Category Archives: Rated C+

Review: Agent in Place by Mark Greaney

Title: Agent in Place by Mark Greaney
Gray Man Series Book Seven
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: 528 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


The Gray Man is back in another nonstop international thriller from the #1 New York Timesbestselling coauthor of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels.

Fresh off his first mission back with the CIA, Court Gentry secures what seems like a cut-and-dried contract job: A group of expats in Paris hires him to kidnap the mistress of Syrian dictator Ahmed Azzam to get intel that could destabilize Azzam’s regime.

Court delivers Bianca Medina to the rebels, but his job doesn’t end there. She soon reveals that she has given birth to a son, the only heir to Azzam’s rule–and a potent threat to the Syrian president’s powerful wife.

Now, to get Bianca’s cooperation, Court must bring her son out of Syria alive. With the clock ticking on Bianca’s life, he goes off the grid in a free-fire zone in the Middle East–and winds up in the right place at the right time to take a shot at bringing one of the most brutal dictatorships on earth to a close…


Agent in Place by Mark Greaney is an action packed spy novel starring ex-CIA black ops operative Court Gentry. Although this latest release is the seventh installment in the Gray Man series, it can be read as a standalone.

Court Gentry has repaired his relationship with the CIA but his latest case is a freelance job that takes him deep into the Syrian crisis. Gentry is thrust into danger when he is hired by Rima and Tarek  Halaby to kidnap Spanish model Bianca Medina while she is in Paris. Bianca is more than just a model; she is the mistress of Syrian President Ahmed al-Azzam. Barely escaping with their lives, Gentry delivers Bianca to the Halabys who try to convince him to continue working for them as they continue their efforts to end the civil war in Syria. Court initially refuses their request but once he learns that Bianca has a baby with al-Azzam who is being held hostage in Syria, he agrees to rescue the baby from the ruthless leader.  Will Gentry successfully complete his latest mission?

Gentry is essentially on his own as he goes undercover with a group of mercenaries in order to the border into Syria. Once he arrives in country, he runs into danger at every turn.  When Court uncovers information about the Syrian president that no one else is aware of, he and a handful of trusted cohorts undertake an almost impossible mission that could have major international repercussions if they successfully carry out their plan.

The plot is somewhat convoluted and despite plenty of action, the pacing is extremely slow. The cast of characters is plentiful and trying to keep track of each of them is a herculean task.  Everyone seems to have an agenda, no one is trustworthy and the situation in Syria is complex.   The good guys face an uphill battle as they are continually double crossed which leaves them facing incredibly dangerous situations.

Agent in Place features a topical storyline that is relevant to current political events occurring in Syria.  Court Gentry is a force to be reckoned with in this newest installment in Mark Greaney’s Gray Man series. While not quite as enjoyable as previous novels in the series, old and new fans will enjoy this adrenaline-fueled adventure.

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Filed under Agent in Place, Berkley, Contemporary, Gray Man Series, Mark Greaney, Rated C+, Review, Suspense

Review: Watch Me by Jody Gehrman

Title: Watch Me by Jody Gehrman
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


For fans of dark and twisty psychological thrillers, Watch Me is a riveting novel of suspense about how far obsession can go.

Kate Youngblood is disappearing. Muddling through her late 30s as a creative writing professor at Blackwood college, she’s dangerously close to never being noticed again. The follow-up novel to her successful debut tanked. Her husband left her for a woman ten years younger. She’s always been bright, beautiful, independent and a little wild, but now her glow is starting to vanish. She’s heading into an age where her eyes are less blue, her charm worn out, and soon no one will ever truly look at her, want to know her, again.

Except one.

Sam Grist is Kate’s most promising student. An unflinching writer with razor-sharp clarity who gravitates towards dark themes and twisted plots, his raw talent is something Kate wants to nurture into literary success. But he’s not there solely to be the best writer. He’s been watching her. Wanting her. Working his way to her for years.

As Sam slowly makes his way into Kate’s life, they enter a deadly web of dangerous lies and forbidden desire. But how far will his fixation go? And how far will she allow it?

A gripping novel exploring intense obsession and illicit attraction, Jody Gehrman introduces a world where what you desire most may be the most dangerous thing of all.


Watch Me by Jody Gehrman is a tangled tale of obsession and murder.

Kate Youngblood is in her late thirties and still reeling from her recent-ish divorce. She is a college professor struggling to make tenure and a published author whose latest novel is rejected by her agent. With her best friend, Zoe, about to give birth, Kate is feeling left behind and unnoticed by the opposite sex. Needless to say, she is quite flattered by the attention of one of her students, Sam Grist. Realizing she would be committing professional suicide if she acts on their mutual attraction, she tries to keep the intense twenty-two year old at arm’s length. However, unbeknownst to Kate, Sam has been quietly and carefully stalking her for quite some time and his obsession could turn deadly if she thwarts the plan he envisions for their future.

Sam is quite charming and oozes sex appeal. But Kate notices a few less than savory aspects of his personality that do not initially alarm her.  She is astonished by his poise and maturity and her low self esteem leaves her very vulnerable to his attention. Kate is a bit of an annoying character who whines a lot about her life yet she is unwilling to do anything to change her circumstances.

Sam is sly, cunning and deeply troubled. He has been obsessed with Kate for years and  he will do anything to make his intricate fantasy about their future together a reality. Sam well aware that he is quite different from everyone else and he has made a very conscious effort to mask his inadequacies.

Written from alternating points of view,  Watch Me has an interesting storyline but it is incredibly slow moving and somewhat repetitive. None of the characters are overly appealing and for the most part, they are a little under developed. Sam’s past is nominally more interesting than Kate’s but both characters lack depth (which is maybe the point?). Sam’s obsession with Kate is quite creepy and the way he stalks her is chilling. Kate is incredibly self-absorbed and it takes her a little too long to clue into the fact that someone is paying a little too much attention to her. And her reaction once she does realize is eyebrow raising (but not in a good way).  Jody Gehrman is a gifted storyteller whose latest mystery is  intriguing but never quite measures up to its potential.


Filed under Contemporary, Jody Gehrman, Mystery, Rated C+, Review, St Martin's Griffin, Suspense, Watch Me

Review: Can’t Forget You by Rachel Lacey

Title: Can’t Forget You by Rachel Lacey
Risking It All Series Book Three
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 353 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley



Jessica Flynn can’t wait to buy up that patch of unspoiled North Carolina woodland next door and expand her spa. What could be more sensuous than a hot-tub soak under the stars? Jessica would love to bask in the romantic view herself-but first she needs to find the right man to join her in this fantasy. Back in high school, she thought that was the dark and brooding Mark Dalton. But then he left to join the Special Forces, and when he returned to town, it felt like their teenage love affair had never even happened.

Mark Dalton has his eye on the same property for his own business. Yet there’s something he wants to have even more. Because Jessica is sweeter than he remembered, and he’s finding it hard to resist his attraction to the competition. When they finally find themselves alone, deep in the forest, nature can’t help but run a little wild. But if she ever finds out what he’s been hiding all these years, she may never forgive him…


Can’t Forget You by Rachel Lacey is a wonderful second chance at love romance between former high school sweethearts. This third installment in the Risking it All series features Mark Dalton (le sigh) and Jessica Flynn and can be read as a standalone.

Mark and Jessica have avoided each other as much as possible ever since he returned to Haven to go into business with his best friends, Ethan Hunter and Ryan Blake. Of the three men, Mark is the most damaged by his childhood and he is the epitome of the strong, silent type. Intensely private, Mark does not reveal much about his childhood, the years he has been away or his Army career.  Although he has no regrets about moving back to Haven or going into business with his friends, Mark still struggles with feeling like he does not belong.  After he continues to cross paths with Jessica, Mark realizes his feelings for her have not changed over the years but will he be able to overcome his fears that he is not relationship material?

Jessica is still pretty hurt and angry over Mark’s decision to leave her behind when he joined the Army.  Despite sharing friends in common, she has been fairly successful in avoiding him but when their business interests end up overlapping, she has no choice but to spend time with him. When he continues to show his caring and compassionate side while she is going through a difficult time, Jessica tentatively agrees to explore their simmering attraction. Eventually deciding to take their relationship public, will they finally find their happily ever after?

Despite his emotional baggage, Mark is a very kind-hearted and affectionate man.  He finds it difficult to discuss his problems and when he is stressed or worried, he needs time alone to process his emotions.  Due to how their romance ended years earlier, Jessica wants full transparency from him which is a reasonable request  when it comes to issues that pertain directly to their relationship. When it comes to other aspects of Mark’s life, this is a bit of an unrealistic and unfair expectation since everyone is entitled to their privacy. He should also have the choice to decide what he wants to share and he should also be able to decide when to share this info. This becomes a problem when Jessica stumbles across information that has NOTHING to do with her or their relationship but in her opinion, she feels like he should have divulged this to her. She then blindsides Mark with her discovery and proceeds to issue an unfair ultimatum that will either make or break their relationship.  This is the “big misunderstanding” that becomes the pivotal moment for their future and although it was wrapped up fairly quickly, this entire situation felt entirely unfair to Mark since it is tantamount to emotional blackmail by Jessica.

There was one other part of the story that did not make a good impression. Mark is an intensely private person so it felt like a bit of betrayal when Jessica discussed extremely intimate details about him with her friends. If they were having a casual fling, it would be slightly more acceptable to disclose this information but since Jessica is hoping for a long term relationship with him, these revelations were very inappropriate.

Despite a few flaws, Can’t Forget You is a sweet yet very sensual romance.  Mark has been a bit of an enigma throughout the Risking It All series so getting to know him on a more personal level is an absolute joy but also a bit heartbreaking once the truth about his past is revealed . Jessica has many good points but she treated Mark very unfairly when she discovered unexpected information about his past. Mark and Jessica have an explosive chemistry and their sex scenes are blazing hot.  Readers of contemporary romances will enjoy this newest release from Rachel Lacey.

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Filed under Can't Forget You, Contemporary, Forever, Rachel Lacey, Rated C+, Review, Risking It All Series, Romance

Review: Poison by Galt Niederhoffer

Title: Poison by Galt Niederhoffer
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Cass and Ryan Connor have achieved family nirvana. With three kids between them, a cat and a yard, a home they built and feathered, they seem to have the Modern Family dream. Their family, including Cass’ two children from previous relationships, has recently moved to Portland —a new start for their new lives. Cass and Ryan have stable, successful careers, and they are happy. But trouble begins almost imperceptibly. First with small omissions and white lies that happen daily in any marital bedroom. They seem insignificant, but they are quickly followed by a series of denials and feints that mushroom and then cyclone in menace.

With life-or-death stakes and irreversible consequences, Poison is a chilling and irresistible reminder that the closest bond designed to protect and provide for each other and for children can change in a minute.


Poison by Galt Niederhoffer is an inventive domestic mystery about a woman who is being gaslighted by her husband.

At first glance, Cass and Ryan Connor have the perfect marriage.  The couple relocated to a suburb of Seattle with Cass’s two children from her first marriage, seven year old Pete and ten year old Alice, along with their son, two year old Sam. The children adore Ryan, who is spontaneous and playful, but Cass finds these traits a bit annoying since he sometimes disrupts the kids’ routines. Ryan is the family’s main breadwinner but Cass also works outside the home as a college professor. Despite their outward happy appearance, their marriage has deep cracks that widen after Cass begins to suspect Ryan is having an affair.

Cass is an award winning journalist who sometimes yearns for the career she willingly gave up to raise her children after her marriage to Ryan. She is still strongly attracted to Ryan and even after she catches him in a lie, this never changes. Cass is stunned by the sudden changes in Ryan’s behavior but even in the aftermath of a shocking threat, she remains under his spell. As the tension mounts between them and her health rapidly deteriorates, Cass gradually begins to realize she has completely ignored rather unsavory aspects of Ryan’s personality.

As her marriage takes a dark turn, Cass becomes more isolated and rather helpless as she becomes a victim of both Ryan and the legal system. Her judgment is seriously skewed as she puts her trust in the wrong people then makes questionable decisions that endanger not only herself but her children. With her situation becoming increasingly dire, Cass finds herself in the crosshairs of a diabolical man who will do absolutely anything to win.

While the plot is unique, Poison is a slow-moving novel that quickly becomes bogged down in long passages of wordy narration that lacks much action or dialogue. Galt Niederhoffer brilliantly highlights societal issues regarding crimes against women and how they are often victimized as they attempt to seek justice.   Readers will have to suspend disbelief as the novel wends its way to a somewhat dissatisfying and abrupt conclusion that does not completely wrap up all of the dangling threads.

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Filed under Contemporary, Galt Niederhoffer, Mystery, Poison, Rated C+, Review, St Martin's Press, Suspense

Review: Back in the Game by Erin Kern

Title: Back in the Game by Erin Kern
Champion Valley Series Book Two
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley



Stella Davenport wasn’t made for small-town life. Sure, teaching ballet in Blanco Valley, Colorado, is great, but she longs for the chance to perform in a big city. Stella swore she’d never let anything get in the way of her dream-until sexy, broad-shouldered Brandon West walks back into her life. Stella is determined to resist him, even if arguing with Brandon is sexier than any foreplay.

For Brandon, it’s always been just him and his son, Matt. Knowing that love only leads to heartbreak, he isn’t looking to expand his family any time soon. Stella, with her long, gorgeous legs and infectious laugh, is a breath of fresh air he didn’t even know he’d been missing. But when she’s offered her dream job in Chicago, will he be willing to put his heart on the line?


Back in the Game by Erin Kern is a somewhat angsty romance between two protagonists who are both carrying A LOT of baggage. This second installment in the Champion Valley series can be read as a standalone but the failed date between the couple in this outing occurred in the first book in the series.

Respective events from both Stella Davenport and Brandon West’s pasts continue to affect them well into adulthood. Stella’s childhood with her flighty and inattentive mother and a traumatic event that occurred when she was a teenager have left her with claustrophobia and anxiety. Following a career ending injury and a shocking break up, she moved to Colorado where she  has built a thriving business as a ballet instructor. Although it has been a year since Stella’s disastrous date with Brandon, her attraction to him burns hotter than ever.

Single dad Brandon is struggling with his son Matt’s plans to leave Colorado after graduation to attend college and play football in Texas. He is desperately hoping Matt avoids some of the missteps he made at the same age so Brandon is a little overprotective of his son.  With little time, energy or desire to date since his long ago divorce, he finds it impossible to stay away from Stella but will his unresolved issues from his relationship with his ex-wife prevent him from giving a relationship with Stella chance?

Stella and Brandon are interesting characters but readers will have to suspend disbelief to enjoy their romance. They have not spent much time in each other’s company yet, with just one glance, Brandon seems to magically “know” about Stella’s struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. While their banter is initially amusing, it becomes extremely frustrating since they both use humor and sarcasm to avoid discussing their respective issues which gives their scenes together a superficial feel. Their inner monologues also lack much depth since they mainly focus on their sizzling hot desire for each other.  They do not date in the traditional sense because their interactions mainly consist of accidental meetings around town. Overall, Stella and Brandon’s romance feels superficial and somewhat rushed due to the reliance on contrived encounters instead of actually dating. It also does not help that the novel takes place over a rather short amount of time.

Although the romance element in Back in the Game is underwhelming, both Stella and Brandon undergo tremendous character growth. Brandon’s son Matt is brilliantly developed and he manages to steal every scene he appears in.  Erin Kern brings the novel to a heartwarming conclusion that will satisfy old and new fans of the Champion Valley series.

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Filed under Champion Valley Series, Contemporary, Erin Kelly, Forever, Rated C+, Review, Romance

Review: Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra

Title: Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


What happens when ambition trumps the truth?

A town reeling in the wake of tragedy

An arsonist is on the loose in Colmstock, Australia, most recently burning down the town’s courthouse and killing a young boy who was trapped inside..

An aspiring journalist desperate for a story

The clock is ticking for Rose Blakey. With nothing but rejections from newspapers piling up, her job pulling beers for cops at the local tavern isn’t nearly enough to cover rent. Rose needs a story—a big one.

Little dolls full of secrets

In the weeks after the courthouse fire, precise porcelain replicas of Colmstock’s daughters begin turning up on doorsteps, terrifying parents and testing the limits of the town’s already fractured police force.

Rose may have finally found her story. But as her articles gain traction and the boundaries of her investigation blur, Colmstock is seized by a seething paranoia. Soon, no one is safe from suspicion. And when Rose’s attention turns to the mysterious stranger living in the rooms behind the tavern, neighbor turns on neighbor and the darkest side of self-preservation is revealed.


Set in a slowly dying town in Australia, Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra is an intriguing mystery that begins with arson and quickly moves to the creepy porcelain dolls being left for the townspeople’s children.

Rose Blakey’s mom and stepfather are forcing her to move out of the family home and she is counting on a cadetship with a newspaper to help her realize her dream of becoming a journalist. In the meantime, her hometown of Colmstock is plagued by a series of fires and unfortunately, the latest fire claimed the life of thirteen year old Ben Riley.  When a porcelain doll is delivered to her home that bears an eerie resemblance to her younger sister Laura, Rose is shocked to discover a few other children have also received similar gifts.  In an order to jumpstart her journalist career, Rose writes a sensational story that is published by a tabloid. Under intense pressure, the police investigation fails to uncover any leads. Rose’s subsequent articles ratchet up the town’s fears but they lead to unintended consequences.

Rose and her best friend Mia are working dead end jobs at the local tavern. While Mia seems resigned to remaining in Colmstock and marrying a local, Rose is ambitious and cannot wait to leave the economically depressed town behind. Growing desperate following numerous rejections for her articles, she eagerly takes advantage of the uneasiness of the town’s residents following young Ben’s death and the deliveries of the frightening dolls. Rose also exploits the cops who visit the tavern to get insider information for her titillating articles. As events begin to spiral out of control, how far is Rose willing to go in her pursuit of her ambitions? How many people will suffer the consequences of her actions?

Little Secrets is a rather slow-moving novel and quite frankly, none of the characters, including Rose, are particularly likable.  The storyline is interesting and the town’s decay, the townspeople’s fears for their safety and their economic struggles are palpable. Despite the unlikable characters, the bleak setting and the story’s slow pace, Anna Snoekstra brings the novel to a twist-filled conclusion that very neatly ties up all the various story arcs loose threads.

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Filed under Anna Snoekstra, Contemporary, Harlequin, Little Secrets, Mira, Mystery, Rated C+, Review, Suspense