Back in October and November, I was on a mission to return to regularly reviewing most if not all of my reads. That effort—and everything else—fell off along about Thanksgiving. Like so many of you, my holidays were wildly busy and frankly, I shelved any and all book-fun related stuff. I know it’s a new year and folks are already moving on, but I have to go back in order to go forward. Freakish maybe, but I need to pick up where I left off, catch up and recap the old year and then move on. I’ll try to do it all super fast, LOL.
When I left off, I had just breezed through a stack of 2008 releases—new titles from Roberts, Stuart, Bourne, Hoyt, Singh and Janzen. Then I caught myself up on Robb’s In Death releases—Salvation In Death and two novellas. Pretty sure I reviewed them all. Then I moved on to blogger recs (one old, one new)—Demon Angel from Meljean Brook and Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas. Reviewed the first, and ok, maybe I fell off a bit before Thanksgiving.
Jumping back in…
Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas (blogger rec/lots of buzz)
I understand why this title ended up on many Best Of 2008 lists. Thomas’ prose is polished and her premise actually scandalous. Her telling, not altogether comfortable for the reader, hinged on the constant tension between hero and heroine. The constant presence of her betrayal and the difficulty in forgiving it—definitely an emotional conflict not even the reader can be sure is surmountable. It also made for a darkness in the hero most would excuse or accept as his due. More interestingly though, the conflict gave us a heroine we should, by all rights, despise. But don’t. I admired her enough to get past her mistake. Overall, character-driven with emotional tension that is palpable. An author I’ll read again.
Riding The Storm by Sydney Croft (blogger rec, flat-out gorgeous book covers)
I’m fairly certain I finished this one—if only skimming the last half. Formulaic, stereotypical, shallow. I liked the premise well enough, but it all fell flat. No depth, nothing to make me believe in shadow government orgs or mad scientists. So despite those titillating covers, I won’t be reading anymore of this series.
From Private Pleasures, an anthology:
The Men and Womens Club by Robin Schone
Creepy. Itchy wool creepy, sexually repressed and/or deviant creepy. For some, I imagine Schone succeeds, evoking devastating emotion. Not so much for me. It all felt very wrong to me.
Decidedly Devilish Duke by Allyson James (The reason I bought this anthology; I loved the series she wrote as Ashley Gardner)
Ok, but no grab, no punch. No hint of the clever and talented wordsmith behind the Captain Lacey mysteries.
There were a couple of other shorts in this anthology and I couldn’t get more than a page or two into either one.
Friendly Fire by Megan Hart (old ebook)
Solid. Characters with a pulse, dialogue sharp in wit and intellect, steamy sex. A story simply told (her trademark, IMO) but one that elicits emotion both raw and complex. Makes me want to go back and read every thing she’s written. This one was from Amber Quill Press.
Dark Needs At Night's Edge by Kresley Cole
Cole has hooked me. Completely. I found this one just as powerful (the romance), just as entertaining (the cast) as its predecessors. Like Singh, Cole has created a world I enjoy, one I find interesting and, believable, insomuch as I can lose myself in the romance, comfortable in its setting. My first task of 2009 is to hurry up and read the next one so I'll be "on time" to the new release party in February.
My Wicked Highlander by Jen Holling (old, old blogger rec)
Good. I fear that the Garwood of old ruined me for highland romance from anyone else, but Holling tells an engaging story here and I’m tempted to read the rest of this series (the MacDonell Brides).
And finally—the weekend just before Thanksgiving, I picked up a book by Deanna Lee. Despite direct word from her that no, it wasn’t her, I still want to swear that it was Wendy that tipped me toward Lee. She denies it, LOL. So WHO the hell was it? Whoever you are (and I’m so, so sorry I’m not remembering correctly), you read and reviewed Barenaked Jane (or maybe it was Undressing Mercy) from Lee. The name stuck in my head and, when I saw a Lee title at my UBS, I picked it up. It was Exposing Casey—at least on the cover, spine and title page. But the book also included Seducing Lisa by Deanna Lee. And THIS was the gem—one of the best reads I’ve had in ages. So thank you, whoever you are. (Please tell me!)
Seducing Lisa by Deanna Lee
Fucking fabulous. Lee captures perfectly the fear that accompanies a consuming relationship. She connects readers and characters emotionally, but in a bare-bones, honest manner and tone. Both hero and heroine enjoy a frankness I identified with and appreciated immensely. In the bedroom and out of it. Simple but powerful. Lee writes very, very well and I was utterly captivated. I’m not a huge fan of contemporary romance and remain a skeptic when it comes to erotic romance. This was both, and so beautifully done. I wish I could better articulate my thoughts—but all I’ve got is this leftover feeling of being totally satisfied and touched.
I’ve since read Barenaked Jane and enjoyed it nearly as much as Seducing Lisa.
There is one more for 2008…