Tuesday, March 30, 2010

YotH: The Hellion and the Highlander by Lynsay Sands

Only one man could set her heart ablaze . . .

Lady Averill Mortagne learned to control her fierce temper as a young girl. But if her father insists on parading her before one more English lord who looks askance at her flame-colored hair, she'll simply scream! Her only respite is the time she spends with Kade Stewart, the wounded Scot her brother brought home from the Crusades. Who could have imagined a Highland warrior would be the only gentleman around?

Lady Averill helped save his life, and for that Kade is truly grateful. She is also almost unbearably beautiful, but he could never subject such a sweet and gentle lady to the rough life of a Stewart laird's bride . . . or could he? When she braves an unexpected danger by his side, Averill will prove to Kade that her heart is as fiery as her hair . . . and that submitting to their scorching passion would be heaven indeed.

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

I read and really, really liked the first two books in this series. And for the first 100 pages or so, I loved it! I thought it was funny, and smart, and touching. When Averill slugs her suitor, OMG, I laughed my butt off. That helps Kade realize she's not some easy-going woman, but a strong, self-sufficient survivor. He was worried that he couldn't take her home to the Highlands because she wasn't strong enough to survive.

Averill has some self-esteem issues because she has a birthmark on her face (described as small - Kade thinks it looks like a dimple), has red hair,  and because she stammers with people she doesn't know or when she's uncomfortable.

The first 100 pages were by far the best part of the book, IMO. When sitting for yet another suitor (who thinks he's doing her a HUGE favor) and his mother, the mother says the following, talking about the Averill's shortcomings: "Besides, once you snuff the candle, it will not matter what she looks like, and you can always fill her mouth to keep her from talking. Just think of the dower as you do your husbandly duty." I laughed - such a turnabout on the ol' "Think of England" line.

There were a lot of funny parts in this one. Once Kade and Averill get married, she's gotten some advice from her maids about the wedding night, including info on how men like to think their "piffle" is big and how you should compliment them on it. Leading to Avy saying this on their wedding night: "Oh my. What a large piffle you have, my lord. Why, I would wager it's the largest and handsomest piffle in all of England!"

There's a running gag after Kade and Avy get married that every time he tries to make love to her, they are interrupted somehow. That was very cute, except they never seemed to attempt it at night in their own bed, and I wondered why. But I couldn't get past this: from the time they are married on about p 100, they almost never use each other's names again. They called each other Kade and Averill before the wedding. Once they were married, they only called each other "husband" or "wife". I've seen these names used before in other books, but there is usually a mix of that plus the character's name itself. It was like all of a sudden they both ceased to have a name. It annoyed me so much that I lowered my grade on Goodreads from a 4 to a 3.

Much of the focus in the 2nd half of the book also turned away from the main couple and onto external conflicts. Had Sands kept the focus on Kade and Avy, the book would have benefitted. Also, Kade was a POW for some time, and didn't seem to have any lasting effects from it. I would have liked if somehow that was imprinted on him.

Overall, I think this had the potential to be my favorite, but the 2nd half focus on the external rather than the couple and the incessant use of "husband" and "wife" in lieu of names irritated me enough that it's my least favorite of the three.

The Devil Of The Highlands series goes in this order:
Devil of the Highlands
Taming the Highland Bride
The Hellion and the Highlander

Monday, March 22, 2010

Romance snobs?


So... last month, I went on a cruise w/my sister. She has read romance as long as I can remember. But when I pulled out a book to read, she commented how I was reading that "trash", just like Mom. Turns out, my book was a historical. At the time, she was reading Fern Michaels. Apparently, my sister believes that the following are appropriate reading, and not to be considered "trash":
Nora Roberts
Fern Michaels
Debbie Macomber
Danielle Steel
Jennifer Crusie
etc.

You get the idea, right? Contemporaries only, and only from high profile authors, apparently.

Don't get me wrong. I'm kind of on a contemporary kick right now. I love contemporaries. But does reading someone other than a NY Times bestselling contemporary by some of the most famous romance authors ever make it trash? I accused my sister of being a romance snob, and she is. As romance readers, we have a hard enough time moving out beyond others' stereotypes. Do we really need that from people who read romances? While they hold a romance in their hands?

Now, no offense to any of these incredibly famous and prolific authors on my sister's list, but they don't float my boat. Nora? Well, I've never been able to get into her books, although I love the In Death books. They have a totally different flavor. Fern Michaels and Debbie Macomber bore me to death. Not sure why, but I think their books are too sweettame for me. Jennifer Crusie? I know I'm pretty much alone in this, but her books don't do it for me, either. Odd, I know. And Danielle Steel? OK, she wrote my first real "adult" romance, The Promise. Oh, how I loved that book. And the next 3 or 4 that followed. But after that? Ummm, yeah. Do I need to elaborate?

I thought to myself that I should pick out the most sex-filled book I could find from my e-reader - you know, multiple partners doing the really nasty with some BDSM mixed in - and give it her to read. Or maybe a really hot m/m romance. I wonder how long it would take me to go from reading trash to also being a pervert. And can I say? My husband likes me that way. He thinks the day I found my first EC book was the best day of his life, LOL. Hers? Well, they'd both have to get up off the couch long enough to make it to the bedroom. Because sex should be had on a bed. At night. In the dark. In order to avoid being trashy, you know.

What do you think? Are there some genres that you consider trashy in romance? Or are you happy, like me, to read across genres and let the story guide you? I've certainly read some books I'd call trashy, but no genres or authors in particular. How do you respond to a romance snob?

On a totally different note, here's what I saw in my Amazon recommends today. No trash there!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Book Alert: Vicki Hinze!!!

OK, so I posted the previous Squires bookwatch before I saw this. Vicki Hinze has a new book out!! I'm a huge fan. Her backlist is notoriously difficult to find, but I've read almost all of it. I'm a little torn, because this is released from Random House Religious. That makes me wary. But I know I'll give the first one a try and see how I feel about it. She just writes amazing suspense. I'm hopeful that the "religious" part is simply spirituality rather than anything too deep. I'll let y'all know!


THEIR ELUSIVE ENEMIES TOOK EVERYTHING. NOW THEY WANT MORE.

Crossroads Crisis Center owner Benjamin Brandt was a content man—in his faith, his work, and his family. Then in a flash, everything he loved was snatched away. His wife and son were murdered, and grief-stricken Ben lost faith. Determination to find their killers keeps him going, but after three years of dead ends and torment, his hope is dying too. Why had he survived? He'd failed to protect his family.

Now, a mysterious woman appears at Crossroads seeking answers and help—a victim who eerily resembles Ben's deceased wife, Susan. A woman robbed of her identity, her life, of everything except her faith—and Susan's necklace.

The connections between the two women mount, exceeding coincidence, and to keep the truth hidden, someone is willing to kill. Finding out who and why turns Ben and the mystery woman's situation from dangerous to deadly. Their only hope for survival is to work together, trust each other, and face whatever they discover head on, no matter how painful. But will that be enough to save their lives and heal their tattered hearts?

Book Alert: A Twist in Time

Susan Squires has a new book and it looks like it's not a vampire book! Wow. But it is a time travel - which I love. If you know any different about the vampire thing, can you let me know? Anyone read this yet?


An expert in Leonardo da Vinci's works, Lucy Rossano recognizes the centuries-old time machine da Vinci said he built the moment she sees it in a Stanford lab. Fascinated in spite of the danger, she uses her knowledge to go back in time-landing in the middle of a fierce battle in tenth-century Britain. Panicked, she escapes to modern-day San Francisco, bringing something back with her: a seductive, fiercely intelligent Viking named Galen.

The presence of this enigmatic, devastatingly sexy stranger is just one of the new complications in Lucy's life. There are others who want to harness the time machine's power for treacherous ends, and they need Lucy to do it. Galen becomes first her protector, then the lover she's always dreamed of. But danger is drawing closer and time is running out. For Galen and Lucy, it's now…or forever.

Available now.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Cover Alert: Devils on Horseback: Lee

Look what Beth Williamson posted today. The next cover from her Devils on Horseback series. And how smart is it that finally something is right in the cover world? This hero only has 1 arm. The cover? Yup, you can only see 1 arm. Smarticles. I've been waiting for Lee's book, and here it is! But I have to wait until May :(



When anger and tenacity collide, sparks are inevitable.

The Civil War took more than Lee Blackwood's arm. It took his confidence, his pride…and hope that any woman will see him as more than half a man. His friendships helped keep the demons at bay—until now. As each Devil has found happiness, Lee is left alone to cope with the darkness that claws at his soul.

Genevieve Blanchard has only one thing going for her: her no-good late husband’s run-down farm. That, and a fancy name no one can spell might get her a cup full of dirt in Tanger. Room, board and seamstress skills aren’t much, but it’s all she can offer any man willing to help her bring in her wheat crop.

Reluctantly Lee takes on the job, the widow’s smart-mouthed daughter and his growing attraction to a woman who stubbornly refuses to see him as anything less than whole. Slowly, his bitterness begins to fade under the light of their blooming love.

Then the truth of her past threatens to rip away everything: her farm, her child—and the man she loves. But this time, there’s a line of Devils between her and looming disaster.


Devils on Horseback Book 4
Samhain Publishing
May 2010 (eBook)
February 2011 (print)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Original Sin by Allison Brennan

Haunted by chilling memories of demonic possession and murder, Moira O’Donnell has spent seven years hunting down her mother, Fiona, whose command of black magic has granted her unprecedented control of the underworld. Now Moira’s global search has led her to a small California town that’s about to become hell on earth.

Tormented by his own terrifying past and driven by powers he can’t explain, Rage Cooper joins Moira’s dangerous quest. But Fiona is one devilish step ahead. Hungry for greater power, eternal youth, and stunning beauty, the sorceress is unleashing upon the mortal world the living incarnations of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Together with a demonologist, a tough female sheriff, and a true-crime writer chasing the ultimate story, Moira and Rafe are humanity’s last best chance to snatch salvation from the howling jaws of damnation.

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

I’m not sure where to start on this review. I had a very difficult time getting through this one. My disclaimer up front, as anyone who reads this blog already knows, is that I’m not a big fan of the paranormal or supernatural. But I was approached to review a copy of this book, and being a huge Allison Brennan fan, I was hopeful that I would enjoy it like I’ve enjoyed paranormals from some of my other favorite authors. I don’t think that was the case here.

I expected a paranormal, but I also was waiting for Allison Brennan’s voice to shine through. I think there was so much worldbuilding to do and so much backstory to fill that I didn’t get that voice until about 2/3 of the way through the book. Having said that, I can objectively say that this book was well-written, well constructed, and I imagine that fans of the supernatural, witches, demons, etc will eat this one up. Had the subject matter interested me, I can believe that I would have been riveted.

Moira is an excellent heroine – tough yet vulnerable, strong but with past hurts that haunt her. She knows who she is, and accepts her past wrongdoings. Given the back blurb, I expected to see a lot more of Rafe. But there didn’t seem to be a lot of facetime for him. What I did see showed me a sensitive soul, but a man willing and able to stand up for and protect what he believes in and those he loves. I felt as though there was more relationship building between Moira and Anthony, the hero of the 2nd couple, and brother to the man that Moira loved and tragically lost than between Moira and Rafe, but that was likely due to the lack of facetime for Rafe and Moira and Anthony coming to terms with their past.

The plethora of religious undertones in this novel lessened my enjoyment of it; I found myself skimming over portions in order to avoid lengthy explanations. But I think that’s my own personal prejudice. The subject matter of this book (see blurb) combined with the necessity for extended religious & explanatory scenes (and yes they were a necessity) made this one of my least favorite books I’ve read. And how it pains me to say that, because I likely won’t be reading the rest of the series – at least not as it comes out. On the objective note, I gave it a 3 on Goodreads because of how well done it is. I applaud Brennan for writing something totally creative and different, and doing it well, while at the same time I want to hate her because I didn’t care for book 1 of a long series. Of course I don’t hate her; it’s my selfish desire for books written in the Allison Brennan format that I love so much.

I should reiterate that I can objectively say that it is incredibly well written, well thought out, intense, and gripping. Fans of this type of book should buy it and savor it, because I believe it is an excellent book for fans of the genre. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, unfortunately. Which sucks for me because it means no more Allison Brennan for me for a while. This is book 1 of a 7-book series. Find out more about the series on Allison Brennan’s web site.

ETA:
Allison Brennan contacted me to let me know I won't have to wait until this series is done for more of her awesomeness in straight RS. Here's what she said: "I wanted to make sure that you knew that I wasn't writing all seven books in the paranormal series in a row. Two come out this year, then it will likely be one a year or every 9 months after that. I'm going to also be writing a series based on Lucy Kincaid and her brother, Patrick, from the No Evil series. The first one comes out this November, with the second one tentatively slotted for spring 2011."

Patrick's story! Woo-freakin'-hoo!!!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Feb reads and other stray thoughts

Here are my reads for February. I had 2 5-star reads (on Goodreads). Now because I don't rate books here, it's been really difficult for me to do it on Goodreads. But I'm trying. And the experiment is going ok so far, but I keep forgetting to come onto GR and post a book I'm reading. I think I got all the books down. Here's what I read in February. Looks like 16 books - far fewer than last month, but I think it's because the Olympics were on, plus I was trying to get through a book that was really slow going for me.

Title Author My Goodreads Rating
My Darling Caroline (review coming for Book Binge)Ashworth, Adele 4
Be My Baby (Konigsburg, #3) Benjamin, Meg 4
Waking Nightmare (Mindhunters, #1) Brant, Kylie 4
Suddenly Camp, Candace 4
The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq Crawford, John 4.5
The Indy Man (Indiana) (Janet Dailey Americana, No 14) Dailey, Janet 3
Leave Me Breathless Dimon, HelenKay 4
All Night with a Rogue: Lords of Vice Hawkins, Alexandra 3
The Diplomat's Wife Jenoff, Pam 3.5
Tricked Truths Kery, Beth 3
To Wed a Wicked Earl Parker, Olivia 3
Loyalty in Death (In Death, #9) Robb, J.D. 5
Witness in Death (In Death, #10) Robb, J.D. 4
Judgment in Death (In Death #11) Robb, J.D. 4
Taming the Highland Bride Sands, Lynsay 3.75
Slow Heat (Pacific Heat, #2) Shalvis, Jill 5



I started a few books in Feb that I haven't finished yet, which is unusual for me. Most notably, I am having the devil of a time getting through Original Sin by Allison Brennan. I haven't gotten far enough into it to recognize her voice yet, which disappoints me. I've always loved her books. And I'm especially disappointed that she'll be writing a 7-book long paranormal series. I was hoping that her voice would make it work for me, but so far no luck. But I promised to review this one, so I'm trying to slog through it and hoping it will get better for me. And keeping an open mind, because so many people I know loved it.

Another thought: I found The Indy Man in a UBS, and it was one of my all-time favorites in Janet Dailey's Americana (state) series when I originally read it 25 years ago. I was saddened to note that it was very dated, and it didn't thrill me as much as it did the first time around. I doubt I'll pick up any more if I find them, simply because I don't want to spoil the good memories I have of this entire series.

I've noticed I seem to be on a contemporary kick right now. Odd how it goes in cycles, isn't it?

I'm totally looking forward to the next couple days - I have the following books already in the mail to me. My only problem? Which of the 3 contemps to read first? How do I inhale them all at once?
Something about You - Julie James
Release - Beth Kery
Promise Me Tonight - Sara Lindsey
Naked Edge - Pamela Clare

I'm also in the middle of Betrayal in Death as we speak, so I'm happy about that.

How was your reading month? What are you looking forward to reading in March?
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