4.5 stars overall. This is the last PNR (paranormal romance) in a series of four, but I only read this one. I had no real problems following it. I read it a few years ago, and only recently bought the audio. Good story, good narration. No complaints from me on either count! I had never heard Isabelle Gordon before -- felt impressed and happily surprised.
This is an enjoyably "spooky" paranormal with the unique hero -- "The Lord of the Abyss" -- transforming into a huge maddened wolfhound. However, he is not what he seems. There is also a blood sorcerer, a little brown dwarf, a friendly mouse, and all sorts of magical beings.
Fun and fast read, with a few smexy scenes between our adorably lovable hero and his brave, determined heroine. Loved how she was soooo ugly -- hideous -- but he loved her for her beautiful spirit, and ignored all the beauties in his realm. Loved how she coaxed his memories to return through the food scents and spices of his childhood, and through the "stories" she told him.
Caution: Some torture of children and animals, bloody murder and mayhem. I don't usually go for that, but in fantasy, it doesn't seem real.
A historical romantic thriller with psycho murder scenes. I have read this book in the past, and enjoyed it because I could skim the slower parts. Now, I have listened to the audio, narrated by Heather Wilds. She did a fine job most of the time, giving the princess a pleasant Germanic accent, which seemed suitable. Her voice is easy on the ears, not grating. Her portrayal of Colin was also good. She didn't try to force her voice to sound deep and gruff, like a man's, which often grates on my ears. However, she showed little or no emotion when portraying the love scenes, and her portrayal of the butler, Flannaghan, was a bit disappointing.
The story itself is not my favorite historical by Garwood, but it's decent. The pacing is a bit slow and the plot a bit weak. Some parts are great, though.
I liked Colin's devoted butler, Flannaghan, who fell over himself for "his" princess, Alesandra. I liked Alesandra's cleverness, surreptitiously handling Colin's ledgers and finding a way to ease his wounded leg. Colin is often grouchy, but I liked him, too. He made me laugh a little (but I didn't laugh during this book as much as during some of Garwood's other historicals).
I could not buy the reasons given for Alesandra's decision to move in with a bachelor. Nope. Would never happen, lady's maid or no maid.
The abduction plot thread with the general who wanted to marry the throne was predictable and somewhat inconsistent. Plus, some threads were left unfinished.
I did not care for the scenes with the psychotic lady-killer, but this is typical of Garwood, to include grisly murder along with the seething thoughts of the sociopath. Apparently, she likes to write psychos into her stories, or maybe she depends on this trope to allow the hero to rescue, and to build tension.
It was good to see characters from the prequels. The scenes with Colin's brother Caine were entertaing -- the scenes when he called the princess "the plague" and when he watched Colin find something wrong with every potential husband.
Read it years ago but couldn't remember it well. Just now listened to audio, narrated by Nicholas Boulton. Solid 5 stars for his near-perfect perfromance, but only 3 stars for the story itself, mainly because I didn't like the heroine.
Laura Kinsale is a superb romance writer, but this story arc was frustrating. Frustrating! The downers went on far too long. Leigh was frequently unlikable. She was cruel for about 80% of the book. I wanted to slap her. She was also TSTL, pulling a really dumb stunt that almost got everyone killed.
Then there is our hero, a Robin Hood-style highwayman who goes by various names, including ST Maitland and The Prince of Midnight. He is a fascinating character, coping admirably with hearing loss, fugitive status, and vertigo. When in top form, he's sexy, good humored, dashing, a swashbuckling swordsman, and a brilliant horse trainer.
However, I felt he let Leigh get away with too much spite. Why did he love her?? But he did, and almost from the start, when she hunted him down at his crumbling castle in France, asking him to teach her swordplay, to avenge her dead family. He agrees, saves her life a few times, feeds and clothes her...and she treats him like that?? I wanted him to abandon her. Ugh. Her cruelty during his bath and in the horse-training corral stick in my mind, to name a few ugly scenes.
Enjoyed the animals: Nemo the wolf and Mistrial the amazing gray horse. Loved the role Mistrial played, when confronting Reverend Jamie Chilton, the cult leader. Lol. Chuckled a few times in those scenes.
Felt the cult plot was extreme, only because it occurred within a community where educated and resistant people lived, including an Earl and his Countess, a squire, etc. To my admittedly thin knowledge, cults are typically formed outside an established community. Cult members leave their community behind. (By the way, the religious control aspect of the story reminded me of Maddie's dilemma as a Quaker in Flowers from the Storm.)
Loved the epilogue. Sweet and sexy, and thankfully fairly long. It's a horse riding scene.
My favorite books by this author are Flowers from the Storm and Midsummer Moon. I plan to listen to the other Kinsale novels Nick Boulton has narrated.
Solid narration by Joyce Bean. She never fails to deliver a solid performance. KILLJOY is a surprisingly good romantic suspense. Not quite as good as the prequel, MERCY, but better than most of Garwood's contemporary novels. I was happy to see John Paul Renard play the role of hero -- he was great in MERCY. No stupid misunderstandings in the relationship between John Paul and Avery. I liked Avery's personality. Decent suspense with a few surprising plot twists. Some smexy scenes, too.
Garwood's most vivid character is the antagonist. That sociopathic, seductive siren brings to mind a cobra -- I felt unwillingly entranced. She's compelling and repelling. Quite the villain.
Poor Monk. I almost felt sorry for him. Garwood created an almost sympathetic villain, lonely, alone, and hungry for love. Compared to the psycho-siren, he was almost harmless. And that's saying a lot.
I also felt for Anne, one of the three kidnapped women. Unpleasant. Unlikeable. At least, till you understand why. Then, a shift in perspective. Nicely done.
This book is certainly not a testament to the faithfulness of married men.
Good to see Noah Clayborne again.
Quibble: I wanted to see the main characters from the prequel: Theo, Michelle, and even Big Daddy Jake. No such luck. I wanted a longer epilogue, set in Bowan, Louisiana.
I have tried half the books in this series. I liked MERCY the best, but the narration spoiled the book (terrible Cajun accent for the men). The direct seque to MERCYl -- KILLJOY -- is also good, and the narration is perfectly fine.
This book? Not so great, even though the narration by Christina Traister is solid. Too bad she was working with fairly weak material.
The hero and heroine (Max and Ellie) are just like all Garwood's lead couples -- perfect Ken and Barbie. The suspense is lame, with two distinct suspense threads, disconnected from each other, and neither one well developed.
First plot thread: Ellie witnesses murder and immediately becomes the killer's new target (Max, FBI hero, will protect her).
Second plot thread: A psychotic stalker from Ellie's childhood is released from the loony bin and comes gunning for her. (Max will protect her from in this case, too.)
But who will protect Ellie from the sister from hell? Nobody. Not Max. Not their Mama or Papa. Ava Is horrible. Why did everyone in the family put up with her? Eva consumed too much of this story. Her tantrums did not create good plot tension. Her nonsense was not funny, either. Not cute. Just ridiculous. Cannot believe Ellie agreed to stand up in her wedding.
Some nice love scenes in the apartment over the garage -- with the air conditioner that blows only blazing hot or ice cold.
Then at the end, that section with Annie and her SEAL. Who cares? We never even met the guy! Why should we care? Felt like an epilogue from some other book -- Annie's book.
About 3.75 stars for the story and 4.5 for the narration by Joyce Bean. I actually liked this story more than expected, despite its "just average" rating on Amazon and Good Reads. The time-travel theme didn't detract from the quintessential quality of a romantic suspense penned by Linda Howard.
I liked the setting, small town Kentucky, 2005. Liked the shrewd hero, Knox Davis, archtypical bulldog detective. Everyone likes Knox, and at first he seems easy-going, even mild. Don't be fooled. Knox, like all Howard heroes, is alpha, protective, shrewd, determined, and passionate.
Great heroine, Nikita Stovar, FBI agent from the future (200 years in the future). She's a Howard heroine through and through: compassionate but strong, clever, careful, determined. Never a victim. Never too stupid to live.
The plot was decent. Coherent. Credible, in a weird SCI-FI way. Slightly interesting, from an academic perspective. But predictable. I guessed who was helping the villain.
Yummy love scenes. Two scenes -- just the right amount for me. (Still fanning myself over that shower sex!!)
Why only 3.5 stars? Two main reasons:
Pacing problems. Howard too frequently digressed from the present year (2005) to describe life 200 years in the future: space colonies, vaccinations (no handshakes), technology, weaponry, politics, medical breakthroughs, etc. Who cares? I wanted to know about the time capsule, the murders, and their developing relationship. This digression slowed the pace tremendously, especially when it was conveyed through Niki's internal rumination. It felt irrevelevant. I grew impatient. Bored.
Also, the epilogue was set in the future, with Niki's parents. I wanted it to be set in Kentucky, with Knox and maybe his parents, etc. I don't know her futuristic parents, or her little nephew. No matter how adorable, I simply don't care about them. Never met them. Why place them into the story at the very end??
But on the up side, at least this book didn't have numerous slasher scenes, explicit murders complete with flashing knives, pounding hammers, and rivers of blood. Much as I loved Mr. Perfect and Dream Man, I hated the explicit murder scenes. This book felt "more like Open Season, set in a small Southern town, with fade-to-black murders and a well-liked hero who works in the police department and cares about his parents. It also reminded me of the small-town-sheriff hero in Blue Moon, in Howard's anthology Strangers in the Night.
Despite one major quibble (noted last) this is one of Howard's best, IMO. Heartwarming, sexy, and mildly suspenseful. A total beach read. Best of all -- it's funny!! Plus, this unabridged version provides a solid gold narration by Deborah Hazlett. I wish she would narrate more books. Easy on the ears, good vocal modulation, perfect pacing, and she makes the voices distinct enough to differentiate between the characters.
I have read this book in the past, and now I've listened to it. No matter how many times I "read" it, I always laugh. Daisy and Jack are such a kick! Adorable scenes with Jack, Daisy, and her Golden Retriever puppy, Midas. I believe I'm in love -- with both Jack and Midas!
Jack Russo, a former SWAT cop from NYC, is the chief of police in Hillsboro, a small town in northern Alabama (the author's home state). Daisy Minor is a naive, prim, and frumpy librarian. At age 34, she decides it's time to live a little, so it's OPEN SEASON and the manhunt is on, for Daisy's clock is ticking. She gets a total makeover with her friend Todd's help (but unbeknownst to Daisy, Todd has an ulterior motive for dolling her up).
Daisy is a trip. The scene when she was buying condoms!! I loved watching her come into her own in the small busy-body Southern town. I loved her puppy, too, and even enjoyed the scenes with her family.
Then there's Jack. Shrewd, experienced, but totally decent to the core. I loved his bemused and delighted interactions with Daisy. Lots of laughs between those two! He's also protective, putting his sniper and snooper skills to good use. And, as with all Howard's heroes, Jack gets a strong case of the hots for Daisy (a few explicit sex scenes).
The mystery itself was only moderately intriguing. Not terribly inspired, and everything fell into Jack's capable hands towards the end. The crime (sex trafficking of young girls and date-rape drugs) is a downer topic for me. The backstory of a certain abused and alcoholic wife was depressing. I did like finding out where/ how the boss villain was shot. :)
Major Quibble: I didn't care for the ending at all, when one of the villains knocks on a certain door. What in tarnation was that all about?? What was Howard thinking? No way. Just wrong.
Superb performance by Fred Berman and Christina Delaine. I appreciated hearing two distinct voices, to clearly differentiate the characters. I liked the way the author handled the POV. It alternates from the first person perspective of the dog to the third-person perspective of the man.
Content Warning: Some scenes of dog abuse, vicious dog fighting (but mostly referred to, in passive tense). Some swearing and religious swearing. One sex scene, but it's not explicit. This is probably not a suitable audio selection for a road trip with younger kids.
Set in present day Boston, One Good Dog is the fairly heartwarming story of Chance (a pit bull trained to fight) and Adam (a detestable social pariah and bankrupt businessman). The two become friends, eventually. The story is good. The pace flows nicely. A quick read. Only 3.5 stars for the story, though -- see quibbles (further below).
STORY in BRIEF: Adam March has anger problems, deeply embedded in a miserable childhood (no mother, sister runs away, father abandons him to foster system at age 9, where he subsequently is abused and passed around through 7 foster families, only two of which treat him with care and compassion). Because of his deeply buried childhood issues, he over-reacts to a problem at work, immediately losing his job and gaining a lawsuit. Because of his anger-driven assault, he is sentenced to spend two years serving community service at the Ford Street Homeless Center in Boston. At the Ford Center, Adam feeds the hungry, cleans the kitchen, etc. Through his interactions with one homeless man -- an astrophysicist named Jupe (Jupiter) -- Adam finds himself the unwilling owner of a cross-bred pit bull, trained to fight in the ring. Adam and Chance become friends -- and no one is more surprised than the two of them. Even as Chance gains a perspective of what it means to be "man's best friend" Adam regains his humanity, developing true compassion for Jupe and a better understanding of his daughter, Ariel. He also gains control of his anger and a better understanding of himself.
CHARACTERIZATION: The development of Adam's character is a cut above the norm. We see Adam change from an arrogant SOB without a dash of compassion to a far more humane being. This shift in his personality is credible to me because I don't think his true character ever did change. It was just buried under years of repression and deferred emotion. Adam traded his childhood need for love to a driving need for power -- thinking power would buy him love -- but as a young boy, Adam was like every other kid: loving his sister Veronica, wanting his father to love him, wanting to love his foster parents, etc.
One example of characterization is how Adam's television viewing habits changed. At first, all he watched was Judge Judy, reflecting his anger and sense of injustice at his own case, his own holier-than-thou judge. Over time, he began to watch football games, etc.
We also see the dog's character develop. In his first person POV, Chance begins by referring to himself as a gladiator, a champion fighter. He despises dogs who live to please their man. Pit fighting is all he's ever known, since birth. He's lived in a cage for three years, only allowed out to pee and fight. He has never known kindness from one single human being. However, his attitude changes through his interactions with Adam, Gina, and the folks at the Ford Street Mission. Here is the dog's POV as he watches his unwilling host yield to despair with a bottle of Scotch:
"He sipped and wept, sipped and wept. I lay on the rug, but kept my eyes on him. When his glass was empty he lay down, but the sounds didn't cease...If he'd stopped making the sounds, I might have just wandered off, but the sounds went on, a primal sound of despair, of great anguish...I pushed myself up beside him, nosing his hand until it reached for my ears...And then I did it. I nuzzled him."
1) The author spent too much time on Adam's father. I didn't care about him, didn't buy his excuses, and didn't want to meet him. I wanted more scenes with Adam and Chance. Having said that, I liked Ariel's interactions when she was involved with both Adam and Chance.
2) I felt the author tidied everything up too much at the end. His father. His sister. His past is laid completely to rest and his future is bright. Too pat.
3) The author hops from intense action scenes -- potentially deadly -- to mundane scenes with secondary characters. I hate that kind of emotional manipulation. It feels like cheating on the author's part-- a way to fabricate tension.
4) The plot is fairly predictable. I knew what would happen in many cases. However, I didn't know how it would play out - only that it would.
Quibbles aside, I enjoyed this book! I teared up a few times. I cheered for Adam and for Chance. Loved the secondary characters at the Ford Street Center. Loved Gina, the pet store owner. Even his entitled daughter Ariel grew on me.
For animal lovers, I recommend Watership Down, narrated by Ralph Cosham.
Solid narration by Kate Forbes. Fair story. Nothing special, but not bad. I liked the scenes where John Medina (Tucker) was teaching self-defense to Niema Burdoch. There's explicit sex towards the end. The two protagonists did something very stupid, hanging around in France when danger clearly lurked.
Linda Howard's "CIA Spies" series get lots of acclaim, but personally, I think they are half-baked. They didn't feel complete as a romance nor as a suspense thriller.
The three books in the series, in order:
1. Kill and Tell. An old US Marine (retired) sent his "Sniper killbook" to his estranged wife and daughter. It contains evidence that would expose a corrupt senator. When said sniper is murdered, his daughter Karen turns to New Orleans PD detective Marc Chastain for help. A CIA agent (John Medina) gets involved because the bad guys also killed his father. Too much torrid sex in this one, but a decent plot.
2. All the Queen's Men (this book). Covert CIA agent John Medina (introduced in Kill and Tell) puts the sting on a deadly explosives operation, meanwhile putting the moves on CIA techno-geek Niema Burdoch. He's loved her for five years. We also learn that John Medina has a soft spot for Karen and Marc (book 1), keeping watch over them.
3. Kiss Me While I Sleep (very slight overlap with the two previous books). There is a mole in the CIA, and the highly trusted CIA director is in critical condition. Special agent Lucas Swain doesn't know who to trust, so he's on his own, bringing down a renegade operative in France. However, Lily Mansfield is more than he expected. Together, Lucas and Lily put a stop to a bioterrorism plot.
Set in 1814 London, this romantic suspense is an old favorite, but I couldn't tolerate Duerdan's unpleasant portrayal of Aunt Patricia and a few others, including Christina's old butler and Lyon's best friend (to some extent). I cringed nearly every time they spoke. They frequently sound enraged, almost spitting with it -- especially the aunt. When Duerdan sounds gratingly hateful, she makes the listening experience nearly intolerable. On the up side, her portrayal of Christina and Lyon is excellent. She seems to utilize her natural voice for them. It's very pleasant, flowing, easy on the ears. I liked her non-dialogue narrator voice, too.
Audio narration by Julia Gibson (good!) I didn't read the book, so beware of misspelled names. I haven't read the whole series, selecting only this book because I liked the sound of the plot. Lately I've been trolling for books with children playing strong and credible secondary roles. In this case, a 4-year-old played a strong secondary character, featuring in many scenes. However, he wasn't all that credible, speaking and behaving more like an 8-year-old. (But okay.)
This is heartwarming and slightly suspenseful, with a cast of strong supporting characters set in contemporary small-town Texas. It could be just my cup of tea, but for one thing. The main romance between Tinch and Addison -- and their adoption of the little orphaned boy Jamie -- was too frequently interrupted by other relationships. I couldn't sink my teeth deeply enough into any of the characters:
Tyler Wright, the 45-year-old mortician, and Kate, his affianced army major. Their pregnant young housekeeper, Autumn. Tyler, worrying about Kate. Nicely done. I liked the scene when Tyler took old Jeremiah for a ride through his apple orchard. Poignant. Beautiful.
Reagan Truman, age 21, adopted by old Jeremiah, and Noah McCallan, rodeo star.
Brandon Biggs, aka Biggs (firefighter?) and his tall nurse, Esther.
Beau Yates and Willow. Beau and his friend Border Biggs. Beau and his music. Beau and stuttering and girl crazy.
Every third chapter or so, we would return to the supposed main couple, Tinch Turner and Dr. Addison Spencer, eventually adding little Jamie to the mix. I wanted more time with Tinch, at his ranch. Wanted to see him healing his wounded horses and bonding with Jamie. Falling in love with Addison...
Suspense? Yes, with bad guys, murder, drugs, and millions of dollars.
Women's Fiction? I guess so. But also romance, with three couples making a go of it in the end, and two babies. There are kisses and some love scenes, but it's pretty tame -- fades to black.
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