Butterfly Assassin – Annabelle Jacobs

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Author: Annabelle Jacobs
Pages: 280

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Shifter Aaron Harper gets drawn into illegal underground fighting to keep an eye on his best friend. The thrill of the fight keeps him coming back for more, but discovery could mean imprisonment and banishment from their pack. Without a beta to watch over them, common sense takes a back seat.

Michael Archer of the Shifter Crimes Task Force is investigating recent murders. Despite the brutal cause of death pointing to the work of a shifter’s claws, instinct tells him a well-known nightclub owner is involved, but they have no proof.

Aaron and Michael’s paths cross after another body with the same injuries is discovered. With Aaron finding himself on the wrong side of the SCTF and Michael looking for a killer, any attraction between them is both ill-advised and unlikely. But fate has other ideas.

Annabelle Jacobs was a new author for me. She wasn’t in my radar and this book was pretty low on my TBR list. But this year I am following an ABC Challenge for Romance Books in a community for readers and when I had to pick the B letter this one was the first that caught my eye. So, by pure accident, I have found an unexpecred awesome book. It’s a standalone book, but it takes place in the same universe as her Regent’s Park Pack saga. I haven’t read those and I can promise there is no need of reading them to understand Butterfly Assassin.

We follow the story of Aaron, a shifter who has been hooked to the adrenaline rush of illegal fights. For a shifter they are even more illegal, so he has to hide his true nature and bleed as any human. Michael is a Detective for the SCTF, a police force specialized in dealing with shifters. When several humans connected to the mastermind of the illegal fights appear dead at the hands of a shifter, the path of both characters collide in more than one way…

If you are expecting a lot of romance and hot sex every other chapter (when there is a shifter in this genre, they tend to have an insatiable hunger for sex), you are not going to like the book. My greatest surprise with this book is that the author drags masterfully the dance of unexpected attraction between hugely different characters. The “no-so-subtle-check-out”, the “looks-that-melt-steel”, the “uy-sorry-I-didn’t-mean-to-touch-you” and much more slow burners that keep the readers on their toes cheering for a happy ending. No rush, more fun. Their exchanges made me smile every time and I hated when they were appart.

Besides, this is no the classic romance with a shifter and the dreadful fated mate. I’m so glad that the author has dropped that annoying cliché of the genre. Instead, she presents us with the concept of bonding and greater emotions for the werewolves. The fact that Aaron feels the connection with Michael in a higher emotional level doesn’t make him a possessive grunt. He expresses honestly his need of claiming the detective as his, but he is very tactful to avoid any kind of hurtful comment or action. He is so attentive, easy-going and fun. MIchael is one of the lucky ones!!

That slow cooked meal was being served little by little as the main plot of the story develops: the killings of humans at the hand of a shifter. The mystery is more or less 85% of the book and it’s pretty well written in general. But there are several  missteps or lost opportunities a long the way. For example, in the beginning of the book, the author falls in the trap to repeat herself too much. The same thing was told over and over again to different characters. The consequence is that the plot takes to much time to take off, but I would never say that is boring beacuse of that (the book is not boring at all). And there is another weird moment at the end of the book, when Blake and Aaron exchange some punches, that is missing something. Until that moment, Blake had no idea that one of the illegal fighters of his boos was a secret shifter. I was expecting a comment or something, but he doesn’t even blink…

This book has been much more than what I was expecting. It’s almost perfect. The Regent’s Park Pack saga is going to get a bump on my TBR list to see if I have found a new favourite author or if it was just this book.

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2019 – Book Gallery

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Bone to Pick – T.A. Moore

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Author: T.A. Moore
Series: Digging Up Bones #1

Pages: 240

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Cloister Witte is a man with a dark past and a cute dog. He’s happy to talk about the dog all day, but after growing up in the shadow of a missing brother, a deadbeat dad, and a criminal stepfather, he’d rather leave the past back in Montana. These days he’s a K-9 officer in the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and pays a tithe to his ghosts by doing what no one was able to do for his brother—find the missing and bring them home.

He’s good at solving difficult mysteries. The dog is even better.

This time the missing person is a ten-year-old boy who walked into the woods in the middle of the night and didn’t come back. With the antagonistic help of distractingly handsome FBI agent Javi Merlo, it quickly becomes clear that Drew Hartley didn’t run away. He was taken, and the evidence implies he’s not the kidnapper’s first victim. As the search intensifies, old grudges and tragedies are pulled into the light of day. But with each clue they uncover, it looks less and less likely that Drew will be found alive.

In my meager experience with Romantic Suspense I have always found books much more focused on the romance than on the mystery. In some cases, the last was almost incidental… This book is just the opposite, so if you are looking for more romance… look somewhere else.

In this book we meet Cloister, a police officer who is a member of the K9 Unit. His dog is called Bourneville and she never leaves his shadow. He is kind of a rebel. On the other hand we have Javier, an FBI agent who needs to control everything and everyone. For obvious reasons, both main characters tend to clash against each other very often. They are forced to work together when a little kid is kidnapped and they need to figure out who took him before it’s too late.

I wasn’t expecting such a huge focus on the mystery. It has been a very welcome change of pace for a Romantic Suspense book. If you are a fan of C.S.I. kind of shows you will enjoy the mystery in this book. More or less follows the same pattern. The author throws several pieces of evidence, adds a bunch of suspects and lets the reader accompany the main characters in their quest to save the kid. I need to confess that I wasn’t even closed to solve it before they did… It doesn’t help that the author cramps the story with many characters who don’t amount to anything. Or maybe it was just her technique to take our attention from the real suspicious ones.

Even though I liked the mystery quite a lot, there is sometinhg that is still bugging me. The kid disappeared from a vacational complex to let people with money be closer to the Nature. That complex is a known former weed farm run by the same guy who dealt with the drug… Maybe I’m not being fair, but I can’t believe families with pedigree would choose such a place to spend part of their holidays with their kids. Too snob? I just think parents tend to be extra-careful with that kind of things…

I have nothing special to say about the characters. Both of them are OK. Nothing remarkable about Cloister or Javi on their own. When they are together, the fun begins!! The attraction between them is obvious since the first moment, but they can’t stand each other. They respect each other just enough to make their jobs, but Javi doesn’t miss an opportunity to belittle the K9 Unit and Cloister is more than happy to put upside-down the perfectly manufactured rutine of the FBI Agent.

With that kind of relationship, it is no surprise that the sex scenes happen when the reader least expects them. They are not bad, per se. My main complaint is that Cloister sometimes feels out of character during the intimate encounters. There is actually no Romance in this book. It’s just a couple of very naked moments and then both of them go their separate ways. I missed a good talk to be honest with each other and with themselves, but this is the first book of a saga, so… They’ll get there…

At least I hope there is a second book coming. This one was published in 2017 and the author has yet to announce the sequel. Very enjoyable book that reminded me of the best part of the Cut & Run saga…

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2018 – Book Gallery

Be Still My Heart – Charlie Cochet

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Author: Charlie Cochet
Series: Four Kings Security #2

Pages: 306

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Former Special Forces medical sergeant Russell “Red” McKinley knows a thing or two about wounds, like the fact some can take a lifetime to heal, if they heal at all. The scars Red carries run deep, and living with PTSD often means battling the memories of his past. Injuries he received while working an executive protection case with fellow Kings and co-owners of Four Kings Security, have once again forced past heartaches to the surface, but Red is determined not to let it derail his blossoming romance with sweet and sexy fashion photographer Lazarus Galanos.

Laz can’t deny there’s something special developing between him and Red, but Laz has wounds of his own. He’s hesitant to jump into a new relationship after his recent explosive breakup. Experience has taught Laz to doubt his judgement when it comes to men. Guys who seem too good to be true, usually are, and no one appears more perfect than Red.

When an attempt is made on Laz’s life, Red is determined to keep him safe. Laz may not be a client, and Red is still off duty, but Laz is one of their own, and nothing means more to the Kings than family. While an investigation is underway, Red and Laz are growing closer, but can they find a way to help each other heal and take a chance on love, or will their fears and insecurities cost them more than their future together?

Several months ago, I read the first book of Four Kings Security and I really enjoyed it. Not only the book, the author’s style was also almost totally attuned with what I want to find in a book of this kind. So, reading the second book before the end of the year was a must. Charlie is little by little climbing my list of favourite authors.

This time the story focuses on Red and Laz. After the accident in Colton’s party, they haven’t talked to each other again. But Ace is such an awesome friend that he had to bring the two of them together again. Too bad that happens at the same time an attempt against Laz’s life is carried out. Thankfully, Red’s big back was there to cover him and take him to a safe place. During the investigation, Red proclaims himself Laz’s defender against all evil and the romance begins…

I finished the review of the previous book saying that I wasn’t very happy about the relationship snippets the author inserted. Red and Laz looked a bit… boring. I have to admit that every character is boring if you put him side by side with Ace. That character is beyond awesome, so the rest pale in comparision. I knew that, so I read this book with an open mind. Yes, the main couple doesn’t make me laugh as much as the previous one, but they have their own strengths. Red is such a big softie!! I can’t believe he was single until now. The way he invests himself in the relationships, even in the worst moments, makes me want to kidnap him. The other half is a bit… meh. Laz’s insecurity is too big to swallow sometimes. Overall it is a romance I have enjoyed, despite the lack of sparks in some situations.

The story of this second book is better. The execution also has less black holes, but there are still some parts that doesn’t work. The author is very good misleading the reader. I was already gathering the wood to assemble the pyre to burn Bryan, one of the most annoying character I have met in a book. He being the bad one would have been perfect, but I prefer being surprised as I have been with this book. His time will come sooner or later. It is the big revelation that doesn’t fit very well with the plot. I love the unexpected of it, but I’m also struggling to make sense of it. Maybe the final actions were out of desperation and plain stupidity? It could happen…

The supporting characters on this book shine brighter than in the previous one. OK. I’m not impartial there. Ace is one of them. Every time he is on the spotlight the book gets so funny that I can’t stop smiling. I wish there were some kind of spin-off starred by him, because I can’t get enough of him. But he is not the only great character in this book. We get to know a little bit more of Mason and, let me tell you, I have enjoyed every single detail about him. His cocky flexing at the end… That was cruel!! It seems that Lucky and Mason are going to be a thing… So far, it’s a very explosive one (yelling and almost punching each other), so I hope it gets better. I’m not in the mood for an unhealthy relationship…

The book is one step behind of perfection. The romance and the banter is usually spot on, but the mystery needs some polishing. I will obviously keep reading the saga. The next is a short story with a couple of characters that I’m not sure we have met. Maybe a cameo in the previous one, but I don’t remember them.  It looks like I could skip it, but I hate skipping so I will read it anyway.

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2018 – Book Gallery

Kairos – Mary Calmes

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Author: Mary Calmes
Pages: 131

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Sometimes the best day of your life is the one you never saw coming.

Joe Cohen has devoted the past two years of his life to one thing: the care and feeding of Kade Bosa. His partner in their PI business, roommate, and best friend, Kade is everything to Joe, even if their relationship falls short of what Joe desires most. But he won’t push. Kade has suffered a rough road, and Joe’s pretty sure he’s the only thing holding Kade together.

Estranged from his own family, Joe knows the value of desperately holding on to someone dear, but he never expected his present and past to collide just as Kade’s is doing the same. Now they’ve stumbled across evidence that could change their lives: the impact of Kade’s tragic past, their job partnership, and any future Joe might allow himself to wish for…

This is a short book about a couple of private investigators that are aslo roommates, but good friends above all. Joe is openly gay and Kade is bisexual, so this is not the classic story about coming out of the closest and accepting what you like or not. This is even the more classic story about two close friends that have deeper feelings, but they are too scared to speak up and face the truth. Buuuut this book totally made a fool of myself.

The first couple of chapters are totally a Romantics Suspense book. One that I was digging quite a lot. Kade’s discovering that his former mentor and hero was a mobster with several crimes in his ledger looked very promising. The fact that Vaughn (the mentor) had hired some muscle to get rid of the breathing proof of his crimes created some tension that kept the reader motivated. But it was all a smoke screen. That part ends so abruptly and in such a weak way that makes me wonder why the author put it there in the first place. It’s totally unnecessary. Some could tell me it was the way to introduce Declan in the plot… And I would answer: has Declan any shred of importance? Not at all. The book is exactly the same with or without him.

Instead of a mystery and action book, we get a book about a family that couldn’t accept that one of his member was gay and now that family is broken. I’m talking about Joe’s family. The same family that runs a very profitable winery that the PI abandoned when he came out of the closet and got the cold shoulder treatment. Usually, I would be Team Joe and defend him…. but the detective being a late awakening and only giving his family a week to assimilate the news… Man, give them a break!! They felt cheated!! Use your empathy, Joe!!

I thought his parents and brother would be a bunch of homophobic jackasses and that the author was going to present us with some soul wrenchng emotions until we get a hard won happy ending where everybody hugs everybody (and rainbows, unicorns and all that). But, nope. In just one chapter, one by one of Joe’s family members assures him rather quickly that they are cool with his sexual orientation. So, we do not have a mystery book and we also don’t have an interesting contemporary book about feelings.

Obviously, that’s not all. Being a Romance book we also have the love story for the main couple: Joe and Kade. According to Joe, Kade is unreachable. Above his wildest dreams. But, from the very beginning, Kade shows a lot of jelousy when Joe’s former boyfriend calls. So, the far-fetched love story that Joe describes doesn’t have the same feeling for the reader. When they finally kiss, there is not fireworks or anything similar. It even doesn’t feel special… as if they have been kissing the whole book.

Three attempts of story and three fails. Even though that is harsh, I must say I enjoyed the banter a lot. Joe’s and Kade’s exchanges are the best part of the book. Joe is such a good guy!! I’m not sure if Kade knows how lucky he is for being chosen by such a great human being. Do they love each other by the end of the book? We are sold that, but Kade looks more grateful than in love if you ask me.

Even though it’s a weak book, it’s easy to read and enjoyable. The aftertaste is sour, though. As if the book were totally hollow.