Monday, November 22, 2010

Killing Me Softly

Killing Me Softly by Maggie Shayne

First you drink, then you DIE.

The Nightcap Strangler, who terrorized the town of Shadow Falls sixteen years ago, has finally been executed. Case closed. Until Bryan Kendall’s lover is murdered in the notorious killer’s unique style and the rookie cop stands accused. Has someone committed the perfect copycat crime…or was the wrong man put to death?

A continent away, Dawn Jones hears that her first love has been accused of murder and knows that only she can help him. But to do so, she’ll have to face the very fears that drove them apart.

Together they’ll work to uncover secrets someone’s willing to kill to keep, and renew a love as dangerous as it is inevitable. And their best lead is the gril found dead in Bryan’s bed, reeking of the whiskey poured down her throat before her killer squeezed it shut.

A killer who thinks that Dawn, too, could use one last drink…
--Killing Me Softly by Maggie Shayne, Copyright ©2010 by Margaret Benson, published by Mira Books

My Review
Bryan Kendall, rookie cop in Shadow Falls, VT, has just been returned to active duty following the shooting of a suspect in the line of duty. So, like all young men with something to celebrate, he throws a party. Nothing major, just a dozen or so friends, some beer, some chips and music. But the next morning, when he manages to pick himself up off the bathroom floor and stumble into bed, he finds his girlfriend dead asleep. No, not asleep, just dead. Killed in a manner of a serial killer who was recently executed after being in jail for sixteen years.

Surely this must be the work of a copycat. Very few people knew the intimate details of the case. Nick di Marco, the cop who cracked the case, the chief of police, and Bryan himself.

On the other side of the continent, Dawn Jones receives a call from her mother, telling her the news. She’s sorry, but she can’t return home. There’s too much unfinished business between her and Bryan and that’s the way she wants to keep it. But her mother insists, and Dawn reluctantly boards the flight her mother has booked for her. When she arrives at the bed and breakfast run by her mother (and Bryan’s father), the tension between the former teen lovers is palatable. Before they can even attempt to resolve any of their issues, though, another woman is killed. Bryan was “a person of interest” before. Now the police have obtained an arrest warrant. Though it goes against his instincts, Bryan goes on the run, taking Dawn with him.

Working with Nick, his mentor, Bryan and Dawn begin to investigate the details of the case, trying to track down the real killer and answer some questions. If the man convicted of the crimes sixteen years ago was just executed, who’s committing the crimes now? How did he know the unique signature of the Nightcap Strangler, a detail never released to the press?

And what about Dawn’s special “gift,” passed down to her by her psychotic father, the one that lets her talk to the dead? She left Vermont five years ago to escape the gift, leaving Bryan in the dark as to why she left. Now that she was back, would the dead talk to her? Was the ability gone for good? Or would it come back in time to save not only Bryan’s life, but her own?

I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Killer Weekend

Killer Weekend by Ridley Pearson

Eight years ago, Sun Valley, Idaho, sheriff Walt Fleming bravely thwarted an attempt on Attorney General Elizabeth Shaler's life. Now AG Shaler is back in town, poised to announce her candidacy for president at a three-day conference catering to the world's most prominent business leaders. The event is the brainchild of Patrick Cutter, a tycoon whose sybaritic lifestyle is a source of both scorn and awe. (He is but one example of the super-rich citizenry that's taken up residence in the once-quiet ski town.) There is no shortage of security for the proceedings--local police, Secret Service, and Cutter's own team--but it's not enough to deter a cunning assassin who slips seamlessly between a pair of identities. Meanwhile, Sheriff Fleming must cope with the suspicious death of a beautiful socialite and the breakup of his own marriage; it doesn't help matters that his deputy is sleeping with his ex-wife.
--Killer Weekend by Ridley Pearson, Copyright ©2007 Ridley Pearson, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

My Review
The place is Sun Valley, Idaho and, following a hunch, Patrolman Walter Fleming enters the vacation home of New York Attorney General Elizabeth Shaler. He found a community property bike in the woods behind her house and one of the windows to the crawlspace of her home is broken. He saves her life, but not before being seriously injured himself.

Fast forward eight years and Patrolman Fleming is now Sheriff Fleming. Liz Shaler has returned to Sun Valley Idaho and some believe she’s about to announce her candidacy for President of the United States. As local law enforcement, Walt joins her security detail, but he still has his regular duties, including an investigation into the death of a beautiful and faithless socialite, his interfering father, controlling the group of conference protestors and his own dissolving marriage. Not to mention hunting down a clever assassin who manages to slip in past security as easily as he slips between identities.

He saved Liz Shaler’s life once before. Can he do it again?

Normally, I give more detail in my reviews, but I found it difficult to do so with this story without giving away the entire plot. Know this: If you’ve never read Ridley Pearson before—and I never had—he weaves a tightly intricate story combining several different seemingly unrelated story lines that are, in fact, all part of the whole. My only criticism is Sheriff Fleming’s seemingly infallible intuition that tells him means one thing when everyone else says it means something else. Sure, I’ve heard of a cop’s instinct, but it just doesn’t quite ring true with me. Nevertheless, it was a great story.

I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Ever After

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Parker Brown turned the quartet’s childhood game of Wedding Day into their dream jobs. And now she’s the face of Vows—the one who meets every bride’s demands; deeps every event on schedule; and brings Emma’s romantic flowers, Laurel’s delicious treats, an Mac’s stunning photography together in one glorious package. She knows how to make dreams come true…

Mechanic Malcolm Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker Brown—with her mile-long legs—is no exception. But as a good friend of Parker’s brother, Mal knows that moving from minor flirtation to major hookup is a serious step.

No man has rattled Parker in a long time, but the motorcycling-riding, raven-haired Mal seems to have a knack for it. His passionate kisses always catch her off guard, much like her growing feelings for him. Parker’s business risks have always paid off, but now hse’ll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart…

--Happily Ever After by Nora Roberts, Copyright ©2010 by Nora Roberts, published by Berkeley Books
My Review

The final installment of the Bride Quartet is a wonderful conclusion to the series. The romance that has been building up between Parker and Malcolm finally spills over and these two find themselves face to face with each other…and they like what they see.

Socially, they’re living in two different worlds. Parker is a “have” while Mal is a “have not” but Parker is not one to live off her family money. Browns work, and she does, building Vows with her three friends and as she’s the primary planner and organizer, she doesn’t just work, she works! Malcolm sees that and has a lot of respect for her because of it. He’s worked hard all his life and he knows what it means to sweat for a paycheck.

The coming together of these two may seem like a mistake, but Mal and Parker compliment each others weaknesses. Mal seems to know instinctively how to get past Parker’s barriers and make himself comfortable within them and Parker knows just how to push Mal’s buttons. They’re perfect together…but Parker wishes Mal would open up about his past a little bit. He says it’s not important, but how can they build a future without knowing what formed the past? Her past is an open book—everyone knows her story—but Mal’s is closed to everyone, including Parker. Will Malcolm let down his walls and let Parker in or will he be closed and alone forever?

I give this story FOUR STARS.

And with that, I officially end "Norapalooza" for the remainder of 2010. I swear that I will not read or listen to another Nora Roberts book for the rest of this year. I have a backlog of books to read like you wouldn't believe and if I keep going back and re-reading old stuff, I'll never get caught up. So for the rest of this year, if I read a book, it has to be a new-to-me book and not a re-read and not a Nora Roberts. I promise! I do, I really do promise!

As for next year...well, I have decided that I will continue this blog into 2011, and yeah, I'll no doubt be reading new and re-reading old Nora books, but I'll try my best to keep them to a minimum, okay?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Red Lily

Red Lily by Nora Roberts
Book Three of the In The Garden trilogy

A Harper has always lived at Harper House, the centuries-old mansion just outside of Memphis. And for as long as anyone alive remembers, the ghostly Harper Bride has walked the halls, singing lullabies at night…

Hayley Phillips came to Memphis hoping for a new start, for herself and her unborn child. She wasn’t looking for a handout from her distant cousin Roz, just a job at her thriving In the Garden nursery. What she found was a home surrounded by beauty and the best friends she’s ever had—including Roz’s son Harper. To Hayley’s delight, her new daughter Lily has really taken to him. To Hayley’s chagrin, she has begun to dream about Harper—as much more than a friend…

If Hayley gives in to her desire, she’s afraid the foundation she’s built with Harper will come tumbling down. Especially since she’s begun to suspect that her feelings are no longer completely her own. Flashes of the past and erratic behavior make Hayley believe that the Harper Bride has found a way inside of her mind and body. It’s time to put the Bride to rest once and for all, so Hayley can know her own heart again—and whether she’s willing to risk it…

--Red Lily by Nora Roberts, Copyright ©2005 by Nora Roberts, published by Jove Books

My Review
Seeds of the burgeoning Hayley/Harper romance have been growing ever since Hayley moved into Harper House, and now those seedlings have come into full bloom (sorry, couldn’t help the flower analogy!). Though Hayley still has some reservations about having a romance with Harper, after all, his mother is her best friend and she doesn’t want Roz thinking she’s taking advantage of the situation, Roz recognized the look in her son’s eye the moment he fell in love with the young mother. Roz and Mitch and Stella and Logan are all for the young couple, but someone in the house is not.

Amelia somehow manages not only to get inside Hayley’s mind to spread her particularly vile thoughts, but finds a way to possess her body. These events scare Hayley because she has no control and the words that come out of her mouth can be particularly disturbing. Amelia was not a well woman and she’s even crazier in spirit form. She’s stepped up her attacks, revisiting Roz and Stella, doing everything she can to keep the young lovers apart. But as crazy as she may be, her deepest desire comes through. She wants to be found. Can Harper and Hayley solve the mystery of what happened at Harper House the night Amelia died and can they find her body before it’s too late?

A good ending to this trilogy, I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.

One more Nora Roberts story, Happily Ever After and I’ll be putting her away for the remainder of the year, I promise.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Black Rose

Black Rose by Nora Roberts
Book Two of the In The Garden trilogy

A Harper has always lived at Harper House, the centuries-old mansion just outside of Memphis. And for as long as anyone alive remembers, the ghostly Harper Bride has walked the halls, singing lullabies at night…

At forty-seven, Rosalind Harper is a woman whose experiences have made her strong enough to bend without breaking—and weather any storm. A widow with three grown sons, she survived a disastrous second marriage and built her In the Garden nursery from the ground up. Through the years, In the Garden has become more than just a thriving business—it is a symbol of hope and independence to Roz, and to the two women she shares it with. Newlywed Stella and new mother Hayley are the sisters of her heart, and together, the three of them are the future of In the Garden.

But now the future is under attack, and Roz knows they can’t fight this battle alone. Hired to investigate Roz’s Harper ancestors, Dr. Mitchell Carnegie finds himself just as intrigued with Roz herself. And as they begin to unravel the puzzle of the Harper Bride’s identity, Roz is shocked to find herself falling for the fascinating genealogist. Now it is a desperate race to discover the truth before the unpredictable apparition lashes out at the one woman who can help her rest in peace…

--Black Rose by Nora Roberts, Copyright ©2005 by Nora Roberts, published by Jove Books

My Review
What I didn’t like about Blue Dahlia did not apply at all to Black Rose. How many romance novels do you know star a widowed woman with three grown sons who, in just a few short years, will turn the dreaded 5-0? Not many that I could mention, that’s for sure. And that’s what I loved about this story. Roz and Mitch’s love story is not terribly unique—they meet because Roz hires Mitch to research her family to find the mysterious Harper Bride, Amelia. There are no clashes of personality as in Blue Dahlia…Roz and Mitch just work so well together, you almost wish they had met years earlier just so they could have had those extra years enjoying each other.

That’s not to say their romance didn’t have a few obstacles. After becoming a widow at a young age, Roz started her business and, once her boys were a bit older, met and married Bryce Clerk. It was a mistake, one Roz was quick to rectify and she pushed her philandering second husband out of her life. But now Bryce was back, and he was not going to go away quietly. Roz doesn’t really need Bryce back in her life, not with trying to run and expand her business, explore her relationship with Mitch and find out what she can about Amelia, all while keeping up the public façade of a proper, well-bred Southern woman.

Of course, being the heroine of the story, Roz triumphs, and triumphs beautifully. In the end, they find out more about Amelia and Roz and Mitch are together, despite Amelia’s attempts to drive them apart. But there’s another young woman in Harper House, and Amelia will not go away quietly.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Blue Dahlia

Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts
Book One of the In The Garden trilogy

A Harper has always lived at Harper House, the centuries-old mansion just outside of Memphis. And for as long as anyone alive remembers, the ghostly Harper Bride has walked the halls, singing lullabies at night…

Trying to escape the ghosts of the past, young widow Stella Rothchild, along with her two energetic little boys, has moved back to her routs in southern Tennessee—and into her new life at Harper House and the In the Garden nursery. She isn’t intimidated by the house nor its mistress, local legend Roz Harper. Despite a reputation for being difficult, Roz has been nothing but kind to Stella, offering her a comfortable new place to live and a challenging new job as manager of the flourishing nursery. As Stella settles comfortably into her new life, she finds a nurturing friendship with Roz and with expectant mother Hayley. And she discovers a fierce attraction wiht ruggedly handsome landscaper Logan Kitridge.

But someone isn’t happy about the budding romance…the Harper Bride. As the women dig into the history of Harper House, they discover that grief and rage have kept the Bride’s spirit alive long past her death. And now, she will do anything to destroy the passion that Logan and Stella share.
--Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts, Copyright ©2004 by Nora Roberts, published by Jove Books

My Review

I read this series when it first came out and enjoyed the ghost story thread that went through all three books. However, I can’t say the same for the romance story in this first book, Blue Dahlia. It’s the standard love story of a young widow with two small children moving to a new town. She finds a job that caters to her skills and she gets to spend more time with her father and stepmother, whose company she prefers far more than her own natural mother’s. She meets Logan, her boss’s landscaper and their styles immediately clash. He’s loose and laid back, she’s efficient and organized. Of course, for the sake of their mutual boss and friend, they find a way to get along. And of course, they take that “getting along” concept straight through to an engagement. Standard romance and I’m sorry to say, a trifle boring. Enjoyable, but not unique.

In this first book of the In the Garden trilogy, I feel as if it’s the story of the Harper Bride that kept me reading…okay, listening as I was listening to the audio version. The Harper Bride, as she’s always been known, has lived in Harper House since before Roz was born. Roz has always thought of the Bride as a benevolent spirit, paying occasional visits to her as she grew up and paying special attention to her three sons as they were born and as they grew. And she continues to behave that way when Stella moves in with her three boys. It’s only as Stella’s romance with Logan heats up that the Bride begins to act out, trying to keep the two separated.

Growing up, Roz never bothered to learn anything about her supposed ancestor’s ghost, but now she’s intrigued. Who exactly was the Harper Bride? How is she related? What does she have against Stella and Logan’s romance? And what tragedy occurred that resulted in her spirit being trapped in the house?

At the end of the story, the Bride leaves them with a tantalizing clue to her identity. Only her first name, Amelia, but it’s a start…to book two, Black Rose.

I give this story THREE STARS.

I'm still here!

Sorry it's been so long since my last posting, but things have been a bit hectic here. As some of you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, or just NaNo (or just WriMo, depending on which camp you inhabit). As such, I've spent considerable time researching that I might have otherwise spent reading. The audio books continue to roll, and I finished two and--shame on me--never posted review. I'm correcting that error now with posts on Blue Dahlia and Black Rose. In another day or two (or three) I'll post on Red Lily and since book 4 in The Bride Quartet has come out, there'll be a posting on that soon, and there's a new J.D. Robb out, so you'll see that review sometime next month. Then I think Nora-palooza will come to an end for the remainder of the year.

Thanks for back to the reviews!