Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Madame’s Deception by Renee Bernard


Title: Madame’s Deception
Author: Renee Bernard

Publisher: Pocket Books
Type: Historical Romance
Series: Second in her Mistress Trilogy

Why: I loved A Lady’s Pleasure, the first in this trilogy.

Blurb:

Seeking revenge, she discovers how delicious a case of mistaken identity can be....

Merriam Everett has always been regarded as a shy, docile creature. But for one night, Merriam the Mouse has become a temptress who will recklessly take her pleasure with the arrogant earl who once slighted her, and then leave him aching with lust. A fine plan, if Merriam had not just seduced the wrong rogue!

Drake Sotherton left England amid dark speculation and has returned to seek vengeance against Julian Clay, the man he believes murdered his wife. Convinced that the masked beauty who seduced him is Julian's pawn, Drake tracks her down and proposes that she become his mistress for the Season. Every sensual desire, every secret longing will be explored...and fulfilled.

Comments: This will be one of those rare occurrences where I have to go out and buy the book for my keeper shelf. It was that good.

Bernard, like the handful of others on my keeper shelf, devotes her pen to characterization. She puts readers in the company of her romantic couple for much of the book, in scenes that are long and unhurried. There is banter and play, sharing and insight, and enough physical exploration to steam the windows. All behind a door that locks them away from the outside world. And while Bernard does include passages of internal thought on the impossibility of their love, she does so sparingly, choosing instead to show readers their pain, their hope through gestures, intense, desperate lovemaking and emotionally-wrought silences. It’s beautiful and heart wrenching, a sensory experience for the reader.

There are external forces of course: secondary characters there to support Jocelyn and Alex, a murder mystery and the unavoidable role or implication of society rules. Bernard weaves all however, into a coherent, well-balanced story with Jocelyn and Alex at center stage. You never take your eyes off of them.

Clean voice, emotional depth, eroticism, gorgeous covers. Keeper shelf.

To Save You Some Time: A Rogue’s Game is due out April, 2008.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Remain Silent by Jamie Denton


Title: Remain Silent
Author: Jamie Denton

Publisher: Kensington Brava
Type: Romantic Suspense
Series: No

Why: A blogger turned me on to Denton’s The Matchmaker last year. It was a fabulous read and I promptly added Denton to my must-read list. Remain Silent is her newest release.

WHEN YOU KNOW TOO MUCH
Laurel Jennings may be an expert at art restoration, but she’s a novice at the justice system. When her business partner Jonathan Linton is found dead and she’s charged with the brutal murder, she needs help – fast. But with the powerful Linton family wielding their vengeful influence, the only lawyer willing to represent her is her former lover.

SOMETIMES KEEPING A SECRET
Damon walked away from the L.A. County DA’s office when his star witness in an infamous drug lord’s trial was gunned down on her way to protective custody. Protecting Laurel is Damon’s first priority – even if she has made it clear he’s the last man she wants representing her.

IS THE ONLY WAY TO SAVE YOUR LIFE
A chance discovery throws Damon and Laurel into a conspiracy that could rock the art world to its very foundation – with deadly consequences. With only each other to turn to, Laurel and Damon find the passion that once burned between them is a dangerous risk when betrayal lies at the heart of Jonathan’s murder – and the body count keeps rising. To protect the future, and keep the past buried, Laurel and Damon will have to stay together, keep calm, and remain silent…

Comments: Came close to being a DNF. I think it was my love for The Matchmaker that kept me reading, certain I was missing something in this one, certain I’d find it around the next corner. It never came together for me.

Denton’s characterization was almost there. She gave breath to the hero, Damon, and a key secondary character, a detective. These two came to life and lent the only realism to Denton’s story. The heroine, Laurel, fell flat. Charged with the murder of her closest friend and business partner, she spends far too much time, IMO, lusting after the hero while mentally pushing him away from perceived danger. And I say perceived because Denton’s villain (one of them) is a cloak and dagger organization with government origins and ever-reaching, evil power. It was too over-the-top for this story and aside from some dangling references to their murder of Damon’s father, the mystery organization made no attempt to harm Damon or Laurel. As backstory for Laurel, this plotline failed to add depth. And instead of adding to the suspense, it confused matters and left me wondering what the hell all that had been about.

Laurel remained shallow where I think Denton intended her to be an emotionally tortured outsider. I saw passages of internal thought—likely meant to elicit sympathy—as nothing more than the whining of a self-absorbed single professional woman. In circumstances that would reduce even the strongest woman to fear-induced paralysis, Laurel naively behaves as though it is not happening to her. Only Damon understands her, only Damon can see the heart that beats beneath her cool exterior. I didn’t believe it, even when their physical chemistry and tenderness shine through the confusion. Those scenes were moving and steamy at the same time, but I was left feeling that Damon deserved better. Denton very simply failed to give me a heroine I could like or respect. I spent the whole book thinking that Laurel just didn’t get it.

The true villain was also over-the-top. We get this character’s POV throughout and it was cookie-cutter female venom. When Denton reveals that she single-handedly, easily even, murdered an international thief known for his prowess, I almost put the book down. Not only did the action fray an already weak plot, it in no way reflected the abilities or power of the villain Denton had thus far introduced. Later, when her identity is revealed, the pieces still do not fall into place. The villain, her motivation and her ability to pull any of this off remain paper-thin.

So, nothing came together and I was sorry I even bothered to work my way to the end. Where The Matchmaker was a tightly woven romantic thriller, Remain Silent was splintered beyond repair. IMO.

To Be Fair: My mindset of late has sucked. My attention span sucks and I’m irritable beyond the usual PMS excuse. Had I been in a better state of mind, Laurel may have clicked for me. And if I had liked her more, this review would have more positive thoughts on characterization to counterpoint those on its weak plot. Denton's voice is there, her writing clean. In short, just because none of it worked for me, doesn’t mean it will fail everyone else.

For what it’s worth: Denton’s backlist includes a whole slew of category titles. I’m not a big fan of categories, but will keep my eye out for some of these anyway. She wowed me with The Matchmaker and I’m sure I’ll find another gem in here somewhere. Her next Kensington Brava is Dead Stop and it’s due out in September, 2008. I’ll read that one as well.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Lover Unbound by JR Ward


Title: Lover Unbound
Author: J.R. Ward

Publisher: Signet
Copyright: 2007
Series: Yes, Black Dagger Brotherhood

Why: Crack addict? Yeah, something like that.

Blurb:

Ruthless and brilliant, Vishous son of the Bloodletter possesses a destructive curse and a frightening ability to see the future. As a pretrans growing up in his father's war camp, he was tormented and abused. As a member of the Brotherhood, he has no interest in love or emotion, only the battle with the Lessening Society. But when a mortal injury puts him in the care of a human surgeon, Dr. Jane Whitcomb compels him to reveal his inner pain and taste true pleasure for the first time- until a destiny he didn't choose takes him into a future that cannot include her.

Comments: I read this blind. IOW, I avoided reading all reviews prior to picking up the book. I did however, pick up on the negative buzz and let that influence my timeframe. So, despite the intentions I voiced after Butch’s story, I did not run right out and buy V’s book.

As I read Lover Unbound, I wondered about the negative buzz. I also wondered whether this would be another instance where I love a book that everyone else hates. It didn’t turn out to be that cut and dry. While I didn’t hate Lover Unbound, I wasn’t over the top in love with it either. And while I’m not compelled to berate Ward, I’m not moved to ardently defend her either. I simply landed somewhere in the middle.

I did go back and read those reviews. I saw more than a few valid points, but personally found that my enjoyment of the book—my immersion in Ward’s world—overshadowed those points. It is testament to Ward’s talent for world-building that I lost myself in the telling of this story. Content in this world, I never got the sense that Lover Unbound was busy. It didn’t feel weighted down or splintered by its multiple story arcs. It felt rather like episodic television—regularly scheduled time spent with a beloved cast. I enjoyed my time just fine throughout most of this episode.

Of the handful that received significant air time (over and above V and Jane), I was most interested by John’s development. He feels like the key to me, like somehow it will be him, his fate that will dictate the future of the brotherhood. I like that kind of promise in a character. That Ward has aligned him with my favorite brother—Zsadist—only makes me like him more.

As for the primary romance, I have to say I liked Jane. She was worthy of V. Sounds fangirl-foolish, true, but I’ll remind you how much I loved V in Lover Revealed. At the conclusion of that book, I thought V more deserving of love than any other character I met last year. His story of unrequited love (for Butch) was heart-wrenching and, though I couldn’t imagine it possible, I wanted a love interest that could heal him. Jane was a good match. I would have preferred their initial connection to be a bit more than molecular, but all in all I was ok with the selection of her as his mate. She measured up, in a second to Butch kind of way.

The outcome of the romance however, along with the rest of the events occurring at the end of this book, didn’t measure up. Things did fall apart there at the end; one of the most common complaints I can agree on without compunction. The Scribe Virgin’s seemingly sudden inability to make things right, the fraying of Ward’s thread on choice versus destiny, V’s uncharacteristic failure to heed the warnings—however ambiguous—in his visions, all of it. Instead of the fantastic convergence of forces I’ve come to expect from Ward (thinking particularly back to that phenomenal light show at the end of Lover Revealed), the events that closed Lover Unbound felt disconnected, unreal. Yes, the events in this paranormal, felt unreal. Can think of no other way to explain the feeling.

I’m not sorry I read it and I still look forward to more time in Ward’s world. But I will say that going forward, it will be interesting to see how I, as the reader, will adjust to the changes in Ward’s world that did not sit well.

To Save You Some Time: Readers new to Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood can start this series with Dark Lover. Readers who plan to continue can look for Lover Enshrined in June, 2008.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Season To Be Sinful by Jo Goodman


Title: A Season To Be Sinful
Author: Jo Goodman

Type: Historical Romance
Series: No

Publisher: Zebra Books
Copyright: 2005

Why: LOL. It was an accident really. Some time back, I read a Jo Beverly title. Then another. Really liked the first one, Devilish; the second was a DNF, The Dragon’s Bride. I mentally categorized Beverly as a hit-or-miss author for me and remained open to trying her other books. At some point, I picked up A Season To Be Sinful and tossed it on my TBR stack. No rec for it, just liked the blurb. Read it this week and loved it. THEN realized it was a Jo GOODMAN title, not Jo BEVERLY. Guess my head is still elsewhere. So, I read this one by happy accident and now find myself echoing Casee’s comments—where has Jo Goodman been all my reading life?

Blurb:

Alexander Grantham, Viscount Sheridan, is stunned to find three young boys at his door, demanding he right the wrongs of an incident that occurred earlier that evening when he thwarted a determined thief. When he discovers his wily pickpocket is a woman, now gravely injured, he takes his flame-haired attacker under his wing. Clearly, Sheridan's new "guest" is a lady of quality. So how did she become a common street thief? He finds himself irresistibly drawn the to clever, cheeky Lily, and determined to unlock her mysteries...

The five years since she left the care of the French convent have been a nightmare for Lily. Her secrets are dangerous-as is the powerful man determined to find her.

The handsome Viscount is clearly a gentleman with secrets of his own, but staying with him could mean the difference between life and death for Lily. With each passing day, her handsome host Lily's convalescence into an increasingly sensual escape. Now her greatest challenge may imagining anything less than a future in his arms...

Comments: Though only two years old, A Season To Be Sinful harkens back to the historical romances that secured our lifelong patronage of the genre. This book has absolutely everything we love as romance readers.

Hero: A Viscount with a quiet, but commanding presence—fueled almost entirely by his wry sense of humor. Goodman draws his character, his breath from that humor; using it to color his perspective of life, duty and heart. It is what opens him—mind and heart—to three street urchins and the battered woman devoted to them. Flat-out, this guy is the consummate smart-ass, with no trace of bitterness and only the most self-deprecating sense of arrogance or superiority. He is innately compassionate, highly intelligent and possessed of remarkable patience. I wanted to spend the entire book in his company. He is both entertaining and reassuring.

Heroine: Goodman begins the book with a spine-chilling threat to Lily, an innocent raised in a French convent. Then keeps the reader in the dark about which fate the young Lily met. As a grown woman, it is clear that whatever her experiences, they have made her stronger, wiser. And the ultimate pragmatist—wielding a perspective much like the hero. Not a victim and with a core of compassion that endures.

She does hold a great deal back—both information and emotion. As a result, some of her actions, particularly when it comes to matters of intimacy, take the reader by surprise. As Goodman refuses to follow any formula here, the reader must continue to trust Sheridan’s patience and tact. These scenes are deeply emotional and surprisingly erotic. Goodman captures those slow measures of trust beautifully and again, leaves me wondering why I’ve not heard more about her. Is it simply because she is already a fixture on auto-buy lists everywhere?

Secondary Characters: Goodman surrounds Lily and Sherry with perfect reflections of their appreciation and humor for life. The three boys attached to Lily contribute as much charm and vulnerability to the story as Lily and Sherry do. And Sherry’s Aunt is clearly the hand that guided him through life’s tragedies keeping his compassion, pragmatism and humor intact. Each of these characters strengthens the story’s tapestry, providing plenty of laughs AND ensuring that the reader remains emotionally vested in the story.

Overall, I think the story is well paced because it is powered by the development of relationships and never in danger of being overwhelmed by plot. There is a villain, more than a few secrets and the requisite obstacle to an HEA. Goodman’s focus on character however, lends realism where it counts. Circumstances and challenges are exactly that; neither takes on a life of its own, neither is allowed to drive the story. Instead, Goodman lets her characters DEAL.

Loved it.

To Save You Some Time: Goodman has an extensive backlist featuring stand-alone titles and a number of series. She also has a new release, If His Kiss Is Wicked.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Intimate Danger by Amy J. Fetzer


Title: Intimate Danger
Author: Amy J. Fetzer

Type: Labeled Contemporary Romance; I’d call it Romantic Suspense/Military
Series: No
Publisher: Brava

Why: I’ve been reading every new Fetzer title since someone recommended Naked Truth in 2006.

Comments: Intimate Danger is Fetzer’s best work since Naked Truth. About Naked Truth, I wrote “…in Naked Truth, Fetzer gave us a hero and heroine drawn with such depth the reader knew them; and felt just as overcome as they did when sex and emotion converged with surprising poignancy.” Ditto here. Mike and Clancy fall in love, not just adrenaline-inspired lust. Their connection is more emotional, more intellectual than physical. It is palpable to the reader, goose bump palpable. And it starts long before they become sexually intimate. It’s believable too. There are plenty of mini-breaks in the action that many authors would fill with a tumble. Fetzer chooses to let the emotional intimacy, the trust to build first. When they finally do come together, the experience is deeper, more meaningful. Hot, yes. But far more intense than it would be otherwise.

Combined with the story’s break-neck pace, realistic action and elusive mystery, the romance made for a thrill-ride read. NOT a book to read if you’re busy entertaining holiday company. Sigh. I couldn’t wait for everyone to leave so I could get back into this book.

One criticism. There are a number of secondary characters to help further the plot. Not overpowering or distracting. But not interesting either. There are none with the color or vibrancy of a Janzen extra, for example. Some even border on stereotypes. Not enough to hurt the story, but honestly, if Fetzer had extended her characterization skills to all of her players, Intimate Danger would have been flawless for me. As Fetzer’s contemporaries are unconnected, other readers may not see this as a problem. Additionally, there is just enough to these folks, to their interaction, to help flesh out Mike and Clancy.

Ok, two criticisms. The second stems from one unresolved thread in the mystery or conflict. Fetzer addresses it, briefly, but it was far from satisfying. As it was THE conflict for Clancy, it seemed too light a treatment of it in the book’s conclusion. Again, others may not see it that way.

To end on a positive note, I can’t say enough about the romance. Again. Unexpected, exquisite detail and depth. A connection the reader feels. Needed that.

To Save You Some Time: Fetzer’s next release is Come As You Are, due December, 2007.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason

Title: The Rest Falls Away
Author: Colleen Gleason

Type: Historical Paranormal
Series: Yes; this is the first book in the The Gardella Vampire Chronicles.

Publisher: Signet Eclipse

Why: Blogger buzz around the time of its release put it on my TBR list. Just getting to it.


Beneath the glitter of dazzling 19th-century London Society lurks a bloodthirsty evil...

Vampires have always lived among them, quietly attacking unsuspecting debutantes and dandified lords as well as hackney drivers and Bond Street milliners. If not for the vampire slayers of the Gardella family, these immortal creatures would have long taken over the world.

In every generation, a Gardella is called to accept the family legacy, and this time, Victoria Gardella Grantworth is chosen, on the eve of her debut, to carry the stake. But as she moves between the crush of ballrooms and dangerous, moonlit streets, Victoria's heart is torn between London's most eligible bachelor, the Marquess of Rockley, and her enigmatic ally, Sebastian Vioget.

And when she comes face to face with the most powerful vampire in history, Victoria must ultimately make the choice between duty and love.

Comments: This was a near miss for me. I nearly put it down as a DNF because it was so slow to start. I loved the premise, recalled the reviewer buzz and, with every turn of the page, craned my neck, squinting ahead, searching. Solid characterization of Victoria, the series’ protagonist never materialized, but the array of men in her life finally managed to pique my curiosity. So I kept reading.

The book starts with a dual coming out for Victoria. First, she accepts an inherited role as vampire hunter. A leap for me as Gleason provided little in the way of backstory and nothing of Victoria’s emotional motivation. Next, and I do mean literally next, like the very next evening, Victoria enjoys her society debut, her scripted plunge into the marriage mart. And again, there is little word of her personal expectations here. I was left with no sense of who she is, forced to just sit back and watch her go obligingly through the motions.

Much, much later, Gleason assembles the men in Victoria’s life: Max, another vampire hunter, the Marquess of Rockley, ideal husband material, and Sebastion, a mystery player in the vampire wars. Gleason does a wonderful job of hooking readers here. I wanted to know which Victoria would choose and was pleasantly surprised when Gleason stuck to role playing—pairing Victoria with Rockley in a marriage expected of her. Granted, I didn’t easily buy the idea that she was in love with him, but I appreciated the first hint of emotional conflict for Victoria.

She was mired in it for the remainder of the book and, as the reader, so was I. Gleason saves the book at this point. Drawing readers into the danger, adding flesh to each of these characters, binding them to one another. From here, it was an exciting and fast read—even though I knew it would not include a satisfying “end.” At least not in the traditional sense. No HEA, but plenty of speculation and great tension-building between Victoria and her men. Enough to convince the reader to pick up the next installment.

Gleason’s press materials include her own comments on motivation. She is a fan of Buffy and the chick from Alias. I couldn’t sum up The Rest Falls Away any better. Not wholly original, but well marketed, or contrived, to fit today’s fiction trends. Right down to her gorgeous book covers. Without going back to find the original blogger buzz, I’d hazard a guess that Gleason’s premise was the real hook. And the subsequent lack of buzz or emulation reflects her failure to establish her place in this arena through voice and characterization. At least in the first book.

Anyone have any comments on her second book, Rises The Night? Are we drawn deeper? Or left sitting in the audience?

To Save You Some Time: The second in this series, Rises The Night is available now. The third, The Bleeding Dusk, is due February 5, 2008.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Captain Lacey Regency Mystery Series by Ashley Gardner

Title: The Captain Lacey Regency Mystery Series (6 books in all)
Author: Ashley Gardner

Type: Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Why: I found this series by accident last year, nabbing the fifth book from my library’s paperback swap shelf. Loved it and have been meaning to read the remaining titles. When I hit this last reading slump, I reached for book one, hoping it would capture my interest. It did and then some. Thank God.

What Does It For Me: Captain Lacey. He is the ultimate hero. Even though these are not romances, he easily captures the reader’s attention and interest. Gardner in no way paints him as romantic hero. She provides little in the way of physical description. I know he is taller than average and that he has a bad leg (war injury) that makes him reliant upon a walking stick. That’s it for appearance. Still, I was more than half in love with him by the last installment.

The rest of his character emerges through Gardner’s storytelling. Or rather, through Lacey’s narration. Lacey himself tells us of his past—his life in the military, his wife’s desertion, the events that destroyed a powerful friendship, and more. In some instances, the reader learns things about Lacey that remain unknown to his present acquaintances. It feels very intimate and renders a loyalty to him that makes the reading experience more personal. We feel his melancholy, rally behind his determination and laugh at his astute, biting observations of regency society. He really is rough around the edges, but highly, highly likeable.

His cast is also likeable. Again, through Lacey, we get to know each of them. As he sees them, yes, but with the sense that we have come to know them as well as he does. All interesting, all unique and all from the many different layers of England’s class system. Gardner is wonderfully adept at bringing all walks of life together through the experiences of a single character, a character that can walk London’s seedier streets or attend the opera on the arm of a viscountess with equal confidence.

I’d actually liken this series to Robb’s In Death series. In voice, cadence or rhythm, and ensemble cast. Under Captain Lacey’s POV, the prose is clipped and the pace brisk. Both mirror Lacey’s military bearing. And both remind me of Robb’s police procedurals. We get methodical, linear thinking from a central character, complex criminal cases that can only be solved by that character’s diligence, and a host of regulars lending assistance at every turn. Additionally, as the reader, I experience the same easy slide into the rhythm of speech with each book I pick up. It is instantly recognizable and comfortingly familiar.

I just can’t say enough about this series.

To Save You Some Time: There are six books in all:

The Hanover Square Affair (2003)
A Regimental Murder (2004)
The Glass House (2004)
The Sudbury School Murders (2005)
A Body In Berkeley Square (2005)
A Convent Garden Mystery (2006)

Gardner’s website offers no mention of the series’ fate and her blog (under penname Ashley Gardner) left off suddenly after October 10, 2006. I don’t imagine there will be more Lacey mysteries. They are definitely worth finding and reading however.

Next, I’ll be moving onto Jennifer Ashley, another penname for Gardner. I’ll read The Queen’s Handmaiden first, then have a look at what looks to be some paranormal titles, a Highlander tale and some older historical romances.

I also see that she writes erotic romance as Allyson James. Coming in August 2008, Private Places, an erotic collection of historical tales by Robin Schone, Claudia Dane, Shiloh Walker, and Allyson James.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

REVIEW- Sexiest Man Alive by Diana Holquist

Title: Sexiest Man Alive.
Author: Diana Holquist.
Publisher: Grand Central (former Warner).

BLURB: Shy No More Worksheet
Name: Jasmine Burns


Imagine the person who intimidates you. Naked.
I'm intimidated by Josh Toby, the world's biggest movie star. Who has to imagine him naked? I've seen it on a forty-foot screen.

Breathe deep.
Did I mention he's Josh Toby? As his costume designer, I'm supposed to dress him. And undress him. Oh, and my psychic sister Amy, who has never been wrong, named him my One True Love. Breathing is completely out of the question.

Ask for what you want.
What I want is for him to stop being so...irresistible! I want not to fall in love with a man who's stalked by the paparazzi, whose washboard abs could cut glass, and whose movie star girlfriend is the most stunning creature ever.

Believe you can do what needs to be done. Then do it.
So, all I have to do is believe I can resist Josh Toby. Resist those deep violet eyes, those strong, muscular arms, and the way he makes me feel like the only woman on earth. Couldn't be easier. Yeah right...

I read this book because I kept seeing decent reviews and I was expecting a fun, quirky storyline. Well, I got that, but what I didn't get was a hero I found... heroic. He was a touch on the feminine side. Why do I say this do you ask? Let me site some examples.

Example 1: He's a movie star, the press thinks he's dating Cleo Chan, but really that's a ruse. Anyway, he talks Jasmine into dressing up for Halloween and she finally reluctantly agrees. The catch is, she'll dress up as him, Josh Toby, but as his character Mitch Tank and he'd dress up as Cleo Chan.

"What?" he asked. His eyes lit up to match the spark in hers.

"I'll be you." She paused as she considered the implications of what she was about to say, then rushed ahead recklessly before she lost her nerve. She could do it. she could make the costume with her eyes closed. She could transform this man into whomever she liked. "And you be your girlfriend, Cleo. That's my final offer. Take it or leave it."

But instead of looking horrified, he grinned. "Ooooh, yes! Very wicked, Jas. i'll have to back you into corners more often. I'm in. Definitely in."


Okay... what hero in a romance novel talks like that? Does that not sound a little on the gay side? Or at least bisexual or metrosexual to you? Gah.

Example 2: They did the Halloween thing and are now at a restaurant eating. He asks her if she has a boyfriend. She lies and says yes. He asks what his name is...

"His name is Josh also. Coincidence." Not.
"So, what's he like? C'mon. Spill. What kind of man can penetrate the defenses of the elusive Jasmine Burns?"


Any of you dated a guy who talks like that? A guy who says, "spill"?

While the storyline and premise of the book were fun and quirky, the hero was just too feminine in spots for me to enjoy his character 100%. Now for me, the "Sexiest Man Alive" is a man of few words, and when he does speak, they're masculine... words that make you shiver.

Anyway, that's my take on this book. It's impossible to give it a grade, but if you don't mind a hero who isn't necessarily macho, then you''ll love this book. As it is, I did like the story and the premise and most of the characters, sans the blips where the hero was less than macho in my eyes. *shrug*


Grade of the storyline alone: B.
Grade of the story as a whole: Probably a D.

The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Title: The Serpent Prince
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt

Copyright: 2007
Publisher: Forever

Type: Historical Romance
Series: Yes; third behind The Raven Prince, and The Leopard Prince

Why: I jumped on the bandwagon when blogger buzz elevated The Raven Prince to a must-read. I enjoyed that one so much that Hoyt’s Prince series became a must-buy.

To Save You Some Time: The Serpent Prince wraps up Hoyt’s Princes Trilogy. Next up is To Taste Temptation (May, 2008), book one in The Legend Of The Four Soldiers.

Also note, Hoyt writes contemporary romance as Julia Harper. Harper’s first book, Hot, will release in January 2008.

WHEN THE DEVIL MEETS AN ANGEL...Country bred Lucy Craddock-Hayes is content with her quiet life. Until the day she trips over an unconscious man-a naked unconscious man-and loses her innocence forever.

HE CAN TAKE HER TO HEAVEN...Viscount Simon Iddesleigh was nearly beaten to death by his enemies. Now he's hell-bent on vengeance. But as Lucy nurses him back to health, her honesty startles his jaded sensibilities-even as it ignites a desire that threatens to consume them both.

OR TO HELL...Charmed by Simon's sly wit, urbane manners, and even his red-heeled shoes, Lucy falls hard and fast for him. Yet as his honor keeps him from ravishing her, his revenge sends his attackers to her door. As Simon wages war on his foes, Lucy wages her own war for his soul using the only weapon she has-her love...

Power To Distract: Plenty. I’d forgotten how well Hoyt captivates. I’d also forgotten the emotional depth of her stories. It was this emotion that yanked me from reality into the story.

Heroine: Lucy is Hoyt’s third independent-minded heroine living her life out in relative obscurity. Unlike the first two however, Lucy bears no extra burden of responsibility save the running of her father’s household. She lives the life expected of her station, while patiently awaiting a marriage proposal from a vicar who has been courting her for three years.

Simon, of course, is the catalyst for change and watching Lucy’s reaction was both refreshing and entertaining. She doesn’t bloom under his attention. Hoyt’s story is not that clichéd. With Simon, Lucy simply enjoys being herself and being appreciated for herself. And no, she hasn’t been hiding her true self. It’s just that everyone else in her world is oblivious—in that single-minded, self-absorbed way. I felt a personal connection to Lucy on this point, hence my emotional and sensory reaction when Simon really sees her. And when she sees him, not a man she has ever envisioned for herself but one she cannot deny now that he is before her.

Hoyt gives the appearance of simply sitting back and letting these two characters fall into an awareness of each other; letting them fall in love without interference from her. It felt seamless, natural. Meant to be.

Hero: When Simon awakes to find Lucy hovering, he has that Ah, there you are moment and kicks off the whole fated to be together thing. Granted, his initial reaction to Lucy is fueled by lust, but the reader feels the rush nonetheless. It is erotic and heartwarming at the same time.

Unlike Lucy, his character is wrought with personal conflict. His blinding desire for revenge is in fact the only true conflict in the story. Hoyt does not however, use the conflict to unreasonably delay or prevent their marriage. Instead, she uses it to test the power of their love for one another. Classic and well done.

Story: Like my last emotional read, Caine’s Reckoning by Sarah McCarty, Hoyt’s The Serpent Prince is devoted primarily to the development of Simon and Lucy’s relationship. Like McCarty, Hoyt allows readers time for the emotional experience, without the clutter of too much action and intrigue. I appreciated the time and space; grateful for the chance to simply feel Simon and Lucy’s giddiness, their fear of being hurt, their hope against hope.

Emotional read. And excellent.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Caine's Reckoning by Sarah McCarty

Quick Note: I'm flat out stealing (with slight modification) Rosario's format in an effort to return to regular review posts. The blank page, trying to find overall message, an angle, etc. Too much work given the limited time I now have. Hopefully this template will automate the process for me a bit.

Title: Caine’s Reckoning
Author: Sarah McCarty

Copyright: 2007
Publisher: Spice

Type: Western Historical


The Hell's Eight is the only family he's ever needed, until he meets the only woman he's ever wanted . . . Caine Allen is a hardened Texas Ranger, definitely not the marrying kind. But when he rescues a kidnapped woman and returns her to town, the preacher calls in a favor. One Caine's honor won't let him refuse. From the moment he beds Desi, Caine knows turmoil will follow. Desi might have the face of a temptress, but she also has a will of iron and while she needs his protection, she's determined that no man will control her again. They establish an uneasy bond, but it isn't enough for Caine. He wants all Desi has to offer. He wants her screams, her moans, her demands . . . everything. Yet there's still a bounty on Desi's head, and keeping her sexually satisfied is proving easier than keeping her alive.

Why: Sarah McCarty became an auto-buy author for me after one title—Promises Linger.

Power To Distract: In spades.

Let me explain this ‘measure’ briefly. For nearly two years now, my family and I have been mired in major life change stuff—the kind you either face once in a lifetime or at the very least every few years. Still in the thick of it, I’m weary and more than a little restless. I no longer enjoy my leisure time online or my time reading for pleasure. At least not as much as I did before. As a result, I find myself categorizing books by their power to distract me from my own reality. Tough to do right now. The few that succeed do so either through emotion or voice. Ms. McCarty’s Caine’s Reckoning scored with emotion.

Not surprising since McCarty’s characterization has always demanded emotional involvement. These are not mere acquaintances constructed to entertain. Rather, they are individuals with enough presence to step from the pages and accompany readers through their daily chores.

Heroine: Desi is spitfire and spunk wrapped in heart-wrenching vulnerability. Perfect for the time period, perfect given her experiences. I’ll admit however, that I harbored some doubt at first about Caine’s—or anyone else’s for that matter—ability to draw her out of defense mode and into the business of living. She felt that broken to me.

Thankfully, she is safely entrusted to Caine—under marriage—early on. I’m a sucker for this in historicals. I feel utter relief when the heroine is willingly or even unwillingly ensconced in a marriage to the hero and can settle back to enjoy the sparks guaranteed to follow. McCarty did not disappoint. There were sparks aplenty.

Hero: I’ll echo everyone else’s comments here. Caine IS the McCarty hero. The alpha defined not by his abs (although this fabulous cover suggests otherwise), but rather by his charm and humor. And patience. McCarty captures the romance of the alpha hero like no other. There is nothing more romantic than a hero who’s every expression; every mannerism demonstrates his desire to cherish the heroine.

Like Desi, Caine has endured hardship and suffered cruelty. And like Desi, he refuses to be rendered powerless by it. Instead, he chooses perseverance. It is an apt depiction of his strength and an added benefit for Desi as he has enough to spare for her. Despite the emotional turmoil in this story, readers can hold to Caine’s strength, clutching it as the promise of their HEA.

Defying circumstance, Caine also chooses family—albeit a makeshift one. It is here, through his and Desi’s interaction with these secondary characters, that readers find the side-splitting humor in this book. Some laugh-out-loud moments to assuage the emotional demands made elsewhere.

Story: Much of Caine’s Reckoning is in the development of Caine and Desi’s relationship. I’ve come to expect such a focus on character from McCarty that I hardly notice the presence or lack of external forces. Hers is a story about emotional growth. For me, it was the beginning, middle and end. Beautifully executed.

There are external threats, a villain and promise of more to come in the Hell’s Eight series. None so overpowering though, that they overshadow or detract from Caine and Desi’s journey to self and mutual trust.

Loved it. Was grateful for the emotional provocation. Happy for the satisfying read.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BOOK? * CATCH IT IF YOU CAN CONTEST *




My first NY Western Historical series is released from SPICE last Thursday. It's a super-hot, fast-paced romance with a strong heroine, a hero to die for, and a happily ever after that will touch your heart. Like my Promise series, Hell's Eight probably is not what a reader thinks of when they think Western Historical, but each of these stories is a slice of life rich with emotion, spiced with passion, and filled with moments I hope will make your heart twist. The men of Hell's Eight are unpredictable and fascinating. They're definitely a law unto themselves, as wild as the West in which they live. Determined, and single-minded, they've planned for every contingency that could complicate their goals except for the one they never saw coming: the extraordinary women that will capture their hearts.

Read an excerpt.

Sounds good eh? Well, it is. Unfortunately, all the attention seems to have made our hero and heroine shy. (For those waiting on their copy, SPICE has taken steps to make sure Caine's Reckoning will be available ASAP for everyone but in the meantime we can amuse ourselves with a contest.) While they were briefly spotted in the UK, and there was a rumor that they stopped over in Germany, no trace of their passing remains. Several ladies identified Desi and Caine as a very happy couple shopping in Wisconsin, and there was a confirmed sighting in the couple's home stomping grounds of Texas, but as before, nothing remains of their visit. Word is the shelf where they rested is bare. So, the Hell's Eight is sending out a search party of readers and offering a reward for proof of their safety. And because the Hell's Eight are a results oriented bunch, entries do not only have to be of a sighting, but can also consist of a lure: a reason why you think Desi and Caine should come to a book shelf near you. One that will tempt them to show themselves. A third option is to put this gif on your site and link to this page and then email me with the link to the site and the statement that you are 18 or older.


Catch It If You Can



Entries should be through the contact form on this sight. Please put Caine in the subject line. 5 winners will be chosen from all entries. Entrants must be 18 and over and should state so in the subject of the email to be eligible. Three winners will be chosen at random from all the entrants. Winners will have a choice of either an autographed copy of Caine's Reckoning or a $15 (us) Gift certificate to Amazon.com the contest ends 11/27/07 at 12 am Eastern time

That's it.


To enter email with either indicate the place of sighting and any pertinent descriptive information *we like descriptives *, Offer a tempting lure as to why Caine should stop by a store shelf near you, or post the Catch it if you can gif on your website, link to this page, and provide a link to where the gif is.

Remember to put:


  1. Caine and Desi in the subject line.
  2. State you are 18 and over (You must be 18 or over to enter)
  3. Your name, email, and address.
  4. Where you saw the book and how it looked (g) or why you want to see the the book or where you posted the gif.

Contest closes November 27 th, 12 midnight, EST US.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Viscount in Her Bedroom by Gayle Callen

The Viscount in Her BedroomPerhaps I was so disinclined to give In My Wildest Fantasies a better review because I read this book on its heels. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book. This is the third in a series (I freely admit I only read the first one, and each can be read as a stand alone, although they are about 3 sisters).

Firstly, there is always talk about covers, and very rarely do we see a blond hero on the cover (unless it's Fabio, LOL). I liked this guy on sight.

Here's the blurb, courtesy of Gayle Callen's web site: Louisa Shelby's carefree life of elegant balls and beautiful frocks ended when her father died, leaving her penniless. With no hope of securing a proper marriage, the vivacious young miss accepts a position as a companion to an elderly viscountess. But temptation in a most unexpected guise awaits Louisa in the dowager's home...

Once, Simon Wade was London's most eligible bachelor and most able seducer. But a tragic accident forced him into seclusion, away from prying eyes and questions. He thought he'd never again experience the tender touch of a beautiful woman. But while he yearns to hold the enchanting Louisa and taste the intoxicating nectar of her kiss, he will accept no woman's pity.

Louisa never desired a man the way she burns for Simon. And now her chance at happiness may rest in her ability to convince the stubborn viscount that her passion is real...and her love is true.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What did I like? All the main characters are truly likeable. There is no huge villain - the main conflict is Simon's blindness. I liked the way Simon's family rallied around him (with the exception of his mother, who comes back later to provide the impetus for the resolution of the story). I liked the way Simon wasn't wallowing in self-pity. He was slowly trying to put his life back together. And he was open to the changes that Louisa proposed for him - to please her, to please his family, but mostly so that he could improve his quality of life.

I also enjoyed the night-time talks between Simon and Louisa. While they were rife with sexual tension, they also served to bring them closer as friends; they got to know one another, they shared confidences. They served to dispel any misgivings Simon may have had over the one contrived setup - that of Louisa's "perceived reputation" among the men in the ton.

I enjoyed the Wade family dynamics. Lady Wade obviously loves her grandchildren, and that feeling is obviously returned in spades, along with a healthy dose of well-earned respect. I liked the give and take and teasing, but evident love that shone through among the three Wade siblings - untempered, only strengthened, by Simon's accident.

I also enjoyed getting a glimpse, although shortlived, of the three Shelby sisters together with their extended families. They also share a closeness and love together.

What didn't I like? Not much. I probably could have done without Louisa's setup reputation, however its purpose was clear, and it did move the story to its conclusion.

All in all, this was a heartwarming, touching story, filled with love and humor. I also remember really enjoying the first book - The Lord Next Door. For you series sluts out there, the 2nd book is The Duke in Disguise. I can't recommend it, as I haven't read it, but I'm sure I'll pick it up at some point. I also enjoyed Callen's Spies and Lovers trilogy.

In My Wildest Fantasies by Julianne MacLean

In My Wildest FantasiesTough book to review. Parts I loved, parts seemed so uncharacteristic for MacLean. Something just didn't sit right for me with this book. It definitely was not up to par with the American Heiress series, and that I'm very sorry to say.


The blurb, courtesy of JulianneMacLean.com: Four years ago, a mesmerizing stranger pulled Lady Rebecca Newland from her runaway coach, galloping to her rescue in a fog-shrouded forest. Though she was just seventeen, Rebecca felt an irresistible desire for the mysterious man and swore that she would someday be his bride. But now she is betrothed to another man whom she detests - and Devon Sinclair, the future Duke of Pembroke and her hero, lies tantalizingly beyond her reach...


Haunted by an unspeakable past, Devon has no intention of taking a wife, not even the enticing Rebecca. But then his father rules that Devon must wed by Christmas or forfeit his rightful inheritance. Now, with his fortune at stake, Devon sets out to lure Rebecca to his bed… where the most unexpected secrets and lies stand in the way of their scandalous, explosive passion.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rebecca seems to enchant Devon at first, and this part I enjoyed - his aspect of the story; falling head-first, while not wanting to acknowledge what he was feeling was love.

What bothered me was Rebecca. There was no acknowledgement on her part, really, of a girlish fantasy turned into an adult love. It was all about "I've loved you since I first saw you." Blah blah blah. I've come to expect more from MacLean as an author. Portrait of a Lover was a hugely in-depth, beautifully written, emotional book. This is not of the same caliber. And that disappoints. OTOH, MacLean does write her heroes with depth and character and great emotion. Would that the heroine had the same here.

The back story of Rebecca's father and her neighbor seemed anti-climactic to me - the resolution made me think "All this just for that?" It hardly seemed worth the effort it took to get there.

The last note I want to make - the entire story takes place over approximately one to two weeks time. At least I think it does. I couldn't be bothered to go back and check. That seems really fast for a girlish fantasy to turn into an adult love (perhaps that's why it was never mentioned), and for a man to fall head over heels into an ever-lasting love. Guess that's why divorce wasn't allowed back then.

It's not like me to feel so unenthusiastic toward an historical; perhaps it was just my mood at the time, and a reread would make me more inclined to be more favorable. But frankly, I'm not leaning toward a reread. The book's most redeeming feature to me is the trailer video, available for viewing on MacLean's web site. On a bright note - the 2nd book, featuring Devon's brother, looks to be far more interesting.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Passion for Him by Sylvia Day

A Passion for HimBlurb (courtesy of SylviaDay.com): Miss Amelia Benbridge is ready to leave behind a past filled with heartbreak for a sensible marriage. Until temptation itself comes calling, with an invitation to seduction…

SHE LOVED AND LOST HIM ONCE…
Amelia Benbridge and the Earl of Ware are the most anticipated match of the Season. Lord Ware is handsome, wealthy, and kind, and he understands that her love will always belong to her childhood sweetheart, Colin. When Colin died, Amelia believed she would never feel such passion again. But her primal reaction to the brooding stranger who approaches her at a masquerade, coaxing her into a moonlit minuet and a single, sensual kiss, proves otherwise…

Colin Mitchell knew a pairing between a peer’s daughter and a gypsy stable boy was impossible. Amelia’s mistaken belief in his demise afforded him the opportunity to return to her as a man of means. But time has slipped through his fingers. She is preparing to wed another and danger prevents him from revealing the truth. Colin can only bid her a secret farewell, but he underestimates her determination to unmask her phantom admirer. A forbidden kiss leads to her ardent pursuit and a soul-scorching affair. Amelia is perfectly attuned to his every desire, every thought–and hungry for stability he can’t offer her. For deception lies at the heart of their love, waiting to drive them apart once again…

What I liked: Where this book shines is the romance between the H&H. The emotion between Colin and Amelia is so real and heartfelt. Even when Amelia thought he was someone else (although I must admit, the name Reynaldo Montoya did nothing for me...), their interactions were fabulous. I loved that Colin couldn't contain himself, and said "I love you" first, and often. I was thrilled when, during their confrontation about Colin's identity, he threw out - "Whose name do you think you screamed at the height of orgasm?" I kept waiting for Day to reveal that during the actual love scene and when she didn't, I was disappointed. So I was very relieved to see it revealed the morning after.

I liked that there were many flashbacks of their early life together, and what drew them together when they were children, and that these scenes were consistent with those from A Passion for the Game.

I did like many of the secondary characters, including Simon, who had more of a backbone in this book. And although I liked Ware, I can hope that the few glimpses that we had of his more alpha side will come through as this series continues. He was a terrificly supportive friend for Amelia, but his character seemed a bit lost, as if he wasn't sure if he should be strong and manly or the supportive friend. Understandable, given his history with her, but he was just a bit too unfocused for me, and that made him seem a bit too wishy-washy. He did seem to pull it together as the book progressed, though, and find the center for his character. Seems to be the same problem that Simon suffered from in A Passion for the Game. Simon figured it out in this book (quite nicely, I might add), and one can assume that the more forceful glimpses that we saw of Ware are his true nature, and the softer side will only come out with his one true love in his own book.

And, I liked the cover. Brava is doing an amazing job with the covers for this series. Isn't he just yummy? I also liked that there was very minimal use of my least favorite word (the one from The Stranger I Married, that prompted this post about the "c" word), which seems to be one of Sylvia Day's more favorite words. Thank you, Sylvia!! It made reading the love scenes far more pleasureable for me, I must say.

What I didn't like: The intrigue was a bit confusing, and while I understood it on the large scale, on the smaller scale it was difficult to grasp each bit player's piece in the puzzle. I found myself glossing over many of the scenes that included the less imprtant villainous secondary characters, drawn instead to the main romance between Colin and Amelia.

Amelia just knows there is something about this man, and she constantly thinks of Colin while she is with him. So why was she so surprised when he revealed himself to her? And so unwilling to forgive? He tried to tell her, after all. She was the one who said no - not to tell her.
Very few things not to like, and many things to like. The romance gets better with each book Day writes. And although the intrigue in this series is very convoluted, there is obviously a point to it. I assume it is going to be revealed eventually as the series continues.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Caine's Reckoning by Sarah McCarty



Caine's Reckoning by Sarah McCarty. Where do I start? It started off with a bang that sucked me right into the story and ended on a more emotional note, one that had the tears flowing. Oh how I love a book that takes me on a roller coaster ride emotionally.


I won't go into the plot or try to summarize it for you as so many others have done, but I do have to ask you one question: Did you all laugh aloud as I did at the rooster scene? And the second one on page 428? I must share the snippet:

She looked down at the red pacifier in her hand and then at the dog. "What do you think, Boone? Should we throw away our scruples or make a stand for what's right?"

Boone eyed the monster. It spread its wings and crowed. Mid-crow, Boone shivered and let out a moan of pure terror.

Desi glanced at the outhouse. Shadow would be popping out of there any minute now, which meant expediency was her best bet if she didn't want a twenty-minute lecture. "You're right. We don't have time for scruples."

She tossed the pacifier on the ground. Cantankerous went for it with unholy zeal. She shook her head as he hopped on board. "That's just not right."


LOL…No, it's not right, but it sure is freaking funny. That as well as the scene where Caine is teaching Desi to shoot and she misses on purpose (the purpose is a kiss), shooting the outhouse instead of her target, and Sam comes running out pulling up his drawers, gun at the ready. Snort. Ms. McCarty paints a very vivid picture, one that made me laugh out loud.

I felt so badly for all the men of the Hell's Eight, what they went through when they were little boys. The old West was a son of a bitch, wasn't it? Forcing boys to grow into men before their time, and allowing women to be used as any man saw fit. Son of a bitch, indeed!

I enjoyed watching Desi bloom as she found her footing on the ranch, and mostly after she learned that she didn't have to work herself into the ground to earn Caine's respect. She'd already had it.

I liked Caine from the first page. I found his hard exterior very attractive, but when his sensitive side came to the fore, that was when I fell in love with him.

Together Caine and Desi learn to give and take, to bend, and in the process find love. She's the one thing he'd never expected to find, he's not at all what she expected her husband to be, yet together they find the one thing neither knew they were looking for: Each other.

Caine's Reckoning is a story of hope, a story of grit and determination. At the core of the story I found love, laughter, and family. This is a story that will stay with me for a long time, and one I will read time and time again as I anxiously await the next book in the series: Sam's Creed.

My grade: A. You can buy it here, here, and on November 1st here.

Caine's Reckoning by Sarah McCarty

Caine's ReckoningI was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this book from Ms. McCarty. I have been a longtime fan beginning with her Promises series, which are also western historicals.

Caine's Reckoning is the first book in the Hell's Eight series. It is the story of Caine and Desi. Why have I been a longtime fan of Ms. McCarty's? Simple. She delivers a story with fully fleshed out characters, an exciting storyline, and beautiful, intimate, erotic sex that drives the story forward rather than simply being gratuitous.

What I liked: I liked Desi. Y'all know me. It's not often that the heroine is the first thing I like about a book. However, it frequently is the case with Ms. McCarty's books. Her heroines are women who should be broken by their life experiences, yet somehow discover a strength within themselves that brings their men to their knees.

We learn about Desi's background, and what brought her to the point she is at in her life. She has passed the point of self-pity, and has moved on to anger. This could make her unlikeable, but it makes her sympathetic. McCarty adds in the searing vulnerability that is necessary for a woman in her position.

I liked the supporting character of Tia. I loved that she could bring the men of Hell's Eight to their knees and turn them into submissive "yes, ma'am" types with a simple word. She is a strong character, and although we never get her full story, it is intimated that she also had a very hard experience that has brought her to the Hell's Eight door.

I liked the men of Hell's Eight. These are men that will do anything for those they care about and love. They immediately like Desi, and take up her cause. That means protecting her not only physically, but also against verbal attacks made by the townfolk.

I liked Caine. He seems bemused at first by his reaction to Desi, yet at the same time completely accepting of her as his wife, his woman, his fate. We get just enough background on Caine to understand his strong ties to the other men of Hell's Eight, and how he became a Ranger. If anything, I would have liked to have seen just a little more introspection on Caine's part in terms of his background. Don't get me wrong. It was definitely there. I understood how it made him the man he was in everything he did except for how it colored his attitude with Desi. Perhaps it really didn't, other than to strengthen his protective streak.

And can I just say that Sarah McCarty does write just the most fabulous sensitive alphas? Just wonderful.

There was also a terrific scene that lightened up the heavy tension. In it, Desi is trying to learn how to fire a gun. She and Caine have a bet that she can't hit a target, and Desi decides to lose. What is Caine's prize for her loss? A kiss. So she deliberately aims way off, and blows a hole in the outhouse. Oops. Out of the outhouse comes one of the other guys, pulling up his pants as he races out, gun at the ready. Oops.

What I didn't like: Much of the end of the book is spent attempting to discover who the main villain is... who set up the entire plot against Desi and her sister. And unless I missed an important page somewhere there at the end, we never find this out. But in the epilogue, Desi reveals it in a letter to her sister. That seemed a little disjointed to me, and I felt cheated that as a reader I didn't get to observe Caine and Desi making the discovery for themselves. It almost felt as though McCarty deprived them of the right to know and discover this. And while I'm sure he'll get his due in the sister's book (which I'm sure will be coming in conjunction with another of the Hell's Eight heroes, and I'm fairly certain which one...), it just seemed that they should have at least gotten the opportunity in their book to discover his identity, if not to catch him. Anyway, 'nuff said.

So only one thing that I was just slightly miffed about. This Spice book is officially released November 1, but it's already shipping from both B&N and Amazon. If you are a fan of the Promise series, you will love Hell's Eight as well. Sam's Creed is book 2, and it comes out in July. Finally, we will be getting more books after a long dry spell. 'Bout time, too! Phew!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Born to be Wilde by Janelle Denison

This, sadly, is the last book in the Wilde family series. Blurb (courtesy of JanelleDenison.com): Ex-Marine turned security specialist Joel Wilde thrives on the high-wire thrills that come with his job. And he isn’t about to give all that up to settle down – not even with a sexy woman like Lora Marshall. Which means that while he’s protecting her from a violent gang, he’ll need to set a few ground rules to keep things professional. Good thing he’s always been a rule-breaker at heart!

This made up for the minor disappointment of Too Wilde to Tame. I enjoyed Born to Be Wilde a lot. In fact, I think it was my favorite of the series, except for Wilde Thing. (Steve will always hold my heart.) Under the guise of protecting the sister of a marine buddy, Joel meets up with Lora and attempts to fight off a rip-roaring attraction to her. Lora, in the meantime, sees no reason to fight it. There is a terrific secondary romance between Lora's best friend and her daughter's high school math teacher (a hottie in his own right).

What I liked: I really liked the hero. Joel was sexy, vulnerable, thoughtful, alpha but not too alpha, a family man who always felt a little bit on the outside, a great friend, did I mention sexy? Those Wilde boys like their motorcycles. Mmmmmmm.

I liked Lora, too. It's unusual for me to come right out and say I liked the heroine. She was tough, but understanding. Strong and independent, but not to the point of stupidity. A loving sister, who knew when to give the tough love - difficult as it was for her, a great BFF to Sydney, a great surrogate aunt to Cassie.

I liked the secondary romance. It's unusual for there to be room in a Wilde romance novel for a secondary storyline. The Wilde men are so strong that they take up the entire story. But Sydney and Daniel were a fantastic secondary story. Just enough to be involving, but not enough to overwhelm the main romance between Joel and Lora.

Denison explores the problems that losing a parent young can heap upon a child, and how that can carry forth into the rest of their relationships throughout their lives. In Sydney's romance, she adds onto that how having a child young, and the circumstances leading up to that, can pile on major trust issues and that if one isn't careful, one's attitudes can color your children's outlook on life and their trust in people as well.

What didn't I like? Not enough Wilde family. Usually in each Wilde book, there is a tremendous interaction with the rest of the Wilde family. While there was, indeed some interaction here, particularly with Mia (Joel's sister, and the only Wilde female), most of the interaction was with the Wilde wives. Interesting departure, but I really missed seeing the joking, loving relationships among the Wilde men. Of course, Denison went out of her way to build into Joel's character that distance between him and the other men, so it's not completely out of character that he wouldn't have that easy, goofy, fun-loving dialogue and mutual love and respect that appeared between all the brothers and cousins in the other books. But, hey, I still missed it.

All in all, this was a great end to the Wilde family books. Denison is "kind of" continuing with this series by carrying on with Joel's business partners' stories. Wild for Him is up this summer.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

2 by Allison Brennan, 1 from Lisa Kleypas

Hey all... long time, no post! Here I am in Boston, on business with nothing to do but read. So I'll just do a few quickies for you.

Speak No EvilSpeak No Evil by Allison Brennan
This is the first in the "Evil" series. Loosely tied to The Hunt, it is the story of Nick Thomas and Carina Kincaid. It's hard for me to compare Allison Brennan's writing to any one in particular. I'll say that it's my first book by her, and I loved it. She writes as grisly as Lisa Jackson, characterizes as well as Karen Rose, and inserts more romance than Mariah Stewart. It had it all - everything I love. And it all still circulated around the police procedure and their interactions, and the building of their case. I just completely dug it. Thanks, Nikki! (I got this one from her at our So Cal get together). No plot synopsis from me, but you can read it here.


See No EvilSee No Evil by Allison Brennan
Book 2 in the series. Once again, as Mariah Stewart does, Brennan is writing a series about a family of law enforcement officers. This one is Connor Kincaid's story (brother to the heroine in book 1). Again, no plot synopsis; read it here. I found this one to be especially disturbing, as its theme kind of hit a bit close to home. Hubby is a special ed teacher for high school students with emotional disturbance, so a lot of the issues explored here rang true for me. Having said that, the book was excellently written, and was completely enjoyable nonetheless. Cover to cover, no stops. This one is less grisly; more psychological issues are explored in depth, and it's a tougher read because of it. But, that makes it all the more impressive, because it's done very well, and in no way is it preachy. Just the opposite. Brennan incorporates parts of unhappy teenage life into this book with aplomb, and the H/H want to help them not out of the illusion of altruism, but out a true desire to help and love. Don't get me wrong, the book still has its share of creepiness. In spades. It's just a bit deeper in theme, and richer for it. Of course, that could just be my personal ties to the subject matter... Again, I loved it. Can't wait to get my hands on Fear No Evil.


Mine Til MidnightMine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas
Shifting gears from creepy to sexy... I snagged this at the So Cal blogger get together. Borders put it out a day or so early, and thank goodness, because I was dying to read it on the plane to Boston. So... what did you all think of it? Come on, I know you've read it.

I liked it. A lot. Not with the all-consuming passion that is due my Nick, or even Derek (for all you Derek lovers out there). Cam Rohan is a wonderful hero, though. He is smart, sexy, nice (yes, really, really nice), caring; is that where we go wrong? If there was a great flaw (and I use the words "great flaw" loosely, because the book was terrific), it would be that there wasn't enough transition time for me between the "I'm not getting involved" Cam and the wonderful, sweet, involved Cam. I liked them equally, but although we saw his struggle between being part of civilized London and the desire for the free life of the Gypsies, I don't feel as though Kleypas gave us enough of a transition with Cam and Amelia.

Also, I was a tad disappointed with the ending for Leo. I would have liked a bit more resolution, whether that was killing him off or giving him a bit more closure. Additionally, I really wanted to see more of Win and Merripen! Now that was a secondary romance to read about! Is their book to come? I highly doubt it - they seemed too resolved, but still... more, more, more!

Having said all that, it sounds as if I didn't like the book, but I really did! It was fast paced, and in general I liked both the H&H, although I found Amelia a bit too bossy at times. But the times when her vulnerablity and warmth toward her family showed, such as during the bee incident and afterward when she shared about her sibling's teasing, she became so much more likeable, and so much more... *pausing for the right word* worthy of Cam. *shaking head - no, that isn't really the word I wanted*

Definitely not the Kleypas of old, but what is these days? But it's a good, solid book, and a thoroughly enjoyable one. And, it has to be hard to live up to the hype - this has been such a highly anticipated book. The screeching for Cam, Cam, Cam could be heard from the rooftops for the last couple years.

Your help needed!...update

American Cancer Society Relay For Life
Update: With your help, I'm 1/3 of the way to my goal. But there is still work to do. You still have time to donate before the walk next weekend. $1500 was a really lofty goal for a 3 week donation cycle, but I know I can do it! Let's help to rid the world of this awful disease. Every little bit helps, even $5 or $10. Thanks again for all the help and good wishes that you all have given to me already. It is truly appreciated!

Here's the link again: http://www.acsevents.org/relay/ca/simivalley/lsherden
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'm walking in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life on October 7th. It's on my 41st birthday. Last year, Mary Carves the Chicken was part of the entertainment for the walkers, but this year they aren't. Page's mom just lost her long battle with leukemia last week, so understandably they won't be playing this year.

I, on the other hand, felt even more strongly about participating, so I'm walking. They hold it every year on my birthday weekend. I'm getting back from a week long business trip to Boston (where I'll get to hang with Katie - yay!) on Saturday, and then Sunday I'll walk.

My goal is to raise $1,500. Please, please help me in this important cause! I'm walking in memory of my grandfather, Bob's grandmother, and Page's mom.

Although my fervent wish is that nobody ever has to walk in memory of somebody they love, I'm sure that cancer has touched all of our lives in some way. Here's how you can sign up to contribute: http://www.acsevents.org/relay/ca/simivalley/lsherden

Every little bit helps. Thanks!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sarah McCarty ARC Contest

As found here.

The correct email address is:
SarahMcCartyContests @ gmail.com (no spaces)
was listed as Contest. Sorry all.

Hell's Eight

Bloggers are you ready?

(readers can win an arc by entering my .net site contest starting 10/1/07)

My first NY Western Historical series is releasing from SPICE in just over one month. It's a super-hot, fast-paced romance with a strong heroine, a hero to die for, and a happily ever after that will touch your heart. Like my Promise series, Hell's Eight probably is not what a reader thinks of when they think Western Historical, but each of these stories is a slice of life rich with emotion, spiced with passion, and filled with moments I hope will make your heart twist. The men of Hell's Eight are unpredictable and fascinating. They're definitely a law unto themselves, as wild as the West in which they live. Determined, and single-minded, they've planned for every contingency that could complicate their goals except for the one they never saw coming: the extraordinary women that will capture their hearts.


Read an excerpt

Think you're ready?

Okay, here it is, your chance to win one of the six ARCs of Caine's Reckoning, first book in the Hell's Eight series.

The goal of this contest is to spread the word far and wide of the upcoming release of Caine's Reckoning.

To enter:
  • * Copy and paste this post on your website, blog, MySpace, or wherever you wish, including a link to the excerpt.
  • * Once you've completed #1, email SarahMcCartyContests @ Gmail.com (no spaces) with the link to your site and you are entered. It's as simple as that.
  • * If you are the lucky winner of an ARC, simply be ready to read the book and review it during late October. You can review it on your blog, MySpace, online websites like Amazon, etc.
That's it.

Blog. Email. Read. Wait till the last couple of weeks of October. Review.

To enter, EMAIL me at SarahMcCartyContests @ gmail.com (without the spaces), with:
  • * Caine's Reckoning ARC in the subject line.
  • * The link to your post about the ARC contest.
  • * Your name and address.
  • * Where you intend to review the book.
Contest (open to US and Canadian residents) closes September 30th, 12 midnight, EST US.

Good luck!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Last Breath by Mariah Stewart

Last Breath by Mariah StewartLast Breath by Mariah Stewart

Well... I'm not sure where to start on this one. Great story, as usual. This book is Connor's story. All the "Dead and the "Last" books that have dealt with the Shields family have created this mystique around Connor. He is the brother that was supposed to be out on that dock when Dylan was killed (this ended the Dead books, and was the story behind AnneMarie McCall's book - Dylan was her fiance). He is the brother supposedly wracked with guilt. All the books from the Dead books till now have been leading up to this one.

I found myself disappointed. Not in the story - that was, as usual, well-written, exciting, interesting. And on a subject totally out of the ordinary. But what disappointed me was that after all this buildup, Connor lacked the emotional depth that I expected. I was expecting (hoping?) for hidden dimensions to Connor's psyche. Instead what I got was an incredibly honorable man, full of love and warmth. The honorable part, I could deal with. The love and warmth part, I found didn't jive with the glimpses I've seen of Connor in other books. Don't get me wrong - he was a great guy. One any woman would love to have. But he just wasn't the Connor that I was wanting, needing, expecting after 6 or 7 books. Stewart hinted that there was more there; Connor's unwillingness to really discuss himself was key to that. But by just accepting this, Daria made it impossible for me to accept a full and complete relationship between the two of them.

And interestingly, Connor's book was the most relationship-driven book of them all. Stewart's books are usually heavy on the storyline and the suspense, light on the romance. While this was fairly light on the romance, Stewart did do an awful lot of relationship-building between Connor and Daria.

The story itself totally absorbed me; it was a truly fascinating look at ancient cultures and archaeology. And I didn't realize until the one conversation that Connor and Daria had about Dylan that I was missing something. I was missing the hard edge to Connor that I'd seen in all the other books about the Shields family. It was that lack of continuity of character that threw me - Stewart is usually such a master at this. You would have to be when writing about a family that arcs across many books such as the Shields family, even though each book focuses on a new family member.

Stewart did leave a door open (I hope) for more follow up to Connor and Daria with a potential story for Daria's brother, Jack. I truly hope that we get more than just a glimpse into Connor's psyche there, because I'm left feeling vaguely unfulfilled - like I had a mini-orgasm, but was so close to the peak of the big one that I feel cheated.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Caressed By Ice by Nalini Singh





Wow. Just Wow.

Caressed By Ice delivers.


Now three books into the series, Singh’s Psy/Changling world is familiar, comfortable—a recognizable character from which I expect more. I wonder at its fate and want to know more of its secrets. This world is not a simple construct built to support a handful of romantic pairings. It has a pulse of its own. And a future.



Singh’s Psy-Changling romance is another that finds its uniqueness in character. Even though traits inherent to each race factor heavily, Singh delves deeper into individual character for inspiration. Readers tumble head first with Judd and Brenna, not the Psy and Wolf. Their feelings for one another stem from a bond neither can avoid nor explain and Singh delivers this age-old “meant for each other” theme in such a way that readers come to the edge of their seat every time this destiny is threatened. I don’t think I relaxed once until I started seeing others refer to Judd as “her Psy” and Brenna as “his wolf.” Really, the emotion riding beneath each scene was palpable.



Caressed By Ice also qualified as a “can’t put down” read. When the action began to unfold, food and sleep went the wayside. Singh’s pace, underscored by prose that is clean and concise, held me firmly in place until I turned the last page.


Moving beyond world building, romance and pace, Caressed By Ice worked for me in a couple of other ways. First, there is Judd. Unerring calm, quiet intelligence, infinite patience, intrinsic self-control—packaged to present both danger and haven for the heroine. This is by far my favorite setup, my ideal alpha. I’d easily put Judd—with his whisper-soft lethality—in the company of Roberts’ Roarke, Low’s Jed O’Neil and Janzen’s Superman.

Singh brings this tantalizing duality to life through Judd’s rigid posture, cool expression and soft-spoken commands. Everything about him conveys power. The glimmer of something else—something akin to a trigger—comes in the form of a heroine brassy enough to provoke his ire, yet vulnerable enough to elicit feelings of protectiveness. Not a new scenario necessarily, but an especially interesting one given that Judd should experience neither anger nor possessiveness. A twist afforded by Singh’s world and one she turns on its head later, following one of Judd’s flameouts.

And there is the second item, the unexpected. I wait for it in Singh’s books. It’s always there in the way hero and heroine ultimately come together. In this one, Judd’s unforeseen ability following his flameout was the perfect respite from the mounting tension.


Singh’s talent wows, no question. She creates a complex world crisscrossed by strict hierarchies, archrivals and untold subversives—then sparks romance that defies all of it. Caressed By Ice—very aptly titled, BTW—is another must read from Singh.

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