Mr Perfect by Linda Howard

This review is tough to write bc, as odd as it sounds, this book sparkled by not sparkling. An alpha-male and his sassy-talking new neighbor are thrown together by circumstance. And nothing ridiculous happens. Murder – check. Mayhem – yes. Steamy sex – absolutely. But all without hyperbole or OTT shenanigans.

Jaine hates the drunk/drug-dealing guy next door to her adorable new house. Sam, the undercover cop, feels the same way about her. When Jaine and her goofy work buddies attract national attention with a list for the perfect man a psycho starts hunting them. Sam and Jaine struggle to figure out who’s doing this and why – while sort of loving and hating each other.

The book is pared-down. Not short. But story-focused. Light on gimmicks. With an alpha-male who was respectful and spoke in complete sentences. There was a slow-build. A huge twist. Strong female characters.

My heart never pounded. My toes didn’t curl. But this has to be one of the steadiest and most easily enjoyed romances I’ve read in a long time. I understand that Ms Howard’s earlier books have a different vibe. I’m moving on to one of them (highly recommended) tonight. Curious to see the differences and the similarities.

Promise Not To Tell by Jennifer McMahon

This book checked the boxes for a thriller du jour – dead girl, story told in flash backs, dreary weather, etc without feeling cliche or ridiculous.

Kate returns to the commune (really!) where she grew up to make elder-care decisions about her struggling mother. While she’s home a murder happens – one similar to the murder of her childhood friend. Is it coincidence that this happened while Kate was in town or is she somehow linked?

We hop from 1971 to 2002 in rotating chapters comparing Del’s murder to Tori’s. We meet a motley crew of suspects and enough clues are dropped to let the reader solve the murder – if he or she pays attention. There was some mysticism that I didn’t love, but there was enough good solid deduction to make it forgivable.

I could have read this book in one sitting – except I didn’t want to get to the scary parts while my husband was at work (he works nights). Engrossing from the first pages – this book is a tiny treat at 250 pages.

Unsticky by Sarra Manning

2.5 stars.

I like Sarra Manning’s prose. But I’ve hated every character of hers I’ve ever read. This is some kind of Emily Giffin chick lit gone dark and angsty.

Grace, a 23-year-old with no self-esteem, is stumbling through life making bad decisions. Enter wealthy Vaughn – who begins making her decisions for her. He introduces her to a new world, but belittles and controls her so that she always kinda doubt herself and bumbles along. Grace’s toxic BFF, her boss, her family and her ex make appearances making bizarre demands and generally stomping Grace into the ground. Grace and Vaughn each have some impulse-control issues that are uncomfortable – perhaps intended to make them more likable it just sort of makes them seem weak (and him mean about it.)

There are explanations for all of this. And we (eventually) get to them. Vaughn even does something sort of nice. For me the explanations and kind-of nice didn’t get the bad taste out of my mouth (the incident when she had the flu was when I reached unforgivable status). I’m not sure what Manning was going for here. A sort of anti-hero Pretty Woman? This book is certainly a step out of the ordinary.

If you enjoy lengthy books and a journey with flawed characters on their way to sort-of, slightly, okay-not-really less-flawed this is the book for you.

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White

Being a criminal defense attorney makes certain subject matter a little dicey. There is plenty to spoil in this book – so my review will stay at the surface. After her divorce Merilee moves to the other side of town and enrolls her children in a snooty private school. Merilee doesn’t fit in with the fancy moms, but she tries. This book reminded me of a Southern-set Big Little Lies.

It becomes obvious that shady nonsense is taking place. Merilee remains so freakin oblivious. She keeps putting herself in stupid situations – I wanted to shake her a little. Her divorce had rocked Merilee’s foundation which left her vulnerable to a lot of crap.

Parts of the book were incredibly unrealistic. I’m not sure how it would feel to a non-lawyer. But for me it was the equivalent of a blue alien invading the story – everything was rendered loony tunes.

I’d like to read more by this author. I enjoy southern stories, and Ms White has a lovely authentic voice. I’m hoping something without this particular story line won’t make my lawyer-anxiety rear its ugly head.

Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas

Maybe my S Thomas obsession is coming to an end??? Maybe…

This book ties in with the one I just read. I’m sure it can be read as a stand alone, but I was half in love with these characters coming off the long book. So you should read them in order too. I’ll likely go straight to the last one bc I want some series-wide-resolution.

Millie and Fitz are husband and wife – reluctantly. Fitz married Millie for her money when she was 16 years old. They have a pact to take it slow – bc of her age and bc he’s in love with someone else. Over 8 years they build a life, and then Fitz’s love comes back into their lives. Y’all, parts of this book were excruciating bc Millie is so cool and so in love with Fitz. He’s kind to her and just oblivious. It stings like hell.

I enjoyed the ending. A lot of stuff pulled together. The characters were genuinely sweet and good. The end of this book was just satisfying.