Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lori's March reads

So how was your month? I had some really good reads this month. Looks like lots of 4s. I don't feel like I'm reading as much as I did last year, and I'm not sure why. I did go away on a business trip. Usually that means loads and loads of reading, but I was busy from 6 am til 11 pm every single day. So yeah, not a lot of reading was done. I think the entire week I read only 3 books. Usually on a weeklong business trip, it would be more like 7 or 8. Plus, my mom has been really ill, and I spent a week with her at the hospital. And reading was not at the top of the list. Listening to her complain about every last little thing, and generally raise mayhem - that was on the list and was exhausting. I will say this, though. I knew she was ok when she was bitching and moaning, so it was a bit reassuring even as I wanted to club her. Looks like things are ok for the time being, though my sister and I are keeping a very close watch.

This month, I also had the chance to have a day with Nikki, Tracy, and Holly. That was a lot of fun, as always and brought up The Challenge.

So... I read 19 books this month, bringing my total so far for 2011 up to 51. Although I'm still sure I left a few off the list early on. Anyway, this month not too many below a 4, which means I read a shit-ton of awesome. I want to draw particular attention to the last book on the list, Bending Toward the Sun. I'll be doing a full review very shortly, but this was such a profound read for me, and I think that so many under the age of 30 really have no idea what the Holocaust felt like, what it was like to have family there, or the emotional toll it took. We are 70 years removed from the start of WW2, and it's something that I hope we never, ever forget.
Anyway, here's the list for March:

Sweet as the Devil by Susan Johnson
2.75 stars
This was better than its predecessor, but that isn't saying much. I did really like the hero here, but there were a lot of things that irritated me. Read and reviewed for Book Binge.

Dark Deceptions (A-Tac, #1) by Dee Davis
4 stars
Really liked this one. I liked that the hero and heroine didn't hold a grudge after they found out that neither was to blame for their breakup years before. Although Nash held onto his skepticism a little longer than I would have liked, I thought it realistic given who he was. I found Annie's actions believable, even though I did think she should have accepted help sooner rather than later. Definitely liked the interactions between the team members, and am looking forward to their own stories. In fact, immediately downloaded books 2 & 3.

Creation in Death (In Death, #25) by JD Robb
4 stars
Another good entry in the series, although not a whole lot stuck with me about it. Reviewed here.

Strangers in Death (In Death, #26) by JD Robb
4 stars
eThis was highly focused on the case, and far less on Eve & Roarke's relationship. However, when the book focuses on the cases, it allows us to see Eve's growth in her professional interactions - both with her colleagues and with victims. Reviewed here.

Deadly Heat (Deadly, #2) by Cynthia Eden
4 stars
Loved it. I thought the suspense portion was well done, and the relationship, while it grew quickly and was really based on sex at first, carried weight. And I love that Kent said I love you first - even though the love portion of a relationship went against everything he was about, and that Lora was the one to freak out just a little when he said it. And I'm dying to know - if you've read it, if you had the same thoughts about the villain as I did (I guessed it early on because of this connection I made).

Deadly Lies (Deadly #3) by Cynthia Eden
4.5 stars
Really, really well done romantic suspense. Wonderful growth on the part of the heroine (you need to read Deadly Fear (book 1) before you read this one). You could see her confidence and feeling of self-worth grow from the beginning to the end. The only thing that keeps it from getting a 5 is that there were lots of times when I thought, "Really? You're getting it on now?" Additional thoughts on Goodreads.

After Dark with a Scoundrel (Lords of Vice, #3) by Alexandra Hawkins
4 stars
I really liked this entry in the series. While the nicknames of the heroes really still irritate me, I am enjoying watching each get their comeuppance.

A Lot Like Love by Julie James
4.5 stars
Loved this story. The contrast between Jordan's girly-girl and Nick's manly man was fantastic. I loved the whole "pink" wine joke between them. I liked that they basically accepted each other, and once Nick learned that Jordan was not a snooty rich kid, but earned all her wealth herself, he lightened up a little and let himself fall. And oh, how he fell. James writes with a wonderful mix of humor and intelligence, and never treats her readers as less intelligent than they are. Some might think there was too much wine talk, but I actually thought it fit well with the story and characters. I'm looking forward to reading Kyle's story in the future, as well as any of the FBI team that James will be writing about.

His Wife for One Night by Molly O'Keefe
3.5 stars
I read this based on a rec from Wendy. We frequently love the same books from Harlequin. I wasn't disappointed. It lives up to the SuperRomance intensity of emotion, filled with heartbreaking moments and family. I loved how absent-minded Jack was. I loved how Mia stood by his family, even when they may not have deserved it. I loved how she steered Jack to his realization that what happened was not his fault, even if he could feel some responsibility for it. Definitely not a light read, but an emotional one with good characterization and heartwrenching emotions.

Hidden Away (KGI, #3) by Maya Banks
4 stars
I was all hopped up waiting to read Garrett's story. He didn't disappoint. I still think that The Darkest Hour (book 1) is my favorite, but this one came in a close second.

Living on the Edge (Edge, #1) by Shannon K Butcher
4 stars
Review forthcoming at Book Binge. Oh how I adore Shannon K Butcher's romantic suspense. If I had my way, she never would have written the Sentinel Wars (although I know that Casee loved those books, and to be honest I didn't read them). I would tie her up and force her to write RS all day long if I could. Suffice to say that there were a whole lot of things I liked and very few that I didn't.

To Desire a Wicked Duke: A Novel (Courtship Wars, #6) by Nicole Jordan
4.5 stars
I loved it! I've been waiting for Tess' story, and it did not disappoint. I loved that Rotham had been secretly wanting her, and thought the revelations about her fiance sad. And actually loved the way Jordan handled it. Tess was disappointed, but still had those good memories of him. The opening scene between Tess and Rotham was awesome. Loved how he was caught in a mess of his own making. And owned it. I've really enjoyed this series. Jordan remains a favorite author for me.

Almost Home (Chesapeake Diaries #3) by Mariah Stewart
4 stars
Although I love Stewart's writing, there was one thing that bothered me about this book. I kept wishing that Steffie would just tell Wade to shove off. But she didn't, and Stewart handled the why very well. And Wade was a sympathetic character. but still... This new series has made me go back and reread some of her older books. Some I loved so much, like Devlin's Light. A softer, gentler Stewart, but equally as riveting as the intense books she wrote that I adore so very much.

Dangerous Desires (A-Tac, #2) by Dee Davis
4 stars
I liked this one a lot. Liked that Madeline was not a perfect heroine. She made her choices and then lived with them, although I did think she was a little too competently kickass in the beginning. I liked Drake a lot as well. Well done plots, and no TSTL sex in this one, either. I have book 3 lined up in my nook just waiting.

The Sweetest Taboo (Men To Do) (Harlequin Blaze #68) by Alison Kent
5 stars
What is there to say about this book? Kent has written the shower scene to end all shower scenes (and quite possibly the longest one. Ever). Plus, a hero to die for in Sebastian. He's surly, confused, unpredictable, and extremely lovable because of all of it. Erin has a lot of soul searching to do, and that part is written so realistically - her feelings of abandoning her grandfather's dream, her guilt for not wanting the same things as he did. So great. This is the other Blaze on my keeper shelf along with A Dash of Temptation.

A Dash of Temptation (Men to Do) (Harlequin Blaze No. 72) by Jo Leigh
5 stars
This is, hands down, my favorite category and contemporary romance ever, and makes my list of best romances ever. Oh how I adore Dash Black. And Tess is a perfect foil for him. You. Must. Read. Reviewed here.

Bending Toward the Sun: A Mother and Daughter Memoir by Leslie Gilbert-Lurie with Rita Lurie
5 stars
I will be doing a full review of this, but if you ever wondered what it was like to live through the Holocaust, be a Holocaust survivor, or to be the child of one, this is the book for you. It begins with the Gamss family's experiences hiding out in an attic for 2 full years (14 people in a 15 ft long attic, 4 ft high). Sections are told by Rita, who lived in the attic as a young child, Leslie, her daughter, and Mikaela, her granddaughter. I think this is a must read for anyone, but especially as we lose the folks of this generation, it's so important not to forget their experiences. I recognized a lot of myself in Leslie, and a lot of my mom in Rita. Although she was not in Europe, we had family there, and the profound effect of the Holocaust on both my mom's and my generation should continue to be told.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Two In Death books...

I find my lack of creativity very sad. I have nothing exciting to say about these books - no huge insights, no fabulous quotes. Just a quick copy of my Goodreads thoughts.

Does anyone else use Goodreads just to capture their initial thoughts, thinking they'll go back and be able to write a brilliant review from just looking at "I liked it." What was I thinking? Sheesh!

Creation In Death
When the body of a young brunette is found in East River Park, artfully positioned and marked by signs of prolonged and painful torture, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is catapulted back to a case nine years earlier. The city had been on edge due to a killing spree that took the lives of four women in fifteen days; all courtesy of the man the media tagged as "The Groom" — because he put silver rings on his victims' fingers.

This time, it becomes chillingly clear that the killer has made his attack personal: The young woman was employed by Eve's billionaire husband, Roarke, washed in products from a store Roarke owns, and laid out on a sheet Roarke's company manufactures. Chances are The Groom is working up to the biggest challenge of his illustrious career—abducting a woman who will test his skills and who promises to give him days and days of pleasure before she dies: Eve.

I really enjoyed every aspect of this one, except that it was odd that it was just a given that Roarke would be assisting on the case. Nobody even questioned it, including Eve. When is he going to find time to run his gazillionaire operation? I know that i've heard others bring this up, but this was really the first time it hit me so blatantly.

Sounds like I didn't care for it, but honestly? I remember liking it - I just can't think of anything that stuck with me other than this.

Strangers In Death
In 2060 New York, some murders still get more attention than others, especially those in which the victim is a prominent businessman, found in his Park Avenue apartment, tied to the bed—and strangled with cords of black velvet. Fortunately, homicide cop Lieutenant Eve Dallas's billionaire husband, Roarke, happens to own the prime real estate where Thomas Anders's sporting-goods firm is headquartered, giving her some help with access. Before long, she's knocking on doors—and barging through them—to look for the answers she needs.

But some things don't add up — and everyone's alibi checks out, from the wife who was off in the tropics to the nephew who stood to inherit millions. Was this a crime of passion—or a carefully planned execution? It's up to Dallas to solve this sensational case in which those who seem to be intimates sometimes guard secrets from each other—and strangers may be connected in unexpected, and deadly, ways

This was highly focused on the case, and far less on Eve & Roarke's relationship. However, when the book focuses on the cases, it allows us to see Eve's growth in her professional interactions - both with her colleagues and with victims.

Any time that a case involves victims of abuse who either don't act on it the way that eve thinks they should or who don't act on it at all, she treats them with disdain, sometimes outright contempt. It's one area where she is totally unable to separate her personal experiences from her work life.

My one qualm is that I would have liked to have seen Mira call Eve on the carpet for her attitudes rather than have it be a private discussion between Eve and Roarke later on. I think that would have allowed Eve to grow more in her personal development, and made things uncomfortable for her. Which, frankly, I thought she deserved in this one. But that didn't happen.

Having said that, I did like this installment very much.

I'm waiting to check Promises In Death out of the library. I thought I grabbed it last time I was at Holly's house, but apparently I missed it. Shoot.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The challenge. It. Is. On.

I spent Saturday with Tracy and Nikki, and Holly. Because we live so close to each other, Tracy, Nikki, and I have been known to get together for lunch and an afternoon of shopping occasionally. This time, Holly intruded invaded invited herself came, too. We had a blast. And it's really too bad none of us have any strong opinions or anything. Heh. After a fun lunch full of gossiping and book trash talk and talking about Holly's sour grapes post, we headed over to Borders, which *sob* is closing. Upside? Romance 50% off. I got 5 MMPB for $15.50. How cool is that?

Anyway, while we were there, we saw Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me on one of the tables. For some reason that I can't really put my finger on, I've never been a huge Crusie fan. Her books just don't resonate with me. I think I noted once that it may be because her books are printed on some super speshul paper with some super speshul ink that gets all over my fingers. All. Over. By the end of the 1st chapter. Strange the negative feelings that can stir up.

Just like when you don't care for sushi and your friends all tell you, "You just haven't had the right sushi at the right place yet!" they all three insisted that if I read Bet Me, I will lurrrve it. Apparently, I just haven't read the right Crusie yet (on the right paper with the right ink).

So I agreed. I will read it, and if I like it, I will write a review and make sure everyone knows that Holly was right. If not, I'm going to really shove it back in her face write a review that says why I didn't care for it. And hopefully, she won't bug me about it anymore.

And no, I won't read it in e. It will be in paper, and let the full reading experience be what it is.

So stay tuned for the Bet Me wars.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lori's February reads

Looking back at what I actually recorded in Goodreads, February seems like it was a slow month for me. I read 13 books, bringing the total for the year to 32.  Frankly, I think that I just forgot to enter some books in there, but who am I to argue with myself?

Anyway, here's my list:

Game for Love by Bella Andre
2 stars
This one pushed my forced seduction buttons, which was a shame since overall I liked the characters. It bothered me enough that I really lowered my grade. I reviewed it for Book Binge here. Contemp

Needing Nita by Norah Wilson
3.5 stars.
I enjoyed this freebie from Smashwords. I liked the tension between the hero/heroine, and understood where Nita was coming from. I also really liked Craig's character. Would not mind at all reading more from this author. Contemp

Believe in Me by Laura Moore
4.5 stars.
Loved it! The only thing keeping it from 5 star was the overload of instruction on horses, and horse show. But I really couldn't mark it off further than that because it was all such an integral part of the story. Contemp

The Lady Most Likely...: A Novel in Three Parts by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway
4 stars
I liked this book, and even though all 3 authors have a different style, I enjoy all of them, so the different writing styles for the 3 stories didn't bother me. I liked that the stories all intersected, too. A fun, sweet, simple read. Historical

How to Woo a Reluctant Lady (Hellions of Halstead Hall, #3) by Sabrina Jeffries
4 stars
I'm really enjoying this series. I liked both Minerva and Giles. They both had issues to deal with, and they did. Minerva was the one who didn't want to get married, and I really liked watching Giles woo her into love. Historical

Turn It On (Turner twins # 1) by Vivian Arend
4 stars
I really liked this story a lot. I loved the dynamics between Maxine and Ryan, and was happy to see her grow more independent, even as Ryan tried to protect her but realized he had to let her make some mistakes on her own. They were hot together, and their love and attraction were lovely to witness. Liked the sense of family in the book. Reviewed on Goodreads here. Contemp

Turn It Up (Turner twins # 2) by Vivian Arend
4.5 stars
It's an older woman/younger man trope, which I usually hate with a thousand burning passions, but Arend made it work for me. Excellent book. Reviewed here. Contemp

The Spy Who Loved Her (Once Upon an Accident, #3) by Melissa Schroeder
4.5 stars
Anna and Daniel's story - finally! I loved this historical where the hero, used to the independent women in his family, inexplicably found himself turning caveman over his heroine. And she was having none of it. Includes a mystery for Daniel's family of spies. Reviewed here. Historical

Maybe This Time by Kathryn Shay
4 stars
Yet again, Shay confronts a tough issue, with a teenager totally disengaging from society, her parents, and her school. And a forbidden romance between her father and her teacher. Well done, as always. Reviewed here. Contemp

Love Is Murder (Lucy Kincaid, #1.5) by Allison Brennan
4 stars
A novella that although it's listed as 1.5 in the series, is really the prequel to the series. I like Lucy a lot, and think she's a good heroine for this series. Rom Susp

Surrender to An Irish Warrior (MacEgan Brothers #6) by Michelle Willingham
4 stars
I read this on Wendy's recommendation, and so glad I did. Definitely a dark book, but well-written and kept me riveted throughout. A tough job for a medieval. Historical

Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane, #2) by Elizabeth Hoyt
5 stars
A fantastic 2nd entry in the series. Again with the morally ambiguous characters, the hero embroiled in illegal activity, but for the good of his family, and a heroine who can't deny her need for the bad boy but is self-sufficient and strong. Hoyt remains one of my favorite authors. Historical

Mesmerized by Lauren Dane
5 stars
It's the latest in the Federation/Phantom Corps series, and I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of it. All the things you expect from this series: a terrific blend of family, suspense, heartbreak, and love set against the burgeoning war. Action, adventure, and romance. Awesome. Simply awesome. Reviewed here.

Lori's January reads

Cripes, I'm behind! I got so caught up in self-congratulations for tracking my books all last year, that I immediately stopped tracking and posting in 2011. What. Ever. So my memory may be a little faulty when I went back to note all the books I read in the last 2 months. But let's give it a shot.

In January, I read 19 books. A few 5 star reads, and a few 4.5 star reads. All in all, fantastic. I also had a rare DNF. Here we go...

Their Newborn Gift by Nikki Logan

This was a rare DNF for me. Secret baby resulting from a 1 night stand. Daughter is sick and needs a bone marrow transplant. Mom is poor, dad is rich, and he threatens to take daughter away from mom. She begs him to get her pregnant again so they can have a baby to donate marrow. I didn't like any of the characters, and the storyline didn't capture me.

Trey by Cat Johnson
3 stars
I really liked the honest emotions I felt from all the characters. They were all very well written. But the idea of the military recruiting a civilian to go in with a special ops team on a dangerous mission in a dangerous country was preposterous to me. (now watch - someone will know that it happens all the time LOL). So a 4 for the characters and a 2 for the story and the implausability of it all.

Love in Bloom by Alison Kent
3.5 stars
An early work. Doesn't contain the edge that's frequently present in current Kent books, but a really nice story nonetheless.

Love Me Tender by Alison Kent
3.5 stars
Same as noted above. I liked both the characters and the story for both of these books.

Past Pleasures by Charlotte Stein
3 stars
Heroine time travels to a place where women have ceased to exist. She meets two men and begins a relationship with them. Their initial reactions ranged from amusing to not making sense for me. And while I liked the premise a lot, there was something in the execution that just didn't work perfectly for me.

Shooting Stars by Bella Andre
3 stars
Another time travel. Nice premise, but it was too short to satisfy me, and I had a difficult time believing that the acceptance both sets of hero & heroines showed in accepting their situations happened so quickly.

Memory In Death by JD Robb
4.5 stars
No thoughts on this really, other than another good look into Eve's past, and she continues to gel with her team.

Born In Death by JD Robb
4.5 stars
I just adore the scenes where Eve and Roarke panic about babies and being around them. They were hilarious. Loved this one, and so happy that Mavis and Leonardo finally have their baby Bella.

Innocent In Death by JD Robb
4 stars.
I really hate it when Eve & Roarke are at odds with one another. At odds they were, and it's the first time Eve really shows jealousy. Interesting that she really didn't recognize it. A good installment. Not fabulous, but solid.

Pride and Pleasure by Sylvia Day
4.5 stars
Loved this one. Loved both hero and heroine. Nothing compares to a great Sylvia Day historical. Reviewed here.

His for the Holidays by Josh Lanyon, LB Gregg, Harper Fox, and ZA Maxfield
4 stars
I admit that I only got through 3 of the stories. I loved the Gregg and Lanyon stoires, as I knew I would. The Fox story was ok, and I couldn't get past the first couple chapters of the Maxfield story. Not sure why. So a 4 overall. m/m

No Place to Run by Maya Banks (KGI #2)
4 stars
I'm really enjoying these books so far. Love that the brothers talk like guys and joke around like family. Love that they so willingly let others into their lives just because a brother/mother/father loves that person. The heroine could have come across as a pregnant helpless thing, but she believes in herself (for the most part) and recognizes her strengths when it's necessary. She knows when to call Sam on his crap and knows when to be quiet and let him take charge. So I liked her. Sam, like all the Kellys, has a strong sense of family and loves hard. And plus, he's hot. Yes I really am that shallow.

Love Me to Death by Allison Brennan (Lucy Kinkaid #1)
4.5 stars
A fantastic start to the new series. Well written and exciting. What dropped it from a 5 was that it almost felt like there were two endings. One plotline wrapped up and then a 2nd one began for the FBI team, even though the killer's thoughts were woven throughout. Otherwise, it was terrific. Can't wait to read the next one.

Restless Heart by Emma Lang
4.5 stars
I loved both the hero and heroine. This was a fantastic western historical. Review here.

Someone Like You by Kathryn Shay

4 stars
Another good book in the Educators series from Shay. Reviewed here.

Brier's Bargain by Carol Lynne
3.5 stars
Interesting premise where one of the heroes has suffered a head injury and as a result a big loss of cognitive function. He is no less loving, and has a huge urge to be self-sufficient and to take care of his man. At the same time, he, like many with a head injury, has difficulty controlling his emotions, often becoming irrational or showing inappropriately extreme emotion. Jackie is the perfect foil for him. Loving, tender, but very alpha at the same time. He saw something special in Brier and they had that intangible connection. Brier's brother and his lover also were realistic support system, struggling between wanting to do everything for Brier and letting go and allowing him to do for himself. While I enjoyed a lot about this story, I never could get past the premise of this team of only gay bodyguards. It struck me as so unrealistic in the face of much well-done character-building. m/m

Naughty and Nice by Jaci Burton, Shannon Stacey, Lauren Dane, and Megan Hart
4 stars
Really enjoyed all the stories here, but what's not to enjoy? 4 of my favorite authors together. So I didn't even care that it was an anthology, which I usually dislike simply because the short format isn't my favorite. But these authors all do it very well.

You Belong to Me by Karen Rose
5 stars
I wanted this book so badly (US release date is June 2011) that I found it on sale on Amazon UK, had it shipped to my London office (all UK shipping is free from Amazon), and sent to me through interoffice mail (again, obviously free). So I got an early copy of the hardcover from the UK for $12 US. Rockin. I loved it as always. The only thing that gave me pause was that the heroine, a medical examiner, kept doing the autopsies long after it was obvious she was embroiled in the case. I thought that likely wouldn't happen IRL because of conflict of interest issues. Otherwise, liked the hero & heroine, and loved the story. And it can't ever be too gruesome for me.

One Real Thing by Anah Crow and Dianne Fox

5 stars
Holy mother was this good. I picked it up immediately after reading SarahF's review over at Dear Author. I agree with every last damn thing she said, so just go read her review. Awesome, awesome book. m/m

Will be posting my Feb reads soon as well, then I'll be all caught up! Yay!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Dash of Temptation by Jo Leigh

This is, hands down, my favorite category and contemporary romance ever, and makes my list of best romances ever. I have very few keepers – in fact, I’m brutal about getting rid of books, but this has been on my keeper shelf (or in my keeper drawer, LOL) since it first published in Jan 2003. My poor copy is so tattered, it’s coming apart and the binding is falling apart. I finally got an e-version for my nook so that I don’t have to keep ruining my beloved paper copy.

This is book 2 in the Men to Do series from Blaze. I bought this way back when I bought every single Blaze the second it came out. I also highly recommend The Sweetest Taboo, book 1. I didn’t love book 3 quite as much as the first two, but it was still very good.

Tess Norton knows that Dash Black is way out of her league. She just looks after his houseplants, for heaven's sake. But she can't resist a sizzling fling with the sexy media king before she settles for Mr. Ordinary someday.

Dash has never experienced a woman like Tess in his life. Hot...sweet...sinful, she occupies his bed—and his mind—day after day. She's a welcome distraction in the New York frenzy that he calls home. For Tess, he knows he's just a man to do.

Not a man to marry.

But sometimes sex and romance can get all mixed up when you least expect it....
So, how to describe this book. First off, excuse the gushing. I want to have babies with this book. OK, more specifically Dash Black. And the cover? It is exactly how I pictured him. Both in my mind and from the description.

Dash is the face of the men’s magazine Noir, which his father started and is planning on passing down to Dash and his brother when he retires. Dash spends his days and nights hobnobbing with the Hollywood elite, and living the New York lifestyle, dating Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, and Helen Hunt (yes it’s a little dated) for show. Tess has come to NY from Tulip, Texas, and started her own business caring for plants in the offices of the rich and famous. She manages the plants in Noir as well as in Dash’s own home. When Dash overhears her planning to go to a party that he will also be attending (she’s looking for financing to open her own flower/plant shop), he basically invites himself along as her escort. From there, their relationship grows. I found it to be incredibly sweet, very hot, and super funny.

What I loved: Dash. He’s suave, sophisticated, rich. But at the same time, he’s incredibly approachable, has a great sense of humor, and is incredibly self-aware. He recognizes that he wants to be with Tess, and moves heaven and earth to do it. Although his life is very public, he strives to keep his feelings close to the vest, and maintains a very personal, private life as well as his public persona. He isn’t sure what to make of his feelings for Tess; he only knows that he wants to be with her.

Tess: She’s a strong heroine. Strong, but vulnerable. And she's funny. I liked that she wanted to build her business on her own, but wasn’t stupid about it, and accepted help. I loved that she has a close girlfriend in the city, as well as her two close friends that keep in touch via email. A large portion of the book is told via emails between Tess and her two friends, Samantha and Erin. I love that Leigh shows a strong, supportive friendship between women without jealousy, pettiness, or one-upsmanship. Although she does manage to squeeze that into the story through a different character. You can’t realistically have a story about the rich and famous without petty jealousies playing a part, right?

Dash and Tess together: Oh wow. First of all, fireworks, chemistry, hot. But there were so many sweet, wonderful moments between them, too. I fell in love with Dash the second they had their first kiss, and he was the one to ask if the earth moved for her, too.

He pulled her into his arms again, holding her tight as he moved deeper into the crowd on the dance floor. The music was familiar, and if she took just a moment she'd figure out the piece, but then Dash leaned close, his warm breath on her ear making her shiver.

"Did you feel that?" he whispered.


"The earth moved. The angels wept."

She smiled as heat filled her cheeks. "Oh, that."

There are a lot of perfect moments like that in the book. He does so many sweet, wonderful things for her, including getting up in the middle of the night and getting ice cream, just because she mumbled something about wanting some. Dash is protective of her, but lets her be her own woman as well. When he realizes that in order to be with her he’ll need to give up much of his current life, he moves heaven and earth to do it. Tess, in turn, grounds him, keeps him real. She is funny, and she's irreverent. She makes him feel good, and he doesn’t want to lose that.

When she realizes she can’t live with his lifestyle, the scene written is heartbreaking. I was talking rhapsodizing about this book on twitter with Lauren Dane, and we agreed that scene makes both of us bawl every time.

The banter: It’s funny. It’s honest.

The secondary characters: Tess’ friends are great, as is Dash’s brother. They are real people, and provide perspective for Tess and Dash.

I could go on and on forever about this book, but really, you should pick it up for yourself. It’s part of Harlequin’s digitized backlist, so you can get it wherever you want.

Oh, and if you're curious as to what other categories are in my keeper drawer? It's A Dash of Temptation, The Sweetest Taboo by Alison Kent, and Behind Enemy Lines by Cindy Dees.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Such sad news

Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to Fatin, who lost her husband on Tuesday in a tragic and senseless workplace shooting.

Fatin, please know the entire romance community is thinking of you, and we care.

You can leave messages for Fatin here: .

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Wrapping February

Right after my half-time report (for February), I hit a mini-slump. For no good reason, it took me a week to read Nalini Singh's Play Of Passion. It was a good one so I don't know why I slowed. *shrugging*

Starting with that one...

Play Of Passion by Nalini Singh
I enjoyed spending the entirety of this book with the wolves. And I loved Andrew. Just loved him. His self-confidence is undeniably sexy. Singh's world-building remains strong and her conflict or obstacle to the HEA was honest, believable. Everything here works, as always. Also--Singh has accomplished for me what Robb has with her In Death series. I know and remember her characters--not just who and where they fit in the world she's constructed. But rather their traits, their humor--who and how they love. No matter the span of time between installments (or how long it may take me to catch up), I instantly recognize each character as they appear. And I've a strong attachment to them. Kiss Of Snow coming in June.

After Dark With A Scoundrel by Alexandra Hawkins
This one was a DNF for me. I was lured by another pretty cover but couldn't find any grip to the story. A very similar experience to my try of Delilah Marvelle last month. Not bad books really; they just simply weren't compelling.

Highlander Ever After by Jennifer Ashley
This is an author I trust--over a number of pseudonyms and genres. As Ashley Gardner, she wowed me with Captain Lacey. Now I'm enjoying her historicals and Scottish romances under Jennifer Ashley. This one follows The Mad, Bad Duke (which I read a year or more ago). There is a hint of the paranormal and the H & H have history. Both elements made for a more intriguing read--but still built upon the commanding laird and vulnerable lass formula that draws me to this genre. So not a completely new and untried Scottish tale, but a captivating and entertaining one no less. Tightly written, cohesive, and propelled by its characters.

Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl
This one hit my sweet spot. And motivated me to attempt a full-length review (which is NOT like riding a bike). It is also one that--with distance--has begun to reveal its flaws, LOL. Don't care though--it was a delightful, take-me-away read.

Treachery In Death by J.D. Robb
Pretty powerful procedural and some unexpected and very moving professional growth for Eve. It was great. While I am still longing for some new emotional rangling and tangling between Roarke and Eve, I was totally satisfied with this one. Robb manages to hold me over with the humor (laugh out loud funny) between them as well as their ultra-minor skirmishes. So yeah, still hooked. Deep.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Mesmerized by Lauren Dane

Andrei Solace delivers death on silent feet as an assassin for the Phantom Corps. Mercenary Piper Roundtree thought she was over him. But against the backdrop of an impending war, their passion is rekindled. Now the lovers must join forces- in more ways than one-to save the Known Universe before the Imperialist enemy hurls it into irreversible chaos.

Thank you to Lauren Dane for an ARC of this book. I enjoyed the hell out of it. I loved the opening, which gave us insight into who Andrei is, was, and can become. I loved his camaraderie with his teammates. Loved how he cared for Piper. And like so many spec ops guys, he felt he wasn't good enough for her because of his job as, basically, an assassin for the government. He never sees himself through her eyes, which is as a hero - protecting people from harm and evil. But he so was good enough for her! In so many little ways, he showed his love for Piper & her brothers, as well as his heroism and selflessness with his efforts to help them save their home and 'Verse.

It takes a lot for me to love a heroine. I'm particularly hard on them. Piper was a great heroine, completely worthy of Andrei. She loves her family, would fight to the death to protect those she cares for. She's smart, sassy (but not irritatingly), a fast learner, and she doesn't let anyone give her shit. But at the same time that she's awesomely kickass, she's sensitive, insightful, and tender.

The history between Andrei and Piper (and her family) helped to create a believable immediate romance and to ensure the trust between them. And their total and complete acceptance of one another from the very start makes every touch, every interaction in turn tender, loving, heartbreaking, and yet fun, exciting, and thrilling.

The only thing I didn't love about Andrei was his long hair. *shakes head* Lauren, Lauren, Lauren, why must you torment me with these long-haired heroes? Although, I must admit that there was a fantastic reason for Andrei's long hair in this book - one that made complete sense, and fit his character perfectly.

As with each book in the series, the world building is terrific. It's easy to step into this place and time because it seems to fit the story like a glove. The characters and story arcs fit the setting and the world. It never feels like the characters are plopped into an existing place and time; no, they all fit seamlessly. The story of the war between the Federation and the Imperialists heats up in this book. It's the event that ties all the books together. The suspense was wonderful, and it kept me on the edge of my seat. And there was the perfect blend of romance and suspense.

And at every turn, I'm reminded of what I said early in the series in my review for Relentless: the parallels to historical dialogue, terminology, and context make this series feel so comfortable to me. Dane has done an amazing job of marrying the historical to the futuristic throughout the entire series. Lovers of either genre can find so much to enjoy here. Like I said, superior world building.

Mesmerized was a terrific blend of family, suspense, heartbreak, and love set against a burgeoning war. Action, adventure, and romance. Oh, and I'm such a sucker for the military romance and the special ops heroes. Awesome. Simply awesome.

But can I say? Oh, how I want Julian & Vincenz's book. I simply cannot wait to see what happens there with the woman they rescued here.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl

Title: Talk Me Down
Author: Victoria Dahl

Type: Contemporary Romance
Published: 2009

I loved every single minute of this book. From the first page--where I doubted Molly's likableness--to the last, where yes, there was more sex going on.

What a delightfully sweet and sexy read.

The stuff I particularly loved:

Molly's humor
--sharp, hilarious, instantaneous. Yes, it is her defense mechanism of choice, and we feel for her on that, but she is so very funny.

Ben's humor--once he got over his awkward and began matching her volley for volley, I could actually hear his rumbly-voiced delivery. When he offered to get her water wings for her shower, I could not stop laughing.

Ben's competency--Dahl didn't skimp on procedure or intelligence. She gave us our sexy lawman in 3D--with the all the senses and instincts of a trained cop.

Ben's speculation on Molly's career--those italicized chapter openers cracked me up.

The town as character--I wanted to live there. And being acquainted with a tiny seasonal resort town myself, I know exactly what that means for its sober residents. Individual pursuits.

Those nude pictures he took of her. So romantic. Right there, I was completely undone.

Dahl's clever plot--not a single surprise here. But a few nice loops back to prior events and perceptions. And a perfect unfolding and dispensing of the HEA 'obstacles.' Honestly? The best part was Ben's realization that Molly's books really aren't about him--literally and figuratively. He was well on his way to gettin it before the last bit of suspense tipped him over.

The sex--it was hot and hilarious. Just like real-life.

And ohhhh what I loved MOST:

The sexiness of this story. Which is kind of the same as the sex, but different. Dahl expertly wrapped Ben's voice, respectful demeanor and practical outlook (read perspective) into the sexiest, most charming hero I've read in ages. Then matched him with a woman who is self-sufficient and self-disciplined as well as spontaneous and fun-loving. Yes, she was a little irresponsible--that's why she needed Ben, duh. But all in all, Molly was not all that complicated and she was really, really likable. Both of them liked sex very much and, having known each other the better part of their lives, enjoyed a familiarity and history that helped Dahl dispense with all inhibition.

Talk Me Down was the sexiest love story I've read in a long, long time.

I imagine I'll stay on my contemp kick a bit longer. My next Dodd title (Thigh High) just arrived at my library. I've also ordered Dahl's Start Me Up and Lead Me On. And Deirdre Martin's Body Check. And some Rachel Gibson. Ah well, just color me sweet and sexy right now.

And again come next fall...when Dahl releases three in a row--Good Girls Don't, Bad Boys Do and Real Men Will.

Come on...with titles like those? Going to be fun.
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