Thursday, July 27, 2006

Deep Breath by Alison Kent

I should start this review off with a personal apology to Alison Kent. I promised her this review back in April. Unfortunately, April saw the beginning of a series of events that flipped my life upside down and inside out. Job loss, the sudden deaths of loved ones, ever-growing financial uncertainty, and all the little, but normal, bumps in between. I’m still out of work and still grieving. At the same time, my stay-at-home time with my son has granted me a peace I never thought to have. I’m reveling in that and plodding forward. Ok. A personal apology AND a sappy personal update. My thanks to everyone for your thoughts and encouragement.

Alison, I am sorry this is so late in coming. But not sorry I made the commitment. I enjoyed Deep Breath immensely. Deep Breath is exactly the type of contemporary, sexy operative story I prefer. As I’ve said before, it is a hero’s competence that captures my attention first. His ability to handle and cope no matter the circumstances. Harry fits the bill, and carries it off with charming nonchalance.

That nonchalance was important because it allowed him to “appear” disinterested in the outcome; there by accident to help her retrieve confidential documents and free her brother. Even though, all the while, he was after the same end. I’ll admit, I kept waiting for Georgia to ditch him and continue her search on her own—her well-established MO. For a brief period early in the story, I didn’t fully accept the premise that tossed them together. Kent pulled me through the set up however, and deftly tied Georgia’s acquiescence to a bone-deep weariness she could no longer ignore. That in turn gave her a vulnerability that appealed to hero and reader alike.

Another characterization I tend to like. That of a highly competent, but exhausted heroine. I can identify with a woman in this state, perhaps more so now that I am home with my son. It may sound contrived, but I really do not know how I managed to “do it all” as a working Mom. What I do know, and do recall, was being so tired some days that I just wanted to curl up against a strong chest and let someone else do the hard stuff. Didn’t make me weak or incapable, didn’t mean I stopped doing what I had to do. It just meant that if said strong chest had been available, I’d have clung to it in a heartbeat. Like Georgia.

The suspense and its pace were well measured and Kent’s secondary characters well developed. I particularly liked Georgia’s brother. He exhibited a humor and competence I found very appealing as well.

Oh, and the intimacy between Harry and Georgia was as erotic as the book’s cover. It was highly charged and emotional—with Harry’s dry wit serving to quell Georgia’s nerves. Very honest stuff.

As this was my first Kent book, I have clearly read “out of order”. It did not matter in the reading of Deep Breath. But I am intrigued enough—given what I learned of SG-5 here—to go back and catch up the series.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

July TBR Challenge - Dangerous Curves by Jacey Ford

Barely slipping this one in on time. Phew! I do not want to end up on the wall of shame!

This is the first in a trilogy - three ex-FBI agents start their own detective firm. Think Charlie's Angels with a harder edge (and, of course, no Charlie). Each one of these women has a past to overcome. This first book focuses on Raine. She left the FBI under a claoud of suspicion after a suspect was killed in her custody. Her boss/lover did not come to her defense, although he believed in her innocence; he was more concerned with his own career.

Now Calder Prescott wants her back, and lures Raine in with a bogus case she can't refuse. Her fledgling business simply needs the money. Turns out the bogus case isn't so bogus after all.

I enjoyed this book in much the same way that I liked the Janzen Steele Street series. Suspend belief and accept it for entertainment value. Because if you look for holes, there are plenty of them to be found. However, it appears that Ford did her homework on dangers to be found in the Venezuelan jungle. There is one particular scene with an ick factor so high, I called my hubby all the way from London just to read it to him over the phone. He was not appreciative, since it involved a certain part of the bad guy's anatomy and a certain creepy crawly fish with spikes. 'Nuff said. Ick. Talk about a book grabbing you, literally and figuratively.

I loved to death the teenage heroine, Megan. She stole the book. And how cool that in the dedication, Ford states that she bases the character on her own step-daughter. What a compliment. This girl starts out as a pampered super-smart over-achiever type and turns into a teenage James Bond type - self-sufficient, smart, tough, think-on-your-feet, beat-the-bad-guy-at-his-own-game type. I would have loved to have been like her as a teenager.

As for the whodunnit, I did guess it as soon as the clues started coming in, but after the whole spiky fish in the wanker thing {{{{{{full body shiver}}}}}}, I was transfixed anyway, waiting to see how he would get his.

It was a fun read, and I recommend it for those who enjoy a "Calgon, Take Me Away" type of story. I've already picked up the other two in the trilogy.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Angels Fall by Nora Roberts

Met every expectation. All good.


Reece Gilmore has come a long way to see the stunning view below her. As the sole survivor of a brutal crime back East, she has been on the run, desperately fighting the nightmares and panic attacks that haunt her. Reece settles in Angel's Fist, Wyoming-temporarily, at least-and takes a job at a local diner. And now she's hiked this mountain all by herself. It was glorious, she thought, as she peered through her binoculars at the Snake River churning below.

Then Reece saw the man and woman on the opposite bank. Arguing. Fighting. And suddenly, the man was on top of the woman, his hands around her throat . . .

Enjoying a moment of solitude a bit farther down the trail is a gruff loner named Brody. But by the time Reece reaches him and brings him to the scene, the pair has vanished. When authorities comb the area where she saw the attack, they find nothing. No signs of struggle. No freshly turned earth. Not even a tire track.

And no one in Angel's Fist seems to believe her. After all, she's a newcomer in town, with a reputation for being jumpy and jittery-maybe even a little fragile. Maybe it's time to run again, to move on . . .

Reece Gilmore knows there's a killer in Angel's Fist, even if Brody, despite his seeming impatience and desire to keep her at arm's length, is the only one willing to believe her. When a series of menacing events makes it clear that someone wants her out of the way, Reece must put her trust in Brody-and herself-to find out if there is a killer in Angel's Fist before it's too late.

What struck me most about this standalone novel from Roberts was its pace. It moved slowly, almost carefully. Roberts literally puts us in the mind of Reece Gilmore, a woman suffering a need for caution that tips to paranoia and a compulsion—for everything—that bends her to the neurotic. She is filled with trepidation and every step; every move she makes requires a lot of energy. Roberts immediately puts the reader in the same rhythm and lets us go forward at Reece’s pace.

The hero is muted as well. Not overbearing, just there. Smart, competent and masculine. Again, Roberts draws readers to him at Reece’s pace, instilling in us the same reluctance and doubt. And to make him more interesting than your average romance hero, Roberts gives Brody an air of boredom instead of patience. This is not a man who decides he wants the heroine and then patiently waits for her acquiescence. For him, at least on the surface, it appears that he could go either way. This only adds to the reader’s curiosity. And caution.

Despite the carefully measured pace however, we do get to see these two come together relatively early and enjoy each other throughout the remainder of the book. I like this about Roberts’ books—Roarke and Eve being her prime example. We can count on watching more than just the chase. Roberts goes further by giving us a window seat as the relationship grows.

The book’s setting—its location and supporting characters--also contributes to the tempo of the story. It takes place in a small town in Wyoming, where the Grand Teton loom yet comfort; where the town folk charm yet intrude. All at the small town pace. Roberts gives us a fully developed cast of characters and describes their physical surroundings in poetic detail. We see a good deal of this through Reece’s eyes, experiencing the same raw appreciation for nature’s beauty and power and the comfort found in the simpler things.

The mystery unfolds slowly as well. For most of the book, it is secondary to character development. Near the end, Roberts steps up the action and gives us an unexpected villain. I did figure it out with the first real clue—just a step ahead of Reece. But that didn’t bother me. Roberts tied it up quickly from there, without too much clutter (those innocent secondary characters she wanted readers to suspect).

Like I said, all good. Seems there are two covers though. Which I can't show you because Blogger won't let me.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Protector by Gennita Low

I keep a running TBR list, not pile, list. My book budget is quite small and my tolerance for clutter smaller. Unfortunately, a book title and author listed on a dull sheet of paper is little motivation. I usually refer to the list long after seeing the blurb or reader review that sparked my initial interest. Then I close my eyes, point my finger, blindly pick a title and head to my library’s website to see about getting it transferred to the nearest pick up location. Not very exciting.


I open the cover, read the first handful of pages and get sucked under. Love. That.

Such was the case with Gennita Low’s The Protector, first in a series with the same name. I can’t recall who recommended it, but thank you. My love for contemporary, suspense romance is limited only by the oh-so-few really good offerings in the genre. I particularly like those with a military theme, reducing the number of authors who do this well even further. Low excels from every angle and I am enjoying that giddiness that accompanies a great author find.

Blurb (which is way off the mark, IMO):

When the best of intentions gets Jazz arrested overseas, he couldn't be more surprised to find Vivi Verreau ready to spring him out of jail. Obviously more than the civilian she claims to be, he's sure Vivi is hiding an agenda ... and he's determined to stick by her side until he uncovers all her secrets.

A covert agent who shrouds herself in disguises, and who fearlessly jumps into dangerous situations without thoughts for her own safety, Vivi has no need for a protector. But if she is to have any hope of completing her most important mission, she'll have no choice but to recruit Jazz and his men.

Low does a few things I like with the hero. First, she does not portray him as stunningly handsome, with ladies falling about in his wake. Instead, she introduces him first by revealing his single most important charm—a bone-deep respect for women, instilled in him by his Momma and sisters. In the South. Louisiana to be specific. That charmed the pants off me right there. Then she added all the nuances of a competent military man. You know, he appears casual but is always alert to every detail around him. And he leads a team of SEALs, is revered by his men, highly decorated, never gets riled, and all that.

Second, Low lets him get away with those sexy, Cajun French endearments for the heroine. That charmed the rest of my clothes off. She also gives him that instinctive possessiveness and protectiveness romance readers crave. Then confuses us with the possibility that his best friend will subvert his efforts to win the girl. Made me nervous even though I’m smart enough to know that this was Jazz’s story and he would get the girl. Low effectively used this obstacle to show readers that Jazz was much more than the stereotypical alpha—“see woman, woman mine, I go get her now”. She actually gave him doubts. And instead of using brute male will, she wielded humor and finesse to get us to the HEA.

Third, Low gives us a competent heroine. Smart and an operative too. Really, Vivi does nothing that seems out of character or patently designed to support the romance portion of the story. Her own fears and doubts are poignant, but Low is careful not to burden Vivi so much that she needs a hero to step in and save her. What Vivi does need is an outlet for emotion. And that she finds in Jazz. Low gives us some beautifully emotional and extremely sexy scenes for this resolution.

Finally, Low weaves a believable, highly suspenseful story that is interesting and well balanced. No single element—romance, action, technical info, etc.—overwhelms another. That balance sets her apart. As does her ability to spark emotion and passion between her characters.

As this book does start a series, there were the expected secondary characters milling about with unfinished business. None were too distracting however—well, perhaps Vivi’s boss—and their actions contributed to this book’s storyline. In other words, Low did not waste readers’ time setting up the rest of the series. Until the end, where she finished with a bonafide cliffhanger. Liked that.

Looking forward to reading the rest of Low’s backlist, including the remainder of this series. And thanks again for the recommendation, whoever you are.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Crazy Love by Tara Janzen

Every word, every moment in this installment of Janzen’s Crazy series worked for me. Quite simply, I love her voice. I appreciate the dry wit. I enjoy it in the minds of her characters and in their dialogue.

Additionally, I love her world. Over the top? Yes. Engaging, entertaining? Yes. These are the guys and the circumstances—more benefits than consequences—we daydream about. Superman—in one form or another—has appeared in my own daydreams since I was a teenager. Real? Of course not. Compelling reading? Oh yeah.

Janzen has proven creative and entertaining. Her voice and writing style captivate; her characters entertain. She infuses every scene with humor and intelligence; and tightens both suspense and sexual tension with every thought, every action.


My only disappointment? Crazy Sweet, coming this fall, is the last of the Crazy series. Good thing I can see past my love for these particular characters to Janzen’s actual talent. I will read whatever she brings forth. Harboring only the tiniest bit of resentment when she closes the door on Steele Street.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lover Eternal by JR Ward

I enjoyed this book even though it really didn’t work for me. Make sense? No. Not to me either. Suffice it to say, I just plain like this cast of characters, menace that they are. This is simply one, slightly scattered episode that didn’t wow me.

Rhage and Mary. I love how Ward connects them—her voice soothing his beast. It was a powerful introduction of these two. Unfortunately, we saw little proof of the power of her “voice” over Rhage going forward. Had Ward continued to use Mary’s voice to draw and soothe Rhage and his beast, the love story between these two (three) would have enjoyed more depth. Without such a connection, their relationship didn’t make much sense. It lacked emotional depth and frankly, was filled with too many stops and starts. Neither character appeared very mature and, as a result, their feelings for one another appeared adolescent. Grated on my nerves a bit.

The missing foundation for their relationship also made Rhage’s punishment difficult to swallow. That, and the Scribe’s final judgment of Mary were over the top, even for this series. IMO.

Additionally, the introduction of John was a poorly developed sidebar to the story. Ward seems to build this story—Lover Eternal—on the discovery of John. She uses him to bring Rhage and Mary together. She also uses him to trigger the upcoming story of Zsadist and Bella. I kept waiting for a pivotal moment involving John—the link between Mary, Bella and the Brotherhood. Never happened. Or I missed it.

Still. I watched. And despite the failure of the primary romance story, I still enjoyed the episode. Ward’s banter between the Brotherhood (now including Butch) is worth the price of admission. Like Evanovich, Ward produces a slew of laugh-out-loud moments. If you can get beyond the dark and macabre stuff—like the Lesser stuff and the more “out there” Brotherhood rituals—you will see where Ward truly excels. Her male banter and bonding is very, very entertaining.

Her setup of Zsadist and Bella’s story—however transparent—was also highly effective. I absolutely cannot wait to read it.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase

I had never read a Loretta Chase before, but this will definitely not be my last. Her dialogue is so witty, I couldn't put this book down. You all know me, humor is one of my big plusses in a book. This one has it in spades, plus lots of emotion on both characters' parts, as well as a great story. The story is that of Benedict, the man with the reputation of being absolutely perfect, and Bathsheba, the woman who comes from a family that has been utterly disgraced. Her daughter and his nephew have gone off on a wild goose chase/treasure hunt together, and Bathsheba and Benedict go off together to find them. Along the way, they all 4 learn something about being who you are, yet fitting that into society's expectations at the same time, and about standing up for what you want and what you believe in.

Some good things: the story line with the kids. They had their own full and complete storyline. At 12 and 13, they did not exist in the story to be cute, precocious, or otherwise move the plot along, although they really did all three of those things. They were an integral part of the story, and actually had their own storyline, and their own character growth as the book moved along.

The supporting characters, especially Bathsheba and Benedict's families. Enjoyable, one and all, even when they were being snooty as all get out.

Bathsheba's first marriage was a happy one. I do like it when the heroine has had a happy marriage experience and views sex in a good way. You can move past all the sexual awakening crud and just get to the good stuff (and they do) *g*

And the dialogue. The repartee between Benedict and Bathsheba is so clever and witty, I was held in thrall. Here are some prime examples:
"I beg your pardon for questioning your judgement," she said. "It is nothing to me, after all, if it proves faulty. I am not the one responsible for the Marquess of Atherton's heir and sole offspring. I am not the one who will be toppled from my pedestal if the world learns I have not only permitted but encouraged my nephew to associate with the most shocking persons. I am not the one who-"
"I wish you were the one who had heard of the rule Silence is Golden," he said.
"That is what I like about you, Mr. Dashwood," she said. "You are so decisive. It saves me the bother of thinking for myself."
"That is what I like about you, Mrs. Dashwood," he said. "You are so sarcastic. It saves me the trouble of trying to be tactful and charming."
"I want you," she said.
"I told you so," he said.

And on and on it goes.

If you haven't read Loretta Chase before, I highly encourage you to pick up one of her books. I'll definitely be reading more.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Giving Chase by Lauren Dane

Giving ChaseOMGoodness. Yum. First things first - check out this great cover. I think I love it so much because he reminds me of my son's karate instructor. Yes, he was barely legal when my oldest first started taking karate, but he's all grown up now *g*... and he teaches my quarterly women's self-defense classes, too. *mommy* Hands on classes. I get to take him down. *sigh* Ahem... what was I talking about? Oh, yes... Giving Chase, that's right. This is the first in a new series about 4 dee-licious brothers, and I could not have been more happy with this book.

Giving Chase has everything. Romance, suspense, character growth, family, hot beautiful sex, good friendships. Watching the love bloom out of friendship between Kyle and Maggie was lovely. Maggie's inner strength grew and her character blossomed under Kyle's love and caring. She learned how to stand up for herself - not only to stand up to her stalker, but to her family as well. Maggie was truly emotionally abused by her family, but doesn't realize it until the meat and potatoes of the book. Kyle does realize it. His reaction? "He had to launch Operation Make Margaret Wright Know What A Goddess She Was, and he had to do it right away." Wouldn't you just kill for someone to feel that way about you? I really enjoyed the natural progression of their relationship from friendship to love to engagement. It just seemed right.

Kyle's family was terrific - warm, giving, accepting. They pulled Maggie into their circle and made her feel welcome and wanted - something she had never experienced before within a family environment. I enjoyed the Chase family dynamics. The unconditional love, the teasing among the siblings, the sheer joy of being together, a child's unabashed love for his parents and a parent's true pride in their children. The entire family could chastise Shane for his shabby treatment of Maggie, yet they understood it, and never showed him anything but love. It reminds me of what I tell my own kids sometimes - I always love you. Right now, I don't like what you did, but I love you no matter what. That describes the Chase family's feelings toward Shane's treatment of Maggie. Unconditional love, with recognition of faults. And a true desire to see Shane happy. I cannot wait to see the woman who brings this man down *g*

I liked how Lauren Dane introduced Alex, the stalker. In the same way that so many women are stalked. He was just a really nice guy that Maggie dated. Bit by bit, we saw his irrational jealousy. It was this that spurred Maggie to begin standing up for herself. First, by stepping back and deciding not to see him any more. Then by immediately calling the police.

I loved that Kyle wasn't afraid to show his feelings when Maggie was kidnapped by Alex - he was terrified, he cried, he was angry. He never felt that he couldn't be himself in front of his family, that he had to be the 'strong' one. What an amazing man. *sigh*

Maggie is a strong, moral (do not infer uptight here, by any means) woman who wants to do what's right. She feels concern over the possibility of coming between two brothers who love each other. She doesn't want to make waves in her own family dynamic - the peacemaker (I can relate *g*). She stands up to her stalker in court, yet we see her unable to touch her things once they are returned to her. She has terrific girlfriends who love and support her and vice-versa. As she discovers more of her own strength and independence, she becomes more aware of her own self-worth. This makes her more and more irresistable to Kyle, and he falls more deeply in love with her.

What more is there to say? Oh, I know. Duh. It's a Lauren Dane book. Did I mention the hot, amazing sex? Holy cow! Go out and get this book now. It is available from Samhain Publishing. And keep your eyes peeled for the next installment, Taking Chase, Shane's story.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Crazy Love by Tara Janzen

I've seen any number of reader reviews for this book, most of which were disappointed in the latest offering in the Crazy series. I beg to disagree. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Dylan and Skeeter's story was almost everything I thought it would be. Dylan's instincts toward Skeeter once again get him into trouble as he oversteps in his desire to protect her and she overreacts in her desire to prove herself to be, if not his equal, then at least a capable adult. I have to admit, I did enjoy how Skeeter had the complete upper hand for the majority of the book, while Dylan was under the influence of some pretty heavy duty drugs. I loved that his defenses were down, that he admitted his love for her, that he became a bit goofy. I loved that he got jealous. And he only belabored the age difference a couple times, for which I was grateful.

Travis is now in the SDF group, and we see his transformation from gentle angel into badass militant. If there is one huge flaw here, it is that this is all explained with about a 3 paragraph entry, and Travis really has no bad feelings about killing. I would think that even if he accepts what he is doing as right, he would still feel a bit of angst when he kills, but no. Once I got past that little characterization flaw, I was able to enjoy Travis. I was disappointed to see that he wasn't together with Jane from Crazy Kisses, I must admit, I thought that was leading somewhere. But I did enjoy Red Dog, and I was sorry to see her story end the way it did. I hope that she gets her memory back in Crazy Sweet - I liked who she was. The ending set up the storyline for Crazy Sweet, as Janzen always does, we got a "coming soon" excerpt. I'm hoping that Red Dog turns out to be a bit more well rounded as a character than the brief glimpse I got in the excerpt. Anyway, back to Travis... I must say, I've enjoyed watching him become a bit more alpha. I must admit, he was not my favorite in the first book.

I did have one major issue with this book, and it was really with the editing I suppose more than anything. Many people will miss it, but it completely threw me out of the story and it took me a while to get back in. As I was happily reading, I came across my biggest pet peeve word ever - orientating. People, there is no such word!!! The word is orienting! Puleeze get it right! It took me a good 10 minutes to get over that and get back to reading the book. Ick.

Once again, Janzen went for the entertainment value. This book had nonstop action from almost beginning to end. I thought the interactions between Dylan and Skeeter were great. I could totally picture the goofy drugged smile on Dylan's face, and I loved the fact that his hallucinations were in day-glo pink. I laughed when someone misstook Skeeter for Pink. The cars were back in a big way, too, complete with all the descriptions, the names, and the sex. While this one didn't surpass Crazy Hot as my fave, it certainly comes in right up there near the top.
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