Category Archives: book review

False Front Illicit intent

Book Review: False Front & Illicit Intent, by Debbie Baldwin

I first came across the Bishop Security Series, by Debbie Baldwin, when I posted a Book Blitz on Sadie’s Spotlight. When I realized she’s a local-to-me author I mentioned it on Instagram and she contacted me asking if I’d be interested in reviewing the book. Thus, here we are.

False Front

Description from Goodreads:

Emma Porter is not real. She is an accomplished young woman, living a fulfilling life in New York City, working for an online news agency, and striving toward normalcy. The truth, however, is something else. She was once Emily Webster, a child of privilege, and the twenty-first century Lindbergh Baby. Her high-profile, unexplained abduction and subsequent rescue led to a childhood of paranoia and preparedness, as her kidnapper remained at large and still on the hunt. With her father’s guidance and resources, Emily became Emma Porter, living each day in her new identity, vigilant and unattached. Unattached but for the seemingly unbreakable tether that connects her to the man who, as a young boy, lived next door.

Like Emma, Nathan Bishop is not what he seems. Preparing to helm his family’s defense contracting company, Nathan is better known for his womanizing and reckless behavior than his business acumen. His striking image peppers the pages of society tabloids and police blotters, but beneath the facade of a rake, lurks a warrior. When an arms dealer procures a lethal bioweapon and is rumored to be selling it on U.S. soil, Nathan and his team must use every resource at their disposal to stop the threat.

With danger closing in, fate, once again, puts Emma in Nathan’s path, and the two must determine if the weathered bond between them is enough to find the truth behind their false fronts.

Review:

I’m of two minds about this book. On one hand the writing is sharp and it’s a rollicking good time of a read. On the other, there are quite a few elements included that, while common to the genre, I personally dislike in a book and, thus, had to pointedly look over. The Rich, Pretty-Pretty Princess Who Everyone Adores is a heroine I can’t come close to relating to. The Rich, Playboy Who Treats Women as Commodities But Every Woman Still Wants always just seems like an asshole to me and I don’t understand the appeal. (Baldwin played this off as not the real Bishop, but it’s real enough when he first meets Emma. It’s real enough to all those women he beds. His behavior is real enough.)

I thought the long standing love the two characters had for each other wasn’t all “AWW, they’re soulmates”which I recognize is how it’s supposed to read and can appreciate itbut instead it just felt obsessive and creepy, very unhealthy (especially on Emma’s part). Surely one of the many therapists would point that out. The innocent platonic love of SMALL children shouldn’t so easily turn to lust, IMO. The inclusion of a minor villain being a scorned woman is cliched to the point of irritation, and the fact that the book wrapped up QUICKLY in marriage and babies is BEYOND cliched and, in fact, felt tacked on. (I don’t consider that a spoiler because these sorts of books ALWAYS end this way…and that’s part of my complaint. Like Baldwin had to go, “Oh, people won’t consider it a real HEA if I don’t include this last bit.)

But those are all just personal complaints, not objective ones. Objectively, this fits the genre and is well written. Other than one minor inconstancy (a gift that seems to have been opened twice) this reads well and wraps up in a satisfyingly circular, if questionably serendipitous, manner. I’m looking forward to reading book two.


Illicit IntentDescription from Goodreads:

Calliope Garland’s newsdesk assignment was fairly straightforward—dig up the dirt on the sketchy CEO of a Wall Street hedge fund. But when the man is murdered and valuable data destroyed, a simple investigation turns deadly. Calliope is unwittingly in possession of vital financial information and a priceless work of art; either of which may get her killed. With an ever-growing list of people who want to harm her, Calliope must set aside her reservations and turn to the one man she knows can trust.

Miller “Tox” Buchanan is a study in contradictions: kind but lethal, passionate but distant, self-possessed yet hesitant. He knows he should keep his distance, but when Calliope is hurled into danger, Tox will stop at nothing to protect her.

…Her first instinct wasn’t to dial 911 but rather to call a certain Navy SEAL. She forced down the antiquated damsel in distress fantasy floating around in her head and rationalized the police would surely ask questions she was unwilling or unable to answer. She brought up her contacts. At the bottom, she touched the entry labeled, Tox, and the call rang through. A grizzly bear answered.
“This better be good.”
“Tox?”
“Calliope?”
“I need your help…”

Review:

In having reached the end of this book, I have to make a decision pertaining to reviewing it. (Well, these books. I could have said the same thing at the end of book one.) Do I review and rate it based on my own likes/dislikes or how it fits the requirements of it’s genre? Because while I read and enjoy certain parts of this genre, there are some aspects of it I seriously dislike and Bladwin adheres to them.

But how do I weight them, as personal pet peeves or as genre expectations? Example (and I don’t consider this a spoiler because of the aforementioned genre expectations. Anyone who doesn’t know how this book ends probably doesn’t read many in this genre.) The book ends with a big diamond ring, wedding bells, and a baby. (As did the last one and sooooo many others.) I expect many readers really do read with barely suppressed excitement, thinking, “Yes, give me those culturally mandated feel-good moments.” While I approach the end of such books with an increasing sense of dread, wondering when I’ll be disappointed by that same culturally cliched predictability. I promise there are other kinds of happily-ever-afters for women than swollen bellies and baby booties. I PROMISE. But can I really fault Baldwin for writing what the genre expects? I don’t know, but I want to. I get so BORED with the same endings. I always hope I’ll be surprised on this matter. I rarely am. And they’re so often tacked on after the main thriller/suspense plot has come to a natural conclusion.

Having said all of that, Baldwin does also subvert several problematic tropes in enjoyable ways. Tox is basically an anti-alpha-asshole. He has all those same brutish, possessive tendencies that fill books of this sort, but he’s aware of them and making concerted efforts to counter them. Calliope is so flighty and carefree as to seem child-like (and infantilizing female characters, especially in romance irritates the heck out of me). But she’s also forward, assertive, and not content to sit home folding laundry in the end. There are several examples of the classic ‘dead parent’ trope. But the number of loving and supportive non-biological families fill the void.

I did find the the circuitous nature and the suspense aspect of the book more compelling than the romance. I liked both characters and even liked them together. But I think the romance was shown to be fairly focused on lust and we’re told that is love. I also got a little bored with the ‘he’s so BIG (everywhere).” Sexual dimorphism is a thing, sure, but  I don’t really consider it a turn on and the everywhere aspect of if just seemed like it should be painful.

All in all, I didn’t find this personally faultless. But I do think the writing is eminently readable, editing clean, cast of characters every growing but interesting, and the series well worth pursuing further.

The Dragon's Spell

Book Review: The Dragon’s Spell, by Bonnie Burrows

I picked up a free Audible code for a copy of Bonnie Burrows’ The Dragon’s Spell.

the dragon's spell

The witches were disappearing and Faye Everleigh’s sister was the latest who had been taken.

Faye had good reason to suspect that a nearby clan of dragons were behind all the kidnappings and she was planning to do anything and everything within her power to get her sister back.

However, she did not bargain on Rylan, the dragon clan leader, being so impossibly handsome.

And before she knew it, a man who should really be her enemy was becoming a friend, an ally and a lover all in one.

Was the witch now under the dragon’s spell? Or was there more to this than meets the eye?

Meh, this wasn’t horrible. But it wasn’t great either. There just didn’t seem to be a lot to the plotgirl sets out to find her sister, gets captured, lazes about falling in love for a while, then, they save the day in basically one chapter.

Rylan was a nice change from the alpha-asshole, but his uncertainty made his feel weak and wishy-washy. Faye was pleasantly determined, but still didn’t actually DO much of anything throughout the book. The villain was obvious from the beginning and there’s really no depth to their machinationsevil for evil’s sake. I wasn’t at all invested in it.

Lastly, Morgan’s narration started out pretty rough, but it smoothed out eventually. But I noticed a lot of misplaced and mispronounced words. So many in fact, I have to wonder if he was doing a poor job OR an excellent one of reading the book just as it’s printed, errors and all.

 

Through the Black Mirror

Book Review: Through the Black Mirror, by Blaise Ramsay

Not too long ago I received an Amazon credit and, as I sometimes do, I offered to spend it on buying the book of a Twitter follower. Through the Black Mirror, by Blaise Ramsay was one of the books I bought.

about the book

Through the Black Mirror

“And it shall come, thy final day. When the last of the Witch Hunters cuts thy head from thy shoulders. The reign of the witch shall end when the Bishop’s cross runs red with blood…”

All Zayne Bishop wanted to do was collect the money for the head of the latest witch he killed. As the last of the Bishop line of Witch Hunters, Zayne was all that stood between the innocent and creatures of nightmare. He could not have known the drunken man running into the bar, screaming about how his daughter was abducted by another witch, would be the tool of his ultimate downfall.

Riding into the forest, Zayne finds himself the unfortunate victim of an ambush that left him battered and bruised. The Grand Dark Witch, Carmellia, prompted by an ancient prophecy, hurls the Witch Hunter through the Black Mirror into the streets of San Francisco.

Found and nursed back to health by the handsome Dhamphyre, Logan Myre, Zayne must fight for his life against a horde of witches and demons controlled by the very witch who threw him, half-dead, into the streets.

As their search for a way to get Zayne back grows more dire, it soon becomes apparent there may be no easy way to get the Witch Hunter home. It turns out being thrown through the mirror doesn’t offer Zayne safety from Carmellia’s influence as the witches are able to communicate across worlds through the mysterious Black Mirrors.

And one of them is just as dangerous.

my review

Ok, I’m going to start off by saying that nothing in the description, cover, Amazon tags, etc prepared me for the fact that this is a Young Adult title. And anyone who claims it isn’t I’m going to hit right in the face with, “It sure would be if the hero was a heroine.” He’s 18ish, is told to act “his age” multiple times by people referring to themselves and him as teenagers. Yes, there is some lack of consistency in that one of those ‘teens’ happens to be a several centuries old vampire, but this is a YA book and I didn’t realize that when I bought it. I’m pretty burned out on YA and would not have chosen if I’d known. So, this book admittedly started on it’s back foot, so to speak.

Having said all of that, what I disliked so about it wasn’t it’s YA-ness. It was the writing. I won’t say it’s objectively bad. But it’s sure not to my particular liking. I felt like it was clunky, jagged, and jumped around. Further, I felt like the main character was given one emotional note (pointless and often unnecessary anger). He and it were written so bluntly that I basically disliked him the entire time. There were deus ex machina successes, leaps of logic I couldn’t follow, instant and unexplained loyalties, unaccounted for passages of time, inconsistencies, and repetitions.

The idea behind this book isn’t a bad one. But I finished it by force of will alone.