Book Review: Free of Malice by Liz Lazarus

Free of MaliceFree of Malice by Liz Lazarus

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars!

“Well-researched” is the term that comes to mind when I reflect on Free of Malice. While reading, I learned much about legal, mental health professional, and law enforcement approaches to assault and self-defense. Interestingly enough, the thriller explores vicitms’ rights and where those rights intersect and/or conflict with an attacker’s rights—and those of any innocent bystanders. As one character expressly communicates, the issue isn’t as cut and dried as one might think. And it’s certainly not like what’s represented on procedural TV shows.

From start to finish, Free of Malice impressed me. Its plot wasn’t quite what I expected from a book of this genre. As such, the premise felt very unique: more intellectual and methodical than action-packed. Frankly, I relished the change of pace; both content and theme gave me a lot to think about.

Conflict and tension are at an all-time high in Free of Malice as everyone becomes a suspect. Add in a likeable, smart main character and probing questions that keep readers turning pages, and the result is a well-rounded novel with real staying power.

So, if you’re in the mood for a thoughtful read with the “whodunit” factor, be sure to put this one on your TBR!

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Book Review: Cuff Me by Lauren Layne

Cuff Me (New York's Finest, #3)Cuff Me by Lauren Layne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lauren Layne is a master of so many things when it comes to writing and fiction—sexual tension and internal conflict, specifically. Pretty sure she knows her characters better than I know myself, and that level of familiarity comes through in her writing, making it BEYOND SPECTACULAR in my opinion.

In Cuff Me, two partners (as in police officers) gradually realize their growing feelings for one another. I say gradually because it’s literally been a years-long process. That being said, I wouldn’t quite label it “friends to lovers”—at least not as clearly as one of Layne’s other titles, Blurred Lines.

Gosh, I loved Vin. He had the broody, almost-bad-boy thing going for him (one of my favorite qualities in a hero), with his trademark leather jacket and surly demeanor. BUT he isn’t an asshole…at least not a total one. Instead, he’s the best of both worlds: gruff when he needs to be (i.e. when his job requires it), but sentimental and considerate—in his own way—when it comes to showing Jill he cares. Jill’s great too, don’t get me wrong. As a reader, I’m just all about the hero. 😉

Threaded through the romance is the case our MCs are trying to solve: the murder of an elderly actress. I like the way LL weaves the two together, so that as the officers make discoveries in the case, they make similar discoveries about their own evolving relationship.

As to conflict, there was one element at play I wasn’t sure I’d like. But leave it to LL to prove me wrong!

As my first read in the series, I got a huge dose of the Moretti family and loved every second of it. (Although the two previous love stories are alluded to, I had no problem reading Cuff Me as a standalone.) Nonna is hilarious, and the brothers’ light-hearted bickering only added to the novel’s underlying humor.

One final question for fellow Cuff Me readers. Not really a spoiler, but I’m marking it as one just in case: (view spoiler)

Lauren Layne has a real gift for delving into why characters make the decisions they do. Right after finishing this novel, I thought to myself: If I could find something else like Cuff Me to read—matching it element for element, but a new story—I’d dive right in.

Or, maybe an even better way of saying it is, I’d read Lauren Layne on loop.

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