Kill Game (Seven of Spades #1) by Cordelia Kingsbridge

Homicide detective Levi Abrams is barely holding his life together. He’s reeling from the fallout of a fatal shooting, and his relationship with his boyfriend is crumbling. The last thing he’s prepared for is a serial killer stalking the streets of Las Vegas. Or how he keeps getting thrown into the path of annoyingly charming bounty hunter Dominic Russo.
Dominic likes his life free of complications. That means no tangling with cops—especially prickly, uptight detectives. But when he stumbles across one of the Seven of Spades’s horrifying crime scenes, he can’t let go, despite Levi’s warnings to stay away.
The Seven of Spades is ruthless and always two moves ahead. Worst of all, they’ve taken a dangerously personal interest in Levi and Dominic. Forced to trust each other, the two men race to discover the killer’s identity, revealing hidden truths along the way and sparking a bond neither man expected. But that may not be enough to protect them.
This killer likes to play games, and the deck is not stacked in Levi and Dominic’s favor.

What a beginning that promises to be an amazing new romantic suspense. This is my first read by Cordelia Kingsbridge, but it will most definitely not be my last – not even including the rest of this series.

That word ‘prickly’ that’s used in the description? That’s exactly how I’d describe the interactions between Levi and Dominic. Prickly sparks that were almost tangible. I loved the back and forth between the two of them – especially the denial. Others around them saw it too. That made things even more interesting.

There was so much to love about Kill Game. I loved the strong families that both Levi and Dominic came from. I loved the relationship between Levi and his partner. I also loved the way Levi and Dominic used their gut instincts and tenacity to try to stop the Seven of Spades. They both had their secrets and weaknesses but together they were a force to be reckoned with. They were also beyond hot together – but not immediately. The slow burn between these two was as intense as the suspense.

There were also many things that weren’t so great … the Seven of Spades was ruthless, smart and cunning. He had a warped sense of justice and he stayed one step ahead of everyone. He also used both Levi and Dominic in creepy, stalker like ways. *shivers* There were a few times that I thought I might know who he was, but by the end of Kill Game I still wasn’t sure. Truth is, given the name of the series is Seven of Spades, it may be a while before readers find out. I wasn’t a fan of some of Levi’s co-workers either and don’t get me started about his boyfriend. Although the reasons behind my dislike are probably not what you think.

So yeah, I know that this review was rambling and vague, but I honestly don’t want to spoil anything for anyone else. There is much more to come and I really can’t wait until Trick Roller is released so readers can spend more time with Levi and Dominic. 

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Deathbrew Affair (Lethal Webs #1) by Nancy Northcott

He’s the King of Control Freaks.
I’m the Queen of Winging It.
Together, we’ll save the world….
Unless we kill each other first.
I’m Casey Billings, an American operative in the London office of a covert, multinational agency. I’m working with an MI5 officer, Jack, Lord Bainbridge, to bring down a bioterrorist who plans to unleash a pandemic. We’re posing as newlyweds to infiltrate the community that’s a cover for the bioweapons operation. Unfortunately, we don’t play well together, and not only because of Jack’s distracting, off-the- scales hotness.
I grew up poor in a mill town, and he’s an aristocrat with more money than a third-world country. Besides that, I fly by the seat of my pants while Jack lives by his plans for every contingency and takes charge of everything. Including me. Or so he thinks.
Basically, we’d like to strangle each other. But we have a pandemic to stop first.
Then all bets are off.

I may have mentioned this before, but I’ve been a fan of Nancy Northcott since I read her first book, Renegade, in which she created an amazing world filled with intrigue, magic and romance. She didn’t have to twist my arm to give her new romantic suspense series a try. Especially since I had already gotten a taste of her contemporary writing in her novella, Danger’s Edge, which was included in the Capitol Danger anthology – which has a loose tie-in to The Deathbrew Affair.

Let me just start off by saying that The Deathbrew Affair is the beginning of what promises to be an amazing series. The story is told entirely from Casey’s POV. There are times that I really enjoy getting into each character’s head and I admit, I would have liked to know exactly what was going on inside Jack’s more than once. In this case though, not knowing was a part of the suspense. It actually provided an additional layer to the mystery.

Although The Deathbrew Affair was a great romantic suspense, it wasn’t necessarily a ‘who-done-it’ because from the very beginning, the ‘who’ was pretty obvious. The real challenge for Jack and Casey was to prove that the bad guy was the mastermind – but his possible accomplices came a little too close to home.

I absolutely loved how Jack and Casey were ‘thrown’ together. The attraction was immediate for Casey, but she knew better than to get involved. Sometimes the head and the heart don’t cooperate and that was definitely the case between these two. They were so much fun, plus they worked well together. Their personalities meshed even though on the surface they seemed worlds apart.

I absolutely can’t wait for the next book in this series. The Deathbrew Affair came to a satisfying close, but there is definitely (and thankfully) much more to come.

Suspicious Behavior (Bad Behavior #2) by L.A. Witt & Cari Z. – Bout of Books 20 Review

Detective Darren Corliss is hanging by a thread. In between recovering from a near-fatal wound and returning to work at a hostile precinct, he’s struggling to help care for his ailing brother. His partner and boyfriend, Detective Andreas Ruffner, wants to help, but doesn’t know how. And with his own family crises brewing, Andreas is spread almost as thin as Darren.
For cops, though, life takes a backseat to the job. When a stack of unsolved homicides drops into their laps, Andreas and Darren think they’re unrelated cold cases. But when a connection surfaces, they find themselves on the tail of a prolific serial killer who’s about to strike again.
Except they’ve got nothing. No leads. No suspects. Just a pile of circumstantial evidence and a whole lot of hunches. Time is running out to stop the next murder—and to pull themselves back from their breaking points.

I made a prediction when I finished Risky Behavior, the first book in L.A. Witt and Cari Z’s Bad Behavior series. I’m happy to say (and not surprised, I might add) that I was right. I’m not only really going to like this series, but by the end of Suspicious Behavior I had fallen head over heels in love with both Darren and Andreas and I can’t wait until the next book is released. *sigh*

This book takes up pretty much where the last one left off. Darren has pretty much recovered from his close call and both he and Andreas are back at work. To say that they were welcomed back would be a stretch. Pretty much the entire police force has turned against them because of the fallout from their last case. Cops don’t turn on cops and even though Andreas and Darren had no choice and did the right thing, their actions turned them into pariahs. They did have a few allies, which turned out to be a very good thing…

Things start to get even more complicated when the cold case falls in their laps. Not only are things not exactly what they seem, but they have to rely on turning enemies into allies and use deception to gain the truth, more than once. If those complications weren’t enough, real life keeps barging in and making things not only more complicated but heart wrenching.

There were so many layers to Suspicious Behavior that I think that’s what drew me in even more. There was the romance, the mystery, the family issues on both sides, the conflict at work and the lack of peer support – which escalated more than once. All of that combined help turn this series up a notch. Readers have to wait until January of 2018 for Reckless Behavior, but knowing L.A. Witt and Cari Z, I have no doubt it will be well worth the wait. 😉

Risky Behavior (Bad Behavior #1) by L.A. Witt & Cari Z.

It’s day one of Darren Corliss’s career as a detective, and not only has he been assigned a notoriously difficult partner, but the guy might also be a pill-popping dirty cop. Internal Affairs needs proof, and Darren gets to be their eyes and ears whether he wants to or not.
Detective Andreas Ruffner doesn’t play by the rules, and he doesn’t play well with others. With bodies piling up and a list of suspects who are way above his pay grade, the last thing he needs is a wet-behind-the-ears kid for a partner. Or babysitter. Not even if that partner is easy on the eyes.
As Darren gains Andreas’s hard-won trust, they both realize there’s more than just mutual suspicion simmering beneath the surface. But their investigation is heating up as quickly as their relationship, and Darren has no choice but to go along with Andreas’s unorthodox—and borderline unethical—methods. As IA puts the squeeze on Darren to give up the man he’s falling for, he has to wonder—is Andreas the only cop left in this town who isn’t dirty?

I’ve read several books by Cari Z and even more by L.A. Witt. Whenever I see a book written by either one of them I’m intrigued. Having them join creative forces? Needless to say, I didn’t hesitate to pick up Risky Behavior.

I love well developed ‘broken’ characters and Andrea definitely fell into that category. He had everyone convinced that he it was safer to keep their distance and he worked hard at keeping it that way. He also had a secret that he worked even harder to keep hidden.

Even though Darren wasn’t necessarily broken, he still had his own secrets. He also had a sense of honor and loyalty that kept him from jumping to conclusions before he had the whole story. It didn’t take him long to figure out there was a lot more to Andrea than what was on the surface.

This book had everything I love in a new series. Plenty of heat between the good guys, suspense, action and characters that were easy to fall for. I can’t wait to see what this talented duo has in store for Andrea and Darren as the Bad Behavior series continues.

Necessary Medicine by M.K. York – Bout of Books 19 Review

In the high-intensity world of hospital residency programs, there’s no room for romance. So it’s a good thing for first-year surgical resident Neil Carmona that his crush on the gorgeous cardiologist Eli Newcombe is sheer fantasy. Not only is the sexy doctor Neil’s superior, he’s also recently divorced.
As Neil’s skill as a surgeon grows, so does his friendship with Eli, and his silent, hopeless longing for more. It isn’t until Neil’s final year that Eli at last admits his own deepest desires. But Neil’s joy is short-lived: Eli has no intention of pursuing a relationship. Their positions in the hospital would make it unethical, even if he was emotionally ready for someone new.
Wounded and furious, Neil is determined to forget about Eli once and for all. But when a near-tragedy strikes, a new question arises: Is a life without love—without Neil—a greater risk than laying his heart on the line?

The intro to the description of Necessary Medicine said ‘slow-burn romance’ – which is both accurate and an understatement. I’m a really, really patient reader, but I realize that other readers might not be. For that reason, I (and other conscientious reviewers) have found it necessary to point out that the ‘romance’ aspect of Necessary Medicine is not the focus. The focus is on the the development of the characters’ relationships (not just between Eli and Neil) as well as a glimpse of what it takes to become a surgeon/doctor.

I kinda liked this story, which was the first book written by MK York. The author did a great job of giving readers a glimpse into what life is like as a medical student. I really enjoyed getting to know both Neil and Eli as well as all the other students, specialists and surgeons. It was a unique glimpse into a world that not a lot of others get to see or experience.

I also really liked watching the relationship between Eli and Neil grow. It wasn’t always easy. I spent a lot of time being just as aggravated with Eli as Neil was, but it wasn’t easy to stay mad at him. The ups and downs between these two were worth it though. Even though the real romance didn’t even happen until way past the half way point. Just be patient, enjoy the build up and let yourself get caught up in the story.

Hard Justice (Body Armor #2) by Lori Foster

Playing it safe has never felt so dangerous…
Justice Wallington knows how to harness his strength and intimidating size—skills he put to good use first in the MMA cage, and now as a bodyguard at the Body Armor agency. But no opponent has ever left him feeling as off balance as his new client, heiress Fallon Wade. Far from a spoiled princess, she’s sweet and intriguingly innocent. It’s a risk-free assignment, until he’s required to fake a relationship with her in order to blend in. 

Sheltered from the world after a family tragedy, Fallon longs to experience life—going to bars, dancing, talking to strangers. Not easy with a huge, lethal-looking bodyguard shadowing her every move. Justice seems like her polar opposite, but pretending to be a couple stirs undeniable heat. And when danger strikes again, it’s not just her safety in jeopardy, but a passion that’s real, raw and absolutely against the rules…

So, I’ve almost forgiven Lori Foster for ending her Ultimate series. You see, I loved those guys and gals and I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to them yet. Turns out that Ms. Foster wasn’t quite done with them yet either because they made appearances a couple of times in Leese and Cat’s book (Under Pressure) and readers got to spend even more quality time with them in Hard Justice. That ended up being just an added bonus for Justice and Fallon though because as much as I loved Under Pressure, I think I may have liked Hard Justice even more.

The last thing he expected when he was assigned to protect Fallon was to fall for her. No, he really did expect a spoiled princess and Fallon was anything but. On the flip side, Fallon expected another cookie-cutter body guard who stuck out like a sore thumb. Neither one of them got what they expected. Fallon was down to earth and wanted to be ‘normal.’ Justice was a powerful presence that was hard to ignore. Watching them tip-toe around their mutual attraction was fun.

What was even more fun were the guys’ reactions to Fallon and Justice. He couldn’t hide his true feelings from those who knew him best and they couldn’t resist ragging him about it. They also couldn’t resist Fallon’s charm any more than Justice could. Loving Justice’s friends was a given because readers had already been introduced to most of them, but Justice’s grandmother was a hoot and his mother was amazing. His interaction with both of them just made me fall in love with him more (and it had the same affect on Fallon 😉 ) Fallon’s parents even won me over little by little.

Beyond the characters and the romance, the ‘who-dun-it’ mystery was pretty good too. It was one of those mysteries where you thought you had it figured out, but then there was a twist, and then another one and characters you thought you despised turned out to be not so bad and… you get the picture. Basically, Hard Justice was a great read (not a surprise) and it left me wanting more (also, not a surprise.) I can’t wait to see what this author has in store for the rest of the series because there is definitely more to come.

Single Malt (Agents Irish & Whiskey #1) by Layla Reyne

singlemaltThe heart’s a resilient beast
Eight months after the car crash that changed everything, FBI agent Aidan Talley is back at work. New department, new case and a new partner. Smart, athletic and handsome, Jameson Walker is twelve years his junior. Even if Aidan was ready to move on—and he’s not—Jamie is off-limits.
Jamie’s lusted after Aidan for three years, and the chance to work with San Francisco’s top agent directly is too good to pass up. Aidan is prickly—to put it mildly—but a growing cyber threat soon proves Jamie’s skills invaluable.
Jamie’s talents paint a target on his back, and Aidan is determined to protect him. But with hack after hack threatening a high-security biocontainment facility, time is running out to thwart a deadly terrorist attack. They’ll have to filter out distractions, on the case and in their partnership, to identify the real enemy, solve the case and save thousands of lives, including their own.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1I’ve got a few fellow readers/bloggers whose advice I take when they send me a book recommendation, no questions asked. That’s why that even though Layla Reyne was a new author, when I was told Single Malt was a book that I needed to read, I jumped on it. One book in and I can already tell that I’ll be pouncing on each book in the Agents Irish & Whiskey as soon as they’re available.

Aidan was broken, but he had a huge support system, which included his boss/sister-in-law. Jamie’s been attracted to Aiden for years, but out of respect for Jamie’s marriage he never acted on those feelings. Of course things get complicated when they become partners.

I loved the connection between Aidan and Jamie, but there were a lot of other things going on in Single Malt. There was danger, mystery, guilt and strong family/friend connections that introduce a lot of great characters that I can’t wait to get to know better. It basically looks like Agents Irish & Whiskey is going to have pretty much everything I love about romantic suspense.

Then there was the ending… let’s just say things are going to get really interesting and the second book in the series, Cask Strength can’t come soon enough.

DragonFlyGreen4-5

Reckless (Shattered Sisters #1) by Maggie Shayne

recklessTrue Crime Writer Toni Rio follows a wise guy straight from his brief stint behind bars to his execution in a dirty alley. When his two killers see her witnessing their gruesome work, she runs, but she doesn’t get far.
FBI agent Nick Manelli has to keep his cover intact and keep the sexy witness alive, and there’s only one way he can think of to do both. He has to kidnap her.

Interesting fact… Reckless was the first book published by Maggie Shayne. Although I’ve read several early books by this author, I hadn’t come across the Shattered Sisters series. According to the author, the book’s been ‘totally revamped.’ Regardless, I’m glad I found out about this series. Maggie Shayne is a master of sweet romances as well as paranormal, but I discovered after I read her Brown & de Luca series that her romantic suspense/mystery series might be some of my favorite.

Toni was tough, cunning and smart. She was determined to not go down without a fight. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of Nick though. She knew that there was more to him than he was showing her. Nick knew that there was more to Toni too, he just didn’t know how much more. Their attraction wasn’t instant, but once they started peeling away the layers that they were hiding from each other, they couldn’t fight it.

There were more than a couple of twist, turns and close calls for more than a couple of characters.  Enough that there wasn’t much down time, which kept the pages turning. The next book in the series is Forgotten, followed by Broken and Hunted as well as a prequel, Hollow. If the rest of the series were as interesting to get to know as Toni, this is going to be an interesting series.

DragonFlyRating4

Friendly Fire by Cari Z

friendlyfire_600x900Elliot McKenzie is the king of reinvention. Five years after losing his job and his lover and almost going to prison, his self-help program, Charmed Life, is more successful than he’d ever dreamed. He thinks he’s put his sordid past firmly behind him, until he starts receiving cryptic threats . . . and realizes it might not be as over as he’d hoped. 
Security expert Lennox West has been lost since a deadly skirmish in Afghanistan led to his forced retirement from the Army. His PTSD makes helping his ex raise their daughter a challenge. When his ex’s sister asks him to set her boss up with a security system, Lennox isn’t expecting anyone like Elliot McKenzie—a man who captures his attention and makes him feel relaxed for the first time since leaving the service.
But Elliott is dangerously stubborn. Even as the threats against him escalate, he refuses to involve the police, and Lennox fears that stubbornness could kill him. A battle of wills ensues that brings them closer to each other than either man expected. But if the threats turn real, they might not live long enough to get their future together.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1I’ve read all the Panopolis books written so far. I really enjoyed Where There’s Smoke, Where There’s Fire and Where There’s a Will, which are set in a SciFi/Fantasy world. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from Cari Z in a contemporary setting, but she most definitely did not disappoint.

Lennox was a good guy. He was still friends with his ex-wife and had a good relationship with her family. His only real fault was not spending enough time with his daughter, but his PTSD had him terrified that he’d terrify her or worse, so it was hard to blame him. Because of his military background, he was also very good at his job, when the person he was trying to help cooperated. Which brings us to Elliot…

Elliot had a past he wasn’t proud of, but he was doing his best to make it right. Because of that, he tended to look past the worst in others. Plus, he needed people who looked to him for guidance in his self-help program to keep confidence in him. That’s a great attitude to have as long as someone wasn’t trying their best to harm him and anyone who got too close. It made Lennox’s job exceedingly difficult. Add to that the attraction that the men shared, you can imagine the frustration.

I really liked this story as a whole. There was plenty of action and suspense as well as some heated romance. The mystery wasn’t too complicated, but that didn’t bother me too much either. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going go back and check out some of Cari Z’s back list and wait patiently for what she has in store for readers next. 😉

DragonFlyRating4

 

Fighting Dirty (Ultimate #4) by Lori Foster

FightingDirtyWith the life he’s led and the muscles he’s gained, Armie Jacobson isn’t afraid of anything. Except maybe Merissa Colter’s effect on him. It’s not just that she’s his best friend’s little sister. Fact is, she deserves better. Women pursue him for one night of pleasure, and that’s all he wants to offer. Until rescuing Merissa from a robbery leads to the most erotic encounter of his life. 
Good girl meets bad boy. It’s a story that rarely ends well. But Merissa is taking matters into her own hands. No matter how he views himself, the Armie she knows is brave, honorable and completely loyal. And as past demons and present-day danger collide, they’re both about to learn what’s truly worth fighting for…

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Armie and Merissa’s book was as long time coming. Lori Foster has been teasing readers with this couple from the beginning of the series. I suppose it’s only fitting that since a Colter started the Ultimate series, another Colter deserved to wrap it up… for that, Ms. Foster is almost forgiven… almost. 🙂

Armie had secrets… secrets that not only made him keep Merissa at arm’s length, but also held him back from making a name for himself in the MMA. Merissa didn’t care though. She knew that Armie was not only a good man, but he was hers. She just had to convince him.

There wasn’t a lot of down time in Fighting Dirty. Readers were clued into who was behind the danger facing this couple a lot sooner than Merissa and Armie… which made it kind of frustrating. Basically because I wanted them to know so… but then the story would have been a lot shorter and since readers had been denied quality Merissa/Armie time for so long, that would have been selfish… right?

Basically, Fighting Dirty was well worth the wait. I loved watching walls around Armie finally crumble. He didn’t give in easy, but he proved more than once that he was totally worthy of not only Merissa’s love, but the rest of their ‘family’ as well. Armie had worked hard to dig himself out from under his past and keep it hidden. In Fighting Dirty he found out that he was more than his past, he finally had a future.

The supporting characters were great as usual and there were even a few cameos from series past. I love how this world is tied so neatly together. Which gives me hope that even though this appears to be the end of the Ultimate series, the new series featuring Leese, Justice, Brand and Miles will be coming soon. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of the Ultimate crew. 😉

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