Review and Giveaway–Can’t Stop Lovin’ You by Lynnette Austin

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I couldn’t resist the combination of a small town and a veterinarian hero.  Plus, Can’t Stop Lovin’ You features a second chance at love trope, and you all know how much I love those!  I enjoyed this book, though I thought there were a few pacing issues near the middle that kept it from getting a higher grade.  I really liked Brawley, the contrite hero, but I wondered if he would be able to convince Maggie that he deserved a second chance.

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Review: Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan

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Title: Wild Encounter

Author:  Nikki Logan

Publisher: Entangled

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A wildlife release mission in Africa turns deadly when the convoy is hijacked by smugglers, and veterinarian Clare Delaney is taken hostage. Terrified for her life and her animals, the intrepid Clare establishes a rapport with the man she believes is the criminals’ leader, and reluctantly finds herself under his protection…and falling hard for the enigmatic man.

Alpha-to-the-max Simon deVries sees right through his sexy captive’s attempt to seduce her way to freedom. So when their simmering attraction flares into true passion, it takes them both by surprise. Now he’s torn between completing his secret mission and letting her escape without telling her his true identity. He knows if he lets her go, he will be risking his career, his life…and his heart.


Review:

This is the first Dead Sexy title that I have read.  I am not normally a big romantic suspense fan, and I’m not sure why.  Maybe because the field is becoming so crowded that I have no clue where to begin?  Wild Encounter hit my radar because I recently enjoyed another Nikki Logan book, and because of these three words: African Wild Dogs.  Yup, that sealed the deal for me.  I think they are the coolest canines ever, with their mottled splashes of color and gigantic ears.  I was hoping that the dogs would have more than just a cameo appearance, and was delighted when they did.  The romance was even engaging, though Clare and Simon had a tough act to follow, sharing the limelight with the dogs (just kidding!).

Clare is in Zambia to release a pack of wild dogs, an important step in preserving the species in their native African habitat.  The convoy is hijacked by ruthless thugs, and Clare has to put aside her fear in order to survive her awful ordeal.  She is immediately drawn to the man she nicknames Alpha, and she puts her life in his hands.  As he protects her from the vicious men holding her captive, she finds herself falling in love with him.  A desperate bid for escape has her fleeing the farmhouse where she gave herself to Alpha, body and soul, and soon the ordeal is just a nightmare for her to work through.  On a return trip to reclaim the dogs and release them at the wilderness preserve they were originally destined for, she has to relive her worst nightmare.  Alpha is back, only now he’s in her camp, masquerading as her bodyguard!

The first half of the book details Clare’s kidnapping and  captivity, and there are many parts of her ordeal that I found disturbing.  Maybe this is why I don’t read much romantic suspense.  Clare is physically abused by her captors, kicked and hit with brutal force.  Only Alpha keeps her from being viciously raped.  All of this was a bit too intense for me, so it’s a good thing the whisper of those African wild dogs kept me turning the pages.  Clare relies on every bit of bravery that she possesses to outwit the smugglers and escape, but not before she finds herself desperately in love with Alpha. 

Back home, Clare has months of therapy to endure.  Does she love that guy, or was she suffering from the effects of Stockholm syndrome?  Does it really matter, because the odds of ever seeing him again are about nil.   Clare realizes that her infatuation with him is probably due to the nightmare she survived.  The suffocating fear just stirred up emotions for the one kidnapper who was nice to her. 

When her wild dogs are relocated, Clare is resigned that she will have to journey back to Africa and face her fears again to recapture and release the dogs as originally planned.  But when she sees Alpha, aka super spy Simon, in the field camp, she freaks out.  Justifiably.  This tsunami of terror was one of the most moving scenes in the book.  Clare thought she had put all of that behind her, only to find herself right back in the middle of danger.  It takes a lot of courage on her part to accept that Simon is who he says, and not a cold-blooded murderer sent to finish the job he botched back at the farmhouse.

I enjoyed the last half of the book more than the beginning, and I think it’s because I could actually breathe again.  I wasn’t as concerned that Clare was going to be victimized, though I knew that sooner or later the past would catch up with her.  Since she was aware that Simon was a good guy, she was able to start working through her messed up feelings for him again, to try to put them into perspective, knowing that he wasn’t going to try to kill her.  That awful week in the farmhouse also haunted Simon, and I liked that he was just as messed up about it as Clare was.  He is a strong person, but having to live with violent, murdering scum for his case scarred him, too. 

Wild Encounter was a nice introduction to Entangled’s Dead Sexy line.  While I don’t believe kidnapping stories will ever be a favorite of mine, I am  interested in reading more suspense titles.  Clare and Simon were both likeable characters, thrown together in frightening life and death situations.  I don’t know how Clare managed to keep from keeling over from a heart attack.  Really.  I think I had about 3 mini heart attacks for her!

 

If you are interested in learning more about African wild dogs, please visit this website.   You can also visit them at several zoos, including Battle Creek’s Binder Park Zoo.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Cuttlefish by Dave Freer

 

Title:  Cuttlefish

Author: Dave Freer

Publisher:  Pyr

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The smallest thing can change the path of history.

The year is 1976, and the British Empire still spans the globe. Coal drives the world, and the smog of it hangs thick over the canals of London.

Clara Calland is on the run. Hunted, along with her scientist mother, by Menshevik spies and Imperial soldiers, they flee Ireland for London. They must escape airships, treachery, and capture. Under flooded London’s canals, they join the rebels who live in the dank tunnels there.

Tim Barnabas is one of the underpeople, born to the secret town of drowned London, place of anti-imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty—the people who would see a return to older values and free elections. Seeing no farther than his next meal, Tim has hired on as a submariner on the Cuttlefish, a coal-fired submarine that runs smuggled cargoes beneath the steamship patrols, to the fortress America and beyond.

When the Imperial soldiery comes ravening, Clara and her mother are forced to flee aboard the Cuttlefish. Hunted like beasts, the submarine and her crew must undertake a desperate voyage across the world, from the Faeroes to the Caribbean and finally across the Pacific to find safety. But only Clara and Tim Barnabas can steer them past treachery and disaster, to freedom in Westralia. Carried with them—a lost scientific secret that threatens the very heart of Imperial power.

Review:

Cuttlefish has been on my radar since I first saw the cover on Amazon.  When I received a review copy, I could hardly wait to start reading it.  Between the covers, I found a compelling adventure, one that was enhanced by the two extremely likable protagonists.  Tim and Clara made the book for me, and it was on the strength of their personalities that I eagerly journeyed to the end.  The pacing could be a little slow as the Cuttlefish journeyed across the ocean, and without these protagonists, who demand that you pay attention to them, I don’t know if I would have found the book as enjoyable.  Sometimes the journey holds your attention, and sometimes, it’s your companions who make the trip worth taking.

Clara is the daughter of a chemist, and when her mother arrives at her school, frantically demanding that Clara follow her with no questions asked, the girl is bewildered.  What is going on?  Why are these scary guys chasing after them?  Clara is a clever girl, and after overcoming her initial fear, she quickly starts to question everything that’s going on around her.  The Russians are determined to capture them, as are the British, all to gain possession of her mother’s research.  And here Clara thought her mother was dull and boring, and overly engrossed in her research!  In reality, she’s the object of a dangerous manhunt that will take them all over the world!

The two end up on the Cuttlefish, a submarine at smuggles goods from around the world back to London.  In the years after the Big Melt, life is difficult for all.  There isn’t enough food being harvested, nations are bickering over limited resources, and the super powers are battling for control of shipping lanes, overland trade routes, and mining facilities.  Once it’s suspected that Clara’s mother’s research could tip the balance of power, everyone is after them, with orders to capture them, or barring that, kill them so that the research doesn’t fall into another nation’s hands.   Yikes!  These guys aren’t playing around, but Clara’s resourcefulness and courage proves to be quite a match for all of the bad guys.

On board the sub, Clara meets Tim.  Tim was raised in the tunnels under drowned London, and there is no love lost between them at first.  Confused, Tim wonders why the women are on the sub.  He also suspects, at first, that Clara is over-privileged and over-indulged.  As they share one dangerous adventure after another, Tim slowly learns how wrong he is about his new friend.  Clara’s honest and open friendship makes him question how he perceives the world, and makes him re-evaluate his plans for the future.  I loved how their growing friendship brought out the best in both of them.  Where Clara is weak, Tim is strong, and visa versa.  While Tim is more laid-back and more of a thinker, Clara is impulsive, jumping into any situation without hesitation.  They manage to get each other into, and back out of, several hair-raising scrapes, by learning to trust and rely on each other.  I loved their relationship.

The pacing was a little sluggish near the end, but the last 50 pages were frantically urgent, keeping me on the edge of my seat.  I couldn’t put the book down, even though it was far past my bedtime.  I was so engaged in the survival of the Cuttlefish that I couldn’t set the book aside.  The thought of being chased across the Pacific, trapped in a crippled submarine, actually kept me up after I finished.  The tension was almost unbearable, and I marveled at the steadiness and calm efficiency of the captain and crew.  I quickly decided that I could never join the Navy, because I would have gone off my rocker if anything like that had ever happened to me!

The strength of Cuttlefish is the likability of the young protagonists, as well as the strong action sequences, especially the huge, heart-pounding near disaster at the end.  I loved the characters, and I can hardly wait to have another adventure with them.  The Steam Mole will be out in December; it’s already on my wish list.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

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