Never Send Roses by Craig Schaefer (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

 

Official Author Website

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AUTHOR INFORMATION: Heather
Schaefer 
was born in Chicago and wanted to be a
writer since a very young age. Her writing was inspired by Elmore
Leonard, Richard Stark, Clive Barker & H. P. Lovecraft
. Soon after
her 40th birthday, she decided to give in to her passion and since then has
released close to thirty novels spread out over seven series. Craig
Schaefer 
is her favoured nom de plume. Heather currently
lives in North Carolina and loves visiting museums and libraries for
inspiration.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The House of Dead Roses offers murder,
espionage, and mayhem to the highest bidder. Agent Harmony Black’s war against
the infernal cult — and their seductive, sadistic mistress, the demoness
Nadine — last found her facing off against Nadine’s top assassin under the
glittering lights of Las Vegas, a battle that left her physically and
psychically scarred.


Harmony has no time to heal. Now she’s in the Windy City with a new enemy in
her sights: the Roses’ “mastermind,” a poker-champion prodigy with a
mind like a steel trap and a plan for a heist that will fill Nadine’s war-chest
with an infusion of dirty money. He’s putting together a crew for the job and
Harmony, along with her best friend and partner Jessie Temple, is going
undercover.


What seems like a simple takedown soon proves more complicated — and more
deadly — than anyone bargained for. The target of the heist, a government
defense contractor, is keeping secrets of their own. The prize at stake has
global consequences. And as Harmony’s occult powers continue to mutate, tainted
and twisted by Nadine’s curse, she’s going to have to push herself harder, go
further, and delve deeper into her own darkness than she ever has before.


Harmony and Nadine are on a collision course. This time, only one of them is
going to walk away.

FORMAT/INFO: Never Send Roses is 359 pages long divided
over forty eight chapters alongwith an Afterword & a “The Story So Far” section.
Narration is in the third-person, via Harmony Black , Jessie Temple,
Dima Chakroun
and a few other
characters
. This is the seventh volume of the Harmony Black
series 
which is a spin-off to the Daniel Faust series.

November 21, 2023 marks the North American paperback and e-book
publication of Black Tie Required and it was self-published by
the author. Cover design is by Damonza cover
design studio
.

OVERVIEW/ANALYISIS: Oh boy, I’ve been waiting for Never Send Roses for a good long while.
Ever since we got that slam bang of an ending in Black Tie Required, I’ve been waiting to see what Harmony does and
how she deals with the trauma she experienced. The hunger she’s been hiding as well as her magic becoming different than what she knows. This book couldn’t
come any soon for me. For readers, be forewarned, this is the seventh book in
the series and there’s no way you can jump into this as a fresh reader.
 
The plot picks immediately
after the events of Black Tie Required as we meet Harmony, Jesse and their rest
of the team as they are finally in the driver’s position. Having finally
understood how to take down Nadine, the team get cracking on their plan.
However things are never straightforward and soon enough Jesse and Harmony have
to take part in a heist under the leadership of a brilliant poker player (whom
readers might recognize from A PlainDealing Villain the fourth Daniel Faust volume). An already complicated
plan becomes tenuous with the addition of several new players and that might
not be the only thing. The thing that they have to steal might be the ultimate
Pandora’s box in a way that’s Craig Schaefer’s readers will get a dark chuckle out
of. This is how the magnificent story explodes and you will have to read the
rest to see how Heather’s brilliant plotting works.
 
Never
Send Roses
is another fine thriller and a particularly action-packed entry
in the Harmony Black series. Once again Heather
Schaefer
brilliantly combines a heist plot within a Die Hard like scenario
& to add to it, there’s the threat of murderous zombies. There’s so many
angles to this plot that it’s hard to keep track of who’s trying to hoodwink/betray
whom (in a good way). The characterization is strong as ever as we get several
characters in various shades of black & grey, Heather has a thing for showcasing character complexity and here we
get some hate worthy villains & some intriguing anti-villains.
 
The ending is action-packed
and again gives us enough of a tease about what might come next. There’s enough
twists and revelations packed in this volume to keep a fan like me sated but
there biggest twist was the one that was teased since the past couple of books.
All I can say about it is that it completely blew my mind and now forces me to
re-evaluate all that has happened. Because one thing is for sure, Heather plans
out things in advance and even the smallest occurrences have reasons. This
revelation also throws a special twist in the whole Paladin angle and now the
wait is on for the next Daniel Faust title for more light on the whole Paladin-Enemy conflict. The book also has
a good dose of dark humour with Jessie
and that’s a bit par for the course. The ending also sets up an
intriguing Hannibal Lecter- Clarice
like scenario and I for one am intrigued to see what the author has planned for
the future. The cover is also top-notch and continues the trend from the past
few books in marking itself out as a snazzy, eye-catching one.
 
With regards to any fallbacks
within this story, there’s an episodic element to these stories and so that
comes with its limitations. There’s always something left for the future books
and that can be a tad frustrating at times (that’s not really a complaint urban
fantasy readers have most of the time). Not getting a clear answer to the whole
Enemy-Paladin is also frustrating.
It’s been building up over the past few books in the Daniel Faust and Harmony
Black
books and I was hoping we would get movement on that aspect of the
overall storyline but that’s not the case. I want to make it clear that this is
a personal  observation and not something
that other readers might care about. Besides these couple of small issues,
there’s nothing else that would stop anyone from enjoying this book to the max.
 
CONCLUSION: Never Send Roses promised a lot and it
delivered on almost all counts. Heather Schaefer has managed to create a
fascinating character in Harmony Black
and by creating this series, given us a fascinating action thriller saga to
follow. Never Send Roses has action,
plot twists and betrayals mixed in with zombies, making it another home run and
highlighting what an awesome series this is. Kudos to Heather (and apologies), as I can’t wait for the sequel to this and
the next Daniel Faust title.
 

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