November 12, 2019

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Marked for Retribution series, Book 3

This is the third book featuring private detective Kate Weller and appears in its ending as if the author will turn to other material for her next novel.

Kate is working for the Nate Price Investigations team but has found the man she wants to marry, and the book opens as she travels to his home to meet his family. At the same time, the Investigators have been invited to spend a restful week on a private island owned by Julian Frazier, a friend of one of the agency’s wealthy clients. They can bring their significant others with them, and of course, Kate has already done so. Unfortunately, a restaurant owned by Eric’s family (her boyfriend) has a key employee who becomes injured, and Eric, with the help of Kate, has decided to wait the few days until the employee returns and then joins Nate Price’s team on the private island.

The Price group has arrived on the island and after a welcome, has been told by Julian that he would like them to play a game of solving a mystery. When they agree, they are advised that Julian’s wife was murdered several years earlier, with the murderer known but not convicted due to key evidence being disallowed by the court. Julian would like the group to find out who it was that paid for his wife’s murder and also the cover-up later. To help out he has paid very well for the individuals that were involved in the original investigation to come to the island and allow themselves to be interviewed by the Price group.

This very well done novel follows the game and investigations that Price’s group is involved with. In spicing up the book, the writing includes the reactions of everyone to the presence of a psychopath who intends to really involve all in the murders of four of those present. Kate and Eric do arrive several days after the others have gone to the island and are involved in a very satisfying ending. Questions are who are the psychopaths and what really happened to Julian’s wife causing her death.

11/19 Paul Lane

ISLAND OF LAST RESORTS by Mary Ellis. Severn House Publishers; First World Publication edition (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0727889348. 224p.


WE MET IN DECEMBER by Rosie Curtis

November 11, 2019

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From the publisher:

Following a year in the life of a twenty-something British woman who falls hard for her London flat mate, this clever, fun, and unforgettable romantic comedy is the perfect feel-good holiday read.

Two people. One house. A year that changes everything. 

Twenty-nine-year-old Jess is following her dream and moving to London. It’s December, and she’s taking a room in a crumbling, but grand, Notting Hill house-share with four virtual strangers. On her first night, Jess meets Alex, the guy sharing her floor, at a Christmas dinner hosted by her landlord. They don’t kiss, but as far as Jess is concerned the connection is clear. She starts planning how they will knock down the wall between them to spend more time together.

But when Jess returns from a two-week Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started dating someone else—beautiful Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into (hell, sharing a bathroom with) the man of her dreams…and the woman of his. 

I generally love anything British, but I didn’t love this book. I felt like I was wading through molasses to get to the end. It was slowwwww. That said, I did like the characters quite a bit, at least the two main characters. The rest were all sort of lumped in together, except for maybe Sophie, Jess’s best friend since childhood. And Jess’s grandma, I loved her.

The synopsis by the publisher doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. Jess moves into the house with a bargain-basement rent because the owner of the house is one of her best friends from “uni” (university,) as they say. Becky has inherited the house, and it is worth millions, as is explained many, many times.

What I did love about this book is that Jess and Alex often take walks around different London neighborhoods, so this book is part travelogue, and I think those pages are the best bits. I learned there is a neighborhood near Notting Hill called Paddington and neighboring that is Little Venice. Which I had never heard of, and neither had my husband – and he thought he had walked all of London when he was there many years ago. In a funny coincidence, my son’s in-laws are staying in London for several months in the Paddington neighborhood, and regularly visit the Starbucks that is in Little Venice! They sent me this picture (thanks, Nancy!) And why is there no word in English for that familial relationship? In Yiddish, they are my machatunim, which Slate questions as well.

Other quibbles – the cover, and the title, and even the synopsis make this seem like it is a Christmas book, which it is not. It is written sort of like a journal, with dates starting each chapter as they move through the year from December to December. It is mostly told from Jess’s viewpoint, but Alex has several chapters as well. I didn’t love that changing point of view, it seems a bit like cheating to me. The author wanted to make sure we understood that both Alex and Jess had feelings for one another even though they date/sleep with other people and don’t declare their feelings for one another until the end. Not really a spoiler since this is a romance, and that is a very common ploy. There is no explicit sex here, just implied (for lack of a better word,) and that didn’t affect me one way or another.

This was just an okay read for me. I did like the characters and the ending, it just took too long to get there.

11/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WE MET IN DECEMBER by Rosie Curtis. Berkley (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1984806093. 352p.




November 10, 2019

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Kate Henderson is a senior MI6 officer who heads up the Russian desk for the British organization.  We meet her at a point where she is acting on a tip that the Russians have a high-level spy working at a level guaranteed that he or she will be privy to important information that could do enormous harm to Great Britain. Acting on the tip received, she is trying to get a young girl to take a job on the yacht that is indicated to be sailing with an important Russian official. If his talks are recorded, it would be possible to ascertain who the spy is in the British government. She uses the ploy with the girl she wants to go onboard the yacht that she and her sister, who are attempting to enter England as immigrants, would be guaranteed their residency.

Unfortunately, the girl’s identity is discovered, and she is murdered. Kate is galvanized into raising the level of the search for the mole in the government. At one point Kate herself is thought of as possibly being the mole along with several other people also suspected of being the spy.

The novel moves to cover her search and reactions of both herself and her assistants. Very well done and very engrossing. One of the features used by Bradby in bringing his characters to life is the descriptions of both Kate and her assistant’s private life. These become real people experiencing strains in their personal lives as well as the pressure of doing their jobs. Kate is married, has two children, a girl who is the complicated age of 15 going on 25 and who has encountered her first boyfriend. The boy’s demeanor is not to Kate nor her husband’s liking. There is also a son looking to find his direction in the world. Kate has the misfortune of having an overbearing mother that never misses the opportunity to downgrade her daughter. Her family is very important to her but so is her job, and the conflicts involved are well handled by the author.

The search for the mole is the crux of the matter, and the reader is kept appraised of the investigation into capturing him along with both the family and her job’s pressures. The ending is well done but would seem to rule out any further novels featuring Kate Henderson and her assistants on the MI6 Russian desk. On the other hand, the treatment by the author of this book would certainly indicate future books done as well as this one.

11/19 Paul Lane

SECRET SERVICE by Tom Bradby. Bantam Press; First Edition, First Printing edition (2019). ISBN 978-1787632035. 368p.



November 9, 2019

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The Rogue Files, Book 5

From the publisher:

From USA Today bestselling author Sophie Jordan comes a scandalously sensual romance in her beloved Rogue Files series.

“Deliciously sexy!”—Sarah MacLean, New York Times bestselling author 

An urgent dilemma…

To save her impoverished family, Marian Langley will become a mistress. But she will not be just any mistress. Marian intends to become so skilled, so coveted, that she can set her own terms, retaining control over her body and her fate. Only one problem remains: finding a tutor…

A scandalous solution…

Other men deprive themselves of pleasure for propriety’s sake. Nathaniel, Duke of Warrington, would much rather be depraved. He slakes his desires with professionals who ask nothing of him but his coin. Marian’s proposal—that he train her without taking her virtue—is an intriguing diversion, until their lessons in seduction spin out of control.

And a most unlikely duchess…

When Marian is blackmailed into engagement by a man she despises, Nate impulsively steals her away. Though he never intended to take a wife, he can’t tolerate the idea of Marian forfeiting her freedom to another. But can he bear to give her what she demands—a real marriage?

Jordan writes fun, sexy books and her latest just proves it. This is a terrific series, and each book truly stands on its own.

To continue my questioning of the line between romance and erotica, this book has way more explicit sex than Down Too Deep, which is labeled as “romantic erotica.” The entire plot of this book is about sex. Marian asks the Duke to teach her how to become the best courtesan possible, and that involves lessons in how to seduce a man and the mechanics of sex as well.

Marian is a strong woman who has been left impoverished by the death of her father. She feels responsible for taking care of her younger siblings and is about to lose everything when she finds a way to save them. Is it a spoiler to say that she doesn’t become a courtesan after all? Probably not, because this is a romance so Marian and her Duke get their happily ever after, and that means marriage. I didn’t make up these rules, I’m just imparting them.

This is a really enjoyable read, as are all the books in this series. If you like to read in order, here you go (with links to my reviews, and yes, I’ve actually read them all, and in order!):

1. While the Duke was Sleeping
2. The Scandal of it All
3. The Duke Buys a Bride
4. This Scot of Mine
5. The Duke’s Stolen Bride


11/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DUKE’S STOLEN BRIDE by Sophie Jordan.  Avon (October 22, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062885432. 368p.



DOWN TOO DEEP by J. Daniels

November 8, 2019

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Dirty Deeds Series, Book 4

From the publisher:

Two single parents and three adorable kids are about to have a summer they’ll never forget in this sexy, heartwarming new novel of the New York Times bestselling series.
Following the sudden death of his wife, Nathan Bell spent nearly two years burying himself in work and neglecting his biggest responsibility: his daughter. Overcome with guilt, he wants to connect with little Marley, but he doesn’t know how to do it alone. And then Jenna Savage throws him a lifeline.
A single mom of twins, Jenna is more than capable of taking care of Nathan’s adorable two-year-old and wants to help Nathan however she can. As the days go by and her attraction to Nathan grows, she can’t help wondering what might happen if they became a family for real. And the closer everyone becomes, the more right it feels.
Falling in love forces Nathan to face his biggest fear, and when hearts — both big and little — are on the line, the only thing scarier than needing Jenna and her kids so much is losing them all.

I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. It is publicized as romantic erotica, and the cover has that sort of look to it, although the guy does have his shirt on. So I was the tiniest bit surprised when I got about halfway through it and realized that I really, really, liked this book and these characters, and they hadn’t even kissed yet.

I’m not sure how erotica is being defined these days but I tend to think of books like Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, Bared to You by Sylvia Day, or The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure. Sex from the beginning. Sex on almost every page. But this was sweet and fun, and yes eventually it did get sexy, but the sex definitely felt secondary to the plot. At least to me. Guess I’m curious what other people think. Where is the line between a sexy romance and romantic erotica? Or are they the same thing?

Whatever kind of label the publisher wants to give this book, I give it my own label: sweet & sexy. I am going to hunt down the earlier books in this series.

11/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DOWN TOO DEEP by J. Daniels. Berkley (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1984806093. 352p.



THE ACCOMPLICE by Joseph Kanon

November 7, 2019

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During the Second World War, Adolf Hitler found that he could rally the German army as well as the people by selecting scapegoats to blame for the poor economic conditions the country found itself in. He was able to sell the country on the need to go to war and at the same time began the persecution of the groups that were selected as scapegoats. Among these were Jews and Gypsies. Hitler began the mass extermination of his scapegoats by sending them to concentration camps where many were killed in gas ovens as one means of destroying those groups. Both guards and supervisory personnel easily fell into the positions of both condoning the killing as well as rationalizing their own part in the murders by stating that they acted under orders from above.

The Accomplice is a hard-hitting novel telling the story of the finding of one of the medical doctors that had tortured men, women, and children to death in the name of approved experiments.  Dr Otto Schramm was head of “experiments” at the Auschwitz camp in Poland and managed to elude capture when the war ended.  Seventeen years after the war ended it was thought that Schramm had been killed in an auto accident and searches for him ended. But one of the foremost Nazi hunters, Max Weill, sees him walking on the streets of Hamburg and wants to go after him. Unfortunately Max is a sick man and possibly due to the excitement of the sighting suffers a heart attack and passes away. But not before he charges Aaron Wiley his nephew that is visiting from the US to continue the search. Aaron is an employee of the CIA but basically one working strictly at a desk. Knowing that Max’s wife, Aaron’s aunt was killed by Schramm he takes some vacation from the CIA and begins to chase him.

The main section of the novel is taken up with the chase.  Schramm had fled to Argentina and Aaron goes to Buenos Aires to look for him.  A most interesting situation develops when Schramm’s daughter is found, and Aaron meets her to obtain information about her father.

The two meet, and a love affair develops with the obvious question can Aaron take her father prisoner and bring him to justice to stand trial for his wartime crimes in the face of his feelings for his daughter?

The chase after Schramm and the very conflicting emotions of the people involved provide an excellent read pulling the readers into the plot with the changing feelings of the period shortly after WWII. This is not a story that can easily be forgotten with the emotions generated by the novel staying fresh for quite a while.

11/19 Paul Lane

THE ACCOMPLICE by Joseph Kanon. Atria Books (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1501121425. 336p.




November 6, 2019

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A Dotan Naor Thriller, Book 2

Yigal Zur is not a first-time author and has published several successful novels in the past. I truly wonder what happened to this book. It reads like someone was in a great hurry to finish something before a deadline or the person translating from Hebrew into English was the one in a hurry.

The plot of the novel finds Dotan Naor, an Israeli private detective, in Tel Aviv, when he is called by his partner to fly to Bangkok and find a missing girl. Dotan jumps on a plane with no information about who he is looking for but is handed two passports by the taxi driver that picks him up at the Bangkok airport, one of which is for Sigal Bardon, the girl he is looking for.

Dotan runs helter-skelter all around Bankok, gets beat up, visits a prison to interview someone that may know where Sigal is, and runs into an old friend (now enemy) of his. Reuven was with him in Shin Bet. Due to something that happened back then, and each blaming the other, they were both dismissed from the organization. Looks like Reuven engineered the entire trip and the hunt for Sigal as a means of bringing Dotan to meet with him in Bangkok.

No surprise ending and far from an all-nighter, the novel has the saving grace of supplying a portrait of Bangkok based upon the author’s visits there.

11/19 Paul Lane

PASSPORT TO DEATH by Yigal Zur. Oceanview Publishing; None edition (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1608093649.



November 5, 2019

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Bromance Book Club Series, Book 1

From the publisher:

The first rule of book club:
You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

This was the most brilliant and original idea for a romance novel that I have seen in a very long time. The premise of men reading romance novels to learn about women was positively inspired, and made me think all men should be forced to read them! It seems to me that Adams has given the romance genre, and in particular the books being published today, a whole lot of thought. One of the men explains the rationale behind reading a Regency romance like this: “Modern romance novelists use the patriarchal society of old British aristocracy to explore the gender-based limitations placed on women today in both the professional and personal spheres. That shit is feminist as fuck.” Yep.

Beyond the feminist trope, this book had me laughing out loud and moved me to tears as well. The characters are really well developed, and I couldn’t help but root for them to find their happily ever after. Neither Gavin nor Thea are perfect, and I think that’s what makes them feel so real.

There is a sweetness here that never gets sappy, and it is tempered by some very hot sex. I loved the way “excerpts” from the historical romance the men are reading are woven into the contemporary story. This is a clever, heartwarming, fun sexy read. I can’t wait for the next book in this new series!

11/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BROMANCE BOOK CLUB by Lyssa Kay Adams. Berkley (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1984806093. 352p.




November 2, 2019

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From the publisher:

A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age debut novel.

It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor, Samuel Moore, appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life―especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam.

Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history―and her heart.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.

Based on the marketing and publisher description of Biller’s debut novel I picked it up expecting a Gothic ghost story with a bit of romance.  Instead, it is a romance with a bit of a ghost story.  Although I was slightly surprised by this, it was hard to be upset when The Widow of Rose House is one of the best romances I have read in 2019.  There are three main storylines at work in Biller’s novel: the romance between Alva and Sam, Alva’s continual battle to recover from the trauma of her marriage, and the haunting of Liefdehuis the mansion Alva is restoring, and Biller does a good job of balancing all three. I loved reading the development of Sam and Alva’s relationship as their banter turned into a deeper emotional connection.  Each of their interactions is truly a delight to read.  Sam was a wonderful romantic lead; intelligent, funny and empathetic.  Alva’s character was equally fascinating.  She is resilient, brave and independent.  I was really rooting for her to get her happy ending with Sam.  In addition to the characters and romance, I also really enjoyed the Gilded Age setting of The Widow of Rose House.  The Gilded Age is not a very common setting in historical romances and each location whether it was the glitz and energy of Manhattan or the desolate beauty of the mansions of the Hudson River Valley was expertly brought to life by Biller. Then, of course, there is the haunting of Liefdehuis.  This ghost story is more creepy and atmospheric than particularly scary, and for the most part the haunting takes a back seat to the romance and character development.  So even if you don’t typically read paranormal stories don’t let that deter you from reading this romance.

A satisfying and emotional romance with an interesting Gilded Age setting and touch of Gothic mystery. I will be eagerly awaiting Diana Biller’s next novel. Highly recommended.

11/19 Caitlin Brisson

THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE by Diana Biller. St. Martin’s Griffin (October 8, 2019). ISBN 9781250297853. 352 p.



EXIT FEE by Brad Taylor

October 31, 2019

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A Pike Logan Novella

Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill are a couple whose usual occupations are participating in U.S. Government ordered military expeditions against terrorists residing overseas and planning threats against America. They work with a group of ex-military personnel that are highly qualified warriors whose origins are among the elite forces of the country. “Exit Fee” is a novella taking place in the United States and involving only Pike and Jennifer.

The couple are at home in Charleston S.C. with Amena, a young Syrian refugee that they have taken into their care. Amena is an orphan whose family was killed in Syria. She is having difficulty adjusting to life in the U.S. and is more than a little rebellious. After an argument with Pike, Amena uses a short walk away from him to attempt to assert her independence. She befriends a teen named Beth on her little trip. Beth is with her Serbian guardian who is, in reality, her captor and has forced her into a life of sexual slavery.

Beth’s minder likes Amena’s looks and decides to take her and force her into the horror of being a sex slave. In typical Pike Logan fashion, Amena, Beth, and other girls are rescued and justice is done. The short book is a feel good exercise with everything turning out well. No problem in reading a book and finishing it with the knowledge that good has triumphed over evil and all’s well that ends well.

10/19 Paul Lane

EXIT FEE by Brad Taylor. William Morrow Impulse (November 12, 2019). ISBN 978-0062984890. 160p.

Kindle available 10/29/19

Audible available 10/29/19