Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Night To Surrender by Tessa Dare

Spindle Cove is the destination of choice for certain types of well-bred young ladies: the painfully shy, young wives disenchanted with matrimony, and young girls too enchanted with the wrong men. It is a haven for those who live there.

Victor Bramwell, the new Earl of Rycliff, knows he doesn’t belong here. So far as he can tell, there’s nothing in this place but spinsters…and sheep. But he has no choice, he has orders to gather a militia. It’s a simple mission, made complicated by the spirited, exquisite Susanna Finch—a woman who is determined to save her personal utopia from the invasion of Bram’s makeshift army.

Susanna has no use for aggravating men; Bram has sworn off interfering women. The scene is set for an epic battle…but who can be named the winner when both have so much to lose?

This was a crazy enjoyable read. By far the most compelling mix of humor and warmth I've experienced outside of real life in a long time. Right from the get-go too. It was there the instant Bram tackled her to the ground (which was like page 10) and it continued to bowl them both over until the last page. Powered by attraction, fueled by humor and--for such a fun read--just wringing wet with emotion. Just a super satisfying read.

I should mention that I've read Dare before--all but one of her first 6 books. I knew I liked her, just didn't recall THIS particular magic. Thank goodness I've had time to blog-stalk, otherwise I would have missed the incessant buzz that put this one on my radar.

Dare's magic. I may not explain this very well, but I think the magic is contained entirely WITHIN the characters of Bram and Susanna. Or I should say it detonates from WITHIN those two. As reader, you're living in their skin, experiencing it all through their senses. So the humor feels as natural as breathing, the attraction undeniable, and the emotion? Well, it feels like personal growth. So yeah, I butchered that, but honestly if I had just said that Dare's emotion is palpable, it would have been an understatement. Aside from saying that I knew these two, I'm not sure how else to describe the immersion.

Bram is a man's man who can charm the pants off a woman. Without trying. Think it's his voice (sounded sexy to my ears) and his arrogant command (which reads like the perfect touch of dominance). Combine those attributes with the fact that this is a man who digs the heroine for who she is--so much so that it wouldn't ever work if she WASN'T her own person--and there's his WOW.

Susanna's WOW lies in her smarts. She is highly intelligent. And, for her time and experience, she is remarkably mature and stunningly unapologetic. Never once did I fear a stupid reaction to this story's conflicts or misunderstandings.

Both are achingly vulnerable in ways that feel honest (as opposed to contrived) and neither lets those perceived weaknesses hold them back for long. Their rightness together trumps their individual shortcomings--and both were self-aware enough to get there. Again, I never feared a long wait while they figured it out. They were both smart enough, strong enough to see their truth and leap for it. Very, very satisfying to watch.

Though I've said they hold the magic that is this story, I am not discounting the others in the cast (including the sheep). I enjoyed them all--through Bram's and Susanna's eyes. There is clearly more fun to be had in Spindle Cove. Did I mention the sheep?

Win, win, win.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

When She Wasn't Looking by HelenKay Dimon

No woman could deny the appeal of the sexy deputy sheriff Jonas Porter. But to Courtney Allen, Jonas has one major flaw—his badge. Years ago, Courtney's father was wrongfully convicted of a crime and she vowed to never trust a cop again. But when Jonas becomes the only man to believe in her father's innocence, Courtney begins seeing the brooding lawman in a whole new way.

Jonas knows in his gut that the real killer is still out there and determined to finish what he started long ago. To protect Courtney and bring the criminal to justice will require all the skills he can muster. And that means focusing on the job. Not the woman who makes him forget his troublesome past and arouses in him a passion that is anything but professional.


Written in the truly engaging style that is HelenKay Dimon. I really like her romantic suspense books, all for Harlequin Intrigue.

When Jonas is sent to do a "wellness check" on a citizen, he knows immediately that something is wrong. Courtney is hiding something and despite his exhaustion, Jonas wants to know what it is. He gets more than he bargained for when Courtney takes off in an obviously well planned escape.

I did wonder why he threatened to take her in for questioning, when he came for a check and she said she was fine. Yes, he was suspicious, but is that legally enough to threaten someone to haul them in for questioning? Beats me. *shrugs*

As always, I like that Dimon's characters communicate - something so sorely missing from too many books. They talk to each other. Wow. Courtney trusts Jonas enough early on that she shares her heartbreaking backstory with him. And I liked that he believed her, but also that he wanted to check things out on his own as well.

Because this is an Intrigue, the action is nonstop. You barely have time to catch your breath before Jonas and Courtney are off and running. I liked Jonas' internal dialogue about how much he wanted Courtney. I also liked the way that he boosted her confidence when it was waning, telling her that he thought she was strong and smart and resourceful.

In many ways, this is Courtney's story, but it is Jonas' thoughts, actions, and POV that stuck with me the most. Like in her other Intrigues, Dimon leaves her hero exhausted and injured. I thought that he recovered more quickly in this one than in some of her other books, and he also had a bit of a hero complex (always wanting to protect Courtney), but overall, he was great. I also liked that he didn't wait til the very end of the book to continue to work through his own issues, and that he let Courtney in to help him with it.

Because it's an Intrigue, we never really know who the villain is, and there are lots of red herrings thrown in to make you wonder, including an FBI agent who is really an old foe and a family friend.

Total sidenote: I think Intrigue does themselves a disservice by using the "cast of characters" because it gives preconceived notions about the characters and 9 times out of 10 I can guess the villain just from the cast listing. I was right with my guess before even heading in to page 1 with this book, and that irritates me. Harlequin, you listening?  

Thankfully, that didn't deter my enjoyment of the book, and that is mostly thanks to DImon and her witty, engaging writing.

While there were a few "whyyyyy would you do that!" moments, for the most part, it's smart, fast paced, interesting, and exciting.

Anyway, I liked the smart characters, the romance was great if incredibly fast, and I adore Dimon's writing style, her voice, and the fact that her heroes come across as real. They are exhausted, they get hurt, and they manage to rely on their women, knowing that they are also super smart & capable.

This releases May 1, but it's already available for shipping and downloading on the Harlequin website. Which is how I got it because I'm impatient like that.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Bloggers have the right to control the content on their sites

I usually stay far, far away from the kerfuffles in blogland. Occasionally I will lurk and read about them, but rarely do I involve myself and add my two cents. However, I saw a couple people I follow on twitter talking about being ticked about a situation and I determined to stay out of it and not even ask what it was until I read this post at Reviews by Jessewave.

Although I am a lurker there - rarely commenting, mostly for the same reason I rarely comment on any blogs these days - I read from my phone... I avidly read their reviews of m/m romances and have so many books in my TBR pile based on their recommendations, that if I bought them all at once, it would probably take my entire paycheck. The reviews on her site are informative, professional, and intelligent.

Why am I writing this post? Well, apparently, Wave's policy of reviewing only m/m gay books is ruffling feathers. Why? Because she doesn't review all the letters of LGBTQ, only the "G", and yet she has links on her site to Embrace the Rainbow, It Gets Better, and many other websites that provide help and assistance for troubled teens, and has the Safe Reading Zone logo on her sidebar. From what I can tell, the SRZ logo is indicative of a site that is not biased against the LGBTQ community, that is supportive and non-judgmental. This definitely describes Wave's site. Just because the site doesn't review other subgenres of LGBTQ, doesn't mean that the site is judgmental or non-inclusive. She doesn't review books about lesbians, bisexuals, transgedered or anything else, except for gay men. Yes, two penises, two acknowledged men in a romance with each other. She states it up front in her review policies. Apparently, to some, this means she is not an advocate of the genre, or of the LGBTQ community.

I say hogwash. OK, I say bullshit, but for the sake of staying PG, I say hogwash. First off, there is no stronger advocate for the LGBTQ community than Wave's website, and Wave herself. She does a lot of posts the goal of which is to educate the community (and herself, she admits) about m/m and also LGBTQ issues. I've appreciated many of those posts, because while I am not terribly educated about the lifestyle beyond what I read in the m/m romances I enjoy, I know there is a whole other world out there to learn about. Does that mean I can't advocate for the rights of those people? No, not at all.

Just because I'm not a lesbian does not mean that I can't be an advocate for lesbian rights. It doesn't mean that if I choose to put up a banner advocating for lesbian rights, but don't read and review lesbian books, that I should have to take down the banner. I don't read or review books about lesbians because it's not a genre I enjoy reading. I do frequently read and occasionally review books about gay men. And I am an advocate for gay rights, too. As well as bisexual, transgender or any other person. Nobody should have different (or fewer) rights based upon who they are, how they identify, the color of their skin, their religion, etc. I believe that I've made that perfectly clear through many of my posts - here, on my personal blog (intentionally unlinked), and on my political blog.

I digress. My point here is that as a book review blogger, I have the choice to read and review whatever the hell I want to. I blog about books because I have a love of reading, and I want to share my joy with others. Therefore, I tend to blog about genres that I read most and love. Wave's blog states in the banner that the site reviews male/male adult-themed books. It's not a secret. It's the genre she reads and loves. And frankly, the content on her website belongs to nobody else but her and the site's reviewers. They can post whatever they choose as long as it doesn't violate the law. And I have the choice to read it or not.

If I can't advocate for that for any blogger, then what happens to my own rights as a blogger to post the material that I choose to post? I lose control over that. If Wave doesn't want to read and review anything other than m/m gay romance, then that is her right. If she wants to post banners supporting other websites, supporting causes, or advocating for men on the moon, that is her right. Nothing else need come into the discussion.

Book blogging has evolved tremendously since we first started reviewing books here in October 2005 (and holy moly - that's almost 7 years!). It used to be stricly about sharing a love of books. Now it has become, for some, a big business. And that's ok. But for those of us who choose to stick with blogging for no other reason than we want to share our love of books, there continue to be no rules other than I get to share what I want, when I want, and in the genres I want. I don't know anything about Wave's relationships with publishers - other than she obviously has one, since she offers many free books - but it shouldn't matter. She should still have the right to choose which books from those publishers she accepts and reviews.

And I for one, will continue to stalk read her reviews for new books to enjoy. Yes, in the m/m genre.
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