Review of ‘Payback’ by Charlotte Mills.

Detective Constable Kate Wolfe is sent as a disciplinary measure from London to a small town in Cheshire, England. There she meets Detective Chief Inspector Helen Taylor, a seasoned police officer who left a promising career in London due to personal issues. In a deceptive quiet town, they both have to investigate a series of arson attacks, a murder and a missing person while, at the same time, dealing with their mutual attraction.

Despite its title and cover, ‘Payback’ is a mystery as much as a romance. The prologue starts the thriller part in style, hitting the reader like a bucket of cold water. In the romance department, Kate and Helen’s chemistry takes a bit longer to take shape. At the beginning the author seemed to be telling more than showing their mutual attraction, but once the characters spent more time together in the investigations, their connection felt realistic and their intimate scenes hot.

Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters, the leads are well-rounded and multilayered as well as the secondary ones. Set in England, the story has a definite British feel. The plot is smartly woven to keep the reader turning pages and there’s a massive twist in the end that I didn’t see coming. I understand that the author is woking on a sequel. However, this book’s conflicts are completely solved. If you are a fan of Cari Hunter’s books, you might like this one too. Highly recommended.

Overall, a page-turner thriller and an enjoyable romance for fans of both genres alike. 4.5 stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The Goodmans’ by Clare Ashton.

Dr. Abby Hart lives in a little town in England secretly in love with her straight best friend Jude Goodman. Her mother, Maggie Goodman, is like a parent to Abby. But Abby isn’t the only one hiding secrets and they could surface any time with enormous consequences for everyone involved.

What an incredible read. Ms. Ashton has done it again. The first impression is that this is a ‘best friends to lovers’ romance but it’s so much more. This book has it all: love, romance, family drama, angst, quirky humour, sex, social criticism, redemption and deep insights in motherhood and ageing. It even has unexpected twists and turns.

‘The Goodmans’ is written in third person from the point of view of the three main characters Abby, Jude and Maggie. The author finds a distinctive voice for each one respecting their personalities and ages. Maggie is described in all her complexity and Abby in her insecure but honest self. The dialogues are engaging and the descriptions of a small town in middle England are realistic and evocative. The social critique is current but universal at the same time. As she did in her previous novel ‘Poppy Jenkins’, Ms. Ashton builds the mains’ chemistry and pent up attraction to superlative levels and delivers the intimate scenes beautifully.

This book can be at times funny, heartbreaking, feel-good, inspiring, surprising or shocking. It raises the level of lesfic novels to its highest standard. Ms. Ashton delivered a tale that transcends lesbianism and England to describe humanity in general. Highly recommended.

Overall, an excellent novel recommended to anyone who enjoys romance and family drama. 5+ stars.

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Review of ‘Shadowboxer’ by Jessica L. Webb.

Former boxer Jordan McAddie had a hard childhood and now she’s
dedicated to help street kids by teaching them the discipline of
boxing. With her mentoring duties, a full time job and her social
worker studies, she’s got enough on her plate and the least thing
she needs is her first love walking back into her life. As she
struggles to open up to a possible relationship, the street kids
are being targeted by an extremist group. Can she keep the kids
safe and give love a chance?

Throughout her short but productive career, Ms. Webb has written
action, mystery and psychological thrillers with romance at the
side. While ‘Shadowboxer’ has a mix of these genres, it’s her most
introspective work. There is a criticism of the social services
system and, more specifically, how adults fail to protect their
children and youth. Through boxing, Jordan and the teenagers under
her care learn more than the physical activity of fighting: they
build their self-esteem, learn to trust each other and to boost
their confidence. It’s not a fight against each other but rather a
struggle against their own ghosts, a bit like shadowboxing. No
wonder that, compared to the rest of Webb’s novels, this one feels
oppressive and darker. The author works with the lights and
shadows in the characters’ states of mind as reality throws
punches at them. It’s not an easy read but the heaviness is
balanced by the sweet redemption of romance and friendship.
Regarding the mystery and action scenes, they are short but
effective in keeping the reader hooked in the story. The
characters are well written and even though there are a good
number of secondary characters, they all have depth and feel real.
The romance is slow burn and sweet, both mains complement each
other and send a light of hope to the darker sides of the plot. My
only criticism is that the last couple of chapters seem a bit
rushed. However, this book is definitely worth a read.

Overall, a darker novel by Ms. Webb with a mix of action, mystery,
psychological thriller and romance. Not an easy read but highly
recommended. 4.5 stars.

ARC provided by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an
honest review.

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Review of ‘Take a chance’ by D. Jackson Leigh.

This book is part of the ‘Pine Cone romance’ series by three different authors: ‘Take my hand’ by Missouri Vaun, ‘Take a chance’ by D. Jackson Leigh and ‘Take your time’ by V.K. Powell. This series follows the lives of three friends: Clay, Trip and Grace in the small town of Pine Cone, Georgia.

There are series written by an author that usually need to be read in chronological order, series of standalone novels by different authors under a common theme, and the ‘Pine Cone romance’ series which is a bit peculiar. In this series the three different authors decided to create three romances (one in each book) but with the three stories overlapping. For example, if the three friends share a scene, it will appear in all three books but with a different point of view. D. Jackson Leigh says in her acknowledgements that it was arduous to write. Well, sometimes it’s also arduous to read. I personally found some issues, one is that after reading the first book (whichever the order) the reader has sometimes a sense of deja vu, a feeling of having read that before because… they read it in the previous book. It works fine in some scenes as it gives other characters’ perspectives but in other cases it is tedious. Also, some events that overlap in the books give information that act as spoilers for the other books’ stories which is a bit annoying. Finally, I found that there are a number of unresolved secondary plots which are main plots in the other books, so in order to grasp the full story, you need to read all the series. So I guess readers can rate each book separately but also the series as a whole. Due to these problems appear throughout the series, you’ll see some of my comments repeated in the other reviews.

Trip Beaumont is Pine Cone’s veterinarian and a well known player. Officer Jamie Grant is the new police officer in town, owner of a drug sniffing dog called Petunia. Trip is intrigued by the elusive officer who frequently writes her parking tickets but when they finally cross paths they realise that they have a conflicted past in common. Will they be able to leave the past behind to build a future together?

‘Take a chance’ is a slow burn romance with a dog as a cute secondary character. Animals play a big part in this book with Petunia at the forefront, a variety of big and small animals and in horses’ metaphors used by Trip. There are a few flashbacks to the main characters’ shared past but most of the story ocurrs in the present. The secondary characters are a bit flat, specially for the ex girlfriend. The main conflict seems a bit irrelevant and Jamie’s PTSD is treated lightly. The subplot involving Petunia is not completely resolved considering that she’s such an important secondary character. But, most importantly, the subplot regarding Trip’s veterinarian colleague is left unresolved, surely to be covered in ‘Take your time’.

Overall, an ok romance read that might interest animal lovers. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Pieces’ by G Benson

First of all, I have to say that angsty books about young adults aren’t my cup of tea. However, I’ve read G Benson’s previous books which I liked a lot and decided to read this one. I’m glad I did because it’s a very good read.
Written in third person from the point of view of both characters, Ms. Benson deals with very difficult issues such as the fallouts of the foster care system, transsexualism, bisexuality, bereavement and generally the young adults struggle to grow up. The author tackles​ all these issues with sensitivity and realism. All the characters, including the secondary ones are realistic and multilayered. The balance between showing and telling is spot on and the dialogues and situations are realistic.
My only criticism is that despite there was such detail in the description of emotions and headspace of the main characters, I cannot understand why the author doesn’t describe the sexual intimacy between the characters in more detail. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bothered with erotic descriptions for the sake of it, I just thought that it was more coherent with the book style. However, this didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the story.
Overall, a very good read even if you aren’t a fan of YA books. 4.5 stars rounded to 5.
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Deception’ by VK Powell.

I’ve read a couple of books by this author which in my opinion were an average read so I didn’t have big expectations about this one. The main subject of this book, an undercover DEA agent who infiltrates a group of homeless in order to investigate a drug dealing ring, did not have much appeal to me. But after the first chapter I was completely hooked with the story. The author gives us an deep insight into the lives of homeless people, their struggles and their invisibility to the rest of the people. Ms. Powell takes us into this world as seen through the main characters, their own struggles, needs and miseries. I was moved by the suffering of the homeless people described in this book and made me reflect on my own prejudices against them.

In her description of the main protagonists’ contradictions and struggles with the investigation and their personal lives, Ms Powell creates multilayered and credible characters. The secondary characters are also very realistic and support the main story, some of them very lovable and others despicable.

The main plot gripped me with its twists and turns and I just couldn’t stop reading. Even though there are some hints on where the investigation is going, there are a few surprises at the end.

Overall a very good read in this genre. If you like a lesbian mystery with romance, action and some substance, I highly recommend this book. 4 stars.

I’ve received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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