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All Romantic Suspense Coverage

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The Takedown

Carlie Walker’s The Takedown is an engaging story filled with danger, drama and introspection—and a Christmas romance you won’t want to miss. When CIA agent Sydney Swift learns her sister plans to marry crime lord Johnny Jones, she instantly regrets the familial distance she’s encouraged due to her dangerous job and agrees to help the FBI take Johnny down. At Grandma Ruby’s for Christmas, Sydney must keep her mission a secret even as she’s sharing quarters with not only Johnny, but also his best man and head of security, the far too attractive Nick Fraser. Celebrating the season while sussing out the Jones clan’s nefarious next moves isn’t easy, and Sydney does some soul-searching about her career while trying not to fall for Nick, who must be as bad as Johnny—right? This untraditional Christmas tale is as fun as can be and will have readers whipping through the pages.

Three Holidays and a Wedding

Bad luck turns to good fortune in Three Holidays and a Wedding by Uzma Jalaluddin and Marissa Stapley. Maryam Aziz is on her way to her sister’s wedding, and Anna Gibson is about to meet her boyfriend’s parents. But both are stranded along with their entire flight after a blizzard traps them in the adorable and fantastical town of Snow Falls, Ontario, where the sequel to a beloved Christmas movie also happens to be filming. As Christmas, Hanukkah and Eid al-Fitr approach (the novel is set in 2000, when all three celebrations fell within days of one another), Anna must deal with the displeasure of her boyfriend and her attraction to the movie’s leading man, while Maryam manages her extended family and her childhood crush, Saif. Jalaluddin and Stapley expertly braid the three faiths together and each character sparkles in their own way. The holiday(s) spirit is strong in this one!

Faking Christmas

For pure festive rom-com fun, look no further than Faking Christmas by Kerry Winfrey. Laurel Grant thinks of herself as the “other twin,” the one who constantly screws up, while her identical sister Holly lives on a farm with her husband and kids, raises goats and cooks like a dream. Laurel is the social media manager for a magazine promoting the charms of Ohio, and may have pretended her sister’s life was her own to get the job. But then her boss invites himself to a holiday meal. Luckily, Holly doesn’t mind letting Laurel step into her place . . . with the exception of playing wife to her husband. There’s another man for that role: Laurel’s nemesis, grouchy and fun-averse Max Beckett. Of course, there’s a blizzard and romantic sparks and misunderstandings, as well as movie marathons and dance parties. Max learns to smile on occasion and Laurel finds out she’s not such a screw-up after all. This is hot chocolate in book form—warm and sweet.

A Holly Jolly Ever After

An unlikely pairing enjoys a scorching Christmas romance in A Holly Jolly Ever After by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone. After years in good-girl roles followed by a shocking divorce, actor Winnie Baker is ready to end her people-pleaser ways and take charge of her life. First up is starring in a Christmas soft-core porn film alongside ex-boy band member, Kallum Lieberman (who was “the funny one”). Though she’s been in the entertainment business since childhood, the challenge of acting sexy, especially pretending to enjoy sex on screen, is such a hurdle that Winnie confides in Kallum—and he’s eager to help. He’s had a crush on her since her early TV days, and awakening her to carnal pleasures is a joy that threatens to turn into love. But their idyll in Christmas Notch, Vermont, the charming backdrop for their movie, is supposed to be no-strings. The love scenes smoke, the characters and their sidekicks are funny and sweet, and readers will root for Winnie to get all she deserves.

Wreck the Halls

In Tessa Bailey’s Wreck the Halls, the progeny of an infamous female rock duo get involved in a band reunion—and with each other. The Steel Birds broke up before their respective kids, Beat and Melody, were born. But their legend lives on, and since Beat’s in a financial bind, he tries to get the women back on stage. Though Melody only met him once when she was a teenager, she feels so connected to Beat all these years later that she jumps on board with his idea. The holiday reunion setup and The Steel Birds are interesting, but it’s Beat and Melody’s intense bond that drives the story and gives it oomph. Bailey masterfully sells the sublime connection between the two characters, whether in conversation or more carnal situations. It’s delicious and delightful, the stuff of pure fairy tale romance, and readers won’t want it to end.

The annual avalanche of festive love stories is upon us—here are the books you should put on your list.
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Liar City

Allie Therin’s instantly intriguing Liar City is set in an alternate Seattle where some people are empaths, able to read others’ emotions just by touching them. The story begins when Reece, an empath and part-time police consultant, receives a mysterious phone call telling him that Reece’s detective sister, Jamey, needs his help. When Reece arrives at Jamey’s latest murder investigation, he also encounters the caller: empath hunter Evan Grayson, also known as the Dead Man. Enigmatic and relentless, Evan is on a mission to stop the killings, which may have something to do with the imminent passage of an anti-empath law. Reece is a very appealing viewpoint character, and chapters from Jamey’s perspective are equally engaging. Evan and Reece’s chemistry crackles throughout Liar City’s nonstop action, but be warned that they do not exchange even one intimate touch. However, as this fantastic paranormal is the first installment in Therin’s Sugar & Vice series, hopes abound for the future.

The Portrait of a Duchess

An aristocratic title reunites an estranged couple in The Portrait of a Duchess, Scarlett Peckham’s hotly anticipated second book in her Society of Sirens series. When she was young, Cornelia Ludgate secretly married horse breeder Rafe Goodwood, which freed her from the strictures of high society and allowed her to pursue painting. Twenty years later, Cornelia is an established artist and an activist for women’s rights. But when her long-estranged husband unexpectedly inherits a dukedom, he proposes that they go public with their marriage. Doing so would provide Cordelia with extra income to devote to her cause and would grant Rafe instant notoriety, which he intends to parlay into governmental reform. Though the iconoclastic pair deny their feelings, their attraction sizzles and they enjoy a mutual understanding when it comes to their desire to take lovers of all genders, both together and apart. Scorching love scenes make this white-hot read a standout.

Cold-Blooded Liar

Karen Rose begins an exciting new romantic suspense series with Cold-Blooded Liar. An anonymous tip leads San Diego detective Kit McKittrick to a body wearing a pair of pink handcuffs, echoing a murder spree 15 years earlier. To solve this latest killing, Kit must first uncover the identity of the tipper. It turns out to be do-gooder psychologist Dr. Sam Reeves, whom Kit instantly likes but must consider a suspect all the same. Kit is not a trusting woman, but as more deaths occur and the murderer hits closer to home, she must turn to Sam to help her nab the killer. The crimes are brutal, but Rose balances the story with a heroic team, lovable dogs and Kit’s warmhearted foster parents. It’s a gripping and satisfying tale, even if Kit has yet to kiss the good doctor by story’s end—which readers will surely be rooting for in the next installment.

Scarlett Peckham’s long-awaited sequel to The Rakess is here! Plus, two suspenseful series get off to a thrilling start.
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The Blonde Identity

Ally Carter will keep readers laughing with The Blonde Identity. A woman awakens in Paris, unable to remember her name or why she’s there. Soon she encounters a mysterious hot guy who claims she’s an operative named “Alex” being pursued by international spies. When bullets start flying, it seems he’s right, and as they make a run for it, they learn a thing or two about each other. Her name is actually Zoe, she must be Alex’s identical twin and the hot guy, Jake Sawyer, is a spy in his own right. The pace never lets up and neither does the fun in this sexy fluff of a story. To truly enjoy it, readers will need to suspend disbelief and a few of the laws of physics, but who cares when the characters are so charming, the antics so entertaining and the plot so cinematic? Known for her young adult titles, Carter seamlessly makes her adult debut with this highly enjoyable romantic suspense novel. Don’t miss it!

Give the Devil His Duke

Wrongs are righted, arrogance is humbled and good deeds are rewarded in Anna Bradley’s Give the Devil His Duke. Penniless Lady Francesca “Franny” Stanhope has worked up the courage to confront her greedy uncle in hopes of securing financial help for her ailing mother. But at her uncle’s home, Franny encounters Giles Drew, the Duke of Basingstoke and her cousin’s new fiancé. Franny distrusts Giles—his father caused her own family’s ruin—but he’s undeniably handsome and more than a little suave. As they encounter each other at society events, Giles can’t help his preoccupation with his bride-to-be’s relative, which does not go unnoticed by the ton’s gossips. Then scandal forces Giles to go all out to save his reputation and hers—by marrying Franny. Balls, gowns and friends destined for their own installments in this new series contribute to the charming ambiance of this sweet and sexy Regency romance. 

Someone Just Like You

Childhood frenemies unite for their parents’ joint anniversary party in Meredith Schorr’s Someone Just Like You, set amid New York City’s vibrant restaurant and bar scene. Molly Blum grew up hating and pranking Jude Stark, who gave as good as he got. But surely they can team up to organize a celebration without reverting to old ways. Except . . . no. Jude is more irritating than ever. Family and friends point out that every woman he dates looks just like Molly, and she’s been dating a series of guys who look just like Jude. Can they settle past grievances and figure out why the sparks between them now seem sexy rather than angry? The first-person narration hums with Molly’s energy and honesty in this pitch-perfect enemies-to-lovers rom-com.

Plus, a charming Regency love story and a pitch-perfect enemies-to-lovers rom-com in this month’s romance column.

Our top 10 books of August 2023

Our top 10 books for August 2023 include Colson Whitehead's riotous sequel to Harlem Shuffle, Silvia Moreno-Garcia's latest horror novel and an engrossing look at race in Shakespeare’s works.
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Ghost Book

Remy Lai juxtaposes serious topics with charming humor in Ghost Book, a lushly illustrated folkloric contemporary fantasy that will inspire readers to learn more about

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Crook Manifesto book cover
Crime Fiction

Crook Manifesto

Crook Manifesto more than matches the finely hewn psychological tensions that haunted Colson Whitehead’s main character in Harlem Shuffle. The interplay between context and character

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Tom Lake

Tom Lake is a gorgeously layered novel that spans decades yet still feels intimate, meditating on love, family and the choices we make.

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Coming of Age


Nicola Dinan’s debut is a vulnerable, moving, riotously funny and deeply honest story about trans life, first love, art-making, friendship, grief and the hard, slow

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Valiant Women

Valiant Women is a vital and engrossing attempt to correct the record and rightfully celebrate the achievements of female veterans of World War II.

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Arts & Culture

The Great White Bard

Karim-Cooper’s candid discussion of more informed and nuanced approaches to interpreting Shakespeare can only help the Bard’s work endure.

Read More »

The Underworld

The Underworld is Susan Casey’s dazzling answer to the age-old, tantalizing question about the ocean’s abyss: “What’s down there?”

Read More »

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Recent Reviews

Our top 10 books for August 2023 include Colson Whitehead's riotous sequel to Harlem Shuffle, Silvia Moreno-Garcia's latest horror novel and an engrossing look at race in Shakespeare’s works.
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★ Wolf in the Shadows

Maria Vale sweeps readers into a compelling paranormal world in her fifth entry in the Legend of All Wolves series, Wolf in the Shadows. Julia Martel, pampered shifter princess of Montreal, has been kidnapped by the Great North Pack, who live apart from human society and ritualistically shift to their wolf forms every full moon. Though she was raised to be “exquisitely inconsequential,” Julia finds her inner strength as she lives with the pack and gets to know Arthur, a wolf at the bottom of the pack’s hierarchy. Vale’s storytelling is immersive and fascinating as she chronicles Julia’s metamorphosis from plaything to predator. And Arthur is a uniquely appealing love interest: keenly attentive, sensitive and always willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Lushly described set pieces, from Julia’s embrace of her animal nature to the couple’s smoking hot love scenes, make for a fiercely beautiful read.

Husband Material

A couple grapples with life, love and being true to themselves in Husband Material by Alexis Hall. It’s been two years since Lucien “Luc” O’Donnell and Oliver Blackwood got together in Boyfriend Material, and the opposites-attract pair are happy together—and happy to witness the people around them tie the knot. But does that mean they should follow suit? Narrated by Luc in a self-deprecating and often sarcastic first-person voice, the next phase in the men’s romance plays out with the help of their loyal but sometimes screwball friends. Family drama adds serious layers and provides an opportunity for soul-searching, even as Hall’s bouncy dialogue tumbles along through plenty of rom-com fun. As they grapple with their future, examining both compatibility and commitment, Luc and Oliver are amusing, authentic and eminently deserving of their happily ever after. 

Quarter to Midnight

Karen Rose’s latest romantic suspense novel, Quarter to Midnight, begins a new series set in New Orleans. When his father, a former police officer, dies under suspicious circumstances, chef Gabe Hebert hires a PI agency to look into the matter. Molly Sutton, former cop, former Marine and forever badass, takes on the case. A patron of Gabe’s renowned restaurant, she’s long admired his culinary skills and his good looks, and she’s committed to getting answers for him, no matter what she may uncover in the process. Rose always constructs an appealing team to aid her main couple and further engage the reader’s emotions; this time, the crew includes a brave young med student, a pair of canny brothers and two witty and determined older women. It’s a twisty, dangerous ride all the way to the end, with the French Quarter setting and the descriptions of Gabe’s food adding an extra je ne sais quoi to this entertaining read.

The long-awaited sequel to Boyfriend Material is finally here, plus two thrilling love stories in this month's romance column.
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★ Archangel’s Light

Nalini Singh pens an enthralling read in Archangel’s Light. Young warrior angels Illium and Aodhan are committed to putting the world to rights after a devastating supernatural war. Their archangel, Raphael, directs Aodhan to help rebuild the territory of China, which separates him from Illium, his oldest and dearest friend. But when Illium is sent to support the venture as well, the friends have an opportunity to confront new evil as well as old hurts. There’s a chilling mystery at the center of the story—a hamlet of 50 people seems to have vanished into thin air—but it’s the depiction of the relationship between Aodhan and Illium that drives the narrative. Singh depicts the angels’ history from infancy to their burgeoning adulthood. As she explores the strain that mars their connection, it’s impossible not to root for the pair to find their way back to each other’s hearts and souls—and into a new intimacy. This 14th romance in Singh’s Guild Hunter series is engrossing, entertaining and filled with tender emotion.

Never Fall for Your Fiancée

An earl’s attempts to appease his mother end up unleashing mayhem in Virginia Heath’s Never Fall for Your Fiancée. Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, will have an especially unwelcome guest for Christmas this year: his mother. For two years, he’s written to her about his pretend fiancée, and now she expects to meet this paragon. In a panic, Hugh propositions Minerva Merriwell, a woman he meets on the street. He offers to pay her to play the part of the lady he supposedly intends to marry, and desperate financial straits propel Minerva to agree. It’s all madcap fun from there with drunken actresses, sniping best friends and Minerva’s attempts to live up to Hugh’s florid descriptions of her accomplishments. Amid the chaos, Hugh and Minerva find time to get to know each other and fall in love, even though both believe forever is not in the cards. Heath’s fast-paced scenes and likable characters will leave fans of Regency romps smiling.

Pretty Little Lion

A racially, supernaturally and sexually diverse cast of characters springs from the pages of Pretty Little Lion, Suleikha Snyder’s follow-up to her bold, take-no-prisoners series starter Big Bad Wolf. Elijah Richter, co-founder of the Third Shift black ops group, is a lion shifter on a mission. He’s tasked with seducing Meghna Saxena-Saunders and discovering what her criminal boyfriend is planning. But Elijah soon learns that Meghna is more than a pretty face. She’s an apsara, a supernaturally gifted assassin and spy who uses her powers of seduction and persuasion to take down evil men. The plot moves at the speed of light, and the four point-of-view characters are as interesting as they are lethal. Snyder’s assured, contemporary voice doesn’t shy away from the political parallels between our reality and her dystopian America, making the otherwise fantastical, cinematic story feel very topical indeed. Readers will root for the good guys, even the ones who have only recently joined their ranks, in this steamy, thrilling paranormal romance with a heart of gold. 

Think all paranormal love stories are the same? Two of the books in this month’s romance column will change your mind.
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History and art criticism, with a dash of memoir thrown in, Robert Clark’s Dark Water chronicles how the flood of November 4, 1966 – in which four million books, 14,000 works of art and 16 miles of documents were either damaged or destroyed – came to define the Italian city of Florence. Clark begins with a history of the city: its literary and artistic greats, its sins, its transformation into a tourist haven, and of course, its centuries of flooding. With each catastrophe, Florence’s residents were quick to place blame on God, their politicians or their immoral lifestyles.

Clark continues his layered account with profiles of the residents, artists and volunteer “mud angels” who began to salvage Florence’s treasures that November as the Arno River rushed by, improvising conservation and restoration on the spot. Throughout his evocative, detailed prose, he reflects on the city’s character and the ephemeral nature of beauty itself.

History and art criticism, with a dash of memoir thrown in, Robert Clark’s Dark Water chronicles how the flood of November 4, 1966 – in which four million books, 14,000 works of art and 16 miles of documents were either damaged or destroyed – came to define the Italian city of Florence. Clark begins with […]

You know what improves most things? Kissing. And if you, dear Private Eye July reader, would like your mysteries and thrillers to be improved by kissing, romantic suspense is here for you. A subgenre of romance that invests just as much time in high-octane action or clever whodunits as it does in its central love story, romantic suspense often comes in series that follow the adventures of a team, or track characters through their many difficult cases.

And if you’d like your mysteries or thrillers to be improved by kissing and magic, then jump to the second half of our list for an introduction to the thrills of paranormal romance.

Romantic Suspense

If you wished classic action movies focused on romance and foiling bad guys in equal measure, these are the series for you.


Black Knights Inc.
Author: Julie Ann Walker
Premise: The Black Knights are a black ops group on a mission from the government, and their cover is a motorcycle shop. These books are the literary equivalent of a delightfully ridiculous, globetrotting spy thriller.
Number of books: 12.
Where to start: Hell on Wheels, where Black Knights member Nate “Ghost” Weller risks blowing his cover when the love of his life, Ali Morgan, comes into town and needs his help.


Author: Marie Force
Premise: Did you watch “Scandal” and wish that Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald Grant would stop going back and forth and just get their lives together? This is the series for you. Sam Holland is a brilliant police detective, and Nick Cappuano is the fling from her past. Sam solves D.C. murders, which gets progressively more complicated as Nick climbs the political ladder.
Number of books: 16 (there's also a second series starring the same characters, First Family)
Where to start: Fatal Affair—the first book of the series starts when Sam is called in to investigate the murder of Senator John O’Connor, Nick’s boss.

The O’Malleys
Author: Katee Robert
Premise: Do you want the thrills of romantic suspense without any pesky black-and-white morality? Then, my slightly scary friend, the Mafia romance is for you. This Boston-set series is outrageously sexy and features men and women of organized crime. Because feminism is for everyone.
Number of books: Six.
Where to start: The Marriage Contract, which starts when mob scion Teague O’Malley is ordered to marry Callista Sheridan in order to increase the family’s influence.



Paranormal Romance

If you’ve never read a paranormal romance, you probably think most of the genre is like Twilight for adults. But actually, the vast majority of paranormals follow the same action-packed beats of traditional romantic suspense, just with added magical intrigue.


Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
Premise: One of the founding series of urban fantasy as well as one of the longest-running paranormal series, Hamilton’s increasingly complex tales center on a vampire hunter/detective and her romantic entanglements. You’ll want to start at the very beginning with these.
Number of books: 25, with the 26th coming out this August.
Where to start: Guilty Pleasures, which sees Anita take on her very first case and get entangled with a very sexy vampire master.

Author: Lynsay Sands
Premise: A modern family of vampires battle evil and find love in this series of loosely connected romances. If you’re looking for a series that’s a little more light-hearted than some of the angstier offerings, the Argeneau books are for you.
Number of books: 27, with number 28 coming out later this year.
Where to start: A Quick Bite, whose vampire heroine faints at the sight of blood (told you these were funny) and gave the series its name.


Kate Daniels
Author: Ilona Andrews
Premise: After an apocalyptic event, magic comes in disruptive waves. One moment, technology works, the next it fails, and magic has to take its place. Kate Daniels is a mercenary in chaotic Atlanta, where magical creatures run amok.
Number of books: 10, with the final book coming out next month.
Where to start: Magic Bites, in which Kate gets caught between necromancers and shapechangers, both of which blame each other for a series of murders.


Author: Nalini Singh
Premise: Even if you don’t read romance, you’ve probably heard of Singh’s long-running series. The name comes from two races at odds, but frequently falling in Romeo and Juliet-esque love. The Psy rule the world with their frightening psychic powers, and disdain all emotion. Their rivals are the changelings, shape shifters who live in close family units.
Number of books: 17 so far.
Where to start: Slave to Sensation—a love story between Psy Sascha, who has to hide her emotions from the rest of her race, and panther shifter Lucas that blooms while their respective peoples are on the verge of war.

You know what improves most things? Kissing. And if you, dear Private Eye July reader, would like your mysteries and thrillers to be improved by kissing, romantic suspense is here for you.

Jayne Ann Krentz is back with the second installment of her Fogg Lake trilogy, All the Colors of the Night. This smart, witty, fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable romantic suspense novel has all of Krentz’s signature touches: gender equality, cooperative teamwork and an unexpected twist.

The small town of Fogg Lake, Washington, is secretly home to a cadre of interesting people who have paranormal abilities. North Chastain is a paranormal investigator who’s at risk of going “psi-blind,” which means that he would not only lose his job but also have to forge a new path in the normal world. But that won’t stop him from recovering a mysterious artifact that he believes sent his father, who was also on the relic’s trail, into a coma. To find the artifact, he partners up with Sierra Raines, who works as a middleman for buyers and sellers in the paranormal antiquities trade.

Sierra is no timid, naive woman. She understands the risks that come with going after a particularly sought-after object like the one North seeks, but she's brave and sticks with him when the danger begins to escalate. Sierra saves the day—several times—and North is mature enough to be grateful and intelligent enough to recognize her skills. Sierra’s strength does not diminish North’s; rather, it enhances it. Their partnership is refreshingly and unquestionably one of equals.

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, The Vanishing, don’t let that put you off. This easy-to-follow romantic suspense novel has a breathtaking pace, well-developed characters and great chemistry between its main couple.

Jayne Ann Krentz is back with the second installment of her Fogg Lake trilogy, All the Colors of the Night.

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Katherine “Kit” Wescott is a rebel with a trust fund, a white-hat hacker and a pacifist who knows only one response to authority: defiance. Castle Kinkade is a wounded warrior who’s dedicated his life to his country, and currently serves as a field operative for a secretive government organization. In Until the End, the third book in former military intelligence officer Juno Rushdan’s Final Hour series, the two reluctantly join forces when the group Kit founded gets unwittingly implicated in a plot to release a biological weapon of mass destruction on American soil. As they work to stop the attack and clear her name, an undeniable attraction springs up between these two very different protagonists.

It’s a delicious setup for a union of opposites: on any other day in the D.C. jungle, Kit and Castle would be competitors, not collaborators. She’s chaos, and he’s order; they’re more natural enemies than lovers. Castle sees himself as the good guy, but to Kit, he looks suspiciously like the predators she’s been trying to avoid. And yet, despite competing agendas and differing worldviews, Kit and Castle find much to like in each other. Castle admires Kit’s intelligence and fierceness as much as her face and figure. Kit appreciates Castle’s integrity (and his “brawny” good looks), but more importantly she trusts him, instinctively and implicitly, with her life, even though she’s not used to trusting anyone.

As the two work to stop the plot, their attraction grows, thriving on a combustible combination familiar to readers of romantic suspense: adrenaline, a common threat and close forced proximity. Both their conflict and their connection are convincing. Yet Kit and Castle are hardly the book’s only attraction. Until the End boasts a diverse cast of secondary characters, none of whom are superfluous. Though the story is told in third person, Rushdan provides access to the inner lives and perspectives of a wide range of actors in this drama—Kit’s irreverent and frequently funny voice makes for a nice change of pace given the book’s intensity. When she first meets Castle, Kitt likens him to both Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and “a satanic cult leader” in her head.

On top of that, the action scenes are incredibly vivid, even cinematic. I felt my heart race at several moments while reading, and at one point my smart watch had to remind me to breathe. Rushdan may be taking liberties with reality—the agency Castle works for is a shadowy, unofficial one, much like the fictional B-613 of “Scandal”—but these embellishments don’t undermine the overall relevance of the plot.

Until the End is not a perfect book—it’s set in the world of politics, yet scrupulously apolitical, and the action and complicated twists threaten to overwhelm the romance at times. Still, the characters and momentum easily propel the reader through. The combination of arresting action, realistic high-stakes conflict, romance and light humor makes Until the End an intensely absorbing romantic thriller.

Katherine “Kit” Wescott is a rebel with a trust fund, a white-hat hacker and a pacifist who knows only one response to authority: defiance. Castle Kinkade is a wounded warrior who’s dedicated his life to his country, and currently serves as a field operative for a secretive government organization. In Until the End, the third book […]

HelenKay Dimon takes readers back to the intriguing world of remote Whitaker Island, Washington in The Secret She Keeps. The same nosy group of colorful islanders also returns, evidence of the fact that even in a small community, away from the rush of a big city, there’s no such thing as down (or quiet) time. But it’s the killer lurking in the bushes, so to speak, that serves as a swift reminder that no matter how far you run, the past always catches up.

Nearly two years after the death of his sister Alexis, Connor Rye finally relocates to Whitaker Island from Washington, D.C., to be closer to his brother and remaining family. Although the beautiful island seems serene on the surface, he’s no stranger to its shadows. Not only was Alexis murdered; someone breaks into his cabin and attacks him on his first night, giving fair warning that he needs to leave. Maddie Rhine has her own secrets—chief among them the fact that she’s on the run and living under a false identity. With the attack on Connor, it’s obvious Whitaker Island once again faces a dangerous interloper, and since Maddie’s a suspicious element, she may be in danger too.

Dimon is a master at world building, and often writes heroic characters who find greatness within, rather than individuals who are weighed down with chests and walls full of medals. Everyday heroics are just as important as strong men and women who can leap single bounds—everyday heroics keep the world going. And something is definitely amiss on Whitaker Island. That much was clear from the first book in the series, Her Other Secret, and readers get an immersion course in murder and mayhem with this second installment.

In the end, The Secret She Keeps is a complex story of love and grief, forgiveness and fresh starts. It’s a perfect story with which to wrap up the decade and forge a new path in the New Year. HelenKay Dimon is definitely on my keeper shelf.

HelenKay Dimon takes readers back to the intriguing world of remote Whitaker Island, Washington in The Secret She Keeps.

Simon Cowell used to tell singers he loved on “American Idol” that they could “sing the phone book” to him and he’d be happy. I feel the same way about Rebecca Zanetti—she could regale me with a trip to the grocery store and I’m sure it would be spectacular.

Zanetti's books span the gamut of subgenres in romance, vacillating primarily between paranormal and (my favorite) romantic suspense. With Fallen, she brings us back to the Deep Ops world for another installment of awesomeness. By now, two and a half books into the series, we’ve seen Raider Tanaka a couple of times. He’s a good guy, really, but he’s got a dark, sexy, implacable core that calls out to his teammate Brigid Banaghan. They’re both part of the secret deep operations unit HDD, and while they’re total opposites in most things, neither are there because the division was their ultimate goal. Raider slept with the wife of his former supervisor and Brigid’s a world-class hacker avoiding jail time. Now they’re working together, posing as a real-life betrothed couple to get an “in“ with the Irish mob that Brigid's father used to run with.

All the hallmarks of a Zanetti book (which cause a Pavlovian response in me any time I see her books on the shelves) are present: richly developed characters, robust plots, exciting suspense and hot, sexy times. She is, quite simply, one of my favorite authors and the world is all the better for having her in it.

Simon Cowell used to tell singers he loved on “American Idol” that they could “sing the phone book” to him and he’d be happy. I feel the same way about Rebecca Zanetti—she could regale me with a trip to the grocery store and I’m sure it would be spectacular.

Because I’m a firm believer of an endless supply of second chances, I’m a sucker for a story about redemption. So Lexi Blake’s Evidence of Desire was exactly what I wanted in a romance.

Isla Shayne is the personal lawyer for NFL living legend, Trey Adams, who suffers from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (or CTE) and is accused of murdering his wife. Blake treats this very real issue with great respect, and instead of handling it with kid gloves, delves right into the realities of dealing with such a debilitating disease and its unpredictable nature.

Knowing she’s in over her head given the criminal charges leveled against her client, Isla calls in defense attorney David Cormack. As a former football player and Harvard-educated attorney, he’s the perfect person to defend Trey, but it also puts the specter of his own potential for developing CTE front and center in his mind. It wreaks havoc on David’s psyche and his ability to trust his rapidly growing feelings for Isla. If not for her bravery in opening her heart to David, they might never experience more from each other than a sexy one-night stand.

Both Isla and David are compelling, complex characters. Both have experienced the highs and lows of football—David as a player, and Isla as the former fiancé of a player who died from leukemia. But whereas David drags his feet at the thought of involving someone he loves into a life that could turn out like Trey Adams’, Isla faces her feelings with a hard-won knowledge that you have to live—and love—for today.

Evidence of Desire is a finely tuned blend of sexy romance and dramatic suspense, with a deep lineup of captivating characters. Blake sets an exciting pace that twists and turns, and surprises the reader with an unexpected reveal late in the game. You’ll need to budget your time with this book, because it is un-put-down-able.

Because I’m a firm believer of an endless supply of second chances, I’m a sucker for a story about redemption. So Lexi Blake’s Evidence of Desire was exactly what I wanted in a romance.

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