Review of ‘In the Company of Crocodiles’ by Maggie Brown.

Ex-Australian Secret Service Agent Vivian Andrews retired to a quiet Aussie town when in need of emotional and physical healing. All is well until she finds a corpse in a nearby swamp. She meets behavioral scientist Claire Walker, a government agent looking for a missing young man, when she returns to town to report the dead body. Claire was tasked with recruiting Vivian for the assignment as a guide to the wilderness. Together they must uncover the true reason for the missing young man while escaping the brutal environment surrounding them.

This book pulls you into the Australian outdoors right off the bat with a first chapter croc encounter that was fantastic and left you shaken but hooked. I actually took a minute to settle after reading that! I loved reading about the flora and fauna. The descriptions were well done and the information was functional to the story and did not feel cumbersome or like an information dump.

The romance was in the middle of all the action. I would have liked to see more from Claire as she came out looking like an inadequate government agent. I’m sure some of it was because Vivian was such a strong, capable character. Claire simply seemed to be relegated to the background too many times. I feel this detracted from the pairing to a certain degree. The attraction was there though and all in all, there was no instantaneous love which will please many readers. There were a couple of sex scenes that were okay until one remembered they were in the jungle with limited opportunities for proper hygiene… Exactly.

I would like to take a moment to praise Linda Callaghan for the phenomenal cover design. Lex recommended this book and I knew exactly which one she meant, even remembered it was on sale (thank you Bella Books!) because of this great cover. Stunning, eye-catching, with a font that blends beautifully with the background. Mission accomplished Ms. Callaghan!

Overall, a solid action romance. 4 stars.

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Review of ‘And Playing the Role of Herself’ by K.E. Lane

It is unfortunate that I simply had no clue lesbian fiction existed until a couple of years ago. On the upside, I am fortunate to be able to look at reviews and pick and choose books that have been well received in the past. Sometimes I feel just darn spoiled! I have been wanting to read this book for some time now as one can look at reviews, and even awards, and see how successful it was. I’m happy to say it lived to those expectations.

Caidence Harris is an actress in a hit primetime cop show. She is in her thirties, has come to terms with her sexuality but has not been able to act on it. Her attention for the past couple of years has been on another actress, Robyn Ward, who makes her heart race and her mouth babble when in her presence, but who is also very unavailable and involved with a handsome and charismatic tennis player.

The story is told from Caidence’s first-person point of view (POV). I love, love, love first person POV. I feel it lends to such intimacy and yet, the ability to have such witty internal dialog without simply stating it. I find the obvious thoughts of a character sometimes eye-roll inducing when they are just stated in third person POV. They are simply not funny unless someone is narrating it as they came up in their heads. I mean, we all have killer humor and witty internal dialogs right? If we don’t, please don’t embarrass me by pointing it out!

In a way, it is easy to see why this book was well received. There are the actress/Hollywood characters, the fauxmance and the misunderstanding of intentions amongst other tropes. The characters are endearing and I absolutely loved Caidence, who was very level headed and just real. The relationship between the main characters was great as I thought the arguments were legitimate and both of them held each other accountable for their actions. They manage to start the relationship sooner rather than later and Ms. Kane did a fantastic job at keeping things challenging and interesting through the remaining of the book. 

This was my second audiobook narrated by Lisa Cordileone, and another wonderful performance. She narrates the sarcasm and wittiness just like I would read it, so it simply was enjoyable to listen to and with several laugh-out-loud moments. The challenge was finding the time to listen to it. No time like the present to follow the low-speed limits in one’s neighborhood! I will point out I listened to it at 1.25x speed as I thought the regular speed was prolonging things a bit.

I did not realize this was an older book, although perhaps looking at the cover, it shows some. Nothing was outdated in the story and reads like a much more recent release.

Overall, a great romance with a fantastic and humorous inner monologue. 5 stars.

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Review of ‘Just Jorie’ by Robin Alexander.

This was only my second Robin Alexander’s book. Although I did not like it as much as the first one, it was still an enjoyable story.

Lena Vaughn is in New York on a work trip when a snowstorm grounds all flights. Jorie Andolini is trying to fly out of New York after going there to meet an online love interest that did not turn out to be what she was hoping for. They meet at the airport and share a ride to a hotel, where they realize the best way to return to their home town of New Orleans is to share a car rental. There is some chemistry but when the trip ends, they part ways without plans for anything more. Jorie is back to her family owned business and Lena is left wondering why a woman has her full attention for the first time in her life.

The beginning of the book felt slow and I was not sold until Jorie fell off the treadmill. Literally. Then it started picking up and I was thrilled to see the book did not end with their arrival to New Orleans. There, the main characters find a way to come together and keep it rolling. The secondary characters also took some getting used to but then I found them hilarious. Of course, I’m talking about the meddlesome older family members of the Andolini clan.

This book does not have any mysterious turns. Things were civilized and the coming out part was as effortless as they come. This was a light fun story that kept me entertained. Pass it up if you like some drama in your romances.

I actually listened to the audiobook. It was narrated by Lisa Cordileone, who did a great job. It took me a few chapters but then she had me laughing out loud, successfully bringing Alexander’s witty dialog to life. Very happy my next listen is also narrated by her.

Overall a solid book for those who enjoy funny banter. 3.5 stars

         

Review of ‘Gallows Humor’ by Carolyn Elizabeth.

Oh yes, this was right up my alley! Corey Curtis is a forensic anthropologist working at Jackson City Memorial Hospital’s morgue. She performs autopsies and helps train residents which is when she first lays eyes on Dr. Thayer Reynolds. Thayer is starting her Emergency Department fellowship when she wonders to the morgue to check out the mysterious Curtis. The attraction is immediate, but before they can act on it, Corey finds herself in the midst of investigating the cause of death of one of her autopsies as there is not enough evidence for the police to take the case on as a homicide. Her investigation makes her and Thayer face dire events and consequences that put their lives and budding romance at risk.

The initial interactions between the main characters were funny and well written. One could feel the spark right away. Both main characters are strong women with no horrible past to keep them from acknowledging their feelings, thank you! Sometimes it seems all characters in lesfic have something to overcome or keep them from acting in a rational manner towards a new, fantastic experience. I found it refreshing, although wondered where the story would go then. However, have no fear, the author manages conflict in other wonderful ways!

This book has so many great elements. There is a first-responder feel to the story even though Corey is a morgue employee. There are definitely medical themes throughout the book, and I’ll be honest, I absolutely loved them. The author gets a chance to shine through her expertise in forensic anthropology, which is terrific as it gives instant credibility to her work. There is also some action, a gym, and let’s not forget that the characters’ connection is great too! The secondary characters are well done and in particular, I enjoyed the police officer, Collier. His banter with Corey was very entertaining and no doubt added depth to the story. On the downside, the mystery is straightforward and not meant to be the main focus of the book. This may disappoint some avid mystery readers.

This is Ms Elizabeth’s debut novel. I can’t help but be excited for her future work and hope she turns this story into a series.

Overall a great read that will appeal to science/medical and romance fans alike. 4.5 stars

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Review of ‘The Lone Hunt’ by L.L. Raand.

I’m not certain how to even start with a book like this! This is book number four in the six book Midnight Hunters series by Radclyffe, writing as L.L.Raand. These are fantasy books following the Wolf Ware Alpha Sylvan Mir and the Adirondack Timberwolf Pack. The previous books should be read in order as one will continue to build the story started by its predecessor. The Praetern Coalition seeks to get humans to acknowledge the other species, such as wares and vampires, as citizens with rights. This has made the Praetern individuals and societies visible after millennia of hiding amongst humans. Of course, powerful individuals seek to eradicate them and go as far as experimentation and assassination.

This book continues to tell the story of the Praetern and human struggle but centers around one of Alpha Mir’s previous guards. Lara was once a dominant ware turned vampire and now serves as Warlord for newly risen and powerful Vampire Gates. As she struggles to come to terms with her new identity while trying to hold on to her wolf, she finds herself alone and shunned by vampires and wares alike. This changes as she finds a dominant Cat Ware Alpha on the run. Together they must find a new place in their society and join the fight that threatens all Praeterns.

I will readily admit I’m not a diehard fan of any of these type of characters. In fact, the last vampire story exposure I had was through Hotel Transylvania (hey, first, I have kids! And second, the movie is actually good!). So for those diehard fans, I’m not sure if this is a typical example of paranormal or urban fantasy genres. What I can say without a doubt is that Radclyffe created a wonderful world for this series with rules that are followed throughout the books. There is justification behind the characters’ behaviors and actions. There is also science and interesting concepts that I believe only few authors can create so masterfully. The conspiracy and intricacies lesfic authors are used to reading in her books are also present and definitely make me want to continue to read to see how all the discord between the species is elucidated.

This series is very explicit when it comes to describing sexual behaviors by the Praeterns and humans. It is so abundant one becomes used to it and understands the need for those behaviors to be part of the story. Wolf wares are encouraged to ‘tangle’ with each other when they reach adolescence, and that sets the scene for the pack and everything else in the books. Likewise, vampires’ feeding rituals are tightly bound to their sexual needs and that of their servants. That said, the author manages to still create intimate scenes with the main characters that are not lost in all the ‘background sex’. Readers that are bothered by extensive explicit sexual content should avoid this series altogether.

This book’s audiobook version is available through Audible and free if you have their Romance Package subscription. The entire series is narrated by Maxine Mitchell, who did a marvelous job. As any lesfic fan knows, Radclyffe’s series have many women characters at any given time. Ms Mitchell was superb at creating different voices for each one so they would be distinct, and therefore, avoid any confusion while listening.

Overall a fantastic read or listen for anyone interested in this type of fantasy world. 4.5 stars

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Review of ‘Unexpected Partners’ by Michelle Larkin.

Dr. Chloe Maddox is a cop turned sex crime profiler who has restarted her career at the Boston Police Department, where Dana Blake works as a detective. One evening, Chloe sees a suspect in the office that triggers lost memories from when she was abducted and left for dead two years prior. Dana immediately recognizes that Chloe has a connection to a previous case and is the only one capable of sending the psychopath to jail. As the suspect is arraigned and released on bail, Dana and Chloe find themselves running away from a serial killer. Can they survive and help each other move on from their previous traumatic experiences?

This book was intense, with crimes that are sexual in nature. However, a lot is implied and thankfully not described in detail. The two main characters endure many ordeals, yet are strong and have great, immediate chemistry. Even though circumstances are not ideal, the budding romance is not too much of a stretch as it’s skillfully written.

The story captures the reader right away and moves along  with several action scenes. I feel there was probably one too many of such scenes, but the book kept my attention all the way to the end. The secondary characters are well done and enjoyable. I also liked that, although the book lacks of a formal epilogue, there was complete closure for all the characters.

For all the animal loving readers, there is a wonderful canine in this one. Unfortunately some of the interactions seemed a bit far fetched and the veterinary medicine felt like it was pulled right from the human medicine side of things. Nonetheless, I enjoyed Taz and especially, the book’s dedication. I agree with Ms Larkin, humans are flawed and dogs love us unconditionally and do lead by example!

This is Ms Larkin’s second published work. I picked this one up after enjoying her debut novel ‘Mercy’ pleased to see law enforcement characters continue to be the main characters in her stories. I will definitely be looking out for her next book.

Overall a solid action, crime-romance. 4 stars

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