Saturday, September 30, 2006

September TBR Challenge

Title: The Bridal Arrangement (Silhouette Desire)
Author: Cindy Gerard
Year Published: 2001

Why did you get this book?
I happened upon Gerard’s Bodyguard series last year and blogged them up. A friend—one who knows me very well—knew I would set upon Gerard’s backlist as though it were homework. She sent this and several other Gerard titles to assist in my efforts.

Do you like the cover?
Hate it. Gerard describes a heroine very slight in stature and a hero standing a full foot taller. He also has a man’s hands; not the manicured, pale things pictured here. The photographed couple on the book’s cover belongs to some other story entirely.

Did you enjoy the book?
Yes, for a formula write. In general, I dislike category romance precisely because it follows a prescribed formula. In this case, the formula brought together a man dead set against love and a woman hell bent on getting his love. And at least 1/3 of the book is dedicated to the warring thoughts held by each. It must be a requirement—of this particular formula—that readers witness both the hero and heroines emotional journey from the inside out. It led me to skim the better part of the book.

As for the writing, Gerard is good. And I’m glad I took the time to look at her category romances. Note, I also read her Between Midnight And Morning and A Convenient Marriage this month.

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again?
Nope. I read this just to get through her backlist.

Are you keeping it or passing it on?
Returning it to its owner.

Anything else?
Not today.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm in No Mood for Love by Rachel Gibson

This is the follow up to Sex, Lies and Online Dating. It takes place immediately where that book ends.

Blurb: What is Clare Wingate doing? One minute she's suffering in a pretty-in-pink gown she'll never wear again, and the next thing she knows it's morning . . . and she has the nastiest hangover of her life.

To make matters worse, she's wearing nothing but a spritz of Escada and lying next to Sebastian Vaughan . . . her girlhood crush turned sexy, globe-hopping journalist. Somewhere between the toast and the toss of the bouquet she'd gotten herself into a whole lot of trouble.

Clare had the right to go wild - after all, she'd been knocked off her dyed-to-match shoes after finding her own fiancé in a compromising position with the washing machine repairman. Clearly her society wedding is off. But Sebastian pushed all the wrong buttons-and some of the right ones, too. Clare is in no mood for love - not even for lust - and wants to forget about Sebastian and his six-pack abs ASAP. But he isn't in the mood to go away, and his kiss is impossible to forget.

I think I enjoyed this one more than I've liked many of Rachel Gibson's books in a while. Not sure why. What I liked: I liked Clare. She wasn't too whiny (yes, a bit whiny, but not too). She wasn't too bitchy (yes, a bit bitchy, but not too, and I suppose she had a right to be). I liked the friendship between the four women that carried over from the first book (think Kleypas Wallflowers relationship, but contemporary, and a hell of a lot more kickass). I liked that Clare and Sebastian didn't have sex until a long way through the book. I liked that they became good friends. I liked that Gibson made a big deal out of safe sex. When Clare realized that her fiance was doing the nasty with another guy, she got tested for HIV, and told Sebastian he should get tested, too (she thought they had slept together). I liked that, although it was clear that Clare was very hurt and it took her quite some time to get over what happened to her relationship with her fiance, she didn't jump right into another sexual relationship right away. I liked Sebastian. A lot. Ok, he was a bit of a stinker at first, but he had cause. I liked that he loved his mother unconditionally, and was willing to get to know his father and remember all the good times that they had. He didn't hold a grudge. An admirable quality. I loved that he read Clare's romance novels and loved them.

Oh, and Sebastian is friends with Jane and Luc, from my all-time favorite Rachel Gibson book, See Jane Score *g*.

What I didn't like: Gibson did make a big deal out of safe sex. When Clare realized that her fiance was doing the nasty with another guy, she got tested for HIV, and told Sebastian he should get tested, too (she thought they had slept together). OK. The first time they slept together, she insisted on a condom. After that, it seemed very sporadic. Which bothered me because it seemed totally out of character for Clare. Maybe Gibson just forgot to write it into a couple scenes. Or not. Either way, it seemed like a glaring error to me.

I also didn't like the cliched bit that Sebastian felt incapable of having a committed relationship, even though, yes, he had a terrible example in his own parents. So for a man who didn't hold grudges, why oh why did he have to be so cliched? He so obviously adored Clare. This was really just a minor setback for me, though. I can forgive Rachel Gibson almost anyhting because I love the escapism of her books so much.

I truly did enjoy this book. I think it was less laugh out loud funny than many of her other books, but still a very enjoyable, feel good read. Rachel Gibson is always a reliable source of a quickie afternoon read. She doesn't require a whole lot of brain power, just a desire to escape reality for a bit. The next book is Maddie's (friend # 3) and takes us back to Truly, Idaho!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lady Liberty by Vicki Hinze

I adore Vicki Hinze's books. They are right up my alley. Romantic suspense, strong women, usually in powerful positions of responsibility or authority. Men who both admire and respect them who are equally as powerful. Love them. This book is no exception.

Blurb: US Vice President Sybil Stone, code named Lady Liberty, has proven she can hold her own against some of the world's most influential power brokers. But now, negotiating a vital peace agreement in Geneva, Switzerland, Sybil receives an urgent message calling her back to American soil...

In 72 hours disaster will strike, catapulting the United States into a war that will cost millions of lives. Only Sybil Stone holds the key to stopping it. Yet between Sybil and success lies a minefield of intrigue, betrayal, twisted motives, and three merciless enemies. Her only hope of survival - and the world's - rests with Agent Jonathan Westford, a judiciously ruthless operative with one goal: in the face of overwhelming odds, keep Lady Liberty alive. Time is running out and trust is running thin. But Lady Liberty and Agent Westford know they must succeed - or the first-strike missile will launch...

This book is tightly written, without a lot of superfluous 'fluff', as I like to call it. The relationships could be confusing, but Hinze does a masterful job of connecting the dots of all the players involved. She walks a fine line with Westford and Sybil, showing the closeness that can develop between a political figure and their closest protective detail but without crossing the line. I loved how protective Jonathan was of Sybil while still acknowledging her ability to do her job and giving her the room to do it well. And Sybil, in her own way, was equally protective and caring of Westford, although it was more in subconscious gestures. I love the respect that Westford commands among his men. I love the respect that Sybil commands in Washington, even among those that don't like her politically and personally. Now that's political power!

Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading this book. The storyline is fast-paced... blink and you miss an important factoid. I found so many of the scenes really interesting and found myself wondering if, like when I was reading a Tom Clancy, this is really the way things happen...

This was another of my summer reads. Terrific book. My only complaint about Vicki Hinze is that too many of her books are out of print and I can't get my hands on them :(

Friday, September 22, 2006

Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah

This is a magical book. Although it is not strictly a romance, it is a love story.

Julia is a psychiatrist who has had a young patient kill some schoolmates and she has been publicly castigated for not anticipating the disastrous event. Where she used to be admired and respected, now she has lost all her clients. It is at this low point in her life that a child shows up in her hometown who has no social skills and was apparently living wild in the forest before she was found. Julia’s sister, Ellie, just happens to be the chief of police so she calls her sister for help. Julia has nowhere else to go so she returns to the small town where she grew up as an awkward albeit brilliant child (as opposed to her sister who was popular).

The wild child, eventually named Alice, proves to be a MAJOR challenge. She not only has no social skills but, apparently, also no verbal ones and there is evidence that she has been physically abused. Much of the story is about Julia and Alice – their growing relationship.

But Ellie also has her own story and troubles. While Julia is dealing with Alice in a personal way, Ellie is trying to find her parents. She is also struggling with having been divorced twice and still never having found true love.

Julia and Ellie have preconceived notions about men – and what type of man is right for them. And they have quite a few issues to deal with between each other as well.

The small town atmosphere is lovingly portrayed. There are the eccentric old ladies, the café where everyone goes, the gossip that everyone knows and the speed with which it travels. It’s important to little Alice’s well being.

I noticed as I was writing this that the word I wanted to use most often was struggle. Alice is struggling to adjust and learn in the new environment, Julia is struggling with almost overwhelming insecurity, Ellie is struggling with her need for a man but her inability to connect with a good one. The men around them are struggling with their own issues, too. As I read The Magic Hour, I struggled with each of them. The characters are beautifully drawn, three dimensional, flawed human beings. I loved them all.

I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What I read on my summer vacation, Part 2...

This is also my Sept TBR... 2 Series Romances

So continuing on with my summer vacation reads, I read 2 SIMs that were part of continuing series, both of which I was eagerly anticipating. The last in the Cavanaugh Justice series by Marie Ferrarella about the Cavanaugh siblings/cousins and the next in the Forever in a Day series by Diana Duncan about those gorgeous O'Rourke brothers. One hit, one miss, I'm sorry to say.

Cavanaugh WatchCavanaugh Watch

This is the last in the series. It focuses on Janelle Cavanaugh and Sawyer Boone. I love Marie Ferrarella. She's one of the authors that keeps me reading category romance. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling it with this one. I thought she did a credible job with Sawyer, building his character, getting me into his head. With Janelle she did an ok job, but I never truly felt like I was rooting for her, even after what should have been a horrific revelation, given the investment her readers have in the Cavanaugh family after so many books.

As a couple, I wasn't emotionally invested in them. There were not a lot of scenes of the two of them together, and I didn't buy it when Sawyer all of a sudden blurted out his love for Janelle. Huh? Why? Why do you love her? She didn't seem all that great to me. Now Sawyer, on the other hand... he was prime emotionally wounded hottie alpha. Ferrarella took the time to delve into his personal thoughts and feelings. If only she'd taken the time to let him share those with Janelle as well as with the reader, I would have enjoyed this book a lot more.

Most of the books in this series have been top notch, but the last couple have left me feeling a bit shortchanged and disappointed.

Heat of the MomentHeat of the Moment

This is the 3rd in a series of 4 on the O'Rourke brothers. So far, all 3 have been excellent reads. In this one, both the hero, Liam, and heroine, Kate, are thoroughly fleshed out. We understand who they are, where they are coming from, and why they are together.

Aside from the one brewing inside Kate, the conflict comes from an unexpected source. Liam is a K-9 SWAT officer, and Kate is terrified of dogs (with good reason, which we learn about). I thought Duncan did a great job of portraying the connection between Liam and Murphy (his partner, the dog), and the angst it brought him to know that Kate didn't want to be near his best friend and most trusted partner. And she did equally well at showing how Kate felt knowing she could never break these two officers and best friends apart.

All this takes place within the main storyline - a stalker is hunting Kate with bombs, and Liam, the bombs expert on the SWAT team, is the go-to guy.

I enjoyed seeing all of the O'Rourkes from the past books. The histories that Duncan built for them in the first two books remained consistent here. This book is an example of why I haven't given up on series romance, and why I still love the SIM line. Oh, and Duncan is donating 10% of the proceeds of sales of the book to the Humane Society.

The other books in the series are:
Midnight Hero (10% of proceeds donated to the Oregon food bank)
Truth or Consequences (10% of proceeds donated to a battered women's shelter)

Friday, September 15, 2006

What I read on my summer vacation, Part 1 (better late than never, and only a partial list...)

I’ve been so remiss in my postings. I have so many to do, but it all seems so overwhelming right now. I think I read about 20 books last month on vacation. So, I’m keeping these short and sweet. And a few at a time.

Passion - Lisa Valdez
I first read about this on Karen S’s blog, and immediately put it on my TBR list. Finally got around to it. I loved this book. It’s been reviewed to death (all good), but here’s what I loved. Loved the interactions between Mark and his brother, and Passion and her sisters (although those were minimal). Brothers gossiping about sex, sisters gossiping about sex. Loving, close relationships. Loved it. Loved that although Mark is majorly alpha, he wasn’t afraid to show his love for Passion. He wore his heart on his sleeve without losing any of his masculinity. I loved that he was willing to admit he made a mistake about Charlotte. I loved that this wasn’t your everyday, clichéd romance. And I loved the hot, graphic sex.
Meh was the overbearing mother (Mark and Matthew’s) and mother-in-law (to be, Charlotte’s mother). It’s so been done, although there was a deininitely different twist in this book which made up for it.

Scandal in Spring – Lisa Kleypas
This is the last in the Wallflower series. Definitely not as good as Devil in Winter or Secrets of a Summer Night. But a nice, sweet story between Matthew and Daisy. I thought Matthew was way more likeable than Daisy. And Lillian, I agree with many, was more than a tad overbearing and unforgiving. I just don’t have much else to say on this. Excpet I may just go read my Nick’s story again :)

Mr. Impossible - Loretta Chase
It’s a darn good thing I read Lord Perfect first. Don’t get me wrong. The characterization here was great, as always in a Chase book. The dialogue, also great. I loved Rupert and Daphne (Rupert is Benedict's younger brother). It was the setting that gave me difficulties. I got really bogged down in the Egyptian setting. Normally it doesn’t have to be all England all the time for me. I love mixing it up. But I was totally lost here, and it took me out of the story. It was a real bummer, because the book should have been great, and I could tell it probably was, other than this one great big huge issue I had with it. Had I read this first, I’m not so sure I would have read Lord Perfect (my very first Chase book), and what a tragedy that would have been! This is actually the story directly before Lord Perfect. Thankfully, they can be read as stand alones, and y’all know I’m not a series slut *g*. Yes, Anne, I read these OUT OF ORDER!

That’s it for the first few. A whole bunch more coming up, and I think the next batch is all contemporaries!
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