Review of Hold Your Breath

Hold Your Breath by Katie Ruggle
Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Book 1
Published 5 April 2016
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca

In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder...

As the captain of Field County's ice rescue dive team, Callum Cook is driven to perfection. But when he meets new diver Louise "Lou" Sparks, all that hard-won order is obliterated in an instant. Lou is a hurricane. A walking disaster. And with her, he's never felt more alive...even if keeping her safe may just kill him.

Lou's new to the Rockies, intent on escaping her controlling ex, and she's determined to make it on her own terms... no matter how tempting Callum may be. But when a routine training exercise unearths a body, Lou and Callum find themselves thrust into a deadly game of cat and mouse with a killer who will stop at nothing to silence Lou - and prove that not even her new Search and Rescue family can keep her safe forever.

I received a copy of Hold Your Breath from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. The following review is comprised of my opinions and mine alone.
While I was reading Hold Your Breath, I was repeatedly reminded of one of my favourite romance novel couples, Blayne Thorpe and Bo Novikov from Shelly Laurenston’s Beast Behaving Badly. Needless to say, Callum Cook and Lou Sparks have now joined the ranks of my favourite romance couples and I’ll be rereading Hold Your Breath a thousand times and randomly quoting parts of it in the middle of conversations much to my friends and family’s dismay. What can I say, I’m a weird potato.
Louise ‘Lou’ Sparks is the boisterous, goofy, and messy leady lady I love. She’s the type of woman who will trip over thin air and everybody in the tricounty area will witness it. But she’s also the woman who will teach herself to fix a propane heater the first time it breaks rather than cry about and spend the money she doesn’t have to call in a repairman to do the job for her every time it breaks. She’s just recently moved to Simpson, Colorado to become a person she'll like seeing in the mirror (a thing I can totally get behind) and she's working as the new waitress in the local cafe to make an honest paycheck. She’s also just joined Simpson’s volunteer Search & Rescue Dive Team – for anybody who doesn’t know, that means she’s diving into freezing cold water and swimming under the ice looking for whatever brain trust decided it’d be a good idea to take a stroll on the not-as-thick-as-they-thought-it-was ice. Lou’s pretty hardcore doing that but she’s also the spazz that has a slap fight with her buddy over some random thing.
Callum Cook is a retired Marine (because there’s no such thing as a ‘former’ Marine) and the leader of Simpson, Colorado’s Search & Rescue Dive Team – and Lou’s boss/trainer. He comes off as a bit of a stick-up-his-butt sort thanks to his OCD ways but he’s pretty great to me. He’s the perfect yin to Lou’s yang. Where Lou is outgoing and really friendly to absolutely everybody, Callum plays it more close to the vest, he’s cordial to everybody and he’s friendly to the search & rescue community but he keeps himself apart from his team since he’s the boss. Lou brings him out of his shell the more they’re together and he brings a bit of needed organisation to her life as well. He has moments where he’s “me Tarzan, you Jane” around her male friends but I think he’s pretty 21st century about his relationship with Lou overall – and I’ll admit, even I like a bit of the Tarzan attitude.
As always, Ms Ruggle’s romantic suspense kept me teetering on the edge of my seat, erm, bed, I’m a total bed reader. I was freaking the freak out with Lou’s stalker just standing there watching her sleep right outside her window. I had to hide under Manatee the Service Dog’s head at one point but I kept reading because I had to see what happened! I almost started chewing on Manny’s nails (mine are kept non-existent for a reason!) at a certain point you’ll recognise it when you get to it (did you honestly think I’d write a spoiler?!). Poor Manny didn’t get much sleep during this book’s read time, y’all. I ended up giving him a salmon skin rollup as an apology after I was finished the book.
One of my favourite things of Ms Ruggle’s writing is always her humour. In Hold Your Breath, it’s evident immediately in how Lou and Callum are introduced – there’s an actual slap fight involved. We also have uncle brothers – I thought those were only a South Georgia thing, honestly. And we had mocking of Big Bads, I can always get behind Big Bad mocking. It’s a favourite pastime of mine.
Now, the chemistry between Callum and Lou. I love love LOVE it. It’s dorky and weebly wobbly, is it there or not? But it’s also blatant and everybody and their neighbour knows it’s there, how can you not notice it? Between Lou’s messiness that invades every space that is hers at work or at home and Callum’s OCD proclivities that leave him absolutely horrified at the sight of her work locker let alone her living room, you just have to read the entire book to watch how the two manage to blend their personalities together. I have good reason to believe that the white board comes into play a lot more often than just for Lou’s weird obsession with HDG.
As for the whodunnits and whatsits. I thought I knew who the stalker was and then I was thrown for a loop then a loopdiloop! So I really and truly loved Ms Ruggle’s Hold Your Breath for managing to surprise me not just once but TWICE in my reading. I thought I was wrapping up the story after everything was over and she threw in that curveball and wham I didn’t know what to think! She is a constant font of surprises with every book I read. As always, you can tell that Ms Ruggle has put a lot of research into her writing. I actually found myself looking a few things up because I actually didn't know a thing or two which isn't very often in my world. I will always take the time to read a Katie Ruggle original just for that reason alone!
Hold Your Breath gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and just 3 out of 5 flames for spiciness. I look forward to reading the rest of this series which I’ll also be reviewing, I can’t wait to see who else from Simpson, Colorado gets bitten Ms Ruggle’s Love Bug and how their stories play out as always. I’ll be sure to let y’all know!

A fan of the old adage “write what you know”, Katie Ruggle lived in an off-grid, solar- and wind-powered house in the Rocky Mountains until her family lured her back to Minnesota. When she’s not writing, Katie rides horses, shoots guns (not while riding, although that would be awesome), cross-country skis (badly) and travels to warm places where she can scuba dive. A graduate of the Police Academy, Katie received her ice-rescue certification and can attest that the reservoirs in the Colorado mountains really are that cold. A fan of anything that makes her feel like a bad-ass, she has trained in Krav Maga, boxing and gymnastics.
You can connect with Katie on her website, her Goodreads, her Facebook, or on her Twitter.

As always, get your hands on a copy of Hold Your Breath in a legal manner. And, if you're of a mind to and in a position where you're capable of doing so, please consider donating to Hidden Treasures Foundation which is a safe house program that helps young girls rehab after being rescued from sex slavery in the human trafficking industry. Until next time, have a happily ever after.

ARC Review of Deadly Intent

Deadly Intent by Pamela Clare
I-Team Book 8
Published 21 February 2018

Secrets buried in the sand…

Former US Army Captain Mia Starr has built a new life for herself in Denver, far away from camel spiders and sand—and the terrible secrets of her first deployment to Iraq. She isn’t looking for a relationship, especially not with an intrusive photojournalist. Joaquin Ramirez might be sexy, but in her experience, photojournalists only want to make a buck off other people’s suffering. Still, the universe must have a sick sense of humor because it keeps throwing her together with Joaquin, making the desire she feels for him harder and harder to resist.

An undeniable attraction…

As a Pulitzer Prize-winning news photographer, Joaquin has everything a single straight guy could want—except the right woman. When he meets Mia while shooting a crime scene, he immediately sees beyond her cold exterior to the vulnerable woman beneath. Though the police consider her a suspect, he’s sure she’s innocent. Someone is killing soldiers—and trying to pin the blame on her. Unable to resist the pull between them, Joaquin stands by her only to find himself snared in the killer’s net as well. 

A twisted soul hungry for revenge…

Mia can’t help it when the heat between her and Joaquin melts away her preconceptions. As their passion explodes, danger draws ever closer. When it becomes clear that Mia is the killer’s true target, she must trust Joaquin with a secret that could ruin her … or risk losing the love of a lifetime.

I received an advanced copy of Deadly Intent from the author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The following review contains my opinions and mine alone.
Joaquín Cristián Delgado Ramírez. If you’re looking for a hot latinx lover who burns up the dance floor, takes prize-winning photos, and is prepared to defend himself and others, look no further. Joaquín meets Mia at a crime scene of a former co-worker and is instantly captivated by her. And despite everybody believing Mia’s a murderer, Joaquín is steadfast in his belief that the former Army Captain is not only innocent but a target of the real killer. Joaquín goes out of his way to help Mia Starr out, to the point where he becomes a secondary target in the killer’s quest for ‘revenge’. What I love most about Joaquín is that he’s loyal, even risking his job and his reputation as a photojournalist to keep his promise to Mia.
Mia is a complex woman when you really look at her. Joaquín must work overtime to make her see herself how he’s seen her from the moment they met, beautiful. It all stems from harassment from her superior officer and the rest of the men in her company after she refused and reported her commanding officer’s advances. At the same time, she’s a strong independent woman who put in the hard work to get her degree and now works at her dream job at the Botanical Gardens. One of my favourite things about Mia is that she sees that Joaquín’s family is bilingual and tends to use Spanish more than English and instead of asking everybody to just speak English, she takes the time to start teaching herself Spanish so that she can communicate with his family who’s basically adopted her after learning she trained Joaquín’s younger cousin in the Army.
I really enjoyed reading Deadly Intent because Ms Clare created characters that felt welcoming from the get-go. I immediately trusted Julian and Marc and now I really want to get my hands on their stories. And let’s not get started on the Wests, I felt like they wouldn’t mind if I came over and hung out for a weekend with my camera. The way the other characters from the previous books just easily popped up in the book made me want to know more about them as well since they were so varied in nature.
I was a teensy bit confused at one period in the beginning – mostly because this was my first book of the series. It was quickly made clear to me that I just wasn’t understanding things. You can read this as a standalone, but I do recommend you check out the earlier books to understand what all is going on and who’s who.
I was glad to see that Ms Clare tackles not only non-combat PTSD but also sexual assault and harassment in the military. She tastefully works Sophie’s problems into the story without making things a spectacle. It’s great that, even in a book centred around a veteran, the author makes a point to say you don’t have to have served to develop PTSD. I’m also glad that Mia’s assault and harassment wasn’t just a storybuilder, it had a story of its own throughout the book – and it gets a satisfactory ending.

To finish things off, I’m going to give Deadly Intent 4 out of 5 stars and 2 spicy flames. It actually takes a while before sexy times begin and even then, they’re not majorly in-depth or story-killing. I’m already planning on going back and reading the rest of the I-Team series and I hope y’all give Deadly Intent (and its seriesmates) a chance.

USA Today best-selling author Pamela Clare began her writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor-in-chief of two different newspapers. Along the way, she and her team won numerous state and national honors, including the First Amendment Award and the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, she was honored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists with their Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for her work. A single mother with two grown sons and two cats, she writes historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense within view of Colorado’s beautiful Rocky Mountains. She is a two-time RITA finalist (SurrenderDefiant) and a three-time Daphne du Maurier finalist (I-Team series). She loves history, having studied archaeology in college, and has traveled extensively, living for almost three years in Denmark, which feels like home to her. She attributes her love of historical romance with the years she spent visiting ruins and castles in Europe.

That's all for now, duckies! I totally recommend y'all check out Deadly Intent and, as always, if you have the ability and are of the mind to donate, consider Protect Our Defenders, the only nationwide foundation that is dedicated to helping victims, regardless of their gender, who've experienced military sexual assault or rape. Military sexual assault and rape are harder to combat and to see this organisation coming forward and not only fighting for the female victims but also the male victims is uplifting.

ARC Review of Ace of Hearts

Ace of Hearts by Chantal Fernando
The Cursed Ravens MC, Book 1
Available 11 June 2018
Published by Pocket Star
"The New York Times bestselling author of the “swoonworthy and addicting” (Kim Karr, New York Times bestselling author) Wind Dragons Motorcycle Club series is back with more bad boy bikers in this first novel in the Cursed Ravens Motorcycle Club series.

Erin Dawson had the perfect life growing up in a perfect home with a perfect family. Her parents gave her and her sister everything a child could want. But after learning that the man she’s called “dad” her whole life isn’t actually her biological father, Erin is determined to find the man who is.

Armed with her original birth certificate, she finds her father, but begins questioning if her mom had been right all along to keep this information buried. It turns out he is the president of a motorcycle club, which could not be further from the life Erin leads. But, she’s determined to get to know the man who she gets her striking blue eyes from. Despite getting what she wants and finding her biological father, it’s the slightly older, much rougher but incredibly sexy biker Ace that catches Erin’s eye.

As the new “princess” of the Cursed Ravens, Erin is learning a whole new world, but her father has made it clear she is off limits. Will Ace follow his President’s orders or will he put his heart ahead of his duty? A sizzling tale of family and passion, Ace of Hearts features Fernando’s signature “snark and sass” (Booklist) and is perfect for fans of Kristin Ashley."

I received a copy of Ace of Hearts from the publisher, Pocket Star, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. As always, the following review contains my opinions and mine alone.
One of my guilty reading pleasures is definitely a quality biker romance. But I have to search high and low for the good stuff, not the abusive, cheating, drug addict biker erotica posing as romances but the bad boy with the teeny bit of good buried deep down under all the gruff and foul language. It’s even better if the female lead isn’t a simpering idiot or a classic definition of Daddy Issues. I managed to stumble across the Ace of Hearts digital review copy on NetGalley and thought I’d see if maybe it checked off all my biker romance checklist items. For the most part, it did.
The Leading Lady isn’t a DiD. If you’re looking for a damsel-in-distress romance, this is not the book for you. Erin is sassy, she doesn’t hide from her problems, she faces them head on. Erin is also pretty smart, she’s headed off to college in a short while to become a nurse and she’s determined not to let anything mess with her education. You go, girl! Erin’s also got it down that she needs to deal with things like an adult and compromise with others.
Our Main Man is quality material. He understands boundaries and, when given several different opportunities to have sex with other women, he doesn’t. Even before he’s actually in any sort of relationship with Erin, he’s quick to say “no, thanks” to any interested parties. While he’s torn between loyalty to his MC President and his interest in the newly found MC Princess, he tries to walk that fine line between respecting his Prez and loving his woman. When Ace messes up, he fesses up to his mistakes. There is one instance where I want to reach into the book and bop him on the back of the head Gibbs-Style.
Ace decided to practise unsafe sex without talking to Erin first. Dude. No. That’s never okay. The only good sex is the consensual sort – and that includes checking that your partner is on board with ditching the condom.
Ace of Hearts has a bit of mystery to it, some of it is glaringly obvious and other parts are a heartwrenching surprise. I’m not posting any spoilers, I’m not one of those people, but when Erin is poisoned at her Welcome to the Family party, I had it figured out lickety-split and couldn’t fathom why nobody in the story could figure it out. Also, dang, Erin. Follow Party Rule #1 – unopened beverages only! (Rule #2 is an addendum, if your drink is left unattended or out of your eyeline for a second, GET A NEW ONE!).
Erin’s reunion with her father is pretty much what every daughter with daddy issues dreams of. I’m not envious over it, really. I lied. I’m totally envious, I look great in green. But that’s supposed to get fixed in therapy eventually so moving on. As someone who struggles on the daily to balance a dad, a mum, and a stepmum, I know where Erin’s coming from in her tortured confusion of how to not end up hurting any of the parentals and still have all 3 in my life. I suck at it but, again, I have daddy issues. But Erin just puts it out there that this is how it’s going to be and everybody needs to deal with it. Of course, Erin has parentals that tolerate each other, so I AM JEALOUS.
I loved meeting the different members of the Cursed Ravens MC. They’re so eclectic, from Mac the lovable hippie (who doesn’t love hippies?) to the crude Shack (I hope he turns out not to be as douche-y as he seems in AoH), to Rogue the Rock God and Knuckles the best friend a girl could ever have. Seriously, where can I find a Knuckles – I need a best friend!
I spent a couple of hours reading Ace of Hearts and I read it in one sitting. It’s definitely a book I’ll keep around for bookslump reading. It’s easy to read and doesn’t make me think. That’s not a bad thing. I tend to overload from never stopping with the thinking. Ace of Hearts let me read but I didn’t need a glossary or an appendix or a map or a character sheet like a lot of books today. It just let me read.
I was left wondering a few things and I’m hoping Book 2 clears those up but I really wish they’d all been cleared up before I finished Ace of Hearts. Mostly, Who the glarb is Clover?! It’s been bugging me since I read Ace of Hearts four days ago! I need closure here!
My favourite part would have to be when Erin broke a certain person's nose and settled the person's issue with her finally. It surprised everybody that she did it because Erin's not a violent sort but she got herself out of the situation without relying on anybody else to help her out of it.
Overall, I’m giving Ace of Hearts a 4 out of 5 stars. I really liked reading it, I look forward to Book 2, but some things were left hanging in the wind and other things (no spoilers) left me confused. As for the heat rating, let’s go with a 4. Things get spicy and descriptive. They’re easily skipped though so it doesn’t detract from the story if you flip a page or two past the naughty.

New York Times, Amazon & USA Today Bestselling Author Chantal Fernando is thirty years old and lives in Western Australia.
Lover of all things romance, Chantal is the author of the best selling books Dragon's Lair, Maybe This Time and many more.
When not reading, writing or daydreaming she can be found enjoying life with her three sons and family.

Ms Fernando can be found on FacebookGoodreads, and Twitter.

That's all for now, duckies! Be sure to check out Ace of Hearts! And think about donating to Futures Without Violence, an organisation dedicated to helping all those affected by domestic violence. Until next time, dearest readers, have a happily ever after! Powered by Blogger.