Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas

Kleypas has never disappointed me and this one was no exception. I picked this book from my TBR pile in preparation of June's TBR challenge. The callenge is to read a book that someone has recommended. Everyone's favorite Kleypas hero is Derek Craven and his character is introduced in this story.

More later...

Grade: B+

The Dangerous Lord by Sabrina Jeffries

I actually started reading this one when I read the first two stories in the trilogy (The Pirate Lord and The Forbidden Lord) but I just hated it. I now realize that I was just tired of the characters and didn't care enough about the hero in this story to give the book much credit.

Now that I have had more time away from all the characters I met in the earlier books I could appreciate Ian's story fully and realized that I actually enjoyed it.

We met Ian in The Forbidden Lord, where he is Jordan and Sara's childhood friend. At the age of nineteen Ian disappeared to the Continent under the cloud of a possible scandal. No one really knows why he left but his very young Aunt died just before he left and thus the rumor was that after having an affair with Ian, she killed herself and Ian fled to the Continent over the guilt.

This gossip does not help Ian in his current endeavor which is to find himself a wife. Seems his father was not very happy that his only son and heir had runaway from home, so he put a clause in his Will that would strip Ian of the properties that being the Viscount St. Clair entitled him to if he did not produce an heir by the age of 30. Ian just turned 29, which leaves him with very little time to get married and get the deed done.

Felicity Taylor has a secret. She is the infamous Lord X, the author of a gossip column in the local London newspaper. When her father died with mountains of debt Felicity found that her ability to write stories and tell tales was the only thing between her and the poor house. With four brothers to support she turned to writing just to stay a few steps in front of the creditors (who are moving in fast).

When her friend Katherine finds herself on the precipice of an engagement to Lord St. Clair - arranged by her parents, of course - Felicity decides that she needs to do something to help her friend who is helplessly in love with a childhood friend. Lord X to the rescue! Or not...

Felicity writes a column exposing the possibility that Ian has a mistress and a bastard child. This based on the rumor that a mysterious woman has moved into one of his townhouses which he is seen visiting. Of course, Ian is furious, especially since the column has prompted his possible fiancee to elope with her true love. Now he has to start his search for a wife all over again. Ian is out for blood, determined to find out who is this meddlesome Lord X and put a stop to his gossip.

He does in fact find out and there starts a battle of wills where they both pull low punches. Felicity accuses Ian of going 'too far' with a kiss when they are discovered in the balcony at Sara's (from The Pirate Lord) house. Ian threatens to expose her secret to one and all. Between cat fights and kisses, Ian decides that since Felicity chased away his current prospect she either needs to find him a wife, or do the job herself.

As I said earlier, I really enjoyed the story when at first I really couldn't even bring myself to care.
This was my first trilogy by Sabrina Jeffries and I will say that it has solidified her on the list of one of my favorite authors.

Grade: B

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

This one was recommended to me by everyone in my yahoo reading group and so I started reading the series from the first installment (Lion's Daughter followed by Captive Nights) but after reading this one I realized that this is the first book that can stand on it's own. Actually it should be read before Captive Nights since the characters in that story are still not involved in this one.

Anyway, I'll give more details later...

Grade: A

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Manhunt by Janet Evanovich

Being a big Stephanie Plum fan I tend to give Janet Evanovich's other work a look at and when my sister got her hands on the audiobook version of Manhunt I could not refuse to hear the short (4 CD) track.

Alexandra Scott is an high powered Wall Street exec that has decided to trade in her luxurious condo in the city for a cabin in the Alaskan wilderness. She is tired of her long hour days and the offer to own a cabin and hardware store proves to be a temptation to much to refuse, even when she has not seen either. The fact that men outnumber woman gazillion to one is another strong incentive. Her goal is to settle down at a slower pace and find herself a husband.

Michael Casey has no interest in finding himself a wife but when his neighbor sells his run down cabin to a city slicker he can't stop himself from feeling the attraction. He has a Sir Galahad complex and if anyone needs saving it would be Alex (even if it is from herself).

The tale is somewhat predictable but it doesn't really take away from the story. I think I might have enjoyed it more if I would have read the book in paper format. The narrator was a bit distracting since she sounded too much like the narrator of the Stephanie Plum books.

In essence the book was light and funny. Alex kept getting herself into funny situations, like blowing up her outhouse, and Casey kept saving her. I like that Alex went against the odds and was willing to tough out the Alaskan weather. She didn't scare easy and even when things couldn't look worse, she stiffened her spin and moved forward. Casey on the other hand was a bit of a coward since he just couldn't give Alex a chance. I understand how he was burned before but he just could not budge and had so little faith in Alex that I wanted to smack him around a bit.

Grade: C+
Format: Audiobook

The Chivalrous Rake by Elizabeth Rolls

I had been looking forward to this one since I first read about Jack Hamilton in The Dutiful Rake were he was the voice of reason. In that tale Jack was the calming influence for Marc when he falls for his poor relation Meg.

That Jack is nowhere to be found in this tale. Except for the kind heart Jack exhibits with his friend and employees, he has been completely transformed into a distrustful, close minded, raving lunatic. There is just so much one can blame on love and I was a bit disappointed to find this changed Jack.

For this sequel we get a repeat theme of The Dutiful Rake. Jack has broken a collarbone and is homebound when Dr Bramley and his daughter Cressida arrive at his doorstep. Dr. Bramley has lost his position as a vicar and, as Jack's distant cousin, seeks to stay a few weeks with Jack.

Cressida is looking to find a position as a governess or companion but Jack becomes irrational and refuses to allow it. So Jack offers her father the position of his personal Librarian. He does some good deeds toward Cressida developing a friendship that has him falling in love with her but his distrust and close mindedness makes Cressida search for other options for her livelihood to get out from under his roof.

Seems there is a reason why Cressida and her father are homeless and without character references she cannot dream of finding a job. When Jack discovers what happened to Cressida and her father he jumps at the excuse to offer for her, but she refuses him. So now we have the Big Misunderstanding that Rolls is famous for.

Jack believes she doesn't want him as a husband and arranges to have a dowry given to her, He then takes them to London for the rest of the season so that she can have her pick of men, but things don't work out as smoothly as Jack would have wanted.

In the end we do get to see our old Jack back but it's on the lines of too little too late. There was lots that could have been done with Jack but Rolls took the easy street by relying on the Big Misunderstanding and falling back on themes that are worn and old. Rolls' does have a good flow to this story and the words fly off the pages but I'm not sure if that is enough to makeup for the lack of plot.

Grade: C-

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra

I had heard many things about this book before I found the Audiobook at my local library.
I tend to be more lax on my reading when it comes to Audiobooks. I have a difficult time keeping my attention on a piece of fiction (interpret non-romance) if it's in paper format, but in audio format I can read most anything. So, when I heard this book was about Da Vinci's painting "The Last Supper" I waited until it was available at my library to pick it up.

A few things I found interesting before opening the book itself were that it was written by a Hispanic author. It's not often that a Hispanic author's work is recognized nationally. The other interesting fact I learned was that the book was originally published in Spanish. As I listened to the piece I tried to imagine the words in Spanish and, for the life of me, I could not really imagine it.

Spanish is such a romantic language, so rich and alive that you would think that with all the monks and secrets roaming around in the book it would be easy to bring the pages alive in Spanish but I just couldn't find the right words to say everything that was hidden in the book.

The story takes place in the 15th century - this was news to me since I was sold the idea that this was in the same lines as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. An inquisitor is sent from Rome to find the identity of a man that has been sending mysterious notes to Rome. The notes are of heretical nature and the inquisitor is to identify the man and see what his intentions are toward the church.

Since the notes refer to Leonardo Da Vinci's latest work in a monastery, the inquisitor seeks refuge in the monastery itself. He then goes about trying to decipher the last note sent to them which is a puzzle that when solved will expose the writers name.

During Father Augustino's inquiry we learn a lot about Da Vinci's The Last Supper. Obviously without doing research of your own there is no was to distinguish what was real and what was molded to become more interesting in this work of fiction. There is definitely a connection to Dan Brown's book in that there is reference to Mary Magdalene and the Scared Feminine.

But there are other interesting tidbits like the artist using the monks as models for the apostles and a bust of Plato as the image of Simon. How Peter looks effeminate because a woman was chosen to pose for the youngest of the apostles, how the right side is illuminated thus casting favor among those apostles and those on his left are questionable. These little details are the ones that make you take a second look at the work of art and question if there is truth behind the words we read.

The whole idea of the book is to make us question these details and in doing this makes us believe that Da Vinci did, in fact, leave a certain code within the painting and that his purpose was not to destroy the people's faith but to cut out the middle man (the church) and give the people freedom of religion. There are no races against time but the book does give you a sense of urgency to discover the meaning hidden beyond each brushstroke of the painting.

Unfortunately, because of it's theme, this book will suffer from comparisons and the same reasons that made me pick up the book (it's close relationship to The Da Vinci Code theme) will make me critique it more harshly. The higher expectation will cause me to give it a lower grade even though, in general, the book was good.

Grade: C+
Format: Audiobook

Second Sight by Amanda Quick

I find that most books by Amanda Quick are a bit formulaic where if you read on you have read them all but I enjoy the formula too much to really complain.

In this one we meet Venetia Milton who has been commissioned to take a few photos of some rare artifact collection at the Arcane House, the home of a highly secret society that was first established by an Alchemist. Venetia takes the job with hopes of accomplishing two things. The first is to earn the high fee that the Arcane Society has promised her for the photos. This fee will help her open her own gallery, which in turn, will help with her families expenditures. The other reason to take the job is to have the chance to seduce Gabriel Jones, her current employer.

Both tasks are accomplished within a few days, but she is forced to leave Arcane House suddenly (after her seduction) when two men are found trying to break into the house. She flees the house on Gabriel's order while he stayed behind to see if the criminals could be caught. When she next hears of the Arcane House it's to read that it was burned to the ground and Gabriel was lost in the blaze.

With the small fortune she was paid for the assignment at Arcane House, she moves and sets up her gallery. She does this all by trading her own name for that of Mrs. Jones (in honor of the only lover she had ever taken) and posing as a widow.

The deception appeared to be working fine since her gallery was receiving abundant commissions and she was making a name for herself among the artists' communities. But her husband refuses to stay dead and when Gabriel arrives at her doorstep she is unsure to be delighted that he is still alive or desperate to kill him herself for the aggravation he is causing in her life.

Gabriel needs Venetia's help in uncovering the villain that stole a journal from the Arcane Society and since she has decided to pose as his widow she has placed herself in the path of a man that will stop at nothing to prove his theories on evolution. It seems that the madman knows of one of the many secrets Venetia holds close to her heart and her 'talents' have made her a prim catch as mate.

I enjoyed the tale as I do most of Quick's work. The slant on the paranormal abilities that Venetia and Gabriel share added a little twist to the story and the inclusion of several secondary characters (Venetia's brother and sister as well as Gabriel's parents) made this one a decent read.

Grade: B

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Hunters: Interlude by Shiloh Walker

This is the second anthology-like collection in this series. This one carries two stories as did the first one (Hunters: The Beginning).

Byron & Kit: We met Byron during Eli and Sarel's story. He was the Master that Eli visited in the States. Kit is the daughter of a very close friend of Byron who died in battle. When the inherent died, Byron promised to care for his only child, but Kit is no longer that little girl and she has grown into a temptation that Byron has difficulties pushing aside.

Kit loves Byron but he resists her and she believes that it's because he doesn't want her. When Byron can no longer control his temptation he decides that he needs to send Kit away but Kit refuses to go to school and requests that the Council reassign her to a new Master.

Although short, this one was good. I liked to see Byron crawling around under his skin everytime Kit defied him, especially when she showed up in his bed. Poor guy... He didn't have a chance.

Jonathan & Lori: This one was the longer one of the book and we read about the relationship that has developed between Jonathan (the were that is the first to feed Tori) and Lori, Sarel's little sister. Lori has come into her own as a witch / healer but is coddled because she is Sarel's little sister. Jonathan is strong enough to have his own territory but he feels the darkness inside him makes him unworthy both of becoming a Master and of loving Lori.

When a contingent of rebels try repeatedly to kill Jonathan, Lori has to step up to heal him and inadvertently bonds herself to him. The bond scares Jonathan but chaos breaks out around them when someone close to him is kidnapped and he is forced to accept Lori's help in the rescue.

This story gave us more backdrop on what the future might hold for the Hunters which is nice but, honestly, Jon & Lori's story was not my favorite.

Grade: B

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Camel Club by David Baldacci

I discovered Baldacci a little while ago when I exhausted most of the audiobook selection at my local library. I discovered he is an excellent writer of suspenseful fiction. In his latest, The Camel Club, he deviates from his usual 'get to know your characters and then throw them into a precarious situation.'

This one was... interesting. For half of the book I had no idea where it was going. At first I thought the plot was about the assassination of a federal employee which was witnessed by a rag tag group of conspiracy theorist called The Camel Club. The group is mostly formed by older ex-military who have been let down by their government.

Oliver Stone lost his wife and child to the dangerous career he chose and now lives as a homeless man who works at a cemetery. The other three, Milton, Caleb and Ruben, have different stories but all are outcasts of society and all have a reason to question their government. When they witness the murder of a man while holding one of their Camel Club meetings they try to find out why this person was important enough to have the government (because the assassins where government men) want him dead. Or maybe it was just the second hand to the president himself, Carter Gray, who ordered the killings.

Well, when you think this is going on the murder / chase / government conspiracy track you get side swiped when you learn there is a plot to assassinate the President (who I didn't sympathize with). The man who is organizing the attack against the president is unmasked to the reader by the middle of the book but this does not take away from the story since the plot is not so much about who dun it by how the hell he do it.

With the help of Alex Ford, a federal agent that gets demoted to secret service guard duty after he screws up the murder investigation he was assigned to; Kate, the bartender / lawyer who is dating Alex and other host of characters that keep us on our toes, our Camel Club try to stop the plot against the president and then try to save the country from nuclear war.

If I can forget the fact that this book was mostly all over the place for the first half of the book, I would say I enjoyed it very much. There were many characters to follow but Baldacci gave everyone a distinct personality and in small degrees explored them all. We see not just the Camel Club in action but we follow closely the terrorist that have been recruited to do the dirty work for a cause they deeply believe in. At point we actually sympathize with some of them and when we discover what this plot against the president really is, we can't even hold a grudge against the person who coordinated the whole thing.

A bit confusing at first, this one ended up redeeming itself in the end.

Grade: B-
Format: Audiobook

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Anthology - Talk of the Ton

Picked this one up a while ago but had not gotten around to reading it. This month it works to satisfy both my Anthology of the Month goal as well as containing a short story by Jacqueline Navin, who is the selected author in my Yahoo Reading Group's Author of the Month challenge.
The Anthology also has stories written by Eloisa James, Julia London and Rebecca Hagan Lee (who I have never read before).

Eloisa James - A Proper Englishwoman: (A) What a delightful short story. This is the tale of Gilbert Baring-Gould, Earl of Kerr who has been betrothed to Emma Loudan since they were children but has yet to collect his bride. He has spent a few years trying to get over the loss of his brother. He spent six months in Paris drunk and putting himself in situations that would result in his death, but failing at that, he has given up all vices. The ton has him pegged as a rakehell because he works at promoting that opinion. His underlying hope is that Emma will hear and call off their engagement.
Emma does hear. She hears that he would marry when she has his child in her belly and his ring on her finger. Of course Gil made the comment quoting Shakespeare and didn't think much of it, but Emma took it as a challenge and decided to seduce him during a masquerade party. But the thing is... Gil has given up his vices... all of them. The story was sweet and funny and just plain well done. Nice rounded tale where you didn't feel like you were dropped in the middle of a tale or were left wanting in the end. This was a great start to the Anthology.

Julia London - The Vicar's Widow: (C ) This one didn't start as promising as the first. I think it shocked me when the hero kissed the heroine - passionately I must interject – while the heroine was married to the local vicar. That was not really the shocking part, the shocking part was that she responded to the kiss - again, quite passionately - while she was, not just married, but also, in love with her husband. Come on now! If you plan on painting the heroine as a kind, gentle soul don't start it off painting her the wanton. When I got past that first glimpse of the main characters I settled in to enjoy the tale, unfortunately the story really didn't take off. In truth the romance was flat on her side and although he had been a scoundrel in the past he was head over heels for her and he showed it in the most romantic ways. She on the other hand…

Rebecca Hagan Lee - Clearly a Couple: (C )This third story is part of The Free Fellows League series by this author. Lord Barclay is given the task of picking up a parcel on his return to London from doing some work for the Free Fellows League. What he didn't realize is that the parcel is the granddaughter to Lord Admiral Sir Harold Gregory who had been abducted 5 years ago and spent the time as part of a sultan's harem. India is a sweet girl and Lord Barclay appears to be a very good man but in truth I just could not swallow that the couple fell in love over the period of one day when there was not much interaction between them. Friends maybe, some attraction definitely, but love? No way.
There was no real plot to this one. He arrives to the cottage, fights and overcomes the Turkish bodyguard, she has nightmares, he consoles her; they wake up, get a carriage and drive to London where he proposes. Just not a very good tale if you can even call it that.

Jacqueline Navin - Miss Jenny Alt's First Kiss: (B ) This is the story that had me digging the anthology out from the TBR pile. Navin was selected as the Author of the Month on my Yahoo Reading Group (as I mentioned before) and this was the only title I had of hers.
Genvieve Alt is somewhat of a wallflower but more of her chosing than anything else. She has come to London with her Aunt Iris and cousin Cassandra for her first season. Jenny is 22 but had put off her first season until it was Cassandra's turn at 18. She tries to blend into the walls as to not take attention away from her younger cousin. This has always been the case since she was brought to live with her Aunt after the death of her own parents.
A distant cousin by marriage of Aunt Iris has requested her assistance with introductions in the ton since he, the Earl of Hatherleigh, has to find himself a bride. There is no complex reason for his seeking the marriage mart except that he had promised his father that he would remarry (his first marriage was a disaster and after her death he avoided the whole business altogether) before he turned 25. The tale is not a cut and dry, 'I saw you, I wanted you' deal. Miles actually thought to offer for Cassandra who is the prettier one and who had shown a clear interest in him. But he noticed Jenny, who avoided him like the plague, was more suited for him. They shared interest and she was more suited to the country life he enjoyed. Unfortunately, Cassandra didn't think so and thus the sneaky conniving began.
I actually enjoyed this one a lot. I did find that Jenny was too much of a coward to really deserve Miles but the flow and the storytelling in this one kept me interested and in the end, I realized that I had enjoyed it a lot.

Grade: B-

Friday, May 19, 2006

Blue Twilight by Maggie Shayne

Last year I read most of Maggie Shayne's Twilight Series. The series has 11 stories that are covered in 7 tomes after the first few were re-issued in trade paperback. The stories have been very good, but for some reason I didn't expect much from this entry. I was not surprised or disappointed.

The thing with this installment is that it doesn't have the group of vampires we have learned to love over the first 10 stories. This one was the story of Maxine Durant and Lou Malone, the mortals that have helped our group of friends since story seven of the series. Max is actually Morgan's twin sister (Morgan being the heroine who marries Dante in Twilight Hunger) and she is a PI that explores supernatural phenomenon.

Max has had her eye on Lou since she was merely a teenager and Lou who is much older than her (40ish to her 20ish) has tried to keep the relationship platonic, but since Lou retired (he was a cop) and Max has decided to move to Maine to be closer to her sister, she has put her flirtations into high gear. He just wants to spend the rest of his retirement in peace and quiet but as he helps Max and Stormy (Max's best friend and partner in the PI firm) they get their first case, which drags him into the craziness that is Max's life.

Jason Beck had been Max and Storm's friend while growing up. Jason's sister and her best friend have disappeared in the town of Endover, NH and he has enlisted Maxie and Storm to help him find them. What they don't know is the Jason has already found his sister and she is being held captive by a mysterious man who wants to attract Maxie and Stormy into town.

The thing with this story was that I have never really felt much of a chemistry between Max and Lou. Through out the story we don't really see it develop either. It wasn't really much of a disappointment because my expectations were so low. The next installment of the series is Prince of Twilight which will be out sometime this year, tells the story between the mysterious man we met here and Stormy. Although the 'Prince' somewhat intrigues me I think I will lay Shayne's Twilight series to rest and keep the good stories I have read up to now in the forefront.

Grade: C

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Hunters: The Beginning by Shiloh Walker

This month the TBR challenge was two fold and I was lucky to be able to comply with both themes. The first was posted recently which was The Admiral's Bride, but the second theme was to read a book originally published as an e-book (even if you have it in print now). The selection I chose was by an author that my friend Luisa loves and I just had to give a chance.

Title: The Hunters: The Beginning
Author: Shiloh Walker
Year published: 2005
Why did you get this book? A friend of mine is a big fan of this author and I decided to try her work.
Do you like the cover? Yes. Very sexy and tasteful for an erotica
Did you enjoy the book? Yes! It had just the right blend of plot and sex. Reminded me of Lora Leigh's Breed Series
Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again? Brand new author and I already started her next installment of the series.
Are you keeping it or passing it on? Keeping it for a while.

Anything else?

This one was an Anthology of a sort, or a collection of stories which contains the first two installments of The Hunters series.

Declan and Tori: Tori has cross paths with a full fledged vampire who takes a dislike to her after she shoots his face off. He believes that the worse he can do to her (after she poisons her own blood with acidity and garlic) is to turn her into one of his own and then abandon her. But Tori is not as alone as this monster assumes and she finds her way to the door of the sexy cop she had been avoiding for months.
What Tori didn't know was that Declan is not all he seems to be. He has his own secrets in the closet, like the fact that he is a shifter. A man with the ability to turn himself into a wolf. Knowing a bit more than she does about the paranormal life, Declan takes her in and helps her. It doesn't hurt that the attraction Tori had been feeling for Declan was mutual and, with their highly developed senses, exploring that attraction can be very, very interesting.

Eli and Sarel: Eli has been a bit envious of Declan and Tori's relationship. Even though he is part of a little trio that gives as much as it gets, Eli feels he is missing something. Sarel hunts Eli because she believes that he has taken someone precious to her. She doesn't realize that the man she seeks is actually the savior she owes everything to.
When her attempts almost succeed, she is forced to see him as he truly is, a Hunter who preys on the evil of the world. Now she owes him more that she ever dreamed. Will she be able to give him the ultimate gift? Her heart?

I love a good vampire tale and the Hunter Council backdrop promises many stories of the other vampires, shifters and werewolves that are also Hunters. There are already several characters I am anxiously looking forward to reading their stories. All in all a great start to a very interesting series!

Grade: A

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Admiral's Bride by Suzanne Brockmann

This month's TBR Challenge was to read a book that had some military theme to it or law enforcement personalities. This was in honor of Memorial Day.

Title: The Admiral's Bride
Author: Suzanne Brockmann
Year published: 1999
Why did you get this book? I have been reading the Tall, Dark and Dangerous Series for the last few months and had decided to skip this title but the library purchased it when it was reissued last month, so… I picked it up.
Do you like the cover? Absolutely! Looks wonderful.
Did you enjoy the book? Absolutely. I thought I would not like it because in a previous book I had met Jake's first wife Daisy but Brockmann is VERY talented and didn't make me feel as if Jake's feelings for Zoe was a betrayal to Daisy.
Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again? Definitely not new to me. She is an auto-buy.
Are you keeping it or passing it on? It's not mine… I have to return it to the library.

Anything else?

This is the seventh book in the Tall, Dark and Dangerous series. We first met Admiral Jake Robinson in Hawken's Heart. He was the long time lover to Crash's Aunt Daisy. Between Daisy and Jake, they raised Billy. The love story between Jake and Daisy was tenderly told in that book and I decided I could not see him with another woman, so I decided to skip this title all together, but the book almost fell in my lap and so I gave it a try.

It's been three years since Daisy died and Jake is trying to live without a piece of his heart. He doesn't dwell on his loss but he realizes that she was the love of his life and there will be no other. Until Zoe.

Dr. Zoe Lange is the daughter of a soldier that Jake rescued in Vietnam. She works with the Agency as a biohazard engineer. When a lethal toxin is stolen from a military lab, she is called in as a consultant on an operation to retrieve the powdery substance. She never thought she would ever work with her hero, Jake Robinson.

The assignment was to infiltrate an anti-government, white supremacist cult-like compound. Jake would first go in as a military fugitive and then bring in Zoe as his wife. She knew what the compound looked like and how to dispose of it, which is why she was involved at all.

The attraction between these two was present from the get go but Zoe was much younger than Jake and he struggled with his guilt over desiring another woman that was not Daisy. I think this guilt and the struggle that Jake went through before giving into his feelings, before acknowledging his love for Zoe, helped me get past the fact that he was moving on after Daisy died.

This was a great installment in this series. My favorite is still Hawken's Heart but this one definitely held its own.

Grade: B

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Forbidden Lord by Sabrina Jeffries

This is the second book in the Lord Trilogy that began with The Pirate Lord. This is the story of Sara's brother, Jordan. It picks up right at the end of the previous story.

When Jordan attends a ball in honor of his brother in law at the residence of Lord and Lady Dryden, he confuses Emily Fairchild, the daughter of the local rector, as a merry widow who wants to spend the night with him. It is not until he has swept her away in a carriage that he realizes that she agreed to go with him because she thought he was her escort and cousin, Lawrence. Doom seems to be inevitable when he also realizes that if someone sees them he will have ruined her.

Emily had no clue that the man she had invited to leave the ball was Lord Blackmore and she immediately understands the situation that they have become entangled in. As they figure out how to extricate themselves from the possible repercussions of the situation Jordan steals a kiss that will haunt their senses for a very long time.

Two months later Emily's friend, shy Lady Sophie, tried to elope with a mysterious man, but her plans were spoiled when her father, Lord Nesfield catches her sneaking out of the house. The mystery man escapes but Nesfeild is determined to find out who he is and ruin him before he has a chance to try the elopement again. He concocts a plan with the help of his sister Lady Dundee. They will bring Emily to London and have her pose as Lady Emma Campbell, daughter of Lady Dundee, so that the man might approach her and inquire after Sophie, who has been sent to Scotland. They hope the interloper will ask Emily to help them elope, thus exposing the man.

At first Emily refuses to go along with such deceit but Nesfield threatens to expose a family secret that could ruin Emily and her father or even have her hung for murder. Of course, in London who should she meet but Jordan, the Earl of Blackmore, who recognizes her instantly.

He has been pinning over the innocent, rector's daughter, even though he denies it to himself. When he sees her he immediately is infatuated but Lady Emma is nothing like the sweet innocent Emily he left in the country. He is not sure anymore who is who. She looks like Emily, smells like Emily and definitely tastes like Emily but his Emily would never respond to his kisses in such a wanton fashion, or would she flirt so outrageously or would she tease him so mercilessly. So who the hell is this woman that has the face of his sweet innocent Emily?

At first I didn't think this story would be as good as its predecessor, and in fact, I did enjoy the first book more, but this one gets you caught up in the masquerade and has you wondering how they are going to get Emily out of this bind she finds herself in. I guessed early on who the Mystery Man was so it was nice to see love win out on two scores. But the real enjoyment came at seeing Jordan just crumble in the face of Love when he deemed it something that he would never risk.

Grade: B+

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Pirate Lord by Sabrina Jeffries

I discovered this author when I read one of her novellas in an Anthology. If you know my reading habits you will know that I'm not too fond of Anthologies. I think they don't give the author enough time to develop a decent story or flesh out the characters enough so that the reader can connect with them. On the other hand, Anthologies are great for people that have a problem concentrating or for people that don't have much time. It's like instant gratification if you want to get some reading in but don't want to start something that will take you forever to finish.

Anyway, I'm deviating. After reading that novella I needed to see if her other work was as good. My reading group buddies tell me that she is very good and everyone had different takes on their favorites but everyone agreed the The Forbidden Lord was their favorite. The thing with that book is that it's part of a trilogy and I just could not bring myself to read the damn thing out of order so I patiently waited until I could get my hands on the first book of the set. On Tuesday I found it.

The Pirate Lord tells the story of Capt. Gideon Horn who sails the Satyr against any nobleman that might dare cross his path. Although born English he is raised in America and after privateering against the English during the Revolutionary War he decides to become a Pirate after the war ends. He is known as the Pirate Lord because he only takes on the ships of noblemen. His mother was the daughter of a duke and she had abandoned him and his father at a young age. He was told that she had ran back to her family in England because she missed being pampered. Gideon lived a miserable life with his drunkard of a father who beat him because he reminded him of the mother that had left them both.

Sara Willis is the step sister to the Earl of Blackmore. Her mother was no one special but after Sara's father died in debtor's prison, Sara's mother decided to become a reformer and work to change the system that led her to become a widow. She meets the late Earl during one of her visits to parliament and they fall in love. He supported her reformist ideas and they lived happily. When her mother died and quickly after the Earl, Sara decides to continue her mother's work by voyaging with a group of women that are being transported to New South Wales in Australia. Although a lawless country, Sara is determined to go with them to document their treatment and make sure that they are treated with dignity. Of course Jordan, her stepbrother, the new Earl, is adamant she not go, but he has never been able to control his stepsister and she sets off on The Chastity.

Gideon wants to retire but to do so he needs to find women that are willing to join him and his crew on a deserted island that will be their new utopia. With his reputation built on fear, it's that fear that is making his task difficult. No willing female can be found, until he hears that a convict ship filled with women is at port. Assuming that the women on board will be grateful of escaping the clutches of their jailers he kidnaps them and offers them marriage to his gang of ex-pirates. What he didn't expect was that these women have a mouthpiece and she is not one to be trifled with. As they bargain for an equitable arrangement over the rights the women will have he realizes that the spitfire makes him burn. Since he too is looking for a wife he decides he will have her.

This book was so much fun, I was sad it actually ended. There wasn't tons of sexual tension but more of a pin pong of desire running through them. The tender scenes grabbed you and the harsh past of Gideon made him sympathetic. He was a strong man but not without faults and yet when proven wrong he acknowledge it and tried to remedy the problem. These two were just perfect for each other. There were a few secondary romances between the sailors and the convicts that were also highlighted and added to the enjoyment of the book.

Grade: A

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ride The Fire by Pamela Clare

This one was a complete hit. I have determined that Clare has improved her writing with each new book published. Ride the Fire is the last of the Blakewell / Kenleigh Family trilogy, telling the story of Nicholas Kenleigh the first son born to Alec and Cassie of Sweet Release.

Nicholas joined in the French-Indian war but was captured and tortured by an Indian tribe. Catching the eye of the chief's daughter he avoided being killed but suffered greatly at the hands of the tribe before he escaped. The emotional scars he had, rivaled those his body endured and as he returned home he realized he couldn't pickup were his life had left off. So he returned to the wilderness and lived the next six years in a sort of limbo.

Elspeth Stewart escaped a tortuous past herself. She was married off after an incident with her step brother that made her weary of men in general. Her husband died recently leaving her in Frontier land heavy with child.

When Nicholas comes across her cabin in the woods, he is wounded and needs her assistance but she fears him and doesn't take lightly to his highhandedness in coercing her into giving him aid. They strike up a bargain where he will stay until he is of able body and in return he will not harm her and her unborn child as well as protect them against outside threat.

During the ensuing weeks they start to trust each other but it is not until Bethie gives birth that real trust starts to bear root. With trust also comes the attraction that start simmering between them. Circumstances keep them together through a mad dash out of the wilderness and to the nearest Fort where Bethie poses as Nicholas' wife.

This book just pulls you right in from page one. There is no lag at any point. We enjoy seeing how the coldness in Nicholas' heart melts into feelings he has problems accepting and with those feelings come the responsibilities he has tried to put aside. Bethie's past catches up with them and we see how Nicholas helps her confront the ghosts of her past while accepting that at one point he will have to do the same. He accepts this and doesn't hesitate when it's his turn to peel back the layers of his nightmares.

The journey through our history's past makes a wondrous backdrop for the love story between these two wounded souls. A wonderful ending to a great trilogy.

Grade: A
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