Amber Beach

Author: Elizabeth Lowellamber
Publisher: Avon Books
Date: 1997
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9780380973170
Price: $7.99
Number of Pages: 387
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 2Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://elizabethlowell.com/

http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/sep00/a-conversation-with-elizabeth-lowell-9001

Links to Reviews

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-380-97317-0

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/elizabeth-lowell/amber-beach/

Reader’s Annotation

Honor’s brother is missing and a mysterious stranger has just arrived.

Plot Summary

This book is from the perspective of Honor Donovan, a jewelry designer who has come to the state of Washington to search for her missing brother. Her brother Kyle has gone missing under suspicious circumstances as a shipment of priceless amber has disappeared with him. Honor is determined to find her brother, despite her family’s protests. Even though she doesn’t like boats, she hires a boating and fishing guide to teach her how so she can search the surrounding islands. The guide ends up being Jake who, unbeknownst to Honor, is also looking for Kyle and the missing amber. Jake believes Kyle betrayed him by taking the amber and wants revenge. However, he doesn’t expect to fall in love with Honor. The two grow closer, despite the fact that they are trying to conceal their true motivations.

Critical Evaluation

I wasn’t a huge fan of how this book turned out. I didn’t mind Honor as a character, but I what I didn’t like was how she was always in need of rescuing by Jake. I felt like Jake was a bit misogynistic at times, especially at the end of the novel. I also didn’t enjoy how much boating and fishing exposition was included. I felt like it slowed the pacing and was incredibly boring. Even the plot about the amber got to be a little too fact-heavy and I found myself skimming some of the detail. I also felt that the ending was a little anti-climactic. I felt like there was a lot of buildup and little payoff. The actual romance scenes were decent, but I don’t think I will read any other books by this author.

Appeal Factors

Fast-paced, suspenseful, steamy

Read-alikes

The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann
Deadline by Sandra Brown

Discussion Ideas

• Discuss the amber room and the historical details of the novel.
• Discuss the role of women in the novel.

Justification of Selection

This was the romance group’s selection. I was interested in reading another romance author and expanding my horizon.

Shiver

Author: Karen Robardsshiver
Publisher: Ballentine
Date: 2012
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9781410454430
Price: 25.00
Number of Pages: 384
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, E-Book, Audio

Rating Scale: 3Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.karenrobards.com/

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/karen-robards/shiver-robards/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4516-7867-3

Reader’s Annotation

Sam knows Marco is dangerous, so why can’t she fight her attraction for him?

Summary

Sam is a struggling single mother trying to make ends meet for four-year-old son, Trevor. She repossesses cars, which is a dangerous job, especially as she does it at night. One night as she is repossessing a car, she finds a man tied up and injured in the trunk of the car. Before she can do anything, she is hit in the head and placed in the trunk with the man. As they are taken to the impound lot, Sam manages to help them escape by shooting her captors with a gun that she had hidden on her person. Sam is afraid of the man because she thinks he must be caught up the cartel, so she tries to take off with her tow truck. However, before she can get there, he manages to capture her at gunpoint and forces her to take him with her. As the two are driving, he tells her that his name is Marco and that he is in the witness protection program for whistleblowing about the cartel. However, the reader learns that, in truth, he is an FBI agent named Daniel sent to uncover a leak in the U.S. Marshall’s Office. Sam manages to escape and goes home to find that the cartel have found her and killed her babysitter. She’s about to be killed when Daniel, along with some fellow agents, manage to rescue her. Daniel, still under the guise of Marco, is back in the witness protection program and makes a deal to include Sam and her child in the program. As they spend more time together, they begin to feel a strong attraction to each other but Sam is conflicted because she thinks he’s a bad guy.

Critical Evaluation

Robards excels at creating chemistry between her two likeable protagonists. Their scenes together are very steamy. Sam’s son Trevor is also a cute character, although he acts more grown up than his age. The problem with this book is its mystery storyline. It becomes fairly obvious who the villain is once Sam goes into the witness protection program. The reason behind the leak is a bit thin and convoluted. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. You really have to suspend your belief in order to enjoy the book, even more than you would usually do for a romantic suspense novel. Some of the action scenes are also a bit ridiculous and unrealistic. However, it was a fun, easy read. I just think that Robards could have done better with the storyline.

Significance of Book

Karen Robards is a big name in the romantic suspense genre and is well known for her steamy romances and compelling characters. Shiver is a good example of Robards’ skill.

Read-alikes

In Too Deep by Jayne Ann Krentz

Deadly Lies by Cynthia Eden

The Liar by Nora Roberts

Awards and Lists

N/A

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss Sam’s past failed relationships and how this has shaped her character
  • Discuss Daniel’s persona as Marco.

Justification of Selection

What drew me to this book was the premise of a man and woman meeting under threatening circumstances and being on the run from very bad guys. I’ve always been intrigued by stories that involve the witness protection program and I like romances where the protagonists are at odds with each other.

The Ideal Man

Author: Julie Garwoodideal
Publisher: Dutton
Date: 2011
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9781410438683
Price: $35.99
Number of Pages: 352
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, E-Book, Audio

Rating Scale: 2Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://juliegarwood.com/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/happyeverafter/2014/07/29/julie-garwood-interview-fast-track/13279217/

http://www.thereadingcafe.com/catching-up-with-julie-garwood/

http://mysteriouspeople.blogspot.com/2011/11/visit-with-julie-garwood.html

Links to Reviews

http://thebookpushers.com/2011/08/08/review-the-ideal-man-by-julie-garwood/

http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-c-reviews/c-reviews/review-the-ideal-man-by-julie-garwood/

http://www.likesbooks.com/cgi-bin/bookReview.pl?BookReviewId=8543

Reader’s Annotation

Ellie, a brilliant surgeon with a tragic past, has just witnessed an attempted murder. Luckily, she has FBI agent Max Daniels to protect her as her past and present collide.

Characters/Location

Dr. Ellie Sullivan

FBI Agent Max Daniels

St.Louis

Summary

This is a steamy tale of romance with some suspense thrown in. The story revolves around a brilliant surgeon named Ellie Sullivan. After her shift, she goes to jog and witnesses a shooting of an FBI agent. She manages to save the agent’s life and meets a fellow agent named Max Daniels, who begins questioning her about what she witnessed. The problem is that the two shooters are a couple named the Landrys, who are on the FBI’s Most Wanted list and are extremely dangerous. Max fears that Ellie could be in danger if the Landrys’ believe she saw something that could incriminate them. The two have an instant attraction and Max immediately becomes protective of her. Max is insistent on staying with her even when she has to fly back to her home state for her sister’s wedding. This presents a whole new set of dangers, as Ellie was brutally attacked by a stalker when she was a young teen and has been has been living in fear of him ever since he got out of a mental hospital. Max must protect her from both the Landry’s hitman and her past stalker which she deals with her family drama. As the two spend more time together, they begin to fall deeply in love.

Critical Evaluation

I must confess that I’m a little disappointed with this book. I think it had a lot of promise, mainly because the two main characters had a great deal of chemistry. However, the story was all over the place. Garwood just packed too many storylines into one book and none of them were fully fleshed out. All of these storylines culminated into making Ellie a pushover. She lets her parents and her sister treat her horribly and she never really speaks her mind about it. Another problem with her character is that Garwood made Ellie too perfect. Not only is she gorgeous, she’s also a childhood prodigy turned brilliant surgeon with a heart of gold who just happens to love football. This seemed too unrealistic to me, especially the football part of it. That seemed like overkill to me. The climax of the book was a little lackluster and left a lot to be desired.

Significance of Book

Julie Garwood is a big name in the romance genre. She is especially well-loved because of her historical, but recently she has put most of her focus on contemporaries. She has mane devoted fans that will read anything that she publishes. It is also the ninth book in the Buchanan series.

Read-alikes

Bait by Karen Robards

Full Scoop by Janet Evanovitch

The Cove by Catherine Coulter

Awards and Lists

N/A

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss Ellie’s relationship with her sisters
  • Discuss Ellie’s unusual upbringing without her parents.

Justification of Selection

I used to read Garwood’s books years ago, but I have largely fallen away from them in favor of YA. I thought this might be a good excuse to get reacquainted with her books. I have read her Buchanan series and wanted to see how it was progressing. I picked this one because I was interested in the heroine’s profession as a doctor and the fact that she witnessed a crime.

The Last Victim (Dr. Charlotte Stone #1)

Author: Karen Robards
Publisher: Ballantinelast
Date: 2012
Genre: Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 9780345535405
Price: 26.00
Number of Pages: 336
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, E-Book, Audio

Rating Scale: 4Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.karenrobards.com/

http://books.usatoday.com/happyeverafter/post/2012-08-06/karen-robards-interview-the-last-victim/819057/1

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/karen-robards/last-victim/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-345-53540-5

Reader’s Annotation

Dr. Charlotte Stone must face the serial killer who has haunted her dreams. Can she survive?

Summary

This is a fast-paced, suspenseful paranormal romance and the beginning of a series. Dr. Charlotte Stone is an expert in the field of criminal pathology. Ever since witnessing a family’s brutal murder by the hands of the Boardwalk serial killer, she has had a mysterious connection with the dead. Sometimes she can see ghosts of the nearly departed, including the family she witnessed being murdered. Even though Charlotte was a witness, the killer managed to get away and it has haunted her ever since. As a consequence, she has made it her life’s mission to become an expert in serial killers. She works inside a prison, where she questions former serial killer death row inmates. One such inmate is Garland, who was accused of brutally murdering prostitutes. One day she is approached by two FBI agents about consulting on a case that is suspiciously similar to Boardwalk killings, both in M.O and area. While Charlotte is discussing the matter with the agents, Garland is stabbed by another inmate. Charlotte runs to help, but is unsuccessful in saving his life. As he dies, she immediately sees his ghost. Even though she tries to ignore him, he begins to follow her with no intention of leaving. The FBI agents, once again tries to convince Charlotte to help and even though Charlotte is scared that it is the same killer she witnessed, she decides to take on the case. Charlotte travels to the town she thought she left behind and must face the new brutal killings while hunting for the killer, all the while she is being haunted by Gordon, whom she begins to feel a connection with despite her misgivings.

Critical Evaluation

For the most part I very much enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the mystery of who the killer was and I especially liked Charlotte’s medium capabilities aiding her in the case.Charlotte was a likable and relatable character and all of the side characters were interesting as well. I especially liked Lena Kaminsky and the tension between her and Charlotte. Agent Bartoli was another interesting character and possible love interest for Charlotte, although I would have liked to have seen a little more development for this character. His character development was pushed aside in favor of Garland, who became the number one love interest for Charlotte. The two shared a fascinating chemistry that while was fun to read, was also a little disturbing. I loved the fact that he was a ghost, I thought it provided a very interesting and different dynamic to the romance part of the book. However, it was a little disturbing to me that he was a convicted serial killer. The only saving grace for me is that the reader can pretty much infer from the beginning that he is innocent, but the fact that Charlotte is unsure of his innocence and still drawn to him is a little creepy. I am very curious as to where Robards is going to take this relationship, so I will definitely be reading the next two books.

Significance of Book

Karen Robards is a bestselling, award-winning author. The Last Victim is the start of a new series that has earned quite a bit of buzz. It combines Robards’ usual romantic suspense storyline, but adds a paranormal twist. It even goes as far as having a ghost as a romantic lead, which is something you don’t see very often in romances.

Read-alikes

The Fifth Victim by Beverly Barton

Chill Factor by Sandra Brown

Deadly Game by Christine Feehan

Awards and Lists

N/A

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss Dr. Charlotte Stone’s tragic past and how it has shaped her
  • Discuss Garland’s and Charlotte’s unusual relationship

Justification of Selection

The paranormal aspect of this book made me very interested in reading it. I thought a character who was a serial killer expert as well as a medium sounded very interesting.

Veil of Night

Author: Linda Howard
Publisher: Random House
Date: 2010veil
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9780345506894
Price: 26.00
Number of Pages: 340
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, E-Book, Audio

Rating Scale: 2Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Linda-Howard/16158710

http://www.gadsdentimes.com/article/20130201/STYLE/130209976?p=1&tc=pg

http://www.crescentblues.com/4_3issue/int_Linda_howard.shtml

Links to Reviews

http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/d-plain-reviews/review-veil-of-night-by-linda-howard/

http://likesbooks.com/cgi-bin/bookReview.pl?BookReviewId=8002

Reader’s Annotation

Weddings can be murder. Literally.

Characters/Location

Jaclyn Wilde

Eric Wilder

Carrie Edwards

Atlanta, GA

Summary

 This is a humorous romantic suspense novel centered on a wedding planner named Jaclyn Wilde who owns a business with her mother. She is having problems with one of her brides, who is one the worst bridezillas she has ever come across. In the midst of stressful planning, she accidentally runs in to a cop named Eric Wilder. The two have a one-night stand but both secretly hope that they can start up a relationship. However, the next day, the bride throws a huge tantrum, slaps Jaclyn and fires her. After she leaves, the bride is found murdered. Detective Wilder is called on the case and has to lead the investigation. Unfortunately, Jaclyn was the last person to see her alive and, because of their altercation, is the prime suspect for the murder. Eric must put a halt to their relationship while he conducts the investigation. Eric must uncover the truth while stifling his feelings for Jaclyn.

Critical Evaluation

I must confess that I was a little disappointed with this book. I used to be a big fan of Howard, but had noticed a drop of quality in her books of late and stopped reading them. This book seemed like it had the old Howard flair to it. The beginning was extremely good. I loved the scenes where Jaclyn and Eric met. The description of their one-night stand was steamy and exciting. The characters both had great chemistry from the start. However, once the murder occurs, the book begins to go downhill. The truth behind the death was very obvious. I kept waiting for a plot twist that never happened. In addition, Jacklyn became very annoying. Her anger at Eric was overdone and bordered on ridiculous. She also was very snobby when it came to the weddings she put on, which distracted from building sympathy for the character. There was one extremely long scene that depicted a hillbilly wedding that was at times boring and made Jaclyn come across as mean and pretentious. I really hope that Howard gets her groove back with future novels and begins writing like she used to.

Significance of Book

Linda Howard is a big name in the romantic suspense genre. Her books have spent a lot of time on bestseller lists and she has even won the Career Achievement Award from the Romance Writers of America in 2005.

Read-alikes

Eclipse Bay by Jayne Ann Krentz

Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson

Deadline by Sandra Brown

Awards and Lists

New York Times Bestseller

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss Jaclyn’s idea of a perfect wedding
  • Discuss the Bridezilla cliché

Justification of Selection

One of the reasons I chose this book is that I used to read Linda Howard’s books a long time ago. I loved Kill and Tell, Mr. Perfect and Open Season. However, I stopped reading her books, both because I wasn’t liking what she was publishing and because I was mainly reading YA. When I saw this book during my research, I jumped at the chance to read it because it reminded me of the old Linda Howard books.