Reading Fanatic Reviews

Romantic Mystery & Suspense



Black Widow by Lucy Leroux

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Black Widow*

Good at First, Then Goes Off the Rails

I am not quite sure what to write for this review. I was surprised by this book, but not in a good way. When I read the book description, I just read the summary, not the quotes from other reviewers within the blurb; I never read those or other reviews before I read a book. From the couple paragraph description, I was expecting a somewhat standard historical romance. And the first part of the book and delivered on that, along with a little romantic suspense—which I also enjoy. The heroine has a variety of secrets that neither we nor the hero is privy to for a while. We learn from the first chapter that the heroine is not a murderer, as first suspected by the hero. I actually enjoyed watching their initial dance, shall we say, as they became reacquainted with each other and he tried to figure out if she had anything to do with her husband’s death.

But then it got weird. And, frankly, I didn’t see it coming. I read a variety of books, so I don’t have anything necessarily against weird so long as I am prepared for it. I certainly did not expect the book to go the way it did in the last roughly 40%. Actually, I kept thinking it would straighten back out into a standard story instead of going into a paranormal aspect that wasn’t appropriately foreshadowed and therefore felt entirely out of place. It almost felt like a deus ex machina move, which I never like in a story as it feels like a cop-out. I did enjoy watching the push-me, pull-you relationship of the hero and heroine at first, and the heroine’s naivete was surprising (in an intriguing way) in a story about a widow (and I liked watching the hero’s education of her). I do feel that there were too many intimate scenes after a certain point in the story; they did detract from the rest of the plot because, at times, it felt like the plot existed as something to happen between the intimate moments so it wouldn’t be just all that. So, I actually enjoyed the first part of the book, but the second half fell apart for me once it appeared as though the paranormal aspect was meant to be real.

Haunting Miss Fenwick by Alina K. Field

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

Haunting Miss Fenwick*

Strong, Smart, Capable Heroine… Loved It!

This book takes place on the Yorkshire coast during that small amount of time between the Regency and Victorian eras. I found it to be a delightful read. The hero thinks himself a bit crafty in the beginning, but he finds himself pitted against a very smart heroine. I loved that Tilly was so strong, capable, and intelligent. She’s a far cry from many historical romance heroines—and in a good way. Although the hero was trying to make her new home appear haunted, Tilly isn’t buying it. When she finds him out and discovers why, her personal sense of justice makes her want to help him despite the way he has been such a pest. (And he helps her out, too, so the relationship isn’t one-sided.) I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction between these two characters. The way the author depicted it, especially in the beginning, made me smile more than once. I loved the dog, Wulver, too! There is a little suspense here, and a few surprising twists and turns despite some obvious factors. The characters are so well drawn, and the story is so well written. If you enjoy historical romantic intrigue, consider giving this book a try.

A Perfect Deception by Alyssa Drake

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A Perfect Deception*

Darker than Your Typical Historical Romantic Mystery

I read a fair amount of historical romantic suspense and mystery, but this story is definitely a cut different from most. Most of the romantic historical mysteries I have read have been ones in which the suspense or mystery is rather light. Yes, it adds interest to the story and keeps the pages turning, but the main thrust is the romance and how the suspense affects that. This book is completely different, as the evil in this book is overarching in nature, not just a side interest. I could tell this right off the bat with the way the prologue started with such a graphic, violent scene. I’ll admit that I had a hard time following parts of this book, but that is probably because I haven’t read either of the previous books in the series. I didn’t realize when I signed up for this book at my favorite book review site that it was an installment of an episodic series. I still was able to figure things out, but it would have been easier if I had read the other books. The author is able to keep the tension and conflict ramped up through the entire book. There are some surprisingly graphically violent scenes in this book; I wasn’t expecting that, and so I am saying so in this review so others may see it and steer clear if they don’t like to read that. The book is well written, both the violence/mystery aspect and the romance. I found the heroine, Daphne, a particular delight as she provided a spot of levity in what can sometimes be a pretty dark book.

BTW, I am not a fan of the covers in this series. Too reminiscent of the old “bodice-ripper” style romance covers. And they don’t really give an idea of the suspense, which is so crucial.

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

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)


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!



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).

The Amazon book links on this site are affiliate links, which means I make a tiny percentage if you choose to buy a book linked from this site.

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