Review: Alpha Chef by Sue Brown, J.T.’s Bar 2

AlphaChef
Cover Design by Garrett Leigh

I would rate this 3.25 stars.

Mitch’s brother Greg shows up out of the blue to J.T.’s Bar. He’s on the run from someone trying to kill him, having been in witness protection for fourteen years. When his marshall Riordan tracks him down and takes him away to safety, the attraction they have been battling for the last few years boils over with the forced proximity. The numerous sex scenes are steamy and more detailed in this one, so it works better as an erotic romance than a suspense/thriller. It is on the insta-love side because although Riordan may know almost everything about Greg, Greg knows next to nothing about Riordan and it’s his POV.

Unfortunately the character descriptions are still not very detailed, so there is nothing more about the covert ops team members, nor about the sheriffs or marshalls either. There are a few plot twists as they try to catch the bad guys, including the mole in WITSEC. When the danger is over Mitch’s and Greg’s parents show up, so the last third is family drama. This is actually my favorite part as Mitch and Greg bury their past and start fresh with Greg working as a cook at the bar. Greg also has to figure out how to move forward with Riordan. I felt more attached to Mitch and I really liked Greg and Riordan as characters.

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Review : Hitting Black Ice (Heart and Haven #1) by Heloise West

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

For the first nine chapters, the reader is in Hunter’s POV as he navigates his crush on Shawn, a colleague at the hospital he works at. He is beset by guilt over the death of his boyfriend. Hunter’s drinking and PTSD are a source of worry for his friends and family, who are all in medical services and law enforcement. Life changing events happen fast, allowing Hunter and Shawn to break down some barriers and bond more quickly than would otherwise happen. The reader is thrown into this weird drama because Hunter’s emotions, doubts, and fears are like a roller coaster. Add in Shawn’s PTSD and fear, and neither of them are operating on all cylinders; having said that, the beginning could have flowed more smoothly. I found the dialogue and conversations strange. There are characters thrown in who are underutilized. Luckily, it gets better.

When the magnetic FBI agent Truman shows up, I was intrigued. I don’t think the sexual tension works quite as well as I would have liked to better sell this character. Relying on Hunter as a bit of a cop chaser isn’t enough for this to really shine as it could have. Who doesn’t like a bit of will they, won’t they? By chapter ten when the POV switches to Shawn, aka Alex, I was hooked into the story intellectually and wanted to know the why of everything. The flashback helps make sense of how everyone got to where they are. Between the betrayals, criminals, and dangerous ex-lovers, Hunter and Alex make perfect sense together.

There could be a debate about cheating in this book. It’s something I know some people can’t stand, so I’m warning you. In my opinion, it is all completely understandable: they weren’t really together yet (maybe), and they were on a break (sort of). It made sense for the character as written because that’s one of his coping mechanisms. One of the best things about this book is that the three major characters are complex. They make good and bad decisions; they do good and bad things.

Even with the unexpected turns, this whole book is careening towards a final confrontation. Here is where everything would have been more intense if Hunter’s family had been completely fleshed out beforehand. Also, the feeble attempt at any sort of redemption for the bad guy (he did this awful thing, but he had a really good reason) didn’t work for me. I am happy it was just a sentence thrown in and not given legs. This is still where I became more emotionally hooked into the story for Hunter and Alex. I would call this a HFN. Everyone is changed by the events and I would like to see what happens next with these characters.

The cover art by Natasha Snow fits the story well. I am going to assume this is Truman.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details: ebook
Published August 19th 2019 by NineStar Press (first published December 1st 2014)
ISBN 139781951057145
Edition Language English
Series: Heart and Haven

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review : Hitting Black Ice (Heart and Haven #1) by Heloise West — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Prerelease Review: The Bones Beneath My Skin by T.J. Klune

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

After the death of Nate’s parents, he takes the truck he inherited to the cabin they left him in order to take some time to grieve. The drive to the cabin lets us get to know Nate and his family history; it should come as no surprise it is gut wrenching stuff from this author. If possible, Nate’s night is about to become a whole lot worse, or better–at least interesting.

When he encounters the man and girl at his cabin, the series of events are strange. The main question I think anyone would have is, why does Nate go along with everything happening? There is his curiosity, of course. He is a journalist, so it’s in his nature to dig and want information. There is shock, and sometimes you just go along with what is going on around you and do what you’re told. Sometimes when you have nothing to lose, you make different decisions than you normally would. But if he thought his life was toast before, it is really crispy now, and there is no turning back into bread ever again (read the book.)

The thing is, even in a book full of strange and impossible things, these characters are more real than the characters in most stories. Art is that child that is too knowing, yet is still excited about every new thing. Nate is that man who has lost faith in the world and himself, but he can still surprise himself. Alex is the man who is resurrected from the ashes of his own life with a new purpose. The forced intimacy of them staying alone in an isolated place, and then being on the run together, works well. The slow burn finally gets kindled when everything snaps into place–when we know they are there by choice, rather than just letting events carry them. The author set this book in the 1990’s, so the use of political events, news, and pop culture help keep it grounded in the period.

The story is told from Nate’s POV, so it’s easy to sympathize with his emotions: as he gets attached to Alex and Artemis Darth Vader, as he has his existential crisis, as he experiences things so foreign to the way his neat ordered world was before. I laughed and cried reading this. There are times we do get to see other points of view that I enjoyed and added to the emotional impact of what was happening. It’s very difficult to review without spoilers, and really her name should tell you all you need to know. The genius of this book is not that I didn’t see what was happening beforehand–it is that I was still shocked and horrified when things happened. Then, I had no idea how the story was going to get out of the walls it had built; don’t worry, it walks through them.

The ending does go to an omnipotent observer POV before switching back to Nate’s POV and that annoyed me for a second. The epilogue was the best ending I could have hoped for, the one that made sense. There is a lot to be said for people being fearful of those different, of fear turning to violence, but there is more to be said for love and hope, of building the family you choose. What sets it apart from other science fiction in a similar vein, is that it focuses on the heart and mind of the characters, so this is not hard science fiction, more of a character study. I would recommend it.

The cover art is by Reese Dante and has a “so above, so below” feel that works well for the subject matter and the idea of how we are all stardust.

Sales Links on 10/26:
Book Details: ebook, 385 pages
Expected publication: October 26th 2018 by TJ Klune
Original Title The Bones Beneath My Skin
ISBN139781732399914
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Prerelease Review: The Bones Beneath My Skin by T.J. Klune — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words