Review: Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7) by R.J. Scott

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Worlds CollideDale MacIntyre, Sanctuary agent, is in charge of protecting Emily Bullen, wife of Senator Thomas Bullen, from her husband and the rest of the criminally inclined Bullen family. After turning states evidence, Emily is headed back to Albany on a jet.  Accompanied only by Dale, the pilot of the plane, and the copilot, she is horrified when word reaches them that a key player in the Bullen family crime syndicate was mistakenly freed from jail and is now able to hunt down the only person who can put him away for life.  That person is Emily Bullen.

Midflight, Dale realizes the extent that Ryland Griffin will go to in order to eliminate Emily Bullen. Dale reaches out immediately to the person he knows he can trust to have immediate answers, have his back and that of the person he is protecting. That person is his lover, Navy Seal Joseph Kinnon.  When Dale’s assignment gets more dangerous, Joseph and his Seal Team intervene and the resulting events bring about a serious introspective search for Dale and Joseph about where their relationship is headed.

I have been waiting for another Dale and Joseph book since they first appeared in The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2). In that story, Dale, an ex Seal and Joseph, current Navy Seal, meet, clash and lust as the investigation into the Bullen family crime syndicate is in its initial stages with Joseph’s murdered sister as one of Bullen family’s first known victims.  The start to their romance is white hot, primal and short lived.  Since then, R.J. Scott has kept the readers on high anticipation with teasers of the couple in book after book but nothing notable or even remotely satisfying.  This is how it all starts:

“It’s not too late, we can still get out of here,” Chief Petty Officer Joseph Kinnon said urgently. He pressed both hands to the glass and stared down at the street below. The city was a white, snowy landscape and at any other time would have been stunningly beautiful. They were ten stories up in a hotel in the heart of the historic district and the place had ledges at each level. As a team they’d dealt with worse. Assessing the situation, he considered the options.

“Fuentes, talk to me.”

Luca Fuentes, young, tall, and built like the side of barn with muscles on muscles, was the team’s resident hacker but was also a tactical genius. He joined Joseph at the window. “Chief,” he said formally. His green-eyed gaze unerringly focused in on the view that Joseph had. He frowned as he looked out.

“Can you find egress here?” Joseph asked.

Luca tapped the glass.

“Reinforced; we’d need some pretty heavy ordnance to get out—I can get Viktor on that—then zip wire. Get it hooked to the top of the plaza building.” Luca looked up and down, then turned to Joseph. “Forty degrees. We can get down to the roof and get out that way.”

“Assessment?” “Fifty-fifty. I think most of us will be okay, but one of our team is scared of heights,” Fuentes said seriously.

Joseph nodded in agreement. “You’re talking about Mike Dexter.”

“He’s a liability, sir,” Luca answered. “I’m not sure his underwear would remain unstained and survive the fall.”

Joseph and his Seal team are assembled for a very different type of mission, a personal one.  This is a funny and really moving introduction, just what I have come to expect from R.J. Scott.  Joseph and his team are truly a band of brothers,unchanging until now.  But the event they have gathered for marks the beginning of transitions for more than one member of the team.  We have not met Joseph’s team until now and what a diverse group they turn out to be.  I can easily see R.J. Scott building an entire new series around this team, especially the randy Viktor.  While Scott has let us see Joseph in action, this is the first time we get to see Joseph operating as a member of his Seal team.  By their interactions with each other and their dialog the author lets us feel why being a Seal and a part of this team is so important to  Joseph.  And it also lets us into the pain Dale felt when he was forced out.  Since being a Seal is fundamental to Joseph’s character, what plays out next highlights the importance of Dale and their relationship.

And that is really what Worlds Collide is all about, an internal shift in both men that will allow them to have a future with each other.  This is more a relationship book than any of the other stories in the series to date.  Yes, we are still dealing with the fallout from the Bullen family crime investigations.  One important criminal has escaped and Dale is in charge of getting Emily Bullen to safety so she can testify.  But this section is just the impetus for providing the platform for change in both men’s lives.  Here is Joseph with a note from Dale:

Just touching the note grounded Joseph in the here and now. Slowly, over the course of the last few months, the space in his life that had once been filled by the team he was with, by the job, by staying alive, had seen a full-frontal assault by the man he had fallen in love with.

This is a huge ground shift by a man who lived for the Seals alone.  Dale too has undergone his own emotional introspection about Joseph and their possible future ahead.  I love the way Scott has developed their story.  Our first meeting and theirs was explosive, a fight turned sexual.  It was incendiary.  But after that, something else occurred, they started to care about each other and so did the readers.  From time to time, we heard about each man and their tentative relationship in the other books. Nothing concrete for them or us, just tantalizing bits that kept us engaged in their future.  So this book was more than welcome, I am sure we felt it was long overdue after being teased through five books. And  the author doesn’t let us down.

We alternate perspective, from Dale to Joseph and back, as the events brought on by  Dale’s assignment, guarding Emily Bullen, brings out those determined to stop her at all costs.  We get to see the fluidity of motion and deadly competency of the Seal team in action, and the intrepidness of Dale’s Sanctuary training coming together to achieve one end.  But the highlight of the story must be the time that Joseph and Dale get to spend together after the mission is finished.  It’s heartwarming, it’s sexy and it fulfills most of the dreams we have had about this couple.  But of course, not all.

It’s all here. All the things that have made this series such a great one.  Realistic, fully rounded characters, a complicated criminal investigation that spreads through the series, and a narrative that moves the plot forward swiftly and smoothly.  I love that the Bullen investigation is still ongoing, with loose ends out there waiting to trip up Sanctuary and the other agencies. Just a terrific aspect of this series and beautifully plotted out. There are one or two small chinks in the armor here.  One small scene with the Seals and the criminal that I thought was unrealistic given their training and readiness. And then there is the ending.  Absolutely realistic as always. For those expecting a finality to Dale and Joseph’s romance, we haven’t gotten it …yet.  But you know that it is coming and this ending will leave you satisfied for now.

If you are  new to the series or Dale and Joseph’s romance, go back to the beginning.  An absolute must in order to understand the characters and the events as they play out.  Here are the books in the order they were written and must be read:

Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1)

The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2), Dale and Joseph’s romance begins

Face Value (Sanctuary, #3)

Still Waters (Sanctuary, #4)

Full Circle (Sanctuary, #5)

The Journal Of Sanctuary One (Sanctuary, #6)
]
Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7)

Cover design by BitterGraceArt is lovely and in keeping with the characters.

Book Details:

ebook
Published June 28th 2013 by Love Lane Books (first published March 30th 2013)

Mired in the Miasma and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Miasma, such a wonderfully descriptive word.  Miasma: from the dictionary, literary the miasma from the stagnant swamp made us choke and gag: stink, reek, stench,fetor, smell, fume, odor, whiff; gas, cloud, smog, vapor.

Yep, that is exactly what it feels like in the Metropolitan DC area these days.  Most people forget that Washington, DC was built on a swamp and the regions around it are riddled with water.  There is a reason Foggy Bottom is called Foggy Bottom.  We have water everywhere.  The Potomac, the Patuxent, the Severn and a ton of other rivers and streams, the Chesapeake Bay and of course the Atlantic Ocean.  It’s delightful, it’s outstanding, except when our humidity is around 99% and stays there, making our area feel downright tropical and swampy.  The air is thick, stagnant, some call it soupy.  It is so heavy  it almost takes on a form of its own.  The skin feels clammy, your clothes stick to the skin as though they were glued, perspiration rolls down the face to disappear into your collar and sandals are the only footwear you can bear on your feet. And when someone mentions that they didn’t have air-conditioning in the “olden days” so we should all come outside and enjoy sitting on the porch…well,  you just want to swat them.

Back to miasma.  I grew up in a Southern family where the word miasma could be frequently heard in conversation, especially by my grandmothers.  It went something like this:

“Oh the miasma is so bad for you, stay away from the window.”

“Heah, keep those windows closed so the miasma doesn’t come inside.”

Or when my Mamaw smelled something bad, well, then of course, it was the “miasma”.

I love that word but it seems to have fallen out of favor.  I mean, scientifically, we know that swamps are a wonderful thing, necessary for the environment as delicate habitats and nature’s filtering system.  A swamp is not a purveyor of disease and that illness did not waft in on the moisture laden air (hey, we are not talking mosquitos today). So with knowledge in hand, the word miasma started to disappear.  But I want to bring it back.  Miasma a term rich in eloquence, laden with romantic images, mired in the gothic and teaming with meaning.  If I am to be drenched in sweat, with hair and skin soaked with moisture, miserable and lethargic, then I want to put a layer of something magical, otherworldy and significant on it.  I want miasma!  I will have my miasma.

And besides what other explanation is there for Congress?  Its miasma. Stay away from the windows.

We are all over the place in book reviews for the coming week. Plus I am still focused on the subject of short  stories so expect another Scattered Thoughts blog on the subject on Saturday.  This is how the week looks to play out:

Monday, July 15:                Tattoo You by Willa Okati

Tuesday, July 16:                Forever Promised (Promises #4) by Amy Lane

Wed., July 17:                      Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7) by R.J. Scott

Thursday, July 18:              Waiting for Ty by Samantha Ann King

Friday, July 19:                    Side Line by Ben Ryder

Saturday, July 20:               Anthologies? Love Them Or Hate Them?

And to help fight the miasma, a Red Sangria recipe to cool you down:

Ingredients
1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange liqueur
2 tablespoons sugar
2 sliced oranges
1 sliced green apple
1 1/2 cups seltzer

FNM050111_143
Directions
Mix the wine, liqueur and sugar in a pitcher, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then add the fruit.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Add the seltzer just before serving.

Review: The Journal of Sanctuary One (Sanctuary #6) by RJ Scott

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Rating: 5 stars

The Journal of Sanctuary OneJake Callahan was looking forward to spending time with his brother, Hayden and his boyfriend up at their cabin for Christmas.  It had been an extremely tough year for everyone who worked at Sanctuary, the secret organization devoted to keeping witnesses  and other “vulnerables” safe when the alphabet organizations (CIA, FBI etc) couldn’t.  Sanctuary operatives were still trying to close down the Bullen case as there were files still to be encrypted and a few criminals left to round up.  Still, this time of year was special to Jake and he needs it now more than ever as the betrayal by exFBI agent Sean Hanson was as painful as the day he first learned that Sean was working for Bullen. Now all Jake wants is some peace and time with his brother but Mother Nature is making that impossible.  The northeast corridor is being blanketed by a snow storm, Hayden is stuck in New York  City with his boyfriend Beckett. and Jake is facing Christmas alone at the cabin.  That is until a bloody and injured Sean Hansen appears on his doorstep and faints into the snow.

Sean Hansen is being hunted and by several factions, all of whom want him dead.  The gunshot wound in his side attests to that and between the pain and the snow Sean is being to despair of ever making his destination.  The cabin called Sanctuary One was no longer used for official business but Sean figured it would just be off the grid enough for him to be safe there until the last of his mission is finished. And then all Sean wants to do is find the man he had started to love, so he could explain and apologize. The last person he expects to see just before passing out from pain and blood loss is Jake Callahan, the man he has been thinking about.

As the snow storm turns into a blizzard that seals the cabin off from everyone around them, Jake and Sean are left to deal with their memories, emotions and the fact that the killers are still on Sean’s trail, putting them  both in danger.

RJ Scott’s Sanctuary series remains one of my top series for 2012 and this latest edition just cements it firmly in place.  The Journal of Sanctuary One picks up where Full Circle (Sanctuary #5) left off, with members of the Bullen family in custody, the Bullen case coming to a close and Sean Hansen escaping from a prison van and on the loose.  Now only a short time later, all the operatives are in recovery mode in one way or another. Manny and Josh (Full Circle) are at a safe house in Canada, working on the encryption of the files, Hayden and Beckett are in New York, Dale is waiting for Joseph to come back from a mission and Jake is feeling alone and hurting from Sean’s betrayal. And you are there with him, feeling his pain and loneliness.

And that is one of the real joys of this series. RJ Scott has created a cast of characters, so complex, so real and from a variety of backgrounds that they are memorable from the very start.  In some books and series, I have to think hard to bring up names and associate them with their personas, not so with the Sanctuary series.  Mention Morgan and I can picture him in detail.  Joseph and Dale, two of the hottest characters (Navy Seal and ex Seal) in the series, and I feel as though I know them intimately.  Over the course of the series, we meet one unforgettable character after another and watch as they bond with each other, and find love. And through it all, the thread that ties the books together along with the Sanctuary organization is the Bullen crime family, which extends from Congress to the many family businesses.  The Bullens have destroyed families, tortured and murdered  their way to the accumulation of wealth and power.  And Scott managed to make the investigation as thrilling as her love stories.  Each book moved the investigation forward (and sometimes back, depending upon the double cross) and always a new criminal element presented itself by the end of the book as well as a new couple. How I loved every minute they continued to investigate the Bullen crime family, a most heinous group of thugs and the wild pathways they took to get evidence and witnesses.

And The Journal of Sanctuary One brings the investigation back to its very beginnings,  including something I didn’t see coming and back to Jake Callahan whose father started the Sanctuary organization and who built Sanctuary One.  The author really pulls together all the elements from each book, including some I didn’t realize were important, to finish off the Bullens once and for all.  We get a closer understanding not only of who Jake is, and what has driven him all these years but that of Sean Hansen, an enigma whose story we have been waiting to hear.  RJ Scott has included most of the characters we love from the other stories, even if we only see and hear  them over the phones and Skype.

And there is nothing like a snowbound cabin to bring out the emotional explosions and stress that have been building for these characters and the author delivers the required scenes in painful detail and authentically loud conversations.  Just what you would expect from these men who are so much each others equal in every way, just perfect.

So have we heard the last from Sanctuary and its operatives?  I hope not.  I get the feeling that we will be hearing from Dale and Joseph soon.  Remember Dale was expecting Joseph back from his mission and we never heard that he made it.  Hmmmm….funny that.  It brings me hope that this outstanding series will continue and that I will meet up once more with all my favorite couples as they investigate, hack, protect, and love. So if you haven’t made the acquaintance of Sanctuary and their operatives, start at the beginning with Guarding Morgan and work your way through the stories in the order they were written.  That way you won’t miss a double cross, new witness or new crime and or course, new couple.  You will love them as much as I do.

Sanctuary Series in the order they should be read in order to fully understand the Bullen Family conspiracy and the characters involved:

Guarding Morgan, Sanctuary Series #1 – rating 4.25 stars

The Only Easy Day, Sanctuary Series, #2 – my review here

Face Value, Sanctuary Series #3 – my review here

Still Water, Sanctuary Series #4 – my review here

Full Circle, Sanctuary Series, #5 – my review here

The Journal of Sanctuary One, #6

Buy link here LoveLaneBooks.co.uk

All the Sanctuary books can be bought at the link above.

December is here, the year is almost over and the week ahead in Reviews

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Every year seems to go by more quickly than the last and 2012 is almost gone.  It has been a tumultuous time here at home,  in Maryland, and the entire northeast.  From the scorching heat and drought of the spring and summer months to the recent Derechos which brought high winds and flooding, it has been a regular smorgasbord of geological happenings and meteorological events.  We have had a major earthquake  from which the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument and other buildings have still not recovered from.  A heat wave and drought that killed much of the harvest from land and sea, with water levels down from lack of rain and snow to heat which baked the land and everyone on it.  We had high winds, tornados and of course flooding that still did not mitigate the low water table.  Really, 2012 has been our version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and it’s not over yet.

Amazingly it was a year ago yesterday when I rolled out by my first blog, scrambling to get my feet under me and figure out what I wanted to say, what I wanted to review, and everything in between.  It took me a while to get my voice and now the mutterings can’t stop!  The thoughts keep tumbling out, rolling over one another like pebbles in a stream caught in a swift current, some concerned with vocabulary, others focused on eBook covers and design and more still on book content, reviews to be exact.  I hope I have helped some of you find your way to new authors or rediscover old ones that you have forgotten.  Later this month I will be rolling out my Best of 2012 lists, from Books to Covers.  I bet you have been making your lists too.  Let me know what book(s) is on them, and do you have a favorite cover artist, like Anne Cain, or even a favorite model?  Inquiring minds and all that.

So here’s to the beginning of the end of 2012.  I love this time of year, so much to reflect on and yet so much still to look forward to, including the holidays no matter which one you celebrate.  I’ll be talking to you soon.  In the meantime, look what’s coming up this week:

Monday, 12/3:                             Private Dicks:Undercovers Anthology

Tuesday, 12/4:                             The Journal of Sanctuary One (Sanctuary #6) by RJ Scott

Wed, 12/5:                                    Crucible of Fate (Change of Heart #4) by Mary Calmes

Thursday, 12/6:                           Too Careful By Half, a Roughstock story by BA Tortuga

Friday, 12/7:                                 Eight Days by C. Cardeno (a Christmas story)

Sat., 12/8                                         3 Dreamspinner Christmas Advent Calendar stories

So now I will leave you with a Vodka Christmas Cake recipe. You simply have to try this…

Once again this year, I’ve had requests for my Vodka Christmas Cake recipe, so here goes.

Please keep in your files as I am beginning to get tired of typing this up every year!

(Made mine this morning!!!!)

1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup brown sugar
Lemon juice
4 large eggs
Nuts
1…bottle Vodka
2 cups dried fruit
Sample a cup of Vodka to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the Vodka again to be sure it is of the highest quality then Repeat.

Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.
At this point, it is best to make sure the Vodka is still OK. Try another cup just in case.

Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eegs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the fruit up off the floor, wash it and put it in the bowl a piece at a time trying to count it. Mix on the turner.
If the fried druit getas stuck in the beaterers, just pry it loose with a drewscriver Sample the Vodka to test for tonsisticity.

Next, sift 2 cups of salt, or something. Check the Vodka. Now slift… shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.
Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

Don’t forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through the window.

Finish the Vodka and wipe the counter with the cat ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What Series Am I Reading Now?

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My reading list has always been a convoluted constantly changing creature (alliteration how I love thee), but lately it is full of authors delivering an addictive group of novels revolving around a select cast of characters and the universe they inhabit, in other words a series!  What does surprise me is that most of the series I am currently reading come from authors that were new to me, undiscovered territory as it were. So these series actually represent a double dose of goodness, that of a new author as well as new series.  I will note that the series I am listing here are ones that are either not complete or a recently completed series that I haven’t finished reading.

1. Infected Series by Andrea Speed:

It started with Andrea Speed and her Infected series.  I can’t remember why I picked up Infected: Prey to begin with but I know that from the moment I met Roan  and discovered the story of a cat virus (like AIDS, it is a blood born pathogen) spreading across the States with devastating effects on society, I was hooked.  Andrea Speed was a new author for me (as is most of the authors here) but with her creation of Roan, she has given us wonderful reluctant superhuman hero, complete with a unique voice and style of dialog I would recognize as his anywhere.  Roan would appreciate it if he were a solitary being but he comes with a close knit group of people in various roles that are as multilayered, as personable as tragic and humorous a bunch of beings as you will ever meet.  Roan has esoteric tastes in music so I was not always familiar with his choices of bands (These Arms Are Snakes really?) but Andrea Speed thankfully provides the playlists on her website so I can get up to speed (snort) and so can you.  And Roan’s commentary on society, reality tv, religion, ok anything really often has me in stitches when I am not dissolving in tears.  Do not pass up this series.

Infected Shift is the latest in the series.  Find my review of it here and a list of all the previous books.  The books should be read in the order they are written to get the full measure of the story and the characters.

Infected Series: Prey, Bloodlines, Life After Death, Freefall, Shift.

Andrea Speed’s website In Absentia can be found here.

2. Lost Gods Series by Megan Derr:

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I was asked to review Treasure, the first book in the Lost Gods series. I had a vague notion about it being a fantasy series, mermaids, dragons, that sort of thing.  But from the first page of Treasure, Megan Derr’s characters grabbed me by the shirtfront, gave me a shake for good measure and pulled me into their complex, richly layered saga of the gods returning to their lands 1,000 years after their deaths.  Let’s start with the way Derr has crafted this series.  Each book is the story of one kingdom and their Lost God.  For each kingdom, Derr created a people whose religion, dress, language and beliefs reflects that culture of their land as well as geographical map to help the reader envision the story.  Her world building is dazzling and from novel to novel, the saga changes in scope from a rollicking sea adventure to the sacrifice of innocents, from broad humor to scenes that had me sobbing uncontrollably.  Megan Derr leaves nothing to chance in her books, there is myth building, creation puzzles and themes of forgiveness, sacrifice and rebirth. After Treasure came Burning Bright, a book I was in no way prepared for and still holds a huge place in my heart which is odd considering my mouth tasted of ash after reading it. An astonishing novel in a series of the same measure.

This is a 5 book series and Megan Derr has just submitted the last book to the publisher, Less Than Three Press.  I have just finished the 3rd book, Stone Rose.  Find my review here along with the reviews for the previous books.  My review of the covers will go up on Tuesday.

All the books should be read in order that they were written because of the complex saga and the long list of intertwined characters. Treasure, Burning Bright, Stone Rose, Poison, and Chaos.

3.  Cambridge Fellows Series by Charlie Cochrane:

I remember reading a review by Erastes of one of the Cambridge Fellows series and found myself intrigued by the high rating and Erastes’ regard for the author’s historical authenticity and writing style. Then it popped up again and again on must read lists on various blogs to the point I  found myself ordering Lessons in Love (Cambridge Fellows #1) and got my first introduction to the Drs. Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart. I will say our first introduction was a little shaky. I loved Cochrane’s descriptions of 1906 Cambridge from the language/terms spoken at that time to the shoppes of the day but it took me some time to warm up to Orlando and Jonty.  I liked them well enough, respected them but felt a little removed from their characters.  Then came Lessons in Desire (Cambridge Fellows #2) and the distance between the characters and myself dissolved never to return.  With each book the relationship between the characters deepened as more of their backstory came into light and I become more engaged, more connected to the characters and their fate.  By Lessons in Discovery (Cambridge Fellows #3), I was seriously in love with Orlando and Jonty, and paid close attention to each case they investigated (oh yes, there are mysteries in each book).

There are some hard subject matter buried in these stories, including one of child abuse and rape.  Charlie Cochrane handles it with sensitivity while never deviating from the emotional devastation it visits upon her characters.  The author’s use of language and location gives her stories such depth and authenticity that I often find myself running to do research on some topic she has brought up long after I have finished the book.  Every part of this series is beautifully done.  I just finished the fifth book of this series, Lessons in Temptation (Cambridge Fellows #5) and thought I saw the end of the series with All Lessons Learned (Cambridge Fellows #8).  Then Charlie Cochrane published Lessons for Survivors (Cambridge Fellows #9) this month with a different publisher and the series continues.  Huzzah!

Find my review of Lessons in Temptation(Cambridge Fellows #5) here and all the reviews for the previous novels.

The list:  Lessons in Love, Lessons in Desire, Lessons in Discovery, Lessons in Power, Lessons in Temptation, Lessons in Seduction, Lessons in Trust, All Lessons Learned and Lessons for Survivors.

Charlie Cochrane’s website is http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com

4.  Dance With The Devil Series by Megan Derr (yes, Derr again):

This was easy.  My co-reviewer Sammy was reading these novels and I picked up the first based on her recommendation and my knowledge of the author.  Right away,  the method Megan Derr used to create her narrative delighted me.  We are introduced to Chris White, supernatural detective,  and his associate detective Doug who happens to be an imp by the means of detective cases. Each chapter is a different case Chris White has been involved in. Here Derr does not follow a strict timeline for the first case ,Case No. 507  The Devil’s Consort, finds Chris already the consort of Sable Brennen, the demon Lord of the city. The next chapter, Case No. 37 finds Chris just starting out in the business.  Here he meets Sable for the first time as well as so many more unusual and delightful characters that reoccur throughout the novel. The next case is Case No. 532, Bad Blood Part 1 which moves the story forward. Then the case immediately after is one from the past bringing with it the backstory of whatever character is now front and center.  If that seems confusing, trust me its not.  And as for Chris himself?  Well, he happens to be part ghost with the ability to walk through solid surfaces, handy when you are a detective facing locked doors!

I have just finished with book four in the series (yeah, I know I didn’t see it before I started writing this all down, I am on or at another book 5), but it seems that Derr is taking us on a tour of the various territories of this world she created.  The first 3 books are very connected together as there lands are adjacent to each other and then with book 4, she starts introducing the dragon lands which are the subject for books 5 and 6 so far. Within these pages we have demon lords, vampires, werewolves, imp, gorgons, warlocks, witches, pixies, brownies, dragons, knights, and almost every supernatural or fantastical being you can think of.  A veritable smorgasbord of fantasy characters, all realistically portrayed (as real as supernatural beings can be), all so personable that you love them, hurt for them, care greatly what happens to them, even if they are the walking dead.

Pick these up, don’t pass go, don’t stop for anything, even a Margarita before getting the first book, Dance with the Devil.  You are going to be my BFF for this one!

The list: Dance With The Devil,Dance In The Dark, Ruffskin,Midnight, The Dragon Pit,The Sword of the King

Read my review of the last book Midnight and you will find a list of the previous books as well.

Megan Derr’s website is http://maderr.com.  Also check out Less Than Three Press!

5. The Sanctuary Series by RJ Scott:

Take one crime family, The Bullens, add in gorgeous sexy, competent operatives working for a secret agency dedicated to keeping witnesses safe and investigating crimes that the other alphabet government agencies are involved in or won’t handle and you have the Sanctuary series by RJ Scott. Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1) is our introduction to Sanctuary, their operatives and the Bullen crime family.  Morgan is the eyewitness to the brutal  murder of a young woman, and is the first domino to topple over in the line of events that will eventually bring the Bullen family to  justice.  Each book gives us a new romantic pairing and more leads/clues into how widespread  are the Bullen family’ crimes, extending into the Senate itself.  Scott gives the operatives a realistic feel, they screw up, they bleed, they are stressed out and sometimes overwhelmed.  These are real people who are overextended just by the nature of the job they perform. And while there are at least one HEA, most are HFN which is believable given their jobs and responsibilities.

The Bullens are a despicable bunch and Scott throws us quite a few false leads and surprises here. The investigation gets compromised, there is a FBI mole, and things are not always what they seem.  It is a great ride full of characters I came to care about, there is not one cardboard cutout to be found in these novels.  The Bullen Family saga ended at Full Circle but the Sanctuary novels will continue or so RJ Scott assures me.  What a happy reader than made me.

So here is my review of Full Circle with the complete list of the Sanctuary books to date.  Read them in order.  Guarding Morgan, The Only Easy Day, Face Value, Still Waters,  and Full Circle. You will love them if you like great action adventure and sexy special operatives!

RJ Scott’s website is http://www.rjscott.co.uk

6. Cut & Run Series by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban, now being written by Abigail Roux:

How do I love this series?  Let me count the ways.  I love it to thee to the depths and breadth and height my soul can reach, I love thee purely, I love thee….well I am sure you get my drift.  This series is brilliant.  It all started back in 2008 when Dreamspinner Press published Cut & Run, the first in the series then written by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux.  It was here that Ty Grady met Zane Garrett in the offices of the FBI.  Neither man had a partner, both were coming off undercover assignments, and in Zane’s case, a deep undercover assignment that left him with a drug and alcohol addiction.  As they saw it, they were polar opposites, Zane liked to “crunch the numbers” as it were, and Ty flew by the seat of his pants.  This was not a partnership that had long term or even short to middling term written on it.

Their first assignment has them looking for the murderer of a pair of FBI agents.  They are squabbling, constantly finding fault with each other’s techniques and personalities. Then the murderer turns his attention to them and they must act together as a team to track down the killer before they become his next target.  Cut & Run sets the tone for the series.  A tight, suspenseful storyline that contains a complicated assignment that somehow furthers Ty and Zane’s complex relationship.  This is not a case of instant love or even instant like.  Instead we are given a relationship that is built slowly and with great care over six published books so far and Abigail Roux has stated she plans to go to at least nine in the series.

And what remarkable characters we have in Ty Grady and Zane Garrett.  They have fervent, obsessed fans who have Team Ty and Team Zane t-shirts (Edward and Jacob eat your hearts out).  And all that obsession, all that mania is totally warranted.  These are not your larger than life superheroes. Instead we have two human beings, with all the frailties, faults, and traits that make it easy to identify and empathize with them. Ty comes from a family steeped in military tradition but only now are we finding out why he joined the Marines.  And Zane’s background? We have only gotten hints of it, with a fact thrown in here or there.  Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6), coming out in August 2012, will answer some of our questions, but not all.  That is in keeping with the slow leak of information as each man still has much to learn about the other.

Is there a difference now that Abigail Roux is writing the series alone?  No, absolutely none.  The flow is as seamless between Fish & Chips and Divide & Conquer as Divide & Conquer and Armed & Dangerous. In fact, I found Armed & Dangerous to be the best yet (without taking anything away from the wonderful skills of Madeleine Urban who no longer writes). Abigail Roux is a master of location, character and plot and it shows in these books.  When she writes about Baltimore, you know this person has been to Baltimore, walked the streets there, taking in the flavor unique to the city.  It is the same whether Ty and Zane are in Chicago or on the high seas in a cruise ship, there is nary a false note that is hit. Such authenticity keeps everything so real that at times it is hard for me to come out of the stories.

I cannot recommend this series enough.  If I could, I would run the streets waving a Ty and Zane banner myself.  And no I won’t tell you which shirt I have in my closet!  Now go and get Cut & Run, start there, read them in order (no peaking or reading in advance)!  You will be sending me flowers over this one!

Cut & Run,Sticks & Stones (Cut & Run #2).Fish & Chips (Cut & Run #3),Divide & Conquer (Cut & Run #4),Armed & Dangerous (Cut & Run #5) see my review here, Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6) – coming in August from Riptide Press.

Abigail Roux’s website can be found here.

So, that’s my short list.  What an amazing group of authors to go with some of the best series I have ever read. Are there others?  You betcha. JL Langley’s With/Without Series and her Regency series, Andrew Grey’s Range series, Mary Calmes’ Panther series and so many others.So let’s consider this installment number 1 in my new What Series Am I Reading Now column, shall we?  And check in with me all week. Be sure to leave a comment along with an email address to be entered into the contest for a copy of Primal Red from Nicole Kimberling.

Now tell me what series are you reading now?

Review of Full Circle (Sanctuary #5) by RJ Scott

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Manny Sullivan has always been the “ops” in Operations, the person at the center of all of Sanctuary’s communications and intelligence.  As he is running a systems check of all Sanctuary computers and surveillance cameras currently in use on the Bullen case, he spots Josh Headley, son of an important witness, away from the Sanctuary house he was staying with his mother and handlers.  In fact the house Josh is sneaking into is the home of a prime suspect in the case and Josh’s interference can ruin everything the Agencies have worked so hard to compile against the Bullen family. Manny is not just a IT genius, he is also a seasoned agent and he is the one to go and retrieve Josh Headley before his unauthorized visit derails their case.

Josh Headley’s entire life has been turned upside down by finding out that not only is his father a bad cop, his father also murdered  an innocent women for the Bullen family. That his father said it did it to protect his family matters not at all.  In the witness protection program set up by Sanctuary, Josh is finding inaction and safety a bitter pill to swallow, and then he finds out that his boyfriend was using him too per the Bullen family instructions. He breaks out of the safe house intending to make his ex-boyfriend pay and to get additional information. To his amazement,  a small but lethal Sanctuary agent appears to pull him out of the house and bring him back to Sanctuary headquarters.

Manny Sullivan and Josh Headley have a lot in common, both computer geniuses, both have troubled background, and both are gay, a fact that neither man has missed.  Close quarters during a surveillance operation feeds a mutual attraction until it flashes out in a moment of lust and need.  But one man is consumed by his job, the other destined  for the witness protection program.  As the Bullen case draws to a close, what does the future hold for Manny Sullivan and Josh Headley?

With Full Circle, RJ Scott brings the investigation of the Bullen family to a close and gives us a 5 star couple to finish it off.  Scott’s wonderful talent for characterizations shines with both main protagonists.  Manny Sullivan has been an ingratiating popup character throughout the series and now he gets the leading role we have been waiting for.  Manny Sullivan created a new life for himself including a new name when Jake Callahan hired him to work for Sanctuary. His family’s Mafia connections lead to the death of his parents and sister, leaving him completely alone at a young age.  Using only his ingenuity and high IQ, Manny finagled a interview with Callahan at MIT, was hired, and never looked back.  Manny is a wonderful mess of contradictions, small, introspective, highly confident in his abilities in a variety of subjects from computers to guns, and until now, content to be alone with his computers or with his Sanctuary coworker family. He needs an equal and Scott gives one to him in Josh Headley. Scott has created in Josh Headley a mirror image that causes Manny to rearrange his thinking and outlook.

Josh Headley is a wonderful character, equal to Manny in so many respects.  Here is a young man who idolizes his father and loves his mother with a bright future ahead of him until it all explodes as his father is arrested for murder and it turns out that his father has been a corrupt cop on the payroll of the Bullen crime family for over 20 years. Josh has lost everything and is forced into hiding with his mother. a situation he intends to get out of.  Josh is bitter and sullen even before he finds out that the boyfriend he was forced to leave behind was in fact just using him for information for the Bullens.  Scott makes Josh very real in his distrust of others, hatred for his dad along with the pain of a son who remembers the loving father in his family memories. Josh is hurting and lashing out, something we can all relate to and empathize with. In fact, he is one of the most relatable characters in the series, pain filled, frustrated, tired and bitter. Josh is taller than Manny but doesn’t see that as an advantage over Manny. This is not a case of true love but rather an attraction built on physical need and the recognition that their mental intellects mesh rather well. I really likes how true that felt. Looking at their backgrounds and their present realities, neither man is a candidate for a “instant love” relationship and the author doesn’t make the mistake of trying to give us one.  Instead, Manny and Josh are realistically looking at what is possible for the future for them.  Every part of the Manny/Josh duo just smacks of authenticity.  Scott also brings back Morgan and Nik from Guarding Morgan, the first book in the Sanctuary series and the one that  starts off the Bullen investigation. A perfect touch in a story bringing all events and people full circle.

Full Circle also brings to a close case of the Bullen crime family that started in Guarding Morgan.  During the investigation into the Bullen family activities, several Sanctuary agents have been shot, evidence has been tampered with, people have vanished, each new lead taking them to new crimes and new accomplices until it ended with uncovering a FBI mole that had acted as liaison to Sanctuary in Clear Water, Sanctuary #4. Scott neatly ties together all the threads from each book into an ending deserving of such a convoluted investigation.  I wanted to see the Bullens brought to justice and Scott delivered that in spades.

But this is not the end of the Sanctuary series as RJ Scott leaves us with an escape and promise of more to come from Sanctuary and its agents.  And for that I am grateful.  There are several mentions of my favorite couple, Dale (a Sanctuary agent) and Joseph, a Navy seal, whose sister’s murder started the investigation. Manny mentions that Dale received a text from Joseph saying he was going deep with his unit for an unknown amount of time. They have a HFN relationship, the only one possible given their responsibilities, but Scott has given us an indication that there is more coming for them.  And Jake Callahan, the owner and CEO of Sanctuary is due for his own story as well. So while it is goodbye and good riddance to the Bullens, more Sanctuary tales are on the horizon.  I can’t wait!

Cover: Reese Dante delivers another great cover for Sanctuary, those models perfectly fit Manny and Josh.  Great details all around.

Sanctuary Series in the order they should be read in order to fully understand the Bullen Family conspiracy and the characters involved:

Guarding Morgan, Sanctuary Series #1 – rating 4.25 stars

The Only Easy Day, Sanctuary Series, #2 – my review here

Face Value, Sanctuary Series #3my review here

Still Water, Sanctuary Series #4 my review here

Full Circle, Sanctuary Series, #5

The Week Ahead and a Rant About the Weather

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So, here it is Sunday and my power just came back on after a storm called a Delrechos, a powerful storm that moves in a straight line, gaining power as it crosses into high temperatures and humidity, happens usually every 4 years.  Our time was Friday night and the storm came out of Ohio and the Midwest, doing damage there before almost wiping out the MidAtlantic states power structure in 1 night.  I am getting  this out now but come Monday and no blog, well, that just means our power went out again.  Over 4 million people at one time without power, now down to around 1.4 million, most won’t get power back until July 6th.  And we also have water problems as the pumping stations went down as well,of course.  What a fragile thing our infrastructure is.  Mother Nature 1, Humans 0.  So I am getting this out, then off to take a shower and grab a hot meal  then sit in front of a vent.  Ah, the pleasures of life in our century. I do not take them for granted.

So, keeping fingers crossed, here is the schedule for the week ahead:

Monday:                      Places In Time  by C. Carden0

Tuesday:                       Just What The Truth Is by C. Cardeno

Wednesday:                 An Honorable Man by Edward Kendricks

Thursday:                     Full Circle by RJ Scott

Friday:                           One Last Kiss Goodbye by N.J. Nielson

Saturday:                       Surprise Book – the surprise being the power stayed on for me to write another review!

 

 

So I am outta here!  Stay cool, stay powered, and have a wonderful 4th of July for those that live in the United States!

 

 

Review of Still Waters (Sanctuary #4) by RJ Scott

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Adam Brooke is just coming off a Sanctuary case guarding a true slimeball and looking for some downtime when his boss pulls him into the largest investigation that organization has ever faced – the Bullen case.  Sanctuary is still guarding the two main eye witnesses against the Bullen family and now the FBI wants to take over both the investigation and the witnesses themselves.  Adam is to be the Sanctuary liaison with the FBI, a job he hates given the fact that the FBI forced him to resign after accusations he was “dirty”, his pain only compounded by the fact that his accusser was his Bureau partner and lover.

Lee Meyers is a straight up FBI agent assigned as the Bureau liaison to Sanctuary, an independent security agency in possession of two key witnesses to the high profile Bullen case.  Lee is aware that his ex-lover, Adam, now works for Sanctuary and hopes the case will finally give him the answers to Adam’s betrayal in the past.  Can Lee work past Adam’s animosity and Adam get through his anger and pain long enough to get the evidence both agencies need in order to solve the case?  Or will their past bring the case down around them?

Still Waters continues the story arc of the Bullen family  who are steeped deep in crime and politics.  And with each book, the case against the Bullens gets more complicated with sticky threads like those of a spider’s web stretching out to larger events and more characters than initially thought.  I love this part of the Sanctuary series. Just as you think Sanctuary and its agents have the case solved and the witnesses protected, another murder, another double agent or double cross pops up and all bets are off.  Still Waters moves the Bullen investigation forward only to see the organization retreat in the face of insufficient evidence and  increased pressure by the FBI to turn the case over to them.  We still don’t know the identity of the FBI mole but as a government agency the FBI has powers of authority that Sanctuary, a private firm, does not.  So the threat of the FBI takeover contributes to the mounting sense of anxiety for the reader as the book continues.  The threat the FBI poses is even more dangerous considering that the two men held in protective custody are Morgan (Guarding Morgan) and Beckett Jamieson aka Robert Bullen from
Face Value.  Morgan and Beckett have also become lovers to Sanctuary agents and we have come to love both couples as the saga continues.

Each new book introduces us to a new Sanctuary agent and their potential/past lover.  In Still Waters, we meet Adam Brooke, a former FBI agent falsely accused of misconduct by his lover and FBI agent partner Lee Meyers.  I loved Adam Brooke.  Filled full of bitterness at his betrayal by the FBI and the one person who should have stood  by him, his pain and loss are evident in his caustic manner and aggressive style.  Adam is a totally believable character in every respect, including his love for Lee.  He hates that he still has feelings for him  and it makes him cold and ruthless in his dealings with those outside the firm.  I think my problem with Still Waters is that where Adam seems fully realized, Lee does not, mostly due to Lee’s backstory.  Lee comes across as naive and filled with an idealism for the Bureau that would be fitting in a Rookie agent. But the storyline is that he has been an agent for years. For me that naive rigid outlook of Lee’s just seems unlikely for the seasoned agent he is supposed to be. Also when Lee is promoted to the Bureau’s Internal Investigation unit early, he doesn’t realize how his actions would effect his agent partner/lover.  Really?  Anyone in an internal investigations unit knows how they are perceived by other members of the department. For the reader to like Lee, you must be able to empathize with him, but his actions with regard to his lover make that hard as does his continuing belief that Adam really is “dirty”.  Lee just does not add up on so many levels, that at parts of the story I just wanted to see Adam dump him and find someone more worthwhile.  I can’t reveal more about Lee and his situation without going into spoiler territory which I won’t do.  I just wish RJ Scott had made Lee a rookie, complete with rookie mistakes.  That would have changed everything for me, including his believability and my ability to like him.  So let’s just say I am in love with half of this couple.  Of course, it would not be a Sanctuary novel without the appearances of agents from past novels, so we meet up with Kayden and Dale again as well as Manny, their IT genius.

But the real star of this book is the Bullen Family Investigation that is being stretched over the series.  So make sure you read the books in the order they are written. This is the only way you will meet the cast of characters mentioned all through the books and understand at least the starting points of the investigation. RJ Scott keeps one on the proverbial pins and needles here.  Just when you think you know who the mole is and that the investigation is wrapping up, the author throws more mysteries at you.  The criminals behavior is not what it should be, more shadow players are lurking in the background, and what is going on at Ops?  Still Waters ends but the Bullen Families crimes are still being uncovered and nothing is wrapped up.  I love that!  Book #5 is called Full Circle and RJ Scott has said that Sanctuary is a 5 book series.  But I can’t see how this convoluted case can be wrapped up in one book and I hear rumblings about another book with Dale and Joseph from The Only Easy Day which would make this reviewer’s day and then some.  So here I am waiting in anticipation for the Bullens to be brought to justice and Manny’s story.  I am confident that RJ Scott will give us another great read, and give Manny a lover worthy of such a great quirky character.

Cover: Artist Reese Dante.  I love that there is  continuity in using some of the same models throughout the series covers as the same characters popup  in each story.  Great cover, wonderful stories.  Perfect matchup.

Books are in order they are written:

Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1) by RJ Scott

The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2) by RJ Scott

Face Value (Sanctuary #3) by RJ Scott

Still Waters (Sanctuary #4) by RJ Scott

Full Circle (Sanctuary #5) by RJ Scott  (coming soon)

The Week Ahead and a Great Recipe for Stuffed Cabbage!

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What an outstanding day here in Maryland!  Sky is blue, air is cool and crisp,  The day will be perfect for turning off the overworked air conditioners and opening the windows.  Payment indeed for the 7 tornados and torrents of rain that hit us on Friday.  Yes, that was 7 tornados touching down all over from Frederick, MD to Northern VA.  What is going on with our weather?   But today is a gift I am going to take advantage of and head outside to read and take pictures of the garden.

Let’s look at what is coming up this week.  Sorry all, things came up that pushed back my next installment of VGB.  It will be posted at the end of this week.  Last week was a banner week with wonderful books from great authors.  For those who missed it, Saturday’s substitution was Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison. New author, first book in a new series. Loved it! This week will be some new authors for me as well as a continuation of a series I just love:

Monday:                Still Waters, Sanctuary #4 by RJ Scott

Tuesday:                Seizing It by Chris T Kat

Wednesday:          Murder at The Rocking R by Catt Ford

Thursday:              Five Star Review by Lara R Brukz

Friday:                   One Small Thing by  Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea

Saturday:               New Vocabulary Gone Bad!

Now for a great recipe that can be used as a main course or secondary dish.  I just love this one. It came from Laura Calder again.  Can’t go wrong  with her recipes or her quirky show French Cooking At Home.  Great taste and the presentation is so pretty! And it is easy to make.  What’s not to like?

Stuffed Cabbage:

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
1 medium or 2 small savoy cabbages (about 1.5 pounds)
3 ounces white bread
About 1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 pound trimmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
A few handfuls fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon quatre-epices, more to taste, recipe below
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 pound pork sausage meat – I like to use sweet Italian

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt it generously.

Core the cabbage. Gently peel away the leaves to expose the heart (by heart, I mean the ball of more yellowish leaves at the center which are too tightly packed to bother prying apart). Cut out that core of inner-most leaves and shred to add to the stuffing. Cut the thick ribs out of the remaining leaves (they will look like you’ve stolen a sliver from a pie). Set aside.

Blanch the cabbage leaves for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, and refresh under ice-cold water. Drain and pat dry with a towel.

Break the bread into crumbs in a bowl, pour over the milk and set aside to soften. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet and gently fry the onion and shallot until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the bread and cook until the milk has evaporated. Stir through the quatre-epices and season generously with salt and pepper. Add this mixture to the sausage meat in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork. Make a small ball and fry it in the frying pan. Taste it to check the seasonings. Adjust as needed.

Lay a tea towel on the counter with a piece of cheesecloth or muslin large enough to wrap the cabbage in. You’re going to reconstruct the cabbage, but with layers of stuffing between the leaves. So, first lay down the large outer leaves, in a circle, slightly overlapping with the prettiest side out. Spread over a layer of stuffing. Lay over another layer of leaves and repeat the action. Continue until you have run out of leaves. Pull up the edges of the cheesecloth, like a bag, and twist, as if making the head of a puppet, to shape the cabbage into a round loaf shape. Tie a string around the beard of cheesecloth where it meets the cabbage ball, to secure the package. The cabbage can be prepared to this stage in advance, refrigerated and then cooked before serving.

To cook: Steam the cabbage over water or good chicken stock (about 2 cups) for 45 minutes. The flavor from the stuffed cabbage will drip into the water or stock and give it the most amazing flavor. When the cabbage is done, boil down the cooking juices and serve a spoonful around each wedge of cabbage in a soup bowl.

Quatre Epices or Four Spices (a common French spice)

1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorns ground
2 tsp whole cloves ground up
2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger

Review of Face Value, Sanctuary #3 by RJ Scott

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Rating: 4.5 stars

As the Bullen Family conspiracy continues to unfold, Beckett Jamieson, aka Robert Bullen, is recovering in a Sanctuary safehouse from the beating his father and uncle gave him.  Dale McIntyre, a Sanctuary Agent, along with Joseph Kinnon (The Only Easy Day, #2)rescue him, kill his Uncle and arrest his father.  When Beckett awakens, he’s blind and alone with Kayden Summers in a house in the middle of the woods.   Dale McIntyre, his only safety line and contact, is gone, off on another assignment.  Kayden Summers is both a Doctor and field agent for Sanctuary.  But when everything Beckett has known has turned out to be false, can he trust someone he can’t see to keep him safe?

In Face Value, RJ Scott continues to unravel the story of the powerful Bullen family while introducing us to new Sanctuary agents and people involved in the Bullen family past.  Beckett Jamieson turned 21 and immediately found out that his life has been one subterfuge after another. Isla and Derek Jamieson were not his biological parents, and his real name is Robert Edward Bullen, scion of the  powerful and wealthy Bullen clan.  Austin Mitchell, lawyer and friend of his biological mother, Emma, hands him a letter and a box with his initials on it that change his life forever. Soon he is embroiled  with the FBI, murder, the Bullens and of course, Sanctuary.

I love a good mystery and here is one that has stretched out over three books and looks to continue on as there is no resolution in sight at the end of Face Value.  Once again, the author has done an incredible job of bringing us a variety of interesting characters, from endearing to malignant, in a mystery that deepens with each book. Beckett Jamieson is that perfect combination of innocence and determination.  Just 21 when everything he knows is upended, his frustration, fear, and bravery endear the reader immediately starting with the first chapter.  Here his uncle and father find him snooping around his mother’s old room, looking for incriminating evidence against them for the DA.  Your heart pounds along with his as he realizes he’s been discovered and they are not buying his story. And then the beating starts, and I felt sickened until just as he passes out he hears the sounds of a rescue in progress.

When Beck wakes up, he’s been transported to a safe house, he’s temporarily blind due to his beatings, and his only companion is Dr. Hayden Summers.  So realistic is the scene where Beck slowly returns to consciousness you are right there feeling his confusion, and then mounting apprehension when he can’t open his eyes which turns to terror upon the realization he can’t see.  He’s helpless and can only barely hold on as a calm voice tells him the blindness is  temporary, and to trust him.  The voice of course belongs to  another multilayered character,  Hayden Summers.  He’s just turned 26 but mentally and emotionally far older due to his back story. Hayden was raised in a compound by a loving but unstable father (think Waco, TX without the religious overtones). When the compound is raided, his father dies, and Hayden is taken by the founder of Sanctuary and raised with his son.  A complicated background makes for a brilliant and complicated young man.  As Hayden cares for his young patient, he is both impatient to be away in the field and away from Beckett to whom he is drawn.  He is a brilliant Doctor, martial arts expert, gay and sarcastic son of a bitch outside of his doctor  persona who shies away from emotional attachments.  It’s a delicate dance of trust and attraction between two young gay men under stressful and potentially deadly conditions.  And RJ Scott has done a great job of making their waltz towards a relationship remain grounded in real life expectations while allowing the possibilities of romance to grow.  The characters here never lose sight of their goals, there is no instant love, just the hope of more if they can just keep Beck alive. And the twists and turns the plot takes will take your breath away and make your heart stop just when you think they are safe.

As I got to the end of Face Value, I immediately wanted to reach for the next book.  And then the one after that. I want to know more,  I want more of Beck and Hayden (they are that interesting and they deserve it).  I want to see the Bullen family pulled down and justice served.  Of course, I also want more Dale and Joseph (The Only Easy Day), as well as Nik and Morgan from Guarding Morgan.  Book by book, RJ Scott is building my Sanctuary addiction and now I can’t wait for the next one.  The next couple.  And perhaps a glimpse of those we have already met and loved.  Mission accomplished, RJ Scott, a job well done.

Cover:  Reese Dante is the cover artist. Love this cover.  The model is the perfect Beck.  Great cover design for a wonderful story.  Grade A.