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REVIEW:  Broken Trails by D. Jordan Redhawk

REVIEW: Broken Trails by D. Jordan Redhawk

broken-trails

Scotch Fuller has already run the Iditarod three times and is preparing for a fourth attempt. Her single-minded focus on the rigors of training allows her to forget the shocking loss of her lover in a tragedy for which she blames herself.

The only race Lainey Hughes runs is away from her past and into the bottom of a bottle. After a devastating injury in a war zone, she’s continued her photojournalist career in the natural beauty and warmth of Uganda. A trip to Alaska to cover dog sledding is not what she wants, but the lure of a paying gig proves too tempting.

Lainey trusts her camera and Scotch trusts her dogs—and neither cares much what the other thinks…not at first.

Dear Ms. Redhawk,

The description of your latest book had already caught my attention before I read the glowing review at Ladylike Book Club. Since I have a long time fascination with the Iditarod – ever since reading “Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulson and “My Lead Dog was a Lesbian” (no, I’m not trying to be funny, that really is the title) by Brian Patrick O’Donaghue – I probably would have read it anyway but the other review sealed the deal.

From the blurb, I hadn’t realized that Lainey would end up running the race as a rookie or that so much time would be spend in months long preparation for the March race but this allowed for some in depth, behind the scenes insight into just how much effort goes into sled dog racing – tons – and how grueling it is for the mushers – unbelievable. By the time the race arrives, I was mentally exhausted.

But I was loving all the information. I enjoy a book where the characters are given unusual occupations or a unique event takes place and this book has both. Better still, instead of being mere window dressing, they are integral to the plot, well researched, and seamlessly integrated into the whole.

When the mushers and their dogs set off from Anchorage, the real endurance begins. Reading about Scotch’s efforts to win the race and Lainey’s to merely finish it, I truly understood that this race ain’t for sissies. If you’re not prepared, you could die. If you don’t take proper care of your team, you all could die. Worst of all, even if you do everything right, the conditions could still be enough to cause you to scratch after all that hard work. Or die. Being in Lainey’s head as she navigated and experienced the race was almost like being there but it also convinces me as nothing else could that following from home via the official race website is the way to go for me.

Ah, but where’s the romance? For the first third of the book, both Scotch and Lainey play the is-she-isn’t-she guessing game and lust a little as they’re dishing out dog chow and taking the dogs out on trail runs. The mental lusting never becomes as bad as some books I’ve read wherein the characters practically stand in a daze of drool. I do think readers should anticipate that the sexuality is low key for a good long time. When Scotch and Lainey do finally get a chance to jump each other’s bones, the jumping is delicious, sexy and nicely done but it takes a while to get there.

Scotch and Lainey also have other issues to deal with namely a disastrous past romance for Scotch and Lainey’s alcoholism. Of the two I felt the alcohol issue got more page time and attention. You don’t hesitate to show how addicted Lainey truly is, how it runs her life and how hard she denies it. As the book ends, each woman is coming to terms with her issue and things are looking up but I would like to have gotten more insight into the demon of Scotch’s past.

As an exploration of what goes into the training for the Iditarod – both for mushers and dogs – I think the book is great. As for the romance, I’m afraid that takes a back seat to the race so readers looking for a more even balance or a book heavy on the relationship will probably be disappointed. I like that not all the loose ends are tied up, that Lainey and Scotch both know there will be more work needed for their past and present issues but also that they’re committed to solving their problems and building a life together. B

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  A Righteous Kill by Kerrigan Byrne

REVIEW: A Righteous Kill by Kerrigan Byrne

A Righteous Kill (The Shakespearean Suspense #1) by Kerrigan Byrne

Dear Ms. Byrne:

Mandi from SmexyBooks recommended this book to me an even though it was a fairly expensive self published book at nearly $6.00, I’m happy to spend money on a book I’ll enjoy. The book was as Mandi said. It featured a gruff, reluctant hero, a self possessed heroine, and a suspenseful plot.

Hero Viola Katrova-Conner is found with her hands and side pierced like Christ, the victim of a John the Baptist serial killer. Why Viola survives where the other victims live isn’t quite clear and you have to buy into the insta-lust between FBI agent Luca Ramirez who arrives on the scene as the agent in charge. There kneeling next to the victimized boy of Hero Viola, the two exchange meaningful glances. (Hero later says that he reminded her of her brothers).

The story essentially follows a standard suspense plot line. Hero is a damsel in distress and Luca is assigned to be her pretend boyfriend/bodyguard in hopes that the serial killer comes after her again. Luca begins to examine Hero’s male acquaintances in hopes to find out who it is. The FBI has few leads.

I confess that in retrospect, the lack of urgency in the pursuit of John the Baptist was puzzling. In order to make the romance more believable, the suspense plot takes serious hits. For instance, after the initial scene, we fast forward seven weeks later so that Hero is fully healed from her injuries.  She has very little emotional repercussions from her kidnapping, torture, and near death experience.

This is not to say I didn’t like Hero. I did. She’s a sexually confident woman while also being creative and pragmatic.  She pursued Luca because he was too reluctant to get involved with her even though sexual tension thrums between them. Luca doesn’t believe he’s good for Hero or any other woman because he has so much rage inside of him.

There’s a good blend of romance and suspense so long as you forget about the seven weeks during which the FBI does almost nothing in terms of investigating Hero’s background, her lifestyle, and every person in her life particularly since her profile was different than all the other “working girls” that had been targeted by the killer in the past.

The series is called “Shakesperean Suspense” and is likely based on all the Katrova-Conner family. The Katrova-Conner both exemplifies the best and worst of the book. When it was convenient to bring the whole family together, a big fun boisterous family, they were trotted out, particularly when they were needed to set up a future story.  But one of the family members was also an FBI agent. Didn’t it make sense for that person to be involved in her safety? Her four older brothers seemed almost nonchalant about her safety as did her parents.

Speaking of her parents, there is a prologue involving how the parents first meet that is self indulgent and unnecessary. There was no explanation later and no connection to the overall story.  The Katrova-Conner family sounds interesting and I’m definitely on board for more books, but I’d hope for less convenient appearances of the family to increase the series hook.

Finally, there were a couple of reviews that mention fat shaming. The story opens with Luca thinking fairly negative thoughts about a heavy set detective. I don’t see that continues throughout the book. In sum, there was a strong connection between the two main characters. I loved the family scenes and the whodunit wasn’t bad.  B-

Best regards,

Jane

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