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Monday, May 15, 2017

Iola Goulton reviews A LADY IN DISGUISE by Sandra Byrd

Iola Goulton reviews A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd


Amazon Description

In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father.

After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.

Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?

Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.

My Review


I wasn’t sure what to expect from A Lady in Disguise—the title didn’t seem to match the description (and the description ranges between somewhat misleading and coming uncomfortably close to revealing major plot points, in my view).

No matter. The review is of the novel, not the Amazon description.

And the novel was excellent. The balance was more on suspense than romance, partly because Gillian was never sure who she could trust—with good reason, because there were a lot of untoward events occurring and a few too many ‘coincidences’. The plot was complex, with many unpredictable yet satisfying twists.

The real strength of this novel was the research, which struck the perfect balance between comprehensive and unobtrusive. The setting was perfect in terms of details about the social customs and social issues of the time. Some of the descriptions brought back fond memories of my own time in London—it’s a city steeped in history, and it’s easy to imaging Gillian walking through Victoria Station or along Drury Lane.

Every detail was spot on, and a testament to the level of care taken in the planning, writing, revising and editing of the novel, and the importance of good first readers: Byrd thanks two English readers who “edit the work to ensure the characters sound English and not American, Victorian and not twenty-first century”. The effort is noted and appreciated, and made the novel a pleasure to read. I wish more American authors would take this level of care when writing historical fiction set outside the USA. (Or am I the only one who gets distracted by details which are inconsistent with the supposed setting?)

I also found the writing strong—I like the intimacy of first person point of view, although I know many readers don’t. The entire novel is from Gillian’s point of view, and she is a strong and intelligent character. I enjoyed the supporting characters as well, especially the irrepressible Ruby, who I feared for as much as Gillian did.

Overall, an excellent novel, and recommended for those who enjoy historical suspense.

Thanks to Howard Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Reviewer Iola Goulton:

I am a freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon US Reviewer Rank that floats around 5,000 (and I'm in the Top 50 at Amazon Australia).

Monday, May 1, 2017

Iola Goulton reviews PURSUED by Lisa Harris

Iola Goulton reviews Pursued by Lisa Harris

Amazon Description

Nikki Boyd's flight into Nashville was routine--up until the crash landing at the airport. When the dust settles, Nikki discovers that the woman who had been seated next to her on the plane is missing--and no one will admit she was ever there. Erika Hamilton had been flying to Nashville with an air marshal as a key witness in an upcoming grand jury trial. When she flees from the crash, is she running from trouble or straight into it? Before Nikki can even see her family, she and her team are pulled into a missing persons case where the motives are as unclear as the suspects.

Bestselling and award-winning author Lisa Harris has planted danger around every turn in this can't-put-it-down thrill ride that will leave readers stunned.


My Review

Pursued starts with a bang, literally, as Nikki Boyd’s plane crashes. No one notices the woman she was sitting beside disappear in the confusion following the crash, and when Nikki questions investigators, they seem to think she is traumatised and hallucinating, because the flight manifest says the seat next to her was empty.

That’s soon cleared up, and now Nikki has two days to find the missing Erika Hamilton. The race is on, and the pace never lets up. There are constant twists and turns as Nikki and her partner follow a trail of clues to find Nikki … and realise she’s not the only person they need to find. It’s a great plot, and a great read.

Pursued is the third book in The Nikki Boyd Files, and I hope it’s not the last! The series has an overall storyline of Nikki joining the police force to find her younger sister, who went missing ten years ago. There is also the romantic element, with her developing relationship with Tyler, the husband of Nikki’s dead best friend. I’d like to see these storylines resolved before I say goodbye to Nikki.

Pursued is a standalone novel and you don’t have to have read the earlier books in the series to understand it. But if you’re a suspense fan, you’ll want to read them all and it would be best to read them in order: Vendetta, then Missing, then Pursued. Recommended for all Christian suspense fans.

Thanks to Revell and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Reviewer Iola Goulton:

I am a freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon US Reviewer Rank that floats around 5,000 (and I'm in the Top 50 at Amazon Australia).

Monday, April 17, 2017

Iola Goulton reviews BEYOND JUSTICE by Cara Putman

Iola Goulton reviews Beyond Justice by Cara Putman

Amazon Description

Hayden McCarthy is on track to become the youngest partner in her prestigious D.C. law firm . . . if the case she's just been handed doesn't destroy her first.

Hayden McCarthy knows firsthand the pain when justice is not served. It's why she became an attorney and why she's so driven in her career. When she's assigned a wrongful death case against the government, she isn't sure if it's the lucky break she needs to secure a partnership—or an attempt to make sure she never gets there.

Further complicating matters is Andrew, her roommate’s distractingly attractive cousin. But Andrew’s father is a Congressman, and Hayden's currently taking on the government. Could the timing be any worse?

The longer she keeps the case active, the higher the stakes become. Unknown enemies seem determined to kill the case—or her. Logic and self-preservation would indicate she should close the case. But how can she, when justice is still just beyond her reach?


My Review

Cara Putman has a books published in a range of genres, including a legal textbook. Given that background, I guess it was only a matter of time before she moved from historical fiction and contemporary romance into legal thrillers.

I hope Beyond Justice is the beginning of a long series. Beyond Justice is the story of Hayden McCarthy, associate attorney in a major Washington law firm who has just been assigned a new case: the death of a Mexican teenager in government custody.

But the case isn’t going as planned. The victim’s mother barely wants to talk to her. His brother is afraid of something. Her boss is hiding something. Hayden talks her roommate into helping with some undercover research, and then there is Andrew, her roommate’s handsome cousin, who seems to be hanging around a lot … and who seems to have ties to her case.

Yes, there is a developing relationship with Andrew, but the focus of the story is squarely on the legal investigation. This does leave the romance a little undercooked, but it’s a legal thriller, not a romantic suspense novel.

And Beyond Justice is the perfect legal thriller—great characters, lots of action, plenty of twists and turns, and enough legalese to set the scene without it starting to sound like reading a court transcript.

Recommended for fans of John Grisham and Robert Whitlow.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Cara Putman at her website (and you can download a free copy of her prequel novella, which is also a must-read).

About Reviewer Iola Goulton:

I am a freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon US Reviewer Rank that floats around 5,000 (and I'm in the Top 50 at Amazon Australia).

Monday, April 3, 2017

Iola Goulton reviews IF I'M FOUND by Terri Blackstock

Iola Goulton reviews If I'm Found by Terri Blackstock

Amazon Description

In this riveting sequel to the USA TODAY bestseller If I Run, evil lurks, drawing Casey out of the shadows . . . but there is light shining in the darkness.

Casey Cox is still on the run, fleeing prosecution for a murder she didn’t commit. Dylan Roberts—her most relentless pursuer—is still on her trail, but his secret emails insist he knows the truth and wants to help her. He’s let her escape before when he had her in his grasp, but trust doesn’t come easily.

As Casey works to collect evidence about the real murderers, she stumbles on another unbearable injustice: an abused child and a suicidal man who’s also been falsely accused. Casey risks her own safety to right this wrong and protect the little girl from her tormenters. But doing so is risky and may result in her capture—and if she’s captured, she has no doubt she’ll be murdered before she ever steps foot in a jail cell.

My Review 

Accused of murdering her journalist friend, Casey Cox is on the run again, pursued by the private investigator hired to find her, and by the crooked cops who set her up. As with If I Run, we follow along as she attempts to prove her innocence. This time, she heads to Dallas to follow a lead, but again gets caught up in the lives of the people she meets.

Meanwhile, she is being chased by crooked cops who want to pin the murder on her, and a straight-talking PI who knows she’s innocent, but hasn’t worked out how to prove it … or who he can trust. If I’m Found is a well-written fast-paced action-packed read. If you read and enjoyed If I Run, or enjoy thriller and suspense novels, then I absolutely recommend If I’m Found.

But don’t read If I’m Found if you haven’t read the first book in the series, If I Run, because If I’m Found follows straight on from the end of If I Run and you’ll want to read them in order.

Don’t read If I’m Found if you don’t like books written in first person, because If I’m Found is written in first person from three different points of view. That will annoy some readers.

Don’t read If I’m Found if you prefer light romances where the hero and heroine experience only first-world middle-class conflicts and problems, like broken fingernails and not being able to connect to wifi. Casey has serious will-she-live problems.

Don’t read If I’m found if you want a story with a definite end. If I’m Found is the second book in the series, and who ever heard of a series with just two books? Yes, this book has a definite plot with a definite end, but it’s also part of a longer series with an overall plot arc that this novel contributes towards but doesn’t finish.

And don’t read If I’m Found if you’ve just paid for a manicure. Because this will ruin your manicure.

Warning: If I’m Found has some adult situations … well, what should be adult situations except the victim is a small child. Nothing is spelled out, but it still managed to get my heart pumping with anger, and I could absolutely understand why Casey chose to put herself in another potentially compromising situation.

A must for thriller fans!

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About the Reviewer


I am a freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon US Reviewer Rank that floats around 5,000 (and I'm in the Top 50 at Amazon Australia).



Monday, March 6, 2017

Iola Goulton reviews THE ILLUSIONIST'S APPRENTICE by Kristy Cambron

Iola Goulton reviews The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron.


Amazon Description

Harry Houdini's one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

Boston, 1926. Jenny "Wren" Lockhart is a bold eccentric--even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman's dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini's death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini's ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he's known as one of her teacher's greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton's defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren's carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her. Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age's bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist's Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life's stage.

My Review


This is Kristy Cambron’s fourth novel, and I am really hoping it signals a permanent change in direction. That’s not to say her first three novels weren’t any good—they were. The first two were dual timeline stories with a present-day plot that linked back to Hitler’s Germany They weren’t exactly my preferred happy-ever-after (see above comment re: Hitler’s Germany), but they were excellent. Her third novel also moved around in time, but was primarily a historical romance set against a backdrop of Ringling Bros. Circus. I’ve read and reviewed them all, and they were all excellent.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice takes what was good about each of Cambron’s earlier novels and steps it up a notch. It’s said that we are each a combination of the five people we spend the most time with. Well, Cambron is now keeping company with some of the giants of the Christian suspense world, and it shows. She thanks Robyn Carroll, Colleen Coble, Lynette Eason, Ronie Kendig, Michelle Lim, and Carrie Stuart Parks with helping her brainstorm … and it shows.

Wren Lockhart is an illusionist, apprenticed under Harry Houdini himself. Like Harry, she has never believed in people coming back from the dead (with the obvious exception of Jesus), so she’s more than sceptical when she visits a graveyard one New Year’s Eve to watch a man be raised from the dead. But she’s as surprised as anyone when a man climbs out of the grave … and promptly dies.

FBI agent Elliot Matthews is also in attendance, and now finds himself in charge of a murder investigation. While no one knows the identity of who died in the graveyard that night, it’s obvious that a man was alive and talking and then he wasn’t. It’s equally obvious that something untoward happened.

Elliott approaches Wren for help, but that doesn’t go as planned when they are pushed together at a society party and followed home by live bullets. But were they aiming at Elliot … or at Wren? Why? Is it related to the death in the graveyard or something else? And what?

The Illusionist’s Apprentice follows some of the pattern of Cambron’s earlier novels, as we are shown some of Wren’s background through well-placed flashbacks. But it’s also definitely a suspense novel, as the flashbacks gave both all the clues necessary to identify the evildoer and their motive … and none of the clues. The ending was a complete surprise, completely logical, and completely satisfying.

Overall, The Illusionist’s Apprentice was an excellent historical suspense/murder with a pleasing romantic subplot, and some fascinating insights into the world of magic and illusion. Recommended.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Reviewer Iola Goulton:

I am a freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon US Reviewer Rank that floats around 5,000 (and I'm in the Top 50 at Amazon Australia).

Monday, February 13, 2017

Iola Goulton Reviews STILL LIFE by Dani Pettrey

Iola Goulton Reviews STILL LIFE by Dani Pettrey

Amazon Description

Romantic Suspense's Rising Star Continues to Win Fans

Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright--and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart.

Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead--and the photographer insists he didn't take the shot. Worse, her friend can't be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat.

My Review 

I loved Dani Pettrey’s first series, which was pure romantic suspense, and set in Alaska. It reminded me of Susan May Warren’s Team Hope trilogy, or Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series, both of which I loved.

Still Life is the second novel in her new Chesapeake Valor series, and this series is a bit more like Terri Blackstock or Ronie Kendig. Each novel has the same set of characters, all involved in law enforcement in one way or another. The romance takes a definite second place to the action and suspense, and there is an overall plot arc linking the novels (and therefore means you should read the novels in order, starting with Cold Shot, to give you the background to the individual characters and their historical relationships).

I’d call these suspense novels with romantic elements rather than romantic suspense novels. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing (especially not for people reading a blog called Suspense Sisters!). Too much focus on the romance would be to the detriment of the suspense plot—the varying threads and the number of characters mean the added complexity of a romance plot could result in a complete mess.

As it was, there was enough to concentrate on with two or three couples investigating different aspects of the art theft and the potential disappearance of Avery’s friend, Skylar. That was an intriguing relationship—both girls grew up in the same trailer park, but Avery’s decision to become a Christian in her late teens meant she’d had a very different adulthood to Skylar, and the novel did an excellent job of showing this. It also did an excellent job of showing how the actions of the past impact on the present and future ...

The suspense plot was excellent, with multiple threads and plenty of red herrings, which made it difficult to work out who-dun-it, but the end answer was both obvious and satisfying. If fast-paced Christian thrillers are your thing, then you’ll enjoy Still Life. But do read Cold Shot first, because that will make Still Life all the more enjoyable.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Reviewer Iola Goulton:

I am a freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterest or Tsu .

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon US Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500 (and I'm in the Top 50 at Amazon Australia).

Monday, February 6, 2017

Beth Ann Ziarnik reviews BAYOU PARADOX by Robin Caroll


Beth Ann Ziarnik reviews BAYOU PARADOX by Robin Caroll 

Amazon Short Version:

It can cure you. Or it can kill you.

The untamed Louisiana bayou is not for the faint of heart. But until now, Tara LeBlanc has always considered it a sanctuary, its lush foliage a source of medicinal healing. What evil has infiltrated her haven? Two elderly women she loves lie near death, and Tara knows their illnesses are no accident.

Only one man can save Tara from the same fate: Sheriff Rene "Bubba" Theriot. The strong-willed lawman throws his all into protecting her, laying his heart on the line as well as his life. Now they both stand to lose it all as a killer gets ready to pounce….

My Take:
I’ve always loved Robin Caroll’s novels set in the Louisiana Bayou country. Readers get to step into an exotic setting populated by dangerous wildlife and people living in a fascinating culture while they fight to overcome life-changing threats. 

Take Tara LeBlanc. At first I was a bit taken aback by a heroine whose dearest ambition is to complete her training as a voodoo priestess, a long-time tradition in her family. Never mind that her sisters and grandmother have turned away from this part of their ancestral heritage and now prayed for Tara to do the same. Much as Tara loves her family, she’s also hurt and confused by what she perceives as a betrayal of something she holds dear. She determines not to make the same mistake.

But life has a way of upsetting the apple cart, and Tara is soon fighting for the lives of two very dear people while trying to get to the root cause before it’s too late.

Enter Sheriff Rene “Bubba” Theriot whose aunt is one of Tara’s two dear people. He’s well aware of Tara’s pursuit of voodoo and that his aunt is her teacher in that occult art. He’s also a very committed Christian. So what’s this attraction he feels for Tara in spite of the fact that she finds him annoying and he’s trying to keep a professional distance?

How Robin, a native of Louisiana, works out all the dynamics of her fascinating story is nothing short of amazing. An excellent read!

Note: Bayou Paradox is Volume 4 in Robin’s six-volume Bayou Series. The good news? Though this story stands on its own, those who prefer reading a series from beginning to end will be glad to know that Robin’s Bayou Series is complete and now available for purchase on Amazon.

About the reviewer:

A long-time fan and now author of romantic suspense, Beth Ann Ziarnik hosts a Web site for readers and writers of the genre. Her debut novel, Her Deadly Inheritance, won her the "Writer of the Year" award at the 2016 Write-to-Publish Conference. You can visit with Beth at her blog, follow her on Facebook, and friend her on Goodreads

Blog: https://bethziarnik.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorBethAnnZiarnik/
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/user/show/19295149-beth-ziarnik