Lightning Reviews: Horror, Mystery, & a Contemporary Romance

We have another crop of Lightning Reviews and they couldn’t be more different. I also feel like I say that every time. In this edition, we have a historical fantasy/horror, a mystery/thriller, and a new-to-us author with a romance set in Hollywood!

Bombshell

author: C.D. Reiss

Bombshell by C.D. Reiss really took me by surprise in the best of ways. Based on the description, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d enjoy it. I’m not big on single parent characters and sometimes, with celebrity heroes, romances can often fall into the trap of including bitchy, rival female characters. Reiss is also a new-to-me author, but after this, I will definitely be checking out Reiss’ future books.

To sum up, Brad Sinclair is a big time actor (with a secret I won’t reveal). He slept with a woman before his career took off and it resulted in a pregnancy, one Brad knew nothing about. His former fling dies in a car accident and now he has to adjust to raising a five year old daughter.

Cara DuMont is a nanny extraordinaire. She’s really good at what she does, though she’d rather work for well-off clients in the business sector. She’s not looking to end up in the tabloids by nannying for a celeb. But Cara has a way with Brad’s daughter and he decides that he has to have Cara for a nanny. Cara is resistant, but agrees to a trial period to help Brad get his dad-footing.

The book opens with Brad’s daughter having a fit in the bathrooms after pooping her pants. I remember reading the scene in Starbucks and laughing to hard. Bombshell really does a great job balancing humor with the romance and I never once felt the daughter was merely a plot device. There are some great female relationships and even the villain is redeemed in a way at the end, which kept the characters from feeling too one-dimensional.

The cast can be dizzying at times, and I had a hard time keeping the names and connections straight. The ending also had a ton of problems thrown in at the last moment which affected the pace. Most of the book was spent with Brad and Cara fighting their feelings, so all this extra stuff at the end felt forced.

Still, I enjoyed it and I recommend Bombshell for those who like their romances a little less angsty and with a “found family” element.

Amanda

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Brimstone

author: Cherie Priest

Brimstone is a wonderful and scary story from Cherie Priest which combines themes of history, love, and destruction. Alice is a young woman who is a clairvoyant. She travels to the community of Cassadaga in Florida – a real place that was, and remains, a community for spiritualists. Alice has visions of fire and a malevolent force. Meanwhile, Tomás Cordero, a veteran of WWI and resident of Cassadaga, believes that his late wife is leaving messages for him in the ashes of mysterious fires that keep erupting in and near his house.

I love how this book captures time and place, and how it realistically embraces a protagonist and supporting characters of color. It is not a romance, but it deals with themes of different kinds of love and hints at a romance in Alice’s future. The creepy parts are very creepy and everything ties together seamlessly. As the owner of a small, timid dog, I particularly loved the depiction of the dog that Tomás reluctantly finds himself in charge of. Tomás has been grieving his wife so intensely that he can’t open his heart even to his closest friends, but over time he says, “I do not know how I lived so long without a dog.” The dog gives Tomás something to protect, and Tomás gives Alice someone to protect, and both find that the act of caring for another being forces them to grow. It’s an evocative, sweet, empowering story despite the horror the protagonists face.

Carrie S

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Gone Without a Trace

author: Mary Torjussen

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen is a psychological thriller with an intriguing premise, but the end doesn’t quite stick the landing.

Hannah is excited to get home from a conference to tell her boyfriend, Matt, about her upcoming promotion. When she arrives home, however, she finds all of Matt’s possessions gone. It’s as though he’s never lived there–even the sheets have been replaced by ones she owned before Matt moved in. His food is missing from the fridge. Understandably freaked out, Hannah checks her cell–Matt’s texts, emails and voicemails have been deleted. His social media accounts have been deleted too.

The total disappearance of her partner derails Hannah completely. He’s not at his job. His mother has moved and left no forwarding address–and to make things creepier, someone is sending her spooky texts from an unknown number.

Hannah is determined to find out what happened to Matt. If he did leave her, why? And why make it appear as if he never existed? She gets sucked further and further into the mystery and her professional life, friendships, and relationships with her family crumble as she falls down a rabbit hole of paranoia. Suddenly no one seems trustworthy, not her assistant who may be sabotaging her work, not her jealous best friend, not her violent, temperamental father.

If all of that sounds deliciously creepy, it is. The reason I gave the book a C is that while the build up is amazing, the resolution feels like it comes out of left field. I didn’t think there were enough clues to justify the ending and in some ways I felt cheated

Click for spoilers!
by a deeply unreliable narrator.

I should also warn readers that there are graphic depictions of domestic violence in this book.

The build up in Gone Without a Trace was so excellent, I just wish the end lived up to the expectations it created.

Elyse

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