This is a review for The Kelly Family series by Lashell Collins, available here:
Synopsis for Where There’s Smoke:
The Kelly Family is back, and this time, they’ve got a score to settle!
After years of dealing with his cheating ex-girlfriend’s betrayal, Detective Levi Hawks has found love again with Marina Kelly, something he never truly believed would happen for him. And when an unexpected foe rises from the past and begins to threaten her entire family, Levi will do anything to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what happens when his own past comes calling? Will Levi hold tight to the woman who picked up the pieces and brought joy back into his life, or will he make the mistake of going back to the woman who broke his heart to begin with?
Author Bio & Links:
Lashell Collins spent the last twenty years of her life working in Veterinary Hospitals and Garden Centers. But whether she was surrounded by the adorable puppies and kittens she helped care for, or by the beautiful flowers, trees and shrubs, she constantly pursued her favorite pastime – reading romance novels and imagining herself as the heroine in each and every one of them. She began writing as a way to work through her grief after the loss of a few people who were special to her, and she found it to be cathartic, so she kept at it. She self-published her first novel in 2013. Since then, Lashell has self-published ten titles across two series – the Pierced Trilogy (romantic suspense), and the Jagged Ivory Series (contemporary romance) – and is hard at work on another two series for this year. All of Lashell’s stories are full of heart and romance, with smart dialogue and spicy sex scenes.
When she’s not writing, Lashell enjoys reading, shopping, eating Chinese food, and riding on the back of her husband’s Harley-Davidson. She loves watching General Hospital and Grimm. She is a huge music fan and is completely obsessed with Slash. Lashell is a member of the Romance Writers of America. Drop her a line; she loves to hear from readers.
I was sent copies of Where There’s Smoke and the four preceding novellas – Storm, Ethan, Frankie and Marina for an honest review. I have chosen to review them as a collection because I feel like they should have all been one book, but the author states you don’t have to read the novellas prior to reading Where there’s Smoke.
I give the collection 4* out of 5* but I feel like I should explain my scoring system. Every book I review starts with 5* and then I deduct or add stars as appropriate as I go through the story. I was kinda surprised to be giving this set 4* because it had its faults, but at the end of the day I did read it all quickly and, on balance, I did enjoy it.
So I started by deducting a star because the grammar is terrible. Although the spelling is blessedly well edited, this author has a lot to learn about sentence structure. If I had a pound for every time she used the word ‘but’ (with double points scored for every time it appeared more than once in a sentence) I’d be extremely rich! It did get irritating after a while.
When I’d finished reading the fourth novella and started into Where There’s Smoke, I added a star back because I was getting involved with the Kelly Family. I liked their interactions with each other – there’s a clear love between the brothers and sisters, but they fight like siblings and all struggle with their father. That was quite realistic – we all have someone in our families that knows how to be cutting in exactly the right way to hurt us. I really liked the characters as people. They all had a unique identity and they were easy to get emotionally invested with.
I then deducted a star because the book is really short (I’d guess maybe 50k?) so it’s not really a full length novel. That was part of the reason I thought the novellas should have all been part of the same book.
The novellas start by explaining how all the Kelly children meet their other halves. They’re quite interesting stories. Ethan falls for another cop on his shift, which is slightly awkward. Frankie falls for her boss, which is even more awkward. Marina is the only one of the Kelly children that isn’t a cop and she is determined not to date one because she thinks they’re all control freaks. When Detective Levi Hawks falls for her, their relationship gets off to a rocky start when he lies to her to get her to give him a chance. This novelette is where you meet Stacy, who appears in Where There’s Smoke. If you haven’t read this novelette, the Stacy story thread in the main book won’t mean anything to you and will just be a completely detached story thread. In all honesty it doesn’t really go anywhere though. That’s why, as a character arc, the novelettes should have been part of the main story – then it would have made more sense. The final novelette is Storm meeting his other half, Nina. Of them all, he’s the only one that has a little touch of BDSM so it’s a bit different to the other threads. The author did make the cardinal sin of confusing dominate and dominant though. It’s one of my pet peeves. That said, it was nice to read a relationship where one side is clearly more into it than the other. Nina wants to go TPE and Storm just isn’t into that, which is a nice conflict.
The book itself, Where There’s Smoke, is supposed to be a crime novel about a series of attacks against the Kelly family, but it’s an incredibly basic story. There’s not really a lot of crime and it was easy to figure out what the character drive of the villains was. I deducted a star for that because it could have been a lot more complex and involving. I don’t know who drafted the book synopsis but it appears to miss the actual plot by quite a wide mark.
I then added a star because the author has clearly done her research on Police procedures. They read as realistic and you did get the sense that she knew what she was talking about. I loved that Frankie was part of the K9 program and again it was clear that the author has done the research about K9 dogs and how they work with their handlers. It was good to see it handled realistically and for the plot to stay within the limitations of that.
There were touches of humour throughout the book and the author clearly loves her dogs. I really liked the idea of the Barkery. I would definitely take my dogs there if we had one near us!
Overall I did enjoy this and would probably recommend it to others, although now that I’ve been and looked at it on Amazon I think the pricing might be a little steep for the novelettes. I read all four in one sitting over the course of about an hour and a half, with tea breaks in between. Not a bad effort though and the characters were well done. I’ll be watching this author with interest to see what she does next. I love Police novels, especially when the procedural element is done well.