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The Aurora Affair, Carolyn Haley

The Aurora Affair, Carolyn Haley

The Aurora Affair by [Haley, Carolyn]

Genre:  Romance,Sci-fi and fantasy

I was really pulled in by the blurb on this book, but it turned out to be nothing like I expected.
There’s lots I enjoyed, but at times it got so over complicated that I was lost.

There’s a lot of esoteric descriptions, flowery prose over psychic events, lots of inner musings about what’s happening now, in the past and in the future and why, and how, and what possibilities there are to stop it.
And soulmates, Maddie is fixated on soulmates, whether Buck or Kit is destined to be with her, but maybe she has a connection with Dru too, and yet one more guy later in the book….You’d think Dru’s girlfriend, Maddie’s sister Blanche would have something to say, but she’s just as open minded about who she should be with, and when and how long….Confused? You will be 😉
You can see how complex just the sex parts get. Throw in the other characters that live at New Atlantis and a few more visions/premonitions/echoes of past lives, and at times its one big sex fest, but one where emotions as far as love are concerned just don’t come into it.

I didn’t really like any of the characters much, probably Kit’s the only one I came close to feeling for, and it seems to me he gets swept along the psychic tide by accident. I felt the otrhers were rationlising much of their behavoiur telling themsleves, and others, it was for the common good.

Its really a story of the supernatural, of good versus evil, and of how governments are afraid of anything they can’t understand, and will stop at nothing to keep control. That’s scarily true and if this was real I think it would play out as described.

Its billed as Romance, but to me there’s little actual romance, its more a question of “your chakra needs re-balancing/your aura is out of sync/you’ve too much negative energy/the tides are predicting this” ( or moon/stars/sun – take your pick) or simply “its a festival and I want you”….Everything becomes an excuse for some hot and steamy sex, but without the emotion and feelings of love for the individual that are needed for me. TBH that spoiled it for me.

Eventually after many false starts, and lots of failed attempts – and lots more sex – the Evil gets identified and pushed aside, but not at cost, and not without the sticky fingers of the Government getting involved.
That sets up another trap, possibly as dangerous as the Evil they’ve just overbalanced for now.

Its a very complex tale, lots of content and action – for me a little too much. I want a story where I can work out what’s happening, and follow along with events, but there’s so much psychic intervention here that it becomes impossible to predict events, to work out who, what, how and when.
I love paranormal stories but this one gets so over-complex that I found myself switching off sometimes, and just flicking past events trying to see what part that had actual relevance to the story came next.
I like a romance with characters I can get behind, a couple – or couples/trios – that I can want to be together, without all the sex with others muddying the way. I didn’t really feel any actual romance in this story, until maybe close to the end. Speaking of endings – its very amiguous. Are there more books to come or is this it? I felt for a long while when starting that I’d jumped in to an existing sereis, and missed a book or two but I can’t find anything else except this book.

Overall its an OK read for me, I just felt there was so much going on that the story, the message, got lost.
As for the romance, well, don’t expect tenderness, hearts and flowers, but people who really don’t know who they want to be with and end up trying – lots of times – before they buy!

Stars: Three, parts of it I liked, the idea I loved, the execution not so much.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Every Little Thing, Samantha Young. Souljacker, Yasmine Galenorn

Today I’m planning to read the latest Mercy Thompson novel,  Silence Fallen, Patricia Briggshttp://amzn.to/2mkqZJd That’s my all time favourite series, and author, and I’ve got another great book to read from a couple of days back, Jeanine Frost’s Into the fire, the final Night Prince novel

http://amzn.to/2mWvZoW I loved this series when it started, but unlike the Briggs one its an ongoing story rather than each book having one main theme that’s part of an ongoing story. TBH its taken so long I’ve kind of lost the impetus that made me love it. Maybe I’ll start from first book and pick it up that way. Then I log in to netgalley and see I’ve been approved for three more reads, among them one from the Queen of rock band reads, Kylie Scott for Twist, the latest Dive Bar novel, a spin off from the wonderful Stage Dive books

http://amzn.to/2m10cin So, housework? Tidying ready for selling house? Gardening – well that’s an easy out, its raining….

And a couple of reviews today

Every Little Thing,  Samantha Young

Every Little Thing (Hart's Boardwalk Book 2) by [Young, Samantha]

Genre:  romance, erotica

Like thousands of readers I got sucked in to the magic of Samantha’s romances by way of the wonderful Joss and Braden, in On Dublin street, and their book is still one of my all time favourites.
I’ve read several from that series and enjoyed them and have been looking forward to this new series. Tjis one is tagged Erotica, but to me its more eotic romance, a great romance but withsome hot and steamy sex rather than just erotica,

I enjoyed the first book, The One real Thing, but wasn’t blown away by it. First books do have  a hard job though, and few achieve the great start that Dublin Street did.
The couple that intrigued me the most in book one were Bailey and Vaughn – the ST between those two jumps of the page! They had sparks jumping between them at every meeting, and the caustic wit the two share had me smiling widely.

Bailey is so bright and bubbly, always out to help others, see that everyone is happy, so running her Inn is perfect for her. Still, the awful Devlin family are trying to find a way to oust her, they want to own as much of the town as they can and have used some very dirty tricks in the past. I love the way Bailey not only stands up to them but uses her sharp wit against them.
She’s been with boyfriend Tom now for ten years, hoping that they will marry and have a family soon. She’s in for a big shock though….and it changes things between her and Vaughn.
They’ve always hate a hate hate relationship, but underneath that everyone feels that its defensive on both sides, and it really seems to have started with Vaughn rebuffing the open friendship Bailey offered him when he arrived, the same as she does to everyone. He wasn’t impressed at her initial opposition to his plans for his new hotel, and things went downhill from there.

Its clear Vaughn is attracted to her, and just as clear he doesn’t want to be. He’s always been Mr No Commitment and it suits him, but he knows that Bailey spells danger to that, and seems to use his acerbic wit as a defence even as he cringes inside at what he’s saying. Bailey responds likewise, they both bring out the worst in each other, but that gives some terrific scenes for the reader.

Its a real romance here, but a long time coming, with many forward and back journeys that had me inwardly screaming at them! Of course that’s perfect for me as it brings bucket loads of angst and emotion.

As with all Samantha’s romances its not just a two person story, but brings in many others, some from book one, some who look set to become future books. Story seeds, those hints of what/who might be next. Its always fun to try to spot them, and I think I’ve got a couple here, there are some individuals who really intrigue me. Quiet, shy Emory, what’s her story? Why is she so reserved, so closed off? Dahlia, she seems to have lots of things to reveal, and we’ve only seen her as a very secondary character. Jack Devlin, met him in book one, and he’s here too, and still as much a puzzle as ever. I can’t believe he’s really such a bad guy, and yet the things he’s done, and does here too seem to point in that direction, then he does a couple that point the other way. Even Vaughn’s dad has potential, not as a main character IMO, but maybe a secondary romance thread in a book? He’s certainly got the heart and character for it.

Its a great read, I loved it, was entranced by Bailey and Vaughn, loved the puzzle of their relationship. I did wonder about a few characters in here, Vanessa, will she make a return later, Jack, how can Cooper’s former best friend change so much, do what he does, and of course Vaughn’s awful friend Oliver. What on earth did those two ever have in common?
There’s a couple of surprises towards the end that I didn’t see coming ( and one I did!) and it makes me wonder if they’re future plots in later books?
.
Stars: Five, a great read, perfect blend of sensual romance and solid story.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Souljacker, A Lily Bound Novel,  Yasmine Galenorn

Souljacker: A Lily Bound Novel by [Galenorn, Yasmine]

Genre:  paranormal and fantasy

Hmnnn, succubus – they’re not characters that really feel empathetic are they? I put off reading Richelle Mead’s wonderful Georgia Kinkaid series for ages simply because I could not see how an author could make a succubus into a person I’d understand, feel I want them to be happy, and yet I was so, so wrong. Add in Jill Myles terrific Succubus reads and you can see just how very wrong my first thoughts were.
So if you’re like me, take a deep breath and prepare to be surprised.
I’ve enjoyed some of Yasmine’s other reads, so I was familiar with her writing style. the story jumps right in with a death at Lily’s house, one of her top clients has been murdered. Not good for business, nor is the fact her clients wife is on the warpath and as a powerful and influential were she can – and does – do immense damage to Lily’s business. So far its worked giving her an income, keeping her alive through sex with Supernaturals, she’s found in the past humans are just far too fragile, and wants to avoid killing people.

In this society Vampires aren’t the Romance kind, but irrational, dangerous killers. Once turned little of the human remains, and they simply lust for blood, sex and power, and have become so dangerous that vampire kills aren’t even investigated by the police any more. That leaves Lily and her friends on their own, as a Vampire Execution the police simple pass on the murder, but she does get given the name of a chaos demon who might help. And Lily and her friends need that help when they learn the killer wants them dead too….

I like Lily, she’s just trying to live, trying to keep her friends safe, enjoy life and she’s found a way that avoids killing humans, something that happened in the past to her and hurts her conscience.
She has some good friends, witch Dani, human Nate, Marsh the…Ghost? spirit? whatever, he’s someone from Lily’s past who’s returned out of the blue, and of course Whiskas the cat – who’s more than a cat, though decidedly not a shifter.
Lily herself belong to the dark Fae court, and we meet the Queen, Wynter in this book. Scary woman, and she’s very powerful. You don’t live for thousands of years without learning a few things.
Archer the chaos demon turns out to be not the type Lily feared, Demons don’t get great press, but in fact he’s a true gentleman, luckily attracted to Lily, and they’re in the throes of him helping her with sex feeding, and maybe they’re developing something more. I didn’t get a great feeling of romance here, its pretty clear one is meant to be starting but I wasn’t really convinced of anything more than a bit of lust between them. Maybe that just takes time, sometimes its better that way.

Its a fun read, a story with elements of many types of creatures thrown in, Vampires, demons, ghosts,witches,  Fae and of course Lily and Whiskas.
In a way that kind of affected the story for me, there were so many different types of character, so much going on that the murders almost took second place. When the climax (Hah!!) came it was almost missing for me, they’d had so many scrapes already that it seemed like it was just one more.

I enjoyed this but I’m waiting for book two to see how the series develops, it didn’t keep me gripped as I’d expected. At times it just felt a little muddled as there was so much happening in a relatively short space of time and pages (GR has it at 292 pages) or 3552 kindle locations.

Stars: Three. Maybe as this continues I’ll feel more for it, its tough for first books in a new series.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Kept from You, Tear Asunder, Book 4, Nashoda Rose

Kept from You, Tear Asunder, Book 4, Nashoda Rose

Kept from You (Tear Asunder Book 4) by [Rose, Nashoda]

Genre:  romance,

I’ve loved this series so far, and this latest keeps up the drama and excitement.
When I read the first book Nashoda was an author new to me, and I really wasn’t sure I’d like her style, that first one was pretty dark. The excitement though, the edge of seat drama, the so-real romance and the way she turns everything around, pulled me through and sucked me in to the rest of the novels.
I don’t mind an edge of darkness, so long as there’s a solid and real feeling romance with it. This one is probably the least “dark” though its still got that undercurrent of violence running though.

It was great too to catch up with the rest of the band and families, to see how they’ve changed over the years.
Killian was a terrific lead, I adored him. His feelings for Saavy(Orchid as he calls her) are incredibly intense, but not in that overdone macho way so many reads have. I could just feel how he struggled with his feelings, with his need to protect her, against letting her have her freedom to do what she wanted, find her way, and his background was heart breaking.
Saavy, loved her. Fiercely independent, one of those rare people who see good in others, who will stand up against bullies even though she’s scared.
Now after eleven years she’s put herself back in Killian’s orbit, she needs a favour from him. She’s been let down by her boss/lover and is now jobless, moneyless and soon to be homeless, she needs the dancing job she’s after, but to get a chance she needs Killian’s intro to the owner.
She thinks a quick recommendation if she’s lucky, after all, though she’s nervous she really is at the bottom and got nothing to lose only her pride.

Killian’s never forgotten her and now she’s back in front of him he can’t let go. Wow, the feelings and emotions between these two, the contrast of such contained violence and the gentle man he is with Saavy is amazing.
I loved them, loved the story, the little sub plots running through that slowly joined up, and all made sense as they connected.
The band stuff is there in the background but its not one of those guys on tour reads, more a book about characters that are in a band together.

Its another wonderful read, and just taking a look at what else Nashoda has written I’ve seen the Unyielding series. That starts with Deck and Georgie, important secondary characters that appear throughout the novels, and whom I’ve always wondered about. There’s something about their on but not quite on relationship that is so intriguing, and throughout the books I’ve always wondered just what their story is. So now when the time allows I’m up for reading their story too

Stars: Five, another fabulous read featuring the band.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Darkness, Common Law 3, Kate Sherwood

Darkness, Common Law 3,  Kate Sherwood

Darkness (Common Law Book 3) by [Sherwood, Kate]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

I enjoyed the first two books, and this series just keeps getting better and better now I understand the characters and their connections.

Wade and Jericho (Jay) dance around their attraction, lots of looks, slipped touches but most of the while either Wade is too ambiguous, or Jay just isn’t sure whether he ought/can/will take things further.
Wade is so enigmatic almost everything he says, not just to Jay but anyone, can be taken in different ways. I just love him, can’t really believe he’s the bad guy all the locals inc the police seem to think he is. He does have his finger on the pulse of everything that happens though, and is always on the periphery in some way of local crime.
Its kind of understandable why he’s seen this way, some of it is a carefully cultivated image IMO, if you put yourself up as a certain type of person then its not that others are saying you’re bad, they’re just following the lead you set, whether that’s true or not. And I can see Wade getting a kick out of knowing he’s got one over on the folk who condemned him as useless, someone from a bad background who’d never amount to much,  from childhood.

I’ve rambled a bit about Wade, but I’ve been championing him right from the start and its clear how protective of Jay he is, and in this novel we see just how far he’ll take that protection.
Of course there’s still the FBI/local cops issues going on from past events, along with Kayla being kept in the dark about her dad, and Jay feeling torn over that. He can’t say anything to her, and knows why and yet as her friend he feels he ought to.
Kayla warns him once more to stay away from Wade but that’s not easy – Wade keeps finding him!

This time there’s a murder at the heart of the story, and what seems like a simple case, easy to solve, lots of evidence, seems just a bit too slick to Jay, and he searches a little deeper.
What he finds changes things greatly, that it may not be an isolated murder, but his hands are tied in just how far he can go in pursuit of the truth. Once more Wade steps in, he’s always skirted rules anyway and its clear that though he doesn’t like the Law he respects that Jay enjoys his job, and he’ll do anything to protect that.

Its another great read, very sensual, but that is only part of the story, and fitted in perfectly in the novel. Its the tiny touches and looks that are the most sensual, where you really feel just how strongly Wade wants Jay and vice versa, and not just for a quickie one off but more – and yet how, when they’re on opposing sides of the Law?
Each book brings them a tiny bit closer, heals some of the anger from years back, gives them some new connections and makes it feel inevitable that they are destined to be together…
I’m lucky enough to have book four on my kindle right now as an ARC so that’s my next read 🙂

Stars: Five, a sensual story, and a realistic mystery to solve.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Stay With Me, Ayobami Adebayo

Stay With Me, Ayobami Adebayo

Stay With Me by [Adebayo, Ayobami]
Genre: Literary Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

This isn’t a book I’d re-read, that being said it was heart breaking at times. A really sad story where it was difficult to see who was really acting in the wrong.

Yejide was so in love with Akim, having been brought up in a typical Nigerian family where her father had four wives, and respect for parents is huge. Sadly her mother died in childbirth, and there are so many religious superstitions over any event connected with death that she’s always on the outside of the family, always being reminded of the awful thing her mother did in dying. When she meets Akin she’s ripe for love. When he sees her he’s entranced and very soon they are married.

That’s seems fine doesn’t it? Sadly though family is everything in this culture and Yejide is soon inundated with advice from Akim’s and her own family about how to get pregnant.
At first they seem like an independent couple, they know much of this “advice” is spurious superstition but slowly the blame weighs heavily on Yejide.
She’s still shocked though when Akim takes a second wife….my heart broke for her here. I was so angry at Akim and yet in that culture, with the constant pressure of parents, not just two but all his fathers wives who want to see their son or daughter as the favoured, its harder to blame him.
I really didn’t like Funmi, wife number two, and yet if I’m honest she was just doing what their culture taught, marry and have children, seek to ensure your children are in the favoured position of their father.

There’s such sadness here, and I so felt for both of them. Some really strange things too, when with a Western eye and education I’m thinking “oh come on, they wouldn’t do/would have known/ought to have”…and yet events carry on playing out, binding them all deeper and deeper, potentially losing that precious love they had.

Later in the story I really was cross at Yejide and her behaviour, didn’t understand how she could act like that to an innocent child, and yet I also understood her too. My first child was stillborn and I spent hours watching over the three that followed, prodding them awake when I was sure that they weren’t breathing.
Heartbreak, death, despair all does strange things and in a way she was just trying to protect herself.

I could have been angry too at the interfering parents, their intervention caused such tragedy, and yet once more its a culture thing, they weren’t intentionally cruel, just wanted what they’d been taught was best for their children, for their happiness, for their fulfilment.

Its a really sad story, but with an ending that hints at a positive future.
I really enjoyed it, it makes for a terrific debut read but its not one I’d re-read now I know how it plays out. I did like seeing things from both Yejide and Akim’s view points. Gave me a real insight into their feelings.

Stars: Five, a fabulous debut, full of the way a different culture sees parenthood, and the problems it brings when a wife fails to get pregnant.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Witchfinder’s Sister, Beth Underdown

The Witchfinder’s Sister,  Beth Underdown

The Witchfinder's  Sister by [Underdown, Beth]

Genre:  General Fiction, Mystery and Thrillers

I can’t find any info about previous books so I think this must be Beth’s debut novel – and what an intense and complex read for a first story!

Its so well written I was pulled back into that time, back to the seventeenth century. I’m a UK reader, living in Norfolk, so reading about Matthew and Alice living in the Eastern region of UK, I had a mental image of places I know now as they would have been back then. My house was build in 1682 – strange to think of it still standing ( and for a long while yet I hope!!) when it was built such a short time after these events. Mix of the old and the current…

So, Matthew Hopkins- I recall learning about him at school, along with the US Salem witch trials. The Crucible was one of our set text English reads.
He’s cropped up as a side character in a few books since then, but I’ve never really thought much more about him. Here Beth’s given him a fictional sister, though he may have had a real one Alice is purely invented for this story. It works well, she’s a foil to him, shared upbringing, and a way to let us see his actions from someone who loved him as a child but grew scared and confused of the man he became.

He’s a strange person, and as we learn about his upbringing there are elements slowly revealed that could have impacted upon his actions now. Others have had far worse happen though, and don’t turn into people like him, so its part explanation but not as simple as the whole cause.
He really was a enigmatic character, phlegmatic about what he needed to do, unemotional, even when it means tearing apart, condemning to death, people he’s known since childhood. I can’t decide whether he’s just cruel, vindictive, out for revenge, totally mad or whether he really believes in what he’s doing.
From a small start his witch hunt takes on a life of its own and snowballs, and maybe the power pushed him to go further and further, made him feel righteous, invincible? Who knows, and after finishing the story I still don’t know.
Beth offers lots to speculate about but the reality? He was real, he did what we now see as horrific things, but which at the time were backed by other important people, landowners, local politicians – well, what passed for them in those days, the Church even. It was as if nothing could stop him from this path he’s set on, and the longer he was “successful” the more righteous he got. Success bred more of the same methods, even when the causes of it were wrong.
Its a bit like that sink or swim test, he was pushing people to their limits physically and mentally and when they “confessed” through exhaustion, pain, thirst, would say anything to get some tiny relief he seized upon it as evidence his path was right, and went even further.

Alice, poor Alice. Her mother died when she was very young, father remarried and had Matthew, but his birth left his mother frail and Alice really took over his upbringing, loving and looking after him.
Even then the public face, showing the happy family outside, the father who was a priest, a good man, the mother who simply tired easily, was hiding things, secrets that kept slipping quietly out, and building background to the current events.
I so felt for Alice, she’s a good woman, widowed from her beloved Joseph, a servant’s son, whom Matthew did not approve of, she’s still young, in her twenties I think, and forced to come back and live off Matthews charity.
She can see events unfolding, sees at first hand what’s going on but is powerless to stop anything. She tries though, tries to do what she can but Matthew is an unmovable force. Her small brother has grown into a confident and powerful man.
He takes little note of her, and at times seems to really dislike her. she becomes just another tool for him to use in his never ending quest for witches. Too much pressure or intervention and she risks her own place in his home at best, risks getting caught up in the hunt at worst.
Its a tough line, being brought up to help people and then forced to stand aside as those you’ve known since childhood are tested for what seems like petty grievances, revenges, spurious accusations…

Witch hunts, back then not knowing the cause of events, accidents, tragedies, people looked for someone to blame, and it was easy to pick on one person a little on the outside of society, and call witchcraft and the intervention of the Devil the cause.
Now we look back and think how could they really believe that, but its a poor, uneducated society, and its human to want to blame someone or something.
Not every thing has an explanation though, and there are a couple of events here that gave me the shivers, defied rational thinking.

Sometimes I think we haven’t moved on that much, we still look to blame others, though not as witches but in some 21st century way.
In the UK we’ve just voted to leave Europe, mainly because of the hype and untruths certain media factions told about immigration, and it brought up the same kind of feelings as in this book, where people want to blame someone for misfortune. In the UK lack of money for NHS and other public services was blamed on immigration – scaremongering, but a spark that when fanned turned into a fire.
Hitler did that back in the 1940’s with his attempts to stamp out minority groups, terrible things happened as those who could have stopped it turned a blind eye, much as those in power when Matthew Hopkins let him get away with his crimes.
Then there’s the US and the political system there, where another modern witch hunt has let a racist, sexist, xenophobic bigot race to the top place for power. Scary stuff but proves that witch hunts aren’t just confined to history – but have their own modern day version 😦 “The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing” Edmund Burke et al.

A fabulous book, uncomfortable reading at times, which felt so very real, took me back in time, made me understand a little more about the awful events that took place back then.
The characters were wonderful, felt so real, I was scared for and of them, depending on which ones of course.
I loved the way secrets were teased before the reader, parts revealed slowly, hints of what may have been relevant or may be just superstition taunted through, making me second guess my thoughts. In fact its not until writing this that I’ve connected a couple of major points that could have been the catalyst for Matthew’s quest.
Its a fascinating first book, well researched, marrying real events and people with fictional ones to create an amazing story. I’m not sure its one I’d reread but its certainly one I’m glad to have read.

Stars: Five, incredible book, uncomfortable at times but so very, very real feeling.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and publisher

Then She Was Born: Born to be different, surviving to make a difference , Cristiano Gentili

Then She Was Born: Born to be different, surviving to make a difference by [Gentili, Cristiano]

Click image for UK link, click here for US link http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N214BWU

I haven’t yet read this book, but its part of KU and on my kindle now.

The author is the founder of #HelpAfricanAlbinos . His new novel is “Then She Was Born” which also forms part of an international human rights campaign, which has been endorsed by Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and eleven Nobel Peace laureates who lent their voices and who each read aloud a different sentence of the novel, recording a video message and being pictured alongside the official hashtag #HelpAfricanAlbinos.

“The She Was Born” is an independently published work of fiction that meets the same standards as books published by mainstream publishers. This suspenseful novel is a true page-turner and hopefully will grab you by both arms and won’t let go until you’re winded, exhausted, and begging for a conclusion.

Synopsis.
A child is born and the joy of her parents turns to horror. The child is different, in a way that will bring bad luck to their superstitious community. The tradition should be for her to be abandoned, but Nkamba, the grandmother, is allowed to care for her.
Naming her Adimu, Nkamba raises her as her own. Adimu is constantly marginalized and shunned by the community, although her spirit remains undiminished and full of faith. But when she encounters the wealthy British mine owner Charles Fielding and his wife Sarah, it is the beginning of something which will test them all.
As Charles Fielding’s fortunes wane, he turns in desperation to a witch doctor whose suggestion leaves him horrified. But as events begin to spiral out of control he succumbs to the suggestions and a group of men are sent on a terrible mission. The final acts, of one man driven by greed and another by power, will have a devastating effect on many lives.

Single Malt, Layla Reyne

Single Malt,  Layla Reyne

Single Malt by [Reyne, Layla]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I couldn’t find any other books by Layla, so was hesitant about requesting this – I hate writing reviews where the book/author style and I just don’t gel, so try to choose carefully. The synopsis of this really drew me in though, and I usually enjoy Carina books so I took the plunge…and I really enjoyed this story and look forward to the next two.

Aidan, still grieving after the senseless death of both his husband and his work partner in the same car accident, is moved into a new position at work, with a  new partner to train as a field agent.
Jamie is a tech whizz, former basketball star and 12 years younger than Aiden, yet from the first look there’s that magic sizzle of attraction between them despite Aiden’s grief, that draws the reader in.
Thing is, I want more than just a romance, I want a story that keeps me reading and this book delivered all that and more.

There’s quite a few tech references here and yet they’re written in such a way that non tech people like me can still grasp the importance, what part the knowledge plays to the plots, and that was perfect.
I needed to be able to follow some of the tech trail as it plays such a huge part in how the plots work out, how people are tracked, how the FBI have info on what’s likely to happen. That works for me, I hate this anonymous CI info that often gets used in novels. I reckon with serious crimes the FBI and other agencies need more to go on than some vague tip from someone who may or may not be telling the truth.
Computers can lie – its all in the programming but clever hackers ( hush my mouth, clever IT specialists who wouldn’t dream of illegal hacking…..) can get past that and lay trails of their own. Clever things Computers, and the people using them need to be several steps ahead. Its a skill you either have or haven’t and Jamie definitely has.

I love the personal bits too, the way Jamie has been watching Aiden from the shadows for three years, and now is partnered up to his crush? Attraction? Well, the guy he’s been lusting after anyway.
Then when they’re together there’s more than just that visceral attraction, they like each other, feel like friends, respect each others skills. All things that make a longer term relationship work. Are either of them ready for that though, do they want it? Aiden at least is still struggling with his grief and now feeling attracted to Jamie hits his guilt switch too.

There’s some sex in here, but its very muted, and the adage Less is More really fits. Its perfect for the plot, perfect for the two guys and because so much is build up, when it does come it feels right, rather than in so many where its shirts off, trousers (men wear trousers, not pants….) hit the floor on page six and downhill from there.
I want story first sex second and this book hits that really well, with the sensuality feeling inevitable rather than plugged in for titillation…

The novel has lots of good secondary characters too, Aiden’s brother Danny, who works in the family shipping firm, and his dead partner’s sister who’s also his boss. Then a host of characters at the other part of the investigation where they’re called in to help in a case that makes up the mainstay of this book.

I enjoyed the way the story wrapped together relationships and of course the usual employment unwritten rules against them at work, family dramas and the issues they bring, and a cracking story, complex enough to keep me gripped reading, and yet with enough info to let me follow the tech side without getting lost.
Kept me glued right to the end. And then there’s some surprises come out just when you think its all died down…
And the ending! Its not a cliff-hanger as such but there are some shocking revelations come out that are going to be the core of the next book(s). I can’t wait!

Stars: five, cracking read that has me drooling for more.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Reverie, Reverie Book 1, Lauren E. Rico

Reverie, Reverie Book 1, Lauren E. Rico

Reverie: Reverie Book 1 by [Rico, Lauren]

Genre: Romance, Mystery and thrillers.

I loved the sound of this, and most important, parts one and two are out now and three very soon. I hate, absolutely hate, waiting for rest of a story, and it seems that trilogies dominate the romance genre now. I love the way they give a solid extended story, but hate those that keep readers waiting months, years even for subsequent parts. By then I’ve lost the momentum, lost the magic of the story and have to recap just to remember what had happened.

So, its Julia, Jeremy and Matthew that dominate this story. Julia and Matthew share a flat, having been brought up in the same children’s home since they were around ten years old. Luckily Matthew has money inherited from his parents so they don’t have worries on that front.
Its just as well as both are devoted to their music, Matthew having already graduated from the prestigious conservatory, and Julia in her last year. they spend all their free time rehearsing, practice, practice, practice, so they wouldn’t have time for jobs.
I’m assuming Julia gets some form of student loan or something, she pays rent to Matthew for her room, though nowhere near what such a premium apartments would cost. There’s never any mention of where the money comes from.
Odd how two kids from a children’s’ home just happen to both get in to the conservatory, how she’s able to pay for all the private tuition too.

Likewise Jeremy, he shares with his older brother Brett, again both talented musicians, but there’s never any mention of where they get their money? Given what comes later Jeremy must have some generous source somewhere to allow him to pursue his research, allow him to follow his inclinations.
There’s a brief mention of their childhood, but never anything current as regards other family members, there just seems to be the two of them, no other relatives.

What I liked about this story was the passion for music that shows through. I know very little about classical music and orchestras, other than that I ejoy much of it but that didn’t matter, the story from that part flowed easily and I was kept into the way the music was such a way of life for the orchestra members.

What didn’t work so well – I felt at times I was being spoon fed the mystery, pointed to where I should look next. The bad guy almost has a huge X over his head from the first meeting, likewise the good guy was marked with a large heart round him…well, that’s how it felt for me.
I needed a bit more mystery, needed to see how the story built up, to have things kept in the dark so I could work it out myself.
It seemed right from the start it was clear that things were not going to go smoothly, for me I need to be persuaded into thinking they will, until they go wrong, but it was so clear here what was going to happen.
It meant that some of the more clever manipulations in the story were just too obvious,  whereas written differently they would have kept me guessing til later in the novel. That takes the Mystery out of a mystery read.

I felt Julia went from being best friends with Matthew, taking his advice and sharing support with him, to making him her enemy in a very short span given the years they’d been everything to each other.
I was astonished at how easily Julia was duped, how quickly she changed to Matthew when she began a relationship with Jeremy.
The things that made up the dark side cost serious money, there seemed to be unlimited contacts and influence, but I needed to know how and where the funding came from.
I’m not entirely sure of the motivation for what went on either, apart from the obvious. Maybe there wasn’t more than that?
I need that kind of stuff to be clearer, while the build up and bring down to be more subtle.
Ah well, I can see others are happy, love it as is so its one of those “its me not the book” moments. I’m uncertain whether I want to read more – book 2 is on KU, so maybe if I’ve time I might take a look. Maybe the story will work more my way in that part.

Stars: Three.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Before the Rains, Dinah Jefferies

Before the Rains, Dinah Jefferies

Before the Rains by [Jefferies, Dinah]

Genre:   Women’s Fiction, General Fiction.

I’ve read a few books set in Japan and China but not read one set in India ( that I can recall anyway ) since loving Shadow of the Moon, M. M. Kaye back in the late 70’s ( Expecting our eldest son I wanted to call him Ashok…).
I love stories set in other countries when they give a real look at life for the locals, when we see real nitty-gritty parts of their daily lives, not just a UK/US person’s version of their life there. I want to understand what life is about for them, how they live daily, how things interfere with what they do.
In these countries too Religion often plays a large part of daily life, its not a church on Sunday then forget type of thing, but a belief system that affects every facet of their daily interactions. When I get a story like that AND a romance thrown in I’m in heaven 😉

So we’re back in time, to 1930’s when the British Empire was still around. Nowadays its hard to believe that such a tiny country as Britain could have been such a world force, and reading about it doesn’t stir patriotic pride in me, but sadness that we could ever think we had the right to take over another country.
In this story Eliza keeps asking why did the Indian Princes agree – and that’s something that always puzzled me. A country so vast, with an incredibly massive population – how on earth did tiny Britain persuade them to let go and let us rule?
Part of the answer I think, lays in the fact there were so many Princes, so much infighting and distrust, and a degree of taking the easy route, swayed by UK promises of how life would be as part of the British Empire. Not quite all lies, but a real manipulation of the truth – nothing changes in politics does it * sigh *

I loved the characters, from Eliza, so brave going abroad with her camera at a time when women were still kept “in their place”, Jay the younger son, second in line to rule, his mother who was a wonderful lady, but of course only wanted what was right (in her view) for her sons. Then there’s the ruling prince, Jay’s older brother, who’s a weak man, pushed around by his wife, and his conniving advisor.
There’s a girl, Indira, who features a lot in the book, she’s a very talented artist, and a kind of unofficial sister in a way to the princes. She was sent to the palace as a child when her life was in danger, and she’s kind of worked her way into a position, but not having any official role. I wasn’t sure whether to trust her or not. Like Eliza I tend to take people at face value, believe in the best of them, but it doesn’t always work that way.
I also liked Dottie, part of the British contingent, wife to a doctor, and a lonely lady. There aren’t many British ladies there and she’s desperate to befriend Eliza. She does prove to be a really good friend, and I felt for her in her loneliness, wanted her to be happy.
There wasn’t really a role in India for wives, they couldn’t work, had servants for everything, and were answerable to husbands for their every move. It really was a man’s world there.

Eliza had a difficult background, saw her adored father killed in front of her when she was a child, brought up by a mother who was an angry, bitter woman, an apathetic, alcoholic. They had a strained relationship but she was still very influenced by trying to please her mother.
Part of the reason she married was to escape home, but she jumped from frying pan to fire, and marriage didn’t bring about happiness. Now she’s a widow, her husband having been killed in an accident.
Then there’s the other main player, Jay, and he’s gorgeous. Indian by birth, a younger son but educated in UK at Eton, so he’s Westernised in many ways of thinking. He’s a moderniser, wants to help people, wants to make their lives better, but he’s constrained by money.
He doesn’t want to be prince, he’s happy to leave that to his brother. With the British running so much of their lives though, there isn’t much he can do for the people he wants to help
.
He and Eliza get off on a bad footing, like many others he thinks she’s been sent as a spy.
There’s a degree of naivety about Eliza, she really believes that photographing is the only reason she’s been asked to the palace…but slowly she learns more of life, from both sides. Her UK contact Clifford, quizzes her very subtly and its a while til she spots what he’s doing.
Back at the palace she feels watched, scared of Chataur, the ruling prince’s right hand and advisor.
He makes no secret about disliking Eliza, and tries everything he can to erode her confidence, to shift blame to her for events, to block what she wants to do. He’s a very powerful and influential man in the palace and makes for a bad enemy.

She learns of the little everyday cruelties, of how the palace is gem studded while the greater part of the population live in poverty, struggle for food and water, affected by the drought.
How girls are left to die ( taken by wolves is the usual excuse), how religion and fatalism/destiny plays such a huge part of life.
They’re a very superstitious people, as are most that live like that, people need something to blame, something to believe in that they might get a better life, and for most Indians its a Karmic force, working towards a better next life.
That really comes through here, the time period felt right, I loved seeing those snippets of life, from the dust and poverty, the cruelties ( not that I liked them, but that they gave a solid background to the era) and the contrast of life for those born to the right people.
I was astounded at the British influence, the arrogance, ( and for many that hasn’t changed sadly…) the way they saw themselves as better, more important, more able to rule.
Its breath-taking how blinkered people are, and of course we see just how powerful they are when it comes to getting what they want, and for Clifford that’s Eliza. He makes it clear how much he likes her, how he’d like to marry her and poor Eliza has a difficult path to tread. She needs him as her contact, as the man who set things up, but doesn’t want to be more to him than just a friend.
Like most men in his position though he’s used to getting what he wants.

Eliza is falling for Jay though and he for her. It comes about slowly, from that bad start they spend time together while he takes her to places, and introduces her to people she can photograph. They both learn more about each other, find out there’s more than their first perceptions, and get closer.
Its hard though, they know they can’t have a future. He’s important to his people, next to rule if anything happens to his brother, and his mother is trying to make him a match already, with another influential family, to strengthen the family’s position and force. They know that, know that the country would never accept Eliza, that law prevents any children they have from being in line to rule, that as a widow Eliza is supposed to wear white, bear the blame for her husband’s death and stay in mourning for the rest of her life. Jay’s already warned her not to tell people she’s a widow as they are so superstitious and believe a widow brings bad luck. Many won’t even touch one, and Eliza could be in danger of word gets out.

Its a lovely story, beautiful romance built up carefully, full of decisions, some heart-breaking, dotted with things that bring the time and place to reality such as the Suttee burning of a widow, a practice outlawed by the Brits but something that still goes in in some parts, even if the poor wife doesn’t want to die…
I loved the palace, the twisting turning tunnels, the tiny rooms and then the vast light and richness of other parts.
Loved seeing Jays irrigation project come to fruition, was taken in along with Eliza about some people, and yet others were incredibly kind to her. It was difficult to know who to trust.
Some people and events I thought followed a predictable route, and I could see what was coming, except occasionally it veered off and I was completely wrong.
Great fun, and I love to be taken by surprise about events. There’s times, especially in the latter part of the book, where I just couldn’t see how things could work out, was heartbroken for Eliza, convinced Dinah would do something to make it come right, but where I just couldn’t see how. That’s why I’m a reader not a writer of course!!

Stars: Five, one to keep, to savour rereading, a story to really get lost in, transported to another time and place.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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