Superb narration. No complaints on that score. As for the story, it's your typical romantic suspense. I'd give the text about 3.5 or 4 stars. It's enjoyable, entertaining, and somewhat heartwarming, even though fairly extreme, with some plot holes.
I figured out the villain's identity easily and quickly. The author makes everything clear. Not much guesswork needed to comprehend the plot or predict what will happen next. No surprises.
I liked the scenes with the Mongomery brothers teaming up to fight the baddies. Happy to see Zach reunited into the clan. Good scenes with their mother, Anna. The SWOT team sniper, Jasmine, from book 1, plays a small role, too.
Decent romantic relationship development. One sex scene, at about 75% into the story. I liked the hero and heroine, but they both carried around too much guilt and regret. Personally, I grow bored with internal rumination, especially when it's focused on past regrets.
Lots of scenes center around the five year old boy, Sam. If you don't like children in the story, this is not for you. Personally, I do like kids, if done well. Sam's dialogue and characterization is fairly believable here, but not quite right.
Some basic swearing, but not very much, and little or no profanity. One sex scene. Some beatings, violence, and bloody murder.
The narrator is probably fine for most listeners, based on the reviews and ratings. For me, her voice modulation was a bit shrill. After 30 minutes, it began to grate a bit. Also, I didn't much care for her vocal characterization of the hero, Sam.
The story itself was better when I read it, compared to audio. I love the beginning chapters, where Sam and Jane get to know each other. Great car wash scene! Some funny one-liners. Decent dialogue.
Some parts of the book are skip-worthy, so when reading, I just skim past the sections involving the other three women (Marci, Lena, and TJ) and their love life. I grow impatient with the pages (and audio minutes) spent on this. Instead, I focus on the main characters, Sam and Jane. I also flip past the pages depicting the bloody murder. Repeated explicit sex gets boring, so fast forward there, too.
So, I'd give the book almost 4 stars (because I skim past the sections I don't care for). In audio format, it's hard to skim over unwanted sections.
One of Linda Howard's weakest books. Narrator Susan Ericksen is very good, but the story turned me off. Detective Cahill really let me down. Some hero. Simply not enough trust, dialogue, or relationship development. I didn't laugh or even smile. Too much raunchy sex. Repeated mention of blood and splattered brain matter. Lest we forget?
But my biggest problem?? I could NOT believe Sarah had sex with Cahill after his big betrayal. What a crock! He needed to work hard to win her trust again. But nope. She's easy.
The epilogue was a waste. Mostly, it was Cahill mentally rehashing the case, just as if we didn't already know -- all along -- what Dunsmuir did, and what a psycho he was. Then, after Dumbo Detective mentally replays the entire case, the book ends with more sexy bondage and a declaration of love. I couldn't buy it.
Howard's writing is weak in this book. Repetitive, plus she focused on trivial details too much. Dump redundancy and trivia. Replace with dialogue and action.
Bottom line? Ick. But I do like some books by Linda Howard.
Excellent narration. Top of the trees! Hats off to Anna Fields. Engrossing story with more finely crafted characters than generally seen in the romance genre. The characterization of Phoebe and Dan is superb. They held my interest despite the sometimes predictable storyline and the totally transparent villains.
Phillips portrays Phoebe as a blond bimbo, a reincarnation of Marylyn Monroe, but that's only on the surface. Inside, she's a wounded soul, vamping it up big time to cloak her soft heart, childhood scars, and sexual inhibitions. To survive, she learned to hide her keen intelligence and wise compassion. A hugely sympathetic and likeable character, Phoebe won me over. Loved her shrewd bimbo-ish business dealings, and her perceptive insight regarding Ron and Keen, especially. That business meeting with Keen was hilarious! Loved every scene with Phoebe and Dan. Great couple!
Phillips portrays Coach Dan Calebow as a reformed bad boy looking for a good woman to raise his babies. He's intensely attracted to Phoebe but cannot see her singing lullabies, baking cookies, or changing diapers, so he resists as best he can. He is highly reminiscent of Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Phoebe likened several times to Newman's sexpot Elizabeth Taylor (several references to Pulitzer-winning writer, Tennesee Williams). Like Phoebe, Dan has his childhood scars, too, from abusive partents in backwoods Alabama. His gradual realization of where his heart lies felt totally credible. His characterization as a hard-driving man's man is solid. The author also illustrates his soft spot for kids (and a youthful, unhappy Molly, age 15).
Contents: Several explicit sex scenes, swearing, religious profanity, some violence, and references to rape.
Ps. The sequel, Heaven Texas, is my favorite in this series, but I like the entire set of books.
"Our thoughts shape our world" pretty much sums up this book. The Secret Garden reminded me strongly of Heidi, The Little Princess, and -- to some extent -- Anne of Green Gables. It's an uplifting children's classic, set in Yorkshire, 1910. Good character development, inspirational and motivational messages, credible kid dialogue, and a few mysteries. Granted, the author pushes the power of positive thinking, fresh air, exercise, and Mother Nature a lot, but no harm done. At least she avoids pious judgmentalism. Plus, I adored Dickon, the young animal whisperer.
Good performance by Victoria McGee. She made it easy to differentiate between characters, and her voice is pleasant.
Some parts got repetitive and slow, but not too bad, and being a word nerd, I enjoyed the strong Yorkshire accent and the archaic vocabulary, including "wick" (alive), etc. This book inspired me to work in my garden and to nurture my soul.
My only strong quibble is with Archibald Craven. His happy ending was too pat, too sudden, and -- well -- undeserved. Out of self-pity at the death of his beloved wife, for ten years he abandoned his poor little infant son. Collin knew fear, loneliness, and dreadful misery. Excerpt:
"He was a man who for ten years had kept his mind full of dark and heartbroken thinking. He had not been courageous. He had never tried to put any other thoughts in the place of the dark ones. He had wandered by blue lakes, and thought them. He had lain on mountainsides with sheets of deep blue gentians blooming all around him, and thought them. A terrible sorrow had fallen upon him...and he had let his soul fill itself with blackness and had refused obstinately to allow any rift of light to pierce through. He had forgotten and deserted his home and his duties."
I needed to see Archie work for it a little.
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.
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