Still the One

Authors: Susan May Warren & Rachel D. Russell

Publisher: Sunrise Publishing

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Readers of Susan May Warren’s Deep Haven Series will not want to miss this new edition set in Deep Haven written with Rachel Russell that will give you all the feels! 

When Cole Barrett returns to Deep Haven to deal with selling his grandfather’s house after he is sent to a nursing home with dementia, he only wants to get the house sold and leave. His memories of his grandfather and time in Deep Haven are not the best. The only good memory of his time there was a friend, Megan Carter. When he had to leave quickly as a teenager, he never even got to say goodbye to her and in the years that passed as he entered the army and served, he never forgot the kindness she showed him.

Megan is barely keeping her head above water. She and her nine-year-old son, Josh, live in the apartment above Cole’s grandfather’s garage and she works as a wedding planner to support her son by herself. His father has never been in the picture and since the rest of her family moved away, it has just been the two of them. When Cole shows back up in town trying to sell the house, she is furious that he left without saying goodbye, never kept in touch and is now trying to ruin her life by making her find another place to live. It doesn’t take long for sparks to fly between the two of them, something neither are ready for. Will they be able to work out their differences and find some common ground or end up at each other’s throats?

Let me start off by making a confession. Before reading Still the One, I had not read any of the Deep Haven novels. I have read many other novels by Susan May Warren and was well assured that I would enjoy this one. I was curious how a new author would compare to Warren’s style. Having said that, I am pleased to say I thoroughly enjoyed this story, Rachel Russell did a fantastic job of bringing these characters to light, making me have an immediate connection to them and letting the story progress at a perfect pace. With contemporary romance, if you read much in this genre, you know what you are going to get when you start the story, how it plays out depends on the skill of the author. I have come to expect a lot from the writing of Susan May Warren and loved the idea of her guiding a new author down this path. Even though I had yet to read any other novels in the Deep Haven series, I had no trouble following this one and enjoying the story. Cole and Megan had such a wonderful story and the way they had to intertwine their relationship with her son Josh being in the picture made me connect and root for them so much more. They are flawed, real, and emotional characters that made it more enjoyable for me, things didn’t work out picture perfect and nothing was rushed. This is one I highly recommend to readers that have loved the Deep Haven series and those new to it but are fans of Warren and Contemporary Romance writing.

I received an advance copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Escape

Author: Lisa Harris

Series: US Marshals #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 3, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

By far one of the best romantic suspense books I have read this year! Action packed with tension at all the right moments that kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last page.

A prisoner transfer seems like a routine assignment for US Marshals Madison James and Jonas Quinn, until the plane crashes and they are lost in the wilderness somewhere between the Pacific Northwest and Colorado. One prisoner is dead and the other escapes in the chaos of the crash. This is the first assignment Madison and Jonas have had together; they met once before at a training but this is their first time working together and it is going to take all of their combined skills to stay alive and accomplish their mission. Their escaped prisoner is smart, cunning, dangerous and determined to not get caught. They follow his trail across the country in a game of cat and mouse as they learn more about each other and fear the danger of losing one another.

I have read a lot of Lisa Harris books and enjoyed some and felt let down by others. This story though gripped me from the very beginning and didn’t let go. The action was right there and pulled me into the story and stayed straight until the very end. There was just the right amount of romance at the right times to keep the story moving and not slow down the pace with the suspense and action. A lot of romantic suspense books lean more to the romance side than suspense and for me that just slows the story down. I enjoy a very slow build on the romance, much more realistic for me. Madison and Jonas had the past meeting to start their relationship but nothing is rushed. They stay focused on the task at hand of finding the escaped prisoner and not making lovey eyes at each other. One of the most recent books I read started that way and it threw me out of the story quickly and kept me from really enjoying what turned out to be a decent book, could have been great if it didn’t start that way.

The plot of this book is great and fast moving. By starting it with the plane crash our main characters are in peril and danger right away and my heart was pumping just as fast as I could turn the page. Madison is a tough female protagonist that also has a lot of pain from her past keeping her from moving on in relationships, it makes her real and relatable. She has a great relationship with her sister which is also used to show the danger she faces in her job, and those she cares about end up in danger as well. Of all the Lisa Harris books I have read I would easily say this is my favorite and one I recommend to readers that like a high thrill ride with characters they can relate to and a story that will keep them on the edge of their seat late into the night.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Point of Danger

Author: Irene Hannon

Series: Triple Threat #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fantastic start to a new series by one of the best in romantic suspense. The beginning wasn’t a hit for me, but the rest of the story panned out beautifully making up for the rough start.

Eve Reilly isn’t worried when a few negative comments or message come her way. After hosting a controversial radio talk show for a while, she is used to getting the occasional hate mail. When a suspicious looking package ends up on her doorstep and she hears ticking, she knows things have gone too far. It’s time now for the police to be involved. Detective Brent Lange is called to the scene and can’t find any evidence linking someone to the incidents involving Eve. The threats don’t stop with the ticking package on her doorstep, things escalate quickly, and Brent must use all of his skills to find who is targeting Eve and how to stop them before anyone gets hurt. He quickly starts to feel something more for Eve, but his heart has been torn out before and he doesn’t want to go through anything like that again. Can he protect Eve while also protecting his heart?

Let me start by saying Irene Hannon is a fantastic Romantic Suspense writer. I love almost all of what she writes. While I’m not saying I didn’t love this story, I just have a few issues with how it started. Only seven pages in we have our main male protagonist, Brent, going to the scene of the ticking package left on Eve’s doorstep. The first thing he notices when he arrives is her every toned muscle, notable legs, gold-flecked irises, lush lashes and full lips. While all of this is beautiful description, I have a problem with it being the first thing he notices when called to a possible bomb threat. His mind as a detective should be focused on the scene around him, anyone that looks out of place, if the bomb squad has arrived and any number of things other than what was described here. This one page of description totally took me out of the story for about the next hundred pages. The ending played out great and I did greatly enjoy the story overall. I have read many romantic suspense stories over the years and come to realize how it works, not a problem with that, but don’t want to see this kind of description and romantic emotions from a character on page seven. Irene Hannon has been around long enough and written enough best sellers to get away with something like this, but I have come to expect better of her as a writer and hope to not see this again. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be picking up the next she writes without a doubt and continue recommending her to readers without thinking twice. I do recommend this to readers that are into romantic suspense and want a good heart-pounding story to keep them up long past bedtime. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Price of Valor

Author: Susan May Warren

Series: Global Search & Rescue #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Susan May Warren brings all our favorites from the Global Search and Rescue series in one of the most action-packed stories she has written! Readers will stay up way past their bedtime finishing this one!

After thinking Signe, the love of his life, had died years earlier, Hamilton Jones is now trying to raise the daughter he never knew he had. He is contacted by the Navy that they have a little girl claiming to be his daughter with a message from his wife.  Hamilton will stop at nothing to bring his wife home and reunite their family.

Signe has spent the last decade getting information for the CIA about a Russian terrorist after being kidnapped by his rebels and she is forced to marry him in order to stay alive and keep her daughter safe. When her secret is discovered, Signe fakes her death and sends her daughter to live with Ham who quickly learns she is still alive and willing to risk it all to come after her. Her past is difficult, and the more Ham learns, the harder his decision becomes of protecting her or staying true to his vow of protecting his country.

With engaging characters, a fast-moving storyline, and little snippets of characters from other beloved Susan May Warren books, this is easily one of the best I have read this year. Not many authors could take characters from a completely different series and have them blend so easily into the story line as she does. Every time I pick up a book by Warren, I know I am in for a treat including romance, suspense and so much more.

Romantic suspense is a hard genre for me because I like my novels to be more on the suspense side and lighter on the romance for the story to move along. Warren is able to deliver the suspense even during the romance scenes. Signe quickly became one of my favorite characters from all the books that I have read by Warren. I loved how strong she was regardless of all she had been through she was determined to not let it bring her down. Her main goal stayed the same throughout the entire novel: keep those she cared about safe. A lot of romantic suspense novels have an easy formula to follow, girl and boy meet or find each other again after a long time, realize they still have feelings for each other, something happens to tear them apart, and then ultimately come back together. If you read a lot, that can either become very boring or be a quick easy read for you. For me, I like for it to be changed up and not be able to guess everything that is about to happen which is what happens with this book. At several moments it felt like the tension was letting down and the story was getting close to ending and then BAM, things took another turn and pulled me and my emotions even further into the story.  

Overall, this was probably one of my favorites I have read by Susan May Warren. Yes, it is predictable at times but only for a split second before it turns in another direction keeping you glued to your seat. I would recommend this to readers that love a great romantic suspense with twists and turns until the very ending. It is the third in this series with tie ins to the Montana Marshall series but if a reader hasn’t read the previous two, they can still enjoy the story.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Until I Met You

Author: Tari Faris

Series: Restoring Heritage #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the town square is restored, more relationships are restored between members of the town.

Libby Kingsley decides to take the job of the town librarian in Heritage, Michigan, the town her brother Luke has settled in.  Luke had been kidnapped from their family for many years and was just reunited with them.  Libby has also had her share of tragedy after the bookstore that she worked at in England was robbed by her boyfriend and she was held at knifepoint for cash and a first edition of Moby Dick.  Three years later, she decides to not let her fear control her life anymore and branch out.  When she realizes that the library is in the basement of the town hall, she tried to find a suitable replacement, which becomes the abandoned schoolhouse.  All she must do is convince the town council and a hot, but grumpy landscape contractor to agree to her plan.

Austin Williams wants to get his family business back on track.  But to do so, he must complete the revitalization project in Heritage, which is also the town that his brother serves as a pastor at a church.  To say that the two don’t get along is an understatement, so Austin wants to get this project over with as fast as possible.  When the new librarian throws a wrench in his plans, Austin gets more frustrated by the day.  But when he finds that she is not just book smart but can plan out ways to make his project stay within budget, he finds that he may need to reevaluate his life and his standards.

I enjoyed this book so much more than the first in the series!  Maybe the first book was just setting things up, but this story pulled me in so much more.  I loved Libby’s story, which may have been because she is such a book lover.  She had to overcome agoraphobia and a traumatic event with her boyfriend at the time.  Olivia was such a positive influence throughout the book and quite the opposite of Libby.  I thought casting them as roommates really brought out the best in both of them.  Austin and Nate’s relationship centered around stories that each had of the other.  Nate lived with a dark past that tormented him even though he knew he’d been forgiven by God.  He just couldn’t forgive himself.  Austin didn’t want to forgive Nate for the past and used it as a crutch to forge ahead.  All flawed characters in need of grace who pulled together when it was needed. 

. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Under Scottish Stars

Can two people who need new beginnings find one together?

Author: Carla Laureano

Series: The MacDonald Family #3

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: July 7, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Serena Stewart is working to get her life back on track.  Her husband passed a few years ago, leaving her with two young children.  After the oldest child, Em, gets in a fight at her academy, she is given the choice to be withdrawn or expelled.  With little options, Serena decides to buy back her shares of the family hotel in Skye and return for at least the summer to figure things out.  While there, she begins to butt heads with the hotel manager Malcom Blake.  While the don’t get off on the right foot, they begin to learn to trust each other in more than just a working relationship.  While both she and Malcom have given up on their personal dreams to support their family, maybe together they can find a way to find a new dream.

Laureano always manages to write characters that I can relate with.  I wish that I had read the first books in this series to get the full back stories on all the supporting characters as well as any side stories that may have impacted both Serena and Malcom, but I quickly fell into step with both of them.  Both characters had to overcome hardships from loss and even when they thought they found a way forward to happiness; another challenge arose that really tested their will.  I loved the scenery descriptions that really brought the visual of the Scotland area, especially when dealing with the night sky.  Her books always make me want to travel to the location so that I can see it for myself and this was no different. 

I recommend this for those that love the series as well as contemporary romance.  If you are unsure because you haven’t read the others, this can easily be a standalone.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Minutes to Die

Author: Susan Sleeman

Series: Homeland Heroes #2

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: August 4, 2020

Rating: 4.5 Stars

The second installment in the Homeland Heroes series gives readers another fast pace tale with relationships between characters both tense and emotional until the very end.

FBI Agent Kiley Dawson loses her Confidential Informant to a murder right as she is about to give her information on a terrorist attack being planned on U.S. soil.  The attack is supposedly going to be the deadliest attack since 9/11 and Kiley knows she has her work cut out for her. She teams with ICE Agent Evan Bowers in charge of figuring out how to take down the terrorist cell. Evan and Kiley have a difficult past, she blames him for the death of her former partner and doesn’t know how she can work with a man she doesn’t trust. Somehow, they have to work around their differences to protect the lives of millions and stop a terrorist from attacking America once more.

Minutes to Die is another action-packed romantic suspense thriller from Susan Sleeman. Sleeman does a fantastic job of crafting characters that readers will want to see succeed even as they are placed in the most precarious of situations. With so many aspects of the investigation, it could be easy to get lost in the technical jargon and lose sight of what the story is trying to tell us; luckily, the story is written in such a way that readers will follow along and feel as if they are part of the investigation with Kiley and Evan and the rest of the team. For me, I enjoyed fast pace of the story, but there was more romance than I would have liked.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good romantic suspense but not when the romance comes on too strong, which is my only complaint. I would have preferred the romance down a notch. That can also be a double edge sword, when the romance is a bigger part of the story, it can lead to more tension between the characters. By the end of the story I was so invested in the relationships that when one character found themselves in harm’s way and the other was scared for their life, I found myself holding my breath as the pages turned to see if they would make it out okay. Both books in this series have been enjoyable and easy to read, which leads me to believe the third will be a welcome addition to the series. I recommend this to readers that enjoy romantic suspense with heart pounding action and great heart-warming story throughout.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Acceptable Risk

Acceptable RiskAuthor: Lynette Eason

Series: Danger Never Sleeps #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: August 4, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another fantastic installment in the Danger Never Sleeps series! Lynette Eason has delivered her best book yet! She continues to get better at giving readers the story they want and so much more. Acceptable Risk is at the top of my list for best of the year so far.

Sarah Denning joined the army to become a military journalist and uncover the truth where others run from it. While in the Middle East, she is attacked and taken prisoner. A group of special soldiers is sent in to rescue her, including former Army Ranger Gavin Black, who was asked by Sarah’s father, a General in the army, to rescue her. Once Sarah is back home in the States recovering from being taken hostage, she finds out her father helped have her discharged on a false psychiatric evaluation. She will stop at nothing to prove to him and anyone else that she is still fit for duty and ready to return to her unit. Before she can do that, she learns of her brother’s suicide and can’t believe he would do such a thing. Now, Sarah must use all her journalistic abilities to find out the truth of what happened to her brother. In order to do that she is going to need help, so she asks Gavin to assist in her investigation to determine the truth and uncover the biggest story of her career.

Lynette Eason seriously gets better with each new book. Every time I pick up one of her novels, I know I am going to be in for a thrill ride. I had such an easy time connecting with the characters in this story, the way she started with Sarah in danger but doing all she could to protect others captured my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last page. My biggest complaint is I didn’t have enough time to just sit and read this cover-to-cover.  I absolutely loved the way I was able to immediately connect with Sarah from page one. I felt for her and wanted to see her come through the whole ordeal alive and safe. The relationship she had with each male in her life was so different and portrayed so well. Her father’s treatment of her only spurs her on to prove she is capable of so much more than he realizes. Their relationship hit home for me and was so raw and believable. The way Eason wrote Sarah at the first half of the book was perfect for me. She is recovering from tragedy and having to rely on others around her but refuses to play the victim and puts every ounce of her soul into doing what she can to help those around her.

I feel like each time Lynette Eason releases a new book it is my new favorite, I didn’t know if she would be able to top Vow of Justice but Acceptable Risk might just beat it, if not I’ll have to call it a tie. I recommend this book to anyone that loves a fantastic romantic suspense, with characters they can cheer on and a story that will pull them in and keep them on the edge of their seat. It is the second in the series but could be read as a standalone if so desired.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Don’t Keep Silent

Dont keep silentAuthor: Elizabeth Goddard

Series: Uncommon Justice #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 30, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Get ready for a chill to race down your spine as the suspense unfolds!  This is the best installment in the Uncommon Justice series!

Rae Burke has spent her life investigating stories trying to follow in her father’s footsteps as an investigative reporter. When she hears her sister-in-law is missing, she does whatever she can to track her down and get to the bottom of her story. In order to find her sister-in-law, she must ask for help from the one man who took a bullet for her. Liam McKade left the DEA after his cover was blown when he saved Rae when her story got her in with the wrong people. Liam has gone to his family ranch in Wyoming to figure out what his next step is going to be. Rae finds Liam and fills him in on what she needs. He reluctantly agrees to help her in this search for her sister-in-law. The more time they spend together, the more danger they find themselves in, and the harder it is for them to keep their feelings for each other hidden.

After being introduced to Liam McKade earlier in the series, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about him and see his story unfold.  My desire was answered! Don’t Keep Silent gives readers a deep dive into his past and his heart for helping others. Even though he took a bullet for Rae and thinks he never wants to see her again, the moment he lays eyes on her he knows he will do whatever he can to help her. She infuriates him with every step of the investigation as she puts her life at risk time and time again in her search for the truth. The back and forth dialogue between the two of them makes the story flow so well. Rae hires him to protect her but makes that job almost impossible with each step they take as she puts herself in danger to try and find her sister-in-law and figure out how everything ties in together. For me, there could have been a little more suspense built up at a few key points; right when the tension was at its highest things seemed to fizzle out. The romance was very subtle throughout until the end where it went to warp speed. That’s the problem with some romantic suspense novels, a slow build and then the end goes light sped where it’s not believable. At least Rae and Liam had past history and it wasn’t just straight to love and marriage after they first met. While the ending was a little rushed, the whole story was enjoyable and a fun easy read. My only problem was I didn’t have enough time to sit and read it all at once. Fans of Gooddard’s novels and those that enjoy romantic suspense will not want to miss this one.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Crushing Depths

Crushing depthsAuthor: Dani Pettrey

Series: Costal Guardians #2

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: June 30, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The second book in the Coastal Guardians series will have readers so deeply invested in the characters it will be difficult to come up for air!

After a death on an oil rig off the coast of North Carolina, the Coast Guard is called in to investigate. Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are sent out to determine if it was foul play or just an accident. There are rumors the oil rig is haunted and a group of environmental activists are trying to do whatever they can to shut the rig down. When their helicopter crashes on the way to the rig and they run into trouble with every turn they take, the evidence points to foul play in the death of the oil rig worker. They have to tread lightly to determine who the killer is without putting themselves in the crosshairs. Before they can finish their investigation, a tropical storm heads their way trapping them on the oil rig with a killer.

After reading the Alaskan Courage series, I didn’t know if Dani Pettrey would be able to top it. However, the first book in this series started out great and now the second continues to make this series one of the best. I loved the dynamic between Rissi and Mason; the history they shared was very powerful and one of the aspects that kept me glued to their story as it unfolded. A few moments throughout the book left me underwhelmed, I could tell what was about to happen and it just didn’t feel right with the story. But most of the novel had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see how things would turn out. While this book focuses on Rissi and Mason, readers get a little more insight into characters from the first in the series and see a set up for the next. I’m guessing the Book three will center around Brooke and Noah, or at least that’s what I’m hoping! I would recommend readers read the first book in the series before starting this one, but if picked up it could be read as a stand-alone novel. Readers that enjoy romantic suspense novels will not want to miss this one.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinion expressed within are my own.