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Harlequin Intrigue

What Sunita is reading, for the week ending August 21

What Sunita is reading, for the week ending August 21

My reading weeks are highly variable. Sometimes I read half a dozen (or more) novels in their entirety, sometimes I don’t make it through a single one. This was a good week. I was doing some catching up of series in preparation for new releases, as well as following up on reads that have been recommended here and elsewhere. A number of these are short-story or novella length, so I read more variety than I do in a week where I’m reading full-length novels.

Enemies and Shadows (The Rifter #7) by Ginn Hale

Yes, I have the ARC. And yes, it totally rocks. #6 and #7 are set in the same time frame and focus on Kahlil and John, and they integrate fantasy and romance beautifully. There are some lovely scenes between the protagonists, the plot moves forward in a way that grips me and doesn’t let go, and I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better, emotion-wise. I can’t say much more than that for obvious reasons. I’ll have a post on these two installments early next month. This serial continues to be one of the best things I’ve read all year, maybe one of the best things I’ve read in any year.

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Muscling Through by J.L. Merrow

Reviewed here by Joan/SarahF. The review and the comments made me want to read this. I agree with Tumperkin/Joanna’s take: Al is slow, but not exactly stupid. I enjoyed the book, although it didn’t grab me as much emotionally as I expected. I’m okay with that, because sometimes I read to see what the author is going to do with a particular trope or setup. In this case, Merrow’s choice to use a somewhat inarticulate narrator made the story particularly interesting. It was a thought-provoking exploration of what we mean when we say someone is smart (or stupid), and what might lead opposites to become attracted to each other. An unusual story that has stayed with me.

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Old Poison by Josh Lanyon

This is the second novella in the Dangerous Ground series (Jayne reviewed the first one here). Federal agents Will and Taylor got together in DG #1 and they are working out the parameters of their relationship. They have to keep it hidden if they want to continue as partners, and they’re still kind of hesitant even though they have strong feelings for each other. Although Will is the reliable one, he feels less trustworthy than Taylor in terms of commitment because he doesn’t seem to believe that Taylor is in it for the long haul. Plot-wise, something and someone from Taylor’s past come back to haunt him and he narrowly escapes. This series is as close to timepass for me as anything written by Josh Lanyon can be. I’m not really invested in the characters, but the writing is first-rate and Lanyon plots a romantic mystery as well as anyone in the genre. The fourth in the series releases next month, and I plan to catch up by reading #3 before then.

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For One Night Only by Anne Brooke

Even when her books don’t entirely work for me, I find Brooke’s work to be compelling and readable. She reminds me a bit of Harper Fox, in that the emotional level is intense but emotions are taken seriously and explored with sensitivity and nuance. This is a short character study of a Dom who discovers the hard way how dangerously insensitive and callous he has been, and who takes steps to learn to be a better person, not just a better practitioner of BDSM. It’s not an easy read, and it’s not particularly romantic, but it’s unusual, intriguing, and well written. Apparently another story from the second protagonist’s perspective is in the works, and I’ll be on the lookout for it.

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Under the Gun by HelenKay Dimon.

This is the first book in Dimon’s current series in Harlequin’s Intrigue line. There are five in all, and the fifth is out next month. I read one out of sequence and I wanted to go back to the beginning and read in order. The hero is an agent with The Recovery Project, a quasi-governmental organization. The heroine is his former fiancee who dumped him for someone she soon regretted. Together they try to find out who has framed her for murder and wants to kill her. Dimon can really write category suspense; her plotting is tight, her writing is good, and you can believe it when the characters start to fall for each other. The romance has to occur fairly quickly, given the constraints of the line, but I still found it satisfying. Dimon has quickly become one of my go-to authors in the Intrigue line.

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Immortality is the Suck by A.M. Riley

Riley is one of my autobuy authors for mystery and contemporaries in m/m, but I had avoided the menage and paranormal books. Then last week I really needed to read a sure thing by a reliable author and I downloaded a sample. Even though it was midnight, I had to buy the book immediately. So far, we have a decidedly unheroic narrator who doesn’t know why he’s undead, and although he clearly loves his fuck-buddy and best friend, he is incapable of even temporary fidelity. Even while mostly dead. The protagonists are cops, with the narrator deep undercover in a gang and in danger of going rogue before he’s shot. Being mostly dead doesn’t keep him from being wanted by both the criminals and the cops. I’ve only read a few chapters, but it’s Riley, so I’m pretty sure it will stay this good. I love the narrator’s voice. And there’s a sequel!

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Spoil of War by Phoenix Sullivan

Yeah, I went there. I’m only four chapters in, although I have skimmed more than that, but I had to take a break. I see nothing so far to make me disagree with January’s review. I was prepared for the rapetastic nature of the plot, but I didn’t expect to find the heroine quite so appalling. The author seems to want the reader to like and even admire Elsbeth, because everyone except the Bad People wants to be her friend or fall in love with her. But I find her immature, self-centered, and oblivious of other’s feelings to an extreme that makes her unbelievable as a heroine. And while I’m not an expert on the early medieval period, even I can tell a historical mashup of the 6th through 12th centuries when I see it.

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REVIEW: Circumstantial Marriage by Kerry Connor

REVIEW: Circumstantial Marriage by Kerry Connor

Dear Ms. Connor,

After enjoying your last Harlequin Intrigue book, “Silent Night Stakeout,” I made a beeline to this one. I didn’t care for this book as much as that one but I did like it enough to keep me looking at what you produce next.

Circumstantial Marriage by Kerry ConnorAudrey Ellison is shocked when she arrives home late one evening and discovers someone in her apartment. The shock turns to terror when she realizes the intruder means to kill her. Acting quickly, she escapes into the night but now where does she go? From what the killer said, she realizes this has something to do with a biographical book her uncle has been working on and that there must be an explosive secret about the man the book is about – who also just happens to be days from announcing his candidacy for president of the United States.

Audrey races to her uncle’s house only to find it a smoldering crime scene. With no other options, she decides to seek out the man her uncle mentored for years. But reporter Jason Stone has been a recluse since his wife and daughters died from a car bomb meant to silence a story he was working on. And once Audrey finds him, she discovers a man who doesn’t care if he lives or dies.

Audrey cares about her life though and manages to kick start Jason’s sense of responsibility to the truth. Whatever someone is willing to kill to cover up must lie in the hometown of the candidate so Audrey and Jason head there, posing as newlyweds. But will they be able to untangle the scandals and secrets of the past before the killer tracks them down and silences them for good?

I love a heroine who thinks on her feet. Once Audrey’s involved, she doesn’t get hysterical but logically works the problem as does Jason. In him, you’ve created quite the angsty hero but you’ve also given him a real reason for being a tortured soul. The dive bar that Audrey finds Jason in fits his angstyness to a T. I can practically feel my feet sticking to the floor. The background of both characters as investigative reporters helps the believability of how they react to the situation and decide to proceed by solving it themselves rather than risk police involvement.

I figured out whole plot by clues you include but they’re discreet and a reader has to see then connect the dots to solve it. The final decision not to reveal the whole truth is a gulper but ultimately makes sense considering all involved. The nastiness behind politics never stops does it? However I do wonder how no one had discovered the truth before or if the parties could have maintained the fiction once the presidential declaration was made. At that point the candidates are under a white hot spotlight and if Audrey and Jason figure out the truth once they start, it seems like others could have done the same. Plus though the assassin is good, so many fires and burning buildings all together? Really now. The trail of bodies would have been discovered.

The balancing act in a romantic suspense book is a tough one and here it didn’t work so well for me. The emphasis for most of the book is on the suspense and the romance is forced into a tight corner. Yes, there’s some “mentally sizing each other up” but the end result is insta love from sex in the face of a future life or death situation.

Both Audrey and Jason have past issues that need resolution before they’re ready for future commitments. The scene when Jason finally allows himself to go back and remember the good times with his wife and daughters works for me. He needed this. But when Audrey learns the truth about her uncle’s feelings for her it was too much of a neat resolution of a years old problem in short a space of time for me.

Because of the fact that less emphasis was placed on the romance, the fact that the story ends with a HFN and a potential of HEA scores points with me. Another plus is the fact that the villain is and stays villainous throughout but with no foaming and scenery chewing. And while the secret relies a lot on people having kept their mouths shut over the years, it isn’t too far fetched and the resolution of it doesn’t come from nowhere. While I wish the story had read to me as more balanced, I still enjoyed it. C+

~Jayne

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