Blue Mood Cafe

I'm Jonetta (Ejaygirl) and just love to read and am pretty much game to try most genres. My bookshelf is pretty eclectic; I love discovering new authors and am willing to try them out if the premises look intriguing.

Friends to lovers with a twist

The Homecoming - Robyn Carr

Originally posted on The Book Nympho


Quick summary
Seth Sileski was once a high school football phenom in Thunder Point, actually excelling in college and playing with the Seattle Seahawks before a tragic accident sidelined him. Now he's back home as the new deputy sheriff in charge, hoping to repair his fractured relationships with his father and his once best friend, Iris McKinley.


Story conflict
Seth and Iris were best friends and neighbors since they were 4-years old until a heartbreaking incident involving their senior prom. It's been 17 years but Iris still hasn't let go of her resentment. (You just know there's more to this.) She's a high school counselor who's dealing with what looks to be a student suffering in some abusive relationship.


What I liked
Both Seth and Iris are extremely well developed characters, which is one of Carr's strengths in most of her stories, and even their broken relationship was nicely portrayed. Their journey back to friendship and eventually lovers hooked me because their individual transformations were so interesting. The secondary story of the student abuse provided insight about the challenges faced by school officials in how to identify and cope with the issue. And, of course, the updates about the other relationships are always a treat, another Carr staple.


The bottom line
The romance is the highlight here and is underwhelmed by the secondary storylines. Seth and Iris are pretty appealing and I enjoyed their banter. While the story about the abused teenager was well done, the ending resolution felt a bit rushed and I'm still a bit uncertain about one of the outcomes. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this story and return to Thunder Point.


(I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

A heartbreaker

Cry No More - Linda Howard

Milla and David Boone were living in Mexico when their six-week old son, Justin, was taken from her while at an outdoor market. Though Milla survived the brutal attack, her marriage didn't and she spent the next ten years searching for Justin. Now leading an organization that helps find the missing, Milla believes she's finally close to finding out what happened to her son.


I enjoyed the story and there are a few heartbreaking moments as you'd imagine when dealing with the topic of missing children. It was suspenseful even though there were some parts of the resolution I'd thought could have been fleshed out more. The audio narration was good as well.

Another player bites the dust

Tamed - Emma Chase

All I've known about Matthew Fisher is that he's Drew's best friend and he was seeing Dee Dee. I assumed he was a player given Drew's history. He is somewhere in that zone but I contend that he was just waiting for "the one" after having been once burned.


Matthew is a lot more interesting than what I'd "assumed" about him. Shame on me. He's a nice guy who likes a good time but he's smart, talented and respectful of women.


When he meets Dee Dee, he sees her inner spirit and is drawn to her like the proverbial moth to flame. She's the one skittish about any whiff of relationship so Matthew tries to keep it light until it becomes impossible to do. If there's any taming to be done, I think it was Matthew trying to lasso Dee Dee.


The narration was great as all of the others were. Deacon Lee managed to put a little smirk in his performance while keeping Matthew just plain likable. I loved his interpretation of the character.


I'm not only in serious like of this series but also in serious love with the narrators. They've nailed the men in the stories and made their journey from players to committed men a fun one. I enjoyed Matthew's story and highly recommend the audiobook format, though the book will be entertaining no matter the format.

Nobody's perfect here

Kissing in the Dark - Wendy Lindstrom

Originally posted on The Book Nympho


Quick summary
Duke Grayson, the third brother in this series, meets widow Faith Wilkins when her brother is caught stealing from the general store. He's immediately attracted to this beautiful woman who is understands the healing, medicinal properties of plants and, together with her three "aunts," has a murky past.


What I liked
The characters all exhibited some serious flaws and, at times, behaved pretty badly. Faith's secrets were explosive, adding intrigue and presenting what appeared to be a no-win situation. Even stalwart Radford, the oldest brother, showed some unattractive sides of himself. Even the children had some challenging moments. In spite of this, they were all very likable people who you rooted for and felt the pain of their circumstances.


The narration
Julie Motyka may not have the most distinctive voice but she's a strong storyteller and I never had issues distinguishing characters. For me, she's become synonymous with the series.


The bottom line
I really liked this story, probably my most favorite of the series so far. There are moments that will rip your heart apart and times when you'll laugh out loud. I never wanted to stop listening and loved how the issues were rough and the resolutions not always wrapped with a neat bow. Well done. 


(I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review)

I held on

Hold on Tight - Serena Bell

Originally posted on The Book Nympho


Quick summary
Eight years ago, Jake Taylor was on a one-week leave before his deployment to Afghanistan when he met Mira Shipley and found himself falling for her. He abruptly ended their time together because he didn't need the distraction before going to war. Now, he's back stateside having lost his leg and is face-to-face with the woman and the 7-year old son he unknowingly left behind because Mira never could find him.


What this story isn't
This wasn't about "insta-love" or the same old tired story about a secret child. Mira always wanted Jake to know she was pregnant but when they parted, she didn't know enough about him to locate him and she tried hard. Their romance was one of those situations where they just fit and were really well matched. So, the story starts at a really good place...both of them plenty wary and with lots at stake.


What really works
Mira is pretty young but has her head screwed on right. She wants her son to know his father but needs to make certain Jake's committed. He's really struggling, going through the motions of life and is shocked into a wake up call but it doesn't happen immediately. Everyone takes their time here, not making any fast decisions and examining personal motives, aspirations and feelings. Sam is a great kid who lightens things up wonderfully without being used as a cheap story device.


My one "nit"
As much as the introspection by both characters was extremely valuable, the story could have used more "doing" than "telling." Those moments slowed the pace and bogged down too often.


The bottom line
It's a wonderful, true and authentic story of two people who were probably destined to be together but life's obstacles got in the way. Their journey back was made more interesting because of those challenges. Bell is a gifted writer, giving us a unique perspective of the realities of someone who's lost a limb and how that reshapes him or her mentally and physically. It's also a story of triumph and is inspiring.


(I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

Red, white & definitely screwed!

Red, White & Screwed - Holly Bush

Originally posted on The Book Nympho


Quick summary
Glenda Nelson is a political strategist trying to manage a candidate who's now in free fall. Her politician ex-husband seems to still be up to his old cheating ways with the new wife and dragging their two teenagers into the middle of it. There's a crisis brewing with her parents and, oh, did I mention that there's a hot artist who really wants to get to know her better in the biblical way?


What I loved
Glenda. She's smart, attractive and really good at what she her career. She's a lousy cook and her house wouldn't come close to getting the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. But, her daughter and son are two amazing teenagers that prove she's gotten parenting right. Glenda doesn't manage everything perfectly and that's what makes her interesting.


The romance. Chris is so different from Glenda and the contrasts provide evenness in the relationship. He's such a great guy, loves her kids and appreciates what's special about Glenda.


The humor. There are truly so many laugh-out-loud moments, which helps balance the heartbreaking ones. The ending is just priceless.


And one more thing...
Glenda's therapy. I loved how the sessions were used as a device to revisit moments in her past that gave insight to the present. They were skillfully done.


The bottom line
I loved the story, the characters, the humor and the romance. The cover and the title delivered everything they promised so there really is truth in advertising:) Here's hoping Holly turns this into a series or at least writes a sequel because I'm really not done with these people.


(I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review)

A beautiful beginning

The Beautiful Ashes - Jeaniene Frost

Originally posted on The Book Nympho


Quick summary
Ivy begins the story in Bennington, Vermont, the last location of her sister, Jasmine, before she went missing. As she checks out one of the town's Bed & Breakfast inns, what she thought was a hallucination turns out to be real. See, Ivy's had these visions all of her life and was told they were due to a brain disorder. Now she knows they are real after meeting a hunk named Adrian who seems to know a lot more about her than Ivy knows about herself. And, he's a bit other worldly himself. The race to find her sister is the catalyst for everything that happens going forward.


The mythology
There's a mix of religious theology, mythology and fantasy that involves demons and "others from the light" that seems to work here. I'm not normally a fan of demon stories (didn't know they'd be here) but Frost's dark beings are created in a way that makes more sense to me. They look like what you'd think those from dark elements would and they behave accordingly. You can tell the bad guys from everyone else. I also liked the connection to biblical history as it gave me a chance to deduce some things on my own. I needed the help as much as Ivy did.


The world building
Parallel realms are nothing new but Frost added what I felt were some unique elements that made the story more complex, interesting and suspenseful. I don't want to share too much as these things are revealed throughout the book, which made everything easier to digest. I didn't have to capture everything at once and it didn't bog down the story. Don't get me wrong, however...there's quite a bit to take in.


I enjoyed Ivy. There's a lot about her that reminds me of Mac without the initial TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) factor. She uses her brain to figure out stuff she's confronting and doesn't waste time in denial. Ivy gets more right than she gets wrong.


I hate to continue the Fever series comparisons but Adrian reminded me a LOT of Barrons. Not in how he looked and that sort of thing but in all that mystery he was shrouded in. I, along with Ivy, didn't know what he was, the nature of his secrets and why he felt the need to hide all that stuff. And, he has that alpha male thing going but doesn't wear it like out-of-control testosterone. 


The romance?
Ivy and Adrian had instant chemistry but did a dance throughout the story for really good reasons. It works here but be prepared to have this play out beyond this first book. It worked perfectly with the story.


Bottom line summary
The action starts literally from the first page and almost never lets up. Ivy and Adrian are interesting individually, as a team and as a couple. The romance is the weak aspect but it's in tandem with what's going on. The supporting characters are really, really good and I like the mythology and the created world. It's not perfect but I rolled through the book. I'm in for the next in the series.


(I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

Chilling story, great narration

Those Who Wish Me Dead - Michael Koryta

Originally posted on The Book Nympho


Quick summary
Jace Wilson, 14-years old, unwittingly witnesses a murder and has the good sense to get away but left his ID behind. The killers are two cold-blooded brothers, Jack and Patrick Blackwell, and they never leave anyone behind. Jace is in a unique witness protection location, a wilderness skills program in the mountains of Montana. His instructor, Ethan Serbin, knows he's there but doesn't know which of his students is Jace.


What works
This is one of those books that hooks you from the first sentence. Knowing that a young teenager is the hunted prey just elevated the suspense level to almost unbearable proportions. The Blackwells are two of the scariest villains I've read in fiction and, trust me, I've encountered some monsters. The beautiful but isolated Montana setting provided a surreal contrast to the nightmare created by the Blackwells search.


The characters who come to Jace's aid...Ethan, his wife, Hannah the fire tower lookout among others...added even more depth to the story. Jace was also an extraordinary young boy who made this more interesting. The journey was just as important as the outcome. Plus, there was a twist at the end that blindsided me hugely. NEVER saw it coming, not even a hint. The climax was bittersweet but an appropriate ending for the characters and the story.


The narration
Absolutely superb! Michael Petkoff made a suspenseful story even more riveting. Everything was perfect...character distinctions, perfectly pitched voice elevation, pacing. This was my first time listening to Michael Petkoff and when I discovered he narrates the Immortals After Dark series, I got the next book in audio format.


The bottom line
This is my first book by Koryta and I'm adding more to my shelf. It's a perfect blend of mystery, suspense and thrills. If you can listen to the book, you'll enjoy this story even more. 


(I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)

Mathias Rowan teaser

Marked by Midnight - Lara Adrian

Originally posted on The Book Nympho


Mathias Rowan, former director of the Breed Enforcement Agency in Boston, now heads the Order's London station. His team is investigating a series of murders of gang members all bearing the same scarab tattoo. They are searching for information about the latest victim whose injuries seem different from the others. The trail leads Mathias to a tattoo parlor where Nova, an extraordinary artist, appears to have something to hide.


I was glad to see Mathias again after having helped the Order before they moved to Washington DC. The story, though, is pretty short for the romance but the investigation is interesting. Not everything is resolved as Nova's history wasn't completely revealed and that promises to be part of a much bigger story in the future.


Nova's got some really interesting ink and Mathias certainly was drawn to it. It's worth it to just find out what she inked on him (it was fitting for this warrior). While their romance went from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, there still seems to be room for more with these two later on.


Short and sweet. Stay tuned.

I fell for Max!

Falling for Max - Shannon Stacey

Quick summary
Town recluse Max Crawford is ready to meet someone, fall in love and get married. When he goes to the town diner for lunch (suggested starting place to meet people), part-time waitress Tori Burns immediately bonds with him and decides to help him with his plan. Neither one of them saw it coming when they fell for each other.


The issues
Max initially thought Tori might be too young for him (she wasn't). Tori has sworn off love and marriage after her parents' ugly divorce and aftermath, thinking she'd probably end up being like her mother ( one could be that nasty).


What works!
Max is glorious in all his geekdom and honesty. Tori is a natural who immediately recognizes his assets and brings out the best in him. As the setup is for her to prepare and coach him for other women, their relationship developed from acquaintances to friends and ultimately to lovers. It was fun with some great dialogue between them. It was sweet and romantic and when it morphed to friends with benefits, it got even better.


What missed
The ending. It just felt rushed after a really strong lead-in. Everything was pretty finally tuned and I was waiting for this magical crescendo that just never came. A short epilogue might have sealed the deal for me.


One more thing...
Some may find Tori's logic about relationships to be without foundation but I've certainly seen this in adult children of divorce, especially when they're forced to be in the middle of such acrimony between two people they love. It rang authentic.


The bottom line
This is a sweet story with a really good romance involving two interesting people. We get glimpses of some of the Kowalski clan but the focus was really on Max and Tori. I just wish the ending had been more...something. In spite of that, I really enjoyed the book overall.


(I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

Welcoming Back Brenda Novak & Giveaway!

On The Book Nympho

Brenda is also giving away a digital copy of Inside (Bulletproof Trilogy #1)

Interview with Dee Davis & Giveaway!

Today on The Book Nympho

Dee is also giving away a copy of Double Danger (A-Tac series)

Glad I was on the outside...

Inside (Bulletproof) - Brenda Novak

I wasn't sure I would be able to connect to a story involving a prison setting and was even reluctant to try. Well, I got over that after the first couple of chapters.


Quick summary
Virgil Skinner spent 14 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. He was just exonerated but it comes with strings attached. He's got to go back inside, undercover at another facility, Pelican Bay, to help the Feds dismantle a seriously dangerous gang. Peyton Adams is the prison's chief deputy warden and she's got to keep him safe while he's there without blowing his cover.


The romance
Virgil is the penultimate tortured hero! So much of this story takes place outside of the prison while he and Peyton spend some precious time together. For her it's a risky situation as it could put her career in jeopardy but she's drawn to this man who, in spite of all he's experienced has a certain nobility about him. It's an unconventional relationship and one you can't help rooting for while a sense of futility seems to surround them.


The suspense
I don't want to divulge too much about the story as events unfold rapidly with quite a few twists and turns. Virgil joined a gang called The Crew while in prison and they expect him to continue membership on the outside. When he walks away, they launch a deadly search for him, putting his sister at risk and adding an additional threat to that he's facing going back inside. They are vicious and frightening.


The bottom line
The tension, both sexual and otherwise, is maintained throughout the duration of the story. Virgil is an extremely complex character who is the heart of the book. His relationship with Peyton, at times, is almost as tragic as his life was but is also his redemption as she understands the man inside. There aren't too many moments where your pulse gets to slow down and don't let the prison backdrop deter you. Novak created an authentic, realistic environment that's gritty and daunting but makes it work! Of course, I've now got to finish the trilogy.

Marcus's journey out of hell

No Chance in Hell (Lost and Found, Inc.) - Jerrie Alexander

Originally posted on The Book Nympho


Quick summary
Christine (Chris) Holland has been stalked by a murderer for two years now, ever since she surprised him at one of his grisly scenes. Running and hiding hasn't stopped him so she reaches out to Lost and Found, Inc. for help. Marcus Ricci takes the assignment, understanding that she's his until this guy is caught.


The suspense
Chris has no memory of the murderer's face and he knows it, just content to torture her and threaten anyone who becomes important to her. She's abandoned friends, has no family and lives pretty much in isolation. Marcus has his hands full in protecting her and trying to find out the identity of the killer, whose point of view is provided so WE know something about him, just not who he is exactly and why he's targeted Chris. It was chilling to know what was coming Marcus and Chris's way and waiting to see the outcomes. It kept me on the edge of my seat as this guy was ruthless and heartbreak wasn't spared.


The romance
If you've read the previous books, you know that Marcus is a widow, not having really recovered from the loss of his wife. Chris and Marcus connected because of their personal qualities, she being beyond courageous, without any of those TSTL behaviors, and in spite of her circumstances, had a great attitude towards life and he being a simply honorable man. Chris brought out the best in Marcus and their romance was grounded in the things you like to see most...genuine caring, admiration and affection. Hotness doesn't hurt, either.


The bottom line
I'm just blown away by this series as each story seems to outdo the last. It was a gnarly mystery because the motivation of this psycho was unclear, which makes it hard to find a direction to start solving. And, the guy was a serial killer! The romance was sensual and often sweet, just what I was hoping to find for Marcus. Both were wonderful designed and this had everything I look for in a romantic suspense...characters you really like and a strong romance successfully integrated into a suspenseful plot. The climax wasn't easy either. Bring on book #4!


(I received an ARC from the author)

Absolutely permitted to read!

Forbidden (Southern Comfort Book 2) - Lisa Clark O'Neill

Quick summary
FBI profiler Clay Copeland was ordered to take a week of vacation following the tragic ending to his last case. The serial dater decides to spend the time outside of Charleston at his best friend's beachfront home. When he spots Tate Hennessy sunning on the beach, he makes the move of a lifetime.


The romance
Clay is one of the most appealing fictional characters I've read. He's bright, handsome, good at what he does and has a wicked wit and sense of humor. He isn't perfect but his honesty and directness more than over compensated for his flaws. Tate was a perfect match as she "got" this man and had a strong sense of self. She's a single mother raising a 5-year old son and is cautious without being overly so. There was a perfect balance in this relationship with him being commitment shy and she being burned in the past but neither too damaged by their pasts. I liked both of them individually and loved them as a couple. It's a really well-designed romance.


The mystery and suspense
It was inevitable that Clay would be drawn into some work-related issue while on vacation but what was unpredictable was Tate being a part of the situations. While they were out on a date, they inadvertently witnessed the man who was suspected of abducting a 14-year old girl at the base of a Ferris wheel. Things take a dramatic turn when it appears they've stumbled upon a much larger set of circumstances. The points of view of the victims and villains, along with that of law enforcement, helped create a web of intrigue, tension and suspense as all eventually converge to a chilling climax. It was expertly conceived and executed.


One more thing...
Tate's son Max was one of the many highlights of the story, creating opportunities for comic relief and sweet, tender moments. And, Tate comes from a big Irish extended family who were important here and hopefully in books to come. They enriched the story in substantive ways. Bring on the Murphys!


The bottom line
I LOVED this book. Period. Finished it in one day. Everything worked...the romance, character development, mystery, suspense, emotional connection. The villains were frightening and cold blooded, creating excitement and wrecking my nerves.

The Murphys provide a fertile foundation for some very interesting stories to come. I was already happy with the Wellington brothers from the first book and am now thrilled at the prospect of future stories about Rogan, Declan and Kathleen. This series is now on my top ten list to finish or get up to date.

Good story, TSTL heroine

Intimate Enemies - Joan  Swan

Originally posted on The Book Nympho


Quick summary
Cassie Christo, a San Diego doctor, returns to her mother's home in Mexico to try to get to the bottom of the explosion that killed her and her stepbrother. She also wants to oust her stepfather from the estate and find the man that provided her comfort during the funeral six-months before. Rio Santana is the man she's looking for but she's unaware that he's an ICE undercover agent working for stepdaddy.


The suspense
There's quite a lot going on even though most roads lead back to Saul Flores, Cassie's stepfather. In addition to being a moocher, he lacks a conscience and she's in quite a bit of danger. Rio's trying to balance keeping her safe while maintaining his cover and Cassie creates many extreme complications. He's close to bringing this monster down but her investigation threatens not only her life but his sting and cover.


The romance
The chemistry between Rio and Cassie is pretty undeniable and Swan has written some of the most erotic passages I've read in awhile. She creates a vivid picture that leaves a steamy imprint. The foundation for their feelings for each other is just as strong as their passion. If there's any downside it's the romance that gets in the way as Cassie behaves so rashly, so often her intelligence is called into question. Rio's reactions make it difficult to believe he's been undercover for ten years.


The bottom line
The suspense and tension lurked behind every page and I was kept off balance throughout the story. I liked the relationship between Cassie and Rio and her conflicts about him were authentically presented, even when it got irritating at was realistic. Where I struggled was with the many TSTL (Too Stupid to Live) moments Cassie presented. Her behavior was beyond naive and she just ended up being irritating. Alternatively, you could applaud her for being strong willed and independent, even if I perceived her differently. It was a good story despite my issues and kept me hooked.