Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Little reviews

In lieu of full-blown reviews, here are some thoughts on the non-Highlander books I’ve read since January.

Claiming The Courtesan by Anna Campbell
Blogger buzz and controversy led me to this title. Long after the group discussion, I have to agree with most, the rape put me ill at ease and despite the emotional depth of both hero and heroine, this violence and its aftermath permeated the rest of the story. It was a well-told story, emotionally complex and challenging. But the darkness never truly lifted. And I’m not suggesting that it should have. It was a powerful story as written and any argument about genre classification or HEA authenticity wouldn’t convince me to forego this one. Didn’t obviously. Not a Wow read for me, but an affecting one nonetheless.

Scent Of Darkness and Touch Of Darkness by Christina Dodd
I mention these titles because I wanted to comment on world building. Jane at DA brought it up yesterday, and it called to mind this series. Jane asked if we were getting pickier when it comes to the level of world building in paranormals and fantasy. I’d say yes, given the overwhelming number of titles to choose from and the benchmarks set by the likes of Liu and Singh. Take these Dodd titles for example. I liked them, but would simply call them ‘ok’. Nothing that stands out, but in essence, they are well written, with three-dimensional characters occupying interesting worlds and forms. All the right elements, but no grab. Could hinge on the complexity of the world. Singh’s Psy-Changeling world has much, much more in play than Dodd’s tale of cursed shape-shifter siblings. It may also hinge on the degree of HEA impossibility, for lack of a better phrase. Both Singh and Liu (for example’s sake) give us circumstances bound to prevent a coupling. And not just external circumstances, but mechanisms and experiences internal to each character that render their HEA harder won. In Dodd’s world, an interesting one like I said, the obstacles still lack punch. They are old-fashioned even—can a human love another who takes animal form? If yes, can they overcome said animal’s curse? Seems to me we need more now, like we’ve already—as readers—discovered that yes, we can love a hero that shifts. So, for Dodd’s titles, they were decent reads. But I’m not sure I’ll keep going when I have so many others in the stack.

Cutting Loose by Tara Janzen
I loved this one. Flat out loved it. I will always, always go back to Janzen for more. Had I the gumption back when I finished it, I could have gushed up a full-length review. Looking back on it in my book log however, all I can say is that I loved every single minute of it. Can’t single any one thing or character out. All good. Looking at her website today, I see mention of Loose and Easy, and Loose Change. No word on when, but I’ll be ready and waiting.

And Then He Kissed Her by Laura Lee Guhrke
Blogger buzz led me to this title as well. But honestly, sitting here recapping my reads, I couldn’t remember a thing said about it and I couldn’t recall a single detail about the book. After looking it up online, I remember the story. But that’s it. Don’t recall my immediate reaction or feeling, or anything in particular about Guhrke’s telling. Looks like she has more titles than I expected. Maybe I thought her a new author based on the buzz. No telling. Given that I read a lot less now, I’m not inclined to search out any more of her titles. Again, too many others to choose from right now.

Tempted by Megan Hart
This is another book worthy of a full-length, thoughtful review. I was simply never able to find the words. Loved it, as I have Hart’s previous titles. Was moved, touched by the struggle Anne found in loving more than one. Powerful stuff. And really, I can’t share my thoughts on any of it in just a short space. Maybe I’ll get to the whole review after a reread.

The Mad, Bad Duke by Jennifer Ashley
I loved, loved, loved the Captain Lacey mysteries Jennifer Ashley penned under the name of Ashley Gardner. This was my first romance by her and she did not disappoint. Surprised me though. I was unaware that The Mad, Bad Duke was a paranormal. Not a secret I’m sure, just something I failed to notice when selecting the book. I picked it for no other reason than the fact that she wrote it. So, paranormal elements aside, Ashley’s voice captivated; different than the Lacey series as those were written in first person, but equally good—tight, clean prose. That was what I was looking for—the writing style and skill I found in those first books. The paranormal elements—shape-shifting, spells, etc.—were interesting, particularly in a historical setting, and the romance was both moving and spicy. I’d easily recommend Ashley’s books to those who like paranormals. I also plan to go back and pick the book I believe comes before this one, before moving on to her Highlander titles.

Strangers In Death by J.D. Robb
Like coming home. Always.


  1. There are some real gems among Guhrke's pre-Avon titles and if you stumble across them in a UBS they are well worth a look. In particular, Breathless and To Dream Again. I know one well-known reader blogger who feels that Guhrke's Avon releases lack of the emotional oomph of her earlier work. I haven't read her Avon books yet - so no verdict from me as of yet.

  2. OMG, Anne going to have a hissy fit when she learns you read The Mad, Bad Duke out of order. LOL

    I know all of you love Megan Hart but I just don't care for her voice or story lines.

    The Campbell book sounds like a miss for me too if the darkness never truly lifted.

    I've read the two by Dodd and I enjoyed them.

  3. This sounds like I'm making light of it but I was able to read Campbell's book and enjoy it very much. The controversial scene is very difficult to read, no question. I felt both characters had a lot to work through, and the telling of it worked for me.

    Loved "Tempted". Megan Hart has a way of writing that just captures my attention, no matter how mundane.

    I didn't care for LLG's book as much. I loved "Guilty Pleasures" but this was was just okay.

  4. Thanks Wendy, I've added Breathless and To Dream Again to my TBR list. I'll have another go at this author.

    Laughing Linda - Anne will forgive me. *g* As for Campbell's book, I think you in particular would appreciate the emotional depth and development of these characters. It really is a deep and moving read. I just wasn't as bowled over by it as I was by say The Spymaster's Lady. And I'm sorry to hear that Hart's books don't work for you. For me, her honesty is what pulls. She peels every last concealing layer from her female leads and I always seem able to relate to the not-so-attractive stuff beneath.

    Hi Stacey! Campbell's book worked for me too. It didn't stun me senseless, but it captivated. Adding Guilty Pleasures to my TBR list, thank you!

  5. I just discovered Tara Janzen in the past few months. I love her books. So fun, and oh my! Hot! Those men are so very Alpha. Yum.

    I read the two Dodd books. I enjoyed them, even if they didn't knock my socks off. I am interested in reading an installment featuring the sister.

  6. You know, I'm gonna get around to reading that new Tara Janzen...I enjoyed her Hot books. Do any of them make an appearance in this one?

  7. You're right Shannon, I think the sister's story from Dodd will warrant a return to this series for me. Glad you pointed it out.

    Rowena - Oh yeah! They're all in there. Yum. Like I said, loved every single word.


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