Category Archives: Rated B

Review: The Girl in Times Square by Paullina Simons

Title: The Girl in Times Square by Paullina Simons
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Mystery
Length: 608 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

International bestselling author Paullina Simons delivers a riveting novel about a young woman whose search for her missing friend turns into a life-shattering odyssey.

The truth will change her forever.

Living in bustling New York City, Lily Quinn has plenty of distractions and is struggling to finish college as well as pay her rent. But that all pales in comparison when Amy, her best friend and roommate, disappears without a trace.

Spencer O’Malley, a cynical NYPD detective assigned to Amy’s case, immediately captures Lily’s attention. Though he is wary and wrestling with his own demons, he, too, is irresistibly drawn to Lily.

But fate has more in store for Lily than she ever expected. As she looks deeper into the mystery surrounding Amy’s disappearance, Lily finds answers she never imagined she’d find—answers that challenge everything she knows about her own life.

Lily’s search puts her on a collision course with tragedy and love, and gives her a glimpse into the abyss that swallowed her friend . . . until she faces a final confrontation with her own life-changing destiny.

Review:

Weighing in at hefty 608 pages, The Girl in Times Square by Paullina Simons is a lengthy, occasionally meandering novel, that  begins as a mystery then turns into a family drama and toward the end, a romance.  A solid read, but some readers might lose patience with the time it takes to resolve the multiple story arcs.

At twenty-four, Lily Quinn is broke and struggling to complete her degree when her roommate, Amy McFadden, goes missing.  Lily is bit aimless and drifting, easy to manipulate and a somewhat fanciful young woman who is often her own worst enemy as she ignores problems instead of dealing with them. She is also amazingly unhelpful when missing persons Detective Spencer O’Malley questions her about Amy after she is reported missing by her mother. Lily is not an easy character to like or empathize with as she faces some very daunting issues that extend behind her missing roommate.

Spencer O’Malley is a crack detective whose personal life is full of tragedy.  He is closemouthed about his private life but very dedicated to his career. Despite spending his days immersed in the darker side of life, Spencer is kind, caring and compassionate. He has a pretty good idea what happened to Amy and he also has a viable suspect to investigate. But he is in for an uphill battle to find out the truth as he quickly discovers that Lily’s answers are vague and without much substance and his prime suspect uses his position to try to ruin O’Malley’s career.

Lily’s family is dysfunctional and every member is somewhat self-absorbed. Her mother is a raging alcoholic and her father is the worst type of enabler who is miserable in his marriage yet he cannot bring himself to walk away. Her sisters are selfish and completely disinterested in Lily’s life until they stand to gain something from her. Lily is close to her much older brother Andrew, but as she comes to discover, he is not the man she thinks he is. Lily’s grandma is the best of the lot but even she has a few idiosyncrasies and quirks.

Although it takes a while to hit its stride, The Girl in Times Square is an interesting novel but is does suffer a bit of an identity crisis due to the numerous story arcs and multiple genres.  The mystery surrounding Amy’s disappearance is the most compelling part of the novel, but for a good portion of the story, it takes a backseat to the unfolding drama with Lily and her broken family. Despite his flaws (and maybe because of them?) Spencer is the most likable and realistic character in the book.  With unexpected twists, shocking turns and a bit of melodrama, Paullina Simons wraps up the novel’s various storylines and brings the novel to a decent conclusion. However, there are a few threads left dangling since the fate of one of the characters remains unknown.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mystery, Paullina Simons, Rated B, Review, The Girl in Times Square, William Morrow Paperbacks, Women's Fiction

Review: Bury the Past by James L’Etoile

Title: Bury the Past by James L’Etoile
Detective Penley Mystery Series Book Two
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

How do you stop a killer who’s already behind bars?

Sacramento Police Detectives John Penley and Paula Newberry are enlisted to investigate a case involving the trafficking of stolen street drugs. But they quickly find it’s more difficult than they first imagined when the crime is being committed by a group of corrupt cops undermining the system.

That’s not the only wrench thrown at Penley and Newberry, however, as Sherman, the leader of the group, is orchestrating murders against those who testified against him. He turns the lens onto Newberry, who begins to receive blame and as the political pressure mounts, it’s clear someone has to pay for the crimes. And it comes down to Newberry or Sherman.

With a plot full of twisty, hairpin runs and heart-pounding action, Jim L’Etoile’s Bury the Past is a riveting follow-up to the first in the Detective Penley mysteries, At What Cost.

Review:

Bury the Past is a fast paced mystery with a complex storyline about police corruption and revenge. This second installment in James L’Etoile’s  Detective Penley Mystery series can easily be read as a standalone.

Penley is one of the few cops who do no not have a problem with the fact that his current partner, Detective Paula Newberry, worked in Internal Affairs before her current assignment in homicide. One of her most prominent cases involved exposing major police corruption on a narcotics task force. Several cops from this case begin turning up dead just as former Sheriff department officer Charles Sherman is released from prison after his conviction is overturned.  This puts Newberry in the crosshairs of District Attorney Linda Clarke who makes it clear that she is convinced Paula is responsible for the murders.  With only a short span of time, Penley and Newberry are desperately attempting to show that Sherman is framing Paula for the murders. Will they find the evidence they need to bolster their case despite the fact that Sherman was behind bars when murders started?

Despite the ever increasing amount of evidence to the contrary, Penley has absolutely no doubt that Newberry is not a killer. Together, they frantically try to find the evidence they need to not only clear her name, but prove that Sherman masterminded the plot.  An equally daunting task is showing the evidence recovered at the crime scenes has been planted in an effort to frame Paula. With Sherman quickly evading their attempts to keep him under surveillance, Paula and John immediately run up against the white supremacists that Sherman befriended behind bars. With Paula under investigation by Internal Affairs and increasing pressure from DA Cooke, the crime fighting duo turn up the heat on Sherman’s former associates in an attempt to uncover the truth but a shocking revelation turns the entire case upside down.

Bury the Past is an outstanding police procedural that has an clever but slightly unrealistic storyline.  Penley and Newberry are well-developed characters who are very easy like despite their flaws and quirks. With plenty of cunning twists and turns, James L’Etoile keeps this readers on the edge of their seats as the novel wends its way to an action-packed, exciting conclusion.  A wonderful addition to the Detective Penley Mystery series that old and new fans are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under Bury the Past, Crooked Lane Books, Detective Penley Mystery Series, James L'Etoile, Mystery, Rated B, Review

Review: Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon

Title: Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon
Belfast McGrath Series Book Three
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 315 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Maggie McConnon rings in Christmas in Bel, Boiok, and Scandal, the third adventure for everybody’s favorite Irish-American culinary artist turned amateur sleuth.

Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor—and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel’s best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster’s Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel’s burning desire to find out what happened to Amy—and whether she may still be alive—is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little…and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought.

Review:

Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon is an entertaining cozy mystery with a fantastic cast of delightful characters and a perplexing missing person’s case to solve. This third installment in the Belfast McGrath Mystery series can be read as a standalone.

A photo in a newspaper gives Bel McGrath a starting place in her search to find her long missing best friend, Amy Mitchell.  Amy went missing right after their graduation and the case has cast a long shadow over Bel since many of the townspeople believe she was involved in her friend’s disappearance. Without thinking, Bel impetuously rushes to the small town  where she hopes to learn more about the now defunct commune that might have been a haven for Amy. Coffee shop owner Tweed Blazer quickly shuts down when Bel begins asking questions but she remains undeterred as she follows every lead she uncovers. Will Bel finally uncover the truth about Amy’s disappearance?

Bel is still trying to make peace with the unexpected detour her life has taken in the past few years. Never expecting to return home, she is making the best of her position as the chef at her parents’ special events and wedding business. She is also still smarting over the painful breakup with her ex-boyfriend, Brendan Joyce, and her former high school boyfriend Kevin’s recent marriage to the police chief’s (in Bel’s eyes) perfect daughter Mary Ann.

Undeterred when her investigation into Amy’s disappearance hits a snag, Bel, along with her new friend, Alison Bergeron, doggedly continue following the scant clues they manage to unearth. She stumbles onto more proof that Amy might still be alive, but she is frustrated when she quickly hits a dead end. Bel is certain Tweed knows more than he is telling but before he can tell her everything he knows, someone tries to make sure his long buried information remains hidden.

Bel, Book, and Scandal is an intriguing cozy mystery that is quite humorous due to Bel’s snarky sense of humor and hilarious one-liners. Bel’s attempts to uncover new evidence about Amy’s whereabouts end in disappointment but she remains hopeful she will find her long missing friend.  Maggie McConnon brings this third installment in the Belfast McGrath Mystery series to a twist-filled and action packed conclusion.

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Filed under Bel Book and Scandal, Belfast McGrath Series, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Paperbacks

Review: Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman

Title: Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman
Hidden Justice Series Book Two
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Romance, Suspense, Mystery
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The police say the woman was a murderer. Emilie Wesley knows they can’t be talking about her client . . .  can they?

To the world it seems obvious: Kaylene Adams killed her daughter and then was shot by police. Attorney Emilie Wesley knows a different story: Kaylene would never hurt anyone and was looking for a way out of a controlling, abusive relationship. Her death shakes Emilie’s belief that she can make a difference for women in violent marriages. Self-doubt plagues her as she struggles to continue her work in the wake of the tragedy.

Reid Billings thought he knew his sister—right up until he learned how she died. He discovers a letter from Kaylene begging him to fight for custody of her daughters if anything should happen to her. No attorney in her right mind would support an uncle instead of the father in a custody case, but Kaylene’s letter claims Emilie Wesley will help him.

Thrown together in the race to save Kaylene’s surviving daughter, Emily and Reid pursue the constantly evasive truth. If they can hang on to hope together, can they save a young girl—and find a future for themselves in the process?

Review:

Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman is an intriguing legal mystery with a gentle undercurrent of faith. This second installment in the Hidden Justice series easily stands on its own.

Emilie Wesley is a lawyer who is employed at a foundation that helps women escape from abusive relationships. She is worried when her client, Kaylene Adams, does not show up for a court appearance for an order of protection but nothing can prepare her for the reason Kaylene missed their appointment. Emilie is absolutely stunned by the news Kaylene is dead and authorities suspect she shot both her daughters, killing one and critically wounding the other,  before turning the gun on herself. Emilie knows Kaylene would never do anything to harm her children so she is very eager to help when her client’s younger brother, Reid Billings, requests her help in gaining custody of his niece, Kinley.

Emilie is quite shaken and she has a bit of a career crisis in the aftermath of Kaylene’s death. She is having difficulty concentrating as she tries to figure out whether or not she might have overlooked crucial information in her former client’s case. Her friends are aware of her distress and they quickly rally around her and offer unsolicited advice about her career. Adding to her worries is Emilie’s fear that her stalker is back but she  is having difficulty getting anyone to take her concerns seriously.

In the aftermath of his sister’s death,  Reid feels incredibly guilty that he let his professional aspirations prevent him from spending more time with her and her family. Stunned by his brother-in-law Robert’s demand that he stay away from him and Kinley, Reid cannot help but fear for his niece’s safety. After stumbling onto a worrying letter written to him by Kaylene, he ramps up his efforts to gain custody of Kinley. He immediately requests Emilie’s help since she has intimate knowledge of what was going on in his sister’s life.

Emilie and Reid are well aware that gaining custody of Kinley is a long shot, but fearing what will happen if she remains with Robert, they immediately begin investigating the shootings.  They leave no stone unturned as they question neighbors and Reid’s oldest niece’s friends. Reid uncovers information that supports Emilie’s assertion that Kaylene was planning to escape her marriage with her daughters but they have yet to find definitive proof that Robert was abusing her. Will they find the evidence they need before Kinley is released from the hospital into her father’s care?

The romantic element of the storyline is somewhat understated but there is no mistaking the attraction between Emilie and Reid. Emilie is also very aware that she must take care not to blur the lines between her professional and personal lives. However, Reid and Emilie do enjoy a few sweetly romantic dates during their investigation.

Imperfect Justice is a even but somewhat slow placed legal mystery. The characters are interesting  and well-developed but the storyline is a little busy due to multiple story arcs. The domestic violence aspect of the plot is realistically and sensitively depicted. Cara Putnam brings the novel to a somewhat exciting and satisfactory conclusion.  Old and new fans will enjoy this latest addition to the Hidden Justice series.

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Filed under Cara Putnam, Contemporary, Hidden Justice Series, Imperfect Justice, Inspirational, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Romance, Suspense, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: Deadly Dance by Hilary Bonner

Title: Deadly Dance by Hilary Bonner
DI David Vogel Series Book One
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 256 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

This compelling novel of psychological suspense is the first in an intriguing new series featuring Bristol detective, DI David Vogel.

The discovery of the partially-clothed body of a teenage girl in the heart of Bristol’s red light district indicates a tragic yet familiar scenario. But this marks the start of a baffling murder investigation where nothing is as it first appears. Fourteen-year-old Melanie Cooke told her mother she was visiting a school friend. Who was she really going to meet?

Detective Inspector David Vogel is led towards three very different principal protagonists, each of whom grows increasingly chilling. But are they what they seem? And is any one of them capable of murder?

A darkly complex secret lies behind Melanie’s death – and its ultimate revelation will shock Vogel and his team to the core.

Review:

The first installment in the DI David Vogel series, Deadly Dance by Hilary Bonner is a dark yet compelling police procedural.

DI David Vogel is affected more than usual when he is assigned to investigate the death of fourteen year old Melanie Cooke since he has a daughter who is the same age as the victim. He does not let this affect his investigation but he is definitely determined to bring her killer to justice. Like many murder inquiries, he and his team, DC Dawn Saslow and DS John Willis, begin with the victim’s family. Although stepfather Jim Fisher has an alibi, troubling information almost immediately comes to light. Melanie’s father, Terry Cooke, is incredibly distraught at the news but he co-operates fully with the investigation. However, DC Willis zeroes in on Terry as a suspect right from the beginning.  Vogel is not convinced Terry murdered his daughter, but will the evidence prove Willis is on the right track?

Interspersed with David’s investigations are chapters  written from three very different individuals. Saul desperately wants to meet and marry and turns to an online marriage website to find a bride, but will he find a woman to share his life with? Leo is gay but he is so deeply closeted he turns to hook-ups to satisfy his desires but will he change his mind after he becomes infatuated with a one-night stand? Al is a pedophile with voyeuristic tendencies but will he continue to resist acting on his fantasies?  While these three men initially do not seem to have any connection to Melanie’s murder, will this change once Vogel delves deeper into the investigation?

Deadly Dance is an intriguing but rather slow-paced mystery. The investigation into Melanie’s murder is a straight-forward murder inquiry and Vogel is a by the book detective inspector who has keen instincts and a sharp intellect.  The chapters written from Saul, Al and Leo’s perspectives are somewhat explicit but Al’s exploits are particularly difficult to read.  These chapters are not intended to be titillating and none of their scenes are gratuitous but the subject matter is not for the faint of heart.  Readers will most immediately guess the identity of Melanie’s killer, but Hilary Bonner still brings the novel to a jaw-dropping, action packed conclusion. The DI David Vogel  series is off to an outstanding beginning with this first clever installment.

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Filed under Contemporary, Deadly Dance, DI David Vogel Series, Hilary Bonner, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Severn House Publishers, Suspense

Review: Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

Title: Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan
From Manhattan With Love Series Book Six
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Sarah Morgan is back with more love and laughter in her acclaimed series, From Manhattan With Love, which Publishers Weekly calls a “sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic experience.” 

Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family. But when dog walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list—dealing with Madi’s temporary dog sitter, gruff doctor Ethan Black, and their very unexpected chemistry.

Ethan thought he was used to chaos, until he met Madi—how can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple—he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide twenty-four-hour care. But there’s nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel.

Ethan’s kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all—letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?

Review:

Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan is a heartwarming novel of love and new beginnings. Although this newest release is the sixth in the From Manhattan with Love series, it can be read as a standalone.

With both of her siblings finding love, Harriet Knight knows it is time for her start fighting her own battles. In order to do just that, she devises a “Challenge Harriet” plan to help her conquer her fears (of which there are quite a few).  Since she has always been shy and lacking self confidence, Harriet’s twin sister and brother protected during their tumultuous and dysfunctional childhood and this habit has continued well into adulthood.  She continues to avoid confrontation and situations that make her uncomfortable, but Harriet knows if she is to find happiness, she has to be the person in control of her life.  Although a little naive, Harriet is a kind, compassionate woman with a big heart and a soft spot for dogs. Which is exactly why she finds it so difficult to say no when Dr. Ethan Black asks her to temporarily stay with him while he is pet sitting his sister’s rambunctious dog.

With a demanding career as an trauma doctor in the ER, Ethan puts in long hours so he does not have much of a personal life. He also discovered early on that he must shut down his emotions in order to effectively deal with the drama that comes with some his patients. This need for emotional distance coupled with his failed marriage have led him to the conclusion that he should not be in a relationship. Ethan is quick to surmise that Harriet is not one for casual dalliances, so he tries to tries to ignore his attraction to the very charming dog walker.

Their acquaintance is off to a bit of a rocky beginning due to Ethan’s angry outburst and his uncomfortable questions about a very personal aspect of Harriet’s life.  His insistence she stay with him to help take care of his sister’s dog is also rather heavy-handed and insensitive due to her insecurities.  However, Harriet is unexpectedly feisty when her back is against the wall and she does not allow her discomfort to stop her from dealing with these challenges. Ethan also learns a lot about of himself when she calls him on his behavior. Harriet is surprisingly open to exploring their mutual desire and she has the self-respect to walk away when her emotional needs are not being met. With the future of their relationship in his hands, will Ethan find the courage to admit his feelings for her?

With an adorable canine, a gutsy heroine and a gruff hero, Moonlight Over Manhattan is an uplifting holiday romance.  Harriet and Ethan are endearing  characters who bring out the best in each other despite their rather inauspicious beginning. The romance between them is heartfelt and moves at a realistic pace. The inevitable conflict that threatens their future is believable and thankfully, short-lived. Old and new fans are sure to enjoy this latest addition to Sarah Morgan’s delightful From Manhattan with Love series.

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Filed under Contemporary, From Manhattan with Love Series, Harlequin, HQN Books, Moonlight Over Manhattan, Rated B, Review, Romance, Sarah Morgan