Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cover goodness... or not

Oh my. While cleaning out some old boxes, I came across this gem from 1996. Not only is the title craptastic, but he's wearing her robe! And the series title - From Here to Paternity. *love*

Back cover copy:
Carver Venner got a double shock when he opened his door that morning: a twelve-year-old kid that he never knew he had—clutching the hand of the sexiest woman he had ever seen. And though Carver would have loved to concentrate on social worker Maddy Garrett, there was another problem at hand. Like what to do about his daughter….

Raising Rachel, with her dubious ideas about everything from nutrition to education and her…colorful vocabulary, was bound to be a challenge. And Carver could use all the help he could get. But he soon realized that what he required from Maddy was more than just professional assistance…

You can get this on Kindle. I'm sure you can't wait!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ARC review: Endless Heart by Emma Lang

Blurb via Goodreads:
She’s learning to live. He’s forgotten how. Love will be their teacher.

Lettie Brown has lived in the shadow of violence. After escaping her brutal past, she’s finally at home in Forestville, Wyoming, where she would live a normal life—if she knew how. She’s content working at The Blue Plate and printing the town newspaper, if not happy. Then a stranger stumbles into her world and turns everything upside down.

Shane Murphy is a shell of a man, destroyed by the aftermath of the war, his personal tragedies and a penchant for cheap whiskey. When he lands, literally, on Lettie’s feet, his future takes a hard right turn.

As they fumble through a relationship that should not have been, a deep love takes root, one that cannot be denied. Together they discover a bond as unbreakable as steel and as undeniable as life itself—until the past rears its ugly head and threatens the happiness they’ve found in each other.


The western historical is one of my favorites. Emma Lang (aka Beth Williamson) excels at this genre, and in particular, the post Civil War period. The time period invites horrendously broken heroes, and this story is no exception. And oh, how she writes those amazing wounded heroes. However, Lang/Williamson also excels at the broken heroine. Here we have Lettie and Shane, 2 people so wounded I wondered how on earth they could ever make it together.

This is one of those rare times that I recommend reading the previous books before this one. Although it's not totally necessary, you get Lettie's backstory there. And it's a heartbreaker. I doubt it was unique either. An abused wife in the early Mormon community, she was freed when her husband was killed trying to steal her back after she ran away from him with Angeline, the heroine of the previous story and Lettie's uhhh... co-wife. (Is that a term? Not sure what the wives of the same man call themselves). Lettie is brash, rude, and drab, all in her efforts to protect herself from more pain.

Shane came home after the war and drank himself into a stupor, losing his wife and daughter tragically. Several years later, he's still buried in the bottom of a bottle. I love how Lang doesn't whitewash his problem with alcoholism. He's smelly, lice-infested, definitely not hero material. His introduction to Lettie is when he throws up all over her shoes. Mmmm. Who wouldn't want that? She manages to show Shane at rock bottom, but also lets him pull himself out of the depths of despair and become hero material. (Side note: for another amazing alcoholic hero, read Williamson's Zeke.)

Lettie very reluctantly nurses him back to health, and we're shown that Shane really does have manners and is a fine man, albeit one who is struggling with sobriety and humanity. He and Lettie come together slowly, each nursing longstanding hurts. Their attraction is undeniable, much as they try, and their shared history of grief is one that brings understanding and eventually respect and love.

I loved the small touch of the paranormal (and it is very small indeed) with the spirit of Sam's mother guiding them together through shared erotic dreams. (Sam is the hero of the previous book).

Once again, Lang/Williamson pens a heartbreaking, sobering look at post-Civil War America and manages to make it an uplifting, rewarding experience.

The previous books:
Ruthless Heart
Restless Heart

Note: I received an ARC of this from the author (and thank you so much!).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

TBR Challenge: Wildest Hearts by Jayne Ann Krentz

Annie Lyncroft knew her scheme was outrageous. She'd come to the elegant penthouse to meet Oliver Rain, the richest and possibly the most dangerous man in the Pacific Northwest. Annie needed this sensual, secretive corporate maverick for what she was about to propose. Marriage!

With her brother Danny missing after a mysterious plane crash, Annie is struggling to protect his hot electronics company from the sharks who think he's not coming back. But fanciful, ethical Annie -- who usually runs a bizarre bric-a-brac shop knows Danny's alive, and she's determined to keep his company safe by putting his biggest investor at the helm. When Oliver actually says yes to the marriage of convenience, Annie dreamily envisions a few platonic weeks of helping him become a sensitive New Age guy. Oliver has a different plan; his cold, gorgeous eyes have been watching Annie, and he sees his chance to seduce the beautiful schemer. Love is the wild card destined to teach these two strong-willed opposites a lesson: icy control might run the business world, but all hell is about to break loose in the passionate territory of the heart.

This month's TBR Challenge is to read a book from before 2000. This one is from 1993.

I really enjoyed this book. I admit to the reservations about a hero named Oliver, but the stereotype was turned on its head. Oliver was a man who, left to his own devices, likely would have fit his name's stereotype, but instead was a strong man and a ruthless businessman.

I loved the time period of this book. In 1993, I was in my late 20s, living the time period in the same way that the characters were. No cell phones. People couldn't get a hold of someone at the touch of a button - you had to wait until you were where the phone was. CDs were still new enough to be spelled out in capital letters and full words: Compact Disc. People still had diskettes on their computers and wireless was sure to be the next big technology. Awesome.

I loved how Annie manipulated Oliver. Subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, lol. Although I called who the villain was pretty quickly after it was clear there was a suspense plot, it didn't really undermine my enjoyment. Since I began reading romance in the early to mid 80s, the book didn't feel anachronistic to me. Things that would likely bother younger readers used to more modern times didn't bother me. I especially like that in a time when it didn't happen frequently, the book was written from both Annie & Oliver's POVs equally.

I was challenged to read this, then gifted the book when I told HelenKay Dimon I wasn't a fan of Krentz (or either of her alter egos). So, big thanks go to HelenKay. I definitely liked this one. While I still wouldn't call myself a Krentz fan, I still got a lot of enjoyment out of my Sunday morning read

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Heart of Little Faith by Jennifer Wilck

Via Lily Livingston is a widow raising her six-year-old daughter, Claire, in New York City. Devastated by her husband's death three years ago, she's in no hurry to fall in love again. Besides, trying to balance her career with motherhood leaves her little time for romance.

With a wheelchair instead of a white horse, and a vow against falling in love again as his armor, Gideon Stone is the last person Lily expects to sweep her off her feet. But when a business agreement forces the two of them together, that is exactly what happens. As they navigate the minefield that fast represents their relationship, can either of them overcome the obstacles to find true happiness in each other's arms? The answer is yes, but the bumps along the way demonstrate that neither of them can go it alone

I follow this author on twitter, and wanted to read something of hers. I was completely intrigued and excited by the idea of a disabled hero in a wheelchair who wouldn't magically be fixed, so I picked this book over her other, Skin Deep. Also, a portion of the proceeds goes to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. That rocks something fierce.

This is a debut novel, and it reads like one. There is a lot to like here, and a lot that can be improved upon.

I really liked these people. Both the main characters and the secondary characters. They are all nice people. Regular people. They all have a great story to tell. I liked that Lily is still mourning her husband, but is still willing to take a risk and open up to Gideon. She is a great mom, and her daughter, Claire, is adorable, without being precocious or too cutesy. Lily has real-life problems, such as needing a babysitter, and having daycare issues.

Gideon seems like a really nice guy, too. On the surface, he seems really well adjusted to the accident that left him a paraplegic, but he does have self-esteem issues stemming from the departure of his ex-girlfriend immediately following his accident. He's a family guy, who really wants nothing out of life except a happy home life filled with a wife and kids. Unfortunately, he feels like he can't saddle a woman with his less-than-whole self.

The secondary characters are great, too. Gideon's sister Samantha, his best friend, Tony, and Lily's friend and boss Anne, are all supportive, but also not afraid to tell it like it is. Her daughter Claire is a realistic 6 year old girl, filled with adorbz but also a little sensitive and still throwing the occasional tantrum. She adores Gideon on sight, and the feeling is mutual, first because Gideon loves kids, but also because Claire just sees him, not a wheelchair. She accepts him at face value for the awesome guy he is.

This book is set in NYC, and Wilck does a great job of showing not just the hustle and bustle of the city, but also the little neighborhoods scattered throughout. Lily and Claire ride their bikes to their local park, there are little restaurants to pop into, and friendly neighbors. It almost feels like a character in and of itself.

Where I thought this book fell short was partly in the editing. It could have been much, much shorter and much, much tighter and still told the same story. There is a lot of extraneous information that only weighs it down. There is also a whole lot of telling, not showing. As an example, in one scene, Gideon is on the phone, and is in his home office. In the middle of his phone conversation, there is a lengthy description of all the rooms in his apartment, rather than, say, the chair he was sitting in, or the overall feel of the room. After this description, we are taken back to the conversation. I felt like this was TMI, and it took me away from what was happening.

Also, and this was one of the biggies for me, in her desire to show Gideon as a regular guy who just happens to be in a wheelchair, I think Wilck shortchanged his obstacles. For example, he goes out and about in the city constantly, takes cabs and the subway. I imagine while this is the norm, it has to be a big PITA, especially the cab part of it. Maybe it isn't, but it felt like it should have been to me. I can't imagine that they all lived on the ground floor in NY, but so many buildings there are walk-ups without elevators. And they are tiny. Was this a problem for him? I wanted to know all these things and more. I wanted to see why he thought he wasn't worthy, the issues he had to face, and the impact it had on him and those around him.

Also, with the closed door nature of the sex, I felt shortchanged. This seemed to me to be the perfect opportunity to increase intimacy between Lily and Gideon. Was it uncomfortable for him to get out of the chair and into the bed while they were being romantic? How did he have sex without the use of his legs? These seemed like missed opportunities to draw the h & h closer, and to let us see more interactions that might have served to increase the trust and faith between them. We are told a tiny bit through Lily's recollection, but aren't shown, which would have been very powerful, IMO.

The title of the book is perfect, and describes Gideon to a T. He wanted to believe in a HEA for himself, but just didn't have enough faith in himself, and projected his past hurts onto Lily. She in turn never said to him, "I love you, dammit. TALK TO ME." So he withdraws and she accepts him back without question every time he apologizes - until the last time, when she doesn't. But as soon as he apologizes, she does. There needed to be a better grovel, IMO. The pattern made me impatient with them both, wanting to smack them upside the head.

I definitely want to try Wilck's next book, because I like the life that she infused into her characters. They are warm, likable people with a lovely story to tell. She has a gentle voice which fit the story perfectly. I'm hopeful that in the next one, there is more show than tell, as well as tighter editing. But overall, a good debut.

Available at Whiskey Creek Press and the usual retailers.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Addicted To You by Bethany Kane

Irish film director Rill Pierce fled to the tiny, backwoods town of Vulture ‘s Canyon, seeking sanctuary and solitude after a devastating tragedy. Once, his raw sex appeal and sultry Irish accent made women across the globe swoon. Now, he’s barely recognizable…

But Katie Hughes, his best friend’s sister, is not the type of woman to give up on a man like Rill. She blazes into Vulture’s Canyon determined to save him from himself. Instead, she finds herself unleashing years of pent-up passion. In a storm of hunger and need, Katie and Rill forget themselves and the world. But will Rill’s insatiable attraction to Katie heal his pain—or will it just feed the darkness within him?

Came close to reading this book in one sitting. Just utterly captivated. What a gorgeous, gorgeous story. (Blurb is not worthy, just saying.)

Kane stunned me a bit. I've read Kery, with mixed results. Was crazy about Wicked Burn but couldn't finish Daring Time. I chalked the latter up to my aversion to time travel and confidently selected Addicted To You from my TBR list, expecting to like it. Did not expect to be knocked flat by her prose, voice, characterization. All of it. Stunning.

Addicted To You is the story of the relationship that grows between Ril and Katie. They are not strangers. But they are not best friends in the typical friends-to-lover stories. I don't like those, BTW. Always filled with too much secret pining on one or the other's part. Here, Ril and Katie have not seen one another in awhile. And before that, he was married to her best friend. I imagined--with Kane's help--their years as friends. Honest and real, and without a boatload of secret pining. Katie does admit to a long-time attraction to Ril, crushing on him. But it didn't offend or annoy because I never had the sense that it consumed her. This is a woman who has lived her life and loved her friends.

When Ril's wife--Katie's best friend--dies in a car accident, Ril removes himself from their high profile life and commences a year and more long relationship with a whiskey bottle. Addicted To You starts when Katie arrives, unannounced, to save him from this self-imposed exile. And POW, Kane grips her reader--without backstory, or setting up the scene, or introductions. Like I said, stunning.

Kane goes on to deepen their relationship--in the same manner. She doesn't tell us, she shows us. Invites us in, to live with characters that, for all their emotional struggles, remain true to themselves and surprisingly responsible. Ril is grieving, though not for reasons we'd expect. He is also resisting an attraction to Katie that he fears will tip him backwards, into behavior and need he has ruthlessly denied for years. Neither of these emotional ditches keep him from moving forward. I appreciated that as it had the overall effect of showing us that Ril is in fact, a grown-up--an experienced participant in his own life. That was likely the strongest tug on my attention--Ril and Katie's self-possession.

Kane adds to the layers of Ril's maturity by giving him a sexually dominant nature and by making him a bit older than Katie--and physically, significantly larger than her. Sexy beyond words (for this reader anyway) and effective only because Kane infuses Katie with her own power and tenacity. Again, Kane defies stereotype and expectation here. This book is about their emotional relationship. It is not erotic romance convenienced by a nice love story. Their boundaries--or lack thereof--in the bedroom do not lend any more or any less to the story than do their mutual and individual emotional journeys. It's powerful stuff.

Against a backdrop that includes quirky rural folks, Kane manages to keep the camera primarily on Ril and Katie. Aside from one outsider visit (Katie's brother, Ril's best friend), this is a tightly contained telling. That visit, BTW, emotionally powerful. To match the rest of the pages in this book. Like I said, just gorgeous. And funny. I couldn't tear myself away from Ril and Katie. Pretty much one sitting. And now I think I may have to buy a copy of this book to just have nearby.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

April reads

April was another slow month for me. Looks like 10 books were read. Some were good, some were disappointments, none knocked me on my ass, even though I gave a 5 to Hunger Games.

OK, now I'm caught up. And thinking I could use another week off work.

Trouble Me by Laura Moore
3.5 stars
This is the 3rd book in the Rosewood trilogy, and like the others, I liked it. For some reason, the fixation on the horse talk (and education) bothered me more in this one than the others. I also wondered how on earth Jade didn't recognize Rob, since only 5 years had passed. It bothered me throughout the entire book. But it was a nice story of redemption (the heroine) and I would read another from Moore.

The Scarred Heir by Denise Patrick
3.5 stars
I enjoyed this book. I especially liked the hero. With interesting twists and turns around a case of mistaken identity. The part that really knocked it down for me was the entire switching places piece by Max's brother (and potential villain). It seemed a huge far stretch to go to cover up a family secret, and one that could be so easily debunked, I wondered how he got away with it. But the love story was lovely and saved the book for me.

Caught in the Act by Jill Sorenson
3.5 stars
I don't know how Sorenson takes undesirable characters and makes them sympathetic, but she does it. And while I felt very wary at the idea of the heroine blatantly and illegally smuggling someone over the border, I imagine this is not unusual in any way. But I wondered how on earth Sorenson would reconcile a border agent looking past this. And to her credit, Adam had a very hard time with it. There's always an interesting secondary romance, and I found myself even more interested in the outcome of that than with the main romance. I am definitely looking forward to the next book, which I would hope chronicles that story.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) by Suzanne Collins
5 stars
OK, I get the hype surrounding this. It was great. I originally downloaded it as a way to get my son to finish it to get outside reading credit in his English class. I challenged him that I could finish it before him (he had about 70 pages to go at the time). He beat me, but not by much, because I couldn't put it down. And interestingly, I bought Catching Fire, but have very little desire to read it. Wonder why that is.

Twisted (Tracers, #5) by Laura Griffin
4 stars
Another great book in the Tracers series by Laura Griffin. I originally gave it 5 stars, but thinking back, I had a very hard time getting over the fact that a rookie detective was allowed to come in and basically take over the biggest case on the docket. But I really love the way Griffin writes suspense, and I liked the world-weary Mark a lot.

When She Wasn't Looking by HelenKay Dimon
4 stars
I liked the smart characters, the romance while incredibly fast was great, and I adore Dimon's writing style, her voice, and the fact that her heroes come across as real. They are exhausted, they get hurt, and they manage to rely on their women, knowing that they are also super smart & capable. Read the full review here.

True Devotion (Uncommon Heroes #1) by Dee Henderson
A generous 3 stars
While I enjoyed the interactions between the characters, this was way heavy on the praying and God talk. Don't get me wrong, it's a Christian publisher and an author who writes only inspys, and I knew what I was getting into. I found that if I skipped completely over the pages and pages of prayer, I liked the story and the characters. I wish this had been just a little more understated, because then I'd read more of the series, but unfortunately, I had a hard time believing that everyone Kelly met (including a "random" teenage boy) had the same views and strength of conviction as she did. This book does what it advertises, so it doesn't seem fair to grade it down, but I hated being conked over the head with the Jesus talk. For a look at a book that does this oh so right, I recommend this.

Callum (The Cursed Clan, #1) by Melissa Schroeder
4 stars
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, though I do love Schroeder's work. It seemed like it was to be a historical, but ended up being a bit of a paranormal instead. One that sucked me right in. And I can't wait to find out what happens to the rest of Callum's family and how the curse gets broken.

Of Noble Birth by Brenda Novak
3.5 stars
This is Novak's first published book (I believe). I liked it a lot. I liked both the characters and the plot. And felt sad at the vengeance that drives some people - (mini-spoiler) I thought there might be redemption for Nathaniel's brother, but it was not to be. I enjoyed it, but have to admit, that Novak writes a better thriller than historical. I have to wonder if she ever thinks of writing another. I'd read it in a second.

Where All the Dead Lie (Taylor Jackson, #7) by JT Ellison
4 stars
Read for SBTB RITA review-a-thon. Will link to it from here when that review goes up. Though I will say that I enjoyed it tremendously.

Friday, May 04, 2012

March reads

Better late than never. I read 15 books in March. Still feeling kind of meh about reading, which still makes me sad. I miss my books. Eventually I'll get back to it. It's been an interesting week, and I imagine I'll post something about it shortly. Anyway, the reading was good this month, if not fantastic, and while I enjoyed the books I read, almost nothing overwhelmed me. With the exception of A Week to be Wicked. Awesome blossom.

Foreign Affair by Shelli Stevens
3 stars
I adore Shelli Stevens' writing, and this was no exception. I loved the way the hero fell flat on his face for the heroine. What I didn't love was the way the big misunderstanding drew out for sooooooooooo long. I did like that Stevens gave them time apart, because a week in Paris does not a HEA make, but they spent so much time apart, I wondered why either of them cared anymore.

Trust in Me by Beth Cornelison
3 stars
A definite beta hero (and a regular, struggling to make ends meet guy, too) and a heroine struggling to learn how to make it on her own. I liked a lot about this book. It was very relationship focused, which I really liked, but it moved too slowly for me to ever get fully invested in it.

Forever in One Second by Finn Marlowe
3 stars
I really liked the first half of this book - the first section was very intense, with a near death experience for one of the heroes and a reluctant hero in the second. I even think the paranormal aspect of it could have been immensely intriguing. Where it lost me was with the suspense part, and how crazy and off-course the book got when the author chose to focus on that rather than the relationship. This one is m/m.

True Colors by Joyce Lamb
4 stars
This is book 2 in the trilogy, and while I could tell that important things happened in the first book (for example, the h/h already have a well established friendship/almost relationship), I didn't have any difficulty jumping right into this one. It was really interesting, with the paranormal/psychic piece of it being a secondary focus and the thriller & relationship being more primary. While I could understand John's reluctance to believe in Alex's abilities, he didn't buy in soon enough for me. I really liked the relationship between the sisters.

True Shot by Joyce Lamb
3.5 stars
I picked this up immediately after reading True Colors. This is book 3 in the trilogy, and brings all 3 sisters back together. The biggest problem that I had with this was the same issue I had with Jo Davis' Under Fire. After a while, I found myself asking what else could possibly happen to this guy? It brought to mind the line from Airplane: "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue." Again, I really liked the psychic aspects of the book, and this one cleared up a lot of the questions I had from the 2nd book. But I still came away feeling rather meh about the book and thinking that it could have been so much better.

Wherever You Are by Sharon Cullen
4 stars
A woman goes from the 21st century and wakes up on an 18th century pirate ship. I really liked the concept, and the characters. I liked that neither Morgan nor Juliana had forgotten the other. I thought the pirate lifestyle portrayed was realistic. I liked the story overall, but thought the overabundance of anachonistic language on Morgan's part especially (even before we find out about the time travel), but even on the part of his crew, seemed too obvious and should have been questioned by someone in the form of "what are you saying?". But at its heart, it's a fated lovers story and I enjoyed it despite my issues with it.

Rocky Mountain Desire (Six Pack Ranch, #3) by Vivian Arend
4 stars
Once again, I really liked the story about the Colemans. I was really worried with the Helen angle, but Vivia Arend took it somewhere very subtlely, and I have a feeling that Helen may yet have more story to tell. As for Hope and Matt, I really liked them together. I like that although she let him take control in the bedroom, she was her own person. And that they talked through their issues. Like grownups and everything. I truly believe in their HEA.

A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove, #1) by Tessa Dare
5 stars
Beautiful. Funny. Brilliant. Read my review here.

Confessions of an Improper Bride (Donovan Sisters, #1) by Jennifer Haymore
4 stars
Such a refreshing take on the mistaken identity/switching place with your twin theme. And heartbreaking at the same time it's lovely. I do so love Haymore's writing. Read my review here.

Once Upon a Wicked Night (Donovan Sisters, #1.5) by Jennifer Haymore
3 stars
Very short novella that sets up book 2. I felt, after having read the 2nd book, that it could have simply been included in Olivia's book. Page count restrictions perhaps?

Secrets of an Accidental Duchess (Donovan Sisters, #2) by Jennifer Haymore
4 stars
I adored the romance in this book. Loved. It. I thought that too much time was spent on the suspense and (requisite) kidnapping. Haymore's writing is so gorgeous that I'll forgive nearly anything. Read the review here.

Outside the Law by Kara Lennox
3 stars
I enjoyed the hero, and thought at first the heroine's issues were well done. But she seemed unwilling to try and overcome those issues, and Mitch had too much else on his plate to properly address it. Overall, a meh read.

A Simple Amish Christmas by Vannetta Chapman
4 stars
Beautifully written, this is the perfect example of creating a romance with no sex. And I mean none. But in Chapman's capable hands, I didn't miss anything. And it's also the perfect example of how to incorporate religion onto an inspy. It's such an integral part of the Amish way of life that there was no need to stress it anywhere, it became almost another character. I really recommend it. A few more thoughts here.

Claiming Colleen by Beth Kery
4 stars
I loved the continuation of the story arc here. Loved Eric, and how he admitted early on that he wanted Colleen, even though he wasn't quite sure for what. Colleen's been very prickly over these 3 books, and she stayed true to form. I wish she had warmed up sooner. But I really liked that she owned it, and apologized to Eric. The evolution of all these characters from animosity, distrust, and fear to acceptance and becoming a family has been lovely to watch, and I think, quite realistically portrayed. A well done series. I'll definity be interested to read oldest sister Deirdre's story, since she really is at the heart of it all.

Exclusively Yours (Kowalski Family, #1) by Shannon Stacey
5 stars
A reread for me. And I still loved it. The joy, love, and humor Stacey infuses into this family, while at the same time giving them real-life problems to overcome is wonderful. Read my original review here.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Captivated by Lauren Dane

Via Vincenz Fardelle, exiled son of the Supreme Leader of the Imperialist Universe, has spent much of the last ten years working to stop the threat his father poses. But he’s not alone in his quest. Julian Marsters has lost his best friend and countless others in the war and has made vengeance his only goal. In each other, Julian and Vincenz find not only like minds, but kindred spirits.

However unexpected their relationship, everything changes for Vincenz and Julian when Hannah Black comes into their lives. Having been captured and held in near total isolation by imperialist troops, their immediate response is to protect her.

Emotionally shattered but resilient, Hannah rebuilds herself. Because of the warm safety she finds in the arms of Julian and Vincenz she becomes someone harder, stronger and bent on preventing the Imperialists from harming anyone else.

For the two men, wrestling with their passionate feelings for Hannah is only the beginning. War is about to send all three into harm’s way and an equally dangerous secret could tear them apart.

My thanks to Lauren Dane for supplying an ARC of Captivated. It released on Tuesday, and if you don't already have it, you should run out, or run to your device of choice and buy it now.

What I liked:
Julian - so conflicted. So afraid to open himself up again. And yet he's let Vincenz in. He's all protective alpha, but still angry, and underneath all that anger you can see what an amazing man he is - a standup friend, a supportive lover, and a fierce warrior.

Vincenz - I love how he balances Julian, grounds him. He gets all soft and mushy around Hannah, showing a different side of himself. The betrayal he must feel and the strength he showed by leaving his family and 'verse to do the right thing is astounding. Although Julian has a much stronger presence, it's Vincenz who is the glue holding them all together. Steadfast, strong, loving.

Hannah - I liked that Dane gave her lots and lots of time to recover from her ordeal, and even at the end, there are still times when she retreats into herself. She makes the guys see that there is more to life than fighting the war, and makes them want to be better people. For her, for each other, and for themselves. We see her come back to herself, into her strength as she undergoes treatment to regain her memory of things she might know that could help win the war.

The relationship(s): I loved the way the relationship between the three grew. As Vincenz and Julian bring Hannah into their home and she begins her recovery, it's about offering the quiet strength and support she needs. Eventually, this grows into love and sex, but it's the underlying trust that drives everything between these three. I enjoyed the realistic struggle when Hannah wants to contribute and accompany them on their mission - they want to protect her and wrap her up, and she views it as a way not only to avenge her capture and torture, but to make Julian and Vincenz see her as whole, as a full participant in their relationship, as unbroken.

Geek/nerddom showing, but as I was writing this, the image of a Venn diagram came to my mind - the three pieces intersecting independently as well as joined together in the center. Each man has an independent and different equal relationship with Hannah and with each other, and yet the three together are at the center of the relationship in its entirety, irrevocably joined together. As I said, I'm a math geek. Sue me. (And who says math can't be beautiful? LOL)

The sex: Between Julian and Vincenz, the only word I can come up with that sums it up is masculine. It's sometimes rough, sometimes tender, but always manly. These guys are both alpha males, and I love watching the changing dynamics between them, not just, but especially during sex. There's a level of trust between them, a safety and reassurance that is tangible and real in their world gone crazy. We always say that sex should be about forwarding a relationship and this is it. (Oh, and another word? Hot. Yeah.)

Between the guys and Hannah, it allows their soft sides to come to the surface. I love that the relationships are established before the sex begins, that the guys feel secure in their relationship to be freely affectionate in front of Hannah, and that she's not threatened by it. Not are either of the guys threatened when they each have sex with Hannah separately. When the three are together, each of the men can go from being forceful to sweet, and neither are threatened by the presence of the other. (Side note: Obviously something that continues to permeate every book I review with a permanent triad in it... I just don't see how a non-competitive, non-jealousy-laden triad is really possible, but Dane makes me believe in it even as I question the lack of competition and jealousy. That's talent.)

Worldbuilding: Once again, excellent, although because so much of this book took place within Julian & Vincenz's house, the worldbuilding wasn't as explicit and easy as in other books in the series. It's enough that popping in to the series in this book would provide context and worldbuilding enough to understand and enjoy the story and overarching series plot, but truly to understand the entirety and the fullness of the world Dane has created, I insist that you read from the beginning. Or at least from book 2 in the series, where to me, the worldbuilding took its greatest shape.

The war: The war is escalating and treachery and deceit are the name of the game. It's an interesting contrast to the core relationship, where being open and honest is so vital for trust. Anyway, all the books have been leading up to the downfall of Vincenz's father, the mastermind of the attempted takeover of the Federation by the Imperium. When that confrontation happens, it was a wee bit anticlimactic, overshadowed for me by a surprising conclusion to Vincenz's search for his mother and desire to rescue her from the prison her own home has become.

What I didn't like: Not much. But as I alluded to earlier, because so much of the book was focused on the relationship (a plus!) and took place within the confines of Vincenz & Julian's home, I missed so many of the subtle, little touches that were in the other books that really bring this world to life. Many of the anachronistic references were missing from this one, and as a result, the world felt less rich and full to me.

That said, the focus of the book was twofold - the dichotomy between the slowly evolving, sweet and beautiful relationship between Hannah, Vincenz, and Julian, and the harsh horrific world of war outside their doorstep. It's a jolting transition each time we move from one setting to the next, as it must be for the characters as well.

This is another fantastic entry to the series, an emotionally charged, beautiful 3-way romance set against a harsh, unforgiving war. Dane, as always, manages both deftly and with care. I highly recommend Captivated, and the entire Federation/Phantom Corps series. Go forth and buy and read.
Related Posts with Thumbnails