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 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:

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:

Every little bit helps. Thanks!
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