Friday, December 30, 2005

Midnight Rose by Shelby Reed

This post is the most difficult I’ve written for our blog to date. It’s damned hard to pen the right words when a book leaves you, quite literally, speechless.

That is how Shelby Reed’s Midnight Rose left me. Speechless. Breathless. Spellbound.

Reed’s prose is breathtaking. From the first paragraph, I was caught up in her vivid description; lured deftly into the book’s setting. It is a setting with a life and character all its own and, through Reed’s words, I felt its breath at the back of my neck.

Within pages, Reed not only introduced Kate as our heroine, she made her a woman I’d known all my life. That spark of recognition was the first indicator of Reed’s remarkable characterization.

The next came moments later, when Kate spies Gideon, our hero, from afar. And he catches her watching him. No words are exchanged. Separated by dozens of feet and darkness, not even a true look is exchanged between them. Yet my breath caught. And I held it in anticipation.

I exhaled on the next to the last page of the book.

Not since Roarke began carrying Eve’s lost button as a token of their inexplicable and undeniable connection in Robb’s Naked in Death, has a fictional hero so utterly captivated and mesmerized me. Reed’s Gideon is my “other” Roarke. Through Reed’s skillful characterization, I was enthralled by Gideon’s grace and quiet intelligence. Entranced by his inner darkness. Seduced by his physical and spiritual presence. And when Reed revealed his heart, mine ached.

Kate’s emotional and spiritual strength are palpable—long before either are overtly challenged. Her own intelligence and humor are, as I said, instantly recognizable and served to draw me to her with the same intensity I found in Gideon’s character. As the character most in the dark, Kate is a natural ally for readers. Sharing and believing her perception is critical in the success of this book. Reed garnered that acceptance, my acquiescence, before page ten.

Jude, Gideon’s 13-year-old son, is another beautifully drawn character—true to his age and limitations. Reed’s use of him to epitomize Gideon’s spiritual struggle is exquisite; so subtle it is nearly missed. How she managed to develop Jude’s character without betraying this story’s truth (to himself, Kate and the reader) too early left me shaking my head in wonder. That she was able to elicit unconditional love for this boy, even in the face of unspeakable evil, is extraordinary.

A cast of supporting characters, professions and daily routines serve to enrich the character development of Gideon, Jude and Kate. It all blends seamlessly as Reed ensnares the reader in the same delusion of normalcy lived by each character. In fact, Reed weights every facet in the telling of this story so skillfully, so beautifully that I was drawn forward, toward the truth, steadily, carefully, with an apprehension cast so delicately as to render it almost deniable.

Reed’s writing and remarkable characterization brought this book to life for me. It evoked feeling, tears, laughter and real fear. The love between Kate and Gideon is epic; heart stopping. And Reed tosses the reader about on the same swells of joy, passion and confusion that these two experience. It is an exhausting read, but one that leaves you with an emotional afterglow; changed.

Once captured, I wanted to read Midnight Rose to the exclusion of all else. I didn’t want to sleep, eat, work or play. I longed only to immerse myself in this story; and I never wanted it to end. Yet, Midnight Rose was not a book I could read in one sitting. It is so beautifully written, Reed’s depth of characterization so subtly delivered, her seduction so deeply emotional that I slowed to savor every word, every moment.

My thanks to Ms. Reed for an evocative read. While I’ve tried my best here, I fear even these words do not adequately express how deeply I appreciate a book that touches me on so many levels. I look forward to reading your other work with great anticipation.

In another important and final note of thanks, I must acknowledge Anne for this recommendation. Anne has been at me to read Shelby Reed for some time. Again, words cannot express how happy I am that I did. Discovery of a new (to me) author that moves me like this one did is—as all readers know—a gift to be relished. Thank you again Anne.

The Devil You Know by Liz Carlyle

I loved this book. Simple. Straightforward. At least my feelings are simple and straightforward. The book itself offers more complexity than most regency romances and one of the deeper—ruthlessly honest and brutal—emotional conflicts than I’ve found in any genre.

It was a slow start for me however because I was feeling noncommittal when I started it. Then, I found myself less than certain about the hero until Carlyle carefully revealed him as a man worthy of her heroine. Once engaged, I nearly put the book down in fear that the H and H would be unreasonably, stupidly separated until much later in the story. I’m relieved to report that that particular peeve never materialized. Our hero claims his bride in short order and the remaining, better part of the book is devoted to tying its reader’s emotions in knots (I mean tying the H and H into emotional knots) until the explosive, coming undone scenes that wrap up the HEA.

The mystery and suspense all stem from the emotional conflict and Carlyle does not litter it with distractions. The characters propel the telling of this story; and Carlyle gives us (many) characters that are complex in nature—riddled with imperfections and utterly charming.

I’ve added her to my hurry-up-and-read-her-backlist list—which should put me flush with her new releases along about 2008 (given my similar commitment to read every Kleypas and Laurens book; and to try Julia Quinn).

Blurb follows:

Frederica d'Avillez is sure she will never marry. She's had a disastrous London season, and now her longtime beau has thrown her over for a more eligible miss. But if Freddie can't have a husband, she's hell-bent on experiencing at least one night of unforgettable passion. Where better than in the arms of the dashing rogue Bentley "Hell-Bent" Rutledge? So what if he's a rake, scoundrel, and all-round devil?

Scandal trails in Bentley's wake and fair maidens usually steer well clear of him -- and vice versa. But when the opportunity presents itself, Bentley can't resist Freddie's exotic beauty. When their wild, reckless passion has dire consequences, Bentley is forced to choose between honor and freedom. And Freddie soon realizes that Bentley's devil-may-care façade is just that -- for she has unwittingly unleashed his dark secrets...and secret desires.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Our Endangered Values by Jimmy Carter

Now I know that we all tacitly agreed to post on romance novels, but this book was too fascinating not to mention. Jimmy Carter has to be one of the most amazing, underappreciated, underrated men our country has been privileged to have as a public servant. Yes, his presidency was plagued with the energy/gas crisis, the Iran Hostage crisis, etc, but in the years since his presidency, he has earned himself an even bigger, brighter place in not just American history, but world history.

This current book focuses on history and, to a large extent, on the current administration's subservience to the fundamentalist conservative right. Although parts of the book are a scathing criticism of the current administration, he backs up his positions with biblical scripture and historical events and perspectives. He is, by his own admission, a devout evangelical "born again" Christian. Yet he passionately defends the separation of church and state and defended the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, although it went against his own personal beliefs.

He devotes chapters in this book to civil rights, homosexuality, the death penalty, abortion, science and religion, divorce, women's rights, and environmental issues including drilling for oil in Alaska, preserving America's national parks and global warming, and the US policies on decreasing emissions in relation to the rest of the industrialized world. There are chapters on our global image, the growing gap between rich and poor both in the US and globally, North Korea, Cuba, nuclear proliferation/disarmament, humane treatment of POWs, government-sanctioned torture, and war (globally and specifically in Iraq).

This is not a "democrat" vs "republican" issue, he is quick to point out, and the book backs up this assertion. Instead, he concentrates on the increasingly strong influence of religion into politics, which, he contends, should be separate. He puts every chapter into perspective relative to his own strong religious convictions and beliefs. He contends that religion has its place in politics in the same way that it has its place in everyday life - by guiding our hand toward being valuable, moral and compassionate human beings - not by guiding public policy and law.

As a Jew, I found this a fascinating read, given his self-admitted evangelical bent. Although we have different religious beliefs, it is clear to me that he respects every human being's right to believe passionately in their own religion, but not at the expense of others. As an American, I found it equally as fascinating, although a bit demoralizing to read about some of the positions taken by our country's leadership (and by default, the country's citizenry), and as a human being, I am equally captivated and appalled by the lack of far-sightedness he portrays by current and past leadership of our country, and its lasting ramifications.

A fascinating read, and I recommend it highly, along with any of his other twenty-odd books, including his poetry.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

My Lord Beast by Mary Lennox

I'm always going to pick up a romance with the Beauty and the Beast theme so this was a no-brainer for me. When I was a child it was my favorite fairy tale and from Jane Eyre on, I continue to enjoy variations on that theme.

Aubrey Drelincourte, Earl of Breme, has been accused of killing his first wife while they were in India. Before being found with the incriminating gun, he was mauled by a tiger which has left him disfigured. His cousin, the wicked heir, is trying to get him convicted of the murder so he can take over Breme. So brilliant Aubrey decides he must wed quickly and get an heir started to outfox wicked cousin Rupert. That part seemed a little weird, but the rest of the story was gripping and emotionally satisfying.

Lillias Merritt is trying very hard to stay out of the lecherous clutches of a local farmer when she runs to Breme for help. She helps nurse him back to health and they develop a love/hate relationship. She's spunky, bright and musically talented and doesn't think she's at all attractive. She's convinced Aubrey is innocent and will do anything to help him prove it, including getting herself into jeopardy.

I got this at the library on Friday afternoon and finished it Saturday morning. I really enjoyed the on again/off again relationship between Aubrey and Lillias and the story did have some odd twists in the journey which kept me reading.

Loved the secondary characters - they are well drawn and sympathetic, especially Ram Dass and Caroline. She's currently working on their story but since MLB was just published in May, 2005, it may be a while before it comes out. I'm looking forward to it; I really like Mary Lennox's storytelling style.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Bit of Sass by Sarah McCarty

A Bit of Sass was flawless.

Every character came to life for me in this well-crafted, tightly written story. McCarty’s heroine is at once self-conscious and empowered; hopeful and devastated; relaxed and poised to fight. In short, Sass is a parent. Never being able to put fully into words what my own role as mother means, I was captivated by McCarty’s wrenchingly honest portrayal. In the span of a few pages, I could be found nodding vigorously, laughing out loud and suspended in heartache.

Jacob is equally authentic. His circumstances and life experiences are believable and his expectations for himself astonishingly poignant. Watching McCarty expose the depth of his emotions, first through humor then anguish, is a treat for every woman who thinks there are no good ones left.

CJ and Corrine, Sass’ children, are every bit as much a part of McCarty’s emotional tale as the romantic couple. They are individuals; painted with a singularity, humor and complete absence of humility that define what it is to be childlike. Another nod to the steady, unrelenting hand McCarty uses to draw her characters. Every parent—mother and father—will recognize these children. And love them.

Sarah McCarty is an auto-buy author for me for three reasons: characterization, voice and writing skill. A Bit of Sass delivers flawlessly on all three. It is so well written, I barely noticed the words on the page. They were merely the vehicle by which I was transported into the world of Jacob and Sass.

McCarty’s voice—her wit, appreciation for life and emotional honesty—rings genuinely from beginning to end. In fact, she imparts so much of herself in Sass that I wondered how much of A Bit of Sass could be autobiographical.

Finally, her characterization in A Bit of Sass is unmatched. Readers will not find this depth of characterization in any other novella, particularly in this genre. Bucking every trend and expectation, McCarty drops readers into the middle of Sass and Jacob’s relationship. By doing so, she overcomes the issues of believability, trust and acceptance so common in this format.

Sarah McCarty stands 10 stories higher than her nearest peer. Her work—and A Bit of Sass is no exception—is beautifully written, superbly edited and utterly captivating.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Pregnancy Test by Erin McCarthy

I love Erin's books. She has the devil of a sense of humor. The heroine of this book is British, and she is hilarious in that oh-so-British forthright, upstanding way. She finds herself pregnant by a guy she feels so-so about, then dumped unceremoniously by said guy.

Her roommate gets her a job interview (she needs health insurance), where she promptly pukes all over her potential new boss. I remember those morning sickness days *g*. Miraculously she gets the job anyway. On a "business trip" *wink wink* to the Carribean, they get together. Damien's reaction to finding out Mandy is pregnant is priceless. I wanted to smack him right along with her. It was written so perfectly!

Erin McCarthy does a great job as always of mixing up the humor into situations that wouldn't necessarily call for it ("oh my god, did I blow air into your vagina during oral sex? You could die!" - Damien is obsessed with this one LOL). Great story, great plot, loads of sex, loads of fun, and a beautiful, sensitive hero hiding behind a world of hurt and bravado. What more could I ask for?

A Bit of Sass by Sarah McCarty

Sarah has done it again. She has created a story with a yummy sensitive alpha, a heroine that so many women can relate to, and supporting characters that one is sure to love (in this case, Sass' children). Even though this is a short story, the depth that is portrayed in both the story and the characters, Sass especially, are pure Sarah.

The story begins in the middle of Sass and Jacob's relationship, which I loved. During the "should we or shouldn't we" talk about taking the relationship to the next level, Jacob unthinkingly says something that makes Sass believe it wasn't meant to be. How they find their way back to each other and their individual journeys through their own issues make this a warm spirited, thoughtful look at the trials and tribulations of being a single mother, loving a single mother, and fitting a relationship into all that. The scene of the aftermath when Jacob takes care of Sass' kids for an entire day is a laugh riot, too- one that we can all relate to. Not to mention, that Jacob is hot, and the sex even hotter!

Sarah's books are an auto buy for me, and she doesn't disappoint with this one.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Jessamyn's Christmas Gift by NJ Walters

Long time no postings from me. So first let me apologize. Sorry I hope to do better in the new year.

Anyone who knows me knows I love all of NJ's books. I can't help it. Beside being a wonderful person she really is a wonderful author. In touch with what her readers want and in this Christmas Quickie she delivers.

Jessamyn is like many women these days, she a solid size 16, but she is beautiful, powerful and embracing her life and sexuality with self confidence.

Caleb is the strong and every vigilant next door neighbor. The fact that he is a police officer, well let's be honest that makes him all the more yummy.

At Christmas the year before Jessamyn wanted to surprise her then boyfriend Bennett with a Christmas gift he'd never forget. Her wrapped up in a little red teddy. Too bad the man who enters the house isn't Bennett. Fleeing after her initial shock she moves on, past Bennett and the memory of Caleb's potent stare.

It's been a year and Caleb has the same wish for Christmas as last year. Jessamyn. We watch as Caleb convinces a reluctant Jessamyn that he is all the man she needs.

Steamy sex and a story of love for Christmas is what you get with this Christmas Quickie. Jessamyn and Caleb are the perfect couple, and when they do finally get together watch the sparks fly.

NJ succeeds again at reaching her readers, penning a story with a heroine everyone can relate to. If you haven't you should add this to your most wanted list, you won't be sorry.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More Kleypas Titles

Worth Any Price: I liked every unexpected aspect of this story. A hero who flinches at physical contact. A heroine of both physical and emotional strength. A sexy, dangerous career as a Bow Street Runner that ends abruptly and involuntarily. An antagonistic relationship between this hero and another beloved hero from Kleypas' earlier work. And an emotionally honest telling of child molestation.

Every turn, every development defies the formula I expect in a historical romance. And I loved it. Kleypas delivers outstanding characterization and involves the reader emotionally from the start. In a word--a keeper. In fact, a DIK. Blurb.

Secrets of a Summer Night: My second best favorite from Kleypas. In this one, Kleypas gives readers the formulaic vulnerable heroine and a dashing hero to come to her rescue. Circumstances and character however stretch beyond reader expectations and, for me, put Kleypas in a class by herself.

Most memorable in this book is the laugh-out-loud exchanges between four women enjoying a friendship very real and rarely seen in historical romance. I would also say that the heroine carries the book. It is largely her story and the hero occupies the background space a good deal of the time. Of the hero, I liked his patience and genuine--altruistic--kindness. I never saw him as self-serving and his tender endearments were utterly natural (not ill-fitting, corny or presumptuous). This is another that I will re-read. Blurb.

Suddenly You: When Lori commented on Kleypas' tendency to feature characters and storylines outside historical London's ballrooms, I was intrigued. Suddenly You is a good example of this and I enjoyed it immensely. This heroine is an accomplished author and her hero a successful publisher. And instead of falling into marriage, they fall into bed and enjoy a full-out affair. The HEA ultimately dictates marriage, true; but the journey was engaging and entirely outside the bounds of propriety. An engaging read for me with but one complaint. I found the heroine's weight issues an annoying distraction. Not because Kleypas fails in any measure of characterization; but rather because I don't wish to identify with the heroine that much. Blurb.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

An Invitation to Sin by Suzanne Enoch

This is book 2 of the Griffin sibling books. Zachary is the youngest of the 3 brothers (Eleanor, mentioned below, being the youngest of the 4). He is considered the unfocused flighty one, with no specific plans and no direction. Just when he decides to join the army, big brother, the Duke, sends him on an errand to Bath with their aunt. Alng the way, she tricks him into visiting a friend of hers, who happens to have 7 unmarried daughters.

Caroline, the eldest, wants to be a painter - she is applying to apprenticeships all over Europe. She sees inside Zachary, to the strong, deep person he can be. He is amazed, because no one, not even himself, has really tried to look inside him that deeply to get to what he wants out of life.

She is of course, stubborn, thinking that a marriage to anyone (especially into a Duke's family) would stifle her creativity, not allowing her to paint for a living. So, after a series of mishaps involving the other 6 sisters all trying to vy for his attention, Zachary falls for Caro and vice versa.

During the course of all this, Zachary finds himself and a purpose in life. He proposes, she turns him down, fearing the loss of her freedon to paint, yada, yada, yada. After a couple months apart, he can take it no more and finds her. They make up and live happily ever after.

I still like these books for what they are - easy no-brainer romps, but I was a tad disppointed in book 2. Sebastian, the Duke, came across as less likeable in this one than in the first one (see below). I hope she fixes that in the next book, because it took away from my enjoyment of this book - he was just a jerk. The interaction of the siblings was much of what made the first one so enjoyable, and this book had much less of that - Eleanor wasn't even in it (she was on her honeymoon). Still, accepting it at face value, it was ok. But borrow it from a friend, don't pay for it yourself.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Sin & Sensibility by Suzanne Enoch

Yes, I am still on my historical kick. This is the first in a 4-pack about the Griffin siblings. Suzanne Enoch creates a family where you can feel the connectedness between them, as well as get a glimpse into the personalities of the individual members. I like them all. This is Eleanor's story, the only girl in the family of the Duke of Melbourne. Wanting to be free to pick her own husband and feeling something is missing from her life, she declares her independence from her overprotective brothers. She is seeking she knows not what, but wants a grand adventure before she is required to settle down.

They cannot stand that she may get herself into trouble, so her brother, the Duke, enlists his best friend to "watch over her". Of course, he becomes her adventure.

This is a fairly light story - no deep penetrating emotions evoked, and I thoroughly enjoyed it for what it is. Suzanne Enoch wrote perhaps one of my favorite historicals, England's Perfect Hero, which is incredibly intense and emotional, so it was nice to (re)read a light story by her. She does both equally well. Thumbs up on this one.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Slip Knot by Gail Faulkner

Well, this was pretty much a foregone conclusion, for two reasons. One, I had already ascertained that I like this author, having read one of her previous titles. Two, I never fail to come undone for a military man.

In Slip Knot, Faulkner entrusts readers with not one, but a handful of breathtaking, highly proficient, wise-cracking special ops heroes—all of whom are integral to the story. Rem’s teammates are not gratuitous secondary characters. Instead, Faulkner weaves them so tightly into the story that I was compelled to consciously keep track of every character; drawn to each and concerned for all. Watching these men exchange barbs one moment and communicate without speaking in the next, I felt privy to that sense of brotherhood that so draws me to soldier stories.

Watching Rem’s heroine shed emotional layers throughout Slip Knot was equally engaging. I was skeptical at first; not sure who she really was or what she was about. That I was cheering for her in the end is a nod to Faulkner’s ability to power readers forward, daring us to trust Rem’s open devotion to her—from the beginning, then counting on our willingness to embrace a woman who is a survivor. While we get to hear from both Rem and Kathryn throughout the book, Faulkner lets the reader accompany Rem through most of the discovery period of this relationship. It is a rewarding experience.

Faulkner’s realistic depiction of strategy and weaponry strengthen believability and heighten suspense. The element of danger in this book is palpable—again, fully engaging the reader.

The sex? Hot. Of course. Hotter, in fact, because Faulkner builds sexual tension, rather than exploiting it. Rem’s careful solicitation of Kathryn provides the book’s most emotionally revealing scenes. Additionally, all of Faulkner’s men and women stay ‘in character’ between the sheets. This made for believable, trustworthy characters.

That foregone conclusion? I dug it. This is a very good read indeed.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Someone To Watch Over Me by Lisa Kleypas

Hey, Lori started it.

I am so relieved to find another author of historical romance that I love. I’m in that mode right now and, given recent disappointments like Lindsay and Balogh, was beginning to wonder if I’d hit a wall. Not so with Kleypas. With just one under my belt and 50 pages into another, I’m sold.

Like Lori, I appreciate a story that does not take place primarily in a ballroom. I also liked that this hero struggled with his feelings and was far from perfect. I did guess the plot twist relatively early on, but as it was the path to the HEA, I didn’t mind. It gave me hope.

I’ll give you the blurb and wrap it up by saying, simply—I read this book in one day, an important distinction, as I am the working Mom of a toddler. When I turn a book over in less than 24 hours, I liked it. A lot. More than sleep.

Blurb: She couldn't remember who she was...

A temptingly beautiful woman awakens in a stranger's bed, rescued from the icy waters of the Thames, her memory gone. Told that she is Vivien Rose Duvall, one of London's most scandalous beauties, she finds herself under the protection of enigmatic, charming Grant Morgan. Her life is in his hands. Deep in her heart, she knows he has mistaken her for someone else...

He was the only man she could trust.

As one of London's most eligible and unattainable catches, Grant Morgan is a man who has known every kind of woman. And the one in his arms now seems so innocent, so vulnerable, that he can't help but be enchanted. And as his love for this mysterious beauty grows, he's determined to unravel the secrets of her past and discover the truth -- no matter what.

Marriage Most Scandalous by Johanna Lindsay

Discovered that I don’t so much like Lindsay’s voice or characterization. Liked the story / plot (pasted below), but spent much of the book waiting for her to give the heroine a bit more credit and the hero a bit more dialogue. Won’t trash the book or the author. This is simply another case where the voice and character development just do not work for me. I felt none of the connections and frankly, couldn’t remember the character’s names 10 minutes after I finished it.

Blurb: Lady Margaret Landor first met Sebastian Townshend as a child, when he caught her peeking into her older sister's engagement ball. Tall, dashing, and charming, Sebastian was one of the most sought-after bachelors in Kent and cut a romantic figure she would not soon forget. Never did she dream that one day she would be living at his family's magnificent estate with Sebastian's father, the eighth Earl of Edgewood, as her guardian—while Sebastian is banished from his family due to the tragic results of a duel.

When life at Edgewood takes a sinister turn with the earl suffering a suspicious number of life-threatening accidents, Margaret wonders if Sebastian's younger brother and his wife have grown impatient to inherit the earldom. Setting out to find the one man she believes can set the situation to rights, she discovers that Sebastian Townshend has forged a new identity for himself on the continent.

Now known as The Raven, a deadly mercenary, notorious for accomplishing any mission no matter how seemingly impossible, he has vowed never to return to England. Not until Margaret meets his outrageous monetary demands does Sebastian agree to return home, reluctantly posing as her husband in order to facilitate his return to society. When he learns she cannot afford to pay his fee, he suggests a scandalous trade.

As Margaret and Sebastian work to uncover the intrigue at his father's estate, a fierce passion blooms that neither of them anticipated and neither can resist. But can Margaret persuade Sebastian to abandon the dark path he believes is his fate and claim the life—and love—he deserves?

Romeo by Gail Faulkner

I think this was a fantasy of mine growing up. A dark, handsome hero and a delicate, tiny heroine—everything else being equal—unencumbered by ordinary responsibilities. I think my fantasy tales even had similar life-threatening medical issues to make the heroine more delicate. So for me, Romeo was kind of like stealing back to the daydreams of old. It was an indulgence I enjoyed very much.

Of course it had a bit more heat than my teen fantasies did—a good thing, as I’m a couple of decades beyond those sweet, take-me-away daydreams. Faulkner’s hero is mouth-watering; her heroine the perfect compliment to him physically.

Emotionally, the heroine provided the best scene in the book and by far, the best “I’m-tired-of-being-typecast” heroine speeches I’ve heard in a long, long time. You will cheer out loud when she lets her hero—who is trying oh so hard not to be overbearing—know that she will match him (maybe even best him) in the I-want-hot-sex-now department. It’s a great scene.

And Romeo is a sweet and hot read.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

I'm on a Lisa Kleypas roll, and a historical roll, can you tell? This is Derek Craven's story. Most Lisa Kleypas fans count this as their favorite book, and Derek as their favorite hero. I personally am torn between him and Nick Gentry from Worth Any Price. Derek is the ultimate anti-hero. Born in the rookery to a whore and abandoned, he is not rich, not titled, not educated, not beautiful. But boy is he charismatic! The man commands a room, that's for sure. He is the owner of the biggest gaming hell in London.

Sara, the heroine, is an author from a small village, who writes novels about prostitutes and other unseemly things. They meet up when she goes to London to research her next novel about gambling. Watching Derek fall in love with her is amazing - he fights it every step of the way, but just can't help himself. And Sara, though she has a suitor back home, can't seem to help her fascination with him.

Hardly any of this Regency historical takes place in the ballrooms of London. Lisa Kleypas, like Cheryl Holt, is unafraid to write about the seedy underbelly of society. This is a romantic, wild, sexy, rough, interesting, wonderful book. If you like Lisa Kleypas, you must read it. If you've never read her, you must read it. Ok, I guess you must read it LOL!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Enslaved by Virginia Henley

Diana longs for love. The love of a 'real' man, not to be found in the London streets where she lives. After trying on a Roman helmet, Diana is transported back in time to the Roman era where she becomes the slave of Marcus Magnus. Their relationship grows and changes but then Diana is transported back into her own time.

I really enjoyed this story. It was sensual, interesting and entertaining. I loved Marcus ( both Marcus'). This is a unique story and really satisfying.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas

So talking about her books made me go back and reread this one. I love Lisa Kleypas books! Her heroes are the "anti-hero" of Regency historicals - they are almost never members of the aristocracy. The heroes are lower class men who make good and get the woman. This book is no exception (with a twist). This is the third book in her Bow Streeet Runners trilogy - follow up to Someone to Watch over Me and Lady Sophia's Lover. The hero, Nick Gentry, is an ex-con turned bounty hunter after Charlotte, who ran out on her disgusting old groom-to-be. He finds her working at the estate of the Lord Westcliff (who just got his own story in It Happened One Autumn). Their story is terrific - seeing the many sides of Nick Gentry and learning his story is amazing. And Lottie is definitely his match - she wants to take care of herself and has proved she can, but loves having Nick take care of her too. As the song goes, she knows when to hold 'em and knows when to fold 'em. This book just did it for me - even on the fourth or fifth read, which this was.

As I said, this is the third in the trilogy - if you are a series slut and need to read them in order, they go Someone to Watch Over Me, Lady Sophia's Lover, then Worth Any Price. This was the first book by Lisa Kleypas I read a few years back, and I immediately went and got every other book she ever wrote. I highly recommend it, and the others in the Bow Street Trilogy. I am happy to recommend any others by her as well - anything with Derek Craven - the ultimate anti-hero - is also a no brainer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Irish Devil by Diane Whiteside (spoilers)

Had a friend ask me about this one and I told her, with brutal honesty. I then debated as to whether I should tell you—blog reader—the same thing, in the same words. Decided the answer was yes. It’s crude and contains spoilers. But here goes anyway.

In the Irish Devil, Whiteside sets up the scenario of a woman at jeopardy from a cruel bastard who practically runs their small western mining town. The hero is his enemy, a prosperous and generous freight hauler who is also feared--but who always fights for those who cannot protect themselves. After the first 50 pages, I was attached to the heroine; I feared for her safety and wanted the hero to accept responsibility for protecting her tout suite.

The heroine of course wanted his protection for herself as well. I was not surprised or appalled when she figures that to gain his protection, she would have to offer herself as his mistress for three months. Given the layout of the story and the events leading up to this point, her offer of herself made sense.

But here is where the story breaks down. I absolutely did not care for his pretty much "sure, good idea" acceptance of her proposal. Since Whiteside had presented him as an honorable guy, this didn't seem a good fit. And I certainly did not care for his IMMEDIATE instruction that she go down on him. You know, to get the arrangement well underway. Then, having been struggling to survive, living in fear and having had little in the way of extensive or satisfying sex with her previous husband (she is a widow), our heroine LOVES the oral sex. Of course she did. And when he “plays” with her a bit afterwards (which you and I both know only provides minor release), she is completely satisfied, happy and contented enough to fall blissfully asleep. She then takes up the role of mistress as though she were made for it.

While that scene paved the way for explicit, hot sex going forward in the book, it did nothing to establish any emotional connection or potential emotional connection between these characters.

In the end, I can say I pretty much read it for the sex. Not for the storytelling. No connections. No sharing in a character’s chuckle or sensing another’s hesitation. Nothing.

A Fine Passion by Stephanie Laurens

I really like this Bastion Club series. Laurens gives me exactly the kind of historical romance I prefer. Nuff said. I’ll just give you the published blurb and call it a good read.

The men of the Bastion Club are powerful, loyal, and not averse to overcoming danger if they must. Now, after years of loyal service to the Crown, they each -- one by one -- must face that greatest danger of all

The last of his line, Jack, Baron Warnefleet, has fled London after nearly being compromised into marrying a dreadful female. Turning his back on the entire notion of marriage, he rides home to the estate he has not seen for years, determined to set in motion an alternative course of action.

But then in the lane before his gate, Jack rescues a startlingly beautiful lady from a menacing, unmanageable horse. However, while he begins by taking command, the lady continues by taking it back. Lady Clarice Altwood is no meek and mild miss. She is the very antithesis of the woolly-headed young ladies Jack has rejected as not for him. Clarice is delectably attractive, beyond eligible, undeniably capable, and completely unforgettable. Why on earth is she rusticating in the country?

That enigma is compounded by mystery, and it's quickly clear that Clarice is in danger. Jack must use every ounce of his cunning and wit to protect this highly independent and richly passionate woman ... that has so quickly stolen his heart.

[Quick note: The ‘danger’ to Clarice was minimal—more inferred than realized. You don’t have to tolerate constant peril in this one.]

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cowboy and the Captive by Lora Leigh

Bit of background: I learned of Ellora’s Cave Publishing (EC) and its authors by way of Sarah McCarty. I learned of Sarah McCarty by way of a monthly NAL email newsletter. The blurb in that newsletter—for Promises Linger—compelled me to buy her book. By the time I had turned the last page, Sarah McCarty had become an auto-buy author for me. One of only a handful.

Promises Linger drew me in, lulled me into trust, tickled my sense of humor and burned me up with its eroticism. It was the first erotic romance I’d read. And it prompted me to look to EC, its publisher, for more authors and more page-turning stories.

What I found: I’ve read a number of EC authors now and have enjoyed quite a few sexy, provocative romps. I’ve found none however, that rival McCarty’s characterization, emotional depth or journey. I’ve found none whose characters linger long beyond the last chapter. I’ve encountered not a single hero I could trust myself to completely. Until now.

Lora Leigh’s Cowboy and the Captive is the newest edition to my keeper shelf. I loved this book and felt just a little blown away by it. I felt the heroine’s betrayal by her parents and the terror that still grips her after being brutalized and nearly killed. I understood her ability to identify with her sister’s other victim—Luc, and her underlying desire to trust him.

Of Luc, I was so grateful for his innate goodness—the fact that he knew right from wrong and that no amount of bitterness or vengeance—or, for that matter, a hard-on--could compel him to mistreat Cat. At times, you think he is going to come close to doing just that, but he can’t. And the reader knows he can’t; and can see his trustworthiness without having to be told.

Cowboy and the Captive is propelled by emotion; not sex. The relationship is established, grown; not bullied or presumed. Trust and emotional vestment come before intimacy in this book. This is particularly important for me. Thus far, I have just not been able to accept the idea that trust and emotional bonds are forged during sex; or as a result of the woman allowing the man to do whatever he wishes to her. While hot, the men as sexual dominant stories always fail to convince me that a man can wring love and trust from his woman by way of sexual pleasure.

In Cowboy and the Captive, Leigh gives us a man that radiates heat, scorching the heroine without even touching her, commanding physical response with just words of sexual domination. But, when we get to that scene where he threatens her—stop or I’m going to fuck you now; decide now or I’m going to take you and there won’t be any turning back; you know the one—our hero repeats the threat three times. And then, groans and begs her to just voice her consent. His core simply prevents him from taking what she does not willingly offer. And no, he doesn’t see her sexual arousal as a willing offer; he needs her express invitation. When he got it, I all but broke out in a fever.

Finally, Leigh gives us a plot and conflict that are not so easy to guess or solve. Whenever I thought I knew where the story was going, Leigh surprised me a bit. From the very beginning, I was befuddled by Cat’s arranged capture—arranged by someone she trusts. As their relationship grew, captivating me, I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop, still trying to figure out where the threat lay. This kept me interested as the characters continued tangling up my heartstrings. I finished the last page with a sigh. And then went online in search of more Leigh titles.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh

I have found a historical romance author that is not for me. But I’m pretty sure it really is just reader preference and not a reflection on the author’s writing or characterization abilities.

In Slightly Dangerous, our heroine is widowed and poor, ostracized from her late husband’s wealthy and well-positioned family. She is a goofball with huge doses of humor and genuine enthusiasm for life and people. The hero is a ramrod stiff Duke who is unfathomably self-absorbed.

Over the course of the book, we learn that the Duke’s rigidity (and I’m talking about that kind—that would have been more palatable) is the predictable result of too little love and too much responsibility as a boy. Underneath all that pointy condescension is a wry humor and protective streak for our ‘misbehaving’ heroine.

He thaws. She starts to stand up a little straighter and we reach the HEA.

The book was not poorly written. Not at all. I just did not like the characters or the confines they lived within. I have little to no tolerance for being condescended to. And frankly, this starchy hero (starchy even after sex) spends too much of the book doing that. So much so that it really didn’t matter to me when the heroine softened him up. Too little, too late.

As for the heroine, she was a bit too good-natured to be believed (at moments). She took some set downs (as the author called them) that would knock even the most self-confident of us on our ass. In some moments, she suffered as you expect. In other moments, she went completely unaffected. I didn’t buy it. Or I wasn’t reading it closely enough. Which could have been the case because I was in a ‘put off’ frame of mind.

Again. Probably a good book to many. For me, I like a hero who bucks society’s demands (right from the damn start) and a heroine who lets herself feel. And one with the nerve to deliver some set downs of her own.

NJ Walters’ Awakening Desires – Series

Blip: Lori also reviewed Capturing Carly; see post from November 7th.

This three-book series is comprised of Katie’s Art of Seduction, Erin’s Fancy and Capturing Carly. All three are simple love stories. No unexpected plot twists or complex mysteries. No conflict—aside from the emotional tugging between her characters. Readers can simply relax and watch each relationship unfold; experiencing only minor tension as we watch footing won, lost, then won again.

I like the fact that Walters centers each of these books on the relationship between the H&H—with very little distraction. And I really like the attention she pays to the characters’ uncertainties—particularly those harbored by her independent heroines. I enjoyed watching as they acknowledged their doubts, and then dealt with them. Walters conveys this transition with truthfulness and realism. It was refreshing to see each woman reason through her doubts (moving toward choice), instead of simply placing her trust in her hero, blindly. I appreciated the honesty and responsibility Walters gave these women.

Walters’ heroes appealed to me because 1) they are quite large (exceptionally tall, broad-shouldered-- sorry but that really does it for me) and 2) possessive (a distinctly alpha and very bossy characteristic that also appeals to me). Their emotional journeys were interesting, but more predictable (in a romance fiction kind of way—recognizing their dream/wish in a single moment of enlightenment).

Her secondary characters are well drawn and interesting, but she weaves them into the story without drawing the reader’s focus entirely from the H&H. Even readers who keep their eyes peeled for the star of the next book will find it hard to stray from the bonds of the relationship currently at center stage.

Oh, and the sex was very good. Erotic. Intimate, personal—as opposed to clinical. And no ick moments. Very hot. <>

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Someone to Believe in by Kathryn Shay

I love Kathryn Shay's books. Haven't read one that I didn't like. I was a little hesitant to read this one, I must admit. The hero is a US senator, and I immediately thought - stodgy, old, corrupt. Uh uh. Senator Clay Wainwright comes across as very human, with a real life and real life problems. The heroine, Bailey, struggles to get teens out of gangs. Clay, her nemesis, has different thoughts on how this should be done, and refuses to fund her projects. He is also the man, who as DA, put her in jail for a year a decade earlier. Needless to say, they don't like each other very much. But as the book progresses, they become grudgingly respectful of each other's positions, as well as increasingly attracted to one another.

Almost all of this book was believable (just a couple spots where I thought, hmmm...). My main stereotype to overcome was thinking that a senator could be hot and sexy. Kathryn Shay blew that one out of the water. Who'da thunk a senator could be so sexy and creative? The tension and disagreements between Clay and Bailey were totally on target and believable, as was their growing attraction and love. The gang situations were handled with sensitivity and came across as quite real. This one gets a thumbs up from me.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Too Hot to Handle by Cheryl Holt

I love Cheryl Holt's books because she is not afraid to show the depraved underbelly of society in her historicals. This one has Emily seeking a governess position. Oops - she happened to come to Michael's (the Earl of Winchester) house during the mistress "interviews" instead of the governess interviews, and gets quite an eyeful. After clearing up the misunderstanding somewhat, Michael hires her (as governess, but wants her for mistress). Loads of sexual tension and hot sex scenes along with a great backstory of Michael and his brother, who falls for Emily's blind sister. Mixed in are Michael's nasty ex-mistress and his conniving teenage ward, each of whom wants him for themselves and is willing to do anything to Emily to get him.

I love that the men are very improper in her books, and nothing seems off limits. These are some serious bad boys. Match them up with curious innocent women, and the results are hot! The sex scenes are steamy and the story intriguing. Another thumbs up for Cheryl Holt.

Hostile Makeover by Wendy Wax

I liked the humor in Wendy Wax's 7 Days and 7 Nights, so I thought I'd take a look at this one. Well, I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Shelley is a spoiled JAP working for Daddy. Daddy decides to retire and she is at the mercy of the new president Ross. Ross gives her the bottom of the barrell clients in, what she perceives, an attempt to get her out of the company. They argue for the entire book until they admit they are in love on literally the last page.

I thought I might really like this one, because you so rarely read books about Jewish H/Hs. Now I know why. This was full of stereotypical Jewish mothers, aunts, cousins, etc. Maybe if the story was set in New York I'd believe it, but Atlanta? Puleeze. I have never had a conversation like those in this book in my life, and I'm pretty sure I'm Jewish LOL. And the heroine is so dead set against a Jewish guy that when she finds out the hero is Jewish, she dumps him, even though she loves him.

I was also disappointed that we never get to see the story from the Ross' POV. It reminds me of the way Harlequin romances used to be 20 years ago, when the story was only what the woman felt. I love that romances have come a long way since then, and the hero's thoughts and feelings aare as integral to the stories as the heroine's. But this boook was hard to get into because it didn't give both perspectives. All in all, a very disappointing read. Thumbs down.

Jill Shalvis' Firemen Series

This series consisted of White Heat, Blue Flame and Seeing Red. All three standalone stories came highly recommended (thank you Anne). All three feature hero firefighters that are mouth-watering gorgeous. Along with beautiful, strong heroines suffering just the right does of vulnerability (that only our hero can see). I won’t set up the plots or conflicts for you here. Trust me, they were all good.

It was an excerpt from Seeing Red that first lodged Jill Shalvis’ name in a corner of my brain. In it (the excerpt, not my brain), the H and H meet again after many years—a reunion under dark circumstances and fraught with unspoken past hurts. The excerpt ended with the heroine walking away feeling completely, utterly alone. That got me.

So I read this one first. And loved it. Ditto for the other two. What surprised me however, given the pre-conceived notions planted by that excerpt—was how “light” these characters felt. At times. In more than one fleeting glimpse, I saw each of these characters as emotionally shallow.

  • The heroes were of the darkly attractive and quietly powerful ilk, BUT both ‘qualities’ paled next to their humor and misfit status. Shalvis is not afraid to put our hero in embarrassing situations—witness Jake as the ill-equipped, I’m-a-bit-of-a-baby ranch hand.

  • The heroines were independent and spirited, BUT also slave to mildly debilitating and inexplicable mood swings. Like when Summer moves from anxiety/panic attack to light-hearted flirt to impetuous brat (when her offer of gratuitous sex is denied) in the space of minutes.

  • Finally—and more to my point—every one of these characters wore their heart on their sleeve. That right there made them seem just a little immature and a tad masochistic.

    Then it came to me. Not immature. Not shallow. Just more real. And very unlike the leading characters I’m accustomed to—the ones who never show their public the ‘irrational’ side of emotion.

    Shalvis managed to bring it all to the table—all the ‘alpha’ traits I like in a hero, the smarts I like in a heroine and an emotional unruliness that put them right in my world. Thankfully for Shalvis’ characters, their inability to control or deny their own emotions opens the door for more than just rejection and utter humiliation. It opened the door for happy endings.

    It is important to note that none of this perceived ‘lightness’ detracted from these books. Nor did it diminish the depth of the emotional issues that required untangling. It simply gave me—one reader—the sense that these characters sometimes wallowed in emotional turmoil that anyone could see was for naught. Just a little annoying (mostly because it fell too close to home) and enough to leave me with one foot firmly rooted in the real world—preventing complete escapism.

    Will I try to escape with another Shalvis title? You bet. I genuinely liked her voice, characterization and humor. Besides, I’ve decided that--while potentially humiliating--wearing your heart on your sleeve does not have to be the end of the world. Especially once you realize that heart can be trusted to the characters surrounding it.
  • Monday, November 07, 2005

    Hot EC story

    Capturing Carly by NJ Walters

    This is the 3rd book in the Awakening Desires series. I love NJ's writing. Her soft, wonderful, lovely personality always comes through in her characters. Somehow, you just feel more with her books than with many other authors. This book focuses on Nathan and Carly, who got engaged at the end of book 2, Erin's Fancy. I love that she wrote a book about them, because so often, a couple gets engaged and you never hear from them again. This is the story of the time they got engaged to their wedding. All the doubts and worries about inadequacies we all have are on display here. Nathan is an alpha to die for. Gorgeous, sexy, dominant, yet loving and tender and caring at the same time. And Carly holds her own with him, not an easy feat. She is the one woman who can bring this sexy deputy (yes, another man in uniform, LOL) to his knees. And, holy mother of..., this book is H. O. T. *fanning self* Phew! I needed an ice bath by the time I was through.

    NJ Walters is one of my favorite EC authors. She writes a hot sexy book full of characters with warmth and caring. I cannot wait for Jackson's story. A definite thumbs up.

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    Another military romance...

    Code of Honor by Catherine Mann

    OK, are you sensing a theme with me lately? Here is another military/CIA/men in uniform action packed romance. I love Catherine Mann. IMO, she is the next Suzanne Brockmann. I actually had the chance to meet her at RWA and am on a couple loops with her. She is a terrific person and a wonderful author. So, this book has that best friends become lovers theme that I love, but with a serious twist. This one revolves around two couples (their lives are intertwined, but I won't say how - don't want to give it away), a foreign country somewhere in S America, a drug lord, revenge, and a tense, suspenseful rescue, all with an emotional back story to boot. Oh yeah, and loads of hot sex, too. If you like this type of book, this is another definite thumbs up - a winner!

    The Lady Chosen by Stephanie Laurens

    Ok. I know. Another Laurens book. But Lori and Linda both recommended her Bastion Club series. (I had been lazing in her Cynster books.) I have to say...thank you Ladies. I really, really liked Tristan and Leonora's story.

    Outside of Garwood's medieval Scottland, Laurens' England is my favorite landscape. The added element of intrigue (read sexy, haunted spies) only improves on it. As do the seemingly oblivious scholars and the far-from-unseeing Aunts et al.

    In addition to his sexy spy persona--all that calm power and resolve--I liked Tristan's emotional depth and honesty. I also appreciated and enjoyed the "battle" he waged to win Leonora.

    As for Leonora, she is another of those emotionally strong (methodically so), mature and intelligent heroines I enjoy most. It was a delight watching as she finally "allowed" herself to love and to let another love her.

    This was a good one.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    Just read...

    Close-Up by Virginia Kantra

    Men in uniform, undercover agents, spies, I love these types of books. This one is another action packed read. The FBI director's daughter gets kidnapped by a right-wing religious culty-type group (think Branch Davidians and David Koresh). Of course, Mom & Dad are so wrapped up in their own worlds, they don't even notice she is gone. She escapes and runs into Jack, an ex-cop (of course, with issues) there to sneak his sister (married to the cult's crazy leader) away from the cult. Together they get into heaps of trouble, argue a bunch, and fall in love while trying to bring down the cult and avoid another Waco-like incident. This was full of action and adventure. It just manages to avoid being stereotypical, thank goodness. I must say, though, that it bothered me that Lexie wouldn't tell Jack who she was. For her everything is about trust, and so this didn't ring quite true once their relationship was going strong. I got over it, though. If you like the action/adventure/survival type story (think Cherry Adair, but not as good), this is a thumbs up.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    All About Passion by Stephanie Laurens

    Soothing. That is how I found this book.

    I’ve admitted previously that I can’t read Laurens’ Cynster novels one after another, given the similarity in prose. But in reading All About Passion, I was reminded that—despite some repeated descriptions—each of these stories are unique to me. Particularly this one.

    Yes; there was the “heroine in danger” element. But instead of building the tale around the mystery, Laurens’ central focus remains on the burgeoning love affair between the H and H. I found it sweet and not altogether predictable.

    Also different was the manner in which the H / H come to be married. This was an arranged marriage from the start. It was not a case of “hero tangles with heroine, then autocratically decides she must become his wife.” This H and H are fully engaged in building a relationship. Calmly.

    At present, I am miserably sick AND PMS’ing. My feelings get hurt when the wind blows. In this mindset, All About Passion was the perfect remedy. A simple love story between a man who believes himself incapable of love and an intelligent, patient woman who does not spend every moment in peril or despair. In a word, All About Passion was soothing.

    Monday, October 31, 2005

    Elizabeth Lowell's Remember Summer

    When I stumbled across this 20-year old title from Elizabeth Lowell, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up. I loved her Donovan series and hadn’t yet worked my way through the rest of her titles. Have to say I was disappointed.

    I didn’t much care for this one. Really liked the premise—black ops kind of guy assigned to protect Olympic equestrian. Even liked the poetic analogy—his winter chill to her summer heat. Unfortunately, long, lyrical passages dedicated to that analogy consumed too much of the book. By the end, Lowell was beating that horse to death while ignoring pivotal events that, had they been fully developed, would have ‘filled out’ or ‘completed’ the story.

    To find another gem like the Donovan’s in her library, I’ll just have to keep looking.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    To The Limit by Cindy Gerard

    Last week, I read a review of Kill Me Twice by Roxanne St. Clair. The story's premise, albeit a popular and maybe overdone one, appealed to me. Just what I was in the mood for. So, on a rare impulse buy, I picked up this and one other 'similar-in-appearance' book--To The Limit by Cindy Gerard.

    I liked them both. But To The Limit was stronger. More complex plot, harder to guess mystery, deeper characterization of both its H/H and secondary characters. And a palpable connection--emotional and physical--between the H/H.

    Both feature H/H's in the PI business, all but one with military or government security training. Both feature eccentric billionaires, kidnap victims and decoy corporate mouthpieces. But where Kill Me Twice was a quick, enjoyable read, To The Limit drew me in. Provoked feeling, fear and need.

    Its H/H felt more vulnerable, arriving at the conclusion bruised and battered emotionally and physically. In Kill Me Twice, the H/H escape physical harm even in the most dangerous circumstances. That doesn't always bother me--that lack of believability--but I found To The Limit to be a truer telling of relationships, family and dangerous professions. Its believability and strong characterization made it the better of the two reads.

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    You Never Can Tell by Kathleen Eagle (pub 2001)

    This is a modern western romance with a Lakota hero and an Easterner heroine.

    Kole Kills Crow was a Native American activist who took the rap for his mentor and ended up in prison. He escaped and has been living on the Ojibwa reservation making flutes and hiding from the world. Heather Reardon is a journalist who has been fascinated by him since she was a child and now wants to write a book about him. As Heather learns more about Kole and the cause, she has a hard time separating her feelings for him from the story. Oops, reporters are supposed to be objective and she never really is. They fight their feelings for each other, as they have very little in common, but the passion flares anyway. Kole decides to call attention to the stereotypes of Native Americans in movies and TV and begins a cross-country trip with Heather. They stop at various reservations picking up characters/protesters on their way to Hollywood. The reader is treated to delightfully subtle Native American humor throughout as Kole and Heather develop a strong bond.

    I laughed and sighed throughout the book. The characters (primary and secondary) are so realistically written that I felt that I would recognize them anywhere. I give this five stars.

    Review written by: byrdloves2read

    Sunday, October 23, 2005

    I just Finished

    The Dark Highlander by Karen Marie Moning
    This is the story of Dageus MacKelter. Like her other highlander stories we begin in modern times and are whisked back to 16th Century Scotland. This is probably been my favorite of all her books. Dageus is the tortured hero I love to read about. In order to save the brother he loves he breaks the Compact he and his clan have with the Tuatha Dé Danaan. In doing so he has cursed himself and fights the ultimate battle for his life.

    In walks a brainy and curious woman whosefascinationn with antiquities pulls her in to the war for Dageus very life. Chloe Zanders has no idea what she is up against when she finds herself at the mercy of Dageus. Once she is there she finds that she can not leave and is willing to do anything to save him.

    I have to save I loved this book, in fact this whole series of books is well worth the read. What's not to love about 16th Century Scottish Warriors. What strikes me most about this book and her others is the in depth research she has done to include much of the Scottish, Irish and English folk lore. She has you believing that it is very possible that you could travel back and claim your own Highland Warrior. The imagery is vast and the story compelling. It brought this reader to tears. I definitely recommend this book and any in her series. Her website indicated that you can read the stories as stand alone but I found that I had a much more enriching experience reading them in order. Oh yeah did I mention Dageus has a twin.His story is told in the book before this one. Kiss of the Highlander is the story of Drustan and Gwen. This book should definitely be read before The Dark Highlander.

    Now I just have to get the next 2 books in the series and I will be all caught up.You can read more about this series at Ms. Moning's website.

    Saturday, October 22, 2005

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    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    What I read this week...

    Thanks Jennifer for setting up this forum! So.... Well, my goodness. Take a woman away from her family and her responsibilities and she has a whole lot of free time on her hands. So, on my weeklong business trip to Atlanta, I read about a dozen books. I'm not very wordy or big on plot summaries, but I'll give it a try. Hopefully you can get the gist of the type of stories these are by my comments. Here's the low-down on this past week's books...

    Naked Truth by Amy J Fetzer:
    This is my first book by her. Can I say how much I love men in uniform, secret agents and operatives, etc? I loved this book. It had just the right amount of action, romance and sex. Thumbs up.

    Too Wilde to Tame by Janelle Denison:
    Much anticipated, this is Mia and Cameron's story. It's hard not to like a book about a Wilde. Although, I must admit that Steve and Liz's story Wilde Thing was definitely my favorite, followed closely by Eric's story, Something Wilde (in the I Brake for Bad Boys anthology). Too Wilde to Tame still delivered that great Wilde story, lots of hunky alphas, and lots of steamy sex. Can't wait for Joel's story next. Thumbs up.

    Wicked Fantasy by Nicole Jordan
    This is the 3rd in the Paradise series. I love this series! Every one of the books has been great! Secret missions, major alphas, hot sex, and Nicole Jordan's storytelling touch. I loved getting to revisit some of the characters from the other books, too. If you like Regency historicals (even if you don't!), this is a definite winner! Thumbs up.

    A Mutual Favor by Ann Jacobs
    Call me sentimental, I love those "best friends turn into lovers" books. This one started out great, but I felt like it got really bogged down. I wasn't sure that I bought the idea that the hero all of a sudden left his wife, hugely pregnant with twins, to do the dishes every night, to run the entire household, and to make her give him a backrub every night. And what the hell was she thinking, giving him a backrub every darn night and not asking for a little in return? It just seemed totally contrary to his personality when they were friends. I liked the "wicked stepson". The bitchy ex-wife only seemed to exist to be a bitch. Hmmmm.... novel idea. Now don't get me wrong, I did truly like this book, I just thought there were some credibility issues. Iffy Thumbs up.

    The Panty Episode by Jessica Darian
    Well, it was good to read Kris' story (the travel agent friend from Hedonist's Paradise). The whole entire first day made me roll, I was laughing so hard. I mean, what else could have gone wrong for her? Unless I missed something (I think I must have) by reading it at 3 am (darn those time differences traveling west to east!), I couldn't ever figure out why she was so darn dead set against a commitment. I mean, if an incredibly hunky guy wanted to completely romance me, and kiss me from head to toe constantly (albeit sans actual intercourse), who am I to complain? But no, Kris just wanted the sex. Crazy woman! Anyway, although the rest of the book wasn't quite as comical as the beginning, I still really enjoyed the humor throughout, as well as hunky Derek (sorry Ladies, he's now taken) and nice steamy sex (errr... romance) scenes. A great light read. Definite thumbs up.

    Slip Knot by Gail Faulkner
    Holy moly! Hot alphas. Here is another special ops alpha team *fanning self*. This is Rem and Kathryn's story. He is one aggressively sexual dude. She is one emotionally scarred ex-stripper. Sparks are flying from the get-go. So when Rem realizes that someone is out to kill Kathryn, all of a sudden, he turns into this pussycat - not an outward sign of the aggressively sexual dude. That is my only complaint. I had a hard time picturing Rem able to turn it on and off like he did. Otherwise, this is an awesome story. I must say, there is a bit of a torture scene (not between the H&H) that if you are squeamish might make you a tad uncomfortable. I think it just showed how well Gail Faulkner wrote the story that that scene made me feel uncomfortable and on edge. I loved all the interaction between Rem's special ops team, and between Rem's sister Tammy and his buddy Miguel. Loads of humor buried underneath all that suspense. Definite thumbs up.

    Family Secrets, and The Cattleman, both by Mlyn Hurn
    I could tell that these are earlier books by Mlyn Hurn, especially Family Secrets (©2002). It's not quite as developed as her later books. Having said that, I did really enjoy The Cattleman. It is a historical, but I didn't realize it until I started reading it. No worries - I love historicals. So on I read. I liked it a lot. It does jump around a bit in terms of flashbacks, and never tells you what time you are in. If you can get past that (a minor annoyance) then you will really enjoy the story. The H&H have a love-hate relationship their entire lives (Hero is Heroine's big brother's best friend). They get over the "hate part", but have to keep their affair secret (wouldn't want anyone to get a bad rep). H&H get into a buggy accident and Hero is hurt badly. Hero's mother-from-hell is determined to keep them apart, but Hero will have none of it. After he knocks up said Heroine, he insists on them being together for a HEA. I love it when men are so willing to admit and show their love for their women (an EC trait that I truly love). Thumbs up.

    Family Secrets: I didn't enjoy this as much, simply because I felt like the herione was a simpleton. If she wasn't, she sure acted like it! The story and characters aren't as fully developed as in some of her later books, and it reads like an early effort, too. Thumbs 3/4 down. Hey, it's not a science!

    Twice Upon a Roadtrip by Shannon Stacey
    OMGoodness! This was one mishap after another, starting from the very first scene where the heroine inadvertently calls the hero's beloved mother a bitch, dents his car, and altogether makes a complete fool of herself. This was a laugh riot from beginning to end. I loved that the Hero wasn't perfect - he was a mess too. And together they are messy, but very passionate! And Hero makes me really want my own mild-mannered DH to turn into an aggressive, talk dirty guy in the bedroom, too. Definite thumbs up!

    OK, I read a few more, but I will save them for another time. I think I've shot my wad for the night.

    Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Lady Be Good

    Last night, I sat down and read Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Lady Be Good cover to cover—crawling into bed after 3AM. And while I regret the late hour and lack of sleep, I don’t regret this purely pleasurable, completely frivolous read. It was a delicious remake (in a sense) of Fancy Pants and I loved it. Something about twittery (but smart you know) heroines and lean alphas so tall they “unfold” themselves when getting up.

    I also enjoy SEP’s humor, particularly in her secondary characters. In this book, that means Torie (our hero’s sister) and Dex (her arranged intended). The whole arranged marriage thing is handled tongue in cheek (as it should be) and the antics throughout the story are pure SEP. Like Janet Evanovich, SEP delivers humor, but in her own distinct voice. Where Evanovich delivers comic relief, SEP delivers dry, wicked wit. Love that.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Madeline Hunter's By Possession

    This book jolted me from a rut. A rut wherein just the introduction of the hero instills confidence and calms any doubt about the HEA. When Hunter's hero, Addis, first meets Moira, he is menacing at best. And not inclined to give Moira more than a passing consideration; the briefest remembrance.

    Where I recognized and felt her loneliness and isolation early, I felt little empathy for Addis until much later in the book. Even when I 'understood' him, I remained unimpressed and unmoved by his stoicism. Still dug into my rut, I expected him to 'right' things, realign stars and planets if necessary.

    This changed, effectively bouncing me out of that rut, in one pivotal moment, when Addis enters Moira's room while she sleeps and slumps down against the wall simply to be near her. This is where I felt his isolation. And the depth of his need for her. This is when I gave credence to his own burdens and stopped faulting him for not assuming control. For not 'righting' things.

    In By Possession, Hunter drew me into a love so poignant, it hurt. I wasn't carried gently through the story on whispers of hope (evoked by love powerful enough to overcome). Instead, I labored heavy-hearted, burdened by the same sense of powerlessness, injustice and uncertainty that blackened the skies above Addis and Moira. In the end, the HEA delivered bone-deep relief, not an overwhelming joy. And after I turned the last page, the melancholoy lingered.

    Would I recommend By Possession? Well yeah. These characters provoked emotion. Just because they mucked around in misery, killing any chance for a light and happy mood, is no reason to deny their appeal. It is safe to say that I will begin working my way through all of Hunter's titles.
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