Faith + Romance

I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to romance and religion, I tend to think of the two as mashed potatoes and chocolate — fine on their own, but preferring to keep them separate from each other. Because of that, I found myself steering clear of inspirational romances, under the impression that the romance would be diluted and overshadowed with talks of God and religious virtues. Silly, I know, but then it dawned on me that I couldn’t truly consider myself a romance lover unless I at least gave every category a chance.

Enter Souvenirs by Barbara Phinney, an inspirational romantic suspense and my first foray into the “inspy” sub-genre. You can read my RT review below, but in terms of the inspirational genre, let me just say: if all inspys are as well-written and filled with awesome character chemistry as Phinney’s books, then I’ll be seeing a lot more of them in my future! Harlequin has multiple faith-based categories — Steeple Hill Café, Love Inspired, Love Inspired Historical, Love Inspired Suspense, plus more —  so there’s an abundance for me to choose from. Glancing through them, I can’t help but notice the great covers, and everyone knows that a standout cover only makes books that much more enticing… Am I right??

Sand and Suspense

I love beach reads as much as the next gal (or guy!), but sometimes switching it up every now and then is the perfect remedy to keep things fresh and new. Enter Dangerous Sands by Karen Bostrom (Wild Rose Press). Not only is the heroine more mature than your typical contemporary romance heroine (She’s over 40), but the vivid Jersey Shore background serves as an ideal secondary character in the story. I know what you’re thinking: Jersey Shore as in the fist-pumping, cat-fighting debauchery we’re used to seeing on TV? No worries, there’s no Gorilla Juice Heads or orange spray tanning near this part of the beach. With a little over a month left in summer, be sure to indulge in some last-minute vacationing and check out this beachy gem before the season ends.

Summer Solstice Series

Suuuuuuummertime, and the livin’s easy hot. 95º hot, to be exact — at least here in Georgia, that is. Today is the first day of summer, which means we’re in the throes of humid mornings, scorching afternoons and sweltering nights. In honor of the summer solstice, I thought it was only appropriate to ring in the new season with a list of smokin’ hot series to stuff into your beach bag. Why a series? Well, everyone knows that when it comes summer reads, you can’t stop at just one! With so much free time on my hands, I know I need at least three books — per week — to satisfy me during summer vacation. Whether you’re heading out of town or soaking up some indoor A.C., there’s a series to accompany you on whatever type of vacation you’ve got planned.

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Bathing suit? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Perfect beach/poolside weather? Check. If you’re spending the day splashing around and under an umbrella, then you’ll want to tuck Carly Phillips’ Hot Zone series into your beach bag. The series is comprised of four books, which pulls back the curtain of a sports PR agency and its oh-so-sexy employees.

Looking for something that’s sure to melt your ice cream cone? Lora Leigh’s Nauti series is for you! There are six books in the series — each focusing on a different smouldering, trouble-is-their-middle-name cousin. Warning: this series is sure to leave you flustered, so be sure you have a bottle of water close by!

If your plans include camping, hiking, or any other type of outdoorsy adventure, Julie Garwood’s Buchanan series is for you. Begin with Heartbreaker, the first of eight sexy romantic suspenses, guaranteed to give you chills and wish for your own hero to snuggle up to for protection. With so many books in the series, it’s likely that you may have to extend your vacation just so you can read them all!

If summer for you means swimming, playing beach volleyball or watching a ball game, then you’ll want to scoop up Rachel Gibson’s Chinook Hockey Team series. In each of the six books, the chemistry between the couples will leave you hot, while the hockey elements are sure to cool you down. Don’t be surprised if you forgo a few games in favor of finishing these delicious reads!

Hopefully one of these series will keep you sated during what is sure to be a very long and very hot summer. And remember, always wear sunscreen!

ROAMING QUESTION: Do you have another series that you think should be included? If so, what and what type of summer plans should they accompany?

Law and Order

I am a crime show junkie. Criminal Minds, CSI, NCIS, plus all their spin-offs — you name it, I’ve seen it. Ever since a little show called Law and Order became mega-successful, it seems as if there’s been an influx in crime dramas (lucky me!). Now, whatever your macabre taste, there’s a show — and a sexy, quirky cast of characters — that goes with it. One of the major upsides to being addicted to these type of shows is that they always seem to air in marathons, further enabling my addiction and gluing me to the couch to waste away another Saturday (or Sunday… or Monday… you get the point!).

Due to a severe (and unexpected) thunderstorm today, I was forced to abandon all previous plans and replace them with a day spent inside. I begrudgingly flipped on the TV and was immediately greeted with a familiar tune and a memorable DOING-DOING, reminding me of a book I recently reviewed for RT Book Reviews. Carol Stephenson’s Courting Disaster is an action-packed romantic suspense, featuring a criminal defense attorney named Carling Dent who’s up against the clock as she tries to solve her own case. While I had a few hang-ups about the plot, the story is solid and will keep readers anxious to find out whodunnit.

Strange Connections

My mind works in odd ways and somehow it always manages to make seemingly-random connections. Don’t believe me? Take a look at how my train-of-though went from Earth Day (happy Earth Day!) to Hidden Threat, the latest book I just read:

SYNOPSIS: After learning that her father has been in an accident, Cali Stanton immediately returns home from overseas. Because of his injuries, her father is unable to work and asks Cali to take over his business while he recovers. She agrees, but is wary when he reveals that he’s hired two new specialized security managers for the company. Why would the CEO of a medical supply company need beefed up security?

“Beefed up” takes on a whole new meaning when Cali lays eyes on Matthew Andersen, one of the new security managers. Right away there are sparks between the couple, despite their refusal to mix business with pleasure. As threats to the company begin to escalate and Cali’s life is put in jeopardy, Matthew is even more determined to nail whoever is behind this. But can he figure out who’s sabotaging the company while also juggling his growing attraction to the boss’s daughter?

Wow, did this book suck me in! Right away I was pulled into Cali’s life as she returned home and assumed the temporary position as CEO. She was fiercely independent, but not at all obnoxiously stubborn or TSTL (too stupid to live). Matthew was definitely an Alpha hero, but his protectiveness came off as concern instead of caveman-like. A large portion of the book focuses on the build-up between the couple, and I really appreciated the back and forth “dance” between them; it reminded me of real-life, where men and women play the “I like him, but refuse to admit it because I’m not sure he feels the same way” game. You know which one I’m talking about. Drives you crazy in a sexy-cool sort of way…love it!

I also really enjoyed how the narrative didn’t only focus on Cali and Matthew. For example, there were also well-developed scenes involving Matthew’s brother, Jason, and his love interest, which not only added substance, but also provided insight into the main characters from a secondary point-of-view. Also, I’m usually the sort of person who can figure out “whodunnit” way before the main characters can, but I was surprised by the twists and turns throughout the book. I will say, however, that there were a few grammatical errors that my editing eyes couldn’t help but notice, but to be honest, the story was so good that they were easily dismissed. Ooh, one more plus to top off the compliment sandwich: Even though the backdrop revolved around a medical company, the narrative was not littered with incomprehensible jargon, which was extremely refreshing, especially since it seemed like an easy opportunity for the author to insert a bunch of medical mumbo-jumbo. Final thoughts: go forth and read it for yourself!

*Click here to read my review and view my star rating on Goodreads.

**Edit: I received Hidden Threat as a complimentary copy for review from the publisher.

Hot Chemistry, Chilly Suspense

As a fan of romantic suspense, I was curious to see how a romantic suspense by a category publisher like Harlequin would measure up. At 218 pages (most full-length romantic suspense are >350 pp.), I could imagine the challenges the author faced in writing a fast-paced yet intricate book in so few pages. However, after finishing Double-Edged Detective, pubbed under the Harlequin Intrigue imprint, I can say that author Mallory Kane did an excellent job in delivering!

My Goodreads review of "Double Edged Detective"SYNOPSIS: Nicole Beckham barely escaped a killer during a home invasion the year before. With a new city, a new job and a new apartment, Nicole is determined to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start for herself. Detective Ryker Delancey, however, is convinced that whoever tried to kill Nicole is the same person who’s been murdering women around the same time over the last few years – a serial killer. Nicole doesn’t want to believe Ryker, and neither does his boss. When the killer strikes again, this time using the knife he stole from Nicole the year before, the threat against Nicole becomes all too real and Ryker is determined to keep her alive. Spending nearly every waking moment around each other awakens dormant feelings in them both, and in addition to catching a killer, Nicole and Ryker have to figure out if their feelings for each other span beyond the cop/victim relationship.

Kane’s detailed descriptions and suspenseful plot keeps the story moving and readers on the edge of their seat. We are aware of who the murderer is from the beginning, but instead of dampening the climax, insight into the killer’s mind actually makes the story more riveting. In addition, readers are free to devote more attention to the tension building between Ryker and Nic, who are both strong-willed and stubborn, yet also compassionate toward each other. Although Ryker is a detective, he’s not a brute, which is a refreshing change, and Nic is neither TSTL (too stupid to live) nor whiny and dependent.

While there are a few secondary characters mentioned, none are prominent enough to take away from the couple, who take center stage. The only criticism I have, however, is that the reasons keeping Ryker and Nic from committing are somewhat weak and watered down. While it’s a given that the two of them will end up together, a bit more cat-and-mouse chase would have made their reunion more gratifying. Aside from that, Double-Edged Detective is a can’t-put-down read that will have readers both hot from chemistry and chilly from suspense.

*Click here to read my review and view my star rating on Goodreads.