Last Place Seen by Alessandra Harris

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Date of publication: September 6th, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the aftermath of her husband’s life-altering mistake, Tiana Williams grapples with lingering resentment while working full-time and raising their toddler. But when Jay becomes a person of interest in the kidnapping of ten-year-old Zoe Miller, Tiana is torn between trusting her husband and believing the growing pile of evidence. After she gets dragged further into the mystery and discovers her connection to the missing girl, the shaky ground beneath her crumbles.

With the odds stacked against him, Jay does everything in his power to prove his innocence. Racing against the clock, he must uncover the truth about Zoe’s kidnapping before he loses everything he loves—including his freedom.

During a sweltering heat wave and a raging California wildfire, Tiana and Jay will stop at nothing to find Zoe, even if it means tearing apart their marriage and risking their own lives in the process.


First Line:

A familiar ache gripped Tiana’s chest.

Last Place Seen by Alessandra Harris

When I read Last Place Seen’s blurb, I knew I needed to read it. A mystery/thriller/suspense set in California during a heat wave and with a wildfire going on? Sign me up to read it. I am glad I did because I couldn’t put this book down.

The Last Place Seen had a fascinating plotline. It starts with a 10-year-old girl getting kidnapped at a local Walmart. The missing child investigation focuses on Jay, who happened to be there at the same time the girl went missing. Jay, desperate to prove his innocence, scrambles to find evidence to show he didn’t kidnap her. The book then zooms in on the life of Tiana and Jay, a married couple going through hard times.

On the other hand, Tiana has her world blown when long-held secrets are exposed, and her marriage to Jay crumbles. Will the girl be found? Will Jay be able to hold onto his family and his freedom? And will Tiana make the right choice?

The Last Place Seen had a fast plotline that alternated between Jay and Tiana. The author didn’t slow down for a second during the book. I loved it!!

There were several twists in the plotline that I did see coming. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of reading or lessen any anxiety I felt while reading.

I liked Jay a lot. He was a convicted felon struggling to find work, which made him feel awful. He did help out around the house and watched Marcus (Tiana and his son) while Tiana worked. He had his issues (some major ones that were detailed in the book). I got mad on his behalf quite often while reading. The author touched a nerve with me when Jay was taken in for questioning. I got angry and then felt sadness because you know that this same scenario plays out in police departments around the United States. I was rooting for Jay the entire book, and I felt he got his comeuppance at the end.

I liked Tiana, but she annoyed me. I get that she was still low-key upset with Jay over his incarceration. But I wouldn’t say I liked seeing her being petty about it. Also, I wouldn’t say I liked that she immediately ran to Devon once things started to blow up (Jay being brought in for questioning, the two huge bombshells dropped on her). Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate that she didn’t believe Jay when he said he was innocent. All because of what Devon was saying (which, by the way, I saw right through). There were other instances where she annoyed me too. Like at the rally, when she saw her father and was loud about what she found out (not the time or the place). But, towards the end, I felt she got served a piece of humble pie. She got to feel what Jay went through when he was arrested, and she was forced to interact with her dad/her dad’s mistress.

The suspense angle of Last Place Seen kept me reading. I was wondering when everything would come together. I also wondered if/when Zoe (the missing girl) would be found. The author did a fantastic job with that.

As I mentioned above, I did figure out most of the mystery angles reasonably early in the book. A couple of them were just good guesses on my end, and I was surprised when I was right. Still, figuring them out early didn’t take away from my enjoyment of reading the book.

The thriller angle of the book was great. Like the suspense angle, it kept me glued to the book.

The end of Last Place Seen was one of the best I have ever read. Not only did the author keep me guessing if Jay would ever find the evidence to exonerate himself, but I wondered if Tiana would figure out what was going on. She eventually did but not before being served a piece of humble pie (as I stated above). The last chapter was very bittersweet but showed Tiana’s growth as a character.

I would recommend Last Place Seen to anyone over 21. There is violence and language but no sexual situations.

Shadowed Spirits (The Guardians: Book 4) by Reily Garrett

Publisher:

Date of publication: August 19th, 2022

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Series: The Guardians

Shadowed Horizons—Book 1 (review here)

Shadowed Origins—Book 2 (review here)

Shadowed Passages—Book 3

Shadowed Spirits—Book 4

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

One man’s curse is another man’s weapon.

Genetic engineer Neah Haversham thought unlocking the code to her psychic gift would ease the way to blocking it, something she’d wanted since puberty.
Unable to turn off heightened senses means experiencing life on a different level. Shiya, her golden retriever, is the only companion tolerated.
Within months of finishing her studies, she learns the life she planned has vanished with the rescue of a sarcastic, hardheaded teen with an unprecedented ability.
Ouray Bernard is a healer and warrior, a Native American who uses his skills to train other uniquely talented individuals. When called to help the woman invading his dreams, he can’t refuse.
Loyalties collide as each defends their position in the battle against a secret society determined to dominate them all.


First Line:

Concrete is porous. Most people think it’s the same as cement.

Shadowed Spirits by Reily Garrett

I was immediately sucked into the book when I started reading Shadowed Spirits. I was thrilled that Ouray was getting his HEA, and I couldn’t wait to see who Neah was and what abilities her character would have. I wasn’t disappointed!!

Shadowed Spirits are the 4th book in The Guardians series. Technically, readers could read this book as a standalone mainly because the author does go over what happened in the previous books in the beginning. I would, however, strongly recommend reading the first three books before reading this one.

As noted in the first paragraph, Shadowed Spirits are the love story between Neah and Ouray. This book starts shortly after the last book’s events and introduces Neah. Neah is a genetic engineer coming close to cracking the code of not only her psychic gift but everyone like her psychic gifts. But Neah is on a mission from her mentor when the book starts. That mission is to rescue a gifted teenager from people who wish to harness her ability. But that mission goes sideways, and Neah finds herself joined to Ouray’s group. Determined to keep the teen safe and finish her research, Neah doesn’t have time for romance. But as she gets to know the group, Neah realizes that maybe her research wasn’t for the greater good and was selfish. When her research is stolen, and the teenager kidnapped, Neah must put aside everything she thinks about her gift and use it. Will Neah and the group be able to rescue the teen? Will Neah come to terms with her gift? And more importantly, will Neah and Ouray recognize their feelings for each other?

I liked Neah. From the minute she was introduced in the book, I was fascinated with her. Her gift was unique, and I could sympathize with her frustration with it. It must have been not very good to live with heightened senses. I understood why she went into genetic research. She wanted a way to turn it off. It made sense to me. She mildly annoys me when she refuses to listen to reason with her research (it could put people like her at risk). But other than that, I enjoyed her character.

I was super happy that Ouray got his love story. A little of his background was released, and I wish the author had released more of his background. He was a stabilizing force with Caspar and Neah once they overcame their initial distrust of him. Plus, he trained them (which they both needed). I enjoyed his character a lot.

I wasn’t expecting Caspar and her abilities. Just for the record, Caspar is not her real name. She got the nickname because of her ability. Caspar can phase through inanimate and animate objects. She reminded me of my almost 17-year-old daughter: headstrong, spunky, and with a heart of gold. She cared more than she let on. I also was in awe of her ability. The more the author released, the stronger it got. She phased through a mountain to escape the bad guys while holding Neah in one memorable scene. In another memorable scene, she could phase her hand through a chest and grab a heart in her hand as an intimidation tactic. I cannot wait to see where her story ends up.

The romance angle of Shadowed Spirits was very slight and almost overlooked. I didn’t feel Neah and Ouray liked each other that way until nearly the end of the book. And that was only after Christine’s vision that Neah saw herself with a black-haired toddler boy.

There were zero sex scenes in Shadowed Spirits. Ouray and Neah kiss, but it is towards the end of the book. Honestly, I liked it like that. I felt that sex would have taken away some of the storylines with everything going on.

The author very well wrote the plotline regarding Neah, her research, the two groups helping her, and the group kidnapping people with abilities. Some of those scenes were gripping, and I couldn’t put my book down. I also loved what happened with Pandora towards the end of the book. Let’s say that she deserved what she got.

The plotline centered around Neah; her background and her abilities were interesting. I did figure out who Neah was related to by the middle of the book. But, I was still surprised when the author made the grand reveal at the end. It did make sense.

The plotline centered around Caspar, her background and her abilities were well written. I enjoyed watching her character flesh out during the book. As I mentioned above, I was in awe of her abilities. She was one of the more powerful, gifted people I have read in the series. Her background is revealed at the end of the book. She found out where she came from and how she ended up in the foster system. The only thing that the author didn’t release was her true name.

The end of Shadowed Spirits was terrific. The author wrapped up Neah and Ouray’s storyline and part of Caspar’s. But she left all the rest open and threw in a shocking bit of information that made my mouth drop. I have a feeling I know who the next couple will be, but I’m not going to say.

I would recommend Shadowed Spirits to anyone over 21. There is no sex. There is language and violence. There are also scenes of people being held against their will and drugged and kidnapped.

The Diseased (Paige Hanson: Book 1) by S. M. Thomas

Publisher: A.R. Hurne Publishing

Date of publication: September 2nd, 2022

Genre: Dystopia, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Series: Paige Hanson

The Diseased—Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

Where is your husband?

Since waking up from the accident Dr Paige Hanson has been asked that question over and over. By the hospital staff, by her mother in law and by Government officials.

As she struggles to grasp the wisps of memory returning to her Paige learns that there’s more at stake than Leo’s whereabouts.

Turning towards the teachings of the one person she swore never to become she begins to realise that some questions are best left unanswered.


First Line:

“We were drowning. That’s the last thing I remember.”

The Diseased by S.M. Thomas

I like books that keep me guessing what will happen as I read. I also like books that do not fit into what you think a specific genre would be like (if that makes sense). But, most of all, I like books that suck me in, don’t let me go, and make me want more after the ending. Those reasons are precisely what The Diseased did to me as I read it.

The Diseased is the first book in the Paige Hanson series. And what a first book it was!! Seeing that it is the first book, I won’t tell you if you need to read the series first or if it is a standalone.

The Diseased is the story of Dr. Paige Hanson and the mystery of what happened to her husband the night their car drove into a lake. Paige has very fuzzy recollections of what happened and almost none of what led to the accident. Paige, a brilliant scientist, is released from the hospital only to be kept under surveillance at all times. What happened that night? What are Paige’s secrets? Paige realizes she isn’t the only one keeping secrets, but her secrets could kill her.

Paige was a highly complex character which, in my eyes, meant she was complicated to get to know and like. There were several different sides of Paige that were gradually introduced. They were: Paige the scientist; Paige the mother; Paige the wife; Paige the daughter-in-law; Paige the friend; and Paige the daughter/child. The author did a fantastic job of building up each side of Paige and then merging them towards the end of the book. At first, I wasn’t her biggest fan, but the author was able to change my mind about her during the book.

What surprised me the most about this book is that it doesn’t take place on Earth. Nope, the entire story takes place on a planet called Earth 2. There was a disaster on Earth 1, and a lottery was set up to select people to travel to Earth 2. Paige’s mother was one of those who had won the lottery. Nothing else was mentioned about the original Earth, except that it was burning. I figured everyone else died. The new planet was very similar to Earth 1, except there were already intelligent, human-like creatures who occupied it. Those creatures kindly allowed the settlers to build settlements. But, humans doing what they do best and started abusing the original lifeforms, which struck back. When the book begins (about 50 or so years after touching down), there is an uneasy peace. This information was told by Paige, remembering what her mother-in-law and mother had told her about her journey from Earth 1.

I wasn’t surprised by how the ruling government was. The original leaders of Earth 2 decided they didn’t want what happened on Earth 1 to happen again. They decided to remove the settlers’ customs and fundamental rights to make a more cohesive and obedient population. I was terrified and fascinated as I read this book.

I wish the author had gone more into Earth 2’s original occupants. All I knew was that they were human-like, could procreate with humans, and were pissed about what the settlers were doing. There was mention of an influential family with which Paige’s mother was involved, but that was it. Hopefully, in the next book, the author will explain more.

The mystery angle of The Diseased was well written. The author had a stranglehold on where Leo was and why they ended up in the lake. Her remembering those events was terrific and shed so much light on everything!!

The suspense and thriller angles of the book were just as well written. The author kept me in suspense about various plotlines (main and sub) that were going on throughout the book.

The storyline with Regina, Paige, and Franklin was very intense. As a mother, I could see both sides of the coin. I could see why Regina was pushing Paige to remember, and I could also see why Paige was protective of Franklin. Of course, a massive twist in that storyline took me by surprise. It made me rethink Regina (I was not too fond of her actions over most of the book).

The storyline with Paige, Leo, and the mystery of what happened that night was one of the most amazing ones I have read. The author kept me guessing about what happened to Leo and why Paige was driving. She let little details trickle down, gave slight hints, and got everything under wraps. So, when the author revealed everything, I was surprised.

The storyline with the pandemic and Paige hit a little too close to home for me. I did like seeing Paige’s process to develop a vaccine, but at the same time, I kept flashing back to quarantine.

The storyline with Paige and her mother was raw and difficult to read. It was tough to read because of Paige’s emotions. I could see how torn she was between wanting to have a relationship with her mother and, at the same time, she wanted to denounce her. I liked seeing her eventual realization that maybe her mother was on to something and waiting for her mother to do something at the trial.

The end of The Diseased was interesting. I was a little miffed that it ended on a cliffhanger, but it did its job!! I say that because of where Paige ended up and what she did after talking to her friends. I need to read book two and see where Paige goes next.

I would recommend The Diseased to anyone over 21. There are no overtly sexual scenes. But there is violence and language. There are scenes where a baby drowns, a man gets hanged, and another man is forced to denounce his sexuality.

Crosshairs by Felicity Ribero

Publisher: Brushfinch Publishing

Date of publication: August 15th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

They were from two different worlds.

Like two trains never crossing paths, they would have gone on without any shred of their lives coinciding. Until a late-night encounter brings them crashing into each other’s lives.

Cole, a small-time New York gun trafficker who has been unlucky for the better part of his life knows better than to dream of a better life. Jaded, exhausted and down on his luck, he struggles to deal with the reality of his choices.

Amidst dodging the keen attention of the authorities, and evading the sly notice of his crafty companions, he certainly has no patience to indulge a spoilt busy-body reporter with peas for brain and a hankering for danger. He thinks she’s crazy and wants nothing to do with her even if her smile takes his breath away and her presence soothes his wounds.

Samantha, on the other hand, is not letting go. She is a shark who has smelt blood and is honing in for the kill or the caresses.

But one thing is certain; Cole is a puzzle she is determined to unravel.
As the web of dark schemes and mysterious ploys thicken around them, passion flares to life, and so do other threats. These two are utterly defenseless against the attacks or the kisses.

Will they survive the imminent explosion that draws ever nearer or will these two finally get a chance to go after their fairytale romance?


First Line:

Oh no. Not today! I glance at my gold watch for the umpteenth time. 9:41 a.m.

Crosshairs by Felicity Ribero

When I read the blurb for Crosshairs, the blurb caught my interest. I was interested in how a romance between a small-time reporter and an arms dealer would turn out. I wasn’t disappointed. This book took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

Crosshairs had an exciting plotline. Samantha is a reporter trying to get her big break. But her boss (and the other reporters) are holding her back and forcing her to do fashion articles. So, when she notices a black van being loaded by two shady individuals late at night, she starts investigating. Cole is an arms dealer who is tired of everything and wants a better life. But he knows that a person like him could never have a better life, so he keeps doing the one thing he knows, trafficking guns. A dirty ATF agent approaches Cole and pushes him between a rock and a hard place. Cole and Samantha’s paths cross when Samantha tracks Cole to his apartment and then to a bar. She convinces Cole to let her do an expose and expose the ATF agent. But what she (or Cole) was expecting was their instant attraction. Soon, it becomes a race against time when they discover the ATF agent’s true agenda. Can they stop him? Or will they become pawns in a much bigger game?

I am going to put up a trigger warning. I usually don’t do these, but I think there are some aspects of this book that warrants it. The triggers are parental death, drugs, prostitution, and child abuse (physical and emotional). So, if these trigger you, I suggest not reading this book.

Crosshairs had dual POVs. The chapters would flip between Samantha and Cole. The author did a great job of keeping the flow of the book constant throughout the POV changes. Another huge thing was that I didn’t get lost at any point in the book, even when the insane stuff started. Sometimes, I have difficulty following dual POVs, and I can get lost. So this was a huge thing for me.

I liked Samatha. She was stubborn as heck, and she was determined to get a story that would get her on the front page. She followed her instincts when she saw the black van and Cole loading boxes into it. She investigated and followed the clues to Cole’s apartment and then the bar. I loved how she automatically believed Cole and used her skills to dig up dirt on that agent. She was just amazing throughout the book.

I loved Cole. His backstory was sadder than Samantha’s, and the author didn’t hold anything back. His mother ran a brothel out of their house, and his father was a small-time crime lord. After his mother’s overdose, his father and his father’s clients abused him. Fast forward to the present day, he was dealing with the aftershocks of his childhood and his own decisions. From the minute he met Samantha, he was all about protecting her. But, at the same time, he realized that he couldn’t hold her back, and he let her do her investigating.

There is Instalove in Crosshairs. I am not a fan of Instalove, and when I encounter it in a book, I eye-rolled…hard. Usually, Instalove takes away from the book for me. But, in this book, there was so much going on that it didn’t. Did it annoy me? Yes, but it didn’t take away from the plotlines.

Cole and Samantha’s chemistry (sexual and otherwise) was off the charts. They had a spark from the first time they saw each other, and the author kept building it up until it exploded. That explosion led to one of the hottest sex scenes I have read to date!!

The main storyline in Crosshairs was the dirty ATF agent and how he targeted Cole and Samantha’s investigation. That agent gave me chills when reading his scenes. I didn’t understand why he had targeted Cole until the book’s end. That was when he let drop a couple of bombs that took my breath away.

Samantha’s reporting (and her use of spyware) was truly amazing. The dirt she was able to dig up on that agent was amazing. I liked that she did have a friend who was an ace hacker. That friend was able to fill in the blanks that Samantha’s investigating couldn’t uncover. It did put a huge target on her back, but that was something she was willing to do to help Cole.

I loved the ending of Crosshairs. The author threw in a couple of twists that hurt my heart because of what was implicated. After those twists, the author did wrap up Cole and Samantha’s storyline in a way that I loved. I loved that everyone nasty in the book got what was coming for them. But more importantly, I loved that Cole and Samantha got their HEA.

I would recommend Crosshairs to anyone over 21. There are graphic sex scenes, violence, and language. There are also scenes of remembering child abuse and a remembered drug overdose.

Once and Always (Blackhawk Security: Book 6) by Margaret Watson

Publisher: Dragonfly Press

Date of publication: August 2nd, 2022

Genre: Romance, Suspense, Mystery, Thriller

Series: Blackhawk Security

With One Breath—Book 1 (review here)

Once Removed—Book 2 (review here)

Once Burned—Book 3 (review here)

Fool Me Once—Book 4 (review here)

Just This Once—Book 5 (review here)

Once and Always—Book 6

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Zoe was still in high school when she saw her father shot dead by a classmate obsessed with her, and then still a kid, witnessed the killer’s sentencing. A horrible tragedy, but now, thirteen years later, she’s thoroughly rebooted her life.

She’s the CEO of her own cyber security company, a celebrity in her field, and a speaker in high demand.

She’s just the kind of strong, self-reliant woman who can take care of herself in any situation.

Except the one she’s in.

She’s got a stalker.

And she already knows he’s a killer.

Given her background, Zoe knows instantly that she needs protection and she knows how to get it—her sister Mel’s the owner of Blackhawk Security.

But trust Mel to send Spence Flynn, the one agent Zoe can’t be alone with, but not because they don’t get along. It’s because attraction sizzles between the two of them like runaway electricity. And because they both know the last thing a body guard should do is get into a relationship with his principal.

It’s unethical and dangerous.

But how are they supposed to fight this thing? Spoiler: Good intentions suffer a knockout in the first round. And then, to the delight of the reader, the earth moves in the most delicious way.

Meanwhile, Zoe’s stalker is still sending her charms from a bracelet he stole from her thirteen years ago, the scariest being a heart he’s had engraved with both their names. Unnerving enough– and then he starts dropping off lunch for her, tailing her in a white Subaru, and trying to break into her condo.

Spence has his hands full in more than one way. And Zoe has a public appearance coming up. The perfect time for a stalker to strike.


First Line:

His heart racing, Ethan Davies slowed his steps as he neared Zoe’s locker.

Once and Always by Margaret Watson

If you have been following my blog long enough, I have a few authors I review regularly. Margaret Watson is one of them. I am a big fan of her books, and I always accept the invitation to review them when it comes to my email. When the invite for Once and Always appeared in my inbox, it was a no-brainer that I would accept.

Once and Always had an exciting plotline. At 18, Zoe witnessed her father killed by an obsessed classmate, and then she had to go through a trial. Thirteen years later, she has moved on with her life until she starts receiving packages. Those packages contain charms from a bracelet she lost around the time her father was killed, and only one person could have it—Ethan, her former stalker who killed her father. Contacting her sister, who owns Blackhawk Security, she is assigned a bodyguard until Ethan is caught. But when she sees who it is, she is slightly concerned. Zoe has been thirsting after Spence since he helped Nico the year before. The feelings are mutual, but Spence is there for a job: to protect Zoe from Ethan until he is caught. Will that happen? And will Zoe and Spence give in to their mutual attraction?

Once and Always is book 6 in the Blackhawk Security series. Once and Always can be read as a stand-alone book. But I suggest reading the first five books before picking this one up. That way, you know who the secondary characters are that are mentioned in Once and Always.

I will put a trigger warning on this review. The author did take great care to show sympathy and understanding for Ethan and made several references to mental illness reform (mainly about the facility he was held at for five years) and knowledge. There are mentions of attempted kidnapping. There are also talks about Ethan’s mental illness, and the author does show how he spiraled back into his delusions after his mother died. But, if these trigger you, I suggest not reading this book.


I did not expect to find sympathy for Ethan. The villains in most books are pure evil. But Ethan, well, he was different. The things he did to Zoe were terrible; there is no question about that, but knowing that he suffered a relapse after his mother’s death did soften my stance on him. The scenes in the cabin only cemented my opinion of him. I also liked that Zoe and Spence understood that after the fact. Their actions at the end of the book (which was discussed after the cabin) were proof of that.

I liked Zoe. She was a strong, opinionated, outspoken woman who knew her worth. Being a tech company CEO in an industry with few women shaped her. What also shaped her was what happened to her as a teenager. How could it not? I loved reading her scenes because she was always on point. She wasn’t afraid to share her feelings, even if she knew that the other person didn’t return them (the scene with Ron comes to mind, and a scene with Spence towards the end of the book).

I liked Spence, but I wanted to smack him at various times during the book. He was great at his job and would do anything to keep Zoe safe. But he wasn’t too good with personal skills or sharing his feelings. I did agree with him that they (him and Zoe) needed space, but I didn’t agree with how he phrased it. Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate how he treated Zoe after the scenes at the cabin. I talked out loud to the book and said, “Dude, you seriously didn’t say that to her!!” Spence had a lot of baggage he needed to lose, and I was afraid he would miss that ship with Zoe.

The secondary characters did make the book. These secondary characters flushed the book out and made the plotline more interesting to read.

I enjoyed the romance angle of Once and Always. There was a bit of Insta Love, but it was easy to overlook. It was an easy romance to read, and I liked knowing (well, for the most part) how Zoe and Spence would end up.

The sexual tension between Zoe and Spence was immediate from the beginning. It didn’t take long for them to end up in bed. The author raised the pressure by just having them look at each other. I loved it. I was a little meh about Zoe being a screamer during sex. She made Spence’s ears ring the first time she climaxed and every time after that. All I could think was, “What was her downstairs neighbors thinking” and “I hope the apartment is soundproof”….lol.

The mystery angle of Once and Always was also well written. It wasn’t too much of a mystery about who was sending the charms and why. The mystery, to me, was if Ethan would grab Zoe and when. The author gave several false leads, and I was kept on edge, wondering if it would happen.

The suspense angle was intertwined with the mystery angle. The author did a great job of keeping guessing at when (and if) Ethan was going to capture Zoe. I also was kept on edge by Spence and his decisions.

The end of Once and Always did bring tears to my eyes. While I was sad about how it ended, I loved how Zoe and Spence brought awareness to mental illness. I loved how the author wrapped up Zoe and Spence’s storyline. I am not sure who will be featured in book 7 (if there is a book 7), but if I had to guess, it would be Mel and her business partner. Either way, I am looking forward to it.

I would recommend Once and Always to anyone over 21. There are graphic sex, language, and violence. There are also the trigger warnings that I posted above.

Shadowed Origins (The Guardians: Book 2) by Reily Garrett

Publisher:

Date of publication: June 3rd, 2022

Genre: Romance, Suspense, Fantasy

Series: The Guardians

Shadowed Horizons—Book 1 (review here)

Shadowed Origins—Book 2

Shadowed Passages—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Ashlyn has spent years hiding her ability to connect with animals, especially dogs. After escaping the clutches of her guardian, she’s determined to remain free and bring the psychopath to his knees.
The terrorist’s plan for mass annihilation and anarchy requires her talent, and he will stop at nothing to reclaim his unique and invaluable prize.
Taylor’s telekinesis and special-ops training granted him seamless passage to work with Kenner’s paranormal unit. When he rescues a young woman from the clutches of her sadistic guardian, he’s unprepared for the emotional backlash created by their connection.
Forging ahead on the narrow path of freedom dictates keeping an eye on the rearview—for death and destruction dog their every mile.


First Line:

Ashlyn never considered the face of evil taking a physical form, with a fist to match.

Shadowed Origins by Reily Garrett

I have been looking forward to reading Shadowed Origins since I finished Shadowed Horizons. I had questions from the first book that I hoped would be answered in this one. And guess what, the author answered all of my questions. The author left me with questions about Ashlyn and Keira’s older brother. But he is the focus of book three, and I am sure the author will answer those questions for me in that book.

Shadowed Origins is the second book in The Guardians series. This book is not stand-alone. You need to read book 1 to understand what is happening in book 2.

Before I get into the review, I want to throw up a trigger warning. If you have been following my blog for a while, then you know how rare it is for me to do this. The main character, Ashlyn, has been abused (in all ways except sexual) by her captor, Roth. The author includes some scenes of the verbal, psychological, and physical abuse that Ashlyn has endured. So, if this triggers you, I strongly suggest not reading Shadowed Origins.

Shadowed Origins is Ashlyn’s story. Ashlyn has been held captive by Roth for her entire life. She has spent most of her captivity trying to escape Roth, but he has always caught her. Ashlyn had her next escape planned out, and it would have ended the same way except, this time, Ashlyn had help. She was aided by a group of men with similar powers that she and Roth possessed. Ashlyn discovers her powers (she can communicate with animals) and uses that power to protect herself against Roth’s numerous attempts to take her back. She also discovers that she has an identical twin sister who shares the same powers, and she realizes that she is falling in love with Taylor, an ex-special forces op who is also telekinetic. Will Roth succeed in taking back Ashlyn? Will she be able to meet her sister? Will she find out who is funding Roth?

I liked Ashlyn. Even though Roth abused her, she still had an optimistic view of life. She tried to find ways to escape him, and she resisted him in almost every way—which caused Roth to lash out. I thought that her plan to escape him out the bathroom window would fail (Roth had given her a sedative to keep her compliant). So, I was surprised when it didn’t fail and when Taylor and his group came to her aid. From then on, I enjoyed watching her character grow to become a young woman with confidence in her abilities. She was also able to see what/form healthy relationships look like and was instrumental in bringing the two groups together. I also loved her delight when she discovered that she had an identical twin sister and her nervousness about meeting her (Keira was an unknown and in a group that Kenner, the leader, thought was the enemy). She was a fantastic character to read, and I can’t wait to see more of her in the upcoming books.

I liked Taylor also. The author didn’t make him as fleshed out as Ashlyn, but he was still a fascinating character. He did not want a relationship because the death of his wife did affect him. But he was very attracted to Ashlyn, and he was also very protective. I liked seeing him slowly realize his feelings for Ashlyn. I also liked seeing him use his powers. His telekinesis was no joke. It was also satisfying to see him eat a bit of crow when his group finally met the other group. He was a little aggressive with that group.

Roth was one evil dude. The author didn’t get into his character in Shadowed Horizons, but in this book, she let loose with him. He was a true psychopath who enjoyed hurting people. He kept human eyes in glass jars in his office, and that grossed me out. But, there was a huge twist in his plotline that I didn’t see coming and I hope gets explained more in book 3. I did feel that he got what he deserved in the end, and I loved who gave it to him!!

The plotlines involving Roth and both groups were well written. I liked how the author finally had both groups meet after so many misconceptions about each other. I also liked how they teamed up to beat Roth and his people.

The end of Shadowed Origins was pretty awesome. I liked how the author wrapped up Ashlyn and Kiera’s storylines. She introduced Logan, Ashlyn and Kiera’s older brother, at the very end of the book (well, the concept of him), so I figure the next book will be about him. She also left the plotline for who Roth was working for, and I am very interested to see where that will end up.

Shadowed Horizons (The Guardians: Book 1) by Reily Garrett

Publisher:

Date of publication: May 13th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Suspense

Series: The Guardians

Shadowed Horizons—Book 1

Shadowed Origins—Book 2

Shadowed Passages—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Fate can have many paths. Which would you choose?

Kiera’s capacity to face death stems from training, begun when old enough to wield a knife. Befriended by wolves and raised by a group of psychic men sworn to protect humanity, she now faces mercenaries intent on reshaping the world using equal talents.

Prodigious keyboard skills and innate curiosity has led Wyatt McGlauklin to invent the unimaginable. He’s long since claimed status as the top computer science geek. Little do people know, there’s much more to Wyatt.
When a blonde spitfire steps out of nowhere to prevent his assassination, his life’s direction takes an extraordinary turn where his analytical mind can’t validate paranormal phenomena.

Fate decrees Kiera find her life partner, but she learns you don’t always get to choose whom you love. Wyatt’s arrival challenges destiny as they combine forces to preserve the world as they know it.


First Line:

Each flip of the key ring around his index finger tallied another reason to quit the world of high stake’s business.

Shadowed Horizons by Reily Garrett

I have read/reviewed for Reily Garrett before, and her books are consistently good. When I got the invite to review Shadowed Horizons, I didn’t hesitate to accept. I am glad I did because this book was fantastic and excited me to continue reading the series.

Shadowed Horizons is the first book in The Guardian’s series. Usually, I’d add something about if readers can read the book as a standalone or if you need to read the previous books. But in this case, it’s the first book, so those don’t apply here.

The storyline for Shadowed Horizons was interesting. Wyatt is a tech genius who a group of bodyguards is protecting with paranormal abilities. After being attacked by another group with similar paranormal abilities, he is taken to live with that group. During that attack, Wyatt meets Keira, a beautiful blonde warrior who can open portals and communicate with animals. Hiding him in their safe house is the only rational thing to do, but neither Wyatt nor Keira expected the sparks between them. Wyatt continues to work on his project, and Keira makes some discoveries that rock her world. She has an identical twin sister being held by an evil psychopath who tortures her. Another group, similar to hers, is also operating with the same end game: stop the psychopath. Can Kiera and her group save her sister, stop the psychopath, and ally with the new group? Will Kiera and Wyatt give in to their attraction? More importantly, will Kiera’s adoptive brothers allow her to have a relationship with Wyatt? And will they be able to save Ashlyn, Kiera’s twin?

I liked Wyatt. I felt he dealt with learning about paranormal abilities very well, considering how he found out. I also liked how he dealt with Kiera’s overprotective brothers. He was able to diffuse some pretty tense situations with humor. As for how he was with Kiera, I loved it. He didn’t quite know how to deal with her at first (she was a little pushy) and was a little awkward with her.

I liked Kiera. She was headstrong and knew what she wanted. She also had a penchant for practical jokes (the portals going to women’s dressing rooms was funny). Her paranormal ability (communicating with animals and opening portals) was intriguing. I liked that the author explained what she could do and how she met her wolves. I loved her scenes with Wyatt. She wanted him, and she would have him, regardless of what her brothers said. I was laughing out loud at the scenes where she asked different brothers about sex.

The bad guy, Roth, was a growing presence in the book. I liked that the author didn’t give too much away about him, only that he was collecting people with paranormal abilities and using them as mercenaries. I liked the mystery around why he was doing that and who he was. Nothing was answered about him, just that he was holding Ashlyn captive, and he was this very nasty, very evil person. I am looking forward to seeing more of him in the upcoming books.

The secondary characters, including the people from the other group of paranormals, rounded out the book. I liked seeing the guys’ different paranormal abilities and how they used them. I hope they get their books (along with their HEAs).

The paranormal angle was well written. The author kept me glued to the book with each ability uncovered. They fascinated me. I liked how they used their abilities to not only protect Wyatt but to fight Roth. I didn’t particularly appreciate that they immediately attacked the other group they found in Wyatt’s mansion or didn’t even bother to try and see who they were. They could have been allies, but no, the boys decide to fight them. That is my complaint about that (hopefully, the author will fix it in book 2!!).

The romance angle was ok for me. I liked the attraction between Wyatt and Kiera, but it didn’t progress beyond that. By the end of the book, I wanted more than a few stolen kisses between them. But, on the other hand, it was very refreshing to have a romance novel where the main characters weren’t having sex.

Something caught my attention when the author brought it up, and then she didn’t address it again. Nicholai (the head of the group and a precog) said that Kiera had a fated mate, and Wyatt wasn’t it. It was brought up again later in the book and then dropped. But I need more answers!! Does that mean that Kiera’s fated mate is still out there? Or was Nicholai wrong, and it was Wyatt all along? I hope that it gets explained more in the other books.

I had mixed feelings about the end of Shadowed Horizons. While I liked what I read, I hated that nothing was resolved, and had more questions than answers. Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate that it ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger. But that cliffhanger did its job, and now I have to read book 2!!

I would recommend Shadowed Horizons to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and sexual situations.

My Wife is Missing by D.J. Palmer

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: May 10th, 2022

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Contemporary

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A family vacation turns into a nightmare for Michael Hart when he discovers his wife and two children have disappeared from their New York City hotel room. Horrified, he fears they’ve been kidnapped. Michael’s frantic search to find them takes a shocking turn when he discovers that his wife, Natalie, appears to have left quite willingly, taking their children with her. The police want to know why, and so does Michael. But there may be a reason why Natalie ran, something Michael can’t tell the police — the truth about his past. While untangling his deceptions might be the key to locating Natalie, Michael knows it could also be his undoing. To find his wife, he must now turn to the one person capable of exposing all that he’s been hiding. Natalie thinks she has Michael all figured out and has hatched a plan to escape from him permanently. One detail, though, threatens to derail her efforts: sleep — or more accurately, the lack of it. Since the moment the shocking revelations about her husband came to light, Natalie’s insomnia has worsened to the point that she now suffers from delusions. Are her fears about Michael valid — or a symptom of her condition? With her children’s lives at risk, the stakes for Natalie could not be higher. On her own, running low on energy and resources, avoiding increasingly close calls with Michael — who is on the hunt and closing in fast — Natalie needs someone to turn to for help. But who can she trust when she can’t even trust herself?


First Line:

As Michael Hart rounded the corner to his hotel room, he saw a small, lifeless shape lying on the floor of the hallway.

My Wife is Missing by D.J. Palmer

My Wife is Missing is a fast-moving psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Natalie and Michael have some martial/personal issues, and they decide to take a trip to New York City to reconnect. While Michael is out getting dinner, Natalie takes the kids and disappears. Michael is confused, angry, and concerned. Why? Because Natalie has had insomnia, and he fears the lack of sleep has made her irrational. What Michael doesn’t know is that Natalie has discovered some of Michael’s long-buried secrets, and those secrets have scared her enough to run. But hindering her is her severe insomnia, and she begins to wonder if what she saw and discovered were hallucinations brought on by it. Can Natalie trust herself to get to somewhere safe? Will Michael find her? Will she find out if what she saw/found out is the truth or hallucinations?

I was immediately intrigued by the blurb of this book. I don’t think I have ever read a book where insomnia was a huge and prevalent part of the plotline. I didn’t realize that severe insomnia could result in hallucinations/delusions.

Natalie was such an unreliable character, and I loved it. Her insomnia started when she realized Michael was cheating on her, and it kept getting worse throughout the book. I loved reading her detective work into Michael’s past and his affair. I also loved that when she decided to make a move, she made up her mind and did it. I was cheering for her as she out maneuvered Michael time and time again (even as exhausted as she was).

I wouldn’t say I liked Michael. But, he did gain a little bit of my respect with his detective skills. Even though Natalie was one step ahead of him for 90% of the book, he was close enough to get her a couple of times.

The storyline with Natalie, the kids, her insomnia, and being on the run kept me on the edge of my seat. I was internally cheering her on and wanting her to get to her final destination without Michael finding her. I was a little disappointed with how it ended, but my disappointment was short-lived. It was because the author brought this storyline and the storyline with Michael’s cheating/his past together, and it EXPLODED!!

Michael’s storyline, cheating, and past were well written. Again, it kept me glued to my Kindle. A twist to the cheating storyline and the story about Michael’s history took me by surprise.

The twists in the storylines made the book. I was not expecting either of them. When they both made their appearances (one towards the end and one at the very end), my mouth dropped open. I couldn’t believe that the author went where he did with both twists.

The end of My Wife is Missing was good. The author was able to wrap up all of the storylines in a way that both shocked and pleased me. I was happy to see that at least one of the main characters would have a happy life. But at the same time, I wish the author could have redeemed the other main character somehow. That would have made the book so much better for me.

I would recommend My Wife is Missing to anyone over 21. There is violence, language, and some mild sexual situations.

Dark Circles by Caite Dolan-Leach

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: May 10th, 2022

Genre: Thriller, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | Google Play | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

An embattled actress turns to podcasting when she becomes entangled in a dark conspiracy at a spiritual retreat in this absorbing mystery about fame, violence, and our morbid fascination with murder–from the acclaimed author of Dead Letters.

Olivia Reed needs a break. She doesn’t want to think about her name plastered on tabloids or be reminded of her recent meltdown on a Manhattan street. Her micromanaging publicist has just the thing in mind: a remote retreat in Upstate New York–the House of Light. It’s not rehab; it’s a spiritual center, a site for seeking realignment and personal growth. There will be yoga and morning meditation, soft bamboo-blend fabrics and crystals to snuggle.

But Liv will soon find that the House of Light is filled with darkness. A prickly local, Ava, informs her that something twisted is lurking behind the Light’s veneer. There have been a series of mysterious suicides committed by women caught in the Light’s web, and no matter who Ava talks to, no one believes her. To get the truth out and put her celebrity to good use, Liv starts a podcast, seeking to connect the dots and expose the Light’s true intentions. Because beneath the glowing skin of the Light’s inhabitants lie rotten souls, and Liv starts to wonder if anything–even her own life–is how it appears.

Caite Dolan-Leach brings her tantalizing voice, gift for atmosphere, and a cast of delightfully devious and absorbing characters to this riveting novel of suspense.


First Line:

The thing my goddamn manager doesn’t understand is that I don’t need to go on a retreat.

Dark Circles by Cait Dolan-Leach

Dark Circles’ plotline was interesting. Olivia is an actress who has found herself in a bit of a pickle. After a very public, very drunken/drug-fueled temper tantrum, her manager/best friend has decided to send Olivia to a retreat to sober up and maybe come to terms with what set her off. The treat is in Western NY, called House of Light, and seems to be where Olivia can sober up. But, on the first day, two things happen. One: Olivia meets a local who insists that the HoL is behind several suicides/murders in the area. Two: A body washes up on the retreats beach, and it is a former retreat member. Becoming intrigued with the unsolved murders/suicides, Olivia starts a podcast. But, as she goes down the rabbit hole, Olivia becomes obsessed. When she finds a connection between her missing mother and HoL, Olivia starts questioning everything she has been told. But the truth is more terrifying than Olivia knows. What is the truth?

I was not too fond of Olivia at first. She was self-absorbed and couldn’t care less about her harm to other people. Her public meltdown in Manhattan showcased that. She was also reckless and didn’t think things through, which was shown repeatedly during her investigation into the HoL. But, I did start to like her after the first few chapters. She went from what I thought would be a 2-dimensional character to a fully fleshed-out character.

I also liked the secondary characters in Dark Circles. They were a perfect blend of creepy and quirky. They also added that extra oomph that rounded out the book.

I liked that the author chose to incorporate the podcast into the story. From the cheesy ads (don’t we all love listening to those, lol) to the comments after each episode. I loved how they tied into the main storyline. This, too, added an extra depth.

The storyline with the HoL and the murder/suicides was wonderfully written. I was kept on the edge of my bed (because I read Dark Circles in bed). I did not expect it to go the way that it did. The twist in that plotline made my mouth drop.

The secondary plotline with Olivia’s mother was sad. I had a feeling about what was going to be revealed. But the author did an excellent job at distracting me from figuring it out until the end of the book.

The end of Dark Circles was your typical mystery ending. Everything was wrapped up and explained.

I would recommend Dark Circles to anyone over 16. There is violence, language, non-graphic sexual situations, and drug/alcohol use.

That Cowboy of Mine by Donna Grant

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Date of publication: April 26th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Suspense, Contemporary, Western, Mystery

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Is he an enemy?

Dillon Young is proud that she inherited her aunt’s ranch. The problem: someone is trying to run her off and is willing to do whatever it takes. Strange, dangerous things keep happening. Dillion suspects her no-good neighbor and fellow wealthy rancher Hank Stephens. Never a man to get his hands dirty, he sends others to get the job done. So, when the irresistible Cal Bennett is found passed out drunk on her property, Dillion is on high alert. Until someone takes a shot at her and Cal springs to her rescue. When the hard-bodied, no-nonsense-talking cowboy points out that she may need some help, Dillion is inclined to reluctantly agree.

Or a lover?

Waking up on a stranger’s property with a shotgun in his face is not Cal Bennett’s idea of a good time. Never mind that the woman on the other end of the barrel is one of the most fiercely beautiful women he has ever seen. Things get more interesting when he finds himself shielding her from flying bullets. It’s clear that this smart, savvy woman could use a hand and he is all too happy to lend any part of his body she requires. His proposal: pose as lovers until they find out who is after her ranch. As the danger rises and secrets are revealed, the passion explodes between them. There is no turning back.


The distinct sound of metal snapping loudly before cracking back into place jerked Cal awake.

That Cowboy of Mine by Donna Grant

That Cowboy of Mine is the love story between Cal and Dillon. It is also a mystery/thriller/suspense that had me glued to the book. It also helped that I enjoy reading books from Donna Grant.

The plotline was interesting. Cal is woken up by the sound of Dillon cocking her rifle to shoot him. A bull rider, who didn’t get on the circuit, he had decided to drown his sorrows at a local bar. He has no clue what he did or how he ended up on Dillon’s land. But, when he saves her from bullets, he is instantly embroiled in a plot to drive Dillon from her land. Determined to protect her, Cal hatches a plan to pose as her new lover and stay with her at the ranch until everything is sorted out. But, that proves to be hard when secrets are unearthed, and the attempts on Dillon’s life grow. Can Cal and Dillon solve the mystery of why these things are happening? Can they figure out who is behind it? And most importantly, can their love survive what will be revealed?

Dillon annoyed me for about 90% of the book. I liked her, but man, she was quick to jump to conclusions about Cal. There were points in the book where I wanted to shake her because she was that irritating. But, as I said, I liked her. She cared about her ranch, and she wasn’t willing to sell it.

I liked Cal. He was on the up and up with Dillon, even if she didn’t trust him. Of course, what happened the night he was drunk did make me slightly suspicious of him. Also, his relationship with the person who was determined to get Dillon’s property made me raise my eyebrows a little. But, he was determined to help Dillon, even after she made him leave her property. I wasn’t expecting how far he was willing to go, though.

The villains in That Cowboy of Mine were despicable and evil. They wanted power and wealth and would do anything to get it. The main bad guy was more willing to get his hands dirty (killing people), while the second bad guy did have reservations, at first, about what bad guy#1 was doing. But he lost those towards the end of the book and was just as evil as bad guy#1. But there was a 3rd bad guy that came out of nowhere. I was beyond shocked when he just popped up towards the end of the book.

The mystery genre was well written. I did feel that the author stretched out the plotline (why did the bad guys want Dillon’s land). But that feeling went away when the author added two twists to the story. One was why the bad guys wanted the land, and the other was the surprise 3rd bad guy who just appeared out of thin air. That added some extra kick towards the end of the book.

The suspense angle of the book was terrific. I found myself growing anxious and wondering what would happen to Dillon next. The author was able to draw out the events and keep me on edge for the entire book. I loved it!!!

Westerns are my guilty pleasure, and this one didn’t disappoint me. I could have used a few more scenes on the ranch, but I was happy with what the author portrayed.

Since this is a contemporary romance, I expected the sex scenes to be hot and graphic. I wasn’t disappointed. Cal and Dillon had an electric connection that came off the pages. My only complaint was this book took place within a week, so you know that means Instalove. Not a fan of Instalove. But besides that, I enjoyed that angle of the book.

The end of That Cowboy of Mine was fantastic. I loved how the author resolved all the plotlines. Of course, there was some suspense involving Cal, but that also worked itself out. The epilogue was cute, but I did roll my eyes at what Cal’s mother kept asking.

I would recommend That Cowboy of Mine to anyone over 21. There is graphic sex, moderate language, and moderate violence.