Friday, February 23, 2007
White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz
Petite, thirtysomething Clare Lancaster is a Level Ten para-sensitive—and a "human lie detector." Over the years, she's come to accept that someone with her extraordinary talents is likely to have trouble in the relationship department. And she's even resigned herself to the fact that everyone, to one degree or another, hides behind a facade. . . .
And now it seems that meeting the half sister and family whom she never knew until seven months ago was a mistake. Her father summons her from California to play a role in his business empire, and Clare doesn't intend on making the same mistake twice. But after meeting Jake Salter, Archer Lancaster's "financial consultant," Clare is convinced that things aren't what they seem. Salter's careful conversation seems to walk a delicate line between truth and deception, revealing and resisting. Something sparks and sizzles between them—something more than the usual electricity between a man and a woman.
Caught in a dizzying storm of secrets, lies, and half-truths, Jake and Clare will plunge into an investigation that demands every bit of their special gifts—together they must overcome their mutual distrust in order to unravel a web of conspiracy and murder.
Krentz/Quick writes with an economy that borders on dry. Difficult to put my finger on but I think it is because she expends little in the way of description. You’ll not find rich, eloquent passages on setting or deep introspection on character emotion here. But what she does provide is more than enough to draw the reader in and propel her forward. Both could qualify as well paced, no-nonsense reads.
In White Lies, the romance sizzled. The hero was perfectly alpha and the heroine comfortable in her own skin. Both belong to an organization comprised of folks with special powers—the paranormal element to this series—and both are enmeshed in a murder mystery that I’d call intelligent, not contrived. Overall, Krentz gave us the perfect balance between romance and mystery. A sizzling romance.
Second Sight by Amanda Quick
Financially straitened and on the path to spinsterhood, Venetia Milton thought her stay at the remote, ramshackle Arcane House would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engineer her own ravishment. She was there to photograph the artifacts collected by a highly secretive organization, founded two centuries earlier by an alchemist. And the alchemist's descendant - her employer, Gabriel Jones - had the eyes of a sorcerer…
But despite her intent to seduce the man and move on, she is shattered to return home and, just a week later, read of his violent demise in the press. She uses the sizable fee Mr. Jones paid and establishes a new life, opening a gallery in London. Of course, posing as a respectable widow makes it easier to do business, so - in a private tribute to her lost, only lover - she takes on the identity of “Mrs. Jones.” But her romantic whim will cause unexpected trouble.
For one thing, Mr. Jones is about to stride, living and breathing, back into her life. And the two share more than a memory of passion - indeed, they are bonded by a highly unusual sort of vision, one that goes far beyond Venetia's abilities as a photographer. They also have in common a terrible threat - for someone has stolen a centuries-old notebook from Arcane House, containing a formula believed to enhance psychic powers of the kind Gabriel and Venetia possess. And the thief wants to know more - even if he must kill the keeper of the Arcane Society's treasures, or photographer who catalogued them, to obtain such knowledge.
In Second Sight, the romance was there, but felt muted next to the mystery. The heroine is an independent photographer—a challenge in historical England—supporting two siblings and an elderly aunt. Add the threats to her life and you have a woman this side of preoccupied. Too preoccupied to fall in lust and love as easily as the hero and reader might wish. The romance was there, but where Krentz let it flow through and within the mystery in White Lies, Quick limited it to an undercurrent in Second Sight, secondary to the resolution of the mystery.
So overall, I liked Second Sight, but thought the romance less satisfying. I also found the sparseness or economy that I liked so well in White Lies less effective in the historical. It may simply be that I require more descriptive narrative in a historical. Without it, I felt as though I was watching the story unfold from a bleacher seat instead of front row over the dugout. Still a good story, just not the vantage point I prefer.
I'll be watching for subsequent installments of this series.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
With the dazzling storytelling that has become her trademark, the author of the acclaimed McClairen’s Isle trilogy sweeps you back to Victorian England ... to a glittering world of titled society and scandalous secrets ... in the enchanting story of a woman who lives by her wits — and who commits the most startling indiscretion of all: She falls in love....
I loved this book. Letty was a refreshing departure from the well-born ladies found in most historical romance. In both thought and dialogue, Brockway allows Letty’s color to bleed through the constant charade. She is absolutely hilarious, always keeping the genteel around her off kilter. It helps that her charade occurs amidst the more backward, podunk variety of England’s gentry. To these people, her slip-ups appear nothing more than eccentricity. Their collective naiveté is almost as entertaining as her smart mouth.
There are exceptions of course. The older folks play the dumb like a fox roles and their feigned ignorance is both sweet and funny. Then there is Elliot, the local magistrate. He is immediately suspicious. When his cursory investigation of her yields nothing, he relaxes enough to fall hopelessly in love with her. As love is blind, I had little problem with the fact that Brockway does not clue him in until Letty herself confesses her sins. And on that, I can’t say enough about how much I loved the way Brockway concluded this story. Letty’s confession and subsequent trial. So well done. And her refusal of Elliot’s proposal. Fitting. The end of the book? So worth it.
The pace of The Bridal Season is much more relaxed than the blurb suggests. Brockway devotes much of the story to its characters and romance. The element of danger presents itself very near the end and serves to bring about the HEA, instead of prolonging it beyond toleration. This is what won me over completely.
And again, the ending is fabulous. So, so worth it.
Monday, February 19, 2007
In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of “rehabilitation”— the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was….
Singh’s focus on her characters kept me well immersed in the story. Sascha’s struggle to survive was heart wrenching. And I desperately wanted a happy ending for her. A dozen scenarios played in my head, but Singh managed to keep me guessing to the last few pages. I remained uncertain about Sascha’s mother and other Psy. I wondered if Sascha was truly Psy at all. I anticipated some revelation about Lucas’ own genetic makeup. In short, I was utterly engrossed in the mystery and hopeful for a positive twist around every corner. To that end, the suspense in this book was phenomenal. The danger ever-present and the unknown filled with both horror and hope.
Lucas was an exotic hero. A Changeling, the panther in him provided for a sleek and powerful masculinity, an extraordinary alpha commanding both fear and trust. Singh’s insistence on presenting the man and beast as one in mind and spirit worked beautifully. I could never separate the two and loved the cat as much as the man. Just as man and beast ride the same edge of the knife, so do his strength and vulnerabilities. As a result, I was equally desperate for his happy ending, searching for hope every time I turned a page.
The plane on which Singh brings Sascha and Lucas together provided for an unexpected and poignant intimacy—one Singh easily established despite all logical constraints. Again, another construct indigenous to paranormals that I typically reject. Here, it made all the sense in their world and I was nothing short of captivated.
Slave To Sensation’s supporting characters—specifically those in the Changeling packs—also charmed. In addition to their respective roles in the conflict, each contributes to the character development of Lucas and, to some extent, Sascha. They all serve to heighten the predatory tension Singh uses to both frighten and arouse. None more so than Hawke, alpha leader of the wolf pack. With Hawke, Singh sequel baits just enough to trigger the series lovers’ saliva glands.
All in all, another one of those widely recommended reads I now regret having put off. And another outside my traditional comfort zone that I will push on my other, non-paranormal reading friends. Ahem. Lori, darling?
Chicago Stars quarterback Dean Robillard is the luckiest man in the world: a bona-fide sports superstar and the pride of the NFL with a profitable side career as a buff billboard model for End Zone underwear. But life in the glory lane has started to pale, and Dean has set off on a cross-country trip to figure out what's gone wrong. When he hits a lonely stretch of Colorado highway, he spies something that will shake up his gilded life in ways he can't imagine. A young woman . . . dressed in a beaver suit.
Blue Bailey is on a mission to murder her ex. Or at least inflict serious damage. As for the beaver suit she's wearing . . . Is it her fault that life keeps throwing her curveballs? Witness the expensive black sports car pulling up next to her on the highway and the Greek god stepping out of it.
Blue's career as a portrait painter is the perfect job for someone who refuses to stay in one place for very long. She needs a ride, and America's most famous football player has an imposing set of wheels. Now, all she has to do is keep him entertained, off guard, and fully clothed before he figures out exactly how desperate she is.
But Dean isn't the brainless jock she imagines, and Blue -- despite her petite stature -- is just about the toughest woman Dean has ever met. They're soon heading for his summer home where their already complicated lives and inconvenient attraction to each other will become entangled with a charismatic but aging rock star; a beautiful fifty-two-year-old woman trying to make peace with her rock and roll past; an eleven-year-old who desperately needs a family; and a bitter old woman who hates them all.
As the summer progresses, the wandering portrait artist and the charming football star play a high-stakes game, fighting themselves and each other for a chance to have it all.
Dean and Blue fit the SEP mold:
That’s where the similarity between this and the remaining stories in her Chicago Stars series ends.
In NBC, Phillips lays bare Blue’s vulnerabilities almost immediately. You ache for this woman, but understand her need to deal alone. Her self-preservation skills are traced very realistically back to childhood heartbreak and SEP clues readers in efficiently but poignantly. IOW, no background info dump used to neatly explain character behavior. Nothing contrived to make her particularly appealing to Dean. We see and feel through Blue from beginning to end.
Dean is equally appealing, in a “what you see is what you get” kind of way. Phillips establishes Dean as a decent guy with her trademark wry sense of humor. On the surface, he appears very much like previous SEP Chicago Stars heroes. His intentions toward Blue are not exactly honorable, his goal to bed her not all that mature. Unlike his predecessors however, he derives only a fraction of the enjoyment in his pursuit of Blue. He simply doesn’t have as much time for it. Instead, he spends the bulk of his time wrestling his own emotional baggage. Watching him alternately avoid and deal with his bizarre family was entertaining and touching.
His bizarre family, the bulk of his emotional baggage, comprises a wonderful supporting cast of characters. SEP easily fleshes out each character without miring the reader down in tangents. The developing relationships between each family member, Dean and Blue lend color and depth to the story. And SEP layers and blends, mixes and matches until every character is essential in the telling of the story. These relationships also provide one of the greatest sources of humor—Blue’s reaction to Dean’s rock star Dad. It is nothing short of hilarious. Throw in a cantankerous old broad down the road and you have a melting pot at high boil, spewing venom laced one-liners at perfectly timed intervals. This is SEP at her best.
I also found NBC to be more sexually charged than previous SEP titles. She takes their physical relationship a bit beyond the traditional, highly anticipated consummation of their attraction. Through the power of suggestion, SEP actually sways toward the erotic, with allusions to kink, spanking and even anal stimulation. Far sexier than the explicitness of true erotic titles.
Overall, the perfect romantic read. I fell in love. Then felt bereft when it was all over. If I could experience this with more of my romance reads, I’d be a happy woman.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Dani’s been in love with Carter forever. But she’s nothing like the women he dates—glamorous, exciting, spotlight-ready. Instead, she’s stuck in the “best friend” role and can’t seem to find a way out of it. Until a scheduling mix-up finds her enrolled in a strip aerobics class. Now this buttoned-down wallflower is finding her wicked side—and liking it!
What in the world happened to Carter’s best bud? She’s gone from sweet to sexy in ten seconds flat—and Carter’s lucky enough to be around for the ride of a lifetime. But he knows from past experience that relationships don’t last. He’s got to get things back on track before the most important friendship in his life is damaged forever.
Problem is, Dani has no intention of going back to being “just friends”. It’s about time someone challenged Carter’s assumptions about love and friendship—and Dani’s just the woman to do it!
Monday, February 12, 2007
"Bullshit. He's a man, isn'y he? He meant smething by it."
"You'd know that from experience?"
"Oh, yeah. Damn Frenchmen kiss everything they can. There's no telling where his lips have been."
"Does that mean I should boil my hand to get rid of the germs?"
"No, but if he kisses you again, I'll boil his lips."
Thursday, February 08, 2007
The Substitute Millionaire:
Successful businessman Ryan Bennett had agreed to masquerade as his wealthy cousin for a blind date.
But from the moment Ryan saw Julie Nelson to the moment he should have said good-night, he was captivated and couldn't resist an invitation to share her bed. In the hazy afterglow of their heated lovemaking, Ryan confessed his true identity, claiming the passion between them was real despite his deception, but Julie wasn't buying it. Obviously she considered him the enemy.
Except now she was having the enemy's baby...
I had serious issues with how this book started… not with the deceit because it wasn't that huge of a deal, not with the fact that Julie and Ryan sleep together on the first date after mere hours of knowing one another. What my major problem was that virtual strangers sleep together and don't use protection/condoms. A MAJOR TSTL MOMENT. I realize that Ms. Mallery wanted a pregnancy, but a better way to go about that would be to have the condom break or fail plain and simple because the effectiveness of condoms is about 85% when used as a sole method of contraception. Those two instances to me would have been more believable than just sleeping with a stranger without using a condom. Do people really still do that? Even with AIDS and HIV and everything else that is going around out there? Eeek. Thank God I'm married if that's the case.
Anyway… the story itself was just good. Not great like I'd normally expect from a Mallery book and I was left satisfied, just not overly excited like I normally am which was slightly disappointing.
Overall Grade: B.
Millionaire Kane Dennison's first mistake had been carrying an injured Willow Nelson inside his home, which, as a rule, was off-limits. Of course, she'd needed his help, but his one kind gesture had her believing he was a nice man. He wasn't.
His second mistake had been surrendering to passion after warning Willow to run away. Because a woman like her deserved better than a one-night stand. She believed in soul mates. He trusted no one—needed no one. And not even Willow was going to change him!
Kane is Todd and Ryan's head of security and he meets Willow when she shows up at Todd's house to give him a piece of her mind.
This book was awesome! Willow was sassy, a whirlwind of energy, and I loved how she just plowed into Kane's life and made a place for herself. And in spite of Kane's belief that he liked being a loner, he didn't protest too loudly when Willow became a permanent presence in his life. They were opposites yet perfect for one another. This book left me smiling and feeling happy just as a Susan Mallery book usually does.
Overall Grade: A.
The Ultimate Millionaire
Todd Aston III's reputation as a playboy preceded him; he wore power as seamlessly as he wore his custom-cut suits. But Marina Nelson had promised her sister—who was marrying Todd's cousin—that she'd help him plan the perfect wedding. And somehow, between tasting cakes and modeling wedding dresses, Marina discovered that she wanted Todd—and that Todd wanted her.
Which made her grandmother's offer of a million dollars to whichever Nelson sister married him a big problem…
This book was bland. It left me just feeling "eh"… nothing special. Typical clichéd story of a rich man afraid of only being liked for his money. It was another disappointing read for me as I expect much more from Susan Mallery.
My overall grade: C.
While this series wasn't Ms. Mallery's best, it's a whole lot better than some of the other books I've seen out there lately... and I'll be one of the first in line for her next release. : ) And hopefully they will have better line edits/editing because the typos and major errors(wrong name) were annoying.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
The Stranger I Married - Sylvia Day
Oh my god, I love this cover. He totally makes me drool. He could do me anytime. Oh yeah, and I really liked the book, too. I loved the interaction between the H&H. Loved the storyline and the characters. I could have done without the excessive use of the "c" word. (Ok, now y'all know which book prompted that post - but don't let it stop you from reading the book! It's terrific.) Sylvia Day told me that she read a book (whose title & author shall remain nameless - I don't want to get anyone in hot water) about a married Hero & Heroine who lived separately, and the hero went off and had his affairs while the heroine kind of languished about. And she thought, "That's not fair! I could write that way better for that poor heroine!" So she did. The H&H are married and each go about their own "business" until the hero decides to come back and be a husband to his wife. Great idea for a book! And it works. I really liked it! (Minus the whole "c" controversy. *g*). I think her writing gets better with each book. The characters are both deeper here than in Ask For It (and I enjoyed that more than a lot of others did). The book has a more mature feel to it. If only I could convince her not to have a husband call his wife's hoo-hah a you-know-what. *snort*
Forget Me Not - Marliss Melton
Melton claims on her web site to idolize Suzanne Brockmann (who doesn't?), and reading her book, you can see that. She still has a way to go, but this SEAL story has all the elements... arcing storyline, secondary love story building, action (although not quite as much here simply because of the nature of the plot, I imagine). This one is about a SEAL who was taken and held because he was betrayed by a teammate. The ultimate betrayal. His wife believes him dead. He comes back and they have to try to repair their piss-poor marriage. Turns out he was holding out on her because he thought if he gave in to his love for her, he'd lose his edge as a SEAL. Of course, she just thought he didn't love her. Add in a teenage daughter, selective amnesia, and a nervous teammate (afraid that he will get his memory back) and it has all the makings of high drama. Little inconsistencies bothered me, though. I will definitely read more Melton books, however, as I imagine she will get better with each book.
Summer Lovin' - Carly Phillips
Typical Phillips read. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't run anyone over in the store to get it. It's the second book in the Costas series. This one's about Zoe, Arianna's sister. Good no-brainer, fluffy, fun read. Holds true to its name. A real summer read. Take it to the beach. Read it at the pool. But it delivers in true Phillips fashion. Like a Snickers bar. It satisfies.
A Little Bit Wicked - Victoria Alexander
This is the first in a new series. Don't know if this series has a real title, but I've seen it referred to as "Last Man Standing" and the "Gentleman's Wager" series. I immediately thought of Stephanie Laurens' Bastion Club series when I read the premise. 4 aristocrats wager on who will be the last of them to hold off marriage. The bet is 1 shilling and a bottle of whiskey. This first one is pretty good. The H&H immediately embark on an affair, and he is the one who determines that he is in love first. She, having had a bad ending to her first marriage (as did he), is determined never to get married again. I liked Gideon a lot. He is fun, witty, self-depracating, and an all around good guy. The interesting twist is that he isn't the one running from the whole love thing, although on the surface, he would appear to have more reason to do so. I could have done without Judith's S-I-L, but she did hold the key to opening Judith's heart to Gideon, so I suppose she had to stick around. The ending left me a tad dissatisfied, which is a shame, because I enjoyed the rest of the book.