Friday, December 30, 2005
This post is the most difficult I’ve written for our blog to date. It’s damned hard to pen the right words when a book leaves you, quite literally, speechless.
That is how Shelby Reed’s Midnight Rose left me. Speechless. Breathless. Spellbound.
Reed’s prose is breathtaking. From the first paragraph, I was caught up in her vivid description; lured deftly into the book’s setting. It is a setting with a life and character all its own and, through Reed’s words, I felt its breath at the back of my neck.
Within pages, Reed not only introduced Kate as our heroine, she made her a woman I’d known all my life. That spark of recognition was the first indicator of Reed’s remarkable characterization.
The next came moments later, when Kate spies Gideon, our hero, from afar. And he catches her watching him. No words are exchanged. Separated by dozens of feet and darkness, not even a true look is exchanged between them. Yet my breath caught. And I held it in anticipation.
I exhaled on the next to the last page of the book.
Not since Roarke began carrying Eve’s lost button as a token of their inexplicable and undeniable connection in Robb’s Naked in Death, has a fictional hero so utterly captivated and mesmerized me. Reed’s Gideon is my “other” Roarke. Through Reed’s skillful characterization, I was enthralled by Gideon’s grace and quiet intelligence. Entranced by his inner darkness. Seduced by his physical and spiritual presence. And when Reed revealed his heart, mine ached.
Kate’s emotional and spiritual strength are palpable—long before either are overtly challenged. Her own intelligence and humor are, as I said, instantly recognizable and served to draw me to her with the same intensity I found in Gideon’s character. As the character most in the dark, Kate is a natural ally for readers. Sharing and believing her perception is critical in the success of this book. Reed garnered that acceptance, my acquiescence, before page ten.
Jude, Gideon’s 13-year-old son, is another beautifully drawn character—true to his age and limitations. Reed’s use of him to epitomize Gideon’s spiritual struggle is exquisite; so subtle it is nearly missed. How she managed to develop Jude’s character without betraying this story’s truth (to himself, Kate and the reader) too early left me shaking my head in wonder. That she was able to elicit unconditional love for this boy, even in the face of unspeakable evil, is extraordinary.
A cast of supporting characters, professions and daily routines serve to enrich the character development of Gideon, Jude and Kate. It all blends seamlessly as Reed ensnares the reader in the same delusion of normalcy lived by each character. In fact, Reed weights every facet in the telling of this story so skillfully, so beautifully that I was drawn forward, toward the truth, steadily, carefully, with an apprehension cast so delicately as to render it almost deniable.
Reed’s writing and remarkable characterization brought this book to life for me. It evoked feeling, tears, laughter and real fear. The love between Kate and Gideon is epic; heart stopping. And Reed tosses the reader about on the same swells of joy, passion and confusion that these two experience. It is an exhausting read, but one that leaves you with an emotional afterglow; changed.
Once captured, I wanted to read Midnight Rose to the exclusion of all else. I didn’t want to sleep, eat, work or play. I longed only to immerse myself in this story; and I never wanted it to end. Yet, Midnight Rose was not a book I could read in one sitting. It is so beautifully written, Reed’s depth of characterization so subtly delivered, her seduction so deeply emotional that I slowed to savor every word, every moment.
My thanks to Ms. Reed for an evocative read. While I’ve tried my best here, I fear even these words do not adequately express how deeply I appreciate a book that touches me on so many levels. I look forward to reading your other work with great anticipation.
In another important and final note of thanks, I must acknowledge Anne for this recommendation. Anne has been at me to read Shelby Reed for some time. Again, words cannot express how happy I am that I did. Discovery of a new (to me) author that moves me like this one did is—as all readers know—a gift to be relished. Thank you again Anne.
It was a slow start for me however because I was feeling noncommittal when I started it. Then, I found myself less than certain about the hero until Carlyle carefully revealed him as a man worthy of her heroine. Once engaged, I nearly put the book down in fear that the H and H would be unreasonably, stupidly separated until much later in the story. I’m relieved to report that that particular peeve never materialized. Our hero claims his bride in short order and the remaining, better part of the book is devoted to tying its reader’s emotions in knots (I mean tying the H and H into emotional knots) until the explosive, coming undone scenes that wrap up the HEA.
The mystery and suspense all stem from the emotional conflict and Carlyle does not litter it with distractions. The characters propel the telling of this story; and Carlyle gives us (many) characters that are complex in nature—riddled with imperfections and utterly charming.
I’ve added her to my hurry-up-and-read-her-backlist list—which should put me flush with her new releases along about 2008 (given my similar commitment to read every Kleypas and Laurens book; and to try Julia Quinn).
Frederica d'Avillez is sure she will never marry. She's had a disastrous London season, and now her longtime beau has thrown her over for a more eligible miss. But if Freddie can't have a husband, she's hell-bent on experiencing at least one night of unforgettable passion. Where better than in the arms of the dashing rogue Bentley "Hell-Bent" Rutledge? So what if he's a rake, scoundrel, and all-round devil?
Scandal trails in Bentley's wake and fair maidens usually steer well clear of him -- and vice versa. But when the opportunity presents itself, Bentley can't resist Freddie's exotic beauty. When their wild, reckless passion has dire consequences, Bentley is forced to choose between honor and freedom. And Freddie soon realizes that Bentley's devil-may-care façade is just that -- for she has unwittingly unleashed his dark secrets...and secret desires.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
This current book focuses on history and, to a large extent, on the current administration's subservience to the fundamentalist conservative right. Although parts of the book are a scathing criticism of the current administration, he backs up his positions with biblical scripture and historical events and perspectives. He is, by his own admission, a devout evangelical "born again" Christian. Yet he passionately defends the separation of church and state and defended the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, although it went against his own personal beliefs.
He devotes chapters in this book to civil rights, homosexuality, the death penalty, abortion, science and religion, divorce, women's rights, and environmental issues including drilling for oil in Alaska, preserving America's national parks and global warming, and the US policies on decreasing emissions in relation to the rest of the industrialized world. There are chapters on our global image, the growing gap between rich and poor both in the US and globally, North Korea, Cuba, nuclear proliferation/disarmament, humane treatment of POWs, government-sanctioned torture, and war (globally and specifically in Iraq).
This is not a "democrat" vs "republican" issue, he is quick to point out, and the book backs up this assertion. Instead, he concentrates on the increasingly strong influence of religion into politics, which, he contends, should be separate. He puts every chapter into perspective relative to his own strong religious convictions and beliefs. He contends that religion has its place in politics in the same way that it has its place in everyday life - by guiding our hand toward being valuable, moral and compassionate human beings - not by guiding public policy and law.
As a Jew, I found this a fascinating read, given his self-admitted evangelical bent. Although we have different religious beliefs, it is clear to me that he respects every human being's right to believe passionately in their own religion, but not at the expense of others. As an American, I found it equally as fascinating, although a bit demoralizing to read about some of the positions taken by our country's leadership (and by default, the country's citizenry), and as a human being, I am equally captivated and appalled by the lack of far-sightedness he portrays by current and past leadership of our country, and its lasting ramifications.
A fascinating read, and I recommend it highly, along with any of his other twenty-odd books, including his poetry.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
I'm always going to pick up a romance with the Beauty and the Beast theme so this was a no-brainer for me. When I was a child it was my favorite fairy tale and from Jane Eyre on, I continue to enjoy variations on that theme.
Aubrey Drelincourte, Earl of Breme, has been accused of killing his first wife while they were in India. Before being found with the incriminating gun, he was mauled by a tiger which has left him disfigured. His cousin, the wicked heir, is trying to get him convicted of the murder so he can take over Breme. So brilliant Aubrey decides he must wed quickly and get an heir started to outfox wicked cousin Rupert. That part seemed a little weird, but the rest of the story was gripping and emotionally satisfying.
Lillias Merritt is trying very hard to stay out of the lecherous clutches of a local farmer when she runs to Breme for help. She helps nurse him back to health and they develop a love/hate relationship. She's spunky, bright and musically talented and doesn't think she's at all attractive. She's convinced Aubrey is innocent and will do anything to help him prove it, including getting herself into jeopardy.
I got this at the library on Friday afternoon and finished it Saturday morning. I really enjoyed the on again/off again relationship between Aubrey and Lillias and the story did have some odd twists in the journey which kept me reading.
Loved the secondary characters - they are well drawn and sympathetic, especially Ram Dass and Caroline. She's currently working on their story but since MLB was just published in May, 2005, it may be a while before it comes out. I'm looking forward to it; I really like Mary Lennox's storytelling style.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
A Bit of Sass was flawless.
Every character came to life for me in this well-crafted, tightly written story. McCarty’s heroine is at once self-conscious and empowered; hopeful and devastated; relaxed and poised to fight. In short, Sass is a parent. Never being able to put fully into words what my own role as mother means, I was captivated by McCarty’s wrenchingly honest portrayal. In the span of a few pages, I could be found nodding vigorously, laughing out loud and suspended in heartache.
Jacob is equally authentic. His circumstances and life experiences are believable and his expectations for himself astonishingly poignant. Watching McCarty expose the depth of his emotions, first through humor then anguish, is a treat for every woman who thinks there are no good ones left.
CJ and Corrine, Sass’ children, are every bit as much a part of McCarty’s emotional tale as the romantic couple. They are individuals; painted with a singularity, humor and complete absence of humility that define what it is to be childlike. Another nod to the steady, unrelenting hand McCarty uses to draw her characters. Every parent—mother and father—will recognize these children. And love them.
Sarah McCarty is an auto-buy author for me for three reasons: characterization, voice and writing skill. A Bit of Sass delivers flawlessly on all three. It is so well written, I barely noticed the words on the page. They were merely the vehicle by which I was transported into the world of Jacob and Sass.
McCarty’s voice—her wit, appreciation for life and emotional honesty—rings genuinely from beginning to end. In fact, she imparts so much of herself in Sass that I wondered how much of A Bit of Sass could be autobiographical.
Finally, her characterization in A Bit of Sass is unmatched. Readers will not find this depth of characterization in any other novella, particularly in this genre. Bucking every trend and expectation, McCarty drops readers into the middle of Sass and Jacob’s relationship. By doing so, she overcomes the issues of believability, trust and acceptance so common in this format.
Sarah McCarty stands 10 stories higher than her nearest peer. Her work—and A Bit of Sass is no exception—is beautifully written, superbly edited and utterly captivating.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Her roommate gets her a job interview (she needs health insurance), where she promptly pukes all over her potential new boss. I remember those morning sickness days *g*. Miraculously she gets the job anyway. On a "business trip" *wink wink* to the Carribean, they get together. Damien's reaction to finding out Mandy is pregnant is priceless. I wanted to smack him right along with her. It was written so perfectly!
Erin McCarthy does a great job as always of mixing up the humor into situations that wouldn't necessarily call for it ("oh my god, did I blow air into your vagina during oral sex? You could die!" - Damien is obsessed with this one LOL). Great story, great plot, loads of sex, loads of fun, and a beautiful, sensitive hero hiding behind a world of hurt and bravado. What more could I ask for?
The story begins in the middle of Sass and Jacob's relationship, which I loved. During the "should we or shouldn't we" talk about taking the relationship to the next level, Jacob unthinkingly says something that makes Sass believe it wasn't meant to be. How they find their way back to each other and their individual journeys through their own issues make this a warm spirited, thoughtful look at the trials and tribulations of being a single mother, loving a single mother, and fitting a relationship into all that. The scene of the aftermath when Jacob takes care of Sass' kids for an entire day is a laugh riot, too- one that we can all relate to. Not to mention, that Jacob is hot, and the sex even hotter!
Sarah's books are an auto buy for me, and she doesn't disappoint with this one.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Long time no postings from me. So first let me apologize. Sorry I hope to do better in the new year.
Anyone who knows me knows I love all of NJ's books. I can't help it. Beside being a wonderful person she really is a wonderful author. In touch with what her readers want and in this Christmas Quickie she delivers.
Jessamyn is like many women these days, she a solid size 16, but she is beautiful, powerful and embracing her life and sexuality with self confidence.
Caleb is the strong and every vigilant next door neighbor. The fact that he is a police officer, well let's be honest that makes him all the more yummy.
At Christmas the year before Jessamyn wanted to surprise her then boyfriend Bennett with a Christmas gift he'd never forget. Her wrapped up in a little red teddy. Too bad the man who enters the house isn't Bennett. Fleeing after her initial shock she moves on, past Bennett and the memory of Caleb's potent stare.
It's been a year and Caleb has the same wish for Christmas as last year. Jessamyn. We watch as Caleb convinces a reluctant Jessamyn that he is all the man she needs.
Steamy sex and a story of love for Christmas is what you get with this Christmas Quickie. Jessamyn and Caleb are the perfect couple, and when they do finally get together watch the sparks fly.
NJ succeeds again at reaching her readers, penning a story with a heroine everyone can relate to. If you haven't you should add this to your most wanted list, you won't be sorry.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Every turn, every development defies the formula I expect in a historical romance. And I loved it. Kleypas delivers outstanding characterization and involves the reader emotionally from the start. In a word--a keeper. In fact, a DIK. Blurb.
Secrets of a Summer Night: My second best favorite from Kleypas. In this one, Kleypas gives readers the formulaic vulnerable heroine and a dashing hero to come to her rescue. Circumstances and character however stretch beyond reader expectations and, for me, put Kleypas in a class by herself.
Most memorable in this book is the laugh-out-loud exchanges between four women enjoying a friendship very real and rarely seen in historical romance. I would also say that the heroine carries the book. It is largely her story and the hero occupies the background space a good deal of the time. Of the hero, I liked his patience and genuine--altruistic--kindness. I never saw him as self-serving and his tender endearments were utterly natural (not ill-fitting, corny or presumptuous). This is another that I will re-read. Blurb.
Suddenly You: When Lori commented on Kleypas' tendency to feature characters and storylines outside historical London's ballrooms, I was intrigued. Suddenly You is a good example of this and I enjoyed it immensely. This heroine is an accomplished author and her hero a successful publisher. And instead of falling into marriage, they fall into bed and enjoy a full-out affair. The HEA ultimately dictates marriage, true; but the journey was engaging and entirely outside the bounds of propriety. An engaging read for me with but one complaint. I found the heroine's weight issues an annoying distraction. Not because Kleypas fails in any measure of characterization; but rather because I don't wish to identify with the heroine that much. Blurb.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Caroline, the eldest, wants to be a painter - she is applying to apprenticeships all over Europe. She sees inside Zachary, to the strong, deep person he can be. He is amazed, because no one, not even himself, has really tried to look inside him that deeply to get to what he wants out of life.
She is of course, stubborn, thinking that a marriage to anyone (especially into a Duke's family) would stifle her creativity, not allowing her to paint for a living. So, after a series of mishaps involving the other 6 sisters all trying to vy for his attention, Zachary falls for Caro and vice versa.
During the course of all this, Zachary finds himself and a purpose in life. He proposes, she turns him down, fearing the loss of her freedon to paint, yada, yada, yada. After a couple months apart, he can take it no more and finds her. They make up and live happily ever after.
I still like these books for what they are - easy no-brainer romps, but I was a tad disppointed in book 2. Sebastian, the Duke, came across as less likeable in this one than in the first one (see below). I hope she fixes that in the next book, because it took away from my enjoyment of this book - he was just a jerk. The interaction of the siblings was much of what made the first one so enjoyable, and this book had much less of that - Eleanor wasn't even in it (she was on her honeymoon). Still, accepting it at face value, it was ok. But borrow it from a friend, don't pay for it yourself.
Monday, December 12, 2005
They cannot stand that she may get herself into trouble, so her brother, the Duke, enlists his best friend to "watch over her". Of course, he becomes her adventure.
This is a fairly light story - no deep penetrating emotions evoked, and I thoroughly enjoyed it for what it is. Suzanne Enoch wrote perhaps one of my favorite historicals, England's Perfect Hero, which is incredibly intense and emotional, so it was nice to (re)read a light story by her. She does both equally well. Thumbs up on this one.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Well, this was pretty much a foregone conclusion, for two reasons. One, I had already ascertained that I like this author, having read one of her previous titles. Two, I never fail to come undone for a military man.
In Slip Knot, Faulkner entrusts readers with not one, but a handful of breathtaking, highly proficient, wise-cracking special ops heroes—all of whom are integral to the story. Rem’s teammates are not gratuitous secondary characters. Instead, Faulkner weaves them so tightly into the story that I was compelled to consciously keep track of every character; drawn to each and concerned for all. Watching these men exchange barbs one moment and communicate without speaking in the next, I felt privy to that sense of brotherhood that so draws me to soldier stories.
Watching Rem’s heroine shed emotional layers throughout Slip Knot was equally engaging. I was skeptical at first; not sure who she really was or what she was about. That I was cheering for her in the end is a nod to Faulkner’s ability to power readers forward, daring us to trust Rem’s open devotion to her—from the beginning, then counting on our willingness to embrace a woman who is a survivor. While we get to hear from both Rem and Kathryn throughout the book, Faulkner lets the reader accompany Rem through most of the discovery period of this relationship. It is a rewarding experience.
Faulkner’s realistic depiction of strategy and weaponry strengthen believability and heighten suspense. The element of danger in this book is palpable—again, fully engaging the reader.
The sex? Hot. Of course. Hotter, in fact, because Faulkner builds sexual tension, rather than exploiting it. Rem’s careful solicitation of Kathryn provides the book’s most emotionally revealing scenes. Additionally, all of Faulkner’s men and women stay ‘in character’ between the sheets. This made for believable, trustworthy characters.
That foregone conclusion? I dug it. This is a very good read indeed.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Hey, Lori started it.
I am so relieved to find another author of historical romance that I love. I’m in that mode right now and, given recent disappointments like Lindsay and Balogh, was beginning to wonder if I’d hit a wall. Not so with Kleypas. With just one under my belt and 50 pages into another, I’m sold.
Like Lori, I appreciate a story that does not take place primarily in a ballroom. I also liked that this hero struggled with his feelings and was far from perfect. I did guess the plot twist relatively early on, but as it was the path to the HEA, I didn’t mind. It gave me hope.
I’ll give you the blurb and wrap it up by saying, simply—I read this book in one day, an important distinction, as I am the working Mom of a toddler. When I turn a book over in less than 24 hours, I liked it. A lot. More than sleep.
Blurb: She couldn't remember who she was...
A temptingly beautiful woman awakens in a stranger's bed, rescued from the icy waters of the Thames, her memory gone. Told that she is Vivien Rose Duvall, one of London's most scandalous beauties, she finds herself under the protection of enigmatic, charming Grant Morgan. Her life is in his hands. Deep in her heart, she knows he has mistaken her for someone else...
He was the only man she could trust.
As one of London's most eligible and unattainable catches, Grant Morgan is a man who has known every kind of woman. And the one in his arms now seems so innocent, so vulnerable, that he can't help but be enchanted. And as his love for this mysterious beauty grows, he's determined to unravel the secrets of her past and discover the truth -- no matter what.
Discovered that I don’t so much like Lindsay’s voice or characterization. Liked the story / plot (pasted below), but spent much of the book waiting for her to give the heroine a bit more credit and the hero a bit more dialogue. Won’t trash the book or the author. This is simply another case where the voice and character development just do not work for me. I felt none of the connections and frankly, couldn’t remember the character’s names 10 minutes after I finished it.
Blurb: Lady Margaret Landor first met Sebastian Townshend as a child, when he caught her peeking into her older sister's engagement ball. Tall, dashing, and charming, Sebastian was one of the most sought-after bachelors in Kent and cut a romantic figure she would not soon forget. Never did she dream that one day she would be living at his family's magnificent estate with Sebastian's father, the eighth Earl of Edgewood, as her guardian—while Sebastian is banished from his family due to the tragic results of a duel.
When life at Edgewood takes a sinister turn with the earl suffering a suspicious number of life-threatening accidents, Margaret wonders if Sebastian's younger brother and his wife have grown impatient to inherit the earldom. Setting out to find the one man she believes can set the situation to rights, she discovers that Sebastian Townshend has forged a new identity for himself on the continent.
Now known as The Raven, a deadly mercenary, notorious for accomplishing any mission no matter how seemingly impossible, he has vowed never to return to England. Not until Margaret meets his outrageous monetary demands does Sebastian agree to return home, reluctantly posing as her husband in order to facilitate his return to society. When he learns she cannot afford to pay his fee, he suggests a scandalous trade.
As Margaret and Sebastian work to uncover the intrigue at his father's estate, a fierce passion blooms that neither of them anticipated and neither can resist. But can Margaret persuade Sebastian to abandon the dark path he believes is his fate and claim the life—and love—he deserves?
I think this was a fantasy of mine growing up. A dark, handsome hero and a delicate, tiny heroine—everything else being equal—unencumbered by ordinary responsibilities. I think my fantasy tales even had similar life-threatening medical issues to make the heroine more delicate. So for me, Romeo was kind of like stealing back to the daydreams of old. It was an indulgence I enjoyed very much.
Of course it had a bit more heat than my teen fantasies did—a good thing, as I’m a couple of decades beyond those sweet, take-me-away daydreams. Faulkner’s hero is mouth-watering; her heroine the perfect compliment to him physically.
Emotionally, the heroine provided the best scene in the book and by far, the best “I’m-tired-of-being-typecast” heroine speeches I’ve heard in a long, long time. You will cheer out loud when she lets her hero—who is trying oh so hard not to be overbearing—know that she will match him (maybe even best him) in the I-want-hot-sex-now department. It’s a great scene.
And Romeo is a sweet and hot read.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Sara, the heroine, is an author from a small village, who writes novels about prostitutes and other unseemly things. They meet up when she goes to London to research her next novel about gambling. Watching Derek fall in love with her is amazing - he fights it every step of the way, but just can't help himself. And Sara, though she has a suitor back home, can't seem to help her fascination with him.
Hardly any of this Regency historical takes place in the ballrooms of London. Lisa Kleypas, like Cheryl Holt, is unafraid to write about the seedy underbelly of society. This is a romantic, wild, sexy, rough, interesting, wonderful book. If you like Lisa Kleypas, you must read it. If you've never read her, you must read it. Ok, I guess you must read it LOL!