Monday, December 20, 2010

Quick update

Have you read Marry Me by Jo Goodman yet? You must. Now. Go out and buy it. Read it. And love it. I command you.

Review upcoming.

Oh, and only 3 days til I'm off work. Til Jan 4. Color me happy! Hope your holiday preps are going well.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Lori's November Reads

November was a great month for me, not just in terms of quantity, but quality as well. There were no duds, and I had 4 5-star books! Four! Taking a week off gave me renewed energy, as well as a lot of down-time. The kids were never home, and hubby and I relaxed and read up a storm. We also had the chance to hang out together, which we hardly ever have time for anymore. That was probably the very best part of vacation.

I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and got some time off from whatever takes up all your time.

Now it's Hanukkah, and we've been crazy busy again. I thought I'd post up Bob's Hanukkah songs again, since there are some new readers here.
Rock n Rollin' Hanukkah

So... on to the books. I read 30 books in November (half may have been on my week off, not sure). That brings my total up to 269. But geez, I only reviewed one book over here. Why, when I try to note something in Goodreads on each one? I so could have done reviews. Maybe that will be my next task, to bring my reviews over from Goodreads. Anyway... here's what I read:


Captain's Surrender by Alex Beecroft. 5 stars on Goodreads. (m/m)
Wow. The almost sweet friendship to romance set against the horrific realities of the time both in terms of war and punishment of infractions. So well done. This definitely isn't an erotic romance but a sweeping historical that happens to have at its heart, two men. Additionally the secondary characters are beautifully well drawn and add such rich flavor.

The Best Laid Plans by Sarah Mayberry. 5 stars on Goodreads.
Another winner from Mayberry. I liked how they both went in eyes wide open, and were ready to conceive in a test tube. The way it would really be done. I really enjoyed Ethan's brother and SIL as well.

The Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay. 5 stars on Goodreads.
This was excellent. It looks at every aspect of a teenager's coming out from the perspective of how it affects each family member individually and in their relationship with the teen, to religion and its place in the family and gay teen's life, and so many other things I can't even begin to go there. Shay has never shied away from hard subjects, and this is no different. Although she stepped away from romance here, it's a beautiful, truthful look at how a revelation like this can whip through a family and how they all work to keep it together out of deep love for each other. Highly, highly recommended!

The Dark Tide by Josh Lanyon. 5 stars on Goodreads. (m/m)
I can't believe I hadn't read this yet. The final book in Adrien & Jake's saga. I've always been a Jake fan, so I absolutely adored this one.

Edge of Sight (Guardian Angelinos #1) by Roxanne St. Clair. 4.5 stars on Goodreads.
Awesome start to this spinoff series. As always, a great hero, and a strong heroine who is more than his match.

Wild Heat (Hotshots #1) by Bella Andre. 4 stars on Goodreads.
This was my first read by Andre. I really enjoyed it. I liked that Logan and Maya were honest with each other - about the fires and that when Maya realized he couldn't be guilty, she immediately said so and cleared him. They didn't play games. Big plus. And although Logan seemed too good to be true, his actions and thoughts backed up the character that Andre built. And who doesn't just adore firefighter stories?!

Hot as Sin  (Hotshots # 2) by Bella Andre. 4 stars on Goodreads.
I liked this one a lot. Andre has a great voice for the RS and the firefighters.

Never Too Hot (Hotshots #3) by Bella Andre. 4 stars on Goodreads.
This one was far more introspective - no suspense. It focuses on the injured firefighter from book 1. I loved how he was drawn in, even though he really didn't want to be. Connor couldn't hide his true self, and Ginger was good for him. Supportive and loving. It was a totally different feel in terms of subgenre than the first two. A terrific secondary storyline as well featuring Connor's father and Ginger's good friend.

Corralled by Lorelei James. 4 stars on Goodreads.
This book addresses one of my big questions with all the MFM books I read where there is no jealousy, no competition, no hard feelings. Lainie has been seeing both Hank amd Kyle and when she's caught, the guys suggest they embark on a threesome, a new concept for all of them. While they put it to Lainie that they don't want her to have to choose, and neither one is ready to give her up, in reality both men are vying for her affection amd to be the one she chooses in the end. That was where I felt the book was strongest: in the jealous rivalry between the men as they fight to maintain their close friendship as well as in the one on one interactions where Lainie and the guys just talk.

Because this isn't a permanent menage story, Lainie must choose someone. When the time comes, it kind of slips in subtlely, and both Lainie and the one not chosen both recognize it. A scary event forces Lainie to come to terms with her past.

I liked all three characters as well as Lainie's best friend and Hank's siblings, and imagine that they'll get their own stories. I thought the menage scenes seemed a bit forced, but I imagine that they were meant to, since although it was consensual, it was never intended to be anything other than a vehicle for Lainie to get to know the guys and make a choice.

Beg Me by Shiloh Walker. 4 stars on Goodreads.
What I liked so much here was that in addition to the emotional toll the story takes on Tania, Walker never fails to show the huge effect on Drake as well. Both characters take an emotional journey. The controversial topic didn't bother me so much; Walker never fails to show the emotional impact, and this story is far less about the sex than about Tania's emotional healing and Drake's journey toward a more fulfilling and realistic love.

The Tin Star by JL Langley. 4 stars on Goodreads. (m/m)
I always wonder in M/M, why it is that they never use each other's names? Before they became lovers, Jamie and Ethan were friends who never called each other anything other than their names, and now all of a sudden they have to call each other Blue Eyes and Cowboy? This isn't spercific to this author; it seems to be a trend in m/m that really irritates me. Anyway, aside from that one thing, I really liked it. I'm not sure why it's on everyone's list of the absolute tops in m/m, but it was a good story.. I really like Ethan a lot.

Cowgirls Don't Cry (Rough Riders #10) by Lorelei James. 4 stars on Goodreads.
Wow. Totally didn't expect the beginning. It was very odd, but I understood it as the book went on. Another great entry. I was waiting for Jessie and Brandt and was not disappointed in their story.

Enforcer (Cascadia Wolves #1) by Lauren Dane. 4 stars on Goodreads.
This is a reread for me. And now I think I have to go reread the whole darn series. Loved Nina's irreverence and how it causes Lex such confusion and amusement. Love Dane's wolves. Oh how I adore them. And on this reread, I can see how Dane's writing has changed - not better or worse, just evolved a bit. It also reminded me what I immediately loved about her writing: strong female leads, alpha but sensitive male leads, humor, and great engrossing stories. If I had one qualm, it's how Lex and Cade simply expected Nina to go along with all that was required in order to change fully and complete the tri-bond and Claiming. And then were frustrated when she was ticked off. But in her own time, she came to understand and feel good in her new skin. So it was all good.

Undeniably Yours (Kowalski Family #2) by Shannon Stacey. 4 stars on Goodreads.
I loved the first Kowalski book. And I wanted to love this one just as much. I adored Kevin. He was a great mix of devilish and strong family man. He already felt something for Beth even before she showed up pregnant. So wanting to be with her seemed a natural extension for him.

I had a very hard time warming up to Beth. She kept holding Kevin off, and while I understood the reluctance to jump into a relationship because of the baby, she never gave them a chance to find out if there was anything else there. Her original reason of feeling smothered by her parents was good until I saw them all interacting, and it seemed she had a great relationship with them. She seemed to be inventing excuses and it wore thin after a while. So in a juxtaposition of the usual, it was Kevin who had far fewer doubts, and Beth who really didn't want to get involved.

Once again, I adored the Kowalski family. I loved the bickering, the teasing, the obvious love they shared. They told it to each other like it is. And I always knew they were there for each other. I was so happy to see Kevin stand up for himself at the end, to be willing to let Beth go for his own sanity. And I loved the honest way he accepted her back, too. He didn't play games. He just loved her and wanted to be with her. Another wonderful secondary romance set a great tone here as well.

Second Chances by Lauren Dane. 4 stars on Goodreads.
I read this when it was first published several years ago, and it's no less emotional and powerful today. Although I really don't 'get' the BDSM lifestyle, in Dane's hands it's always handled as something that makes the relationship stronger for both partners, not about one person having all the power. My only complaint is that I would have liked to have seen Rori amd Jude have sex before she agreed to wear his collar. That type of commitment seemed rushed to me. Which is odd, given their history amd the time frame, but it did feel a bit rushed. Go figure.

Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath. 4 stars on Goodreads.
I feel as though Heath is back in her groove. Several of her last historicals haven't been tops on my list. But this is a fantastic book - I can't wait to read the next one.

My Lord Scoundrel (Notorious Bachelors #1) by Emma Wildes. 4.5 stars on Goodreads.
I loved it. A hero and heroine who not only don't deny their feelings, but fight for them and their right to be together. Both smart and resourceful. And with really terrific secondary characters who don't take over the story but are still very interesting in their own right.

Our Wicked Mistake (Notorious Bachelors #2) by Emma Wildes. 4 stars on Goodreads.
I enjoyed this but not as much as the first book, I admit. I liked both Luke and Madeline.

His Sinful Secret (Notorious Bachelors #3) by Emma Wildes. 4 stars on Goodreads.
I was really looking forward to this one - Michael seemed to have so many secrets. I liked the subtlety with which she showed how Michael hurt Julianne by not sharing with her, except in bed. And I liked that she wasn't a doormat for him - she challenged him about the way he treated her. Michael thinks he's doing such a good job keeping his marriage separate from his job, but in the end realizes he hasn't done that at all. Nice finale to the series.

Open Country by Kaki Warner. 4.5 stars on Goodreads.
Another terrific book from Warner. I think she's going to be big. I have book 3 on pre-order.

Rules of an Engagement by Suzanne Enoch. 3.75 stars on Goodreads.
I was chomping at the bit for Shaw's story. I was disappointed that it was almost halfway through the book before I felt a genuine connection between Shaw and Zephyr and felt fully drawn into the story. Once that happened, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Without Reservations (With or Without Series, #2) by JL Langley. 3.5 stars on Goodreads. (m/m)
This was a good book. If you like m/m and shifters, you'll probably like this. It addresses racial and homosexual prejudice, too. Good.

Holiday Bound by Beth Kery. 3.5 stars on Goodreads.
I liked this novella, but not as much as Kery's full-lengths. It may be me. Most novellas don't work for me. Although, I didn't really care for the way that Alex jumped to conclusions about Angeline. Plus, it just addresses some real lowlife behavior, which is gutsy against the backdrop of a romance novella.

The Dickens With Love by Josh Lanyon. 3.5 stars on Goodreads. (m/m)
A nice holiday novella. Not his best; not his worst.

Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (The Ralstons, #2) by Sarah MacLean. 3.5 stars on Goodreads.
This definitely didn't have the same joy and humor that 9 Rules did, and the heroine wasn't as wonderful, but I enjoyed it a lot. Isabel was a good heroine, though I felt that her final denial of their relationship was forced. I really liked Nick as a hero. Although I suppose it says something that my favorite scene was between Nick and the heroine's 10 year old brother rather than between the hero & heroine. I was really touched during the scene where Nick teaches James to tie a cravat.

Pack Challenge (Magnus Pack, #1) by Shelley Laurenston. 3 stars on Goodreads.
I love Laurenston's irreverent sense of humor, and it was in full force here. But I also thought there were lots of problems- how easily Sara and her friends accepted the shifters. How they had no problem with the carnage they witnessed. And trust me, there was carnage. But any Laurenston book is fun, so I enjoyed this a lot despite the problems.

Emergency: Wife Lost and Found by Carol Marinelli. 3 stars on Goodreads.
A divorced husband & wife doctor team meets back up after an accident. They have to address their heartbreaking history and her intrusive family.

Expecting! by Susan Mallery. 3 stars on Goodreads.
Meh.

Lassoing Lara by NJ Walters. 3 stars on Goodreads.
A novella that didn't work for me as well as NJ's books usually do. Sad.

Wicked Rake, Defiant Mistress by Ann Lethbridge. 3.5 stars on Goodreads.
It was ok. I liked the hero and heroine, but felt like there was something missing. A free read here: http://www.everyonesreading.com/.

The Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay

blurb via kathrynshay.com:
What happens to the "perfect family" when the future suddenly changes in the most unexpected way? Seventeen-year old Jamie Davidson doesn't think being gay should be such a big deal...until he comes out to his parents and friends. Even as Jamie celebrates no longer needing to hide his true self and looks forward to the excitement of openly dating another boy, the entire Davidson family is thrown into turmoil. Jamie's father Mike can't reconcile his religious beliefs with his son's sexuality. His brother Brian is harassed by his jock buddies and angry at Jamie for complicating all their lives. Maggie, his mother, fears being able to protect her son while struggling to save her crumbling marriage. And Jamie feels guilty for the unhappiness his disclosure has caused. Every member of their “perfect family” must search their hearts and souls to reconnect with each other in this honest, heartwarming, and hopeful look at the redemptive power of love and family.

Oh dear lord, where to start with this review? This is an amazing story of love, forgiveness, and healing within a family. It examines the role that religion and faith plays in an individual’s life as well as its influence over an entire community. And here, religion and faith are portrayed as two different things. It examines the relationships within the family and how they change when each family member has different feelings that need to be acknowledged. How a mother’s feeling that nobody can do as well for her baby, not even her husband, can tear into a marriage. And how societal intolerance can contribute to a teen’s overwhelming feelings of rejection and despair.

Jamie Davidson is gay. He hasn’t come out to anyone yet, but he’s starting to feel more and more uncomfortable with the lie that he’s living. He notes to himself many times that he’s “performing”. Jamie is the 17 year old younger son in a wonderfully close and loving family. He has an 18 year old older brother, and his parents are still completely in love after all these years. As Jamie becomes more and more uncomfortable with his performances, he happens to meet another guy, Luke – a friend of his brother’s who plays baseball on the same high school team. They each realize the other’s interest and form a close friendship that begins to become more. They decide together to come out to their parents and families.

The Davidson family is close, but there are stresses. The biggest one is religion. Mike is a devout Catholic, embracing the very rigid stance of the church with wholehearted love, and while she is Catholic, Maggie can’t seem to stop herself from questioning a lot of the church’s doctrines on social mores. She has begun to seek out other denominations to try to fulfill her desire to be close to God without having to bow to the Catholic church's inflexibility, which was the cause of so much childhood sadness for her. Jamie and his brother Brian have always been especially close, best friends, sharing everything. It’s really pained Jamie to keep this fundamental piece of information about himself from his brother.

When Jamie finally comes out to his folks, his dad has a really tough time reconciling his son being gay with his Catholic faith. Maggie, while devastated as well, tries very hard to accept Jamie just for who he is – not wrong or sinful. Just Jamie. His brother, Brian, the jock, gets a lot of flak from his teammates. The family priest wants Mike and Maggie to consider sending Jamie to a “reprogramming” camp, which Mike considers, and Maggie outright opposes. Their divergent views on the fundamentals of their religion and faith, and how Jamie fits into that drive a big wedge between them. They try to work things out, but their marriage faces a big crisis. Through all of it, though, their love for Jamie, Brian, and each other never wavers.

In this book, Shay examines a teen’s homosexuality from every angle. From Jamie’s feelings, so beautifully expressed through his poetry, to his brother’s feelings. Brian feels confused, not sure why Jamie is gay. He feels conflicted, because as a devout Catholic, his religion tells him that this is wrong. He feels hurt, because although they shared almost everything, he was the last in the family to find out about Jamie. And he feels angry, because one of his friends is Jamie’s new boyfriend, and the rest of his friends are making his life difficult for him, and he feels he has little to no control over any of it. So much so that he is unfaithful to his girlfriend, whom he dearly loves, simply in an effort to prove how het his really is. She won’t tolerate his infidelity, and dumps him.

Mike is horribly conflicted. He’s a wonderful father, he loves his kids, he wants to accept Jamie, but he’s completely torn by his devotion to his religion. The people he deals with, including Luke’s father, don’t make it any easier. None of the adults in their circle of friends are very accepting – Mike is removed from a teaching position within the church, his beloved priest wants him to send his boy away, and his wife doesn’t believe that he has Jamie’s best interests at heart; that he can’t separate being a father from being a Catholic.

Maggie is also torn apart. She loves both her sons unconditionally, and the rift between then is driving her crazy, making her sad and depressed, and frustrating her because she can't fix it. She loves her husband tremendously, but feels conflicted over his seeming intolerance of who their son is. In addition, she’s trying to come to terms with her own family history – all brought about by her own parent’s religious devotion to the Catholic church (note: I really wanted to say fanaticism here, but it just didn’t seem right to do so). She wants to be in control of it all so that she can manage the issue better.

And Jamie and Luke are simply trying to come to terms with who they are, and how they now fit into society, all while falling in love for the first time. For Jamie, it’s freeing to not hide who he is, but it doesn’t come without his share of problems. He heads up the school’s blood drive, but when it comes time for him to donate, the intrusive questions mean that he can’t donate. His relationship with Luke costs him his best friend, who can’t see her way to accepting what the church tells her is wrong. And his relationships with his father and brother are equally strained – they all want to just love one another but there is too much stress to simply let it go. He wants to enjoy the experience of falling in love with his very first boyfriend, but outside influences, especially Luke’s father, make it horrendously difficult. He also experiences such guilt because he feels like he convinced Luke to come out, and Luke had such backlash. So much so, that his homelife becomes too much, and Luke attempts suicide. His father is amazingly intolerant, even in the fcae of Luke’s attempted suicide, all in the name of the church.

Lest you think this book is a big indictment of the Catholic church, I really didn’t come away from the book with that feeling. I think Shay portrays it as inflexible, as a doxology that is driven by not one’s own beliefs, but as one that forces its followers to conform to church ideology. Additionally, while I thought that Father Peter was intolerant based upon his beliefs, I felt his compassion for the family, and their situation. I could tell he wanted to make things better for them – it was just that his way of doing so didn’t sit well with Maggie, Jamie, and even Mike to some extent. Mike was torn between the teachings of the church and his love for his son and his desire for his son to not have to change. Maggie has a scene with the priest, where she tells him she has found a different church to attend.
“Then you’re giving up on your faith?”

“No, never on faith. But on your church. It’s not an institution I can embrace anymore.”

The priest stood. “I’m sorry to hear that. I came today because I want you to be healthy and happy. I want that for all God’s people.”
I think that Shay goes to tremendous lengths to differentiate between one’s religion and one’s faith in this book. Never did Maggie or Jamie lose their faith in God. They lost their reliance on Catholicism as an organized religion, preferring to find one that allowed them to speak to God directly, and feel good about their faith, rather than persecuted for it. Religion is such a sensitive issue, and I think that Shay handled it very well.

High school is such a sensitive time. Kids want to fit in. Conformity is if not encouraged, it’s certainly the easy way around many of life’s problems. My own son is feeling conflicted about homosexuality, when in the past he has always been very sensitive to anyone different than him. Kids are discovering who they are, and their feelings about life’s major issues. Shay shows well how both acceptance and intolerance can affect young men and women just learning who they really are.

This isn’t a lighthearted book; Shay’s never are. She as always, handles controversial, emotional, and difficult topics with sensitivity, with a 360 degree view, and with beautifully drawn characters that speak to the reader.
Shay has strayed from Berkley and Harlequin to publish this with Bold Strokes books, a publisher of LGBTQ general and genre fiction. This book is 313 trade size pages, and manages to cover an awful lot of ground in that page count. It never feels rushed, it never feels like anyone’s views were compromised by a desire to complete the story. Shay writes with perfect pacing. Her story of a family’s love is one that I highly recommend for anyone.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A quick note on The Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay

I read this book last night. I'm a big Kathryn Shay fangirl, and the reason is because she doesn't shy away from big issues, and can face down multiple big issues in a book like nobody else can. I'll be doing a full review of this over the weekend, but wanted to make a note here that you should read this book. Stat. It's not a traditional romance, but it is a family's love story told amidst their teenage son coming out. Shay takes on the feelings a teen has when coming out, the joy and heartbreak of a first relationship (both gay and het), prejudice in a small town, gay teen suicide, how it affects a husband/wife relationship, a brother/brother relationship, friendships, and each family member's journey individually and together. Quite literally, she blew me away.

Full review coming up soon...

blurb via kathrynshay.com:  
What happens to the "perfect family" when the future suddenly changes in the most unexpected way? Seventeen-year old Jamie Davidson doesn't think being gay should be such a big deal...until he comes out to his parents and friends. Even as Jamie celebrates no longer needing to hide his true self and looks forward to the excitement of openly dating another boy, the entire Davidson family is thrown into turmoil. Jamie's father Mike can't reconcile his religious beliefs with his son's sexuality. His brother Brian is harassed by his jock buddies and angry at Jamie for complicating all their lives. Maggie, his mother, fears being able to protect her son while struggling to save her crumbling marriage. And Jamie feels guilty for the unhappiness his disclosure has caused. Every member of their “perfect family” must search their hearts and souls to reconnect with each other in this honest, heartwarming, and hopeful look at the redemptive power of love and family.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Coming the first week of December... to my TBR

First, I hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving and spent the day with the ones you love. If you aren't here in America, I still hope you spent the day with the ones you love :)

At casa Lori, we had a girlfriend spend the day with us for the very first time. Oldest's GF is positively adorable, and she is great for him. He, in turn, spent Thanksgiving at her house on Saturday, when they had their family dinner. It's a blessing when you can not only adore who your child has chosen, but also really like her family.

I also read a ton of books - I took the entire week off from work - a first for me. It was. Fricking. Awesome. And now I want to retire. And never work again. Sigh. The Man to Die For really needs to make that rock star gig work for him instead of the teaching gig. Or, I could win the lottery. That would be great. What? You have to buy a ticket? Well, damn.

I am so excited for the first week of December. Some books are pubbing that I'm dying to read.





WANT! I haven't even thought about the rest of the month. What are you dying to read next month?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne

Title: The Forbidden Rose
Author: Joanna Bourne

Type: Historical Romance
Series: Related, a prequel to The Spymaster's Lady

Thoughts: Wow. Every one of Bourne's titles thus far have been a Wow for me. This one as much as the first. It is Bourne's voice--it is dark, yet witty, sparse, yet rich. A keeper for me.

Three things stand out for me. The first gets me every time. It is the silent observations a Bourne hero makes of the heroine. Here, Doyle's absolute first thought about Maggie was her stillness. Within minutes, it was her wit--insulting and uttered under duress--but funny nonetheless. In short, Doyle saw the power of her mind first. He saw control, cunning, instinct. Yes, her breasts were a fast second, but that did not detract from the power of these first moments. For me, it set the sexiest of stages--a hero that would dominate through expectation rather than will. Because he recognized the spine in Maggie, I knew he would not simply take her over, charming her and the reader both into following him around for the remainder of the book. Bourne accomplished this in just pages. Doyle's presence and Maggie's control.

So it is the concise, often witty, thoughts a Bourne hero shares (in italics of course) that turn me on.

The second thing that gets me is Bourne's ability to weave a million strands into one, tightly-written story. You absolutely cannot miss a minute of this book. If you do, if you skim even the shortest of paragraphs, you will miss one of these strands. Every word counts. For this, I've heard Bourne called "masterful" and "brilliant". I agree. Immerse yourself in Bourne's details and you will be rewarded with more than one emotional or brain-twisting punch by story's end. In this one, it was the fate of the littlest girl that packed the biggest punch. It left me breathless.

So rich, rich, rich. That's the second thing.

Third--despite all of these clever details, so richly layered--literally anything can happen. And does. Bourne endangers everyone, then assigns responsibilities (of the heroic kind) where you least expect them. All of Bourne's characters are smart. None are untouchable. I worried sick more than once. And this angst added to the tension already present through her voice alone. Dark, yet witty; sparse, yet rich.

I had only one regret. Besides the fact that it ended. I did not 'research' this title before picking it up. Consequently, I did not know that it serves as a prequel to The Spymaster's Lady. I recognized Doyle and Adrian both, but will admit to a bit of confusion. It was Adrian's age--I couldn't place him as a teen and it nagged at the back of my mind throughout. Now that I know, so much more of it makes sense.

Thinking back now--as I write this review--I'm remembering Doyle more clearly as well. One of the things I liked best about The Spymaster's Lady was Doyle's language. He was hilarious. And yes, that course humor was here in his own book. It was simply shadowed, ever-so-subtley, by the vulnerability that love brings.

Awww hell. I think I'm going to sign off now and go re-read The Spymaster's Lady.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yipee skippy! Kathryn Shay's backlist now as $2.99 ebooks

Oh happy happy joy joy!!!

I just received an email direct from Kathryn Shay (to me alone, I'm sure, cuz we're likethis, ya know - haha!).

Anywhooooo... it seems that some of her backlist is available now for $2.99 via both smashwords and Amazon. So if you haven't read her famous firefighter trilogy, go for it. Or her O'Neil trilogy, or her amazing standalones - I highly recommend Trust in Me (It made my list of top 10 reviews.) - go out and get them for just $2.99!!!

Here's the email:

News from Kathryn Shay
Out of print books ready for e-readers

Dear Readers, (ed: I know she really just meant me - honest!)
Because I’ve been asked about the availability of my past work, I’ve finally been able to put them up on Kindle and Smashwords, Apple and a few other outlets (with new covers) as epubbed books. They are also sale priced at $2.99. Yes, you read that right!! So if you never read my well-loved firefighter trilogy, my O’Neil series or my stand-alones, just click on one of the sale links below the description and buy a copy for your e-reader.

I’ll also be putting up some new work soon: a never before published novella and an original full length book. And stay tuned—more out of print books will be coming as soon as I get those rights back.
Kathy Shay



Hidden Cove Firefighter Trilogy — Meet the brave men and women from Hidden Cove New York, who fight fires by day and live ordinary, angst filled days just like the rest of us.

After the Fire
An action filled romance begins a new trilogy that tugs at your heartstrings. Origin. pub. by Berkley Press. "A superb contemporary romance that grabs you in the prologue and won’t let go until you’ve read the final page. Bravo, Ms. Shay!" The Romance Readers Connection "Powerful and compelling, this novel reinforces Shay’s well earned reputation as a first rate storyteller." Booklist
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25806
http://amzn.to/d1mEOH

On The Line
Fire Chief Noah Callahan and Fire Investigator Eve Woodward are facing the turmoil caused by accidents at fire scenes. Who knew they’d fall in love? Originally published by Berkley Press. "Powerhouse author Shay’s complex and unforgettable characters breathe life into this truly intense novel." Romantic Times Book Club
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25911
http://amzn.to/ceMnWU

Nothing More To Lose
An injured firefighter from 9/11 and a disgraced cop struggle to salvage their lives with the help of the women who love them. Originally published by Berkley Press. "Shay writes an emotion-packed story with angst and some hot sex. This dramatic tale also has a nice touch of humor." RT Book Club
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25995
http://amzn.to/cxOPbl



O’Neil Family Series — Meet Bailey O’Neil, an antigang specialist and her brothers who run an Irish pub in New York City.

Someone To Believe In - who'da thunk a senator could be so hot?
Follow New York Senator Clay Wainwright and anti-gang specialist, the Street Angel, Bailey O’Neil as they battle over how to control street gangs and unexpectedly fall in love. Originally published by Berkley Press. "Shay’s writing trademark is taking seemingly impossible relationships and developing them into classic tales of true love, which is what she does here." Fresh Fiction
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25915
http://amzn.to/a33KvT


Close To You
Follow brother-in-law of the vice president Aidan O’Neil and Secret Service Agent CJ Ludzecky as they travel the fine line between professional ethics and falling in love. Appearances by characters from Someone to Believe In. Originally published by Berkley Press "Kathryn Shay writes believable characters you can't help falling in love with." The Romance Reader Connection http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25900
http://amzn.to/bXUKHG

Taking the Heat
If ever there was a mismatch, it’s staid, solid Liam O’Neil and risk-taking firefighter Sophie Tyler. When passion and eventually love consume them, there’s no denying their need to be together. Orig. pub. by Berkley Press. "Taking the Heat is an emotional roller coaster ride. Shay writes an emotion packed story that presents a realistic view of problems faced by female firefighters."
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25917
http://amzn.to/9p0laE


Stand alone books

Trust in Me (I reviewed this here. It made my list of top 10 reviews.)
As kids, the stockcar racing town of Glen Oaks called them The Outlaws, but no one knew the hoodlums on the streets would grow up to be upstanding citizens. Follow three couples as they struggle to find happiness as adults. Original publisher-Berkley Press. "This powerful tale of redemption, friendship and forgiveness shows again that Shay knows how to pack an emotional wallop." Booklist
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/24352
http://amzn.to/avzXal

Ties That Bind - this was fabulous!
When a former client accuses lawyer Reese Bishop and his divorced wife, Judge Kate Renado of misconduct, they must clear their names together. In the process, they fall in love again. Originally published by Berkley Press. "Shay has crafted a novel with an intriguing premise and, best of all, with two protagonists who unleash tons of conflict in their wake." RT Book Reviews
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25952
http://amzn.to/9GmgQf

Promises to Keep - I adored Joe!!
By-the-book Secret Service Agent Joe Stonehouse is paired with rebel Agent Luke Ludzecky as they go undercover in a typical high school that has the potential to erupt in deadly violence. The two women they meet cause the situation to be even more explosive. Originally published by Berkley Press. "Kathryn Shay never disappoints." Lisa Gardner, NYT bestselling author
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25763
http://amzn.to/ajN7Qi

Thoughts on reading quantity vs quality

Every month when I do my reading roundup, I get comments on the number of books I read, and at least one person comments on how they need to get moving on their TBR because they haven't read nearly that amount. I have a different take on it.

I read because it's how I relax. I'm fortunate enough to have two very self-sufficient kids who are more than old enough to take care of themselves when I want to relax for an hour with a book. Plus, they are never home in the evenings, and stay up far later than me!

I'm also a very fast reader, and always have been. A category romance usually takes me about 2 hours to read. There have been vacations where I've read 4 categories in a single day. But my husband reads about a book a month. And he's good with that.

Having said all that...

I went through a period of several years where I hardly read at all. I was too busy with my kids, too busy with my job, too busy to interact with anyone, much less have time to sit around reading when the house needed to be cleaned, the dinner needed to be cooked, the laundry needed to be done, kids needed to go to play dates or one sport or another... oh, and a marriage to keep on the front burner. Sound familiar to anyone?

At some point in the last few years, I realized that I need to take some time for myself, and that makes all the other relationships easier to manage. Of course, it didn't hurt that my boss actually wrote it into my yearly goals that I needed to work less and take more family time. Cool boss, no? But it's an indication of the kind of time I was devoting to my job and not to my family or myself.

I never, ever pay attention to the number of books other people read. As long as they feel happy and are satisfied that they get some "me" time in their busy lives, then I think whatever they read is awesome. In addition to not paying attention, I also never compared my reading quantity to anyone else's. Yes, I missed reading. A lot. But I found ways to sneak some in.

When the kids hit a grade in school where extra reading became required, we had family reading time. Everyone would grab a book and we'd all sit in the family room and read for a half hour.

When sitting in the stands waiting for a baseball, basketball, football, volleyball (fill in your sport, although they all apply to me) game to start, I snuck in a few pages.

When I got to school to pick up my kids and I had 15 minutes to wait, I read a little.

I don't think a day has gone by when my kids haven't seen me with a book in my hands. But some of those days, I was lucky to fit in a chapter in total.

But back to the comparison thing... I love books. As I know all of you do. But I also love my family. As I know you all do (ok, your own family, not mine! But why don't you love mine?!). There's a time and a place for every priority. And once I stopped to realize I needed me time, I slowly began reading more. And the more I read, the more I realized how much I had missed losing myself in a great story. I also think that while I will finish out the year with my monthly wrap-ups, I doubt I'll do it again. I'm only going to review the books I felt strongly enough about. I don't need to track my reads, I've come to realize. I just need to know that I'm reading enough to make myself feel good.

So my hope for you is this: that you are able to read enough that you feel you've satisfied your "me" time - even if it meant that the dishes went undone until morning. That you feel good about taking the time for yourself, even if it meant that your child needed to entertain themselves for a half hour. (Honestly, that's ok. They need to learn how to do that, and they need to realize that while you love them more than anything, if you're happy, they're happy, too.) That you feel like you've done enough to recharge your batteries, even if it meant instead of watching TV with your hubby one evening, you buried your nose in a book.

Whatever it is, it's not about how many. It's about why you read, what you read, and making yourself happy.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

October roundup

October was one of those months where I didn't think I read a whole lot, but it turned out to be 25, bringing the year's total to 239. There were some very good reads this month; lots of 4.5 and a couple 5 star reads.

On a side note, does anyone else find it supremely annoying that you can't export a single bookshelf from Goodreads? You have to export your entire booklist. And sorting sucks, because they lump all your shelves for one title into a single cell. Anyway, just throwing that up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes.

It was an e-book bonanza for me this month -  I read 18 out of 25 books electronically. I keep thinking I want a new ebook reader. I still have an eBookwise, and adore the backlight, which is what stopped me from buying anything for a very long time, but it really is obsolete now. And I adore the versatility that reading on my phone gives me. I can read any format and I always have it wherever I am. Although I'm thinking that for vacations, a dedicated reader might still be nice, though.

One other thought, and that is on hero names. I had 2 reads this month where the hero's name threw me, simply because it didn't sound hero-like, or it was unusual. Yes, I admit it's totally shallow, but it bothers me. Anyone else?

Hey - it's election day! Make sure you get out and vote today.

So... Here's what I read last month:

Shaken by Dee Tenorio
. Goodreads rating: 5 stars.
Emotional. Deep. Heartbreaking. Raw. Uplifting. Shaken runs the gamut in an incredibly short format. Tenorio brings every parent's and spouse's worst fear to life and shows that it can be all right in the end. She writes with such depth of emotion it's impossible not to get caught up in it.

Zeke (Devils on Horseback, #3) by Beth Williamson. Goodreads rating: 5 stars.
This is a reread for me. The thing that struck me this time is that it's got to be incredibly difficult to make a slobbering drunk a hero and make him sympathetic, and still incredibly masculine. But Williamson manages it with Zeke. There's really not much else I can add to my original review. This series is must-read. You can read the original review I wrote here.

Just My Type (Bradfords #3) by Erin Nicholas. Goodreads rating: 3 stars.
I liked this entry in the Bradford siblings series, although I found it a bit more disjointed than the others. I thought Mac just needed to grow up and then admit that Sara had already grown up. For her part, Sara was the spoiled baby, and it took her a while to lose some of that and with that came maturity. If you like the series, go ahead. If it's your first book by Nicholas, start with #1 in the series.

Fair Game by Josh Lanyon. Goodreads rating: 4.5 stars.
As always, a wonderfully compelling read from Lanyon. Terrific characters and intensely intimate (as opposed to explicit).

Love Is Blind by Lynsay Sands. Goodreads rating: 4.5 stars.
Sweet, wonderful romance. It's not often that I adore both the hero and the heroine. They were sweet, adorable together and complemented each other perfectly.

A Season of Seduction (Tristan Family, #3) by Jennifer Haymore. Goodreads rating: 4.5 stars.
I loved Rebecca and Jack's story. Flat out loved it. I loved that she tried to empower herself by having an affair and that both their desires to keep their feelings in check backfired on them. Haymore has a wonderful voice.

Simply Irresistible (A Lucky Harbor Novel, #1) by Jill Shalvis. Goodreads rating: 4.5 stars.
Loved it. It was funny, touching, sweet, and hot all at the same time. As only Shalvis can do.

Lady Renegade by Carol Finch. Goodreads rating: 4 stars.
I really liked the byplay between Gideon and his brothers and sister-in-law. Also liked the banter between Gideon and Lori. But I didn't care for the way that Gideon was so mean to Lori for 1/2 the book. Although it *was* realistic in context. I guessed what really happened very early on in the book, but it was less about the mystery of whodunnit and more about the relationship growing between Lori & Gideon. I did think she was awfully sexually bold for an unmarried woman in her time. But there was enough that I really enjoyed to recommend it to western lovers.

Impulsive by HelenKay Dimon. Goodreads rating: 4 stars.
Another terrific read from Dimon. Another hero with hidden depths, a heroine who does a lot of growing up, and some understated silliness/humor. Dimon has hit just the right balance of all these things to make me happy. The last couple of books have had some darker elements to them. This one, not so much. I wouldn’t call it fluffy by any means, but it’s certainly a little more light-hearted than the last couple of books. Complete with her signature wit and terrific characters, it was a great read for me.

Sunrise Over Texas by M. Fredrick. Goodreads rating: 4 stars.
A really good western historical about the harsh realities of living on the frontier in the early 1800s and overcoming them. Although I wanted to smack the hero for a minute at the end, I understood where he was coming from.

Playing For Keeps by Shiloh Walker. Goodreads rating: 4.5 stars.
It's obvious that this book has huge personal meaning for Walker, and the part from the pregnancy on rings so true, it hurts to read. It's a very emotional book, and Walker shows her H/H on their way to happiness, and then snatches it out from beneath them. The 2nd half of the book is their journey to coming back together. As always, powerful and poignant.

A Hellion in Her Bed (Hellions of Halstead Hall, #2) by Sabrina Jeffries. Goodreads rating: 4 stars.
Another good entry in this series. Although thinking back on it, I don't remember feeling a huge powerful connection between the hero and heroine as I have in some other books, this still worked well for me. And truly, I don't recall ever not liking a Jeffries book.

Rakes & Radishes by Susanna Ives. Goodreads rating: 3 stars.
I found the heroine to be too selfish for my taste, but the hero went on a terrific journey of self-discovery.

Don't Cry by Beverly Barton. Goodreads rating: 4 stars.
I really liked this one. A TBI agent with an unruly teenage daughter meets a therapist who's up to her neck in a murder investigation. Nobody was perfect, but they all worked at improving their relationships. Heroine might have been a bit judgemental at first, but came around. The mystery was creepy enough to hold my interest.

Talking With The Dead by Shiloh Walker. Goodreads rating: 4 stars.
Shiloh Walker never shies away from the dark and this novel is no exception. Heavy on the ghosts, but it worked. A horrid childhood for two brothers plays out here, along with a small town sheriff thrown in. As always, Walker shines with the heavy emotions. There were a few holes, but Walker always manages to make it work for me anyway.

The Clayborne Brides: One Pink Rose, One White Rose, One Red Rose by Julie Garwood. Goodreads rating: 3.5 stars.
Definitely not my favorite Garwood. This is 3 stories about a trio of brothers, all intertwined with an overarching storyline. It was ok, but not totally compelling. I think that she does medievals so much better than Western historicals.

A Rogue's Pleasure by Hope Tarr. Goodreads rating: 3 stars.
A bit predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless. Plucky heroine, rakish hero and adventure.

Going Down (Holding out for a Hero, #1) by Shelli Stevens. Goodreads rating: 3.5 stars.
I liked the hero, his family, and the small town feel of the book. I had a moment's pause early on where it felt as though Tyson was using his position as sheriff to impose sex on Ellie, but I didn't see it again and that particular scene didn't play out that way either. My biggest complaint with the book was that they became engaged after about 2 weeks. It was awfully fast. But I did feel the connection, and felt Ellie begin to create relationships around town, so I let it all go for the most part. Tyson was really engaging, and Ellie was justified in her secrecy, given the short time frame of the book. I think much of my problem is with the short format. I don't read a lot of novellas, mostly because I want the long drawn out build up to a relationship. But boy howdy, am I looking forward to Tyson's brothers' stories. Even if they're also novellas.

Relentless (Heat) (Temptation, 841) by Leslie Kelly. Goodreads rating: 4 stars.
An older Temptation from Kelly. The heroine hears that her fiance only wants her for the money and prestige, and meets the hero immediately thereafter, not knowing that he was there when she made her discovery. Liked the premise, mostly because he felt bad about keeping things from her (it wasn't the "for your own good" thing that I hate so much), and liked both the hero and heroine. And boy, do I miss the Temptation line.

Loving Ranger (Men of S.W.A.T., #4) by J.C. Wilder. Goodreads rating: 3.5 stars.
JC Wilder's books are a little like candy for me. I always love them. I liked the idea of this story, but there were definite flaws in the execution. But like candy, I really didn't care. It was just fun to read. And the fun factor outweighs all the problems. Sissy's accent irritated me. I wondered how Jace explained his absence to his undercover boss. I wanted more on the outcome. The mean-ass FBI agents and cops seemed over the top. But still, it was fun to read and I ate it up. And like I felt after Cowboy's story, once again I'm looking forward to the next one.

Setting Him Free by Alexandra Marell. Goodreads rating: 3.5 stars.
This was a reread from ages ago. After being the only two survivors of a plane crash and spending a day together surviving, the hero and heroine decide to meet up at a later date to see if their relationship still feels right. Hero had some issues to work out, and I appreciated that they didn't become engaged after a day. I also liked the heroine.

Passion to Die For (Silhouette Romantic Suspense #1579) by Marilyn Pappano. Goodreads rating: 3 stars.
I had a really tough time with a hero named Tommy. Shallow? Yes. But there it is. I liked the premise, liked the background stories. I even understood why Ellie acted the way she did. But I had a hard time with how quickly her revelations made her feel worthy of love. I also had a hard time with who the villain was. It just seemed so unlikely and they were so devoid o feeling. It didn't quite sit right. Having said all that, what an interesting premise. And I do like Pappano's voice a lot as well.

The Wicked House of Rohan by Anne Stuart. Goodreads rating: 3 stars.
I liked the hero, but the heroine went from accepting her fate out of desperation to loving every second of it just like that, and that really irritated me. Many Stuart heroines teeter on the TSTL edge, and while she didn't necessarily do anything to endanger herself (other than offer herself up), I found her too-trusting nature to be pretty TSTL.

Overnight by E.C. Sheedy. Goodreads rating: 3.5 stars.
My heart broke for both Deanne and Julius (and really, his name threw me - who names a kid Julius these days?). They both had a hard time growing up, and their shared history made their connection that much stronger. I really liked how Deanne was honest with Julius about her connection to his family before they had sex, and that he didn't hold her responsible. I liked that Deanne made him look at himself and acknowledge his fear of getting close again. Which made her transformation to her "new self" that much stronger.

What I didn't care for so much was the side story with Kurt. Whether it's because I have high school boys myself or just that I didn't care for their total villainous characters with no redeeming qualities (although some of them did second guess what they were doing) I'm not sure. Maybe I just don't want to acknowledge that boys can be that cruel at that age even though I know it to be the truth, and a rather likely truth at that. I think what blew the scenario for me was their willingness to use guns. That seemed the piece that blew it over the top for me. Plus, it did seem a bit of a contrived plot to make the hero realize how much he loved the heroine.

Overall, I enjoyed the story very much, and thought the dialogue between Julius and Deanne was what pulled the story together for me.

Once a Ranger by Carrie Weaver. Goodreads rating: 2 stars.
A disappointing read from my favorite line, HSR. I found Kat to be wishy washy, the villain to be stereotypical, and the ending to be too quick.

Don't Cry by Beverly Barton

Nowhere To Run
The crime scenes are horrifying: the victims arranged with deliberate care, posed to appear alive despite their agonized last moments and the shocking nature of their deaths.

No Place To Hide
Chattanooga grief counselor Audrey Sherrod moonlights for the local police. It-s clear to her, and to Special Agent J.D. Cass, that the murders are the work of a deranged serial killer. At first, the only link is the victims- similar physical appearance. But then another connection emerges, tying them to a long-ago series of horrifying crimes Audrey hoped would never resurface - crimes that hit all too close to home.

No Time To Cry
Each grisly new discovery proves the past has not been forgotten, and the worst is yet to come. Audrey went looking for the truth and she's about to find it-and it will be more twisted and more terrifying than she ever imagined.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I really liked this one. I thought the relationship between JD and his daughter was realistic and great. I liked that Audrey wasn't perfect - she judged JD and found him wanting, but I could see that it was a defense mechanism against her attraction. Even though it did come off as a bit judgmental. The relationships between Audrey and the men in her family was riveting to me. I thought Barton did a great job of showing how tragedy has long-term effects on a family.

The mystery was creepy enough to hold my interest. And although I guessed the whodunnit fairly early, it still worked for me.

Just a couple quibbles. I wasn't happy with the outcome for Audrey's brother. Although I understood why she wrote it the way she did, I didn't like the way it played out. And am I the only person who thinks that Barton is a closet Wayne's World fan? The two cop brothers-in-law, Wayne and Garth? I kept hearing "party on" in my head the whole time, LOL.

Anyway, a very solid entry from Barton. And I read she's writing another story for Audrey and JD. Hmmmm. Will be on the lookout for that one.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Rakes and Radishes by Susanna Ives

When Henrietta Watson learns that the man she loves plans to marry London's most beautiful and fashionable debutante, she plots to win him back. She'll give him some competition by transforming her boring bumpkin neighbor, the Earl of Kesseley, into a rakish gothic hero worthy of this Season's Diamond.

After years of unrequited love for Henrietta, Kesseley is resigned to go along with her plan and woo himself a willing bride. But once in London, everything changes. Kesseley-long more concerned with his land than his title-discovers that he's interested in sowing wild oats as well as radishes. And Henrietta realizes that gothic heroes don't make ideal husbands. Despite an explosive kiss that opens her eyes to the love that's been in front of her all along, Henrietta must face the possibility that Kesseley is no longer looking to marry at all
.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


This book felt like two distinct books. In the first part, Henrietta comes across to me as particularly whiny and selfish. Everything is all about her, and she gives little thought to how her actions or words affect her closest friend, Thomas. Thomas has been in love with Henrietta forever, and while I admired his thoughtful nature, he was a bit of a wuss where she was concerned, frequently declaring his love when he was rebuffed at every turn. I wanted to see him tell her to get lost, and go find himself someone else to love.

The second half occurs when Thomas realizes she's never going to be his, and he becomes like his father, being a rake and sleeping around. Which opened another can of worms for me, since he was in love with Henrietta, and slept with anything that moved. Henrietta still comes across as immature and a bit selfish for the rest of the book.

Thomas' mother, at first despises Henrietta because she's broken Thomas' heart one too many times, but halfway into their London stay, all of a sudden they are best friends. That seemed an abrupt change that I didn't understand.

Once Thomas and Henrietta do get together, the purple prose he spouted was a bit on the nauseating side.
"Nothing's amusing, my beautiful, dearest wife whom I desire more than life."

"Come here, my lover who can see the light in the darkness", Kesseley whispered, laying his wife's head on his heart. "Let me feel you."

Also, the editor should have caught the whole "laying his wife's head on his heart" bit. I pictured him tarking her beheaded head and laying it down. Just me? Dunno. The crazy thing is that the writing wasn't like this during the rest of the book. It's almost as if two different people wrote this book.

What Ives did do very well was to contrast the country life with the depravity of London. She doesn't shy away from showing the lifestyle and the more Thomas immerses himself in it, the more his disgust with himself grows until he comes full circle and realizes that's not the life he wants.

Overall, there was a lot going on here, between Henrietta's unrequited love for her cousin, her father's colleague's unrequited love for Henrietta, Thomas' unrequited love for her and then her love for him while he turns her away. I think it tried to do too much, and while I enjoyed the writing for the most part (purple prose aside), my dislike for the heroine's selfishness and utter self-absorption kept me from fully enjoying this book.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Shaken by Dee Tenorio: a quickie book and a quickie review

Surgeon Grant Sullivan’s once-perfect life lies in ruins. His daughter is gone—lost in a tragic accident he dare not allow himself to remember—and his beautiful wife now stares at him from across a legal table, insisting she wants nothing from him.

Julia Sullivan lost everything, especially her illusions about her marriage, after the accident. Her grief only seemed to drive Grant further into his emotional shell—except for the nights he turned to her in silent, furious passion. Unable to live like a ghost in her old life, she’s packed up what’s left of her broken heart and is ready to move on. Alone.

Determined to break their stalemate, Grant follows Julia onto the elevator just in time for an earthquake. Trapped for hours in a building pressure cooker of unspoken pain, he’ll do anything to remind her what she’s leaving behind, as deliciously as he can. But giving her what she needs to save their marriage is the one thing that could destroy his soul.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Emotional. Deep. Heartbreaking. Raw. Uplifting. Shaken runs the gamut in an incredibly short format. Locked in an elevator together during an earthquake, Grant and Julia must face the issues that tore their marriage apart, on the very day that they are trying to work out the terms of their divorce. That they still love each other is evident from the beginning. Their fears, their insecurities, their shortcomings are all aired as Grant tries desperately to win Julia back, and she tries to get him to come to terms with the loss of their daughter.

The incredibly short format works because of the rich history between the two, and their complete isolation. Their situation was heartbreaking, and I got that clench in my chest that tells me I’m reading something powerful. Tenorio has a way of getting to the heart of the matter, and doing it with wonderfully relevant dialogue and a strong connection between the reader and the characters.

Shaken brings every parent's and spouse's worst fear to life and shows that it can be all right in the end. Tenorio writes with such depth of emotion it's impossible not to get caught up in it. I normally despise the super short format, but this book tells me that in the right hands, it can be a very rewarding experience.

Friday, October 29, 2010

YotH: Love is Blind by Lynsay Sands

Blurb via lynsaysands.net: THERE’S MANY A SLIP…

He’d been warned that Lady Clarissa Crambray was dangerous. Stomping on toes and burning piffles, the chestnut haired beauty was clearly a force with which to be reckoned. But for Adrian Montfort, Earl of Mowbray, veteran of the Napoleonic wars, this was just the challenge he needed. He could handle one woman and her “unfortunate past”. Could any woman handle him?

‘TWIXT THE CHIT & HIS LIPS

Lady Clarissa Crambray wanted a husband, but maybe not as much as her mother wanted tone for her. Really! Doffing her spectacles might make a girl prettier, but how would she see? She’d already caused enough mayhem to earn a rather horrible nickname. Yet, as all other suitors seemed to shy away in terror, there came a man to lead her to the dance floor. A dark, handsome blur of a man.

Clumsy Clarissa was about to stumble onto true love. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I can't believe I'm actually making a contribution to this challenge this month. Yay!!! I've been reading historicals every month, but just haven't gotten up the oomph to post a real review.

I adored both the hero and heroine in this romance. They were sweet and totally adorable together and complemented each other perfectly. Just when it seemed the wicked stepmother got too over the top, she showed some vulnerability, so that went well for me, too.

Clarissa is practically blind without her spectacles, which her stepmother refused to let her wear (and in fact broke intentionally). She is afraid that if Adrian sees her with her glasses on, he'll think she's ugly. A notion brought on by her stepmother. Adrian, in turn, is scarred from the war, and is afraid that if Clarissa sees him with her glasses on, she'll be horrified and think he's ugly. So he does what he can to delay the return of a new pair of glasses. Each of them thinking that it's just until the other falls in love with them.

Of course, Adrian thinks she's funny, and honest, and refreshing, and sweet, and yes, beautiful. And Clarissa thinks he's wonderful, open, supportive, and handsome (hey - she's not completely blind, just very near-sighted!). For all the talking these two do, and they do a lot of it, they didn't share the fact that they loved each other. Grrrrr. But still, it worked.

I guessed the whodunnit in the very light secondary mystery plot very early on, but the fact that I had to open the book back up to refresh my memory on it tells me that it in no way overshadowed the romance. And the fact that I remember almost every detail about Clarissa and Adrian's courtship tells me it was a good romance.

I loved Adrian's family and Clarissa's father. He definitely wasn't perfect, but I thought his marriage showed some of the realities of the times. And Adrian's family was supportive, nice, and fun.

I laughed out loud at Clarissa's stepmother's wedding night description (seriously, you have to read it to believe it, but it ended with "enjoy your wedding night" after a horrific description - HA!), but thought that Clarissa's reaction to it was a little much once she and Adrian were actually together on their wedding night. Especially given how far they'd gone together before then. But I also know how little that girls knew back then, so was able to overlook it.

Sweet, wonderful romance. It's not often that I adore both the hero and the heroine. I believe it was Dev who first made a note about this book and made me want to read it, so thanks, Dev!

And I've also learned: I should not be posting reviews from my iPhone. Seriously, the typos in the original post over at Goodreads was disgusting. Even after I proofed it. Not good. So if you happen to read any of my reviews there, please know they are all done on my phone, and apparently, I suck at proofing entries there.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One more on our 5 years

Wow!

Like Lori, I am supremely thankful for all that this blog started in my life.

(I am of course also grateful that I was able to remember my login credentials, LMAO.)

My friendship with Lori ranks top. She is my reading twin more often than not and my reading hero--cuz someday I will read like she reads. A lot! And with more pleasure than guilt, LOL.

Lori is also my biggest parenting blessing. Words cannot express how much her parenting experience and advice mean in my busy life. No matter the event, she is my source of compassion, perspective, encouragement and humor. No matter the issue, she is my source of myth-shattering truth, effective public school navigation, boy-to-man warning labels and humor.

Did I mention humor?

I am also thankful for Lori's commitment to this blog. She is single-handedly keeping it alive while I enjoy these wildly busy grade-school years. When life took over my reading and reviewing, she stepped in full-time--assuring me all the while that someday soon, I will get back the time for these pleasures. And she never fails to remind me to enjoy this busy while I have it--because I will miss it terribly when it's gone.

I love and appreciate you more than ever my friend! Thank you. For everything. Always.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happy 5th blogiversary to us!

Oops. We missed our 5 year blogiversary here. It was last week. Obviously, we're pretty low key around here, LOL.



While we don't frequent the boards where we met anymore, I will always be grateful to the particular author who wrote the books we so loved at the time. Because it was on her Yahoo group that I met JenniferB. After months of exchanging emails about what we were reading, she decided to start up a blog, and invited me and a few other friends to be a part of it. Because of that, we've had the opportunity to meet so many of you, and have gotten the most awesomest book recommendations ever! More to buy, more to share, more to enjoy. I can't count the money I've spent since I began blogging and you all started recommending books to me. (My husband does not share my appreciation in this, BTW) I can't count the number of books that have winged their way across the country back and forth in big boxes and little envelopes. All because we love to read romance.

It's through blogging that the SoCal Bloggers have gotten together numerous times. Those women are absolutely fantastic, coming from all walks of life, and yet we all have the basics in common. A love of our families, a love of reading, a love of friendship, and a love of romance. And it's all because we love to read romance.

I will also forever be grateful for the experience I've gained in the blogging world. Blogging and reading romance have helped me go on tobe considered a 'trailblazer' on this and ebooks at my publishing job IRL, impressing numerous people at my company with my so-called expertise (yes, I'm so awesome, look at me LOL). And to be frank, I'm definitely not an expert; far from it. But I'm an early adopter of ebooks and blogging, and that makes a difference in my job. All because I love to read romance.

So, happy 5th blogiversary to I Just Finished Reading. I hope we get to continue to share our love of books with y'all. And I hope you'll continue to share your love of books with us.

Impulsive by HelenKay Dimon

I know I sound like a broken record, but there are reasons that I keep reading the same authors over and over. I adore HelenKay Dimon’s dialogue, sassy heroines, and intelligent heroes (even though they frequently act dumb, it makes it much more fun). In Impulsive, Eric is trying to prove to himself that he has no hard feelings when his ex gets married. So he goes to her wedding. At the wedding, he sees the caterer from across the room and next thing we know, they are getting it on in the bathroom. (Hey, don’t knock it til you’ve tried it). Katie was hired to spy on Eric to see if there is any truth to the rumor that he’s still involved with his ex. But she sees Eric, and all that flies out of her head. Eric and Katie keep getting together, and lots of hot sex ensues. And it eventually turns to love.

What I liked: I really loved Eric. He’s not a typical romance hero. He’s introspective and thoughtful, a lawyer/politician who seems to be in it for the right reasons. He has managed to realize that friendship with his ex is ok, and that he can handle it. In small doses. He keeps himself under tight control, and it’s awesome to see his control being slowly unraveled both emotionally and physically by Katie and also by the situations in which he finds himself, such as having Deana (the ex) barging into his life at all hours or his love life splattered all over in a video. He’s like that rubber band – it always contracts back to normal, but at some point it gets stretched just a little too far and breaks, or stretches so much, it loses its elasticity, becomes brittle, and breaks. That’s Eric. So patient, but eventually it’s gotta give. And he finally does, which makes him even more human to the reader. Plus, well, that man is hot with the sexin’. Seriously, I wouldn’t mind being stuck in a bathroom or in an office chair with him.

Katie: she’s a bad girl gone good. Kind of. Although she was bad for understandable reasons, she spent the majority of her teen and early adult years doing the wrong thing. And now that she’s trying to turn her life around and do the right thing, she finds constant roadblocks in the way. Once she discovered her feelings for Eric and found out her ‘job’ was going to hurt him, she ended the arrangement. Although she’s very young (and at first I thought there was no way at all Eric would have any interest in her besides sex), she goes through a maturation process that began before the book started and continued throughout. It helps put perspective on her relationship with Eric. She loosens him up and helps him laugh, and he helps ground her.

I liked that Katie was honest with Eric almost as soon as she realized she had feelings for him. It helped him to be more trusting of her when obviously someone was undermining his campaign. And I loved the way he defended her, even when he had the occasional twinge of doubt.

I loved that Deana and Josh (H & H from Holding Out for a Hero, and Deana is Eric’s ex) are such nudgeniks. They push their way into Eric’s life (although for Josh, it’s begrudgingly). I really liked that neither of them is portrayed as the ‘bad guy’, in that in my experience, most people don’t look on their exes with venom; they were just relationships that don’t work out. At least that’s how I see my exes (granted, in terms of exes, I only have the perspective of a high schooler – got together with hubby sophomore yr of college). Still, Eric is still a little raw about the breakup, and somehow it tickled me that Deana got in his face, determined to be his friend.

What I didn’t like so much: Katie’s sister. Yes, she’s quite protective of Katie when Eric comes around, but she still expects the worst from Katie, even though Katie is helping her with her catering business, taking care of her daughter, and saving money for school. She always has the first thought of “What have you done now?” Frankly, that would drive me bat-shit crazy. But I also understand how important the family they have left is to both of them.

Another hero with hidden depths, a heroine who does a lot of growing up, and a bit of a madcap election campaign (Impulsive is releasing at just the right time, I’d say). Dimon has hit just the right balance of all these things to make me happy. The last couple of books have had some darker elements to them. This one, not so much. I wouldn’t call it fluffy by any means, but it’s certainly a little more light-hearted than the last couple of books. Complete with her signature wit and terrific characters, Impulsive was a great read for me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Squeeee!!!!!! Bradshaw's book!

It's Shaw's book!! You all know how much I adore England's Perfect Hero from Suzanne Enoch. One of my all-time favorites. Bit and Tristan Carroway from the Lessons in Love trilogy are two of my favorite heroes. Now their brother Shaw (who actually has appeared in several Enoch books since then) gets his own story. Did I say SQUEEEE?!?! (But Zephyr as a heroine name? Gotta wonder about that one!)

For proper young ladies, good behavior has always been the rule…

Captain Bradshaw Carroway loves the seafaring life—though he’d rather be battling brigands than his current assignment of ferrying a boatload of spoiled aristocrats. One passenger, however, has caught his eye: a bewitching young minx who definitely distracts him from the rules of shipboard decorum . . .

Some rules, of course, are meant to be broken.

Miss Zephyr Ponsley has traveled the world, but she’s completely innocent in the ways of love. She’s never learned to dance or flirt. But scientific observation has taught her that the laws of attraction have no rules, and that no adventure, on land or sea, is more dangerous—or delicious—than passion!

Release date is this Tuesday, October 26.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

ARC: Inside Out by Lauren Dane

Blurb courtesy of laurendane.com:
WORTH THE WAIT
Ella Tipton is a survivor. In the wake of an attack that left her nearly dead, she’s spent each day putting her life back together. Once vibrant and outgoing, she’s needed to reclaim the best parts of who she was while retaining the hard won lessons. There hasn’t been room for any romantic entanglements, even if she were ready. Still, it didn’t mean she had to stop sneaking looks at Mister Tall, Dark and Tattooed himself.

Security professional Andrew Copeland isn’t quite sure when his jones for the lovely and decidedly skittish Ella developed. He’s known her for years, has watched her triumph over the pain she’d been dealt. Cope is no stranger to women, but he knows the nervous flush he gets every time he talks to her is different than any attraction he’s had in the past. Determined to get Ella to let him in, Andy does the one thing he can think of to get close: he offers her hands-on training in self-defense.

While Ella’s sure he’s just being nice, the prospect of being able to touch him and gain the tools to push away the last vestiges of her fear is more than she can resist. Soon enough, Cope shows Ella his feelings are far more than friendly and re-ignites something deep inside her. Before long desire and love turn them both inside out.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We first met Ella and Cope in Laid Bare, Erin’s book. Now she’s been through a traumatic time and is just really starting to put her life back together. As he watches her blossom, Cope finds himself more and more attracted, and more and more intrigued by her.

I adored how Ella saw deep into Cope. Saw him as Andrew, not as Cope. Cope was the façade that he put in place – the happy-go-lucky guy without a care in the world. Ella saw the poet, the artist, the dreamer. The romantic. The tender, sensitive man hiding behind the devil-may-care man-slut. And she loved him for all those things. And for his delightful Copeness as well.

In turn, Cope accepted Ella for who she was, and stood by her as she worked through her issues with trust and self-image. He seems to have never-ending patience in regard to Ella’s trust (or lack of it). It wasn’t that she didn’t trust him, but it was more that she didn’t trust her own judgment. She was afraid of giving herself wholly to someone again, to put herself in a vulnerable situation. To make her feel more self-confident, Cope gives her self-defense lessons. This helps to break down the barriers for them both. We see how Cope has always felt inadequate in his family, and how Ella is afraid she’s let hers down. And Cope loves the confident take-no-prisoners woman she’s becoming mixed in with that shyness that is also Ella.

Their courtship was wonderful. They sent letters to each other filled with little wonders and tiny gifts, went on dates, talked about everything, and slowly I could see them becoming a solid couple. They were open and honest with each other. They just got each other, deep down inside. As I noted in Coming Undone, there is no huge external conflict here, so if that's what floats your boat, know that going in. The closest thing might be the tension between Ben, Cope, and their father. But moreso, this is a novel about internal conflict and growth. Cope and Ella each coming to terms with who they are, who they were, and who they will be together. I found myself relating to them as a couple, recognizing silly things that I do in my own marriage. Things like objectifying my husband to his face (and vice-versa), doing silly, romantic things, and also sometimes being unreasonably moody. All these things rang true for me here as well. The one thing that did bother me slightly, however, was the frequent references to Ella’s cartoony voice. I found myself thinking that it would bug the shit out of me to constantly hear a voice like that. But to Cope, it’s part of what makes Ella who she is.

As Ella becomes more independent and more self-confident, her relationship with her parents improves as well. As Cope rediscovers Andrew within himself and learns to love who he is, he and Ben drop the buddy-buddy surfacy relationship they've maintained and become truly close, loving brothers again (not that they weren't before, this just brought them even closer). Ones who appreciate each other’s individual strengths and differences.  This book really explored the relationship between the two brothers, and showed their love for one another. Their protectiveness of each other.

Cope and Ben have had a very difficult time with their father, stemming from Ben's relationship with Erin and Todd. I liked that their mother, while likely confused and disapproving inside, has come to accept the marriage and the impending birth of her grandchild. She fosters a relationship with Erin, and that endears her to me. Their father, on the other hand, is much more firmly entrenched in his view of what is proper and not. He is truly awful to Ben, Todd, and Erin. And when Cope confronts him on the premise of trying to keep their family together, it almost devolves into a physical altercation. This has a profound effect on Cope.

One thing I really like about this series is that not everyone in their families has just accepted Ben, Todd, and Erin’s relationship. In the real world, people have their prejudices. Not everyone is accepting. Heck, just turn on the evening news. It’s no secret. Dane carefully addresses these issues while not making any true villains. The reader may vilify Ben’s father simply because we want him to accept the marriage (and quit being a douche). And frankly, yeah, he is quite the dick about it. But truly, like most of the time in real life, there’s not a villain here. Just people outside their comfort zone who don’t quite know how to handle the situation in which they find themselves, and yes, maybe a little intolerant, too (or a lot intolerant).

Which brings me to my last point. Yes, I know. Finally.

Lauren Dane has written yet another wonderful family drama. To many, family means mother, father, children, siblings, etc. To some, being pro-family might mean not having an alternative marriage or lifestyle. It might mean no sex before marriage. It might mean that you shouldn't choose to be gay. (And yes, that last one was said with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.) But in this series, family is more than a traditional nuclear family, although Ben and Cope are brothers, and Erin, Adrian, and Brody are siblings, and Ella has a great (by the end) relationship with her parents. Together, all these friends and their spouses (spice?) and their siblings make up one big happy extended family. To suggest otherwise is just ridiculous. These people love and care for one another. They are there through thick and thin. They put each other’s needs before their own. They gossip about each other and act silly. They share all their major life events. They listen to each other being unreasonable and still love them anyway. That’s family. It sings loud and clear from the pages. This sense of family pervades every book that Dane writes, whether it be about shapeshifters, witches, small-town America, futuristic sci-fi, or (never) boring suburban life. It's one of the reasons I gravitate to her as an author.

I love a book where I really feel like I know and like the characters by the end. That satisfies all the little bits inside me longing for love, acceptance, respect, and passion. This is one such book. While this is quite obviously part of a series, it does stand on its own. But why wouldn't you want to read the other amazing books in this series first? Read Inside Out when it comes out on November 2 and enjoy watching a good old-fashioned love story blossom and grow. Oh, and yeah. It's way superdy hot, too. Happy, satisfied sigh.

Series Order:
Laid Bare
Coming Undone
Inside Out
Never Enough (Sept 2011)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fair Game by Josh Lanyon

A crippling knee injury forced Elliot Mills to trade in his FBI badge for dusty chalkboards and bored college students. Now a history professor at Puget Sound university, the former agent has put his old life behind him-but it seems his old life isn't finished with him.

A young man has gone missing from campus-and as a favor to a family friend, Elliot agrees to do a little sniffing around. His investigations bring him face-to-face with his former lover, Tucker Lance, the special agent handling the case.

Things ended badly with Tucker, and neither man is ready to back down on the fight that drove them apart. But they have to figure out a way to move beyond their past and work together as more men go missing and Elliot becomes the target in a killer's obsessive game...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Elliot's father asks him to look into the disappearance of a friend's son at the university where Elliot is a professor of history, Elliot finds himself back in the investigations game. Doing so puts him right in the path of his former lover, Tucker. These guys have history, and it's mostly related to Elliot's inability to come to terms with his career-ending injury and feelings of inadequacy as it related to that.

I found this to be quite a compelling read, but at first it felt like Tucker did a less than stellar job of investigating the case out of residual anger at Elliot. Also, I would have liked to have seen more from Tucker's POV, but it did fit in with Lanyon's usual style, so I knew I'd get something from Tucker eventually, and I did.

I liked the way Lanyon grew their relationship, even through the phone calls, where a lot got said by staying unsaid. They communicated like men. By which, I mean that there wasn't a whole lot of communicating going on, especially on issues of import. Just lots of in-your-face one-upsmanship based on emotional response and anger and uncomfortable silences rather than actual productive conversation. (no offense to any guys out there, but, c'mon!) But I also liked that Elliot recognized that Tucker made the first move to open himself up more often than not and so he also made the attempt, even though it went against his instincts and nature. There was excellent chemistry between them. I also liked that they were two strong men, but that they weren't afraid to show their vulnerabilities in bed.

And that's one thing I really like about Lanyon's books. His love scenes are very, very intimate, but not necessarily explicit. Yes, sometimes, they get harshly explicit (he shoved tab A into hole B - hello, Jake?). But in general, he creates his love scenes through the emotions elicited from his characters, through the connections developed, and though good old fashioned "leaving it up to the imagination". I think many m/f authors could learn how to convey intimacy from reading his love scenes. There are never any gratuitous love scenes in a Lanyon book. Those that are there, need to be there. And I love that.

I also really liked the dynamic between Elliot and his dad. Respectful and loving despite their obvious philosophical differences. And his dad just cracked me up. He's a throwback to the 60s radicals, calling everyone "cat" (as in, "he's a cool cat", LOL), anything that relates to the establishment is bad, etc. But he respects and loves his son even though he doesn't respect or love his son's former job.

As far as the mystery, it was well done. I had hoped for some additional evidence gathering and to see that, but that's the thriller lover in me. It wasn't lacking, although I'd have liked some further explanation on the resolution of the Baker murder.

I liked that Elliot came to terms with his change in career by the end and came to realize that he actually liked teaching. It was a very satisfying resolution. Although I get the feeling that he'll still find himself embroiled in Tucker's cases going forward.

Another stellar book from Lanyon. And he's a great author to try if you want to dip your toes into m/m and also enjoy romantic suspense/mystery.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Bookwatch: Play Dirty by Lorie O'Clare

This sounds up my alley.

Heartthrob bounty hunter Greg King knows how to work it—and he knows that he can have any woman he wants. But there’s more to Greg than meets the eye…and he’s still haunted by the memory of his beautiful, estranged wife. Much as he’s tried to move on, he’s never been able to stopstopped wondering why Haley left him. Or what he could have done to make their marriage better—and make her stay…

After putting a vicious criminal behind bars, Haley King had no choice but to leave her loved ones behind and enter the witness protection program. Turns out that, in her new life, Haley has once again found herself in serious trouble—and needs help from the only person she can trust: her husband. Now, as old secrets threaten to tear them apart and danger closes in from all sides, it’s up to Greg to keep Haley safe…and convince her that this time, he’s playing for keeps.

Read An Excerpt.

This book is already released. Must go get.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Lori's September reads

September came and went in the blink of an eye. I read 24 books (ok, 25 really, since Castles/The Lions Lady is really two books), bringing my total read for the year up to 215 (or 216 - see above), or so Goodreads tells me. I'm fairly certain that I missed a couple books somewhere between August and September, but I'm damned if I know what they were.

My goal for next month? Get back reading the In Death books. I haven't read one in 3 months. Im starting to wonder what Eve & Roarke are up to. Of course, it doesn't help that I'm a complete and utter failure in the In Death Challenge. And although I'm reading, I'm not really reviewing much, so I'm a total failure at the Year of the Historical Challenge as well.

Anyway, here are my reads for September. Some good ones in there.


The Darkest Hour (KGI, #1) by Maya Banks: Goodreads Rating: 5 stars
Really, really liked this one. Open, honest feelings on the part of hero and heroine. Honest portrayal of drug addiction and grief. And of finding love again. Wonderful family relations between brothers, and parents and children as well. Loved it. Can't wait til the next one. I would compare this to a Cindy Gerard only more raw.

A Touch of Scandal by Jennifer Haymore: Goodreads Rating: 4.5 stars
Garrett's book. Loved them together. Loved their sense of family, separately and together. I loved that there was no mistrust between them. And love Garrett's sister, whose book was just released. Dying to read that one!

Inside Out (Brown Siblings, #3) by Lauren Dane (ARC read): Goodreads Rating: 4.5 stars
Review to come closer to release. But I'll tell you that I loved it. Like all of them. Lauren Dane was noting on twitter the other day that someone had said her books were anti-family. I think I've noted in every single review how much I adore her sense of family. Cope was amazing. And Ella just "gets" him. More detail to follow.

Till Dawn with the Devil: Lords of Vice by Alexandra Hawkins: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
I enjoyed this book much more than the first in the series. Most of the focus remained on the main couple for most of the book. While I found the Lords of Vice's nicknames less annoying this time, I still find them trite.

I really liked that Sophia, while acknowledging her disability, compensated and didn't allow it to get her down. She was a strong woman no matter what life, or her brothers dealt her. Although I hated the way her brothers treated her, I really liked that they came together in the end and how wonderful Gabriel was with Sophia.

This was my do or die book for the series, and I'm happy to say that I'll be waiting for Dare's book anxiously.

Two to Tangle by Leslie Kelly: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
A reread. I read it when it first came out as a Temptation, and loved it then. Once I got over the silliness of Chloe never once slipping and calling Trent, Troy, even in the heat of passion, I was able to fall in love with this sweet, passionate story. Complete with eccentrics on both sides of the families, both Trent and Chloe were down to earth, nice people, and I wanted to see them together. The imagery is wonderful. I could completely see Trent in the rain and envision their courtship played out in a display window. The date they had in the store was so romantic. I also loved that Trent could have believed the worst of Chloe but instead chose immediately to believe her explanation of a sityation he'd misconstrued.

Two nice, fun people in a passionate but incredibly sweet and romantic relationship. Love this one!

SEALed with a Promise (SEALed, #2) by Mary-Margret Daughtridge: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
This was a reread. I thought I was picking up the third book, but realized, oops! Anyway, I liked both characters. Loved seeing how Emmie grew and her perception of herself changed. Also liked that Caleb had a difficult time letting go of his grudges, but managed to do it anyway, and managed to do the right thing. They were both loyal friends. Although I hated that Caleb was using her in the beginning, even he never realized when his feelings became real. But fully embraced them anyway.

Seduced by a Highlander (Children of the Mist, #2) by Paula Quinn: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
I liked this one. Two families in a feud, brought on by a teenager's mistake, and compounded by another's. I liked the sense of family amongst Isobel's siblings. And liked that even though some of the distrust remained, they eventually saw Tristan for who he was. And that Tristan was willing to end his charade of a character and just be himself.

Love Me If You Dare (Bachelor Blogs, #2) by Carly Phillips: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
Really enjoyed this one. I definitely knew the villain from the first time they appeared on the pages, but it didn't stop my enjoyment of the story. I do wish that the heroine would have let go of her issues a little earlier. I felt like she didn't quite deserve the perfection that was the hero.

Wicked Delights of a Bridal Bed (The Byrons of Braebourne, #4) by Tracy Anne Warren: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
Loved the open honest friendship between Adam and Mallory, but hated that the author had him act out of character at the end.

Castles/The Lion's Lady by Julie Garwood: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
Castles: I thought this one was a tad forgettable.
The Lion's Lady: Not this one! I adored Christina. She was so fresh, and what a wry, subtle, wicked sense of humor she had! Lyon was great in that he never tried to change her. This one was excellent.

Ransom (Highlands' Lairds, #2) by Julie Garwood: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
Once again, loved Garwood's writing. And loved the first half. My heart broke for Gillian. I wasn't as thrilled with the past portions of the book. But overall, still a very enjoyable read.

The Sergeant's Lady by Susanna Fraser: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
What a fresh approach and such a great story. Love that the hero is not of the same class as the heroine, yet they were so in love. Seemed like a more realistic version of the war in Spain than I've read in a long time. (the only romance I can remember seeming more realistic in war is Duran's Duke of Shadows.) Simply wonderful. I can't wait to read more from her.

Texas Tangle by Leah Braemel: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
I really, really liked this one. So very much! I loved how the three weren't afraid to talk about the issues that would face them. And that they took time - a lot of it - to think seriously about whether they could handle the issues that would arise from a permanent menage. I did think that Dillon's family was a little too accepting at first. Overall, a terrific read from Braemel.

Hot Finish (Fast Track, #3) by Erin McCarthy: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
I really liked Ryder and Suzanne. I've been waiting for something explosive to happen between them, and boy howdy. I got it. What I really like is that Ryder accepts Suzanne for who she is, and doesn't expect her to change, and frankly doesn't want her to change her fiery personality.

I love marriages in trouble stories, and this one was great. They worked through their issues, and both came to realizations of how they both mistreated their spouse unintentionally and also how they could better treat the other.

Last to Die (Sheridan, #2) by Kate Brady: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
This read a little tighter than the first one. Which tells me that Brady is going to keep improving and be a hell of a thriller author. I loved Mitch as a hero, and loved his faith in his friends. And Dani was a credible detective, even if she had her own issues to deal with. I liked them together, too.

Hard and Fast (Fast Track, #2) by Erin McCarthy: Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
Adored Ty and Imogen. Truly.

Deadly Intent (Mindhunters, #4) by Kylie Brant (ARC read): Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
Review coming up closer to release. Suffice to say, I'm in love with the Mindhunters and can't wait for the next one. I'm waiting rather impatiently for Adam's book. Who knows when it will be published, but if Brant doesn't write it, I may have to hire a hitman.

Killing Her Softly (Griffin Powell, #5) by Beverly Barton: Goodreads Rating: 3.5 stars
I really like Barton's books. I guessed the whodunnit here, but I loved how she kept all the characters guessing if Quinn was really guilty of the crimes. The main thing I didn't quite like was that Annabelle seemed so quick to jump on Quinn's bandwagon. She knew what she wanted and went for it. But her undying immediate faith in Quinn's innocence gave me pause. I understood that she recognized her cousin's faults, but still thought she should wonder about Quinn more than she actually did.

Wicked & Willing by Leslie Kelly: Goodreads Rating: 3.5 stars
This reads much more like a typical Blaze would now (even tho it's a Temptation). It's the story of the brother of the hero of Two to Tangle. Troy is a playboy and it's Venus who makes this story. Still, it's got humor and passion and fun. As well as a tug-at-your-heartstrings Cinderella storyline.

Her Very Own Family (Harlequin American Romance Series) by Trish Milburn: Goodreads Rating: 3.5 stars
I liked both the hero & heroine. And Brady's dad, and the compassion that Audrey showed him, was such a wonderful part of the story.

Unspeakable (Tracers, #2) by Laura Griffin: Goodreads Rating: 3.5 stars
I felt as that as hard as Elaina wanted to be part of the team, she never made much effort to do so, except complaining that she wasn't part of it. Griffin showed no real sense of teamwork, and while I understand that at first that was likely designed to show what an outsider Elaina was, it didn't work so well for me. I also am sure that had the morning team meetings been shown, I would have had a better sense of how the rest of the team worked together. In this case, I missed seeing more of the rest of the cast and felt that there was just a little too much time spent on Troy and Elaina (and I realize how strange that sounds).

I liked Troy, and I liked him and Elaina together. I never felt as though I truly understood the reasons for the crimes, though, although I knew fairly early on who the villain was (even if I didn't know his name yet).

I am looking forward to Mia's book, though. I like Griffin's voice and style very much, and that will keep me coming back until I find a book I enjoy as much as Whisper of Warning.

Married By Mistake by Abby Gaines: Goodreads Rating: 3 stars
Lots to like, but more to bother me, I think. Didn't care so much for Adam. And I hate it when the hero and heroine don't TALK to each other.

If Looks Could Chill (Passion For Danger, #2) by Nina Bruhns: Goodreads Rating: 3 stars
This one didn't suck me in as much as the other two did. And I really didn't want to have to pull out my junior high French in order to read Marc's thoughts. The Gina story was far more compelling to me than the main two romances, as well as the play between Alex and Rebel. Of course since I read out of order I already know what happens there, but I enjoyed watching it unfold nonetheless.

Strike Zone (Richmond Rogues, #3) by Kate Angell: Goodreads Rating: 3 stars
Cute. But like all the Angell books it couldn't decide who to focus on between the two couples. But still pretty cute and enjoyable.
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