Review: Secret Admirer


Title:
 Secret Admirer
Author: Michelle Jaffe
Publisher: Diversion Books
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 349 pages
Series?: The Arboretti Family #4
Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

She’s got murder in mind.

Lady Tuesday Arlington has always used her painting as a refuge from the nightmares that plague her sleep. When her husband is murdered in a setting that uncannily resembles one of Tuesday’s paintings, the young widow becomes the prime suspect.

Lawrence Pickering, the Earl of Arden and an investigator in service of Queen Elizabeth I, begins to follow Tuesday’s every move, certain of her guilt—until Tuesday becomes a target herself. Intrigued by her knowledge of the crime scenes as well as her stunning beauty, Lawrence vows to protect her. But how can he stop a killer who appears capable of the impossible—invading Tuesday’s mind?

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Tuesday paints to escape her nightmares. She paints marvelous copies and beautiful portraits for her family’s livelihood with her dear friend George fronting as the artist. She has adopted the three children who live next door that come and go at all hours. She takes in the vagabonds and gives them a home and a purpose, even when the finances are already stretched thin. She finds a way to make do.

Until her husband is murdered and one of her paintings is the murder scene. She becomes Lawrence Pickering’s single suspect, and Tuesday’s evasiveness drives him even further down the road of conviction. He quickly finds she is an oddity after watching her every move. Tuesday just knows too much. Things happen too neatly. It’s like the killer is in Tuesday’s subconscious. As the surveillance goes on, what everyone has joked as Tuesday’s gifts from her Secret Admirer turn darker, and deadlier. Lawrence moves beyond Tuesday as the suspect, but the Secret Admirer is so clever and cunning at getting close to Tuesday and then disappearing into thin air.

The Players

Tuesday – a strong woman who cares more for how others feel than herself; she has endured a lot of heartache at the hands of men

Curtis – Tuesday’s husband; exploited her family

George – Tuesday’s close friend who helps support her family by posing as a brilliant artist; he asks Tuesday daily if she will run away and marry him

CeCe – Tuesday’s maid and friend; beautiful and charming

Lawrence – the Earl of Arden; one of Queen Elizabeth’s prime investigators

Grub – Lawrence’s right-hand man

Tom – a young man in Lawrence’s investigation; served with Lawrence in Spain

 

I thought George’s unwavering and silly proposals to Tuesday were quite sweet…but they would get annoying after a while.

“George, it is very kind of you to offer, but I must say no. It would utterly destroy our friendship – you know how messy I am, and how you hate chaos.”

“I would learn to live with it.”

“No. Your esteem means too much to me.”

“Now be serious, princess. I’ve got it all planned out.” 

First Impressions

I recognized in the previous books the pattern of the main male and main female characters, so I kind of had an idea of what I was getting into, but Tuesday surprised me beyond imagination.

Second Thoughts

Lady Tuesday Arlington is such a flawed character that her character – her nature – is stunningly beautiful. She was born under the worst of circumstances for a family of tradition, and continues to be the bane of her father’s existence.

She felt tears prick the back of her eyes, not because of the ruined painting – no one was ever going to see it, so it hardly mattered – but at this further proof of what she already knew: she always ruined everything. It had been like that from the day she was born – on a Monday, instead of on a Tuesday like every other woman in her mother’s family since the time of William the Conqueror – and continued with no appearance of abatement. 

They had given her the maternal family name, Tuesday, despite her lapse of breeding and she bore the paternal surname, Worthington, but she wore them, like ill-affixed labels. She did not fit in with her family, did not look like any of them, could not sing or play the lute or do embroidery like them. Six generations of Worthingtons had been ladies in waiting to the queens of England by merit of their extraordinary skills as needle-women. But everything Tuesday touched just unraveled. 

Even as a grown woman, supporting the household, she is nothing but a disaster in her father’s eyes. Obviously she is to blame for making her husband, Curtis, leave. Their relationship unravels throughout the novel, just as Tuesday feels she unravels everything she touches. What is revealed through multiple characters is so heartbreaking, and it begins to change Lawrence’s opinion of Tuesday, or at least see her in a different light. She is the kind of woman who brings out the protective nature in him. Lawrence’s impression and revelation of Tueday’s description is quite striking:

She was taller than average, with hair the color of autumn grass, and she was holding a badly knotted gold cord in her hands. Her eyes – the gray-green of summer thunderheads before a storm and, Lawrence suspected, capable of flashing like them – rested on his face, but she was not meeting his gaze. 

George Lyle, Tuesday’s devoted friend and her cover as the brilliant artist, is a very interesting man. He has jealous tendencies, especially of CeCe and the Burns children next door. He prefers to have Tuesday all to himself, and their friendship was quite comical most of the time.

He took a sip from the glass on Tuesday’s work table, choked, and put it back. “What the devil is that?”

“Water,” Tuesday replied, vaguely amused. “It comes – ” 

“I know where it comes from.” George wiped his mouth on his hand and stared at her as if she had tried to poison him. 

George and CeCe seem to compete for Tuesday’s attentions, and both are very needy characters. Lawrence at one point observes that Tuesday seems to be the maid to CeCe as much as Tuesday does for her.

Tuesday glared at him. “George, what happened?”

“That is an extremely good question,” he replied airily. “It seems that your charming maid, CeCe, threw herself in front of the coach -“

“Threw myself? You pushed me,” said an outraged CeCe. 

“Why would I do that?” 

“Who can say? You probably thought it was amusing. I suppose you like hurting animals as well.” 

“Adore it. Such a feeling of power.”

Lawrence’s first appearance in the novel caught my attention. He sort of breaks into Tuesday’s house, and walks right into a self-made burglar alarm.

Lawrence turned back around when he heard himself being addressed by a woman. “The top part of the burglar alarms was supposed to hit your head, not your chin,” she explained, pointing to where his hand was massaging his jaw. “You are too tall.” 

No apology, nothing. She just stated these things as if they were facts, as if it were his fault that he’d been attacked by her doorway. And Lawrence let her.

 

Tuesday’s nightmares are chilling. The circumstances she finds herself in casts her in suspicion, and she has a hard time explaining that her husband’s murder – as well as others – have all been painted by her the day before the murders…which always happen on Tuesdays. The psychological piece of the novel – the fact that the killer seems to be in Tuesday’s very mind – is uncanny. It again does nothing but point the finger at Tuesday, but her Secret Admirer starts sending darker and deadlier gifts. They are no longer cute trinkets left by an anonymous man.

Tuesday is an impossible woman, in Lawrence’s eyes. She won’t directly answer his questions, she is evasive and her own house staff will lie through their teeth while being utterly charming in order to protect her. How could she not be the killer? Evidence upon evidence is stacked against her, she is found at her husband’s apartments, and despite that she acts in such comically evasive ways that it seems to only further cement her damnation, or insanity.

“We are not going back to your house. Now answer my questions.” 

“I believe I told you yesterday, Mister Pickering, that while I am happy to talk to you at lenght on a vast variety of subjects, questions from you of any type are decidedly unwelcome. Plus, you owe me an apology.” 

“You are insane, aren’t you?”

“I wonder why your coach isn’t moving.” 

“Do you know how close you are coming to getting your neck wrung?”

“Perhaps your coachman has fainted. I’ll go take a look.” 

“My coachman is fine. You do realize you are under arrest, don’t you?”

“Isn’t the weather lovely?”

As Lawrence delves deeper into the Tuesday murders, he is caught between wanting to protect the utterly vulnerable Lady Tuesday Arlington, and wanting to arrest her on the spot. His own trust issues and his past obscure his objectivity and when there seems to be undisputed evidence that links Tuesday to the killings, Lawrence can no longer protect Tuesday as he desires to. Despite all of his good intentions, Lawrence cannot keep himself from slowly falling in love with Tuesday Arlington. It is a sweet romance that blooms from his need to protect her.

This was a terrible idea, the worst possible idea, whatever they were, doing everything they shouldn’t be. They didn’t even like each other. They couldn’t even be in the same room without glaring at each other. She might have killed her husband, he might be her jailer. They were both too fragile for this, both too broken.

Tuesday is a woman just like any other, and yet not like any other. She loves with intensity, cares greatly, and is damaged beyond repair. Regardless, she is taken aback to find herself in the same predicament that Lawrence secretly finds himself in: in love.

Don’t look at him don’t look at him don’t look at him. She looked at him. 

She forgot everything she was going to say. She forgot English.

                              ***

“How come you get to say what happens?” she sighed. 

“I am in charge.” 

“Why?” 

“This is my house.” 

“Does that mean I am in charge at my house?”

“No.”

“Where can I be –” 

But it isn’t until one of Tuesday’s former fiancés is called to visit Lord Pickering that the heart of the matter of Tueday’s past relationships is revealed and a crushing truth expounds Lawrence. Tuesday – always made to feel she’s not good enough – has been rejected over and over again, only reinforcing this idea in her mind. This can take an incredible toll on your psyche, and when she feels this coming on, she harshly reminds herself she is a terrible wife and all manner of other things as have been said about her. It made me cry on more than one occasion.

All of the characters in this final installment play important roles for the plot to continue moving along steadily. Just when I thought I had figured out who the Secret Admirer was – also called the Lion – I was proven wrong. And then wrong again. The Secret Admirer is nothing short of a crazed lunatic who can show some mode of decorum and reasoning, but once he starts slipping into his W craziness, it’s the end of the line. I don’t remember why, but he has some fascination with the letter W, so everything with a W is capitalized.

I found myself doing three things as I read this last novel of the Arboretti family. I was either constantly giggling at the antics of Tuesday and her friends, or sobering up and crying buckets for Tuesday. I also found myself refusing to continue reading because I didn’t want Tuesday’s story to come to a close. I wanted to prolong it as much as possible, but I found myself giving in. Who can resist Lady Tuesday Arlington?

***** About the Author *****

Michele is the author of the Bad Kitty series of YA books as well as thrillers and romances for adults. After getting her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard, she retired from academia and decided to become an FBI special agent or glamorous showgirl, but somehow instead ended up writing.  A native of Los Angeles, California, Michele and her sparkly shoes currently reside in New York City.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Review: Lady Killer


Title:
 Lady Killer
Author: Michelle Jaffe
Publisher: Diversion Books
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 342 pages
Series?: The Arboretti Family #3
Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

It’s a race against the clock—and natural law—when a murderer seems to return from the dead, hellbent on killing again.

Clio Thornton’s interest in solving the mysteries plaguing 16th-century London has put her at odds with her wealthy family. Stumbling upon a grisly murder, she’s determined to investigate it, even when all of her discoveries point to an impossible killer: the Vampire of London, vanquished by Viscount Miles Loredan, the soon-to-be husband of her cousin.

Miles Loredan killed the Vampire of London three years ago. When Clio comes to him with her theories, Miles finds them impossible to believe. But intrigued by her passion and her beauty, Miles agrees to hire her and support her investigation. What starts as a professional relationship soon becomes personal—and dangerous. Because Miles is betrothed to another woman. And Clio is the Vampire’s next target.

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Clio Thornton has not had the easiest of lives with a grandmother like Lady Alecia Nonesuch. She lives in Which House with a rag-tag group of friends, including three playwrights and a manservant named Snug. One night she finds herself at the center of vampire’s crime scene. After three years, it seems he has returned from his wait in hiding while everyone thought he perished. Clio is insistent upon finding the fiend who has murdered so many women, and it leads her right to Miles Loredan.

The Players

Clio – a young woman constantly at odds with her family; she is conflicted about the murders but intent on uncovering the killer

Toast – Clio’s monkey; he can follow a scent anywhere and has his own language with Clio; fond of pilfering items and hiding them in his doublet

Inigo – a young boy Clio discovers at the murder scene and takes in

The Triumvirate – a group of three who write plays funded by Clio and live at Which House

Princess Erika – Clio’s neighbor; legendary for her prophesies

Miles – a wealthy Arboretti family member; bound by contract to marry Mariana,

Corin – Miles’ butler

Mariana – Clio’s idiot cousin; betrothed to Miles; odd fascination with baby animals (except dogs)

Grandmother – Mariana and Clio’s grandmother; intent on Mariana’s marriage; despises Clio

Edwin – Mariana’s father; not in his right mind

Saunders – Grandmother’s secretary; Mariana’s chaperone; fasion forward

Dr. LaForge – Mariana’s doctor; often corrects her word choice

 

First Impressions

After reading the first two installments, I found a pattern that I was pretty sure would be coming, but I wanted to read it nonetheless.

Second Thoughts

I loved the way Clio and Miles meet.

There was a dancing monkey. But the elf was a woman. A woman with a smear of dirt on one cheek and a tattered gown and long brown hair and enormous, challenging brown eyes. An absolutely stupendous looking woman. 

There was only one thing to do with a woman like that. Reaching out, Miles pulled her toward him and pressed his lips hard against hers. 

She tasted like a memory, like summer, and youth, and his favorite kind of ink all rolled together, and he could have gone on kissing her all day if she had not pulled away, leveled a knife-sharp look at him, and said, “You moldy mongrel.”

Clio is a woman who is an odd mix of eccentricities. She is a voracious reader and an advocate for others less fortunate or less empowered. I liked that about her character. 

Clio has her own theories about the vampire fiend, and she takes them to none other than the man who murdered him three years prior: Miles. With his help, she hopes to follow the trails of the killer and bring justice to the women of London so they do not have to live in fear. Clio and her gang are a constant source of amusement and confounds Miles at every turn.

Grandmother has her own agenda and plans for her two granddaughters. The family dynamics in were so interesting. I couldn’t understand, though, why Lady Alecia didn’t simply cut Clio entirely off and send her out into the world on her own.

Clio’s vulnerable side also leads to a lot of her internal conflict. Her crazy family greatly contributes to it.

She wished that Toast had not been sent to sleep in Corin’s chambers, wished that somehow she was not entirely alone with Miles. Wished that her best friend was not a monkey. She felt her lower lip begin to tremble and commanded it to cease.

Corin was also a surprising character. For a while I couldn’t get a grasp on his character, but he and the rest of the staff and Miles’ guards turned out to err on the side of a sweetheart instead of the brutish man who serves as their boss. The relationship the two of them have is increasingly cute, especially each time Clio says, “I read in a book once that…”

“My apologies if my questions inconvenience you, lady Thornton -“

“That is quite all right. I promise I will answer all of them later.” 

“-But I refuse to be a party to this illegal entry unless you give me more explanations.” 

Clio signed. “It is quite simple,” she explained, but paused as Miles made a strangled noise. “Really, it is. You need not sound like a-a baby bear cub dying.”

“I told you not to mention baby animals to me.” 

The Arboretti family continues to grow with each installment, and despite becoming very familiar with Jaffe’s basic character emotion archs and relationships, I am still looking forward to the next book in the series.

***** About the Author *****

Michele is the author of the Bad Kitty series of YA books as well as thrillers and romances for adults. After getting her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard, she retired from academia and decided to become an FBI special agent or glamorous showgirl, but somehow instead ended up writing.  A native of Los Angeles, California, Michele and her sparkly shoes currently reside in New York City.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: The Water Nymph

Title: The Water Nymph
Author: Michelle Jaffe
Publisher: Diversion Books
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 434 pages
Series?: The Arboretti Family #2
Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

In Renaissance England, love is the most dangerous gamble.

Crispin Foscari, one of Queen Elizabeth’s most trusted spies, leaves nothing to chance. So he’s surprised when he’s informed he has two weeks to clear his name of an accusation of treason, or face the executioner’s noose.

Sophie Champion is a hero to women of London, dedicating her seemingly endless resources to helping free them from bondage to men. But when her investigation into the death of her beloved godfather brings her to the attention of Crispin Foscari, known as “The Earl of Scandal”, under precarious circumstances, she is suddenly the one who needs liberating.

Even as his mind warns him to stay away from the the seductive siren, Crispin proposes a wager. Working together they pit their wits against a calculating enemy by day, and fight their searing attraction at night. As they inch closer to identifying the killer they grow closer to one another. Until finally their passion explodes—with deadly consequences.

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Crispin Foscari has never had to work harder than he does when an anonymous informant to the Queen makes mention of treason and leads him to fighting for his top position as a top spy and to avoid execution. His investigation leads him smack into Sophie Champion. She is in search of her godfather’s murderer and the person with whom he was to meet. Unfortunately for Sophie, she is caught at the scene of another crime, and Crispin is convinced she is the murderer, or at least the key to solving his own investigation. Sophie’s true identity and relationship to her godfather is questioned and things don’t look very good for Sophie or Crispin.

The Players

Cripsin – top agent in the Queen’s employ; known as the Earl of Scandal

Sophie – a bright woman with a secret past; she uses her influence for good

Lawerence – Crispin’s longtime friend; very wealthy and powerful

Elwood – Crispin’s butler; responsible for gathering information

The Aunts – a bunch of busybodies who insist on Crispin’s marriage

 

My Thoughts

Sophie Champion is adorable. She has one of the most interesting backgrounds, and her wits are what has gotten her so far in life. She has amassed a great deal of her own wealth and has a bit of influence with how she makes her dealings. She is a very independent woman, but also vulnerable inside.

Crispin Foscari is known as the “Earl of Scandal.” He dedicated much of his life to the Queen and has operated as one of her top agents for years. Even his own friend and partner-in-crime Lawrence Pickering is unbeknownst to Crispin’s role in the British government.

After one very serious meeting with the Queen, Crispin has been branded a traitor with no means of recourse but his own, perhaps at the cost of his life. His good-standing in the Queen’s eyes are very important to Crispin and lead him directly to the same person Sophia is hunting down.

After their run-in in the red room, Sophia is no longer the independent woman she once was. She is under the strain of her godfather’s death and wanting answers. She makes a bet with Crispin about the murder, and the plot takes off as the two of them travel in their own directions to solve the murder.

I thought Lawrence was quite an interesting character, and it seems he makes another appearance in the Arboretti series. Being friends for so long, he knows just how to get to Crispin, as does the rest of the Arboretti family.

Crispin avoids the aunts like the plague. Although he humors them quite a bit, there are certain times where he simply draws the line and cuts them off. Like when he is presented with over 100 potentials to choose one bride from.

Despite Crispin’s far-reaching clutches and resources, Sophia is not a woman to back down. Even when things seem daunting and get very personal, Sophia stands strong and firm in her convictions to find her godfather’s murderer.

 

I enjoyed the second installment in the Arboretti Family series, but I will say it seemed more…erotic than the first, The Stargazer. If I didn’t eat peaches before, I couldn’t now.

***** About the Author *****

Michele is the author of the Bad Kitty series of YA books as well as thrillers and romances for adults. After getting her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard, she retired from academia and decided to become an FBI special agent or glamorous showgirl, but somehow instead ended up writing.  A native of Los Angeles, California, Michele and her sparkly shoes currently reside in New York City.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review + Giveaway: Dead Lies

DeadLies_Banner (1)

Welcome to my tour stop for Dead Lies by Cybele Loening! Dead Lies is a mystery novel and the tour runs October 22-30 with reviews, interviews, guest posts and excerpts. For access to all the fun festivities, check out the tour schedule.

DeadLies_mediumTitle: Dead Lies
Author: Cybele Loening
Publisher: Balboa Press
Release Date: June 2014
Length: 131 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense 

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Former NYPD cop Anna Valentine just landed her first homicide case: the grisly double murder of a wealthy young couple. But it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Recovering from personal tragedies, the young police office just moved with her traumatized child to the suburbs where she hoped to pursue a quiet life and heal. To complicate matters, although she’s sworn off men until she and her son are happy and whole again, Anna feels the pull of attraction to the handsome twin brother of one of the murder victims, a man who has yet to be crossed off the suspect list. Teaming up with lead detective Jerry Kreeger, a 57-year-old veteran cop who’s lonely, broke and close to burnout, Anna chases a crafty killer and ultimately exposes a family’s shocking secrets that will rock a town.

***** Guest Post *****

Why You Should Follow Your Dreams (Even If It Sounds Crazy!)

I’m so pleased to be here! This is my first blog tour ever. I never thought I would write a mystery novel. I took a big risk in writing it, and now I’m living the life I always dreamed of having.

For thirteen years I was a magazine editor in New York City, working at places like Glamour, McCall’s, Mode and Prevention. I was even a bridal editor for a few years. It was exciting and even glamorous at times, and I loved what I was doing. I had always wanted to work with words.

From the outside, it looked like I had the perfect life. But inside, I felt off.

I found that at my core, I was unsatisfied. I was really good at editing and my career looked promising. There was even talk that I would be made Editor-in-Chief, which meant that I would be running my own magazine. But at some point I realized my soul was not being nourished. I was sick of watching other people write when that’s what I wanted to be doing. It’s something I’d wanted since I was a little girl. But I had never tried because I didn’t think I was good enough.

I’ve always been a huge fan of mysteries, especially by authors I revere like Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Mary Higgins Clark. I run an entire Facebook page devoted to mysteries, real and fictional. It fuels so much of who I am and what I love.

So one day, I just decided to take a risk and make the leap. I quit my “perfect” job in the city, and started a new journey. I also moved out to the country, something I had always wanted to do.

And just like that, everything began to fall into place. My happiness increased about a millionfold. Time seemed to fall away while I wrote. The quiet dirt roads where I walked fueled my creativity and my spirit. And that year I met the love of my life. Most importantly for this tour, I finished my detective novel, Dead Lies, a story about murder and family secrets in a wealthy town. It is a real pot boiler, the kind of book I have always loved to read.

So much changed when I just became too sick of being unhappy. I wanted change more than I wanted to be comfortable. It had become unbearable. So I let myself escape. It changed everything.

I know how this sounds. I know it seems crazy to just take a huge risk in your life. I know it seems impossible. Everything could go wrong! I could fail!

But that’s the whole point: Everything could change and be exactly how you always imagined it could be. Your dreams could be closer than you ever imagined they were. They’re just waiting for you to reach out and grab them.

Whatever your dream is, take the first step. Today. It doesn’t have to be a huge leap, just a baby step. Hold tight to your dream. Have faith. Go for it. No one else is going to do it for you. You’ll have to do it yourself. And now is the time. Because if not now, when?

I hope you all enjoy my book, and see it as how I do: proof of what can happen when you take the big scary leap. My life is one hundred percent different because of this little mystery book. I hope it inspires you to make your own leap.

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Serena and Bill Vance are upper crust of Avondale society. They area  wealthy couple and their lives show it. However, the two quickly find out money can’t buy the children they so desperately want. Despite being on medication to manage her depression, Serena was also taking fertility drugs. Suddenly the beautiful couple who lived in the beautiful house are left bruised and broken and Anna Valentine lands her first homicide case. Unfortunately, she must work with Jerry Kreeger, the lead detective in the area, and must follow his directives. Serena’s twin brother, Web, plays a pivotal role in helping unfold the events of Serena’s life as Anna and Kreeger dig deeper to uncover why a wealthy, affluent young couple was brutally murdered in their own home. As the case develops and becomes more complicated, Anna discovers she has a distinct connection to Web Vance that is tied to both of their recent losses.

The Players

Anna – a single mother; suffered her own traumatic loss; working on the Vance case; wants to be a Good Cop

Kreeger – a veteran homicide detective divorcé; ends up overseeing the Vance case working with Anna and Web

Leon/De Luca – a homicide detective under Kreeger’s direction; second-most decorated officer after Kreeger; working the Vance case

Web – twin brother to Serena; seeks answers and investigates into his sister’s death; wants justice

Serena – Web’s twin sister; managing depression with medication; also trying to get pregnant

Bill – Serena’s husband

Tim – one of Web’s best friends; known as a bachelor and hates kids

Danny – one of Web’s best friends; married to Tanya with four kids

Tanya – Danny’s wife; known as a gold digger among Danny’s friends

Casey – Danny’s oldest child; works at Anna’s favorite Starbucks

It is hard to say who the main character of this book is, given that it follows both Anna and Web primarily. I enjoyed Anna’s character as a woman working in a harsh field, especially given her first career choice and continuing to work in the field after suffering her own tragic and senseless loss.

The best supporting character award goes to Tim. Whenever Web needed him, Tim was instantly there by his side. Of course, he wanted answers to his questions, too, just like Web and the detectives. Tim’s support helps Web make it through the loss and the grief, and he also helps keep Web on a slightly even keel at times.

After the initial interviews with Web’s family, they fade into the background. I was interested to know their respective thoughts and get insight into their characters to have a myriad of emotions and reactions, but that wasn’t the focus of the book.

First Impressions

Look at that house! It’s like a mini manor! I was thinking this book would be set in England after just glancing at the cover, but after beginning reading and comparing to the cover, I kept thinking Avondale was very…suburban for such a sprawling estate as pictured on the cover.

Second Thoughts

Anna is a former NYPD cop who has moved to the suburbs to lick her wounds and allow them – and her son’s – to heal. However, her first homicide case doesn’t allow her to do that very easily. Not when she discovers the beautiful Serena Vance has a twin brother, Web. It instantly forms her connection, an unspoken bond, with Web.

There is a distinctive separation of characters in this novel: the cop side and the family side. The lines between the two become blurred after Anna reveals her tragedy and connection to Web. In that moment Web saw Anna in an entirely new light, and it allowed these two characters to come together and help one another with their own personal grief and sense of guilt.

“It’s just that I see Serena everywhere in this town, you know?” he told his friends. “She is standing on the steps of the high school and outside the Warner Quad theater. I see her playing Frisbee in the Buckleys’ yard and at every other house we visited growing up.”

Coming from New York, Anna has seen it all, but these kinds of things don’t happen in the quiet and affluent area of Avondale. It is unheard of, but raises the question to both the investigative team and the Marino family of how well you know others, even your own family members. Even your own twin.

Kreeger is a burnt-out divorcé with two grown daughters that he doesn’t spend nearly enough time with. His life is his job and he takes charge of the Vance case. Despite taking over the case from Anna, Kreeger doesn’t pull rank and territory and push her out. Instead, he allows her to join the homicide investigation. He doesn’t object to her commentary and input, and that is viewed by Anna as a positive welcoming. I really enjoyed the beginning of their working relationship. It shows a depth and greater sense of respect from Kreeger for the profession and professionalism in the police field.

The plot quickly develops as Anna and Kreeger focus in on their prime suspect, but as with all great crime novels, there are complexities to the plot that no one saw coming. As the investigation continues full-force, the finger begins to sway and point toward another prominent individual, as other interesting pieces of information pop up convoluting the investigation and casting suspicion on many.

Anna and Kreeger grow together as professionals working on the Vance case. Given the hours their positions demand, they spend plenty of time together around the clock. This allows the two of them to also open up and share insights into their respective lives. It is during one of these moments that Anna explains Good Cops and Bad Cops to Kreeger, and the importance of always knowing which one your partner is.

Kreeger later struggles with an ethical dilemma – a coworker and also a friend – and he must determine the right course of action. The legal standpoint is clear to Kreeger, but the ramifications of such legalities would swirl his longtime friendship down the toilet.

She watched him walk to the door and noticed that his movements weren’t as quick and effortless as the usual, but slow and labored, as if some unseen hand was pushing down on his head. He was clearly conflicted about the situation. He paused at teh door and turned around, looking like he wanted to say something. He put his hand on the door frame and thought for a moment before saying, “You know that theory your have about Good Cops and Bad Cops?”

She nodded.

“Which one does this make me?”

Anna fought the urge to cry. He wore his guilt like a heavy coat. “Jerry, you’re the best cop I know.”

Loening clearly and cleanly makes the point that we never know the true depths of even our most loved ones, as Web and the rest discover as the investigation into Serena and Bill’s lives deepen. There are other side issues such as ethics, grief, friendship and professionalism that crop up within the case related to the Vance murders, but of these the biggest is friendship.

Dead Lies is written so well that everything is tied up at the end neatly and cleanly. Given the position that Anna finds herself in at the end of the novel, I was very impressed with how she handled everything and the choices she makes. As the end neared, I became increasingly concerned that I would be disappointed, but Loening did not disappoint. I highly recommend this book. It makes for a perfect fall read.

***** About the Author *****

Becoming a novelist was a dream come true for Cybele Loening, and one that was many years in the making. Like many aspiring writers and creative types, when she completed her education, she didn’t think she could make a living doing what she loved. So, she took a job that was related to writing but not actually writing: She became an editor. She loved editing but never gave up her dream of writing a novel someday.

It wasn’t until she was in her late thirties that she finally realized “someday” was right now. After many years of working in Corporate America, she was burned out of her job and exhausted by city living. She realized she was giving her best energy to a career and life that no longer fit. So, she took a huge leap of faith and quit her job to write full-time. The book she began writing eventually became Dead Lies.

Quitting her job was a scary step, but it changed her life. Tapping away at her keyboard, she realized she was happier than she had been in a while. She felt creative and energized again and was thrilled to have discovered her passion, her life’s work.

That one brave step into the unknown led to other wonderful changes in her life. For years she had dreamed of living in the country, so she began renting a cottage in Litchfield County, Connecticut, to see how it felt. She never looked back. And it was in this idyllic place that she met her soul mate and now husband, the life and business coach, Brooke Loening. They married a few years later, and together they renovated a home in which they now both live and work.

Spending her days writing and living in a place she loves, she has found bliss she never thought possible.

A spiritual seeker and lover of all of life’s mysteries, Cybele is hard at work on the next book in the Anna Valentine Detective Series and a memoir. She is also a blogger with a global mission: to help women achieve their dreams and live their very best lives.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

5 audiobook copies (through audible.com) of DEAD LIES by Cybele Loening (INT)

Ends Nov. 4

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Review: Sucking in San Francisco


Title:
 Sucking in San Francisco
Author: Jessica McBrayer
Publisher: Mess of Geckos
Release Date: September 2012
Length: 294 pages
Series?: Vampires of San Francisco #1
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Working at a Suicide Prevention Center in San Francisco, Lily Goodwill thinks she’s heard it all—then she gets a call from a man about to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Something about the caller, maybe his yummy British accent or Lily’s ability to understand his crushing ennui, makes her break all the rules and rush to meet him. After all, she is a vampire and if she can’t talk him down she can glamour him.

But things don’t go according to plan. Her caller glows with blue fire and turns out to be a vampire-hating Djinn. Suddenly, for the first time in centuries he’s found something intriguing. Is Lily really a vampire with a conscience and an obsessive-compulsive disorder, involving Handi-wipes and Lysol, or is she just another bloodsucker?

Add in another vampire, with a history of female lovers stretching over three centuries, who swears he’s reformed and declares his undying love for Lily. Stir in a mean pair of witches and a vicious warlock, who are staking vampires around the city, and you have a recipe for riotous adventure of supernatural proportions.

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Lily is not your ordinary vampire. She works diligently at a suicide prevention call center. She takes care for everything to be sanitized, even when she feeds. She chooses to live on her own and pay her way, but she is a member of a vampire family who have some impressive skills collectively. They attract the attention of two different people: a jinni bent on destroying vampires and a witch jealously in love. Lily becomes embroiled as the center of attention in more than one heated love triangle as a pair of witches stir up some serious trouble in San Francisco.

The Players

Lily – a young vampire; works at a suicide prevention call center

Helena – an older vampire who has magical capabilities; married to Julian

Julian – a bookworm and scientist; Helena’s husband; the leader

Sebastian – a brooding, womanizing vampire; lives in the manse with Helena and Julian

Hannah – Lily’s vampire friend; lives at Berkeley

Aidan – a vampire-hating jinni

Andrew – the young (human) butler at the manse

Iris and Indio – sister witches; intent on no good

Alexander – cousin to Iris and Indio; ring-leader of their schemes

First Impressions

I am not one for vampires at all, so I had some preconceived notions of my own when I decided to give this book a chance. I am trying to give new books new a chance.

Second Thoughts

Lily belongs to a small family of vampires. Julian, Helena and Sebastian all live in a beautiful mansion, but Lily prefers to be independent and live on her own. It is a distinguishing character trait that runs parallel to the circumstances she finds herself in. Despite her singular spirit, Lily must depend on her friends to prevail.

Odd things have been occurring in San Francisco when Aidan shows up in town. Lily, being the kind-hearted soul that she is, thinks she can save him from himself one night on the Golden Gate Bridge. And that’s where the adventure begins.

Aidan was an interesting character. He is a djinn (jinni) and has lived in solitude for centuries. The breadth of the things he has seen haunts him in a way, and he sets out to hunt down the blood-sucking vampires.

I must be insane. Me, a djinn, destined to walk the world alone or serve in slavery has just let a sworn enemy go. I’ve spent my life destroying vampires. Ever since the Djinn-Vampire war of 917.

But Lily gives him pause. She is different than those he’s known before. Vampires, though, have an incredible power over djinns if given the chance. Aidan

Lilith asked if I had anyone to share my life with. If only I did. I think it would be almost bearable if I did. To have someone to talk to. To hold and touch a physical, willing companion would be like having the sun in my hands. There is no such thing as a female djinn. 

There is more than one love triangle in the midst, and it adds quite a bit of spice – and anxiety for Lily – to the mix. Lily is the center of one love triangle, and part of another. This is what puts her in danger: a man loving the wrong woman. Talk about jealousy!

The friendship that Lily and Sebastian have is like that of siblings, and I enjoyed seeing this softer, calmer side of Sebastian. Sebastian and Aidan are competing for Lily, who’s kind of stuck in the middle of it all. She finds herself confused more than once. Aidan’s internal dialogue about Lily is very romantic, whereas Sebastian’s affections seemed…sudden.

Andrew was a breath of hilarity and fresh air. He is human and privy to the vampires’ real lives as their butler, and he is dying to become a vampire. He insists he is at his prime and is relentless in his persuasive attempts.

Things heat up for the vampires in San Fran as they come in contact with Indio, Iris and Alexander start cooking up a wicked plan. The vampire family heavily depends on Aidan’s djinn abilities to protect them all.

My favorite scene in the book is Lily’s birthday at the club. It is 40’s themed, which was around the time period when she was still human. It’s just a really fun scene and it really showcases the witches in a bad light.

In the end, Lily does make a choice. It was predictable but frustrated me extremely. I would not have chosen the same man she did. The only other thing that bothered me was the cliché lamp on the cover. Nowhere in the story does it mention Aidan being associated with a lamp.

The book is the first in the Vampires of San Francisco series. I enjoyed the story and the characters and I’m interested to see what they get into next.

***** About the Author *****

Jessica McBrayer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She lives in a house that looks like the prow of a cruise ship and is surrounded by hills too steep for mountain goats, although every other animal seems to make it their go-to place. Jessica shares her home with her husband, her two children, assorted animals and her mother who is a writer too. She is a member of Romance Writers of America.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

 

Review: Acts of Violence

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Title: Acts of Violence
Author: Ross Harrison
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 190 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

My name’s Jack Mason. I made a mistake. Took home the wrong girl. Now she’s dead. Cut up. And they’re telling me I did it.

It’s the same cop that tried to take me down ten years ago. Now he’s coming at me hard. And he’s not the only one. Cole Webster, the city’s crime lord, thinks I stole from him. Broke me out of custody just to ask me about it. Then I killed his son. Now he really wants me.

Add to this equation a government agent, and I’m a real popular guy right now. Pretty much everyone I meet wants me dead, lawfully or otherwise. There’s nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. I’ve got till morning to uncover Webster’s trafficking operation and take the heat off me. And all I’ve got to go on is a pissed off homeless girl with a thirst for revenge.

Guess it could be worse. Can’t quite figure how.

***** Review *****

Oh, it could be so much worse.

Acts of Violence pits the elite against the peasants. Or rather, everyone’s under the thumb of the crime lord, Cole Webster, and his son Little Dick.

Premier club. It was ridiculous. The club was in the heart of the west side. The east side was the rich side. The side with all the gambling houses and other clubs. But he set up The Web here. And it worked. The social elite – or at least their spoilt brats – packed the place just about every night. 

Jack Mason has tried and failed to become a cop in Harem. Ten years ago he was kicked out of the academy. Ten years ago his girlfriend Lucy died, and the cop with the first name for the last name tried to pin him to the wall for the murder.

Jack got off, but Lawrence still thinks he has his man.

Now the stakes have risen, and crime king Cole Webster is involved. Another girl has died in Jack’s apartment. Except this time, it’s more gruesome and Lawrence is hell bent on pinning Jack to the chair. He’s knocked down each piece of Jack’s alibi like a wrecking ball taken to Lincoln Logs.

Unfortunately in a town like Harem, those charged with upholding justice can be bought. Little Dick steps in to play Little Rich Boy and show Jack exactly who is boss.

Fortune is on Jack’s side and some interesting evidence turns up incriminating someone else in the girl’s murder. Things get more heated when government officials show up and there is a glimmer of hope for Jack. If he can only find out why the girl was killed…and stay out of Cole Webster’s grips while doing it.

As his nose cracked under my knuckles, I reflected on how much I hated violence. Not violence stemming from my own unresolved anger issues. That I was fine with. It was violence against women that I hated. I don’t know why, but the prettier the girl the more I hated it. Maybe I was shallow.

The new agent, DeMartino, has it together. He keeps the investigation under wraps. Turns out the mining business Cole Webster has used for a front all the years was indeed a front, but now the tables have turned on him. Jack has more than enough bullets to dodge.

I felt like a celebrity. A celebrity that everyone wants to see hanged with his own bootlaces in a dirty cell.

Along with a homeless girl, Sixteen, Jack is determined to discover what Cole Webster is up to and how the girl he took up from Webster’s club ended up dead in his bed.

I liked the goose chase that Jack was sent on in his discovery of what’s going on, and the stream of consciousness that Harrison has used with Jack. However, I did not like that there is minimal hints here and there about the setting and world that Jack lives in. Apparently it is futuristic, with shard guns and flyers, and more than one world, but the worlds keep to themselves. Officially, at least. I wish we had all this in the exposition instead of halfway through the book.

Jack also seemed to have a few redeeming moments with Van, the club manager, and his gorilla body guard. There were also a couple of moments when Jack saw Sixteen for more than just the scrawny homeless girl. In ways, she reminds him of Lucy.

I was thrown at the end for several loops, and Jack shows some true character growth and reflection on the past.

“I’m sorry,” I said. He ignored me. It was true enough. I was sorry for everything that had happened. I wasn’t who I was meant to be. The man I’d tried to be. The man I’d spent the last ten years pretending to myself that I was. 

***** About the Author *****

Ross Harrison has been writing since childhood without thought of publication. When the idea was planted by his grandmother to do so, it grew rapidly, and after a bumpy ten years or so, here sits the fruit.

Ross lives on the UK/Eire border in Ireland, hoping the rain will help his hair grow back.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Spotlight + Giveaway: Scotch Rising

Title: Scotch Rising
Author: SJ Garland
Publisher: Maple Kakapo
Release Date: April 2014
Length: 232 pages
Series?: Markinch Series, Volume I
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Thriller
Source: NetGalleySmith Publicity

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon

This is an odd-ball and last-minute post for me. As I shared in my Sunday Post, I went crazy on NetGalley last week. One of the books I looked at and requested was Scotch Rising. I wanted to read it because…a) I love European history and b) I fell in love with the highlands after reading Diana Gabaldon‘s Outlander series (OK, not all of it, I’m in book 5), but I love reading about these areas, probably because I’ll never get to go there in real life.

Friday I got an email from a rep at Smith Publicity, where I have worked with several different folks on a few tours before. Busy bees over there! Apparently there is a Scotch Rising tour going on, and they had a host cancel their spot on the tour. Since I had viewed and requested the book, the rep asked if I could fill in and complete the tour. I was very surprised – I didn’t think the approvers for the publishers at NetGalley went into that much depth with monitoring views and requests. I am more than happy to fill in – and give away three copies of the book!

*****Synopsis*****

Edinburgh 1707: The Acts of Union has just been signed bringing England and Scotland together as a united Great Britain. The controversial document brings unrest and the growing threat of bloodshed. Caught in this turmoil is Esmond Clyde-Dalton, a wealthy English soldier sent to the highlands of Scotland to collect taxes on Scotch.
The reluctant Esmond quickly finds himself embroiled in solving the murders of two Scots men. As his investigation digs deeper, Edmond realizes that things are not as they seem. Ultimately, he will have to fight to save not only his life, but also the lives of the friends he has made in the highlands.

Based on her extensive knowledge of the English Tudor and Stuart periods, author SJ Garland has created Scotch Rising, a thrilling piece of historical fiction. Filled with mystery, suspense and espionage, Scotch Rising explores the often tenuous English-Scottish relations during Jacobitism in the early 18th century.

“I was inspired to write this story while visiting a local distillery with friends in the highlands of Scotland,” says Garland. “The idea of a solitary English man living in a small highlands village collecting the excise on Scotch felt like a great premise for a story. After several character and plot developments, the story of Esmond and Scotch Rising was born. It is fascinating to explore how the Act of Union came about in order to understand how later Jacobites were able to gain followers both in Scotland and in England,” adds Garland.

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*****Excerpt*****

Tavish rewarded my interest by rushing me back down the stairs and out of the malting barn. Grateful for the clean air, I inhaled several deep breaths; even though the cold stung my face, at least my eyes halted their weeping.

After regaining control of my senses, I watched Tavish, who appeared to be lost in his own thoughts. The morning air began to seep into my clothes and the cold was uncomfortable after the intense heat of the drying floors. “Tavish, I presume there is another step in the process of Scotch we have yet to explore,” I prompted lightly in order to get our bodies moving.

Tavish gave me a grim smile and dragged his feet towards the double doors of the watermill. I became exceptionally excited, here was an opportunity to watch the cogs and stone in motion, the curiosity of machinery never diminished as I left boyhood.
“The mill was built shortly after the Clunes purchased the Castle and surrounding lands,” Tavish scratched his head. “I remember working on it along with the builder from Edinburgh; I was full amazed with how all the pieces fit together, took all the lads and oxen we had tae get the stone in place. Worth every shilling; we grind our own malt intae grist, saving time and coin by nae sending it off the mill down in the lowlands and we trade a grinding service tae fairmers if they sell us barley and they hae the rest ground,” Tavish cleared his throat. “Mr Clunes, is an enterprising fellow.”

Tavish opened a smaller door set into one of the larger portals with far less enthusiasm than when he explained how to look for small scabs of black on barley in order to find rot. Ignoring the other man’s apprehension, I boldly walked through to the first floor of the watermill. A man looked up from watching the grooved stones working together to grind the barley into grist, he shouted up to the second floor and another batch of grain fell from a chute to the middle of the stone circles where it would eventually work itself to the edges, ground and perfect. Without hesitating, I went up the steps covered in ground meal dust to the second floor, the gears would be located here and I was not disappointed. The waterwheel was driving the shaft, turning the pit wheel and meshing with the crown shaft in order to spin the main shaft down to the turning stones on the first floor.

My breath caught at the arresting sight, watching the fluidity of such a large machine in action, knowing man had been using such an incredible device for years in order to turn a crop, grown in the fields, inedible, into the basic staple of human survival, bread and of course in the case of the still, grist for making alcohol.

“Och, well, Captain, I wondered when I might be making yer acquaintance,” a Scottish brogue echoed down from the loft above the gears, the face a replica of the man’s standing behind me. I even turned to check Tavish stood at the top of the steps, perhaps this was a trick played on every new man in Markinch. “Uncanny, isn’t it? Though I suspect I am the better looking brither, our mother told me as much, bless her soul, younger and handsomer than my older, dunce of a brither,” the other man grinned with malice, his gaze focused past me on Tavish.

“Captain, may I make my younger brither, Angus, known tae ye,” Tavish stepped beside me and frowned up at his kin. “He runs the watermill fur Deoch and any business with it goes through him,” Tavish turned and tried to make a hasty departure to the first floor.

“Angus!” cried the other man from the top of the ladder, he threw himself down and chased after his older brother a moment. “Now ye arenae running the distillery, ye are nae longer entitled tae use our last name only, I am the Tavish and it is only fair ye call me as such!”

An argument between the two brothers erupted below stairs and I hurried to watch the outcome, the lad above stairs feeding the wheel nodded to the one watching the grinding stones and produced a worn silver coin. Meanwhile two floury faces appeared from below stairs with avid looks, the two brothers quarreling was an event.

“Ye know damn well, the oldest male in each family holds the family name. Faither has bin dead all our lives, making me the Tavish, it has naught tae do with the posts we hold, Angus,” Tavish put emphasis on his brother’s name in order to pin it there with force.

“If our mother lived, ye would know differently.” Angus pointed his bony finger straight between the eyes of his brother, the mention of their mother appeared to galvanise both brothers.

Observing the two men, I tried to guess which one might win a physical fight. Tavish may have been older, but the two appeared so alike, one could not be stronger than his sibling. From the twinkle in each of their eyes, they did not look above fighting dirty and now the two stood toe to toe in the dusty millhouse. In an effort to inject some reason into the argument, I began, “I am sure your mother never intended you to fight over your last name at your advanced ages, did she not give you both acceptable first names to face the world?”

Two sets of piercing blue eyes bore into my face, all menace between the brothers dropped in favour of the destruction of a common enemy. “Sassenach,” Angus’s voice low, “ye better never, ever say anything about my mother ever again, nae tae me, nae tae anyone.”

The anger radiating from the other man burned the air, more nods and coins exchanged hands and each brother flexed his fists, readying for a confrontation. I did my best to keep a straight face. As much as I would like to face each brother, they were at least twice my age, maybe even thrice, I bowed. “I beg your pardon,” and turned to walk back outside, hoping neither would see the grin on my face.

The door to the mill closed. “Hae ye got a brither, Captain, or any siblings?” Tavish’s sheepish voice came from beside me, as the old man scratched his head for a moment and reshaped his plaid hat before fixing it back over his flyaway white hair.

*****About the Author*****

Displaying LF2_8717.jpgAuthor SJ Garland has been an avid reader since childhood. Writing a novel has been a life-long goal. Garland holds degrees in History and English from Simon Fraser University and earned a Masters’ degree from City University, London. She has extensively studied the English Tudor and Stuart periods. She is a Gender Researcher for the Center for Excellence on Gender in the Himalayas. A native of Vancouver, Canada, Garland lives in Geneva, Switzerland with her husband. Garland enjoys reading and writing about her travels throughout Europe.

Find the author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

*****Giveaway*****

There are THREE copies of Scotch Rising up for grabs! The giveaway ends on 6/23 at 12:00 A.M.

Click here to enter the giveaway!