Tag Archives: mystery thriller

Hero Haters by Ken MacQueen Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

After becoming the prime suspect in the disappearance of the finalists for the nation’s highest medal of valor for civilians, one man must put himself on the line to find and save these heroes from the sinister web they’ve been ensnared within author Ken MacQueen’s “Hero Haters”.

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The Synopsis

Jake Ockham had a dream job, vetting nominees for the Sedgewick Medallion—the nation’s highest civilian award for heroism. His own scarred hands are an indelible reminder of the single mother he failed to pull from a raging house fire; her face haunts him still. Obligations drag him back to his hometown to edit the family newspaper but attempts to embrace small-town life, and the hot new doctor, are thwarted by unknown forces. The heroes Jake vetted go missing and he becomes the prime suspect in the disappearances. Aided by resourceful friends, Jake follows a twisted trail to the Dark Web, where a shadowy group is forcing the kidnapped medalists to perform deadly acts of valor to amuse twisted subscribers to its website. To save his heroes, Jake must swallow his fears and become one himself…or die in the attempt. 

The Review

This brand-new thriller from a brand new author and seasoned journalist was absolutely fantastic. The author immediately showcased the strength of finding the right balance between character growth and suspense building. The atmosphere and tension really elevated the narrative here, capturing the shocking nature of the crimes and the fight for survival that takes place. The focus on “heroes”, and how we treat our heroes in the world is a great central theme to play into this thriller and did a great job of showcasing the humanity within our heroes.

The brilliant character development and escalating suspense were so well delivered. The chemistry between Tina and Jake as the story develops adds a hint of romance into the narrative, but the complexity of the protagonist’s struggle with his brush with heroism and the blend of guilt for those that couldn’t be saved, as well as the human faults all heroes still have in their daily lives that are often ignored in the wake of their heroism, made their development so mesmerizing to read about.

The Verdict

Thought-provoking, atmospheric, and entertaining, author Ken MacQueen’s “Hero Haters” is a must-read suspense thriller of 2022. The gripping blend of haunting dark web crime and the balance of morality with heroism as a whole made this such a rich and dynamic story to dive head first into, and readers will be hard-pressed to put this novel down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy or preorder by October 5th, 2022!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Before turning to fiction, Ken MacQueen spent 15 years as Vancouver bureau chief for Maclean’s, Canada’s newsmagazine, winning multiple National Magazine Awards and nominations. He travelled the world writing features and breaking news for the magazine, and previously for two national news agencies.

He has written extensively on crime, politics, disasters, both natural and man-made—and, being Canadian, on the shifting fortunes of Queen Elizabeth II and her clan. All of this is potential fodder for future fiction, though the Queen as action hero seems unlikely.

Hero Haters, set in the Pacific Northwest and rural Pennsylvania, is his debut thriller.

MacQueen covered nine Olympic Games and drew the athletic prowess of Jake Ockham, his protagonist, from tracking elite rowers in training and on podiums in Athens, Beijing and London.

He and his wife divide their time between North Vancouver and British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast.

kenmacqueen.com

Only Lies Remain (An Aoife Walsh Thriller Book 2) by Val Collins Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

The discovery of a body leads to old family secrets being unearthed, and a hunt for a killer who could very well be amongst Aoife Walsh’s family takes center stage in author Val Collins’s “Only Lies Remain”, the second book in the Aoife Walsh thriller series. 

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The Synopsis

Everyone thought Danny Walsh deserted his family when his sons were young. But when Danny’s body turns up fifteen years later and his wife, Maura, is implicated in his murder, accusations and old rumours surface.

Aoife rushes in to clear her mother-in-law’s name. But why is it that Maura’s story surrounding Danny’s disappearance doesn’t quite add up?

Aoife’s investigation uncovers old secrets, long-held jealousies, and lies upon lies. With every new revelation, Aoife realises she doesn’t know her family at all. Now her new boss is acting strangely, her best friend is more and more distant and her husband is no help at all.

With her support network crumbling and her family threatened, Aoife must race to keep one step ahead of danger before more innocent lives are lost. But how will she uncover the truth when only lies remain?

The Review

This was a captivating and thought-provoking thriller. As a newcomer to the series, I was immediately enthralled with the expansive cast of characters. Protagonist Aoife is such a brilliant presence in the narrative, providing both the determination and strength a thriller’s heroine is meant to have and yet infusing the vulnerability and emotional components that make her character feel well-rounded. The balance of everyday developments in her life, from her tumultuous relationship with her soon-to-be ex-husband and her desire to help her former mother-in-law, to her growing relationship with the lead investigator and the close friendship she has with Orla.

Yet it was the twisted narrative and haunting atmosphere the author built into this story that made the novel so captivating. The rich world-building and stark settings were brought to life brilliantly using powerful imagery and made it feel very cinematic in nature as if it could be turned into the newest BBC murder mystery and thriller series that takes the world by storm much like The Fall or Broadchurch. The chilling nature of the case and the personal connection the protagonist has to it allow the reader to feel the desperation and need to solve the case that drives this story forward.

The Verdict

Brilliantly written, complex yet inviting, and thoroughly entertaining, author Val Collins’s “Only Lies Remains” is a must-read murder mystery thriller. The twists and turns the narrative takes, as well as the shocking reveal of the killer and his or her motives, will have readers hanging off the edge of their seats, and the author’s skills and powerful command over the genre make her future in this industry something that cannot be ignored.  If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Val Collins is the author of the award-winning psychological thriller GIRL TARGETED and the No. 1 international bestsellers ONLY LIES REMAIN, THE SILENT SPEAK and WHERE LOYALTIES LIE. All four books are stand-alone thrillers and they can be read in any order.

Val has lived in Ireland her entire life, and graduated from University College Dublin. She enjoys chocolate, going for long walks in the countryside, seeing as much of the world as possible, meeting friends, writing, and reading. In fact, she devours books at the rate of one per week, and her favourite authors range from Philippa Gregory and Sophie Kinsella to Lee Child and Linwood Barclay.

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The Flower Enigma (Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles Book 5) by Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A man and woman seeking a quiet vacation away from their busy work lives find themselves instead embroiled in one crisis to another as the small town of Magnolia Bluff experiences a new round of intrigue and terror in authors Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey’s “The Flower Enigma”, the fifth book in the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicle series. 

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The Synopsis

JJ and Jo find the ideal spot to get away from their busy work lives—Magnolia Bluff offers Flower Bed & Breakfast, a quaint country destination within the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

They pull up to the picturesque building only to discover a crowd of citizens anxiously awaiting a special podcast, created by a group of local women, to start. Flower B&B is the sponsor of today’s show in this multi-day series. The couple works through the human log jam. As they check in, they learn that a cyber-attack may prevent the show from airing.

JJ, a technology guru, is convinced by Jo to help the group meet their broadcast promise. While he’s working on the issue, Jo spots a girl in the crowd with fear in her eyes who flashes the international help sign. The teenager vanishes into the throng. Fearful young people signaling for help strikes too close to home for Jo.

Their romantic vacation becomes a journey from one crisis to the next as these vacationers help the evangelizing ladies even as risks are multiplying. Threats expand to include all the podcasters, the show location owners, and suspected missing teens.

Authorities discount the gossipy group’s allegations that Mateo Hernandez built a wall around his property for more than privacy. JJ and Jo work to assemble the necessary clues to convince Chief Jager that Hernandez is a bigger menace. Their nosing around places them both in harm’s way. When Jo is attacked it becomes personal.

This romantic getaway isn’t even close to plan. Lives are at stake, and the young couple won’t accept failure.

The Review

This was such a thrilling and fun suspense thriller of a read. The blend of cyber-thriller and the cozy mystery was such a unique and captivating angle to keep the reader invested in this story, and the fast pace of the narrative gave readers an edge-of-their-seat feeling throughout the entirety of the narrative. The authors were able to find the right harmony of atmosphere that wove both lighthearted dialogues between the protagonists and the townspeople and tension-filled moments when delving into the darker mysteries at the heart of this narrative.

What drove this story, as often is the case with great cozy mystery reads, was the rich character dynamics of the book. The story’s opening chapters reflect this greatly, as Lilly, the owner of the Inn the protagonists are staying in, immediately shows a unique small-town charm as she carries on with grand storytelling and makes hilarious assumptions about people. The blend of humorous interactions like this and the twisted confrontations that arise later on made this story so engaging.

The Verdict

Captivating, thrilling, and engaging, authors Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey’s “The Flower Enigma” is a must-read cozy mystery meets suspense thriller read and a great addition to the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles series. The rich storytelling and entertaining characters of this small town mystery will have readers invested in this narrative, and the twists and turns it takes will keep you hanging off of the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Charles Breakfield is a renowned technology solutions architect with years of experience in security, cloud computer, hybrid data/telecom environments, artificial intelligence, and unified communications. He finds it intriguing to leverage his professional skills in writing the contemporary award-winning stories of the Enigma Series and the short stories he creates with his co-author.

Never one to sit still, he uses his spare time to explore books on World War II his¬tory, travel with his family, and cultural exchanges everywhere. Charles’ love of wine tastings, cooking creations on the grill like individual pizzas, and Harley riding are sometimes sprinkled throughout the Enigma Series.

Recently, Charles commented that being a part of his father’s military career stationed at various outposts, has positively contributed to the many characters in the stories. He enjoys exploring the various character perspectives and interactions pulling from real people. He accepted the challenge to try to teach Burkey humor which is also incorporated into many of the stories in an unexpected manner.

Burkey commented that If Charles is not creating a new story he paces like a caged tiger. So yes there is another story in the works. You can enjoy snippets of their stories, book trailers, audible sections, and get FREE stuff at www.EnigmaSeries.com.

Rox Burkey is the co-author of the 13 books in the Enigma Series. The prequel, Out of Poland, historical fiction released in 2021. In addition to her award winning novels and nurmerous short stories, she is a techologist by profession. She is known for helping business customers modernize and optimize customer experience (CX) with processes, technology shifts, and building roadmaps to success. Nothing makes her workday go better than for a customer to indicate she helped reach their business goals. She is adept at learning the drivers for customers and helping to measure their success as well as adjust their journey using CX principles.

Rox loves writing fiction as much if not more than her professional job. More than once she has been a featured speaker, workshop leaders, subject matter expert, interviewer, podcaster, book reviewer through RoxBurkey.com. Her favorite is writing the novels and short stories of the Enigma Series. She convinced her co-author Charles Breakfield that writing fiction is a lot more fun than white papers or documentation.

As a child, Rox jumped at the chance to lead the other kids with exciting new adventures built on make believe characters. As a Girl Scout until high school, she contributed to the community and went on to support the local Head Start program. Rox enjoys her family, cross country travel (okay international too) listening to people, outdoors activities, sewing, cooking, baking, and imagining the possibilities.

Recently Rox indicated that her humor was lousy, and Charles was helping her. You can enjoy snippets of their stories, book trailers, audible sections, and get FREE stuff at www.EnigmaSeries.com.

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Devil’s Chew Toy (Hayden & Friends Book One) by Rob Osler Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A gay relationship blogger teams up with a take-charge lesbian and a feisty bull terrier to find a missing go-go dancer and take down an international crime ring in author Rob Osler’s “Devil’s Chew Toy”, the first book in the Hayden & Friends LGBTQ+ Mystery Series! 

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The Synopsis

Perfect for fans of T.J. Klune, Becky Albertalli, and David Levithan, this hilarious, big-hearted LGBTQ+ mystery follows an unlucky in love—and life—gay relationship blogger who teams up with a take-charge lesbian and a fiesty bull terrier to find a missing go-go boy and bring down an international crime ring.

When Hayden McCall’s new crush suddenly disappears, the twenty-something gay ginger relationship blogger and middle-school teacher teams up with a take charge butch lesbian, a gentle giant, and a feisty bull terrier to find the missing guy. 

Driven by a belief that the police won’t take the crime seriously, the improbable crime fighters prove that friendship — fueled by a lot of caffeine — has the power to bring down a diabolic international crime ring.

The Review

I absolutely loved this book. The humorous and captivating story balanced out so well with the rich and diverse characters. The pacing and atmosphere that the author crafted within this narrative were so engaging for a reader to dive into, and each scene and character felt alive on the page as if you could just step right into it. The themes the author explores in this book, from police brutality to the struggle of being “illegal” while living in the United States and so much more made the heart of this narrative feel so important as well.

The thing that really stuck out to me as a reader was the LGBTQ-driven themes and how prominent the ammeter sleuth meets crime thriller and humorous cozy mystery genres were within the story itself. The dynamics between Hayden, Hollister, and Burley were great to see, and getting to see the evolution of their friendship was so fun to connect with. Yet the actual mystery aspect of the narrative kept me on the edge of my seat, constantly guessing the truth behind this young dancer’s disappearance. 

The Verdict

Captivating, thoughtful, and entertaining, author Rob Osler’s “Devil’s Chew Toy” is a must-read ammeter sleuth meets LGBTQ+ humor and crime thriller! The way these cozy mystery reads have gained more and more popularity, especially in the face of the hit Hulu original series Only Murders in the Building, has given bright and original stories like this the spotlight they deserve, and the author’s unique blend of humor, wit, and charm with important themes and heartfelt character growth will have readers eager for more of this engaging series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Prior to Devil’s Chew Toy, Rob Osler’s short story, Analogue, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, won the Mystery Writers of America Robert L Fish Award as part of the 2022 Annual Edgar Awards. Rob lives in California with his long-time partner and a tall gray cat. 

Website: http://robosler.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/roboslerwriter

Twitter: http://twitter.com/robosler

Instagram: http://instagram.com/roboslerwriter

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3pb3YYz

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57997935-devil-s-chew-toy

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Author Q&A

On writing:

How did you do research for your book?

As DEVIL’S CHEW TOY is a contemporary novel set in a city I’m extremely familiar with, there was not a heavy research task. Also, because the two main characters are VERY amateur sleuths, I could avoid needing to get a lot of police procedure right—though there is some police interaction. That said, it’s amazing how many little questions arise in every chapter that require a pause and some desk research. 

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

The hardest character to write was Hollister—not that she was too challenging. I strove to be respectful of Hollister’s identity as a Black lesbian in America without going so deeply into her character that hers became a story that wasn’t mine to tell. 

The easiest character to write was Hayden McCall. Why? Because there’s a whole lot of me in him. We are both naturally shy and smaller of stature (though he’s shorter and slighter). I took Hayden on the type of adventure—with a bolder, stronger, and more courageous friend—that I would love to go on.

There are many cozy mysteries out there….What makes yours different?

My story features two extremely amateur sleuths, one mild-mannered gay ginger and one butch lesbian. I’ve heard from some reviewers and readers that while pairing a gay and a lesbian as the main protagonists is not unprecedented it is uncommon. Also, I intentionally wrote a story in which the queer characters are neither the villains nor the tragic victims. 

What advice would you give budding writers?

Understand that whatever amount of patience you have will be depleted and then some. Publishing moves in increments of months. It takes a long time—and a lot of collaborators—to bring a book to market.

Your book is set in Seattle. Have you ever been there?

I set the book in Seattle because it’s my “Spirit City.” I lived there for nearly twenty years and loved it. Given as much time as it takes to write a book, I wanted to return to Seattle and its neighborhoods and hills and waterways during the long writing process.

Do you have another profession besides writing?

I have been a marketing and branding strategist for many decades, both at agency/consultancies and at technology corporations. I think the general mind set of prioritizing activities that matter most has helped me with all aspects of writing and the navigating the publishing process.

How long have you been writing?

I actually started my professional career as advertising copywriter writing television commercials for Kellogg’s and Tropicana and Procter & Gamble. Fiction writing also uses words to communicate but that’s about the only commonality I’ve found! It’s the difference between landing one memorable message versus telling a compelling, captivating story over three hundred-plus pages. Trust me, a novel is way harder.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

You know, I really never do. But then I’m not much of a procrastinator either—not that they’re the same thing. My biggest challenge is going off on a tangent with a character or a scene that needlessly complicates the story and “writes me into a corner.” I do a lot revisions.

What is your next project?

I have recently sold my second short story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It features a fifty-something cross-dressing whacky amateur sleuth named Perry Winkle who solves a murder at his Palm Springs condo community.

What genre do you write and why?

I write traditional mysteries because that has been the genre I have always most loved to read. And I feature LGBTQ+ main characters because I am gay and we need more books—of all genres—that represent the great and glorious rainbow of humanity. 

What is the last great book you’ve read?

Two spring to mind. The first: THE SAVAGE KIND by John Copenhaver, who also happens to be a very nice human being. This novel—no surprise—won the Lambda Literary Award for best mystery this year. The second: DEAD LETTERS FROM PARADISE by Ann McMan is sheer delight. Both books are truly terrific.

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

“I can’t wait to read the next one!”

How are you similar to or different from your lead character?

Both Hayden and I are gay, mild-mannered, quiet, but good for an occasionally humorous one-liner. We both play tennis and enjoy big personalities. As Hayden says, “we balance each other out.”

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?

The characters are so distinct in my head, I can’t picture a known movie star playing either Hayden, Hollister or Burley. However, I can see Della Rupert, the oddball proprietress of Barkingham Palace, played superbly by Melissa McCarthy.

If your book were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?

Stanley Kellogg’s “Falling Hard,” of course! This song, which was made up along with the new country star himself, reoccurs throughout the story. Fun fact! After the book was published, a good friend, Ben Davis, and I completed the lyrics and Ben wrote the music and produced the track. It’s on my website. Check it out!

What were the biggest rewards with writing your book?

Hearing from readers that they enjoyed it. 

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?

Long.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Every time you are certain you’re done working on a book, know that you aren’t.

Which authors inspired you to write?

Agatha Christie and Armistead Maupin.

What is something you had to cut from your book that you wish you could have kept?

There’s a line that 91-year-old Jerry delivers in reply to Hayden’s question: “How did you get to be so wise old man?” Over the whistle of the kettle, Jerry replies, “I managed to live a long damn time.”  That “damn” was an Eff-bomb until the final edit. It was the only strong swear word in the book. By removing it the book avoided an R rating, if you will. But I still love the idea of Jerry saying the line with more gusto!

On rituals:

Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?

No snacking. But I do try to drink plenty of water.

Where do you write?

I have a home office. I’ve never been able to do the coffee shop thing. I am too easily distracted.

Do you write every day?

Not every day. But I do write most days. 

What is your writing schedule?

I usually write in two- to three-hour spurts. In a mystery, context and pacing is so important I am not skilled enough to dipping in and out.

Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?

Nope. I just plop my butt down and starting tap, tap, tapping. I will say I find it very difficult to stop writing before I finish a chapter, even in the roughest draft form.

In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

No. But I do use notebook paper to scribble plot ideas before I write.

Fun stuff:

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

The seventies. The music was awesome. Though I’m still wary of bell bottom pants.

Favorite travel spot?

Switzerland.

Favorite dessert?

Raspberry rhubarb pie

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which 3 books would you want with you? 

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

Tales of the City

All the Light We Cannot See

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

I set off for Alaska to work on fish processing barge after my sophomore year at college. If fish were running, the shift was 16 hours, every day until all the fish were processed. I still don’t know why I did it, but I returned two more summers. 

Any hobbies? or Name a quirky thing you like to do.

I have been life-long tennis player and watcher. I can usually name the top twenty men players—and often in order!

If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

Rob Osler writes traditional mysteries featuring LGBTQ+ main characters. 

What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?

We are social creatures who need human interaction.

What TV series are you currently binge watching?

Inventing Anna by Shonda Rhimes on Netflix.

What is your theme song?

“Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits. 

What song is currently playing on a loop in your head?

“The Seaside” by The Lazy Eyes

What is something that made you laugh recently?

Jinx Monsoon’s roast performance on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Hi-lar-ious.

What is your go-to breakfast item?

Toast and yogurt with berries.

What is the oldest item of clothing you own?

I have a green argyle sweater I bought in Seattle thrift store about forty years ago.

Tell us about your longest friendship.

Twin girls, Kelly and Shelly. I grew up with them. We went to elementary, middle school, high school and then to the same out-of-state college! Just a few months back, I did a book event at the wonderful Boise bookshop Rediscovered Books. Guess who was in the front row?

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?

Willy Ames who played the role of Tommy on Eight is Enough.

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Guest Post: Adding More Color To Cozies

Adding More Color to Cozies

Within the mystery genre are several sub-genres, including suspense, hard-boiled, noir, historical, amateur sleuth, police procedural, detective, and cozy. Perhaps the one in the list that is least familiar to most readers is the cozy. If the term is new to you, just think of Jessica Fletcher and Murder She Wrote or most of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries. The hallmarks of a cozy are the avoidance of gratuitous violence, graphic sex, and profanity. But being on the tamer end of the mystery spectrum doesn’t mean a cozy can’t deliver a terrifically entertaining read packed with engaging characters, adventure, intrigue, and loads of humor. 

Given the nature of cozies, they have tended to appeal to a more conservative audience, predominately featuring white and straight main characters in smaller towns populated with other white and straight residents. That said, there have been many truly great exceptions. To name drop just a few: Dean James Simon-Kirby Jones series that features a gay vampire (now that’s different!), Stephen E. Stanley’s Luke Littlefield series, Michael Craft’s Claire Gray series, Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, Ellen Hart’s Jane Lawless series, among others, and Kellye Garrett’s HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE. 

While diverse cozies are nothing new, it seems there are more coming than ever before. And that’s a very good thing.

Michael Craft is back with DESERT GETAWAY, a delightful new Dante (gay guy) and Jazz series (Black woman P.I.). Raquel Reyes’s MANGO, MAMBO, AND MURDER (A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery), Mia P. Manansala’s ARSENIC AND ABODO, Jennifer J. Chow’s DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA, Frank Anthony Polito’s RENOVATED TO DEATH (yes, gay 😊), and Zac Bissonnette’s A KILLING IN COSTUMES (also gay). And yes, my own debut novel, DEVIL’S CHEW TOY, features a gay, ginger middle-school teacher and gay dating blogger and his amateur sleuth partner, a Black butch lesbian.

Representation is important. While I hope the murders and other crimes that anchor even cozy mysteries don’t befall readers, it’s important to have book options that put diverse characters at the center. True inclusion isn’t relegated to the periphery. I, for one, enjoy reading stories I can relate to because of a shared experience with a character and characters that introduce me to new cultures and experiences. That’s an adventure. That’s transportive and escapist. Isn’t that why we read fiction? 

And here’s the best part: a good book is a good book. So even straight readers can enjoy a great mystery with diverse main characters. 

So hooray for the new wave of diverse cozies. They promise any mystery lover a delightfully colorful read.

Firefly Lies by Morgan Matthews Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman hoping to put her past behind her is forced to confront her trauma and even her sanity as dark events and a persistent enemy to her family seek to destroy their family estate in author Morgan Matthews’s “Firefly Lies”.

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The Synopsis

A stately manor, one peculiar groundskeeper, and untimely death set the stage for this thrilling and unexpected tale. As a twenty-nine year old married mother of two, Greer Tipton has spent nearly half her life trying to leave the past behind her. Yet she finds herself faced with reexamining her teenage years after agreeing to be interviewed by a biographer.

Greer’s recollection of events is equally as dark as it is compelling. Her harrowing story is fraught with lies, heartbreaking revelations, and an unknown enemy terrorizing her family’s beloved home – Langley Estates. Young Greer must find the answers she so desperately seeks, while also navigating the emotions of first love, loss, and an inherent mistrust of her own sanity.

The reader will be left wondering who, if anyone, can be trusted. Can we as human beings even trust ourselves?

The Review

This was such an engaging and inviting read. The mystery and suspense of the narrative felt vibrant and alive and delved into themes that felt very relatable and relevant to modern-day true crimes. The twists and turns in the story kept me invested in this narrative, as the author’s writing style kept this mystery feeling very mature yet in a genre that many readers would classify as “clean” mysteries. In that regard, the author crafts a narrative that focuses solely on the mystery and not on any elements of more adult narratives that would make this a heated and passionate read instead. 

Yet what drew me into the narrative was the characters, especially when it came to the storytelling perspective. The author’s choice to not only jump back and forth between the past and the present but from the POV of both the biographer and the protagonist of this mystery was so heartfelt and honest in a way. The way biographer was able to bring an outside perspective to the story while also connecting with their “subject”. At the same time, the protagonist kept readers in suspense and brought an emotional depth to the narrative, making this story such a unique reading experience.

The Verdict

Captivating, thoughtful, and exhilarating, author Morgan Matthews’s “Firefly Lies” is a must-read mystery and suspense read of 2022. The drama, twists, and rich character development will keep readers on the edge of their seats. The final revelations about what happened to this family and the true villain of this tale will shock many readers, while also keeping readers emotionally invested in these characters. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Morgan Matthews is a wife, mother, photographer, lifestyle blogger, and fiction writer. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology, as well as a Master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling.

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Dead Without Remorse by Diane Bator Review 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

An explosion forces an investigator to discover a killer’s identity before the suspects of the case somehow disappear in author Diane Bator’s “Dead Without Remorse”, the fifth book in the Gilda Wright Mystery series!

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The Synopsis

An explosion leaves a gaping hole in the streetscape where the Nine Lives Consignment Shop and the former martial arts school once stood.

When police find remains of a bomb inside, Gilda Wright needs to track a killer before her suspects scatter like debris.

The Review

This is a nice little whodunnit with an explosive twist. The author does a great job of layering the tension and humor of this mystery early on, starting the story with the protagonist and her friend enjoying an at-home vacation and quickly turning the happy friend’s day into a nightmare when a local building explodes. The fast pace of both the plot and the investigation will keep readers on the edge of their seats, and the twists and turns the mystery takes will have readers guessing about the killer’s identity.

The balance of suspense and rich character development was great to read here. The clues uncovered as each chapter plays out and the haunting reality of the character’s backstories were what kept readers hooked, and the beautiful way in which these characters came to life on the page was great to read. The tension between the protagonist, her current romantic interest, and the lone man who keeps becoming a constant in her life, was what kept me invested as the story progressed, adding a very real human element to the story. 

The Verdict

A harrowing, entertaining, and brilliant novel, author Diane Bater’s “Dead Without Remorse” is a must-read mystery novel and a great addition to the Gilda Wright Mystery series. While a knowledge of the series will help readers, the author did a great job of crafting a story and mystery that will allow readers to jump head first into the narrative, and readers will be eager to know what’s next for Gilda and the people in her life. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Diane Bator is a prolific writer published by BWL Publishing. She is a A member of WCYR, Sisters in Crime and a board member for the Crime Writers of Canada. She is the author of several mystery series and a budding playwright.

https://dianebator.ca/

On a Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A woman fearing her husband may be cheating, she turns to a friend who lost her son the year before, and together they hope to catch the husband in the act. However, this plan turns down a dark and deadly road as more secrets are unearthed that neither of them could have imagined in author Seraphina Nova Glass’s “On a Quiet Street”.

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The Synopsis

A simple arrangement. A web of deceit with shocking consequences.

Welcome to Brighton Hills: an exclusive, gated community set against the stunning backdrop of the Oregon coast. Home to doctors, lawyers, judges–all the most upstanding members of society. Nothing ever goes wrong here. Right?

Cora’s husband, Finn, is a cheater. She knows it; she just needs to prove it. She’s tired of being the nagging, suspicious wife who analyzes her husband’s every move. She needs to catch him in the act. And what better way to do that than to set him up for a fall?

Paige has nothing to lose. After she lost her only child in a hit-and-run last year, her life fell apart: her marriage has imploded, she finds herself screaming at baristas and mail carriers, and she’s so convinced Caleb’s death wasn’t an accident that she’s secretly spying on all everyone in Brighton Hills so she can find the murderer. So it’s easy for her to entrap Finn and prove what kind of man he really is.

But Paige and Cora are about to discover far more than a cheating husband. What starts as a little agreement between friends sets into motion a series of events neither of them could have ever predicted, and that exposes the deep fault lines in Brighton Hills. Especially concerning their mysterious new neighbor, Georgia, a beautiful recluse who has deep, dark secrets of her own…

The Review

The author continues to do a phenomenal job of pushing the domestic thriller genre to its limits and beyond in the best way possible! The world-building and character growth early on in the book did a great job of layering the mystery of both the fidelity of Cora’s marriage to her husband and the circumstances of Paige’s son and his untimely demise. The shocking twists and turns that this small community takes on, as well as the secrets that these households harbor, really add both an engaging plotline and yet an eerily realistic touch to the narrative, as the shocking developments are not necessarily out of the realm of possibility in this day and age, making this even more of a haunting read. 

For, as a longtime fan of mystery reads, the suspense aspect of this mystery thriller and the theme that it explores were the biggest draws for me. The exploration of this multi-layered mystery and how each character’s struggles early on in the novel inadvertently stack up against one another’s until all three protagonists and narrators of this novel find themselves coming together. The theme of toxic masculinity and how it impacts marriages and relationships was a major theme throughout the novel. Often seen in our world, men will go to extreme lengths to be dismissive of women, mansplain to women things they already have an understanding of, and manipulate the women in their lives to fulfill their own personal needs. This toxic behavior is explored in several of the characters’ lives, and the shocking twists that toxicity takes add to the depth of character development and the mystery that unravels as a result of those developments.

The Verdict

Haunting, shocking, and entertaining, author Seraphina Nova Glass’s “On A Quiet Street” is a must-read novel of 2022 and one of the top domestic thrillers of the year. The chilling twists this narrative takes and the emotional pull of these characters’ struggles will have readers on the edge of their seats as the climactic second half of this novel takes off! This is one of the best authors to come through in this genre in years and I cannot wait to read more of her work. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Seraphina Nova Glass is a professor and playwright-in-residence at the University of Texas, Arlington, where she teaches film studies and playwriting. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Smith College, and she’s also a screenwriter and award-winning playwright. Seraphina has traveled the world using theatre and film as a teaching tool, living in South Africa, Guam and Kenya as a volunteer teacher, AIDS relief worker, and documentary filmmaker.

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Here is an excerpt from “On a Quiet Street”

ONE

Paige

Paige stands, watering her marigolds in the front yard and marvels at how ugly they are. The sweet-potato-orange flowers remind her of a couch from the 1970s, and she suddenly hates them. She crouches down, ready to rip them from their roots, wondering why she ever planted such an ugly thing next to her pristine Russian sage, and then the memory steals her breath. The church Mother’s Day picnic when Caleb was in the sixth grade. Some moron had let the potato salad sit too long in the sun, and Caleb got food poisoning. All the kids got to pick a flower plant to give to their moms, and even though Caleb was puking mayonnaise, he insisted on going over to pick his flower to give her. He was so proud to hand it to her in its little plastic pot, and she said they’d plant it in the yard and they’d always have his special marigolds to look at. How could she have forgotten?

She feels tears rise in her throat but swallows them down. Her dachshund, Christopher, waddles over and noses her arm: he always senses when she’s going to cry, which is almost all the time since Caleb died. She kisses his head and looks at her now-beautiful marigolds. She’s interrupted by the kid who de-livers the newspaper as he rides his bike into the cul-de-sac and tosses a rolled-up paper, hitting little Christopher on his back.

“Are you a fucking psychopath?” Paige screams, jumping to her feet and hurling the paper back at the kid, which hits him in the head and knocks him off his bike.

“What the hell is wrong with you, lady?” he yells back, scrambling to gather himself and pick up his bike.

“What’s wrong with me? You tried to kill my dog. Why don’t you watch what the fuck you’re doing?”

His face contorts, and he tries to pedal away, but Paige grabs the garden hose and sprays him down until he’s out of reach. “Little monster!” she yells after him.

Thirty minutes later, the police ring her doorbell, but Paige doesn’t answer. She sits in the back garden, drinking coffee out of a lopsided clay mug with the word Mom carved into it by little fingers. She strokes Christopher’s head and examines the ivy climbing up the brick of the garage and wonders if it’s bad for the foundation. When she hears the ring again, she hollers at them.

“I’m not getting up for you people. If you need to talk to me, I’m back here.” She enjoys making them squeeze around the side of the house and hopes they rub up against the poi-son oak on their way.

“Morning, Mrs. Moretti,” one of the officers says. It’s the girl cop, Hernandez. Then the white guy chimes in. She hates him. Miller. Of course they sent Miller with his creepy mustache. He looks more like a child molester than a cop, she thinks. How does anyone take him seriously?

“We received a complaint,” he says.

“Oh, ya did, did ya? You guys actually looking into cases these days? Actually following up on shit?” Paige says, still petting the dog and not looking at them.

“You assaulted a fifteen-year-old? Come on.”

“Oh, I did no such thing,” she snaps.

Hernandez sits across from Paige. “You wanna tell us what d id happen, then?”

“Are you planning on arresting me if I don’t?” she asks, and the two officers give each other a silent look she can’t read.

“His parents don’t want to press charges so…”

Paige doesn’t say anything. They don’t have to tell her it’s because they pity her.

“But, Paige,” Miller says, “we can’t keep coming out here for this sort of thing.”

“Good,” Paige says firmly. “Maybe it will free you up to do your real job and find out who killed my son.” Hernandez stands.

“Again, you know we aren’t the detectives on the—” But before Hernandez can finish, Paige interrupts, not wanting to hear the excuses.

“And maybe go charge the idiot kid for trying to kill my dog. How about that?”

Paige stands and goes inside, not waiting for a response. She hears them mumble something to one another and make their way out. She can’t restrain herself or force herself to be kind. She used to be kind, but now, it’s as though her brain has been rewired. Defensiveness inhabits the place where empathy used to live. The uniforms of the cops trigger her, too; it reminds her of that night, the red, flashing lights a nightmarish strobe from a movie scene. A horror movie, not real life. It can’t be her real life. She still can’t accept that.

The uniforms spoke, saying condescending things, pulling her away, calling her ma’am, and asking stupid questions. Now, when she sees them, it brings up regrets. She doesn’t know why this happens, but the uniforms bring her back to that night, and it makes her long for the chance to do all the things she never did with Caleb and mourn over the times they did have. It forces fragments of memories to materialize, like when he was six, he wanted a My Little Pony named Star Prancer. It was pink with purple flowers in its mane, and she didn’t let him have it because she thought she was protecting him from being made fun of at school. Now, the memory fills her with self-reproach.

She tries not to think about the time she fell asleep on the couch watching Rugrats with him when he was just a toddler and woke up to his screaming because he’d fallen off the couch and hit his head on the coffee table. He was okay, but it could have been worse. He could have put his finger in an outlet, pushed on the window screen and fallen to his death from the second floor, drunk the bleach under the sink! When this memory comes, she has to quickly stand up and busy herself, push out a heavy breath, and shake off the shame it brings. He could have died from her negligence that afternoon. She never told Grant. She told Cora once, who said every parent has a moment like that, it’s life. People fall asleep. But Paige has never forgiven herself. She loved Caleb more than life, and now the doubt and little moments of regret push into her thoughts and render her miserable and anxious all the time.

She didn’t stay home like Cora, she practically lived at the restaurant. She ran it for years. Caleb grew up doing his homework in the kitchen break room and helping wipe down tables and hand out menus. He seemed to love it. He didn’t watch TV all afternoon after school, he talked to new people, learned skills. But did she only tell herself that to alleviate the guilt? Would he have thrived more if he had had a more nor mal day-to-day? When he clung to her leg that first day of preschool, should she have forced him to go? Should he have let him change his college major so many times? Had he been happy? Had she done right by him?

And why was there a gun at the scene? Was he in trouble, and she didn’t know? Did he have friends she didn’t know about? He’d told her everything, she thought. They were close. Weren’t they?

As she approaches the kitchen window to put her mug down, she sees Grant pulling up outside. She can see him shaking his head at the sight of the cops before he even gets out of the car.

He doesn’t mention the police when he comes in. He silently pours himself a cup of coffee and finds Paige back out in the garden, where she has scurried to upon seeing him. He hands her a copy of the Times after removing the crossword puzzle for himself and then peers at it over his glasses.

He doesn’t speak until Christopher comes to greet him, and then he says, “Who wants a pocket cookie?” and takes a small dog biscuit from his shirt pocket and smiles down at little Christopher, who devours it.

This is how it’s been for the many months since Grant and Paige suffered insurmountable loss. It might be possible to get through it to the other side, but maybe not together, Paige said to Grant one night after one of many arguments about how they should cope. Grant wanted to sit in his old, leather recliner in the downstairs family room and stare into the wood-burning fireplace, Christopher at his feet, drinking a scotch and absorbing the quiet and stillness.

Paige, on the other hand, wanted to scream at everyone she met. She wanted to abuse the police for not finding who was responsible for the hit-and-run. She wanted to spend her days posting flyers offering a reward to anyone with information, even though she knew only eight percent of hit-and-runs are ever solved. When the world didn’t respond the way she needed, she stopped helping run the small restaurant they owned so she could just hole up at home and shout at Jeopardy! and paper boys. She needed to take up space and be loud. They each couldn’t stand how the other was mourning, so finally, Grant moved into the small apartment above their little Italian place, Moretti’s, and gave Paige the space she needed to take up.

Now—almost a year since the tragic day—Grant still comes over every Sunday to make sure the take-out boxes are picked up and the trash is taken out, that she’s taking care of herself and the house isn’t falling apart. And to kiss her on the cheek before he leaves and tell her he loves her. He doesn’t make observations or suggestions, just benign comments about the recent news headlines or the new baked mostaccioli special at the restaurant.

She sees him spot the pair of binoculars on the small table next to her Adirondack chair. She doesn’t need to lie and say she’s bird-watching or some nonsense. He knows she thinks one of the neighbors killed her son. She’s sure of it. It’s a gated community, and very few people come in and out who don’t live here. Especially that late at night. The entrance camera was conveniently disabled that night, so that makes her think it wasn’t an accident but planned. There was a gun next to Caleb’s body, but it wasn’t fired, and there was no gunshot wound. Something was very wrong with this scenario, and if the po-lice won’t prove homicide, she’s going to uncover which of her bastard neighbors had a motive.

She has repeated all of this to Grant a thousand times, and he used to implore her to try to focus on work or take a vacation—anything but obsess—and to warn her that she was destroying her health and their relationship, but he stopped responding to this sort of conspiracy-theory talk months ago.

“What’s the latest?” is all he asks, looking away from the binoculars and back to his crossword. She gives a dismissive wave of her hand, a sort of I know you don’t really want to hear about it gesture. Then, after a few moments, she says, “Danny Howell at 6758. He hasn’t driven his Mercedes in months.” She gives Grant a triumphant look, but he doesn’t appear to be following.

“Okay,” he says, filling in the word ostrich.

“So I broke into his garage to see what the deal was, and there’s a dent in his bumper.”

“You broke in?” he asks, concerned. She knows the How-ells have five vehicles, and the dent could be from a myriad of causes over the last year, but she won’t let it go.

“Yes, and it’s a good thing I did. I’m gonna go back and take photos. See if the police can tell if it looks like he might have hit a person.” She knows there is a sad desperation in her voice as she works herself up. “You think they can tell that? Like if the dent were a pole from a drive-through, they could see paint or the scratches or something, right? I bet they can tell.”

“It’s worth a shot,” he says, and she knows what he wants to say, also knows he won’t waste words telling her not to break into the garage a second time for photos. He changes the subject.

“I’m looking for someone to help out at the restaurant a few days a week—mostly just a piano player for the dinner crowd—but I could use a little bookkeeping and scheduling, too,” he says, and Paige knows it’s a soft attempt to distract her, but she doesn’t bite.

“Oh, well, good luck. I hope you find someone,” she says, and they stare off into the backyard trees.

“The ivy is looking robust,” he comments after a few minutes of silence.

“You think it’s hurting the foundation?” she asks.

“Nah,” he says, and he reaches over and places his hand over hers on the arm of her chair for a few moments before getting up to go. On his way out, he kisses her on the cheek, tells her he loves her. Then he loads the dishwasher and takes out the trash before heading to his car. She watches him reluctantly leaving, knowing that he wishes he could stay, that things were different.

When Paige hears the sound of Grant’s motor fade as he turns out of the front gate, she imagines herself calling him on his cell and telling him to come back and pick her up, that she’ll come to Moretti’s with him and do all the scheduling and books, that she’ll learn to play the piano just so she can make him happy. And, after all the patrons leave for the night, they’ll share bottles of Chianti on checkered tablecloths in a dimly lit back booth. They’ll eat linguini and clams and have a Lady and the Tramp moment, and they will be happy again.

Paige does not do this. She goes into the living room and closes the drapes Grant opened, blocking out the sunlight, then she crawls under a bunched-up duvet on the couch that smells like sour milk, and she begs for sleep.

Excerpted from On A Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass, Copyright © 2022 by Seraphina Nova Glass. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

One Of Us Is Dead by Jeneva Rose Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

The owner of a local beauty salon and spa must put her knowledge and relationships with a group of women to the test to help the police capture the culprit behind a gruesome murder in author Jeneva Rose’s “One Of Us Is Dead”. 

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The Synopsis 

The highly anticipated new thriller from the bestselling author of The Perfect Marriage.

Opulence. Sex. Betrayal … Sometimes friendship can be deadly.

Meet the women of Buckhead—a place of expensive cars, huge houses, and competitive friendships.

Shannon was once the queen bee of Buckhead. But she’s been unceremoniously dumped by Bryce, her politician husband. When Bryce replaces her with a much younger woman, Shannon sets out to take revenge …

Crystal has stepped into Shannon’s old shoes. A young, innocent Texan girl, she simply has no idea what she’s up against …

Olivia has waited years to take Shannon’s crown as the unofficial queen of Buckhead. Finally, her moment has come. But to take her rightful place, she will need to use every backstabbing, manipulative, underhand trick in the book …

Jenny owns Glow, the most exclusive salon in town. Jenny knows all her clients’ secrets and darkest desires. But will she ever tell?

Who amongst these women will be clever enough to survive Buckhead—and who will wind up dead? They say that friendships can be complex, but no one said it could ever be this deadly. 

The Review

This is one of the best thrillers I’ve read so far this year. The dialogue and multiple POVs of this read have driven forward a mystery that feels both authentic and surprising all at once. The ways in which these women interact with one another, and the choice to focus solely on the women’s POV and leave the male characters as wildcards was an inspired and satisfying choice for the story. Getting the chance to see the shocking twists and turns not only in the story, but in the shocking bonds these characters form with one another was such a great hook for readers to get invested in the narrative. 

Honestly, this is one of the first books in years in which I was totally surprised by the book’s ending. I love stories like this that make me guess the killer’s identity early on, only to change my opinion several times over the course of the narrative. I had thought I’d figured out the twist until the final few pages when everything flipped on top of its head. What helped this mystery was the identity of the victim, which was kept hidden until the final few chapters of the book. Not knowing this kept the motivations and agendas presented from each of these characters’ POVs so captivating that the real identity of both victim and killer will leave readers reeling. 

The Verdict

Haunting, entertaining, and yet charming in its writing and delivery, author Jeneva Rose’s “One of Us Is Dead” is a must-read novel of 2022, and one of my top picks for the best thriller of 2022. The descriptive nature of the author’s writing style really painted an image of these characters and this small-town setting to life perfectly, and the twists and turns will keep readers hanging off of the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today and be on the lookout for more amazing books from this up-and-coming author!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jeneva Rose is the Amazon Charts, Apple Books, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author of The Perfect Marriage and One of Us is Dead. Her works has been translated into more than a dozen languages and optioned for film/tv. Originally from Wisconsin, she currently lives in Chicago with her husband, Drew, and her English bulldog, Winston.

https://www.jenevarose.com/

Lure: Jesse & Hawk by W.L. Hawkin Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A wounded doctor and a vegan nature photographer find their paths crossing as the dangers of a missing persons’ case suddenly become a murder investigation years later, and must learn not only to survive together against two nefarious figures but learn if they can hold onto the growing feelings they have for one another in author W.L. Hawkin’s “Lure: Jesse & Hawk”.

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The Synopsis

Hawk is a wounded doctor bent on losing himself on the Chippewa reservation.

Jesse’s a vegan nature photographer trying to find herself on that same wild land.

When Hawk shoots the deer Jesse’s photographing, passions flare. Then Jesse hears that Hawk’s friend is dying and sets off alone on horseback to warn him. He deserves the chance to say goodbye she never had.

BUT DANGER LURKS EVERYWHERE NEAR THE SMALL MIDWESTERN TOWN OF LURE RIVER.

Jesse’s just discovered the twenty-year-old bones of a missing Indigenous girl in her shed and drawn the unwanted attention of two local men.

CAN JESSE FIND HAWK BEFORE THEY FIND HER?

Ruby Little Bear’s tragic tale weaves through the narrative, reminding us that ONE MOMENT CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING.

The Review

This was the absolute best combination of romance and suspense. The wildness of the two protagonists’ tense and heated romance mirrored the equally wild landscape they found themselves in. The complex backstories that have brought each of them to the emotional place they meet each other in will captivate readers and bring the wellspring of tears that these emotional romances often have. 

The rich mystery and suspense surrounding the thriller aspect of this narrative were so engaging to read. The striking backstory of this small town and the tragedy that has been kept in the shadows for two decades highlights the small-town atmosphere that keeps these mysteries lasting as long as they often do, both in fiction and reality itself. The back and forth look into who is responsible for the missing young woman and the complex relationship between the town and the indigenous people who have been so badly affected by this senseless death will have readers glued to the pages as each chapter unravels the intricacies of this mystery.

The Verdict

Haunting, thoughtful, and passionate, author W.L. Hawkin’s “Lure: Jesse & Hawk” is a must-read romantic thriller of 2022! A truly entertaining and captivating story of love lost, love found, and the lengths we are willing to go to in order to keep the past hidden, the author did an incredible job of finding a harmonious chord between the narrative and dynamic character development that cannot be matched. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

W. L. Hawkin writes myth, magic, and mayhem designed to inspire and entertain. Described as “intoxicating, lush, magically-edgy, page-turners,” her Hollystone Mysteries series features a coven of witches who solve murders using their wits and ritual magic with a little help from the gods. Wendy is also a published blogger, book reviewer, Indie publisher, and poet, with a background in Indigenous Studies and English literature. She loves myth and magic, so when she’s not writing, she’s studying Druidry, shamanism, and mediumship. Although she is an introvert, in each book, her characters go on a journey where she has traveled herself.

She defies genre by writing character-driven fast-paced mysteries and thrillers that involve fantastical characters. See her four book series: To Charm a Killer, To Sleep with Stones, To Render a Raven, and To Kill a King.

@authoranthonyavina

Check out my #bookreview of author W.L. Hawkins’s #Lure a brand new adult #mysteryromance novel! #booktok #bookworm

♬ Mysterious – Andreas Scherren