Book Review: THE GIRL IN BLUE by Barbara J. Hancock (Harlequin E Shivers)

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Series: Harlequin E Shivers (Box Set, Volume 3)
Publisher: Harlequin E
Release Date: July 7, 2014
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★

Trinity Chadwick once helped Samuel Creed cheat death. That long-ago kiss of life kindled an obsession both sensual and macabre. When Trinity, plagued by misfortune, returns to her hometown, Samuel is already there. Is he watching over her…or awaiting some dark chance?


Shivers is a line of new Gothic romances published by Harlequin E. Barbara J. Hancock’s THE GIRL IN BLUE is the first one I’ve read, and I was impressed. This book is part of the Shivers Box Set, Volume 3. (Reviews of the other books to follow shortly.)

This was a fairly quick read, but it was packed with all of my favorite elements of the genre – steamy romance, creepy atmosphere, and the best part – troubled ghosts. The story takes place in the spooky town of Scarlet Falls, Massachusetts. I had an ominous feeling about the place from the start, especially with the eerie, lifeless lake close by. I loved learning about the lake’s back story. Disturbing.

The heroine is a young woman named Trinity, who has returned to Scarlet Falls seeking sanctuary and possibly an answer to why tragedy follows wherever she goes. And it’s not just her – the whole town is plagued by unexplained accidents. I really enjoyed the world-building in this book, and since some things were left unexplained, I’m assuming this is the foundation for a series.

Trinity had some amazing chemistry with the hero, Samuel. Samuel is a town historian, obsessed with the mysterious and macabre happenings in Scarlet Falls. They have a volatile past and haven’t seen each other for years, but the trouble following Trinity brings them back together. Trinity learns that they have a darker and deeper connection than she was aware of.

THE GIRL IN BLUE was a creepy good modern Gothic romance, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the box set!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: BITTER SPIRITS by Jenn Bennett

BitterSpirits
Series: Roaring Twenties, #1
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Released: January 7, 2014
Source: Borrowed from the Library

It’s the roaring twenties, and San Francisco is a hotbed of illegal boozing, raw lust, and black magic. The fog-covered Bay Area can be an intoxicating scene, particularly when you specialize in spirits…

Aida Palmer performs a spirit medium show onstage at Chinatown’s illustrious Gris-Gris speakeasy. However, her ability to summon (and expel) the dead is more than just an act.

Winter Magnusson is a notorious bootlegger who’s more comfortable with guns than ghosts—unfortunately for him, he’s the recent target of a malevolent hex that renders him a magnet for hauntings. After Aida’s supernatural assistance is enlisted to banish the ghosts, her spirit-chilled aura heats up as the charming bootlegger casts a different sort of spell on her.

On the hunt for the curseworker responsible for the hex, Aida and Winter become drunk on passion. And the closer they become, the more they realize they have ghosts of their own to exorcise…

———

I haven’t read a paranormal romance in a long time, mainly because I was so burned-out on vampires, shifters, demons, and such. Luckily, BITTER SPIRITS was a nice change from all that, because it featured my favorite paranormal beings – ghosts! Aida Palmer is a “modern” Roaring Twenties gal who values her independence. She supports herself by working as a medium, and yep, she’s the real deal. Not only can she channel spirits of the deceased, she can also banish the troublesome ones haunting this plane.

Aida gets wrapped up with a ruggedly handsome and brooding bootlegger named Winter Magnusson. Someone’s been dabbling in black magic and put a curse on poor Winter. Pesky ghosts are haunting him, and he needs Aida’s help to get rid of them. Winter and Aida have a fiery chemistry between them, even if it does take Winter a while to break down her walls. They’re both bringing some heavy emotional baggage into this relationship, and on top of that they’re trying to figure out the who and why of Winter’s hex.

I enjoyed this fast paced tale of restless spirits, dark magic, and bootlegging in 1920s San Francisco. Aida and Winter had an intriguing mystery to solve, and it all concluded with a nail-biting ending. Great romance, fun read!

Rating: 4 Stars

Book Review: FIRELIGHT by Kristen Callihan

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Series: Darkest London, #1
Publisher: Forever
Released: January 31, 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher

Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family’s fortune decimated and forced her to wed London’s most nefarious nobleman.

Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it’s selfish to take Miranda as his bride. Yet he can’t help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn’t felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.

———

First Impression: Amazing! Kristen Callihan’s debut novel is an exciting take on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, complete with a kick-butt urban fantasy heroine. It blended my favorite genres of romance – paranormal, historical, Gothic, mystery & suspense.

What Really Worked: I was drawn in by the enthralling story, but the characters were equally fantastic. The sparks ignite between Miranda and Archer when they meet in a dark alley. He thinks she needs rescuing from a couple of street thugs, but Miranda can handle herself quite nicely, thank you very much! Miranda is blessed (or cursed) with a supernatural ability. She is a fire starter, something that has caused great grief for her family, so she does all she can to keep it secret. Archer has a secret of his own, one he keeps hidden underneath a mask. They go their separate ways that night, but Archer returns 3 years later to ask for her hand in marriage. Miranda’s father pressures her to accept. She resists at first, but there’s something about this strange man that compels her to marry him.

This was a well-crafted story with many layers. When a string of murders occur in London, fingers point to Archer as he is somehow connected to each victim. As the story progresses, more clues are revealed about Archer’s past and what lies beneath his mask. This book was a page-turner for sure!

I loved both main characters. Archer was the perfect tortured hero, strong (and intimidating) on the outside but emotionally vulnerable and lonely on the inside. And, of course, Miranda was the perfect heroine to save him. She was clever and tough, and very headstrong (to Archer’s chagrin). The dialogue between them was skillfully written. Their verbal sparing was very entertaining.

What Didn’t Work So Much: The only thing would be that I wanted to know more about the origins of Miranda’s unique “gift.”

Final Thoughts: Loved it! FIRELIGHT has reignited my love of the paranormal romance genre. (No pun intended.) Read it now…what are you waiting for?

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: SPIRITS IN THE TREES by Morgan Hannah MacDonald

Spirits
Series: The Spirits Trilogy, #1
Publisher: CreateSpace
Released: June 27, 2012
Source: Review copy from Bewitching Book Tours

An abandoned house, a psychotic killer, and a victim reaching out from the grave. A woman must unearth deadly family secrets before she becomes a ghost herself.

Madeline Anderson goes to Isabelle Island, Washington, to sell a family home abandoned over forty years before. Bizarre things occur the moment she steps on the property. Inside the dilapidated old house, items move about of their own accord. Strange noises come from empty rooms. She has a vivid, recurring dream of a woman running for her life. The wind rustling through the trees sounds like urgent, murmuring voices. When the cacophony dies down, one single word emerges: MADELINE,MADELINE,MADELINE.

At first, Doug Lindstrom, the hot fireman helping Maddy restore the old home, doesn’t believe anything is going on. He’s certain Maddy is jumping at shadows because she heard the local kids call the house haunted. That is, until he witnesses horrific violence himself that he can’t explain away. After Maddy’s life is threatened not once, but twice, Doug vows there will not be a third time.

While searching for answers, Maddy uncovers astonishing secrets about her aunt’s past. Finding more questions then answers, she digs deeper until she stumbles across evidence of a cold case involving a serial killer nicknamed The Seaside Strangler. Together, Doug and Maddy must unmask a killer. The lives they save just might be their own.

———

SPIRITS IN THE TREES was a riveting story, definitely not for the faint of heart! It was paranormal romantic suspense, spooky mystery and gothic horror in one book. Yikes! The book’s blurb does an excellent job of summarizing the plot without giving away spoilers, so I won’t repeat it here.

The story was well-written, but not an easy read. There were a few disturbing scenes, graphic rapes and the murder of a young woman. To me it wasn’t gratuitous violence, those scenes were integral to the plot in showing the evil the protagonist Maddy was up against. The ghostly haunting scenes were chilling. Very descriptive! This is the kind of story I couldn’t read if I was alone. I love to be scared by ghost stories, but when it comes down to it, I’m a delicate flower. 😉 I thought that the ending wrapped up a little too quickly, but I was pleased with the conclusion.

SPIRITS IN THE TREES was an enjoyable book that I’d recommend to fans of scary stories and intense romantic thrillers.

Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the book tour company in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: THE RESTORER by Amanda Stevens

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Series: The Graveyard Queen, #1
Publisher: Mira
Released: April 19, 2011
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★½


My name is Amelia Gray. I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.

It started with the discovery of a young woman’s brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I’ve been hired to restore. The clues to the killer—and to his other victims—lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I’ve vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.


THE RESTORER is a chilling ghost story/murder mystery. It was “now I have to sleep with all the lights on” spooky, and I devoured it! This is the story of Amelia Gray, a cemetery restorer. She’s become a minor celebrity as “The Graveyard Queen” among taphophiles (cemetery enthusiasts). What most people don’t know about her is that she can see ghosts. When she was a young child, her father gave her strict rules for dealing with ghosts: Don’t acknowledge them; stay close to hallowed ground; avoid people who are haunted; and, never tempt fate. Sounds like excellent advice to me! Unfortunately for Amelia, she becomes entangled in a murder mystery that has her breaking all the rules and paying the price for it.

Amelia is hired to restore Oak Grove Cemetery situated on Emerson University property. Soon after she arrives, the body of a woman very recently killed is found dumped in one of the graves. This disturbing event brings her together with Detective John Devlin of the Charleston PD. There’s something about Devlin that draws Amelia to him, which is most unfortunate because…he’s haunted. It’s not long before another murder victim is discovered, and both crimes may or may not tie in with a murder that occured 15 years ago under similar circumstances. And, is the secret organization at Emerson known as the Order of the Coffin and the Claw somehow involved? The police need Amelia’s expertise in cemetery symbolism to help crack the case. So here she is, breaking the rules her father set, and most definitely tempting fate.

THE RESTORER was a very well crafted paranormal murder mystery. It was so creepy and so good. I enjoyed the author’s descriptive writing style. I loved the cemetery setting, the spooky ghosts and the sense of foreboding I felt when I knew twilight was approaching. I loved Amelia. She was a smart and tough heroine with a very unique job. I think it would be fascinating to research the history of old cemeteries and analyze gravestone carvings. I’m a bit of a taphophile too, so I was really pulled into this story.

The Amelia/Devlin attraction was a bit unbelievable. He was so pained and withdrawn, yet she wanted him the whole book. But why? Considering his history and who his ghosts were? Eek. Personally, I would not want to open that can of worms. But then there would be moments where we’d get a fleeting glimpse of the man he used to be, and I’d think, “Is he redeemable?” Maybe. I’m very curious to see where the author takes their relationship in the next book.

While the main mystery in THE RESTORER is wrapped up nicely, we’re left with many unanswered questions. Are the members of the Order of the Coffin and the Claw good or evil? Who was the private investigator giving Amelia tips, and what does he want from her? Will Devlin ever be free of his spectral burdens? I’m looking forward to finding out some answers in the second book, THE KINGDOM.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.