Monday, April 8, 2019

Blog Tour: At A Stranger's Mercy (Badge and Bullets Book 1) by Brittany Cournoyer (Reviews+Excerpt+Giveaway)


At A Stranger's Mercy
Badge and Bullets Book 1
Brittany Cournoyer
Gay Murder Mystery
Release Date: 03.22.19



Making eye contact with a killer wasn’t exactly how Bradley Danforth had planned to start his day. As an accountant, he craved structure and routine. What he hadn’t anticipated was being part of a real-life murder mystery with him cast in the starring role. 

Death and sorrow were part of Max Donohue’s job description, leaving the detective hardened after years on the job. On his latest case, he’s the one stuck protecting the only witness in a sadistic homicide. 

One death becomes two… then three. And soon Max and Bradley find themselves playing a deadly game of cat and mouse. Can Max save Bradley from the clutches of a serial killer? Or will the killer finish what he started? 

At a Stranger’s Mercy is the first installment of a continuing series featuring the same two characters. It’s a suspenseful murder mystery that depicts detailed crimes, strong language, and adult situations. While this series will include a romance, it’s a slow burn that develops throughout the series.

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I shut the door, making sure to lock it behind me, and started the engine after clicking my seatbelt into place. After checking my rearview and side mirrors, I slowly backed out of the driveway then pointed my car in the direction of the coffee shop—and work. Only then did I realize I’d have to drive by the man who was still digging around inside his car. 

He must’ve heard my car approaching because I watched out of the windshield as he straightened to his full height and pulled his car door partly shut so I wouldn’t hit it when I drove by. While a nagging voice inside my head told me to keep my eyes on the road, I couldn’t stop myself from looking and locking eyes with the man standing by his vehicle. 

I felt like time reduced and my car was moving in slow motion as I drove by. The anger I could see in his eyes had me gasping aloud, and I felt my blood run cold. The black, cold eyes burned into mine, and I couldn’t bring myself to turn away, no matter how much I knew I needed to. The unease I felt earlier intensified, and even though I wanted to press my foot down harder on my accelerator to get the hell out of there, my body felt nearly paralyzed with fear. It was only when I was past his car I could finally breathe easier. 

I didn’t even bother to stop and get coffee; the mood for it had completely gone. Instead, I went straight to my office in hopes of getting lost in my work so I could shake the weird feeling that had settled over me. But it didn’t happen. The unease clung to me all day, and my mind was plagued with flashes of black, angry eyes. My hands shook as I punched numbers into the calculator. My handwriting was barely legible thanks to the tremors as I tried to make notations, and it was incredibly difficult to concentrate since I was so off-kilter. 

4 Stars

Rating and reviewing this book is probably one of the hardest things I've done in my life.

First things first, I guess. I absolutely hated Max, he was a sociopath (really, I actually went and researched sociopaths because of him and the description fit him to a 't', actually, I was kind of surprised his pic wasn't under the definition) and an asshat of the first order. He completely lacked empathy regarding Bradley's plight and behaved in an unprofessional manner with him with that harebrained plan he concocted, which by the way, I have no clue how his captain went along with it since it had lawsuit printed all over it.

And then we have Bradley, who frankly speaking, was a bit of an idiot. Although, all things considered, I could see why he acted the way he did, at least up until the moment he allowed Max to railroad him into agreeing to his plan.

Despite my thoughts about the main characters, the book was well-written and up until the last quarter, I was fully engaged in the plot and intrigued about the case, I had no clue who the killer was until Ms. Cournoyer was ready for me to know and really, as procedurals go, this was really good. However, and please be aware this is totally me and others might feel differently, on the last 25% or so of the book, it went completely off the rails and kind of lost me as Max's plan to catch the killer and whoever was helping him inside the police precinct unfolded. I won't be getting into that here, but if you want spoilers, please read my co-blogger Jaymie's review next.

I have to give kudos to the author for keeping my interest even if there was only the hint of a romance in this story—honestly, I could have totally gone for it even if there wasn't any, I felt the whole thing between Max and Bradley a bit forced, especially since Max hadn't given any indications of his interest until the very end and Bradley's attraction felt like it only happened due to proximity and Max being there for him (somewhat) and not really because of any real feelings between them.

Anyway, while I wasn't happy with how things went in the last portion of the book, I haven't stopped thinking about it all since I finished the book and you can be certain I'll be picking the next book in the series as well. I just can't not know what will happen next.

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***

This review contains spoilers, so if you don't want to read, just scroll down until the end of the post to enter the giveaway.

4 Stars!

Okay, I’m going to be real here and say this is one of those books that frustrated the hell out of me and I’m not sure if I loved it or hated it (maybe I hated loving it, who knows?). No matter how I label it though, I can’t deny the fact that I was compelled to see it through to the bitter end. I absolutely had to know who the killer was and why they were doing what they were doing. That alone earned At A Stranger's Mercy 2 Stars!

My review is going to contain spoilers galore and while I generally try not to include spoilers (or I will only do one which I clearly label), in this particular case I just can’t avoid it. I am in the mood to truly discuss what it is about this story that I loved, that I liked and what it is that I hated. I just have to put it out there because I honestly couldn’t stop thinking about it. Which in turn earned another star for the story, bringing us up to 3 now. So if you aren’t ready for spoilers, I suggest you stop reading now and just jump to the end of this review.

What I Loved: I am a huge fan of Mystery Thriller and Suspense. I don’t mind graphic crime novels and in fact, I read them all the time. I think that’s why I found myself drawn to At A Stranger's Mercy when I first read the blurb. I knew going in this wasn’t really going to be a romance so having been prepared, I was just fine sitting back and waiting for it to develop naturally wherever and whenever it felt right in the background. I understood and accepted that the main focus was on Max protecting Bradley while solving the case and putting a serial killer behind bars, or in the ground which wouldn’t have been a bad ending either. I was very happy with this aspect of the book (for most of it anyway) and I was happy that I was really getting into it all. I loved that it didn’t seem obvious who the bad guy was or the motive. For me, the best part of stories like this is trailing along with the detective and fitting the clues together to discover whodunnit and in the beginning, I really felt as if that was where we were headed so I couldn’t put it down.

What I Liked: Things weren’t cut and dry with our killer. While we find out who committed the murders and how he was getting away with it, there’s still more to it all (sets up for a series). So in actuality, it’s a bit of an open-ended ending and we are just beginning the story. I’m absolutely intrigued to dive deeper into the reasons for these particular crimes.

What I Didn’t Like: so here’s where I found myself shaking my head in exasperation because as I said, I was completely loving the way the case was going and fine with watching the possible attraction between our MCs develop slow and naturally. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened though. Instead, we got a few little moments thrown in here and there where either Max or Bradley would feel some spark or something and it never felt organic. It was more like these were afterthoughts that were thrown into the mix in order to say something between them was blooming. It truly lacked any chemistry in my opinion and there was no connection between the men other than a begrudging acknowledgment that they were stuck with each other.

This brings me to the main reason I found myself unable to honestly imagine these two men in a relationship and why I didn’t completely fall in love with this story: the characters, particularly our MC’s Max and Bradley.

Max is not at all likable to me. Not as a police detective or a love interest. He’s rude, short-tempered, short-sighted, judgmental, etc... Saying this man lacks sensitivity, empathy and compassion is an understatement. I could not get behind his treatment of witnesses and victims at all. His handling of Bradley before as well as after his attack was pretty much abhorrent to me. Any person who was attacked with the kind of vicious brutality that Bradley suffered deserved to be treated with the utmost decency and care. Yet, Max treated him as a nuisance or annoyance. I’m not sure if this was done on purpose by the author or if it just wound up like that but either way it rankled. Bradley was basically beaten to within an inch of his life by a man who’d killed and dismembered his neighbor yet Max acts as if Bradley shouldn’t have any kind of PTSD or anxiety afterward. No, he doesn’t come out and say that but his actions from the way he treated him in the hospital to the way he so nonchalantly left him in his home without truly making sure Bradley felt safe to his blasé attitude to the murderer attempting to break in his supposedly safe home with top-notch security system (which just so happened to go on the fritz *eye rolls*) made me think he didn’t give two shits about Bradley.

Then there’s Bradley. Bradley, Bradley, Bradley. For what I assume is supposed to be a smart man he sure can be dumb. I honestly can’t list how many times this man made me want to bang my head against the wall. I don’t want to say too much because I do really feel bad for what happened to him but I honestly don’t know if he had any sense of self-preservation. He’s hiding from a SERIAL KILLER and he decides to call up his friend and demand he goes to his home, the home that happens to be a crime scene (Bradley, did you forgot you were beaten to a pulp there?) to get him some of his stuff so he won't have to borrow Max’s clothes. Not only could he put his friend in danger but he could also possibly lead the killer straight to him *internal scream*.

Then there’s the little fact that after Bradley stupidly let this pseudo-friend know his location, Max thought it was a good idea to announce in a press conference that Bradley was dead. Umm... Did it not occur to anyone that Bradley’s friend knows he’s not dead, has in fact spoken to him and knows where he’s at? I mean it isn’t as if this friend wasn’t capable of letting the cat out of the bag, he wasn't actually known for discretion at this point when it came to Bradley. Not to mention Bradley had already started contacting his clients and explaining why they’d have to work with other CPAs.

With all of that, both Bradley and Max can’t seem to stand being in the same room with each other. Yet, we are to believe they might have something brewing between them. Yeah, I don’t think so.

Now onto the thing that almost had me smashing my Kindle. Max’s grand plan to catch the killer using Bradley as bait. Oh God, this is painful, I don’t even know how this seemed like a good idea. Max leaves Bradley home alone and puts on a show at work to draw the killer out. There is no backup protection for Bradley, no one hiding in the wings to help him, nothing. You can imagine the worst-case scenario. Skip ahead, Bradley is at the mercy of the killer once again, being tortured and Max is taking his sweet old time getting to him. There is actually a point where Max stops to talk with someone in hopes of a confession while Bradley is screaming!!! Where the hell is the sense of urgency? How did anyone think using Bradley as bait is a good idea? Does anyone actually give a damn that the man has been brutalized and terrorized by this psychopath multiple times now?

After all of that, I am supposed to believe Max wants to date Bradley, that he thinks they have something and he’d like to see where it could go? You have to be kidding me. If I were Bradley, I’d punch Max in the nads then sue him and the police department. I’m sorry but this left me in a rage. What could have possibly been a 5-star read was sitting at a 3 because I found this to be completely implausible and unrealistic.

However, in the end, I actually decided to bump it up to 4 stars because even though the last few chapters made me utterly angry and I can’t stand either Max or Bradley, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It made an impression on me and I even got anxious to discuss it with my co-blogger while she read it. Plus there’s the little fact that I now feel obligated to read book two in order to see how it plays out. I need more information and a little part (okay, a huge part of me) hopes Max will redeem himself and Bradley will grow on me. I guess we’ll see.

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement
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Brittany was born in a small town in Alabama and moved to Indiana when she was thirteen years old. She currently resides there and works as an operator at a local hospital. When she isn't working, she loves to spend her free time writing stories, playing with her puppy, Delilah, watching television, and spending time with loved ones.

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  1. My favorite thing about Mystery/Thriller books is the suspense and the guessing what will happen next or not!

  2. The suspense is my favorite thing .

  3. I love the ones that I KNOW what happened, I just know, then BAM I'm completely wrong but in a way that still fits the story. If that makes sense.