#BookReview: Changing The Rules by Catherine Bybee

More Action, Arguably Less Romance. Still Bybee. This book – arguably a *version* of a take on 21 Jump Street (though admittedly my only exposure to that franchise is the Tatum/ Hill movies) – continues Bybee’s recent (2020+) path of moving to less saccharine / comedic romances and to more thriller-ish romances. There is still comedy and sweetness here, but it takes more of a backburner to the thriller elements. Also continuing is Bybee’s more recent examination of weighty real-world topics while telling a romance tale, and in this case the topic in question is sex trafficking – particularly of high school/ just after high school age young women. Bybee, at least in my experience with her books, isn’t really known for having multiple sex scenes throughout the tale, and this particular book is no exception to that norm. Truly a solid romance, with all of the old RWA standards I am aware of met, and a pretty good (low body count) thriller to boot – particularly when considering that the author is more known in the romance world and has written far more in that genre. This reader, for one, is looking forward to seeing where this series goes. Very much recommended.

This review of Changing the Rules by Catherine Bybee was originally written on December 28, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Steena Holmes

This week we’re looking at a breakneck psychological thriller that also serves as a clarion call on an issue many are speaking of quite a bit over the last decade. This week we’re looking at Lies We Tell Ourselves by Steena Holmes.

Trying to force myself out of the writing funk I’ve been in for several months now when it comes to these posts, I want to add at least a little bit to the Goodreads review below.

First, I love that Holmes frequently includes a reference to one of her friends’ books – usually released in the same year – in her books. This one is no different there, and the book in question (which you’ll have to read this book to find out) is in fact one that was also a Featured New Release on this very blog earlier this year.

Second, at least on the ARC copy I read Holmes includes a note at the end about a particular Easter Egg… which I completely missed. I remember getting the sense that it was a very random encounter – usually a good clue of an Easter Egg – but in my defense, I’ve read over 200 books since reading Holmes’ two releases last fall. (The Perfect Secret and The Patient, both of which included this same character, apparently.) Indeed, I actually thought that a more major character was the joining fabric potentially of all three books – and I would love to see future books including that particular character. Let me know which character you think I’m referencing here, I don’t want to give it away in this post. 🙂

Finally, this book really does go in depth with nearly all facets of sex trafficking, and while most of the worst of it is “off screen”, there is enough discussion in enough detail of enough facets that this book could in fact be very difficult to read if this issue has impacted you. But honestly, I think that in that case, you need to read this book arguably more than the rest of us. If only so you can write your own review and tell us just how close Holmes gets here. From the outside looking in, it seems that she captured the emotions and struggles quite well indeed, but this is something that I have no direct knowledge of and thus can’t know. So please, even if you think this book will be difficult for you, read it and write a review on Goodreads and Bookbub and let the rest of us know just how close – or, perhaps, far off – Holmes really was.

As always, the Goodreads review:
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Featured New Release of The Week: The Black Shepherd by Steven Savile

This week we look at an explosive tale of kidnapping, homelessness, brainwashing, and human trafficking. This week, we’re looking at The Black Shepherd by Steven Savile.

Whereas in the first book in this series The Memory Man (a former Featured New Release here itself), Savile put the Catholic Church firmly in his crosshairs with a tale centered on abuse within the Church, for this outing with Ash and Varg, he picks up a few months after the endgame of that book and puts his crosshairs firmly on a fictitious religion eerily similar to reports of the real-life Church of Scientology. Many of the familiar faces from the first book – at least among those who survive it – show up for this outing, and Savile even fleshes out the Division a bit more here.

Savile does an excellent job of briefly examining the realities of homelessness in Europe (and the Western world for that matter) and having his characters at least consider the impact of what they may well have to do will be on those who can least afford to be further harmed. Yet he never loses focus on the overall mystery involved here, and the action and intrigue are well paced.

The one thing that was a bit off-putting about this book was the rather abrupt ending wherein he blatantly sets a sequel in motion and leaves a bit of a cliffhanger. Perhaps the ending could feel a bit less abrupt with a simple change on the title of the final chapter – instead of calling it just “Chapter 69”, call it an “Epilogue” and the reader would know that this is truly the wrap up / set up the next book chapter, which isn’t always implied just by being the last chapter.

Still, a very strong tale that takes the form of a police procedural / action book to ask much larger questions, much as its predecessor did. Very much recommended, and I’m very much looking forward to the as-yet-unannounced sequel.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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