Review: Sweeter Than Sin by Shiloh Walker

Review: Sweeter Than Sin by Shiloh WalkerSweeter Than Sin by Shiloh Walker

Series: #2 Secrets & Shadows
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Published by St. Martin's Publishing on September 30, 2014
Pages: 351
Source: NetGalley
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four-half-stars  

After the last book, I most eagerly dove into this one. The mystery and suspense and all that is going on in the small town of Madison grabbed me up. As I pushed through this one, I encountered one reveal after another. There are layers upon layers of secrets here so that even if I got a few sorted, the answers just led to more questions. And that was…so good. I love it when I have my confidence shaken when I think I’ve got the answers and turned upside down by a twisty story. Shiloh Walker is to romantic suspense what Betty Crocker is to cookbooks. I can’t believe I waited so long to pick up her books.

Anywhozit, I’m going to suggest anyone who doesn’t want spoilers for the first book to stop here. I try to keep stuff spoiler free, but I don’t want to responsible for screwing up someone else’s reading experience. This is not a standalone or one to be read out of order. It definitely needs to be read after book one and even better if you can get the prequel series of books too for even better connection to the story.

‘kay, now that you’re warned, here’s my summary. This book picks up right where the other left off though a few more lead characters have dropped into the mix. In Madison, all hell has broken loose and in a sense I don’t mean that figuratively. The cover-up for the rape and torture club hidden in the community is no more. The town is awakened to it thanks to several people setting things in motion so that over two decades of secrets are pouring out. But not all of them. Men have been arrested, other men have been taken down by a mysterious vigilante, and still others hide in the shadows. Jensen Bell and her boss the chief of police are hunting answers in their way while Noah and Adam also work with the abused boys trying to gently coax what they know and help them heal. Meanwhile men are dying with confessional notes left near their bodies of their part in the club of abusers which destroys families and reputations.

The news of all this reaches the attention of a woman who has been hiding for twenty years. She thought it all ended twenty years before. She had been promised that their actions that bloody night ended it all, but now she sees that it just kept going even without the Sutters and the ones she knew about that were killed. The guilt and anger rushes in as she realizes that while she first tried to destroy her life with drugs and then later just hid away from life and who she really was that boys were still being used and hurt. It all never stopped. Now she’s got to pull it together, go back, and do what she can to make sure it ends for good this time.

Noah wasn’t the only one who lost the girl he loved the night Lana disappeared. Adam, the boy across the street, had loved her even longer than Noah, but he didn’t act on it just waited for her to grow up. But then she chose Noah never even knowing about him and then she disappeared. He was quieter about his self-destruction, but he was right there with Noah except he switched from the booze to women as his choice of addiction when his parents died. Now after all these years, every day is a struggle and his control is on shaky ground. It doesn’t help that the town that was simmering has now had the lid blown off. He’s not sure how much more he can take, but that’s when the mysterious woman comes to town and he realizes that maybe now most of the secrets will come out.

I didn’t summarize as much as I tend to do because I don’t want to mess up the shock value of getting all the secrets as they come for those who plan to read this book. In fact, I’m going to keep a tight lid on my thoughts about this one when it comes to my afterthoughts for the same reason. The author built things up in the last book and let loose a string of reveals near the end. In this one, the reveals came as soon as I started reading because in a sense it’s not really a new book so much as just a new segment of an ongoing one.

Adam was an important side character in the last story and in this one, he takes point and gains a love interest in the mysterious lady. Adam was nearly broken by his demons that are all a result of unrequited love and a form of survivor’s guilt. I was so glad to see him get put back together and get the support of a woman who not only understands his addictions, but can tight slap those jerks in the face because of her own troubles. Although, even though I’m not saying much about her, this gal was driving me nuts the way she dilly-dallied around about giving up what she knew. I get the problem; I do- really I do. But as a reader, it was tough to see her holding some really high cards and not playing them so that everyone had to wait while she got up her courage. She dinked around until it was almost too late.

The romance, hot as it was, once again, had the feel of being slightly separate from the suspense and mystery going on. The romance was back burner because of the secrets sitting between the two of them and all that is going on around the town. These two characters play a strong role, but there are others just as deeply if not more so involved. There are several narrators some unknown because they are what I call the shadow characters working in the background. Most of the time, I’m not keen on the villains or even key ambiguous players getting a voice because it spoils the suspense for me, but gotta say…it really didn’t matter. I had one figured out and figured out a bit of what was going on and why, but it still doesn’t help when it comes to other things that are still a mystery. This is where I am totally in awe of this gal’s writing. She’s got this plot set up like those Russian nesting dolls. There are mysteries inside mysteries. It’s a tad confusing right now, but I’m still keenly vested here. One of the bigger reveals toward the end that shows who gets the next story has me just salivating for that third book.

All in all, if you haven’t guessed yet, this was one intense ride that I can’t wait to jump on again for round three. Romantic suspense lovers who like the romance spicy and the suspense darker and gritty need to go for this series.

My thanks to St. Martin’s Press and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.

About Shiloh Walker

Shiloh Walker has been writing since she was a kid… she fell in love with vampires with the book Bunnicula and has worked her way up to the more…ah… serious vampire stories. She loves reading and writing anything paranormal, anything fantasy, but most all anything romantic. Once upon a time, she worked as a nurse, but now she writes full time and lives with her family in the Midwest. She also writes under the pen name J. C. Daniels.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • Melanie Simmons

    I still need to start this series. I love Shiloh Walker’s Romantic Suspense stories. Great review.

    • Yes, you need to grab this one, Melanie. It’s perfect for a nice October atmospheric murder mystery. 😉

      • Melanie Simmons

        Could I read this one before reading one first? I don’t know if I will get to it in October. I know I have a few review books I’ve promised authors to get done first. I will make sure this is next on my list.

        • Not really, sorry! They are like segments of one big story when it comes to the suspense. Only the romances are slightly standalone, but even then the characters are generally already introduced and part of the story.

          • Melanie Simmons

            That’s how the Ash trilogy is, one murder mystery with a romance for each book. You have to read them in order, so it isn’t a surprise that this is the same way.

            • Good to know when I go to read those! I like this style of presenting the series.

  • I really need to try this series. Havent read romantic suspense in a while. This one sounds like it has a lot of layers to it.

    • I hadn’t read RS for a while too and when I grabbed this one for review I ended up reading all the prequel novellas and first book to get caught up. You hit one of its strongest features- the layers. I can figure out some of what’s going on and some of the culprits, but its so complex that I have to keep reading to get the rest. Now, I’m ready for even more suspense after my long drought.

  • I didn’t read the first book and since we’ve both read this, here’s my question: In book 1 did it talk about Cronus Club? It looks like a big chunk of info was shared here so I wonder how much of the Club was told in the first one.

    I love the series premise, it made me so mad and invested with the story, it’s like an unfolding current event that I follow on the news.

    • I’m trying to recall exactly when the name of the club was introduced. The existence of the club was there in book one along with hints of what it was about, but it was all sort of shadowy to enhance the shock factor on the reader IMO. I don’t think we get the name or some other specific details until book two when some of the hidden players start to come out with reveals and with the work of the vigilante person. There was definitely a great deal more revealed in book two, but it was bits and pieces dropped by different characters throughout. Still a lot left to come out in the open I think.

  • Yay! I’m so glad after a couple rough novellas these won you back over 🙂 I’m flipping dying for the next one. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do with it 🙂

    • I know, me too. I am right there with you. I don’t normally read the previous chapters they tuck in at the end of a book, but I did this time b/c I was in such withdrawals at the end. I really hope book three gets an early ARC. 😉

      • Oh I closed my eyes and didn’t look. Too much torture! But yes I can’t wait for the ARCs to come out. If I see them on NG I’ll let ya know!

        • You’re a true pal and I will totally hop on it if you say the word that its in. I’ll do the same. I already enable a few people when I see stuff I think they would want to read and it’s particularly fun when they are trying to be good and resist any more books. Evil of me, I know.

          • Aaaaannnd Sophia’s wee little devil horns show themselves! lol I’m usually the one on the receiving end of that. I’ve been trying so hard not to pull from NG until my list is done. 11 still to go (all way way old but trying) but dangit I’m so easily swayed. lol

            • I was so close. I had like a 95% on turned in reviews and links and then I totally fell off the wagon when Kensington, St. Martin’s Press and someone else auto approved me and started sending newsletters featuring their new books on NG. I thought it was bad with Sourcebooks and Penguin doing that. Pfft! Now I’m back at 82% and getting the withdrawal shakes as I stay away to finish the ones I’ve got.

              • LOL isn’t that mean?!! I’m at 88 right now which is highest I’ve been. I’m only with Kensington, Grand Central and Penguin and they do me in well enough. lol I’m trying like crazy to hit the 90s. I have 3 I need to write reviews for then I’m down to just the old ones that are a year+ due. (hangs head in shame) They were either accidental click throughs from invites or ones from way at the beginning of the blog when I didn’t know better. Still trying to get my way through them. lol

                • Hey, you’ve made me feel better. I forgot that a handful of the ones I have on the NG pile were accidental clicks on invitations before I understood how those newsletters worked. I still plan on doing those too, but I don’t feel as obligated as I do for the ones I committed to on purpose.

                  • LOL It was a harsh realization. I’d done like 15 of them. Oys! I’m down to 9 plus one I won in a tour and they gifted it that way but it’s book 3 of a trilogy with the same storyline so that sucker took way back seat. We’re doing good I think. Yups!

                    • You got me curious. I got a book I won that way too, but I took care of that one since it was the first in a series. I actually have two in that grouping that I actually said I wasn’t interested in and the publisher/promoter still dumped it into my dashboard. I forgot about those too. I will read unsolicited review books, but I have to prioritize the ones that I chose first. So maybe my NG average is closer to 85% so yeah, we’re good! 😉

                    • Yep that’s the same here. The current ones I’ve requested whatever way come first then if there’s down time I’m getting back to the rest. With my last “won” one I need to purchase the first two books still and just haven’t felt up to that. One day maybe. But I figure we’re over their 80% suggestion so we’re rocking it 😀

                    • Definitely Rockin’!

                      I know what you mean about getting a later book in the series and bumming b/c still need to get the ones leading up to it. I got lucky and had time to binge read to get to this Shiloh Walker one, but I rarely have that luxury so there are a few that just sit and wait. I’ve got three on the review pile like that b/c I didn’t realize I got a mid-series story or b/c I thought I’d be caught up on the series in time to get to the latest. Like you, I nibble away at these oldies. 😉