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second chances

REVIEW:  Scorched by Laura Griffin

REVIEW: Scorched by Laura Griffin

“The dead don’t speak, but Kelsey Quinn knows their secrets. As a forensic anthropologist at the Delphi Center crime lab, Kelsey makes it her mission to identify bodies, often using no more than shards of bone. Her find at a remote Philippines dig hints at a sinister story. When Kelsey’s search for answers puts her at the scene of her ex-fiancé’s murder, only one man can help her–the man who broke her heart months before and is also a prime suspect.

Faced with an ultimatum—Kelsey or his job—Gage Brewer did the only thing a Navy SEAL could . . . but that doesn’t mean he stopped wanting Kelsey. Now Kelsey is running for her life and Gage is her last line of defense.”

Dear Ms. Griffin:

My reaction to the last book “Twisted” had me worried and frankly I was holding my breath with this one. I did end up with a few tiny issues but overall this one is back to what I hope for in a Laura Griffin romantic suspense book.

Laura Griffin ScorchedThe plots of these books always sound plausible. I might have issues with the way some of the characters act and react but as far as the driving force behind what gets the action going, I don’t have to suspend belief and just go with it. And the plots are scary as hell – usually. The break from a serial killer villain is appreciated. Now we’re on to mass murder. Is this worse – more victims in total, or better in that I’m not worried throughout the story for individuals who might fit the profile? I’m conflicted on that but the evil level is still maintained throughout.

What happens is a clever mix of real events and dreaded scenarios. I hate to use the hackneyed phrase “torn from the headlines of a newspaper” but, honestly, the plot could be. Thanks for keeping it real.

Isn’t it nice for the unsuspecting American populace that trained SEALs are there who are cool as ice under pressure? And have had their anthrax vaccines? Hmmm, I’m not sure about that phrase “Froggie sense” that Gage’s teammates use to describe his sixth sense of danger since for me it conjures visions that are more cute than that of finely honed warrior instincts. Thank God the description of the SEALs here is not quite to the worship stage of other authors but still enough to get a good feeling that these men can handle whatever is thrown at them and are not going to back down. More “cool, man” than “OMG, I’m so in awe!” of them.

I love the details of Kelsey and later Gage doing what they do best. Even if they’re sort of grim details it gives the characters authenticity and veracity to their speculations later on. But how does Kelsey think she’s going to be able to waltz into the Delphi center – with all its id checks – and not realize the FBI will catch on to the fact that she’s there?

The tension is built up, then lowered down a touch, then built a bit higher, then relaxed a little then slowly raised to bursting point. It’s not like a roller coaster but more in gentle inclines but the payoff is still boss. I have a niggle though, at the out that Kelsey offers to the SEALs at the end. Really, she thinks they might say “nah, we think we’re done here. You take it from now on” and give up at the last minute? And what does she know about what needs to be done? She loves her man and wants to help but, jeez! Jane and I chatted a bit about this issue and she, rightly, pointed out that Kelsey has a scientifically trained mind and isn’t one to get all squirrely under pressure.

Love the way one final person gets caught. Fucking genius. At times I might wonder about the intelligence of the FBI but here it’s abso-fucking-lutely great. Big smile time.

Initially as I read it, I thought the love story didn’t work as well for me as the suspense. Then I thought back and realized it does work. There are fabulous reasons that Gage and Kelsey initially broke up – and they match what I’ve heard are the standard issues for the rockiness of SEAL marriages. Plus there’s the geography of Gage stuck in either of two US locations where SEALs are stationed and Kelsey in mid country in a dream job. It would be next to impossible for either to just pick up and find a similar job in closer proximity to each other. Plus Gage’s initial concentration on sex with Kelsey with no expectation of it being more for them kinda sucks. Sure, as a relief valve for the pressure they’ve been under, I can see but Kelsey is aware that Gage isn’t thinking long term commitment. As I’m reading this, I’m thinking that these two a polar lengths apart and how could they ever work through these issues. It’s only after the fact that it becomes clear that the whole book is set up to allow this.

Gage and Kelsey both knew how important each others’ jobs are but here they get to see the other in action and it finally becomes crystal clear how damned good each is at what he/she does and how important these jobs are. As Kelsey becomes a target, Gage finally realizes what she went through worrying about him when he was in combat. It’s the proverbial “Ahhh haa, the light dawns” moment. And right when Kelsey tells him what she wants in the future, and that she now knows she won’t get it from him because she can see what being a SEAL is really all about, he begins to shift to knowing that he wants to be the man in her future. The transition works for me. Instead of a book where I can’t buy into the change of heart needed to bring two people together who’ve been written so far apart, here I can see it happen.

The time added on to the end of the story helps and the fact that both of them are willing to give in order to make this work is a fantastic beginning to the next stage of their relationship.  B



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REVIEW:  Promise Me a Rainbow by Cheryl Reavis

REVIEW: Promise Me a Rainbow by Cheryl Reavis

“Deserted by her husband because she couldn’t have children, Catherine Holben has thrown herself into her job counseling pregnant teens. Catherine is still recovering from the pain of her divorce, but her life is changed forever when she makes a purchase in a quaint curio shop. She meets handsome, hardworking Joe D’Amaro, a widower and father of three, and his daughter, Fritz. But Joe needs help with Fritz, a seven-year-old dynamo. She’s a precocious but headstrong little girl who’s impossible to resist., and he is too proud to admit it.

Joe and Catherine are cautious about making a commitment to each other. They both know the joy and heartache of falling in love, but are they willing to risk being together despite their misgivings? Neither can ignore the love that quickly blossoms between them. Maybe they can have a wonderful life together . . . if only Joe’s still-grieving older daughter, Della, will accept a new woman in her father’s life.

True love versus reality. Can Catherine handle his ready-made family? Or is there more in store for her than she thinks?”

Dear Ms. Reavis,

What a wonderful, soft, sweet romance that still manages to include some hotness + emotional intensity. Even before their relationship has them burning up the sheets – but not in an overwrought, cliched, purple way – these two care about each other. They care a lot and I can see this, feel it, believe in it. They fight it all the way after a rocky start but for some reason this gets me to believe it even more. I’ve always been dubious about people who fall into insta-love – mainly because often it seems that the two are in love just because the plot demands it – but here I feel I’m watching it happen.

Promise Me a Rainbow by Cheryl ReavisJoe and Catherine have both loved and lost. His first wife died in a car accident and he grieved deeply while Catherine’s husband left her due to their infertility issues. They’ve both known love and, glory be, neither is wailing “I’ll never love again! I just can’t risk ever feeling that pain a second time.” But there are reasons for them to take things slowly and think hard about what they’re doing. Neither is exactly eager to be hurt again but at least they’re not ducking and dodging any potential future. Always a good sign for me.

Catherine isn’t sure about this initially prickly man with his 3 children because Joe can be rude when he’s feeling emotionally in the wrong. She’s also still getting over being dumped by the man she thought loved her and with her teaching schedule, she doesn’t want to jump into anything. Joe is working hard to build his fledgling business and help his intense youngest child. He’s also got issues with a sister-in-law that complicates family things. Then when his beyotch sister-in-law sees a way to twist the situation to her benefit, Joe is faced with his eldest daughter’s anger and pain.

The relationship with the children is heartfelt yet at times also painful. Fritz worries Joe with her solemnness and closely held thoughts. Charlie is easy going. Della is full of pain and the pangs of approaching adulthood. Honestly I think Joe does the best he can and beyond being there and even with listening to your children and explaining things the best you can, there will be times of pain and heartache. The reasons which are built into the story to explain it all give a pretty good source of conflict here and not one that can be easily cleared up. There are plenty of times when I wanted to shake Della, too, til her teeth rattled. But she’s truly at that stage of Teenaged Drama Queenness so her actions and feelings are understandable to anyone who’s ever gone through this age. By the end of the book, it looks like there might be a rainbow in the near future.

Fritz reminds me a bit of several children I’ve known. Quiet with deep inner depths who can worry about things with such intensity. She seems to scare Joe a little and I can see why. Her thoughts and reasoning are those of a young child and to her, they make perfect sense and are completely logical. Her longing for a real mother is that of a child who remembers the loss of her own and who longs for what her older siblings had and that she’s mainly missed. Her interactions with her father and Catherine have a sweetness and tenderness I enjoyed experiencing.

Catherine’s students move the story into the true contemporary range. Teenaged pregnancy is often a springboard for the secret baby books so popular in romances but here the realities of the situation are examined a bit: the social isolation at school, the physical cost paid by 13 year olds giving birth, the harsh home life often faced by these girls. Your own training as a nurse makes these scenes more realistic – especially the hospital ones. The emotional and physical issues of the cancer faced by Catherine’s friend Pat remind me of those of friends of mine – though they didn’t deal with an asshole husband.

It does get a little precious at the end when the pregnant posse + grandmamma (I agree with Clarkson about her) go looking for Joe to make him do right by Catherine. And the discussion with the priest about getting the wedding done on time sounds too cute. And Della’s rethinking of her family options does go down to the wire. But I still like this book for the emotional truths and the solid, well written characters. B