‘Alice’ not in Wonderland.

Alice is visiting South Africa with her husband Dr. Magnus McCroy as the full-time carer of his mother. After a crisis with Magnus, she decides to leave him and embark on a trip of self-discovery. In the meantime, Dr. McCroy sends private investigator Toni Mendez to South Africa to find Alice and take her back to England. But nothing is as it seems and Alice will have to learn who to trust…

This is a novel hard to categorise and even harder to review without giving anything away. Let’s just say that the story follows the premise that, as the blurb says, ‘all reality is subjective’. Even though there are scenes of lesbian love, this isn’t a romance but there is a good amount of intrigue and psychological thriller. This is the second book featuring P.I. Toni Mendez which follows her story after Ms. Skyborne’s ‘Risk’. It’s not necessary to read them in order and ‘Alice’ can be read as a stand-alone.Read More »

Review of ‘Gnarled Hollow’ by Charlotte Greene.

I really enjoyed this. This is the fifth book I have read by Greene and by far my favorite. The best way to describe this would be paranormal/mystery/crime, with a little romance. The paranormal is on the darker side, you could almost put a horror tag on this. I was well and truly creeped out at times. This would be a perfect book to read around Halloween time.

Emily is an English professor, who has just been laid off before reaching tenure. She is feeling bleak and a bit depressed with no new jobs on the horizon. When she gets a letter, inviting her to study the papers of an important deceased author, she hopes this is the break she needed. Little is known about the author’s life since she became a recluse in her estate of Gnarled Hollow until death. Emily and a few other scholars will be spending the summer living and learning about the estate, art, and the author’s diaries. But when Emily gets to Gnarled Hollow she quickly realizes there is something strange going on. Gnarled Hollow is hiding secrets that may put their lives in danger. Can Emily and her fellow scholars figure out the mystery before it is too late?

When I read the blurb for this book I was very excited to read this. This sounded like my kind of book. The book ended up being everything I was hoping for. I have to be honest that Greene felt like a new author to me. Not sure if she was just having fun writing this book, but I felt like it was a big step up from her previous books. I really hope she would consider writing more paranormal or mystery-crime books in the future.

As I mentioned above this book is a little dark, some violence, and touches on some disturbing subjects. I could easily see this as a movie that makes you jump and hold the covers up by your face. But it’s far from all dark. It has a very interesting mystery and a bit of a sweet romance. The main character of Emily was pretty easy to root for and get behind. Her blossoming romance with another scholar was a nice change of pace to have in the book. There are no explicit sex scenes, but with everything going on in the house, it might have felt a little odd to be reading about steamy sexy time in the middle of a haunted house.

In mentioning words like almost horror and violence, I hope I’m not putting people off. While yes this book is dark, but it wasn’t really graphic if that makes sense. While I was jumpy and creeped out at times, I was never really scared. The book was more intense and hooked you in, not a stomach-turning too hard to read kind of book. It had some good twists and kept me in suspense until the end. In fact, I was a little sad when it ended. While this is longer than the average Bold Strokes’ book, I would have loved even a little more.

I would absolutely recommend this to paranormal-crime/mystery fans. Because it is a bit dark and creepy, I know it might not appeal to everyone, but this was definitely my kind of book. I really hope Greene takes the opportunity to write more books in similar genres. I would love to read them if she does. 5 stars.

An ARC was given to me by BSB for an honest review.

Review of ‘Secrets in a small town’ by Nicole Stiling.

3.75 Stars. I thought this was a fun debut. It’s not a perfect read, it had a few issues, but it was really entertaining and exactly the kind of book I needed. For the past week, I have had a house full of family company, including an eight-month-old baby. I love my extended family but they are loud and a bit messy so it has been a whirlwind with no quiet time for me to read. The reason I bring this up is a week without reading could be why I found this book so appealing. It was like finding a glass of water in the desert so your mileage may vary slightly.

While this is a crime/mystery romance the crime part is not too heavy. I actually don’t think you have to be a mystery fan to enjoy this. There is just enough excitement and mystery to keep you turning the pages, but it never gets too dark or heavy. I liked that I didn’t guess who the “bad guy/girl” was. I had an idea, but I ended up being way off, so I appreciate that Stiling didn’t make it too easy to figure out.

When it came to the main characters I had fun with them. You have a really likeable and sweet Chief of Police in Micki and you have an ice queen Town Manager named Savannah. Savannah is an ice queen, to say the least. I almost worried Stiling was going a little too far with her character, but it did give the characters this intense sexual love/hate chemistry in a few scenes. I did think the characters fell out of the “hate” into the “like” period a little quickly, but I think that is something that Stiling will get better at as she becomes a more seasoned author.

Overall, I thought this was a good, entertaining read. It has a few bumps, but it is a very readable and enjoyable debut. I would not hesitate to read Stiling again in the future.

An ARC was given to me for an honest review.

Review of ‘Moonlight Avenue’ by Gerri Hill.

Finley Knight is an ex-cop turned into a private investigator living a solitary life in Corpus Christi, Texas. She prefers working solo but when former security guard Rylee Moore offers her services as a receptionist / assistant, Finley cannot resist her charms. When an apparently routine cheating-wife case changes into a murder investigation, Police Detective Dee Woodward gets involved. Dee prefers to do things by the book while Finley was never a stickler for the rules, but as events escalate and get extremely dangerous, the three women will need to work together and leave their differences, and their feelings, aside to defeat an extremely violent gang.

This is a very entertaining, fast-paced, crime mystery book by Gerri Hill with a romance at the side but with a lot of prominence in the story. The mystery plot is quite complex with many layers to unveil and a good number of suspects. Despite this, Ms. Hill manages to pull off a credible and absorbing story that keeps the reader guessing until the end. The novel is written from the point of view of Finley, Rylee, and Dee who are multilayered characters with distinctive personalities and backgrounds. The age-gap romance is slow-burn and sweet, with very well-written chemistry in which opposites attract. The sex scenes have all the ingredients known to Ms. Hill: they are hot, sensual and romantic all at the same time.

The landscape of Corpus Christi (Texas Gulf Coast) with its beautiful beaches and bay area is a frequent feature in Ms. Hill’s romances. By setting this novel during winter time with its foggy and cloudy days, however, the author sets the perfect tone for the mystery. The depiction of the impoverished neighbourhoods where most of the action takes part also contributes towards an eerie backdrop and makes a great contrast with the most affluent areas which the Gulf Coast is known for.

Even though the case is completely resolved and the main romance has a satisfying conclusion, there is room for a sequel to this novel. I hope that Ms. Hill decides to write a book that features Dee more prominently and develops Finley’s relationship with her estranged mother. I wouldn’t hesitate to read book 2.

Overall, a very entertaining and page-turning mystery with a sweet, slow-burn romance at the side. 4.5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Meant to be me’ by Wendy Hudson.

Engineer Darcy Harris is on a quest to find long-lasting love and no one will stop her, not even a creepy stalker or her demanding best-friend. A chance encounter with Eilidh Grey has the potential to develop into something meaningful but as the stalker’s threats escalate, all three women get involved in a dangerous game in which no one knows who they can trust.

Ms. Hudson is consolidating her voice within the lesfic genre as an accomplished suspense writer with a British feel. After reading her excellent debut novel ‘Four steps’, I have to admit that I was a bit let down by her second book ‘Mine to keep’. However, I’m happy to say that ‘Meant to be me’ exceeded my expectations.

This novel is set in Inverness, Scotland, and the author’s depictions of the landscape perfectly set the tone of a suspense thriller. According to the publisher, this is a romantic suspense novel, but it’s light on the romance and heavy on the suspense. Don’t be fooled by the few first chapters that seem to set the tone for a romance novel, the love interest is more a plot device than an end in itself. There isn’t much development of intimacy and the only sex scene is fade to black. However, this makes sense in the context of the whole story and doesn’t make it less interesting.

‘Meant to be me’ is written from the point of view of everyone involved in the plot, including the stalker, so we get to know how their twisted mind work. This knowledge doesn’t stop us from being surprised by a few twists and turns that the plot takes, despite that a couple of them are a bit predictable. All the main characters are very well written and have their own distinctive voices coherent with their background stories. It’s good to see that the author took her time in the last few chapters and the epilogue to give the story the proper closure it deserves and, at the same time, keeping the reader interested.

Overall, a very good romantic suspense thriller full of twists and turns with the beautiful setting of Scotland. 4.5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘A bittersweet garden’ by Caren J. Werlinger.

4.25 Stars. This was another good book by Werlinger. It seems like every time I read a new Werlinger book, I have lower expectations than I should. She is a damn good writer and I don’t know why I keep forgetting that. I need to read more of her back catalog. She is too good of a writer to only remember her when a new book comes out. Anyway, this was a good, sweet lesfic romance with a paranormal twist.

The story is about Nora, who is spending a long summer vacation in Ireland. She is renting a cottage in a small town where her relatives are from. Nora quickly falls in love with Ireland and its people. She also can’t help but have an attraction to horse trainer Briana, who works for her cousins. While exploring Ireland and friendship with Briana, Nora realizes there is more to her rental cottage than meets the eye. The cottage is haunted and it seems like the ghost might have a message for her.

I really enjoyed this read. I was hooked after the first few pages and only put the book down because it was late and sleep could no longer wait. This book actually reminded me a little of ‘When the Stars Sang’, which I also really enjoyed. Of course, it is quite different because of the paranormal twist, but I think fans of that book will enjoy this one too.

The romance is very sweet. If I remember correctly the sex scenes are all fade to black. That is not my first choice, but the mains had a strong enough connection that I didn’t miss reading that extra intimacy.

Besides the mains, the secondary characters really added to the story. Werlinger is good at making you feel as a reader that you really are in a small Irish town. There was also a little mystery and suspense with the paranormal angle so this book had plenty to keep me entertained.

If you are a Werlinger fan or a paranormal-romance fan, I recommend this. I actually don’t think you have to be a big paranormal fan to still enjoy this. The book is so well written that the paranormal part doesn’t seem so unbelievable after all.

An ARC was given to me for an honest review.