Monday, March 20, 2006

Portrait of a Lover by Julianne MacLean

This was the last remaining historical on my list for a while, and I couldn't wait. I had to read it NOW. I had to see if it was possible for
Julianne MacLean to redeem Magnus. A more villainous villain (from Love According to Lily) I haven't seen in a long time. I have to admit, I didn't think it would be possible to do it in a believable way.

I was amazed. She actually did it! MacLean took the entire first third of the book to tell the entire back story of Annabelle and Magnus' meeting, courtship and disastrous ending thirteen years earlier from both Annabelle's and Magnus' perspectives. You see why he acted as he did. By the end of the third or fourth chapter, I was already rooting for Magnus as a hero. Unbelievable! The woman is a master, I tell you. In a stroke of literary genius, MacLean managed to change the reader's entire view of the main character in the blink of an eye. (mixing my metaphors here, but you get the picture, right?)

For those who did not read Love According to Lily, Magnus ruined Annabelle for reasons better left untold. He led her on, made her fall in love with him, ruined her, then told her flat out he was just using her. The poor girl would never be the same. We encounter her in Love According to Lily 5 years later. Portrait of a Lover takes place 8 years after that, and Annabelle is still not over the entire affair - that's how affected she was.

I loved that so much of this book was told from Magnus' perspective - it's always so refreshing to read the man's POV. Although, I suppose that in this book, there would be no other way to do it - this is really more Magnus' story than Annabelle's. It was interesting to see what had become of him in the intervening years, and to see what he thought of his childhood with his mother, after hearing Whitby's perspective of it in Love According to Lily. It is an emotional journey for both characters, but especially for Magnus, as we watch him come to terms with his actions 13 years earlier and their repercussions.

I enjoyed getting an update on Lily and Whitby - 5 children, my goodness! And I thought is was so interesting to read about the evidence of the time period as well; how Magnus introduced electrical outlets into the house he was refurbishing - very cool.

If you haven't read any Julianne MacLean, I highly recommend her. Most of her American Heiress series (now 5 books long) can be read as stand alones, and even this one can as well, but I found that I related better to the continuity of the story having read Love According to Lily first. There was just so much history and connection between the two books. Now, you all know that I am not a series slut. I often *gasp* read books out of order. So, when I say that you should probably read one first.... you can take my word for it. Both Love According to Lily and Portrait of a Lover are highly recommended! (and can I say... what a yummy cover on this one!)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Two Reads...

I'm posting this out of order - I read this one before Heartbeats, and now it looks like I went back to reading historicals, when in actuality I'm moving on to another contemporary. And here's a really odd pairing of books *g*

Here's the blurb:

Ellen Drake has seen firsthand how dangerous scandal can be. Her family was torn apart by an unjust accusation ten years ago, and now, working as a paid companion, Ellen must keep her reputation above reproach. Catching her employer's betrothed in a sizzling tryst is bad enough; even worse that Ellen should find herself so infernally enthralled by the spectacle! Ellen intends to prevent Alex Marshall, Lord Stanton, from dallying with other women before his wedding day, but the rogue turns the tables — with an invitation to be his paramour. It's a proposition that is too outrageous, too indecent... and strangely irresistible. With a single touch, Alex opens the door to a secret world of sensual desire, a world Ellen is burning to explore...
Alex intends to be faithful once he's married, but in the meantime, London offers so many tempting bed partners. Giving the prim Miss Drake a taste of the excitement she clearly craves will be a delightful diversion, nothing more. But their secret dalliance unleashes the vengeance of someone who is plotting revenge, someone whose own erotic pursuits are twisted with madness. And the scandal that destroyed Ellen's family is about to come calling once again...

I am a huge Cheryl Holt fan. I read with excitement KarenS's interview with her. I went out as soon as I could and snatched up this book. I loved Cheryl's last release, Too Hot to Handle. I mentioned in my review for Heartbeats about formulaic novels. With Too Tempting to Touch, I felt that Cheryl Holt became too caught up in her own formula. I felt very much as though I was reading a carbon copy of Too Hot to Handle. This really disappointed me. The secret dalliance in the bedroom of the companion's bedroom at the hero's mansion. The desired engagement/marriage between the hero and the heroine's charge. The H/H's sexual exploits - doing everything up to the actual act of intercourse, and then, at her encouragement, and he just can't help himself, they finally do it, only to be caught. The forced separation after the misunderstanding. Their shared misery. His begging for forgiveness after the separation.

I thought for a moment that I was reading the same book. On the one hand, this is fabulous - I loved Too Hot to Handle, so another book just like it should be great, right? Only, instead, I found myself wondering if Ms Holt had run out of ideas. Her books have always contained similar themes, but never have they seemed to almost plagiarize one another.

As a stand alone, this book is great - a Cheryl Holt lover's dream. Read right after Too Hot to Handle, it is a disappointment. So while I recommend it, I also recommend that you read other Holt books in between, and definitely leave yourself some space between readings. I only hope that she does not have the same issues with Too Wicked to Wed, due out in September 2006. That might be too much to bear.

I loved Shannon Stacey's Twice Upon a Roadtrip - the humor, the passion, the sheer fun. I bought Forever Again the second it went on sale. Just didn't quite get around to reading it. Now I have. Well, let me say this. In her first two published books, Shannon Stacey has shown that she is a very versatile author. Twice Upon a Roadtrip was a zany, madcap adventure. Forever Again is a painful, yet surprisingly uplifting story of second chances.

When a one night backseat quickie in high school turns into an unwanted pregnancy, Gena and Travis end up in an unwanted marriage (at least for him - she's loved him from afar forever). When a bout of spotting occurs, Travis doubts the pregnancy and walks out without a backward glance.

Fast forward 15 years. Gena runs a B&B in town, and Travis and his fiancee come to stay to plan their wedding. There's a shocker for all 3 of them. And for Mia, their daughter, as well.

As they get to know one another again, but really for the first time, the attraction seems to grow and grow. One painful misstep after another puts happiness just out of reach for them. A large part of the story was about old patterns repeating, and this point was well made. Still, I found myself at one point wanting to yell "Damn it! Tell him to take a long walk off a short pier!! Tell him to get the *f* out of your life!! Tell him to either choose his fiancee and leave you alone or get rid of her and come to you!!" Sigh. The things we do in the name of love. For our children. Or convincing ourselves that it is out of love for our children.

Travis seems like such a great guy in every other aspect of his life - I was amazed at how his teenage patterns came back, just as Gena's did, and he reverted to the way he treated her in high school. Like dirt. Just as she allowed it then, she allowed it now. Drove me crazy LOL. What happened to the woman who overcame her teenage uncertainties to become a successful businesswoman and mother? And what happened to the guy who is a successful counselor, helping kids find their way in life? Put them in a room together and old feelings and hurts bubble to the surface. Stacey did a great job of bringing this all out, even if she frustrated the hell out of me in the process.

So, bottom line is, Stacey writes an excellent book. This is the prequel to Twice Upon a Roadtrip. Jill makes a brief pre-Ethan appearance as Gena's best friend. I recommend it :)

Heartbeats by Susan Rae

Brand spankin' new author. First book. Back to contemporaries for me. Back to my true love - romantic suspense. I think this review will be short and sweet. I enjoyed this book. Immensely. No huge emotional investment here. Just a very satisfying read.

We have Elizabeth, a doctor and Drake, an FBI agent (you know how I love my secret agents, men in uniform, and all around hunky cops!). They met in college and had a weekend fling. Six years later they meet up again. Seems someone is out to get Elizabeth. Drake puts himself on the case.

While there are some very formulaic elements in this book, I found them to be very well done. And, I don't mind well done formula. After all, isn't formula what made romance novels so popular? It's why we all got hooked in the first place, right? Boy meets girl, boy and girl have obstacle, boy and girl overcome obstacle, boy and girl admit love for each other, boy and girl have HEA. Right? Well, you can add in a few other formulaic elements to this story - a child produced from their weekend fling, unbeknownst to our hero; our heroine in danger from unknown source; hero's big buttinsky family; the fat, rude, accusatory detective on the case. Still, Susan Rae handled it all quite well, and kept the story flowing and interesting.

I found this to be a quick, delightful, escapist read. While published by Berkeley, it could easily have been a SIM. Same type of story, just a smidge longer. After all the heavy duty emotional historicals I've been reading lately, it was a refreshing change. Thanks for the recommendation, Anne. I am sure that we will be seeing more of Susan Rae.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


A lot of talk about this book. A lot of rallying behind it.

I’ll admit right up front that I read Dark Lover with a lot of preconceived notions. On the one hand, I expected to be blown away. So many readers I trust have been nothing less than feverish about this book, this author. Hence its place on my TBR list.

On the other hand, I expected to be tossed out of the story by references to paint roller abs and men with tits—neither very appealing to me. I was also turned off by the idea of a menacing hero and unredeemable secondary characters. These references from two other trusted readers.

So I read it.

And enjoyed it.

The earth didn’t move.

Nor did bile rise in my throat.

I just found it an enjoyable—if slightly confounding—read.

JR Ward’s Dark Lover did draw me in. I was captivated early on and enjoyed the pace of the action. I was a bit daunted by the glossary of terms at the beginning of the book, but realized fairly quickly that she explains everything easily—without disrupting flow—within the confines of the story. No need to study up before going in.

Once involved in the story, the characters grew on me. Ultimately, I have to say I liked them. But I say it grudgingly. I typically prefer characterization that is better balanced. I’m not opposed to characters that are initially unappealing, or constructed with two sides. I’m not against letting characters do things that appear out of character—at first blush. I’m not even opposed to characters presented as outright freaks of nature. However, I do have trouble when the author fails to assimilate all of it—description and actions—into a character true to himself and the reader.

And that is where I stumble in this review. Honestly, I can’t tell you if Ward brought it all together or not. When I turned the last page, I still thought the bulk of these characters were a bit too outlandish, too freakish. Their actions, personas didn’t add up; didn’t come together with any semblance of clarity.

But I can also say that when I turned the last page, I was smiling and felt genuine affection for Ward’s characters. So my response to these characters didn’t add up either.

Here is some of what bothered me. First, why would Wrath let Beth go without constant supervision—knowing she was going to go through the change any minute? Didn’t make sense given his fierce desire to keep her alive. Second, how does a woman, near-raped the night before, go ape crazy for sex with a complete, not to mention menacing, stranger? Even Wrath is confounded by her reaction to him, admitting that he used no aphrodisiacs to subdue her? How does a good cop—Jose—just “let ride” his concern for a good friend’s safety while simultaneously ignoring his duty as a cop? And I still did not like the paint roller abs imagery. It didn’t throw me out, but it did make him less appealing in what should have been a sexy scene.

Here is some of what I liked. The immature, adolescent banter. The world(s) Ward created and the balance of power therein. The butler. And at least one moment that made me laugh out loud—that moment when Beth is writhing beneath Wrath and he can’t figure out what the hell happened. Ward says he was “struck stupid”. Loved that line. And think it is representative of what did keep me in the story—Ward’s humor.

At least I hope it is Ward’s humor. This is where I may stumble again. Throughout Dark Lover, my biggest challenge as the reader was balancing the serious against the absurd. Very dark, driven characters (of the Brotherhood) who drive a flashy Escalade and listen to rap music. Ward delivers the absurd moments with a straight face in this book. A face so straight, I was beginning to think she was serious. Serious in thinking that rap music and tattoos just add to the dark mystery of her Brothers. In the end, I decided that Ward was perfectly aware of how immature her boys were. (Still dark and powerful, but pure adolescents.)

Overall, given that I was drawn into the story and more than compelled to finish it, I'm not sure if the point of characterization matters much. I guess you could say I was captivated by the story but found it difficult to take the characters as seriously as I might have liked.

Finally—in this review that is sounding more like a rebuttal—I have to say that, I didn't find Dark Lover teeming with sexual tension or eroticism. The romance was strong—emotional, binding and very beautiful in the end. The sex was sexy, yes, but nothing that would set it apart from its peers.

So, preconceived notions aside, I had a good time reading this book. On the whole, these characters—and their actions--were no more outlandish than some of Evanovich’s Plum folks. And the see-sawing between darkness and dorkdom not so different than what I saw in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Dark Lover was quirky (albeit in a very dark world) and, chalking those confounding moments up to its quirkiness, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’ll read Eternal Lover when I can pick it up. And this will be a set of characters I will follow. In the same way I’ve kept up with Stephanie, Buffy and Angel.

And yes, I know. Stephanie, Buffy and Angel all enjoy a cult following. And now I’ve lumped the Black Dagger Brotherhood in there. So even though I cannot for the life of me tell you what all the fuss is about, I somehow find myself a “fuss-ee”, the newest member of the Brotherhood’s cult following.

My thanks to JR Ward for an enjoyable read.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

Warning - contains "semi"-spoliers *g*

This is by far the best of the Wallflower series so far. In fact, I would go so far as to say this is the best book that Lisa Kleypas has written since Worth Any Price (and for a good while before that). The Devil in Winter reeks of Kleypas' past style of writing (see directly below for JenniferB's take on Dreaming of You and the comments attached and you will know what I mean). Devil in Winter has a rough, unapologetically nasty hero (Lord St. Vincent, the villain from It Happened One Autumn) and a heroine that you would expect to be a pushover, who becomes unexpectedly strong. Supporting characters you care about. And it invokes memories of ... Derek Craven. Everywhere. Begin with the fact that our heroine, Evie, is Ivo Jenner's daughter. We visit with Ivo Jenner on his deathbed. Almost the entire book takes place in Jenner's gaming club. And St. Vincent ends up running Jenner's club following Jenner's death, causing all sorts of comparisons, even among the book's characters, to Derek Craven. I loved it!

As we watch Sebastian struggle with his feelings for Evie, it is eerily reminiscent of the same helplessness that Derek Craven struggled with as he fell in love with Sara Fielding (and that I loved so much with Nick in WAP as well) - spiraling out of control, losing the sense of self and selfishness that rules his life, becoming so vulnerable that he must send Evie away in order to protect his sense of being.

Luckily for us, somewhere between Autumn and Winter, Evie grew a backbone, and no one is more surprised than she is. While the other wallflowers were explored/introduced in the first two books, Evie really remained an enigma. We find out why in this book, and it really isn't pretty. But it does serve as a reminder to Sebastian that life does not revolve around him, and again is a stepping stone for the two of them to draw strength from one another. Evie becomes a source of awe (and frustration) for Sebastian as he observes her strength and watches her grow and blossom into her own woman. She, in turn, draws her strength from his support.

Like many other Kleypas fans, although I have enjoyed her recent books, I have been less than enthralled by them. With The Devil in Winter, I think she has recaptured that spark, that special something that makes her books truly noteworthy... not just another formulaic historical.

And on that note, I am leaving historicals for a bit and moving back to contemporaries for a while. Anne just sent me one that looks great! Anyone read Susan Rae's debut novel Heartbeats? My true love - romantic suspense :) And I still have Rachel Gibson's latest. ... oh and I do have one other historical on my plate still, Julianne MacLean's latest - another unredeemable villain to redeem... So many books, so little time... sigh

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

Like Red Lily (NR), I sat down to read this book out of duty. Reading Kleypas’ backlist is one item on my TBR list—and Dreaming of You is a title I hadn’t yet read. Simple.

Just because I knew I would hate it, is no reason to scratch it off my list, right? Wrong. That would have been like polishing my kitchen counter to a gleam, only to find an errant crumb smack in the middle of it. I wouldn’t survive it.

How did I know I would hate it? Two reasons. First, its hero, Derek Craven, was introduced as a secondary character in Then Came You, a Kleypas title I read over what were the worst few days of my life. Through no fault of its own, I will forever associate that book, those characters to that time. Second, I’m craving power and competency in my heroes right now. Derek Craven is a hero from the wrong side of the tracks—uneducated, disdained by society’s powerful upper crust and firmly rooted in the seamier—criminal--side of London life. I doubted his world would be one in which I would feel safe.

I was very, very wrong.

Derek Craven is one of the most powerful men I’ve ever read. And Dreaming Of You is the most compelling—shattering—book I’ve read from Kleypas thus far.


She stood at danger's threshold -- then love beckoned her in.

In the shelter of her country cottage, Sara Fielding puts pen to paper to create dreams. But curiosity has enticed the prim, well-bred gentlewoman out of her safe haven -- and into Derek Craven's dangerous world.

A handsome, tough and tenacious Cockney, he rose from poverty to become lord of London's most exclusive gambling house -- a struggle that has left Derek Craven fabulously wealthy, but hardened and suspicious. And now duty demands he allow Sara Fielding into his world -- with her impeccable manners and her infuriating innocence. But here, in a perilous shadow-realm of ever-shifting fortunes, even a proper "mouse" can be transformed into a breathtaking enchantress -- and a world-weary gambler can be shaken to his cynical core by the power of passion...and the promise of love.

That blurb doesn’t do the book justice. Sara is a published—highly successful—author. And she writes of prostitution, not dreams. The popularity of her novels combined with her open regard for every form of life—aristocrat to whore—gains her entry and acceptance everywhere. I always enjoy watching every character but the hero fall in love with the heroine first. I like the jealousy that results and the subsequent warring efforts—by all—to protect the heroine.

In this case, Sara’s seamless acceptance into Derek’s world only heightens the threat she poses to him. He does not want her there and feels no duty to allow her to use his gambling house to research her next novel. His minions feel otherwise and simply do as they please. Another enjoyment—watching subordinates rule the roost. Humor almost always abounds in these scenarios and they lend a certain insight into the hero’s character.

Derek Craven. Difficult to put into words how this character came to life for me. Kleypas infuses him with such magnetism, you cannot look away. He is a man of few words, yet he communicates—he emotes—with such power it is almost palpable for the reader. I felt Craven’s grip on my senses in every single scene in which he appears.

He is quite a powerful presence.

But he is the one character least in power throughout this story.

That is what sets Dreaming Of You apart from every other historical romance I’ve ever enjoyed. In this story, Kleypas gives all of the power to Sara, the heroine. And in Derek, she gives us a hero so wrenchingly vulnerable, we are afraid of him. Afraid of how he might react to that vulnerability—a weakness and a threat in his eyes.

Watching him come undone is the whole point. And frankly, I thought Kleypas a genius for the way she placed Derek in the readers’ hands—with as much care as she did in giving him to Sara. Caring for him was emotionally painful, a little frightening and powerfully rewarding. Perhaps not entirely safe, but rewarding nonetheless.

Read this book.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Tapestries: Bakra Bride by NJ Walters

NJ Walters has such a rich, full-bodied writing style. I really enjoy her books. I normally do not like paranormals - you guys know that. I read very few paranormals of any sort. There are only a few authors that I trust enough to read their paranormals. Sarah McCarty and Shelby Reed top that list, maybe one or two others. NJ Walters being one of them. This time travel novel is the 2nd book in the Tapestries series, following Christina's Tapestry. The series is about a place called Javara, where women are in such short supply that the men in a family must compete for a woman to be their bride, then the winner must share with his brothers once a week. To add to this craziness, once or (very infrequently) twice in a generation, a tapestry brings a woman from a far-away land (that would be our land) to be a "tapestry bride" for the man who first sees her. Sound far-fetched? Oh yeah, but NJ makes it work - completely and totally.

So, this 2nd story in the series is the story of Jane Smith, a woman who witnesses her boss commit a murder and is basically cast out of the life she knew. She is drawn to the tapestry and is magically transported to Javara, where she meets up with Zaren Bakra and the rest of his brothers. They have but a scant few days to convince her to stay with them rather than to go back to the life she left. Guess how they start the convincing?

The book flows very well. While there are plenty of sex scenes, there is also plenty of plot and story to support the sex. Jane wasn't left without options when she was transported to Javara; that would have made for too easy a decision to stay, and perhaps too weak a heroine. She, instead, must learn to love the Bakra brothers and enjoy her sexuality with Zaren and his brother, and make her own decisions about whether to either stay in Javara without all the conveniences of modern life, but with the love and comfort she has gained, including a wonderful extended family; or to go back to the potential of a good job, and a life just beginning to straighten itself out - the prospect of what could be... Jane also meets up with Christina, the first tapestry bride, who fills her in on the joys and hardships of life in Javara and the difficulties of leaving your old life behind.

The sexuality in this book fairly sizzled off the pages. The Bakra brothers are alphas at their very best - warriors; protective, fierce, loving... yet willing to let their woman make her own decisions and abide by them. Wouldn't we all wish for a man like that? And men in Javara are trained to sexually please a woman in every way, since they will need to compete for the very few women there. Needless to say, these guys know their way around a woman. *please pass the ice*

But it is really NJ Walters' storytelling - the details, the rich characterizations, the depth of feeling, that makes her books so enjoyable. Someone I know said that NJ "paints with words" - and that is how I feel when I read an NJ Walters book. So this 2nd book was as enjoyable to me as the 1st was. And NJ left an opening for the 3rd book. Damn her for mentioning how lonely Marc seemed...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Some of February's Reads

Bound Hearts series from Lora Leigh

In February, I read three titles from Lora Leigh’s Bound Hearts series: Wicked Intent, Sacrifice and Shameless.

* All feature ultra-dominant alphas, uncompromising in their need to share their women.

* The men, and some of the women, are connected—throughout the series—by way of membership in an exclusive club. Not a sex club per say, but sex does “go on” here.

* The women all share a near-raging need for true, liberating, sexual fulfillment.

* All three conclude when the dominant alpha provides the fire-breathing sexual fulfillment and receives, in exchange, his own emotional liberation.

Sound like something you’ve read before? Well, it’s not; at least not if you’re new to Lora Leigh. There is nothing clichéd about Leigh’s characters or their needs. Her stories are well written, her characterization rich and seamless. It is easy to lose yourself in a Leigh book; easy to be drawn in by its characters, propelled by their motivations. Those motivations? Purely sensual, wildly erotic. Leigh excels at writing sex scenes that challenge most readers’ personal experience without—for a single minute—hindering visualization or flow. Leigh’s ability to create breath-hitching eroticism far exceeds that of her peers.

There are nine books in the Bound Hearts series and I plan to read every one. Eventually.

Memory In Death by JD Robb

This series from JD Robb remains off the scale. Nothing compares. I will never tire of these characters, any of them. I will never grow bored with their continued romance. And I imagine I will still be daydreaming about Roarke when I am 80 years old.

Gentleman’s Honor by Stephanie Laurens

Laurens is quite simply, a comfort read for me. Her Bastion Club and Cynster books never fail to provide the competent hero I crave—the one who handles adversity with quiet strength, without burdening or squishing the heroine. It’s my dream world.

All Night Long by Jayne Ann Krantz

Either the first JAK book I’ve read, or the first JAK book I’ve read in many years. Not sure. It was ok, but didn’t bowl me over. It felt formulaic, mechanical. Its characters were interesting, the storyline intriguing (not from the overdone vault) and the outcome satisfactory. I’d have to say that the physical presence of the H and H—their attraction to one another, their dialogue—kept me in the story. The dialogue scenes in particular were well done—and brought me as close as I was going to get to ‘knowing’ these characters. In the end however, I just couldn’t get very attached to the story. And when I set it down, I promptly forgot about it.

To The Brink by Cindy Gerard

Another in Gerard’s Bodyguard series, To The Brink features a reunion love story—probably the most believable I’ve read to date.


Working on highly sensitive diplomatic affairs, Darcy Prescott is a natural target for terrorist kidnappers. But when she’s mysteriously plucked off a street in Manila one sultry night, Darcy’s disappearance isn’t what it seems…

The moment Special Forces soldier Ethan Garrett laid eyes on Darcy, he knew she was the woman he would marry—and he did. But when their marriage fell apart, Ethan never really recovered. Now a highly paid bodyguard, Ethan quickly slips back into combat mode when he learns of Darcy’s disappearance and calls in old favors to assemble a rogue rescue team….

Tracking Darcy all the way to the jungles of the Philippines, Ethan knows every move he makes could mean the difference between life and death. His love for Darcy burns stronger than ever. But when he learns the true reason for her abduction, it may be too late to save her—or himself…

Everything about this book worked for me. The mystery, action, military ops, romance—everything. Gerard’s characters are fallible, her alphas human—as opposed to superhuman—and her heroines smart despite their inexperience. I plan to read the one title I’ve missed thus far in this series and then keep up with each new release.

Red Lily by Nora Roberts

Reading Nora Roberts is like schoolwork. You have to do it. I mean, how can you not read a new Nora Roberts book? Not sure, but there may even be a law about it somewhere.

At any rate, this trilogy has not been my all-time favorite from Roberts. Compared to my other romance reads (including her In Death series), this trilogy seemed benign. The first two books were also laden with gardening tutorials—detailed and technical enough to flunk the reader out of the book.

I dutifully put my name on the library’s list for Red Lily last month. When it came in, I trudged into the library like a mutinous teenager. Reading it fell on my list of chores. Seriously. Like I said, schoolwork.

I loved it. No kidding. By far the best of the three—with one of those competent heroes I mentioned earlier. Sure, we’ve known him since Blue Dahlia, but in Red Lily, we get to experience that male competence firsthand. We also get to see exactly why chattering, girly-girl Hayley is his perfect match. Roberts gives us that same taste of “quiet but powerful man who is amused, possessed by and make-me-swoon protective of his woman” we sampled in her early In Death books. That mix works well for me—without marginalizing the heroine or idealizing the hero.

If you were disappointed in the first two in this series, I encourage you to give Red Lily a chance. Roberts gives readers a can’t-miss love story and refrains from tutoring us on the science of gardening.
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