Review: “Agnes and the Hitman” by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Review- “Agnes and the Hitman” by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

A review by Vanessa.

Cranky Agnes is a cooking columnist with an anger problem. She just wants to feed everyone she meets, write her next cookbook, and throw the wedding of the century for her goddaughter. If the men in her life would stop pissing her off, she wouldn’t have an anger problem. There is only one man she trusts, the old mobster Uncle Joey, and it’s him she turns to when a deranged dognapper shows up in her kitchen. But Uncle Joey knows why this sudden string of crazies is showing up at Agnes’s recently purchased (in need of major rehab) beautiful Southern home. So he calls the only man he can trust with Agnes’s safety: his nephew Shane, the government employed hitman.

Shane is too busy with a hit gone wrong to abandon work and rush to protect some little girl his uncle knows; but since it is the first and only time Joey has asked for help in 25 years Shane decides to honor his request. Imagine his surprise when Agnes turns out to be a cranky, comely, take-no-prisoners lady who cooks like a dream and knows how to defend herself: with her best heavy non-stick frying pan of course. Shane can tell something more is up than what Uncle Joey is willing to admit, and he is not going to leave until he can make sure that Agnes makes it through and gets everything she has earned. With an upcoming mob-wedding looming on the horizon, a ticked off rogue hitman on the loose, and the previous homeowner causing all kinds of problems, Agnes and Shane will have to work together to make it through.

As a follow up to my last review, I decided to review the follow-up collaborative novel by the Crusie/Mayer team; and as expected they did not disappoint. The excellent combination of situational humor, action, and searing romance wins again. Cranky Agnes is a totally lovable lady with a relatable dark anger simmering under the surface that makes her both multidimensional and captivating to read. She is both caring and unforgiving, with an attitude that brooks no argument but somehow still manages to inspire loyalty and support from the good people who care for her. Shane is a sturdy, reliably dependable contrast to Agnes. He is a steady, straightforward, problem fixer, which is a contrast in itself considering that Shane is a hitman.

It’s interesting to consider that he ended up in a violent lifestyle, even though his mobster uncle Joey sent him to military school to keep him away from the violent life of a killer. As per usual, the two leads are accompanied by a fascinating and varied supporting cast of characters. The old world Southern mafia is an amazing setting for the backstory, juxtaposed with Agnes’s modern world of cooking. The two blend well and make for a driving story arc that will keep the reader turning pages. The love interest between Agnes and Shane is incendiary, exploding at just the right moment and in the best way possible. Love it!

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Don’t Look Down” by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Don’t Look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

A review by Vanessa.

This book is from my personal collection, one I have re-read often. There was no author request for a review, but sometimes it’s nice to go back to read the ones we love so much.

Lucy Armstrong is a successful advertising director. She loves her job, and she’s really good at it, in spite of everyone else mocking her career in dog food commercials. So why is it she finds herself being pulled in to direct the last four days of what is supposed to be a legitimate movie set, but feels more like a practical joke? Probably because her sister is working on the crew with her niece in tow, and something is just not quite right. Not the way her ex-husband is paying her a ridiculous amount of money to finish the move without even seeing the entire script. Not the way crew members have been disappearing, quitting, or dying unexpectedly. Not the way the lead action star suddenly shows up with a real Green Beret to be his new consultant and stunt double at the last minute. And certainly not the way that Green Beret, J.T. Wilder, can capture Lucy’s attention simply by standing still. Something is up with this “movie set” and with J.T.’s help she just might figure it out in time to help her sister and her niece before things get out of hand.

J.T. was just looking to make some quick money while on leave by being stunt double for a bumbling movie star. The beautiful actresses were going to be a big bonus for the short time he planned to be involved. He certainly wasn’t expecting the director to catch his attention. The lead actress is a gorgeous snack, but Lucy is the whole meal; tall, beautiful, strong, determined, an Amazon worth a second, and third, look. He wasn’t planning on getting that involved, or caring for her and her zany band of crew members like her steadfastly loyal assistant director, or her Wonder Woman-obsessed little niece; but J.T. just can’t help himself.  Especially since his instincts tell him that Lucy has somehow ended up in the middle of something not good, and his heart definitely does not want anything bad happening to her.

What I have always loved the most about this book is that it is so well written by it’s co-authors. The writing is smart, snappy, witty, sharp and heartfelt all at the same time. The main characters are lovable, admirable, and believable while still achieving a very no bullshit kind of attitude. The storyline itself is quick and action packed as well as filled with heat and romance and just plain good writing. I have to attribute this to the individual strengths of the two writers. I have always loved Jennifer Crusie’s ability to write admirably strong women, and blazingly hot men into an entrancing but very grounded romance story. I’ve never read any of Bob Mayer’s individually written novels but his influence in the action and the writing of the male leading character is very obvious, and it adds an element of reality to the perspectives of the two main characters. The love scenes are very obviously Crusie-esque, but many of the scenes written from J.T.’s perspective have a distinctly male voice which is so interesting to read when juxtaposed against the female perspective interspersed with them. I always love when two authors from differing genres can bring the best of their writing style and experience into one book. And this book really has it all.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Special Excerpt: “For All To See” by Megan Mitcham

For All To See by Megan MitchamAn excerpt presented by Amanda.

“There’s nothing to tell because we don’t have him in custody, yet. And we haven’t questioned him.” Nathan snarled.

“Not nothing. The guy’s our prime suspect with the skills, the size, and frequent travel itinerary to be our killer. Plus, he was hanging around the woods the day after her dog was attacked by the killer, who hung out in those woods to make a statement.” Dick sucked in a long breath.

The first wave of shock rolled past and her brain began to tick again. Sure he had all the markers, but he didn’t have the heart for it. Madelyn stood. “He didn’t do it.”

“What?” Dick looked at her as though she’d been sewn together without a brain.

“Don’t argue with her,” Nathan warned.

“He can argue with me if he wants.” Madelyn swung the full force of her fury into a glare. “At least he’s talking to me.”

“He’s only going to piss you off,” Nathan explained.

“You’ve already accomplished that.” She pointed to her face.

“Why exactly?” Nathan stood. “Because I wouldn’t tell you or because it’s looking an awful lot like your instructor is a twisted guy?”

“I’m gonna go and let you two…work this out,” Dick said as he backtracked to the door.

Madelyn didn’t pay him any attention. She had her glare set on Nathan. “I know he didn’t do it.”

“How well do you really know him, Madelyn?”

“Better than I know you.”

Veins in Nathan’s neck bulged and his fists clenched at his sides. He stepped toward her, but she refused to back down. She refused to be scared. But really he didn’t scare her.

“Better than you knew your mom?” Nathan asked.

Her brain skidded and spun from the completely unexpected question and his surprising anger. Maybe he scared her. Not that she feared he’d beat her, but he could hurt her. He poked the tender spots no one else could. He pushed her to confront the uncomfortable questions, the painful memories.

“I knew her well enough to know she’d betray me for a fancy house and social status.”

“And because of that you think I’ll deceive you?”

“No. I won’t let you.”

He took a step toward her, and then another. “Deceit isn’t something you allow or forbid. It’s something another person chooses to do to you. What matters is how you react to that deceit. Shutting yourself off from the world lets them win.” His face hovered inches from hers. “So, are you defending Amadi because you believe he’s innocent or because he’s another person you trusted who potentially betrayed you?”

The words landed so close to the truth she jerked from their impact. Big, fat tears stung her eyes, but she couldn’t cry. To cry would be to admit defeat. To admit she had no control over her life. To admit her heart was shattered again. Nowhere near as much as before, but still…

“Fuck you,” she blustered.

Nathan’s shoulders dropped. The anger faded from his narrowed eyes, but their intensity didn’t soften one bit. He shoved his fists into his pockets. His expelled breath coasted over her exposed neck. A trail of gooseflesh lay in its wake.

“When you trust me… When you really let go… You’ll enjoy it.”

“I told you, trust doesn’t come easily.”

“But it will come—and so will you.”

He sucked the anger right out of her and replaced it with desire. Hot, melting desire that made her weak. Without the anger life became dangerously close to being more than she could handle. Everything hurt so damn much, even her yearning for his touch.

“I want to go home. I need to see my dog.”

“Let’s go.” Nathan pulled his hand from a pocket and offered it.

She stared at it for too many seconds. Taking it would open the door to trust. Refusing it would prove her mother still had a strangle-hold on her life. His hand became so much more than an offer for help. It became a step toward revival or damnation. And she wasn’t sure which she deserved.

Madelyn hoped he’d drop his hand and step aside, so she wouldn’t have to choose. But his hand and gaze remained steadfast.

“Has anyone told you you’re stubborn?” she whispered.

“I hear it’s highly contagious.” He smiled.

Something inside her broke free. Her hand shook as she flattened her fist and reached across the fissure of the past and present, of hell and healing. Calluses ridged his palm. Hot fingers encased her hand and made the burden bearable for the first time.

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Book & Author details:
For All to See by Megan Mitcham
(Bureau #1)
Publication date: April 1st 2015
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense

Pristine waters and purified evil.

Two by two, dark-haired beauties vanish only to reappear as hanging, plundered corpses. The Virgin Islands boast diamond-white beaches, lush green mountains, a rich cultural heritage—and a brutal killer.

Three years on the “Field-Dresser” case and Special Agent Nathan Brewer is days away from catching the bastard—if he can convince a certain brunette to trust him. Only the woman is more likely to take a casual stroll on the surface of the sun.

After fleeing her troubles in the United States for the quiet life of a school teacher on the island of Tortola, Madelyn Garrett never imagined she’d be fixated upon by pure evil.

In a fight for her life—with a dwindling number of friends—she must rely on her cunning and Nathan’s skills for survival.

Megan Mitcham

Megan was born and raised among the live oaks and shrimp boats of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where her enormous family still calls home. She attended college at the University of Southern Mississippi where she received a bachelor’s degree in curriculum, instruction, and special education. For several years Megan worked as a teacher in Mississippi. She married and moved to South Carolina and worked for an international non-profit organization as an instructor and co-director.

In 2009 Megan fell in love with books. Until then, books had been a source for research or the topic of tests. But one day she read Mercy by Julie Garwood. And Oh Mercy, she was hooked!

Megan lives in Southern Arkansas where she pens sizzling suspense novels.

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Review: “Baxter’s Draw” by Juliette Harper

Baxter's Draw by Juliette HarperA review by Maria.

I would like to thank author Juliette Harper for giving me the opportunity of continuing to read and review her Lockwood Legacy series with the second book, Baxter’s Draw.

Baxter’s Draw picks up not long after the first book Langston’s Daughters left off. The sisters: Kate, Jenny, and Mandy are now living on the ranch together and caring for each other as sisters again. Jenny and Mandy are both in relationships. But the sister’s still have questions about their father’s life and death. Now archaeologist Jake Martin enters their lives to study the land they own up in Baxter’s Draw.

This book delved even deeper into the mystery and violence than the last book. Questions still surround their father’s death and the body count since. Now the stakes are even higher for the sister’s with someone watching their every move. The danger was intense and kicked up a notch in Baxter’s Draw. The mystery kept me guessing as a reader.

Family was a recurring theme as the sister’s start relying on each other more. I really enjoyed their relationship as well as their banter. It was real and heartwarming. The girls also get to know more about their father and shed light onto the cruel and unloving man they knew.

Kate was the central sister in this novel and this book delves more into her independent and loner nature. She has an attraction with Jake and it’s nice to see that friendship blossom. She’s a strong, smart and brave woman and I enjoyed having her as the main character in this book. However, her romance was very much downplayed while Jenny’s and Mandy’s relationships were holding most of the romantic side of things in this book.

On a funny note, I kept noticing in both Baxter’s Draw and Langston’s Daughters that the author seemed very fond giving all of her male characters names beginning with the letter J. Sometimes it was confusing as a reader since I would get the names mixed up, especially now that all three love interests are introduced in this book. However, the author choose to draw attention to it herself by having Kate refer to the men as “the three Jays.”

This book was a short southern romantic suspense novel building again on the ties of family. With two books under my belt on this series, I have enjoyed them immensely.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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