Blurb for COLD MALICE
ASAC Steve (Mac) McKenzie is out to prove himself by leading a task force investigating a series of murders in the heart of Washington, DC. His undercover work in an antigovernment compound twenty years earlier is related—as is the sweet, innocent girl he befriended back then. Now that girl is a beautiful woman, and she has something to hide.
Tess Fallon spent a lifetime trying to outrun her family’s brand of bigotry, but someone is threatening her anonymity by using the anniversary of her father’s death to carry out evil crimes and she’s terrified her younger brother is involved. She sets out to find the truth and comes face-to-face with a man she once idolized, a man she thought long dead. As the crimes escalate it becomes obvious the killer has an agenda, and Tess and Mac are running out of time to stop him.
Will the perpetrator use a decades-old dream of revolution to attack the federal government? And will the fact that Tess and Mac have fallen hard for each other give a cold-hearted killer the power to destroy them both?
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About Toni Anderson
New York Times and USA Today international bestselling author, Toni Anderson, writes dark, gritty Romantic Suspense novels that have hit #1 in Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, the Top 10 in Amazon and Kobo stores, and the Top 50 in iBooks. Her novels have won many awards. A former Marine Biologist from Britain, she inexplicably ended up in the geographical center of North America, about as far from the ocean as it is possible to get. She now lives in the Canadian prairies with her Irish husband and two children and spends most of her time complaining about the weather.
Toni has no explanation for her oft-times dark imagination, and only hopes the romance makes up for it. She’s addicted to reading, dogs, tea, and chocolate.
If you want to know when Toni’s next book will be out, visit her website (http://www.toniandersonauthor.com) and sign up for her newsletter. If you want to read other fascinating stories about life in a city that, during winter, is sometimes colder than Mars, friend her on Facebook: (https://www.facebook.com/toniannanderson).
Jen’s Review of COLD MALICE
I read Cold Malice because I had heard of Toni Anderson and had wanted to read her for a while now. When I saw InkSlinger PR was running a tour for her, I jumped at the chance to review, even though I hadn’t read any of the previous books in the series.
I received a digital advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.
Cold Malice starts with the experiences of Theresa Jane twenty years earlier. The reader learns about her white-supremacist family with anti-government beliefs, living in a cabin on their Pioneer compound. Tess’s father, David Hines, led the extremist group. We also see how poorly her family treated her.
Perhaps the most important thing to take away from this part of the book is how Theresa Jane felt like her only ally had been a cowboy named Kenny Travers.
When law enforcement raided the compound, Tess had to decide whether to join in or save herself and her baby brother. This is significant because it shows Tess’s character. She’s not a killer like some of the other people in her family.
The story moves forward to the present, where we meet Theresa Jane grown up. She changed her name to Tess and tried to put her past behind her. The only connection she still has to her family is her baby brother.
We then meet Assistant Special Agent in Charge Steve MacKenzie, a.k.a. Kenny Travers. When a series of murders seem to be linked to the Pioneers, following the manifesto of David Hines, Mac decides to find David’s daughter, Theresa Jane. He wants to see if she knows anything. What he doesn’t expect is a strong physical attraction, which becomes difficult for him to deal with while he’s investigating.
I don’t want to give away a lot of the plot, so I’ll just say that Tess and Mac have to figure out how much they can trust one another, while also figuring out who is involved in the murders.
All of the pieces fit together very well. The story flowed quickly and easily from one scene to the next, despite frequent point-of-view changes. I got confused about the identity of the point-of-view character during one scene only.
Tess (Theresa Jane)
All Tess wants is to protect her baby brother and live a quiet life as an accountant. She thought she had put her past behind her. When people start treating her as a suspect because of who her family was, she is rightfully upset. And when she thinks her brother might be involved in the murders, she understandably wants to protect him. It’s also easy to see how she can’t entirely bring herself to trust Mac.
Tess is a great heroine. She’s independent, capable of taking care of herself, and dedicated to her brother. At the same time, she can be sensitive and vulnerable. I felt like she was a very believable and well-rounded character.
Mac thinks his life revolves around his career. He struggles with his emerging feelings for Tess. His career could be ruined by getting involved with Tess.
Although it seems callous when he considers using her to advance his investigation, I could understand where he was coming from. Toni Anderson excelled at getting into his mind to make him relatable.
Ultimately, Mac has to decide between his job and Tess. His decision comes swiftly, which is okay, but I would have liked for him to have made the apologies to Tess that he said he would make.
Cole is Tess’s younger brother. We don’t know a lot about him, particularly in the first half of the story. Some of the minor characters seemed more fleshed out than Cole.
The first sex scene in the book is from Cole’s point-of-view. I temporarily lost interest in the story because I had no reason at that point to care about anything Cole did in the bedroom. I didn’t know him well yet, so it was a bit like spying on a stranger having sex.
Even though I learned a little more about Cole as the story went on, I still didn’t feel like I connected with him or really knew him.
Eddie, Walt, and Ellie
These are Theresa Jane’s other siblings. Walt and Ellie were killed on the day of the raid. Eddie went to prison. Walt and Eddie were despicable and worthy of hatred. When Tess finds out everything they did, I’m surprised she didn’t go completely crazy on Eddie.
There are more characters than I can put in this review. All of them seemed developed sufficiently for their roles in the book.
Some characters actually felt too developed for their parts. For example, when the rabbi comes into the story, I knew right away someone would kill him. But, the author dragged it out, giving lots of backstory about the rabbi. I didn’t care, because I knew he was going to end up dead. Perhaps the author added so much detail about him to make me care about his death. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, most likely because there had already been too many murders before that one.
For the most part, the writing was smooth and easy to follow. I did make note of some things that took me out of the story from time to time:
- I wondered why Tess promised Kenny she would lock the door, but didn’t do it. Tess’s mother came in the room and woke her up. So Tess obviously didn’t have the door locked.
- The author calls Steve MacKenzie by his nickname, Mac, before he says, “Most people call me Mac.” It seems like that information should have come before the author used his nickname.
- The college boys are playing an old game on an old gaming system. It seemed strange for the context.
- At one point, the author used parentheses in dialogue. My note: people don’t talk in parentheses.
- Mac makes a connection toward the end of the book that seems to come out of nowhere. It seemed like the author just made him come to that conclusion so the story could move forward. I don’t want to say more, because it would be a spoiler.
Overall, though, I thought the book was well-written. I enjoyed Toni Anderson’s writing style, which included humorous moments like when Mac pondered how Christians could be white-supremacists, considering Christ was born in the Middle East. Also, I appreciated the amount of research into the extremist beliefs and law enforcement procedures.
Do I Recommend?
Although I had some minor complaints, I did really like Cold Malice. None of the negative things I’ve said in this review were significant enough to change my overall opinion of the book. Cold Malice is an excellent example of how self-published does not mean inferior writing. The story moved quickly, the main characters were likable and convincing, and the romance had a good balance of heat, tension, and sweetness.
Toni Anderson wove together Mac’s career ambition, Tess’s trust issues, sizzling sexual tension between them, and a solid mystery about who wanted to murder people based on sexual orientation, gender, race, and religion. Parts of the book also read like a procedural as Mac and his team try to uncover the perpetrator before anyone else can be killed.
If you like forbidden fruit type stories, in which the main characters feel like they can’t be together and try to fight their attraction to one another, you should check out Cold Malice. Even if romance isn’t your favorite genre, the book holds its own as a thriller. There’s plenty of action and danger to keep most readers entertained.
As I continue to add book series to our Mystery, Thrillers, and Suspense recommendations page, I’ll make sure to add the Cold Justice series. This is a series I would definitely read further and recommend to others.