Hidden Agenda – Peter Berman

Serial sex offenders, adulterers and murderers, oh my. Peter Berman’s Hidden Agenda has it all. This multi layered whodunit is initially a somewhat slow read but as it gets going much like a locomotive it’s hard to stop.

Reminiscent of early John Grisham’s works Berman introduces us to the likeable Jeremy Hart Head Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles County who also happens to be a grief stricken widower. At his therapist’s suggestion he attends a fundraiser where he meets the beautiful Claire Carleton with whom he feels an immediate connection. There is only one problem, Peter Carleton, Claire’s husband.

The story is subtle gradually building in intensity leaving the reader wondering how our intrepid DA is going to extricate himself from a very difficult situation. Hidden Agenda is very readable and upon starting the story the reader may think predictable, but in fact the author has skillfully laid out a web like plot that ties together beautifully at the end with each and every question answered without straining the bounds of credulity at all.

AUTHOR: Peter Berman

RATING: 4  Stars

GENRE: Crime Fiction (Police Procedural)

Sparkle and Fade: Love Unscripted – Tina Reber

Love Unscripted
Love Unscripted (Photo credit: A Turn of Page)

“Sparkle and Fade”, I have never read a chapter title that was so prophetic of the chapter itself and in this case the last half to two thirds of the book. Tina Reber’s Love Unscripted started out beautifully reminiscent of  an adorable film from 1999 that I am sure many of you have seen called Notting Hill starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.  Only in this case the superstar is the hero and the lowly bookseller, the heroine.

Ms Reber sets the stage beautifully Taryn Mitchell has sworn off of men and in fact has never even seen Seaside, the sequel to which is being filmed in their Rhode Island town.

My reluctant eyes pooped open when I heard the frantic sounds of women screaming. My vision was blurred by the sun and it took my eyes a moment to adjust to the pandemonium headed straight for me.

That’s when I caught sight of him – what appeared to be Ryan Christensen – running full speed down the sidewalk. His body was on a direct collision course with mine.

The imagery is fantastic, the reader can easily imagine a maddened hoard of female fans clamoring for a piece of  their,  who I imagined to be a young Robert Redfordesque, idol. It is unsurprising that he ducks into Taryn’s pub narrowly escaping sure dismemberment by fan. Who wouldn’t fall in love with their rescuer? Taryn and Ryan then spend an idyllic afternoon in the solitude of her bar, drinking, playing pool and getting to know one another.

I read another review that commented that the book was over long and considering the subject matter it is an astonishing 579 pages long. Don’t get me wrong I love long books it allows me to stay in the author’s world that much longer but this kind of story simply does not require that many pages without risking repetition and the establishment of plot devices of increasing complexity and in the case of Love Unscripted, absurdity. By the end of the story there were no fewer than four villains in the piece and really how many stalkers and or obsessed women/men can one celebrity have? That isn’t even taking into consideration the evil paparazzi twirling their mustaches while cooking up horrible lies to drive this couple apart. The hero and heroine had completely regressed to behaving like melodramatic teens and like one of the characters does I wished I could slap them and tell them to snap out of it too.

I feel that Love Unscripted had great potential and that ultimately it was Ms Reber’s editors and publisher that failed the reader. After the first 200 pages it was as if the author did not know how to conclude the story or that she would be doing so prematurely without adding more conflict and then when in doubt add even more. By the time I finished the novel I swear I would have screamed if I read even one more time a variation of ” you’ve got to trust me” when it was glaringly apparent neither one of them trusted the other as far as they could throw them. Perhaps I should have instituted the 24 hour rule that they have in my children’s sports before enraged parents are allowed to contact the coaches to vent their spleen but I simply could not wait to record my thoughts.

With stricter length guidelines and perhaps an editor who tried to bring this story back into somewhat plausible parameters Love Unscripted would be a solid 4 star read, instead of leaving this reviewer torn between a 3.5 star rating for the first half of the story and a .5 for the remainder because at least I finished it although I am quite put out that I ordered the sequel when still in the honeymoon phase of the first 170 pages even though some masochistic part of me wants to know what could possibly happen to these characters in a slightly trimmed down 448 page Love Unrehearsed.

AUTHOR: Tina Reber

RATING: 1 3/4  Stars

GENRE: Fiction

Stranded With a Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #1) – Jessica Clare

Bronte Dawson is having an extremely bad day, a hurricane is blowing in and the island where she is vacationing is being evacuated. She returns to her hotel room to search for her selfish friend’s passport and then ends up stuck in the elevator with the hotel manager… or so she thinks.

Logan Hawking, is part of a secret brotherhood of billionaires sworn to succeed, based on the tip from another member he is on the island considering an investment opportunity. He, the billionaire in question, is disillusioned, his father with whom he was not close has recently died and he is still recovering from the end of his engagement to a gold digger it is just par for the course when he gets in the ill fated elevator on his way to the helipad to be evacuated.

I enjoyed Stranded With a Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #1), although I am skeptical as to the veracity of the existence of actual brotherhoods consisting of several unmarried eligible billionaires, that being said I would like to believe. Jessica Clare pseudonym for Jill Myles author of the popular Succubus Diaries series has penned an enjoyable story with an intelligent heroine and an appealing love interest who just wants to be appreciated and not just for his pocketbook.

This is the first book in a six book series with Beauty and the Billionaire coming out in July. I am particularly looking forward to the next offering in this series as Beauty and the Beast stories are one of my all time favorites. I think the most appealing thing about Stranded was its simplicity and that may not sound like a positive but it is. The story was free of unnecessary overwrought displays or situations and the characters were likeable and with just enough detail about the supporting cast to make you wonder what Jessica Clare has in store for her five remaining billionaires.

AUTHOR: Jessica Clare

RATING: 4  Stars

GENRE: Fiction

New Adult – The Quarter Life Crisis in Book Form?

The emergence of a new market is a fascinating thing to observe, before my book coma (see blog posting “Book Injuries”) I felt that I had read everything good. Then not unlike the film 28 Days Later I woke up to a whole new reading world. This genre coined “New Adult” actually fulfills the desires of many adults, myself included, who enjoyed the styling of YA literature  yet missed the maturity – okay, the sex.  Now suddenly my TBR list has expanded to unmanageable proportions, which lends credence to the term “feast or famine”.

Keep in mind that this emerging genre is not without controversy as a large number of the books coined “New Adult” have a strong romantic theme and some romance novel “purists” take issue with these books being “lumped” in with traditional romance novels. These books while not adhering to the

Romance Stories of True Love No 50 Harvey, 1958 SA

traditional “bodice ripper” of ((H (Hero) + H (Heroine)) + (C (conflict – personal/love) + PG (personal growth)) = HEA have trademark characteristics all their own. However fascinating it is to explore a new genre I believe one can easily overdose on so much post teen angst and be warned these stories are filled with it. There are bad boys a plenty waiting to be reformed, a creature as mythical as the unicorn in my opinion, this being said for all the Sawyer and Dylan fans out there these books are for you but be ready with a box of tissue as the melodrama is off the charts.  If this only whets your appetite for more check out the listing on Goodreads referenced below. Meanwhile I am in recovery from a recent New Adult book binge and will entertain myself with Stranded With a Billionaire until I am prepared to return to churning waters of 20 somethings in love, despair or both.

The Edge of Never – J.A Redmerski

I was initially attracted to this book by the beautiful cover art, who doesn’t love black and white photography after all and I have a thing for braids. It’s the frustrated hairdresser in me I suppose. More so, I think we all entertain in our deepest thoughts the idea of just walking away one day which is what Camryn Bennett does in The Edge of Never.

Camryn is just going through the motions at the beginning of the story, her boyfriend had been tragically killed months earlier, her brother is serving time for a DUI charge and her mother is distracted by a new love affair. When her best friend’s boyfriend attacks a suitor and drunkenly confesses his love for her something breaks in Camryn and she packs a bag setting out for the bus station. En route she meets Andrew Parrish who inspires Camryn to live life in a way she never imagined.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Andrew and Camryn until the ending which seemed rushed and somewhat implausible. That being said I felt that way until I found out there was a sequel in the works The Edge of Always will be available in November. This is a case where I feel that a continuation of the story would benefit the whole rather than leaving on a high note which is unfortunately done so infrequently these days.

AUTHOR: J.A. Redmerski

RATING: 3 1/2  Stars

GENRE: Fiction

The_Edge

Left Drowning ARC Review – Jessica Park

Anyone who has read Flat Out Love cannot help but admire the artistry that is Jessica Park’s writing. Jessica Park writes about families, those of blood and those we create ourselves. She writes about love, loss and redemption. She does this with such a deft hand  it isn’t until the reader stops to think about what they have read that they realize the magnitude of the message conveyed.

Blythe McGuire is barely functioning when Left Drowning opens, she is months from graduation and has managed to avoid contact with everyone for the better part of four years. Meeting the Shepherd family demolishes the walls Blythe has erected between herself and the world after the deaths of her parents in a fire four years prior. Blythe is especially drawn to Chris the eldest of the Shepherd clan and he in turn brings her back out into the light. However idyllic these initial encounters with Chris are, he is harboring secrets that he cannot or will not share with Blythe, secrets that threaten the tentative healing that has just begun.

Left Drowning is an interesting counterpart to Flat Out Love, the reader moves through Jessica Park’s previous novel with an ominous  growing suspicion that something is very wrong whereas with Left Drowning there is no doubt. From the opening scene the grief and barely concealed torment of all the characters and the causes is apparent to the reader. I believe that due to the subject matter and the overt sexuality of the story that it would be unreadable in another author’s hands. She expertly depicts Blythe’s slow and painful journey from emotional devastation to a place where if she is not whole she is functional with the hope of better in the future.

AUTHOR: Jessica Park

RATING: 3 1/2  Stars

GENRE: Fiction

Finding Home – Lauren Baker and Bonnie Dee

I came across Finding Home by Lauren Baker and Bonnie Dee on the Best Older Woman/Younger Man recommendation list from Goodreads while searching for a comparison piece to On the Island. Despite the fact that I determined that this novel wasn’t suitable for comparison, I found that Finding Home had a great deal of merit as a story in its own right.

Megan is a young copywriter frustrated with her inability to get a writing assignment at the paper where she works. Impetuously she decides to take the initiative to find her own story if the powers that be will not give her one to cover. She quickly makes a place for herself among the youth working the street, guided by Mouth, a homeless teen who supports himself largely through prostitution. After he is beaten and robbed Megan takes him in to the consternation of her friends and family setting the stage for an unusual romance.

Perhaps I am in the minority but the age difference in this novel seemed pretty unobjectionable considering the context of the story itself. The  other challenges, mainly his past, that they would face as a couple it would seem that the difference in their ages was paltry at best. Regardless, Baker and Dee have created a highly readable story filled with the angst and grit that you would imagine is intrinsic to life on the street.

AUTHOR: Lauren Baker and Bonnie Dee

RATING: 4  Stars

GENRE: Fiction

Finding Home Cover