Book Review: “Shadows in the Mind’s Eye” by Janyre Tromp

Tromp’s debut was a pleasant surprise and I especially enjoyed the Southern voice she adopted. It’s the 1940s in the small town of Hot Springs and Sam Mattas has just returned from war suffering with combat fatigue (which we now know as PTSD). He arrives unexpectedly to an empty house which sets the scene for much of the early tension of the story.

Annie, his wife, returns from town to find Sam asleep in the barn and even though warmly welcomed it’s clear not all is as it should be. Annie has been well supported in Sam’s absence by his brother, Peter, and best friend, Doc and immediately he senses he’s the misfit. Sam also returns to his daughter, Rosie, who he hasn’t met, she being born soon after his departure for war.

The first half of the story focuses on the tension between Annie and Sam as they seek to settle into their new lives together. But his combat fatigue keeps getting in the way making both of them question his sanity and her safety. Doc’s strong friendship with Annie also adds cause for unease.

In parallel, there’s this undercurrent of corruption that is rife within the town and how Sam, at one point, was involved in it to some extent being employed by Annie’s father, The Judge, who happens to be up to his eyeballs in no good working for the Mayor who encourages it. Or is he?

A lot can happen in 3 years; people change, towns change.

A story that starts as a relatively sleepy small town tale of a marriage reunion suddenly takes off in the second half to a thrilling suspenseful one that makes the reader keep turning the pages. It’s tremendous writing as the twists and turns keep on coming. Who are the good guys and who can you trust?

The characters are rich in their portrayal and Tromp demonstrates her story telling skills with the deftness in which we are kept guessing.

I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook version of the story from Kregel via NetGalley as a result of being part of Audra Jennings PR Blogging tour. This had no impact on my review.

Book Review: The Catch by Lisa Harris

This final story pulls together all the loose threads the first 2 stories leftover. Like all Harris stories, this one starts fast and doesn’t let up. Going back to one of Harris’s stories is always a joy for this reason – it’s consistent pace. She keeps the reader turning pages.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Madison and Jonas’s characters arcs. The 3 stories provide the page depth to really develop characters and Harris does this marvellously with these two. We finally get to discover who killed Madison’s husband, Luke, and her stalker, but Harris sure keeps us guessing with this one.

This story had so much going on and Harris does a good job keeping the reader on top of it. It could easily have run out of control but Harris links the threads of the various plots really well. I was a little surprised by a couple of the end outcomes but they are all generally satisfying.

If you’re a romantic suspense reader who likes to be challenged in their reading you’ll enjoy this US Marshalls series. Start with Book 1 so you get the full picture.

I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook copy via NetGalley as part of the Revell Readers program but this had no bearing on my review.

Book Review: Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin







This is my first Sundin novel and wow, I realise I’ve been missing out on a wonderful story teller. Set in 1941 in German-occupied Paris, we meet Lucie Girard and Paul Aubrey, two Americans who choose to stay in Paris to serve the war effort in different ways. Lucie, a ballerina at the esteemed Paris Opera Ballet, retires from her great love to purchase a bookshop of her much loved friends, the Greenblatts. They are Jewish and sensibly choose to return to America.

Paul, a widower, elects to convert his successful automobile factory into one that builds civilian trucks for the Germans. Or so he believes. But in so doing, he also elects to use his esteemed position in Parisian society to spy on the Germans and feed the information back to his American comrades.

On first meeting, Lucie and Paul have an immediate attraction but she is opposed to the fact he is a German collaborator. Gradually, circumstances change and she too becomes a willing member of the resistance using her bookshop as a front for the distribution of messages. Paul’s daughter, Josie, plays a pivotal role in capturing Lucie’s heart and in so doing forcing the two of them to keep meeting. But how can Lucie let down her strong stance against Paul being a collaborator?

Sundin writes beautifully and brings the Paris of 1941 alive. It’s definitely a bit more grim than one comes to typically expect from the City of Lights. I learnt much about the German occupation of this wonderful city that I wasn’t previously aware and its impact on its residents and society in general.

The romance is very special. Sundin brings the passion and beauty of new love and the hope and wonder that goes with it. It was wonderfully portrayed on the page.

There is suspense, some good conflict, and plenty of twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing as to what the outcome will be. Will our two lovers finally be able to declare their love and be united?

I must now read some of Sundin’s early works.

I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook copy of the novel from the publisher via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: ‘The Girl who Could Breathe Under Water’ by Erin Bartels

Following her bestselling debut novel, Kendra Brennan, is in a writing slump. She puts it down to the receipt of an inflammatory note from “A Very Disappointed Reader”. Believing she had a hunch to the identity of the note writer, Kendra decides to return to her old holiday cabin on the lake. She now owns it having inherited it from her loving grandfather who had recently passed away.

The story starts with Kendra ‘thinking’ in the second person to her old best friend, Cami, who she spent many wonderful summers as teenagers. However, they haven’t seen each other since the last time Kendra visited the lake, eight years ago. It was an unusual method of sharing the story but I found it tremendous and worked relatively seamlessly when Kendra jumped into 1st person POV.

I was quickly engrossed by Kendra’s recollections of her past summers and her relationships with the Rainier family: father Robert, mother Beth, and adopted children: Cami and Tyler. ‘That Summer’, her breakout smash debut story included many fictionalised elements of these summers on the lake. All the Rainiers, bar Cami, have returned for the summer. Kendra realises she must confront each of them to ascertain which one of them may be the “Disappointed Reader.”

Kendra’s on a tight deadline for her second novel and as she endeavours to start it along comes a stranger, Andreas, who has arrived announced to translate her debut into German. They soon develop a friendship as well as a professional connection.

This is an emotionally gripping story as Kendra confronts people and issues in her past that are terribly challenging. She discovers much about each one of her relationships with the Rainier family. Some of them indeed are quite a shock. But it’s what Kendra discovers about herself which I found most stirring. Self-absorption is one of our great struggles as humans and it’s in both returning to her past and drafting her second story that Kendra is able to self-discover much about herself. Further, the notion of stepping into another’s shoes before casting judgement or criticism is another valuable insight for Kendra.

Kendra’s fortunate to have a supportive ally in Andreas who demonstrates so many positive attributes in his gentleness and kindness while a certain naivety in the romance department.

It’s a powerful story that was so pleasurable to read as Bartels deals with some tremendously important personal matters which many of us can all relate to.

Bartels characters are very beautifully crafted humans, no cardboard cutouts here. Robert and Beth’s marriage, Tyler’s struggles as a child, Kendra and Cami’s friendship, Andreas’ passion for stories and willingness to listen to someone tell theirs, are all wonderfully brought to the stage.

I loved this story for its intricacy, powerful themes, wonderful writing which kept us guessing and the cast of characters.

I fell very blessed to have received an early ebook copy of the story from Revell as party of their Readers Program via NetGalley. This has no influence over my review.

Book Review: “Deadly Target” by Elizabeth Goddard

I’d read the first one in this series but this could be read as a standalone. The main characters in the first story are really just ‘bit’ players in this one and the plots aren’t related.

It took a little while to get into this story as the initial inciting event didn’t connect for me until later in the story. Goddard makes this quite an involved story with various potential possibilities for the antagonist which keeps you on your toes but also perhaps could have been connected with a little more precision.

I liked Erin Larson and Nathan Campbell. I particularly appreciated Erin’s anxieties and we spend a bit of time in her head as she grapples with her past and also running away from Nathan once before. Nathan is a good cop chasing after his father’s killer when specifically asked not to by his boss which makes him wonder whether his boss knows more than he’s letting on.

There’s some dramatic action with dam’s being blown up and chasing down mines which really keeps us guessing especially when everyone’s in darkness.

The suspense ratchets up in the end but it wrapped up a little quickly for me and the fact we need to be ‘told’ the who, what and why tells me the plot could have been more precise and easier for the reader to determine all the connections.

I enjoyed reading it and I look forward to the final in the series.

I received an early ebook copy as part of the Revell Readers Blogging Program via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: “The Debutante’s Code” by Erica Vetsch

This was a delightful surprise for me. A Regency novel full of mystery and amateur sleuthing. I happily turned the pages as Lady Juliette, the debutante of the title, discovers her extended family is more than it seems.

Lady Juliette returns to London after 7 years at a Swiss school and is hoping to be met by her parents whom she hasn’t seen for the duration. However, they have disappeared to the family country estate on urgent business and Lady Juliette finds she will be escorted to her ‘coming out to society’ ball by her uncle, who has been tasked with looking after her.

It’s not long before mayhem erupts from one posh gathering to the next as a series of recently arrived artwork is being mysteriously stolen. It’s a lot of fun as our debutante gets stuck in the middle of it all and is thrown into the world of amateur sleuthing under the stewardship of her uncle.

Enter Daniel Swann, a local police detective who is tasked with investigating these thefts. But he is on his last chance to deliver for his pompous boss, or else he’ll be looking for a new vocation. It will take all of his intelligence and a share of good fortune for him to track down those responsible.

There a moments of madcap and suspense as a number of different players are caught up in the mayhem. Vetsch does a wonderful job keeping is on our toes with various layers of intrigue that keeps us guessing as to the culprit.

Juliette is a delightful character who is easy to like, so to Daniel, and we are left with many possibilities of what might eventuate in Book 2 of this fascinating and cleverly written series. I can’t wait to see where Vetsch takes us next.

I was very fortunate to be receive an early ebook copy as part of Audra Jennings blogging tour via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: “Tacos for Two” by Betsy St.Amant

“You’ve Got Mail” is a movie I watch regularly as there is so much to like about it. ‘Tacos’ borrows from it in many ways including a romance that starts via online messaging (as against AOL email), the two lead characters duelling over similar career paths (this one Mexican food trucks), Rory Perez inspired by her great aunt and Jude Worthington coming from a rich pompous family, the patriarch of which is not a very nice fellow.

It was an easy fun read with two well crafted lead characters in Rory and Jude plus a supporting cast that had plenty of likeable people especially on Rory’s side. Like Rory and Jude looked forward to their ‘night time messaging date’ I looked forward to the next instalment in their cooking adventures and the will she/he, won’t she/he combative nature of their initial in-person connection.

One of the great aspects of the movie is that after initially sparring and hurting each other, the two characters: Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox, spent time getting to know each other as regular friends do. This didn’t really happen in this story and St. Amant relied on the online connection to initiate healing in Rory and Jude’s relationship. Hence, it wasn’t as believable and tended to rely on the electricity of physical touch and passionate kisses.

Overall, I enjoyed Tacos for Two and if you’re someone who loves ‘You’ve Got Mail’ you’ll certainly enjoy whiling away some hours reading this enjoyable romance.

I was fortunate to receive an early ebook copy from Revell via NetGalley as part of the former’s ‘Revell Read’s” bloggers program with no expectation of a positive review.

Book Review: The Chase by Lisa Harris

We catch up with Madison James and Jonas Quinn three months after the end of The Escape. Madison has recovered physically from her wounds but it’s clear she is still struggling emotionally with not knowing who shot her and how they’re linked to her late husband’s killer.

She isn’t given any time to quietly settle back into the job as the partners are immediately called into a bank robbery that is going down. These robbers serve to form the backbone of the plot for the story. On escaping capture, the foursome thrill seekers separate and send Madison and Jonas on a series of illusive chases as they endeavour to avoid jail time.

Like all her stories, Harris keeps the pace fast as we move from scene to scene on the hunt for these wily robbers. Meanwhile, the connection between our two US Marshalls continues to develop and grow and for one of them in particular, taking their friendship to something more becomes increasingly desirable. I like how Harris is developing this relationship. It’s a bit like those classic old detective TV shows where the romantic tension between the two leads is ever present and you wonder that it’s just a matter of time before they get together.

I loved racing all around Seattle and exploring its sights as well as some pretty islands further north close to the Canadian border.

We’re left hanging at the end of the story on all levels which makes me want the third and final instalment to arrive quickly so I can see how everything gets wrapped up.

I received an early ebook copy of the book from the publisher as part of their Revell Reads Program via NetGalley with not expectation of a positive review.

Book Review: Come Back to Me by Jody Hedlund

This is my first Hedlund novel and judging by other reviewers this is a bit of a step away from her usual stories. Well, I certainly enjoyed this one and am looking forward to the sequel.

Time travel is always fun to read and Hedlund did a good job outlining how one travels from one era to another: modern England back to 1381 England. Hedlund gives us a fabulous view of the 1300s and the Peasant Revolt which Marian Creighton arrived in the middle of. As Marian, like us, is familiar with the current times, we’re all given a great education into the vast differences of medieval Canterbury. It was captivating to read.

The story actually has a great deal of suspense too which kept me turning pages. Will Marian find the source of the holy water and sufficient ampullae so she can both return to current times and heal her sister? The Peasant Revolt adds another layer of suspense plus a good dollop of fear with the cruelty of the leaders being ever present.

But perhaps what I reflect most on is the romance between Marian and Will Burnham. It’s really delightful to read. His chivalry, her strength of character and his willingness to allow Marian to be herself was good to read. The sensuality between the two is well written too. I suspect there’ll be some readers who’ll think it too much but I actually thought it added to the realism of the story and to its suspense. Will Marian and Will’s love be allowed to flourish or will Marian return to the future and be forever wondering what if?

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I’m keen to read the followup to see what happens next.

I received an early complimentary ebook copy as part of the Revell Reads blogger program via NetGalley with no expectation of a positive review.

Book Review: The Paris Betrayal by James R. Hannibal

This novel started with a bang just like you want a spy thriller to start. Bullets flying, bad guys fleeing, good guys mission isn’t as successful as planned and the fate of the world is in Ben Calix’s hands. Plus, we get some inside tips from the ‘How to be a Successful Spy Training Manual’ (in italics) which I really enjoyed.

We’re soon taken on a series of fast chases throughout Europe and Hannibal’s descriptions of the various settings were tremendous in helping us feel we were in the scene. Having travelled a few times to Paris I particularly loved ‘going back’ especially to my favourite cathedral, Notre Dame, and to be taken inside while it’s being repaired was a special treat.

The pace is relentless as Ben’s mission keeps being thwarted by both the bad guys but also apparently by his employer who has ‘set him afloat without a paddle’. The obstacles he confronts become increasingly dire especially as his support crew seem to have abandoned him or get seemingly eliminated.

In the background, we get a very cagey sense of the bad guys, a nefarious organisation dubbed Leviathan led by someone that goes by the moniker, Jupiter.

Surprisingly, I found after the first 100 or so pages I was struggling to stay interested. And this stayed with me for most of the novel which bothered me. As I would usually love this kind of story. By the end of the story I realised why I had this strange experience. Three reasons:

  • I really wasn’t that invested in Ben and his mission. I think all the action and obstacles denied Ben and the reader sufficient time to breathe so we could get to know the guy.
  • the bad guys were too nebulous for me. They only appeared a handful of times in discreet conversations between Jupiter and his side kick, Terrance, so we really didn’t get to know why they were doing what they planned.
  • the supporting cast were many and only flitted in and out of the story for a short period so again we never invested in them. Ben has a love interest in Giselle and then Clara, and perhaps did a few years back for Tess, but we really never learn much about any of them. I really wanted to like Clara, in particular, and we get some insight into her when she gets to tell the story for a chapter or two, but it didn’t continue to maintain my interest.

I thought the ending was clever as it surprised me. The author’s note at the back gives some insight into the background behind Ben’s development but it didn’t quite gel for me.

Overall, this is a quality spy story and judging by the many other positive reviews is one that appeals to many people.

I received an early ebook copy from Revell via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.