Review: Imposter’s Lure by Carla Neggers

I’ve adored FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan since I began this series. Later I came to appreciate the whole Sharpe clan with their art expertise, and all of those Donovan brothers showing up at just the right time. And while Oliver York was thought to be a criminal art thief for several books, he’s now helping the Sharpes and lovely Henrietta solve crimes.

That’s the backstory of Neggers’ well-developed characters and the intricate relationships among them.

Enter Imposter’s Lure. Same characters – plus some – but a bunch of contrived details that seemed like they were backfilled into a pre-written ending. This book needs paring down and re-writing just so I can understand all the complexities. After whittling away some of the convoluted family and friend relationships that don’t move the plot forward, then maybe I could enjoy the New England chahhhm, the English countryside, and the Irish lowlands as a backdrop to a sinister plot to make money off of art forgeries … and destroy the evidence.

-calliope

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Read the review for Book 4 in the Sharpe and Donovan series – one of my faves!

Review: Thief’s Mark by Carla Neggers 

Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan finally get some alone time … and what happens? Their FBI duties call, and in a big way. Their pal Oliver York finds himself in some hot water, and he might not be able to get out of it himself. 

This adventure was full of good nuggets… Irish history, family secrets, betrayal, art, and the sanctity of Catholic confession. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get as much of the Emma-Colin banter I’m used to. These newlyweds had to put up more of a united front in this book… and good thing for Oliver that they did! 

To add to the “more mystery, less romance” tack, Neggers wrote some quirky characters that threw me off my Sharpe&Donovan game.  I expected the usual one or two odd ducks, but Neggers painted quirkiness over pretty much a whole family. It’s a great character study for sure. 

This is a terrific series if you’re a fan of romantic suspense, Ireland, New England, and the FBI. Start with the first book, because you don’t want to miss the fun tension. 🙂 

-calliope 

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Review: Red Clover Inn by Carla Neggers

Carla Neggers writes strong and unique main characters in Red Clover Inn. Charlotte is a tough marine archaeologist who is taking some time off to attend her cousin’s wedding … and mentally recover from a diving scare. Greg is a diplomatic security agent attending the same wedding and recovering from a gunshot wound. 

I was pleasantly surprised that these two took time to develop a sturdy friendship before having a physical relationship. I enjoyed watching them maintain their cool facades – what they’re used to in their jobs – while intuitively seeing what’s really underneath in the other person. Neggers managed to write the push and pull without being annoying or cliche – outstanding!

While Charlotte and Greg leave the wedding in London and fo their separate ways, they coincidentally end up in the same inn in Massachusetts. They fall in to solving a couple of little mysteries and meeting some of the many locals who are related in convoluted ways. Neggers could have done without trying to explain how everyone was related – I skipped over those parts because they weren’t necessary to the plot, and they held me up. 

I do think the writing is classic Carla Neggers – a really good plot but technically uneven. The creative storyline and intriguing characters made up for it, and I couldn’t put down my kindle because I needed to know what was happening next! 

-calliope

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Review: Liar’s Key by Carla Neggers

FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are at it again – solving international crimes even as they navigate their personal relationship with each other (wedding planning… yippeeeeee!!!!) and their friends in the art world. 

This time, con artist Oliver York is so good at secrets that sometimes not even he himself can figure out the whys and wherefores of his globe trotting. The shores of Maine bring York together with retired FBI agent Gordy Wheelock and some art collectors, each of whom hold secrets that rival York’s.  I was a little frustrated that Sharpe and Donovan couldn’t get Gordy to talk! But that’s part of the fun of this caper – loved being on the edge of my seat thinking about who holds the key… and who’s lying. 

-calliope

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Musing and Review: The Spring at Moss Hill by Carla Neggers

  
You know when you start a book and it’s just terrible? And you try to decide whether it’s a Did Not Finish, or whether you’ll stick it out? I’m experiencing that with this book right now. 

First, though we rarely write reviews where we don’t recommend a book, I really can’t recommend this book UNLESS you really want a nice, New England-y story and you don’t care about the writing so much. 

From the beginning Neggers pushes anxiety, worry and fear. I had no idea why everyone was running around scared, why a private investigator was hired, why certain characters showed such contrived reluctance to be transparent. Then when I finally sorted it all out, I was still confused why Neggers made such a big deal out of some very little issues. 

Anyway, this book needs a rewrite. It could use streamlining, some re-organization, and some changes in how it begins. Big edits. 

I’m sticking with it (currently at 60%) because I like to know how books end. And despite the disorder, I’m sort of invested in a couple of characters. 🙂

-calliope

buy THE SPRING AT MOSS HILL

A Knights Bridge Christmas by Carla Neggers

  
Like most of the Carla Neggers Swift River Valley novels, A Knights Bridge Christmas has beautiful descriptions of setting and a range of characters Neggers magically makes real. Even Daisy, now deceased, enamored me. Neggers hugs the reader with ice rinks and hot cocoa, mittens and hats, decorating a historical home for the holidays, and falling in love. 

A bit of unnatural dialogue and a too-trusting heroine took me out of the magic here and there. Some conversations were stilted and felt thrown in as an afterthought. And Clare just blindly agreeing to Logan’s suggestions seemed totally unrealistic. 

I’m always willing to overlook a few things for a holiday love story. This one includes a little mystery, a little adventure, and a happily ever after. 

-Calliope

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Review: Keeper’s Reach (Sharpe & Donovan) by Carla Neggers

  
Emma and Colin are at it again – solving crimes and saving lives – but this time they’re not really doing it together. Emma is supposed to be visiting the sisters at her old convent to get some closure before her wedding. But she gets drawn in to a dangerous situation when Colin’s brother Mike has some ex military contacts visiting. Colin vacillates between rushing in to save the day and keeping his emotions in check and doing a deliberate investigation first. 

I miss the banter Emma and Colin had in book 4 of this series (Read the review here), but I did like their display of trust and protectiveness for each other. Just like in book 4, I was a little confused with the numerous characters. They didn’t all come clear to me until the end, and by that time I think I missed something. 

I always enjoy a good FBI story, and Keeper’s Reach gets extra points for being set in New England and the Cotswalds. I also loved that Neggers continued the stories of art thief Oliver York and secondary character Father Finian. A possible rekindled romance for Mike and Naomi held my interest, too.  

I wish Neggers focused more on action — while maintaining the awesome descriptions of locale that she does so well — instead of describing characters. I get that the ex military pals were supposed to be central, but it’s hard to develop a bunch of new characters for one mystery in one book. 

I hope to see more Sharpe & Donovan capers in the future!

-calliope

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Review: Echo Lake by Carla Neggers

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I love the descriptions of the setting in this most recent Neggers’ Swift River Valley novel. Snowy paths, an icy lake, views of the woods from the old farmhouse. I felt like I was there! Wine by the fire, cheese from the local dairy… I live for this stuff. Neggers does such a great job making it authentic – and I live in New England so I can vouch for that!

The plot was interesting too – long lost daughter meets long lost father, successful diplomat retires to backwoods town, hometown troublemaker makes something of himself and returns to town to the surprise of many, sole sister of five brothers wades through their protectiveness to prove herself. And there’s a romance that ends in a happily ever after. 🙂

The problem with so many good plots is that the story as a whole seems unfocused. I prefer one main plot and one or two subplots… Echo Lake had five plots fighting each other for the spotlight. It was disconcerting.

So the characters….
The alpha hero is the silent-est strong, silent type I’ve ever read, and his love interest is okay with that. The retiring diplomat is a little sappy. The house-sitter’s character isn’t quite clear to me! The five brothers are mostly in the background but well-written.

The main character, Heather, is a strong young woman, can rock sequins as well as sweatshirts, and stands up to her family when needed.

All in all I liked Echo Lake and will read the next in the series, but I’m hoping subsequent books are a bit more focused.

-calliope
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Review: Christmas at Carriage Hill by Carla Neggers

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I think 2014 was the first year I read anything by Carla Neggers, and I’ve become a fan. I was happy to see that Neggers wrote a Christmas novella, set in the part of Massachusetts where my mother grew up.

Christmas at Carriage Hill is a contemporary romance with an old-fashioned feel. There’s an impending wedding, New England snow, ice skating, English scones, and a military man who won’t let go of his true love.

Alex and Ian dated, broke up, then ran into each other while traveling abroad for a wedding. While the plot wasn’t thoroughly fleshed out and the secondary characters were a little flat, those are acceptable in a novella. I appreciated the great scenery, the main characters, the recipes, and the happily ever after. The power of nostalgia got to me, too, as I remember visiting the Quabbin as a child.

I enjoyed this light, uplifting, Christmassy novella by a favorite author… and it’s a steal at 99¢.

-calliope

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Review: Harbor Island (Sharpe & Donovan) by Carla Neggers

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I don’t know HOW I missed out on this series until now. Where have I been? Living under a rock?

Harbor Island is a complex, witty, gritty, romantic suspense novel. Emma and Colin are FBI agents. Right there, Neggers has me as a fan. They have a quiet, affectionate banter … refreshing, as it’s not the usual shtick I experience in rom coms. (I love rom coms, but this is a nice change of pace.) And they are bent on solving a crime that spans decades and the globe.

While I mostly appreciated the underlying romance, and just ate up all the knowing glances, smooches, and warm embraces, I also really enjoyed the FBI adventure set on an island near Boston, MA. Gunshots, murder, larceny, con men, artists… Neggers made it so exciting that I’m on the edge of my seat just remembering it.

There were a lot of characters in this novel, and it took a bit to keep them all straight. I would have been better off reading books 1-3 in the series before jumping into this one (#4). But it was totally doable and enjoyable. Neggers took me on such a great ride that I can’t wait for book 5. I’m off to read 1-3 … and then maybe book 4 again!

-calliope

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