Book Reviews, Murder Mystery, Mystery, Romance

BOOK REVIEW: Not Without Risk (Sarah Grimm)

Not Without Risk

Not Without Risk by Sarah Grimm is an edgy suspense thriller and sizzling romance. Featuring classic cars, police procedure and the outrageous twists and turns of the devious criminal mind, the chemistry between a sexy single detective and his prime suspect brings it all together. If you love cops, murder mystery and romance, you’ll be proud to own this book and read it again and again.

Paige had been a good Boston girl, obeying her parents right up until she balked at law school. Instead, she became a photographer and fell in love with a cop. Just days before the high-end client appointment that will set her career soaring, Paige gets a mysterious call that turns her world upside down – again. Not just because the caller ends up dead, not just because her own life turns out to be in danger from an elusive, game-playing madman, but also because the investigating detective is the cop of her dreams and she doesn’t date cops anymore after her fiance’s death.

Justin was the job. For thirteen years, he’d busted butt and stayed focused to earn his shield and make it home alive every night. Only to lose focus after a tough day on the job and not make it home. Six months later, his first case on his first day back turns out to be his undoing. Not just because he came back too soon and is still wracked with pain that’s exacerbated by job stress, not just because time is running out to solve the case and he can’t do it after reading through the file thirty times, but because his prime suspect is a devastating Boston beauty well versed in investigation tactics who could take his career and his life down with her.

Not Without Risk is the third book by Sarah Grimm that I’ve read and I can hardly wait for more. It’s evident from the start that Grimm has done her homework on police procedurals, classic cars and criminal behavior. And she weaves it all together so beautifully with her distinctive style, letting the romantic tension build between the MCs while the detectives and suspect/victim investigate in the aftermath of the worst kind of murder – a fallen fellow officer. If you bleed blue, get this book and tell all your friends, male and female. It’d be a great gift for anyone on the force and romance lovers alike. Enjoy the free excerpt.

Excerpt

“Sergeant Simmons, I don’t know if Justin has mentioned anything to you about my break-in last night?”

“He did and call me Allan.”

His attention appeared hung up on her face. Suddenly self-conscious, the urge to hide behind her sunglasses flared to life. She’d done her best to camouflage her bruising under a few layers of makeup. Had believed she’d done a credible job. His distraction made her wonder if she shouldn’t have just left it alone.

“Okay. Well, Allan, last night there seemed to be some question about whether or not someone had been in my home. This morning, I received proof.”

“What kind of proof?” Justin ran his hand through his hair and then shoved it into his front pocket in a move she was beginning to understand indicated his level of tension.

Briskly, she unzipped her laptop case. Without glancing at them, she passed the photos she’d printed just that morning to Justin. His steady stream of expletives, spoken under his breath, brought the tiny hairs on her arms to attention.

“Where’d you get these, Paige?”

“When I checked my e-mail this morning, I found them.”

Justin fell silent, a muscle flexing in his jaw as he flipped through the photographs one by one, studying each one individually before passing them to Allan.

“Look at the way the body’s positioned,” Allan said as he studied the first picture.

“Body?” Paige couldn’t stop the shiver that passed through her. “That’s not just any body.”

“It’s you,” Justin growled.

“Yes. You have to stop this guy.” The irony of this latest threat hadn’t escaped her. The fact that this man had used photographs against her—a photographer. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”

“The message is clear,” Allan began, taking the remaining photos from Justin and shuffling through them. “He took the time to manipulate her, but left her unharmed.”

“Is it? I’m not certain I’m getting it. If he wants me dead why—” Shock slammed through her system as his words registered. “Wait a minute. What do you mean by manipulated?”

“Did you eat or drink anything out of the ordinary last night?”

“No. No, of course not. Why?”

The expression that settled onto Justin’s face had Paige stepping back. Tension pulsed off of him in waves. His hand fisted against his thigh.

“Why?”

Allan looked up from the photographs in his hands. “These pictures are similar—”

“Frighteningly similar.”

“Yes,” Allan agreed. “To the shots we have from the St. John homicide.”

“Leroy.” Nausea rolled in her stomach as she saw him again, stomach down, sheet tangled around his legs.

It hadn’t registered. Not when she opened her email and discovered them, or later as she’d developed them. She hadn’t realized just what about those photographs froze her heart with fear. The thought that someone had been in her home, standing over her bed for God knew how long before she came awake was terrifying enough. But now…

The images shifted in and out of focus—images of her, deep asleep, face buried into her pillow, sheet riding low on her hips. Shock snapped across her nerve endings.

“N-no.” Her gaze swung between the two men. “The similarities don’t mean anything.” They couldn’t mean anything. This put a whole new spin on things. One she couldn’t accept. “I did not sleep through some…” What was the word she wanted? “Person positioning me like the body of one of his victims. That’s just how I sleep.”

Justin and Allan’s swift exchange of looks spoke as loudly as their silence.

“I’ve always been a stomach sleeper. The rest is just coincidence.”

“I believe this goes a step beyond coincidence.”

Buy Not Without Risk at Amazon.

Read my reviews and excerpts of Sarah Grimm‘s

Black Phoenix rock star romance series:

After Midnight and Midnight Heat.

About the Reviewer 

Belinda Y. Hughes is the Louisiana author of Blues in the NightLiving Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write in a variety of genres. Follow Belinda on AmazonGoodreads and Twitter.

Disclosure: I am a member of Sarah Grimm’s Street Team. I paid for my copy of this book out of my own pocket. Opinions are my own.

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Book Reviews, Romance

BOOK REVIEW: Midnight Heat (Sarah Grimm)

Just finished reading Midnight Heat by 2015 RONE finalist Sarah Grimm and I’m blown against the sofa cushions with a stupid grin on my face, speechless beyond “Wow!” And this is only Book 2 in the Black Phoenix Series. Goddess, help me!

The first time British rock star Dominic Price wakes up in Dr. Rebecca Dahlman’s ER isn’t the first time he’s laid eyes on the freckled redhead. Three years ago, he left her feeling like she’d had heart surgery. When the tall, muscular rock star with too-long black hair and a goatee walks into the ER on his own two feet, dressed to impress Becca, but popping female eyes throughout the unit, he jump-started her heart again. According to her father and his chosen mate for her, the best trauma surgeon in the state of California, they’ve got to stop meeting like this.

From Dom’s perspective, life before Becca was full with wine, women and song. Although music was still his meal ticket, family and one of his only two talents, the wine and women had become identical and meaningless. Becca had been the last, but neither identical nor meaningless, as Dom had found out the hard way over the last three years. Now he has a chance to make his amends and win her back. Can he do it without running scared again? Can he compete with her father’s idea of Dr. Wonderful? Can he claim the lifelong, trust-filled true love that two of his band mates have found?

What happens in and around all that? Well, no spoilers, rest assured, but here’s a juicy excerpt:

The last thing Dominic wanted to do was have this conversation with Rebecca. He never had this conversation. Not with interviewers, the other members of the band. Not with anyone. Talking about that time in his life would be equivalent to exposing a festering wound that never healed, then handing the person a knife to add another.

 

No. No way. Not going to happen.

 

He looked at her and had no idea what to say. No bleedin’ clue how to get her off this topic and onto one that didn’t require revisiting a place he tried very hard never to go. She didn’t want to hear about his childhood. That he’d been raised by his grandmother, a sweet woman who on more than one occasion had gone without in order to provide for him. That he went commando, something she’d once confessed to finding sexy, not based on comfort, but because food had been of greater importance than underpants.

 

Dom didn’t care to see the look of pity she would surely have if he admitted he’d been a loner, not by choice, but circumstance. Kids didn’t want to be friends with the poor kid, the one whose clothes were always a bit too big, a bit too small, or a bit too ratty. It was far more fun to make that kid the butt of jokes and ridicule.

 

“Dom,” she said with terrifying gentleness.

 

Well shit, there it was. Compassion. She knew there was something behind his silence and had already softened to it. “Like I said, I don’t remember.”

 

The soft look vanished beneath a mask of frustration.

 

He let out a long, slow breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.

 

She shifted away from the article, then wandered over to the wall of sales certificates, more commonly referred to as gold records. Hung in chronological order from their first album, Awakening, through Ascension and ending at Immortal. Three albums, three levels of success. The sales numbers and awards themselves didn’t seem to hold her attention, which shifted to the album art and corresponding official group photo. At each photo she would stop, lean closer, then run her finger over his image.

 

And each time, he felt it like a physical touch.

 

Every.

 

Single.

 

Time.

 

She turned to the wall opposite and once again he found himself letting out a long breath. This wall was safer territory. Much safer.

 

“Those are Isabeau’s.” Her awards, platinum and double platinum discs, for each of her four albums.

 

“She told me she used to play, but I never made the connection.” She tapped one of the awards. “I have this one.”

 

He did his best to keep his voice neutral so she wouldn’t pick up on his inner turmoil. “Most everything she owned was lost in a fire. Those were at her father’s place along with her piano.  She tried to lock them away in a closet when she moved here, but Noah wouldn’t have any of it.”

 

“Why would she want to lock these away?”

 

The same reason he didn’t like talking about his past. “Bad memories, I suppose.”

 

“Hmmm.” She kept moving, circling the room, finally stopping in front of the collection of guitars. “Which is yours?”

 

There were a few of his there, but the one he preferred was, “On your left.”

 

“This one? It’s beautiful.” She settled her hand on the headstock, trailed it over the tuning pegs and down the strings. She dipped the tips of her fingers into the cutaway not once, but twice before circling the neck and sliding back up.

 

Dominic shuddered, his mind conjuring images of her stroking something other than his bass.

 

“I thought basses only had four strings?”

 

He had to clear his throat to speak. “Traditionally yes, but you can get them with five, six, or more. It all depends on the range required, mode of playing, or just personal preference. That one is my favorite.”

 

“Because of the number of strings or the instrument itself?”

 

“Both. The small string spacing makes it a bit difficult to slap, but the neck is incredibly fast, and the tones I can crank out of it are bloody spectacular.”

 

She locked her gaze with his and gave him the ghost of a smile. Then slid her hand back down the neck, easing the tip of her finger between the strings and teasing the fretboard.

 

Christ. She was driving him crazy. He’d much rather experience her touch on his skin, the tips of her fingers slipping along the length of his erection.

 

There was only a few feet separating them and Dominic closed it. He covered her hand with his.

 

She rolled her eyes. “Are you one of those guys?”

 

“What guys?”

 

“The ones who get all over protective about their possessions. Especially their cars.”

 

“It’s not my car you’re stroking, Rebecca.” No, it was him. Literally and figuratively.

 

The instrument beneath their hands is what made him who he was. Saved him from poverty, a miserable childhood, and a lonely existence. Maybe not that exact instrument, but one like it. It woke him up to the skill he could have never imagined he had—a natural ability to create music and make people happy. It took him away. Made him forget.

 

It was an extension of himself. A part of him that no one, no one, was allowed to touch. Yet here she was. She’d picked up his guitar much like she’d picked him up. Without hesitation.

 

Dom stared at her, his heart pounding hard and fast in his chest as he was struck with the realization that she’d touched more than his bass. She’d touched a place deep inside him, filling a void he’d spent years pretending didn’t exist.

 

Buy Midnight Heat at Amazon.

Read my review and a free excerpt of

Black Phoenix Book 1: After Midnight by Sarah Grimm.

 

About the Reviewer 

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Blues in the Night, Living Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write more LGBT books in a variety of genres. Follow Belinda on Amazon, Goodreads and Twitter.

(DISCLAIMER: I am a member of Sarah Grimm’s Street Team. I bought my digital copy of this book from Amazon. Opinions are my own.)

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Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Black Phoenix One: After Midnight (Sarah Grimm)

A rock star on break from his comeback demo walks into a Long Island bar and sparks the heart of a beautiful piano virtuoso in exile from the music business. Black Phoenix #1: After Midnight by national bestselling author Sarah Grimm is edgy rock star romance done right.

What 40-something front man Noah Clark needs right now is to focus on knocking out his band’s demo on deadline to win a record company contract. What he especially doesn’t need is distractions, particularly not in the form of an exotic young bar owner who’s friendlier to his bandmate than him – and literally untouchable, even by her own father. But Noah keeps going back, even though he doesn’t drink anymore. When an intoxicated customer goes rogue, Noah is at last allowed into Isabeau’s world, for better or worse – and there’s plenty of both.

This is the first of Sarah Grimm’s books that I’ve read. It’s also the first in her Black Phoenix romance series, based on the eponymous rock band. The twenty chapters took me about 24 hours to complete, mostly spent on the edge of my seat. The plot is a fast-flowing river of steamy romance with thrilling murder mystery undercurrents. International, interracial and May-December brushes paint the character descriptions, as well as their professional talents, wisdom and conflicts. Settings flow from Long Island and New York City to London and California and back again. I very much enjoyed this story of true love and adventure and look forward to the next book in the Black Phoenix series.

EXCERPT

Isabeau Montgomery sat in the dimly lit bar and shook like an amateur before her first recital. Her gaze, blurred by the sudden threat of tears, settled on the keys before her. Her stomach cramped painfully, yet the need was too great to ignore.

With ability as natural to her as the color of her skin, she began to play. The waterfall of music filled the air, washed over her, completed her in a way nothing or no one else ever had. Against the razor sharp sting of memories, she fought…

She was young, vibrant, and born with a raw talent rarely seen. Classical, jazz, or rock and roll, she played it all. Loved all the genres—loved to create. All that mattered was her joy, her love for the instrument beneath her fingers and the music she was so skilled at creating.

For a good ninety seconds, joy returned, the rush of adrenaline and, conversely, the sense of belonging. In those seconds, time slowed, the lines between the past and the present blurred, and she was a child again. There was no longer pressure to be something she couldn’t be, no fear of what her future would hold.

And with the innocence of youth, no idea that everything she held dear could be lost in the blink of an eye.

The song built to a crescendo then quickly faded as pain, her old friend, returned with enough force to quash her joy. Her stomach roiled. Her breath caught.

Tears gathered in her eyes, and she dashed them away. Isabeau ran her hands up and over her face, pushing her long mass of ebony hair away from her forehead. She struggled to pull herself back together. Her fingers were chilled, cooler than normal, yet perspiration pooled at the small of her back. She closed her eyes, took a deep, slow breath.

“I didn’t expect that old thing to be in tune.”

Sweet Jesus.

She jumped at the deep baritone voice, slamming her knees into the piano. The key cover abruptly closed, and she startled again. Heart racing, she rose and faced the double doors she’d obviously forgotten to lock.

She swept her gaze around the bar’s dim interior until she spotted a dark, male frame. “The bar is closed.”

Her tone was sharp, curt, and left no room for argument. Under different circumstances, she wouldn’t inflict such rudeness on a customer, but he intruded on her privacy, her pain. Her emotions were too close to the surface for niceties.

His voice rang with a clipped British accent and the tone of someone unaccustomed to being questioned. “I was here earlier.”

She remembered the voice and didn’t need him to step out of the shadows to recognize him, which he did anyway. She’d served him a few hours ago—dark lager, no glass—and shared with him a smile as powerful as it was sexy. “We were open earlier. Now, we’re closed.”

His eyebrow shot up. His mouth shaped itself into an ironic curve. “So you have said.”

“Then perhaps you should leave.” Hands unsteady, she bussed the table closest to her and carried the glasses to the bar. His words stopped her cold.

“You’re very talented. How long have you played the piano?”

No, no, no. This wasn’t happening. She closed her eyes on a wave of emotion, doing her best to will him away. But even then she knew. The man at her back was not going away.

She focused her gaze on his reflection in the mirror that ran the length of the bar. He was tall and lean, with eyes that shone with intelligence, even in the dim light. His hair was a mix of medium and dark blonde, worn long enough it fell across his forehead, nearly into his eyes, and brushed the collar of his shirt. Dark stubble shadowed his jaw.

The fine hairs on her arm stood on end as he crossed to her. She edged to the side and turned to face him. “I don’t play.”

“Of course you do. You were playing when I entered.”

“You’re mistaken.” She countered his step forward with one in retreat, ensuring that she remained out of arm’s reach.

With a frown, he stopped. “You have nothing to fear from me.”

It never occurred to her to fear for her safety, even though the bar was empty but for the two of them, the lights dimmed in deference to the late hour.

“Let me start again by introducing myself.”

“I know who you are.”

“You do?”

Of course she did. He was the person who brought back her desire to create, whose presence in the room made something inside her sing out. He was the reason she’d been driven to play tonight, after years of resistance. The reason the siren song continued to play in her head, louder than ever before. “Yes, I do.”

“And I frighten you?”

“Of course not.”

“Then why do you tremble? You’ve gone pale and look as if you’re ready to bolt.”

She dodged his hand when he reached out as if to touch her. Her breathing grew shallow. She waited for him to comment. Instead, he casually tucked his hands into the back pockets of his jeans and rocked back on his heels.

His gaze moved around the room before settling on the piano. “What is the name of the song you were playing?”

The walls were closing in on her. Her body trembled so violently she was surprised her teeth didn’t chatter. “I don’t play,” she reminded him acridly.

She desperately needed to put some space between them. However, so far he’d countered every move she made. He moved again, stepped close enough she could make out the intense green of his eyes. It was difficult to hold her ground and not flinch as he took his time studying her features, his gaze lingering on her eyes.

She was not a beautiful woman. Taken separately, her features held the potential for beauty, but together, with her mix of cultures, she had a face like a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces didn’t fit together. Her cheeks were too sharp, her lips too large, and her eyes, pale enough they all but disappeared beneath the dark tones of her father’s heritage. Neither blue nor gray, her eyes brought her the most displeasure. Most people spoke of her eyes as “peculiar” and “haunted.”

Isabeau couldn’t handle such a reference from him. “What do you want from me?” she inquired before he could comment.

“That’s a good question,” he replied, more to himself than in answer to her. “How about your name?”

The way he looked at her made it very, very hard for her to look away. “Isabeau.”

“Isabeau.” His voice brushed across her senses like a lover’s caress. His hand settled upon her arm. His very large, very warm hand.

She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Trapped by the contrast of his pale skin against her darker, golden tones, her mind blanked. He dwarfed her, which at five foot three wasn’t all that difficult to do. Her heart raced. His scent snaked into her lungs with each breath she took.

The scent of him broke her from the spell and filled in the gaps. She shifted away from his touch, understanding what brought him back after closing. She’d found it, tossed carelessly into the corner of a booth—his black leather jacket. Soft as butter, it held his scent. Subtle, masculine, and just enough to stir her blood as she’d carried the garment into the kitchen for safekeeping.

Where, with no one to witness the act, she’d pressed her nose to the lapel and inhaled him.

Her cheeks grew warm. She shot him a look from under her lashes. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.”

She felt his eyes on her as she returned from the kitchen, and crossed to stand before him, his coat in hand. Felt them still as, without asking how she’d figured out what he needed, he removed the garment from her grasp and slid his arms into it. Finally, she lifted her gaze to his.

“I like your place, Isabeau.” His tone hinted he liked more than her place. And even though everything inside her screamed to get him out of there, it was impossible not to get a little bit lost. He was so inherently sexual that any woman would have to be blind not to be affected by his virile good looks and confidence. “Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.”

She watched him go, pressing her fingers against her pounding temples. As the door shut behind him, the pain eased, the noise in her skull dropped to a more tolerable level. Five minutes passed before she dared draw a deep breath for fear his scent lingered. She didn’t need further reminders of his visit. The music that pulsed through her system was reminder enough.

He thought he would see her again, but she knew he wouldn’t. Not because the chances of him returning were too slender, or even because a man like him could never truly be interested in a woman like her.

Because she’d been waiting thirteen years for someone to truly see her.

So far, no one had.

BUY & FOLLOW LINKS

Buy After Midnight at Amazon (psst! It’s FREE on Kindle today, Thurs., 5.14.15)

Amazon Author Page

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DISCLAIMER: I am a member of Sarah Grimm’s street team. Opinions are my own.

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2 and Living Proof. She recently submitted a paranormal scifi short story to HDWP Books for consideration in their New Myths Theme-Thology. Her current projects include LGBT erotica and poetry. Belinda enjoys beading, reading, writing, cooking and hiking in the woods with her old dog.

Follow Belinda on Facebook and Twitter.

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