Smoke Screen

Smoke Screen.pngAuthor: Terri Blackstock

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Terri Blackstock has done it again with another thrilling story that pulls at the heart-strings in the most suspenseful ways! Smoke Screen had all the right moments that kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime!

After his father is convicted of murdering the preacher, and father, of the girl he has been dating in his hometown, Nate Beckett leaves the lies and rumors behind. It’s been fourteen years and his father has been released from prison. After an injury, Nate takes a break from his work as a smoke jumper, which brings him back home. Coming back home means he will have to face the girl he left behind, Brenna. When his father was accused of the murder, their relationship changed. Brenna is having a hard time dealing with the news that her father’s killer is free and her ex-husband is suing her for custody of her kids, which threatens to send her over the edge. Turning to alcohol to get through the hard times she runs into Nate at her lowest. The spark between the two is still there. With wildfires breaking out across the state and close to home, things have become much more complicated. Nate and Brenna work together to find out the truth from the past and keep her family from falling apart.

Terri Blackstock brings a different type of suspense with Smoke Screen. This is a mystery with a romantic suspense angle, but the suspense here comes more from the drama within the families. Nate with his father coming home and his feelings for Brenna with her problems with her ex coupled with the possibility of losing her kids brought up the suspense. As the story progressed and we see Brenna struggling and dealing with hardships, my heart was in my throat with anticipation. This was such a different form of suspense than most, which made it more special to read. So many characters in this book where unlikable, but they were supposed to be that way and Blackstock wrote them so perfectly. Even so, many of the same characters were very relatable which is hard to do. Making one or two characters is relatable is one thing but being able to fill the pages of a book with so many of them is difficult. Each twist and turn was perfectly placed and the story flowed so well I couldn’t put it down. This is one of my favorites by Blackstock, and I seem to say that after each one which I don’t see that changing anytime soon with the way she always seems to surprise me. I recommend this book to fans of a great mystery with a little bit of romance thrown in at all the right times.

Ruby Jane

Ruby JaneAuthor: Susan May Warren

Series: Montana Marshalls #5

Publisher: SDG Publishing

Release Date: November 26, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The fifth and final installment in the Montana Marshall series will leave readers satisfied yet yearning for more from the Marshall family.

Ruby Jane has always tried to prove herself being the only girl in the Marshall clan. After running for her life in Russia. she falls in love with a former CIA operative only to lose him after coming home when he disappears and is presumed dead. Mack Jones doesn’t remember his past and winds up in a small town ready to move on with his life. He is working as a bartender when the bar catches fire and he makes the news. Ruby Jane sees him on the news and goes to find him. When she shows up and he doesn’t recognize her. she wants to leave him to this new life he seems happy in; but when he sees her, memories start to resurface. With the return of those memories is also the danger that has followed them from Russia. The whole Marshall family will have to work together to keep them all safe and intact.

I went into this book thinking it wasn’t going to be my favorite of the series but excited to see how it would tie up all the loose ends. The final payoff at the end of Ruby Jane was far better than I could have expected. I absolutely loved the way this book ended and kept me glued to the edge of my seat. Ruby Jane and York had perfect chemistry, even when he couldn’t remember her or anything about their relationship. Each member of the Marshall family brings so much to each book and Susan May Warren is one of the very best at tying together all these amazing characters. Family is at the center of these novels and Ruby Jane is no different with the entire family in the mix to help each other and get to the bottom of the mysteries that has lasted through all five books in the series. Not only is family at the center, but faith plays a big role as well. York is the character that shows the most growth in this book, his passion for wanting to become a better person will leave the reader inspired. I have loved this entire series and hate to see it come to an end. A few little loose ends were left open leaving me to wonder if there might be more to come.

I recommend this book to fans of Susan May Warren and the Montana Marshall series. This is not one that can be read as a stand-alone as so much from the rest of the series is tied up in this final installment. Even though I thought this wasn’t going to be my favorite of the series I am pleased to say it finished up the series wonderfully and I feel readers will be pleased at with the conclusion.

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

Deadly Deceit

Deadly deceitAuthor: Natalie Waters

Series: Harbored Secrets #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The second book in the Harbored Secrets book is even more heart pounding and thrill seeking than the first! With heartthrob Ryan at the helm, this is sure to be a fan favorite!

Vivian DeMarco has no desire to stay in Walton, Georgia after finishing her job. Being a journalist, she goes where the story is and right now the story is in Walton. When her boss calls her about a lead, she shows up at his house to find him dead from an apparent allergic reaction. Vivian knows she must search for the truth. Vivian’s search leads her to assist Deputy Ryan Frost. Together they work to find answers and stay safe as Vivian finds herself in danger and Ryan finds himself falling for her. The person behind all their troubles is called The Watcher and is about to force Vivian to confront her past. She will discover how far she is willing to go for a headline.

Natalie Waters Harbored Secrets is a fantastic series full of fun characters and storylines that will keep you hooked until the very end. Deadly Deceit starts off with a heart-pounding storyline full of emotion that sucked me in and kept me glued to the pages. I loved the way Vivian was having a hard time being in Walton but still connected with her boss and was emotionally invested in finding out the truth of what happened. She wasn’t in it just for the story, she wanted to find the story and protect the people in town she had come to care about. The emotional investment she had in helping to solve the murder is what pulled me into the story. If I can feel that emotion with the characters, I am going to be much more invested in the story. The action and suspense were top notch for me followed by the romance. Vivian and Ryan had a rocky road and I loved how it wasn’t an easy coming together for them. The obstacles put in their way were real and difficult to overcome. It was much more believable than a lot of the romance stories today. I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a good romantic suspense read with a solid emotional attachment to the characters.

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

Protecting Tanner Hollow

Protecting Tanner HollowAuthor: Lynette Eason

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A wonderful collection of novellas that can be read separately but are all intertwined to make a fantastic read. Lynette Eason at her best!

Lethal Homecoming starts the collection with Nolan Tanner and Kallie Ainsworth. Nolan could never understand why Kallie left town when they were younger and in love. She gave him no explanation and he has yet to get over her. When she comes back to town and someone follows her trying to kill her, Nolan has to do all he can to keep her safe and in town this time.

Lethal Conspiracy continues with Lillian Maloney witnessing a murder and running for her life, which brings her to the town of Tanner Hollow and a chance encounter with a man she never would have expected.

Next up is Lethal Secrets. Eli Murphy helps Honor McBride with what he thought was just a tire change but turns out to be much more in keeping her and her children safe from someone bent on seeing her dead.

Lethal Agenda finishes up the collection with a returning favorite for Eason fans as Detective Derek St. John comes to Tanner Hollow. Derek wants a change of pace after a break up and comes to Tanner Hollow only to meet a woman he knew from his past and was never able to get over.

If you want a fun romantic suspense read, Lynette Eason is a sure bet to pick up and enjoy. Each of these stories could have been expanded into a full-length novel, but as they are, they read quick, concise and full of the best suspense and romance out there. I’m sure fans of Eason’s previous novels will be most thrilled with the return of Derek St. John as the St. John family were by far some of her best stories and this was a great addition. With each story being less than a hundred pages in length, it was perfect for a fun afternoon of entertainment. I enjoyed the first and last stories the most; something about the romances between the characters there hit me the hardest and kept me rooting for them to succeed. Tanner Hollow is a small town that has a lot going for it and many dark secrets that if exposed prove to be deadly. All wrapped up together, Protecting Tanner Hollow is a delightful read that I recommend to fans of Lynnette Eason’s and those that may not have read anything by her but are looking for a new author they can add to their romantic suspense favorites.

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

Zapata

zapataAuthor: Harper McDavid

Series: Border Series #1

Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing

Release Date: August 21, 2019

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Exciting, suspenseful, and a proponent of STEM in the female lead role.

Avery McAndrews has never been the stereotypical female. She chose engineering as her career field and then took a job in the oilfield.  While out on assignment in the Texas border town of Zapata, she begins to expect trouble will find her on her ride out to the production station.  As she surveys the tanks and piping, she finds a crude installation of a “security valve” that is not in the plans and schematics.  As she is preparing to ask questions of the team, two local cartels show up and start saber rattling.  As things start to heat up, Avery hopes that she can get out of Texas with her life.

Alejandro DeLeon hates that he is saddled with babysitting his cartel boss’s son Javier. Javier is a hothead who makes stupid decisions and Alejandro is always left cleaning up the mess.  When Javier concocts a scheme to kidnap a female engineer and force her to draw up construction documents for a drug transport tunnel under the Rio Grande, Alejandro knows that he must finally take action before the cartel’s operations are compromised.

As a fellow Texan, I always enjoy reading about books set in Texas. And for a change, the main character was an engineer, which is the occupation that my spouse has chosen too.  I asked him a few questions here and there about both the engineering terminology as well as about the locations depicted in South Texas as he travels there for work frequently.  I always enjoy when a book makes us have discussions about the contents!

The romance between Avery and Alejandro never seemed forced, but did develop very quickly as that can happen in intense situations. I feel that readers will find this an enjoyable read.  I also like that a book is really promoting the science and engineering field for women and hope that it will spark interest for those reading it.

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

Always Look Twice

Always look twiceAuthor: Elizabeth Goddard

Series: Uncommon Justice #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Elizabeth Goddard has done it again! So many spectacular lines and scenes throughout this book make it a can’t miss for romantic suspense readers.

After being a crime scene photographer, the pictures she has taken along with the trauma of her past force Harper Reynolds to take a year off to focus on some of the more beautiful things she can photograph. Traveling the country with her sister and taking pictures of national parks has been the serenity she needed to sooth her soul. Their last stop before heading home is in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Harper is taking pictures of a bear when she captures a murder. Fearing for her life, she takes off running and loses her camera with pictures of the murder in the process.

Heath Mckade is taking tourists from his ranch around the mountains when he hears shots break out and finds Harper. He is also a reserve deputy for the county and is surprised to find his childhood friend back in the area and in danger. When the sheriff goes to investigate, they can’t find any evidence of a crime and they start to wonder if Harper imagined the entire thing. Together, Heath and Harper must work to prove she saw what she said she did and also to find a murderer before anyone else gets hurt.

Elizabeth Goddard has crafted another great tale of romance, suspense and intrigue. I loved the way she crafted the characters of Harper and Heath and their interactions. Heath I really loved; Harper was great except for the way she let the past drag her down so much. It took away from her as a character and her potential strength. I absolutely loved the line , “She focused her camera on the killer, taking a kill shot of her own.” It was brilliantly done and made the book. Harper was a strong character and other than focusing on the hardships of her past she did grow throughout the story and ended up a character I was rooting for. We can all get stuck focusing on the past and if we do that it can cause us to miss the most wonderful things God has in store for us in the present and future. The suspense was great and the romance hit at just the right moments to make a great story. I would recommend this book to fans of romantic suspense and fans of Goddard. Even if you haven’t read the first in the series this would be a great one to pick up and enjoy.

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

You Belong With Me

You belong with meAuthor: Tari Faris

Series: Restoring Heritage #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of small town reads will enjoy this book!

Hannah Thornton has one main goal in her mind, restore the heart of her hometown Heritage, Michigan. As a realtor in a small town, she works hard to sell off historic properties.  Unfortunately, people would rather buy newer properties than put up the money to restore older worn out houses.  Even her own brother is selling his house to pay for all the things that his fiancée wants.  When a local developer offers to buy up several properties, people begin to think it may be better to just sell out.  Hannah turns to her oldest friend, Luke, for help.  A local handyman with a dream of becoming fire chief, he reluctantly agrees to help her.  However, Luke has been facing his own demons and this endeavor will either bring them together or drive them apart.

This was a fun read that had me keep turning page after page. I enjoyed getting to see Hannah grow and mature as a person as she learned to let go of control and let things play out.  She came across as shallow at first (not as much as her brother’s fiancée, now there is a character) but she gained depth and bonded with me as a female reader.  She overcame challenges and put up a good fight to make her dream come true.  Likewise, Luke had his own challenges of abandonment, but turned out to be different than we he had believed his whole life.  Once each character was able to truly move past themselves, the romance played out great.  I’m looking forward to the next installment in Heritage.

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

Carry Me Away

Carry Me AwayAuthor: Dorothy Adamek

Series: Blue Wren Shallows #2

Publisher: Crabapple Press

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Unlikely circumstances result in an unlikely romance.

Ada Carmichael has just lost her entire family in a shipwreck. The Black Swallow has sunk of the coast of Australia and Ada herself would have been a causality had it not been for the heroic action of midshipman Tom Darley.  As the two only survivors of the catastrophe, the media begins to go crazy.  Ada desperately needs to stay hidden before her past comes back to haunt her, but Tom could really use this publicity to make his dream come true.  When Tom’s plan to protect Ada go awry, it will take both of them to find redemption.

This is my first book by Adamek and she has a unique gift to bring a story setting to life. It takes a lot of talent to transport readers not only to a different time setting but an entirely different continent.  It is easy to see that she is a native of Australia as her descriptive scenery was bar none.  I felt as though I stood alongside the characters as I viewed the settings of the mainland and the island farms.  The romance felt natural and didn’t seem forced.  The characters fleshed out beautifully, flaws and all.  This is the second in a series but easily a standalone.  I recommend this to readers who love historical romances.

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

The Words Between Us

The Words between usAuthor: Erin Bartels

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story of learning to trust.

Fourteen year old, Robin Windsor, finds herself living with her estranged grandmother in Sussex, Michigan, after her parents are arrested for unthinkable crimes, leaving Robin feeling lost and abandoned.  She soon meets Peter Flynt, who recently lost his mother.  Peter and Robin develop a unique friendship.  Through a shared love of books, they bond, as he gives her his mother’s books and she repays him with her poetry.  After a series of unfortunate events, including her grandmother’s death,  Robin feels betrayed by Peter and runs away.  After returning to Sussex years later, Robin opens a used bookstore and tries to recreate her life, while still hiding her true self, ashamed of her past.  She reconnects with a high school friend who encourages her to stretch out of her comfort zone, and maybe even attempt to have a romance.  Robin begins receiving packages in the mail containing Peter’s mother’s book collection, which she returned after her grandmother’s death.  She knows that Peter is reaching out to her.  Also, Robin begins to uncover the truth about her parents’ crimes, which she isn’t sure what to do with.  As she searches for truth, she reconciles her past with her future. In the end, Robin discovers that the truth is powerful and that there are good people in the world that she can trust.

This book switches back and forth between grown Robin and a youthful Robin, allowing the reader to see and understand her past and how it has created the person she is today.

I have mixed emotions after finishing this book.  I feel like the beginning was a series of negative events, with no redemption, or bright places for Robin.  She is a tragic character, like she reads about in her books.  Peter tries to draw her out, but it lacks a lightness, which didn’t inspire me to become enthralled in the book.  She kept her guard up through much of the book.  The second half was lighter and good things begin to happen to Robin, despite her efforts to hide and be invisible.  Even though so many parts of Robin’s life are tragic and she suffers many losses, she overcomes, and is able to reconcile many of the hurts caused by her parents.  She is able to regain trust in people.  I feel like this book, like Robin in her youth, lacked an emotional depth that would have made it better.  I liked seeing Robin both in her youth and as an adult, striving to overcome.  I like that this book ends with the idea that Robin will have her “happily ever after” allowing her to let go of the heartbreaks of her youth and start again. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves the beauty of a book or who loves a happy ending.

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

Wyatt

wyattAuthor: Susan May Warren

Series: Montana Marshalls #4

Publisher: SDG Publishing

Release Date: October 12, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The fourth book in the Montana Marshalls series brings the action to a whole new level with threats crossing borders and relationships at an all-time high making this a must read by Susan May Warren

Wyatt Marshall has always felt like the outcast of the Marshall family. He never wanted to work on the family ranch or be a Ranger or SEAL like his brothers. Instead, hockey was his passion and he followed it all the way to the NHL. He is the most famous of his family and should be on top of the world but his life is missing something. He lost the only woman he has ever truly loved. Coco Stanley came to live with his family when she was fourteen and the two had a short relationship before she left to return to her home country of Russia. When Wyatt finds out Coco has been shot in Russia he lets nothing stop him from finding her and proving to her that he has never stopped loving her. Coco has never forgotten the time she spent at the Marshall ranch and the connection she had with everyone there, especially Wyatt. Is she ready to let herself love again after all this time?

Wyatt is a wonderful continuation of the Montana Marshall series. I love the way Susan May Warren has crafted this family comprised of strong, tough, and uniquely skilled individuals that all have their own talents and bring those talents together to help each other and the ones they love. Book three in the series wasn’t my favorite, so going into this installment I was a little hesitant I would enjoy it as much. I didn’t have to worry long, the pace was spectacular, the romance only fueled the tension, and suspense was spot on. Wyatt pulled at my heartstrings the way he wanted to be liked and respected but had a hard time believing he was worthy enough, something we all struggle with at one time or another. With the action taking place in Russia as well as back in the U.S., there was a lot to follow at times but Warren does a great job taking the reader along for the ride in whichever country readers find themselves. I loved the theme of redemption throughout and the calling for us to come to our Father and he will welcome us with open arms no matter how far we have strayed. Fans of Warren’s and this series will love the tie in of all the other characters and the way we get to see Wyatt’s story unfold. There is also a nice set up for the final book with a focus on Ruby Jane, which I for one can’t wait to see a female Marshall take the lead and teach the boys a thing or two. I recommend this to readers that love a great romantic suspense novel, even if you haven’t read any of Susan May Warren’s books before give this one a go and enjoy. I would recommend reading the other in the series first for readers to get a good feel for the backstory of the characters.

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