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    REVIEW: Cross by S.E. Harmon

    The Formicary: Cross – S.E. Harmon

    I thought getting shot, losing my memory, and being hunted by people I didn’t know for reasons I couldn’t remember was rock bottom. Turns out I was wrong. I found a shovel, dug a little deeper, and found a whole new sublevel of suck.

    Apparently, I took something from the Formicary that doesn’t belong to me. The boss, Petar Dobroslav, is willing to do just about anything to get it back. Making an enemy of a super-secret organization of assassins might seem like a bad idea and…well, it absolutely is.

    To be honest, it was inevitable that Grayson Laurie would get dragged into my mess. In my line of work, love is a luxury, a vulnerability I can’t afford. But I couldn’t stay away, and now we’re both paying the price.

    But I can fix this. I will fix this. Everyone knows the Formicary is a formidable adversary. It’s time to remind them that so is Christian Cross.


    Cross is the riveting sequel to the sci-fi amnesia romance series, The Formicary. It picks up after the events in the first book, Chrysalis, where we find the unlikely named assassin, Christian Cross and his doctor boyfriend, Grayson Laurie, held inside The Formicary under the control of Chris’s grandfather, Peter Dobroslav.

    The Formicary is a giant hive of scientists, lab techs, and support staff conducting highly unethical experiments, like turning people such as Chris into android super soldiers. Chris was blackmailed by his evil grandpa to find the missing scientist in charge of some high-level super secret experiment. Or else Gray pays the price.

    In the first book, I found Chris’s little commentaries superfluous. There were still a few here but now, the idiot has endeared himself. The story is from his 1st-person POV, and boy, is this guy just full of brilliant dumb ideas! He’s actually funny now, though sometimes, not so much.

    Chris is the first to admit he’s more a man of action than a thinker of deep thoughts. He’s been planning to kill the evil Dobroslav, and his genius plan is A. get to Dobroslav, B. pull the trigger.

    Luckily, he got Gray’s beauty and brains on his side. This sweet, mild-mannered doctor is not only the person who hangs the moon and is the center of the universe, but also the anchor that grounds the Swiss cheese mind and questionable identity of the experimental guinea pig named Christian Cross a.k.a. Chrysalis.

    I totally understand why Chris looks at Gray with permanent heart eyes. Gray is perfect! He’s my favorite character. The doctor is a saint for putting up with the doofus’s antics since college. I loved that the prim and proper man has the sense of humor to roll with Chris’s man-child jokes.

    And it was the doctor, with the help of their android frenemy, Chaos, and Chris’s best friend, Nick, who came up with a more solid plan to take down The Formicary. Something where the four of them come out alive.

    This book is a fantastic example of how to do an established couple romance. The plot effectively created external conflicts highlighting the unbreakable bond between the two MCs. There were flashbacks to younger, happier days juxtaposed against the present day’s precarious circumstances.

    The couple was constantly surrounded by danger, making their quieter moments more precious and satisfying. The amnesia fueled Chris’s pining and longing for Gray, even when they were together the entire time. All these feels made the romance more poignant and impactful than if the two were a new couple.

    My favorite supporting character is Chaos, Chris’s training teacher, frenemy, and Dobroslav’s loyal guard. His dry humor and blunt statements had me cracking up. I hope he gets his own book. Would love to see him paired with Nick.

    I’ve got to say, wow! Cross was one hell of a ride! The plot was very twisty-turny, heading in directions I never even considered. The writing pulled it off smoothly, in a way where it didn’t feel convoluted despite the many twists, secrets, and reveals.

    The mystery and suspense leading to an action-packed climax made for a spectacular finale. The epilogue is another thing that completely took me by surprise. It was a sweet, soul-cleansing experience. The peace was so palpable even I felt the cleansing effect!

    Androids don’t dream of electric sheep. They dream of anchors and a slice of paradise.

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Heal Me
    Artist: Snow Patrol
    Album: Wildness

    P.S.

    The Formicary should be read in order. See how a man who lost his memory reunite with the person he couldn’t forget and why he should stay far, far away in Book 1, Chrysalis.


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    REVIEW: The Doctor’s Date by Heidi Cullinan

    Copper Point Medical: The Doctor’s Date – Heidi Cullinan

    Sequel to The Doctor’s Secret
    Copper Point Medical: Book Two

    The hospital’s least eligible bachelor and its aloof administrator hate each other… so why are they pretending to date?

    Dr. Owen Gagnon and HR director Erin Andreas are infamous for their hospital hallway shouting matches. So imagine the town’s surprise when Erin bids an obscene amount of money to win Owen in the hospital bachelor auction—and Owen ups the ante by insisting Erin move in with him. 

    Copper Point may not know what’s going on, but neither do Erin and Owen. Erin intends his gesture to let Owen know he’s interested. Owen, on the other hand, suspects ulterior motives—that Erin wants a fake relationship as a refuge from his overbearing father.

    With Erin suddenly heading a messy internal investigation, Owen wants to step up and be the hero Erin’s never had. Too bad Erin would rather spend his energy trying to rescue Owen from the shadows of a past he doesn’t talk about.

    This relationship may be fake, but the feelings aren’t. Still, what Erin and Owen have won’t last unless they put their respective demons to rest. To do that, they’ll have to do more than work together—they’ll have to trust they can heal each other’s hearts.


    The Doctor’s Date has the kind of intriguing premise that immediately grabs attention. It was almost lost in TBR limbo after my bad experience with Antisocial, my first Heidi Cullinan book. Reading it now, The Doctor’s Date is a mix-bag of feels but definitely, much better than the other book.

    The part that got me hooked is Erin Andreas, HR head and wallflower, spending $25,000 on Dr. Owen Gagnon, anesthesiologist, the world’s grouchiest grump, and his infamous nemesis, in the hospital bachelor auction fundraiser. Then Owen asked Erin to move in with him that very night.

    This has the makings of a very squee-tastic rom-com. But unlike a rom-com where the prose and events are laced with humor, the writing leans towards misery. Many events go from bad to worse for Erin and Owen, then whiplashes to uber romantic comfort scenes designed to soothe the hurts. I don’t mind some angst and drama, but there were too many miserable moments to wade through just to get to the happier parts.

    It’s why I struggled in the opening chapters. Erin’s father, head of the hospital board, was really horrible. He’s a bully who neglects him in private and belittles him in public. The guy is the kind of villain I hate the most, the lawful evil type. He made me drop the book. Owen’s dad was just as horrid, causing serious trauma to his son,. Once a musical prodigy, now Owen couldn’t bear looking at his violin.

    But I kept thinking about the premise and was compelled to pick up where I left off, hoping it would get better.

    It did!

    The bachelor auction has some of the swooniest scenes!!! I hated Owen at first. He was drunk and high and a complete asshole. But the way he swooped in to rescue Erin from his dad! And the way he spectacularly misunderstood Erin’s motive for bidding on him, causing the dork to hatch ridiculous but hella sweet plans to protect the gob-smacked but secretly swooning Erin, it was rom-com gold!

    The running metaphor here is the fairy tale about the poor prince(ss) in the tower, the ogre and the evil king. It’s fitting but a little too on the nose and repeated too often. I love the childhood connection angle in the prologue. I sensed some BL manga influences, and unlike Antisocial, it was deployed better here.

    Owen and Erin as boyfriends is everything!!! It’s their magic that kept me reading because by the third arc, the story slumped. There were the not-so-exciting slice-of-life scenes that took too long reaching key events dealing with the suspected embezzlement of hospital funds, and Owen’s and Erin’s family issues. I got impatient and tuned out.

    By the time it got to the climax, I barely cared about the goings-on. I wished the embezzlement issue was played up more, giving the plot a stronger mystery angle. But it was fun to see Owen, Erin and their friends forming their own Scooby Gang and taking down the bad guys. And the epilogue was too cute!!!

    The Doctor’s Date holds true to its promise to sweep me off my feet with a charming fairy tale. I rooted hard for the poor little prince and squee-ed with delight to discover the ogre’s golden heart. There were monsters to slay and an evil king to vanquish. Sometimes the villains were too much, but the prince and the ogre stayed strong and true. With the help of their friends, they saved the world and lived happily ever after.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Prince
    Artist: Versailles
    Album: PRINCE & PRINCESS

    P.S.

    The Doctor’s Date is the second book of Copper Point Medical. It can be read as standalone. I haven’t read Book 1 yet.


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    THE DOCTOR’S DATE

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    REVIEW: Chrysalis by S.E. Harmon

    The Formicary: Chrysalis – S.E. Harmon

    A gunshot to the head is bad enough. Waking up with amnesia is far worse. I learn that the hard way when I wake up in the hospital, my memory practically wiped. I don’t know why someone wants me dead. Hell, I don’t even know my name. They say my name is Christian Cross. Too bad that name means nothing to me.

    I haven’t forgotten everything, though. Grayson Laurie has always been my kryptonite, and it would take more than a bullet to the brain to forget him. He assures me that I’m imagining the distance between us, but I know better. I just don’t know how to fix it. I console myself that at least I’ve reached rock bottom and things can’t get worse…until they do.

    My life is a tangled mess of lies and deceit. The more I learn about myself, the less I want to know. I want nothing more than an honest future with Gray, but the past isn’t about to let me go without a fight.

    Fortunately, I’m starting to realize that fighting is my specialty.


    To paraphrase one of the characters, amnesia is something we mostly see in Days Of Our Lives. I find this trope cheesy because of how it’s overused in soaps. But the blurb of the book immediately piqued my interest.

    Chrysalis is the first book of The Formicary duology. Christian Cross wakes up in the hospital with no memory of anything, not even his name. The only thing he remembers is the memory of Dr. Grayson Laurie, his boyfriend. The hospital staff told him he was shot in the head. Gray told Chris, the amnesiac ghosted him four years ago and that the doctor is now in another relationship. To make matters worse, some very dangerous people were after Chris, who had no idea why.

    The book follows Chris as he traces clues to his identity, fights off the bad guys and wins back the love of his life. Rather than a rebirth, as the title might suggest, this is a return to an old secret life he kept from Gray.

    The story is told from a first-person POV. One thing that stood out is that Chris is prone to unnecessary jokes that are not exactly funny or witty. The writing is fast-paced and tight enough to keep the momentum going, but Chris’ little asides don’t really add anything.

    However, there is nothing cheesy with how the amnesia trope was deployed. This is one of the better uses of the trope. It worked exceptionally well with the mystery. It is exactly as the blurb says, and I was completely hooked!

    I really enjoyed tagging along with Chris as he stumbles upon the bits and pieces of his old life. There were big hints, like the extra body parts and ninja fighting skills, that helped me suss out who or what Christian is. But even knowing that, the air of intrigue and anticipation remained high until the end. Also, despite his bad jokes, the man is an entertaining narrator.

    The second chance romance was also wonderfully executed! There’s some push and pull between the MCs because Gray was hurt, and Christian might disappear again. But Chris’ devotion to Gray was pretty obvious from the start, and it was also clear that Gray still has strong feelings for his ex. Their chemistry jumps off the page! I loved watching them find each other again and again.

    Gray’s current boyfriend is a non-entity who soon exited so there’s no cheating here. The book is not a standalone. It ends with a cliffhanger so best to have the second book on hand before starting.

    Chrysalis has mystery, action, yeah okay, maybe some humor, a couple of painful separations, and long-overdue reunions. It is about a man looking for answers. It delivers those answers in one suspenseful, gripping package. It’s not the most memorable but it’s certainly worth remembering.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Chrysalis
    Artist: Dianna Lopez
    Album:


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