Review: Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone (thriller/mystery)

Format: ebook, hardcover, trade paperback
Pub Date: August 1, 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (Amazon)
Length: 282 pages in the trade ARC
POV: 1st person, present tense
FTC: review copy courtesy of the author/publisher at RT18

For those who don't know, Victoria Helen Stone is the alter ego of romance novelist Victoria Dahl. Jane Doe is NOT A ROMANCE. It's also written in first person, present tense, which yes, I know, I usually avoid like the plague. But if you read mysteries and thrillers, and if you follow Victoria Dahl on Twitter or have read her romances, you will probably enjoy this delicious book of revenge.

Reading this book was almost therapeutic for me. It’s like Victoria took all of the rage I’ve felt since Nov 2016, all of the disgust I’ve felt for mansplaining dudes on the internet, all of my frustration watching people make excuses for abusive dickwads, and made an outlet for it in the form of a book.

If you've ever watched her toying with the birth control trolls on Twitter, this book is a lot like that, but taken to a darker extreme. Jane, our narrator, is a sociopath, manipulating an emotional abuser while on a quest to ruin his life the way he ruined hers. She's used to analyzing other people's emotions in an attempt to mimic them, so she can parse every abusive manipulation Steven tries to use. The negging. The control. The digs about her appearance.

It's incredibly creepy watching as Steven tries to manipulate her. It's spelled out. But it's also kind of satisfying watching as Jane pretends to react the way he expects while also plotting how to use each and every one of his abusive tactics against him. She's dissecting his game in real time. It's one of the reasons why present tense works so very well. Because the reader is following along as Steven is attempting to manipulate her with Jane explaining what he's doing as he's doing it. It's incredibly effective.

For me, the suspense was wondering just how far Jane was going to go. Not even she is sure until the end exactly what she's capable of.

Hats off to the author for putting together such a raw and powerful book. Honestly the best book I've read in ages.

My grade: A

The Blurb:
A double life with a single purpose: revenge.
Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes—meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. No one has any idea who Jane really is. Least of all Steven.
But plain Jane is hiding something. And Steven’s bringing out the worst in her.
Nothing can distract Jane from going straight for his heart: allowing herself to be seduced into Steven’s bed, to insinuate herself into his career and his family, and to expose all his dirty secrets. It’s time for Jane to dig out everything that matters to Steven. So she can take it all away.
Just as he did to her.


Review: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

Format: Mass market
Pub Date: March 2018
Publisher: Avon
POV: 3rd, past
Length: 360 pages
FTC: received a copy from the publisher at RT18

I've been hearing about this book all year. It was all the rage in my corner of Twitter. In short: it was a "buzzy" book, and I rarely do well with "buzzy" books.  While I didn't click in the deep, OMG fangirl kind of way I would have liked to, I did enjoy it. Especially for all of the ways it was so very different from other books out there.

I liked that we get to see a contemporary set in the city. No whiff of small town here. It revels in being an NYC book.  There's the nosy and noisy neighbors, the subway, the easy access to different kinds of art/restaurants, the bodegas, the de facto multiculturalism.

I also like that Naledi Smith (Ledi) is a scientist. Specifically a former foster kid training to be a black woman scientist in a very specific field. She thinks in scientific terms in an adorably nerdy way. She has to deal with sexism in her lab job in a way that is so real for many women scientists. She struggles with relationships as a result of her upbringing. She's emotionally cagey.

I struggled with Prince Thabiso/Jamal as a character. I really did. He's a self serving dick through most of the book, and I'm a bit over self serving dicks right now. I did, however, ADORE his assistant Likotsi. If she ever gets her own book, I'm here for it.


Review: Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: mass market
Pub Date: October 2017
Publisher: Grand Central
Length:  308 pages
POV: 3rd, past

***Content warning: rape, incest, child molestation***

Elizabeth Hoyt's books are often gritty. They often deal with less than savory behavior. There's violence in them. But Duke of Desire should have a content warning on it. I found it deeply distressing, especially as a major character motivation deals explicitly with being raped by his parent as a child.

The plot revolves around Raphael, the Duke of Dyemore, infiltrating the Lords of Chaos (an evil group of men who rape and sodomize as part of their secret society). He rescues Lady Iris Jordan from their clutches under the guise of raping and murdering her "off screen" as it were. She shoots him, not realizing she's actually being rescued.

I had several issues with the plot and pacing, but for me...this was just too dark. I finished it, because Hoyt is compulsively readable, but it's not a book I'd recommend easily. Proceed with caution.


Review: Lady Rogue by Theresa Romain

Format: mass market
Pub Date: May 2018
Publisher: Zebra
Length: 277 pages
FTC: Received for free at RT18
POV: 3rd past

I'm a sucker for Bow Street Runner romances...err Officers of the Police. I love them. I wanted to really love this book, but I didn't. The characters are fine, the plot is...fine. But I did not really feel these two characters truly connected. The romance was extremely superficial. Other than the obvious class differences, there wasn't a lot of internal conflict in the relationship. It was all kind of...meh.

I did enjoy the mystery aspect, although that, too, was a little disjointed. There are several mysteries woven in and out of the narrative, and some are important and angsty while some feel kinda shoe-horned in. The big surprise at the end WAS a surprise, but the ending felt extremely rushed. Like the last 2 minutes of a film where everything gets wrapped up.

I think I would have liked it better if this were a mystery and not a romance. 

My Grade: C+

The Blurb:

As far as London’s high society knows, Lady Isabel Morrow is above reproach. But the truth is rarely so simple. Though the young widow’s passionate fling with dashing Bow Street Runner Callum Jenks ended amicably months ago, she now needs his expertise. It seems Isabel’s late husband, a respected art dealer, was peddling forgeries. If those misdeeds are revealed, the marriage prospects of his younger cousin— now Isabel’s ward—will be ruined.

For the second time, Isabel has upended Callum’s well-ordered world. He’s resolved to help her secretly replace the forgeries with the real masterpieces, as a . . . friend. A proper sort of friend doesn’t burn with desire, of course, or steal kisses on twilight errands. Or draw a willing lady into one passionate encounter after another. Isabel’s scheme is testing Callum’s heart as well as his loyalties. But with pleasure so intoxicating, the real crime would be to resist . . .


Reading Snapshot

Currently Reading:

I picked this up at RT18 in Reno at a Blind Date with a Book Party. Tables were covered with wrapped books and just the barest hint of the plot.  It was anxiety inducing for quite a few attendees, but this one sounded fun. I mean...librarian on the run? Yes, please!

So far, it's pretty good, although it's been a long, long time since I've read a book by Warren.

Currently Listening To:


I've read and listened to this series before, but it's been years since I've listened to more than just Book 1. This is a series that definitely needs to be read in order, but I do enjoy these on audio, too.  Highly re-readable, if you're a re-reader like I am.

Up Next:


I spent last year reading a fairly good amount from MOUNT TBR, mostly older books I got from the many RT Conventions I attended. I'm going to attempt to do the same this year (unintentional gloms notwithstanding).  This is one of the many books I ended up getting signed to me this year instead of signed generically. I had intended to give a bunch away...Oops.