Release Reviews and Spotlight Post: Hold Your Breath: Katie Ruggle

Hold Your Breath (Search and Rescue #1)
Katie Ruggle
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Expected April 5, 2016

In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder...

As the captain of Field County's ice rescue dive team, Callum Cook is driven to perfection. But when he meets new diver Louise "Lou" Sparks, all that hard-won order is obliterated in an instant. Lou is a hurricane. A walking disaster. And with her, he's never felt more alive...even if keeping her safe may just kill him.

Lou's new to the Rockies, intent on escaping her controlling ex, and she's determined to make it on her own terms...no matter how tempting Callum may be. But when a routine training exercise unearths a body, Lou and Callum find themselves thrust into a deadly game of cat and mouse with a killer who will stop at nothing to silence Lou-and prove that not even her new Search and Rescue family can keep her safe forever.

Lou Sparks left her controlled Connecticut life for the snow, mountains,and a tiny cabin. She is now a member of the Field  County Rescue Dive Team. During one of their training sessions, she helps uncover a body that leads to a big mystery.

Frustrated with law enforcement's slow speed at finding out his identity, she enlists the help of her surly team leader, Callum to help her do some investigating on her own. He reluctantly agrees if only to keep her out of trouble. 

Callum is all about control. He is a perfectionist with OCD tendencies. He is usually broody, bossy, intense, and intimidating.

Lou is sassy, spirited, tenacious, and mishievous. She can be clumsy and awkward. Disaster seems to follow her. She is determined to be independent and not be weak or passive.

It was interesting to see them begin to connect on a more personal level and develop a rapport. She brings adventure and chaos to his life, and helps him loosen up. He brings safety and protection to her. And as they get closer, the sexual attention, attraction, and connection builds. But they find themselves facing perilous situations that could endanger them both. There's already a dead body and there's someone watching and threatening Lou and Callum as well. And there are several possible antagonists involved in the situations.

Can they keep each other safe and unravel the truth with the help of the other authorities?

This brings back some of the characters introduced in the novella On His Watch. Featured in this one were Derek, Wilt, firefighter Ian, Sheriff Rob, Deputies Chris and Lawrence, Smelly Jim, and Coroner Belly. The rugged outdoors and treacherous winter weather add depth to the drama to their lives. And the small town fuels the gossip mill. It had mystery, suspense, action, danger, humor, sexual tension, and romance. It was told in Lou's point of view and the villain. I will say that I really wanted Callum's point of view. He remained an enigma except when he verbally shared his feelings. But I did like them as a couple and how they played off each other. It was more romantic suspense than hot, sexy romance, but the characters were likable enough there was quite a bit going on with the story and some twists.

ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Louise Sparks is a relative new arrival to Field County, Colorado and the newest member of the Dive Rescue Team. When cold water rescue training began, Lou began to wonder what she had signed up for -- all her diving experience included a bikini and tropical waters. It doesn’t help that the dive team leader is a gruff, no nonsense man who has her flustered and turned upside down. She takes pride in her small house, and truck, as she builds a simple life far from everything she once knew.

Callum Cook, the team’s leader, is serious. Known for his strict control, he rarely smiles. He has lived in Field County a long time and knows everyone in town and many in the surrounding areas as well. But he finds himself off balance with Lou around and struggles to maintain his carefully crafted calm.

When Lou discovers a dead body, these two find themselves in the middle of a murder investigation with a killer on the loose and danger looming.

The sparks were flying between these two during On His Watch, the Search and Rescue novella before this book. But things moved slowly between these two, driven more by the events going on around them rather than any direct movement by the characters. Oh, they wanted things to happen, but with Cal’s stoic nature, Lou has a hard time determining if he is annoyed by her or interested.

Beyond what is needed to move the plot along, we don’t get a lot of insight into the characters. The main narrator is Lou, with several short scenes narrated by the stalker. I missed Callum’s voice and at times wondered what insight he might be able to add to particular scenes, especially during the time when Lou isn’t sure what he thinks about her.

Derek’s return as a mutual friend provided entertainment value. His off the wall antics combined with the disapproving looks Cal would send Lou during their interactions had me giggling out loud. I also enjoyed getting to know a little more about some of the other first responders on the dive team, sheriff’s office, and fire department. 

Overall, this was a fun, fast suspenseful romance. I read most of the book during a Spring snowstorm in Colorado, so it felt fitting that I was reading one set in the same conditions (though I didn’t have to drive to a reservoir in the snow, thankfully).
ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

She’d been kidding—­well, kind of kidding—­when she’d hollered at him to cook, but there was a definite smell of bacon in the cabin when she emerged from the bathroom twelve minutes later, smug about her speediness. After she threw on some warm and not-­too-­smelly clothes, she followed her nose to the kitchen, where Callum was indeed slaving over a hot stove. Leaning against the wall, she enjoyed the view of him standing at the stove, his sleeves pushed up to reveal his muscled forearms, lining up the strips of bacon into perfect formation.

“You know,” she teased, “you could have your own calendar. You’d only be wearing an apron in this shot. Although that’s kind of asking for spitting bacon-­grease burns, isn’t it?”

He flushed, and she realized she was getting pretty proficient at making him turn red. “Did you want breakfast or not?” he grumbled, forking the bacon onto a paper-­towel-­lined plate.

“Yes.” She reached over to steal a piece, but he smacked her hand before she could reach her prize. “Ow. Did you happen to notice my twelve-­minute prep time?”

“Wait for the eggs. And yes, very impressive.”

“You’re making eggs, too? I might just keep you.”

Although he was trying to hide it, a smile was fighting to break free. “You’re on toast duty.”

Lou glanced at the digital display showing the charge left in her batteries. “If you want me to use the toaster, I’m going to have to turn on the generator. The sun’s not high enough yet to produce much power. That’s what happens when you get up at the crack of dawn.”

He just gave her a look. “We don’t have to have toast.”

“No, it’s okay.” Heading for the front door, she said over her shoulder, “If you made bacon and eggs, the least I can do is make toast.”

Throwing on her boots but skipping the coat, she ran outside to the small shed that housed her generator. She opened the valve that allowed propane to the generator and reached for the start switch. A strange hissing sound and the strong smell of propane made her hesitate. Instead of turning on the generator, she pulled her hand back and closed the valve.

Trotting back to the cabin, she made a face. There always had to be something going wrong. Why couldn’t she just eat bacon with Callum in peace?

Inside, she nudged her temporary chef aside to grab a spray bottle from under the sink.

“What’s up?” he asked, turning off the burner, immediately slipping into calm and competent mode. It was like he could smell the start of a potential crisis.

“Propane leak,” she said, squirting some dish soap into the bottle and filling it the rest of the way with water. She grabbed her coat on the way out this time. Callum followed her silently. As they crossed the yard, the only sound was the crunch of snow beneath their boots. Although she had on her brave face, Lou couldn’t help glancing around at the surrounding trees. Everything was still and quiet, without even a breeze or the chatter of a squirrel. It felt like the forest was holding its breath, watching.

“Leave the door open, would you?” she asked as they both entered the shed. “There’s no other light in here.”

After she opened the valve again, she sprayed the soapy water in a stream where the propane line connected to the generator. When no bubbles formed, she frowned.

“Am I crazy, or do I hear and smell a leak?”

“You’re not crazy.” Taking the bottle from her, Callum began spraying the length of the propane line. At about the midpoint, large bubbles formed, and Lou closed the valve.

“This was cut.” Callum’s voice was grim as he examined the slice in the line.

Leaning her chin on his shoulder so she could see the hole as well, she growled, “That’s it. My tires and front door are one thing, but you don’t mess with someone’s toast!”

“This isn’t funny, Lou.”

“I know.” She sighed, standing. “It’s scary and dangerous and becoming really expensive. Joking in the face of adversity is just what I do.”

There was a loud bang, and everything went dark. With a yelp, Lou grabbed Callum’s arm, needing something to hang on to in the sudden blackness. There was no one in here with them—­she knew that. And yet, she couldn’t help but feel a hot breath against the back of her neck…couldn’t help but imagine hands reaching for her in the dark.

“It’s okay,” she reassured herself more than Callum. “The door just blew shut.”

“There’s no wind.”

“It had to be the wind.” Lou released her death grip on his arm and shuffled in the direction of the door, holding her hands in front of her. “The alternative is too freaking scary.”

“I’ll get it.” Catching her, Callum gently tugged her behind him. She grabbed a fistful of the back of his coat and followed him the few steps to the door. He opened it slowly, peering around outside before stepping forward to allow Lou out of the shed.

Although it was a relief to escape the darkness, standing outside felt almost as nerve-­racking. Her gaze darted around the snow-­covered ground, looking for tracks of some kind or any kind of evidence to prove or disprove that someone had been here…though she wasn’t sure yet which she preferred.

“Do you think he was here last night?” She examined the packed snow around the shed entrance, looking for a boot track matching the ones under her window.

“Could be.” Callum closed the door behind him. “Or he could’ve done this two nights ago, and we just didn’t notice. When was the last time you ran your generator?”

“Three days ago?” She squinted in thought. “Maybe four? I know I didn’t turn it on yesterday, so the propane line could’ve been cut at the same time as the honey thing.”

Cocking his head, he looked at her. “But you don’t think it was.”

With a shrug, she moved around to the other side of the shed, still looking for tracks. “I’m probably being paranoid—­”

He interrupted with a snort. “Are you paranoid if someone’s really after you?”

Her smile was more pained than amused. “Something woke me last night—­or this morning, I guess. It’s just a feeling, but I think he was out there.”

Callum waved her toward the front door. “Let’s eat and then go to the clinic. You can call the sheriff on the way to Connor Springs.”

Climbing the porch steps, she asked, “Shouldn’t we wait for Rob to get here?”

“He knows the way, and you don’t lock your generator shed.” With a disapproving look, he added, “You probably should.”

“It has a lock,” she protested. “I’m just not exactly sure where the key is.”

He grunted, and she resisted the urge to make a face. Callum was the only person she knew who could fit a reprimand into a single wordless noise.

“Eggs,” he said, “and bacon. Can’t waste bacon.”

“Definitely not!” she agreed with appropriately theatrical dismay, and then laughed when he gave her a look. But her laughter died as Callum headed into the house, leaving her alone on the porch. Lou paused, skin prickling, and twisted her head to scan the trees. She couldn’t help but wonder if someone was there even now, watching. Waiting.

Wanting to hurt her.
On His Watch (Search and Rescue #0.5)
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Ice rescue diver Derek Warner never meant to be a hero. But when two little girls go missing, he's the first in line to bring them home-even if that means scouring the wilderness with the woman he once loved and lost, Artemis Rey. 

Artemis has never stopped wanting Derek. Now, racing to find the girls before it's too late, minutes turn to hours. Night falls. Old flames rekindle. And a danger grows in the darkest wilderness that may be more than even the Search and Rescue brotherhood can hope to face... 

Fan the Flames (Search and Rescue #2)
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Expected June 7, 2016

As a Motorcycle Club member and firefighter, Ian Walsh is used to riding the line between the good guys and the bad. He may owe the Club his life, but his heart rests with his fire station brothers...and with the girl he's loved since they were kids, Rory Sorenson. Ian would do anything for Rory. He'd die for her. Kill for her. Defend her to his last breath-and he may just have to.

Every con in the Rockies knows Rory is the go-to girl for less-than-legal firearms, and for the past few years, she's managed to keep the peace between dangerous factions by remaining strictly neutral. But when she defends herself against a brutal attack, Rory finds herself catapulted into the center of a Motorcycle Club war-with only Ian standing between her and a threat greater than either of them could have imagined.

Gone too Deep (Search and Rescue #3)
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Expected August 2, 2016

George Holloway has spent his life alone, exploring the treacherous beauty of the Colorado Rockies. He's the best survival expert Search and Rescue has, which makes him the obvious choice to lead Ellie Price through deadly terrain to find her missing father. There's just one problem-Ellie's everything George isn't. She's a city girl, charming, gregarious, delicate, small. And when she looks up at him with those big, dark eyes, he swears he would tear the world apart to keep her safe. 

With a killer on the loose, he may have no choice. 

Ellie's determined to find her father no matter the cost. But as she and her gorgeous mountain of a guide fight their way through an unforgiving wilderness, they find themselves in the crosshairs of a dangerous man in search of revenge. And they are now his prey... 

In Safe Hands 
 (Search and Rescue #4)
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Expected October 4, 2016

Katie Ruggle Website/Facebook/Twitter/PinterestA fan of the old adage “write what you know”, Katie Ruggle lived in an off-grid, solar- and wind-powered house in the Rocky Mountains until her family lured her back to Minnesota. When she’s not writing, Katie rides horses, shoots guns (not while riding, although that would be awesome), cross-country skis (badly) and travels to warm places where she can scuba dive. A graduate of the Police Academy, Katie received her ice-rescue certification and can attest that the reservoirs in the Colorado mountains really are that cold. A fan of anything that makes her feel like a bad-ass, she has trained in Krav Maga, boxing and gymnastics.

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