Darkest Night

Darkest Night

Darkest Night by Tara Thomas (Romantic Thriller)

One of the things that drew me to this book was its setting – Charleston, South Carolina. This is the first book in the Sons of Broad series, which implies something location-driven (think Pat Conroy). It is not.

The setting is Charleston, but we could be in Omaha. We never hear anything about the city itself, and it has absolutely no influence on the story. There is none of the lush detail that transports you to its unique beauty, not even a single mention of Spanish moss.

If this book were the work of an indie author, I would be contacting her and suggesting she employ a good content editor. But this book is being published by St. Martin’s Press, and as such, it is a major disappointment.

It feels like a first novel that’s incorporating every storyline the author ever came up with, regardless of whether or not it contributes to a cohesive plot. Keaton is the youngest of three wealthy, handsome brothers: Kipling, Knox, and Keaton Benedict. He  miraculously discovers his spunky long-lost childhood sweetheart, Tilly, working in a gentleman’s club, heroically struggling to make her own way. They reunite and immediately fall into wild, passionate love. But then a crazed, conniving female fortune hunter (Elise), willing to commit blackmail and even murder to get Keaton to marry her, enters their lives. And, a dangerous, powerful villain (The Gentleman) is sending out his minions to destroy the Benedict brothers and makes Tilly his target. There’s also a vulnerable young girl (Jade/Kaja) working for The Gentleman. But she is strangely drawn to helping the Benedict brothers in spite of the fact that doing so will endanger her own life. She’s especially good at being in the right place at the right time. Oh, and did I mention the tough, no-nonsense female detective (Alyssa)? Or the fact that the Benedicts find their deceased father had another family?

The characters are flat but we do know they’re having good sex because we’re treated to all the details since this is billed as a romantic thriller. There’s not a real build-up of tension, but there are victims – dead or grievously injured – showing up regularly. And, because this is the first of a series, a lot is left unresolved. Tilly’s life is still in danger. The identity of The Gentleman remains unknown. Jade/Kaja remains on the run, and Kipling continues to flirt inappropriately with Alyssa.

If the prose were beautiful or the descriptions creative, this review might be nudged to three stars, but neither is true. The book starts with one of the brothers receiving a single, long-stemmed rose in a box, and the author doesn’t even bother to mention what color the rose is. When I found myself picturing a gray rose, I knew this book was in trouble.

Grandma gives Darkest Night two stars. 2-stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Brazilian Husband

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The Brazilian Husband by Rebecca Powell (Women’s Fiction)

The Brazilian Husband is classified as a “Romance” on Amazon, but to me this incredible book was everything but. It is a fascinating story full of secrets, suspense, and surprising revelations set against the backdrop of heartbreaking shantytowns, terrifying urban crime, natural beauty, and the resilient, exuberant people of Brazil. It kept me reading from page one, and I never wanted to put it down.

Judith is a Londoner whose husband of fifteen years has committed suicide. Together with their daughter, Rosa, she is fulfilling his request to take his ashes home to his native Brazil, a place they never managed to visit together.

Judith knew Edson was gay when she married him; it was an arranged marriage paid for by his lover, Gavin, in order to hide the men’s relationship while keeping Edson in Great Britain. What she hadn’t bargained for was the baby girl he brought with him, whom she would raise as their daughter, nor did she expect to fall in love with Edson himself.

Rosa, about to turn sixteen, blames Judith for Edson’s suicide; she doesn’t know her father was gay, nor does she know that Judith is not her natural mother. All of that changes in Brazil as they search for Edson’s family. Nothing is as he said it was, including the circumstances of Rosa’s birth.

While I don’t normally review Romance novels, I was willing to accept this book from the author because she lived and worked in a woman’s shelter in Brazil, which promised authenticity for the setting. I am so glad I did. Rebecca Powell is an extremely talented writer who knows how to keep a story moving while creating a strong sense of place and vibrant characters whose lives and fates I cared about. There is romance, but nothing formulaic about it. Rather, it’s a stirring story with believable people seeking to understand, accept, and love one another under extreme circumstances.

Grandma gives The Brazilian Husband a rousing five stars.   5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Our Song: The Wilder Books #1

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Our Song: The Wilder Books #1 by Savannah Kade (Contemporary Romance)

Although classified as Romance, Our Song is a sweet love story involving good friends who come to love one another but believe the feeling is not mutual and therefore refrain from letting the other one know. The result, of course, is continuous frustration over what is perceived as unrequited love – frustration on the part of the two main characters, Kelsey and JD, and on the part of the reader who knows the truth. Unfortunately, for this reader, the frustration went on way too long, and I found myself skimming passages in search of something new and interesting that might move this tale along.

If you want a feel-good story about two nice people who’ve been given a lousy deal but make the best of it and ultimately find true love, you will enjoy this. Both main characters are very likeable, and we get to know these two single parents well. We experience their daily lives, how they and their children interact, what they eat, where they go, and everything they say. We know their innermost thoughts, how sexy they find each other, and how they misunderstand some basic information that makes each of them think the other couldn’t possibly feel the same way. We watch each of them work up his or her courage to take the big step and then, for the umpteenth time, fail to follow through, disappointing us all once more. Finally (not exactly a spoiler, since this is a romance), we watch them consummate their love and figure it all out.

Savannah Kade writes well. I’ve even forgiven her for the use of “revert back,” which happens to be a pet peeve of mine. She has created an interesting pair: a thirty-something woman who sacrificed her own happiness to take care of her ill brother and is now raising two children alone, and a younger man who finds himself with custody of a feisty little girl he never knew about and has no idea how to handle. Their story, however, needed fewer details about the mundane and more obstacles than self-doubt to keep this reader heavily invested in the outcome.

Grandma gives Our Song three stars. 3 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of Our Song from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.