. But seriously. I needed a happy (as it can be) In Death book. It gets to be a bit of a grind to just read about rape and murder in every other book.

Memory in Death (In Death #22) is a really good Eve Dallas and Roarke book. We get to spend about equal time with Roarke in this one. And I just sadly realized it’s been a while since we got a significant third person POV of Roarke in an In Death book. Hmmm. I am going to have to go back through my re-reads and see when that dropped off. As I was saying, we get a lot of Eve a lot of Roarke and for once we actually get to delve into Eve’s past. I really wish we got more information about her.

Robb has gone fairly deep on Roarke’s side of the family, but as long time readers know, we solve the mystery of Eve’s mother and father in “New York to Dalls (In Death #33) and you would think that Eve just popped up at age 8 and then transformed into a cop. “Memory in Death” does such a good job of giving us more layers into Eve’s life. I really do wish that Robb would revisit that well more in the recent books.

“Memory in Death” has Eve confronting her former foster mother (Trudy Lombard) who has come back to blackmail Eve once she finds out that Eve is now married to the richest man on the planet (look Roarke’s a billionaire apparently several times over so I am just going with he is the richest at this point). Eve gets a nasty shock since recalling Trudy and the things she did to Eve as a kid (locking in her room and forcing her to take cold baths) throws her for a loop. When Trudy is found dead (hit with a sap) then the case turns toward Eve and Roarke. This was a really cool case to sink your teeth in. I didn’t care about the victim, but it was still pretty awesome how Eve figured out who the doer was and why. And I of course wonder now what happened with the characters from that case. Too bad I don’t think Robb has thrown out any comments.

We get to see Eve hit for a loop several times during this investigation. Due to the events in “Origin in Death (or as I call it now, the dreaded Icove case) Eve is on the outs with Dr. Mira. She is feeling even more unsettled when a woman she hasn’t seen since she was a child popping up insisting that she’s Eve’s mother. Eve has an uncharacteristic scared response and then when she lets Roarke know about it…oh boy.

We get to see the dark side of Roarke that we don’t really get to see much in the series anymore. I had to crack up when Trudy went and tried to shake down Roarke. Dude. Dude. Hotness.

We get a couple fight (my least favorite thing) between Eve and Roarke and honestly I was on Roarke’s side on that one. Eve says some pretty terrible things to Roarke because she realizes that Trudy is only popping up due to her being married to him. She throws Roarke’s mother’s murder in his face and the fact that even though that was terrible he has a whole family in Ireland now (gah, I hated re-reading that. I cringed the whole time going oh no). Thankfully Eve and Roarke work through it.

What I thought was interesting this time through though is that Eve and Dr. Mira are on the outs because of Eve’s last case. They both feel their way around each other, but I loved it when Eve and Dr. Mira worked through it. And this is the beginning of Eve starting to realize that Dr. Mira in her own way is Eve’s mother and will mess someone up that will hurt one of her kids.

We get the usual characters of Peabody, McNabb and Feeney. Due to Eve’s close ties in the case I thought it was hilarious that Peabody had to interview Roarke. We also get some other characters besides Eve’s foster mother, her biological son Bobby who I just felt pity for throughout and Bobby’s wife.

The writing was in terms humorous, clever, and a few times sad (when realizing how terrible Eve’s foster mom was). Considering the subject matter, this ended up being the most light hearted In Death book I think I have read. Since this takes place over Christmas, you had Eve dealing with decorators, decorators who also got into fights, and hilariously putting antlers on Galahad. I also really loved that we got to see Roarke and Eve exchange gifts with one another. It was nice to just seem them having a really great couple moment. I do tend to skip over the later books romance scenes since they don’t move me much anymore. But the earlier books do make me smile.

The ending was pretty cool and I loved how Eve identified the murder. I seriously recall the first time I read this, not having a clue who done it which to me is what makes a great mystery book.

five-stars

Survivor in Death (In Death #20) by JD Robb

Survivor in Death (In Death #20) by JD RobbSurvivor in Death by JD Robb
Published by Berkley on August 30th 2005
Genres: Romance
Pages: 360
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
five-stars

The only thing that kept young Nixie Swisher from suffering the same fate as her parents, brother, housekeeper, and young sleepover companion was the impulsive nine-year-old's desire for an illicit orange fizzy at 2 a.m. Taking the bereft girl under her wing, Eve is determined to make sure the killers don't get the chance to finish their lethal job. From the first, however, the investigation is baffling. The Swishers were a nice family, living on the Upper West Side in a house with an excellent security system. Ordinary almost to a fault, they seemed unlikely victims for this carefully planned and executed crime. Valuables at the scene were left untouched, there was no sign of vandalism -- just the corpses of five people murdered in their sleep.

Honestly there is not a lot to say here except that this is one of my favorite “In Death” books. There are a couple of scenes that I found too outrageous to be believed (the ending with Nixie), anyone allowing Dallas to take a kid to live with her and Roarke instead of having her in foster care, etc. But I found that there were some wonderful callbacks to earlier cases that Eve had worked.

“Survivor in Death” opens up on a loving and happy family being murdered in their beds. Nixie Swisher, who is 9, ends up being the lone survivor. Due to Dallas and company not knowing why the Swisher’s were attacked and if someone out there may be looking to finish the job with Nixie, Nixie is then moved in temporarily with Eve and Roarke.

We actually in this book get to see how would Eve be with a child of her own (honest, probably to a fault, still loving, but not outwardly so) and we get to see how much Roarke desires to one day have children (yep plural) with Dallas. And I can honestly see how easily a child could fit seamlessly in both of their lives. Heck, if you don’t think Roarke would not be a stay at home dad and or taking the kids to work with him, you have not read an “In Death” book before. I can also see Summerset happily babysitting whenever they needed him to.

We do get several moving scenes in this one (seriously have a box of tissues nearby) and I did cry a few times while reading. This book brings up a lot of memories for Roarke and Summerset (we all know that Summerset’s daughter was kidnapped, raped and murdered) and Summerset especially becomes more developed in this one. The scene when he is rocking Nixie to sleep and telling her about a garden…sigh. I can’t even type it since I am welling up. I do have to say that I wanted to snap at Dallas a few times though. She acted like a jerk to Summerset and I was annoyed by it.

We get appearances by Mavis and of course Peabody, McNab, etc. What I thought was cool though is that we get reappearances by Richard DeBlass, Elizabeth Barrister (both in Naked in Death, #1-the case that brought Eve and Roarke together), and their adopted son Kevin (Vengeance in Death, #6)

The writing is top notch in this one I think. Robb definitely manages to hit your heart strings. The flow worked too, up until the end I thought. As I said above, I thought the ending was a bit too much to be believed.

five-stars

Visions in Death (In Death #19) by JD Robb

Visions in Death (In Death #19) by JD RobbVisions in Death by JD Robb
Published by Berkley on January 25th 2005
Genres: Romance
Pages: 354
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
five-stars

On one of the city's hottest nights, New York Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas is sent to Central Park-and into a hellish new investigation. The victim is found on the rocks, just above the still, dark water of the lake. Around her neck is a single red ribbon. Her hands are posed, as if in prayer. But it is the eyes-removed with such precision, as if done with the careful hands of a surgeon-that have Dallas most alarmed.

As more bodies turn up, each with the same defining scars, Eve is frantic for answers. Against her instincts, she accepts help from a psychic who offers one vision after another-each with shockingly accurate details of the murders. And when partner and friend Peabody is badly injured after escaping an attack, the stakes are raised. Are the eyes a symbol? A twisted religious ritual? A souvenir? With help from her husband, Roarke, Dallas must uncover the killer's motivation before another vision becomes another nightmare...

After reading the latest In Death books, I went back to my bookshelf this weekend and re-read some of my favorites. It was nice to see what drew me to this series and what I hope to see again one day.

“Visions in Death” follows Eve and company as they try to track down a serial killer. I really do love this one because we get to see the friendship of Eve and Peabody come full circle. We have fan favorites like Louise and Charles show up too (I love Charles). We have Feeney, Summerset, and Mavis. Heck, we even have Nadine. For once the huge cast of characters does very well together, though there were a couple of minor things that happened that took me out of the story. And what I really love is that Robb threw in a twist in the ending too. You think you know what went down til Eve reveals all. I will give Robb crap for that though since I wish we had seen clues of this in the book. I am not a fan when a mystery writer hides the clues so to speak to give a surprise ending to the audience.

Eve in “Visions in Death” is doing her best to track down a serial killer. The man leaves women dead, taking their eyes with him (shudder). As more and more women start to pile up, Eve is actually reluctantly inclined to involve a psychic in the hunt for the serial killer. What I do love about the “In Death” books which I wish that Robb would go back to more, is that men and women who are psychic or have the ability to read people are prevalent in this world. No one is mocking it and not saying it’s not real. And in one of the earlier books, Robb mentions that Dr. Mira has a daughter who is psychic.

What I really do love about this book is that we see a transformed Eve in this one. She opens up to Peabody and lets her know about her past. Because of what the revelations about Eve’s past could do to her current position on the NYPD, not a lot of people know about what happened to Eve as a child and also what she ended up doing (if you have read this series before now, you know that she murdered her father when he was about to beat and rape her again). Having her tell Peabody about that felt right. And Peabody’s reaction to the news confirms what she had started to suspect regarding Eve and her empathy for Eve breaks you a bit when you read it in print.

Roarke is Roarke in this one. He is juggling his billion dollar a day businesses while helping Eve in her hunt for this killer. When someone close to them gets injured, Roarke is all in to bring the person down. We also get to see Roarke in the end with Eve and they actually have a serious talk about what they want done if they die (it’s grim, but believe me when you read that scene you get it).

As I said above, we also get welcomed appearances by many in the “In Death” family. They are introduced organically and do not wreck the flow of the story at all. I really do wish at times we could go back to the earlier books when we didn’t have so many people to keep track of. Ah well.

The writing is top notch Robb. This is one of the earlier books and the payoff of 18 books and novellas at this point is really worth it. I did think the writing got a bit too much at one point when Eve is interviewing someone (no spoilers) and the person went from being out of it and high as anything due to meds being pumped in to being able to give a report to Eve in five seconds. Apparently in the future, meds work really fast.

The flow as I said earlier works.

The setting of the crimes takes place in Central Park. I have never been there, but Robb manages to capture the location and the many people/women in this story brilliant. I have said before, Robb does a good job with tertiary characters in this book I found. She manages to make them feel real to you in just a few short paragraphs. I have always wondered what happened to people after Eve no longer is investigating. In some of the books they do pop up again which is nice.

As I said, this book has a twist thrown in that when I first read it years ago I remember had my mouth hanging open. I was surprised as anything. Of course now re-reading this, I already knew that the twist was coming. But I have to say, that even though Eve lays everything out to you. I wish that we as readers had gotten more clues our way that this was an option.

five-stars

Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag

Secrets to the Grave by Tami HoagSecrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag
Published by Dutton on December 28th 2010
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 449
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
three-stars

Marissa Fordham is dead, but her daughter is found at the crime scene, injured but alive. Now sheriff's detective Tony Mendez and child advocate Anne Leone begin to peel back the layers of Marissa's life. And the shocking truth they discover puts them directly in the sights of a killer with a stunning secret to keep; because Marissa Fordham never existed...

I can honestly say that this book creeped me out a lot. With Hoag setting the first scene with a graphic description of the murder victim, and how our bodies break down after death, I may have been off food for several hours while I finished this book.

It seems this days I am destined to read book series out of order. I read book #3 last year, and finally went and bought book #2. I will so just go buy book #1 just so I can complete the “Oak Knoll” series eventually though.

Unlike with book #1, the town of Oak Knoll is not dealing with another serial killer. Instead, a single mother (Marissa Fordham) is found hacked to pieces. Marissa’s four year old daughter is also found and it’s apparent whoever killed her mother, thought they killed her too. When the sheriff is called into investigate, they find themselves trying to figure out who hated Marissa enough to end her life. This leads several characters down a long winding path of trying to figure out who Marissa is, why did she move to Oak Knoll, and who could have hated her enough to kill her.

I have read enough of Tami Hoag’s books to be familiar with how her book flow will go. She tends to have several POVs in the book. In this one she has detective Tony Mendez, child advocate Anne Leone, retired FBI agent, Vince Leone. We also have a woman who is dealing with the fact that her marriage is over, her daughter, a troubled young boy that Anne is trying to be there for, Marissa’s best friend who also lives in Oak Knoll, etc. At times the book felt a bit too messy with trying to follow the main plot and the sub-plots that popped up.

I did think though that the final reveal of the main plot didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I think due to the dozens of red herrings we get while reading, still had me going huh at the end. And of course I maybe got a little bit tired of the Anne is in danger again thing that kept happening. At one point I wondered if it would be better if she was just had police protection wherever she went.

I didn’t really jibe with any one character. Probably because for except for Tony, the other characters don’t pop up in book #3. I heard from a friend that if I read book #1, that maybe I will like everyone in this book more. Hope so. My main thoughts are that Anne and Tony were unprofessional throughout. And the whole what will happen to Marissa’s daughter thing didn’t sit well at all with me when we find out about her beginnings as well.

The writing is typical Hoag, though I have to say I hated the whole jump scare thing she had going on at the end of certain chapters. We would have Vince staring at a door and thinking someone is inside and the book would do “And Vince would wish that he was faster” and the book would skip into another chapter.

Probably the best thing about these books is that it is set in the early 1980s. So this is before you had a lot of tools that police and forensic scientists have available today. So you can test blood type, but not DNA at a scene. This leads to a lot of old fashioned leg work and interviewing.

three-stars

Ravished by Amanda Quick

Ravished by Amanda QuickRavished by Amanda Quick
Published by Bantam on December 2005
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 385
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
five-stars

The New York Times bestselling author of Rendezvous presents a spellbinding new Regency historical destined to be a hot beach read this summer. Moving from the cozy confines of a tiny seaside village named Upper Biddleton to the glittering crush of a fashionable London soiree, Quick offers an enthralling tale of a mismatched couple poised to discover the rapture of love.

RAVISHED is a retelling of the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast.

I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: Fairy tale Retelling square.

I have carried this book with me to countless countries and on countless vacations at this point. I love “Ravished.” I think Amanda Quick was firing on all cylinders for this one. I ended up reading this after another romance book I started was ticking me off so badly I just ran to my shelves and pulled this book down. You have a hero and heroine you can root for, an A and a B plot, and some very cute secondary characters.

Harriet is a typical Quick heroine. She’s not conventionally beautiful, but is very smart. Harriet is interested in archaeology and more to the point with anything dealing with old bones and teeth. Living in Upper Biddleton she calls on Gideon Westbrook, Viscount St. Justin, to come and deal with thieves who have set themselves up in the caves she is exploring.

St. Justin is a recluse from society due to his very large body and the scar that is down one side of his face due to a fencing accident. St. Justin, called the Beast of Blackthorne Hall by the local residents, does come to Upper Biddleton wanting to know what female dared to command him to come and do his duty.  Readers find out quickly about St. Justin’s nasty past with many blaming him for the suicide of one of the local young girls who St. Justin was engaged to at one time.

Harriet and Gideon were wonderful together. Honestly. From the very beginning you get to see that Harriet doesn’t let Gideon’s scar or bad temper (justified in this case) get to her at all. She looks past that and sees a man who is very lonely and doesn’t have anyone in the world. She’s also very focused on archaeology and only Gideon is able to divert her from her pursuit of finding out about a tooth she finds that does not seem to belong to any creature that she has heard of.

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Gideon is scared to love anyone again after dealing with the fact that the local girl he was engaged to really didn’t love him. He and his father fight every-time they see each other, and he barely speaks to his mother. Gideon hides from them thinking that they would prefer it if he were dead, and his older, more handsome brother were still alive.

I love the fact that Harriet is so protective of Gideon and not once, but twice goes after anyone that calls St. Justin a Beast. There is a scene in a ballroom where she launches herself at someone and I cracked the heck up. And Gideon does his best to provoke Harriet in order to see I think how much she does love him. Good for her for never taking any of his crap and telling him that she loved him all of the time. That was probably tho only failing of Gideon’s that I saw. Due to what has happened to him, he really doesn’t believe or think he can love someone.

The secondary characters in this one are really great. Harriet’s aunt is very stern, while her sister Felicity is hilarious. I once again wish that Quick had spun off some of her characters into other books. Felicity seems to find most of Society hilarious. And honestly one can’t blame her due the hypocrisy of most of the people in this story.  St.. Justin’s parents are really good in this too. You get to see how far apart he is from his parents, but the fact that his father realizes he was wrong about St. Justin, and his mother thanks Harriet for bringing her son back to her were tear jerker moments for me while reading. We also see one of St. Justin’s old friends rear his head, and we realize why the two men fell out.

The A plot (thieves in Upper Biddleton) and B plot (a man trying his best to pursue Harriet for his own reasons) tie together nicely in this one. I did love though that when push came to shove in one key scene, we have Harriet saving herself.

The writing was easy to read and the flow was great. No complaints from me at all.

The setting between Uppder Biddleton and a Society that had turned its back on St. Justin was an interesting contrast. Apparently people in the countryside can be just as much jerks as people in London.

The ending was satisfying and the epilogue was too.

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five-stars

The Secret (Highlands’ Lairds #1) by Julie Garwood

The Secret (Highlands’ Lairds #1) by Julie GarwoodThe Secret by Julie Garwood
Published by Pocket Books on May 1st 1992
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 379
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
four-stars

Judith Hampton was as beautiful as she was proud, as purposeful as she was loyal. The dear Scottish friend of her childhood was about to give birth, and Judith had promised to be at her side. But there was another, private reason for the journey from her bleak English home to the Highlands to meet the father she had never known, the Laird Maclean. Nothing prepared her for the sight of the Scottish barbarian who was to escort her into his land...Iain Maitland, Laird of his clan, a man more powerfully compelling than any she had ever encountered.

In a spirited clash of wills and customs, Judith revelled in the melting bliss of Iain's searching kisses, his passionate caresses. Perplexed by her sprightly defiance, bemused by her tender nature, Iain felt his soul growing into the light and warmth of her love. Surely nothing would wrench her from the affection and trust of Iain and his clan...not even the truth about her father, a devastating secret that could shatter the boldest alliance, and the most glorious of loves

I had plans to read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017, but I already read a book for Man in the Kilt, so this book is just something that I read for my own enjoyment.

As a long time Julie Garwood fan, I have to say the saddest day for me was when she stopped writing her historical books. I have tried to get into her contemporary works, and each and every time ended up DNFing the book. I still have most of her historical books on my shelves at home, so it was great to read this and “Saving Grace” this past weekend.

I really liked the whole aspect of this book from beginning to end. We have a heroine and hero come together from different sides (she’s English and he’s a Scot). The heroine we find out due to her love of one of her best friends has find out everything she can about midwifing (is that a word? Cause I am using it anyway) due to her friend’s mother dying giving birth and her promise that she will make sure that her friend lives. Maybe that seems a little silly to us in modern times, but due to the time period of this book, many women died giving birth, and some died weeks and even months later due to fevers and infections. We have a secret (hence the title) which threatens to tear apart the hero and heroine. And heck we even have some acknowledgement of alcoholism and abuse. There are great secondary characters in this one who later on appear in Garwood’s sequel to this one, “Ransom.” There is a third book, “Shadow Music”, but due to a lot of my friends’ reviews on that book, I just never read it.

Judith Hampton is a very unique Garwood heroine. I don’t want to say the others are useless. But we find out pretty early on in the book that Judith has a special set of skills which makes her very important as she journeys to her best friend’s home in the Highlands.  Judith meets her best friend, Frances Catherine when they are girls. Through the years the two of them have kept in touch and visited each other when they could. When Frances Catherine marries and becomes pregnant, Frances Catherine and her husband go to the Laird of the Mclean Clan to get permission to bring Judith back to the Clan to stay until Frances Catherine gives birth. The big issue here is that due to Judith being English, there are worries that she will not agree to come. When the Laird and others show up to Judith’s home, they are in for a surprise of their own though. Judith has every intention of going to the Highlands. And due to a secret she’s keeping, she has more reason than any to go.

Iain Maitland is the Laird of Clan Mclean and we find out has a very weird clan structure that is causing problems for him. He needs to have the older people in the clan vote on everything he does. So that causes a lot of clashes with him.

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Man I miss Highlander the series. Quick aside: I miss the series before it went off the rails with that Dark Quickening mess.

We do get to see Judith and Iain fall in love slowly with each other. I liked all of their scenes together. There is definite teasing, but you also see how careful Iain is with her once he finds out about some of the things that Judith had to endure while growing up.

The secondary characters are a hoot. I loved Brodrick! He is in the next book and I loved seeing him again in that. It was nice to revisit the first book in the series and read the second one to see how everyone is doing now. Ahem. Back to this book.

The secondary characters like Frances Catherine, her husband, the women in the village, the men who make up the committee that Iain has to go through to get decisions made are great. I laughed a lot while reading this book, and I think that you will too. We also get some issues with a rival clan that is connected to one of the characters we find out about early on in the book.

The one reason why I have to give this book just 4 stars is that I found that Iain too modern in his thinking. Heck even Judith was a bit too modern. I cannot see many men listening to Judith’s opinions about anything. I know Garwood always paints the Highlanders in her books as so much better than the Brits. But, I am going to raise an eyebrow about some of the scenes with everyone finding Judith to be uber attractive though I would think many would have problems with an English woman in their midst.

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This book takes place once again in the 1200s, so the things that Judith does for childbirth were way ahead of her time. Things like washing her hands, not using a birth stool, and also refusing to listen to the Church’s belief that women should be in pain during childbirth and need to show that by screaming. Yeah that scene in the book where a rival woman in the clan accuses Judith of witchcraft and being in league with the devil had some air of truth about it. FYI, until I read this book as a kid, I also never heard of a hook and birthing stool before and never want to again. I maybe patted my lady parts in sympathy a few times.

The dialogue among characters didn’t seem to match the time period, then again I am sure that Garwood wanted to make sure that readers get through the book without having to bust out a dictionary every five minutes. The flow was pitch perfect though. The ending was a bit of a letdown. Not because it wasn’t good. I just think it ended pretty abruptly. That’s why I always recommend people read the second book in the series if they can.

four-stars

Moonspun Magic by Catherine Coulter

Moonspun Magic by Catherine CoulterMoonspun Magic by Catherine Coulter
Published by Signet on May 4th 2004 (first published August 1988)
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 416
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
three-half-stars

She felt his tongue gently stroke her lips...and his hands, caressing her shoulders, moved downward to mold her hips. "No, please," she said, sobbing with desire...

Beautiful Victoria Abermarle feared and fled the imperious desires of handsome Damien Carstairs, Baron Drago. But there was no escaping her own desires when she was rescued on the lawless highways of Regency England by Damien's identical twin, Rafael Carstairs.

Though Rafael matched the strength and daring, he was gentle where Damien was violent, caring where Damien was callous. The icy terror that Damien inspired melted in the flames of passion that Rafael ignited. And in a whirlwind of adventure, intrigue, and danger that set brother against brother and good against evil, Victoria fought to make the overwhelming power and glorious fulfillment of love the winner...

Trigger warning: Rape. 

I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: Twins square. 

I have to say that the third book in this trilogy is my favorite. Maybe because this book calls back a location from one of Coulter’s medieval books, I want to say “Fire Song”. I have to look it up. Either way, I loved the little Easter eggs that are dropped. Plus we get to see characters we have known now through two other books. I really did enjoy that Frances/Hawk seem very much in love. So you can kind of block out the horribleness of the first book now. Plus I really enjoyed the heroine/hero in this one. For those who are looking for “Virgin Best First Time ” square, you can use this book for that one as well.

Our heroine Victoria flees from her sister’s husband Damien Carstairs, Baron Drago. Yeah he apparently thinks that rape is not that big a deal. Do not get me started on Victoria’s appalling sister as well. I ended up feeling sorry for her, since it’s pretty apparent her marriage to Damien is awful and on some weird level she likes it. When Victoria runs away she ends up being rescued by Damien’s twin brother Rafael. Readers meet Rafael in the second book in the Magic Trilogy, so it was nice to see him get his own story-line. As good as Rafael is, we get to see though that Damien is awful.

Rafael is gentle and kind and decides he is going to do whatever is necessary to keep Damien from hurting Victoria. You can see that it pains him to see that his brother seems to just be “wrong” and not care. And Damien seems to loathe Rafael for having the same face. Yeah, there was some weird twin stuff happening in this book. There is also some grossness though with Rafael trying to control Victoria through sex.

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And there is some jealousy of Rafael believing his brother that perhaps Victoria was really with him sexually which I was wondering about his intelligence at this point. Rafael tries to play a trick on Victoria, but as we quickly find out though, Victoria is able to tell Rafael and Damien apart from each other simply by how her body responds. I guess if one man tried to rape me I would always be on edge around him.

There are some familiar and beloved secondary characters in this one. I absolutely loved Frances and Lyon’s aunt in this one. The men, meh to you. They were fine, but the women really shine.

There is a secondary plot going on with men abducting young women in the area and raping them. So yeah, stay away if you don’t want to hear some terrible men’s justifications for what they are doing. And weirdly this book made me think of Nora Roberts “Brotherhood in Death” which had that same type of plot in it.  I really wasn’t happy with the final resolution to that storyline, but I get it though, the times were that things like that were not seen as a great deal until a girl of quality is kidnapped. Apparently when it was the poor it was a hard shrug.

The writing was okay, but the plot with the gross club kidnapping and raping women take up a great deal of the book. I did like the love scenes. Give me a good love scene and I am usually all over a book.

I think the flow was okay too, nothing to complain about there. Even though I have read this book a million times (exaggerating) it always feels new to me. Maybe because this ended up being my favorite couple out of the three couples who are featured.

three-half-stars
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