dinsdag 31 mei 2016

Recommendations from Karin for May 2016.

In order to bring some more variety to my blog, I have asked some of my bookish friends to tell about the books they have in the past month, and to give us a recommendation. Today’s post is made by Karin from Austria.


This time I want to keep my recommendations a little short as I want to concentrate on two very different books with two very different unusual heroines.
First I want to concentrate on the last book in the “Survivior-Series” by Mary Balogh. It`s

“Only Beloved”

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When I first started reading this series I found that there were ups and downs. I did not like every single book in the series as I liked some others but I had always been fascinated by the character of George Crabbe, Duke of Stanbrooke. The reason why he started the “hospital” for the wounded soldieres and the lonely female in the Survivor’s Club was clearly defined and yet I felt there was something else. Being the sucker for HEAs that I am I wanted him to find his perfect companion despite him being advanced in years (at least for that time! – not nowadays of course!!!)

Balogh let him find that perfect heroine in Dora Debbins, the elderly spinster sister to Agnes, one of the other heroines. As I said she is an unusual heroine for a Regency Romance. She is a mature woman (she is almost forty), she does not rely on relatives to feed her. After her mother ran off with another man, Dora had raised her younger sister, putting behind dreams of a successful season in London. Her father married a second time and Dora left her home to carve out a life as a music teacher in a small village.

This peaceful (albeit very solitary) life is interrupted by the proposal of the Duke whom she has met only when he visited one of the members of the Survivors. Dora has admired the Duke, she thinks of that visit quite often and she accepts the proposal.

This book has everything a reader could want: there is the short development of deep affection between two adult and mature people to something that is definitely love on both sides. There are secrets of the past and deep emotional scars to overcome, there is a villain included who gets what he deserves and there is this wonderful epilogue (I’m a big fan of epilogues!!).
A highly recommended book – if necessary it can be read as a standalone but you would miss out on a really good series if you did that.

The second book with an unusual heroine for this month is

Impervious by Laura Kirwan

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Meaghan Keele is a lawyer closer to her fiftieth birthday than her fortieth. She is lonely, loses her job and on request of her brother who takes care of their father (said father suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease) she moves to the town of Eldrich.

Meaghan had a difficult relationship with her father: a lawyer as well, he started drinking heavily. Meaghan has totally cut the ties with her father and keeps occasional contact with her brother.

In the tiny town of Eldrich she finds out that things are not always what they seem. There is more between heaven and earth than the eye can conceive and Meaghan is so important for Eldrich because she is so much like her father: she is impervious to magic – and boy! there is a lot of magic in this book.

It’s a very well written story and I think I’m going to read the next two in the series pretty soon.
This is it for this month. Until we meet again next month: Happy Reading.

Karin photo Karin 2_zps9oybhsee.png

Aurian: Thanks for the recommendation Karin! One day I will read some Mary Balogh books, I do have plenty of them!

© 2016 Reviews by Aurian

zaterdag 28 mei 2016

Susannah Sandlin - Wild Man's Curse

The first book in the Wilds of the Bayou series, published April 5, 2016.
Genre: romantic suspense with a hint of paranormal
Cover: good

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The bones said death was comin', and the bones never lied.
While on an early morning patrol in the swamps of Whiskey Bayou, Louisiana wildlife agent Gentry Broussard spots a man leaving the home of voodoo priestess Eva Savoie - a man who bears a startling resemblance to his brother, whom Gentry thought he had killed during a drug raid three years earlier. Shaken, the agent enters Eva's cabin and makes a bloody discovery: the old woman has been brutally murdered.
With no jurisdiction over the case, he's forced to leave the investigation to the local sheriff, until Eva's beautiful heir, Celestine, receives a series of gruesome threats. As Gentry's involvement deepens and more victims turn up, can he untangle the secrets behind Eva's murder and protect Celestine from the same fate? Or will an old family curse finally have its way?

I have been following Susannah Sandlin/Suzanne Johnson for a few years now, and I really enjoy her books. She has some different genres, urban fantasy, paranormal romance and paranormal romantic suspense. I think this is the best one she has written so far. I was totally immersed in the story, and I could not wait to find out how it would all work out.
I liked Celestine from the start, but the best part is the setting. The Louisiana bayou. Something totally foreign to me as an European, but Susannah describes it in such a vivid manner, that I could imagine being there, and seeing what was happening.

The book begins a bit mysterious, with an old lady throwing the bones, and seeing her death in them. And her death sure knocks on her door, in a horrible way. Celestine is completely down on her luck in Nashville, where she is trying to build a career as a singer, when she learns about her great aunt's murder, and her inheritage. Celestine has fond memories about the old lady and spending summers there, until her father found out that she was learning the old ways, and forbade her to go back. And now she has inherited the place. As she was to be evicted from her crappy apartment the next Monday, she decided to go home, at least she would have a roof over her head.

While cleaning up the murder scene herself is not easy, it has to be done before it attracts gators and worse. Then she meets Gentry Broussard, the wild life agent who discovered her aunts body, and he tells her what he found. There is this attraction between them, and neither of them knows how to handle that in the beginning. Gentry has some strange ideas about her being an "entertainer", until he hears her voice…

But the murderer was looking for something, and he is still after it. Can he scare Celestine away from the cabin, or will he have to kill her as well?

I really loved this book, the atmosphere was wonderfully described, and I liked both Celestine and Gentry. Celestine was down on her luck in the worst way, but she never took the easy way out, she did not give in to demands of sleazy men. Her only possession of worth is her guitar. I liked how she became friends with Gentry's female collegue, and there was also the fun part about Gentry's dog. Not the big vicious one most men in the bayou keep as a pet …
Gentry was born and raised in the bayou as well, and after a few years as an officer in the big city, he came back home. He has been a loner ever since, and I liked how Celestine persevered in getting under his skin and in his arms.

Real suspense, and nice love scenes. Great characters and a wonderful setting. Susannah, I want more!

10 stars.

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© 2016 Reviews by Aurian

vrijdag 27 mei 2016

Robin D. Owens - Lost Heart

The first Celta Novella, published April 16, 2016.
Genre: fantasy romance
Cover: does not fit the rest of the series

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Barton Clover, Chief of Security for his large and noble family, is deeply aware of his responsibilities. When two young relatives repudiate the family and later disappear, he's determined to find them and convince them to return. He has no time or inclination for love . . . but his family disapproves of his nothing-but-work life. They decree that he must visit a matchmaker or lose his position. Enata Licorice, a revered librarian, has been doing research in a mysterious records vault . . . and is finding odd blanks in her memory. Lonely, she yearns for a good husband and arranges a matchmaking session of her own. It's love at first sight for Barton and Enata, but both are crucial members of their families. Clans who practice opposite lifestyles. And both families demand the couple's time and attention, causing strife. While trying to resolve their issues, Barton discovers Enata's secret and they must work as a couple to resolve the puzzle that includes Barton's missing relatives -- if they dare. And if they fail, more than their own lives are lost.

Robin D. Owens has finally started self publishing short stories, and this is the first of them. I sure hope there will be many more, as I love everything Celta. Writing that, I had to admit I do have some issues with this novella. For one, the romance is incredibly fast. They are not heart mates, they are matched by Celta's premier matchmaker, T'Willow. Enata has an appointment, T'Willow scans her, and he knows immediately that she will be perfect for Barton Clover. So he calls Baron and his family into his office, to meet Enata. They fall in lust, or love, or whatever, and are married that same evening. That was waaayyyy to fast for me. No discussions of where to live, what they like, nothing personal. Half of the novella is filled with sex scene after sex scene, and I had a few times: enough already, get on with the story!
Because the storyline takes a very unexpected twist. Perhaps if I re-read the other books again, I might pick up on it, but I doubt it. It was a good twist, it was a nice journey, but when they found it, I would have like some more time in that place.

Of course, there are 2 fam animals, one very young kitten for Baron, and an exotic bird for Enata. Those parts are always fun to read about. I do wonder what will happen next with this particular story line.

More Celta books please!

6 stars.

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© 2016 Reviews by Aurian

donderdag 26 mei 2016

Jude Deveraux - Ever After

The third book in the Nantucket Brides Trilogy series, published June 23, 2015.
Genre: contemporary romance with ghosts
Cover: gorgeous wedding dress

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One fateful day, Hallie Hartley, a young physical therapist, makes two startling discoveries: not only has a mysterious relative left Hallie a house on Nantucket, but her obnoxious stepsister, Shelly, has been trying to steal it. Impulsively, Hallie flees to the gorgeous island to view the property - and finds on the premises an unexpected guest: the wealthy and devastatingly handsome James Taggert, her newest client, who claims to have injured his leg in a skiing accident. Jamie's attentions draw Hallie out of her shell - but he has a dark secret, and is tormented by nightmares that only her presence can keep at bay. As Jamie's relatives arrive for a wedding gala, there's an aura of romance in the air - enhanced by a pair of matchmaking ghosts and a colourful legend. In their own little corner of the world, Jamie and Hallie unravel the timeless secrets of their own hearts, and a very special story of True Love destined to last forever after.

The third book in the series, and the best in my opinion. I liked Hallie a lot. Ever since her father remarried suddenly, and brought home a stepmother and younger stepsister, her life became hell. Now her grandparents and her parents have died, and Hallie has had to take care of Shelly for years. She has finally graduated from college, and is about to start her career as a physical therapist when she founds out something shocking.
Going home unexpectedly, as she lost some important papers for her boss, she finds her stepsister Shelly acting like she is Hallie, and about to sign some important papers. Apparently, a very distant relative has left Hallie a house on Nantucket Island, and Shelly was about to steal it from her. She has always been extremely jealous of Hallie, and as she is a total failure at her job as an actress, or waitress, or whatever, she has come back to Hallie to annoy her and leech of her. So when she intercepted an important packet of papers for Hallie, she cocked up this scheme. After all, why should Hallie own two houses, when Hallies' father left her nothing?
So, impulsively, Hallie packs her own bags, after tossing Shelly's luggage out of her own suitcase (finding more stuff Shelly "borrowed" in there), and accompanies famous architect Jared Montgomery on his private plane to the Island of Nantucket, to see her inheritance, and take on a job as private physical therapist for one of his gazillions cousins who has had a skiing accident.

But the young man she finds there, is not so young as she expected, and also the most gorgeous man she has ever seen. James Taggart in return is stunned when he sees Hallie. He has never been attracted to bean poles, and she is perfect in his eyes. But he doesn't trust her with his secrets, he refuses to undress and let her help him with his injuries, other than his bum knee, and he certainly doesn't need her helping him! (Stupid man, of course he does).

This time, they are not ghosts come back to a second chance at love, there is just a couple of matchmaking ghosts around, and that was fun to read about. I liked Hallie a lot, she finally took charge of her life, and got rid of Shelly, and the feeling that she needs to take care of her. And when James doesn't trust her, confide in her, and tries to boss her around, Hallie does what she needs to do, and she knows her broken heart will heal. He can't keep lying to her, trying to reveal his past. She has already guessed it anyway. I also loved how she dealt with his enormous family, and all those gorgeous males who wanted a massage from her.

And Shelly? She still doesn't see how wrong she was. And being jealous of Hallie as a child, and being so nasty to her because of that, nope, you were not entitled to that at all, no matter what your mother put you through. Because Hallie did not do anything to you. So no, you also don't deserve Hallie's childhood crush fall for you …

Yes, very good romance, I enjoyed it a lot. I hope there will be more books in this series.

10 stars.

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© 2016 Reviews by Aurian

dinsdag 24 mei 2016

Jennifer Estep - Dark Heart of Magic

The second book in the Black Blade series, published October 27, 2015.
Genre: young adult urban fantasy
Cover: intriguing

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Something Wicked This Way Comes . . .
As a thief, I stick to the shadows as much as possible. But when the head of the Sinclair Family picks me to compete in the Tournament of Blades, there's no escaping the spotlight--or the danger.
Even though he's my competition, Devon Sinclair thinks I have the best shot at winning what's supposed to be a friendly contest. But when the competitors start having mysterious "accidents," it looks like someone will do anything to win--no matter who they hurt.
As if I didn't have enough to worry about, mobster Victor Draconi is plotting against Devon and the rest of my friends, and someone's going around Cloudburst Falls murdering monsters. One thing's for sure. Sometimes, humans can be more monstrous than anything else...

The second book in the series is just as good as the first. Lila proves her skills in dealing with monsters again, and I did like that part a lot. Something or someone is killing them, and they are not even bad monsters, so I felt sorry for them. She is also stealing into the Draconi Mansion, trying to find out Victors plans. He is after the Sinclairs, and probably the other Family's as well.
And then Lila's name has been announced as a contestant in the Tournament of Blades, and she is very unhappy about that. She is a thief, and she doesn't like the limelight one single bit. And now she has to compete, show her skills to all the Family's? But the Sinclair Family seems to be really proud of her and her skills, so she doesn't have a choice. Especially when she learns that the head of the Sinclair Family knows who she really is, and knew her mother very well. Her mother died saving Devon when he was a small boy, and Victor Draconis murdered her for that.

Felix, Devon's best friend, has secretly been in love with Deah Draconis for a while now, so when his fling from last year, Katia, is back in town and she wants to continue with their fling, he is not so happy. He doesn't want to hurt Katia, and Deah is not tolerating Katia flirting with him. Of course, she also can't let her Family know she likes Felix. The only time her father pays any attention to her, is when she wins the Tournament. Deah is really, really good at that, she has a Mimic talent, and it works a lot like Lila's own powers. But meeting Deah's mother is strange every time. She is a powerful Seer, but she keeps confusing Lila with her mother. Did they al know each other in the past?

Lila learns a lot more about her own Family, and her parents. And to make it out of the hands of a deranged killer alive, she will need to work together with her new cousin …

I look very much forward to reading the next book in the series. Even though it is YA, with all the longing that involves, I enjoy this very much. Bring on the monsters!

9 stars.

A blogger made me buy it

Autobuy author

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© 2016 Reviews by Aurian


maandag 23 mei 2016

Kevin Hearne - Staked

The eighth book in the Iron Druid Chronicles series, published January 26, 2016.
Genre: urban fantasy
Cover: nice

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Iron Druid Atticus O'Sullivan, hero of Kevin Hearne's epic urban fantasy series, has a point to make - and then drive into a vampire's heart.

When a Druid has lived for two thousand years like Atticus, he's bound to run afoul of a few vampires. Make that legions of them. Even his former friend and legal counsel turned out to be a bloodsucking backstabber. Now the toothy troublemakers - led by power-mad pain-in-the-neck Theophilus - have become a huge problem requiring a solution. It's time to make a stand.
As always, Atticus wouldn't mind a little backup. But his allies have problems of their own. Ornery archdruid Owen Kennedy is having a wee bit of troll trouble: Turns out when you stiff a troll, it's not water under the bridge. Meanwhile, Granuaile is desperate to free herself of the Norse god Loki's mark and elude his powers of divination - a quest that will bring her face-to-face with several Slavic nightmares.
As Atticus globetrots to stop his nemesis Theophilus, the journey leads to Rome. What better place to end an immortal than the Eternal City? But poetic justice won't come without a price: In order to defeat Theophilus, Atticus may have to lose an old friend.

Well, the blurb pretty much says it all. An action filled book, with three different storylines, Atticus and Oberon, Granuaile and Orlaith, and Owen. Atticus fights vampires, and tries to find the head vampire to slay him, as he was the one that sicked the Romans after the Druids, causing them to die out (well, except for Atticus himself, and his old mentor Owen).
Granauile has been branded by Loki, and she needs to get rid of that brand. For that, she needs Odin's help. When Loki comes after her, after her visit to Asgard, she sure makes him pay for what he has done to her, and I did love that scene!
And Owen is trying to make a new life for himself, after been outside of time for 2000 years. His werewolf girlfriend and her pack have found him 6 new apprentices to train, and his job is to keep them safe. And that means: Atticus is banned from the territory, as where ever he goes, his enemies follow.

Sad things happen, but also lots of fun things. I love the mix of all the different mythologies. Oberon and Orlaith are great, and Orlaith has finally learned enough to be able to talk to Oberon. So now they can beg for sausages and bacon together!
I wish I had read this book before I went to Berlin, instead of right after, as Atticus visits it and it would have been fun to try to find those places.

We are also introduced to a new character, a powerful seer, who sees things while making cheese out of different kinds of milk. Fun, original and very quirky.

This book continues after a short story called A Prelude of War, and Kevin Hearne warns about that in the start of the book. And also that, lucky me, it is included in the back of the book. So if you have bought the Orbit version, trade size paperback, you are in luck. Otherwise, I recommend you buy and read the novella first.

9 stars.

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© 2016 Reviews by Aurian

zondag 22 mei 2016

Jennifer Estep - Cold Burn of Magic

The first book in the Black Blade series, published April 28, 2015
Genre: young adult urban fantasy
Cover: meh

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There Be Monsters Here. . .
It's not as great as you'd think, living in a tourist town that's known as "the most magical place in America." Same boring high school, just twice as many monsters under the bridges and rival Families killing each other for power.
I try to keep out of it. I've got my mom's bloodiron sword and my slightly illegal home in the basement of the municipal library. And a couple of Talents I try to keep quiet, including very light fingers and a way with a lock pick.
But then some nasty characters bring their Family feud into my friend's pawn shop, and I have to make a call--get involved, or watch a cute guy die because I didn't. I guess I made the wrong choice, because now I'm stuck putting everything on the line for Devon Sinclair. My mom was murdered because of the Families, and it looks like I'm going to end up just like her. . .

The first book in a good new series. Lila lives her life in the shadows, going to school, doing odd jobs for her only friend Mo (and those involve a lot of breaking and entering and stealing) but she likes her life. Of course she still misses her mother a lot, who was killed a few years ago, and after a few very unsuccessful stays with foster families, she now lives on her own. A hidden room in the basement of the public library is her home. She prefers living in the shadows, because if the Family's know about her, her life and her magic are forfeit. They are always feuding amongst each other, looking for new guards or just killing people for their magic.
And now, after saving the son of the Sinclair Family, she is no longer living in secret, Mo has hired her out to the Sinclair's as Devon's new bodyguard. Okay, living in a mansion is not that bad, at least there is always enough bacon! And her own pixie to look after her room and things is fun as well, when he finally warms up to her. But being the center of attention is taking a lot of getting used to.
But someone on the inside, a trusted member of the family, is after Devon, and it is her job to keep him safe…

I really enjoyed this story, and Lila is quite the character. She is strong and resilient, and sassy of course. She doesn't want to feel for Devon what she does, she is planning on keeping him safe, serve out her contract, and than leave town in a hurry. So being kind of friends will be fine, anything more is not.
The Family's all own a part of town, and it is their job to keep the citizens and many tourists safe from the monsters that live in and around it. And for doing that, they get taxes. You really could compare them to the mob. Lila's mother told her all about the monsters, and how to treat them. Pay the toll, and what to pay, because different monsters want different things. Most people laugh at that, but in the end, it saves lives … and costs lives …

Yes, original, and still in the same world as Jennifer Estep's other series. I like that.

9 stars.

Autobuy author

A blogger made me buy it

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© 2016 Reviews by Aurian

zaterdag 21 mei 2016

Allyson James - Shadowwalker

The third book in the Stormwalker series, published June 7, 2011.
Genre: urban fantasy
Cover: good
Re-read for the second time.

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Racing her motorcycle down a lonely winter highway, Stormwalker Janet Begay feels the ground collapse beneath her feet. After tumbling two hundred feet into an underground cavern, she manages to escape with help from her sexy dragon-shifter boyfriend, Mick--but not before they disturb dark forces.
As Janet contends with a hotel inspector intent on putting her out of business, and her grandmother, who's taken up residence, Mick's behavior becomes strange and erratic, until he is a clear danger to Janet and her friends.
Janet's drag-queen, attitude-ridden magic mirror insists that Mick has been "touched by shadows," and Janet realizes that someone is out to enslave her dragon. Now she must free Mick before he kills her . . .

The series keeps getting better and better! After falling into a sinkhole in the highway, while riding her beloved Harley, and being chased by Sheriff Nash Jones, Janet's Beneath magic is the source of strange ancient symbols attacking her. Only her dragonshifter boyfriend Mick can save her in the nick of time with his dragonfire. When they are finally rescued from the hole, and the ancient cave system they fell into, stranger things keep happening.
Some being is after Nash, pretending to be his mother, and Mick is acting more and more strange lately, disappearing for hours at a time. Finally Janet finds out that a powerful witch has enslaved him, by using his real name.
Desperately, Janet searches for ways to free him from the witch, before Mick kills her and her friends… And what has her wicked half-sister Gabrielle have to do with it all?

Great series, I love the Navajo legends and lore in it, and the fact that Janet is Navajo herself, or Diné. Her grandmother sure is powerful and scary, and Elena, her Apache chef is equally strange and dangerous. They keep a very close eye on Janet, never really trusting her because of her Beneath magic, but Janet is learning to deal with it, blending it with her Stormwalker powers.
Other great characters are her handyman, and Maya, her electrician, who is Nash Jones' girlfriend. Cassandra, the hotel manager is also a strong witch, and her girlfriend Pamela is a shapeshifter. And then there is Coyote, causing mischief and never giving the answers Janet so desperately needs. Other dragon shifters are not friendly either, wanting to kill Janet for her powers, but Mick has made her his mate, and they can't touch her now.

Yes, great series, recommended. Great characters you become invested in, they tug on your emotions. Lots of magic and magical beings around, I do love that. And yes, very very hot love scenes.
Book 5 was released earlier this year.

9 stars.

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© 2016 Reviews by Aurian

donderdag 19 mei 2016

Susan Wittig Albert - Bittersweet

Book 23 in the China Bayles series, published April 7, 2015.
Genre: cozy mystery
Cover: nice

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China is planning to visit her mother, Leatha, and her mother s husband, Sam, for Thanksgiving. She's also looking forward to catching up with a friend, game warden Mackenzie "Mack" Chambers. But Leatha calls with bad news: Sam has had a heart attack. While Sam recuperates, Leatha does have a helper - Sue Ellen Krause. But Sue Ellen - who's leaving her husband, the assistant foreman at a trophy game ranch - has troubles of her own. Before she can tell China the full story, Sue Ellen is killed in a car crash.
When a local veterinarian is shot, Mack believes his murder could be related to fawns stolen from a nearby ranch. And China wonders if Sue Ellen's death may not have been an accident, and if there's a connection to the stolen animals...

With this book, I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about the American kind of hunting at a "trophy game ranch". Where exotic animals are bred so they have a big rack, where white tail deer are smuggled from one state to the next, and "hunters" can sit in a comfy location and shoot them when those tame animals come out to eat. There is no sportsmanship involved at all, no skills, just killing animals for a trophy on the wall. Even real life pigeons are used like clay pigeons. I understand that it is a way to make a living when farming is no longer earning that, but I found all this horrible.

I did enjoy reading about something called "yarn bombing", what China's best friend Ruby is involved in. Knitters knit things for street furniture or trees, when they are tired from knitting hats and scarves and sweaters. I had just read about it, when I saw it myself in Berlin, where some fences had knitted wool covers. It is even considered art. So that was fun.

China's mother and her husband are trying to set up a bird watching place, with a bed and breakfast. But now that Sam has had his heart attack, and won't be able to work as hard as he is used to doing, how can her mother cope on her own? China is worried about that, she has her own life, her family and business to run in Pecan Springs, she does not live close by and won't be able to help out when needed. What will happen to Sam and Leata? Do they really need the money from this new project?

A great book, and I did enjoy it, even though I knew the plot way before China or the Game Wardens figured it out. There is also a romance thread in this book involving Mackenzie Chambers, and that was really nice.
This is a series I have been reading for over 25 years, I started reading it in Dutch as the first six books have been translated, and was really happy to discover there were more books available in English.

9 stars.

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© 2016 Reviews by Aurian