Category Archives: LesRom

Review: Her Consigliere (Carsen Taite)

FBI agent Royal Scott has just come out from another assignment, and has been promised both some time off and end to long undercover assignments in the future. Alas,this is not to be, as her boss wants her to go undercover and infiltrate the Mancuso crime family, which he assures her won’t last too long. She reluctantly accepts.,

When Royal leaves the FBI building, she saves a woman from being run over by an SUV. Intentional? Hard to tell. It turns out the woman, Siobhan Collins, is the consigliere (lawyer/advisor) to the head of the Mancuso family. Lucky break that Royal gets to start on the newest assignment right away.

Royal scores an assignment and introduction to a couple of low level associates working for Mancuso, and winds up at the Don’s house, unloading untaxed liquor, which seems to be their specialty. Royal and Siobhan run into one another again and share a few bantering lines.

Siobhan, speaking to the Don and his natural daughter (Siobhan was basically adopted by Mancuso, and raised in the family, much like Don Vito allowed Tom Hagen into the Corleone family in The Godfather). She’s a lawyer. She’s careful, as she should be, protecting the Mancusos. This is why I found it mind-boggling that she tapped Royal – someone she doesn’t know and hasn’t yet vetted – to come work for them as more than a driver of boosted liquor. Even the Don thinks it’s a good idea, just because She pulled Siobhan out of the way of the SUV. Why? Everything she is supposed to do is supposed to protect the family. This is one of the off notes in the story for me. I get it, The two of them need to be put in a situation where they will spend more time with one another, but this was ahead scratcher. At least Siobhan’s driver/bodyguard is suspicious of Royal.

Siobhan has a suspicion that the Don’s waspish, nasty daughter is up to some kind of no good, but decides she can’t act unless there’s hard evidence of it. Royal has her own family entanglement to deal with when her brother shows up at her door.

The romance part was okay. The mystery/mob part of it, even with the issue I noted above, was better, with Siobhan looking for anyone who might want to hurt the family, and Royal looking out for anyone who wants to kill Siobhan. They get more time together and in fact do wind up sleeping with one another (not: there are a couple of minorly explicit scenes.

The ending feels a little rushed, and not without a bit of a cliffhanger about what happens to someone other than the main characters. The end made me do a bit of a head scratch – it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility, but seemed a little too…public, I suppose if the word I’m looking for.

Overall, something that can be read in one sitting without a ton of plot holes, or at least none that couldn’t be ignored for the sake of the two mains. Three out of five stars.

Thanks to Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Her Countess to Cherish (Jane Walsh)

I learned, after reading this, that there’s a book before this one that introduces us to at least Beatrice. Or, shall I say, Lady Beatrice Sinclair now, after dragging her family out of poverty by marrying Lord Sinclair and having him pay off her father’s debts. He’s cold and sneering toward her, since she threw herself at him and she and her family apparently ran off the woman he was supposed to marry. Bea isn’t really excited about Sinclair, and the day after their wedding and her first night providing wifely duties, she flees to the country to stay with a friend for awhile.

Said friend is living with a friend of her own – who just happens to be the woman Bea shoved aside in order to marry Sinclair. While she and Bea are a little frosty to start, it turns out Bea did her a favor, because now she gets to live with the woman she loves instead of the man she doesn’t.

We then meet Georgina Smith, who is also staying, and Bea takes an immediate dislike to her. To me, it seemed that Bea was projecting, because I found Bea to bea not a terribly nice person: she was snobbish, selfish, sour, and unthinking. What Georgina saw in her was a mystery to me, but I know, instalove.

Speaking of instalove, Bea was charmed by George Smith, Georgina’s cousin and someone she met at her wedding. Such Bea’s luck that George is also staying at this house in the country, too! She hopes to run into him there (spoiler: she does, mainly in the library).

I think what amazed me most about this book is just how many LGBTQI+ people are in this tiny town. It seemed like you couldn’t swing a dead cat around without hitting someone that fit somewhere in that group.

One thing I can give this book is that the principals don’t immediately fall into bed with one another. It’s more of a slow burn of a romance, although I still wasn’t a fan of Bea along the way.

Bea finds out she’s pregnant, and decides she will divorce Sinclair and marry George instead, without bothering to talk to George about it, which leads to some rockiness. Eventually, she disposes of that idea, and admits to Sinclair she is pregnant but shock of all shocks, he’s suddenly turned into an ultra caring, forgiving, and entirely other person in the three months she’s been gone. They come up with a solution, and everyone’s story wraps up like a nice little gift.

It’s always nice to see books with gay+ main characters, but this really struck me as something written as a message book, with long discussions that would be more suitable to 2021 than 1800 England. I’m not opposed to message books per se; my problem comes when virtually every piece of the book is a message the reader is hit over the head with time and again. The ending was rather forced and tidy, but at least there were no loose ends.

I’m going with three stars out of five.

Thanks to Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: In The Spotlight (Lesley Davis)

Talk about instalove!

Actor Cole has left the successful tv series she’s been starring in to take a part in a new movie that’s being made. She’s being paired with up and coming actor Eris. The latter is new, but she’s delighted to be in the movie with Cole.

I know it’s a trope of the genre – after all, the two main characters need to get together, and quickly, or at least be intrigued by one another – but the two in this book have broken all land speed records, by talking about settling down, grandkids, and how they’re soulmates before we’re too long into the story.

We watch the two go through the typical things people go through, and also get to meet the side characters: Aiden, who has written the screenplay for the movie, her fiancee Cassidy, also an actor, and Mischa, the best friend and rather a third wheel to everything. I must admit I found them a bit more interesting than the two mains – not that the mains are not interesting, but sometimes reading a lot of lesroms in a row (four ARCs in a row for me to review, this time around) sometimes renders the two mains and their happiness subordinate to the other things going on.

What else would be going on? A crazed stalker, who has been shipping Cole on the tv series she was in, and who is convinced that she an change Cole’s mind to get her back on the show. We already know the identity of the stalker, so there isn’t a lot of “whodunnit” in this. The only question is how far she’ll take it.

Overall, a decent enough book to keep one occupied for a few hours. I found out after reading it that this is apparently the second book in a series. As is my fashion, I have not read the first, and I have no idea if it would inform this had I, but it can stand alone.

Three out of five stars.

Thanks to Bold Stroke Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: When in Doubt (V. K. Powell)

Jeri Wylder has a problem: she’s told she shot an unarmed man during a raid on a drug house, but can’t remember any of it. She’s riding a desk and headed for therapy while the investigation of those circumstances continues.

Simone Sullivan also has a problem, as it happens. As the part owner of a building a developer wants to buy in order to knock it down and replace it with a new development. She also happens to be a therapist.

The two meet when Wylder shows up to a report of an arsonist at Simone’s building – against policy, and against her desk-riding current assignment. Since this is at least partially a romance, it includes the tried and true instalove between them.

Strictly speaking, I am not against this – it’s a trope for a reason, and it saves time. But in this case, I just did not get it, and through the book continued to not get it.

Jeri, on the outs with her girlfriend (and in an “open relationship” she claims), drinks too much and clearly suffers from PTSD. She treats people terribly. I really didn’t like her as a character, although I understand PTSD can significantly change how people behave – to the point of Jeri almost crossing a line when Simone was telling her no, something that I don’t think I would have excused. Simone, as a character, was fine except for what I thought was terrible judgment getting involved with Jeri. Simone’s “friends”, however, are nasty pieces of work.

The mystery part of the book was fine. The search and unmasking of the villain was expected, and it was rather straightforward.

There’s nothing explicit in this novel, which was fine, too – sometimes the characters are in bed having graphic sex so often you’d think they wouldn’t have time for anything else. It’s more mystery than romance, and the romance itself is carried out the way most are.

I’m giving this a four out of five stars for the mystery. The romance gets a two, because I didn’t like it. At all. I’ll split the difference and put it at three of five stars.

Thanks to Bold Stroke Books and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: From the Woods (Charlotte Greene)

It all starts innocently enough: a group of friends decide to go hiking/camping in an area of a national forest that is only open to a small number of people each year. Then it all goes spectacularly wrong.

Before that happens, though, Fiona has to be prodded into joining her friend Jill and her married friends Sarah and Carol. Fiona and Jill have the usual sort of non-assertive/almost bully relationship that is fairly common in fiction.

But talk her into it they do, and the four head out to meet their guides and Roz, the leader of the guide company. Of course Fiona is drawn to her immediately, and Roz to her, even with the rather brash Jill acting like a twelve year old.

At first, it’s a pleasant ride on the horses, but they hear what sounds like someone chopping down a tree – which means someone else is on the trail who should not be there. When Roz and two guides scout up ahead on the trail, they come back a bit skittish. When asked what’s wrong, they don’t say and the group keeps going until they reach the first camping area.

Fiona and Roz are in that scoping out phase of one another, and it’s one part sweet and one part trope. There’s lots of staring, the “accidental” brush of hands, etc. Meet cute in the middle of a forest.

It turns out that Roz and the guides had found runes carved into trees, and when Fiona and one of the others go to the latrines, they find more. The group now has a decision to make: do they continue, or turn back? Continue it is, even with the awareness that someone is in the forest an carving weirdo runes into trees, setting bear traps, and digging pits. This is the part in movies where someone realizes there’s a killer on the loose, and instead of barricading themselves in their house with a shotgun, they’ve left a sliding door open and hear noises in the basement, so they go down into the basement, without turning on any lights, to see what it is while you scream, “Are you out of your mind?

That should give you an idea of what happens next. People vanish from the camp site. Someone falls into a bear put. Another gets a big chomp from a bear trap.

There’s a mystery to solve, and solve it they do, although I had a hard time believing the ending, it was still an okay book. Everyone finds that well of strength within themselves, pushing themselves into doing things that in their other, “real” world they could never see themselves doing, and I think that’s a very good thing that people as a rule should be doing in their part of the world, even if it seems to them o be inconsequential: those small steps add up.

If you’re looking for sexytimes scenes, there are none in this book – something I kind of enjoyed after reading two other books with what seemed like one per chapter. Nothing against the sexytimes, but if you’re not writing erotica, where those scenes are the point of the story, throwing in too many scenes of that type in genre fiction really is a detriment to the story.

I’m giving this a four out of five, as the book is written well enough, the bad guys sufficiently creepy, and someone finds their strength that they didn’t even realize they had.

Thanks to Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Bulletproof (Maggie Cummings)

This is the second book by Maggie Cummings I’ve read (Brooklyn Summer is the other). this popped up as recommended for me since I read boatloads of mystery/crime/police procedural/thriller novel. This is a romance with police procedural elements. If that is not your thing, this is not the book for you.

If you’re looking for romance and sexytimes, the story of Dylan Prescott, NYPD detective, and Briana long, US District Attorney will be a good read. The two meet (sort of) on the basketball court, as Briana watches two teams play from the stands with her friend and roommate Stef. They meet for real at a bar, later. There is, of course, the instant attraction. The fire starts to burn, they exchange some innuendo, and they part for the night after telling one another they were not looking for anything serious,.

Neither of them told the other what they do for a living, but they find out the next day at the office, where Dylan’s team is tracking a drug operation, and Brianna is the USDA assigned to the case.

This flirting in the office and at the bars continues, and we get scenes from Dylan’s side and Brianna’s side until finally the two get together in bed. If you are not a fan of explicit sex scenes, this is not the book for you, unless you want to skim past those pages – if you do, you’ll be skimming a number of pages here. If you don’t know what packing is…well, you’ll figure it out.

There isn’t a ton of character development going on here, but to be fair, that isn’t really why people read these sorts of books, and most lesrom revolves around jealousy anyhow – which is exactly what happens here, when Brianna leaves the Fed for a job with a well known defense attorney with whom Dylan has some history.

The book does have police work in it – probably enough to justify classifying it as a police procedural and having readers of the genre (like me) pick it up. That portion of the book is fine, and is actually one of the handful off books in the genre that show the more tedious side of police work. It isn’t all car chases and busting down doors. Still, that part of the book is thin, story-wise, and the two main characters could have been in any profession, and the story wouldn’t be harmed by it.

Overall, a solid three out of five stars.

Thanks to Bold Stroke Books and Netgalley for the review copy.