Megan Reviews Switchblade by Carsen Taite

When we last saw Luca Bennet, she and Jessica Chase were sharing a rather sweet moment, both rather tongue-tied as they stood at the precipice of moving from their long-standing friends-with-benefits relationship to something more. And then Ronnie Moreno (I spit out her name in disgust) shows up out of the blue, after involving Luca in a rather questionable case and torrid romance two books ago. I liked Ronnie when she was the romantic interest in Slingshot, but after she dumped Luca’s ass and the subsequent developments in Battle Axe, I’m firmly in the Luca/Jess camp and am fervently hoping Luca gets her head out of her ass and makes a good decision for once.

I hate cliffhanger endings when I read them, but love them when I have the next book in the series ready to crack open. I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on the latest book in the Luca Bennett series since I read the last screen of Battle Axe and, now that I have it loaded on my reader, I’m going to settle down while it rains this weekend. I’ll be back shortly to let you know my thoughts.

Switchblade picks up Luca’s life, a life in which the hard-boiled PI hasn’t met a bad decision she didn’t like, right where things left off and drags the reader on another headlong adventure involving investigating corrupt cops and a rather complicated love life. Ronnie’s asshole of a brother (must run in the family), is a recently promoted detective who’s just been accused of corruption and falsifying evidence – of course Ronnie turns to Luca to find the truth and exonerate him. Based on her previous run in with Jorge, Luca isn’t sure that the charges are trumped up, but as she digs in deeper she finds more questions than answers and wondering who she can trust. Wow…sounds like pretty good back of the book blurb.

I’ve always enjoyed Taite’s legal mysteries and her foray out of the courtroom with Luca as a rough and tumble bailbondswoman is a nice addition to her oeuvre of work…and I think I like them even better than the legal ones. As in the previous books, Luca’s approach is more “damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead” than Taite’s lawyer characters, but that gives the books a great sense of suspense – especially when you’re never quite sure what Luca’s going to do next and happily cringe as she charges headlong into the thick of things. She’s definitely not as refined, but being a bad girl with a gun is what makes Luca rather irresistible. And she certainly appears irresistible despite that she drinks too much, gambles excessively, spends a fair amount of time dodging her rent-seeking landlord, and scrounging through dirty laundry for semi-presentable t-shirts. But in the end, she’s a likable character and the first person narration makes it easy to fall in line with everyone else that succumbs to her charm. Luckily, Luca seems to be maturing as the series continues – and she’s giving a lot of her previous decisions second thoughts and trying hard to do the right thing once she figures out what that is.

I’d classify this as a detective style mystery – Luca does a decent job of tracking stuff down and making the connections and I wasn’t left with the feeling that there were too many loose ends or that things get resolved through a deus ex machina intervention. The plot is pretty fast paced and not a lot of extraneous exposition or non-essential elements slowing things down. Taite’s humour shines through, and that softens some of Luca’s harder edges. Only three people end up in the hospital, so the danger and mayhem factor was there but not overly excessive. Just enough to give it some grit.

There is a bit of a triangle – with Ronnie and Jess both pressing her for more, but it isn’t overdone and is balanced with the overall mystery and action. Kudos for not letting Luca get too angst-ridden – but then again, she isn’t a character that wrestles with angst. Even my favourite super secret squirrel federal agent with a stripper name pops up to stir the pot and muddy the waters of the investigation. For those who’ve read her other books, Ryan Foster and Brett Logan from Nothing But The Truth show up for a bit of a cameo and Taite handles it well in that they fit in the story, but don’t steal the spotlight from Luca. Sneaky since now I want to re-read that book to get re-aquainted with those characters. My favourite addition was Cash – who seems to ground Luca and steal all the scenes.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and it was a fun read – mystery, action, humour, and a bit of romance. Who could ask for more? It was a great story to wile away a dreary, rainy day and managed to quell my aggravation over Battle Axe’s cliffhanger. If you’ve read and enjoyed Taite’s legal novels, you’ll like this. If you’ve read and enjoyed the two other books in this series, this one will definitely satisfy your Luca fix and I highly recommend picking it up. And as to whether Luca gets her head of her ass and makes a good decision – all I’ll say is …. read the book.

Highly Recommended.

You can download a sample or purchase Switchblade by clicking here.

December Book Binge Weeks 2 and 3 – What I Did Instead of Going to the Mall

With the ridiculously fast approaching holidays, I’m finding myself increasingly less interested in venturing out of the house – especially when even getting a litre (quart for you Yanks) of milk involves an obscene amount of time spent circling in parking lots, eyes peeled for an open or soon to be vacated spot. I did do my time in retail hell – a few hours at the mall that was planned out like a Navy Seal mission (get in, achieve the objective and get out with as little bloodshed as possible). The last couple of weeks, I’ve had to the chance to spend some time on the couch with a big mug of cocoa and I’ve been digging out more books for my e-reader and *gasp* a few honest-to-god paperbacks that grabbed my attention.

Beyond Innocence by Carsen Taite

The newest from Taite, Beyond Innocence is a legal procedural. I’ve read most of Taite’s stuff and I have to say that she shines in this milieu and I do hope she sticks to this type of novel – not that Do Not Disturb was horrible, it didn’t hold my attention as much as her legal novels. When Serena Washington’s estranged brother writes to her from death row, she is compelled to do whatever she can to help save his life and contacts the Justice Clinic as a last ditch effort to help. There she meets Cory, a Dallas ADA who has been suspended for prosecutorial misconduct and is serving out her community service working for the “other side”. As you would expect, sparks and legal writs fly. What I liked about this book were the shades of grey (no, not the smutty Shades of Grey) – both in the relationship as well as the cases. As Cory keeps saying, whether about her own scandal or the cases she’s involved with, it’s complicated and sometimes the wrong thing is done for the right reasons – or what seems to be right at the time. The romance builds slowly – well, slowly for a lesfic – with lots of smoldering looks and with just enough angst to keep the two women from jumping right into bed. If you like legal dramas – pick this one up. If you don’t – read it anyways. I enjoyed it. Recommended.

Talk of the Town by Saxon Bennett

Nobody does quirky like Saxon Bennett. Somehow she has terribly implausible characters doing ridiculous things and I still find myself drawn into their lives and cheering them on. We’re introduced to Mallory Simpson in her therapist office, where she spends the session in an upside down lotus position, wearing pajamas and a tie. Like I said, quirky. The book follows Mallory, her best friend and unrequited love Gigi, and the various other friends as the navigate falling in and out of love. Bennett writes great characters who are funny and engaging and you can’t help but like them. She balances humourous dialogue and situations with and some interesting insights about relationships quite well. This is one of Bennett’s earlier books that I picked up through a sale at Bella and I’m glad that I did. When reading this one, I could see some similarities with the more polished Family Affair (freaking hilarious – get it) – but that didn’t detract from the book. If you’re looking for a funny, fast paced story that is engaging and sweet – pick this one up. Recommended.

Month of Sundays by Yolanda Wallace

Based on the promo blurb, I’d been looking forward to this book for the past few months. The premise just screams romance. Throw in a chef as one of the main characters and I was completely smitten with the storyline. Rachel Bauer, a reserved accountant who is recovering from a nasty break up, is set up on a blind date with Griffin Sutton, a gorgeous celebrity chef who is more than a bit of a player. After Rachel rejects her initial overtures, Griffin convinces her to allow her to try and woo her with a series of culinary trips around the world over a month of Sundays. Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed with the book overall. I still like the premise, but the execution just didn’t work for me. I had a hard time getting my head around what attracted the characters to one another in the first place and I just didn’t “feel” the romance even though it develops over a long (in lesbian terms) period. Also, the author has a habit of using pop culture references then explaining them in detail – which is a pet peeve of mine. Not necessarily a bad book – but not one that I enjoyed.

The Dragon Tree Legacy by Ali Vali

Although Major Wiley Grimallion is retired, she still keeps her black ops/sniper skills sharp taking on select “jobs” that require a more direct brand of justice. Settling into New Orleans, she receives a message from a long lost love, Aubrey Tarver, and is drawn into a violent confrontation with some rather nasty drug dealers. While Wiley and Aubrey deal with their unexpected reunion and the repercussions of Wiley leaving many years ago, there are a number of dark plots weaving themselves into a tight net around them. Nunzio, from the Devil series, is back, trying to ingratiate himself back into the drug trade in New Orleans, specifically with a mysterious and violent drug lord who has some rather dastardly dealings with Aubrey’s current lover. A rogue CIA agent is trying to strong arm Wiley into exterminating another drug lord/CIA asset in Mexico, leveraging the local FBI (who were never very bright in the Devil books). About halfway through I thought that this is going to be a series, but she managed to wrap everything up by the end.

There’s a good bit of action and double-crosses in this one – with a darker tone as it deals with the drug underworld and throws in some black ops just to raise the danger stakes. At times I thought there was a bit too much going on with all the subplots and some timeline inconsistencies which distracted from the cohesiveness of the overall story. There’s also a whole lot of angst– Wiley and Aubrey never stopped loving one another but, the amount of shit that happened and is happening is going to be hard to overcome. Wiley is a bit less of a rascal than Cain Casey, and at times just a bit too noble for her own good, and Aubrey makes me want to give her a shake and ask “Really? You thought that was a good idea? Really?”

In summary, Dragon Tree Legacy is a good dark intrigue book, full of action and suspense. If you like the Devil series, this will probably be one that you enjoy, but I don’t think it quite hit the same mark as the first few in the Casey series.

And Playing the Role of Herself by K E Lane

This was originally a fanfic story and I loved it so much I bought the published version a couple of years ago at the GCLS. As an actress on an ensemble police drama, Caidence Harris is nursing a bit of a crush on Robyn Ward, the famous and successful lead on a “sister show”. Piqued by online fanfic about the shows, the producers decide to write in a lesbian kiss between Caid and Robyn’s characters and the smoldering unspoken attraction ratchets up. There’s a wonderful chemistry between Caid and Robyn and as their relationship develops you can’t help but develop a bit of girl crush on both of them. My one qualm is that Caid seems to get herself into an inordinate amount of trouble – especially whenever things heat up with Robyn. But what romance doesn’t have a few bumps in the road. Well-paced, well-written, humour, action, romance and a bit of angst – this book has it all. Definitely recommended.