Skin and Bone – T.A. Moore

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Author: T.A. Moore
Series: Digging Up Bones #2

Pages: 240

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Cloister Witte and his K-9 partner, Bourneville, find the lost and bring them home.

But the job doesn’t always end there.

Janet Morrow, a young trans woman, lies in a coma after wandering away from her car during a storm. But just because Cloister found the young tourist doesn’t mean she’s home. What brought her to Plenty, California… and who didn’t want her to leave?

With the help of Special Agent Javi Merlo, who continues to deny his growing feelings for the rough-edged deputy, Cloister unearths a ten-year-old conspiracy of silence that taps into Plenty’s history of corruption.

Janet Morrow’s old secrets aren’t the only ones coming to light. Javi has tried to put his past behind him, but some people seem determined to pull his skeletons out of the closet. His dark history with a senior agent in Phoenix complicates not just the investigation but his relationship with Cloister.

And since when has he cared about that?

When I finished the first book, I was scared that the saga was cancelled. Two years between the first and the second book is not something normal in Romance. In that genre you can even find authors who publish a book every two weeks. Although I would bet the quality in those stories is not as high as in the books of the Digging up bones saga.

We obviously follow again the adventures of Cloister, Javi and the K-9 unit called Bourneville. This time, a trans woman is attacked in Plenty and Cloister saves her life just in time. It’s up to him and Javi to discover who is behind the attack. Meanwhile, they must also discover what the hell is that thing brewing between them.

As in the previous book, the mystery takes a huge chunk of the story, what makes the book feels special. I think it would be a perfect story to introduce someone to the genre, because is not heavy in the romance and the suspense part is developed with enough care to entertain a mystery lover. But it has a tiny problem. It is a bit hard to follow. At least for me. There are too many names and important events being mention and mixed at all times. So many leads that collide with each other… It makes me wish to have taken a notebook to draw a schema of the case, because more than once I was lost. It doesn’t make the book less enoyable, but days after finishing it I still have some questions about what really happened.

The love part is infuriatingly slow. Don’t get me wrong, that is what makes it greater than other love stories. Since the first moment, the author lets the reader know that Javi and Cloister are perfect for each other. But, at the same time, doesn’t allow the characters to acknowledge it. We have to witness an endless string of excuses and half-hearted fights among them. I found myself yelling at them more than once. Usually a classic: Kiss already, you idiots!!! It was really unnerving sometimes (sweet unnerving, though). When I ship so hard for a couple that means they are giving me what I enjoy most in the Romance genre: slow brewed love. These guys are following all the steps one by one in order to make sure they have something real and durable. I wouldn’t mind if they speed thing up just a little bit and stop being so stubborn, though. Maybe in the third book they will finally hold hands or something equally cute.

The cuteness of this book is hoarded by none other than Bourneville, the partner of Cloister and eerily amart dog. I know Cloister keeps reminding us that Bon is not a pet. That cuddling her is not really a good idea, but she keeps being cute and melting hearts everywhere. It comes to my mind the time she was pretending being asleep to avoid being kicked from the couch. Or her adorably crush on cats. How in the Hell can anyone stop petting her in those situations? Sometimes I think Cloister wants her all by himself. That’s not cool, man!!

Will we have to wait another two years for the third book? I hope not, but I’m already loyal, so I will wait no matter what. So far, I’m enjoying this couple and I wish this format were more common in the genre. I mean, the same couple for several books instead of a different couple in every book. Which is also great, but the scales are much more favourable to the later, so…

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2019 – Book Gallery

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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

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