Monthly Mini Review
CW: torture/abuse in interrogation
Siren’s Call by CS Harris C Siren’s Call is the fourth and final novella from The Deadly Hours, a multi-author anthology of historical mysteries with at least some romance, connected by a cursed gold pocket watch called “La Sirène”. I had expected (maybe even hoped for) a Sebastian St. Cyr novella but Siren’s Call has completely new characters and is set in June 1944 just after the D-Day landings. Rachel Townsend-Smythe, daughter of a prominent family in New Godrick in Kent, discovers the dead body of her elderly friend, Major Henry Crosby. Rachel is a museum curator, she had hoped to finally convince the major to store some of his treasures (including the watch case which once held La Sirène in safety from potential German bombs. It is apparent the major was murdered and it turns out, the watch case is missing.
Jude Lowe, former spitfire pilot injured in the war turned MI5 agent is in New Godrick with a colleague looking for a spy after the military had intercepted a series of coded messages emanating from the area. Given Major Crosby’s recent duties with the Royal Observation Corps, there may be a connection to the spy and the murder so he ends up investigating.
The mystery itself is well done and an enjoyable story. There is a hint of romance which ends happily but I wouldn’t call this novella a romance. Most of the courtship between Rachel and Jude happens off page and in the space between the mystery being resolved and the brief epilogue. The main thrust of the story is the mystery, which is solved in only a few days. I don’t judge the story by the romance (or lack thereof) however, because I approached the anthology as a series of historical mysteries.
However, there was one aspect to Siren’s Call which gave me pause and it did have an effect on how I viewed the romance as well as the story overall. It’s a mild spoiler so look away know if you don’t want to know.
Monthly Mini Review
Note: Spoilers ahoy
Quiet Man by Kristen Ashley – C/C- I was keen to read Lottie’s story – she’s Jet’s sister (Jet was the heroine in Rock Chick Rescue) and was on the periphery of the Rock Chick group for most of the series. Lottie is the headliner stripper at Smithies and my favourite of the Rock Chick books, hands down, is about another headliner at Smithies – Daisy (Rock Chick Reawakening) so I was keen to see Lottie get her HEA and to revisit the crowd at the fictional strip club in Denver.
One of the things I most loved about Daisy’s book was that Marcus wasn’t bothered by her being a stripper and loved her, breast implants and all, without question and without any reservation. I was hoping for a similar experience in Quiet Man. Unfortunately, Mo was a bit judgey about stripping and it made me a little uncomfortable. They worked it out and Lottie continued to do what she wanted to do but I would have preferred more cheering and less reluctant agreement.
What else? I feel I speak fluent Kristen Ashley but there were sentences in this novella which made zero sense no matter how many times I read them. There were times I could get the gist but other times remained a mystery. There were also numerous typos. The novella really needed better editing.
Lottie has breast implants and is described in the book (often) as having “fantastic tits”. Which, awesome. But I noted that Mo had no interaction with her breasts in any of their sex scenes, with mouth, tongue or hands, until after she had had the implants removed later in the book (her choice, nothing to do with Mo), apart from admiring them while they were boning. So, when Lottie was feeling a bit uncertain about what he thought of her breasts at the reduced size and he only then got busy it jarred and made me a little uncomfortable. Perhaps I’m overthinking.
Monthly Mini Review
Cronin’s Key by NR Walker, narrated by Joel Leslie – C+/B- I picked this up a few months back when it was an Audible Daily Deal. I paid $4.35 for it. NR Walker is an author I’ve read a little of before and one who is featured a number of times in my TBR and I’d heard good things about Joel Leslie too and the sample sounded okay so I bought it.
Alec MacAidan is a detective with the NYPD. He is chasing down a suspect when another man appears in front of him suddenly and is shot by a wooden bullet. The man says something about a key and gives Alec a message and then crumbles to dust. Alec’s colleagues think he’s delusional but then another man – a handsome redhead, walks into the police station. Alec is instantly drawn to him and when the man tells him to put his arms around him, Alec does and they both vanish. The redhead is Cronin, an ancient vampire who has been waiting and searching for his fated mate for more than a thousand years.
Alec is “good with weird” but learning he is the Key the first vampire spoke to him about, learning about the existence of vampires at all and learning that he is the fated mate of one of the most ancient of vampires is all a bit much. Alec is at first quite resistant to the lack of free will inherent in the fated mate thing. I was wondering where it would go but the story didn’t really engage with it despite its promise. In the end Alec just accepted it – and when I say “in the end” the entire book takes place within about a week.
Why I read it: This one is part of the #AudibleRomance package.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Accused of stealing artifacts from a 500-year-old shipwreck, underwater archaeologist Erica Kesling is determined to clear her name. She’s concealed her past and taken a job certain to give her access to the buyer of the missing antiquities. She’s finally closing in on her goal when she’s distracted by a sexy, charismatic intern who makes her want something other than revenge.
But Lee Scott is no intern. He’s looking for the lead conspirator in an international artifact smuggling scheme, and Erica is his prime suspect. He’ll do whatever it takes to win her trust and get her to reveal her secrets, even seduce her.
As Erica and Lee struggle to conceal their real agendas, the one thing they can’t hide is the attraction that burns hot between them. When Erica’s quest puts her life in jeopardy, Lee must choose between old loyalties and a woman he never expected to fall for.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): I believe Concrete Evidence is Rachel Grant’s first published book. Having recently listened to her most recent release, Firestorm, it is obvious that her skills have only grown since then. In some ways this listen, so close on the heels of the other was a strange juxtaposition. Concrete Evidence is somewhat dated already and, while entertaining, romantic and pacey, it is also not to the same calibre as Firestorm (then again, not many books are).
Monthly Mini Review
Carolina Heart by Virginia Kantra – C I’ve been a fan of the Dare Island series since the beginning. I was browsing Amazon recently, idly wondering what Virginia Kantra was doing and whether there might be a new book out soon (not that I could see alas) when I came across Carolina Heart and realised that I had missed it.
The story is novella length and it really would have benefited from some further expansion. Cynthie Lodge is a single mother with two daughters from two different dads. I liked how the author showed this heroine unapologetically as deserving a HEA too. She’s perhaps the kind of woman one might easily judge. Certainly society most often does. So it was a lovely surprise to see her get her own book (albeit a novella) and to be treated sympathetically while being true to her story as well. She was married to the father of her first daughter but her second daughter was the result of a drunken one night stand with a soldier whose name she does not know. She loves her daughters and works hard to support them. She’s studying at community college to be a dental hygienist and holding down a job at night waitressing. She’s decided that she has to be a good example for her girls and has no time for men anymore. She won’t be hooking up or bringing random men through her daughter’s lives.
When she stumbles into the path of Max Lewis, she notes straight away he’s good-looking. But, as a professor of marine biology and a man from a wealthy privileged background, he’s not for her and she knows it. Besides, she’s not getting involved in any relationships. She’s too busy and she has her girls to think of.
Why I read it: I’m a fan of KA Mitchell and I have enjoyed the previous two novellas in the series.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Life doesn’t come with a syllabus.
Ethan knows firsthand that long distance is hard on love. If Wyatt is spending his summer at an internship in Pittsburgh, that’s where Ethan will be. Even if it means inventing his own career goal just to find a reason to stay with his boyfriend. He didn’t expect they’d be living in a hot, crappy apartment, with work schedules that keep them apart more than together.
Wyatt’s past has taught him to keep his head down and focus on living through the day. Loving Ethan has him looking to the future for the first time; he’s just not in as big of a rush to get there. It’s hard to trust in happiness when life has been busy kicking you in the nuts.
Together they’re getting the hang of real life, when a new responsibility for Wyatt throws everything off balance. Ethan’s doing everything he can to prove he’s in this forever, while Wyatt is torn between a future with Ethan and a debt to the past. Too bad they didn’t cover this in college.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): Most of Relationship Status takes place over the course of a summer where Ethan and Wyatt are sharing a room in a small apartment together in Pittsburgh while working and interning. Wyatt is interning at a prestigious engineering firm and Ethan at the ACLU – because there is the vague possibility he might want to be a lawyer but mostly because he wants to be near Wyatt. Between their jobs and internships, there is not a lot of time for them to spend together and when things start off, there is some tension between the pair because of the whole “ships passing in the night” thing.