When You Disappeared by John Marrs

WhenYouDisappeared

When You Disappeared by John Marrs

All she wanted was the truth, but she’ll wish she never found out.

When Catherine wakes up alone one morning, she thinks her husband has gone for a run before work. But Simon never makes it to the office. His running shoes are by the front door. Nothing is missing—except him.

Catherine knows Simon must be in trouble. He wouldn’t just leave her. He wouldn’t leave the children.

But Simon knows the truth—about why he left and what he’s done. He knows things about his marriage that it would kill Catherine to find out. The memories she holds onto are lies.

While Catherine faces a dark new reality at home, Simon’s halfway around the world, alive and thriving. He’s doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the truth.

But he can’t hide forever, and when he reappears twenty-five years later, Catherine will finally learn who he is.

And wish she’d stayed in the dark.

Revised edition: Previously published as The Wronged Sons, this edition of When You Disappeared includes editorial revisions.

This book is something else. I mean, within the first couple chapters, I was ready to kill one of the main characters. So it starts off with a real bang.

The story is set in England, but also goes worldwide as Simon hops around the globe. I point this out because sometimes, books set with different slang and jargon can be hard to grasp. This book did not have that issue at all. A few stores or names are different but I was able to easily follow what the characters meant.

This book alternates between the past and present. The author presents this in an easy to understand way. You’re never confused as to what point in time you’re at or anything of that nature. We see Catherine and Simon’s lives, after he disappeared, and then subsequently, reappears. You don’t realize it at first, but parts of the past that you read, are actually Catherine and Simon telling each other what happened after he disappeared.

This book will take you on a rollercoaster ride of thoughts and emotions. Very early in the story, Simon alludes to hating Catherine, and how she did something to him. So while I found myself empathizing with Catherine and admiring her for all she did to keep the family going, I was always cautious.

Simon, on the other hand, I really only grew to hate him more and more. I kept wanting to understand him but my loathing of him stayed steady. He is just so selfish, and really conniving. You don’t realize it at first. I thought he was just under a lot of stress and sort of snapped. But as the story continues, Simon is much more than you think.

This book is definitely one you’ll enjoy if you like a lot of suspense while watching the characters unravel their past, and current, messes. This book is unique in that we get to see our characters together, apart, and everything in between. It’s a unique perspective that I don’t often see, and it was a nice change of pace.

 

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Contracted Defense by Piper J. Drake

Contracted Defense

Contracted Defense by Piper J. Drake

Time is running out and the enemy is at the gate. 

Adam Hicks may be the rookie at Safeguard, but he’s no novice in the field. Retired from active duty after multiple tours and back fresh from a brief rest in New Zealand, he’s itching to return to action. But the challenge he hoped for arrives in an unexpected form: his sexy yet stern new partner.

The last thing Victoria Ash wants is to work with the new guy—especially one as gorgeous as Adam. His relaxed attitude about their first “easy” assignment together—setting up a private home defense network for a reclusive client—doesn’t impress her. Easy usually means trouble. She’s proved right when Adam discovers that the multiple incursions on the physical and cyber security systems aren’t just glitches. They’re under attack…and there’s a traitor in their midst.

As tension mounts, so does the attraction between Victoria and Adam. They must protect their client and the research he’s desperately trying to keep secret. Working together, they have to find the mole before their defense measures, in the fortress and online, are compromised and the deadly secrets they’ve sworn to protect are revealed.

Piper J. Drake has quickly become one of my “go-to” authors, and in her latest release, “Contracted Defense”, she continues to remind me why.

We first meet Victoria Ash in an upscale bar in Seattle. She’s just trying to enjoy a nice scotch and take a breather. But nothing ever goes easy for our crew working at Safeguard and tonight is no different. Even though the night ends wonderfully for Victoria, and Adam, the next day changes everything.

Some of the main factors I enjoyed in this book:

  1. I love how this author has so many different cultures in her stories. Not just one character or something. It’s many characters, the cuisine, the lifestyles. It’s always seamlessly integrated. One of my favorite components in every story she puts out.
  2. Victoria’s character is assertive, but never arrogant. One thing I loved about her was her confidence. At one point, she’s annoyed with Adam and she’s explaining her rational. Then we learn that she isn’t someone who will bring up a problem without a solution in mind. That aligns with my own personality a lot and so I naturally had a lot of respect for her on that particular point.
  3. Adam is probably as close to the perfect man as anyone will ever find. He’s handsome, intelligent, and just enough alpha male to be sexy, but not overbearing. He does respect Victoria and her preferences on things. He knows his role at Safeguard, and has no problem letting Victoria, and her tenure with the company, take the lead.
  4. This isn’t necessarily just the story, but more generalized to the author. Sometimes, I read a book in the “military” category and I end up a bit lost. This author manages to keep the story moving, while introducing new information, but yet never overwhelms the reader.  I never get lost in jargon or too many characters. I really appreciate this.

This book is definitely great for readers who enjoy books in the military or suspense categories. Adam and Victoria have an amazing chemistry, and you find yourself rooting for both characters throughout their story.

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

watch me disappear

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. Her body was never found, just a shattered cellphone and a solitary hiking boot. Her husband and teenage daughter have been coping with Billie’s death the best they can: Jonathan drinks as he works on a loving memoir about his marriage; Olive grows remote, from both her father and her friends at the all-girls school she attends.

But then Olive starts having strange visions of her mother, still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he understood about his wife. Who was the woman he knew as Billie Flanagan?

Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, but also about themselves, learning, in the process, about all the ways that love can distort what we choose to see. Janelle Brown’s insights into the dynamics of intimate relationships will make you question the stories you tell yourself about the people you love, while her nervy storytelling will keep you guessing until the very last page.

I finished this book last week. I needed a day to process it all and here I am, a week later, still obsessed with this twitchy tale. I can’t stop thinking about it, and have already debated re-reading it. It’s THAT good.

This story follows Olive and Jonathan, dealing with life about a year after Billie’s disappearance. Olive is having visions of her mother and Jonathan is trying to make sense of everything. His marriage, his wife’s past, who his wife, and her friends, might really be, and then worrying about his daughter, Olive, on top of that. One thing that really struck me with this book was how the characters, even if they did something unscrupulous, managed to keep you on their side.

You want to hate Jonathan as he starts having doubts over his presumed dead wife. You find yourself angry at him for being naive, but then you also feel heartbreaking compassion for him. Olive is trying to find herself. Others see things in her that she herself has yet to discover. You find yourself annoyed at her chasing these visions, but at the same time, you can’t blame her for running headfirst into this mystery.

This is the first book that I can say I actually popped in a post-it note. There were so many pieces that I wanted to remember and hold onto myself.

Billie’s character is exceptional. I don’t know if I mean that in a good or bad way yet. Her character is one that has stayed with me and I can say I’m still thinking about her. When we start to get a deeper look at her life, it makes you question how you feel about her. Is she cruel or was she doing the best she could? Should we love her, hate her?

Anyone who loves a good thriller will love this book. Moreover, anyone who enjoys a good mystery, while also on a search for self-discovery, would adore this novel. I really cannot say enough amazing things about this story.

 

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

TheGirlWhoKnewTooMuch

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Amanda Quick, the bestselling author of ’Til Death Do Us Part, transports readers to 1930s California, where glamour and seduction spawn a multitude of sins…

When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool…

The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist—especially since she’s just a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag. But now Irene’s investigation into the drowning threatens to tear down the wall of illusion that is so deftly built around the famous actor, and there are powerful men willing to do anything to protect their investment.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception. Oliver Ward was once a world-famous magician—until he was mysteriously injured during his last performance. Now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, he can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago…

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

This book had me in awe of the author. Talk about incredible writing! Amanda Quick literally takes the reader back in time to the 1930’s. Of all of the books I have read, this one truly transformed my entire surroundings into California, and the Hollywood scene, of the past. It was a remarkable experience.

Our heroine, Irene Glasson, is the rookie with a gossip paper. But her latest story about a dead actress connected to a famous actor has touched the wrong nerve with the wrong people.

One of the biggest factors that I enjoyed about this story is that while there are many twists and turns, I never felt confused or lost. In the past, I’ve somewhat stayed away from books considered in the historical genre because there is usually a language difference, on top of the names and locations maybe not being as familiar, thus making it harder for me to keep track of all of our players in the book. The fact that in this story, Irene Glasson isn’t even Irene Glasson, the above mentioned point is even more true for me.

I really enjoyed this story. It kept me on my toes the entire time. You aren’t really sure who is good and who is bad in this story. Someone you think is good can end up doing something entirely heinous and the bad ones are only worse.

If you enjoy historicals, or you enjoy Amanda Quick already, you will enjoy this story a lot. I have only read a few books from this particular author and I have always found myself transported back in time and I’ve loved it every single time.

The Alexa Series by T.R. Cupak

Alexa Crushed by TR Cupak

Alexa Morgan lost her mother when she was two. At eighteen, her father and stepmother died when a devastating earthquake hit the Bay Area. Only one person has remained a constant in her life: Devin.

Devin has been Alexa’s best friend since childhood. The two are inseparable—or they were until Devin declared his love for her at sixteen. When Alexa can offer him only friendship in return, Devin retreats, brokenhearted.

Alexa, on the other hand, longs for Ethan, the boy next door. Four years older than her, and with an ever-changing roster of girlfriends, Ethan is everything Devin isn’t: wild, sensual, and unpredictable.

In the aftermath of the deadly earthquake, Ethan makes his move on Alexa, who reciprocates in a confused whirl of grief and desire. When Ethan leaves town the next day, Devin comes back into Alexa’s life, offering support and expecting nothing in return.

Alexa begins to see the advantages of Devin’s quiet, stable love. Can she get past the friendship hang-up while trying to forget bad boy Ethan? It’s a choice that changes her life forever.

Alexa Loved by TR Cupak

After her parents died during her senior year of high school, Alexa Morgan is completely alone in the world—except for her best-friend-turned-boyfriend Devin, identical twins Becca and Jessa, and Sebastian, a mysterious associate of her father’s.

Upon graduation, Alexa wants nothing more than to move on with her life, go to college, and forget all the hard and hurtful things from her tragic past. But when her first love, Ethan, shows up on her doorstep—the night before she’s supposed to meet Devin in Miami—it kicks off a whirlwind of events that threatens the good and stable things she’s worked so hard to achieve.

Ethan and Alexa shared one night of passion before he disappeared, leaving her bewildered and confused. But now he’s back, declaring that he loves her and that the only reason he left was to protect her from his malicious stepmother, Olivia.

In her heart, Alexa knows she loves Devin, but her attraction to Ethan is so strong she can’t help but be drawn in by their shared chemistry. Meanwhile, the threat of Olivia lurks around the edges, casting a menacing shadow over everything and everyone Alexa loves.

It’s double review time over on the blog! I was contacted by the very kind TR Cupak and asked if I was interested in reviewing her Alexa series. I was definitely happy to do so. Before I even knew she was an author, I actually had the chance to meet the author and she is beyond kind. So if you get to meet her, take the opportunity to do so!

Let me start by being entirely honest and saying I didn’t necessarily love the start of the story. Its necessary for the reader to see, but it just wasn’t one of my favorite parts. I want to state that up front because there was a part of me that just wanted to stop. But I kept reading and it was worth it. The reason the beginning was just a little off for me was that I kept getting distracted by the timeline.

We see Alexa moving to her new neighborhood and meeting Devin as a little girl. But then when she later moves, she and Devin can skype, text, and use facebook. Then as time goes on, things are still really the same. Maybe I was getting too engrossed in that but then I kept wondering what time frame we were in. I think the characters moved forward but other things stayed constant. This led me to keep thinking I missed something.

When the story really gets moving though, that is when this author shines. If I’m being entirely fair, I’d love to see this author really do more suspense because when the story kept moving and different people were moving in and out, I enjoyed the story a lot and really could feel the author’s passion for the story come through.

My opinions on the second book, Alexa Loved, are really scattered. I had so much respect for a newer author taking risks with her characters and pushing the reader into areas that we probably don’t want to venture into. Alexa hasn’t had a bad life but her life has certainly had many terrible moments in it. I admired that her character, in particular, is thrown into so many situations. We see Alexa with the love of her family, then we see her growing into a woman, and then we see her as an adult and dealing with adult situations. It was a great evolution of her character.

I won’t say more about the second book other than it is a major rollercoaster. A rollercoaster you want to ride. Some of the twists and turns in this book totally threw me off because I was not expecting it. Again, this made me have a lot of respect for the author.

I would definitely recommend this series and author. In particular, if you love New Adult series with some twists, you will really enjoy Alexa, Devin, and Ethan. I have always loved reading new authors because I truly do enjoy seeing them evolve as writers. Seeing this writer evolve in two books was so awesome to read and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with in the future.

Law and Disorder by Heather Graham (The Finnegan Connection)

law-and-disorder

Law and Disorder by Heather Graham

Trust the enemy? 

Desperate to escape her kidnappers, Kody Cameron can turn to only one man…and he’s holding a gun. Outnumbered and trapped in the deadly Everglades, she has little recourse, but something in this captor’s eyes makes her believe she can trust him. Does she dare to take the risk?

Undercover agent Nick Connolly has met Kody before and knows she might very well blow his cover. Though determined to maintain his facade, he can’t let Kody die. He won’t. And his decision to change his own rules of law and order are about to make all hell break loose.

The Finnegan Connection

Let me first say this book is related to the Finnegan family, which Heather Graham readers first met in “Flawless”. I want to put that out there because this series is definitely different than what Heather Graham readers are used to. I’ve read over 20 books from this author and this book definitely kept me surprised.

One thing I really enjoyed about this story was that it felt really fast paced to me. The action starts from the first page. I, personally, enjoyed that because it was easy for me to stay engaged, instead of wondering what the mystery is. I guess I would say this story is more about the actual action, as opposed to the mystery in the story. As readers, we know right away who the bad guys are and what they are after.

With this author, I always enjoy the history that is seeped into the story. In this book, our crooks after a treasure in southern Florida and they believe Kody is the key to helping them find it. I’m a history buff and seeing the past come to life in the story is always enjoyable for me. While mentioning history, I also have to mention that Kody and Nick also have history. Not just in their meeting but also in their life. One facet that I have always loved about this author and her characters is that while they have had bad breaks or lost loves, it never turns into a bitterness party. Our characters are mature enough to communicate and I appreciate that because I don’t enjoy getting caught up in past drama that doesn’t really enhance the story much.

One feeling that I couldn’t escape with this book was feeling that the author might be trying to reach out to new readers with this series. Kody and Nick do have somewhat of a “whirlwind” romance and it did feel somewhat like insta-love to me. I don’t have a problem with that, but I do know long time readers of Heather Graham might not be used to it. For me, I enjoy anytime an author pushes themselves outside of the box while still writing a great book.

I would absolutely recommend this book. Like all Heather Graham books, I was so engrossed that I didn’t even realize I was at the 70% mark until I was there and then like a good bookworm, I had to finish it off. I appreciate the venture outside of the norm for the author and found this cast of characters really enjoyable.

When We Touch by Heather Graham

whenwetouchcover

When We Touch by Heather Graham

Queen Victoria’s London is a teeming metropolis of pageantry, forbidden desire, and danger—especially in the East End, a hotbed of vice, witchcraft, and murder. What widow Lady Maggie Graham does there more than greases the rumor mill. When she agrees to wed the Viscount Langdon, there are those who would act upon their suspicions . . . 
 
Experience has taught Lord Jamie well. He has seen his fair share of women behave inappropriately—enjoying risqué amusements in secret theatres, running about disguised in the seediest parts of the city—and then they call you vile names for coming to their rescue. And no woman is more shameless, more cunning, more intoxicating than Lady Maggie . . .

If you’ve read my blog before, or know me in real life, you know that I basically think Heather Graham is an author Goddess/Queen/Unicorn who is basically every complimentary word in the world. With that said…I’ve never read any of her historical romance books before. I started with the Krewe of Hunters (and am still puzzled on why I haven’t yet been asked to join, but that’s a conversation for another day). So when I was approved to read this through NetGalley, I was super excited.

My first thoughts? Like, my initial reaction within the first two chapters? I was totally missing out by not reading these. I normally don’t for for historical because sometimes, I find them hard to follow. Especially with certain dialects and different verbiage, I have found myself spending more time trying to figure out what is happening versus really enjoying the book.

That was NOT the case with this book. Heather Graham tied in some more common language in with the more proper English of 1800’s London, which made it easy to follow and understand the meaning.

The story starts with Maggie and her brother, Justin, receiving a visit from their uncle Angus. Justin had been encouraged to go out with the upper class and has gambled away any of the family fortunes that is left to care for Maggie and Justin. Maggie is already somewhat of an outcast in society because she married a policeman, who was considered a commoner. Since he was killed in the line of duty, Maggie is now widowed. The only option for Justin or Maggie is that one of them marries into another family with money. Maggie agrees to marry Lord Charles, who comes calling with his nephew, Sir James Langdon.

James, aka Jamie, and Maggie have instant attraction, but their initial interactions are ice cold because he knows Maggie is marrying for money. One aspect I really loved of this book was that it doesn’t hold back on the concept of arranged marriages or the secret lives of the wealthy upper class. I actually found it amusing that the only person who seemed naive or unaware is Maggie, and she was always the one working with the poor and not focusing on the upper class and royalty.

I don’t want to give away the story because Heather Graham has a complex story and she ties in several facets that really brought the story full circle. I loved that there is the complexity of adding in Jack the Ripper to the story. I’ve always loved that Heather Graham has an air of mystery in her stories, and I appreciated that even though I was reading a historical romance,  I was getting a lot of the suspense and mystery that I love from her.

As someone who has always loved crime shows, and wanted to be a criminologist at one point in time, I always appreciate the research that goes into every Heather Graham book I’ve ever read. I’m very familiar with Jack the Ripper and have seen numerous documentaries on the story, the theories, the letters written to police, crime photos, etc. The facts that Heather posts in this story are accurate but she tied them into her story so well. Those murders were, and still are, terribly gruesome, but I respected how Heather tied this in. Jack the Ripper is happening simultaneously as the story is told but I never felt like that angle was being exploited. I think, of all authors I’ve read, Heather really is able to incorporate sometimes taboo or terrible real things and yet not make them being abused or exploited in her story.

I would absolutely recommend this book. As someone who has read around 15 other books by her, I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on her historical books this whole time. This book was fantastic and I absolutely loved every minute of it.