Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Author: Amy J. Fetzer
Type: Labeled Contemporary Romance; I’d call it Romantic Suspense/Military
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.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
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.
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?
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Author: Ashley Gardner
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.
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 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.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Author: Diana Holquist.
Publisher: Grand Central (former Warner).
BLURB: Shy No More Worksheet
Name: Jasmine Burns
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.
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
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
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.
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
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.
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
To enter email with either indicate the place of sighting and any pertinent descriptive information *we like descriptives
Remember to put:
Caine and Desi in the subject line. State you are 18 and over (You must be 18 or over to enter) Your name, email, and address. 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.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
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.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
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…