The holidays are among us, and if you’re like me, books play a big part in relaxing during your downtime and gift-giving strategies. There’s always time for romance, which means there’s always room on your bookshelves for romantic suspense!
Karen Rose is one of the OG romantic suspense authors for me, and one of the reasons I love the genre. Book 5 in her Cincinnati series, Into the Dark, is another exciting thriller. Over the course of, like, 23 books, she’s developed a whole world involving law enforcement and therapists and brave people who face and survive insurmountable odds. She writes anthems for our times, really. This was a particularly compelling book for me because the title really foretold the story—when one of the kids on Diesel Kennedy’s soccer team, Michael, and his brother show up at Diesel’s house, fleeing from their stepfather, he doesn’t hesitate to help them. He’s an ex-Army ranger, after all, even though he’s a journalist now … maybe he’s Superman? Because Michael is injured, Diesel takes them to Dr. Dani Novak, the woman he also happens to love. Layers of complexity dot the story, ranging from Michael’s deafness to Dr. Dani’s private reasons for resisting their attraction, and Diesel’s own issues from childhood, but Rose weaves them together in a fast-paced, compelling story that I’ve come to expect from her. Really, y’all, this is a terrific book.
There are so many great things I’ve written about Rachel Grant and her romantic suspense’s over the years that I feel like a broken record at times. Exciting paces, robust characters, compelling plots … all of those elements are present in her latest holiday novella, Winter Hawk. Once again, I love the setup: Leah Ellis is the head coder for her military contracting firm, working on drones that have crossed over to the consumer marketplace. When she’s abruptly fired and walked out the door, she meets Nate Sifuentes, the driver hired by her firm to take her wherever she wants to go. Nate’s an operative with Raptor, a military contractor present in her Evidence series (and also my favorite Grant book, Incriminating Evidence), so you know the shit is about to hit the fan. It’s soon evident that Leah is being set up, and bad forces are interested in her work and snuffing her out. The bitch of it is that it all happens on the first night of Hanukah, on the first year of her mother’s passing. Morale is low to begin with, but Nate makes sure to get a menorah for Leah while they’re grabbing items on the go, and they in turn celebrate Christmas for him. I like this holiday story because the story would’ve happened with or without ‘holiday,’ so it wound up being a nice addition. To wrap up this holiday theme, Grant is one smart cookie. And, by extension, reading and enjoying her books surely makes me one, too. Right?
The Intended Victim by Alexandra Ivy
Prolific author Alexandra Ivy has a great new installment of her Agency series with The Intended Victim. Serial killers are never something to trifle with, particularly when it’s obvious that you are the intended victim. That’s where Remi Walsh finds herself when a look-a-like victim turns up, with all the hallmark signs of assault from the ‘Chicago Butcher.’ She survived an attack from the killer five years earlier, during which time her father died trying to save her, and estranged her from the man she loved, Ash Marcel. Ash is no longer a police officer and Remi is still trying to get her life back together, but he intends to find the killer before the woman he still loves becomes the real victim. This second-chance love story is strong on plot and twists and suspense, but lighter than the other four on romance. It’s still a great series.
And finally there’s Katie Ruggle’s Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunters series, about five sisters who live deep in the Rocky Mountains and are bounty hunters. These are not sarcastic women who leave their guns in the cookie jar, no ma’am. They are badass forces to be reckoned with, and the men who win their hearts are worthy. Risk It All is the second installment, and follows Cara Pax, who we’ll call ‘the reluctant sister,’ because being a bounty hunter was never her forte. But she falls in line because she believes in the family part of ‘family business.’ She’s after Henry Kavenski, who, as it turns out, really is innocent. Though their romance builds with a slow boil, they have great chemistry and it’s enjoyable to watch their connection. Cara is quirky and optimistic, and Henry is protective and nothing like the cold-blooded killer he’s reputed to be. There’s a great overarching story arc running through the series, but each book is its own standalone powerhouse.
Happy Holidays, y’all! And remember books make great gifts.