Monday, August 31, 2009

Re-read Challenge: The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

The Raven Prince by Elizabeth HoytWith the upcoming release of To Desire a Devil, I felt like rereading my favorite Hoyt book. And then I realized I had never reviewed it. Humph.


Widowed Anna Wren is having a wretched day. After an arrogant male on horseback nearly squashes her, she arrives home to learn that she is in dire financial straits. What is a gently bred lady to do?


The Earl of Swartingham is in a quandary. Having frightened off two secretaries, Edward de Raaf needs someone who can withstand his bad temper and boorish behavior. Dammit! How hard can it be to find a decent secretary?


When Anna becomes the earl’s secretary, both their problems are solved. Then she discovers he plans to visit the most notorious brothel in London for his “manly” needs. Well! Anna sees red—and decides to assuage her “womanly” desires . . . with the earl as her unknowing lover.

This is Hoyt's debut book, and she debuted with a bang. It's my favorite book of hers to date. It's touching, all sorts of sexy, and funny. I love the fairy tale as a lead-in to each chapter.

Anna is a wonderful heroine. I loved her willingness to go out there and support herself and her mother-in-law. I really like how she never let her husband's actions get in the way of her relationship with her mother-in-law. I think that says something about a person's character. I love that she saw past Edward's physical flaws to the wonderful man that he was. To the man that he would have... should have been had he not lost his family to smallpox and been scarred himself.

Edward. I loved him. He so wanted to hide all his pain behind an uncaring attitude, but was unable to do so. His caring came out in so many ways. In his compassion and teamwork with his tenants, in his interactions with his friends, to staying up all night with Anna while she helped her friend give birth, and with Anna herself. Even after he discovered her deception.

And the humor. Hoyt's humor is understated, but there nonetheless. One of my favorite scenes is when Anna and Edward are trying to come up with a name for his dog. She's appalled that he hasn't named him yet. She comes up with all sorts of silly names, and finally comes up with one that he likes. They have a bet as to whether the dog will come when called. If he comes, Edward will show Anna around the gardens, and if he doesn't, she will forfeit a kiss. This scene gives a glimpse of the humor and passion lurking behind the relationship. Breathtaking.

He waved a languid hand. "Proceed."
Anna cleared her throat. "Jock!"
Lord Swartingham began to smirk.
Anna drew a deep breath and let loose a most unladylike shriek. "JOCK!"
They both listened for the dog. Nothing.
The earl slowly pivoted to face her, the crunching of his boots in the gravel drive loud in the stillness. They stood only a few feet distant. He took a step, his beautiful, heavy-lidded eyes intent on her face.
Anna could feel the blood pounding in her chest. She licked her lips.
His gaze dropped to her mouth, and his nostrils flared. He took another step, and they were now only a foot apart. As if in a dream, she saw his hands rise and grip her arms, felt the pressure of his big fingers through her mantle and gown.
Anna began to tremble.
He bent his dark head toward hers, and his warm breath caressed her lips. She closed her eyes.
And heard the dog clatter into the yard.
Anna opened her eyes. Lord Swartingham was frozen. Slowly, he turned his head, still only inches from hers, to stare at the canine. The dog grinned back, tongue hanging from his mouth, panting.
"Shit," the earl breathed.
Quite, Anna thought.

Adorable. Jock has quite a personality and plays a wonderful part in this book.

The scene ends after a bit of conversation with this:
She nodded, and the earl snapped his fingers at the dog. As he passed her, she thought she heard him mutter something to the beast. It sounded more like idiot than Jock.

And Hoyt can write a love scene. Wowza. We'll just leave it at hawt.

I just adore this book. Is there anyone out there who hasn't read the Prince trilogy? Most people claim the Serpent Prince as their favorite, but this one is mine.

Waiting now for the conclusion of the Four Soldiers, To Desire a Devil. Not til November :(

Friday, August 28, 2009

Year of the Category: First Come Twins by Helen Brenna

Fist Come Twins by Helen BrennaBlurb via He couldn't stay.
She couldn't leave.

Noah Bennett swore he'd never return to Mirabelle Island. Facing the love of his life after she married his older brother would've been too much to bear. But when Noah's injured as a photojournalist embedded with the military, the only safe place to go is home.

Although a few surprises await Noah on his return, one constant remains. Sophie Rousseau, now a widow with teenage twins, is an entrenched in island life as ever, and she'll do whatever it takes to get Noah off her island. Before the only man she's ever loved breaks her heart all over again.

This HSR is the first in a new series for Brenna, the Mirabelle Island series. Noah and Sophie have known each other all their lives, and became high school sweethearts, inseparable. But Noah can't stand being stuck on the island, and after her parents die, Sophie feels like she has to stay and take over the family inn, what she views as her heritage. So she gives up her dream and refuses to go.

In a moment of despondency shortly after Noah left, Sophie turned to his older brother. They slept together, and then got married. Sophie turned up pregnant with twins a few months later, but didn't know who the father was - Noah or his brother. Still, she had a good marriage until her husband died 13 years later. They never did any tests to determine paternity.

Noah comes home, a BKA after an injury suffered in Iraq. He's angry, suffering from PTSD, and unable to write. That's where the story begins.

This is a sweet, poignant story about reunited lovers who have a world of hurt and misunderstanding between them. Noah feels like Sophie got over him far too quickly by marrying his brother, and Sophie can't understand why Noah left without saying goodbye. Each had their reasons, but it obviously took the length of the book to get there.

I appreciated Ms Brenna highlighting the plight not only of the soldiers in Iraq, but of the journalists there, especially after the news today of well-known CBS journalist Cami McCormick, who was injured in an IED attack. The soldier traveling with her was killed, as was the case in Brenna's book. I think that the world just assumes that these people just pick up and move on with no lingering effects. The difficulties that Noah faced - both physical and emotional - were very real, and I'm sure, quite true.

I had a bit of a harder time with Sophie, I admit. I wasn't quite sure why she married Noah's brother before she knew she was pregnant. But getting over that, she seemed quite mired in her fear of leaving the island. Brenna explains the fear, but never really the underlying reason. It's an interesting thought, though. Thinking that someone who lives in such an isolated community could become so fearful of being in the city, even for an afternoon excursion.

I enjoyed the fact that Noah and Sophie both acted like grownups for the most part. Even when Sophie admitted that she wasn't sure of the twins' paternity, there was no implication on either side (as is so common) of the "I'm going to take the kids away from you." She simply let him have some time to get to know the kids. He simply respected his brother's place in their lives as the only father they'd ever known and just tried to get to know the kids.

I liked watching them share memories as well. And I liked that Noah resolved old hurtful issues with his father.

I did think that Sophie was too stubborn and immovable when it came to compromise or even thinking about solutions to solving the tourist issue that arose. The final resolution seemed so obvious to me, yet it took the entire cast half the book to come up with it.

So there were a few things that gave me pause, but overall I enjoyed this book. I liked Brenna's straightforward style of writing that seemed to compliment the midwestern characters. I'll pick up the next in the series, which comes out in October.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More on Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare... the hero

Surrender of a Siren by Tessa DareLet's talk heroes.

Although I did a drive-by of this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About the hero mostly. Benedict “Gray” Grayson. And, I admit, the heroine as well. This story mostly takes place on a boat (the Goat Boat) headed for Tortola, which if you’ve read Goddess of the Hunt, is where Lucy fantasizes about going. Sophia picks up the fantasy and runs with it when she deserts Toby at the altar.

What I loved most about Gray was the way he admitted to himself that he was basically a scoundrel, but that he tried his hardest to keep his promise to his brother not to ruin Sophia. And that he absolutely could not stay away no matter how hard he tried. And that Sophia was the main pursuer. She sought him out, wanted to seduce him – was in fact, looking for a passionate encounter. Passion is what was missing from Sophia’s life in England, and she wanted it with… well… a passion, LOL. She couldn’t understand Gray’s vain attempt to be gentlemanly. She wanted to know. And he showed her.

There is something so seductive about a man who simply cannot help the way he feels about his woman. Gray is such a man. Yet at the same time, he doesn’t feel worthy of Sophia. Without further ado, I’m going to give you Gray. If he doesn’t sell you on this book and make you fall in love, well… what’s the matter with you? Passages like these highlight both Gray’s internal struggle with his feelings and Dare’s amazingly beautiful prose:

Would she still allow him to hold her like this, encircled in his arms, her backside pressed against his swelling groin, if she could read his thoughts? If she knew that when she tilted her head to bury her face in his sleeve, she gave him a direct view of the alabaster curve of her neck, the carved ivory of her collarbone, and the exquisite image that would haunt his dreams – the soft, rose-scented valley between her breasts? God, what a lecherous bastard he was.

He’d been ashamed of many things in his life, but never had he felt so ashamed simply to be a man, a part of this violent, brutish race of creatures who flogged one another, beat helpless boys with markine-spikes, and lusted after unsuspecting governesses while they were overset with emotion. This woman was bred for better things, deserved better things. Better than this ship, this life. Better than a base, craving creature like him.

I love that Gray reveals so much of himself to Sophia, and opens himself to her, to love. And is so hurt by her actions.

He’d opened himself to her completely, and she’d been lying to him since the moment they’d met. In all the days aboard the Aphrodite, was a single one of her smiles ever truly for him? What fraction of her heart had she revealed to him, in all their conversations? When he’d held her, caressed her, entered her – had he finally reached some layer of her being where the lies ended and the real woman began? Gray didn’t even want to ask. Because he already knew the only answer that mattered. How much of her was his? Less than all.

And therefore not enough.

And if that isn’t enough to make you fall in love with him… I leave you with this:

He wanted… he wanted so many things. Simple pleasures. To buy her a dozen muslin frocks to replace the one he’d destroyed today. To feed her succulent fruits and ripe cheeses and slices of roasted meat. To lay his head in her lap and feel his fingers in his hair, and listen to all her fanciful dreams. To share thoughts without exchanging words. To lay with her, be in her, feel her body surround him as often as she’d allow. And a child… God how he wanted a child. He’d been fighting that desire for more than a year, ever since he held his newborn nephew in his arms. It was irresistible in the most base, selfish way, this impulse to create a life. A child would be bound to love and admire him, no matter what he did. A child would be bound to accept his love. A child would bind him to her, forever. Somehow it always circled back to her. He wanted her.

Sigh. How can you not love that man? Heroes? Yup. There's one for you.

The third book in this trilogy, A Lady of Persuasion, is about Gray's sister and Sophia's fiance (and Lucy's first love) Toby. Boy, that guy gets around, huh? It comes out on Sept. 29.

All quotes courtesy Tessa Dare

Surrender of a Siren

Desperate to escape a loveless marriage and society’s constraints, pampered heiress Sophia Hathaway jilts her groom, packs up her paints and sketchbook, and assumes a new identity, posing as a governess to secure passage on the Aphrodite. She wants a life of her own: unsheltered, unconventional, uninhibited. But it’s one thing to sketch all her wildest, most wanton fantasies, and quite another to face the dangerously handsome libertine who would steal both her virtue and her gold.

To any well-bred lady, Benedict “Gray” Grayson is trouble in snug-fitting boots. A conscienceless scoundrel who sails the seas for pleasure and profit, Gray lives for conquest—until Sophia’s perception and artistry stir his heart. Suddenly, he’ll brave sharks, fire, storm, and sea just to keep her at his side. She’s beautiful, refined, and ripe for seduction. Could this counterfeit governess be a rogue’s redemption? Or will the runaway heiress’s secrets destroy their only chance at love?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Another round of drive-bys...

So, I read another bunch of books. Flew through most of my library books, with the exception of Outlander. Yeah. A little intimidated by that one, so I finished everything else. And although I finished Hot Pursuit, you'll have to wait to see what I thought, as Jen and I will be doing another buddy review of that one, since we had so much fun reviewing the last Brockmann.

Here's my latest round of what seems to be mostly suspense reads this week.

Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare: Another wow. Completely and totally different than Goddess of the Hunt, with the exception of Dare's amazing prose once again. This is the story of Sophia, Toby's wayward fiance. This one is much... harsher... than GoTH, and I really felt it was far more the hero's story than the heroine. Another wonderfully written hero. This time, I had to acknowledge the way the heroine was raised - to be spoiled, frivolous, and move past it. These traits exposed themselves in various ways, much to her displeasure, even as she found herself using them to her advantage. Interesting. And yet, I still loved it. Every second. If you haven't read GoTH, read it. And be sure to pick up this one as well. Beautiful, beautiful book.

The Bridegroom by Linda Lael Miller: The next book in the Stone Creek series, and another winner for me. I can't help myself. I love Miller's western historicals. Interesting twist on this one, as the 'villain' drives a Ford. In 1915. How cool. Gideon and Lydia were but children in Lark and Rowdy's book. Gideon had written a letter for Lydia to mail to him if she ever needed him. When she finally mails it 10 years later, he comes running. All the Stone Creek guys and their women (mostly the Yarbro men) are in this book. Can't wait for the next one! Miller has another Christmas book coming out - a Montana Creed family historical, and another O'Ballivan family book (a contemporary Stone Creek novel) in November for SSE.

Malice by Lisa Jackson: Rick Bentz's (from Cold Blooded) first wife has come back from the dead to haunt him and he goes back to LA to figure out what's going on. He's now married to Olivia (also from Cold Blooded), and still partnered with Montoya. This was another Jackson psychological masterpiece, as we struggle along with Bentz to figure out why the body count keeps rising (tremendously high!) and he's at the heart of it all. Someone is out to drive Bentz over the edge, and then they bring his wife into it as well. When the truth finally came out, I was a little disappointed, I have to say, at the reason behind all the killings. But nonetheless, Jackson as always, does a fabulous job of keeping the tension high and the reader guessing as to the whodunnit. And her writing is fabulous! As always, I'll be waiting for the next one. On the edge of my seat.

Pitch Black by Leslie Parrish: Book 2 in the Black CAT series. This is Alec Lambert's story. This one reads more like a traditional RS than book 1, but still keeps the tension high and the TSTL factor low. With another evil villain, made moreso because he doesn't even see himself as such, and a heroine who is smart, resourceful, and keeps her head, Parrish takes us on another wild ride as the Black CATs try to solve a series of internet murders by the Professor, aka Darwin. The internet pitch is one that we've all been exposed to, and Parrish greedily and handily feeds into the reader's worst fears in these books. Pitch Black gives us even more insight into members of the CAT team, 2 in particular, and gives one hell of a shocker at the end. I'll say this: Parrish once again writes a thriller that has smart characters who know their stuff, who never inappropriately stop to get it on while they're working their case, and who work tirelessly to solve crimes. Add to that, the tension and heat and romance between the hero and heroine as well as a whole host of "it could be him"s, and Pitch Black is a fabulous read. I'm dying to get my hands on book 3, Black at Heart, which comes out in September.

One Scream Away by Kate Brady: Yet another RS read for me. I read this one on my iPhone. Creep factor is high here. Emotional damage factor for both hero and heroine is also high. I liked both Beth and Neil. The killer always managed to stay one step ahead of them, and although there were a few times when I was pulled out of the story, for the most part it was gripping and tight and tense and yet still had a romance as well. There's a sequel coming next summer.

Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson: The sequel to Left to Die, it picks up right where Left to Die ends, with the kidnapping of detective Regan Pescoli. Tight, suspenseful, and gripping. Loved Nate. Loved how he came to terms with his feelings for Regan over the course of the book. The team continues the search for the Star-Crossed Killer in the dead of winter in Montana. These are real characters, with real flaws, along with some full-on small town stereotypical ... interesting... folks as well. You know immediately that the killer is someone who lives in town and who interacts with the people of the town. Where Jackson excels is making you look at every single character and wonder, "Is he the one?" And never truly knowing until the very end. A typical perfect Jackson read for me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Quick run through of titles read the past couple weeks:

I’ve read too many books to sit down and review a single one – I can’t seem to put enough thoughts together for a long review, but can say definitively which I loved, liked, and were meh reads.

One Week as Lovers by Victoria Dahl: In a word – wow. Loved this book. Nick was an amazing hero. Wounded emotionally; and even at the end, he wasn’t completely healed, but you just knew he wanted to be healed by Cynthia. Cyn was the perfect mate for him. She wasn’t fooled by his devil-may-care happy attitude, even though it’s who she knew growing up. She saw beneath the external charm to the wounded teenage boy beneath and wasn’t put off by him. Loved him unconditionally. I loved that their money situation wasn’t miraculously fixed at the end, either. Just a fantastic read. I must pick up its predecessor, A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure.

Daring Time by Beth Kery: Another wonderfully sensual read from Kery. Brave in its ideas of the potential for reincarnation and not just time travel, but travel across the time-space continuum. Abandon your sense of science and need for logic, and open yourself up to the grand potential of the unknown, and this love story is fabulous. Throw in Kery’s rich sensual D/s love scenes, and this is a great book. Given everything I know of Sweet Restraint, though, I believe I’m going to pass on it and wait for the next one.

Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl: This was a very cute read. Definitely doesn’t have the depth that her historical did, but I still really, really enjoyed it. Molly and Ben were terrific. Great banter. Wonderful connection between the hero and heroine. And I loved the scenes with Molly, Lori, and Helen – it’s always wonderful to see strong friendships among women.

Start Me Up by Victoria Dahl: I didn’t enjoy this one as much as Talk Me Down. Although all the elements were there, I never truly felt the real love connection between Lori and Quinn. The witty banter was there, the friendships were there, but I think that the nature of each of the loner personalities of Lori and Quinn perhaps made it more difficult for me to connect. Or perhaps, I just didn’t care for it as much *shrugging*.

The Club by Sharon Page: Ok. Interesting premise. I’ve read hundreds of historicals that have had “clubs” that have shown the seedy side of the ton, but never have I read one where a club so outlandishly celebrated orgies among married couples. Yet at the same time seemed to objectify and victimize the very women that theoretically chose to participate. At the heart of this book is a widow who was so mistreated by her husband and a man who is hiding some terrible secrets from his family. Together, they are trying to find his sister, who has vanished from this club. Parts were very good, and parts were tremendously clichéd, and I admit that I guessed the bad guy long before it was revealed. Where this book excelled was when it focused on the relationship between the hero and heroine. I would read another from Page if I thought it would narrow the focus more onto the main couple.

Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare: Absolutely loved this one. I loved watching Lucy grow up from practically demanding that Toby was the man for her, to desperately loving Jeremy. Jeremy was an absolutely fantastic hero. Loved him from head to toe. I’ve heard other reviewers criticize Lucy’s character for perseverating on wanting to capture Toby, but I didn’t feel that at all. She grew and acknowledged her feelings for Jeremy, and clung to Toby as a defense mechanism. Dare’s writing is beautiful, her prose breathtaking. And can the woman write a love scene. Wardrobe, anyone? Cannot wait to read the 2nd in this series – Surrender of a Siren.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rage Against the Meshugenah by Danny Evans

Rage Against the Meshugenah by Danny EvansI’ve long been a lurker at the blog Dad Gone Mad, and always enjoy Danny Evans’ dry humor and funny anecdotes. When I realized that he had a book coming out and the subject matter, I became even more interested. To top it all off, I then learned that Evans grew up in my town, and is a childhood friend of two of my close friends. Huh. Small world. So when his book, Rage Against the Meshugenah released last week, I had mine preordered from Amazon.

Rage Against the Meshugenah is Evans’ recounting of his battle with clinical depression. It’s a powerful tale, written with his trademark wit, insight, and honesty. It’s an obvious labor of love, and also an obvious attempt to reach out to other men (and women) who either battle with depression or have a loved one that battles depression. For those not in the know, meshugenah is the yiddish word for crazy.

I could instantly relate to Evans’ voice – his wit matches my own twisted sense of homor. I identified with his feelings about Judaism; although my parents never had delusions of grandeur and believed I’d become a rabbi, like Evans, I was forced to go to temple every week until I was confirmed. (And while I don’t force every Friday night on my own children, I am forcing religious education on them through confirmation. Huh.) I also identified with the tales of his hometown – of course it helps that he’s writing about my own hometown.

What is most important, though, is how any person can see bits of their own life in his book. How anyone can identify with something here. Whether it’s Danny himself, or with his wife, or with the situation in which he found himself – suddenly unemployed, looking at a world seemingly falling apart (just post 9/11), wondering how on earth he was going to manage to support himself and his young family.

Evans is unafraid to recount the soul-searching, the ups and downs (and there were a lot of downs), the horrifyingly embarassing moments that accompany depression, and the triumphs that come as well. He does so with incredibly self-depracating humor for the most part. I was laughing my ass off during the chapters in which he recounted the birth of his 2nd child and his vasectomy. Much to my eldest’s displeasure, since he was trying to watch the very serious season finale of Burn Notice. I couldn’t help it. I shoved the book in front of his face and said “Read this. This is why I’m laughing!” Jeff ever so slightly smirked, then told me to go read in the other room.

But there are sad, and poignant moments in the book as well. Evans spends a good deal of time remembering his stormy relationship with his father, and there is a time following his wife’s miscarriage where he calls his dad and they share a father/son moment. He bravely shares what depression and medication can do to one’s sexual activity, and how it colors all of your interpersonal relationships. He tells of the seemingly incredibly fast spiral downward into depression, and the endlessly confusing and often frustrating foray into the world of mental health care.

For anyone who is affected by clinical depression either personally, or secondhand, or even thirdhand, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a masterful first-person insight into how the male mind thinks, feels, and works. It’s not a self-help book, so no worries on that front. It’s entertaining and witty. Sad and heartrending as well. One word of warning, and that is that Evans’ language is not for the faint of heart or easily offended. He lays it all out there. I had no issues with it, but if you’re recommending this book to your mother or grandmother, be forewarned. Also, if you haven’t ever been to, swing by. His stories of himself, his Hot Wife, and his 2 kids are refreshing, funny, and always spot on.

Buy Rage Against the Meshugenah here.

I'm giving away a copy of this book - leave a comment here or over on the post about the contest at Let's Gab through August 17th at 11:59 pm PST, and you'll be entered.

(Rosie, since you already commented before I posted about the contest, I'll enter you)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

June and July Reading List - Jennifer B

Waving hello to all. Boy I miss this. And you.

Still reading around the 5-or-so books a month mark, but they've been pretty good ones. Wanna see?


Wicked Intentions by Lydia Joyce
Dark, as expected. So yes, I enjoyed this one. Hypocritical or unfair of me, but when Joyce's words paint a picture of wet wool instead of sliding silk, I'm moved. When Robin Schone did it (in The Men And Womens Club), I was repulsed. Not entirely sure why, but it may have to do with emotion--and the near impossibility (IMO) of snaring the reader in an emotionally laden story in the span of a novella. At least where the emotion has roots far and deep into the past. At any rate, Wicked Intentions is not a light read, nor an entirely sexy one (like I said, no sliding silk). But moving. Deeply moving.

Beauty And The Spy by Julie Anne Long (2006)
Light, fluffy farce. Both hero and heroine so naive, so shallow it defied my good reading sense. The sense that said "put this book down." But I couldn't. Long's characterization fit. Both were a product of their privileged upbringing and their romance felt, well, young. Honest and fresh. It was engaging and sweet. It was also laugh out loud funny in places. And I was in a mood for it.

A Hint Of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore
Blogger buzz compelled me to purchase this one at my local Walmart. You know, instead of groceries. Took it home on a husband-is-out-of-town evening, put my son to bed on time and curled up on the couch. A hundred pages into it, I was unhappy. All this buzz--even some from my close friend Lori--and I was slapping my forehead. If I had read the blurb carefully--not to mention the reviews/comments--I would have categorically dismissed this one on its premise alone. Didn't like it. I liked her prose and her pace. Very, very much. But not the premise. Couple of days later--properly chastised and encouraged by Lori--I picked AHOW up again and finished it. A good--solidly emotional--read. So well done, I'm looking forward to the Haymore's next title. I think.

Not Quite A Lady by Loretta Chase
A Chase title. Loved it as I have all her others. And with her newest release already in-hand, I'd say I'm "current" with Chase's titles. Yip.

A Viscount In Her Bedroom by Gayle Callen
I called the first Callen title I read "light." A good read, but too light for my reading tastes. This one didn't feel at all light or airy and I loved it. I'll note however, that my personal definition of "light" is more a measure of how far outside societal confines the author allows his/her characters to venture than it is a comment on plot elements (suspense, romance, etc.). Callen's characters don't venture far, and in this particular title, the conflict was entirely society-driven. But I still found depth of character. Overall, a solid historical and now, another backlist to enjoy.

Hot In Here by Sophie Renwick (DNF)
I just couldn't buy into this one. I'm not much for the friends-to-lovers premise--when one friend has secretly pined away for the other. There is something just not comfortable for me there. In this case, I thought him less than sincere in his seduction of her. And I thought her a bit weak--too weak to realize her humiliation. I opted to move on.


Untouched by Anna Campbell
This one had a disturbing bent, no question. Dark, definitely. And an excellent read. Deeply emotional, with characters troubled enough to be suspect. Like Joyce, in Wicked Intentions, Campbell is adept at keeping readers as wary of the hero as the heroine is...but still inexplicably drawn to him. Good stuff, but not without its sickening elements or moments. It's no wonder I always come to a Joyce or Campbell title a bit hesitant. Assured of a strong read, but knowing it will push me outside of comfortable.

Duke Of Shadows by Meredith Duran
Blogger buzz brought me and Duran together. Thank you bloggers! Duke of Shadows shined in voice, pace, characterization--all of it. There is a stilted depth to her characters, visible in every word exchanged. More so in Bound By Your Touch I think, but only because the hero of DOS carried less baggage. Here, Julian is not afraid to love Emma. But Emma, you can hear her fear in every breath. Stilted, stuttering emotion that is palpable. The action was also welcome. I loved everything about this book. Then I read Bound By Your Touch (will fall under August reads) and boy, it shined even brighter. That one? The best book of 2009 for me so far. Hands down. (Unless Written On Your Skin outdoes them both. Reading that one right now.)

Tempt The Devil by Anna Campbell
Excellent--another historical featuring great, great emotional depth. Hmmm, and no squeamish moments in this one. Just a solid, emotionally taut romance and hard-won HEA. Not sure the ending did it total justice, but it was realistic I suppose. And look at that, I'm officially caught up on Campbell's titles. Yay.

Paradise (Wild Thing Anthology) by Meljean Brook
Brook has surpassed Liu in my must-read paranormal category. With unread titles from both in my TBR stack, I instinctively reach for Brook. Love them both, but Brook's world of angels and demons captivates in a manner I've not experienced in Liu's last couple of Dirke and Steel books. Distracted in every sense, I picked up this anthology and literally devoured Brook's installment. Lost in it, oblivious to my surroundings. Perfect in its execution and powerful enough to command my undivided attention.

Sworn To Silence by Linda Castillo
A thriller. And a beginning to what looks like a new series to feature the same police chief heroine and washed out bureau agent. Grim stuff in here, with more emphasis on the suspense and thriller portions than the romance. Written in both first and third person if memory serves. A smooth execution though and a series I may be interested in reading. We'll see.

Killer Secrets by Lora Leigh (skimmed)
I think there was a pretty solid story in here, but as I've long since tired of Leigh's trademarks, I only skimmed it. Not even sure why I picked it up honestly, but once I did, there was enough in her characters and the conflict to keep me almost there.

2009 Reading Resolutions...update:

1) Read almost strictly from my TBR list (not stack, list). Read from both here--the list and the stack.

2) Read at least one shiny new release a month. Check. The Haymore, Renwick and Castillo titles were all released in June.

3) Catch up--right up--to the new releases in each of my favorite series. I caught up with Chase, Campbell and (in a day or two from this posting) with Duran. Am also now one book closer to catching up with Brook and Joyce.

Hmmm, so overall, no aberrant reading behavior for me in the last two months. I'm following my own rules, LOL.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Fade to Black by Leslie Parrish

Fade to Black by Leslie ParrishA group of elite FBI special agents has been brought together to form the Cyber Action Team aka CAT - and they have one mission: to solve internet-related murders.

From his years in the FBI's violent crimes unit, Special Agent Dean Taggart has learned firsthand how vicious people can be. But this is the worst he's ever seen. Eight victims have been murdered, their final moments captured on film and shown on a secret Web site called Satan's Playground. And a madman who refers to himself as the Reaper is auctioning off their means of death.
When the investigation leads Dean to the small town of Hope Valley, he enlists the help of sexy and capable sheriff Stacey Rhodes, who's dealing with secrets of her own. It's too late to save the latest victim, but Dean and Stacey will have to work fast, because the Reaper's next auction is about to begin...

Leslie Parrish is Blaze author Leslie Kelly’s alter ego. This book is her romantic suspense debut. In a word, terrific. She takes the time to build the background on this FBI team without one big info dump, from the whistle-blowing team leader, to the IT specialists, to the street-smart Taggert. But not too much information was given. Just enough to see into the important people and just enough to intrigue me to find out more. Focus was definitely kept on the two main characters where it should be. Given that this is the first in a series, I assume more info will be given on each team member as the series progresses.

As for the residents of Hope Valley, Parrish also does a very good job of getting into their minds and motivations – giving enough information on each peron that the reader can see each as a potential suspect. I fully admit that I did not guess the culprit until I was supposed to do so. Well done, and not an easy task.

The two main characters are perfectly drawn. Both are flawed, real, human beings but competent and professional as well. Both have a strong sense of justice and family. While Dean is divorced, he wants nothing more than to spend more time with his son – in fact, he took the job with this rag-tag group in order to do just that. Stacey is incredibly smart, professional, and quick. Never losing her professionalism in a TSTL moment at the end and needing to be rescued. I loved that what drew Dean to her was her toughness and smarts, even before he actually saw her. And only then did he notice she was also attractive. And, although he admitted he felt protective of her, he acknowledged it and moved on, never going Tarzan on her, even when her house was broken into and violated.

I liked that both Dean and Stacey acted nothing less than professional while on the job, putting their murder case ahead of everything else. It’s not often that the H/H don’t stop off for a quickie somewhere on their way to or from a murder scene. When the situation warranted, they called for backup. Well done. The attraction was there between Dean and Stacey immediately, but they let it grow and develop into a serious case of like and respect as well. They both also showed a tremendous amount of compassion and strength.

Also well developed were the relationships between Stacey and her family and the rest of the Hope Valley residents. I thought that Parrish did a great job of showing what can happen to an injured Iraq vet, even one with family support, such as Stacey’s brother, and I applaud her for that. Also shown and not downplayed was the impact of domestic violence. She also showed the disdain that many still have for female law enforcement in the small-town south. But still wrote Stacey as smart, competent, professional, and yet, still feminine.

I loved Fade to Black. It had exactly the right mix of romance and suspense – very much like the first couple of Karen Rose books. Nothing was overdone. Nothing was caracatured. Pacing was good. In fact, I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about this book. It was smart, grotesque (yeah, I know, I’m freaky like that), urgent, and sexy. It involved internet crimes – something I can relate to (the internet, not the crime!). And while I understood the IT-speak of servers, etc in the book, I don’t think there was too much of it. It’s a smart, sexy book. I can’t wait to read the followup, Pitch Black. It’s out this week – August 4. I’m on my way to Borders to see if they have it out early.
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