Thursday, December 14, 2006

Harmony's Way By Lora Leigh

Harmony Lancaster is of the Lion breed, created to be a huntress with a thirst to kill. But the way she seeks justice outside of the law makes her a liability to her own kind. Yet she also possesses information that they need on the existence of the First Leo - who holds the precious secrets of desire.

To save her life, Harmony is paired with Sheriff Lance Jacobs, who tries to tame the killer within her, while protecting the gentle woman he longs to possess. But a dangerous cult leader, bent on destroying the Breeds, could change the way Lance looks at Harmony forever...

Harmony's Way is the most recent installment of Lora Leigh's much loved Breeds Series, her second full length release with Berkley and more importantly just the beginning for this series.

While this book is a continuation of her previous books with Ellora's Cave it can be read in my opinion by those readers that are just discovering her breeds series. I will caution you though, the main character Lance in this book is actively involved in the previous book Megan's Mark. I myself am a bit of a series fanatic, so I would say you should at least read The Breed Next Door in the Honk If You Love Real Men anthology and then Megan's Mark to fully enjoy this installment.

That being said I have to say that as usual Lora Leigh hits the mark with this bold and engaging tale into the life and mind of the closest thing to a perfect killer the genetics council could manage to create. Harmony Lancaster is death personified, yet she is so much more. Forced to fight to survive Harmony has spent the majority of her life alone. For years she has managed to avoid capture and dispense justice for those she felt were wronged, now after her capture she finds herself stationed in the Broken Butte sheriff's department.

Lance Jacobs is the town sheriff, he is Alpha all the way and the first time he see Harmony somehow he knows she is meant to be his. Watching the mighty Sheriff fall in love and fight to protect Harmony had me on pins and needles waiting for those out to harm his mate to strike.

The story is fast paced and continues to reveal more and more of the world of the Breeds, there secrets slowly exposed to us as readers while the characters themseleves are still struggling to put it all together.

The heat of this story like all of Lora's books is strong and hot. Mating heat as it is described by the author can be painful and yet it seems to be the ultimate pleasure as well. The book makes me wish breeds were real. But alas they are not so I'll just have to keep reading and Lora will have to keep writing.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What I've been reading lately...

I've got a whole slew of stuff to write up, and not a lot of motivation. But I've been having such a great time reading, that I need to at least share my thoughts - thumbs up or down on these books.

Crazy SweetCrazy Sweet - Tara Janzen
OK, this is Travis & Red Dog's story. Meh for the main storyline. Disappointing. It's really hard to write an engaging storyline for a woman whose emotions you've taken away. But, as always, the secondary storyline was fantastic, and kept me glued to the book. Smith and Honey were wonderful, hot, engaging. They reminded me a bit of Kid and Nikki for some reason. I'm assuming (read... hoping) that their story is "On the Loose", coming in 2007. Crazy Sweet gets a thumbs up for the secondary story line. Good save there.

Take Me
Take Me - Lucy Monroe
Loved it. Jared was wonderful - warm and caring. Cali was great - I loved it that she learned how to stand up for herself. I only wish that she hadn't been the cliched married virgin, although at least we get a different and decent twist as to the reason. I think Lucy Monroe has a wonderful way with writing stories that pull you in and make you feel what her characters are feeling. Thumbs up for the entire trilogy.

Under the WireUnder the Wire - Cindy Gerard
Fan-fricken-tastic. Next to To the Edge, the first Bodyguard book, this one is my favorite. I loved Manny and Lily. There was not a moment that I wasn't drawn into the storyline. Not a moment where I rolled my eyes. Not a moment where I got bored. Nothing was overdone. Nothing was faked. Loved, loved, loved it. I cannot wait for Dallas and Amy's book. I only hope it doesn't fall victom to the "long awaited book" syndrome and become a snoozer. I have a hard time believing that any book Cindy Gerard writes would be a snoozer, but Under the Wire will be a tough one to follow up.

Something SinfulSomething Sinful - Suzanne Enoch
In book 2 in the series, An Invitation to Sin, I was disappointed in the way she wrote the characters. I think others were, too. The duke was written as downright mean, and there was no humor at all. This one goes back to more humor. Sebastian, the duke, comes off much nicer. Shay's story is pretty good, aside from the heroine's mother treating her like dirt. Why, oh, why must this happen to all heroines? So cliched. Anyway, this was a much better contribution to the series than book 2.

Something SinfulPleasure for Pleasure - Eloisa James
Well, this is the final book in the Essex sister's series. Josie's story was ok, but the secondary story here shined. Griselda's romance (Mayne's sister) was great (if you do away with the cliched ending). Loved it. There was a bit of the older woman/younger man issue that Kristie blogged about, but it wasn't overpowering. Mostly, they had a lot of fun. As for Mayne and Josie, I got a bit tired of Josie complaining about being fat all the time. Did women back then complain about their weight as much as we do? Just curious. Mayne is one of those milquetoasty heroes, but he was preferable to Josie. I did really love the scene where Mayne prances around in Josie's dress to teach her how to walk properly. And we got glimpses of both his alphaness and his sensitivity when he thought Josie had been raped. So, all in all, I guess if you like the series (which for the most part I did) then the book is a worthwhile endeavor to finish it off.

Touch Me With FireTouch Me With Fire - Nicole Jordan
This is a reissue of one I'd never read before. I absolutely loved every page of it. Great stuff. I only wondered a bit about the believability of some of the gypsy storyline, but I was able to set it aside. Why? I don't know. Perhaps it's because Jordan writes so well, or because her characters are always so beautifully formed - deep, thoroughly fleshed out. Or her love scenes are so dang hot. Beats me. I just know I dug this book. It gripped me from page 1. Love Nicole Jordan. Definite thumbs up.

Beyond the LimitBeyond the Limit - Lindsay McKenna
This is another in the Morgan's Mercenaries series. McKenna's heroes are sensitive, but strong. Their women are strong, but they are never bitchy. The two Trayhern boys are nothing like their father - it's an interesting thing, and McKenna explores it. Pete has a better relationship with his father than his brother Jason did, but he is still a different sort of guy. I love that she always has a strong sense of family in her books, but they are never sickeningly sweet. Quite the opposite, in fact. Just normal people with normal problems in extraordinary circumstances falling in love. These are military romances, heavy on the romance. Good book.

Side note - what's with all the cliched endings in books lately? And has anyone else noticed that I seem to be prejudiced against the heroines in my books? Or do I just have higher expectations of them? Is it because we're women and we're inherently looking for fault in other women? Subconsciously thinking of them as competition for the heroes in the books we read? Or am I just a freak? Do you expect your heroines to be perfect? I'm noticing that I'm really tough on the heroines I'm reviewing. The exception lately was Cassie in Taking Chase. Fantastically written heroine.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Body In Berkeley Square by Ashley Gardner

This book was published by Penguin as a Berkley Prime Crime Mystery and tagged “A Mystery of Regency England.” It is not romance. It is not suspense. Rather, it is the story of murder in the ton, solved with elegance by Captain Lacey, the book’s single narrator and leading character. I loved it.

Captain Lacey, the story’s only POV, is an interesting man. Instantly likeable. Not a member of the ton, but a ‘working’ man who served alongside bluebloods in the Peninsular War. So, outwardly, he is the sort to get along with everyone—be they privileged or destitute. Inwardly, we learn very quickly that Lacey is neither bland diplomat nor bumbling detective. He is forthright, quick witted, self deprecating, compassionate, stubborn, and the list goes on. In short, he is his own man.

In this story, Lacey investigates a murder for which the prime suspect has already been arrested, lodged at Newgate and ordered to trial. The suspect is Lacey’s former commanding officer and through a shared past and what appears to be a shared love (of sorts), we learn as much about Lacey as we do about the motive for murder. Gardner confounds readers with the mystery—a tricky whodunit—all the while bringing Lacey to life. Seamless. Smart.

Aside from a shared past with the alleged murderer, Lacey has ties to a number of other characters—at least half of whom play a role in the murder investigation. Again, Gardner deftly uses these relationships to further both the plot and Lacey’s characterization. And, despite the first person POV, Gardner succeeds in bringing Lacey’s cohorts to life with equal color and sound.

So, through his shared history, present circumstances and dialogue throughout, we learn much of Lacey’s character. The rest we derive from his own thoughts. Happily (for readers), Gardner applies the same subtlety when building Lacey’s character through the use of internal thoughts. No life story summations to clue readers. Just the comedy and tragedy found in one’s own thoughts. Gave him a depth and an unexpected vulnerability that appealed to me. Again, he is a very interesting character. Charged with unraveling a crafty whodunit. Excellent, excellent read.

Note: This appears to be the fifth book in Gardner’s Captain Lacey’s Regency Mystery series. And, without drilling too deeply into her website, I see mention that the first three books in the series are out of print. I enjoyed this one so much however, that I will scour libraries online until I have located and read the entire series.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Comfort and Joy By Kristin Hannah

In this modern-day fairy tale, New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah gives us a very special gift: the heartwarming story of a woman at a crossroads, caught between two lives, who finds a second chance at happiness.

Joy Candellaro used to love Christmas more than any other time of the year. Now, as the holiday approaches, she finds herself at loose ends. Recently divorced and estranged from her sister, she can't summon the old enthusiasm for celebrating. So without telling anyone, she buys a ticket and boards a plane bound for the rural Northwest.

Yet Joy's best-laid plans go terribly awry. The plane crashes deep in the darkness of a forest. Miraculously, Joy and her fellow passengers walk away from the wreckage as the plane explodes. There, amid the towering trees, Joy makes a bold and desperate decision to leave her ordinary life behind and embark on an adventure . . . just for the holidays.

Daniel O'Shea has returned to the small town of Rain Valley, following the death of his ex-wife. Now he is a single father facing his son's first Christmas without a mother. Six-year-old Bobby isn't making it easy, the boy has closed himself off from the world, surrounding himself with imaginary friends.

When Joy and Bobby meet, they form an instant bond. Thrown together by fate, these wounded souls will be touched by the true spirit of Christmas and remember what it means to be a family.

Then a dramatic turn of events shows Joy the price of starting over. On a magical Christmas Eve she will come face-to-face with a startling truth. Now she must decide: In a time of impossible dreams and unexpected chances, can she find the faith to reach for the love she has found . . . and the new life only she believes in?

I'm going to be honest here and say that this is not a book I would have picked up had a friend not only recommended, but mailed to me so I could read. I had never read anything by this author before and in truth had never even heard of her. Since reading this book I did go out an buy another of her stories.

I first I thought this would be your typical Christmas themed story. I was wrong for sure, when they say dramatic turn, they mean it. I was to say the least surprised and more than a little bowled over by this story's plot twist. I have read the many reviews over on Amazon and I can completely see the point of some of those readers. But if you have a little bit of faith are willing to believe in Christmas miracles and want lopreservererveer than you will enjoy this emotionally charged offering from Ms. Hannah.

Some of the plot line has been said to be too far fetched and the characters reactions to certain events not believable and while that may be true for some, I found that I could and did believe their reactions. More importantly I believed them to be true to the characters in this story.

Joy for the most part is doing the best that she can against what I think are impossible odds. This story is told in the first person from her perspective and while I usually don't read books written in first person I don't think this story would work another way. To understand Joy's betrayal by her husband and sister, to sympathize with her emotions and her need to run away you have to read it form her point of view. All the characters there actions and ultimately the outcome are all based on Joy's observations, her emotional struggle and ultimately her decision to forgive or not to forgive the sister she has loved all her life.

This book is so much more than the story of Daniel and Joy, of Joy's relationship with the sad and confused Bobby, more that her sister's need to reconcile and even her ex-husband's need to find a way to love one sister after hurting the other. This book is a journey, one that begins and ends with Joy.

All in all this is a compelling read that asks the reader to believe in the miracle of Christmas, to take that leap of faith into the unknown and while doing so watches as a woman finds her way to live and hopefully love again.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Taking Chase by Lauren Dane

Taking ChaseNovember TBR.... a book originally released in ebook format

Taking Chase is the 2nd book in the Chase brothers series by Lauren Dane. You can read my review of the first book, Giving Chase, here. Once again, Ms. Dane has created complex, three dimensional characters that come alive from the very first page.

Cassie’s introduction to Petal is a feeling of rightness, of safety. It is abruptly ended by a rear-ending at the hands of Polly Chase, mother of all those delicious Chase brothers. That is how much of the book is written - a roller coaster of feeling yanked from safety into uneasiness. Cassie is written with multi-faceted emotions; at first fearful and careful; not just private, but secretive. All perfectly understandable for a victim of such tremendous emotional and physical abuse as she. All of the Chase family are supportive, in that incredibly wonderful Chase way, with the exception once again of Shane, who feels an unrelenting need to unravel the mystery. Is Cassie so secretive because she is hiding a criminal past? Is his need to dig deeper because he feels such a strong attraction to her, or is it because he feels obligated as the town sheriff to protect the citizens of Petal? He is unsure at first, as is Cassie. This leaves Cassie feeling confused and scared, because she is attracted to Shane as well, and doesn’t want to be, but he also leaves her feeling vulnerable, and she never wants to feel that way again.

Shane, as portrayed in the first book, was not the most sympathetic of characters, but we learned just enough of his past to make him appear vulnerable and to create enough of a sense of anticipation for his comeuppance. In Taking Chase, we learn more of his past, and why he is so reluctant to open himself up to a relationship. When he meets Cassie, he feels as though he’s been hit by a sledgehammer. He must control all his domineering tendencies, which frighten Cassie and drive her away.

Much of the conflict is derived from Cassie’s refusal to be dominated, and Shane’s inherent "alphaness". Dane also creates a feeling of suspense, as the reader senses that Cassie’s ex-husband will make a re-appearance at some point. We are kept waiting in anticipation. Will she be ready? Or will she still be held immobile by her fears and past victimization?

The interaction between Cassie and the people of Petal was very realistic. At first she held herself apart, not wanting to get too close to anyone. Slowly, she started to allow herself to make some friendships with some of the women. Yet she remained afraid of the men. Dane did a good job of showing how the men were careful to always allow Cassie to see them before they touched her, and not to startle her. Her panic attacks were what one would expect of someone in her position. I liked that her physical relationship with Shane built slowly, even though they were strongly attracted to one another. She had self-image problems and this continued, even throughout much of their physical relationship. What didn’t happen, and what I would have expected from *SPOILER* a multiple rape victim, was that the first time that they had actual intercourse, Cassie didn’t freak out. I found myself wondering about that several times as I read the book, even though the rest of the sex scene was perfectly written. This was the only thing that gave me pause in the entire portrayal of Cassie, as I felt that the rest of her personality and her relationships were highly realistically drawn.

I liked the character growth. I like to see characters grow and change if it’s warranted. When you meet that special someone, something often happens to you. Or, as in Cassie’s case, if some major life-altering event occurs, it precipitates changes in you. Cassie grows as the book progresses; learns to take more control over her life, not to live in such fear, to be more assertive, not just in terms of her emotions, but her physical being as well. Shane must learn to put another’s needs before his own, which is perhaps the most difficult for him. He had to turn his alpha personality into gentleness and learn to channel his frustration in ways that were non-threatening. In doing so, he learned a lot about himself and about his interactions with others. He learned to forgive. He grew as well, and became the kind of protective alpha Cassie needed – one who allowed her the freedom to make decisions on her own while always knowing the backup was there.

And as always, this is a Lauren Dane book, so the sex scenes are written beautifully and explicitly. And they are hot! But they serve to really forward this story in a big way. They are a major growing point in Cassie and Shane’s relationship, so without them, the book would be much less than it is. It is just a huge plus that Dane writes them so darn well *g*.

As with Giving Chase, I really cannot recommend this book enough. The storyline grips you right from the start. You care about these characters. You root for them and their relationship. Lauren Dane left me panting for more. Chased is coming in March. All three are available from Samhain.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Vintage Brockmann

Hero Under Cover by Suzanne Brockmann

Murder attempts were not the norm for art authenticators. Neither were bodyguards. Yet Annie Morrow needed Pete Taylor's protection. But what would happen when she learned her rescuer's secrets...?

Published in 1994, this was Brockmann's first book for Silhouette Intimate Moments. I stumbled over it at a neighborhood book exchange. As expected, it was a fast read through an old formula. I was pleased however, to find that Brockmann excelled even in her early days. Despite the constrictions of formula writing, Brockmann's characterization was strong and the plot twists clever. I enjoyed it.

HeartThrob by Suzanne Brockmann

This one has been in my TBR stack (a really small stack) for over a year. It wasn't until I saw it on the top 100 reads of '04--and noted everyone's comments about it, that I moved it up on my To Do list.

NO WOMAN COULD RESIST HIM...Once voted the "Sexiest Man Alive," Jericho Beaumont had dominated the box office before his fall from grace. Now poised for a comeback, he wants the role of Laramie bad enough to sign an outrageous contract with movie producer Kate O’Laughlin -- one that gives her the authority to supervise Jericho’s every move, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

ESPECIALLY THE ONE WITH THE MOST AT STAKE...The last thing Kate wants to do is baby-sit her leading man, and Jericho Beaumont may be more than she can handle. A player in every sense of the word, he is an actor of incredible talent -- and a man with a darkly haunted past. Despite her better judgement, Kate’s attraction flares into explosive passion, and she is falling fast. But is she being charmed by the real Jericho -- or the superstar who dazzles the world?

Not at all what I expected. Given the blurb, I anticipated a light bodyguard romance in reverse--with the woman in the role of bodyguard. Or in this case, as babysitter to a petulant (but brooding and sexy) hero. Neither character fit my preconceived stereotyping. And the story was not the stuff of a light read. It was as complex, as deeply emotional, as some of Brockmann's SEAL books. Featuring characters with ugly baggage, questionable futures and few redeeming qualities.

I was in Jericho's corner almost from the outset. And stayed there. He is an unlikely hero, suffering a good deal of humiliation throughout the story. Yet Brockmann was able to give him an aura of power or strength--despite his weaknesses--without sacrificing believability or consistency. His power comes from his undisputed talent and drive (for his work). His strength is a barely there control over his alcoholism and suppressed rage. A false strength if you will. He is an engaging hero with surprising depth.

Kate also held surprising depth. Brockmann assigns Kate her own set of dichotomies--false strength, masking insecurities, pitted against unerring dedication--with competence to match--in the making of her movie. She comes alive with the same force as Jericho--engaging the reader in the battle for allegiance. Interesting approach that--spending much of the book in a contest over who readers will support--Kate or Jericho--before rallying them to cheer for the romance, the HEA for both. Not a storybook romance. But a poignant one.

I also enjoyed the book's setting, the movie-making. Brockmann succeeded in giving the set, the actual making of the movie, its own character--one that featured prominently throughout the story. It provided the framework for the book's secondary plotline of racism and the pitfalls suffered by child actors. Just as in her SEAL romances, I did not mind the secondary storyline or its political bent. It served nicely, adding dimension to the overall telling and furthering the characterization of Kate and Jericho.

Loved the ending. A much better step in the HEA than the expected Oscar nod.

My only regret was not getting to this title sooner. Now I understand why it made the top 100 list for so many. Can anyone tell about BodyGuard? As good?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Keegan's Lady by Catherine Anderson

Finally. A book so wonderful, I'm compelled to talk it up immediately. I'll get back to my catch up reviews tomorrow. For now, I'll go on about the book I finished only moments ago.

Catherine Anderson has been on my TBR list for some time. No particular title. Just enough buzz about her to warrant her name on my list of authors to try. Last week, I picked up Only Your Touch, a contemporary from Anderson published in 2003. It featured a divorced, single mom, new to a remote mountain town, and an exhiled Native American (mostly) healing wild animals with science and a bit of magic. It failed to grab me. While I found Anderson's writing phenomenal, the story felt laden with cliches. It wasn't, really. I simply found little that I hadn't already seen assembled in a dozen other stories. Though Anderson assembled them with admirable skill and an uncanny attention to detail, it didn't grab my attention completely. I skimmed the better part of the book.

It was that skill and the detail in her decriptions that compelled me to try another title. Keegan's Lady. Wow. It is a western historical constructed upon a tragic injustice and the ensuing pursuit of revenge. Only Anderson turns the previously used plot on its head. It reads nothing like anything I've ever read. Every turn felt unique.

Anderson's characterization is powerful. Ace and Caitlyn could walk from the pages. Her terror is heartbreaking; his frustration palpable. Anderson puts readers there with them, in every moment, missing not a single detail of any given scene. She reveals every side, every facet of their personalities. The heroine is battered, but independent minded. The hero is strong in physique as well as moral character, but suffers some ineptness and stumbles when trying to express himself. Anderson is not afraid to give readers characters that don't exactly fit the fantasy. And it is there, in their imperfections, that readers find humor both poignant and gut-busting, and charm that will interupt your heart's rythym.

The book's setting and its premise suggests the potential for violence--frontier town with corrupt law enforcement and townfolk who turn a blind eye. There is violence. Just very little in the big picture. This book is devoted to the romance. Focused there, giving readers all the time in the world to relax and enjoy the fall each character takes into the other. Character driven. Not plot driven. Basic, I know. But I so rarely see a clear cut example of a good, character driven book. It just stands out to me here. Anderson draws readers into the romance between hero and heroine, capturing our attention with the simplest interplay and spending little time elsewhere. A page turner where the only element of suspense is in the breath-hitching moments when each admits their love for the other.

Anderson's characters come to life with an ease that belies the precision of the craft beneath.

Valley Of Silence and Born In Death

Valley Of Silence by Nora Roberts

This is Cian and Moira’s story. It is also the scene of the final battle between good and evil in Roberts’ conclusion to her Circle trilogy.

The battle and its preparation did not squeeze out the romance—as I had feared. Cian and Moira’s romance unfolded nicely with Moira’s initiative and Cian’s tortured acquiescence. Both remained ever-wise and forthright as they succumbed to their love affair. The hopelessness of it—knowing they could not live their lives out together—did serve to dampen Cian’s wit a little. I missed that. But all in all, Roberts’ telling of their story felt just as it should. Even their happy ending. I saw it coming a mile away, but liked it anyway.

Roberts also continued to entertain readers with the interplay between the chosen six. Where Roberts appeared to skim over characterization in the first book, she more than made up for it in the remainder of the trilogy. By its end, all six stepped easily from the page, trailing readers beyond the story’s conclusion.

What else? Oh, I loved the dragons. That was a nice bit of fantasy carried throughout the trilogy.

For anyone yet to read it, my only recommendation would be to read all three consecutively—no waiting or interruptions between installments. Reading one right after another may diminish some of the early characterization issues and minor imbalances between action and romance.

JD Robb’s Born In Death

Excellent. It never matters to me whether Robb allows Eve and Roarke to move forward in harmony or chooses to set sparks between them. Either way, I always enjoy spending my time with them and the entire In Death cast, losing myself in the rhythm of Robb’s words and the details of Eve’s cases. Plenty of humor in this one too.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Silver Bells by Luanne Rice

Every year on the first day of December, Christopher Byrne traveled from his farm in Nova Scotia to sell his Christmas trees on the streets of Manhattan. But this year there'd be no cheer for the widower and his twelve-year-old daughter, Bridget. For New York City had taken Christy's only son, headstrong sixteen-year-old Danny, who'd run off without a trace.

Librarian Catherine Tierney used to love the holidays: the lights, the carols, the nip in the air. But after her husband's death on Christmas Eve three years ago, the festivities seemed to start too early and last too long. Just before he died, Brian told his wife that he'd never leave her, that every Christmas he'd send Catherine a sign. On the quaint Chelsea street where she lives, Catherine will meet the tree seller from Nova Scotia. Both figured the world had forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. But they hadn't counted on finding each other, on fate, on second chances. . . and on a holiday gift of new love and new hope to last a lifetime.

I'll admit this time of year I'm all about the Christmas themed books. I love to read about life, the holidays and the love that's found during a season that can some times be very tough for me. This is the first Luanne Rice book I read, I picked up a few of her other books and they have sat on my TBR shelf for awhile now. Not that I don't want to read them, it's not that at all, I found out after purchasing a few of her books that some are loosely connected and I just can't bring myself to read books out of order. So till I get them all they will sit a bit longer. That's why I was excited to find this book of Luanne's. Finally a chance to read a book from an author that was recommended to me by one of my closest friends.

So I geared up to read this book, and I am happy to say it did not disappoint. I will however warn you that this book will bring you tears and often. I happen to be one of those people who love a good cry when they read so this is considered a plus for me.

The story seems to be a simple one but is yet complex in it's own right. I can see why they made a TV movie out of it. The flow of the story lends itself well to that format and for the reader it helps to walk you through the emotions of each and every character as they each deal with their separate losses.

Catherine is believable in her grief, the description of her paints and easily imaginable image. Strong yet sad, Living but not and most of all compassionate. The death of her husband definitely haunts her, but she has found a way to try and go on. Although it's clear throughout the beginning and even the middle of the story that she is still buried in her grief, Ms Rice does show that beneath lies a woman who just wants to love.

Christy is a man faced with difficult choices, ones that he makes with the hope that it is the right thing for him and his children. His courage is simple and his pain comes across as real as any I have suffered in life. The reader can feel his anguish over his son running away, his confusion as to why, and his need to find his child.

The season has brought these two together, the connection is strong from the get go and as we walk through each ones feelings and strife you can not help but feel connected. At one point I had shed tears so many times that I had to put the book down and walk away. Not just those tears that slip silently from your eyes, the ones that burn your throat and make it hard to swallow past the lump that's formed. It was for me a wonderful experience.

As we come closer and closer to the end the emotions slow some, but the impact is just as intense. All in all a touching read and keeper for sure.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Born In Death JD Robb

Eve Dallas has a grisly double homicide to solve when two young lovers-both employees of the same prestigious accounting firm-are brutally killed on the same night. It doesn't leave Eve a lot of leftover time to put together a baby shower for her buddy Mavis, but that's supposedly what friends are for.

Now Mavis needs another favor. Tandy Willowby, one of the moms-to-be in Mavis's birthing class, didn't show up for the shower. A recent emigrant from London, Tandy has few friends in New York, and no family-and she was really looking forward to the party. And when Eve enters Tandy's apartment and finds a gift for Mavis's shower wrapped and ready on the table-and a packed bag for the hospital still on the floor next to it-tingling runs up and down her spine.

Normally, such a case would be turned over to Missing Persons. But Mavis wants no one else on the job but Eve-and Eve can't say no. She'll have to track Tandy down while simultaneously unearthing the deals and double-crosses hidden in the files of some of the city's richest and most secretive citizens, in a race against this particularly vicious killer. Luckily, her multimillionaire husband Roarke's expertise comes in handy with the number crunching. But as he mines the crucial data that will break the case wide open, Eve faces an all too real danger in the world of flesh and blood.

What can I said that probably hasn't been said before about the In Death Series. It's always fresh, entertaining and in some cases a little gruesome. Of core when you heroine is a homicide detective it comes with the job.

As usual JD/Nora manages to tangle up the story line so you never quite sure who the killer(s) are, I had my suspicions, but that would telling so I'll keep that part to myself. Focused around Eve and her delicious husband Roarke this story has more twists and turns than a roller coaster ride and is IMO tens time more exhilarating. Roarke found a way to get himself all tangled up in the investigation. Without giving away the plot I have to say I was just as outraged right along with him and Eve. Mix in the fact that Eve is to throw a baby shower for Mavis as well as solve her case, and some how juggle a missing persons case. Nora/JD mixed and swirled the plots so seamlessly I was amazed. I was never lost in terms of what was going on and the twisting of the good with bad made it a very enjoyable read.

My favorite cast of characters are back Peabody, McNab, Dr. Mira, Nadine, Feeney, Commander Whitney, and this time around we will finally have the birth of Mavis and Leonardo's baby. For me it's one of the many reasons I was foaming at the bit to get my hands on this book. Of course the blessed event wasn't revealed till the very end. Which was for me a struggle to not peek to get the answer I have been waiting for, but I did manage to hold out. The impending birth of the baby and the fact that Eve and Roarke were asked by Mavis to participate is enough to make me laugh out loud still. Well written and thought out I felt like I was there with them in the delivery room.

Poor Eve, hopefully Nora/JD will wait quiet some time before making her a mother. She can wade through all sorts of grisly crime scenes, but birth no way. I'm paraphrasing here, but in one scene with her and Feeney he makes comment about her never having to assist in a birth in all her years on NYPSD, and she replies with 11 years and she never had to and doesn't want to either.

The plot moved along at a even pace and had me enthralled from the get go. So much so that I read the book in one sitting and while I suspected at one point who the killer was, she still managed to surprise me. The motive behind the killings was quite sinister and had my stomach in knots.

All in all it was a great read and a keeper for certain.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Into the Fire by Anne Stuart

Into the Fire by Anne StuartBlurb: Jamie Kincaid knows that she can't move on with her life until she has answers. And she's walking straight into the fire to find them.

A year ago Jamie learned that her beloved cousin, Nate, had been killed. Beaten to death in what police suspect was a drug deal gone wrong, he was found by his childhood friend Dillon Gaynor. Dillon had always been the baddest of the bad boys, leading Nate astray, about Nate's death. He's not about to volunteer any information, and Jaime's only choice is to head to the Wisconsin town where he lives to find the answers for herself.

Jamie shows up unannounced on Dillon's doorstep, only to find that Dillon is as dangerous and seductive as she remembers. But despite his silky hostility, she discovers that she can't leave. Things start disappearing, strange accidents begin to happen and Jamie doesn't know whether Dillon is trying to seduce her or scare her away. And if she gives in to his predatory games, will she lose her soul? Or her life?

But something else — something evil and threatening — is going on. And Dillon knows more that he's saying. Is he the one behind the strange threats. . . or is he Jamie's only chance for survival?

Stuart's heroines often appear to teeter just on the edge of TSTL, appearing to do the things we know are so wrong for them, making poor decisions, putting themselves in harm's way. Yet we always seem to understand the pull they feel to jump into the fray. To launch themselves into the unknown, unable to help themselves; they feel that inescapable urge to be with their hero. And we forgive them for it, because we completely understand it. In this offering from Anne Stuart, Jamie feels that magnetic pull to be with Dillon.

I found myself thinking that she had to know how dumb it was to keep going back into such a deadly situation. Yet back she went. I found myself forgiving the TSTL tendency of this girl who never got the chance to grow into her womanhood, because I, too, felt Dillon's magnetism. Not just his bad-boy side, but the clues that Stuart drops give us insight into his good-boy draw as well, and it is so beautiful. I was in love with this boy-man in the flashbacks very early on. I continued to fall deeper with this man who fought for his hard-won sobriety, and carried the picture of a lost never-to-be love in his wallet, but who seemingly carried no guilt over sending his closest friend to his death.

Stuart once again paints a dark, dreary setting, both the physical setting in a run-down garage and the emotional setting; the hero and heroine have a shared adolescence that haunts them both. A bad decision made on a wild teenage night forever changes the course of their lives. Much of the story is told in flashback and feeds us information about each of the characters in little snippets - just enough at a time to paint a graphic picture of each person in such vivid detail that you sense where each is going, what each will do with their life, and where the story will ultimately end.

As so often occurs in romances, our hero feels the need to punish himself for his past actions, and the heroine is slighted by an unfeeling parent who favors another undeserving child instead. However, because this is an Anne Stuart, the hero comes off as unrepentant and merciless and the heroine has full knowledge of the favoritism - acknowledges it, accepts it, and is therefore not weakened by it.

Yet, the ending is still surprising, and completely perfect for their story. I was held in thrall as I watched Jamie come to the realization that Dillon had loved her for all those years. I wept when I realized all that Dillon had given up by trying, too late, to protect Jamie. And when the deep betrayal by a loved one is revealed to them both, it is heart-wrenching.

I loved this book. Finished it in just a few hours. Ignored everyone and everything in order to finish it. The deep and abiding love that Dillon never lost for Jamie over the 12-year span this book covers made me want to grab my own husband and hold on tight (of course, doesn't everything? *g*). That love is so precious and is not to be sqandered or taken lightly is a lesson that both hero and heroine must learn, and it is one for which I appreciated the reminder. Ahhh, as Jen so ably pointed out, there is nothing like a Stuart hero, is there? In her so eloquent words... fucking fabulous book. Moving on to Cold as Ice now.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cold As Ice by Anne Stuart

Fabulous. Fucking fabulous.

And flawless.

Sorry for the language, but this book warrants extreme description. It’s hard to find the right words to describe this Stuart victory.

Here's the blurb:

The job was supposed to be dead easy -- hand-deliver some legal papers to billionaire philanthropist Harry Van Dorn's extravagant yacht, get his signature and be done. But Manhattan lawyer Genevieve Spenser soon realizes she's in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that the publicly benevolent playboy has a sick, vicious side. As he tries to make her his plaything for the evening, eager to use and abuse her until he discards her with the rest of his victims, Genevieve must keep her wits if she intends to survive the night.

But there's someone else on the ship who knows the true depths of Van Dorn's evil. Peter Jensen is far more than the unassuming personal assistant he pretends to be -- he's a secret operative who will stop at nothing to ensure Harry's deadly Rule of Seven terror campaign dies with him. But Genevieve's presence has thrown a wrench into his plans, and now he must decide whether to risk his mission to keep her alive, or allow her to become collateral damage...

A lot of talk about the hero of Cold As Ice. A whole host of tangent discussions about sex, gender and the romance readers’ threshold. Discussions I watched from well beyond the sidelines, suspicious of the big deal folks were making about what I was sure would be more a footnote than a full measure of character. I was wrong. Stuart wields Peter’s sexual history—with bold, unflinching strokes—fleshing out every ruthless choice in his past to create a persona worthy of his Iceman moniker. The result is a depth of characterization that defies the usual compliments. Peter is startling. He left me breathless, reeling, at a loss for words.

That Genevieve is drawn like a moth to flame is understandable. His feelings for her are palpable, the path to his core unlit and slippery. Like Genevieve, the reader is pulled under with the same sense of inevitability and the same bone-deep fear of the consequences. Stuart juxtaposes Peter’s attachment and mercilessness beautifully. The resulting filament of unease always there, sensed by readers, but visible only when Stuart shines the light on it--something she does often enough to create the doubt critical to this unlikely romance. Again, Stuart’s resulting symmetry defies the usual compliments. I cannot find the words to describe how or why she manages to lure respectable, strong heroines into loving assassins. I can only assure you it is not by cliché. Nor can I adequately describe the sensory response that lure evokes in readers. Breathless is as close as I can get.

The beauty of Stuart’s voice is less mystical. I know what I like about it. I can tell you what I like about it. Stuart’s voice is strong, economical. Her turn of phrase concise, her descriptive narrative unobtrusive. Her highly charged scenes are perfectly set—without the distraction of intricate props or excessive movement. To say Cold As Ice is tightly written would be an understatement. It is delivered on the edge of a blade with all of the precision that implies.

Tension. Suspense. Stuart builds both with the same economy of words. I was riveted. Stunned into stillness as I watched Genevieve and Peter. Jolted only by the unexpected turns in the story—delivered without warning by Stuart. To say this is a book you won’t be able to put down is another understatement. Better to say that Stuart succeeds in heightening tension to a point where reality is suspended. There is that unnatural stillness. That oppressive weight making it difficult to breathe. With well-timed, insightful references to current events, Stuart creates a suspended reality—here in the present—more powerful, more dramatic than even the best altered realities found in today’s top selling paranormals.

This offering from Anne Stuart is one of only a handful of books I’ve ever desired to re-read. Starting the minute I turned the last page. Black Ice was another. Some might say I simply have a penchant for extreme-bad-boys-as-heroes stories—and we all agree Stuart does them like no other. But I would say it is simply a matter of Stuart’s talent to enthrall, whatever the subject matter.

Just Wow.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Deep Freeze by Lisa Jackson

Deep Freeze Lisa Jackson has long been on my TBR list. Deep Freeze left me feeling as though I was out in it. Shivering. With the chills. This woman is seriously twisted. I loved it! Think Mariah Stewart, only even way more twisted and macabre. The romance also plays a bit more heavily in this than in a Stewart, which I liked, but I believe that, while a very integral part of the book, it definitely takes a back seat to the suspense/thriller component.

Blurb (courtesy of Jenna Hughes has had it with her seemingly frivolous Hollywood lifestyle. The tragedy of her sister's death on the set of Jenna's last movie still haunts her, her marriage has fallen apart, and her spoiled teenagers are giving her nothing but grief. Determined to start fresh in a more peaceful area she packs up her reluctant children and moves to a quiet existence on the shores of the Columbia River . . . or so she thinks.

What she doesn't realize is that terror is lurking in the raw wilderness. The peaceful winter becomes deadly with the worst blizzard in over a hundred years. As the temperatures plunge below freezing, Jenna's biggest fan, an obsessive maniac, has tracked her to the rambling log house in the Pacific Northwest. Women start to disappear and soon Jenna realizes that the bizarre abductions and killings are happening because of her. She's at the vortex of a twisted murderer's horrifying scheme and no one can help her, not even Shane Carter, the sexy, irreverent local Sheriff. She's on her own, trapped in a blinding snow storm and no matter what she does, the killer keeps getting closer to her and her daughters.

Let me begin by saying that it is very difficult for an author to deceive me on the whodunnit. Jackson masterfully does it in this book. The only clues she gives are the color of his eyes (ice blue) and the fact that he is fairly buff and runs around naked in the snow (paraphrasing here, people, LOL!). So, every man in the book that is described with blue eyes (and there are a few) had me wondering, "Is this the one?". Usually I can, at a minimum, narrow it down to two possibles. Hu-uh. Not a clue. Everyone seemed suspect to me.

I enjoyed the romance (despite the fact that the hero had a moustache - hate 'em *g*). The first interaction we see is when Jenna is pulled over by the sheriff and given a ticket for a busted tail light. He so doesn't want to be impressed, but, expecting a prima donna moviestar, finds himself drawn to her "normalcy".

I liked that Jenna was portrayed as nothing more than a single mother trying to get her life back together post-divorce. She has to deal with an absentee ex-husband and father, and her daughters, an angry defiant teenage girl and a shy, introverted preteen. Just like so many of us deal with. OK, that's all she had to deal with until someone starts to stalk her, yada yada yada.

For the most part, I enjoyed the supporting characters, the townspeople, Jenna's friends. I liked that there was a sense of history and friendship and connectedness and caring among them. And, yes, nosiness, too. Very small town. And who knew that waterfalls freeze and then you can climb them?! So cool!

This book could have become cliched stalker/thriller, but Lisa Jackson's macabre sense of danger and suspense makes it unique and scary and thrilling all at the same time. This is definitely a suspense/thriller first, romance second, but if that is up your alley like it is mine, definitely get this book! I'm off to get Fatal Burn, the second in this 2-book series.

Oh, and if you visit her web site, yes, she is definitely twisted. Love the series page... Majorly creepy!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward

A former blood slave, the vampire Zsadist still bears the scars from a past filled with suffering and humiliation. Renowned for his unquenchable fury and sinister deeds, he is a savage feared by humans and vampires alike. Anger is his only companion, and terror is his only passion—until he rescues a beautiful aristocrat from the evil Lessening Society.

Bella is instantly entranced by the seething power Zsadist possesses. But even as their desire for one another begins to overtake them both, Zsadist’s thirst for vengeance against Bella’s tormentors drives him to the brink of madness. Now, Bella must help her lover overcome the wounds of his tortured past, and find a future with her…

I finished Lover Awakened in two sittings. It felt easy, flawless. Far beyond the learning curve of Dark Lover. Without the disjointedness of Lover Eternal. In Lover Awakened, Ward balances characters and storylines with ease, drawing readers deeper into the fold. Vesting us with emotional attachments and grudges of our own.

Well accustomed to the groove that is the Black Dagger Brotherhood, I enjoyed the banter and male bonding. Ward takes it to new heights in this one--letting readers experience more of the emotion that lies beneath the adolescent banter. Despite their cartoonish nature, it is not corny. It is not embarrassing. They were hilarious and poignant--at well-timed intervals.

Ward infuses the H/H with a deeper emotional bonding as well. As they were both victims of brutality, Ward's emotional telling of their story is right on. Zsadist and Bella do not battle overwhelming 'want' for each other. They battle 'need'. Ward depicts the difference beautifully, delivering astonishing intimacy the first time Bella feeds from Zsadist. Building the perfect construct--Bella's needing--to shatter the remains of Zsadist's sexual resistance. Affecting a physical change--not at all what you might expect--in Zsadist following Bella's needing. It goes on.

I also enjoyed the deepening of Phury's character. And of John. Also, the unexpected miracle of John's identity. Ward paced each development, introduced each twist without breaking the story's rhythm.

Which is not to say there were no jolts. Ward leaves us with loss and uncertainty. A reminder that she will take this series--already unique--exactly where she wishes. Somewhere outside the series lovers' comfort zone. I look forward to it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Red Heart Of Jade by Marjorie M. Liu

The grisly murders are just the beginning. Dean Campbell, ex-cop and clairvoyant, is sent to investigate. He is with the Dirk & Steele Detective Agency, that global association of more-than-human men and women. Shapeshifters, psychics and other paranormals, Dean and his peers are devoted to protecting life. But there are those who live to destroy.

In Taipei, he finds the remains of burned-alive men and women, bits of bone and ash, that reveal a pattern far more deadly than any he has foreseen. Someone knows Dean's secret. And they know more—of a power that can change the world, and of a woman who can complete him: Mirabelle Lee, the childhood sweetheart he'd once thought dead. Now, all that remains was blinding light and searing pain, potent passion and a purifying fire. And beneath it all is...The Red Heart of Jade.

It took me four days to read this book. For me, that is a measure of its complexity and weight. So much is happening in this book—right from the start—and I struggled to find a jumping on point.

In Tiger Eye, we learn almost immediately that Hari is a slave cursed to live as such forever. In Shadow Touch, the height of danger is the early capture of its H/H. In both, the reader rides a roller coaster of mystery and magic, up and down, through shocking twists. Both offer somewhat linear paths featuring dreaded—think scary movie music—ascents toward screaming—world drops out from under you—danger. Exquisite world building, with the kind of magic that mystifies results in a few astonishing twists. In these two installments of the Dirk & Steele stories, I had the sensation of accompanying their H/H’s for the ride.

In RHOJ, Liu unravels the story from a tangle of painful knots. Evil appeared in so many corners and forms. And the H/H fight for their lives on nearly every page. I felt like I was standing in the center of the chaos—slowly spinning and all the while wondering WTF is going to happen next. I wasted time trying to find a place to get on for the ride.

The upside to this is that readers experience the same disorienting confusion that Dean and Miri suffer. Readers endure the same powerlessness of not knowing, the same rigid grip of fear. We are exhausted by the fear, sweaty and tired of running.

The downside is that we are sweaty and tired of running both toward and from the unknown.

Either way, it is a powerful reader experience—one evoked by the potency of Liu’s words. Her prose is as extraordinary here as it is in previous works.

Liu’s conclusion to RHOJ does not provide the warm comfort of safety or the cool comfort of a shower and clean sheets. It is a rather abrupt and uneasy acceptance of fate. An acceptance clouded by more unknowns.

It is the most appropriate ending possible, IMO. Instead of being along for the ride so to speak, RHOJ is more like one of those things you shake, a globe filled with little scenes and snow. Reading it is like being at its center while someone shakes the fuck out of it. Turning the last page is like that floating sensation felt when the shaking stops. It is a temporary feeling of peace.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Miss Wonderful by Loretta Chase

I've been plowing my way through the Carsington family tree. This is Alistair, the third son's, story.

Blurb (courtesy of Alistair Carsington really, really wishes he didn’t love women quite so much. To escape his worst impulses, he sets out for a place far from civilization: Derbyshire--in winter!--where he hopes to kill two birds with one stone: avoid all temptation, and repay the friend who saved his life on the fields of Waterloo. But this noble aim drops him straight into opposition with Miss Mirabel Oldridge, a woman every bit as intelligent, obstinate, and devious as he—and maddeningly irresistible.

Mirabel Oldridge already has her hands full keeping her brilliant and aggravatingly eccentric father out of trouble. The last thing she needs is a stunningly attractive, oversensitive and overbright aristocrat reminding her she has a heart--not to mention a body he claims is so unstylishly clothed that undressing her is practically a civic duty.

Could the situation be any worse? And why does something that seems so wrong feel so very wonderful?

Yet again, the story is much stronger from the hero's POV. And, I must say, he is far more likeable than the heroine. I found Mirabel a difficult character to really like. Which disheartened me. Although I have always found Chase's heros to be compelling and heartwrenching, her heroines have always been a tremendous match for them. Here, I just didn't believe that of Mirabel.

Alistair is a veteran of Waterloo, and suffers from amnesia relating to his final battle, which left him with a pronounced limp. As he finally begins to recollect what happened to him on the battlefield, he begins to suffer bouts of insomnia, and what I would call PTSD, although nothing even closely resembling that of Bit (Robert), in England's Perfect Hero. Mirabel is so caught up in getting her own way that she plays upon this and uses Alistair's suffering to her own advantage. This really bothered me, and I began to find her more and more unlikeable. I found myself wondering what on earth Alistair found so wonderful about her?

I also had a difficult time understanding why she downplayed her looks so much. The explanation given was meager at best, and I just wasn't buying it. I also was unnerved by the betrayal of Alistair's best friend, and I missed seeing any of the other Carsington siblings, at least one of whom usually makes a brief appearance in each other's books.

I found the emotional connection between the H/H a bit lacking. While I think that Chase gave it her best try, I think that Mirabel is just not an engaging enough character to create the kind of intense bond necessary for a lasting love to take hold.

I did find Alistair likeable. He grew as a character. I felt his pain. If he had one great flaw, it is that he was too milquetoast. He let everyone walk all over him. In a romance novel hero, this is not a good thing.

Obviously, this is my least favorite of all the Chase books I've read. I missed her heavenly banter, her wonderful rapport between the H/H, her truly satisfying conclusions. It breaks my heart to write such a lackluster review. I try to always find something really positive to say. So for a truly fantastic Chase read, I highly recommend Lord Perfect or Lord of Scoundrels.

A Woman Of Virtue by Liz Carlyle

This is an older title (2001) from Carlyle that I stumbled upon at my local UBS. Reading it—and enjoying it—reminded me that somehow, I managed to leave off “Read Carlyle Backlist” from my To Do list. I know I read my first Carlyle title last year. And I know that would have prompted me to read everything she had ever written. As it did this time. Hmmm.

At any rate, A Woman Of Virtue is the story of Lady Cecilia Lorimer and Lord David Delacourt:

In the months since her husband’s death, Cecilia, Lady Walrafen, has hidden her emptiness by devoting herself to a charity mission for the poor women of London’s slums. But when the man who once tried to ruin her reputation turns up at the Nazareth Society, Cecilia is outraged.

The womanizing Lord Delacourt is vain, vindictive, and merciless. But he’s a man who honors his wagers. And when one of them goes wrong, landing him in a charity mission for prostitutes, he comes face-to face with the young woman whose reputation he once nearly ruined—and whose lips he has never forgotten. Soon, however, evil is stalking the women of the Nazareth Society, and only Delacourt knows how to guard Cecilia from the consequences of her own principles.

What I like most about Carlyle is the emotional depth of her heroes. They suffer very real insecurities and that underlying lack of self-assurance draws me to them. Delacourt is another excellent example. He harbors a desire for Cecilia that even he cannot define or understand. And her previous rejection (twice) cuts deeply. When they are thrown together again, he battles that desire in the name of bloodlines. His is not a pure bloodline—something he and very few others know—and he believes Cecilia to be worthy of better. He also believes that she despises him—given her past avoidance. Watching him act against, or in spite of, his own fears was interesting and even a little painful. I feared her rejection almost as much as he did.

In Cecilia, Carlyle creates a partner to Delacourt that is equally well drawn. Cecilia is intelligent, independent and not without her own emotional regrets. She is much more pragmatic than he however, and that makes her end of their exchanges a bit less emotional than his. Carlyle hides Cecilia’s insecurities behind a common sense demeanor and a surprisingly optimistic outlook. She is very likeable.

Cecilia’s no nonsense take on life provides one source of this book’s humor. Delacourt’s self-deprecating witticisms provide another. And his valet serves up the rest, with a personality that matches his sharp tongue. I laughed out loud. Often.

I also like Carlyle’s ability to create an element of danger that is genuinely dark. It is not contrived merely to put the damsel in distress. In A Woman Of Virtue, the criminals and their victims wrap around the hero and heroine in a very believable sense. Carlyle involves nearly every character, deftly casting suspicion and innocence at every turn. Her final twist involving a potential villain was superb.

Inspector de Rohan plays a pivotal role in this book and we see a fair amount of Bentham Rutledge as well. I’ve read both of their stories (apparently out of order) and enjoyed seeing them here. This is also the book in which George Kemble is introduced—as Delacourt’s valet. Although he does not get his own book, he does feature prominently in his sister’s story—another I read out of order. I really enjoyed the company of these characters again and plan to finish off Carlyle’s backlist ASAP—if only to spend time with more familiar faces.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Some Ebook Buzz... Jebediah's Promise by Adrianna Dane

I forget where I read about this book, but what I remembered was that the H/H were married... and happy. It's not often you see that in a romance, so I thought to pick this one up. Well, I have mixed reviews. Mostly, I imagine, because of my own mixed feelings about the Iraq war. This book is about a soldier who is deployed, and is captured. Many of the scenes are flashbacks, some told from his perspective, some from Trudy, his wife's.

What I liked: I lovedlovedloved that this was a married couple, depicted in love, without marital strife, with a happy, healthy sex life. THANK you, Adrianna Dane! They have hot sex, a deep, abiding emotional connection, and a sense of fun and adventure.

I liked the H/H as individuals. They each come to the table with strength of character. I liked the romance that still exists between them. I liked the way they felt so connected to one another, even so far apart and in such dire circumstances. Many happy years together can do that to a couple. I did like that Dane attempted to show that not all Iraqis are contemptuous of the US.

What I didn't like: Like KarenS, I'm not certain that I'm happy with an Iraq setting. I think I'm too conflicted about the war itself - not supportive of the war, yet wanting to be supportive of the troops that are actually there, ya know? So I was uncomfortable with that aspect.

Where was Jeb and Trudy's family? The only support she had was the other wives (a mighty support system indeed). Also, I somehow doubt that the military is as forthcoming with information as they seemed to be with Trudy.

So, taking away from all this... what I liked was the romance. What I didn't like was the setting.
This novella is available at Amber Quill Press.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Nora Roberts’ Circle Trilogy—Books One & Two

I’m thinking there could be spoilers here. I don’t give away any twists, but I do share the basic plotline and character identities.

Morrigan’s Cross

A foot race. This is the best I can come up with for a summary description of Morrigan’s Cross from Nora Roberts. It felt rushed. I felt rushed reading it. Like there was so much for Roberts to ‘set up’ that she was simply not afforded the time to entertain.

It starts with a somber, medieval tone and a pace that is filled with dread—like a slow, tortured march to death. And it seems to go on like that for a good length. In this darkness, we meet the wizard Hoyt, the Goddess, Morrigan and Lilith, the evil that leads the vampires. We also learn of Cian, Hoyt’s twin turned by Lilith. A visit from Morrigan sets up the trilogy nicely. Hoyt is to gather a circle of six to battle Lilith, with the fate of all worlds at stake. From here, the reader can see how the trilogy will unfold.

But just as I was drawn into the images and vernacular, Roberts transports us to today’s New York, introducing three new characters with pivotal roles. With the change in setting, Roberts switches to a new vernacular and a lighter tone (cast by the internal dialogues of each new player). The time travel is not unexpected. And the lighter tone is not much more than the attitudinal difference between medieval times and the 21st century. Still, the change felt abrupt to me, jolting me out of the story a bit. Others may not experience the same disconnect.

In New York, we meet Cian in the vampire flesh, his right hand man, King, and Glenna, a modern day witch. Hoyt and Cian’s reunion is interesting, revealing the character of Cian in insightful glimpses. Left me wanting more. The introduction of King and Glenna felt too brief however, and their immediate acquiescence to Hoyt’s cause left me feeling shortchanged. We get background on each, but little time with them in person.

Remaining in the 21st century, the group relocates to a more suitable base of operations. Two more characters are introduced—first in their own POVs, in their own time. A short while later, they join the others in this century. Again, we get some background, that instant acquiescence and the story shifts forward. And again, Roberts’ move to assemble the circle feels rushed; the number of characters—introduced with no time to become acquainted—appears a tangled mess. I tried reading more slowly (don’t laugh), but remained on the outside looking in. Couldn’t get a real sense for any of these characters. Not even the couple at the center of this book’s romance.

Between more visits from Morrigan and Lilith, the characters (all of them) are attacked at every turn. This constant level of danger is critical to the storyline, yes. But it was exhausting and predictable. And, in one of those skirmishes, ALL of Roberts’ characters suffer the TSTL syndrome. It was unbelievable to me. Also, with the constant sword swinging, there was little time to get to know the characters. I harp on that, I know. But I’ve never read a book that left so little an imprint of its characters. There were simply too many in too short a time, IMO. That problem (for me) was compounded when yet another pivotal character is introduced—in their own POV—seemingly out of the blue. While this character—through identity—provides the neatest twist of the book, I was still annoyed by the last minute addition of yet another character I can only watch from a distance.

So clearly, Morrigan’s Cross fell short of my expectations. I liked the premise, saw promise in the characters—despite their number—and enjoyed Roberts’ voice (as I always do). However well written though, I found Morrigan’s Cross poorly constructed. The story ascends too quickly. And characters and readers are simply along for the too-fast ride. When I finished, I told a friend that this was a book that could have been two; a trilogy that would have been better served in five books.

Dance Of The Gods

Less than thrilled with the first book, I was still compelled to read book two. I chalk that up to wanting another chance at getting to know these characters. I’m glad I did. Dance Of The Gods was much, much better in that sense. Tossed together in Morrigan’s Cross, all of the characters are afforded more face time in book two. For the romance, this is pretty important, as these two characters were not much more than faces in book one. Roberts’ builds their romance slowly, playfully—peeling back layers on each until we connect and begin rallying for them. I was relieved. Happy to finally be drawn into the circle, developing an attachment to each member that will keep me tuned to the rest of the story.

I also enjoyed the pace—the space between battles, the breathing room for banter and the time to absorb the weight of fate’s dictate. In book two, Roberts lets us ‘live’ with the characters. It is what I missed in book one and what I fear will be lost in book three—sure to be the action-filled scene of the final battle.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not inclined to reveal even the identity of this book’s ‘couple’. Nor spend more than a few words on pivotal events. Here are the few words: In preparation for the battle, the circle is transported back to medieval time—where the battle will take place.

To share more of the book’s tone however, I will share a laugh out loud passage featuring the trilogy’s driest wit—Cian. This follows a simple request from Glenna, asking him to drop off a tray of tea and cookies to Moira in the library.

Copyright © 2006 by Nora Roberts:

He hefted the tray, muttering to himself as he left the kitchen. “I’m a vampire, for God’s sake. Creature of the damn night, drinker of blood. And here I am playing butler to some erstwhile Geallian queen. Mortifying is what it is.”

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand

First, my thanks to Erin for this recommendation. I now share your enthusiasm for the voice of Elin Hilderbrand.


Adrienne Dealey has spent the past six years working for hotels in exotic resort towns. This summer she has decided to make Nantucket home. Left flat broke by her ex-boyfriend, she is desperate to earn some fast money. When the desirable Thatcher Smith, owner of Nantucket's hottest restaurant, is the only one to offer her a job, she wonders if she can get by with no restaurant experience. Thatcher gives Adrienne a crash course in the business...and they share an instant attraction. But there is a mystery about their situation: what is it about Fiona, the Blue Bistro's chef, that captures Thatcher's attention again and again? And why does such a successful restaurant seem to be in its final season before closing its doors for good? Despite her uncertainty, Adrienne must decide whether to open her heart for the first time, or move on, as she always does.

Infused with intimate Nantucket detail and filled with the warmth of passion and the breeze of doubt, The Blue Bistro is perfect summer reading.

I loved everything about this book--setting, characters and conflict.

Hilderbrand’s voice, its cadence and punctuation, easily engages the read in Adrienne’s story. Her reliance on Adrienne’s POV for the entire telling keeps the reader poised for every experience, every sensation. I loved this girl. She was a very realistic study in all our own, ‘hard to explain’ contradictions—equal parts confidence and self-doubt, self-reliant in many ways, but dependent too, suffering both the emotional clarity and confusion that accompanies every journey. In Adrienne, Hilderbrand creates a woman we recognize—if not as a whole, then at least in little bits. The end result is testament to Hilderbrand’s understanding and identification with her character.

The Blue Bistro begins on a self-prescribed change for Adrienne. A new start, in a new place, with three simple rules: get solvent, be honest about the past and make better choices in men. I don’t know a single woman, myself included, who could argue these goals. As a result, I related to Adrienne fully by page three. And my attachment never wavered. Hilderbrand’s skillful introduction was followed by all the introspection, actions and reactions, and emotional responses expected from this woman. While she was complex and well, human…there were no jarring out of character moments. No special contrivances to accommodate plot. By virtue of that alone—letting the character remain true throughout—Hilderbrand became an auto-buy author for me.

Hilderbrand’s supporting characters were equally authentic. Although we are acquainted with each by way of Adrienne—The Blue Bistro is written entirely in her POV—it is not a limitation. Hilderbrand’s entire cast live as naturally for the reader as Adrienne does. Even Thatcher, the man Adrienne loses her heart to. He is a character whose motivation and intentions remain largely unknown throughout the book. For some, that omission may be enough to obliterate the romance. But if you allow yourself to fall into the story, you will find that Hilderbrand’s refusal to give readers Thatcher’s POV expertly heightens Adrienne’s experience—the delicious surprise that follows Thatcher’s unexpected and stolen kiss; the emotional fear that follows when she falls in love with him. None of us are sure that Thatcher will choose to return her love. It is an almost unbearable risk and readers feel the same vise grip about their hearts that Adrienne suffers. Ultimately, it makes for a far more poignant love story than those in which we are assured an HEA.

The uncertainty about Thatcher’s feelings leads me to the conflict that churns throughout The Blue Bistro. Its source is the relationship between Thatcher, restaurant owner, and Fiona Kemp, partner and chef. The nature and history of their relationship is unveiled slowly. It is a truth that is difficult to accept or completely grasp. Adrienne knows, deep down, that theirs is a platonic friendship. Yet she also recognizes that it has depth and purpose she may never realize in her own relationship with Thatcher—should they be allowed one. Hilderbrand’s depiction of such a friendship is beautiful. Honest and unapologetic. The tragedy inherent—what Fiona needs from Thatcher just now, the ill-timed love Thatcher has found with Adrienne, Fiona’s own unrequited love with another—all of it builds to the same vise-like grip in emotion, reason and resignation. It’s a highly emotional story, masterfully told by Hilderbrand.

One additional comment on characterization. The Blue Bistro—an upscale restaurant on Nantucket—plays a role with a script of its own. Some readers may even consider it the leading character. It provides the beat, or pace, of the story. It seems to hold the answer to what lies between Thatcher and Fiona. And it provides the backdrop and pulse of many of the story’s dramas. Hilderbrand uses it for setting and characterization—putting readers there by sight, sound and taste. Her descriptions of its frame, inhabitants and guests are rich and textured. Provided again in a voice distinguished by its cadence and punctuation. Erin is right. This is an author from which you only want more.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

September TBR Challenge

Title: The Bridal Arrangement (Silhouette Desire)
Author: Cindy Gerard
Year Published: 2001

Why did you get this book?
I happened upon Gerard’s Bodyguard series last year and blogged them up. A friend—one who knows me very well—knew I would set upon Gerard’s backlist as though it were homework. She sent this and several other Gerard titles to assist in my efforts.

Do you like the cover?
Hate it. Gerard describes a heroine very slight in stature and a hero standing a full foot taller. He also has a man’s hands; not the manicured, pale things pictured here. The photographed couple on the book’s cover belongs to some other story entirely.

Did you enjoy the book?
Yes, for a formula write. In general, I dislike category romance precisely because it follows a prescribed formula. In this case, the formula brought together a man dead set against love and a woman hell bent on getting his love. And at least 1/3 of the book is dedicated to the warring thoughts held by each. It must be a requirement—of this particular formula—that readers witness both the hero and heroines emotional journey from the inside out. It led me to skim the better part of the book.

As for the writing, Gerard is good. And I’m glad I took the time to look at her category romances. Note, I also read her Between Midnight And Morning and A Convenient Marriage this month.

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again?
Nope. I read this just to get through her backlist.

Are you keeping it or passing it on?
Returning it to its owner.

Anything else?
Not today.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm in No Mood for Love by Rachel Gibson

This is the follow up to Sex, Lies and Online Dating. It takes place immediately where that book ends.

Blurb: What is Clare Wingate doing? One minute she's suffering in a pretty-in-pink gown she'll never wear again, and the next thing she knows it's morning . . . and she has the nastiest hangover of her life.

To make matters worse, she's wearing nothing but a spritz of Escada and lying next to Sebastian Vaughan . . . her girlhood crush turned sexy, globe-hopping journalist. Somewhere between the toast and the toss of the bouquet she'd gotten herself into a whole lot of trouble.

Clare had the right to go wild - after all, she'd been knocked off her dyed-to-match shoes after finding her own fiancé in a compromising position with the washing machine repairman. Clearly her society wedding is off. But Sebastian pushed all the wrong buttons-and some of the right ones, too. Clare is in no mood for love - not even for lust - and wants to forget about Sebastian and his six-pack abs ASAP. But he isn't in the mood to go away, and his kiss is impossible to forget.

I think I enjoyed this one more than I've liked many of Rachel Gibson's books in a while. Not sure why. What I liked: I liked Clare. She wasn't too whiny (yes, a bit whiny, but not too). She wasn't too bitchy (yes, a bit bitchy, but not too, and I suppose she had a right to be). I liked the friendship between the four women that carried over from the first book (think Kleypas Wallflowers relationship, but contemporary, and a hell of a lot more kickass). I liked that Clare and Sebastian didn't have sex until a long way through the book. I liked that they became good friends. I liked that Gibson made a big deal out of safe sex. When Clare realized that her fiance was doing the nasty with another guy, she got tested for HIV, and told Sebastian he should get tested, too (she thought they had slept together). I liked that, although it was clear that Clare was very hurt and it took her quite some time to get over what happened to her relationship with her fiance, she didn't jump right into another sexual relationship right away. I liked Sebastian. A lot. Ok, he was a bit of a stinker at first, but he had cause. I liked that he loved his mother unconditionally, and was willing to get to know his father and remember all the good times that they had. He didn't hold a grudge. An admirable quality. I loved that he read Clare's romance novels and loved them.

Oh, and Sebastian is friends with Jane and Luc, from my all-time favorite Rachel Gibson book, See Jane Score *g*.

What I didn't like: Gibson did make a big deal out of safe sex. When Clare realized that her fiance was doing the nasty with another guy, she got tested for HIV, and told Sebastian he should get tested, too (she thought they had slept together). OK. The first time they slept together, she insisted on a condom. After that, it seemed very sporadic. Which bothered me because it seemed totally out of character for Clare. Maybe Gibson just forgot to write it into a couple scenes. Or not. Either way, it seemed like a glaring error to me.

I also didn't like the cliched bit that Sebastian felt incapable of having a committed relationship, even though, yes, he had a terrible example in his own parents. So for a man who didn't hold grudges, why oh why did he have to be so cliched? He so obviously adored Clare. This was really just a minor setback for me, though. I can forgive Rachel Gibson almost anyhting because I love the escapism of her books so much.

I truly did enjoy this book. I think it was less laugh out loud funny than many of her other books, but still a very enjoyable, feel good read. Rachel Gibson is always a reliable source of a quickie afternoon read. She doesn't require a whole lot of brain power, just a desire to escape reality for a bit. The next book is Maddie's (friend # 3) and takes us back to Truly, Idaho!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lady Liberty by Vicki Hinze

I adore Vicki Hinze's books. They are right up my alley. Romantic suspense, strong women, usually in powerful positions of responsibility or authority. Men who both admire and respect them who are equally as powerful. Love them. This book is no exception.

Blurb: US Vice President Sybil Stone, code named Lady Liberty, has proven she can hold her own against some of the world's most influential power brokers. But now, negotiating a vital peace agreement in Geneva, Switzerland, Sybil receives an urgent message calling her back to American soil...

In 72 hours disaster will strike, catapulting the United States into a war that will cost millions of lives. Only Sybil Stone holds the key to stopping it. Yet between Sybil and success lies a minefield of intrigue, betrayal, twisted motives, and three merciless enemies. Her only hope of survival - and the world's - rests with Agent Jonathan Westford, a judiciously ruthless operative with one goal: in the face of overwhelming odds, keep Lady Liberty alive. Time is running out and trust is running thin. But Lady Liberty and Agent Westford know they must succeed - or the first-strike missile will launch...

This book is tightly written, without a lot of superfluous 'fluff', as I like to call it. The relationships could be confusing, but Hinze does a masterful job of connecting the dots of all the players involved. She walks a fine line with Westford and Sybil, showing the closeness that can develop between a political figure and their closest protective detail but without crossing the line. I loved how protective Jonathan was of Sybil while still acknowledging her ability to do her job and giving her the room to do it well. And Sybil, in her own way, was equally protective and caring of Westford, although it was more in subconscious gestures. I love the respect that Westford commands among his men. I love the respect that Sybil commands in Washington, even among those that don't like her politically and personally. Now that's political power!

Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading this book. The storyline is fast-paced... blink and you miss an important factoid. I found so many of the scenes really interesting and found myself wondering if, like when I was reading a Tom Clancy, this is really the way things happen...

This was another of my summer reads. Terrific book. My only complaint about Vicki Hinze is that too many of her books are out of print and I can't get my hands on them :(

Friday, September 22, 2006

Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah

This is a magical book. Although it is not strictly a romance, it is a love story.

Julia is a psychiatrist who has had a young patient kill some schoolmates and she has been publicly castigated for not anticipating the disastrous event. Where she used to be admired and respected, now she has lost all her clients. It is at this low point in her life that a child shows up in her hometown who has no social skills and was apparently living wild in the forest before she was found. Julia’s sister, Ellie, just happens to be the chief of police so she calls her sister for help. Julia has nowhere else to go so she returns to the small town where she grew up as an awkward albeit brilliant child (as opposed to her sister who was popular).

The wild child, eventually named Alice, proves to be a MAJOR challenge. She not only has no social skills but, apparently, also no verbal ones and there is evidence that she has been physically abused. Much of the story is about Julia and Alice – their growing relationship.

But Ellie also has her own story and troubles. While Julia is dealing with Alice in a personal way, Ellie is trying to find her parents. She is also struggling with having been divorced twice and still never having found true love.

Julia and Ellie have preconceived notions about men – and what type of man is right for them. And they have quite a few issues to deal with between each other as well.

The small town atmosphere is lovingly portrayed. There are the eccentric old ladies, the café where everyone goes, the gossip that everyone knows and the speed with which it travels. It’s important to little Alice’s well being.

I noticed as I was writing this that the word I wanted to use most often was struggle. Alice is struggling to adjust and learn in the new environment, Julia is struggling with almost overwhelming insecurity, Ellie is struggling with her need for a man but her inability to connect with a good one. The men around them are struggling with their own issues, too. As I read The Magic Hour, I struggled with each of them. The characters are beautifully drawn, three dimensional, flawed human beings. I loved them all.

I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What I read on my summer vacation, Part 2...

This is also my Sept TBR... 2 Series Romances

So continuing on with my summer vacation reads, I read 2 SIMs that were part of continuing series, both of which I was eagerly anticipating. The last in the Cavanaugh Justice series by Marie Ferrarella about the Cavanaugh siblings/cousins and the next in the Forever in a Day series by Diana Duncan about those gorgeous O'Rourke brothers. One hit, one miss, I'm sorry to say.

Cavanaugh WatchCavanaugh Watch

This is the last in the series. It focuses on Janelle Cavanaugh and Sawyer Boone. I love Marie Ferrarella. She's one of the authors that keeps me reading category romance. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling it with this one. I thought she did a credible job with Sawyer, building his character, getting me into his head. With Janelle she did an ok job, but I never truly felt like I was rooting for her, even after what should have been a horrific revelation, given the investment her readers have in the Cavanaugh family after so many books.

As a couple, I wasn't emotionally invested in them. There were not a lot of scenes of the two of them together, and I didn't buy it when Sawyer all of a sudden blurted out his love for Janelle. Huh? Why? Why do you love her? She didn't seem all that great to me. Now Sawyer, on the other hand... he was prime emotionally wounded hottie alpha. Ferrarella took the time to delve into his personal thoughts and feelings. If only she'd taken the time to let him share those with Janelle as well as with the reader, I would have enjoyed this book a lot more.

Most of the books in this series have been top notch, but the last couple have left me feeling a bit shortchanged and disappointed.

Heat of the MomentHeat of the Moment

This is the 3rd in a series of 4 on the O'Rourke brothers. So far, all 3 have been excellent reads. In this one, both the hero, Liam, and heroine, Kate, are thoroughly fleshed out. We understand who they are, where they are coming from, and why they are together.

Aside from the one brewing inside Kate, the conflict comes from an unexpected source. Liam is a K-9 SWAT officer, and Kate is terrified of dogs (with good reason, which we learn about). I thought Duncan did a great job of portraying the connection between Liam and Murphy (his partner, the dog), and the angst it brought him to know that Kate didn't want to be near his best friend and most trusted partner. And she did equally well at showing how Kate felt knowing she could never break these two officers and best friends apart.

All this takes place within the main storyline - a stalker is hunting Kate with bombs, and Liam, the bombs expert on the SWAT team, is the go-to guy.

I enjoyed seeing all of the O'Rourkes from the past books. The histories that Duncan built for them in the first two books remained consistent here. This book is an example of why I haven't given up on series romance, and why I still love the SIM line. Oh, and Duncan is donating 10% of the proceeds of sales of the book to the Humane Society.

The other books in the series are:
Midnight Hero (10% of proceeds donated to the Oregon food bank)
Truth or Consequences (10% of proceeds donated to a battered women's shelter)

Friday, September 15, 2006

What I read on my summer vacation, Part 1 (better late than never, and only a partial list...)

I’ve been so remiss in my postings. I have so many to do, but it all seems so overwhelming right now. I think I read about 20 books last month on vacation. So, I’m keeping these short and sweet. And a few at a time.

Passion - Lisa Valdez
I first read about this on Karen S’s blog, and immediately put it on my TBR list. Finally got around to it. I loved this book. It’s been reviewed to death (all good), but here’s what I loved. Loved the interactions between Mark and his brother, and Passion and her sisters (although those were minimal). Brothers gossiping about sex, sisters gossiping about sex. Loving, close relationships. Loved it. Loved that although Mark is majorly alpha, he wasn’t afraid to show his love for Passion. He wore his heart on his sleeve without losing any of his masculinity. I loved that he was willing to admit he made a mistake about Charlotte. I loved that this wasn’t your everyday, clichéd romance. And I loved the hot, graphic sex.
Meh was the overbearing mother (Mark and Matthew’s) and mother-in-law (to be, Charlotte’s mother). It’s so been done, although there was a deininitely different twist in this book which made up for it.

Scandal in Spring – Lisa Kleypas
This is the last in the Wallflower series. Definitely not as good as Devil in Winter or Secrets of a Summer Night. But a nice, sweet story between Matthew and Daisy. I thought Matthew was way more likeable than Daisy. And Lillian, I agree with many, was more than a tad overbearing and unforgiving. I just don’t have much else to say on this. Excpet I may just go read my Nick’s story again :)

Mr. Impossible - Loretta Chase
It’s a darn good thing I read Lord Perfect first. Don’t get me wrong. The characterization here was great, as always in a Chase book. The dialogue, also great. I loved Rupert and Daphne (Rupert is Benedict's younger brother). It was the setting that gave me difficulties. I got really bogged down in the Egyptian setting. Normally it doesn’t have to be all England all the time for me. I love mixing it up. But I was totally lost here, and it took me out of the story. It was a real bummer, because the book should have been great, and I could tell it probably was, other than this one great big huge issue I had with it. Had I read this first, I’m not so sure I would have read Lord Perfect (my very first Chase book), and what a tragedy that would have been! This is actually the story directly before Lord Perfect. Thankfully, they can be read as stand alones, and y’all know I’m not a series slut *g*. Yes, Anne, I read these OUT OF ORDER!

That’s it for the first few. A whole bunch more coming up, and I think the next batch is all contemporaries!
Related Posts with Thumbnails