Saturday, February 28, 2009

Feb Re-read Challenge: A Perfect Hero by Samantha James

Courtesy of samanthajames.comSince she was cruelly left at the altar at the age of twenty-two, Lady Julianna Sterling has resolved to have nothing to do with men. So she is shocked to discover she has unwelcome feelings for the very worst of the breed - a dangerous, unbearably handsome highwayman who has set upon her coach in the countryside and taken her captive. Worse still, her righteous ire turns quickly to disappointment when the irresistible outlaw sets her free.

Viscount Dane Graville knows he should not have revealed his face to the enchanting Lady Julianna - for he has compromised the secret mission he has undertaken for the Crown in the guise of the notorious Magpie. Now their paths are crossing once more, and Dane aches to taste again the sweetness of her kiss. But he must resist what his heart demands, for their passion can only lead to perils beyond imagining.


This is the third book in the Sterling family trilogy. Usually I love the first book in a trilogy, and am disappointed by the others. I loved all of these books, but this one captured my heart.

Julianna, left at the altar, has resigned herself to living her life alone. On her way to look at property to purchase, she becomes an unwitting victim of the "Magpie", the latest highwayman to terrorize the roads of England. She's injured in the attack, and he takes her to his hideaway to recover.

As they circle around one another and learn about each other, Julianna sees her chance to escape and shoots the Magpie. However, she just can't leave him and returns to nurse him back to health. Of course, they fall in love, and once she returns to society and discovers who the Magpie really is, Dane must reveal his true mission to her.

What I loved so much about this book was the sense of family and true love and caring that envelops the entire Stirling set of siblings. They've suffered, yet have each found love, and they all love and care for each other tremendously, while supporting each other on their journeys toward self-discovery and self-acceptance. I also really loved the interactions between Julianna and Dane. I loved that he was willing to give up everything for her - his life's work, his integrity... everything. Their time together in the cabin was wonderful. Oh! I forgot to mention this one to JenB as a cabin romance! (But Jen, if you aren't into the "Home Office" spy thing, maybe you shouldn't go there, although it is secondary to the storyline. You're just getting into the historical thing, and I'd hate to lose my status as your favorite person, LOL!).

Julianna and her brothers (great heroes in their own right) have a family scandal/secret in their history which is finally brought to a conclusion in this book. It's deeply moving, especially as it relates to the middle brother, Justin. It also brings in the whole "Home Office" spy aspect, so if that's not your thing, be forewarned. However, I wouldn't say that this book revolves around it at all.

The books in this trilogy in order:
A Perfect Bride
A Perfect Groom
A Perfect Hero

Year of the Category - February: Dancing in the Moonlight by Raeanne Thayne

This is a 2006 SSE that was included in the 16 free downloads from Harlequin last month. Maggie Cruz and Jake Dalton have known each other since childhood. He's the town doctor, and she's a nurse who is also a BTK amputee, suffered while serving as a reservist in the war. She's come home to lick her wounds. She holds a serious grudge against Jake's family, believing them to be responsible for her father's death.

SSE is one of the lines that I still really love to read. I loved Jake, and I liked Maggie - a lot. She had a chip on her shoulder, but who could blame her, really? Thayne wrote the characters with a lot of introspective dialogue, and while there was some extraneous storyline, it never took the focus off of the two main characters and their journey toward their HEA. They share a long history together, and Thayne tied that in to how Jake fell in love with Maggie really beautifully.

I also like that Maggie seemed to come to terms with her amputation and her new limitations honestly - determined to overcome the physical while denying the emotional. Seemed a very honest response to me - not always likeable, but very honest.

I enjoyed the glimpses into their families as well. Although I haven't read any of the rest of the series (I'm not even sure how many others there are), I was easily able to understand their stories and fit the history in. I wouldn't mind looking for the brothers' books on PBS or at a UBS.

Jake was a great hero, Maggie a good heroine, despite her bristliness. All in all, a good read, and I'm glad that Harlequin included it in their freebies this month.

February reads

February started out with a bang.  Everything I read was excellent plus I was working on two series: Romney Marsh and Arcane Society.

A Gentleman By Any Other Name by Kasey Michaels *A*
The first book of the Romney Marsh series.  One of the few series I actually started with the first book.  LOL  Really good historical.  There are seven adopted children and one natural child of Ainsley Becket and each one gets a story.  This book is about the oldest, Chance.  He was a teen when rescued by Ainsley but is now an adult who works for the war office in London.  All the characters are fully fleshed.  He has hired Julia to be nanny to his daughter and must travel immediately to Romney Marsh to investigate smuggling for the war office.  He's walking a fine line because he knows there's probably smuggling going on but family loyalty outweighs loyalty to country.  Julia is originally from this part of the country and is very familiar with the smuggling routine.  It takes a while but finally the family trusts her.  There's an ongoing theme in the series where a little more info about Ainsley's background comes out in each book.

The Dangerous Debutante by Kasey Michaels *A*  (Romney Marsh book 2) This is Morgan's book.  She's a fiery temptress who's mistaken for somebody else's mistress when she first meets her hero, Ethan, who is an earl.
Beware of Virtuous Women by Kasey Michaels *A* (Romney Marsh book 3) This is Eleanor's story.  She's quiet but has a way of making things happen.  She goes to London pretending to be Jack Eastwood's wife in an attempt to find out who is attempting to ruin their smuggling operation.  Jack has worked with the Beckets for years but hasn't really noticed quiet Elly before.  When they are thrown together he begins to appreciate her and, of course, there's your HEA.  There's more about her heritage and even more is revealed about Ainley's background.

A Reckless Beauty by Kasey Michaels *C* (Romney Marsh book 5) This is Fanny's story. She and her adopted brother, Rian, have been inseparable until he goes to war following Napolean's escape from Elba. She follows him and comes to the attention of Valentine Clement, Earl of Brede. Not the best story in the series but still enjoyable. Fanny learns that her love for Rian really is that of a sister for a brother as she falls in love with Brede.

The Return of the Prodigal by Kasey Michaels (Romney Marsh book 6) *B* This is Rian's story. After he's wounded, he's cared for by the daughter of the Becket's enemy, Edmund Beales. She helps him escape her father. I appreciated her waffling between wanting to do what her father wants because she craves his love and doing what she can to help Rian with whom she has fallen in love. Lots of push me-pull me in this.

Becket's Last Stand by Kasey Michaels (Romney Marsh book 7) *B* This is both Callie and Court's book. She was given into his care by her mother just before her mother was killed and Court has watched over her ever since. She's all grown up now and it's a little hard for him to make the transition. Everyone in the family has assumed they would eventually be a couple when Callie became a woman, even Callie, so it's just a matter of convincing Court. Not really much of a romance but a terrific end to the series.

White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz *A*(Arcane Society contemporary) Clare is a level 10 sensitive who can tell if a person is telling the truth or not.  Kinda tough to have a relationship when you can tell if your lover is lying.  She meets up with Jake who is a level 10 hunter.  After I started this (picked it up at the library) I realized I'd already read it, but it was a treat reading it again.

Second Sight by Amanda Quick *A* (Arcane Society historical) Venetia meets Gabriel at the Arcane House when she's hired to photograph the artifact collection.  She can see auras, he is a preternatural hunter.

The Third Circle by Amanda Quick *A* (Arcane Society historical)  Leona is a gifted crystal worker who runs into Thaddeus when they are both trying to steal the aurora stone and encounter a murdered woman.  Thaddeus can hypnotize people.  Leona insists the crystal has belonged to her family for generations; Thaddeus insists it belongs to the Arcane Society and needs to be in a safe place.  They are playing a cat and mouse game with a hunter who enjoys killing women.

Sizzle and Burn by Jayne Ann Krentz *B* (Arcane Society contemporary)  Maybe I'm getting burned out on JAK, but this didn't seem to have the intensity between Zack and Raine that I'd come to expect from the other Arcane Society novels.  The mystery to be solved wasn't particularly riveting either.  I like this world that JAK has built but this story seemed to be lacking something.

Finding Ian  by Stella Cameron *AA* This was published in 2001 but I just picked it up at the library.  Wow, what an emotional story.  Years ago, when Byron Frazer's wife died in childbirth, he chose to allow the boy to be adopted.  Now those adoptive parents are dead and the boy has been sent to England to live with relatives he's never met.  Byron visits England to make sure the boy is in good hands.  But while he's there he meets a young woman, Jade Perron, who makes him think he could love again.  He also gets to know the boy and decides he wants to be part of his life.  Although the author didn't capture the cadence and speech of Cornwall, she certainly brought to life the connections in a small town and how everyone knows everyone else's business.  Everyone is  given depth and texture, not just the main characters.  Jade's struggle with her dad's chauvinism, her aunt's struggle to be there for Ian, Byron's agonizing over his past and how to be there for Ian in the future are all dealt with compassionately.  

Tall, Dark and Texan  by Jodi Thomas *A*  This is a historical western.  I admit I do enjoy Jodi Thomas's stories.  This one is about a young, timid widow who ends up on a ranch with a bear of a man.  Jessie's not frightened of him, which puts her one up on everyone in town.  The reason is that she had corresponded with him for many years when she ran a bookstore.  Teagan always thought he was writing to a man since she signed the letters with her husband's name.  Now she needs a safe place and decided Teagan would be just that.  I loved the scenes between Teagan and her little girls.  He doesn't really know what to do with all of them, however.  It's a delight watching them grow into a family.

Double Fantasy by Cheryl Holt *B* Two romances in one story about Jack and Jamie who were twins.
To Wed a Wicked Prince by Jane Feather  *B* The wicked prince was a Russian double agent whose mother had been English.

Autumn Lover by Elizabeth Lowell *B* Wonderful story but really wanted to smack Hunter upside the head.  He never remembered that Elyssa was NOT like his first wife, she WASN'T spoiled and she WASN'T a flirt.  He'd realize it and promptly forget.  It got really annoying. 

All Smiles by Stella Cameron *D* A great disappointment.  After reading Finding Ian I expected some powerful emotional writing.  As much as I like regency era romance, this was not very compelling.

Marrying Walker McKay by Lori Copeland  *C*  It was just OK but had too many head-banging moments for me to recommend. Plot setup was so convoluted and outrageous as to be unbelievable.

Star Bright by Catherine Anderson *B* Rainie escapes her abusive husband and Parker teaches her to love and trust again. There was a lot of buzz about the overuse of Catholic references. Personally I liked them and felt they added depth to Parker. I'm not really a fan of stories about abused women running from abusive men because I know they will always be found and it's gonna be scary - Play Misty For Me scary.

A Very Special Delivery by Linda Goodnight A free ebook from Harlequin - Steeple Hill. Since my faith is so important to me I thought I might enjoy Steeple Hill. Meh, not so much, if this is anything to go by.

Baby Bonanza by Maureen Child Another free ebook from Harlequin. A rich man discovers he's the father of twins. Another formula I don't usually read, but I enjoyed this one. Many moments when the emotion hit me in the gut so hard I flushed, so I'd give it a B, maybe an A. I'll definitely look for more by Maureen Child.

Tender Secrets by Ann Christopher - One of my favorite authors. As the story began I wasn't sure I was going to like this one: a reporter all set to do an expose on the family who ruined her father and sent him on the road to self destruction. I should have known the author would make the characters so strong and deep that I'd get sucked in. *A*

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dark of Night by Suzanne Brockmann... JenniferB & Lori Buddy Review....

Jen and I have never done a buddy review in all the time we've had this blog, but after we did reviews for Into the Fire one day apart, we decided that we might try doing one together for Dark of Night. So here you go. Note: Contains multiple spoilers. Read at your own risk!

JB: I personally had no issue with the couplings. Dave w/Sophia and Decker w/Tracy worked just fine for me. Especially given Brockmann's explanation of Decker's issue when it comes to Sophia--specifically that he was troubled by how turned on he had been when she threatened his life. Not a proud moment for him--to admit that--and an obvious reason why he'd rather steer clear of Sophia. And, perhaps, why he--in his interactions with her through the last few installments--has been either domineering (to over-compensate) or withdrawn to the point of being mute. Through this one little window--into his hidden desire to be dominated--Brockmann made a whole lot of things suddenly make more sense.

LS: I didn't have any problem with the pairings, either. I loved how he slowly revealed his desire to Tracy to be dominated. And the "a-ha" moment for her? Wow. His internal struggle when he realized she "got it". Just great. It's a theme that often runs with characters like Decker - the desire to be dominated in bed, when they have to be so strong everywhere else, so in charge, and they want just one place where they can just give in and take orders for once. That shower scene was so perfectly written. And I loved that they were interrupted. I thought it was really hot. So true that Sophia just doesn't have that in her. And I'm so glad that Brockmann didn't try to force it on her.

JB: I'll just add an Oh Yeah here--Tracy's "a-ha" moment. Great, great turning point in the book--really opened both his and our eyes to the fact that he's met his match.

JB: This one got off to a slow start for me. Four pages into it, I got squeamish. Then spent too much time worrying about when we'd get back to those scenes. Then I struggled with the feeling that no one was in character. Looking back now, I'm sure that was just Tracy and Decker--Tracy because this is the first we really get to know her and Decker because this is the first time we get to know him for just him--and not through his relationship to Nash or Sophia. By book's end, no one felt out-of-character.

LS: You know, I remember mentioning it in my review for Into the Fire, and I know what you mean about being uncomfortable with the characters. For me, it's Sophia that makes me uncomfortable. I still don't understand what it is about her. I'm very glad that she ended up with Dave, because she makes him happy and she obviously could never have ended up with Decker, but I can't help thinking that he deserves a better heroine somehow. Someone more engaging, more... dynamic? ... interesting? Any discomfort I had stemmed from her, I think.

JB: Interesting. I'd have to agree on her character's blandness. She had so much depth when Brockmann introduced her (in Nash and Tess' book I think). Then, over the years, she acclimated to her relatively safe life in the States and just seemed to blend into the wallpaper. And though I hadn't thought about it, I agree with your point about Dave--he perhaps deserves better.

LS: I agree that when she was introduced, I thought she was really going to be a great match for Decker down the road. Thought she would be a wonderful Brockmann heroine. But she really did just blend into the woodwork and wasn't good enough for either of them, IMO. A shame, really. One of my few real disappointments with Brockmann.

JB: Not even Jules. Granted, he gave the appearance--more than once--of playing loose with the law and order of things, but overall, he behaved as I would have expected.

LS: For me, in the last few books, Jules has seemed out of his comfort zone, and it always takes him a while to get back into it. Maybe it's falling in love and realizing that there's someone out there who cares if he doesn't come home at the end of the day. I don't know. But although he was always touchy-feely, he was never that way "on the job", in the middle of an op. He was always all business. In the last few books, it's begun seeping into his work - while an op is in progress, not just in the down-time. That kind of bothers me, because I think it perpetuates a stereotype that perhaps a gay man can't handle a tough job like the FBI, which is so obviously untrue and so obviously not Brockmann's intention. I think I mentioned this in my Force of Nature review.

JB: Hmmmm. I don't remember him being ALL about work while on the job. Definitely more hard-nosed focused during the dangerous moments of an op, but still spending some minutes lamenting about his love life with Alyssa or fussing over Max. But I agree that it is more difficult for him now to balance work and personal interests--now that he has Robin. The personal definitely intrudes more, naturally. And it sheds a new light on the impression that he is operating outside the law he is supposed to uphold. Gives me the feeling that this is one of those intentional, whisper layers of characterization and conflict that Brockmann weaves almost transparently.

JB: Even though Decker and Tracy felt the most foreign to me, it was their scenes that finally set the hook. Hot and hilarious. This was the romance that hurtled me forward to the last page. Couldn't get enough of them.

LS: Agree 100%. Loved it. Their dynamic was great. I loved that he recognized her intelligence, and let her know that he recognized it, too. And how interesting that when they finally did have sex for the first time, it was a quickie, and he was completely in charge.

JB: LOL, yeah, that scene was fabulous. And oh-so-funny when Jules gave Decker pointers on setting his office back to rights.

LS: Oh yeah. That was hilarious. A bit squicky, though, when the first thing he noticed was the smell. An ewww moment for me.

JB: Thought this one was very much like the last--Into The Fire. With a bazillion storylines all happening within or under one threat. As opposed to previous installments that featured one primary romance against the backdrop of a historical romance. I like it either way.

LS: Now, see? I felt that this one was far more controlled than Into the Fire, with far fewer storylines happening. Yes, there were several different threads happening, but they were all working toward the same goal. With Into the Fire, I felt like I never had a clue as to what anyone was working on, or how it tied into the main goal for the team. Here, I always knew what the main goal was, and where they were headed. I felt like I didn't need to even read the headers at the top of the vignettes that tell you the place and time. I could follow it that well. SO not the case with Into the Fire.

JB: True, true. In that sense, this was more cohesive than Into The Fire.

JB: Have to say I missed Izzy here.

LS: I was ok without him, because I think had he made an appearance, we would have heard about Eden, and lord knows I could have done without that whiny baby. And I do mean baby. LMAO! Yeah, Into the Fire left a bad taste in my mouth, obviously.

JB: LOL! That is one challenge I'm looking forward to--watching Brockmann either turn that relationship upside down (emptying it out) or making it work, for Izzy, Eden and readers. As one reviewer (at DA) pointed out, Brockmann extends some pretty damn long story arcs, and Izzy's is one of those I'm particularly fond of. And, like that of Decker and Sophia, there is no telling how she will unfold this SEAL's HEA.

JB: Also have to say I prefer the international threats more than the domestic ones. Whack jobs in the role of serial killers or cult leaders seem like they should be small potatoes for Brockmann's SEALS and Troubleshooters. And the Agency? Not convincing. Far too much like the formulaic constructs I see in Kent or Croft's books. Just there to serve other plot points in the book(s). Meh.

LS: Agree here, too. I mentioned this one in my FoN review as well. I like it when they have to go wheels up. Agree about The Agency, too. It seems far too cloak and dagger 'bad guy' for Brockmann. Her bad guys are in your face terrorists who are out to get the US. Bottom line. And once again, that's what makes me miss the SEAL stories. Although I have to say, because this one seemed a lot more relationship-driven, I didn't miss them as much as usual. Didn't you think this book seemed a lot more relationship-driven and less action-oriented? Yes, they're all relationship-driven, but this one seemed in particular to be a grown up relationship book. And I was so happy to see Jimmy and Tess finally be settled, too.

JB: Agree--much more about the relationships here. All of them, LOL. Sam and Alyssa. Jules and Robin. Nash and Tess. Dave and Sophia. Decker and Tracy. I leave anyone out?

LS: Nope. Got 'em all, I think, LOL.

JB: SuperDave worked for me too. Just fine.

LS: Yup. Agree. Although I read a review (can't remember whose) that said his internal conflict and insecurity went on too long. Yeah, I thought that maybe he should have let the Decker thing go sooner, but I thought he was pretty secure about who he was internally. It was Sophia that needed to get on board with who Dave was. Have I mentioned that I'm not a huge fan of Sophia?

JB: LOL, errr, you might have mentioned it once or twice.

JB: Sam worked real well for me too. It was a real pleasure spending time with him again.

LS: It was great seeing him, and listening to his "Sam" words of wisdom. I found it interesting how little interaction we actually witnessed between him and Alyssa, though. Didn't you find that odd? I mean, she was there practically the entire time. Maybe Brockmann felt they would take the focus off of Jimmy and Tess if she showed them together, but still... I found it strange that we saw them together hardly at all.

JB: I didn't notice that. Guess I made the unconscious assumption or decision that she was all about work while there. She with the more perimeter concerns and him with the babysitting duties--watching over both Ash and Nash.

JB: Oh, there is one more thing. Brockmann's use of profanity. I love it, LOL. Just love it. And remember my faves, like when Decker thinks to himself "...sure as double-fuck not going..." as opposed to the old "...sure as hell not going..." These guys all carry that extra dose of latent adolescence and profanity that makes me laugh. And never offends.

LS: Totally agree. Never offends. Love words like Absofuckinglutely. It's a staple for these types of characters now. And the genre is better for it.

So there you have it. Our thoughts on Dark of Night. We could have gone on forever. How do they jive with yours?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dark Desires After Dusk by Kresley Cole

Title: Dark Desires After Dusk
Author: Kresley Cole

Type: Paranormal Romance
Published: 2008

Blurb: Cade of the rage demons will stop at nothing to atone for the one wrong that will haunt him forever. But once he secures the key to his redemption, the halfling Holly Ashwin, Cade finds that the woman he thought he could use for his own ends and then forget haunts him as much as his past.

Raised as a human, Holly Ashwin never knew that some frightening legends are real until she encounters a brutal demon who inexplicably guards her like a treasure. Thrust into a sensual new world of myth and power, with him as her protector, she begins to crave the demon’s wicked touch.

Yet just when he earns Holly’s trust, will Cade be forced to betray the only woman who can sate his wildest needs—and claim his heart?

Why: I'm hooked.

Thoughts: Of all the characters introduced to date in Cole's Immortals After Dark series, Cade appealed the least. Unlike the sexy arrogance or tortured soul found in many of Cole's potential heroes, Caedon sported a childish, petulant attitude. Don't know if it was his casting--little brother to Rydstrom, unable to measure up, or single demon into drink and porn. All I know is that he has always appeared more child than man to me. Not even his lonely roof-top spying of Holly inspired compassion in me.

So was I hesitant to read his book? No. Cole has surprised me with every installment and I expected nothing less here. And, of course, the surprises kicked in the minute I turned page one. Holly's transformation wasn't an earth-shattering twist, but it worked very well to push her and Caedon's romance off of go. Gave the reader one of those "Ahhh, I see how this is going to work" moments.

It also provided for tons of character growth for her. And boatloads of humor. I really enjoyed the clever convergence of Holly's human traits (or ticks) and her 'ancestoral' ones. Seamless, and both heartbreaking and hilarious. And every individual moment--added up to a more collective development of that particular race in Cole's world. Don't know which of these races I enjoy more--the vamps, lykae, demon or valkyre.

Cade's response to learning Holly's true identity--and her purported fate--was another surprise. It provided the first real, whoa-here-it-is conflict for this character. And honestly, like him, I wasn't sure--right up until the end--what choice he would make. I liked that Cole didn't make it a simple matter--she never empowered him with the maturity or experience to devise a superior strategy or tactic. IOW, she didn't turn him into a mastermind--she left him in character, just grappling his way through shit and yeah, in some instances, taking immature advantage of Holly and/or circumstances. Like I said, he's always been more child than man IMO. And in keeping with that, Cole somehow managed to make him more real, more believable. And ultimately, a great hero.

Overall, I loved it as much as I have the others. Easily.

And speaking of a great hero? The teaser for Rydstrom's story? Jaw-dropping. Can't wait.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Title: What I Did For Love
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Type: Contemporary Romance
Published: 2009

Why: SEP equals auto-read.

Thoughts: Charmed me to my toes.

You know, I hate to leave the "Type:" listed above at "Contemporary Romance". I almost want to re-enter it as "SEP's Contemporary Romance." She really has created a class all her own. Every single mention of this release in our online community has been followed by comments like "A perfect SEP read," and "SEP is SEP," or "everything I expected from Susan Elizabeth Phillips".. So yep, a class all by herself.

Difficult to fully explain that, for non-SEP readers. For paranormals, we call it world-building. For contemporary romance, we just assume the romance will occur in the world as we know it today, our world. For SEP though, it's really not our world, LOL. I swear her characters occupy a different plane altogether. It's a plane, a world where SEP's celebrities live, like:

1) her actors, agents and producers
2) her musicians (rock stars) and groupies
3) her football players, team owners and agents
4) her circus performers and ring leaders (Kiss An Angel--a top 10 all-time keeper for me)

I'm sure there are more, but you get the picture. SEP's world? Very, very different from mine. Yet she pulls me in and turns my skeptic 'tude to charmed cheers in just pages. We call her characters "quirky"; truth be told, they are nut jobs, every one. And they literally step from the page, because no matter how outside the norm they may be, SEP makes them "real."

So, characterization. Check.

Story, character-driven. Again, check.

And charming. Sums it--right there--charming. I was, quite simply, charmed by Georgie and Bram. From beginning to end. With plenty of distraction--in the form of her trademark cast of nut jobs--along the way.

Don't know what else to say. Oh, I will mention that I was just as turned on by the sweet-and-seductive sex here as I was by the edgy-smokin-sex of Natural Born Charmer.

Totally charmed.

Word On The Web:

Charlotte's Web Of Books Says "What I Did For Love was everything I expected from Susan Elizabeth Phillips and more."

Romance Novel TV Says "I found both Georgie and Bram to be selfish, single-minded people who were really only out or themselves."

Dear Author Says "although I appreciated Georgie and Bram’s vulnerability, I didn’t entirely sympathize with them."

In Response:

I have to admit to not liking either Georgie or Bram much at the outset, but--as always--SEP won me over brilliantly. She charmed me. Did I mention that I was charmed?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

January reads

This may be more like a drive-by shooting!  I'll try to be more conscientious in the future.  Maybe.

The Magical Christmas Cat (anth) by Lora Leigh, Erin McCarthy, Nalini Singh, Linda Winstead Jones *B* Enjoyable paranormal short stories.

Stolen Birthright by Margaret Tanner *B* A good, although complicated, historical.

The Healer by Jean Brashear part of a series, Deep in the Heart.  A good story, great characters, but I didn't buy the HEA - at all. *A/C*

The Good Daughter by Jean Brashear part of a series, Deep in the Heart.  Really love Brashear's writing.  Loved this one. *A*

Most Wanted by Jean Brashear part of a series, Deep in the Heart. Not so fond of this one maybe because there wasn't much romance in it. *C*

Undercover by Lauren Dane *A* Good erotic three-way.  Hhhhhot.

Double the Pleasure (anth) by Lori Foster, Dierdre Martin, Jacquie D'Alessandro, Penny McCall *A* Fun read.
Too Much Temptation by Lori Foster *B/A*  This quote says it all.  I'll admit to being a Lori Foster fangirl.
From Publisher's Weekly: The fact that its contrived plot sounds more like a fabricated story for a sex column in a glossy mag than anything that might happen in the real world pleasingly plump, virginal 25-year-old secretary wins undying lust from her boss's bad-boy grandson does not necessarily diminish the fun to be had in the latest contemporary romance from Foster. After Noah Harper finds the fiance he does not love in bed with another man, he breaks off the engagement, deciding uncomplicated sex is all he needs. Besides, he was marrying Kara only to please his difficult grandmother, Agatha, whose popular Gillespe, Ky., restaurant he manages. Enter Agatha's unassuming secretary, Grace Jenkins. Insecure and inexperienced, but with a huge, unrequited crush on Noah, Grace agrees to Noah's terms: she'll become his sex slave and he'll teach her how to enjoy her body. Of course, the reader knows all along that the two will fall in love; it's merely a question of when they'll realize it themselves and what complications they'll stumble over on the path to knowledge. Billed as "a novel of erotic romance," this is harmless entertainment for readers who favor brisk romps between the sheets with a little story thrown in. It is sure to satisfy Foster's fan base and kudos to her for making a full-figured character the star of the show.
Lovestruck by Stephanie Bond Three short stories, loosely connected. *A* I enjoyed this a lot.

Sarah's Child by Linda Howard *D* The hero, no that's just wrong, the lead male character was a total bastard.  Don't know why I finished the book because I just wanted to kill him.

Flamingo Diner by Sherryl Woods *B* Don't really know how to describe this one.  It's heavy on relationships, deals with suicide, teenage alcoholism and rebellion, survivor guilt - lots of angst.  In fact, it got so heavy, I skipped the middle and went straight to the end.  I know, smack my hand.  There's a bit of romance but it's a very small part of this book. 

Give Me a Texan (anth) by Jodi Thomas, DeWanna Pace, Linda L. Broday, Phyliss Miranda *A*  Good westerns.

Holiday Seduction (anth) by Jaci Burton and Lauren Dane *A* Good erotic stories.  I especially liked The To Do List (maybe because I make lists). LOL

Flat Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy *A* First in a series about race car drivers.  When we meet her, Tamara is a single mother and the widow of a race car driver. She has sworn to stay away from other race car drivers, but who does she end up with?  Yup, a race car driver and he's younger than her as well.  He's great with her kids, he loves her but she's really resistant to letting the relationship become serious.  I'm looking forward to the next book.

A Very, Merry Christmas (anth) by Lori Foster, Gemma Bruce, Janice Maynard *B*

Tall, Dark and Cranky by Kate Little *B* I picked this up because I loved the title.

Baby Love by Victoria Pade *C* Forgettable category

Sleeping Beauty and the Marine by Cathie Linz *C* Forgettable category

Baby Be Mine by Victoria Pade *C* Forgettable category

In The Groove by Pamela Britton *B* maybe an *A*  NASCAR story

Heart of the Raven by Susan Crosby *B* A really good category

To The Limit by Pamela Britton *C*  Didn't buy the HEA.

Charmed (anth) by Jayne Castle, Julie Beard, Lori Foster, Eileen Wilks  A fun read but as with most anthologies, no depth.

Total Control by Pamela Britton *B* Another NASCAR story.  Enjoyed it.

Beloved by Diana Palmer *B*

Callaghan's Bride by Diana Palmer Hard to give this a grade, it was emotional but I didn't like the hero, Cag.

Her Baby Secret by Victoria Pade  A forgettable category. *C*

Test of Time by Jayne Ann Krentz *B* This is an older Krentz

Thief of Hearts by Tess Gerritson *C* Another "eh" category.

Moontide by Stella Cameron *B*  A lot of tragedy and sadness in this one.  Starts off with the heroine losing her husband and newborn child in an accident.  The doctor trying to save the child's life falls in love with her.  She returns a few years later and they begin a relationship.  

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

January Reading Recap

Stealing this monthly recap idea and format from fellow bloggers...

I see it as both a means to motivate myself--read more, review more--as well as a means of excusing myself when I fail, LOL.

Take this first month's recap, for instance. In January, I read 8 books. Not as many as I would have liked. See? Motivation to read more next month. Of those 8, I reviewed 2. Ok, more motivation, LOL.

But also, a big picture view that says--when you're reading less than 10 books a month, it shouldn't be too hard to stay relatively current with reviews. So yeah, that review to read ratio will improve in the next couple of days because really, I have plenty of time to post reviews of my last two or three titles before I finish my first book of February. It's not like I'm reading a book a day. So maybe not an excuse for falling behind on reviews, but at least a little perspective--this time next week, I won't be behind.

Looking back month-by-month makes it easier to remember what I was doing...when I see a particular title for example, I can remember all of the places I carted that book. Gives me a good feel for how busy--with non-reading things--I was. And yeah, if I was pretty non-reading busy? I don't feel so bad about the too few books I read. So I let myself off the guilt or disappointment hook.

This is fun.

Oh, and here is the recap:

Running Wild by Sarah McCarty, 2008, DNF
Hard for me to admit to a McCarty DNF. Hers is a voice I've enjoyed for a long time. Not sure what happened for me here. It's true that weres do not generally appeal to me--no good reason, but they don't. Other shapeshifter scenarios work fabulously for me--even those with similar dominance issues inherent in their pack law. Weres don't. So that's part of it. The rest of it relates to the sex. Crazy I know, McCarty writes some the hottest, emotionally-laden sex out there. But here, I was not convinced that the heroine (of the first story) was really up for sex that fast. It felt more like she was in need of a good, safe rest first. As physical intimacy requires that you give of yourself--significantly--I couldn't buy into the idea that she had enough energy to go at it with the hero. Ended up making him feel selfish and even a little too domineering to me and I ultimately put the book down. Thankfully, I still have Promises Revealed on my TBR stack.

Edge Of Desire by Stephanie Laurens, 2008, DNF
This got off to a great start for me. I love the Bastien Club books and thought Laurens turned this love story on its head--making the hero most emotionally vulnerable. But halfway through, the HEA felt locked down and it looked as though solving the mystery was going to take the rest of the book. Put it down out of boredom at that point. Kept thinking I'd pick it up again, just to see how it all turned out, but no. I've moved on.

The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole (found in Playing Easy To Get, an anthology), 2006
This is part of my homework reading--catching up a series I absolutely love. Loved this one as much as the others I've read and will mention it when I review Dark Desires After Dusk.

The Lord Next Door by Gayle Callen, 2005
This was, to quote Lori and Linda, my happy read for January. LOL And I liked it, really. It's just that I would have liked it more had I remembered to wear my rose-colored glasses. Gasp! Can't believe I said that, LOL. Seriously, it was a solid enough read and I'm excited to read The Viscount In Her Bedroom next. My friends are right--I need to take a break from cynicism-inducing gritty and dark stories and recapture my love of the traditional historical. It is the original, and perfect, place to find that romantic hero utterly dedicated to protecting and providing for his heroine.

The Art Of Desire by Cherie Feather,
Liked this one a lot, but am beginning to wonder why I'm more critical of erotic romance than I am of any other genre? In my review, I feel like I'm just picking this book apart. But I liked it overall.

Dark Desires After Dusk by Kresley Cole,
Can't say enough about this series. I'll get a review of this and The Warlord Wants Forever up this week.

What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, 2009
A perfect SEP read. Another one I plan to review in the coming week.

Mini-aside: Three of my "resolutions" or To Do items coming into the 2009 reading year:

1) Read almost strictly from my TBR list (not stack, list). Check. Every title here was from my list.
2) Read at least one shiny new release a month. Check. Was first in my library's line for SEP's newest.
3) Catch up--right up--to the new releases in each of my favorite series. Check. I'll read Cole's newest within two weeks of its release date. *fist pump*
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