Reading Fanatic Reviews

All Romantic Mystery & Suspense Reviews

 

 

The Naked Truth by Maggie Aldrich

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The Naked Truth*

Romantic, Suspenseful Cozy Mystery

Oh, my gosh! What a fun ride is! I’ve read many cozy mysteries, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one with such a strong romantic element. This one takes place on a honeymoon, of all things. We are firmly in the head of the bride, and the author has given her such a great voice. It feels like she’s just your funny girlfriend telling you about the zany things in her life. There is so much humor, even though there are some very serious aspects to this story. What a beleaguered couple, trying to figure out the mystery when they should just be having the time of their lives. Secondary characters Fritz and Darcy were a fun addition as well. The book definitely had some twists and good red herrings, what you must have in a good mystery. It wrapped up satisfactorily, but the author wisely left it open for more adventures by the couple or perhaps by Fritz and Darcy… or maybe both! By the way, I haven’t read the first book of the series, but I was still able to read this book without any confusion or issues. This was so good, though, that I think I’m going to have to go back and read that one. I recommend this fun and easy romantic cozy mystery.

Mission: Impossible to Love by Jacki Delecki

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Mission: Impossible to Love*

Tech Aspects Interesting, Other Elements Not

Sometimes, it’s the little things that irritate you. For some reason, I had a hard time just getting past the names of these characters, Izzy and Sten, especially the hero’s. His name, in particular, seems like a cheesy romantic hero name, Sten Jenkins. I was intrigued initially by this book because of the hacking and dark web aspects of it. I find technical thrillers and suspense to be fascinating subgenres. This book was interesting in that respect, but I felt like it lacked in others. I didn’t quite buy the romantic relationship between Izzy and Sten. Some of the story was just implausible, like the idea that Izzy went to Stanford at 15 and got her first Ph.D. by 19–even if you’re smart, there are mandatory classes that must be taken in a certain order in college. I felt like the beginning spent a little too much time on information that didn’t really end up to matter. I like my pacing to be a little tighter in a suspense book like this.

The Stolen Papyrus by Cate M. Turner

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The Stolen Papyrus*

Some Flaws Mar Total Enjoyment

I was very nearly turned off this book when on my first Kindle screen I saw two words that were misused, the close-but-no-cigar type words. This did happen throughout the text, as if the author was grasping to sound either more erudite or poetic. This book did hold a few surprises but not of the good kind. The cover is a bit misleading. While there is a romantic element, it is relatively mild and feels minor compared to the rest of the story. Given that romantic feel of the cover, too, I wasn’t quite expecting the level of violence, and I am not really a fan of that. The author did do a good job, however, of showing the world through the characters’ eyes. I especially thought she did a good job with the heroine. You could feel her excitement about joining what she knew could be an amazing dig. You could also sense her disappointment when she realizes that the hero, with whom she has a complicated past, is also a part of it. The author did a fantastic job of showing the setting, both Egypt and the alternating senses of boredom and excitement of an archaeological dig. The visual descriptions were particularly detailed, but not overly much so, and engaging. So to me, all in all, this book was an odd mixture of parts, some that were very good and some that were disappointing.

Justice Lost and Found by Mika Kosey

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Justice Lost and Found*

Love This Tarot-Themed Series

I think I enjoyed this second book of this fascinating series more than the first. I absolutely adore the tarot theme, as I have been interested in the tarot for over 30 years. What a delight to see it woven so seamlessly into a book. I like how the author works on building the emotional relationships between Dee and her soulmates. Just because one has a destined love, with a past and future, doesn’t necessarily doesn’t mean it’s easy! But all the emotional feels did not detract from the action and suspense of the story. I don’t think it is necessarily easy for an author to pull that off, so I love it when it is done well. I particularly enjoyed watching Dee as she continued to evolve in all things magical and mystical. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I am curious to see where the tarot will take us next. I can recommend this book, but you definitely should read the first book before this one as it is not a standalone.

The Neglected Garden by Suzanne Winterly

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Paperback available at Thalia

The Neglected Garden*

Imbalance Hampers Story

Gilly the garden designer is asked to make a bid on a garden redesign for a swanky home. The relatively new owner lives there with his young son, and there are some apartments for tenants on the grounds. It’s a beautiful estate in County Kildare, Ireland, but danger and secrets lurk beneath its tranquil surface. A surprising amount of gardening talk takes up valuable story room. Clearly, the author either has a deep understanding of gardens and their designs, or she did a lot of research for this book. I found the level of detail perhaps to be a little too much. I don’t know enough about gardens and plants for the minutiae to make much sense to me without a Google search or five. I felt like the scenes at the beginning didn’t have enough motion; not enough happened or was revealed. They felt like slice-of-life moments and weren’t terribly interesting, which actually waste time in a story that supposed to have both romantic and suspense elements. I don’t feel that the romance was pulled off 100% successfully. I liked both Gilly and Marc as characters, but they just didn’t gel for me as a couple. All in all, I felt like it needed more romance and suspense and a little less gardening and day-in-the-life scenes.

Catnapped by Susan Golden

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Scribd, Smashwords, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, and Indigo (Chapters)

Catnapped*

Quirky Humor Falls Flat

I’m not quite sure what to make of this quirky little read. The cover itself is a little strange—suggesting a boudoir romance with a cat included?—but I found the book blurb suggested something more intriguing. Unfortunately, I think the author tries too hard at humor and can’t quite pull it off. This is meant to be a romantic “comedic” suspense, but the hero disappeared after showing up and was absent for a while. This made the timing and pacing of the book feel off to me, not allowing the romance to simmer and bubble. Too much of the book was just spent in the heroine’s head. Stories told in the first person can tend toward navel-gazing, and there was a little too much introspection and narrative prose at times. Some paragraphs themselves were exceedingly long, which I find hard to read. When he was there, I did enjoy Ryan as a character, perhaps more so than the heroine. The suspense part is told to us in the title of the book. The heroine is a pet sitter, and a cat gets taken. All in all, I found myself a little disappointed in this book.

The Aristocrat’s Charade by Joyce Alec

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The Aristocrat's Charade*

An Unlikely Couple Embroiled in Mystery and Romance

This novel turns some Regency romance tropes on their proverbial ears. I love how in the prologue Ophelia, the heroine, was quite pleased when her noble suitor, Peter, broke off their courtship after only two weeks. She, too, believed they were ill-suited. So imagine her surprise when the next day, I think, he is back and requesting that they resume their courtship. He is actually quite adamant about it, but she resists until her aunt insists that she should give him a second chance after he spouts a flowery declaration. His attempts to woo her back (and her reaction to it) made me smile as it was quite humorous What Ophelia doesn’t know, and Peter doesn’t say for quite a while, is that her fickle suitor has received a threat against his brother unless he continues the courtship and even marries her. When he does reveal his reason, Ophelia understands and wants to help. As they try to unravel the mystery, will this become a real courtship?

Like some of this author’s other works, I found the language in this one to be stilted at times; the attempt to sound “historical” yet realistic doesn’t always work. There were some pretty big informational dumps at the start of the book, both on Ophelia’s side as well as Peter’s. However, I found this intriguing plot to be just different enough from the common Regency ones that I could pass over these issues and still enjoy the twists and turns of the suspense plot (and the budding romance), as the couple eventually worked together to figure out who was threatening his brother. I ended up enjoying this book more than I imagined I would!

Redemption for the Rakish Earl by Jilian Rouge

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Redemption for the Rakish Earl*

Heat Level Goes to STEAM Very Fast

Goodness! I don’t know quite what to make of this book. When I read about the couple’s passionate relationship, I wasn’t quite prepared for what happened in the first chapter. My goodness, the author raises the heat level to Steam very fast. The writing of the text actually felt a little clunky to me, and not just the sex scenes, as the author has the characters speak and think in ways that are unlike how real people express themselves. She also engaged in a bit of head hopping, which I can find distracting. Even though this is a historical novel, some of the sensibilities seem more modern than post-Regency. The heroine’s views on marriage, in particular, seemed far too modern. But there is more than romance at the heart of this story. In fact, it appears that historical suspense is becoming quite a sub-subgenre of romance and suspense. After their passionate scene nine years earlier, the couple is reunited, but they have more to get beyond than their past mistakes as it appears that someone is out to do them harm. I had a hard time warming up to the hero. The way he acted after the initial passionate encounter with the heroine was truly rakish, and he wasn’t really repentant about his habits. Instead, he returned to the heroine’s sphere because it was challenging to keep the married women he’d slept with and their husbands at bay. All in all, I’ve read better historical romance and better romantic suspense.

Aldo by Betty Jean Craig

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Aldo*

Terrorism and Genetic Research

This book has so much going on! It is steeped in academia and germ-line genetic research. The author herself is a longtime professor at a university, so her insights into academic life ring true. At its core, this story is about who controls scientific research and to what end. It’s told in a very different way. It starts off as if it is a letter from the professor protagonist to her teenage son, but we actually see many perspectives, including the interactions of the Night Watch Facebook group that wants to make all genetic research, like the protagonist is working on, go away. There is plenty of suspense to keep the pages turning, and there is a hint of romance for those who like that in a thriller. The author seemed to have a good grasp of the science involved in this story. The characters aren’t super complex, but I find that acceptable in a thriller. I did find the switching back and forth between the Facebook posts and communications of the Night Watch and the narrative parts to be a little jarring, but the book was compelling enough that I wanted to see what happened next. If you enjoy thrillers that are strongly based in science (and especially genetics), you may very well enjoy this intriguing tale.

Regency Rumors by Bethany Swafford

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Regency Rumors*

A Good Regency Suspense

In this Regency suspense, the reader can figure out pretty quickly that there is something strange going on both at the Burnham household and with the heroine’s family. But the author doesn’t give away too many details too fast. We know that something has happened to the Sinclair family’s reputation, but we don’t know what precisely nor do we know what greater problem this has caused. Juliet, the heroine, is first mistaken for someone applying for a job as a lady’s maid in the Burnham household, but then she decides to take the job–rather foolishly–in order to help both sate her curiosity and see if she can do damage control for her family. She gets involved in a world that’s far different than her imaginings.

 

The author did a good job building the suspense and just the oddness factor of the Burnham household, where Juliet worked in disguise. I will admit I felt a little frustrated at times not knowing more of the greater picture, but it was so intriguing that I kept going. I quite enjoyed this little romp into Regency suspense and rumors.

Disclosure

The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

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