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romantic-suspense

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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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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