Friday, October 24, 2008

Hostage To Pleasure by Nalini Singh

Preface: Right now, I’d categorize my reading into four categories:

1) Highly anticipated (by me) releases of this year.
2) Recent (say last six months or so) blogger recs that stand out in my mind.
3) And whatever the next installment is for series I’m working my way through.

Generally, my reading is a mix of all of the above. At present however, I feel like I’m methodically working through the stacks of books in my closet. By category. Starting with the first. Hence my recent reviews of Fearless Fourteen, Tribute, Loose And Easy, and here, Hostage To Pleasure. This category also included Anne Stuart’s Fire And Ice, but that one was a DNF for me. So, onward with reviews of books ya’ll probably read months back.

Title: Hostage To Pleasure
Author: Nalini Singh

Type: Paranormal
Series: Book 6 in the Psy-Changeling series
Published: 2008

Blurb: Separated from her son and forced to create a neural implant that will mean the effective enslavement of her psychically gifted race, Ashaya Aleine is the perfect Psy--cool, calm, least on the surface. Inside, she's fighting a desperate battle to save her son and escape the vicious cold of the PsyNet. Yet when escape comes, it leads not to safety, but to the lethal danger of a sniper's embrace.

DarkRiver sniper Dorian Christensen lost his sister to a Psy killer. Though he lacks the changeling ability to shift into animal form, his leopard lives within. And that leopard's rage at the brutal loss is a clawing darkness that hungers for vengeance. Falling for a Psy has never been on Dorian's agenda. But charged with protecting Ashaya and her son, he discovers that passion has a way of changing the rules...

Why: Singh = Auto-read

Thoughts: Here is what I wrote about the last installment:

Mine To Possess by Nalini Singh – I love Singh’s Psy-Changeling books. No question. But this was the first one to grip me on page ONE. Literally, I was pulled under instantly. And no, before this, I hadn’t paid much attention to Clay. As a secondary in earlier books, he never really stood out to me. But man, Singh set his story up and hooked me before I could blink.

Pretty much a ditto here, for Hostage To Pleasure. I was instantly pulled under by a scene and characters I remembered from the close of the last book. Off and running in paragraphs rather than pages.

It’s funny though…as I sit here collecting my thoughts for this review, I can’t seem to find anything new to say about Dorian and Ashaya. Dorian fits Singh’s Changeling mold to a T—in spirit. His inability to shift adds a depth to him of course, but it doesn’t make him all that different than the Changeling men we’ve already loved. He embodies the same fierceness, loyalty, competence, intelligence, possessiveness, sex drive, etc. as the rest. And every one of those facets appeals to me as much now—in Dorian—as they first did in Lucas, Singh’s first hero. It’s a powerful mold to withstand such repetition. No question. Still fresh. Still raw. Still captivating.

The same can really be said of Singh’s Psy heroines. Ashaya is another Psy female with a spine of steel and a mind close to shattering. Same stand-out attributes Singh gave us in Sascha and Faith. And equally appealing this time around.

There is also the expected Psy-Changeling interracial conflict. Dorian despises the Psy. He holds them responsible for his sister’s gruesome death and perceives his attraction to Ashaya as a betrayal to his sister’s memory. As for Ashaya, like her predecessors, she views an emotional relationship with Dorian as a direct threat—sure to compromise the shields she wields in self-protection.

Beyond these staples, if you will, Singh veers into new territory, adding a Psy mother-son connection and an evil Psy twin. Both compel Ashaya to risk her life; both deny Dorian the ability to protect Ashaya from harm. Here, he cannot simply eliminate the threat her twin poses, nor can he act in any way that will bring harm to her son. This is also trademark Singh. Hers are not conflicts easily resolved. And while the reader is assured of the ultimate mating, she cannot predict at what cost it will come. In this case, without giving anything away, I think the true cost calculation is left for future installments.

I can also say that, overall, Hostage To Pleasure reflects how well Singh has managed to evolve this series, this world. I’ve little recollection of its world-building elements, so they were either seamless or no longer required in this installment—leaving much more time for readers to spend with her rich characters. I’d almost say Hostage To Pleasure doesn’t stand alone, but as I know someone firsthand who just dove into this series with this installment—and loved it—I’m not so sure that is true.

Over, overall, Singh’s books remain on my highly-anticipated list. Sure, I fall behind on release dates, but that’s just a financial issue. Going forward, I just can’t see this series ever becoming one I have to ‘catch up’ with. Nor will I wait any longer than I have to to read her new series debut, Angel’s Blood when it releases next year.

Word On The Web:

Sandy at The Good, The Bad, The Unread, A+

Literary Vampiress, A

Errant Dreams, 5 out of 5

Limecello at The Good, The Bad, The Unread, A-

Rosario, A, A, A!!!

Book Smugglers, 9 damn near perfection

Aimless Ramblings, 5 of 5

AztecLady at Karen Knows Best, 8.75 out of 10

Casee at Book Binge, 5 out of 5

And many, many more perfect scores. Too many to list.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Loose And Easy by Tara Janzen

Title: Loose And Easy
Author: Tara Janzen

Type: Romantic Suspense
Published: 2008

Why: Besides Superman? Janzen is an auto-read.

Thoughts: Fun and sexy, as usual. I enjoy Janzen’s men and their over-the-top appreciation of the female body as much as I enjoy the adolescent banter among Brockmann heroes. What can I say? My inner, less-than-progressive self likes it and my old and wrinkly feminist organ gave up trying to fight it awhile back.

This male appreciation got me right from the start in Loose And Easy, when Ramos recalls Esme as a size four. Then, seeing her up close, decides her ass has definitely matured to a size six. Juvenile? Demeaning? Nope, hilarious and sexy.

And on the topic of male appreciation, I love how Janzen always comes back to comparing her alphas to Christian (Superman). Or rather, pointing out how none of them compare. No one knows his way around a woman’s body like Superman. Or her mind. That little continuous thread throughout this series comes as close as anyone else has to the ongoing love affair readers have for Robb’s Roarke. Swear.

So, Janzen’s trademark sex-on-the-brain guys entertained throughout the book. And that kept me reading. Otherwise, I’m afraid I would have considered passing on this installment. Ramos and Esme are interesting, as were the night’s events and supporting cast. But overall, I found far more internal, repetitive thought than I like. I prefer Janzen’s characters’ thoughts to be more direct (like in books past)—calculating threat level, planning their next move or fondly noting a size six ass. Here, I found both Ramos and Esme over-thinking their attraction for pages at a time. There was also mention of Esme’s trauma during a failed mission and Ramos’ difficulty in dealing with post-combat issues and responsibilities. But neither were fleshed out sufficiently enough, in my mind, to add noticeably to character depth. They knew each other in high school and any baggage picked up since then should have either been given more weight—profoundly changing them—or left off altogether. Honestly? Just learning of each others’ chosen professions would have been enough. Both accounted for the honed, tough cookies they are today.

Overall: Despite the mild impatience Ramos and Esme inspired, I enjoyed the book. Again, Janzen’s hero mold appeals to me and, as long as it is significant in some way, the appearance of established characters is also appealing. Particularly when Janzen veers to more serious, emotionally meatier storylines like she did here. At the end. General Grant’s announcement sent chills up my spine. I do not want to know how long we must wait for this story to unfold. It promises to knock me back to the breathlessness of Janzen’s previous books.

Word On The Web:

Heather’s Books, Thought this was Tara at her best.

Jane, Dear Author, C+

A Bookaholic’s Review, Not what she expected from Janzen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tribute by Nora Roberts

Title: Tribute
Author: Nora Roberts

Type: Contemporary, stand alone
Published: 2008

Why: NR = Auto Read

Thoughts: Strangely enough, I expected to be disappointed. Unable to read this one on or close to its release date, I skimmed or skipped most blogger reviews back when. (I do that when I plan to read the book regardless.) Weeks later, book in hand, I sat down with the dim recollection that Tribute fell flat for many readers. Where in the fuck did I get that idea?

I enjoyed it immensely. Roberts creates such a rich community of characters, right down to the dog. No clue how she does it, but she introduces and arranges characters so naturally that the reader is as easily acquainted with them as the book’s protagonists. They are introductions that, despite the suspense element, evoke no conscious thought to motive or background. Rather, we get an acceptance that is guided solely by the connections through which they are engineered. Friend of a friend, and family.

Sure, Cilla wonders if this or that one is the mysterious lover in her grandmother’s past, the one who may be stalking her. But those thoughts do not plague the story. Not for the sake of building suspense and not for the sake of giving each character a place in the plot. Instead, Roberts weights every connection with emotional attachment, adds a cohesiveness inherent in work crews laboring toward the same goal and then binds it all together with generational ties.

End result? The reader senses early on that the villain will ultimately be an insider, hiding among this labyrinth of connections and relationships, but still feels that somehow it will all work out in the end. Not so different from Roberts’ other standalone novels. The villain usually is someone known to some if not all of her cast. So we wait, in suspense, not for the bogeyman, but rather to see how Roberts’ characters will cope with the betrayal of friend, coworker or family member. Solid, emotional stuff.

As for the romance in this one, one word. Fun. Two wise acres who find each other after years of not searching. Very entertaining. They are so well matched in wits that I found myself comparing their rapid-fire banter to that of Eve and Roarke. The kind of banter you practically have to climb into the head of the other to achieve. Or be cut from the same cloth. That humor was their connection, their spark for me. The rest of it—protectiveness, appreciation for the real (flawed) you, sexual chemistry—followed. Everything I like in the romance portion of the program, just not choreographed. Loved that. Loved that it was all tumbled and tangled amidst everyday life. Refreshingly lopsided. Gender role reversal included.

It was also refreshingly consistent, as Ford wields the same humor in every relationship—even the one that blooms between him and Cilla’s ex. Hilarious and poignant. That Ford’s dog is equally consistent when building relationships only underscores Roberts' portrayal of him as…steady. It’s funny yes, but it also reveals a truth about the pair—Ford and his dog. They are ultimately the perfect home for Cilla. It was an HEA easily seen from the start. One that never really felt threatened—not by the suspense stuff and not even by the emotional baggage stuff. Steady equaled no-brainer for Cilla, and the reader knew it.

So did Cilla. And she dealt with it. Working through it as she went about her everyday life. That was the other thing I liked here, everyday life. With work front and center. I enjoyed the peek into a graphic novelist’s work as well as the full-out invitation into home restoration. Really liked that faucet-line-over-the-stovetop idea. LOL Boy, I’d have pasta every night of the week if I had me one of those.

Overall, a relaxing read. Entertaining, well-paced and filled with folks I genuinely liked.

Word On The Web (Introduced and graciously shared by Jessica at Racy Romance Reviews):

Clare at Confessions of a Book Addict, Found the restoration stuff tedious and the book a bit of a letdown.

Tempting Persephone, Thought there should have been more depth or suspense, but liked it.

AztecLady at Karen Knows Best, Says it best I think, having liked it as much as she did.

Good Books, Bad Books, Liked the house rehab stuff too.

Jane at Dear Author, C grade

Casee at Book Binge, Yep, what she says.

So mixed reviews. And this is where I got the idea it might disappoint. So glad Ms. Roberts is an auto-read for me. Otherwise I'd have missed out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Crossfire by JoAnn Ross

Crossfire by JoAnn RossHere’s something different: Instead of giving you the synopsis, just watch it.

So anyway... Here are my thoughts. I’m really a JoAnn Ross fangirl. I am. Crossfire is the 2nd in this High Risk series of Special Ops guys, several from different branches of the military – Freefall was the first.

What did I like? I liked the SpecOps angst. Ross writes it very Brockmannesque, yet it’s not quite as in your face. These guys are a little more personal with their angst, but it’s no less there. Quinn is now an author. I like that he is in a quiet profession now – one prone to introspection. And that makes him appear, at least on the surface, more at peace with the ‘incident’ that has brought all these warriors back home from Afghanistan. Quinn comes across as very human, which is a real treat.

I liked the procedural, when Cait was interacting with all the other law enforcement officers. She comes across as gutsy, strong, knowledgeable, intelligent. Yet not afraid to accept help when she needs it, even when it comes from a source she really doesn’t want to accept.

Ross gives the 'shooter' his own POV, something she excels at. I always enjoy reading her killer's perspectives.

We get to revisit Father Mike Gannon, from the Stewart Sisters trilogy (which I loved, BTW). I laughed my ass off to see that Ross calls him Father What-a-Waste on her website. Were truer words ever spoken? LMAO!! Mike is no longer a priest, BTW, which opens up a whole lotta doors. Yipee-kiyay. I hear he gets his own HEA in the next book, even though he is not the main hero. Rock on! There are also a lot of other connections to Out of the Storm, as Cait is Joe Gannon’s former partner. There are a couple scenes with Joe, and it was lovely getting to see him as well.

What didn’t I like? Well, it took a while for me to enjoy the interactions between Quinn and Cait. They were stilted, and not in the way that I suspect Ross intended. Once Cait stopped being a total bitch, the interactions were smoother, and even though she still fought the relationship, I welcomed them.

I didn’t quite get a feel for the setting, either. Although I read the previous book, and she did a beautiful job describing it, and making you feel as though you could close your eyes and step on the island, for a reader just picking up this book, I couldn’t feel the setting, which is actually unusual. In all her books, Ross does a fantastic job of placing the reader right there – whether it’s in the heart of New Orleans, in a snowy Wyoming town, or a sleepy Southern island off the coast. So it’s something that I noticed missing.

All things equal, I did enjoy this, and the flaws didn’t diminish my position as a fangirl. I truly can’t wait to read Shattered, which is the next in this series.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Line of Scrimmage by Marie Force - a quickie review

Line of Scrimmage by Marie Force
I heard about this from all the buzz over at Book Binge. And so glad I decided to pick it up. It’s sports romance ála Rachel Gibson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, etc. This book has been reviewed a lot, so I’ll just give a quick overview of what I liked and didn’t.

I really, really liked that Ryan was a fully developed 3-dimensional character, not a cookie-cutter sports hero. Totally willing and able to discuss his feelings with his wife. To be able to be the first one to say “I don’t want a divorce.” He was willing to give everything up to be with Susannah. If only he had realized it just a little earlier on. I loved that he fell in love with her in college and was still in love with her 10 years later.

I liked that Susannah was willing to get over her engagement to Henry long enough to try again. I liked that she was sassy and unimpressed by his fame. I liked that he liked that about her also.

What didn’t I like? I didn’t like that Susie assumed the worst of Ryan at the ball – assuming he’d lied about having an affair. It seemed to me to be the one area that he was always very straight up with her about, and that she really shouldn’t have had any worries on. However, having been pregnant, I know that hormones sometimes do make one irrational. But still….

I also really hated his attitude in the first scene. Granted, it was bravado in the face of his injury and his wife’s new fiancé, but it just didn’t jive with his character as Force built it in the rest of the book.

Having said that, I simply loved this boo. Pure escapism, with lots of deep emotion, good humor, sex, and fun. What more can you ask? I’ll be looking for more of Marie Force’s books.

The Mistress Diaries by Julianne MacLean

The Mistress Diaries by Julianne MacLeanI have to admit, I wasn’t all that taken with In My Wildest Fantasies. In fact, I pretty much disliked it. However, I really, really liked this one. I was concerned at first that we were only going to get the story from Cassandra’s POV, and what MacLean really excels at is giving us a window into the hero’s mindset, and making us sympathize with him, making us truly root for him, and changing him from villain to hero right before our very eyes.

What did I like? I really liked both the hero and the heroine. An unusual situation for me. Cassandra was someone who, when we meet her, was enjoying her sensuality, having a fling – a one night stand, and loving every second of it. That’s not something we see too much of in historicals. Through flashback (nobody does them as well as MacLean, IMO), we learn that Vincent was just as taken with Cassandra, if not moreso, during that one night stand. Yet, he was unwilling to give up his freedom and give his heart to another only to have it squashed once again.

MacLean for the most part rightly keeps the story focused on the hero and heroine. I really enjoyed in this book what was so glaringly missing in the first; watching the relationship form between these two people. Yes, they had a one night stand that resulted in a child. But, they then began a friendship that enabled them to learn about one another, and open up with each other. In that respect, I was reminded of The Seduction, by Nicole Jordan, another book I absolutely adored for much the same reason. Only then did they become lovers again, and admit their love for one another.

What didn’t I like? A quite one-dimensional villain in Letitia, and surprisingly, I didn’t care all that much for Devon, the hero from In My Wildest Fantasies (he was really the only thing I liked about that book). He seemed quite one-dimensional as well. Granted, he is a secondary character here, but given that he is someone the reader theoretically knows and cares about, I felt a bit cheated, even given the rift between him and Vincent for the majority of the book.

Overall, a much better book than In My Wildest Fantasies. I felt like I was reading Julianne MacLean again. The next book, When a Stranger Loves Me is due out in February 09.

Demon Angel by Meljean Brook

Title: Demon Angel
Author: Meljean Brook

Type: Paranormal (but in a class, literally a class, by itself)
Published: 2007

Blurb: For two thousand years, Lilith wrought vengeance upon the evil and the damned, gathering souls for her father's armies Below and proving her fealty to her Underworld liege. Bound by a bargain with the devil and forbidden to feel pleasure, she draws upon her dark powers and serpentine grace to lead men into temptation. That is, until she faces her greatest temptation—Heaven's own Sir Hugh Castleford...

Once a knight and now a Guardian, Hugh spent centuries battling demons—and the cursed, blood-drinking nosferatu. His purpose has always been to thwart the demon Lilith, even as he battles his treacherous hunger for her. But when a deadly alliance unleashes a threat to both humans and Guardians in modern-day San Francisco, angel and demon must fight together against unholy evil—and against a desire that has been too long denied...

Why: Blogger reviews back in 2007. I know, my TBR list is aging like fine wine.

Thoughts: Hard to pin down I think, because it took me three weeks to read Demon Angel. That is a long time to spend with one book—long enough for the forces of my life to overpower the forces in Brook’s remarkable story. I’ll do my best however, to sort my reaction or experience from the rest of the clutter.

1. From the first page, reading Demon Angel transported me back to one of those stand-out periods in college—a lit class devoted to Milton’s Paradise Lost. I’d grant Brook whatever book-of-the-year award necessary just to say thank you for the vivid recollection of that wonderful experience. I loved that class.

2. And maybe it was the lit feel of Demon Angel that explains why I read it so slowly, taking time and care with its complexities, savoring its power.

3. Not escapism in the usual sense. More like an appreciation of the effort that went into its making.

4. Which is both good and bad. Good, because I found Brook’s prose, characters and story riveting. Bad, because there were moments when it felt like studying instead of reading for pleasure.

5. I even went so far as to read two other books during the interim—something I absolutely never do. I am a seriously monogamous reader. Here though, I squeezed in J.D. Robb’s Eternity In Death (easily rationalized because it was a brief respite found in an anthology) and Janet Evanovich’s Fearless Fourteen (also easily rationalized because Plum reads are fast reads and it was due back at the library the next day). Still, there was guilt.

6. So, between the distraction afforded by Eve, Roarke and Stephanie and some sudden, debilitating back pain (long story), I’m having a hard time bringing the memory of Demon Angel into focus. Let’s see…

7. Timeframe. Epic, but not in the generations way of Thorn Birds. More like a sweeping historical journey—through spiritual worlds many readers already know and fear. Another slash in the this-is-not-escapism column. Not at all like the pure fantasy of Liu or Singh. No, Brook’s depiction of heaven and hell is far more personal, more disturbing.

8. Characterization. I’ve no words. No way to adequately describe the connection recognized between Hugh and Lilith in their first meeting. Followed immediately by some of the most powerful H/H exchanges I’ve ever read—moments when the reader almost struggles to comprehend the depths already forged between them. We know they are destined for something in the same way we believe that our lives—in their entirety—are already known by God. Both frightening and comforting—that constant blade of control versus trust. It is the crux of Demon Angel. Or it was for me anyway.

9. Brook’s H/H ride that blade from beginning to end. Phenomenal really. I defy anyone to find another H/H with such insurmountable obstacles. In any given paranormal, the reader expects (and accepts) the world-builder to install an out, a means around or through the conflict for the H/H. But because Brook’s world does not feel entirely of her own making, the reader can’t be so sure. I mean how easy is it for you to envision Lilith making a break from the devil? Insurmountable. Scary. Utterly heartbreaking.

10. And Hugh? When not even the power of God can save her? Where does that leave him? If you haven’t read it, just try to imagine the kind of rage and despair that impotence evokes. If you have read it, then you know.

11. Plot. Admittedly hard to follow. Brook lost me more than once. And despite retracing my steps every time, I still had a hard time assimilating every layer of action and history. These were the moments I referred to—where it felt more like studying, like I HAD to get this before I could move on. Perhaps too much pressure for a pleasure read and sure to result in another year passing before I read the next installment in Brook’s Guardian series.

12. Ending. As complex as the beginning and middle. But absolutely right.

13. Overall...

Stunning, just breathtaking.
Challenging and literary.
Devastatingly, crushingly romantic.
With perfect smart-ass humor and kick-ass attitude.

14. Finally, if this were my copy, I’d house it on my keeper shelf. Next to Milton, not Garwood.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Our first award! Way cool!

Thanks to Jessica, who awarded us the "I love your blog" award. We really appreciate it :) Glad our reviews are saving you money. We can ALL use that!

Here are the directions for this awards:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!

Here are our nominees (and we figure since there are four of us, our list of nominees knows no limit):

Karen S


Jenster's Musings


Lauren Dane



Jill Shalvis

The LawDog Files

The Pioneer Woman

Unusual Historicals


Thanks again to Jessica!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas (a buddy review with Nath)

This was a buddy review with Nath of Books, books, and more books and Breezing Through. Cross posted at Breezing Through. Thanks for asking me to buddy review, Nath! it was fun!

WARNING: Loads of spoilers in this one....

Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas
published by St. Martin's Press in September 2008

Kev Merripen has longed for the beautiful, well-bred Winnifred Hathaway ever since her family rescued him from the brink of death when he was just a boy. But this handsome Gypsy is a man of mysterious origins--and he fears that the darkness of his past could crush delicate, luminous Win. So Kev refuses to submit to temptation...and before long Win is torn from him by a devastating twist of fate.

Then, Win returns to England...only to find that Kev has hardened into a man who will deny love at all costs. Meantime, an attractive, seductive suitor has set his sights on Win. It's now or never for Kev to make his move. But first, he must confront a dangerous secret about his destiny--or risk losing the only woman he has lived for...

Genre: Historical romance
Series: The Hathaway siblings, Book #2

Nath: Wow, you read SMaS in half a day! That was quick!! :) Must I take it you LOVED it?

Lori: LOVED it is strong. Yeah, I loved it, but there were some things I can say I didn't love so much.

Nath: Really? I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling this way. Personally, I thought this book was okay to good. I enjoyed the storyline and liked most of the characters. I did think Ms Kleypas perhaps overdid it with Merripen’s - hmmm, how to put it... - bad temper LOL :)

Lori: I definitely don't agree with some out there that he's the best hero she ever wrote. Certainly one of the most "angsty", though. And yes, bad temper pretty much sums it up, LOL.

Nath: I agree with you, Merripen is definitively not the best hero written by Ms Kleypas ... A man like Merripen is not my ideal man and certainly wouldn’t make me swooned. Yes, there's plenty of angst and he's all tortured in a way, but most of it, he did it himself. Also, I think most heroines would feel the same way as me… Merripen’s personality only worked in my opinion because he and Win knew each other from childhood. Personally, I prefer hero with a bit more balance and for those reason, I enjoyed Cam or even Leo a lot better than him :)

So what didn’t you like of the book?

Lori: I thought it was good - really good and I love that Merripen had that soft spot for Win. But the whole "I'm not good for you" thing needed to stop sooner. I understood it once Cam explained his motivation better, but still... enough!

Nath: Again, I’m in total agreement with you. The whole "I'm not good for you" got tiring fast. I'm disappointed that he wouldn’t fight for her... and I totally agree with Leo's speech.

"Do you understand what you are in, Merripen? A prison of your making. And even after you're out of here, you'll still be trapped. Your entire life will be a prison"

I'm glad Leo called it as he saw it, that Merripen was a coward.

Lori: Though, Ms Kleypas did pull off some really great lines between Merripen and Win. For example:

"Your heart is mine", he thought savagely. "It belongs to me."

And when Win tells him that he doesn't have it in him to love her as a woman...

"All the fires of hell could burn for a thousand years and it wouldn't equal what I feel for you in one minute of the day."

Yum. But she should have stopped there, cause the rest of that little speech kind of creeped me out.

"I love you so much there is no pleasure in it. (huh?) Nothing but torment. Because if I could dilute what I feel for you to the millionth part, it would still be enough to kill you.(WHAT?!) And even if it drives me mad, I would rather see you live in the arms of that cold soulless bastard than die in mine."

Them strong feelings, but just a tad on the creepy side.

Nath: LOL. To tell the truth, so much passion bores me ^_^; It's like, could we get on with the story, please?

Hmmm, what else didn’t I like? I have to say it's weird of me, but I found myself more entertained by everything else than Win and Merripen's relationship. I thought their relationship was too much for me. Also, I think the whole part about Win lying about being able to carry babies was superfluous, because in the end, it never really mattered and it sure didn't change anything.

Lori: Yeah, and then he was willing to throw the whole thing away after he'd already slept with her because of it. Oy, enough already! I'm finding I need my HEA, and I need it now.

Also, I like that Merripen and Cam ended up being brothers, but didn't like so much that they ended up aristocracy. I could have done without Merripen ending up as an earl. What was that about? I thought there would have been enough motivation for the Irish family to want to kill them simply because they were Rom. Making them aristocrats was too much for me.

Nath: True that. I enjoyed the whole mystery behind Cam and Merripen’s origins; however, Merripen annoyed me so much with the whole "don't call me that" whenever Cam would call him ‘phral’ and even when it turned out to be right!!! Ugh.

And you know why Ms Kleypas made them aristocrats right? So they would be accepted by the peers. I think that was unnecessary since none of the Hathaways cared. Sigh.

Okay, so far, it seems that we didn’t really enjoy the book, which is not true. Therefore, time to discuss what, in my opinion, saved SMaS. First, Win.

Lori: I thought Win was a really great heroine, though. And I usually really hate the heroines.

Nath: Strong statement from you then, to say she was a great heroine. I liked Win as well. I think the reason why she stands out from other heroines is that she's already very sure of her feelings towards Merripen. She even tries to seduce him repetitively; she wants to be his woman. She was conscious of her actions and that makes it refreshing. She had lot of guts and strength...

However, I did think she was a bit too naive and it was stupid of her to defend Dr. Harrow. Like the part where she accused Merripen of spreading rumors because he didn't want her to be with Dr Harrow. I think she should have more faith in Merripen's character. The man is traightforward... he wouldn't just lie for that.

Lori: I agree. But you have to cut her a little slack - the man did save her life, after all. And I loved that she set him on fire when push came to shove. Too funny! And Leo's reaction to it was priceless. An annual "Set the manse on fire day". Cracked me up.

Nath: Speaking of Leo, I enjoyed seeing all of the Hathaway siblings and their family dynamics – present and past (when Merripen thinks back of how the Hathaway had welcomed him into the family). However, I’d have done without the other characters (even mentioning them) from the Wallflower series. I believe that the Hathaway's series should stand on its on, but I guess it’s too late. I also think that Amelia, Cam and Leo – especially Leo, stole the show from Merripen and Win a bit.

Lori: I agree - I even forgot that they all 'kind of' knew each other. Also, I loved seeing Amelia and Cam, I didn't mind them in there. I really loved Leo. I knew in Mine Til Midnight he would be a tortured hero, and in one scene we see that he still isn't completely over Laura. Just can't wait for him to get a book. He had some of the best lines in the whole book! For example, when he accused Merripen of taking the easy way out, and leaving him to suffer if Merripen would have killed himself if Win had died of the scarlet fever? Wow, just wow.

Nath: I’m with you. I can’t wait for Leo’s book either! I hope it’s the next one! He's really an interesting character with lots of depth already. I like his whole personality. Now, I'm not sure if I like Ms Marks as his heroine, but I'm sure Ms Kleypas will find a way to work it out :)

Also, what I liked best about this book is how Ms Kleypas used humor to balance Merripen and Win’s relationship. All those funny parts kept me reading :) I LOLed quite a bit in this book which doesn't often happen in historicals... one of my favorite parts is when Merripen is outraged that Leo accused him of not writing and Leo reveals the content of the letter. Or when Beatrix tells Leo he has to go stop Merripen from killing Dr Harrow. Or when Leo tells the constable to give him 5 minutes lead before releasing Merripen. LOL, those were good :)

Lori: That made me laugh so hard - a 5 minute lead :) I love it when there is humor in a book. She needed it here to break all of Merripen's tension, for sure.

Nath: So what grade would you give it, Lori?

Lori: I don't usually grade books. I liked it, I didn't like it... I know you guys all love to grade them, though. I'd probably go with A-/B++. Cause I really did love it. Just not enough to marry it *g*.

Nath: From me, Seduce Me at Sunrise gets a B. I really enjoyed the Hathaway's dynamics and the storyline about Cam and Merripen’s origins. The reason I can’t give this book a higher grade is because Win and Merripen’s relationship did not appeal to me too much, even if I like Win as a heroine. I thought it was too angsty, too passionate and Merripen could be so stupid sometimes ^_^;

Lori: LOL on the stupid :)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Promises Reveal

Dedicated artist Evie Washington doesn't fancy herself the marrying kind. But the moment she admits that her faceless portrait of a naked man was modeled on the devilishly handsome Reverend Swanson, the whole town assumes she has been ruined. Now, her family's determined to save her reputation - even if it means taking away her hard-won freedom.

However, it's Brad "Shadow" Swanson's preacher status that's a pose - to avoid the law. Now that he's been convicted of the one crime he didn't commit, if he doesn't step up and marry Evie, he'll have to admit his true identity and replace his collar with a noose. Of course, a life sentence in the spirited beauty's bed wouldn't exactly be torture - and it just might be the key to making an honest man out of him.

For fans of Sarah McCarty’s Promise series, this story about the Reverend Brad is possibly the most anticipated book she’s ever written. It certainly was for me. From the first Promise book, the irreverent preacher has been much loved. He has met his perfect match in Evie, the unconventional artist.

As a person deeply involved with faith and religion, I very much appreciated Brad’s occasional comments to God. This ex-outlaw was living the gospel even though he didn’t realize it. Not that this is in any way implied in the story. First and foremost this is a romance. There is no preaching. Well, actually there is and, boy, did the Rev let it fly, along with his fists! We could all do with a similar wake-up call to get more involved in caring for one another. But this is not a Christian romance – it is erotic as only Sarah McCarty can write it.

Promises Reveal was funnier than I remember Ms. McCarty’s books being. I laughed in so many places throughout the book, mostly at Evie’s shenanigans. And there were a few places that were so poignant I got tears in my eyes.

It was a joy to revisit Cattle Crossing and all the characters from the previous Promise books. It is a wonderful community of characters who band together and take care of one another. Ms. McCarty has given the reader glimpses of some other characters who should also be given their own Promise story – Millie, Elijah, Nidia, Gray, Brenna and Jackson.

Now I’m inspired to go back and read the other books again. If I could give Promises Reveal more than A+ I would.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

Title: Fearless Fourteen
Author: Janet Evanovich

Type: Contemporary Romance/Comedy
Published: 2008

You can read it here.

Why: Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is a must-read for me.

Thoughts: Finally. As in, I finally got around to reading it. I spent most of the summer on the library’s waiting list because every time I was up, I failed to pick up the book on time and was bumped further down the list. Couple weeks back, I got the call and got my butt to the library for it. Promptly took it home and put it in my TBR stack. Didn’t think of it again until the library notified me that it was overdue. Sigh. So Monday night, I sat down with the intention of reading it straight through (won’t go into the reasons why this was possible, but it was). And I did.

You can do that with a Plum novel. Employing the cadence of a droll smart-ass, Evanovich pens the ultimate fast read. The writing is economical, the punch lines expertly timed. Of course, knowing these characters as well as we do helps too. Instant rhythm.

So I read it beginning to end and enjoyed it, beginning to end. Always do. What I particularly liked about this one was its light-heartedness. I know they’re all relatively light and laughable, but some have featured nastier villains with scarier consequences. Those were good, but this one was a nice break. Yes, the kidnapped Mom and toe thing were disturbing, but the danger to Stephanie personally—and the corresponding reaction from her men—felt minimal. That’s what I mean by a break from usual. Either that, or Evanovich is allowing Plum to grow in ability and independence—doing her job without as much hands-on or after-the-fact-ass-saving from the guys.

Another break from routine (that may also be a calculated move to ‘grow’ Stephanie) was the almost complete absence of emotional conflict (of the love life kind) for her. Sure, she spends time with Ranger, to Morelli’s mild annoyance. But her and Ranger trade only one or two references to their attraction. Adult references, powerful, but short and to the point. Meanwhile, her and Morelli cohabitate with relative ease. In neither case is there a surge of internal angst over her dual loves. Just acceptance. Or deferral. Worked for me.

As did the usual cast, new characters and extras. Entertaining, but with enough depth to garner reader attention. Evanovich could go on in this vein til the cows come home. I’d still read her for the laughs.
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