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REVIEW: The Edge of Night by Jill Sorenson

REVIEW: The Edge of Night by Jill Sorenson

Readers of this review should know that Jill Sorenson contributes f/f and f/f/m reviews to this blog on a once-a-month basis.

Dear Ms. Sorenson,

Contemporary romantic suspense is a genre I can enjoy a lot when a book is well-executed, but most of the time, I don't find myself drawn to reading books in this genre the way I am with some other genres of romance. However, I have enjoyed your comments and posts on this blog, and was intrigued enough by Jane's reviews of your first two single titles that when Jane emailed the DA loop about your latest single title romantic suspense, The Edge of Night, being available for review, I decided to give it a try.

The Edge of Night  by Jill SorensonThe Edge of Night begins with the discovery of a body in an old schoolyard-turned-gang hideout. Chula Vista police officer Noah Young is the first on the scene. The victim is Lola Sanchez, a drug-addicted waitress who worked at a place called Club Suave.

Lola was raped before she was choked with a clear plastic bag, and even though he didn't know her, Noah wants justice for her. Noah is a gang unit cop, not a homicide detective, but he has his eye on advancement to the latter role. He wants to aid the investigation, and since homicide is understaffed, Noah and Patrick Shanley, his cynical partner, are sent to Club Suave to interview the staff.

Twenty-three year old April Ortiz works at Club Suave to make ends meet. Having been burned by a bad relationship in her past, April is reserved with men and doesn't enjoy wearing the skimpy outfit her job requires, but she can't afford to lose her job. April is a single mom putting herself through a Social Work degree and the income from the work at Club Suave supports Jenny, her five year old daughter.

Just before Noah and Patrick arrive at Club Suave, Eddie, the club's owner, with whom Lola sometimes had sex, hints to the waitresses that he doesn't want the police to learn about his connection to Lola. April can't afford to lose her job, so although she's drawn to Noah, she doesn't give him or Patrick much to go on until they are about to leave. Then she slips Noah a note with information about a gangster Lola was seeing before her murder.

When April gets home that night, she discovers that her mother, Josefa, who was supposed to be babysitting Jenny, went out to party and left the child alone. April knows her mother is addicted to drugs and that she will have to serve Josefa some tough love, but she also knows it won't be easy.

Meanwhile, Noah apprehends Tony Castillo, the gangster Lola was involved with. Tony has a solid alibi – cameras place him crossing the border into Tijuana before the murder, and returning afterward in he company of another man, whose face wasn't caught on camera.

The man is Eric Hernandez, the brother of Jenny's father, April's former lover Raul. Raul is serving a prison term and Eric, his brother tries to look in on Jenny and April and help them out when he can. In addition for selling drugs for the Chula Vista Locos, the gang he belongs to, Eric works at a food market and tags walls with artistic graffiti.

One night, Noah arrives home to find his sister Meghan waiting for him. Meghan has dropped out of Chapel College, a Christian school that her religious mother insisted she attend, just as she was about to begin her sophomore year. Now Megan insists that she wants to live with Noah in Chula Vista, and although Noah knows his parents would disapprove, he gives in to Meghan's request.

Meghan gets a job at the same food market Eric works in, and she and Eric are quickly drawn to each other. But Eric knows he can't get involved with a policeman's sister. Meghan, who does not at first even realize he is a gangster, wants there to be more between them.

Noah and April also face obstacles. After they run into each other at a park, and meet again at Club Suave, neither can deny the attraction between them. But for Noah, involvement with April represents a professional conflict of interest, while for April, Noah symbolizes an even greater risk. April's history with men isn't a happy one, and she doesn't want that history to repeat itself.

An attempted assault on Meghan brings things to a head in several ways. Noah and April, Meghan and Eric all find themselves taking chances in their need to connect, to make their lives better, and to find love and acceptance. But as the stakes gets higher, will the clues about the killer come together before someone else dies?

The Edge of Night is plotted intricately and well, with each of the storylines impacting on the others. One of my favorite aspects of the book was its setting of Chula Vista, which is wedged between Tijuana and San Diego. The book has a strong sense of place, and I love that two of the four central characters are Mexican-American, because sadly, I don't often see Latino protagonists in this genre.

The suspense plot was well-executed. I did not guess the killer's identity until shortly before it was revealed, but the clues were there all along.

The main characters were all sympathetic to me. I liked that Noah was still in his mid-twenties, and wasn't superman. He had some of the impulsiveness and uncertainty of a young man. There were times when he felt afraid on his dangerous job, but he was also brave. My main criticisms where he is concerned is that unlike the other three, he didn't grow or change much over the course of the story, and we also didn't learn much in the way of new information about him.

I liked April even more because she had lived through more, and had made some bad choices she regretted. Her vulnerability and her struggle to support her daughter were so well-portrayed that I even understood why she would take drug money from Eric at the same time that she threw her mother out for using around her daughter. It took April a long time to begin to trust Noah, and I was very glad to see her get a happy ending.

Meghan began the story as a somewhat naïve young woman, but she went through a lot and matured. I liked her but what I appreciated most was the way she represented hope and innocence (I don't mean sexual innocence, I mean innocence of crime and other sins) to Eric.

You may be able to infer from this that Eric was my favorite character in the book. At first I thought he was too good to be true for a gangster – the drug dealer with the heart of gold. But gradually, layer by layer, Eric's motives and history were revealed, and I came to understand him more and more and to want him to find freedom from his dangerous world. His tenderness with Meghan, his sense of responsibility for his family members, and his artistic graffiti, all showed a sensitive side that Eric had to hide to function in the gang. His last couple of scenes with Meghan brought tears to my eyes.

My biggest criticism of the book is this: Eric was such a special character that I felt he overshadowed the other three. I felt I'd been shown the way his past shaped him in a way I wish had been shown to the same degree with Noah, Meghan and even April.
[spoiler] Because of this, Eric was also the one for whom I most wanted a happy ending. The ending Eric got was not the one I wanted, but on further thought, I realized it was fitting. Eric had committed some serious crimes in the past and so a HEA was probably not the appropriate thing.

Still, because I liked him so much, I ended up feeling deprived by the epilogue. I did care about April and Noah but not as much as about Eric and Meghan, because I didn't feel they had come to understand each other as well.[/spoiler]

April and Noah were nice, appealing people who deserved to find happiness and I was glad for them, but I think I would have been happier if I had seen them open up to each other on an emotional level to the same degree Eric and Meghan did. Perhaps because a lot of April and Noah's thoughts about each other were based on physical attraction, their relationship seemed less deep to me.

On reflection, I wonder if part of the problem was that it is challenging to portray not one but two romantic relationships, and a suspense plot, with a lot of depth in less than four hundred pages.

Even so, I liked the suspense storyline and loved the flavor of the setting, the ethnicity of April and Eric, the realness of all four characters who were human and imperfect but nonetheless lovable. For all these reasons The Edge of Night gets a B from me.

Sincerely,

Janine Ballard

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This book is published by an Agency publisher meaning that the publisher sets the digital book price and there are no discounts.

REVIEW: Bayou Dreams by Lynn Lorenz

REVIEW: Bayou Dreams by Lynn Lorenz

Dear Ms. Lorenz.

I don’t read werewolf books. I just don’t. If I see a m/m shifter book, I usually just move right along. But one line in the excerpt sold me on this book:

"Don't give me any back talk, son." She waved her spatula at him as she talked around a cigarette dangling from her lips. "You're getting old. You're the alpha. Time to take a mate, settle down, and give me a grandchild."

Same song, same verse, same spatula.

I just loved that extra little zing on the same old line. So I stayed up until 3am reading this book. I just couldn’t stop. And while the protracted (but necessary) ending took away a little of the Romance Novel Sigh (TM SBTB) when I shut my phone down, I still really enjoyed these two characters, even if I was aware of the flaws of the book as I was reading.

Scott is a werewolf, the alpha of his small pack in the bayou country of Louisiana, and the town sheriff. He’s 35, which is late for mating (werewolves usually mate around 30, apparently), but he’s put it off and put it off and now his need to find his One True Mate is spilling over into the rest of the pack and making them all a little nuts. His mother, a good Catholic, has cast spells for four months, trying to draw his mate to him. The problem is, she doesn’t specify the sex of the mate, so when Ted, a gay man, shows up and they both feel the instant connection, Scott–who is straight, dammit!–freaks out.

Ted is in town on a painting retreat which is really cover for his investigation of another of the painters. He’s a Private Investigator and the woman’s husband has paid Ted to figure out who she’s cheating on him with. Ted himself used to paint but he gave it up when he became a cop. But three years ago, his partner was killed when he walked in on someone robbing an convenience store. Turns out, though, that the partner was AT the convenience store to collect illegal protection money. Ted, who loved his straight partner, takes the fall to save his widow the grief of knowing her husband was actually a crooked cop, and is kicked off the force. Ted refuses to fall in love with a straight guy again, so he’s almost as freaked out as Scott.

So this story turns into a refusal of the Fated Mate Syndrome. Both men do NOT want to love each other, do NOT want to be attracted to each other. Scott thinks if his mother reverses the spells she’s set, the connection will be broken and he can go back to being straight again and Ted can go home. They fight it every step of the way, which actually gives them a little time (although not enough) to fall in love with each other. I really liked this storyline. Fated Mate stories usually make me nuts, but I loved the reversal of it here.

And the angst! OMG, the angst! “I want you, OMG why do I want you, you’re so hot, no go away, I can’t, I must, you kiss so well but leave me alone.” It was brilliantly done:

"Sheriff!" A deep voice called, and Scott’s cock stiffened.

He kept walking. He didn’t want to do this. Whatever this was going to be, Scott knew it wouldn’t be good.

Scott made the cruiser when a strong hand landed on his shoulder. A shudder ripped through him, and he nearly staggered.

The other man groaned, and the grip tightened, almost bringing Scott to his knees. But not in pain. Oh hell, what he felt couldn’t be called pain at all, but damn if he’d name it.

Scott spun around, staggering a little. "You! Leave me alone." He shrugged off the guy’s hand.

"My name is Ted Canedo."

"I don’t want to know your name." Scott shook his head.

"Sure you do. You want to say it when you’re jerking off, don’t you?" He growled, his brows laced together.

"Merde. I don’t know what you’re-’" The guy cut Scott off by stepping forward, catching his arm by the wrist and holding on. "Let me go."

"Not until you explain this." Ted stared into his eyes. Scott lost himself there, deep in those dark pools.

"I can’t. I don’t know what the fuck is happening."

"That’s a lie. I can smell it on you." Ted leaned closer and inhaled. "Shit. I can smell you in my dreams. Smell you when I touch myself."

Despite himself, Scott inhaled. Ted. His mate. The scent overpowered him, sent him reeling. His wolf howled to break free, to claim this man.

I like that both Ted and Scott were strong men, used to going out and getting what they wanted, and this translated into their actions. But every now and then they turned into guys with vaginas: “Do you know how that makes me feel?” Ted asks Scott at one point and then provides a detailed list of his emotions. And that’s fine if that’s how they’re constructed otherwise, but it’s not, so it was very jarring.

Other problems with the book:

There were a lot of extraneous characters: a homophobic cop in New Orleans at the beginning of the book who is there apparently just to show us how must NOPD hate Ted for being dirty, but that could have been done more smoothly. The painter running the workshop — Darcy Wentworth (and REALLY?! on that name? REALLY?!) is a slightly sleazy gay guy who wants to bareback another one of the painters, Peter, taking the workshop. And really, three guys at the workshop and they’re all gay? But the Darcy/Peter storyline took up WAY too much space without actually serving any purpose. There’s a random beating at the end of the novel after which everyone makes friends, which seemed odd. Ted taking the fall for his partner seemed implausible –not THAT he would do it, but HOW it would happen — especially since he didn’t KNOW his partner was crooked. Scott’s insistence he wasn’t gay bordered on the edge of homophobic. It never stepped over, because yeah, what straight dude wants to discover at 35 that his inner werewolf is actually gay, but it made me a little uncomfortable. Scott’s mother reversed the spell she did…that month. But she’d done it for four months. Why did no one mention that maybe she needed to undo all of them? And while they have time to fall in love because of their resistance, you never *quite* show it happening. There’s never something that either character does that the other one says, “I like that he does that. I like the person who would do that,” that would show them falling in love. (But I still loved that they resisted the Fated Mate Syndrome!) And the hot sex after being beaten up without even mentioning aches and pains? Sigh.

More importantly, the tone of the book was uneven. It was Angst-O-Rama, then…not, then back again. Your voice moved around a bit, and it was disconcerting at time. And finally, after Scott and Ted accept their feelings for each other, Scott has to present Ted to the pack and then subdue any challenges. And while that was very well set-up and had to happen for closure in the book, because all the tension had gone out of the relationship between Ted and Scott, it was a long let-down to the book. The emotion quit about 30 pages before the book did and while it was necessary, it’s a shame.

World building notes: Only men can be werewolves, apparently. Their mates (all women up until now) become part of the pack, but they’re all still human. And when the werewolves turn, they’re real wolves, not a wolf-man hybrid. And…when they shift, clothes are never mentioned. They don’t lose their clothes when they shift, it’s not mentioned that they’re naked when they shift back to human. It just seemed an odd thing to leave out. Finally, this is obviously the first of a series, but there wasn’t any obvious serial-bait except for one potential gay guy as a future hero, which I appreciated. Makes me thinks the books will stand on their own.

Overall, there’s too many problems with the plot, world-building, and voice for me to grade this too high, especially since I was aware of them AS I was reading, rather than in retrospect. But I LOVED the characters and loved the Angst-fest of it. The tension between “I want him but I can’t have him” on both sides was brilliantly constructed and displayed. Well done! I’m looking forward to more in the series. If readers can overlook a few gaping holes and can just read for the emotion and the hot sex, I totally recommend it.

Grade: B-

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

Book Link | Loose Id

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