30 October 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Guacamole (A Taste of Texas Mystery, Book 2)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Tourists are pouring into the town of Broken Boot for the annual Homestead Days celebration. Opening the festivities at Two Boots Dance Hall is smooth-talking country singer Jeff Clark, the ex-boyfriend of Patti Lopez, Josie’s best friend. When the charming Clark woos Patti onstage in an attempt to rekindle some sparks with his old flame, Josie fears her friend will end up just one more notch on the singer’s guitar strap.

To impress her editor at the Broken Boot Bugle, Josie and her Chihuahua Lenny pursue the singer to Patti’s house, hoping for an interview. Instead, they discover Clark facedown in a bowl of guacamole with a bloodied guitar at his side. With Patti suddenly a murder suspect, Josie must use her reporter skills to find out who had a chip on their shoulder—before the killer double-dips...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Berkley, 2016

How acquired: Received from Cozy Mystery Review Crew

My thoughts:  It was nice to revisit Broken Boot, Texas, and follow waitress-slash-newspaper reporter Josie Callahan as she got involved in the second murder mystery to occur in the small town since her arrival home. Once again, Josie is the lucky soul who happens to discover the body. But the murder is much more personal this time around – Josie's best friend, Patti, is accused of doing the dirty deed and locked up.

Jeff, the deceased, is a playboy singer who's band is booked at the local bar, Two Boots, which is owned by Josie's family. He's also an ex-boyfriend of Patti's, and a witness has reported hearing Patti and Jeff arguing shortly before he was killed. In Patti's house.

This time around we don't see Josie interact as much with the locals who were involved in the previous book, other than her family, Deputy Lightfoot and her own ex, Ryan. I was disappointed that Ryan was no longer dating the beauty queen from the first book, as I really enjoyed her spiteful interactions with Josie. We do meet several new characters - the other member's of Jeff's band, plus his skeevy agent and a strange mother/daughter duo who traveled with the band.

I actually kept up better with the mystery and the plot this time. But there still seemed to be a little something missing. Despite the story being set in the same small town, it didn't have quite the same small town feeling, I think just because the local townsfolk weren't as involved and I wish they had been. But overall it was still a fun, breezy read, and while I liked the first book just a little more, I hope there will be a third book and look forward to more from this author. 

You can read my review of the first book here

22 October 2016

Salvatore: A Dark Mafia Romance (Benedetti Brothers, Book 1)

Synopsis from Goodreads: 


It all started with a contract signed by him, then by me, while our families watched. While my father sat silent, a man defeated, giving his daughter to the Benedetti monsters. I obeyed. I played my part. I signed my name and gave away my life. I became their living, breathing trophy, a constant symbol of their power over us. That was five years ago. Then came the time for him to claim me. For Salvatore Benedetti to own me. I had vowed vengeance. I had learned hate. And yet, nothing could have prepared me for the man who now ruled my life. I expected a monster, one I would destroy. But nothing is ever black or white. No one is either good or evil. For all his darkness, I saw his light. For all his evil, I saw his good. As much as he made me hate him, a passion hotter than the fires of hell burned inside me. I was his, and he was mine. My very own monster.


I owned the DeMarco Mafia Princess. She belonged to me now. We had won, and they had lost. And what better way to teach a lesson than to take from them that which is most precious? Most beloved? I was the boy who would be king. Next in line to rule the Benedetti Family. Lucia DeMarco was the spoils of war. Mine to do with as I pleased. It was my duty to break her. To make her life a living hell. My soul was dark, I was hell bound. And there was no way out, not for either of us. Because the Benedetti family never lost, and in our wake, we left destruction. It’s how it had always been. How I believed it would always be. Until Lucia.

Author’s Note: Salvatore and Lucia’s story is a steamy standalone romance with a happily-ever-after. No cliffhanger and no cheating. It is intended for mature readers.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  Mafia, mobsters, gangsters, and the like – not the type of hero who has ever appealed to me. Violent men in violent worlds, breaking laws and laundering money and killing rivals. What's to love about those men? But the author of this book is Natasha Knight, and I very much like her, so I took a chance and doled out the $11.99 for it. And I'm happy to say I have no regrets.

The premise is a little horrifying. Two heads of rival mob families signing a contract for peace between the families, with one man giving his teen-aged daughter to the other man's son. Lucia is forced to sign a contract that effectively gives ownership of her to Salvatore. Would it hold up in a court of law? Of course not. Lucia is a minor and slavery is outlawed. But the mob doesn't follow our laws, and both Lucia's and Salvatore's fates are sealed that day.

Fortunately, Lucia is sent away to a boarding school for the first five years of the contract, so she's of legal age before she is actually physically handed over to Salvatore. She hates him of course, and his father and brother, not to mention her own father for putting her in this position. But she's strong and feisty, and refuses to cower down.

The story is told in first person POV, alternating between Lucia and Salvatore, and I don't think the story could have worked as well otherwise. Hearing Salvatore's side of the story, his thoughts and feelings about a contract that he, too, was forced into, helped make his character sympathetic. He wasn't just a mobster, he was a man who lived under the thumb of his overbearing father, who still mourned the loss of his older brother, and who was determined to protect Lucia and make the situation as easy on her as he could, albeit while still maintaining control of her.

Definitely a relationship with a rocky start. And then a war is brewing, and with Salvatore's brother and Lucia's sister and cousin involved, it's hard to imagine our hero and heroine ever coexisting peacefully. When you're born into a mob family, it seems your life is never just your own, but you can't just walk away. For Salvatore, there is some soul searching, a yearning for a different kind of life. Men who seek redemption – what's not to love about them? 

02 October 2016



Synopsis from Goodreads: When Jordie Bennet and Shaw Kinnard lock eyes across a disreputable backwater bar, something definitely sparks. Shaw gives off a dangerous vibe that makes men wary and inspires women to sit up and take notice. None feel that undercurrent more strongly than savvy businesswoman Jordie, who doesn't belong in a seedy dive on the banks of a bayou. But here she is . . . and Shaw Kinnard is here to kill her.

As Shaw and his partner take aim, Jordie is certain her time has come. But Shaw has other plans and abducts Jordie, hoping to get his hands on the $30 million her brother has stolen and, presumably, hidden. However, Shaw is not the only one looking for the fortune. Her brother's ruthless boss and the FBI are after it as well. Now on the run from the feds and a notorious criminal, Jordie and Shaw must rely on their wits-and each other-to stay alive.

Miles away from civilization and surrounded by swampland, the two play each other against their common enemies. Jordie's only chance of survival is to outwit Shaw, but it soon becomes clear to Shaw that Jordie isn't entirely trustworthy, either. Was she in on her brother's scam, or is she an innocent pawn in a deadly vendetta? And just how valuable is her life to Shaw, her remorseless and manipulative captor? Burning for answers-and for each other-this unlikely pair ultimately make a desperate move that could be their last.

With nonstop plot twists and the tantalizing sexual tension that has made Sandra Brown one of the world's best-loved authors, STING will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final pages.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Grand Central Publishing, 2016.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  One thing I love about Sandra Brown is her heroes. She is wonderful at writing men who often appear on the surface to be dangerous, threatening, villainous, but who in reality are good, honorable, charismatic men who love fiercely and take huge risks to protect others, to fight the real bad guys, to make justice prevail. Unfortunately, she failed at creating that type of man in STING, at least to me. I struggled to feel any sympathy for his character at all, and didn't really connect with the heroine either. That being said, the parts of the narrative about the two of them were the best parts of the book. The other parts, with the FBI agents trying to find the kidnapped heroine and track down her escaped from custody brother, were flat out boring. In fact, they often read more like a true crime step by step accounting of the events that occurred, rather than a novel. So, definitely not my favorite of her books.

And what's with the covers of her recent books all looking the same? 

Meeting of the Mustangs


Synopsis from Goodreads: A black colt is born into a band of wild mustangs and soon learns that life can often be difficult. Follow his story as he goes from a free spirit to being captured for profit, and find out how one man gains the trust and extreme loyalty of a very special horse.

Stats: Self-published, 2015.

How acquired: Received from the author for review.

My thoughts:  The story opens with a young coal black colt chasing a butterfly's shadow. I was captivated from the first sentence as our little hero frolics with his friends, raced away from mountain lions with the rest of his herd, and discovered the joys of playing in the snow. But life isn't all sunshine and flowers for the band of wild horses, and eventually the young colt is captured and thrown into a world of humans, both kind and cruel. At times the story was almost downright depressing, and I would have absolutely loved this book when I was a young, typically horse crazy girl. The narrative flows easily and is beautifully written. The author doesn't dumb down the perils the wild mustangs faced, but uses fairly simple language appropriate for young readers. I quite enjoyed this book.