Thursday, February 25, 2010

YOTH: All Night With a Rogue by Alexandra Hawkins (Lords of Vice, book 1)


Seduce Lady Juliana Ivers and then cast her aside: Those are his sister’s instructions. Alexius Braverton, Marquess of Sinclair--known as Sin to the ton--is happy enough to oblige, especially when he catches a glimpse of his target. Juliana is completely unlike the empty-headed chits who barely hold his attention for a week. A true gentleman would leave her to find a worthy suitor. But then, a Lord of Vice would never claim to be a gentleman.


Juliana is expected to marry well to improve her family’s finances, even if she secretly longs to make a living through her musical compositions. A dalliance can only complicate matters, though not even practical Juliana can help succumbing to the aptly named Sin. But one unforgettable night will draw her into a scandalous affairand a seduction begun as sport will soon become deliciously, dangerously real

This book addresses the reformed rake theme. I do love that theme, because a guy with a bit of the wicked in him? Yum. The Lords of Vice take the rake/rogue thing to the extreme, engaging in all sorts of illicit behavior. We are actually shown this on a few occasions, not just told about it. In fact, at one point, Alexius tries to convince himself that he’s over Juliana by getting amazingly drunk and attempting to bed a prostitute. Thankfully, he passed out before he could do the deed. But this happens before he admits what she truly means to him, and he never actually cheated, even though it was his intent. I thought the action fit his character completely.

Alexius begins the pursuit of Juliana before he realizes that she’s the girl that he agreed to ruin for his sister. The scene where Alexius and Juliana meet is terrific. She is caught up a tree and he’s down below having a quickie at a ball. I liked that she wasn’t in the tree for the usual “hoydenish” behavior that is usually the reason for this, but that she was escaping a too ardent suitor and then got stuck, literally. Alexius decides to pursue her without knowing who she was. When he realizes she’s the girl he’s supposed to ruin, he figures he got lucky.

He quickly seduces Juliana into an affair, and she enjoys it as much as he. When Juliana is basically sold into an affair by her mother to satisfy her gambling debts, Alexius goes wild. He only knows that she is with another man who is known for treating women poorly. They have a huge fight, and he leaves after punching his rival in the face. Juliana neglects to tell him the reason that she is with Gomfrey, since secrecy of the reason for the affair was a condition of the payout.

This was where the book lost me a bit. Almost the entire second half of the book involves Juliana being basically traded from one man to another, with very little if no interaction between her and Alexius. He interacts with her family, with his friends, and with her captors, but almost nothing at all between the two of them. During this time, he realizes how much she means to him, that he loves her.

It was interesting that although she basically sold her daughter into prostitution to settle a gambling debt, Juliana’s mother is not a villainous figure at all. Her daughters still love her, and she comes off as a loving, albeit selfish mother. I was torn about this. On one hand, I appreciated that she wasn’t one dimensional. On the other hand, none of the daughters seemed to be angry with their mother for putting them in this predicament.

Another character that gave me pause was Sin’s sister, Belinda. She originally wanted Alexius to ruin Juliana because she viewed her as a rival for a man’s attention. She had no conscience, in fact seemed to relish the idea of her being ruined and publicly humiliated. Yet, I couldn’t really determine if it was simply a case of spite, or if she truly had feelings for Kyd. And Kyd? I never really figured out what he saw in Belinda. He did at one point comment that he knew her faults, but loved her in spite of them. Still… he was such a nice guy. What was he doing with her?

I thought it was a singularly unflattering picture painted of the behavior of the aristocracy, but each character was portrayed with depth, with perhaps the exception of Gomfrey. Even Juliana’s cousin, the second man that she was “sold off” to, had depth. We learn of his obsession with Juliana from the time she was 13, and how he’s now proving himself to be superior to her and worthy because of it, after her father refused to give permission for him to court her years before. So most of the characters, while unsavory and selfish to the bone, had redeeming qualities of some sort, or at least I was able to understand their motivations.

One other thing that bothered me slightly, was the nicknames that the Lords of Vice have. Sin, Reign, Frost, Saint… all plays upon their names, but it still seemed a little hokey to me.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I would have liked more focus on the couple in the second half of the book, and less “rescuing”, but I enjoyed Hawkins’ voice and the overall feeling the book gave me. The next book, Til Dawn With the Devil, about Reign, Sin’s friend, is due out in August.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Broken by Shiloh Walker


Quinn Rafferty is working as a bounty hunter and bail bondsman in St. Louis when a new neighbor catches his eye. He’s tempted by her beauty—but he knows from experience that anyone desperate enough to live in his building is damaged goods. Besides, he has his own soul to mend before he can worry about anyone else.


Sara McElya is on the run, but not for the usual reasons a woman goes on the lam. She’s not an abused wife, and she’s not a criminal. But she does have a plan for her future. And as much as she finds herself attracted to her gruff, tough neighbor, she can’t risk telling him the secrets she’s hiding. There’s just too much at stake.

Driven to desire…

But Quinn must get closer to Sara when she turns out to be the target of his new missing persons case, and he discovers that there is something more complex and dangerous to her than he thought. Now, both Quinn and Sara will have to expose their true feelings—as well as their fragile hearts—if they hope their love will survive…

Sorry, this is more of a quickie for me, but I'm reviewed out, LOL. I think I've posted more reviews this month than I did all of 2009. OK, not quite, but still...

I loved Fragile, and this sequel is the story of Quinn Rafferty, the twin brother of the hero from Fragile. Shiloh Walker’s books have fabulous titles. The single word title matches the book’s theme, tone, characters – everything. Stark, and oh so devastating. Devastated.

Quinn is a former soldier. He’s now working as a bounty hunter, taking work finding bail skips. He was abused by his mother until he was reunited with his father and twin brother. He never did really adjust to a normal family life, and he carries around a ton of misplaced guilt and angst.

Sara is on the run from something, someone. She and Quinn end up at the same boarding house, run by a wonderful lady who doesn’t ask questions, but nurtures them both and encourages them both. Even though they both know it’s not good for them, they just can’t seem to keep their hands off each other. Until Sarah’s past catches up with her, and it’s time for her to run again.

This book has everything that I associate with a Shiloh Walker book. Angsty hero and heroine, highly devastatingly emotional. Both with a rough exterior acting as a defense mechanism. Yet when they come together, each provides that special something that the other needs, that’s missing.

When Quinn found out about Sara’s past (or what he thought was her past), he was devastated. Walker did such a great job portraying his emotions. His total devastation. And then pulling his core up and around himself for protection. For her part, Sara is totally afraid to trust anyone, and once she decides to open up to Quinn, it’s too late. He’s brusque and nasty. She decided that she had to stop running, and does so unknowing that Quinn will back her up.

The only thing that didn’t work wonderfully for me was the frequent head hopping into the past to learn the backstory. Occasionally I got a little lost, but by the end of a paragraph I’d have it figured out.

The hurt alpha, the strong but emotionally devastated heroine, smart supporting characters, and a strong, cohesive story arc are all things I’ve come to expect from Shiloh Walker. Broken did not disappoint.

It’s available on March 2 in trade from Berkley.

To get more insight into Quinn, I recommend reading his brother Luke’s story, Fragile, first. But it’s not necessary.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Loyalty in Death by JD Robb

New York cop Eve Dallas returns to face her most ingenious foe - a "secret admirer" who taunts her with letters... and kills without mercy. An unknown bomber is stalking NYC. He is sending Eve Dallas taunting letters promising to wreak mass terror and destruction among the "corrupt masses." And when his cruel web of deceit and destruction threatens those she cares for most, Eve fights back. It's her city... it's her job... and it's hitting too close to home. Now, in a race against a ticking clock, Eve must make the pieces fit - before the city falls.
There’s a lot going on in this book. The big story in this one was how it made me think of 9/11. There’s a domestic terror plot, and the prime targets are all in New York. Robb unashamedly kills of several hundred people in domestic bombings at prime locations – Madison Square Gardens during a Rangers game, The Plaza during high tea. The team has to determine the next target site, and they mention that it could be the UN, the Twin Towers, or the Statue of Liberty. It was very disconcerting and freaky. Also, the terrorist group is picking up where a previous group left off, after bombing the Pentagon many years before. This book was originally published in 2000, long before 9/11, but after the original UN bombings. Uncanny how she thought that up. Much in the same way my husband and I thought it was amazing how Tom Clancy thought up a scenario with a terrorist hijacking a plane and flying it into the capital and white house in Executive Orders. (for which he took a lot of flak after 9/11)

We meet Zeke, Peabody’s brother. He’s a wonderfully sweet, naïve man, who happens to fall in love with the wrong person. Peabody and Eve’s relationship strengthens as Eve does all within her power to save Zeke from arrest for murder. Peabody learns from Eve, and she also comes to appreciate not just Eve’s tenacity as a cop, but her compassion as well.

Peabody is at her most vulnerable, with her baby brother in trouble, her emotions running high. In steps McNab. Their attraction and adversarial relationship finally takes the next step, as they all of a sudden can’t keep their hands off each other. They are all over each other constantly. It was actually a woohoo moment for me, but Eve is particularly grossed out by it, which I actually found to be a small bit of amusement in a tension-laden story.

There are some incredibly intense moments in this one between Eve and Roarke. They have their first real fight, brought on by her inappropriate brashness and inability to notice how scared Roarke is for her. I liked that she recognized it shortly thereafter, but in true Eve fashion, wasn’t quite sure how to make it right.

I do love the quotes, especially when they demonstrate the relationship far better than I could explain. Following the first bombing, where nobody is seriously injured, but Eve came precariously close to being blown to smithereens, they have this confrontation:
“This is a goddamn crime scene, and I don’t have the time or inclination to stand around and pat you on the head because one of your 6 million dollar buildings got blown to hell. Now, I’m sorry about it and I understand that you feel ticked off and violated, but don’t take it out on me.”

He gripped her arms and hauled her up to her toes in a move guaranteed to make her snarl and spit. If his property hadn't been heaved out in a half-block pile of stinking ruin, she might have decked him.

“Do you think that’s the problem?” he demanded. “Do you think the fucking warehouse is the problem?”

She struggled to think through her own temper. “Yes.”

He hauled her up another inch. “You’re an idiot.”

“I’m an idiot? I’m an idiot? You’re a moron if you think I’m going to stand here making clucky noises to your ego while I’ve got somebody blowing up buildings on my watch. Now, get your hands off before I take you down.”

“How close were you to going in?”

“That’s not — “ She broke off, deflating as it hit her. It wasn’t the building that put that wicked light in his eyes. It was her.
She’s finally getting it. Yay Eve! I also loved that by helping out at the disaster scene, Roarke also begins to "get" what Eve goes through as well. Just another example of the growth of equality in their relationship.

Also some humorous ones, as Eve acknowledges her aide’s attraction to Roarke. As Peabody walks in on Roarke examining Eve’s injury and kissing it all better *g*, he asks her how she came through the morning.
“Okay, it was… well actually. She cleared her throat and shot him a hopeful glance. “I got this little nick right here.” She rubbed her finger at her jawline, heart fluttering pleasantly when he smiled at her.

“So you do.” He stepped to her, angled his head, and touched his lips to the tiny cut. “Take care of yourself.”

“Man, man, oh man,” was the best she could manage when he’d left. “He’s got such a great mouth. How do you stop yourself from just biting it?”

“Wipe the drool off your chin, for Christ’s sake.”

“I almost got blown up and got kissed by Roarke all in the same morning. I’m writing it on my calendar."

“Settle down.”

“Yes, sir.”
LOL!!  We now see an acknowledgment from someone other than Mira of the ties between Eve and Roarke. People are always wondering what it is about Eve that so struck Roarke. Peabody makes this observation:
It was so fascinating to watch them together, she mused. An education in the tug-of-war of relationships. And the way they looked at each other when their minds came together. You could actually see it.

She couldn’t imagine what it was like to be that connected. So meshed that the brush of fingertips over your hair was a simple and absolute declaration of love.
Wow. That sums it up nicely, no?

There’s also a scene where Eve apologizes to Roarke for the way she treated him and spoke to him. After an amazing apology where she lays everything out for him – how she can’t believe he’s hers, and how he stops her heart when she just looks at him, it ends thus:
“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. In my life, you’re what matters most. I love you so much it scares me, and I guess if I had a choice about it, I wouldn’t change it. So… now you can get pissed off, because I’m done.”

“A fat lot of room you’ve given me for that.”

I was more caught up in the suspense portion of Loyalty than I have been in previous books. Watching Eve put all the different crimes together in order to make the last piece fit was terrific. And because of the eerie connection to 9/11, it was all the more riveting. But as always, there were huge strides in Eve and Roarke's relationship, and a move forward for Peabody and McNab as well.

Fabulous entry.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Things that pull me out of a book

Pet peeves in books - what are yours?
A few books I've read lately have caused me to think about this. Some things drive me crazy in books. I'm not talking about themes or tropes here, or characters traits I may or may not like. I'm talking about something that takes me completely out of the story for a moment; makes me say, "WTF?" or whatever. Then after a moment, I can continue reading.

I've mentioned several times that I'm a pretty forgiving reader. Most of the things below don't ruin a book for me, unless they are done consistently throughout. Otherwise, they make me pause, take me out of the story (and not in a good way), and just make me say WTF.

Here are some examples of mine:

Men in their late 30's or 40s that can have sex For. Ever. And Ever. And Over. And Over. Sorry, but unless you're mainlining Viagra, that's just not happening. Male recovery time is the perfect time for pillow talk. Just sayin'. (I will add a sour grapes note that this didn't bother me until my late 30s. Heh.)

The info dump. If you give me too much backstory in one fell swoop, I forget what the story I'm actually reading is about.

Stupid-ass pet names. It's unrealistic to use them all the time in normal, everyday conversation. Prime example: Jacob by Jacqueline Frank. I loved the book, but after about Jacob called Isabella "Little Flower" about ten times, I started drifting. Feel free to use a pet name, authors. My hubby and I have one for each other. But please don't use it ALL the time!

Oh, and while we're talking about pet names...
The over-use of "darling" as a love name in a contemporary romance. I always wonder every time I read it in a contemp. It's sure to pull me out of the story. People just don't call each other that anymore. Find something more current. Use honey, sweetie, babe, love - whatever. But I've never once heard anyone my age called "darling." I've never been called darling. None of my friends have ever been called darling. Sometimes I let "darlin'" go if I'm reading a western. But don't overuse it. It just makes your cowboy sound chauvinistic and dumb. So cut it out with the "darling"s. Unless you're Roarke.

Shoving accents in my face. Ugh. Case in point: From Friends to Forever. Please use some subtlety.

Poor grammar. And here, I'm talking about a book laden with incorrect usage, including copious incorrect spellings (usually homophones), over-use of commas (especially when independent clauses are joined with commas), semi-colons, etc. I especially hate incorrect posessives. Plurals do not use an apostrophe. Puh-leeze! Once or twice is not a problem, but a really badly copy-edited book throws me for a loop. In the spirit of full disclosure, the incorrect use of apostrophes in plurals didn't bother me much until I began getting fliers from the elementary school that did this. A true WTF.

Oh, and this is my blog. So if I have poor grammar on occasion, it doesn't matter. I don't worry about it for blogposts - mine or yours, but a published book is different, IMHO.

What about you? Anything that really pulls you out of a book while you're reading it?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Leave Me Breathless by HelenKay Dimon


According to Judge Bennett Walker, trying to kill him is a dumb idea. They might make him wear a big black nightgown to work, but it covers a lot of muscles, and he’s definitely packing beneath it. He’s also an ex-prosecutor and an ex-GI Joe. So when his brother brings in Callie Robbins to protect him, Ben has a few issues. First, he doesn’t need a bodyguard. Second, she’s a 130-pound girl—more smoking hot than smoking gun. And third, what if his body wants her guarding the night shift?

Callie has no problem brushing aside Ben’s disbelief. She left the FBI to escape the boys’ club, but she can be deeper undercover and twice as lethal as any beefy John Doe. As for whether someone’s after Bennett or not, the death threats and car bombs look pretty convincing to Callie. Of course, she might get distracted, sitting inches from the sexiest judge in DC for ten hours a day. Keeping him safe is no picnic. Keeping it professional—that might be impossible.


Have you ever read a book where you could see a whole lot of holes, and certain things didn't make sense, and yet you closed the book saying, "Wow. I really liked that. I want more"? Weird, I know. But that was my reaction to HelenKay Dimon's new release, Leave Me Breathless. Dimon was so sweet to give me a copy of this at our SoCal Blogger get-together last weekend when I mentioned how much I enjoy her books.

What I liked:
Ben. A former military guy (and we actually see his motivation for having joined and having left!), he then went to law school, and is now a judge. And a hot damn judge at that. Holy smokes. He's unapologetic about his courthouse reputation, however deserved or undeserved. He is a loyal friend. He's got that dumbass alpha protective streak going that sometimes makes him do dumbass things. Like not accepting protection when his life is obviously in danger. But he does come around. Kind of *g*. Who doesn't love a dumbass alpha? Especially when he's so adorable and hot.

Callie. She's an interesting character. A former FBI agent, she left under dubious circumstances. She really needs this job protecting Ben, both for her own self-esteem and, frankly, for the money. She's not afraid to go after what she wants, whether it's doing a good job to save her reputation, or going after Ben.

Mark. Wow. Now there's a guy with issues. Ben's brother and a former FBI agent, he now works for Homeland Security. Moody, temperamental, and in some serious denial. Can you say hot? Many times in the book, the comparison is made of how Ben is so much lighter in nature than is Mark. And by that, I mean the broody thing. And the general outlook on life. Ben manages to hide his issues behind a happy persona, while Mark is pretty much the opposite.

Emma. She's obviously the most stable of the 4, but she still has her own issues. Ben's fellow judge and childhood friend, she's been in love with Mark for years, and because of his inability to commit to anything even remotely emotional, she allows him to come around for sex when he feels like it. She's always there waiting. Their emotional confrontation near the end was definitely one of the highlights of the book for me.

Dimon's trademark wise-ass banter between the H/H. Yup, I'm a humor/sarcasm ho. I know this shocks you. Callie has a serious mouth on her, and Ben acknowledges it's one of the things he most likes about her. Makes him realize how much he likes smart women. I liked this revelation, because he also is well aware and appreciative of how hot he thinks Callie is. Callie doesn't put up with any BS, and Ben gives as good as he gets.

The background story for Ben, Mark, and Emma. Pieces are slowly revealed as Ben opens up to Callie. But the kicker is when Ben acknowledges how guilty he feels because his mother went back for a shirt for him. Since it's his shirt, much of the blame must be on him. I did like that Dimon doesn't dwell on this. Ben gets it off his chest with Callie and moves on.

Both women managed to walk away from the men they love when it became clear that their guy wouldn't provide what they needed. Love, nourishment for the relationship, commitment. Here, again, I thought Dimon did the best job portraying Emma's issues. She's a strong woman, but still soft and vulnerable, and not afraid to show her vulnerability. It was interesting that Emma and Callie appeared to be such opposites, but found themselves faced with the same issue when it came to the two brothers. And it brought them closer. (Good considering that one assumes they will be sisters-in-law.)

The description of the courtroom scenes. Loved this. Loved how Dimon portrayed them as incredibly deadly dull. Dimon is a former attorney herself, and so I imagine that she knows whereof she speaks. While normally, authors attempt to put the most exciting courtroom drama scenes into their books, Dimon does just the opposite here. While Ben is such an exciting, vibrant man, it shows how committed he is to his profession. He sits and deals with it, while Callie's eyes want to roll back in her head from the boredom. I thought that was quite interesting for some reason.

What didn't I like?
Callie's inconsistency. At first, she comes off as a kickass heroine (rock on!), who knows what she's doing when it comes to personal protection and keeping the mark covered. I loved this portrayal, and was looking forward to seeing how she'd soften up as the book progressed. But as she and Ben become more involved, she talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk. She answers her door without her sidearm on her. She makes no attempt whatsoever to blend in at the courthouse, which if she was posing as Ben's assistant, she should have. Of course, her own brash personality wouldn't allow her to sit down, shut up, and let those things pass her by. She definitely had a couple TSTL moments, but managed to redeem herself on her own.

OK, pointing out the obvious fact that a HSA agent would not be assigned to his own brother's case, but as I always say in romanceland – Sometimes you have to be willing to suspend your sense of realism. It is fiction, after all. Luckily, I'm easy like that.

What else didn't I like? Well, maybe it's a product of my age, but I never see how a 37(8?) year old man can have that much sex at one time. No matter how virile he is, he should be sending himself some of the ED spam I seem to send my own self daily. This is not only Dimon's fault, but I see this constantly in all books where the hero is in his late 30s, early 40s. They have sex like the energizer bunny. Not to rain on my hubby's parade or anything, but guys that age need some recovery time. However, I can also appreciate that recovery time isn't very romantic... especially in a book as hot and heavy on the sex as Leave Me Breathless is. Even though I see the potential for awesome pillow talk there, not everyone will likely agree with me. The only exception to this author faux pas that jumps right into my head was Mark in Hearts Awakened by Linda Winfree. (Damn, such a good book!).

Oh, and one last thing. In this story, Callie is a blond. Clearly. Heroine on cover? Yeah, not so much with the blond. It's one thing to take creative license with covers, but another to so completely go against who the characters are. Not Dimon's fault, obviously, and it is a pretty cover... plus, I think it accurately sets the mood for the book.

So... although there were some holes, I really enjoyed Leave Me Breathless. This one seemed to be a little darker with the characters' backgrounds (or maybe it's been a while since I read my last Dimon, but dark isn't what I generally think of when I think of Dimon). However, I like the mix of darker and humor. It works for me. Don't get me wrong; you won't walk away from this book thinking, "Wow, that was dark." Dimon is one of those authors that I'll forgive close to anything just because I like her wise-ass dialogue, strong heroines, and hot heroes so much. Call me shallow. What. Ever.

Pre-order Leave Me Breathless. It releases in trade from Brava soon. At the time of this posting, Amazon has it 33% off at $9.45 and on Kindle for $8.96.

Slow Heat by Jill Shalvis

After a woman claims she’s pregnant with Wade O’Riley’s love child, Major League Baseball’s most celebrated catcher and ladies’ man is slapped on the wrist by management and ordered to improve his image. His enforcer is the team’s publicist, the tough and sexy Samantha McNead.

When Wade needs a date for a celebrity wedding, Sam steps up to the plate as his "girlfriend." But given her secret crush on him and that one awkward night a year ago in a stuck elevator with too much scotch, the whole thing is an exercise in sexual tension.

Wade is thrilled when the pretense turns into an unexpected night of hot passion. But the next day Sam is back to her cool self. As a catcher, Wade’s used to giving the signals, not struggling to read them. Now, to win the love of his “pretend” girlfriend, he needs a homerun–even it involves
stealing a few bases...


I must sound like a broken record. I love Jill Shalvis' books. She has a great blend of humor, emotion, and hotness mixed in with her ability to tell a wonderful story.

Slow Heat is the sequel to Double Play. While I really liked Double Play, I adored Slow Heat.

What I liked:
Wade and Sam. They are both emotionally stunted in that they have been hurt by their families - those who should love them most and unconditionally. After a sexual encounter in an elevator (takes place during Double Play), they try to avoid one another, thus avoiding any need to address their feelings about that day, until they are forced to "play" at boyfriend and girlfriend to save Wade's reputation.

What I liked so much about Wade was seeing him open up to Sam. Without realizing it. He shares with her, he can't stop thinking about her, and he tells her so - not realizing the implications for himself. Plus, he's hot, has a great sense of humor, and loves to tease. Of course, he thinks that all of this is in good fun, while the reader can tell that "this is it."

Sam. Well, she wants to be as emotionally distant as possible. But she, too, finds herself falling for Wade. She's less vocal about it, far more in denial. However, her emotional journey is also complicated by her nephew, who comes to stay wwith her. She can't help but adore him, and learns on-the-job how to mother him. It's with Tag that she experiences the most emotional growth, and this allows her to open up to Wade as well. Wade couldn't help falling for Tag, too.

The sex. Hot. But always serving to forward the story, the emotional connection. While both Sam and Wade think they're having sex for sex's sake, each encounter affects them deeply. Wade hides his emotional fragility behind humor after sex and a general unwillingness to discuss issues. Sam hides her emotional fragility by simply running away after each encounter. But having said that, each time they have sex, their connection is cemented further. There are no gratuitous sex scenes. Although, I did wonder when they'd find a bed! But that also serves to show how both of them wanted to keep things superficial. A bed implies commitment, a conscious choice, while sex up against the wall can be chocked up to a momentary urge.

Both Wade and Sam deal with their family issues during the course of the book, but not everything is wrapped neatly in a bow. It's obvious that there will continue to be trust issues between Wade and his father, and between Sam and her family. But I like that they are making decisions that are best for themselves, for their emotional health - something that they could never have done at the beginning of the book..

The quotes. Shalvis has found a gazillion quotes on baseball (and life via baseball), and starts each chapter with a different quote. It can sometimes be considered a trite move, but these quotes match Shalvis' style completely. Warm and funny, but insightful.

What I didn't like: Not much. If I had one complaint about this book, it would be her refusal to look at Wade's actions, and believe that they have a chance. She's all tied up in what she thinks he wants, but refuses to acknowledge that it could change.

Last thought. Shalvis is able to make me wonder about more books in this series simply by creating great characters. There is no sequel-baiting. As soon as I finished the book, I tweeted Shalvis, wanting to know if Gage's story is next. Dying to know more about him!

So cal Bloggers get-together...errr... convention

Saturday, in honor of Lisabea, who was in town, we had our 2nd blogger get-together in as many months. Only this time, when we put out the call for those in SoCal, we got a huge response!

We all braved the rain and met for lunch, including new SoCal bloggers KC and Kristin of Smokinhotbooks, and authors HelenKay Dimon, Tessa Dare, Sabrina Darby, and several of the Romance Divas.

I spent much of lunch chatting with HelenKay, who was simply delightful. And as a special surprise, she gifted me with a copy of her soon-to-be-released Leave Me Breathless. Which I read last night, LOL. And adored. Review to come. All I'll say right now is. Whew! I never knew a judge could be so hot!

Anyway, after lunch, we trekked on foot over to the UBS, where I proceeded to buy way too many books. Plus we had our usual bookswap, where I proceeded to take too many books. And if that wasn't enough, Nikki and I stopped at Starbucks on the way home (yum!) and then once we got back to my house, Nikki innocently asked, "Wanna hit Borders?" Uh.... duh. Where I proceeded to buy too many books. but they were buy 4 get 1 free. So here's my stash from yesterday:

(Oops, just realized Candace Camp's Suddenly is missing from the picture.) I started reading Janet Dailey back in the 70s, when she wrote a Harlequin Presents for every state. One of my favorite ones was the Indiana one - called My Indy Man. When I saw it at the UBS (along with several other Dailey "state" books, I just couldn't resist picking it up. And the Sarah Mayberry in the picture? Yup, in the "free" bin outside the UBS. Score!

Here are the SoCal Bloggers who were left by the time we got around to remembering pictures.

From L-R: Tracy, Holly, Nikki, Rowena, Rosie, Lisabea, Renee.

We seem to take a lot of pictures in parking garages, don't we girls? And aside from the flat that Holly had when she tried to leave, the day was pretty much perfect.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Random loving-my-reading moments...

One of those breath-catching, oh yeah, setting-the-hook moments...the one that ensures you will not be able to put the book down:

From Roxanne St. Clair's Then You Hide ©2008

When St. Clair's southern hero sizes up the heroine for the first time:

"The horn-rimmed glasses? A power play. The speed of her trajectory? That screamed Yankee to him. The little left-right sway in her backside that grabbed the eye of every man she passed? He despised women who drew attention to themselves. Her generous breasts were more than the requisite handful, her hair needed a six-inch trim and something to keep it from flying all over the place, and those thighs? They didn't quite touch at the top, as if there were room for...someone else in there.

She was plenty womanly, all right, but not feminine. He liked a sweet, tender peach, all squeezably soft and fresh. Vanessa Porter was no peach.

She was a tart."

This observation made me laugh. It also stole my breath. I'm stupid over heroes oozing southern charm. Can't help it. I'm also crazy about a hero--any hero--with this level of appreciation for a woman's body. Genuine, heartfelt and lusty appreciation of every part, every angle of a woman. That makes a hero extra sexy to me for some reason. Tara Janzen's heroes come to mind--those men LOVE women, every inch of them. And all of their beauty products--they're fascinated with those. Sexy and funny.

So not a review, drive-by or otherwise...but a thought I had to share. Loved this romp--totally.

Now...for a hero that is equally captivated by a woman's mind...yep, those are sexy beyond words too. Never Love A Lawman from Jo Goodman. O. M. G. Look for a buddy review of that one.

And you know? Speaking of Janzen's boys...seeing all the pretty covers now featuring full-body Totally calls to mind Superman...Christian's wraparound tattoo....anyone else remember that? Because myself? I've never been able to get it out of my mind. Ever.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Bookwatch: Something About You by Julie James

Of all the hotel rooms rented by all the adulterous politicians in Chicago, female Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Lynde had to choose the one next to 1308, where some hot-and-heavy lovemaking ends in bloodshed. And of all the FBI agents in Illinois, it had to be Special Agent Jack Pallas who gets assigned to this high-profile homicide. The same Jack Pallas who still blames Cameron for a botched crackdown three years ago—and nearly ruining his career…

Work with Cameron Lynde? Are they kidding? Maybe, Jack thinks, this is some kind of welcome-back prank after his stint away from Chicago. But it’s no joke: the pair is going to have to put their rocky past behind them and focus on the case at hand. That is, if they can cut back on the razor-sharp jibes—and smother the flame of their sizzling-hot sexual tension…

Read an excerpt.

I so adored James' Just the Sexiest Man Alive and Practice Makes Perfect. I can't wait for this one. Julie James is holding a rockin' contest to celebrate the March 2 release, too.

I think she wins the award for hottest website header, too. That's a shot from Just the Sexiest Man Alive on her site header. Love me the stubble!

January Reads...

Yay! I tracked an entire month of books. Go me! Here are the 24 books I read in January:

To Tame a Dangerous Lord (Courtship Wars, #5): Jordan, Nicole
This was a good entry in the series. I continue to love Jordan's books.

McKettricks of Texas: Tate (McKettricks, #11): Miller, Linda Lael
I heart LLM. A good, strong beginning to a new chapter in the McKettrick saga. These brothers are descendants of Jeb and Chloe's youngest son.

Early Dawn (Coulters Historical #4): Anderson, Catherine
How does she do it? Anderson writes the most touching, warm, books. This is Ace Keegan's sister's book. Smart, sassy, and vulnerable.

For Your Arms Only: Linden, Caroline
I was a tad disappointed in this one. It was good, but not as good as I've come to expect from Linden.

Sexy As Hell: Johnson, Susan (review upcoming for Book Binge)
Not a lot to recommend this one. More coming up in my review at Book Binge.

The Truth About Lord Stoneville: Jeffries, Sabrina
A new series shot off from the School of Heiresses series. Stoneville made this one for me.

At the Duke's Pleasure (The Byrons of Braebourne, #3): Warren, Tracy Anne
Again, I do love this series, but I had higher hopes for this entry. It just wasn't as enthralling as I'd hoped.

Hard to Hold (Hold trilogy, #1): Tyler, Stephanie
Too Hot to Hold (Hold trilogy, #2): Tyler, Stephanie
Hold On Tight (Hold trilogy, #3): Tyler, Stephanie
Fantastic. Loved all 3.

Never Love A Lawman: Goodman, Jo
Oh holy mother of god. Loved this one.

Twisted Creek: Thomas, Jodi
Fabulous. I don't know why I kept putting it off. Very touching.

The Prey (Predator Trilogy, #1): Brennan, Allison
The Hunt (Predator Trilogy, #2): Brennan, Allison
The Kill (Predator Trilogy, #3): Brennan, Allison
Note to self: never donate books that you want to reread. I really enjoyed this first trilogy from Brennan. Even the 2nd time around. I'm currently reading her newest, Original Sin.

I Can See You (book #10): Rose, Karen
My only perfect read of the month. This was gripping, heartwrenching, highly emotional, and tightly written.

Hidden Fire (Firefighters of Station Five, #3): Davis, Jo
A good entry. Julian was a great hero.

Voices Carry: Stewart, Mariah
Somehow, I'd never read this one - the one that started her entire FBI series. Another wonderful book from Stewart.

Midnight Pleasures With a Scoundrel (Scoundrels of St. James, #4): Heath, Lorraine
This one was good. My favorite is still the first one in the series.

Royal's Bride: Martin, Kat
Good, solid historical, with a H/H who don't deny their love, but try ever so hard to not act upon it.  

Reese's Bride: Martin, Kat
2nd in the trilogy. Another solid book.

Holiday in Death (In Death #7): Robb, J.D.
This was a good entry in the series, but somehow I couldn't bring myself to write a review. I remember loving Eve's panic as she tried to get gifts for her newfound husband and extended family.

Conspiracy in Death (In Death #8): Robb, J.D.
Awesome. Yet again.

Coming Undone (Brown Siblings, #2): Dane, Lauren
A wowzer from Dane.

Can I keep up the tracking in February? Hmmm...

Monday, February 01, 2010

Conspiracy in Death by JD Robb

Once again, tough homicide cop Eve Dallas speaks for the dead in her quest to bring murderers to justice.

Now, however, she faces her greatest challenge in the form of a killer who strikes with cold precision, surgically removing a different organ from each of his victims. But why would anyone want them? The victims were certainly not in the necessary organ donor level of health. Besides, who needs real organs, when artificial ones are so cheaply and safely available?

As Eve begins to investigate the medical profession, it becomes clear that she has definitely ruffled some powerful feathers. And, in a startling turnabout, she becomes the center of a controversial investigation that threatens to put a ruinous end to her career. Can she deal with this unexpected personal attack with the cool objectivity needed to foil a most unscrupulous villain?

Another stellar entry in the series. As Eve tries to track down a killer, she’s stuck as the object of an internal investigation brought on by a vengeful, jealous officer. When the cop ends up dead, Eve becomes the prime suspect. And although IAB, Whitney, and Tibble all agree that she’s innocent, they have to suspend her pending the outcome of the investigation.

This truly devastates Eve like nothing else could. Her entire identity is wrapped up in being a cop, bringing order where there is none.  But through the investigation, we see how many friends Eve has amassed and how loyal they are to her. As Eve arrives home in a cab, Roarke, who has been waiting for her, has this reaction:
… he felt a bolt of fury lance through him. They’d taken her vehicle. Bastards.

He wanted to race down the steps, rip open the door, to bundle her out and carry her away somewhere, somewhere she wouldn’t hurt as he could only imagine she hurt.
But it wasn’t his anger she needed now. He came down the steps as she got out of the cab. And she stood pale as death in the hard winter light, her eyes dark, glazed, and he thought, impossibly young. (Great imagery, no?) The strength, the tough edge she wore as naturally as her weapon, was gone.

She wasn’t sure she could speak, that the words would push through her throat, it burned so. And the rest of her was numb. Dead.

“They took my badge.” Suddenly it was real, the brutal reality of it punched like a fist. And grief gushed up, hot, bitter, to spill out of her eyes. “Roarke.”

“I know.” He was there, his arms hard around her, holding tight as she began to shake. “I’m so sorry Eve. I’m so sorry.”

“What will I do? What will I do?” She clung, weeping, not even aware that he had picked her up, carried her inside into the warmth and up the stairs. “Oh God, God, God, they took my badge.”

“We’ll straighten it out. You’ll get it back. I promise you.” She was shaking so violently, it seemed her bones would crash together and shatter. He sat, tightened his grip. “Just hold onto me.”

“Don’t go away.”

“No, baby, I’ll stay right here.”

… “They made me nothing again.”

He looked down at her face, into her eyes, hollow and heavy. “No, Eve.”

“Nothing.” She turned her head away, closed her eyes, and escaped.

God, how heartwrenching is that? Robb puts you right inside their embrace.

And Summerset has the line that perhaps, brings the entire situation home. “Roarke, I insulted her and she… apologized to me. Something must be done.” I admit I laughed at the last bit.

There were some lighthearted moments as well, such as when Roarke and Eve have a snowman/snowball fight. Eve builds a big, muscled snowman, and Roarke, well…

“Yours has tits.”

“Yes, rather gorgeous ones.” Roarke stroked one snowy breast lightly. “She’ll lead your pumped-up slab of beef there around by the nose.”

Eve could only shake her head. “Pervert. Those boobs are way out of proportion.”

“A boy needs his dreams, darling.”
And so ensued a tremendous snowball fight.

And when Eve discovers that Roarke, yet again, owns a company she’s investigating:
“Do you have to own everything?”

He considered a moment. “Yes,” he said and smiled beautifully.

… “Why do you have to own everything?”

“Because, darling Eve, I can.”

Once again, there is great chemistry between McNab and Peabody (whom he calls She-body). Love it! And a couple new characters are introduced: Louise, a doctor who runs a clinic, and Officer Truehart. Looking forward to how they are integrated.

The outcome of the suspense portion was never in doubt – the whodunit was quite easy to guess. The point of this one was to connect all the dots and clear Eve while completing the investigation.

Another huge step forward in Eve’s relationships with others. We see how uncomfortable she is allowing others to help her, but at their insistence, she accepts their assistance. At the same time, she completely opens up to Roarke; lets him hold her while she cries her eyes out. Which makes it all the more powerful.

Always something thought-provoking and new in Eve and Roarke’s relationship to examine. I thought I wouldn’t be held captive over several books dealing with the same couple, but I was mistaken. Robb continues to fascinate and hold me in thrall.

One last thought about Roarke, and I keep meaning to mention it with each review… I love that he’s portrayed as quite old-fashioned in some ways. He has the height of technology at his fingertips, and uses it immensely, no… ruthlessly well. But at the same time, he prefers real coffee; cooks real meat; uses real towels after a shower; and uses his 20th century outlawed guns. Such a dichotomy and an enigma. Loving it.
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