Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Devil's Waltz by Anne Stuart

I had never read Anne Stuart but my friend Luisa swears by her and since Luisa has never let me down I decided to bite the bullet and pick up something by Stuart. I also had the great pleasure of corresponding with this New England Author and discovered that we share a few hobbies outside the literary circle. Seems Stuart has a daughter into Anime, she enjoys j-rock (Japanese rock) and is also a quilter. All things we share in common. It's not everyday you encounter someone with all those quirks that also loves romance novels. So before opening one of her books, I was already a fan.

This book is one of her latest historicals. She doesn't write many of these and so I decided I'd go with something I was more comfortable with (historical romances). Historicals don't tend to be overwrought with a lot of subplots that might draw you away from the actual romance so they tend to be safe.

Christian Montcalm in line to inherit a viscountcy but it's a title without funds, so he is determined to marry an heiress. He has selected the daughter if shipping giant George Chipple. His daughter, Hetty, is vivacious, young and quiet beautiful. The only problem is that Mr. Chipple has asked Annelise Kempton to be her chaperone during this season, and Christian's reputation as a scoundrel and a rake has already preceded him.

Annelise Kempton is reaching 30 and has declared herself a spinster and unfortunately, she is a penniless spinster. Her father drank and gambled away the little money they had, so after his death she has been forced to become a guest at people's house (since she cannot really work for anyone, being the daughter of a baron). She is hoping that Mr. Chipple will be very grateful when his daughter marries into society and will give her enough to buy a small cottage and retire, from her visitations.

That is, until Montcalm declares he will have Hetty one way or another. Lots of undercurrents are taking place when it seems Hetty is not as determined to have him as we first think and Mr. Chipple is not as caring of a person as we first think either.

Although the actual love story between Christian and Annelise is fairly straight forward and in the same vein as most historicals, there was so many other things going on, it could easily become distracting (remember I said historicals are not typically overwrought with a lot of subplots... Hmm, need to keep those thoughts to myself in the future). This book reminded me a bit of that movie with Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh, Much Ado About Nothing. There was a villain, a secondary romance and then throw in an apple falling from a family tree thought to have been dead long ago. I easily could put this one down a few times but when I got back to it, I would read with gusto. So, this one is a bit difficult to grade.

Grade: B-

Every Breath You Take by Judith McNaught

This one was interesting because I have read just one of McNaught's contemporaries and it was none of the books related to this one. Yes, this one is part of a world built around several of McNaught's characters. The previous books in this 'so called' series were Perfect and Paradise. We meet the couples from those books but they have no real bearing on this story.

Mitchell Wyatt had a rough childhood, growing up without the knowledge of where he came from. His mother gave him up to the Wyatt family when he was born and they put him in the care of an unknown family until he was old enough to move to boarding school. He grew up going from school to school thinking he was a charity case. It was not until recently that his brother, William, discovered his existence and sought him out. By then Mitchell had made a name of his own, and commanded a fortune of his own as well. So Mitchell had no interest in the family that had abandoned him. It was William's insistence and his genuine affection that drew Mitchell back to the Wyatts. Shortly after Mitchell rejoins his family, William goes missing and the authorities suspect he has something to do with the disappearance.

Kate Donovan has recently lost her father and needs to get out of Chicago to regroup. Her current boyfriend, Evan, arranged for a short vacation in a tropical island resort but cannot join her because his work pulls him back home. During his absence Kate, who has been questioning the direction of her relationship with Evan, bumps into Mitchell and sparks fly. The fling leaves an indelible mark on both of these characters and Kate decides she wants to pursue the romance further and Mitchell is willing to let her into his secretive life.

Well, things didn't work out that way and misunderstandings get in their path. When Mitchell is accused of the murder of his brother he has to leave the idealic setting too quickly to clear things up and with a relationship built on passion, the small tumble brought the whole house of cards down.

Other things happen which I will not get into so that I won't spoil the book for anyone, but two years pass before Mitchell and Kate's paths cross once again. They will have to overcome the lack of trust that seems ingrain for these characters before they reach a happily ever after.

The book kept me wanting to know more, which is good but the subplots were short and seem to be there just to cause problems for our couple. For example, the murder of Mitchell's brother was resolved within 24 hours of Mitchell returning to Chicago. The killer confessed. Eh? There was a kidnapping later on in the book that was also resolved quick and too clean. It seems it was put in there just to bring our couple together. Again, eh? Even with these quirks, I enjoyed the book but if you are planning to read it... wait for it on paperback (or get it from the library, like I did!)

Grade: B-
Format: Audiobook

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Marly's Choice by Lora Leigh

I had heard so much talk about this series, I knew I would not be able to stay away from it for too long. The talk and the fact that Lora Leigh is one of my favorite erotica authors drew me like a bee to honey. The August Men series is about three brothers and the way they have learned to cope with a past that left them with a peculiar sexual quirk. Their need to share their women.

Marly's Choice tells the story of the first brother, Cade. We don't learn the details of what exactly happened to the brothers in this installment but Cade is quite haunted by it. The experience has left him feeling quite deviant and he feels he is not worthy of Marly.

Marly has a past of her own. She was sexually molested by her stepfather when she was young and her mother took her to the August ranch in hopes that they could protect her from the obsessions of a madman. She was barely a teenager when she joined the August household and Cade and his brothers raised her as their niece. It's this fraternal relationship that has Cade gritting his teeth with disgust when he starts lusting after her when she becomes a woman.

When Cade's father dies, Marly comes home from college to the funeral. She has always idolized Cade and in the past few years that feeling has developed into a crush. She has noticed that Cade seems to see her a bit more than a niece and puts a strong backing into trying to seduce him. Cade resists but he is weak when it comes to his lust for Marly and every encounter leaves him feeling dirtier than the next.

This is where I had a problem with the story. He would resist but when he gave in, he did it with gusto. He then would recriminate himself for a few days. When he finally decides to give up the fight completely he is so dominating it borders on rape (during one encounter, I would definitely would have called it rape, even if she did appear to enjoy herself). The sharing of partners is the least of the problem. Marly was really all for it, even if she was a bit hesitant at first. She definitely was into it, but Cade was really over the top in his possession of Marly.

Regardless of this, Leigh mixed the romance with a subplot of her stepfather coming back into their lives, which gave the story more substance than just the out of the ordinary sexual encounters. Unfortunately the resolution to the subplot was so quick and so lacking in action buildup, we are left wondering, why we had it there in the first place.

Even with all the negatives I described, I still could not put the darn ebook away and read the whole thing in an afternoon. I guess if we catalog each aspects of the book I would have said the book was lacking, but as a whole it was good. It really kept me wanting more and that makes me grade it higher than I would have normally done.

Grade: B-
Format: ebook

Friday, April 28, 2006

Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard

Linda Howard never disappoints. Since I read All The Queen's Men I have made sure that I have something of hers in my TBR pile. When a group of woman in my yahoo reading group kept raving about Kiss and Tell, I went out and picked it up. I still haven't read it but I know it will be a delight. And when the same group started talking about Duncan's Bride I had to pick it up as well. The difference being that this story had a premise that always gets me. Marriage of convenience in the form of a Mail Order Bride. So instead of sticking this one in myTBR pile I read the short book (249 pages) in less than 5 hours.

Reese Duncan lives off on a cattle ranch that once was prosperous, until he decided he wanted to get married. Two years later, his wife had enough of cow poke country and took him to the cleaners, nearly bankrupting him in the process. Now, he cares for his ranch alone because he can't afford to hire help and the hundreds of cattle are reduce to just a few heads. But Reese knows he needs to take a wife if he wants to father children to inherit the ranch he is pulling out of the black.

Madelyn lives in New York doing a pretend job that her stepbrother arranged until she can determine what she really wants. When she reads the ad Reese placed in the small town newspaper she answers it without really thinking he will take her seriously.

But Reese is serious about marriage and although the leggy beauty that disembarks from the plane has his blood boiling, he cannot see her being content on the ranch. He is looking for someone that will bear his children and help in the daily chores. Someone that won't get tired of the ranch after a couple of years and want to run off, leaving him looking for a new partner. One look at Maddie in her city clothes convinces him that she is not the one. Now he only has to convince the rest of his body that she's not for him.

Well, obviously that didn't work because he takes her as his bride and she chips away at his heart until she is more important to him than the land he has always cherished.

The way Maddie works to gain Reese's trust and still keeping her dignity makes this one a true winner. I wanted to kick Reese's arse all over the place when a misunderstanding has him backpeddling but Maddie doesn't let him walk over her, she stands her ground and wins her man. Gotta love it! I love how reigned in Reese tries to keep his desire for his wife only to have her win him over with a simple lunch! LOL! The scenes are passionate but not raunchy and the tenderness is just so fabulous... This one is not to be missed.

Grade: B+

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare

Since I started reading Pamela Clare's Kenleigh/Blakewell Family Trilogy with Sweet Release, I thought I'd read the next one in the series since the premise was too good to ignore.

Jamie, the young brother from Sweet Release is the hero in this tale. He is all grown up and has gone to England to arrange for military intervention to help fight the French American War. While there he stays with a university friend who recently became an Earl, but his friend has changed a lot since their young years and Jamie finds that Sheff's behavior is cruel and intolerable. When a mere look at a local Irish lass has her hauled to the manor and presented to him as gift, Jamie feels the need to rescue her.

Brighid has had her share of run ins with the English and after her father is taken from his home and sent to the colonies as an indentured servant, she holds no faith toward the English. When she has to give herself to the Earl's guest in order to save her brother's life, her hatred grows, but then Jamie spares her the act of consummation and she questions her feelings toward the handsome Sasanach.

At first Brighid doesn't believe that Jamie could be different from all the other Englishmen she has encountered but he keeps risking his neck for her and her kin and she finds her heart melting. The fact that their love can never be, since she's a catholic and he a protestant doesn't deter her in giving him her heart.

Clare weaves a tale that has a flow so smooth it has us grasping at every word. Sheff is a true villain and Jamie is a true hero. Maybe that is the single flaw in this book. Jamie is just too perfect. Brighid is not without flaw which makes her very real (and sometimes annoying) and the contrast is very sharp against Jamie. Don't get me wrong, Brighid has reason to be so distrustful and so adamant in staying with her brothers but we see the Jamie she can't believe is real.

Anyway, the book was excellent and it kept me up to the wee hours in the morning gobbling it up. Definitely would recommend this one.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Black Out by Annie Solomon

Annie Solomon definitely knows how to write a thriller but her romantic sense is just a bit hard to swallow. After reading three of her books I will now approach her work as being thrillers with an edge of sexual tension instead of romantic suspense. I have not found the romance that she hit on with Blind Curve in the following two books, even though the quality of suspense was just as strong.

We met Jake Wise in Blind Curve. He was the FBI agent that helped hide Danny when he couldn't trust anyone. Jake's mentor and friend Frank Temple has been murdered and he believes that the woman he has been following on Frank's bequest has something to do with it the murder.

Margo Scott has lost a month of her life, literally. When she shows up to open her book shop she realizes that a month in her life has vanished and in it's place is a big black hole. If that doesn't put her on edge, the little she remembers of her life seems to be disappearing as well. A sister that doesn't exist, an apartment that she doesn't recall having, guns, knives... Things that can't possibly be part of the life of a book seller suddenly appear and disappear in the span of a few hours.

The police are closing in, asking for answers that Margo cannot give since she has no clue herself, when Jake steps in and offers a light in the blackness that is her mind.

The book was very good if I kept my romantic expectations at a minimum. Solomon takes the couple on a sexual relationship but not on an emotional one and credit must be given that she didn't try to feed us a romantic relationship when the heroine was in no place to even think about anything of the sort.

"Maybe I want to hold your hand"
And that was the problem, wasn't it? He was the only living creature she had an attachment to, and she wanted to cling to him like Krazy Glue.
But how could she trust that any of the feelings were real? And if they were, how could she figure out who she was, who she wanted to be, if he was always there to cushion her fall?

This is just an indication of how mixed Margo's feelings were at less than 50 pages from the end of the book.

When it came to action and getting an answer to the 'who dunit?' question, Solomon kept us guessing all the way to the end. We never could completely disregard Margo as a suspect because no one knew exactly why she had the Black Out of her memory.

I think I'll hold out from blindly purchasing more work from this author because I like my romance and, although I read through this book fairly quickly and enjoyed the ride, I want more emotional connections between my main couples.

Grade: B

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Her Master and Commander by Karen Hawkins

This is the first in a new series by Hawkin called Ask Reeves. Quite the catchy name since it refers to Reeves, the long time butler to the Earl of Rochester.

Tristan Paul Llevanth is the by-blow of the Earl of Rochester. He and his twin brother, Christian had been kept by his mother until she was accused of treason and died in the gallows when they were 10. At that point, with the funds that had been sent from his father dwindling, their tutor sold them as hands onto a ship. Tristan was able to help Christian escape but he was caught and spent his life on the sea. It was there that he made a name for himself and earned the recognition of the crown as he served in the Navy and became a war hero

When the old earl finds himself dying without an heir, he arranges to legitimize his first born sons by bribing the Archbishop to produce false marriage papers. He then send his trusty butler Reeves to find his wayward sons and make sure they are worthy of the Rochester title. He gives the title to Tristan but the fortune that goes with it will pass on to Christian unless Reeves can transform the ex-pirate/war hero into a true gentleman.

After being wounded, Tristan takes residence in a small cottage overseeing the sea. The small cottage has become a refuge of sorts to old sailors that have been wounded and have no other place to go. It's there that he meets Prudence Thistlewaite and her mother.

Prudence who has been widowed for several years is an outcast of society, after her deceased husband convinces some prominent members of society to invest in a proposition that later fails. When society turns their backs on her and her mother, they head off to the country to start a school of deportment for young girls. When her neighbor's livestock (the Capt's sheep) keep trampling into her garden she has to confront the man, but the seed of attraction is planted during each encounter, and that blasted sheep makes their encounters fairly frequent.

Well it seems that the Capt will need a little polishing up and this is where Prudence comes in. She gets recruited to teach Tristan some lessons in comportment so he can dazzle the trustees into giving him his inheritance.

I had never read anything by Karen Hawkins and I must say I was quite impressed with her work. I enjoyed the banter between the hero and heroine and the romance developed nice and slowly. She did not bring a lot of baggage to the relationship. She had loved her first husband but was able to find love again. Tristan was not jaded by his previous experience in love (his love for his brother and mother). His brother had more baggage, although he approached life in a more carefree manner, and so his story (Her Officer and A Gentleman - which comes out in May) should be more complex.

Grade: B+

Saturday, April 22, 2006

On The Run by Iris Johansen

Johansen is a must buy for me. Her romantic suspense is not as fabulous as Sandra Brown but very much comparable to Linda Howard. For some bizarre reason I don't love her Eve Duncan series but her stand alone work and, even those books that take place in Eve Duncan's world, keep me coming back for more. Her latest book definitely doesn't disappoint.

Grace Archer is a Horse Whisperer living on a ranch in Alabama with her 8 year old daughter Frankie and the man that took them in many years ago, Charlie. But Grace also has a past kept secret from everyone except for the local Martial Arts instructor, Robert. Nine years ago Grace was a CIA operative in training on a mission in El Tariq, Morocco. Her team's mission was to kidnap a pair of horses which appear to have the ability to find a buried treasure in the dessert. The problem is that 'The Pair', as they are known, are untamed and have killed many who have tried to get close enough to tame them. The mission goes sour and they barely make it out alive but not before she develops feelings and has an affair with her leader, Jake Kilmer.

Jake has tried to keep his distance from Grace over the years, even after he learns she is pregnant with his child, but his recent actions have put her in danger. After stealing a map from the man that owns "The Pair", the villain, called Marvot, is more determined than ever to find the woman that almost tamed his horses. With a mole in the CIA, Marvot discovers her whereabouts and attacks the ranch.

Jake will not let her face this madman alone and steps back into her life stealing her off to another safe house where they get reacquainted. When Marvot kidnaps their daughter, Frankie, the action kicks up into high gear.

This was simply a wonderful read that kept you glued to the book from page one until you turned the last page. With just the right mix between action, suspense and romance, Johansen takes us for a rollercoaster ride that is typical with her work. Definitely pick this one up.

Grade: A
Format: Audiobook

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I was recommended this book last year and it was described to me as The Da Vinci Code for vampire lovers. The Da Vinci Code it was not.

Part of the story is told from the point of view of a woman who tells us the events she is to recount took place when she was a 16 year old girl and found a mysterious book among the things of her, historian turned diplomat, father. The book is blank but in its center, is a woodcut image of a dragon carrying the single word "Drakulya". She also finds a series of letters dating from 1930.

When she asks her father about the book, he goes on to tell her the story of when he found the book himself and how his life changed from that moment on. The book jumps from the young girls view, to her father, to his advisor (another historian) from the University of Oxford.

It seems that her father's advisor, Professor Rossi also had been given a similar book which intrigued him enough to go out and search for its origins. When Rossi goes missing the day after their conversation, Paul (the girl's father) feels the need to search him out and the book holds the key to his friend's disappearance.

We then follow Paul on his search for Prof.Rossi. He travels all over Europe with the daughter of the professor, Helen, in search of Dracula's tomb which he feels will be where he will find his friend.

The book itself is very slow at parts (most parts), it seems to pick up in the middle just to crawl later on. Even with evil minions tracking Paul and Helen's every move and the political climate that impede their search, we never get a real sense of urgency that makes an exceptional thriller.

The story gets bogged down by so many historical facts and details that it tends to lose connection to the reader. Most of the action is in the finding of historical documents and how they uncover layers to who was Vlad, the Impaler. The moments of horror are in the telling of Vlad's unmerciful reign. There are no real chases or threats (except for the librarian that refuses to die). When we finally catch up with Prof. Rossi and Dracula (yes, we do finally catch up with them) there is so much that has transpired and so much history behind Dracula's state of life, it's almost anticlimactic (Almost).

Another issue with the book is the flipping between storytellers. It can get confusing and irritating. At parts it leaves you hanging until we get back to the correct narrative and by then we have lost steam. It's like trying to stand at the door frame between two rooms and trying to hear two separate conversations at once.

I almost gave up on this title, but I had invested so much time in reading it, I just had to get to the end. The book is the latest hoopla out there and if you want to know what every one is talking about, I would recommend it. It does have it's moments. But if you value your time, I would skip the whole darn thing altogether.

Grade: C
Format: Audiobook

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sweet Release by Pamela Clare

The first in the Kenleigh/Blakewell Family Trilogy, Sweet Release was Clare's debut novel and she made quite a splash on the scene. Unfortunately no one was really paying attention and she has not gotten the recognition she deserves.

Alec Kenleigh is a gentleman in London society but as he is walking home he is kidnapped and thrown onto a ship as an indentured servant towards the Americas. In his place a corpse is left with no face. When he arrives in Virginia he is very ill and doesn't remember much of anything.

Cassie Blakewell takes pity on his dying form and buys his indenture with that of a slave called Luke. When Alec finally comes to, he discovers his predicament and asks for a note be sent to London to clear his name. Until that is clear he will work as an indentured servant to repay Cassie and her family.

Cassie doesn't really know what to make of her new servant and his tale, but she doesn't want to make any waves since, as a woman, she shouldn't be running her family's estate. Cassie has taken over the management of the estate since her father became ill (he appears to have Alzheimer but Clare doesn't come out and say it openly since they didn't have a name for this illness back then). If the truth of her father's illness comes out a guardian would be appointed to her and her four year old brother, Jamie. She fears that this guardian will sell off the land and mistreat her servants and slaves.

For some bizarre reason the two books I have read from Clare have had a very slow start. This one took me a few days to get into. They don't really grab you from the start but when she gets going, she knows how to build momentum. As those of you know I'm a real proponent to the whole falling in love over a period of time. There are a few authors that can convince me that true feelings of love can be developed over a few days or even a week. Clare doesn't try to push that on us. The couple in this book actually didn't even like each other for a while. She was his mistress and he hated the fact that she had that power over him.

The book had a mix of day to day grind with a bit of excitement mixed in. With the ague falling on the estate, an indian doctor who seems to know everything, slaves that fall in love with each other, servants that fall hard after setting their sights to high, an evil neighbor that wants Cassie and horse races that are barely won, the book just pulls you along and makes the end a bittersweet proponent.

Another feather to Pamela Clare is that she gives us a passionate affair that is a bit out of the ordinary and yet doesn't pull the couple out of character. Great book.

Grade: B

Monday, April 17, 2006

Night Watch by Suzanne Brockmann

This is the last of the Tall, Dark and Dangerous series. Not the last I will read, like I mentioned before, since I plan on eventually tackling Blue McCoy's story Forever Blue, but the last book that was published for this series. Brockmann says she plans on giving us more with the characters she has introduced in the last few books (Risotti, Lee and Thomas) but it's been a while (this one was published in 2003) and we really have not seen this yet.

Night Watch is the story of Wes Skelly, best friend and swim buddy to Bobby Taylor (Taylor's Temptation) and we have seen in the last three books that Wes has had the unfortunate luck to fall in love with Lana Quinn (whom we met in Get Lucky). Lana is married to 'Wizard' also known as the 'Mighty Quinn' of Alpha Team Two. Quinn is not much of a husband to Lana (he is unfaithful) but for some reason I really didn't feel much sympathy for her.

Wes had some time off and Lana asked him to look into the security system of her sister, who apparently is a movie star and is getting stalked, so he heads off to LA. While he is there Cowboy and Melody (Everyday Average Jones) set him up on a blind date with Melody's sister Brittney.

We met Brittney in Everyday Average Jones as the live-in divorced sister of Melody. She had adopted Andy who, at the time, was a 13 year old trouble maker. Now, Andy is 19 and is in college. They have moved to LA to pursue his college career and she is trying to get her degree in nursing.

Britt and Wes hit it off right from the get go. She is spunk and no nonsense and he is delighted with her matter of fact attitude. She knows he's hung up on another woman and accepts the relationship as temporary.

That is, until that matter of fact attitude makes him face some glaring problems in his life and he realizes this woman was meant for him. When Lana suddenly becomes available, Wes needs to decide where his heart lies.

I really loved Wes. He was all bouncy energy and cuteness. As the shortest man on the team he got his share of ribbing and we see that it doesn't always fly over his head. He also needs some serious therapy that Brittney was willing to give. Britt was what this man needed. No nonsense and to the point but also with a softer side that empathized with him. She never really felt sorry for him, more on the side of supporting him as he shed the layers of his soul to her.

Grade: B

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Beyond Seduction by Emma Holly

For this month's TBR challenge we needed to read a book that had been in our TBR pile for over 6 months. The book I selected is the sequel to lasts month TBR challenge selection. This particular book had been sitting in my TBR pile for close to two years, so I think it qualifies. LOL!

Title: Beyond Seduction
Author: Emma Holly
Year published: 2002
Why did you get this book? It was part of a series. The Sequel to Beyond Innocence, so I had to purchase it because I would have felt that my reading was incomplete without it. Yeah, I know, I'm weird like that.
Do you like the cover? Yes. It was much better than it's predecessor
Did you enjoy the book? I did, but not as much as the first book.
Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again? Author was not new to me and I have so many of her books in my TBR pile it's disgusting!
Are you keeping it or passing it on? Already posted it in Paperback swap.

Anything else?

Here is the recap: We met Merry Vance in Beyond Innocence. She fell hard for the hero in that book and offered herself to him in a thoughtless act of rebellion. He refused her and lived to marry Florence. Some years have past but Merry still has that high spirit. She is determined not to wed because she wants to become an independent woman. She would like to breed horses. This is a change in character from when we first had met her since she wanted to marry Edward Burbrooke back then.

Merry's mother is being blackmailed by an old lover to promote the marriage of his son with Merry and therefore she has alienated most of her suitors with rumors of her daughters wild escapades, but Merry is not having it and refuses Ernest's proposal. When Merry finds herself cornered she strikes back in the only way she thinks she can. As she sees it the only way to get her parents to back down is by making herself unmarriageable (is that even a word?). She decides to pose nude for the most notorious rake in London, who also is one of the most gifted artist in the area.

Nicolas Craven has been running from his past for over 15 years, which is half of his life. He has renounced his family to make a name for himself as an artist and has been successful in doing so. When he saves a young girl from being attacked outside the Duke of Monmouth's home he assumes it's a servant but her unusual beauty charms him and the artist in him sees a specimen that is itching to be painted. He offers her his card in hopes that she will come and model for him but in truth he doesn't expect nothing to come out of it. The next day she appears on his doorstep with the tale that she has been let go, and he seizes the opportunity to have her model for him.

In truth Merry really didn't expect to give up her virginity to Nic but his charms were too much for him and after he falls into a bout of depression she finally gives into him. Her tenderness and her dedication to him makes Nic regard the encounter as more than his usual paramours and thus begins their romance.

This book was not as erotic as it's prequel. They definitely got it on but in truth it was not as spicy as the first book. While you are reading Merry seems to be the stronger character with a stronger sense of what is right and wrong but in truth, she lied to Nic during the whole of the relationship. Nic never lied to her and when he finally discovered his feeling for her he told her outright that he loved her, but even when Nic spilled out the truth about his life and the relationships in his past, she did not step up to the plate and tell him who she was. So when everything blew up in her face and we actually realize that she was the one with the weak moral fiber, it's hard to sympathize. She appears to be a spoiled brat.

I guess that realization made me lower the grade of the book. It was an entertaining read but it left me a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Nic really deserved better.

Grade: B-

Friday, April 14, 2006

Taylor's Temptation by Suzanne Brockmann

I must say the Tall, Dark and Dangerous series is the best series I have read in a long time and will definitely be on my favorite reads for this year. This is next to last book of the series with Night Watch being the last one. From the whole series I have not read Forever Blue (which I have in ebook format and might read later), The Admiral's Bride (which was reissued this month) and Identity Unknown (which is no where to be found). Honestly, I will not be looking for these last two books since we really don't get very attached to these heroes.

In the Admiral's Bride we read Jake Robinson's story. Jake was the Admiral that Crash was accused of killing (obviously he was not dead) in Hawken's Heart. He had lost the love of his life in that book and, honestly, I just can not picture him loving Daisy for so long and then marrying someone else. I want to live with the illusion that he could never love another like Daisy.

In Identity Unknown, we read Mitch Shaw's story. Who's Mitch Shaw, is my question. If he was mentioned in any other book, except in passing, I missed it. So, I could care less if he finds love. :)

I will eventually read Forever Blue because I really loved Lucy in Get Lucky.

Now, onto Taylor's Temptation. Bobby Taylor goes off to Boston as a favor to Wes (his Swim Buddy and best friend), his mission is to stop Colleen, Wes' baby sister, from participating in a earthquake disaster relief that is headed to a terrorist country. This is a big favor to ask Bobby because since Colleen was 19 Bobby has been attracted to her. He has done his best to stay far, far away from her but when Wes pleads for him to intervene, he cannot a good excuse to deny him.

At 23 Colleen is ten years younger than Bobby but she has had a crush on him since meeting him at 13. When he shows up without her brother in tow she sees it as the perfect opportunity to seduce him. And when she discovers that Bobby actually wants her, she becomes as relentless as ever. Maybe a bit too relentless.

I liked the book but in truth this one was my least favorite. I really loved the scene where Bobby is in his hotel room struggling with his feelings and he says them out loud while Wes is trying to bang the door down. It was so heart wrenching. After that, I had a hard time liking Colleen. I can understand her 'in your face' attitude but she was just too mercenary in her attempt to seduce Bobby and she knew he was struggling with his loyalties to his best friend.

Bobby was what got the grade for me because I didn't care for Colleen much. I also found that the book was too censored. I think Brockmann should have put the explicit language she referred to and not censor it out. It felt a bit incomplete because of this.

Oh, by the way, this was the best cover I have seen in the series! Awesome!

Grade: B

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Get Lucky by Suzanne Brockmann

Well, I'm down to the wire on this series. Just a few more to go. I was very lucky (no pun intended) to get my hands on this story. I read it in ebook format because it has been out of print for VERY, VERY long. I believe that it is scheduled to be republished like most of the books in this series but there is no time frame at this date. So, I do count myself lucky.

Luke 'Lucky' O'Donlon has always been the playboy of Alpha Squad Ten. He was the Adonis of the group and of course, all the women fall at his feet. When he has to give up an assignment to attend his sisters wedding, he thinks his luck has abandoned him but when he gets assigned to a special task force and is saddled with a reporter in his team, he KNOWS his luck has abandoned him.

Sydney Jameson is a freelance writer who had the misfortune of running into a serial rapist as he exited the apartment complex she lives in. He had just attacked her neighbor. When police arrive she threatens to write an expose if she is not put on the task force to capture the man who did this to her young friend.

These later books from the Tall, Dark and Dangerous series have included some type of suspense/adventure in them which I really didn't think was needed until I started reading them. The first few books are focused on just the romance but in the last two I've read (Hawken's Heart and now, Get Lucky) the added subplot of the chase to get the bad guy really made the story more robust, something I thought impossible in a book of such short content (248 pages).

Something else I really loved about this book in particular was seeing all the gang together. The Alpha Squad Ten with all their significant others were there and it just added to the pleasure of reading this one. And, oh how the mighty have fallen! To see Lucky finally meet his true love was fabulous! I guess I'm not alone in finding him the most charismatic of the whole squad.

Grade: B+
Format: ebook

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bitten & Smitten by Michelle Rowen

Michelle Rowen is definitely someone to keep an eye out for. Her debut novel Bitten & Smitten was a blast.

Sarah Dearly gets setup on a Blind date that takes her from dead bored to just dead. One minute she is trying to get out of her date and the next, she's crawling out of a grave. As if things aren't bad enough, as she runs away from the date from hell, she smacks straight into a group of vampire hunters that kill her sire in front of her. Well, dang! And she thought things couldn't get worse.

Thierry de Bennicoeur, is one of the oldest living vampires in the area and he has a death wish, literally. The suicidal vamp is ready to chuck it all when Sarah runs to him for salvation. He could do without the complication but he gives her a hand... onto the balustrade of the bridge he was going to jump off of.

Needless to say that helping Sarah adjust to her new vamp status isn't as easy as we would think. She is witty, stubborn and determined to keep a normal life. This last being a little difficult when vampire hunters keep popping up all over the place trying to kill her.

The story was smart, funny and full of great one-liners that had me laughing out loud. The secondary characters were fabulous as well and even though I would have liked to know more about Thierry's past, his present gave me enough food for thought.
I'm not a real fan of books written in First Person POV but I must say I really enjoyed this one.

Grade: B+

Monday, April 10, 2006

Hawken's Heart by Suzanne Brockmann

The sixth story in the Tall, Dark and Dangerous series, Hawken's Heart was originally called It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. When the book was reissued in 2005 Brockmann requested that the book be renamed to her originally intentioned title. I have to say that Hawken's Heart is a much better title.

We met William 'Crash' Hawken during his stint with Alpha Team Ten's training op with the FinCOM agents in Harvard's Education. He was the mysterious, quiet fellow that swept in and out of places silently. He was Cowboy Jones' swim buddy but they got assigned to separate teams when Cowboy replaced Frisco in Alpha Ten's squad.

The book is broken up in two stories, the present and the future. We have to know what happened in the past to understand Crash's relationships in the future. The previous Christmas, Crash lost the one woman that meant everything to him. His cousin, Daisy and Admiral Jake Robinson, raised Crash and he finds out she is dying of a malignant brain tumor. When they request he spend this last Christmas with them, he can't refuse even if it means getting close to Nell Burns, the personal assistant to Daisy whom attracts Crash like no one has.

It's during that time that Nell falls in love with Billy (Crash's family nickname), but he remains detached and after a night together, he pushes her away.

A year later she sees him on TV, accused of killing Jake, who was like a father to him. She knows that it's impossible and rushes to his side but Crash is determined to keep her away from the conspiracies that are surrounding him. The same conspiracies that have him framed for the murder of the Admiral.

This was the BEST of all the TDD series that I have read. It had suspense and romance and heart wrenching heroes. Crash was more emotionally damaged than Frisco but really, without a cause. He had been neglected as a child but he just closed himself off from the world while Frisco embraced life until his accident.

Nell was a determined little bugger and smart too. I think Brockmann wanted to paint her as a frightened little girl but she didn't turn out that way at all. She chipped and chipped until she broke down Crash's defenses and wiggled her way into his heart.

Wonderful read!!

Grade: A

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tell Me No Lies by Annie Solomon

This one is the prequel to Blind Curve, which I read last month. Unfortunately it was not as good. I think if it had been marketed as a thriller rather than a romance novel, I could have gone into it with a different perspective but that was not the case.

Hank Bonner is just a week away from leaving his job as a NYPD detective. After a family tragedy were his sister is killed by his brother in law, Hank feels he needs to leave the department to take a more active role in the family business, Apple House. His niece and nephew need him and he feels guilt over the events that lead to the death of his sister and brother in law. His life is a mess when, as his last case, he has to work on the murder of a convenience store owner.

Alexandra Jane Baker is a rich socialite that has brought to the town a deal that has Renaissance Oil taking over an old GM plant. The deal promises to bring back the small town from the edge of bankruptcy. But the truth is, she is making the deal to further her agenda of revenge against Miki Petrov, a ex-KGB Russian who murdered her father. She has created a false life and buried her past to make sure that her plans run to fruition but the death of Luka Kole brings Hank Bonner to her door.

The book was a bit of a disappointment for me. Through out most of it I felt no chemistry between the hero and the heroine. Actually for most of the book there was little interaction between them other than his working the case and her avoidance of him. There was so many lies spewing out of Alex's mouth, I had a hard time accepting that Hank would feel any attraction to her.

It still says something about Solomon when in the end the relationship was believable. As with Blind Curve, the relationship appeared to be flawed but Solomon twisted things such that it gave the relationship a chance for a happy ending. Even though this twist helped the reader accept the relationship, I could not put aside that for most of the book there was nothing there. I will still give her new book Black Out a chance, since Blind Curve was so good, but this one was not the same quality as the first.

A side note: The main characters of Blind Curve were not mentioned in this story so, it really was a stand alone.

Grade: C

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Quick Bite by Lynsay Sands

Finally got around to reading this one. This is the prequel to the Argeneau Vampire series which contains the titles Tall, Dark and Hungry; Single White Vampire and Love Bites.

This series has been published out of order and so it has been a challenge to follow but they have been worth the aggravation. For those new to the series, A Quick Bite is the first in the series, followed by Love Bites, Single White Vampire and then Tall Dark & Hungry.

Lissianna suffers of hemophobia, which in itself is not a terrible thing if you are a mortal, but for a Vampire, it could be deadly. On her birthday, her mother decides to give her the gift of health by kidnapping a renown psychiatrist with a exceptional track record in curing people with phobias.

Greg Hewitt is finally taking a well deserved vacation when he encounters a mysterious woman that compels him to act irrationally. It seems he has no will of his own and goes peacefully with her to her home and allows her to strap him down to her daughter's bed. Now he finds himself with a cute little bow around his neck and enjoying the best foreplay he has had in ages.

With relatives coming out of the woodwork and a priest determined to rid the world of a soulless Vamp, this story keeps you hopping and is quite enjoyable. It was not the best of the series (that would have to be Love Bites) but it had me grinning for most of the story which made it a worthwhile read.

In the end I didn't really see Greg cure Lissi of her phobia but we are lead to believe that a resolution is in sight. I enjoyed how the relationship between these two blossomed and although their love blossomed fairly quickly, Sands worked the tale in a way that made it acceptable.

Grade: B-

Friday, April 07, 2006

Captives of the Night by Loretta Chase

I'm back from my little holiday in Texas and I greatly enjoyed myself. It was nice seeing my sister again but even nicer was getting away for a few days. Now back to the day to day drudgery of work and life.

Although I read this title in March, it is not until now that I have a chance to blog this. Captives of the Night is the second in a series that started with The Lion's Daughter. The hero in CotN was the villain in the Lion's Daughter and that kind of threw me for a loop. Ismal was the evil villain that wanted the heroine to use as a pawn in his bid to take over his uncle's crown. At the time he was quite evil and Chase wrote him so well that he appeared unredeemable. This is one of the things that made him an inappropriate hero in this tale.

The mystery of the death of Leila Beaumont's husband is the driving force behind this story and the background was not enough to carry the book. It seemed to drag forever and I finally gave up trying to get into it.

The writing was good but the story was just plain boring. I didn't finish this one but could not give it a completely bad grade because the book was well written.

Grade: C-
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