Dessa, a single mom, is enjoying a rare night out when a devastating earthquake strikes. Roads and overpasses crumble, cell towers are out everywhere, and now she must cross the ruined city to get back to her three-year-old daughter, not even knowing whether she’s dead or alive. Danger in the streets escalates, as looting and lawlessness erupts. When she witnesses a moment of violence but isn’t able to intervene, it nearly puts Dessa over the edge.
Fate throws Dessa a curveball when the victim of the crime—a smart-talking 15-year-old foster kid named Beegie—shows up again in the role of savior, linking the pair together. Beegie is a troubled teen with a relentless sense of humor and resilient spirit that enables them both to survive. Both women learn to rely on each other in ways they never imagined possible, to permit vulnerability and embrace the truth of their own lives.
I like Beegie quite a bit, but Dessa…not so much. She is far too passive for me, letting life—and the people in it—treat her however it will without standing up for herself. Like, passive to a pathetic degree. Solid writing and description—I’ve never experienced an earthquake and I’d like to keep it that way—enough to place me firmly in the scenes, but my dislike of Dessa was a big problem for me in reading this.
Bridget Foley lives in Idaho. Just Get Home is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)
With a past like hers, Jessica Clayton feels safer in a life spent on the road. She’s made a career out of helping others downsize—because she’s learned the hard way that the less “stuff,” the better, a policy she applies equally to her relationships. But a new client is taking Jess back to Cape Sanctuary, a town she once called home…and that her little sister, Rachel, still does. The years apart haven’t made a dent in the guilt Jess still carries after a handgun took the lives of both their parents and changed everything between them.
While Jess couldn’t wait to put the miles between her and Cape Sanctuary, Rachel put down roots, content for the world—and her sister—to think she has a picture-perfect life. But with the demands of her youngest child’s disability, Rachel’s marriage has begun to fray at the seams. She needs her sister now more than ever, yet she’s learned from painful experience that Jessica doesn’t do family, and she shouldn’t count on her now.
Against her judgment, Jess finds herself becoming attached—to her sister and her family, even to her client’s interfering son, Nate—and it’s time to put everything on the line. Does she continue running from her painful past, or stay put and make room for the love and joy that come along with it?
This was a solid read. I’d really love to live in a house right by the ocean like this! I actually enjoyed reading about Rachel and her struggles more than Jess, although I can’t totally relate to her struggle to control everything. A solid read, but not a standout. Perfect for an easy weekend read.
RaeAnne Thayne is a bestselling and award-winning author. The Path to Sunshine Cove is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN in exchange for an honest review.)
Something mysterious is killing the wildlife in the desert hills just south of Tucson, Arizona. When Emma Perez, a college-intern-turned activist, sets out to collect her own evidence, she too ends up dead. Local law enforcement seems slow to get involved. That’s when the mobile FBI unit goes undercover to infiltrate the town and the copper refinery located there in search of possible leads. Costa and Quinn find themselves scouring the desolate landscape that keeps on giving up clues to something much darker—greed, child trafficking, other killings. As the body count continues to add up, it’s clear they have stumbled on more than they bargained for. Now they must figure out who is at the heart of this mayhem and stop them before more innocent lives are lost.
I don’t think I’ve read the first book in this series—yet—but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The desert setting is vividly drawn and almost becomes a character in the story, both its beauty and the darkness hidden within it. I liked the whole undercover team, but the two MC and their interactions were the best. I can’t imagine pretending to be someone you’re not like that, but their viewpoints made it make sense, and I was totally invested in their investigation.
Allison Brennan is a bestselling author. Tell No Lies is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)
On the edge of the Everglades, a brutal murder and an eerie crime scene set off an investigation that sends two agents deep into a world of corrupted faith, greed and deadly secrets.
A ritualistic murder on the side of a remote road brings in the Florida state police. Special Agent Amy Larson has never seen worse, and there are indications that this killing could be just the beginning. The crime draws the attention of the FBI in the form of Special Agent Hunter Forrest, a man with insider knowledge of how violent cults operate, and a man who might never be able to escape his own past.
The rural community is devastated by the death in their midst, but people know more than they are saying. As Amy and Hunter join forces, every lead takes them further into the twisted beliefs of a dangerous group that will stop at nothing to see their will done.
This was a solid thriller read, as Graham’s novels usually are. The setting was vivid enough to give me the creeps—no thank you to living in a small town on the edge of the Everglades—with or without the creepy cult nearby. I like both of the main characters, and I’d definitely read the next book in the series.
Heather Graham is a bestselling author. Danger in Numbers is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)
On the day she returns to active duty with the Serial Crimes Unit, Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley is called to a crime scene. Dismembered body parts from two victims have been found by the river.
The modus operandi bears a striking resemblance to Peter Olivier, the notorious Jigsaw Killer, who has spent the past two years behind bars. When he learns that someone is co-opting his grisly signature—the arrangement of victims’ limbs in puzzle-piece shapes—he decides to take matters into his own hands.
As the body count rises, DI Anjelica Henley is faced with an unspeakable new threat. Can she apprehend the copycat killer before Olivier finds a way to get to him first? Or will she herself become the next victim?
Nadine Matheson lives in London. The Jigsaw Man is her debut novel.
I enjoyed this novel, although the first half felt very slow to me. Olivier is creepy beyond words, and the crime scene descriptions were a little much for me, but entirely believable. I liked Anjelica, and would definitely read more about her. The reader is solidly in her head and emotions throughout the novel, bringing every detail to life.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Hanover Square Press exchange for an honest review.)
Jutting from sparkling turquoise waters off the Italian coast, Isle Isola is an idyllic setting for a wedding. In the majestic cliff-top villa owned by the wealthy Compton family, up-and-coming artist Claire Hunter will marry handsome, charming Jack Compton, surrounded by close family, intimate friends…and a host of dark secrets.
From the moment Claire sets foot on the island, something seems amiss. Skeletal remains have just been found. There are other, newer disturbances, too. Menacing texts. A ruined wedding dress. And one troubling shadow hanging over Claire’s otherwise blissful relationship—the strange mystery surrounding Jack’s first wife.
Then a raging storm descends, the power goes out—and the real terror begins…
The idea of this much wealth kept throwing me off as I was reading, but excellent description and characterization. For me, there was never any mystery over who was really behind everything. I was intrigued by how everything would play out, but the reveal about Claire’s background felt very clunky and deus ex machina, since the entire novel had never dropped the slightest hint. And…we never really find out the truth about what truly happened to the first wife…
J.T. Ellison is a bestselling author. Her Dark lies is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA exchange for an honest review.)
Since the loss of her fiancé, Anna has been shipwrecked by grief—until a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take together. Impulsively, Anna goes to sea in their sailboat, intending to complete the voyage alone.
But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.
This was a fantastic read! I loved it from the very beginning. Anna grows so much as a character as she grieves, struggles, then realizes life does go on after loss—and she becomes stronger and more capable. I loved reading about all the different places she visited and the people she met. And Keane, well, a handsome man from Ireland is always a bonus! (But he’s a terrific guy, too.)
Trish Doller was born in Germany but now lives in Florida. Float Plan is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
When their mother passed away, Evie Ross and her sister were each given a stack of letters, one to be opened every year on their birthday; letters their free-spirited mother hoped would inspire and guide them through adulthood. But although Evie has made a successful career, her desire for the stability and security she never had from her parents has meant she’s never experienced the best life has to offer. But the discovery of more letters hidden in a safe-deposit box points to secrets her mother held close, and possibly a new way for Evie to think about her family, her heart and her dreams.
Honestly, this just didn’t work for me, and it was the characters, not the writing. The writing was solid, the setting vivid—and made me want to visit someplace I’ve never been. But the characters…Evie was wishy washy. First, she’s been in love with this guy for years, then she doesn’t want anything to do with him. Then she falls into his arms. She wants to take it slow, then she just packs up and moves in with him. What? And the love interest. Controlling, completely ignoring anything she says, pressures her to move forward when she wants to take it slow. And, I’m sorry, but the twist at the end? That felt very clunky and convenient, not natural to the story at all.
Audrey Carlan is a bestselling author. To Catch a Dream is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Halrequin/HQN in exchange for an honest review.)
Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School since childhood, where they’ve formed an inseparable bond forged by respective family tragedies and a fierce love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure.
But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other. (less)
This was a bit hard for me to read. The writing is excellent, and the characters were great, but reading about the dark side of the ballet world was a little depressing, frankly. I believe it’s a realistic portrayal, sadly, because I can’t image what these girls put themselves through: the abuse their body image takes and the physical and emotional demands they put on themselves.
Marine’s issues were scary, but at least she eventually realized it. Kate’s issues…her sometimes completely unfounded obsession with guys was just sad. She definitely has some delusions and mental health issues, in addition to her drug problem. It was sad that she didn’t realize that, though.
A.K. Small was born in Paris. Bright Burning Stars is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Algonquin in exchange for an honest review.)
Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.
One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.
In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.
I really enjoyed this novel! I loved how it switched between the historical chapters and the modern-day ones seamlessly, while leaving the reader on the edge of their seat. So much character growth, too, for Caroline. While finding out her husband was cheating on her was awful, it was a catalyst for growth and finding out who she really was and what she truly wanted out of life. I also loved the hints of magic at the resolution of the historical timeline, with the girl and the apothecary. Very well done!
Sarah Penner lives in Florida. The Lost Apothecary is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)