Sunday, April 30, 2006

Deep Blue by Kat Martin

For reporter Hope Sinclair, writing about the recovery of a sunken Spanish treasure off Pleasure Island should be her big chance. But Hope can’t help feeling that she’s been hand-picked for this job for all the wrong reasons. Someone wants Hope out of New York and off the story that could blow a corruption case wide open. If they think sending her to paradise will shut her up, they’ve got another thing coming.

Hope’s subject, treasure hunter Conner Reese, isn’t happy to have her along for the ride. He doesn’t need the publicity, nor does he want an incredibly tempting redhead on board, driving his crew—and himself—to distraction. But there’s something else, too. As a former Navy SEAL, Conner can sense extreme danger, and danger is following Hope Sinclair very, very closely…

Now, in the deceptively serene beauty of a sultry Caribbean paradise, Hope and Conner are moving ever closer to finding a priceless Incan relic, and diving deeper into waters more treacherous than they could possibly imagine… treasure off Pleasure Island should be her big chance. But Hope can’t help feeling that she’s been hand-picked for this job for all the wrong reasons. Someone wants Hope out of New York and off the story that could blow a corruption case wide open. If they think sending her to paradise will shut her up, they’ve got another thing coming.

Not a compelling read. I’m usually pretty compulsive about finishing a book once I’ve started it but I had no problem putting this one down to do something/anything else. The relic doesn’t figure much in the story and the tension of the plot is weak. I liked Hope and Conn but there were just too many push/pull scenes: she’s hot for him, he’s hot for her, but… She loves him but doesn’t trust him because of a previous relationship gone bad; he loves her but she just won’t let herself commit. And the sense of danger doesn’t build, it’s just there, sort of. This is the third in a series about 3 sisters but I haven’t read the other two books, Midnight Sun and Desert Heat. Maybe they’re better.

On the positive side, at least I finished it. It was good enough for me to persevere to the end.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Perfect Weapon by Amy J. Fetzer

I found Fetzer’s next book, Perfect Weapon, as good as Naked Truth in some ways, not as compelling in others.

Stay alive. That’s all Dr. Sydney Hale can think. In one terrifying minute, her life was turned upside down. Now, the cops think she’s a murder suspect, the government wants her to come in, and somebody will do anything, including kill, to the get the knowledge only she has. Alone, she’ll never survive on the run. What she needs is a perfect weapon, and Marine Jack Wilson just may be the answer to her prayers.

Jack has always been clear about who the enemy is, but now, he’s not sure. Why is Sydney Hale the only survivor of a government lab breach? What secrets is she hiding? Why is the government lying to him? Jack intends to find the answers to all his questions, but first, he has to keep Sydney alive long enough, and if there’s anything this marine knows, it’s how to keep moving and fight back. What he doesn’t know is what to do about the fierce desire she awakens in him. With no one to turn to but each other, sexual tension explodes into a passionate hunger and tender love neither can fully trust—or live without. And with the stakes rising, Jack and Sydney will make their stand, gambling everything they have on a choice that could save—or destroy—them both…

The action and suspense in this is every bit as good as it was in Naked Truth—which I liked very much. Fetzer writes with such economy, such precision that her pace seems to be on fast-forward. Again, not a word wasted and no place for the reader to catch their breath before the next turning point. Tight action. A narrow window of time. Multiple, layered forces—both good and evil—in play. And a hero and heroine at the core, drawing all of the forces in around them, shrinking the circle of action to a single point of conclusion. Very like a Clancy or Grisham novel, except for the on-air time for the heroine. Fetzer gives equal footing to both hero and heroine; the latter is not just a character trait for the hero.

So the pace and the sharp writing style are there in Perfect Weapon. What isn’t there is the unexpected, but powerful connection between the hero and heroine. Sure, there is attraction. There is even humility, humor and great tension in Fetzer’s sex scenes. But in Naked Truth, Fetzer gave us a hero and heroine drawn with such depth the reader knew them; and felt just as overcome as they did when sex and emotion converged with surprising poignancy. The romance of Naked Truth took my breath away more than once. Perfect Weapon held none of those moments for me.

The difference, I think, is the depth and believability of each character. They do not seem as strong in Perfect Weapon. In this one, the hero suffers terrible loss at the onset of the story. Fetzer does a fair job of crippling him with grief in the first part of the book. But then that grief seems to just slide away. Not in a “he’s over it” way, but in a “the grief no longer warrants its own character” kind of way. As if the devastating and brutal loss no longer plays a role in motivation or character definition. That was a problem for me. I think Jack would have been far more interesting if Fetzer had let him power through those life and death situations without lessening the crushing weight of his guilt and grief.

In Sydney, Fetzer gives us another strong, capable heroine--brilliant and assertive actually. She is also thrust into a deadly, horrifying firefight within the first 20 pages of the book. We see her in total panic, scared out of her mind, before we get to see her in competent, self-commanding mode. The switch between the two felt abrupt and the inherent conflict underdeveloped. Placing a woman who is always in control into a set of circumstances and events that are completely out of her control makes for some interesting conflicts. It just didn’t feel like Fetzer bared enough of those inner conflicts or connected Sydney’s wisecracking to her desperate reach for the nearest coping mechanism.

All that being said, I still found the couple engaging and their attraction sexy. Their lack of angst—as compared to Naked Truth—does not completely undermine their power to captivate the reader. I’ll shut up on this now.

Interestingly, Fetzer’s third leading character, Cisco, nearly steals the show. He is a deeply intriguing government agent with more emotional and intellectual depth than either Jack or Sydney. His struggle for the truth and all of its consequences is captivating. And his care for unwitting participants—namely Sydney and Jack—is palpable, even though it is largely unspoken. Here, Fetzer gives us a beautifully drawn character that powers the story as much as the action.

Overall, this is another Fetzer book I would recommend to other readers. I will continue to look out for new work from this author. Despite what appears to be little marketing or promotion efforts on her behalf, I have found mention of a new release slated for July.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

April TBR Challenge: Linda Castillo's Depth Perception

Title: Depth Perception
Author: Linda Castillo
Year Published: 2005

Why did you get this book? I added this one to my TBR list after reading its blurb in a (February 2005) email newsletter.

Do you like the cover? It’s nice enough. But I do think the story would have been better served by a darker image, suggestive of the evil and desolation present in its characters. As is, the image of this woman—complete with purse and low-heeled pumps—does nothing to clue readers in to her peril or her emotional devastation.

Did you enjoy the book? Enjoy is not the appropriate word to describe this reading experience. Depth Perception is a very good read. The writing is strong, characterization deep and consistent, the story compelling. I would recommend it to my reading friends.

However, very little in this book is pretty. Both hero and heroine have suffered the deaths of their children—she through the brutal murder of her 7-year old son and her husband, he through the apparent accidental drowning of his toddler boy. As a parent, this subject matter is usually off limits for me. I have neither the stomach nor the nerve to read (or watch) the stuff of my worst nightmare.

The blurb gives away his loss and I’m not sure why I dismissed it as benign. Maybe I thought since it was presented in the past tense, his son’s death would figure less in the story than it ultimately did. Her own loss—and grief twisted with a bit of the paranormal—were well masked and, had I known upfront, I most likely would have passed on this book.

As a result of their experiences, both hero and heroine are hard to watch. Their wounds are still open. Both remain in a weakened state of mind. Neither appears ready to touch or be touched—emotionally or physically—by another person. Castillo wastes no time in sharing this state of affairs with the reader. And it is precisely this challenge, this hopelessness that kept me turning pages.

Castillo’s secondary characters are difficult to stomach as well. It is near impossible to know who to trust and most—good and bad—behave menacingly toward the hero and heroine. There are no safe havens in this book—not even in our hero’s arms—and Castillo does a fine job of making the reader feel equally frightened and lost. Testament to her writing and storytelling abilities. And the reason I would recommend her to other readers.

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again? Yes, this was my first Castillo book. And yes, I plan to read some of her other titles, starting with The Shadow Side.

Are you keeping it or passing it on? Passing it on. I don’t keep books. Generally.

Anything else? Only one concern, a minor dent in credibility. When I went to Castillo’s website to grab an image of the book cover for this blog, I noticed a quote from Harriet Klausner on the homepage.

Dark Characters From Stuart and Carlyle

Devil’s Waltz by Anne Stuart

The Honorable Miss Annelise Kempton had no idea the kind of trouble she’d get into when she accepted an invitation for a self-made man to shepherd his daughter through her first season. Particularly when Christian Montcalm, the most notorious man in London, seems undecided whether to marry Annelise’s charge for her money or seduce the staid Annelise herself. Add to that a sinister secret, naughty statues and two addle-pated young lovers, and you have the perfect recipe for high-spirited happy ever after.

I can easily echo sentiments already expressed everywhere else online. I enjoyed Devil’s Waltz very much and, if I kept books, this one would qualify as a keeper.

It features another Stuart hero that borders on villain. Adding my opinion to the collective scale, I’d weight Christian’s “degree of bad” on the heavy side. Even near the end—a happy end, mind you—he actually seems to consider leaving his heroine as hostage to brutes, envisioning a vile fate for her as he stands there weighing his chances of survival with and without her in tow. He went so far as to let her think for a moment that he would leave her behind. That was one of many moments that undermined my belief in him or even his potential.

Nicknaming the heroine “dragon” did little to endear me to him—or her—either. Stuart’s portrayal of Annelise is almost as harsh as Christian’s treatment of her. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it and wondered how much Stuart really thought of her heroine—a woman strong on the outside and remarkably resigned on the inside. Protective at first, I finally tired of the dragon references and secretly wanted her to give in to her hope, however fleeting it felt to her.

Had it not been for the sparse moments of tenderness he showed Annelise, or her perseverance despite her self-loathing, I would have given them up to their miserable, independent fates. In the end, I simply wanted him to make her life better, save her from a misery that he was more than a little responsible for causing.

Still, it was a superb read. Primarily because Stuart writes so well, adding flesh to characters through dialogue and action in a way that few authors manage. Despite their flaws, Stuart’s characters penetrate the reader’s conscious. For me, I will always turn to a character calling me to slap him—hard—before I will turn to one that never fully materializes amidst weak dialogue and lame inner thoughts.

The Devil To Pay by Liz Carlyle

George Kemble, the man forever fixing everyone else’s problems, finds himself plagued by troubles of his own when his sister returns to London after a decade abroad. Sidonie Saint-Godard has lost her husband, but widowhood, unfortunately, bores her. When a thief called the Black Angel begins haunting the hells and alleys of London, robbing rich gentlemen of the ton, Kemble is mystified. He knows every member of London’s underworld, yet he does not know the Angel. But when a battered Sidonie collapses on his doorstep, bleeding from a nasty stab wound, Kemble begins to suspect the truth. Can he stop Sidonie’s dangerous behavior before someone else does?

Perhaps the Marquess of Devellyn can? The man unaffectionately known as the Devil of Duke Street has a watchful eye on his new neighbor, the mysterious Frenchwoman known as Madame Saint-Godard. In fact, he would like very much to seduce her, since he finds the lady lovely, intriguing, and almost disturbingly familiar . . . But when Kemble hears of his sister’s fascination with society’s most reviled nobleman, he is doubly alarmed. The Marquess of Devellyn is the absolute last person Kemble wants his sister in bed with—and for reasons which have nothing to do with Devellyn’s appalling reputation.

Also a superb read, again because Carlyle writes beautifully. Her elegant but economical descriptions pull me in and powerful characters tug me forward.

In The Devil To Pay, Carlyle’s hero and heroine are equally dark. And we see that darkness in them, through their demeanor and actions; feel it in the desperation of their private thoughts and listlessness.

For her hero, Carlyle does more than simply tell us Aleric is a rake with a dour view of his responsibilities—stereotyping readers can find in nearly every historical romance they open. Instead, Carlyle shows readers Aleric’s disdain—primarily for himself—every time he numbs himself by bottle or by lust.

In her heroine, Carlyle hides an impenetrable disappointment beneath the façade of activity, of doing something. Sidone is a woman who fills every moment with activity—some expected, some illicit and unsafe—never allowing the emotional undercurrent to the surface.

That each is inexplicably drawn to the other is understandable. Ultimately, Carlyle brings them together in an amazing sensual encounter that is powered by intense physical needs, heightened to near brutality. Then leaves them shattered by emotional longing so poignant even the reader aches.

I loved these two unconditionally; and ached for them.

Like those in Stuart’s The Devil’s Waltz, Carlyle’s characters see no way out from under the burdens that have carved their psyches. Unlike Stuart’s characters however, Carlyle’s Aleric and Sidone appear more deserving of a way out. The difference, I think, in the balance of strength and vulnerability in each.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Discovering Dani by NJ Walters... April TBR Challenge

OK, I know that the April TBR Challenge was supposed to be a book on your TBR list for 6 months or more, but y'all know I never have a book sitting around that long! This was sitting in my ebook reader for a full month - that's about as long as it gets for me, so this totally qualifies!

The blurb (courtesy of
Samhain Publishing):
Dani O'Rourke has had the responsibility of raising her two brothers, Patrick and Shamus, since the death of their parents. As sole owner and operator of O'Rourke Cleaning Services, she is no stranger too [sic] hard work, but she is a beginner when it comes to men.

Burke is a very rich and successful businessman whose brush with death has made him question his priorities. He's traveled to Jamesville for peace and quiet while he plans the rest of his life.

Their lives collide when Burke accuses her of breaking into his cabin to steal from him. Their attraction to each other is immediate, and after a series of misunderstandings he finds himself caught up in the lives of Dani and her brothers.

But can this gentle, giving woman get a man as hard and cynical as Burke to believe in the power of love? Or will Burke leave town without ever discovering the wonders of life with Dani?
I love NJ Walters' books. I've said it before. I'll say it again. This more traditional romance from Walters doesn't disappoint. Once again, Walters paints her characters well. You get the true sense of the deep bond between Dani and her brothers; she gave up basically her entire teenage and young adulthood to raise her brothers and keep the family together after their parents died. There is a true and loving bond between these siblings. I love the sense of family that Walters has portrayed in this book - the sense of protectiveness, respect, and caring that Patrick feels for his big sister (Am I right? Is Patrick's story coming? He is begging for one once he ages a few years!); the feelings of responsibility they all share for one another's happiness and well-being that comes out in so many ways; the 'we're in this together' connectedness that they share.

Into all this comes Burke, our hero. He comes from just the opposite kind of upbringing... and doesn't quite know what to make of this warm, giving, accepting family. All he knows is that he wants more of it. He allows himself to be drawn into their warm circle. Walters shows him as a very contradictory kind of guy. He is a ruthless businessman, but an accident and drawn-out recovery has forced him to re-evaluate much in his life. He doesn't realize what's missing until he finds it with the O'Rourke siblings. Still, he has too much personal baggage and history to let himself trust in it.

They each let their insecurities come between them, and therein lies the conflict. These insecurities are ones that we all face every day and can certainly relate to: learning to like and love who you are, knowing that you are worthy of another's love, and learning that letting someone in to help take care of you doesn't mean you can't do it yourself (or that they think you can't).

This was a very enjoyable read. A departure from the very steamy, explicit romances that Walters writes for Ellora's Cave. Walters proves that she is up to the task, and proves herself as a true romance author with this book.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Lots of time to kill on vacation...

What do you do when you go on a 5 day ski vacation with a kid who has a broken leg, and you're the designated company-keeper? You bring a shitload of books. (excuse the poor language, I just finished posting at KarenS's blog LOL). So what did I read all week? There are so many of these, so I will keep them all short and sweet, or else you will be reading all damn day (whoops there I go again - gee, thanks Karen *g*). No deep thinking for me tonight :)

The Bodyguards Series by Cindy Gerard: My blogging partner has already posted about To the Limit, and my other blogging partner Anne posted a fantabulous synopsis and review of all 3 books, so I will keep these very brief. Let me begin by reminding you what a spy/PI/military slut I am :) .

To the Edge: Book 1. I loved this book. Hard, edgy, taut. Tortured, studly, ex-military turned PI hero with a loving, teasing, tremendous family. Stalker storyline. You just know that Nolan is a goner the minute Jillian is introduced and holds her own against him. Did I say I loved this book? I thought this was the best of them all - and I loved them all, but something about Nolan just grabbed me. Sigh. What a yummy hero.

To the Limit: Book 2. This one is about the only sister in the Garrett family. Eve, ex-Secret Service, meets up with Tyler McClain, her high school one-night stand, while trying to find a missing girl. Turns out he's also a PI, and they are both looking for the same missing girl. The dialogue in this one was terrific - I loved the way McClain kept getting referred to as the "rat-bastard" - kept me grinning for pages and pages in the midst of some pretty gripping drama.

To the Brink: This is Ethan's, the eldest Garrett sibling, story. Gerard is very careful to characterize him as seemingly very proper in the first 2 books, always impeccably dressed, but his siblings are always wondering what is lurking beneath all that perfection. We get to find out here, as he races off to save his kidnapped ex-wife in the jungles of the Philippines.

What I really like about Gerard's writing is that there is no extraneous fat. It is taut, to the point, yet incredibly descriptive at the same time. The characters are fleshed out enough that you really get a sense of who they are, but without flowery embellishment. You understand what is driving them. You know why Nolan has nightmares and drinks, why Ethan was overprotective of his wife, why Eve was unwilling to trust McClain. The writing style matches the stories - tightly written, yet captivating. Look for Over the Line, Jason "Plowboy" Wilson's story in June 06. Gerard is making us wait until June 07 for Dallas (the final Garrett sibling) & Amy. Damn her.

Dangerous Curves by Pamela Britton: I have only read Pamela Britton's historicals, but have always enjoyed the heck out of them. This is the first in HQN's contracted series with NASCAR. The heroine is an FBI agent who grew up with and had a crush on our hero, a racing team owner and former driving star. When he believes one of his drivers was murdered, he asks for her to investigate, knowing that she is a race car expert. This was a fun, light read - and suspenseful. I didn't figure out the whodunnit till the very end, and I usually get those very early on. I had read somewhere, I forget where, that HQN had insisted there be no sex in the NASCAR books. Not true with this one.

In the Groove by Pamela Britton: Although I enjoyed the first one more, this 2nd in the NASCAR series was also a fairly fun read. This is the story of a driver in a slump and an ex- kindergarten teacher with a penchant for getting herself into trouble. The story was sweet (sometimes a bit too saccharin sweet for my taste, but not too terribly offputting if you like that sort of thing), and there was just enough humor to make the sweetness tolerable. Not too much action in this one... more of an introspective look for both hero and heroine... learning to trust and love themselves and each other. True to Harlequin storyline. Oh, and this one? No sex. I mean none. That must have been pretty hard for Britton - her historicals can get pretty racy :) The 3rd NASCAR, On the Edge, is due out in September. Hope it's a bit better than #2.

The Penalty Box by Deirdre Martin: I loved Martin's first book, Body Check, but had been increasingly disappointed with each subsequent book. So it was with a cynical eye that I opened up The Penalty Box. I'm glad I did. I enjoyed it, really I did. I think. Other than a slight twinge of annoyance with the heroine's obsession with her weight, and the obnoxious references to her sociology professorship, this one was a winner. And Martin didn't overly dwell on it, no more so than you or I would, but I think that's my point. I dwell enough on my weight, I hate it when I have to think about it in books. And, I work in academia, so the sociology professor thing was too close to home - ick. You probably wouldn't bat an eye at it. But, I don't think either was overdone, so what's my point? I dunno. Shut up, Lori. OK, so our heroine was the stereotypical fat chick in high school that everyone made fun of. Hero was a famous hockey player who had to retire early due to one too many concussions. They meet up again at their 10 year high school reunion. Of course, she's a raving beauty now and no one recognizes her until they read her name badge. He immediately falls in lust with her. They begin an affair. Throw in a stereotypical nasty cheerleader type who hasn't changed since high school (except to get even snarkier), a druggie sister with a Harley-riding tatoo-laden boyfriend named (can you guess it?... I'll wait...) Snake, custody of her hockey-playing 9 yo nephew (guess who's his coach?), a trans-gendered weight watcher buddy, and a boatload of her insecurities and you have The Penalty Box. Did I say that there were some things in the book that were stereotypical? I can't remember. Too harsh? I don't mean to be. I really did enjoy it. I think.

Awaken to Danger by Catherine Mann: I believe I've said before how much I love Catherine Mann. This is the latest in her Wingman Warriors series. Another great WW addition. The twist here is that this is Tag Price's daughter as the heroine, with his co-POW as the hero. They've had the hots for each other forever, but he's trying to deny his feelings out of respect for dear old dad. No can do. Now someone's out to kill her. Who do you suppose is gonna protect her while dad is out of the country? Sparks are flying. Another good Mann story.

Scandal of the Black Rose by Debra Mullins: I really enjoyed this one. This is a historical which explores the ties between twins, love at first sight that must be denied, familial obligations, secret societies, the effects of scandals on families and much more. I loved that the hero, Roman, was so loving with the heroine, yet he was so tortured because he couldn't have her. What a screwed up society England was back then LOL. So honor driven that you couldn't be with the one you loved. Oy. Anyway, a good mystery as well as a good love story. Although I had a good inkling as to whodunnit, Mullins left just enough doubt that it wasn't until the mask was lifted, so to speak, that I was sure I was right. Well done.

A Study in Scandal by Robyn DeHart: Ehhh. So-so. A sweet historical. A girl obsessed with Sherlock Holmes. A straightlaced, stick-up-his-butt detective hero. She is constantly getting in his way. How could he not fall in love with her? I'm glad I didn't pay for it - it was part of the loot I won at the Celebrate Romance conference a few weeks ago, but since it was free, I'm inclined to be a bit more generous toward it. As I said, it was a sweet story, well written. It just wasn't anything special. Although, I have to admit, I did grin through the scene where our straightlaced, stick-up-his-butt hero jacked off to a porno picture book while thinking about the heroine after their first kiss. This was the first in a series about the 4 girlfriends. I'll give DeHart one more chance...

An Unlikely Governess by Karen Ranney: This was another one in my bag of goodies at CR. I'm not a big Scottish historical freak, but free is free, right? And I did really enjoy Ranney's Highland Lords series (thanks, Nicole!). See? I can be open-minded. So I figured I'd give it a shot. It was pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. The heroine was believable, the hero as well, for the most part. I did have a hard time figuring out what his attraction to her was. Ranney went out of her way to describe how unattractive Beatrice was at the beginning, yet Devlen immediately was attracted to her. Pheremones? Must be. I have no other explanation, and Ranney didn't seem to, either. Aside from that, the hero and heroine are drawn together to protect a 9 yo duke (Devlen's cousin). Seems someone wants to kill him. Or is it all in his mind? Plenty of people with motive, including our hero himself. If you are a good guesser, you may get a partial on the whodunnit, but it's definitely a twisted one. This is a dark book for sure. As I said, all in all it's pretty good. If you like Scottish historicals and/or Ranney (do they go hand in hand?), this will be a winner for you, I'm sure.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Whisper Of Roses by Teresa Medeiros

I picked this book up at my local UBS because Medeiros appears somewhere on my TBR list. Though not the book I had listed, A Whisper Of Roses, published in 1993, was a wonderful surprise. Reminiscent of Garwood’s historicals set in the Scottish Highlands, this book evoked the same breathlessness, the same certainty that its hero and heroine are truly destined for each other.


A Daring Warrior…

As she peered over the edge of the gallery, Sabrina Cameron trembled at the sight of sun-bronzed giant striding into view. But she never recognized the stranger…not until the moment she found herself surrounded by arms of warm steel—and drowning in smoldering green eyes that had once held cool disdain but now shimmered with passion. Morgan MacDonnell, the boy, had been her tormentor. Now it looked as if Morgan, the man, would prove infinitely more dangerous…

A Defiant Beauty…

Though hatred divided their clans, Morgan MacDonnel had come to Cameron Glen hoping for a truce…only to find that by evening’s end the only way to avert bloodshed between the two families was for him to marry his enemy’s daughter. But even as Morgan spirited Sabrina away to his rugged fortress, his battle would not be won. For this delicate rose of a girl would put up a bold fight…and the spoils of victory would be nothing less than a heathen MacDonnell’s heart.

I loved the setup for this romance. The hero’s reluctance to love, to trust, makes sense. He is a son without a mother, raised to power by a man both hapless and barbaric; and the protégé of a man who represents all he longs for, all he lacks under his own clan’s decrepit existence.

The heroine is strong and bright, but has not been allowed to live outside the expectations and experiences of a woman of her time. Ultimately—and this is more in Coulter’s style—she is handed over, along with a settlement of livestock, to Medeiros’ hero.

Why did I so enjoy a book filled with characters and events that should otherwise grate? The romantic fool in me? The dyed-in-the-wool romance reader in me?

  • The romantic fool in me loves a man who can handle (fend off) a woman—in this case in a physical battle—without leaving a mark. In A Whisper Of Roses, this was a telling moment, one in which the reader gets a first glimpse at a plan Sabrina’s father has clearly been crafting for years. It also entices readers with a hint of gentleness, a promise of the care he will show her.

  • He is a Scot and calls her “lass”. Sorry. I just love that. Beats “sweetheart” any day.

  • The drunken hilarity of Morgan’s clan. They cracked me up.

  • Morgan’s gentleness—despite his size, his strength and his knowledge. When he knows that the gun Sabrina’s mother holds to his head shoots only a bouquet of flowers, he still surrenders—allowing himself to be locked in the dungeon. Just one example. There were many more, and frankly, these are the moments that hooked me.

    There was one part—part three specifically—that I could have done without. In this final section (unnecessary overall, IMO), our Laird dons an Englishman’s disguise, moves about in English society and goads Sabrina—now confined to a wheelchair—into walking again. For its time, this is where I found the story unbelievable. Add to that my aversion to powder and paint—for men and women both—and this part of the story fell flat.

    Overall, I liked it. It swept me away. Very few books are doing that for me right now. Not entirely sure why this one did, but it did. And I admit it without an ounce of sheepishness.
  • Monday, April 03, 2006

    Naked Truth by Amy J. Fetzer

    Naked Truth is a tightly written, fast-paced story featuring CIA operatives, ex-military, private for-hire retraction specialists, military, DEA, drug and arms dealing, and more. Amidst the whirlwind of action, Fetzer weaves an emotionally intense romance that kept me turning pages until the end.


    Clandestine operative Alexa Gavlin has nothing left. No country. No contacts. And no memory. Thirty days have been chemically erased. Stolen by whom she knows. Why, that's anyone's guess. Accused of murder and treason, Alexa becomes the hunted, trapped by what she can't remember and betrayed by her own people. Struggling to refit the puzzle before someone catches her between the crosshairs, her new mission is to stay alive long enough to learn the truth. Till she meets the man behind the laser sight...

    Killian Moore is a lot of things, former Marine, retrieval expert, and pissed off. Blackmailed into hunting down the operative suspected of ruining his career, Killian sees Alexa as nothing more than some sexy vital statistics and the means to clear his name. His mission is specific, bring her in or take her out--until he locks horns with the beautiful agent and everything he believes and feels unravels with each encounter. He tells himself she's an expert at deception, yet what they share between the sheets is raw, tender, and very real. But she's on the run again, and Killian knows if he doesn't catch her, the enemy will. Alexa has every reason to be wary, but Killian desperately needs her to believe in him.

    Cut off from their government, betrayed and hunted, they can rely on no one but each other. From the jungles of Colombia to the sparkling metropolis of Hong Kong , as each piece falls into place, Alexa and Killian learn that nothing is as it seems, and stopping terrorists set on a collision course will test their precious trust to the absolute limits.

    I love contemporary romance as much as I do historical romance. However, I usually find the love stories in contemporaries more difficult to 'fall into'. In stories featuring a good deal of action, it is even tougher. The realist in me almost always finds it hard to believe anyone, woman or man, can get carried away by infatuation and lust when their lives are in constant danger. In Naked Truth, Fetzer more than convinced me, building characters that were true in both action and emotion.

    Fetzer delivers the action and each development in the relationship between Alexa and Killian in a writing style that is sharply punctuated. The pace is very fast; each scene sharply written, then edited with a scalpel. There doesn't seem to be a single word wasted. I'd describe her telling of this story as staccato and unapologetic.

    The end result is an emotional relationship between her main characters that is sharp, cutting--palpable to the reader. And, given the pace, the highly emotional moments between these two take both them and the reader by surprise. Very nicely done.

    Fetzer's economic writing style also served to save readers from cliches, stereotypical villains and cookie cutter government types. It was hard to know who to trust; difficult to differentiate villains from honest government agents. Fetzer proved very adept at weaving a current of distrust through both the action and the romance. Like I said, kept me turning pages until the end.

    This is another case of finding an author I love. Looking at her backlist, I see a number of Silhouette titles. Not sure if I will attempt to find and read those, but I will certainly pick up her latest, The Perfect Weapon (which does not appear to be a sequel to Naked Truth).
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