Colleen Thompson: The Off Season

Colleen Thompson’s latest romantic suspense novel, The Off Season, is set in a small Jersey shore community, Seaside Creek, in the winter. The tourists are gone, leaving their summer mansions to sit empty, risking vandalism and worse. Dr. Christina Paxton, recently widowed, has returned to her hometown to work in the emergency room of the local hospital. Thanks to her real estate agent mother, she’s also house sitting, living with her two-year-old daughter, Lilly, and a retired racing greyhound called Max.

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the-off-seasonThen one night Christina hears words no one could expect to hear from a two-year-old child. “Murder me,” Lilly says. “Bad people.” Lilly’s strange words continue with names and references that take Christina back thirty years, to terrifying memories that no one else could possibly share. Strange dreams, voices through Lilly’s baby monitor, and vandalism drive Christina back into contact with Harris Bowers, once her high school classmate and summer fling, now chief of the small Seaside Creek police department, the last person from her cloudy past Christina would choose to depend on.

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Harris has his own set of problems: the physical after effects of an explosion, a recent not-very-amicable divorce (from Christina’s old friend and recent baby sitter), and a spate of crime in Seaside Creek. He would like to mend fences with Christina, but the barriers erected in the past may be insurmountable.

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As the dangers around her multiply, Christina has no idea who she can trust, least of all herself, as she struggles to keep the secrets of her past, even when those secrets may be at the root of all that threatens her, and her child, in the present.

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The Off Season may be Colleen Thompson’s best work to date (and she has written quite a few excellent romantic suspense novels). Not only are there multiple suspects who might be behind the threats to Christina and Lilly, but those possible suspects have motives ranging from the not-quite-buried past to the present. Add to that the growing tension and rebirth of attraction between Christina and Harris, and you have a true up-all-night read.

Lark Brennan: Irresistibly Yours

Irresistibly Yours is the second installment in Lark Brennan’s fascinating Durand Chronicles (after Dangerously Yours), romantic suspense with more than a touch of the paranormal.

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Irresistibly YoursWhen Tate Fulbright wanders into a shop in Paris, looking for an entomological collection she’d heard about from her scientist mother, she finds instead an amazing collection of taxidermied animals, as well as Adrien Durand, who seems just as amazing to a girl from Indiana, in the City of Light for a pharmaceutical convention. But despite her inexperience with the high society and wealth that Durand represents, Tate isn’t just another tourist from Indianapolis. She communicates with animals at a deep level, hears voices in her head, feels the emotions of the crowds around her, and has no idea where these abilities—or disabilities—come from.

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Adrien Durand, head of the far-flung Durand clan and its many commercial and charitable interests, doesn’t know where Tate’s talents come from, either, and that worries him. Is she a wild talent, or someone sent to spy on the Durands by one of the other psychic clans, some shaky allies, some outright enemies. For the Durands and their counterparts fight a long and continuing battle to either protect or enslave the ordinaires of the world.

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Adrien finds himself increasingly attracted to Tate, but his responsibilities—and his family—throw barriers between them. Tate has her doubts, too, tossed as she is into a world she never suspected and doesn’t understand. But Adrien’s world may hold the answers to the mysteries in her head, and give her a new purpose in life—if they can both survive.

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The world of the Durands, with its wide array of psychic powers, Protectors and Dissemblers, and family connections—and secrets—going back generations, expands with each installment. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Sarah Andre: Tall, Dark, & Damaged

Tall, Dark & Damaged, Sarah Andre’s second romantic suspense novel (after Locked, Loaded, & Lying) is even better than her first. Her damaged hero, Devon Ashby, has returned to Chicago for the first time in twelve years, since he ran from his wealthy but highly dysfunctional family to build his own life—and his own successful real estate development firm—in New York City. He expects to sign for the trust fund left him by his long dead mother and return to his wealthy and socially active fiancee in short order.

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Tall Dark and DamagedHe doesn’t expect the shocking surprise his vengeful father has for him, which may spell the destruction of everything Devon has worked for.

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When Devon left Chicago, he left his high school sweetheart, Hannah Moore, behind, never quite understanding why she refused to go with him, cutting himself off from her as well as from his family, even dropping his father’s name, Wickham, for his mother’s, Ashby. Running into Hannah, now the owner of an art restoration firm, in his father’s house working to repair damage down by an unexplained fire, is as big a shock, and as disturbing, as anything his father has threatened.

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Tall, Dark & Damaged weaves the never-quite-forgotten relationship between Devon and Hannah with complicated business dealings and long buried family secrets. As Hannah fights to hold on to her business and provide a home for her aged and ailing aunt, Devon struggles to understand the feelings and reactions of Hannah, his siblings, and his father, both of them caught in a web of emotions anchored far in the past.

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Andre does a fine job of painting characters for whom the tragedies of the past and the struggles of the present combine to force them into situations that seem to have no solutions. Love may conquer all, but it has quite a fight to get there in Tall, Dark & Damaged.

Sarah Andre: Locked, Loaded, & Lying

Sarah Andre’s debut novel, Locked, Loaded, & Lying is a fast-paced, page-turning tale of romantic suspense.

Locked Loaded LyingLock Roane, known on the professional ski circuit for his Bad Boy persona Lock and Load, doesn’t remember if he killed his girlfriend, Tiffany van der Kellen, almost a year ago. He knows he was found, covered in blood, with her body, and he knows he’ll be standing trial for her murder in a few days, but there’s an essential blank in that terrible evening he hasn’t been able to fill in. Even his lawyer believes he did it, and Lock is afraid it’s true.

Jordan Sinclair is a free-lance reporter searching for Lock, who has been successfully hiding from the public and press since making bail (under questionable circumstances) after the murder. A tabloid paper is offering a huge reward for a photo and article on the skier’s whereabouts, and Jordan desperately needs the money to pay off a dangerous blackmailer from her past.

 Lock and Jordan collide when she runs off the road while searching for the cabin where she suspects he is hiding, and he rescues her from a snow bank. Once safe in the cabin Lock shares with his brother Leo, Jordan claims she’s a private investigator out to prove his innocence.

Both Lock and Jordan are running from the past, Lock from guilt, Jordan from fear. Solving the mystery of Tiffany’s murder may be the only way for either of them to reclaim their lives—but will Jordan ruin Lock’s in the process?

The mystery central to Locked, Loaded, & Lying is deep and complicated, and Andre handles it beautifully. Sparks fly between Lock and Jordan from the moment she wakes up in his cabin, and burst into flame even as they try to hide their personal truths from each other. Will they discover the truth behind the murder before the past overtakes them? You won’t put the book down until you find out.