Protector Wolf by Linda O. Johnston

Secrets, mysteries, and an unexpected romance can be found in the eighth Alpha Force story, and the original premise of this miniseries is once again intriguing with clever developments and engaging characters. A wolf shifter being able to change anytime with the aid of a special elixir is a big part of the storyline, and Linda O. Johnston has created a very special hero for the latest book. He is dedicated to his career and has a wonderful personality. The heroine is a spunky individual who is always ready to face a challenge. Together, they work to make certain no harm comes to any wolves, either those in the wild or if one turns out to be a shifter. The many different situations that arose in PROTECTOR WOLF are fascinating and definitely entertaining.

When wild wolves are sighted in the state of Washington near Tacoma, the military unit known as Alpha Force sends a member to look into the matter. The secretive group is made up of shapeshifters, and Lt. Ryan Blaiddinger will be trying to decide if any of the local wolves are like him and can change from human to animal form. Other groups are also taking notice of there now being more wolves in the area, and a woman from an organization that tracks wildlife has come to Fritts Corner in order to research their reappearance.

Since the data Maya Everton has collected could benefit Ryan’s investigation, he makes certain they talk and share specific information. While many local residents like the idea of having wolves in the nearby wilderness, some citizens think they are a menace and should be killed. When Maya goes in search of the wolves on her own, she could have been in big trouble if not for one seemingly protective wolf. Then she and Ryan end up working together to uncover any pertinent facts about the endangered species, but her whole perspective on wolves is altered when she happens to see him shift.

What is actually occurring in PROTECTOR WOLF is kept hidden for much of the book, so I was left guessing along with the main characters. As Maya and Ryan look for concrete evidence about the attacks on humans, I was eager for any new details they might find. Since he must keep his own shapeshifting identity concealed from others, I enjoyed seeing if he would use deception to get any proof. Being able to retain his human reasoning makes the story even more interesting, as Linda O. Johnston told several incidents from his viewpoint while in wolf form.

The past team members of the Alpha Force have all been charming, and I thought Ryan was especially appealing in every way. His interaction with Maya is often amusing at first, as he had to not let her know about his abilities. She is a determined person when it came to safeguarding the wolves, and she sometimes acted without thinking everything through, thus leading to circumstances with unforeseen consequences. Her relationship with Ryan is conceivable, as their love for wildlife is something which they certainly have in common. I hope there are additional books in the always captivating Alpha Force miniseries, because PROTECTOR WOLF makes me want more about these competent heroes.

I voluntarily reviewed the book and all comments are my honest opinion

Series:  Alpha Force

Publisher:  Harlequin Nocturne

Releases:  June 1, 2017

Purchase:  http://tinyurl.com/lnm3oke

Genre:  Paranormal

Author website:  http://www.lindaojohnston.com/

Rating:  4 Stars

Cold Case Colton by Addison Fox

The Coltons of Shadow Creek continuity series is about the six children of a convicted criminal, a woman who is now a fugitive yet still manages to greatly affect their lives. In the fourth book, subtle threats gradually escalate to one of the daughters, but the person behind the intimidations is not known. Addison Fox interweaves an unexpected romance between two people as they search for any clues about whoever is responsible, and the couple must also contemplate the direction they want to see their futures go. COLD CASE COLTON has touching emotional moments and increasingly scary peril.

After leaving New York and returning to Shadow Creek, Texas, the town where she grew up, Claudia Colton is enthusiastic about operating a boutique which features many of her own clothing designs. Having many brothers and sisters nearby is really wonderful, but unfortunately her mother’s criminal deeds in the past are still the cause of much gossip. Claudia plans to ignore all the talk about her family and make her shop successful. But when a man with a specific agenda arrives in Shadow Creek, she is told some unsettling news which may change her life.

Many of the cases worked on by private investigator Hawk Huntley are often older ones that were never resolved, and he feels rewarded when those left behind find peace because of the answers he uncovers. When he tells Claudia about the potential circumstances of her birth, she is stunned and cannot believe his assumptions are true. Yet if he is correct, then it means she is not the daughter of a woman who has escaped from prison. As facts are sought and truths are gradually revealed, Hawk begins to see Claudia as more than someone involved in his latest case.

One aspect that I like about COLD CASE COLTON is not knowing at first who is threatening Claudia. It could be her escaped mother, someone associated with her parent, or even another individual whose motives have not yet been unearthed. There are a few hints scattered throughout the book, which kept me guessing the identity of the troublemaker and if there was a link to the mother. Addison Fox had me feeling a sense of foreboding as the story progressed, and my fear for Claudia only grew with each new incident. How the author tied this novel with the previous three releases is skillfully handled, and all played out with believability.

While there is mounting danger to Claudia from an unknown source, there is also a very real emotional risk to her because of the news that Hawk divulges. Whether she is really a Colton by birth or not made the story even more enthralling, and I eagerly anticipated the disclosure. The relationship of Hawk and Claudia is realistic, as they explore very genuine feelings between them. Their conversations are especially convincing, and their honest remarks made several discussions movingly poignant. Hawk in particular had me wanting to give him a big hug at times. It was delightful getting to revisit with past couples in the series plus observe the two siblings whose stories are to come, and a huge event made things even more fascinating. COLD CASE COLTON is intriguing and emotionally satisfying.

I voluntarily reviewed the book and all comments are my honest opinion

Series:  The Coltons of Shadow Creek

Publisher:  Harlequin Romantic Suspense

Releases:  June 1, 2017

Purchase:  http://tinyurl.com/ms7s6aq

Genre:  Suspense

Author website:  http://www.addisonfox.com/

Rating:  4.5 Stars

The Darkest Corner by Liliana Hart

The premise of the Gravediggers series is very original, and the first book gives lots of information on what type of assignments are carried out by the secret group known by this name. The way in which an individual becomes a member is definitely unique, too, where courage and risk collide. I became immersed in the storyline from the start, and I kept reading to discover what this elite bunch of men would eventually have to do. I have heard good things about the suspenseful stories written by Liliana Hart, and THE DARKEST CORNER is entertaining with thrilling expectations.

For twelve years, Deacon Tucker had served his country and much of the time was spent doing covert ops. Then his life totally changed when he was recruited by a group known as the Gravediggers. He now completes assignments that require secrecy and are always dangerous. Since no one realizes he is still alive because of an elaborate deception, Deacon can take part in missions without having to worry if anyone will miss him in case the task goes south.

When after graduating from college, Tess Sherman came back to live in Last Stop, Texas and ended up working for a local funeral home since she had studied to be a mortician. Her current boss made huge changes when the business was bought, and there are now five men employed as assistants. One of them is Deacon, and Tess has noticed the mysterious yet very tempting man more than once. She has no idea what he really does, and he knows she must never be aware of the actual work he covertly undertakes. Then complications arise one day which are linked to his hidden employment.

Any time a group of alpha men get together, there is usually plenty of mocking and trying to prove who is better. Deacon and his fellow teammates can always come up with something sarcastic to say, but each one would stand by the other when needed. Since the men are from all over the world, there is even more variety to the humor, and I found myself laughing at some of their “manly” comments. What this group could actually have to face is terrifying, and after the especially frightening prologue, I was anxious to see how everything would conclude. Liliana Hart’s vivid descriptions give a realistic sense of every detail, and many times I felt as though I was right there beside Deacon and Tess.

While much of the story concentrates on a complicated plot by terrorists, there are also many moments connected to the budding romance between Tess and Deacon. Though both have noticed the other in a sexual way for a long time, neither made a move until the time was just right. Passionately fiery expresses what happens when they let desire take over, and they are not individuals who hold back. Their emotional bond is evident even when the words have yet to be spoken, and I kept wondering what Tess would do when some very tough choices must be made. Since this is the first book in the series, and numerous explanations were needed to clarify what had happened in the past, I hope to see more action in the next book. THE DARKEST CORNER intrigues with alarming threats and scorching passion.

I voluntarily reviewed the book from the publisher via NetGalley, and all comments are my honest opinion

Series:  Gravediggers – Book 1

Publisher:  Pocket Books

Releases:  May 23, 2017

Purchase:  http://tinyurl.com/kvest6v

Genre:  Suspense

Author website:  https://lilianahart.com/

Rating:  4 Stars

Buns by Alice Clayton

Chuckle inducing humor plus a very heartfelt romance make the third book in the Hudson Valley series constantly engaging. I laughed when amusing comments were made, and fretted if one of the main characters was making a terrible mistake in judgment. Then there are the moments where passion takes over, and I could feel every titillating touch and kiss. The clever writing of Alice Clayton never fails to impress, as reactions are honestly true-to-life and sexual tension builds to explosive heights. BUNS caused much laughter, yet touched me deeply when feelings are candidly expressed.

When Clara Morgan received her latest assignment with the branding agency where she has diligently worked for over five years, she was told the project could greatly influence her future with them. If she makes Bryant Mountain House a much more successful hotel, then she would become a partner with the company. Clara can always take an established place of lodging that is not bringing in enough money and make it profitable, so she does not anticipate any problems when she arrives in Bailey Falls, New York. Spending a few months in the quaint town will be nice, and then she can move on to the next undertaking.

Being able to save a hotel that is family owned is especially rewarding to Clara, as it will help the current owner keep open what has been inherited. But when she makes suggestions to Archie Bryant, the man who will soon be managing the resort, her opinions are met with resistance. He is someone who opposes changing how things have always been done, and emphatically states his own beliefs. But Clara has a job to complete, and one unyielding hotel manager is not going to stop her.

If an Alice Clayton book is being read, then there will be continuous entertainment. I have laughed so much during her many compelling stories, and each situation that crops up containing amusement seems so genuinely realistic. When Clara and Archie have a disagreement, they hold nothing back and strongly state their views. At first their differences only concerned how the hotel was run. But personal sentiments slowly worked their way into how these two responded to each other, and often their retorts were fueled by sexual longing. Alice Clayton can perfectly balance humor, romance, and emotion in her stories, and BUNS is definitely a prime example of her expertise.

I thoroughly enjoyed all the interaction Clara and Archie had with previous characters in the Hudson Valley series. When she had conversations with Roxie and Natalie, the scenes are particularly hilarious with loads of extremely witty banter. Friends that have been met over the course of the series are also scattered throughout the book, and their appearance added much delight. But it was the moments featuring Archie and Clara that truly grabbed my attention, as they were such a likable couple. She has never had much of anything permanent in her life nor a feeling of belonging, thus she is independent yet secretly vulnerable. Archie is really a wonderful man in almost every way imaginable. He is thoughtful and understanding, and I was moved by his compassion for Clara at certain times. While the series may have come to a close, I hope to perhaps have these individuals show up again in an upcoming book of Ms. Clayton’s.

I voluntarily reviewed the book from the publisher, and all comments are my honest opinion

Series:  Hudson Valley

Publisher:  Gallery Books

Releases:  May 23, 2017

Purchase:  http://tinyurl.com/kfdxpe8

Genre:  Contemporary

Author website:  http://aliceclayton.com/

Rating:  5 Stars

Nearly Nero by Loren D. Estleman

Though I have never read any of the Nero Wolfe stories written by Rex Stout, I have heard about the character that solved crimes without ever leaving his home. NEARLY NERO is a collection of novellas created by Loren D. Estleman, and these imaginatively amusing stories honor the original Nero Wolfe novels. Puns can be found all throughout the book, from titles to details concerning the Brooklyn home and even the characters themselves. Nine of the ten novellas were previously printed in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine while one is new, and in each one, Claudius Lyon along with Arnie Woodbine try to discover the answer to a challenging puzzle. No killings or violent crimes have been carried out, just someone wanting a solution to troubles that have cropped up in their lives. What the perceptive pair deduce left me grinning quite a few times, because what they conclude often has something humorous connected to it.

When Arnie Woodbine answered an ad for a job, the former felon ended up working for Claudius Lyon, an extremely odd individual who has a great love for Nero Wolfe, a man well-known for resolving what actually happened by having somebody else do all the research. Claudius has redone much of his life to match similar aspects in Nero’s, and he now needs someone to help with solving any problems brought to him by having that person do all the physical investigating. So Arnie is now employed and does tasks asked of him in order for Claudius to explain whatever dilemma he has been given. Since neither of them are licensed detectives, no fees are charged, but this fact does not stop the police captain from repeatedly trying to prove they are committing a crime.

After Claudius and Arnie meet and start working together, the two deal with a predicament plaguing someone in every story. A wide variety of people come asking for help, and their problems also greatly vary. But the portly amateur detective and his cunning assistant sort through clues, then make deductions based on fact. While there is not a lot of depth to the novellas because of their length, the information about each case let me make my own guesses as to what was really going on. Arnie is the one who describes what is taking place, and his inner thoughts were often a highlight of a scene. How the final assumptions were reached are frequently shrewd, and I thought the reasoning to be rather comical at times while other logic showed real aptitude. Loren D. Estleman has made me want to check out the original Nero Wolfe stories, as I would like to know about the team who inspired such a fun duo. NEARLY NERO is an entertaining and witty parody.

I voluntarily reviewed the book from the publisher, and all comments are my honest opinion

Publisher:  Gallery Books

Releases:  May 9, 2017

Purchase:  http://tinyurl.com/k9c6glb

Genre:  Mystery

Author website:  http://www.lorenestleman.com/

Rating:  4 Stars

The Dukes of Vauxhall by Vanessa Kelly, Christi Caldwell, Theresa Romain and Shana Galen

A mutual topic can be found in every storyline of the novellas that have been created by four notable authors. The French have been defeated at Waterloo, and the British are ready for some merrymaking. Parties are taking place, and several big gatherings will occur at Vauxhall Gardens. What will happen to eight individuals attending various entertainments will change their lives forever, and I was thoroughly enraptured by how cleverly the authors entwined common threads into each of their stories. There are also fascinating romances which are given a second chance at love or an unexpected beginning. All the authors have previously written outstanding romance books about the Regency period, and these fun novellas are totally gratifying. THE DUKES OF VAUXHALL has enchanting characters, original circumstances, and compelling emotional issues in every captivating story.

“Taken by the Duke” by Shana Galen

After recently becoming a viscount, Henry Selkirk gets chosen to organize a huge ball that will celebrate the British victory over the French at Waterloo plus observe the Prince Regent’s birthday. As he tours Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, the site of the festivities, he is taken by a group of ruffians whose leader is called the Duke. While held hostage, Henry meets Kate Dunn, a childhood friend with whom he was once very close. But she has grown into a woman with many secrets, and their lives depend on what choices each ends up making.

The interaction between Henry and Kate is often very interesting, as these two gradually discover whether they can ever trust the other or if they will only get hurt. I thought the current events in their lives led to plenty of surprising scenes, where emotions and hope played a huge part in deciding the course of their actions. Shana Galen makes “Taken by the Duke” constantly intriguing with unforeseen developments. A delightful story with subtle humor and charming characters.

“Fighting for His Lady” by Christi Caldwell

Though Patience Storm had once deeply cared for Godrick Gunnery, his lies caused her to never want him in her life again. However, a desperate need for her brother to win a prizefighting match has her contacting the man who became a champion after being taught by her deceased father. Previously called the Duke of the Ring but now retired, Godrick agrees to help Patience’s brother train in order to hopefully have a victorious bout. Fighting is all he has let himself think about since he last saw the only woman who ever meant anything to him, yet being around her brings back memories that he wants to turn into a reality once more.

“Fighting for His Lady” is an exciting story of lost dreams and optimistic wishes. The premise does not follow a typical Regency plot, as Godrick lives an unusual life for a Duke’s son, while the conduct of Patience is not the norm for women of the period. I was highly entertained when this couple interacted, because honest feelings led to earnest responses. Christi Caldwell has written a rousing and enjoyable romance.

“The Prodigal Duke” by Theresa Romain

There was a good reason for Leo Billingsley leaving London years ago, but now he has returned and will become the next Duke of Westfair. But he needs some assistance with a problem, and the only person who comes to mind is Poppy Hayworth, the woman with whom he grew up and is now a local tightrope performer. Since she has her own troubles, accepting his offer of a fictitious engagement will also benefit her. What was once between Poppy and Leo could have turned into more than friendship at one time, and they might just realize that the chance is still there.

Amusing comments had me smiling, while several more serious incidents made me anxious as I waited to see what would eventually take place. Leo and Poppy are pleasantly delightful, and I saw them as two people who were caught in difficult situations not of their making yet still tried to make the best of whatever they faced. Theresa Romain gives her couple much to prevail over, and I found their choices to be genuinely realistic. “The Prodigal Duke” has sincere emotions and enthralling occurrences.

“The Buccaneer Duke” by Vanessa Kelly

With two aspects about her life that English society sees as disgraceful, Antonia Barnett is not having any luck finding a man willing to marry her. Then she meets Captain Roman Cantrell. He was a privateer during the war, and now the illegitimate offspring of a royal prince is supposed to wed someone of good standing in the hope it gives him respectability. Though different in many ways, Roman and Antonia do share some similarities and their conversations are certainly lively. But there is no way her father will get his daughter be connected to the man who not only looks like a pirate but has acted like one.

Engagingly imaginative from beginning to end, “The Buccaneer Duke” is an engrossing romantic adventure. I was overjoyed for the chance to read another Renegade Royals story, as this favorite series has an innovative premise and unique characters. Roman and Antonia are truly beguiling, as they are quick-witted and make some of the most outrageous remarks. I repeatedly laughed at the more humorous moments in the story, while other instances profoundly affected me with their realism. The large number of candid scenes created by Vanessa Kelly for her appealing couple caused countless smiles.

I voluntarily reviewed the book and all comments are my honest opinion

Publisher:  Amazon Digital Services LLC

Releases:  May 9, 2017

Purchase:  http://tinyurl.com/lb2bx3f

Genre:  Historical

Rating:  5 Stars