Mystery/Thriller/Crime

Captured Soul – Laydin Michaels

Captured Soul - Laydin MichaelsThree women and a gallery show, all connected by complex relationships and the twisted art of a serial killer.

Kadence is recovering from a broken heart and excited about her first exhibition, until she realises the woman who destroyed her relationship is also exhibiting at the gallery. While she knows that Shiva’s bronzes are amazing they are almost too perfect and something about them, along with the disappearance of her ex, leads her to look a little harder.

Mallory runs a high end art gallery but feels under constant pressure to live up to the acclaim of her famous artist mother. She is caught up in a seriously manipulative relationship with the sculptress, who seems determined to play hard to get just to keep her guessing.

Sheva is a gifted sculptress with a twisted mind. For her nothing and nobody can stand in the way of her art.

Laydin Michaels has written a very unusual psycho-thriller. The setting is interesting, just beyond most of our knowledge but recognisable and intriguing as a backdrop. The whodunit is obvious from early on; the thrill comes from discovering the details with the amateur sleuth and not knowing if she will work it out in time to save the next victim. The crimes are bizarre but just believable enough to make this a very good story.

The three main characters are all strong in their own way. Kaydence is complex, damaged by a difficult childhood, she has learned to deal with her own issues. She is somebody we can all empathise with and root for. Mallory is less likeable, but as her character unfolds she becomes more human and less the hard-nosed gallery owner. Her relationship with her mother is clearly a defining force that she needs to resolve in order to break free. Shiva is dark, mad, complicated and ultimately evil. As we move between the three, using interior monologue and third person, Ms Michaels weaves a complex emotional and psychological web.

It’s well written, and with each book Laydin Michaels’ writing matures and her characters and plots deepen. The mystery/thriller story arcs are very well done and make a welcome change, something unusual to get your teeth into. For me the romance started well but became secondary to the thriller and I do think that this is miss-classified as primarily a romance when the psychological thriller is so much stronger.

Really enjoyed this and look forward to whatever twisted evil Ms Michaels comes up with next.



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Product info:

  • Paperback: 255 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (October 17, 2017)
  • ASIN: B075QWKWSN
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Beauty and the Boss – Ali Vali

Beauty and the Boss – Ali ValiA step away from the outstanding Cain Casey series “Beauty and the Boss” is an intriguing mystery/thriller/romance which pulls you in and holds on tight.

Ellis Renois is a NOLA born and bred fashion designer at the top of her game. She, with support from her exceedingly savvy mother and a host of friends in senior places, has built up a fashion label and empire that employs hundreds and stars on the Paris and NY catwalk while catering to the chain store requirements for well priced copies of her creations.

Ellis has never forgotten where she came from and every year gives an internship to one unknown designer to show them the ropes and set them on their way – frequently with disastrous consequences as Ms Renois finds it hard to resist a beautiful women. This year her attention is caught by the 9 y/o daughter of an applicant, and while Charlotte’s drawings are interesting it is the artistic Sawyer who really catches her attention.

So the stage is set for a traditional romance.. or is it? While we quickly get hints of subterfuge and backstabbing from people Ellis thought were friends and trusted to run her business, the evil intent goes much further than we could realise from the opening chapters, and Ellis soon finds herself fighting for her business and the livelihood of her staff.

Ali Vali BiogI love Ali Vali’s writing and this was no exception. The romance is charming, the combination of attraction and wariness is played just right, the charming Ellis is never quite sure where she stands while Charlotte is fighting the attraction to the woman who seems such a player, and Sawyer plays inadvertent matchmaker by her very presence.

The suspense/intrigue keeps on going, with multiple twists and turns, and the plot sustains our interest. People assume Ellis is less savvy than she is because she doesn’t like the detail of running a business, she is the creative genius, but that doesn’t mean somebody isn’t keeping an eye. As the plot unfolds Ellis finds out who she can trust and who are her real friends – and just how creative she can get when pushed into an ever-shrinking corner.

The characters are great, Ellis the seeming player with hidden depths, Charlotte who is almost too good, and the wonderful Sawyer who will steal your heart just as quickly as she stole Ellis’s. The secondary characters ae well drawn and while there are a lot of people involved and at times it feels almost overwhelming as to who did what and who pushed the buttons, that adds to the intrigue.. who exactly is behind all the misfortune that dogs the House of Renois this season?

As well written and creative as always, the descriptions of NOLA are particularly well done – I really enjoyed this… in fact I’m going to make the time to re-read it ASAP.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (September 12, 2017)
  • ASIN: B074TWK3VK
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Lightning Chasers – Cass Sellars

Lightning Chasers - Cass SellarsAfter a year together Sydney and Parkers’ relationship has deepened and solidified, despite their emotional baggage, but when a local cop and close friend is killed their worlds are turned upside down. Sydney’s connections to the local police force through her crime reconstruction business put her in the perfect place to investigate the death and leads them, and their friends, into a tangled world of corruption and deceit.

This is the second in the Lightning Series and leads us away from the more romantic start into crime, suspense and thriller; an excellent combination that allows the author to bring out the depths of the characters intelligence and showcase their various skills while continuing to build on their relationships and friendships.

It’s well plotted and thought through, with a complex set of players and events all based on a corrupt ring of people. The multiple threads are well managed and the arc works well, teasing with hints and building the detail while managing to conceal the exact who and what, to keep us on the edge of our seats.

Sydney and Parker continue to grow and deepen as characters. The investigation tests their relationship when it brings out issues about over-protective instincts and fear of losing a loved one, whether to an ex or as a repercussion from their investigation. The development of new characters adds interest and keeps the human interest going while remaining centred around the two main characters and their warehouse home.

Thoroughly enjoyed this, a great follow up and like the direction the series is going, I look forward to reading more from this author.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (September 12, 2017)
  • ASIN: B074VB52ZX
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Freedom To Love – Ronica Black

Freedom To Love – Ronica BlackThere is only one thing Brynn Williams has in common with Kat Vander and that is that Sergeant Vander sent Williams to prison.

Four years on and Brynn is released having served her time, she walks out looking for a fresh start and has every intension of staying out of trouble. Unfortunately her sister has other ideas and arrives in a stolen car and high as a kite.

Kat Vander and her partner are just about to run into trouble. Without help or support both look doomed, but help comes in the shape of the Williams sisters.

With the sisters hiding from the law can Sergeant Vander recover from her ordeal to help them out of theirs??

This is a great book. The police drama keeps you enthralled throughout but what I found captivating was the growing affection between the two main characters. Although they are both very different women, you find yourself holding your breath, hoping that they will find a way to be together.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (August 15, 2017)
  • ASIN: B0749QS9KF
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Rainey with a Chance of Hale – RE Bradshaw

Rainey with a Chance of Hale – RE BradshawWhen her former FBI partner calls Rainey Bell gets pulled into another old case, one where she made a promise she has failed to keep. She told a distraught mother she would find her missing daughter, a promise she should never have made and a pledge that has played on her mind ever since. When Rainey is asked to talk to the man she thinks knows the answer she puts her FBI/BAU hat on once again to solve a ‘cold case’ from her past.

The Rainey Bell series is one of the best out there, constantly new, fresh and imaginative, with shocking tales of human depravity set against the ongoing cuteness of Rainey and Katie’s growing family. After stopping her young daughter becoming a soccer thug Rainey goes to Butner Federal Correctional Complex with Danny to talk to a deranged inbred suspected serial killer, and Rainey knows which is harder – controlling her precocious 5 year old.

RE Bradshaw bioConsistently well written RE Bradshaw’s books are always extremely well edited and produced, perfect examples of how good independent publishing can be when done properly. The stories are engrossing, drawing the reader into Rainey and Katies’ lives, and the twisted and brutal minds of the killers the BAU deal with. Like many avid fans this one got consumed in one sitting. RE Bradshaw pulls you right in and shuts the door behind you.

While each book is very much part of the series they all stand alone, and this is certainly readable without the back history of the other books, but why would you deprive yourself of the pleasure? Unfailingly good stories, wonderful strong women, top notch crime thrillers and a backdrop of a charming ongoing romance. Simply the best in class.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 201 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: R.E. Bradshaw Books (July 10, 2017)
  • ASIN: B073VXL8FH
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The End: Sanctuary Series Book 1 – Cheyne Curry, Roselle Graskey

The End: Sanctuary Series Book 1 - Cheyne Curry, Roselle GraskeyLieutenant Jessica Baumer and Staff Sergeant Branna Maguire are locked down in an underground “lab”, undergoing an experiment in how they cope with isolation; one because the Army felt she didn’t cope well when cut off, the other as punishment for having some issues with the abuse of authority.

When they do a routine check of the outside world they realise life as they know it has ended, and it appears they may literally be the last ones standing. As comms become available they reach out and find others who have survived, but many are contaminated and others come out into the open too soon – there are no guarantees of survival.

As the air clears they too must leave their underground shelter in order to see what is left, gather resources and find a safe place to live. The old world order has gone, now only the strong survive, but even strength is no guarantee as gangs stake out territory and commandeer the meagre resources available. Can Baumer and Maguire make it to the sanctuary they seek? Do they have the skills to survive? How will they and those they meet carve out a new existence in a brutal new world?

Edge of the seat doesn’t even come close. This, the first in a new series of dystopian novels, is stunning in its intensity and breadth of vision. T wake up one morning and the world as we know it has ended, with a barrage of nuclear, neutron and chemical weapons essentially wiping out most of the world, and be faced with the overwhelming issues of survival. Literally breath-taking.

Baumer and Maguire are intriguing and powerful characters. They form a rock-solid core to the story and are the glue that we bond with. As their journey unfolds they meet others, equally well drawn, some they join with, others they leave behind, all stay in the mind as strong characters we are likely to meet again.

The journey is both gruelling and exhilarating. Tough both physically and mentally, they encounter horrors beyond civilisation. The world has literally reverted to the middle ages and the barbaric nature of man is revealed. This isn’t for the faint hearted, don’t expect an easy ride, it contains sex and violence, but is never gratuitous.

The authors’ background is obvious throughout and gives an incredibly strong sense of realiCheyne Curryty to the military behaviour and action of our heroines. But this is so much more than a story about some military adventure; the world building and vision of what could be the reality of a post-apocalyptic world is simply brilliant.

I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t want to. The only problem with it is waiting for volume two. Ms’s Curry and Graskey better be beavering away because they have impatient readers waiting. Even if you don’t normally read dystopian or fantasy of any sort, this book will intrigue and fascinate, keep you up way past your bedtime and inevitably ask the question.. how would I survive?



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bossy Pants (February 8, 2017)
  • ASIN: B06WLGFND9
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Under Parr – Andrea Bramhall

Under Parr - Andrea BramhallWhen a skeleton is found in a previously sealed up WWII bunker Detective Sergeant Kate Brannon is faced with a cold case which some intriguing twists. Scraps of women’s clothes on a man’s bones, different names on the labels, different sized shoes on the wrong feet. Kate isn’t sure they will ever find out who he was, let alone how he died and ended up in a bunker that has been sealed since the storm floods of 2013, but she is determined to do her best find out.

As the investigation unfolds the twists and turns become more of a puzzle, unusual activity at the golf course, above average deaths at the local care-home, and a series of clues that just make the detective’s radar ping.

Book 2 of the Norfolk Coast Investigation Stories series and the events of book 1, Collide-O-Scope, are still being felt in the fishing village of Brandale. Gina has recovered physically but emotionally the scars are deep. Sammy is having nightmares and being bullied at school by kids whose fathers are either waiting for trial or out of a job. The impact on Kate and Gina isn’t good either, Gina has withdrawn, and Kate doesn’t know how to get through to her.

As always Andrea Bramhall’s story arc are excellently thought through and executed. This is a solid detective story, occasional leaps of intuition and faith, but essentially the local “Plod”* following a series of interrelated clues and gradually uncovering how the events we see in the prologue came about.

The characters are becoming old friends, deepening as we get to know them, filling out details, colouring in history; their friendships and relationships growing over time. The police team has a new member who doesn’t quite fit and is definitely causing friction, but Kate and Stella’s friendship provides wonderful light relief and flashes of laugh out loud humour.

Sammy is particularly well drawn and the combination of childhood simplicity and trauma induced maturity is intriguing to read. Bramhall always manages to introduce a serious theme in her novels and here we have several; Sammy’s bullying, Gina’s emotional struggles and care-home abuse. However this is not a heavy book, these serious threads add to the reality without detracting from the gentle romance. The flashes of humour and the reasonably fast paced unfolding make it a genuinely pleasurable read.

Andrea Bramhall biogUnder Parr is set a few weeks after the events in Collide-O-Scope and while it stands alone as a story arc there is no doubt it is firmly part of a series; indeed we are left with a tantalising thread to carry over into book 3. I would definitely recommend reading them as a series, if you like romance/crime and excellent writing, this is one you don’t want to miss.

Set on the east coast of England these stories have a decidedly English feel, and are a delight to read. The characters are solid, the events fit the time and place, even the weather has a very English role to play. The angst is there but underplayed, the emotions and relationships are realistic and the whole is grounded in a very English setting. Midsomer Murders with a lesbian twist.

*Plod is English slang for the local police, affectionate although implying slow thinking and moving, comes from the old-fashioned Bobbies walking the streets with their slow heavy pace.


Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 289 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Ylva (May 17, 2017)
  • ASIN: B072HMT2DB
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Sawmill Springs – Gerri Hill

Sawmill Springs - Gerri HillWhen two new cops join the local force in Sawmill Springs nobody had any idea the small town would need their big city skills. Homicide detective Murphy has escaped from the drug wars of Houston to a quieter life, while ex FBI agent Kayla is returning home to join her Police Chief father’s force after a career turned sour.

Within hours of Kayla joining the squad the murders start, and before long the bigwigs of the town all seem to be in danger. While Murphy and Kayla have the skills, they are the newbies on the force, the only women, and the locals are not used to dealing with high powered women cops.

As the investigation gets more and more murky, touching on the lives of Kayla’s family and friends, the attraction between Kayla and Murphy grows, but despite her best efforts at flirting Murphy seems immune to Kayla’s obvious charms.

This is classic Gerri Hill; crime, cops, romance. Well written and executed with a great story line, Hill pulls you in from the start and immerses you in the life, death and loves of the small town characters. The pace is excellent, no thriller chases, but a strong ‘move-along’ plot that keeps you interested and waiting for more.

Gerry Hill biogThe main characters are great, strong independent and powerful women who have made it elsewhere and taken a step back to slow down and re-group. Both likeable and amusing, they bounce of each other from the start and their happy ever after is guaranteed, however long they take to get there.

The small town characters are amusing, interesting and drawn in with loving detail, the gossips and busybodies highlighting all the issues of living in a fish bowl. At times the clumsiness of the local cops did seem a little over the top, surely even they watch CSI, and I did expect our two heroines to kick off about the total lack of procedure, but maybe I misunderstand the politics of a small town police force and the authority of the Chief.

Gerri Hill fans will love it, and if you haven’t read any Gerri Hill where have you been? Always entertaining, she has a knack of quickly setting up a situation and giving a full story arc, while subtly developing her characters and building their connects through the action. Highly recommended – another great crime/romance from one of the masters of her trade – here’s hoping this is the first of a new series as I would definitely like more.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bella Books (May 16, 2017)
  • ISBN: 978-1594935503
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A Woman of Strong Purpose – SM Harding

A Woman of Strong Purpose - SM HardingBook two of the Kirkland & Pitt series set in McCrumb County, Indiana, finds ‘retired’ Marine CIS Colonel Win Kirkland and her new wife, Sheriff Sarah Pitt, trying to resolve battles on a whole host of fronts. Publicly they are deeply closeted because Sarah fears the backlash of the red county and losing her cherished job. Privately they have had nothing but support from those who know, and consequently Win, having suffered from the US Army’s policies all her adult life, chafes against the need to hide.

At the same time they have two major cases to solve. Sarah leads on finding a serial killer who clearly hates women. Win tries to help a colleague trace her son, only to be led into a high level game of spies, arms dealing, terrorism and torture. The cases are completely separate, but linked by the common theme of men abusing, using and killing women for their own twisted sense of pain or pleasure.

This contains some graphic scenes – we don’t get to witness the actual events, but the aftermath. And like the first book – a lot of sex. So if either aren’t your cup of tea then buyer beware.

The man characters are great, well rounded, complex and on deep personal journeys. The supporting cast is solid, growing in depth and breadth as we get to know them from both actions and words. The author has also portrayed a series of women with compassion and understanding, from the sex charged Pan the desperate Noor and the powerhouse Kemat, who makes such a brief appearance yet manages to dominate the book.

The story is well done, the arc and the balance between the three main story lines works well, as does the alternating point of view and voice from Win to Sarah, and thankfully the author avoids the pitfall of repeating a scene or explanation from both points of view. We occasionally get told both sides, but only from the emotional standpoint and only when both need a voice.

It’s fast paced and action packed, the local sheriffs department not only gains a SWAT team, the whole crew, including their retired army service dog Des, have all become action heros, swinging – literally – into action, rescuing damsels in distress and taking out the badies with barely a scratch.

And thats my only issue with the book, with the series. The action is great fun, but it does take a serious suspension of disbelief that these events all occur in one small town, targeted by a seemingly unending supply of serious criminals, terrorists and gun running middle eastern mafia, as well as a constant flow of top level MCIS and law enforcement agents. On top of all that the ‘bumbling’ local cops keep having to clear up, literally, for the MCIS. It feels almost as far fetched as a Clive Custler.

While it does stand alone it clearly makes more sense as part of the series as intended, the back-history of Win and Sarah can only be understood from having read both. It’s a great fun, breathtaking rollercoaster adventure with a serious undercurrent of the impact these adventures have on those involved, both physically and emotionally. Looking forward to reading book three.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

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Trial By Fury – KG MacGregor

Trial By Fury - KG MacGreogorTrail By Fury takes the ‘old boy’ attitude of Universities and exposes it for the outrage it is. Picking up on the ‘locker room’ mentality of Trump, MacGregor has written a fine piece of fiction to highlight the reality.

Performance Studies Professor Celia Perone is horrified when one of her pupils is viciously raped, humiliated by social media photos and then ignored by the campus authorities. When Celia tries to take up her cause she is threatened by the University. Hoping for a chair, but infuriated by the callous response of the administration, she is determined to take it further.

Theo Constantine is a high profile women’s rights attorney regularly contacted by the rich and famous for celebrity divorces, a champion of sexual abuse cases and the heroine of class action suits for inequality. When Celia turns up with her tale of an institutionalised rape culture Theo knows this is a fight she needs to take on, but recognises that there is slim chance of creating a civil case under the current Georgia statues.

Forging ahead with what is always going to be a controversial battle, Theo and Celia are determined to not just get justice for Celia’s student, but bring down the administration that has created such a monstrous system of sweeping rape under the carpet to protect its reputation.

KG MacGregorKG MacGregor has taken a difficult subject and made it into an extremely readable courtroom drama with a side order of romance. The stories of the women are horrible, the actions of the authorities are callous and uncaring, and yet Theo and her team care so much, and fight so hard, that we are left with a sense of fortitude and strength rather than depressed by the harsh reality.

The characters are solid, complex and passionate. The plot is full of fact and detail, well researched and unfortunately undeniably credible. The story arcs beautifully from celebration to celebration, yet keeps us on the edge of our seat with the angst of the battle, the facts of the situation, and the personal cost of taking up the fight.

The romance is definitely secondary, but adds a subtle lightness to what could be an overwhelmingly stressful story. Initially reluctant to engage for ethical reasons Theo cannot resit Celia’s passion for justice that so clearly matches her own. Yet it is ultimately that passion that will strain their relationship.

Excellent reading, highly recommended. Not an easy read in terms of the subject, but with iKG MacGregor’s first-rate writing style, fast paced action and a sweet romance this is definitely one of the books of the year.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bella Books (May 31, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01GAM5T3O
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