With the hottest summer on record almost behind us, it’s a relief to bring the sizzle inside with the air conditioning. These sexy romantic suspenses haven’t helped, either. Bodyguards and cops and soldiers, oh my! Cooler weather’s on the horizon, but a good romantic suspense will still make you break you out in a sweat.
Cold Hearted by Toni Anderson:
I love Anderson’s books, and am always super excited whenever she’s got a new one. Cold Hearted is the sixth installation of her Cold Justice series, and each one gets better and better. As usual, both of the main characters are written with equal strength and flaws, and with such depth. It’s as captivating to watch Detective Erin Donovan and FBI Agent Darsh Singh develop as it is the plot. Of particular interest is the racism Darsh faces, both at work and as part of a bi-racial couple. Erin and Darsh are working together on a serial killer/rapist case, and having been involved years ago, the tension between the two is palpable. I love this description:
He’d been circling her like a planet around its star since he’d arrived, and no matter he told himself it was about the case, that was a lie. And he wanted to get closer. Much closer.
Mercury Striking by Rebecca Zanetti and Shadow Falling by Rebecca Zanetti:
These books are part of Rebecca Zanetti’s Scorpius Syndrome series. And ohmygod, they’re wonderful. I don’t typically read sci-fi or paranormal books, but if it’s by Zanetti, I’m going to read it. This is like Mad Max on crack and written the way it’s supposed to be written. Whoa, mama, it’s hot. I absolutely love really smart plots, and so appreciate Zanetti’s creativity in developing a series that is a little ripped from the headlines. Scorpius Syndrome is the result of a bacteria that has spread like wildfire after a meteor strikes the Earth. It affects everyone differently – some people died outright, some became enhanced and some turned into killers.
She’d trusted a man once, and the fever had destroyed him. Or perhaps it had merely brought out the sociopath that had always been lurking inside him. Now she’d made her bed, literally, with another soldier, another strategist, another deadly man who’d survived the fever. A man raised on the streets who fought dirty and would do anything to follow whatever path he decided was just.
I’m neither a gun person nor a prepper, but when the shit hits the fan and the apocalypse hits, I want to sidle up to a man like Jax Mercury and Raze Shadow. Like all of Zanetti’s other books that I’ve enjoyed, her characters are balanced and the plots are exciting. What it really comes down to is she’s just a good storyteller.
On the Edge by Shannon Stacey:
I’ve enjoyed Shannon Stacey’s Devlin Group series so far, and this second installment is my favorite. I like the setup: Tony Cassavetti is coming off of a tough assignment, headed for a mandatory company-wide meeting. He’s being picked up by Devlin’s executive administrator Charlotte Rhames, who is often on the open comm with him during missions. She throws him for a loop at the airport because she is nothing like he expects a secretary to be. Once the meeting begins, chaos quickly ensues. Not only does Alex Rossi drop an unexpected bomb, but a real bomb strikes while everyone’s guard is down. In pursuing a rogue agent, Tony and Charlotte follow him to Greece where they come face-to-face with ghosts from her past. The pace is fast, the characters compelling, the story intriguing.
Flash Fire by Dana Marton
Dana Marton is new to me, but when the description likened her to my favorite, Linda Howard, I knew I had to take a chance. This was a great story—it started hot and kept up the pace through the end. Check out this opening line:
Nothing work up a man as quickly in the morning as a scorpion in his pants.
Right? As a child of the 80s, I love any story set in the jungle. It’s so … Schwarzenegger. Marton spins a tale of interrupted revenge that leaves the reader hanging by a thin wire. Will Light Walker mete out his revenge? Will Clara Roberts find her missing person? Hopefully you’ll read this one like I did: voraciously.
Identity Crisis by Rochelle Paige
This one has a cool premise: a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time. Blaine West is on assignment overseas when his former girlfriend, Serena, texts asking for help and a place to hide out. He get puts her in touch with a colleague, but when Blaine arrives at the hotel in Atlanta where they’re to meet, Selena is nowhere to be found. In her place is Delia Sinclair, murdered. Only, Delia’s not the dead woman; Selena is. So you know Blaine had to find the real Delia, to figure out what the real deal was.
Odds were damn good she was an innocent in this whole damn mess—someone in the wrong place at the wrong time. I couldn’t let it matter to me, though. The fact of the matter was she was already a part of this clusterfuck. The second Serena checked into a hotel under her name, she was involved. And if Serena had been able to pass for Delia, then the opposite was true and I just might have to use her as bait to draw the bad guys out.
Gone too Deep by Katie Ruggle:
The third installation of her Search and Rescue series is a good one, with a cheeky city girl from Chicago and a quiet mountain man from Denver … a real story of opposites attracting. Ellie Price’s father has struggled with mental health issues her whole life, and but when she gets a panicky call from him one night, telling her he’s going into hiding at a remote mountain cabin, the situation feels different enough that it spurs her into action. She rolls into Denver and winds up with a mountain of a mountain man, George Holloway, of a guide. George has lived alone in his family’s cabin since he was a teenager, and by nature is prone to silence. But it’s okay because Ellie is perfectly willing to fill the silence with chatter, and speak up for George when necessary. When it turns out her dad’s reason for hiding isn’t a total figment of his imagination, things get dicey. Fortunately George is big and strong, and early on decided Ellie was his. I like how synchronized George and Ellie’s situation becomes. She’s intuitive enough to know what he means, and he’s animated enough to show what needs. I think it’s so clever how Ruggle was able to use silence to fill in the story like a sculptor uses negative space to complete a sculpture.
The Gun Runner by Scott Hildreth:
First of all, a dude wrote this. Kudos to any man who buys into reading—much less writing—romances, they're a rare beast in Romancelandia. Subtle phrasing and the underlying menace of the characters piqued my awareness of Hildreth being a man, but he writes a fine suspenseful romance. The gun runner is Michael Tripp, who makes his decisions based on what he believes to be right, and that makes for a very subjective opinion at times. His lady love is Terra Agrioli, and she’s a mafia princess. Michael doesn’t want to get involved with the mafia, and Terra doesn’t want Michael to know her father is the Godfather. On paper, both characters have the potential to be mindless harbingers of violence and death. But both are relieved to find happiness and love in the chaos of their lives.
I was well aware that we weren’t filming an action movie, and I wasn’t at war. Regardless of my chosen profession, I fully realized living in the civilian world limited my ability to react with deadly force.
With the large number of soldiers coming home and getting out of the military, I found Michael’s shift from soldier to gun runner to be a realistic possibility. The whole book is written in first person, but flips from Michael to Terra from chapter to chapter. It was a little weird at first to shift POVs, but in the end it offered an interesting insight to the story.
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Dolly Sickles is a Southerner with a lifelong penchant for storytelling. Her Secret Squirrel identity is Dolly Sickles, but she also writes romance as Becky Moore, and this year her first children’s book will be published as Dolly Dozier. She’s an avid reader of all literature, but she takes refuge in the romance genre, where despite the most grandiose, exhilarating, strange, and unlikely plot that’s out there, every story has a happy ending.