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REVIEW:  Into the Storm (Signal Bend #3) by Susan Fanetti

REVIEW: Into the Storm (Signal Bend #3) by Susan Fanetti

ITS

Dear Ms. Fanetti:

I read and really enjoyed the first in the Signal Bend series, Move the Sun. The second entry, Behold the Stars, which Jane reviewed, I could barely finish, it was so violent. So I bought this book with some trepidation, but with the hope that your voice, which worked so well for me in Move the Sun, would work again for me. I was pleased to find that for the most part, this was the case.

Signal Bend, IN is in recovery from a war. The Night Horde MC, which runs the town, took on a drug kingpin in the last book and won, but not without horrifying collateral damage to the town and even more, to the townsfolk. Showdown Ryan suffered some of the worst losses. His oldest daughter, Daisy, was killed and his wife packed up their two younger girls and took off. Showdown takes all of the blame for the losses. He knows that as the #2 in the Night Horde, his family was a target and they paid the ultimate price for it. He is empty, he is barely putting one foot in front of the other and more than once has considered ending it all. He can’t bear to go back to the home where his family was attacked, and has been existing at the Night Horde’s keep.

Shannon Bannerman has been hired to run the Keller Bed and Breakfast, a new venture owned by the President of the Night Horde’s wife (and protagonist in books 1 & 2), Lilli. Shannon came to Signal Bend from the big city, which makes her a curiosity for the people of Signal Bend. She is extremely over qualified for the job, but also wants it desperately. It seems clear to the reader from the start that she is running from something. Shannon is very attracted to Showdown, but knows his story. She knows that it’s incredibly unlikely that he’d ever have any interest in here. Despite that, when the opportunity presents itself, Shannon lets Showdown know she’s attracted.

“What is your problem?”

At Shannon’s sharp question he turned to see her standing there, holding her arms across her body against the chill. The stance made her cleavage even more distracting.

“What?” He tossed his butt to the ground.

She took a couple of steps closer. He could reach out and touch her if he wanted, run his finger down the cleft between her breasts. He clenched his fists.

“You have to know I’m interested. You act like you have some kind of claim or responsibility or I don’t know what. But then you ignore me – or you don’t, and you say what you said in there. What the hell is your problem?”

“No problem. Just not interested.”

Her brow creased at that, and her eyes narrowed. Then she surprised the shit out of him by taking the last step between them and grabbing his face in her hands. She leaned in and kissed him, her lips silky on his, her mouth open. She tasted of tequila. He felt her tongue tracing his lower lip. He hadn’t had a woman’s mouth – her tongue!- on his mouth in…Christ, five years? Since Holly would even let him kiss her like this? His cock turned to cast iron, heavy and hard, and it was all he could do not to grab her. But he didn’t. He didn’t grab her, or kiss her back. He sat there feeling shocked and tormented.

When she pulled away, she searched his eyes for a moment. Then, with a sad little twitch of her lip, she nodded. “Okay. Sorry.” She turned and went back into the clubhouse. – Kindle location 1222

Of course, he’s interested. And soon after, he makes a move. Showdown and Shannon’s love story develops at a very slow pace. He thinks he’s emotionally dead, but she offers herself to him, and the more he knows of her, the more not just his libido, but his emotional self awakens. He begins to see that he has things to live for.

There are things that I really enjoyed about this story. I thought that Showdown’s emotional growth, from angry, emotionally unavailable man to one who is able to love was credible. Given that I’d gotten to know him in the previous two books and certainly, read the horror of the last book, I was glad to see him find some happiness. Shannon was a bit harder for me to get a bead on. She has a secret, and is technically running, although you never made me invest in what she was running from. I think because you delayed too long in delivering the backstory on her. Her conflict seemed manufactured because it arrived so late in the story and you’d built little to no foundation for it. So I wasn’t invested at all in that aspect of the story’s resolution.

That being said, I read the book in one sitting, and enjoyed getting to see the characters in a situation that was much less horrifying than book 2. As in the previous books, the sex scenes are plentiful and hot. And in the end, I was glad for having spent time reading the book. My hope in reviewing this book is that those who were put off by the extremity of the last book will give your work another chance. Because I felt like this story had potential and delivered on a good portion of it. I’d definitely read more from you. Final grade: B-/C+

Kind regards,

Kati

 

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REVIEW:  When Falcone’s World Stops Turning by Abby Green

REVIEW: When Falcone’s World Stops Turning by Abby Green

falcone

Dear Ms. Green:

When I’m in the mood for an archtypical Harlequin Presents story — here taking the form of cynical Italian tycoon + secret baby + punishing kisses = angsty-goodness — I look for Abby Green. Originally I decided against reviewing this for Dear Author, because, well, it’s a formula, and you like it or you don’t, and unless you want to do a critique of the entire genre there’s not a whole lot new to say. But then I was interested to notice some small signs here and there of the more modern spirit that’s been popping out in the Presents line lately.

(I go pretty thoroughly into the plot — there are no major spoilers, but if you really like to be surprised, you might not want to read on.)

The story opens with a bang, as Rafaele Falcone and his half brother discover the existence of another previously unsuspected half-brother, at their mother’s funeral. Disappointingly, this mostly sets up the series and doesn’t play into the plot much. Shortly afterwards, researcher Samantha Rourke is horrified to receive a phone call from her former boss and lover Rafaele, asking her to come work for him again. This inevitably leads to Rafaele discovering the existence of their young son, Milo.

The first intriguing thing I noticed was how much the plot is convoluted to make the secret baby aspects more palatable. Rafaele had thought Sam had miscarried, and his reaction to her pregnancy was so negative — the stress even bringing on more dangerous cramps! — that she allowed him to continue believing that. She’s not entirely comfortable with her decision though, and later admits that a desire to punish him for dumping her (and apparently immediately taking up with another woman) might have influenced her. Sympathetic but not blameless — it’s a delicate balance that’s more complicated than we normally see in a short category. Rafaele’s reaction is far more conventional: although he’d been horrified by Sam’s pregnancy, when he discovers he actually has a child he instantly wants full-time fatherhood. I suppose this is intended to make his side of the story more palatable as well, but given that he has Major Issues around parents and children, it would have been good to see him process some.

Another small but significant point: Sam didn’t become downtrodden and poverty stricken after their relationship ended (despite having been dumped by her boss, a point which is not addressed.) With the help of excellent childcare, she went on to earn her doctorate, and she works in a male dominated field, auto engineering. (The coolness of this is somewhat mitigated by Sam having become a tomboy to please her father; she loves how Rafaele makes her feel feminine.)

The main way this story differs from its brethren is… wait for it… Sam actually had sex with someone else while they were separated. It was only one time and God forbid she should enjoy it, but still, this is huge; I’ve encountered only two other instances in Presents. (Even when the heroine actually marries someone else, it’s still pretty damn rare!) Rafaele is also much less of a horn dog than he’d appeared; he was never able to forget Sam. It’s not a complete overhaul of the sexual double standard, but baby steps! (It’s kind of hilarious, in an awful way, to see the response to this plot point on GoodReads — Sam is characterized as a slut and a terrible mom, having sex with strangers “like a hooker.” One time, with a man she’d been dating, makes her into that. No wonder Presents have been resistant to change.)

As for enjoyment value… this didn’t hit the ball out of the park for me as much as usual. It may be because this particular one isn’t really my formula, but even with the updated elements, it felt a little tired. I’m not sure it’s the formula that needs refreshing as much as the language, or perhaps it’s the combination of the two: Rafaele’s desperate exhortations to himself to keep control, Sam’s weak limbs whenever he’s near, even his unbearably attractive stubble — all this is very familiar.  It was entertaining enough, and I’ll hope for a stronger twist to the gut in the next book. C

Sincerely,

Willaful

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