The Book Gourmet

Book reviews à la bookworm...The good, the bad, and everything in between.



Professional Reader Reviews Published

Treacherous Beauties by Cheryl B. Dale

Treacherous Beauties: Featuring Major TV Movie Stars - Cheryl Emerson

Annabelle's dead brother haunts her dreams, pleading with her to help him, and the only way she knows how, is to go to where Alan died and try to find his killer...

The mystery was intriguing, the slightly paranormal angle satisfying without descending into the bizarre, the suspense intense...It would've made for a pretty awesome suspense/thriller if it weren't for:

  1. the premise itself—the heroine goes to the town where her brother was murdered determined to find his killer; she's not law enforcement, she's not a detective, she's just a widow posing as an accountant
  2. and the idiotic heroine—read above and add the fact every single decision she makes when she's there proves just what a naïve idiot she really is (you can't say you love someone while lying to them and believing them a murderer; you can't take the word of the only woman the hero dislikes as judge of his character while having proof of his amiability in his interactions with pretty much everybody else in town).

The fact it was written in the first person POV of the heroine didn't help matters at all, merely compounding her bad traits.

White Face by Edgar Wallace

White Face (Detective Sgt. - Edgar Wallace

A man ends up stabbed to death on a street in London's Tidal Basin, victim of the almost mythical murderer roaming the streets of London, the Devil of Tidal Basin. But why is another bandit (this one not of the killing, but of the robbing kind) suddenly sighted in Tidal Basin as well?

Unfortunately the mystery wasn't as engrossing as in its predecessors, the pace was also rather stutter-y, there were too many side-stories (that ended up somehow connected), and even more seemingly random characters thrown into the mix.

I lost interest before chapter six, and never regained it.

The India-Rubber Men by Edgar Wallace

The India-Rubber Men (Dodo Press) - Edgar Wallace

A well-organized, unscrupulous gang of robbers is terrorizing London. They make their hit almost undetected, and before the police can scramble, they disappear into the night. Sometimes, their exploits coincide with the sightings of a mysterious and fast motor boat passing on the Thames, but no one but the Thames Police Inspector John Wade believes the two are connected...Yet his gut and his heart keep bringing him onto the doorstep of the "Mecca" club on one of the Thames's wharves. How is the club connected? And who is the beautiful, yet mysterious niece of the proprietress?

This was my favorite Edgar Wallace novel while growing up, and I'm glad to report, it didn't lose its appeal in all these years.

Fast-paced, faster than any book so far in this series, with the tempo (and danger) increasing with each passing chapter, until by the end, the plot, the characters, and the reader are hurtling toward the finish line.

The mysteries are intriguing, and so are the connections between the gang of robbers, the seemingly innocent gentleman's club, and the young girl who everybody desires for one reason or the other. There are plenty of twists, plenty of questions and loose ends, the danger is at an all-time high for the police (especially one of its inspectors), and action scenes are well-written and gripping.

As it's the norm in this series, there's a bit of romance thrown into the mix, yet it's a little more believable than in its predecessors (or maybe I'm just biased, since I love John Wade with all his charm and abundant use of endearments). What is not the norm, is the fact this book, as much as it was obviously intended primarily for a male audience, actually passes the Bechdel test...And the two ladies don't even need to be rescued from the bad guys in the end.

Fast-paced, well-plotted, with a wonderful main male character (I'm a sucker for slightly oddball characters, I guess), and an even more wonderful mystery and suspense arc.

The Twister by Edgar Wallace

Elk of the 'Yard'-The Criminal Cases of Inspector Elk: Volume 2-The Twister & the India-Rubber Men - Edgar Wallace

Lord Frensham knows exactly who's swindling him in the stock market—Anthony "Tony" Braid, who many call The Twister. And he's not about to believe Braid's crazy notion that his own nephew, his flesh and blood, is behind the embezzlement...Then Frensham is found dead in his office, but Inspector Elk of the Scotland Yard knows it's not suicide, no matter the elaborate scheme the murderer invented...But who is the murderer?

Yet another interesting, fast-paced read. For once, the main character isn't a cop or working in the law enforcement, and for once, the character in the title isn't the villain.

It was a very intriguing and "twisty" tale with a rather obvious murderer, but with a more obscure side-scheme. The outcome of the investigation (as well as the resolution to the stock market trouble) was more happenstance than anything else, since clues, witnesses, and revelations were stumbled upon by chance, but still, the story offered a satisfying read, even though the small matter of The Twister getting the girl in the end was never touched upon.

I did like the obsessive stalker angle, though.

The Joker by Edgar Wallace

The Joker (Detective Sgt. - Edgar Wallace

There's something fishy about millionaire Stratford Harlow, yet the police and Scotland Yard are unable to pin anything on him, despite the efforts of Sub-Inspector James Carlton...

An interesting plot-line with a better pacing than its predecessor. The "villain" was much more in the open, although the reader, alongside Scotland Yard's finest, struggles to see what he is up to and how anybody can prove any wrongdoing.

And when you think it's over, and everything becomes rather long-winded and slightly dull (especially compared to the few chapters where the reader and Jim believe the worst), comes the surprising final twist, revealing the greatest Harlow "joke" of them all.

I certainly didn't see that one coming. Well done.

The Fellowship of the Frog by Edgar Wallace

The Fellowship of the Frog - Edgar  Wallace

Only after an undercover Scotland Yard man is murdered by the criminal mastermind known as the Frog, do the Prosecutor's Office and Scotland Yard really start investigating the criminal hiding his identity behind a rubber mask and his "fellowship" comprising of "tramps" identifiable by a lopsided tattoo of a frog on their left wrist...

This was an interesting mystery with many twists and curve-balls and as many suspects and misdirections. The pacing was a tad slow at times, creating some unnecessarily dull moments, and the true identity of the villain was rather predictable despite the author throwing in multiple suspects and multiple possible motives into the mix.

What bothered me, and reduced the rating, was the last couple of chapters, when the main motive of the villain ended up being a woman and his determination to force her to marry him, and the rather comical effect of the race-to-the-prison chapter.
Unnecessary, if you ask me, making the Frog slightly omnipotent and omniscient, while at the same time diminishing his "genius" and reach when it turned out, he just wanted the girl...A girl who seemed nothing more than a trinket to be fought over.

The Nine Bears (The Other Man) by Edgar Wallace

The Nine Bears - Edgar Wallace

DNF @ 25%

Edgar Wallace used to be one of my favorite authors while growing up; I couldn't stop borrowing his books from the library...So what the heck happened?

I couldn't finish it. I simply couldn't. I barely got through the first couple of chapters.

I had no idea who was talking at different points in a conversation. Everybody acted so over-the-top I wanted to pound my Kindle against my head, and any slower it would've been going backwards.

So what happened to make me lose that childhood enthusiasm for this author? Did I get older? Or have I, in the meantime, discovered more "modernly" written books? No idea.

Irish Rebel by Nora Roberts

Irish Rebel - Nora Roberts

Brian Donnelly transfers from Ireland to America in order to take the lead trainer position on the Royal Meadows horse farm. There he, nomad his entire life, will discover the beauty of permanency and true love. Both in the form of two special horses, and the woman that's been meant for him.

For some this story is the worst in the bunch, while for me it's the best. Most reviewers complain about Brian and his prickly disposition, disregarding the fact that the previous heroes in this series were much much worse cavemen, children of 80's romance fiction, I guess.

For me, this was a true Nora Roberts book, along the lines of those I came to know and cherish in my reading history. Yes, the hero was a bit prickly and a reverse-snob, but the heroine was more than capable of going head to head with him in her stubbornness and pride.
I found these two much more evenly matched than their predecessors where the heroine was, granted Irish, but still pretty much a doormat when it came to her hero.
I liked Keeley in all her prideful, cold-princess, stubbornly independent glory, and I liked Brian with his complexes and prejudice that easily crumbled into dust the more he got to know his woman. I loved the fact he was the one to fall first, and even though he was too stupidly blind to confess his feelings first, Keeley was there, hounding him along the way, chipping away at his reservations and male pride.
Theirs was a slowly-building romance that started in animosity, moved through mutual respect and friendship only to blossom into love.

I absolutely loved it from page one, and would not have changed a thing, even if I could.

Irish Rose by Nora Roberts

Irish Rose (Irish Hearts) - Nora Roberts

They meet when her cousin, Adelia comes to Ireland for a visit with her children, her husband, and her husband's friend. Burke immediately recognizes a similar soul in Erin, knowing she's dying to get out in the world, and offers her an opportunity to do so in the form of a job offer...But they'll both soon learn some bargains and decisions are not to be taken lightly.

Compared to its predecessor, this was an utter and complete wreck. The hero was an asshole, the heroine a greedy bitch, and Ms Roberts wanted me to buy the starry-eyed romance between these two people.

Well, I didn't.

Not even at the end, when the idiotically long (and unnecessary, easily solved with a conversation) conflict was finally resolved. I merely saw two compatible, similar characters living under the same roof and sharing a bed, I didn't see them as a couple in love as it happened with Adelia and Travis, who even in this story where they served as mere supporting cast, had more chemistry and more passion than the main characters.

The only spark of light in this otherwise dull and gray story, was the all-too-brief moment of suspense.

What a pity.

Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts

Irish Thoroughbred (Irish Hearts) - Nora Roberts

Having been forced to sell her farm after her aunt's death, Adelia Cunnane has nowhere to go, but to live with her uncle in America. There, she starts working at one of the finest horse ranches in the States, and falls in love with the owner...

A cute little story, that would've worked better if it were much shorter. Adelia's true feelings for Travis Grant were "revealed" too quickly, and though the reader never gets any glimpses into Travis's mind and/or feelings, so were his.

So after a few cute chapters of these two adorably trying to pretend they're just friends, and him picking on her merely to get her to spit fire, and then kiss her senseless, the story quickly lost its pace. And its charm with it. The "big conflict" was a mere trope, as was the twist that brought the two to said "conflict".

Also, I didn't care for the fact Adelia came through as if she's come from the past or some backwater cave in the middle of nowhere. We're talking about the eighties, here, not middle ages. Naive I could stomach, but looking at everything around her (planes, cars, household appliances, for Christ's sake) as if she's barely invented the wheel was a bit too much.

Under Fire by Scarlett Cole

Under Fire: A Love Over Duty Novel - Scarlett Cole

Louisa North is weird thanks to her anthropophobia and pathological shyness. She knows, she’s weird, everybody else knows she’s weird, but she doesn’t really care, since she has a higher purpose—find the cure for Huntington’s disease or at least a better alleviator of symptoms, since the old one drove her father to suicide.
She’s getting close, too, with the only problem being her latest experiment had some unforeseen and rather dire consequences, causing paralysis in rats, resulting in their death.

Then she starts noticing strange things...Her notes being out of alignment, and the deadly sample in her lab is not the way she left it last. Acting on her hunch (she refuses to see it as paranoia!), she switches labels, placing the “deadly” label on the innocuous sample, and the next thing she knows, the fake-deadly sample goes missing.

With the owner of her lab not really looking eager to investigate or, God forbid, involve the police, Louisa has no one to turn to. Except the only man who doesn’t treat her as weird, because he has issues of his own, former Navy SEAL and co-owner of the newest security firm in town, Sixton “Six” Rapp.

And then things get really complicated...

The saying goes “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but it doesn’t really apply here, since it was the cover that drew me to this book first, then I read the blurb, and even though I’ve never heard of this author before, I had to have the book. And in this case, I am judging the book by its cover—and it didn’t disappoint.

Far from it, in fact.

It was a great blend of suspense and romance, although the latter was a bit more prominent in the story. Luckily, it was a great romance, featuring two wonderful characters—the quirky, shy, and geeky scientist and the sexy, outgoing ex-SEAL. A rather unorthodox pairing, but the contrast between the introvert, brainy Louisa and the extrovert, brawny Six worked beautifully in this instance. They were complete opposites, yet they got each other, and completed one another when the occasion called for it.
The first word that came to mind as I was reading of their first encounter was “cute”, and it didn’t change until the end. They were utterly cute together, a truly lovable couple. Their romance was believable, and their story organic.

The suspense was also very well-done with a good initial mystery, sometimes even throwing out doubt about the heroine’s instincts and possible paranoia, but once the true suspense and subsequent action kicked in, the mystery became of second importance, and everything focused on one thing and one thing only—keeping Louisa safe.

Unfortunately, the main plot lost its direction slightly somewhere in the middle, when both main characters succumbed to the trope-ish sexual frustration that was rather out of character for both of them, and the pacing suffered because of it, but once that hurdle was done with (thankfully, rather quickly) the story once again gained its previous momentum and it didn’t stop until the end.
An end that was satisfying in its action sequences and saving of lives, while on the other hand left a bit of frustration at the ease in which everything was resolved giving the fact who or what they were dealing with. It was a tad too easy and simple that they just let Louisa and her “secret formula” go.

I also didn’t really care about the cliffhanger in the epilogue, involving Mac and their dead friend’s sister (the only women Mac has ever loved). I didn’t really care about it not because I’m not interested, but because I am and the next book is still months off. Not fair!

For once, I’m not disappointed in a new-to-me author. The story and characters were great, the romance was wonderfully cute, and the suspense worked beautifully. Great job!

Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz

Promise Not to Tell - Jayne Ann Krentz

***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***

As complicated and rather convoluted as its predecessor, but with a much more intriguing and faster-paced mystery.
The mystery and suspense were unfortunately counter-balanced by the rather bland and formulaic characters, and a romance that required quite a big suspension of disbelief.

(full review will be published closer to the release date)

11 by Kylie Brant

11 - Kylie Brant

Mia Deleon had spent three torturous years in the hands of a sadistic sexual predator before managing to escape. Yet she's never been able to really enjoy her freedom. Her kidnapper and torturer has never been found because no one had really believed she'd been taken, and even after she left the country her backpack packed with multiple assumed names, she's kept looking over her shoulder, expecting the monster to find her any day.

Until he did...

But Jude Bishop, the man who helped her disappear five years before, got to her first. A tenuous link to her case has been found by the Mindhunters and Jude has been tasked with bringing her back to the States.

But the monster is also on her tail, determined to bring her back, and keep her forever this time.

An interesting, intense and rather gripping (at times) thriller that could've easily done without the poor attempt at romance.

The story was engaging, the pacing appropriately fast, and the characters interesting (although the heroine did make a few strange/bad decisions along the way). Well-written and well-structured, although I couldn't help but think there were pieces of the story missing.
Why did the monster do what he did? How and why did he start? How did he choose his collection? What was his motive?...All these and more questions about the villain (the ending seemed rushed and a tad too easy, BTW) remained unanswered, making the main story arc appear rather hole-y.

On the Chase by Katie Ruggle

On the Chase (Rocky Mountain K9 Unit) - Katie Ruggle

***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***

While Kaylee was dating a Disney prince, fancying herself falling for him, she encountered three tortured men in his uncle’s basement, helped them escape, was also forcefully detained by said uncle, escaped herself, ran from the police, and got a new identity and a new location.

Unfortunately that new location comes with a sexy, but nosy cop without nothing better to do, since he’s on sick leave thanks to a hole in his leg, but poke his nose into her business. Then someone tries to blow the cop away, someone takes a shot at them as they’re locking lips...And Grace, as she’s named nowadays, knows the torture-prone uncle with a Slavic (can you say trope?) last name has found her.

Reading this one wasn’t very pleasant. The heroine swung between two extremes—she either whined (mostly in her head, which made the reading of her “scenes” a special kind of torture) and bemoaned her fate (instead of feeling lucky about actually being still alive) or she acted like a demented teenager thanks to the teasing and/or banter from Hugh.
Hugh that I actually liked quite a bit in the previous book, but in this one turned out to be almost as annoying as the heroine. Hyper, obnoxious, and as far from funny or fun (although I guess Ms Ruggle wanted to portray him as such so he could take the heroine’s mind off her predicament) as he could get.

The romance was lukewarm at best and not-there at worst, I didn’t understand what exactly drove these two together except for looks. And the suspense was so convoluted, with yet another villain coming out of the woodwork, just to mix things up, I guess, keep the supposed mystery going, and keep the page-count high.

Everything was rather convoluted, there was too much going on with the two separate suspense sub-plots (one coming out of thin air, the second not actually having a satisfying run or resolution), and I disliked both the main characters.

Definitely not a pleasant reading experience.

Dark Room by Andrea Kane

Dark Room - Andrea Kane

On Christmas Eve 1989, then ten-year-old Morgan Winter, discovered her parents's corpses in the basement of her mother's woman's shelter in Brooklyn. The culprit was found and confessed, but the lead detective, Pete "Monty" Montgomery, didn't feel right about the conviction, feeling there was something off.

His gut instinct is proven right just before Christmas seventeen years ago, when irrefutable proof surfaces, the wrong man is sitting in prison for the murder. Morgan, in shock and reeling, hires Monty, now a PI, to uncover the truth, and the real killer panics...

This is the first RS novel by Andrea Kane that isn't labeled as a favorite. It was really quite a chore reading it. It was well-written, the main plot with the cold case and the killer trying his best to make Morgan and Monty to stop the investigation...There was just something off, plain and simple.

The pacing was plodding, mostly because they were dealing with a seventeen-year-old cold case, but some paragraphs with the incessant dialogues, and diatribes about clues and proof, and trips down memory lane grew old pretty fast, and were quite a pain to get through.
The second problem was the romance. Because there wasn't one, no matter how hard Ms Kane tried to convince us otherwise. There was no build-up, no believable (albeit fast) transition between the nice-to-meet-you scene, the first-kiss scene, and the first love scene. They all happened in a blink of an eye, especially the second two; the first kiss happened at his house, and they immediately moved into the bedroom...Even as the things sort-of progressed between Morgan (heroine) and Lane (hero), there wasn't even a whiff of romance, just two characters going through the motion, never really having any time to get to know one another, spend any quality time together, before they were suddenly (and inexplicably) in love.

The suspense was a little better, once it started nearing the end and it picked up the pace. The investigation into the cold case should've been interesting, gripping, and full of mystery and intrigue, but instead, thanks to the above-mentioned lengthy discussions, was rather dull, and hard to keep reading.
The real killer was also quite obvious, although there was a bit of a last-minute surprise thrown into the proceedings; which actually sparked a little enthusiasm on my part.

I think this would've worked better as a short story.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Andrea Kane

Wrong Place, Wrong Time - Andrea Kane

When Sally Montgomery accepts Frederick Pierson's invitation for a weekend getaway, she has no idea, she'd end her Saturday on the run from a killer who's just bashed Frederick's head in and torched their cabin. Concussed and scared, she knows there's only one man she can turn to, only one man to make sure to catch the killer before the killer catches her—her ex-husband, ex-NYPD detective Peter "Monty" Montgomery.

Monty's gut is telling him there's something fishy going on in the Pierson clan, so in order to protect Sally and catch the killer, he recruits his oldest daughter Devon, a veterinarian, to infiltrate the family, but neither of the two expected both Frederick's nephews, cousins James and Blake, to set their eye on Devon. And while James is easily dismissed as self-centered and fake, it's Blake that catches Devon's eye and her emotions. But is Blake's interest real or just a diversionary tactic to keep Devon from poking around too much?

Yet another winner from this amazing author. And intense, fast-paced (faster that the previous books) page-turner with a perfect blend of romance and suspense. What I like in her books is the fact, the heroine (and subsequently the reader) isn't entirely sure about the hero's motivations and allegiances at the beginning of the story. It keeps you guessing and it keeps you wondering.

The second thing I like about her books is the maturity. Not only of the plots themselves, which are always well-researched, well-paced, and perfectly executed, but of the characters. The main characters (that end up forming the main romantic couple) are incredibly mature and grown-up; they actually communicate, they talk and listen, they argue, and they compromise. But they communicate, which results in a more mature storyline and romance without the unnecessary (and sometimes downright annoying) miscommunications, misconceptions, and conflicts for conflicts sake. There always is a conflict at the beginning of the story (thanks to the before-mentioned ambiguity and doubts about the hero's motivations), but they're always promptly resolved rather early on, leaving the plot to evolve and progress without any redundant ballast.
This story was no different. The heroine, her father, and this particular reader, all had their doubts about the hero, doubts that were put aside by a single honest conversation, and weren't brought back for the rest of the story.

The romance was solid, and although you could say it was rushed, having developed in a little more than a week, thanks to the narrative flow, and the complexity of the plot, it seemed much more time has elapsed. No feelings of haste there.
The two main characters were nicely "layered", and complimenting each other well, thanks to some of their similar traits (family loyalty, for example). They worked well together individually, and as a couple, making the romance believable and organic.

The suspense was also well-done, even though I didn't actually get the motive for the initial murder. It was a tad too convoluted, but that "hiccup" aside, the entire suspense sub-plot was intense and fast-paced, and the mystery kept me engaged, entertained, and guessing as to who all the players were. Who was the bad guy? Why? Who was using whom and to what purpose? And that final action scene, with the running against the clock, it certainly got the blood pumping.

I loved it.