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 ‘The house’ by Eden Darry.

3.50 Stars. This is Darry’s full-length debut. I could still see some room for growth but I thought this was pretty well written for a debut. I guess you could put this in the category of either paranormal or light horror. However, this book wasn’t scary; it was creepy and a little dark. While you might be slightly uncomfortable while reading at times, it’s not really a tough read. It’s definitely not too scary to read.

This is the kind of book that is not easy to review because you don’t want to give anything away. The book started off with a bang, slowed down a little, but for the most part, kept up a good pace. It was very readable for me and I liked that it was not a long book so the story never really dragged. There is a paranormal element to this, but it’s almost more evil than what you think about a “normal” haunting with ghosts. And there is also a real-life evil person the characters have to deal with so it’s a lot on their plates.

The main characters in this book are in an established relationship already with two kids. There are some nicer, sweet moments but there is also a lot of relationship drama/arguing because of the circumstances. I do have to admit the arguing was getting a little old, but given the storyline, I get it so I can’t really complain.

The book had a few small twists and some excitement which was nice. I read it in one sitting so it absolutely entertained me. I was not in love with the storyline, but I’m still glad I gave this a try. If you are looking for something creepy this is a good choice. I wouldn’t hesitate to read Darry again.

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 Lover’s Mercy’ by Fiona Zedde.

I was really looking forward to this book and I’m glad to say it met my expectations. This was really entertaining and I could not put the book down. While this is technically book 5 in The Superheroine Collection, you do not need to read four books before this. However, this is a sequel to Book 2 ‘The Power of Mercy’. I highly recommend reading that book first before you read this one. This book picks up where ‘The Power of Mercy’ left off and you would be missing out on a good amount of story including some important twists if you do not read it first.

This is a quick read and it’s so hard to tell on my Kindle but I think technically this is a novella, but the story is full and vibrant so it feels like a novel. These two books by Zedde are more hardcore superhero books. In fact ‘The Power of Mercy’ was a little dark at times. This book was a little lighter and focused more on the relationship between the two mains, but there is still violence and plenty of superhero action. Don’t read these books looking for a fluffy story.

After reading ‘The Power of Mercy’ I was really hoping for a sequel. Mercy or ‘Mai’ was still really growing as a person and I wanted to see more of her. I must admit I was a little disappointed this whole book was in the POV of X. I like first person so that’s not my issue, but I was disappointed not to get more from Mai’s headspace. I must admit while X is a bit of a hard character, after getting to know and connect to her more she definitely grew on me.

I don’t want to say too much more because of spoilers for people who have not read the first book. I will say if you are enjoying the Superheroine collection, absolutely grab this. If you liked ‘The Power of Mercy’, chances are you might even like this one better. Having more romance/relationship between the mains was a real treat. I don’t know if Zedde plans to write more in this series. A lot of loose ends are tied up so it could end here. But if she does write more I will absolutely read them.

An ARC was given to me for an honest review.

Review of ‘Survival instincts’ by May Dawney.

I was really excited about this book. I’m a big post-apocalyptic fan and they seem to be few and far between in lesfic. But I’m also an animal lover, and when I heard about some of the violent scenes, I started to worry. It came to a point instead of rushing to read this, I kept putting it off. After some advice from a friend who had read this already, I finally felt okay with reading it. I’m so glad I did because I flat out loved this book.

I do want to give a warning first, yes, this book is violent. After war has ravaged the world, predator animals are back on the top of the food chain. Not only are animals a worry, but humans are too in this extremely dangerous new world. Due to the violence, this probably won’t be a book for everyone, but if you can handle it I highly recommend reading this.

I’m not going to go into a summary; there are a lot of reviews already if you need one. I do want to mention there are two main characters Lynn and Dani. This book is in third person, but we are only ever in Lynn’s headspace. I actually thought it was an interesting choice for a book like this, but it really worked. Lynn is a fantastic main character. She was one of those strong badass female characters I just love. Dani has her flaws and the author is not always that nice to her, but I loved learning about her as Lynn did. Even not being in her headspace, you still felt like you really understood Dani.

There is a romance. For this being an adventure book that keeps you on your toes with danger at every corner, the romance really worked for me. It progressed at a nice slow pace as these characters slowly learned to depend on each other. I loved the dialogue when the characters would discuss their feelings. The one main sex scene was so well done. It wasn’t steamy but it felt like a love scene not just sex. There was so much emotion behind it, it actually blew me away a bit. I think it would actually go into my top ten favorite intimate scenes in lesfic. I usually reserve them for super steamy scenes, but this was just so well written I won’t forget it anytime soon.

There are a few tiny negatives. There were a few times that I had to suspend disbelief a bit. Or I thought the time period didn’t match up perfectly with what the characters knew. This take place (if I remember correctly) 200 years after the war that really ended civilization as we know it. I think if Dawney would have cut that time in half, everything would have lined up so much better. But in the grand scheme of things, these complaints were so tiny they didn’t affect my love for the book at all.

The book is long, but in a good way. The pace of the book hardly even slowed down enough for me to catch my breath. I soon found myself staring at my Kindle’s percentage complete, wishing it would slow down. But it ended and I was left knowing this book would stay with me for a long time. It ended and I knew I was going to write one of my rarer full five star reviews. When a book is this damn good, it’s hard to do it justice in a review. If you are a post-apocalyptic fan, an adventure/action fan, I absolutely recommend this. I can’t wait to see what Dawney puts out next.

An ARC was given to me by YLVA, for a honest review.