Monday, August 10, 2020

Review and Q&A - - The Ultimate Betrayal


The Ultimate Betrayal
by Kat Martin
Maximum Security - Book 3
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Reviewed by PJ




To prove her father’s innocence, she’ll have to turn a killer's sights on herself


When journalist Jessie Kegan’s father is accused of espionage and treason, Jessie has no doubt the man she looked up to her entire life is innocent. Worse yet, before Colonel Kegan can stand trial, he’s found dead of a heart attack…but Jessie knows it was murder. Forcing down her grief, she’s determined to use her investigative skills and resources to clear her father’s name. But going after the truth means Jessie soon finds herself in the crosshairs of a killer who wants that truth to stay buried with her father.

Protecting Jessie Kegan is a job bodyguard Brandon Garrett can’t refuse. Jessie isn’t just a client at Maximum Security—she’s the sister of his best friend, Danny, killed in Afghanistan. With dangerous forces gunning for Jessie from every angle, keeping her safe will mean keeping her close and Bran finds their mutual attraction growing, though being Danny’s sister puts Jessie out of bounds.

With their backs against the wall, Jessie and Bran will have to risk everything to expose her father’s killer—before his legacy dies with his daughter.

PJ's Thoughts: 

I've enjoyed many of Kat Martin's romantic suspense novels but her newest, The Ultimate Betrayal, is one of my favorites. This book opens with a bang and the intensity never lessens. I was sucked in immediately, flipping pages with rapt attention until the very end.

Jessie and Bran are both intriguing characters with whom I engaged almost immediately. They're likable, honorable, determined in their quest for justice, and have incredible chemistry. I admired them as individuals and rooted for them as a couple. Martin puts them through the wringer before giving them their well-earned happily ever after. I loved Bran's sexual need for Jessie but also his gentleness and understanding as he helped her overcome a difficult obstacle. I respected Jessie's bravery both in her determination to discover the truth surrounding her father's death as well as how she confronted the trauma from her past. I enjoyed watching investigate as a team and come together as a couple, appreciating the respect, understanding, acceptance, and love that grew between them. They're one of my favorite Kat Martin couples. 

A large portion of this book was on the action, danger, and suspense facet of the story but that doesn't mean Bran and Jessie's relationship takes a back seat. It's seamlessly interwoven into the intrigue with Bran's initial obligation to keep Jessie safe which gradually becomes friendship that evolves into sexual attraction and, finally, love. It's a gradual and realistic transition that checked all my HEA boxes. 

The suspense portion checked a whole lot of boxes too. Martin kept me on the edge of my seat with a tightly woven plot that had me flipping pages, fully engaged, and wondering where the next twist was going to take me. I spent a fair amount of time alternating between gasping and holding my breath. And just when I thought everything was okay, Martin threw in another twist. It wasn't until I  turned the last page of the epilogue that I allowed myself to finally breath easy. I love when an author pulls that off. 

If you're looking for a fast-paced, action-packed romantic suspense story with sizzling chemistry and enough twists and turns to keep you glued to the pages from start to finish, I highly recommend The Ultimate Betrayal

~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Q&A with Kat Martin

Welcome, Kat! Thanks for chatting with me today and thank you for another book I was unable to put down. What would you like readers to understand about Jessie and Bran, and their perilous journey to love?

Though I’ve written more than 70 books in my long career and I loved writing them all, some are my special favorites.  The Ultimate Betrayal is one of those books.  Bran and Jessie were just so much fun!  I think they really got each other and that was one of the reasons liked the book so much. 

I was impressed by the amount of technical data in The Ultimate Betrayal. What kind of research was required for this book?

I spend a lot of time researching my books, though I always hope the information just blends in.  Because this story was set around a military base, it took an exceptional amount of work.  I mean, what the heck do I know about an army base?  A lot more now than I did then!  I was grateful for the input of an author friend of mine, a former Green Beret, Colonel Thom Nicholson, who helped me get the terms right and watched for any errors that I might have made. 

We were introduced to characters from the Maximum Security San Diego office in this book and you also floated the possibility of a new office in Denver. What does this mean for future books and/or offshoot series?

I have one more Garrett brother’s story to complete the series or at least the first part of it.  Reese’s book is finished and will be out in 2021.  Currently, I’m working on expanding the series into the Denver office.  I’m excited to set more books in the beautiful state of Colorado. 

The characters in this book (both good and bad) were so real to me, as were the emotions they evoked. As the author, are you able to remain objective while writing or do your characters trigger the same emotions (anger, fear, love) in you that they do in readers?

I feel the same emotions the reader feels, possibly even more pronounced.  I know the characters better, having worked with them for six months.  When they make me laugh or cry, I know I am telling their story the way I should. 

I’ve been making a wish list of places I want to visit once it’s safe to travel again. What destinations are on your post-pandemic travel list?

Next year my hopes are simple.  I’d love to go back to New York for the Thriller Writers conference, one of my favorites in one of my favorite cities.  I also look forward to the Western Writers of America convention, which is basically my author-husband’s conference but tons of fun with all the cowboy authors who attend.  I plan to spend the winter in my new home in northern Arizona.  No Europe plans next year.  I’ll just be thankful to get out of the house!!

I enjoyed seeing more of Reese in The Ultimate Betrayal. Are you able to share anything about his book and when we might expect it? 

We don’t have a title for Reese’s book yet.  His story was difficult because he’s the CEO of a company, not a detective or bounty hunter.   I kind of like that he lives in a different world, with very different problems.  It turned out to be surprisingly high-action and we get to spend time with Bran, Chase, and Hawk again.

Thank you, Kat! Would you like to add anything or ask my readers a question?

I’d just like to thank all the wonderful readers I have heard from over the years.  I really appreciate their loyalty and as always, hope they enjoy The Ultimate Betrayal. 

 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Review - - No Offense


No Offense: A Novel
by Meg Cabot
Little Bridge Island - Book 2
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: August 11, 2020
Reviewed by PJ



Welcome to Little Bridge, one of the smallest, most beautiful islands in the Florida Keys, home to sandy white beaches, salt-rimmed margaritas, and stunning sunsets—a place where nothing goes under the radar and love has a way of sneaking up when least expected... 

A broken engagement only gave Molly Montgomery additional incentive to follow her dream job from the Colorado Rockies to the Florida Keys. Now, as Little Bridge Island Public Library’s head of children’s services, Molly hopes the messiest thing in her life will be her sticky-note covered desk. But fate—in the form of a newborn left in the restroom—has other ideas. So does the sheriff who comes to investigate the “abandonment”.  When John Hartwell folds all six-feet-three of himself into a tiny chair and insists that whoever left the baby is a criminal, Molly begs to differ and asks what he’s doing about the Island’s real crime wave (if thefts of items from homes that have been left unlocked could be called that). Not the best of starts, but the man’s arrogance is almost as distracting as his blue eyes. Almost… 

John would be pretty irritated if one of his deputies had a desk as disorderly as Molly’s. Good thing she doesn’t work for him, considering how attracted he is to her. Molly’s lilting librarian voice makes even the saltiest remarks go down sweeter, which is bad as long as she’s a witness but might be good once the case is solved—provided he hasn’t gotten on her last nerve by then. Recently divorced, John has been having trouble adjusting to single life as well as single parenthood. But something in Molly’s beautiful smile gives John hope that his old life on Little Bridge might suddenly hold new promise—if only they can get over their differences.


PJ's Thoughts:

Meg Cabot captures the unique qualities of the Florida Keys - and island residents - in her new Little Bridge Island series. With her well-known wit, a raft of quirky, meddlesome characters, and a bit of a mystery to be solved along the way, Cabot brings Little Bridge to life in this new romantic comedy. 

This second book in the Little Bridge series is what I would call an easy, breezy read. The main characters are all likable, for the most part, although for much of the book Molly borders on annoying, thinking she knows best for everyone and that she can do the Sheriff's job better than he can. She does come around nicely in the end, however. John is a good guy, trying to do his job while raising his teen daughter and at a bit of a loss when it comes to understanding women. But giving it his best. He really is a good dad and I liked him a lot. 

The mystery isn't deep or thought-provoking but adds another layer to the story and a reason for Molly and John to keep encountering one another. 

What really brings the story together is community. While the romance moves along at a pretty much uncomplicated (minus a few hiccups) surface level, the ensemble of characters who make up the community of Little Bridge keep things interesting and moving forward, adding humor and heart along the way. 

If you're looking for a meaty, emotional read, this book probably isn't for you. But, if you're in the mood for a lighthearted, fun story that keeps your emotions on an even keel, tickles your funny bone, and leaves you with a smile, give No Offense a try. 

While this is the second book in the Little Bridge Island series, there are only a couple crossover characters from book one, allowing No Offense to stand on its own. However, I really enjoyed book one, No Judgments, and give it my enthusiastic recommendation. 



Thursday, August 6, 2020

Review - - You Had Me at Hola


You Had Me at Hola
by Alexis Daria
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Reviewed by PJ




Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers. 

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Su├írez. 

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy. 

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had. 

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars. 

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.


PJ's Thoughts:

Alexis Daria had me from page one. I adored this book! Filled with humor, passion, swoon-worthy romance, and Latinx authenticity, You Had Me at Hola is on my Best of 2020 watch list and should be on everyone’s summer reading list. It's just that good.

I love the over-the-top drama that is prevalent in both American soaps and Latin telenovelas. Telling a story within a story, Daria reels readers in with the drama of Jasmine and Ashton's romance as well as that of their television characters, Carmen and Victor, and I was there for all of it. I love the chemistry between them (both on-screen and off), the snappy dialogue that results from their less than ideal first meeting, the friendship that slowly begins to grow, and the slow-burn romance that threatens to flame out of control. 

Daria's research gives readers a realistic look at the making of a television show. The extra touches and attention to detail left me feeling as if I was actually on set.  

Both families (Jasmine's and Ashton's) are central to the characters' evolution as well as the overall story and Daria depicts them with the joy, frustration, well-intentioned meddling, and unconditional love of a close-knit family. I adore Jasmine's cousins, Ava and Michelle (the other two Primas of Power) and am delighted that Daria plans a book for each of them. I haven't had nearly enough of Abuela Esperanza and the rest of the Rodriguez family.

This is a romantic comedy and Daria has packed it with spot-on humor but also tempered it with steamy chemistry, heart-tugging emotion, rapid-fire banter, and complex, multi-layered characters I couldn't get enough of. I love Jasmine's confidence and ambition but also her vulnerability. I want to hang out with her, and her cousins. I want to cook (and dance) with Abuela Esperanza. I want to shake some sense into Ashton, then hug the stuffing out of him, before I jump his sexy self. Yeah, yeah, I know he's Jasmine's but a girl can dream, right? In short, I want to crawl into the pages of this book and that is why You Had Me at Hola gets my Top Dish rating. 



Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Winners - - Coming Attractions






The randomly chosen winners of a package of books

from the August Coming Attractions post are:

penney

Virginia C

patoct

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com




Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Tour Review - - The Friendship List




The Friendship List
by Susan Mallery
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Two best friends jump-start their lives in a summer that will change them forever…

Single mom Ellen Fox couldn’t be more content—until she overhears her son saying he can’t go to his dream college because she needs him too much. If she wants him to live his best life, she has to convince him she’s living hers.


So Unity Leandre, her best friend since forever, creates a list of challenges to push Ellen out of her comfort zone. Unity will complete the list, too, but not because she needs to change. What’s wrong with a thirtysomething widow still sleeping in her late husband’s childhood bed?

The Friendship List begins as a way to make others believe they’re just fine. But somewhere between “wear three-inch heels” and “have sex with a gorgeous guy,” Ellen and Unity discover that life is meant to be lived with joy and abandon, in a story filled with humor, heartache and regrettable tattoos.

PJ's Thoughts:

Susan Mallery can sometimes be hit or miss for me but her newest novel, The Friendship List, is definitely a hit. The novel reads a lot like a coming-of-age story, even though best friends, Unity and Ellen, are 34 years old. You would think they would have a lot of life experience by this point but events in their teens had long-lasting effects on both women, leaving them ill-equipped to deal with the unexpected changes life sometimes throws at us. Mallery uses a deft hand to guide them through the peaks and potholes of one fateful summer when these two lifelong friends make the scary decision to step outside their comfort zones and tackle life head-on. 

I really loved these characters, not only Ellen and Unity, but the secondary characters surrounding them. They are fully-formed with the everyday hopes and challenges that accompany individuals in their unique situations. I appreciate that we see Ellen and her good friend, Keith not only as potential romantic partners but also as single parents (her with a teen son, and he with a teen daughter) with all the obstacles and awkwardness that entails. And young widow, Unity, is heartbreaking in her inability to move forward following her husband's death in combat. 

Mallery imbues each of these characters with depth and layers that make their humanity that much more powerful.  Their flaws are realistic, and their individual stories intriguing, pulling me into their lives and creating a bond between reader and character. From teens Cooper, Lissa, and Luka, to senior spitfire, Dagmar, to the men who may or may not be part of Ellen's and Unity's futures, happiness for each of them became important to me. Some parts of their stories are heart-wrenching, others are humorous, and still others are lessons necessary to move forward in life. All are required for these characters to open their hearts, accept joy, and live their lives to the fullest. 

While I would classify this book as women's fiction, with the growth arc of the two female main characters and their friendship at its core, it also carries a strong thread of romance. I was invested in the potential romantic relationships of both women and happy with the conclusion for each of the main characters. The epilogue (six years later) is a delicious cherry bonus on top of a wonderfully satisfying journey. I enthusiastically recommend adding The Friendship List to your summer reading list. 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women's lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations," and readers seem to agree—forty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.


Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She's passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two Ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom.





SOCIAL LINKS:

Twitter: @susanmallery

Facebook: @susanmallery

Instagram: @susanmallery

Author website: https://www.susanmallery.com/


BUY LINKS:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

Indie Bound

Kindle

Nook

Google Play

Apple Books

Kobo

Walmart

Target

Bookshop.org


Monday, August 3, 2020

Review - - The Hacker


The Hacker
by Nancy Herkness
The Consultants - Book 2
Publisher: Montlake
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Reviewed by PJ



Dawn Galioto is an expert in self-defense and the most in-demand personal trainer at her Jersey gym—a perfect position for a woman fighting her way out of a troubled past and the anxieties that come with it. Then, after complaints about baffling Wi-Fi glitches at the gym, Dawn calls in disarmingly hot, high-powered computer consultant Leland Rockwell. If she can trust anyone to fix her on-the-job problems, it’s Leland. As for healing her off-hours fears, time will tell.
The cybersecurity genius of KRG, Leland sees a lot to admire in Dawn. She’s strong, quick-witted, and sexy. And something of a puzzle—one Leland wants very much to solve. If only she’d let him. Every new reveal brings him intimately closer to Dawn, but there’s another, more dangerous riddle to decipher. After going undercover to solve her Wi-Fi problem, Leland’s found a dark workplace secret. As Dawn’s past threatens a burgeoning romance, the deepening mystery they’re discovering threatens their lives.


PJ's Thoughts:

I'm really enjoying this new series from Herkness that marries sensual contemporary romance with tightly-woven suspense. Dawn and Leland have smoking sexual chemistry, and I thoroughly enjoyed that part of their relationship, but I was even more invested in their emotional connection. Both bring some emotional baggage with them; Leland is still grieving the recent death of his mother and Dawn struggles with a traumatic event from her college days. I like how their deepening relationship gives each of them the courage to share their stories with one another. Dawn, especially, begins to finally heal and allow herself to be vulnerable. I was glad to watch that process take place slowly and not be an "insta-fix."  By the end of their journey, I was fully confident in their ability to have a strong, trusting, happy life together. 

The suspense portion of the book slowly builds until hitting a crescendo near the final chapters. While the bad guys are pretty obvious throughout much of the book, it's still fun to watch how everything plays out. 

Another facet of this book - and the entire series, really - that I especially enjoy is the tight bond of friendship among business partners Derek (The Money Man), Leland (The Hacker), and Tully as well as the close female friendship among Alice (The Money Man), Dawn (The Hacker), and Natalie. Herkness brings them all to life on the page, so much so that reading The Hacker was like a visit with old friends that has me already eagerly anticipating the next book in the series. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Coming Attractions








We launch the lazy, hazy, crazy days of August on Saturday, August 1 with Nancy's review of Strong From the Heart. This twisty thriller is the 11th book in Jon Land's Caitlin Strong series but Nancy says it stands well on its own.







 


Monday, August 3 brings PJ's review of The Hacker by Nancy Herkness. This second book in The Consultants series offers up a fast-paced, page-turning tale of love, danger, and the dark web.






Don't miss PJ's review of The Friendship List by Susan Mallery on Tuesday, August 4. This new women's fiction novel by Mallery tells the story of two best friends and the summer that changes them forever when they (as the cover blurb says), "discover that life is meant to be lived with joy and abandon, in a story filled with humor, heartache and regrettable tattoos.  


Thursday, August 6 brings PJ's review of one of the most talked-about books of the summer: You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria. This swoon-worthy, romantic comedy is brimming with passion, humor, authentic Latinx characters, and a whole lot of heart. Plus, a fabulous cover that should definitely be sold as a poster.


 

On Friday, August 7PJ will share her thoughts about No Offense, the newest addition to Meg Cabot's Little Bridge Island series. Cabot has filled her tiny island in the Florida Keys with plenty of humor, heart, and quirky characters.  



Don't miss PJ's review of The Ultimate Betrayal by Kat Martin on Monday, August 10. This edge-of-your-set romantic suspense story is the third book in Martin's Maximum Security series but stands well on its own. 



 
Tuesday, August 11 brings PJ's review of Waiting on a Cowboy by Jennifer Ryan. With a tie-in to Tough Talking Cowboy (Drake McGrath's story), the final book in Ryan's Wild Rose Ranch series, Waiting on a Cowboy launches Ryan's McGrath series which will tell the stories of Drake's siblings. 




Join PJ on Monday, August 17 for a Q&A with Valerie Bowman as they talk about Bowman's new The Footmen's Club trilogy. Three books released in consecutive months, three gentlemen posing as servants find the loves of their lives in humorous and heartfelt historical romances. 



 
Susanna Craig joins PJ for a Q&A on Tuesday, August 18, plus, PJ shares her thoughts about Craig's newest book, Who's That Earl. This charming historical romance launches Craig's new Love and Let Spy series where military men find new life and forever love with the assistance of a most unlikely matchmaker. 


Wednesday, August 19 brings PJ's tour review of Here to Stay by Adriana Herrera. This multi-cultural, interracial romance, with a layered story and complex characters who stole my heart, is heartwarming, humorous, full of heat, and checked every one of my happy reader boxes. 




Nancy will be here on Thursday, August 20 to share her thoughts about Hidden by Laura Griffin. This thriller launches Griffin's new The Texas Murder Files series.






You Lucky Dog, a new romantic comedy by Julia London will be the subject of PJ's review on Friday, August 21. Expect laughter and love of both the human and canine variety. 




Stop by Monday, August 24 to read PJ's review of Brazen in Blue by Rachael Miles. This fifth book in Miles' The Muses' Salon series features a spinster on the verge of a marriage of convenience and a Home Office agent who needs her unique skills to solve a case. He's also the man who once broke her heart and who she's never forgotten. Hooked yet? I am! 


Sabrina Jeffries continues her Duke Dynasty series with book three: Who Wants to Marry a Duke. Stop by Tuesday, August 25 to read what PJ has to say about this new historical romance featuring a charming, rakish hero and a bookish, chemist heroine with an unfortunate encounter in their past who must now work together to solve a murderous mystery. Will they also create a little personal chemistry along the way?


Wednesday, August 26 brings PJ's review of Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews. This is the second book in Catalina's trilogy, the second trilogy set within Andrews' magical Hidden Legacy world. PJ has already read the advance review copy twice and will probably read it at least once more before the book's August 25th release. That's how addictive, and brilliantly written, this series is. 



On Thursday, August 27, we round out the month with PJ's review of The Quiet Girl, a twisty domestic drama/psychological thriller by S.F. Kosa. PJ has not read this author before but loves a twisty thriller so she's excited to dive into this one. 





That's what's on tap here at The Romance Dish during the month of August. As always, click the link in the right sidebar for any updates to the schedule throughout the month.

What are you looking forward to this month? 

Any vacations, staycations or special events on the horizon? (virtual or otherwise)

Any upcoming books on your must-read list?


Yes, I'm still cleaning and have more books to re-home so...

Three people who post a comment before 11:00 PM, August 3 will each receive a package of books. 

*Must be 18 or older
*U.S. addresses only







Saturday, August 1, 2020

Review - - Strong From the Heart


Strong From the Heart
By Jon Land
Caitlin Strong - Book 11
Publisher: Tor/Forge
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Reviewed by Nancy


Strong delivers the same twisty plot, action, and character growth that have become hallmarks of the series. Land has a knack for crafting stories that play on issues of the time, such as the dangers of new 5G technology or, in this book, the opioid epidemic.

What keeps me reading the series, however, is not the great plotting but the characters. I picked up the first book, Strong Enough to Die, because I was intrigued by the title first and then by the blurb. In that book, Caitlin is a former ranger still struggling to come to terms with the end of her career. Her marriage isn’t in great shape, either. Her husband is back from the Middle East with amnesia, and things weren’t good between them when he left. As though she didn’t have enough trouble, former mob enforcer and ex-soldier Cort Wesley Masters has just been released from prison and is looking for Caitlin. He has committed more than enough criminal acts to justify far more time than he served, but he did not commit the crime for which she arrested him. He wants a word with her about that.

Cort Wesley finds Caitlin in the middle of a potentially lethal problem. The situation goes downhill from there, but they come out of it as reluctant allies. While that may seem highly improbable, Land has a knack for pulling off the enemies-to-allies-to-more trope. He has also written a series about a Shin Bet (the Israeli equivalent of the FBI) agent and a Palestinian-American detective. He finds commonality between disparate characters that makes their dynamic work.

Caitlin’s relationship with Cort Wesley develops slowly and must take into account his two sons by a deceased former lover. Through the series, Caitlin and Cort Wesley work to define and solidify their relationship as they and his sons gradually forge a family. By Strong From the Heart, the family bond is firmly established, but they face problems common to families everywhere. They must deal with those while confronting the larger threat of the main plot. If you don’t like series with continuing characters, this may not be for you. If you do, however, you may find this process as appealing as I do.

Ongoing supporting characters include Caitlin’s Texas Rangers captain and other rangers, the ghost of Cort Wesley’s deceased cellmate, and a former Venezuelan secret police operative who set out to kill Caitlin and instead, in part because he’s prone to self-examination and philosophy, has become part of her team.

Strong From the Heart opens with a mailman wandering the Texas desert, seemingly unaware of his surroundings. Agents from ICE intercept him. Tracing his straight-line path backward, they discover a small town where everyone is dead. They cordon off the area and assemble personnel to investigate. Caitlin Strong is the Texas Rangers’ liaison to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), so her captain sends her to join the investigation.

While Caitlin searches for the cause of this catastrophe, the opioid crisis hits home. One of Cort Wesley’s sons overdoses on Oxycontin and nearly dies. This sets Cort Wesley on a mission to shut off the drug supply that nearly killed his son. 

Both Cort Wesley and Caitlin are up against powerful figures whose wealth insulates them from consequences. They live in the shadows and intend to rule from there. The pills they’re making and selling will generate even more wealth, and the sudden death of an entire town spurs them to think on a bigger scale by weaponizing a deadly product. 

As the two investigations gradually become one, they turn up the heat on those responsible, who retaliate. After a confrontation with Caitlin, the pill pushers’ enforcer decides to take revenge in a very personal way. My one problem with the book, a small one, was that I wasn’t entirely sure the resolution of this situation was believable. I can’t say more without spoiling it.

Caitlin’s half sister, Nola Delgado, steps in to help Caitlin and Cort Wesley. The role she plays in the story and her connection to Caitlin, who didn’t know she existed until after their father’s death, is an interesting one. Where Caitlin goes for her gun only when she has no alternative, Nola revels in killing. In fact, she’s a professional assassin. Land uses her as a mirror for what Caitlin might otherwise have been and a warning of what Caitlin doesn’t want to become. At the same time, they struggle to determine how much of a relationship and how much similarity shared blood creates.

Also woven through the story, as usual, is a case handled by one of Caitlin’s Texas Ranger ancestors. This one involves Pancho Villa and Texas history and ties into the present case in a surprising way.

Obviously, this is a thriller, not a romance. But it’s a thriller with family woven through it. There’s also explosive action and a twisty plot.

Strong From the Heart stands alone but reading the earlier books, as with many thriller series, provides layers and shading to the characters. 

Highly recommended. 5 stars
~Nancy