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[Review] In Doubt by Drusilla Campbell

In Doubt Book Cover In Doubt

Literary Fiction
Grand Central Publishing
August 26, 2014
NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing

Defense Attorney Sophie Giraudo is about to open a new legal practice in her hometown of San Sebastian, California, when the beloved governer is shot and seriously wounded during a celebration in the town park. The only thing more shocking than the crime itself is the identity of the would-be assassin: a seemingly gentle teenager named Donny. Driven by her desire to understand what could make a person with no history of violence suddenly commit such a terrible act, Sophie reluctantly agrees to take him on as a client, knowing that, at least, it will bring her some income. But soon she realizes that she also has personal motivations for taking the case: a desire to prove to her overbearing mother that she is not the reckless and self-destructive tennager she used to be, to prove to her ex-husband, who happens to be the prosecuting attorney, that she can win her case, and to prove to herself that the traumatic events of her adolescence no longer define her.

As she digs deeper into Donny's past, Sophie begins to suspect that he might not be the cold-blooded killer everyone thinks he is. Does Donny's narcissistic mother really have her son's best interest in mind? Is Donny's mentor who runs Boys Into Men, a program for disadvantaged youths, the altruistic man he claims to be? Is Donny a deranged murderer, or a victim of his circumstances acting out of desperation? As Sophie races to uncover the truth, she is forced to come to terms with her past and to fight for what she knows is right...even if it means risking her reputation and possibly her life.

In Doubt by Drusilla Campbell depicts the story of a defense attorney that unwittingly finds herself in the middle of the biggest crime to ever hit the small town of SanSeb– San Sebastian, California. Danny Crider, fresh out of the Boys into Men Boy’s Home, has shot the governor,hometown hero Maggie Duarte. Crider’s mother, Elena, is especially hurt because she feels a strong connection to the Governor. Elena takes Donny’s crime so seriously that, while she pays for Donny’s defense, she refuses to see him.

Donny is quiet, to a fault. He refuses to assist in his own defense so Sohpia Giraudo, fledgling defense attorney that only took the case for the fee, finds herself digging into Donny’s past for clues. Why did he shoot the Governor? He says he doesn’t know, but how could he aim and shoot and not know why? Sophia surmises that something in his past, specifically something regarding his father’s disappearance from his life, is overbearingly inappropriate and compulsive mother, and Iva and Roman, the couple that own Roman’s Gardens and run Boys into Men.

While I enjoyed reading this novel and trying to figure out the mystery alongside Sophia, I couldn’t help feeling unfulfilled. I feel like so many issues were uncovered but left to wither in the sun. Donny’s stoic silence was an interesting plot point at first but eventually he was just annoying. There was no introspection as to why he wouldn’t speak about his actions. Sophia’s investigator, Camp, whose daughter has been missing for two years– we get a hint that he may have possibly found her, but that glimmer of hope falls a bit flat for me. As did the mention of her childhood rapist, specifically she and Camp walking down to the house where he used to live. If she wasn’t going to ask Camp to find him…. ???

Some characters were very thin- Camp and Ben especially. Brad as well… I just didn’t get him. Anna, in contrast was so vivid I practically had her cast in the movie in mind mind. Iva as well was so sympathetic and empathetic, I really felt for her, especially when she discovered the truth about her husband.

This book can be a lesson in how justice really works. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes without a whole lot of palatable answers. Sometimes justice is just barely served. And sometimes that’s just enough.

I was granted a copy of this novel for review from NetGalley.

[Review] No Limits by Lori Foster

No Limits (Ultimate, #1) Book Cover No Limits (Ultimate, #1)
Ultimate Fighter Series

August 26th 2014
NetGalley/ Harlequin

Cannon Colter is quintessential hero material: chiseled jawline, shredded body—the works. He's also the guy who rescued Yvette Sweeny from kidnappers, only to put an end to her romantic dreams. These days, she's older, smarter, determined to face whatever life throws her way. Even the prospect of sharing a house and business with Cannon. 

Cannon knew Yvette wanted him three years ago. But she was young—and some things are worth waiting for. Thrown together by her grandfather's legacy, he realizes how deep Yvette's scars really go, and how much danger lurks in their quiet town. As pent-up desire explodes between them, protecting her becomes the only fight that matters. And he'll break all the rules to do it.

Once upon a time there was a book called Getting Rowdy that starred a handsome rough and tumble hunk and a minor character named Cannon. Cannon was one of those guys that should be bad news but was surprisingly vigilant about protecting his community. He ran a rec center that went pretty far in keeping kids off the street. He taught them boxing and gave them a place to go. He watched over his neighborhood and got pretty close to Rowdy.

Then there was Dash of Peril, in which Cannon played a bigger part and got to play hero to Yvette, who had been kidnapped, nearly raped and doused with kerosene. After the horror of that ordeal, Cannon and Yvette became close and ALMOST hooked up, but the trauma of it all drove her away to California. Cannon went on to become a famous fighter with the SBC… and Yvette loved and watched him from afar.

No Limits is a return to the Brotherhood that I’ve come to love, this closely knit group of men and women, small town shop owners and law enforcement, bound and determined to keep their corner of the world safe. It is also a book focused majorly on Cannon, and if you’ve read my other Lori Foster reviews, you know I’ve been on the edge of my seat waiting for this one!

Let me just say…………….. it doesn’t disappoint. There’s something about that sexy, smoldering, good guy under the bad guy facade that I just adore about him. He’s so protective, it’s instinct– not just about Yvette, either. At one point he’s angry with one of the fighters at the Rec Center for making remarks about his sister’s roommate. Cannon has an innate need to protect people, and he does it well. Easily. With his fists. *shrug* Hey, they deserved it.

No Limits was a great read, to me. I know some were expecting more fighting action, but we really needed to get Cannon’s story out of the way, and the way he dealt with Yvette’s stalker ex, there was plenty of fight in this novel. There was also some good ole lovemaking.

There’s a bunch of details I am leaving out, but I am not one to rehash a story when I give a review. Read the blurb, buy the book, READ IT.

Now I’m trying to figure out who the next book is about?? Armie? Denver? Stack? And who is the love interest? Hmmmm… Rissy? Vanity? Cherry? SO MANY OPTIONS. I trust Lori to write us up some good stories to read.

Excellent story, long awaited, but well worth it!

[Review] Mean Streak by Sandra Brown

Mean Streak Book Cover Mean Streak

Grand Central Pub
August 19, 2014
NetGalley, Grand Central Publishing

Dr. Emory Charbonneau, a pediatrician and marathon runner, disappears on a mountain road in North Carolina. By the time her husband Jeff, miffed over a recent argument, reports her missing, the trail has grown cold. Literally. Fog and ice encapsulate the mountainous wilderness and paralyze the search for her.

While police suspect Jeff of "instant divorce," Emory, suffering from an unexplained head injury, regains consciousness and finds herself the captive of a man whose violent past is so dark that he won't even tell her his name. She's determined to escape him, and willing to take any risks necessary to survive.

Unexpectedly, however, the two have a dangerous encounter with people who adhere to a code of justice all their own. At the center of the dispute is a desperate young woman whom Emory can't turn her back on, even if it means breaking the law.

As her husband's deception is revealed, and the FBI closes in on her captor, Emory begins to wonder if the man with no name is, in fact, her rescuer

I’m a moderate Sandra Brown fan so I was excited to see that she had a new book releasing in August. Thanks to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing, I was able to obtain a pre-publication copy of this novel and give an honest review.

The main character, Emory Charbonneau, is one of those perfect people. Rich, so she can donate her time at a clinic, which she does. Fit, dedicated, really into charitable causes and such. And her husband, Jeff, just doesn’t understand her passion for things other than him, so there’s a rift between them that doesn’t look like it’s going to have a chance to heal. Needing to run from her problems, I’m supposing, Emily has planned a long run to train for an upcoming charity race. It’s conveniently foggy in them thar hills and Jeff is conveniently worried about her safety.

As I’ve said before with Sandra Brown, it wasn’t awful – I was certainly entertained and the pages kept turning- but she has written better novels. The WHODUNIT Suspense portion of the story was confusing to me. I could tell that it was supposed to be, but the “real killer” kept switching back and forth and the final twist, which was supposed to be a surprise, wasn’t much of one. It fell awfully flat, for me and everything sort of wrapped up in a big bow, as they often do.

I did not, in any way, buy the Romantic portion of this story. Not. even. a little. bit. I gathered that she came to trust the strange man who held her captive in his cabin and wouldn’t let her leave (because of the fog, but he could mysteriously get up and down the hill when he needed her to do something for him), but I felt like the romantic relationship was a huge stretch. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to go with it, so I skipped most of the ‘activity’ between Emory and her Captor.

I appreciated the mystery and intrigue in this story. The romantic part of romantic suspense didn’t hold up for me at all.  That said, I’m already waiting for Sandra’s next novel.


[Review] Blurring the Lines (Invitation to Eden Series) by Roni Loren

Blurring the Lines Book Cover Blurring the Lines
Invitation to Eden

Romance, Paranormal
Amazon Digital Services
August 4, 2014

A year has passed since Gretchen lost her fiancé, but she still can’t sleep. Or paint. And her new home in New Orleans is either haunted or she’s finally going crazy. 

Her bet is on the latter. 

So when her best friend, Burke, offers to sweep her away to a private luxury island for a break, she can’t say no. Maybe if she can be someone else for a few days, the ghosts of the past will quiet. At least for a little while. 

Burke knows what she’s going through. She lost her fiancé, but he lost family. He gets her in a way no else can. But lately she’s noticing things she shouldn’t about her former fiancé’s younger brother—his sexy smirk, that spicy Cajun accent, and the way he looks at her when he thinks she’s not paying attention. A week alone with him? Dangerous. If she blurs the lines between them, she could ruin the only friendship that means anything to her. She could ruin it all. 

But the island of Eden has its own agenda. The island knows what you need. That’s what the invitation says. She just never imagines it will grant her the one wish that could destroy them both. 

Contemporary Romance with a Paranormal Twist 

*Part of the Invitation to Eden multi-author series but can be read as a standalone.

What’s that quote from some sappy romance, or something….”You make me wanna be a better man.” Roni Loren makes me want to be a better writer. 

There’s something about cracking open a book and feeling the heat of New Orleans, hearing the creak of an old, probably haunted house, sensing the hint of spirits swirling… It’s this vivid imagery coupled with her distinctive style that always let’s me know I’m going to enjoy a Roni Loren novel. This book in particular was a slight departure from her regular erotic romance story line into something new, a touch darker and more mysterious. 

Roni says she always wanted to write a ghost story and never got the chance. Well, cher…(wink) you’ve gone and done it. 

Blurring the Lines is beautifully, magically written, featuring a touch of paranormal but in a way that’s more comforting than scary. The island knows what you need, and both Gretchen and Burke find just what they need on Eden. This is also a classic friends-to-lovers romance, featuring two strong characters destined to be together, if only they could let go of the bond that they think connects them. 

The story is paced well with tasteful yet SPICY love scenes and culminates in a satisfying ending. It’s so hard to end a story and not fall into cliche… This ending makes me smile. 

As always, a great read from Roni and YAY a sneak peek at the January release! Can’t wait!

[Guest Review! ] The Other Side of the Pillow by Zane

Zane's The Other Side of the Pillow: A Novel Book Cover Zane's The Other Side of the Pillow: A Novel

Erotic Fiction, Romance, Urban Fiction
August 5, 2014
Edelweiss, Atria

Courtesy Goodreads.com:

Jemistry Daniels is a bitter woman and not trying to hide it. Even though she is beautiful, intelligent, and makes six figures a year as a high school principal in Washington, DC, one man after another has failed her. So she decides to give up and join the party by adapting the entire “friends with benefits” mentality with a couple of men that she beds on the regular but refuses to hold any kind of real conversation with, in fear that she might actually catch feelings.

Everything is going according to plan until she meets Dr. Tevin Harris, a prominent vascular surgeon, one night at a poetry slam. Tevin listens to her deliver her male-bashing poem and instead of steering away from her like most men with any common sense would do, he asks her out. Tevin has been casually dating for years, ever since his failed marriage to Estella. They had suffered several miscarriages and the emotional pain had become too much for either one of them to bear and still wake up with each other every morning.

Opening up, gaining trust, tearing down barriers, and ultimately, having the audacity to love again is not easy for either Jemistry or Tevin. It takes a lot of transparency, emotional honesty, and patience to even begin to build a life together by helping each other rebuild what has been broken. The Other Side of the Pillow examines, explores, and exposes what it means to truly fall in love. It proves that true love stories do not have a happy ending. True love stories never end at all.

Today’s review is courtesy one of my favorite Book Bloggers, Lisa at Reads4Pleasure. We have incredibly similar reading tastes and I always know that if she loves something, I should take a look! When The Other Side of the Pillow popped up, we both decided we’d read it to see what it was about, then thought it would be fun to cross post reviews. This is my first crosspost, so haaaaayyyyy R4P Readers!

You can find other reviews on her site, Reads4Pleasure.com and you can check out MY review of this novel at her site HERE. Take it away, Lisa!


When Goodreads and Facebook friends saw that I was reading the latest from Zane, I got a few “girl, what?” and “really though” comments from them.  After all, I don’t do urban lit or Harlequin-like romances or erotica, so what gives?  I was on a fact finding mission!

Years ago before Twitter, Facebook and blogging, there was AOL.  Zane was an active chat room member, as was I, and she would write a story here and there and email them to anyone that was interested.  Her stories were good back in the day.  There was a taste of erotica, but not nearly as in your face as her work became later.  Shortly after she got published, but long before she got her own imprint and introduced the world to an army of urban lit and erotica writers, I stopped reading her work.  It got to be too much for me.

In her latest, Jemistry Daniels, an admittedly bitter woman, is romanced by Dr. Tevin Harris, a surgeon with a heart of gold.  Tevin is such a good guy that both Jemistry and I kept waiting for him to screw up.  Like, he was really just that perfect.  Jemistry, on the other hand, just wasn’t.  In addition to being bitter, and having a horrible name, she was mistrusting.  I’m still not sure why Tevin approached her in the bar with so much negativity radiating from her.

Told from the perspective of both characters, The Other Side is somewhat refreshing.  It’s not often that we get to see a relationship from both the male and female viewpoint and it would have been enjoyable if their thoughts were shared concurrently.  Instead, what Zane does is give each character 10-12 dedicated chapters before moving back to the other character.  The problem is time has lapsed, so you don’t get to know what the other character was doing in those 10 – 12 chapters if the one telling the story doesn’t interact with them.  For example, at one point, Jemistry and Tevin split.  We see Tevin agonizing over the situation and beating himself up for several chapters, but we don’t get to see what Jemistry is doing during that time.  By the time she’s introduced back into his story line, weeks have passed so we miss out on her thoughts and emotions during their break.

The Other Side of the Pillow is the first thing Zane’s written in a while, so I was interested to see if her writing style had changed and if she’d grown any.  I remember her original stories having more depth to them and better conversation.  I also remember bedroom scenes being better written.  At some points it was almost as if she remembered who she was and what her readers expected, so she threw naughty language and scenes in that seemed forced and not at all natural.  While it’s an okay story, it seemed to meander at times.  It’s fine for a beach read, but if you’re looking for something with depth (and if you’re picking up Zane-like books regularly, I know you’re not), then this surely isn’t for you.


Thanks so much for a great review!

Welcome to The Sweet Escape, home of writer Melinda Jones. I blog about my adventures as a Literary Fiction/Romance/ Women's Fiction reader and writer. My work has appeared at IndieInk.org, Short-Story.net and Storyfix.com.

I enjoy reading (lots and lots of reading) writing, candy, Sprite, and things flavored with raspberry... but not raspberries themselves. I blog Mondays and Fridays and random Wednesdays and Sundays as time and material allows. I hope you'll drop by often and share in the joy (uh huh) of writing! Enjoy your stay!



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