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REVIEW:  Twisted by Laura K. Curtis

REVIEW: Twisted by Laura K. Curtis

Dear Laura K. Curtis:

You and I have followed and chatted with each other on Twitter for quite a while. I took note when your debut book was released, and when I saw Liz Mc2′s tweets about how much she was enjoying it, I downloaded the sample and enjoyed it so much that I bought the book and picked up where I had left off. I’m a fan of Romantic Suspense, but some of the stock plots and setups don’t work for me. But I couldn’t resist yours, and I’m very glad I went with my instincts.

Twisted by Laura K. CurtisThe story opens with Lucy Sadler Caldwell, a bestselling true crime author, returning to her small Texas home town to investigate the long-ago murder of her mother, Cecile. Because Cecile was scorned as the town tramp, her brutal killing was only cursorily investigated by the local police, and Lucy is determined to find out the truth. She returns to their old home, accompanied by her younger brother, who was five at the time of the murder and remembers little of their past in Dobbs Hollow. Prepared to fight to get the police evidence she needs to begin her investigation, Lucy is surprised and pleased to discover that the Chief of Police is a newcomer who is more than willing to help her out. And while he may have secrets of his own, Ethan Donovan is not related to or conspiring with the town leaders, however much they try to control him.

As Lucy begins the process of solving the mystery of her mother’s death, she realizes that she also has to uncover the many secrets in her mother’s past. These secrets implicate a number of powerful town citizens and increase the hostility with which almost everyone in the town regards her.

Curtis does an excellent job of introducing Lucy and setting up the mystery storyline. I was on Lucy’s side from the minute she stepped out of the Range Rover and went into the police station to declare her varied weapons and the permits to use them, so I had no trouble believing that Ethan would be too:

Every battle called for a specific weapon, and over the years Lucy had become accustomed to carrying at least one at all times. Now, without the weight of a pistol at her hip or back, the reassuring bite of a sheath at her ankle, or even the knowledge of a can of Mace in her purse, she felt supremely vulnerable. But she could hardly walk into a police station armed to the teeth, no matter how much she might prefer to.

So instead of checking the bullets in a magazine, she patted the tight bun restraining her wavy hair, spritzed her neck with a touch of eau de toilette, and gave her appearance one last once-over in the rearview mirror. Good to go.

Sliding out of the Range Rover in a pencil skirt and high heels wasn’t easy, but when she turned to walk up the steps to the station house and caught a man on the sidewalk doing a double take, satisfaction swirled through her. The costume had been worth the effort.

It’s clear from that opening that Lucy is good at being in command of a situation, and that despite her difficult upbringing she has built a successful career that gives her confidence and expertise. She’s relieved that Ethan is supportive and she’s happy to have his help, but she’s not looking to him for solutions, in fact, her expertise helps his investigation when a woman is found murdered.

Ethan is a good match for Lucy; as an outsider, he doesn’t come with Dobbs Hollow baggage and he sees her as the professional she’s become rather than as her mother’s daughter (the way most of the town dismisses her). The disability he acquired in his former career as a Houston police officer goes some way toward leveling the natural physical advantages he would have over Lucy, so their working relationship feels more equal than I often find in Romantic Suspense. It takes a while for Ethan’s past to be revealed, and I found his secrets to be less awful than I expected, but overall he was a sympathetic and interesting character, with little of the hyper-masculinity that such characters sometimes project.

The mystery and suspense comprise a major portion of the book, so readers who want the romance to be front and center with the mystery taking a back seat might find the balance tilting too far in the non-romance direction. I enjoyed the mystery, which expanded from the single case of Cecile’s murder to encompass several others. It gets a bit too complicated by the end, when Cecile’s complex story becomes tied into other misdeeds in Dobbs Hollow, and the gothic darkness of the town starts to tip toward implausibility, but for the most part I found the twists and turns intriguing.

The downside of the verismilitude of the mystery and suspense aspects is that sometimes moving from the crimes to the romance was a bit jarring. There aren’t any of those annoying “we’re in danger, we’re hiding, let’s snog!” scenes, but the transitions from suspense to sensuality didn’t always work for me. I did buy Ethan and Lucy as a couple, though, and I think part of what made them convincing was that we saw them working together and talking about the town and the crime and their lives, not just radiating sexual tension and lust.

One of the problems I often have with the Romantic Suspense genre and with mystery-romance more generally is that the heroine is regularly being rescued by the hero. That doesn’t happen overtly here, but Lucy has a lot of bad things happen to her and Ethan is constantly having to show up to set things to rights. Granted, he’s the chief of police, so it’s his job, and Lucy is emotionally and practically able to cope without him, but I would have liked more scenes where she took the lead.

The setting of Dobbs Hollow really comes to life. There are a lot of characters, many of them related to each other, so occasionally at the beginning I had trouble keeping everyone straight, but by midway through the book I had a handle on the cast. There were a few sympathetic characters in the mostly suspicious and disapproving town, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of Lucy’s school friend, Tara Jean the police officer.

Despite my criticisms, I really enjoyed this novel. The writing is strong, the characters come to life, and it’s a treat to have an interesting, complex female character who sends the message that she can solve her own mysteries and who doesn’t exhibit TSTL behavior. Ethan is a well-drawn hero, but this is really Lucy’s story, and she absolutely owns it. Grade: B

~ Sunita

 

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REVIEW:  Move the Sun by Susan Fanetti

REVIEW: Move the Sun by Susan Fanetti

MTS

Dear Ms. Fanetti:

I saw Jane tweeting about your book and immediately went to Amazon to buy it. I love biker books (as evidenced by my obsessive reading of Kristen Ashley last year) and your book sounded right up my alley. In doing a little digging around about your book to write this review, I’ve discovered that it is Sons of Anarchy fan fiction. Since I don’t watch Sons of Anarchy and had no context for the book, it didn’t affect my enjoyment at all.

Lilli Accardo has just moved to Signal Bend, Missouri. The town itself is run down and has an extremely small town feel. It suits her purposes perfectly. As she pulls up to the realtor’s office to pick up the keys to her rental home, three Harleys roll by. Lilli quickly discovers that the power in this town belongs with the Night Horde Motorcycle Club, which acts as protection to the town. The President of Night Horde is Issac Lunden. Big, brawny and incredibly hot, Lilli is immediately drawn to him, but her reason for being in Signal Bend may prevent her from involving herself with the highest profile man in town. Her first night in town, Lilli heads to the local watering hole for a beer, and finds herself flirting with Issac. He’s attracted and she’s interested, but is naturally wary of any involvement. A bar brawl breaks out, and Issac is blown away by Lilli’s ability to defend herself. She’s much tougher than her willowy frame looks. He begins a single-minded pursuit of her, knowing that when they get together, it will be incendiary.

He’s right. They have incredible chemistry, and he begins to think the unthinkable, that perhaps Lilli is The One. But she has secrets she’s unwilling to share, and when he has his tech guy dig into her past, they find that it’s very obviously made up and that there is an impenetrable wall around digging further. Issac worries that Lilli is gunning for his town and his Club. While she assures him that she has no interest whatsoever in the protection that the Club provides for drug sellers, he remains suspicious of her unwillingness to share what her purpose is in moving to his tiny town where no one ever willingly moves. Even as he worries about Lilli, Issac’s town and his Club are threatened by a big time drug lord looking to set up shop in his territory, bringing a very real threat of death to his own people. He’s fighting for his town’s life and well-being and fighting for his love, whose secrets he still doesn’t completely grasp.

This book was such a pleasant surprise for me! First, the town is vividly drawn, and while I felt like the Motorcycle Club aspect of it is probably toned down for the readers, it was still believable. I really liked Issac, which is no surprise because for all his gruff looks, he’s a total Caregiving Alpha. He respects Lilli a ton, knowing that she can protect herself and that she’s tough and possibly a killer. But he also spends a ton of time taking care of her. Comforting her, and loving her. It’s very clear almost from the beginning that he’s falling in love, which I really liked. Even more, I loved Lilli. She’s definitely got a tortured past. She’s incredibly smart, and driven by demons. But she’s kind and when she finally allows herself to fall for Issac, it’s incredibly moving and sweet. I referenced their chemistry earlier in the review. The sex scenes between the two are erotic, emotional and inventive. In this case, the couple is having relatively rough sex, but as the book progresses, it becomes more and more emotionally charged as they fall more deeply in love.

If I had any complaint about the book it’s that Lilli’s purpose for being in town takes a long time to be revealed. I did like the judicious use of flashbacks to tell her backstory, but by the time I hit the 40% mark in the book, I was more than ready to understand what she was doing in town. You also used the word “growl” in relation to the hero 29 times in the book. I  kept waiting for him to turn into a werewolf. I actually tweeted about it because it became a bit like a drinking game for me. “Hero growls with pleasure” DRINK! “Hero growls out words” DRINK! Not a big deal, but certainly distracting for me as a reader.

All of that being said, this was a really enjoyable read that does not, in any way, read like a first novel, nor a self-pub. It’s polished and reads very smoothly. I predict big things for you. I know I for one can’t wait to read more of this series. Move the Sun gets a B+ from me.

Kind regards,

Kati

 

UPDATE: The author contacted me: “I did notice that you said MTS is fanfic, and that’s not accurate. It’s all original content. I cut my fictional teeth writing SOA fanfic, but there’s no Sons of Anarchy in MTS.”

 

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