Book Review: Silent Shadows

Silent Shadows – Natalie Walters – Harbored Secrets #3 – Revell – Published 31 March 2020

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Synopsis

Pecca Gallegos moved to the tiny town of Walton, Georgia, to protect her son and escape the dangerous lifestyle that once defined her. When a series of strange circumstances evolve into threats, Pecca finds herself confiding in an unlikely ally–her stubborn patient.

Army veteran Colton Crawford is desperate to recover from the undiagnosed disorder that is ruining his life, and his instincts are on high alert when threats against his nurse and her son force him to take action. But Colton’s involvement only ramps up the danger when he uncovers a family secret revealing that whoever is after Pecca is closer–and more deadly–than they realized.

My thoughts

Silent Shadows is the third book in the Harbored Secrets series. While the books do have a few character crossovers, each of the three books can be read as complete stories in and of themselves. Silent Shadows is a thrilling tale about mistakes, gangs, wounded military heroes, and, of course, delicious romance.

Pecca would do anything to protect her son. Maceo has already faced so many challenges in his life, so she is determined to protect him from the gang violence of his father’s world. Pecca thought she was pretty safe in the small town of Walton, working as a nurse in the Home for Heroes, but when a serious of threats continue to target her and Maceo, she will need to rely on her newest patient, Colton, an Army Captain suffering from a muscle disorder, to keep them safe. But their physically safety might come at the risk of Pecca’s heart and dreams of the future.

There are some wonderful elements to this book. I particularly enjoyed young Maceo who dreams of being like the other kids and being able to play football, despite his prosthetic leg. He idolises Colton, who does such a wonderful job of encouraging Maceo and helping him to see himself for his full worth and not the bits he lacks. This book has a wonderful family vibe, from little kids football games, and after school play dates and all the troubles of kids in school.

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Book Review: All Your Twisted Secrets

All Your Twisted Secrets – Diana Urban – HarperTeen – Published 17 March 2020

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Synopsis

Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

My thoughts

Well, that’s how you start a book. Talk about getting hooked. All Your Twisted Secrets, as the title implies, is a thrilling book told in now and then sections about the secrets six teens will reveal when faced with a life-threatening situation. This book is compelling, addictive and shocking – I know teen readers will soak this up.

When six teens are invited to a prestigious dinner as scholarship recipients, they are shocked to discover they are locked in the room with a bomb, a syringe filled with deadly poison and a choice – kill one person or all be killed. Amber knows there must be another way to get everyone to safety, if she could just get the others to stop fighting. But as the clock ticks down, the six must face the events of the past year, and reveal the secrets they have kept hidden.

This book is thrilling from beginning to end. The short countdown chapters are perfectly spaced between the longer flashback sections. I won’t say too much about the characters or plot because the book is so brilliantly done I don’t remember what I didn’t know at the start and what I learnt as each fragment and detail is revealed throughout the book. I desperately wanted to flip to the back of the book to see how it would end and I’m so glad I didn’t. The build up and reveals are worth it. Stay away from spoilers if you can and enjoy the journey Diana Urban has masterfully created. With some important messages about friendship, bullying and social justice, this book has heart as well as guts.

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Book Review: End Game

End Game – Rachel Dylan – Capital Intrigue #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

When elite members of the military are murdered on the streets of Washington, DC, FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini must work together to bring the perpetrator to justice. Unfortunately, all evidence points to a Navy SEAL sniper whom Bailey refuses to believe is guilty.

When Bailey and Marco start to connect the dots between the victims, including a link to a powerful defense contractor, they wonder if there’s a deeper cover-up at play. Then Bailey is targeted, and it becomes clear that someone is willing to kill to keep their dark secrets.

With the stakes getting higher by the moment in a twisted conspiracy, there’s a rush against the clock to determine whom they can really trust. As allies turn to enemies, the biggest secret yet to be uncovered could be the end of all of them.

My thoughts

End Game reads like my favourite crime-fighting tv show. The focus is entirely on the investigation of a series of murders. Teamwork between agencies, searching through paperwork, interviews and interrogations, going where the evidence leads, it all works together to form a really interesting detective mystery with just a bit of suspense and life-threatening action. Quick dialogue and a great rapport between the large cast of characters involved in solving the crimes makes End Game a captivating book to read.

I really loved the focus on the investigation and the detective work the team do. While there are moments of suspense and the characters’ own lives are at stake, the action and thrills are not the focus of the story. I thought this was a much more realistic portrayal of criminal investigation work. It also made for very interesting reading as the legal ramifications of the case are considered, the team have to wait for evidence to be found, and they have to really work hard for the leads they discover.

FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini are our main characters. They have been asked to work together to solve two murders that may be linked together – the deaths of a construction worker and a Navy SEAL. When more bodies turn up and it looks more like a larger conspiracy cover-up, the two, with the help of their team, will have to outrun the target on their backs to find the people responsible.

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Book Review: Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage – Lynette Eason – Danger Never Sleeps #1 – Revell – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Honorably discharged from the Army after an explosion nearly killed her, former military psychiatrist Brooke Adams has set up shop to help others–but her days of helping military personnel are over. She’s got her own battles to fight from her time overseas, and she’s not equipped to take on more. Former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James could handle anything that war sent his way–terrorists, bombs, bullets. The only thing that scares him now is sleep. As the shadows close in, the nightmares begin.

Finally convinced that he needs help, Asher makes an appointment with a counselor, and Brooke is pressed by her boss to take him on. When he arrives at her office she isn’t there–but a dead body is. Brooke is devastated when she walks in, and Asher is a conveniently strong shoulder to cry on. But she can’t take him on as a client after sharing such an intimate and unprofessional moment, can she? And he’s not sure he can handle sharing his deepest fears with such a beautiful woman.

When it becomes clear that Brooke was the real target of the attack–and that her secrets go even deeper than his own–Asher vows to protect her no matter what.

My thoughts

There is so much to love about this suspense novel. Multiple storylines come together to reveal a complex plot that has a devastating impact. A team of highly trained professionals, from detectives and medical examiners and investigative journalists, to military men and women and psychiatrist, work together to uncover the threads of this international case. With two main characters that have a great chemistry as well as a heartbreaking connection via shared trauma, this romantic suspense novel is the perfect start to a new series.

Military psychiatrist Brooke Adams left the army after giving her all—and nearly her life—in Afghanistan. Now she is back on American soil and working again as a psychiatrist, she just no longer works with service men or women and struggles with her own traumatic memories and nightmares of the explosion she survived. So when she is assigned a session with former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James, she is not sure how she is going to face the memories or the man who helped save her life. When Asher intercepts an attempt on Brooke’s life, the two team up to stay alive and discover how the current attacks fit in with their pasts.

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Book Review: Smoke Screen

Smoke Screen – Terri Blackstock – Thomas Nelson – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Nate Beckett has spent his life fighting wildfires instead of the lies and rumors that drove him from his Colorado hometown. His mother begs him to come back now that his father has been released from prison, but it isn’t until he’s sidelined by an injury that he’s forced to return and face his past. But that means facing Brenna too.

Fourteen years ago, Nate was in love with the preacher’s daughter. When Pastor Strickland discovered Brenna defied him to sneak out with Nate, the fight between Strickland and Nate’s drunken dad was loud—and very public. Strickland was found murdered later that night, and everyone accused Roy Beckett. When the church burned down not long after, people assumed Nate set the fire to get even for his father’s conviction. He let the rumors fly and left town without looking back.

Brenna is stunned to learn that the man convicted of murdering her father has been pardoned. The events of that night set her life on a bad course, and now she’s fighting a brutal custody battle with her ex and his new wife where he’s using lies and his family’s money to sway the judge. Brenna is barely hanging on, and she’s turned to alcohol to cope. Shame and fear consume her.

As Nate and Brenna deal with the present—including new information about that fateful night and a wildfire that’s threatening their town—the past keeps igniting. Nate is the steady force Brenna has so desperately needed. But she’ll have to learn to trust him again first.

My thoughts

Smoke Screen is a story about family, love, wrongs dealt unjustly, reputations and the havoc of a messy divorce and custody battle.

Brenna is a mess after her husband left her for a much younger woman and is now fighting for custody of their two young children. Brenna has turned to alcohol to cope and the news that the man responsible for murdering her father has been pardoned only heightens her stress levels. When smoke jumper, Nate Beckett hears of his father’s pardon, he has no intention of returning to the small town that so quickly turned their backs on his family and accused Nate of burning down the church in revenge. But an injury while fighting large wild fires, means he must return, coming face-to-face with the woman who still holds his heart.

I was intrigued by the story in Smoke Screen. It is more a contemporary novel about romance, broken relationships and heartbreak, than suspense novel. There are two investigations in this story, both of which concluded, incorrectly, many years ago. But while these investigations are being re-evaluated now due to current events, they tick along in the background. It is Brenna’s story of alcohol abuse and battle for custody that drives the plot and brings tension to the book. I thought it was very obvious who the murderer would be and I was not surprised to be proven correct. The story just had too many easy fixes and neat endings not to go with that clean tie-up.

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Book Review: Deadly Deceit

Deadly Deceit – Natalie Walters – Harbored Secrets #2 – Revell – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

When journalist Vivian DeMarco’s boss dies under suspicious circumstances, her only hope for finding the truth is Deputy Ryan Frost. The deeper they dig, the more twisted the truth becomes, and someone called The Watcher forces Vivian to decide what she’s willing to lose for the sake of a headline.

My thoughts

Deadly Deceit combines romance with solid investigation as a detective and a reporter work together to uncover the work of a deadly blackmailer.

Vivian found a second chance in Walton. Fired from her last position for refusing to release harming details in her article, the kind-hearted Harold offered her a position at his newspaper. But when Harold dies with his last words to Vivian to find the details on a big story, she knows she must uncover what he was talking about. Ryan Frost has returned from training at Quantico and resumed a position as Deputy on Walton’s force. He has offers from the CIA and FBI but he doesn’t want to leave his family, like his father once did. When Ryan responds to the death of Harold, he and Vivian cross paths. She isn’t the dogged reporter he remembers and he isn’t the scrawny police officer she recalls from their past run ins. But, if Ryan wants to keep Vivian safe, he will have to work with her.

Deadly Deceit is the second book in the Harbored Secrets series by Natalie Walters. While the setting and characters from the first book have carried over into this second instalment, the main characters and plot are complete and so the two books can be read as standalone titles.

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Book Review: Protecting Tanner Hollow

Protecting Tanner Hollow – Lynette Eason – Tanner Hollow #1-4 – Revell – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Lethal Homecoming
Nolan Tanner never got over Kallie Ainsworth’s sudden, unexplained departure. Now when he comes to her rescue after an attempt on her life, all the old feelings come rushing back.

Lethal Conspiracy
When professional fundraiser Lillian Maloney sees her father’s campaign manager commit murder, she goes on the run from the men he hires to kill her. A close call brings firefighter Jason Tanner to the rescue, but the killer is closing in . . .

Lethal Secrets
Someone wants Honor McBride dead. When Eli Murphy helps her change a flat tire and discovers the danger Honor is in, he longs to help–but Eli has secrets of his own that could get them all killed.

Lethal Agenda
When Detective Derek St. John rescues a woman he’s met only once before–and has never been able to forget–he finds himself falling for her. But he’ll have to keep Claire Montgomery alive if they’re to have a future together.

My thoughts

Protecting Tanner Hollow is a collection of four novellas. Fast-paced and with plenty of romance, these four suspense novellas will have readers as eager to know who the bad guys are as they will be eager for a happy ever after ending.

The first story, Lethal Homecoming, follows Kallie Ainsworth as she returns home after six years away. After her mother remarried, Kallie faced physical and verbal abuse from her harsh step-father and only his death has her brave enough to return. But his death is not an innocent as it seems and before Kallie has even stepped foot inside her family home, someone is trying to kill her. With the help of an old flame, Detective Nolan Tanner vows to keep Kallie safe as they try to find the person behind it all. Simple story, unfortunately, this was my least favourite of the four novellas. So, if you too didn’t enjoy this first one, keep reading, as they all get significantly better.

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Book Review: Dark Ambitions

Dark Ambitions – Irene Hannon – Code of Honor #3 – Revell – Published 1 October 2019

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Synopsis

Former Army Night Stalker Rick Jordan usually has his camp for foster children to himself during the winter months. But someone has visited recently–leaving a trail of blood. One of the two clues left behind tips Rick off to the identity of his visitor, who soon turns up dead. The police deem it an accident, but Rick isn’t convinced. With the help of private investigator Heather Shields, he sets out to decipher the remaining clue. Except someone doesn’t want them to succeed–and will stop at nothing to keep them from finding the truth.

With her trademark psychological suspense ratcheting up the tension on every page, bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon takes you on a search for a cold-blooded killer with an ambitious goal and deadly intent.

My thoughts

Dark Ambitions is the thrilling third book in the Code of Honor series. It is a fantastic book, with crossover characters from both the two prior books in the series and the Private Justice series. It has scintillating romance and a crime to solve with limited clues to go on and plenty of intriguing suspects.

Heather Shields is the newest member of the Phoenix Inc Private Investigator team. When former Army Night Stalker, Rick Johnson, asks for her help to locate a missing ex-team member, she never could have expected where the investigation would lead them, or the possibility of a blooming romance between herself and Rick.

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Book Review: One Final Breath

One Final Breath – Lynn H. Blackburn – Dive Team Investigations #3 – Revell – Published 3 September 2019

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Synopsis

Investigator Gabe Chavez and Dive Team Captain Anissa Bell have a complicated history. But when Anissa’s fractured past collides with Gabe’s investigation of a shooting, they must work together to catch the murderer before someone else dies.

My thoughts

I love Lynn Blackburn’s writing and she has outdone herself with the Dive Team Investigation series. One Final Breath is the third book in the series and I’m going to go out on a limb and say it is the best of the series. Simmering romantic tension between the two lead characters, three investigations with ongoing twists and a strong camaraderie between the Dive team and their respective significant others, makes for a thrilling and fantastic read.

Anissa Bell is the Dive Team Captain, so she is familiar with death and murder. But when she and her friends respond to shots fired in the Lake and must rescue a young girl and the young man she was with, it all hits too close to home and brings up some unwanted memories. Together, Anissa and her team, including Investigator Gabe Chavez, must pull together the threads of the case, even when there is little to go on. But when a seemingly innocent event indicates someone is attempting to hurt Anissa, the case gets personal.

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Book Review: Returning to Eden

Returning To Eden – Rebecca Hartt – Acts of Valor #1 – Rise UP Publications – Published 1 October 2019

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Synopsis

Declared MIA a year prior, the Navy wrote him off as dead. Now, Eden’s husband, Navy SEAL Jonah Mills has returned after three years to disrupt her tranquility. Diagnosed with PTSD and amnesia, he has no recollection of their marriage or their fourteen-year-old step-daughter. Still, Eden accepts her obligation to nurse Jonah back to health while secretly longing to regain her freedom, despite the reminiscent attraction she feels.

Jonah Mills knows he has work to do. Unfit for active duty, he commits himself to therapy and relies on faith in the loving God who sustained him through torture and hardship to also heal his body, mind and family.

But as the memories lurking in his wife’s haunted eyes and behind his step-daughter’s uncertain smile begin to return to him, a disturbing chain of events is revealed. If his memories are truly real, not only is his career at stake, but so is the welfare of his small, cherished family.

My thoughts

I am always on the lookout for new authors within the Christian genre and so I was excited to give Rebecca Hartt’s Returning To Eden a try. Exciting, and tense, Returning To Eden is part romance and part suspense.

When Eden receives a phone call saying her husband, missing in action presumed dead, is actually alive and on his way home, it’s a shock. And not necessarily a good one. Eden and her daughter were just getting used to their freedom without a neglectful and controlling husband and stepfather. But Eden is resolved to offer Jonah support in his recovery, especially when she discovers he has no memory of the past two years, no memory of her or their marriage, and it seems he is a new and changed man. But Jonah is certain the dangers of the past year have followed him home and he is determined to protect his family, even if following his hunch means he could lose them forever.

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