Sunday, December 30, 2007

Anthology - Midnight Pleasures

My daughter has been discovering Kenyon's DarkHunter series so I have been pulling out the books for the series. I discovered how I had skipped many of the stories that are in the anthologies and decided it was time to bring up my anthology quota for the 2007 year. I had hoped to read at least one anthology a month (12 a year) but I truly despise short stories and so the reading of the anthologies tend to fall on the wayside. I find that most anthologies just rush through the story and I can never enjoy a well rounded story. I think I will limit my purchases of these types of books in the future, but for now, I have ALOT of these to read.

Darkfest - Amanda Ashley: (B) This one was hard to place since the language was old but there was no indication of it's time period. The story is about Darkfest, who is considered a wizard to the village he lives with. His presence is accepted but not feared and he doesn't understand why he has the power to heal or to command fire. He is attracted to a blind girl and when her father asks for his assistance in saving his wife from a fever he bargains to bring the girl to his dominion. She accepts his bargain to stay at his castle for a year if he saves her mother. Darkfest can turn into a wolf and in the form he is able to give Channa Leigh the gift of sight. He endeavors to find a spell that will return her sight permanently and while on his quest he earns her love. It was a cute story but I found that there was a few loose ends at the end of the tale. Darkfest is becoming sensitive to light and he is also craving blood but when we reach the of the tale we are left with no explanation of his changes or whether these changes will continue to affect him.

Phantom Lover - Sherrilyn Kenyon: (A) First of the Dream-Hunter stories we get the background of the evils that lie in dreams. Erin McDaniels has been having horrendous nightmares that are driving her insane. During one of those nightmares she encounters V'Aiden who battles the Skoti demons that have been invading her dreams. In his first encounter with Erin he makes love to her in her dreams (which appears to be a big No-No). What I found fascinating about this story is how much we empathize with V'Aiden and how well drawn out Kenyon made him in just a few pages. The ending has a twist that I never saw coming and just blew me away. It redefined the way I jump to conclusions as to who the characters in a story are defined.

Under Her Spell - Maggie Shayne: (C) Melissa St. Cloud has been hired as a consultant to a TV show about witches.She is a practicing Wicca and is ready to put to right the misconceptions the show had been based on. Alexander Quinn is the producer to the show and is very curious about Melissa's beliefs but not necessarily because of the show but because of a hidden secret in his past. Seems Alex's father dabbled with dark magic and, although dead for several months, his presence is palpable and still creating havoc on a son who never knew he existed. The story was interesting but I think Shayne focused too much on details I could care less about when she could have worked more on having these two fall in love.

A Wulf's Curse - Ronda Thompson: (B) Elise Collins is running away from an uncle willing to sell her off to the first bridegroom to pay for her and when that groom has already seen several wives to the grave she knows that life on the run is safer... until she runs into Stearling Wulf. Stearling has tried to keep his past to himself and his curse hidden. He travels with a band of society's misfits in a troupe and on the stop close to London he picks up a stowaway. Even though he tries to keep his heart frozen to emotion he finds himself falling in love with the girl that is determined to stand up for herself and brave life's perils. This was just plain simple and to the point. I think there was more to say about Stearling's past and I would have liked him to stop running from his heritage but go back and help his brother's with their lives.

In the end this anthology was more of a winner than most and earn it's grade with very good stories.

Grade: B

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Season to be Sinful by Jo Goodman

This story was my Author of the Month selection for my Yahoo Reading Group. Jo Goodman was a new author for me and I will say she did not disappoint in the least, although I might be weary selecting her again to read. She reminded me alot of Laura Kinsale in the sense that this book was very dark, from the moment it started until we actually turned the last page. Even with a HEA ending, you still felt somber since the book was emotionally draining.

Viscount Sheridan finds himself putting his affairs in order because he plans to retire to the country to regroup, when there is an attempt on his life and death is forestall by a young boy that has taken a grievous wound on his behalf. He is determined to find out who the boy is and delays his trip to the country to investigate the incident. It's at this point that 3 street urchins find themselves at his door demanding that he pay for the medical expenses of 'Miss Rose' since they believe that Sherridon had done the stabbing. Sherry (Sheridan's nickname) is surprised to hear that the 'boy' that stepped between him and death, is in fact a young woman. But his surprise is only heightened when he hears her speak in a upper class manner.

Lily has been in hiding for a while and although she has witnessed great depravity in her life, she still holds true to her principles. This is what took her to interfere when she realized that Sherry was to be hurt. What she didn't expect was to lose her life in the act. After days of lingering between life and death she wakes to find herself at the home of Viscount Sheridan. After her initial shock has passed she recognizes the opportunity that has fallen in her lap to get her three young charges (Pinch, Dash & Midge) off the streets.

Sherry does in fact take a liking to the young rascals and decides to make them his wards, hiring Lily (Miss Rose's real name) as their governess.

If the story seems fanciful and light, you have been fooled. The background of how Lily ends up in the streets of London as well as why she is trying desperately to hid her identity is a dark omen for the secrets that Sherry has in his closet. Each have made choices that have lead them to where they are now. No trust in their hearts and even less capacity to love, yet they find themselves opening to each other in wonderful ways.

I found that by Goodman not putting the whole story out there at once, she built the tension so that when the truth of the assassination debacle unwinds we are actually surprised to see how Lily & Sherry's life have been driven in parallel until the moment of the stabbing when their lives collided.

The Darkness of the piece is what leads me to believe I will have to think seriously on picking up Goodman's work again any time soon. Such despair in books are digestible in small doses and I have alot of Kinsale in my TBR pile for me to seek more books of that nature. Still the book was delicious and will be highly recommended in the future.

Grade: A

Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Another installment to the Chicago Stars series. We met Dean Robillard in Match me if You Can and at that time he charmed the socks off of us. Now he returns with his own story which unfortunately was a bit of a miss with me.

Dean is recovering from shoulder surgery but feels himself slipping into a bit of a rut since he always felt invincible, and with the injury to his shoulder he now has to face a vulnerability he has worked hard to avoid. On his way to his new farmhouse in Tennessee he encounters a woman dressed in a Beaver outfit and his life turns upside down.

Blue Bailey has had a horrible few weeks when she gets into Dean's car. She left her life in Seattle to come assist her distraught boyfriend, Monty, only to find that he has run off with a 19 year old just days before she arrives. Her mother, who is a humanitarian, has emptied her bank account to help some girls in a third world country and after Monty steals her last dollar, she gets kicked out of her new apartment. With no place to go, hanging on to Dean sounds better every minute.

As with all SEP books there is a secondary romance which is between Dean's parents April and Jack. There is alot of baggage that needs to be cleared between Dean and his parents and that needs to be done before he can bring himself to fully give his heart to Blue.

Blue is also a bit damaged, and has her own abandonment issues. She has learned to stay away from caring for anyone since they always leave. Now, Dean asks for a commitment that she cannot give, or can she?

Honestly, I really enjoyed the story until the very end when you would have expected some growth from these characters but the truth is that they had stayed static until the last few pages.
the banter between them was priceless, though!

I loved April, Dean's mother, but Jack, his father, did nothing for me. The scenes where Dean finally made peace with his parents were well done and were very believable, as well as poignant, but when it can for the same reconciliation with the woman he had fallen in love with... I felt there could have been more. The secondary characters in the town of Garrison as well as Riley, Dean's half sister gave this book the push that it needed for me to keep it a B.

Grade: B-

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Rules of Seduction by Madeline Hunter

Alexis Welbourne has been living with her cousins for a while now and is grateful for their generosity. When she is suddenly left with nothing, after Lord Hayden Rothwell ruins her cousin Timothy Longworth and forces the family out of London. To avoid being a further burden on her cousins she is determined to find employment, when her greatest enemy offers her the opportunity to stay in the house she has made her own as a governess to the miscreant's young cousin.

Lord Hayden Rothwell is quite innocent of the accusations laid on his doorstep. He approached Timothy after discovering that he had been extorting funds from the bank he works at. In turbulent banking times, Hayden decides to leave his own funds in the bank, but demands that Timothy resign, leave London and payoff his debt. He promises not to reveal his crime as long as he follows the dictates he required. Timothy reluctantly agrees since not to, would have meant the gallows.

Do you think there is some gratitude in Timothy? Some semblance of shame for what he did? Not at all. Since Hayden promised to remain silent about the whole affair, Timothy decides to bad mouth him to everyone that can hear, saying that Hayden FORCED him into bankruptcy by removing his funds from the bank. Thus, leading Alexis to despise the man.

As she begins to work for Hayden and becomes better acquainted with him, she revises her opinion that he is a beast. She sees that there is more to the bank issue than was first explained and Hayden is being honorable to a fault. Now she just need to be certain that the man she has fallen in love with is the man she believes him to be.

Great Great Great tale. I love the slow, easy way Hunter takes us to the love story that unfolds for our Hero/Heroine. She also brings in several side characters that inspire strong feelings, like the Aunt and Timothy... who can we hate more...

Wonderful to get back to Hunter as we know she can be!

Grade: A

No True Gentleman by Liz Carlyle

Since we are reviewing Liz Carlyle books lets get to the one I read that was a complete miss. I could not bring myself to even finish reading this one.

Catherine is the sister to the Earl of Treyhern who was the hero in Beauty Like the Night. She is a widow who still finds herself mourning her husband but knows that she needs to move on with her life. While she is in London she crosses path with a man that is No True Gentleman.

Max de Rohan was introduced to us in A Woman of Virtue. He was in charge of the murder investigation of the women in Cole's Mission. In that tale he was a bit spooky but at the same time very admirable. Now, in his own book he just ended up being plain boring.

He is involved in some investigation, Catherine gets in the way, he tries to ward her off, she is determined to stick her nose into what doesn't concern her... blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Can you guess I didn't like this one? I just felt bored to pieces. I wanted more of the romance and less of the subplot and since I was not getting it by mid book I decided to close this one and put it to rest. As I mentioned earlier, I did not finish this one.

Grade: DNF

A Woman of Virtue by Liz Carlyle

I want to say that Carlyle is a hit and miss author for me. Because of that I tend to wait a while before picking up her latest releases. I already have all of her earlier work in my TBR pile and I'm working my way to her more updated stuff, but because of that hit and miss situation, I take her work in small doses. The problem with this is that most of her books are interrelated and I tend to forget who is who and how they relate.

Thus was the case with David, Lord Delacourt. I had to go back and look at her previous work to find out that David is the secret brother of Reverend Cole Amherst's wife, Jonet from A Woman Scorned. David is put in a precarious situation when his brother in law, Cole swindles him into taking over his duties at the Mission he has started for fallen women.

Cecilia Lorimer, Lady Walfren would prefer to keep a respectable distance between herself and Delacourt. When she was just 18, Delacourt almost compromised her, which led to a fictitious engagement and finally, a similarly fictitious jilting on her behalf. She eventually married an older man who gave her stability and calmness after the whirlwind that was David. Now that she is widowed she tries very hard to keep that calmness in her life, but the news of David sharing duties with her in the Mission has her trembling, but not so much in fear as in need.

I really loved these two characters, both had reasons to resent the other but they learned to put that aside when a series of murders follow the woman of the Mission. David and Cecilia are able to focus their energies on something other than their disagreements and they discover that there is more to each other than a first impression.

Wonderful, wonderful book! I absolutely loved how these two found a way back to each other. The subplot of the murders never out shined the romance.

Grade: B+

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

After many years of reading Harry Potter, I was greatly anticipating this last installment. I also feared it, due to all the rumors that were flying around. I kept telling myself that our hero will come out safe from this encounter as he has done in the past, but inside, I had my own doubts.
I have enjoyed this series greatly but I think i enjoyed it more than most because my daughter so loved it. She, as most of American children, grew up with Harry Potter and kept that magic alive for me.

Well this final installment finds Harry about to turn 17 and the charms that have kept him safe all this time are about to be broken. The Order of the Phoenix try their best to get him to safety with so many dementors and spies around but they do not realize that Harry, Ron & Hermione are on a mission to find all the horacruxes that make up Voldemort, as per Dumbledore's direction. This is a mission that is at risk many times as Harry questions everything around him.

I really need to keep this review vague since there is so much to give away. The deaths start up early in the book and the final battle claims others we have come to love, but I will offer one spoiler... Our Trio come out Alive.

I found that there was a point in the book that dragged a bit, especially in the middle when the trio set off in search of the horacruxes and, really, had no direction what so ever. They didn't have a clue where to look. Imagine looking for something around the world and not knowing where to start. I felt desperate on their behalf.

We find out a lot about Dumbledore and his past, and it's not what we would expect from the character we all have respected and learned to love. I like the way Rowling has been pulling us along and letting us view these characters from Harry's perspective, There is always a sense of black and white in our judgments. This book introduces the shades of gray that goes with every human frailty. We see everyone from a different perspective and learn to accept these faults.

This series is not one to disappoint. If you have never read a Harry Potter book, you must start from the beginning. It is a long journey but worth every page.

BTW: Don't miss Jo's commentaries of Harry's life after the final page at

Grade: A
Format: Audiobook

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Anthology - Wish List

It has been a while since I read an Anthology that was really worth recommending, but this one is just that. The stories that comprise the Anthology really make this one worth the time. There were a couple of stories, like Dain's Union and Kleypas' I Will, that actually felt like full length novels, and I think that itself speaks highly of the stories.

Lisa Kleypas contributed the story I Will where Andrew, Lord Drake enlists the help of Miss Caroline Hargreaves to decieve his dying father into believing that he has mended his rotten ways. He has been cut out of his father's will and he already had half of his inheritance spent on gambling and frivolous diversions. He desperately needs the funds so he bribes Caro into assisting him by promising to stay away from her young brother Cade, who is following in Andrew's footsteps. Although we don't get to experience every nuance of the developing love affair, Kleypas gives us enough to root for the couple and be outraged for Caroline when a twist is thrown at the end of the story. Excellent tale! BTW: Andrew is the half brother of Logan Scott, which appeared in an earlier story of Kleypas. (B+)

Lisa Cach contributed Puddings, Pastries and Thou where we meet Vivian Ambrose, who is the poor relation that has been passed around from cousin to cousin for several years now. She arrives at her new "charitable" relations home the night before Xmas, and her cousin's daughter Penelope does not waste a minute to show Vivian her displeasure of having to share her gowns, let alone her first season with Vivian. Vivian, in turn, would like nothing more that to find herself a husband so she no longer will be a burden for her family, so Penelope, tries to put her in the path of Richard Brent. Richard Brent is looking for a wife that will accept him, faults and all. But, what are those faults? and why is it that he is considered less than marriageable material, even for a spinster like Vivian?
I really loved the way we discover Richard's secrets and Vivian's capacity to eat her way out of a difficult situations made this entry a light, pleasurable read. (B)

Claudia Dain gave us the novella Union and although it read like a full length novel, the characters where not as sympathetic as in the other stories in the book. Clarrisa Walingford is on the marriage mart but she is determined to go about her choices with care since she really doesn't marry an Englishman, regardless of the fact that she is English herself. Her goal is to marry a man that has lands in Ireland, her home. Beau Wakefield, Lord Montwyn, owner of a grand estate in Ireland is searching for a bride and believes Clarrisa just might fit the bill, especially after her meddling brothers indirectly challenged him to win her over.
Regardless of the characters or maybe, in spite of them, I found this one funny. Clarrisa and Beau were being easily manipulated by the hordes of brothers she has and it was just plain funny to see these two dance to the brother's tunes without realizing they were doing it. My disappointment in the story was because I really didn't get a feel for the spark between these two. they appear to be attracted to each other but they mostly wanted the union for other reasons. (B-)

Lynsay Sands gives us the last tale in this book, All I Want, which is another funny tale. Prudence Prescott is determined to grant her mother's Christmas wish of having her father stop his gambling and come home. They are on the way to debtor's prison at the rate they are going and Pru is determine to stop the downward spiral, if she could only speak to her father. Stephen Ballard, Lord Stockton, owns the gambling establishment that is frequented by Lord Prescott. He lives on the fringe of society and is dissatisfied with his life, until Pru steps in and turns it all around. I found this one the funniest of all since poor Pru just cannot get anything right and continuously finds herself in Stephen's way, ruining his business and just making a pie of herself. (B)

Grade: B

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lover Revealed by J. R. Ward

Fell absolutely in love with this series last summer when I read the first three books all at once. Then came the wait... God, it took forever for the next installment!

This is the fourth of the series and it tells the story of Butch and Marissa. We met both of them in the first book of the series (Dark Lover).

Butch was a cop and his dedication to saving Beth, who became Wrath's Queen, led to his knowledge and presence in the Brotherhood. He left the force after finding the Brotherhood's cause most rewarding. Unfortunately, although he lives with the Brotherhood and shares their secrets, Butch feels unworthy because he is not allowed to fight the Lessers. He might be surrounded by riches but he cannot respect himself and cannot bring himself to pursue Marissa.

Marissa was Wrath's Shellan (the woman that fed him) and although everyone thought they were destined to be bonded, she was set aside for a mortal. Although Butch attracts her she feels unworthy of him since all of her kind (the aristocracy of Vampires) judge her to be less of a woman. She also fears that if she feeds from him that she will not be able to control herself and will kill him (which she almost does).

At some point Butch is captured by the Lessers when he tries to save a Pre-transition Vamp. They torture him because they know that he is friends with the Brotherhood. The Omega arrives and, discovering the prize that is Butch, inserts some evil part of himself into Butch that almost kills him. He is brought to Marissa's brother who isolates him because he fears that whatever was stuck into Butch could be contagious. Butch is turned to save his life but the Evil in hi is causing him to act a bit differently than expected. Marissa, the Brotherhood and the Scribe Virgin are determined to save the man that could be one told in a prophecy.

This book was one of the most emotionally draining of the series. I thought Zadist's story was the worse but in his case the suffering was expected and, for some reason, made me love him more. This story was so entwined with the subplot it was difficult for me to really feel for Butch. It did make me feel deeply for Vishous since I felt that by giving Butch someone to love left V all alone. There were these weird moments in the book that gave me a feel that V wanted Butch in a WHOLE different way. It was quite an interesting view of V.

John also is heavily depicted in this story and honestly, he doesn't do it for me. I am really looking forward to his transformation to see what a grown up, not so whiny, John can offer. Regardless the story was strong and it was wonderful to continue the line of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

Grade: B-

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Parallel Heat by Deidre Knight

Since I had the next book in the Midnight Warriors Series I picked up the next story immediately after I read PAttraction. In a way it is very good that I did since this story picks up the same day the last book ends. I had never read a romance novel where the succession of events where so entangled with the first book in the series that you were required to read the first to understand the second.

This book was to focus on the story of the Refarian warrior that betrayed Jared and Kelsey in the first book. In the original timeline, Marcus arrives two years after Jared and Kelsey marry but after the events in the first book, the timeline has been altered and he joins the crew the day after the marriage takes place.

Thea is Jared's cousin and also was suppose to be his bride, she is bit wounded by the fact that a mere human was able to melt her King's heart in just a few days. She goes off to a bar with Scott, Jared's second in command, and immediately senses the presence of the other alien, Marcus.

I found the book that was suppose to be about Thea and Marcus revolve mostly around the war that is going on, on the fertility problems of Jared and Kelsey, and on the impending attack by their enemies on US soil.

Yes, there was lot of development of the character of Marcus but it was a bit difficult to understand the attraction between him and Thea, except that they had some shared memories from a separate timeline that was causing them to experience the old Thea and Marcus' feelings.

I found myself skimming through their parts and getting into the story of Scott and his encounter with a blind linguist called Hope. I really hope that Knight can do their story justice. I feel Scott has a story to tell and Hope, being a bit different herself, could just be the woman to bring that story out, but honestly... I'm not sure what to expect of the next book. I have a problem believing that I will pick the next one up, but I think it's the Roswell thing again....

Grade: D

Parallel Attraction by Deidre Knight

I admit that I was not quite anxious to read this book. I put it off for forever. I actually received the next book in the series before bringing myself to read this one. I don't have a particular reason; I was just not ready for aliens in my Paranormal/ Sci-Fi/ Alt.Reality genre. I have read Deidre Knight in the past. You might ask, 'Where? This is her first romance published'. She use to be part of my Roswell Fan Fiction writing group and she was absolutely FABULOUS at that.

Let me get into Parallel Attraction. This book is focused on the relationship between Jared Bennett and Kelsey Wells. Jared is the exiled king of a species called Refarians. They are now considered a rebellious group since their planet has been taken over by their enemies called the Antousians.

When Jared was young his elders took him to Earth where he fell in love with a young girl, but since she was merely a human and he was king, the elders erased all him memory of the time with her. Many years later, in the same hills where he met his young love, he suffers an attack from the US military when he was returning to his camp. Knowing that the information he carried could not fall into the enemy's hand, he bonds with a young woman that was on the ridge and deposits the information in her. Now the information needs to be removed but he is not sure how to do that without harming the human that, for some reason, has become very important to him.

Kelsey is a geologist that spent most of her life camping on those hills; she is searching for some samples when she stumbles on a scene that has her questioning much of her beliefs. The man that can turn into a ball of energy is wounded and although she knows she should be frightened, she's not. She offers to help and feels him melding into her. Now she is involved in a war she had no idea existed and falling in love with an Alien that is sovereign among his people.

The story is complex with two different endings, killers coming back from the future to stop things from happening, jilted lovers, redeemed men.... The writing is soo Dee (which is excellent) but the story itself appears to be taken from the annals of the Roswell/ Timecop/ Terminator archives and that is what really ruined it for me.

I found the similarities too close to Roswell to not find myself rolling my eyes all the time.
Here are some examples for those not familiar with the Roswell TV show:
  • In Roswell - exiled King hiding on Earth falls for an Earthling.
  • In one of the most loved episodes, Max (the alien King) comes back in time to stop the 'End of The World'.
  • Liz (the Earthling) becomes a very important part of the rebellion with her scientific mind (like Kelsey).
  • In PAttraction, the enemy comes back in time in a Mitre that is actually a very powerful weapon against their enemies; In Roswell, the future Max comes to the past in what was called The Granolith, which is also a very powerful weapon against their enemies. These machines both work on the power that is fed to them and both develop to their potential under the human woman's hand,
  • Oh, and lets not forget that the same person (one present - one future) cannot occupy the same space without consuming itself into nothingness.

For those interested in Roswell and learning more about this short lived, fabulous series visit The Crashdown where you can find synopsis of all three seasons of episodes.

I guess if you never experienced Roswell, you could easily love this book, but you should be forewarned that the book leans much into the Sci-Fi realm and might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Grade: C

Lady Of Desire by Gaelen Foley

Jacinda Knight is not planning to marry a man who has been like a brother to her and so she picks up her belongings and runs away, straight into the arms of Billy Blade, the gang leader that helped Damien protect Miranda in Lord of Ice.

We definitely get to know the man we thought to be a thug. It seems the Blade has kept a few secrets from his gang. The most important one being that he is actually the Earl of Rackford. He ran away from a dismal future at a young age, so he can sympathize with the chit of 18 that he digs out of a heap of garbage. He finds her enticing and pure, and something in him calls to her straight forward way as well as her undeniable strength of character.

When he is caught by the Bow Street runners, he has to shed his guise of gang leader and pick up the cloak of Earl. He doesn't mind it so much because he can now compete for the love of the one woman that has touched his soul. But is seems that things don't go as smoothly in his aristocratic life as it did in the rookery and when Jacinda does not immediately accept him he becomes a lost pup. One that Jacinda just cannot bring herself to kick to the curb.

What I liked about this story is the same thing that I disliked. The dramatic change in Blade, from rough ruffian to vulnerable man. Billy just doesn't appear to fit in, and he questions his worth until the very last pages of the book. Even after Jacinda has accepted her fate and has given the scoundrel her heart he still has self esteem issues. I do appreciate though that Foley does not leave any loose ends, extending the book beyond the wedding of our main characters until the resolution of Billy's past. I also appreciate how the relationship between these two develops into a strong friendship before Jacinda admits it is love.

Funny though that I felt the age of the couple through out the book. They were a very young couple and, although Blade had lived a hard life on the streets, he was portrayed as a very young soul. Kudos for Foley that is talented enough to make the distinction between this romance and those of her older brothers.

Grade: B

Lord of Ice by Gaelen Foley

Lord of Ice is the story of Lucien's older brother (by just a few minutes) Damien. Damien is considered a War Hero by all England but his adventures in the army have left him scarred and emotionally unstable. He seeks seclusion from the world because he fears that during one of his nightmares or blackout he might harm someone.

When he learns that a close friend, and fellow soldier, was murdered in his home, he finds a cause that will distract him from his drinking and isolation. Damien was named guardian to his friend's niece, Miranda. He goes off to meet the girl and inform her of her Uncle's death but when he arrives in town he goes in search of a bit of companionship the night before. This leads to an encounter with a beautiful actress whom he promptly kisses, gropes and propositions. She is intrigued but, innocent as she is, refuses and tries to get away from Damien but in the process runs into a group of men who try to abduct her. Damien, the hero that he is, saves her but not before turning into the maniacal death weapon he is frightened of.

If you were wondering about the girl Damien saves... you guessed it, she was Miranda. A fact that leads to a bit of awkwardness the following day when he meets his new ward and realizes that she is not a child as he imagines but a full grown temptress.

Miranda has lived abandoned by her family at this school for young ladies, fending off the lewd advances of the head master who is a bit of a pedophile. She is an illegitimate daughter so her family has not really acknowledged her after the death of her father, but her Uncle Jason was always good to her, until he went to war and was injured. Then she was forgotten at the bottom of a bottle. She has tried to live a good life and has found a passion for Theater, which lead to the encounter with Damien. The incident left her frightened of the man, because the violence of his attack against the men that tried to harm her was very brutal. When she discovers that the head master is making her leave with Damien she protests, since she knows that she is the only person standing between him and the young girls at the school. Needless to say that Damien saves the day once again and thwarts her plan in running off the join the theater.

Damien is a good man but troubled. He struggles with his guilt for desiring his ward, but also struggles with his own personal demons. When he discovers that someone is out to kill Miranda he realizes how much he actually cares for her. He had delegated his duties as ward to the women in the knight clan but when seemingly innocent accidents keep occurring it dawns on Damien that someone needs Miranda out of the way, just like they needed Jason gone. Since no one really is aware that Miranda is an heiress, the threat makes little sense.

Needless to say, Miranda is determined to have Damien and has no qualms in using any method in her arsenal to get him.

When I read Lord of Fire, I knew Damien was a complex man who needed to have his story told, but reading his story I realized that he had more depth than it appeared. He did not want or like the attention he got as a war hero and he definitely didn't want to share himself with anyone. The wounded man Foley delivers is wonderfully crafted and with a strength that makes him deserve better than Miranda who is a bit of a spoiled brat at the beginning of the book. Her love for Damien did redeem her enough for me to keep the A I gave this book in place.

Grade: A

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lord of Fire by Gaelen Foley

I couldn't wait to continue reading more of Foley and when my reading group selected her as the Author of the Month for April, I found the perfect excuse. Lord of Fire is the second book in the Knight Miscellany Series. I think I enjoyed this one alot because I had a good idea what to expect since I had read a bit about the book on Foley's website.

Lucien Knight is the youngest of the twin boys born to the Hawkcliffe Harlot by her most faithful lover. The boys father were part of their lives and left them an inheritance. Lucian was to inherit estates and money while Damien is to be given a title, although not that one of his natural father. Lucien has a close relationship with his brother but the Napoleonic war has torn them apart. After following Damien into the army, Lucien found the deaths and violence too much to handle and decided to trade in his red coat for a position as a spy. Well, it seems that the role of spy is considered dishonorable and this puts more emotional distance between the twins. I mention this because Lucien carries a bit of a chip on his shoulder of being the bad twin and, although his love for Damien is unquestionable, there is a bit of sibling rivalry.

When the book starts we find Lucien pretending to be enamored by the widow Caroline. She has been playing both sides of the Knight twin bed, so to say. She is trying to wiggle out a proposal from the War Hero, Damien while enjoying the bed favors of his brother Lucien. Lucien allows this because he knows Damien is planning on marrying the unfaithful witch and he wants to help Damien, by uncovering the woman's true nature. Anyway, after Damien breaks up with her, Caro follows Lucien to one of his mysterious parties, which he uses as a front to gather information.

Alice Montague is the sister in law of Caro. Her brother Phillip was a good man but was ill used by his wife. He went to war to prove his manliness and returned wounded and dying. Alice promised her brother that she would care for his son, Harry and his Wife. When Alice hears that Caro has gone off with Lucien to his estate for a party instead of returning home to her ill child, she is infuriated and goes off to fetch her. Alice sees a part of life she has never experienced when she finds her way into a party that is as exclusive as it is sinful.

At first Lucien thinks this beauty of a woman is a spy and has her hauled into his room for questioning, but quickly discovers his error, but not before getting a quick taste of what innocence is. He is enamored, although he doesn't really know it. He just knows that he needs to keep her with him, so the next morning he sets out to do just that when he tells her that only one woman can leave, either Caro or Alice. Alice's commitment to Harry has her staying behind so that Caro can return to the sick boy. She is to stay one week in the home of Lucifer. During that week Lucien discovers the wonders of friendship and Alice discovers she is more of a woman than she expected.

This book pulls you in from the first word and although you expect to see this alpha male (he is a spy, you know!), you find a vulnerable man that has never thought he measures up. You find someone that is so alone that, as a reader, you can feel it. Not only has Foley written memorable characters but also storyline that has you NEEDING to turn the page.

Lucien has to decide on going after love or getting the revenge he has yearned for over many years. He had been captured at one point in his career and was tortured for several weeks until he betrayed a friend and got that person killed. He thought the French spy was dead but he is in London preparing to create havoc . Lucien has to decide whether living in the past with his desire for revenge is enough, or can he put that aside and embrace the future Alice offers him.

Foley at her best!

Grade: A

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rough and Ready by Sandra Hill

When it comes to Sandra Hill's Viking series, grading is a bit skewed. The reason is because the premise is so out there that you really need to stretch your imagination and treat it more as an Alt. Universe type of book. I grade these books on their level of entertainment and on how believable it is in it's absurd alternate reality.

Torolf Magnusson is one of the may children of Magnus, one of the original three brothers that time traveled into modern age America. Torolf is a Navy Seal and he is going to need all his training when he returns to the 11th century at the bequest of his sister to stop Steinolf from destroying his homelands. His fellow Navy Seals go with him and they find themselves housing at a sanctuary for battered woman that is run by Brunhilda Berdottir.

Brunhilda saw her father die at the hands of Steinrolf and although weary at first shelters the rag tag group of men because Torolf has agreed to teach them how to fight so that they can help in the military action against their mutual enemy.

The attraction starts in the midst of all the hectic training and preparing but that soon passes when they defeat the bad guy. Torolf appears ready to give up on Brunhilda, even though I would have thought it a great ending to have him stay and show some loyalty to his people, but in the end he and his men finally get transported into modern time but what is unexpected is that Hilda goes with them by mistake. Now comes the stretch of the imagination... Hilda seems to be very accepting of the change is time. I guess Hill did prepare us for this since she had Torolf explain to Hilda early on that he had time traveled into the past to help defeat the enemy.

If you think the story is over you are very wrong. While in the hospital, Hilda's bloodwork is discovered to be different from modern day humans and a group of crazies target her as an Alien. After escaping the hospital and possible abductions to a scientific lab, she is forced into hiding at Hog Heaven Trailer park, where she meets many interesting characters.

Grade: B

The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Heard such rave reviews about this book on my reading group that I just had to get it. I was not disappointed but it was not one that I will remember if I don't blog about it.

Edward de Raaf is the last survivor of his family after small pox ran across his lands when he was a young man. He was left with scars on his body and the title of Earl of Swartingham. He has finally returned to his estate where he plans to marry and fill his nursery so that the halls of his home will ring with laughter once again. All appears to be going as planned, except that he cannot seem to keep hold of his secretaries. So he send his man of affairs to hire one.

The man hires Anna Wren, a widow from the village whose husband left her and her MIL (mother in law) in financial ruin. She is forced to take a position and this one offers the highest wages possible.

When Edward returns to his estate after going to London to get his marriage settlement rolling, he is shocked by his new secretary but accepts the woman since her work up to this point is better than any of his previous employees. During his time at her side he starts yearning for the widow but knows she is a lady and it is impossible to start anything between them since he is engaged. That does not stop his body from getting all heated and out of shape everytime he is near her, so he heads to London for a visit to a brothel.

Anna, who has started to fall for the Earl, discovers his plot to alleviate his needs and convinces a new found friend to get her into the brothel, where she spends two nights in Edward's arms. When he discovers the truth he is absurdly angry but relies on the 'I compromised you' to request the marriage. Well she will not have him under those conditions and refuses him. So the Earl blackmails her into returning to his employ where his campaign for her heart starts.

Delightful tale that grabs you from the first few pages. I was surprised to find how humorous the book was, I really was expecting some serious melodrama, but was happy to find that I was smiling constantly at the Earl's efforts to keep his 'anxiety' under control. The sex was steamy and the story was definitely enjoyable.

Grade: B

Anthology - His Immortal Embrace

This one was my Anthology read for the month of March. I had this one in my TBR pile for forever (at least three years). I bought it for Lynsay Sand's story since, I recall, I was just discovering her vampire series around the time. I was not disappointed in that story although my favorite has to be Howell's tale.

Hannah Howell's The Yearning: Lady Sophie Hay discovers that her ancestor has cursed her line to lose love when in an act of vengeance, Roma cast a curse on her lover's kind. She cursed them to live a life of darkness and to drink blood until one would choose love over wealth. Sophie goes out to seek the MacCordy Laird so that she can try to break the curse and save herself from the fate all her ancestors have lived with, what she didn't realize was that she would have a bigger role to play in breaking the curse. Alpine is on the edge of turning into the beast his forefathers had become when a ray of hope enters his keep. He wants to spare her the life of darkness that is his destiny but finds it more difficult with ever smile she gifts him with. Great short story that didn't feel rushed or abrupt at all. A.

Lynsay Sands' Bitten: Keeran MacKay has been cursed by a vampire that sought vengeance on his family after they killed her mate. He has lived two centuries in darkness, hating who he has become. When he saves Emily from the ship that was taking her to an arranged marriage he never thought she would breath life back into him. When Emily awakens in MacKay's castle she is surprised by the lack of servants that the house has and is upset that the laird is forcing the old couple caring for the place to do so alone. She is put to straight when the housekeeper tells her that everyone fears the MacKay and no one will work for him, Emily is determined to correct this, even if Keeran does not want her interference. In no time at all the house is filled with voices and is getting repaired. Keeran hates the reminder of what he can no longer have but the innocence in Emily is too alluring to deny. I liked this one although Emily's acceptance of the Vampire lure was a bit too easy, but the characters were so well drawn you felt their attraction as well as their suffering, so you were rooting for them all along. Gave this one a B.

Sara Blayne's Stranger in the Night: Worse one in the pack... Georgiana Thornberry is a antiquarian and is summoned away from a very promising excavation by her uncle who doesn't show up in the story at all. Julius is a mystery for most of the story since he barely shows his face until mid way in the book and then delivers a few lines before he is exposed as the boogey man. If you haven't picked up on my complete disdain for this piece, read the review again. There was barely any conversation in the story, mostly it was Georgiana who kept analyzing her life or so much background details that made this short story feel VERY long, then all of a sudden Georgiana is in love with Julius, yet we, the reader, have seen them converse once! Also, the story's point of view kept shifting all over the place. At some points it's told as if it was in the past, then others in the present, sometimes past and present mixed up and had me, the reader, shaking my head and thinking, WTF? On top of that Julius, who has just found acceptance and love wants to throw it away by awaiting the dawn? I thought I would lose it altogether at that point! Gave this one an F.

Kate Huntington's The Awakening was decent writing, unfortunately the plot took a twist down a path I have issues with. Thalia Layton goes to aid her elderly aunt who is very ill. What she finds startles her because the servants of the house flee before sunset and her aunt is eager to have her leave too. The man that has been lover to her aunt is known to be a monster. Adrien Lucerne is not happy to have this young, innocent woman in his home, when he has not feed on a human for 6 mo. Cordelia is dying and her niece is tempting him. This is the issue I have... Adrien is actually the cause of Cordelia's death and he is eyeing her niece as candy? I hate to give spoilers so if you don't want to know, I suggest you...
The kicker was that the night her Aunt dies, Thalia seduces Adrien. They went from her Aunt's grave to her bed. So not cool!! The writing itself was smooth and enticing but honestly, the distasteful nature of the story was too much for me and graded this one a D-

Grade: C

Anthology - Hot Ticket

In following my goals for 2007 I have been reading one anthology per month. I seem to find a draw to this type of book and so I have many in my TBR pile. My Anthology read for the month of February was a bit of a disappointment. The best of the bunch was Deidre Martin's Same Rink, Next Year and that one just got a B.

Lucky Charm by Julia London: In this story we get to know a baseball player that has been in a slump lately and he blames it on a radio talk show host who has been bashing him on the airwaves. Parker Price decides that enough is enough and decides to confront Kelly O'Shay. He heads over to her radio station and they meet, but instead of dislike they find themselves attracted to each other and start seeing each other. Parker's game improves and he thinks Kelly is his source of Good Luck. All in all the story was interesting and well rounded, which I find rare in a short story and yet it still had a rush feel to it. B-

Same Rink, Next Year by Deirdre Martin: This one was the prize of the group and lead me to pick up Martin's latest full length story Chasing Stanley (which was a disappointment). In this story a yearly tradition is broke by the arrival of a snowstorm which causes David Hewson to spend more than one passionate night with the concierge of the hotel his hockey team stays in every year. Tierney O'Connor waits with baited breath every year for the Herds (the hockey team) to arrive at her hotel. The promise of her yearly sexual encounter with the hunky Goalie, has her on tender hooks but this year the team is stranded at the hotel for several days giving the couple time to get to know each other. Although they are reluctant, at first, to break the mystery of their encounters, the promise of more to come has them exploring what could happen. B

You Can't Steal First by Annette Blair: I honestly picked up this book for Annette's story. I know Annette from my reading group and she is a very charming lady, but although her Salem Witch series was one I enjoyed, this story was difficult to get into. We met Tiago in My Favorite Witch. He was a character that begged to tell his story and although we discover that he is this sensitive, lovable person and not the womanizing, panty stealing playboy he portrays himself to be, the relationship he has with Quinn is so complex, it was not something that fit into a short story format. Quinn gave Tiago her virginity when she was just a teenager. She was the rich girl and he was from the other side of the tracks. He disappears on her, while she was thinking they had a future together. She let her father rule her life and when she is forces onto Tiago's Hot-Ticket Express to Spring Training train ride by her closest friends she finally discovers the truth behind what happened all those years ago. C

Can't Catch This by Geri Buckley: This one was the killer of th book. The casual encounter between Lindy Hamilton and Josh Weldon at a football game left me wondering what was it that drew her to him other than his good looks and for someone with such a terrible track record with her other relationships, what did Josh offer that made him different? If at the end of thebok I cannot see that chemistry, that reason for the love they declare for each other, the story has failed. The story takes place mostly at the football games and although Josh keeps saying he has fallen for Lindy, there is just no 'zing' in the encounters. This one just didn't do it for me. D-

Grade: C

Friday, April 13, 2007

She's No Princess by Laura Lee Guhrke

Sir Ian Moore is the older brother of Dylan (whom we met in His Every Kiss) but they cannot be the more opposite. Dylan was always the carefree, artistic type while Ian always strived to meet his father's expectations. He is a diplomat and the career suits him because he never lets his emotions show, he always does what is right and his honor is unquestionable... until he meets Lucia.

Lucia Valenti, not only is the illegitimate daughter of a prince, but also is the daughter of one of the most notorious courtesans in London. She had been unacknowledged by her father for most of her life, although he did school her, but when she is caught with a blacksmith at her school, she is sent off to a convent where not even the nuns could keep her down. Now she embroiled her younger sister in scandal and her father has had enough! He sends her to Ian, so that he can get her married off.

Lucia will not marry for anything other than love and schemes her way into having Ian agree to let her choose her own husband among the list of men he has approved. Ian has no clue as to what is coming over him as he keeps letting Lucia get her way. He is tempted beyond belief and his wall of indifference just keeps getting chipped away by the rebellious Italian!

I loved seeing Ian get all ruffled and out of shape. Guhrke has great talent in painting a picture of the scenes she is describing and I could clearly see Ian all polished and stiff, getting his hair tosseled by Lucia. The book really drew you in from the start but I could not say the ending left you sighing. I felt as if it ended too abruptly.

I feel as if the book was misleading at the end when it came to Ian's feelings about his career. He tells Lucia something at the end that was just not indicated by his actions and his thoughts at the end of the book. It seemed as if the author was in a rush to end the tale with a pretty pink bow. I would have also like to see more interaction between Ian and Lucia, since every time they did spend time together it was a storm waiting to happen.

Grade: B-

The Marriage Bed by Laura Lee Guhrke

The times I have read about John and Viola Hammond's relationship (in both Guilty Pleasure and His Every Kiss) I admit to having developed and affinity to their situation. It seems that Viola despised her husband passionately and John could care less about his wife. I really could not see them ever reconciling yet that is exactly what Guhrke set out to do in this book.

John Hammond has led a life of carelessness but he is finally facing his responsibilities when he finds he needs an heir. John always thought that his title would pass on to his cousin Percy and then his son, but Percy goes ahead and dies of scarlet fever! Now he has to find a way to reconcile with his wife Viola to assure an heir that will secure his viscount title doesn't pass onto his other idiot cousin.

Viola had been hurt by this man in the past when she discovered that he had not married her for love but for the money her dowry brought. She shut him out of the marriage bed then and he sought refuge in other womens arms. He now wants her to forgive his transgressions of the past so that she will allow him to return to that marriage bed to beget the heir he needs. Well, she will have no part of it. Yet, society dictates that if her husband comes to claim her, he has the legal right to take her away, and take her away he does, forcing his presence in her life and unsettling her with her wit and laughter.

What John had not realized was that more than making love to Viola, he missed the love Viola gave him so freely and he is determined to gain access not just to the marriage bed but into the heart of his wife.

On the down side of this one is that Viola was not a very likable character, she caused the riff in her marriage by her stubbornness and her lake of faith in the relationship she was starting to develop with her new husband . Then John went off and didn't fight for her adding fuel to the fire. I had a hard time believing that after so many years of hating her husband Viola just suddenly accepted him and yet Guhrke made the journey of these two back to each other so enticing that I could accept the spontaneous acceptance of Viola's husband back into her life and that alone made it a great book.

Grade: B+

Friday, April 06, 2007

His Every Kiss by Laura Lee Guhrke

The first book I read by Guhrke was Guilty Pleasure and I fell in love with her work. When I picked up this one which takes place among the same characters from that first book, I thought maybe Guhrke might have been a one hit wonder but I kept reading despite the VERY slow start. It picked up after 100 pages.

Dylan Moore was a composer who after suffering an accident (fell off his horse) he can no longer hear music to compose. He is suffering from migraines that block out his muse. He is about to take his life when a destitute violinist interupts him and chastises him for attempting the suicide. To his surprise he finally hears music in her presence but she runs away from him before he discovers who she is... He looks for her over 5 years but has no luck until he runs into her again when he is at a ball and she is a musician playing.

Grace has had her share of being a muse when as a young girl she ran off with a painter destroying her reputation. She eventually married the lout but when his inspiration drained he turned to drink and eventually made her life miserable. She refuses to go through that again but Dylan offers to hire her to be a governess to his daughter Isabel (who he has just met) and in the process also serve as his muse. She wants to refuse but she is down to her last shilling and so her finances don't allow her to be picky so she accepts the position as governess.

When things got difficult, I found that Dylan was too fast to judge. But I think he did a good bit of groveling and his efforts in using his influence to repair her reputation and her relationship with her brother made him deserving of her.

Grade: B-

Chasing Stanley by Deirdre Martin

Wow this one was bad. I kept thinking it would eventually turn better but it never did. It also ended as if everything that happened in the book was not important. These two will sooo end in divorce!

Jason is a new recruit for the New York Blades' Hockey Team (Martin's previous hockey books revolve around this team). He has moved to NY to fulfill his lifelong dream to win the Stanley cup. He has brought from Minnesota his newfoundland dog who is not acclimating well to city life. During one of his walkings he runs into Delilah who appears to be the answer to all his problems.
Delilah has her own business and although it isolates her from humankind her dogs are her life and she prides in the care and training she provides. When she crosses paths with the hockey player and his Newfie, Stanley, she berates him for having the dog out in hot weather, but she quickly realizes that he needs her help more than her words. She agrees to take him on as a client and starts to help him train Stanley.

They fall for each other, obviously, and here is where to book starts to fall apart. Jason and Delilah were too different from the get go. Jason loves to socialize and Delilah is a hermit that lives for her dogs and her dog training business. Through out the book, Delilah was a walking mat for Jason who kept asking for her to change to suit him. She had to leave her business to party with him, even when she was uncomfortable in social situations. He really never did anything for her, it was always about him. Even in the end, when they get back together it's on his terms.

The writing was good but the plot felt like I was watching a train wreck waiting to happen. Jason was brusque and mean at times. I just could not see him ever deserving Delilah. She was not perfect but definitely not deserving of Jason's nastiness. I didn't give it an F because the writing was actually decent and the first bit in which Jason was discovering his feelings was cute.

Grade: D

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Duke by Gaelen Foley

I almost put this one down since I found it a bit disappointing a first. The couple doesn't immediately know each other and it's not until some chapters in the book that they are finally thrown together.

Belinda Hamilton has a stalker. Dolph Breckinridge is the nephew of the Earl of Coldfell and he is obsessed with Belinda. It has gotten to the point where he has ruined her family and has made her destitute, with the intention that she finally turn to him in her time of need. He obviously doesn't know Belinda. She had promised herself to a local boy who went off to fight the war but her hope for his return is dying because she is on her last dime. She has taken to selling oranges but even this is not enough to bribe the warden of her father's prison.

When the unthinkable happens, Belinda decides she will have to rely on the oldest profession in the book and cuts a business deal with the madame of a high hootin' brothel, she is taught the Art of Seduction and Pleasure in return for a percentage of her keep when she gets a protector. In this way, Belinda Hamilton becomes the most sought after courtesan in London.

Robert, The Duke of Hawkcliffe has just buried the woman he most loved, the wife of the Earl of Coldfell. Although the love was platonic, the fact that Lucy's death is a bit suspicious as Robert committing himself to find the truth. He already suspects Dolph and when he hears about the man's obsession with Ms. Hamilton, he seeks her out himself. What he didn't expect was his attraction to this fallen woman. Robert is known by all for his high standards of morals, but he is willing to put aside his prejudices for woman of Belinda's class and offer for her in name only. He is determined to get a confession out of Dolph and is not below using Belinda in any way possible.

Robert has a lot to overcome but his steadfastness and his honor, make him shine. You can easily see how Belinda falls in love with him. Robert's struggles with his sense of duty and his love for Belinda is so vivid that you can forgive almost anything! He has been emotionally scared by his parents lives, yet when he discovers the truth behind Belinda's past he learns to cope with his own baggage and becomes her strength.

I must take my hat off to Foley for bringing these characters to life. The only down side was the beginning, and yet by the end it's difficult to fault. Great story telling

Grade: A-

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Man In A Kilt by Sandy Blair

My reading group on Yahoo selected Sandy Blair as our Author of the Month in March and after looking at her backlist I decided to go with the first book in her highlander series. Although the story starts in modern times it takes us back to the past and keeps us there, which really makes this one a historical.

Beth Pudding is a caterer from NY and has never really known a home of her own. She was a foster child who was emotionally abused by the woman that should have mothered her. Her self image is in the toilet and will not leave her room before completely transforming herself under too much makeup. Beth has inherited a castle in Scotland but to claim the inheritance she will need to live in the ruins for 6 months. She is definitely willing and is settling in when she realizes that she needs to share her castle with the resident ghost, a ghost that has no problem stealing glances at her while she is bathing.

Duncan MacDougal, the laird of Blackstone, was cursed centuries ago to wander as a ghost within the castle and has been waiting all that time for the right person to break the curse. He believes Beth is strong enough to do so and after a boating accident sees Beth almost drowned, he makes the decision to put his fate in her hands by sending her into the past to his old self, the one alive and kicking, and barbaric to boot!

I had never read Sandy Blair but will be reading her again. Her writing is smooth and flows very nicely, a pleasure to read.

It seems that if Beth had not arrived in the past, Duncan would have died because his dead wife's sister wounded him and it got infected, but Beth knew enough of infections to help him get through the worse and saved his life. At first Duncan barely notices Beth who he thinks is his 4th wife, but her uncharacteristic behavior and her mutterings finally draw him to her. He sees her as plain, since she has no makeup to hide under, but he does eventually see her inner beauty and falls for her, hard.

I love how he is determined to get her with child so that she will stay with him, and she finally figures out how to break the curse but cannot help him pick the correct path.
Good humor and a fun story made this author worth revisiting.

Grade: B

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

I had been eying the Bartimaeus Trilogy for some time now but just recently found the books in audio format at the library. I was a bit weary because it was very much a fantasy book and it has to be a very good fantasy book for me to get into it, yet Stroud developed a series of characters that left me eager to read the other two books.

In this first installment we meet Nataniel, a young magician who just has not had much affection in his life, He part of a ruling class in a alternate reality England. The magicians rule over the commoners by enslaving demons that help them maintain order. Children are separated from a very young age and placed in the care of older magicians who take them on as apprentices. They are taught to forget their birth names because it is a source of weakness, if anyone finds out their true names it would give the person the power to repel any magic that the magician tried to yield against them. At the age of 12 they are registered as magicians and given a new name which would identify them within the ranks of society. Nataniel is the apprentice of Mr. Underwood who does a piss poor job at preparing him for the world of Magic. He is an unwanted annoyance to the senior magician but his wife cares deeply for Nathaniel, even though she will not stand up to her husband on his behalf.

After a dreadful incident several years past, where Mr. Underwood failed to protect Nathaniel against another magician, Mr, Loveless, Nathaniel takes his training into his own hands, in hopes to find a way to avenge himself against Loveless. What he didn't even stop to consider is that he was stepping into a mess that was larger than himself and that Loveless was into more than just humiliating young apprentices.

Bartimaeus is the actual star of this book. He is a Ginnie that Nathaniel has summoned to do his biding by stealing an amulet from Loveless. Bartimaeus is irreverent and sarcastic to anyone that stands in his way, he has no loyalties and has just one goal, look out for #1, him! I kept thinking that there was to be a change in his character, typical of most books where the unloved characters find a true friend and the selfish person turns a new leaf, but this never happened. Bartimaeus serves Nathaniel because the young magician has threatened to look his essence in the human plane for all eternity if he fails to due his bidding, and this extreme punishment was promised after Bartimaeus discovers Nathaniel's true name.

The book held onto it's intrigue until the last line was read, preparing us for the next installment which I am told is not such a page turner. Don't expect to fall in love with Nathaniel, because he is a spoiled brat that you just want to deck! He is a selfish little rascal who only cares for his revenge and never looks beyond the right now, which is what gets him and everyone around him into trouble. Bartimeaus lack of respect for anyone, is what really fuels this story. He has tons of one liners that have you shaking your head and giggling.

There is also the presence of a group of young kids that appear to be resistant to magic and at several times accosted both Nathaniel and Bartimaeus. The mysterious leader is a girl who we don't really know much about in this book but who's character will have a larger role in the next installment, Golem's Eye.

Grade: A
Format: Audiobook

Lady Rouge by Suzanne Enoch

Enoch has proven to be a jewel of an author and she did not disappoint with this reprint of one of her earlier books.

Christine "Kit" Brantley arrives at the door of Alexander Cale, the Earl of Everton with her father. Her mission to spy on the Earl and discover who is the mole that is giving away information on the smuggling that her father is engaging in. To do so she is masquerading as a young man, a disguise that she has worn for many years. In fact, it has been so long since she has taken off her male persona that she has forgotten how to act as the lady she is.

Alex has no problem seeing beyond her disguise and 24 hours have not passed before he uncovers her true gender. His question is, why is she in his home? He is determined to discover the answer to that question but Kit seems to challenge him at every turn and it's not long before his 'cousin' is outdrinking, outgambling and outswearing him and all his friends! He has sworn to her father that he is to keep her safe, and his honor compels him to keep his word, but she is getting under his skin and he is losing ground on his self control.

The story is full of delightful banter between these two characters. It's hilarious to see how the young ladies all appear to be falling for Kit, while she tries desperately to find information for her father who is actually smuggling a little more than just vitals. Although the story becomes a bit stretched when society finally discovers that Kit is actually Christine, the journey taken makes it bearable, especially when her past relationships with her family prove to be a bed of lies that have her questioning who really is she?

Fabulously spun tale that proves once again the talent that is Suzanne Enoch!

Grade: A

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Scot, The Witch and The Wardrobe by Annette Blair

Last of the original Salem Witch series. This is the story of Victoria Cartwright who swears up and down that she is NOT a witch but she speaks in rhymes and when she does... something is bound to happen!

She should have had a clue when she was the first to have been able to open the Wardrobe that has been passed down through generations. When she does, what does she find? A unicorn, OF COURSE! (How could a carousel unicorn fit in a wardrobe is beyond me!)

Rory MacKenzie recognizes the Unicorn when Vickie appears on TV at an Antique roadshow. The Unicorn was crafted by his ancestor and it is said to be what will end a family curse. So Rory heads off to America to verify that the unicorn is the real deal but what he finds is that Vickie is what REAL is all about. The only problem is that she distrusts him and he doesn't trust himself around her!

The banter between these two is to die for, but the constant self doubt in Vickie eventually gets to you, she definitely has self image issues and, although Rory is constantly trying to reinforce his feelings for her, she is a no go. I found that the triplets appearance in the book really didn't move the story along but kind of stood in the way of the smooth storytelling. Outside this book I would have loved the triplet's characters, but they really just stood in the way on this one.

This one is a great read though, and worth the time to pick it up. Rory is just a dream and although Vickie didn't do it for me much, I still really loved the witticisms that distinguishes this series as a whole!

Grade: B

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

I don't want to forget mentioning the reading of the sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty during the month of January.

This installment has us picking up the story of Gemma Doyle and her friends from Spence Academy just a few months after the previous story ended. Pippa was lost in our previous tale but not for good, since we find ourselves visiting her in the Realms where she has failed to cross over to the other side.

After destroying the stones that kept the magic under control, the Realm is in chaos and nothing is what it appears to be. The story takes place just over the winter break, where Gemma, Felicity and Ann have gone to London to spend the holiday's with their family.

The Rakshana has put in a bid to gain control over the Realms and have sent Kartik to convince Gemma that she needs to find the so called Temple and bind the magic. But are the Rakshana there to protect Gemma or are they following their own itinerary?
To top it off, Gemma finds herself being courted by a very amiable, but clueless young man, Simon.

This story grabs you from the start and has you holding your breath on every page. I cannot recommend this book enough! Libba Bray not only portrays a girl that is torn between her gifts and the duty she owes The Order but also the young woman coming of age in Victorian times. Gemma struggles with the manipulation of Felicity, her friendship with Ann who will always be of inferior class, and an attraction for Kartik that just is out of the question.

I just found out that the third book in this wonderful series is to be published in September of this year. It will definitely be a MUST read!!

Grade: A
Format: Audiobook

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Forever Blue by Suzanne Brockmann

I'm down to the wire on this series. Only Identity Unknown is left on the TBR pile, although I have a feeling that it will go forever unread since it's OOP (out of print) and I don't have it. But I was lucky to get Forever Blue and as always, it didn't disappoint!

I had gotten to know Blue McCoy over the other books in the Tall, Dark and Dangerous series. Blue was Joe Cat's swim buddy during BUDs training. This books was to be read as the second in the series, after Prince Joe, but since it takes place outside of the SEALs center of command I didn't feel as I had read it out of order.

Blue goes back to his hometown for the wedding of his step-brother Gerry to his high shool sweetheart Jenny but when Gerry shows up dead, Blue becomes that main suspect.

Lucy Tait has had a crush on Blue since he saved her from being assaulted in high school. He was the one that was out of her league. Well he is back in town and as a police officer it's her role to stay impartial to his guilt or innocence but when she suspects that the cover up to Gerry's murder goes up the ranks of the police department, she cannot stand aside and watch Blue go down for a crime she is sure he did not commit.

I loved getting to know Lucy and Blue better. In a later book Lucy gets seriously injured and I realized that she was a strong character and I really needed to see where she was coming.
Another high point in this book was when Blue realizes that he is being idolized by Lucy. He is able to open up and show him that he is not a hero but a man of flesh and blood.

This one is not one that should be shrugged off and left unread. This series is a must read not just for Brockmann fans but for anyone that is looking to meet some serious Alpha Males!

Grade: A
Format: ebook

A Perfect Fit by Sheridon Smythe

I started reading the duo that is Sheridon Smythe a while ago with her books from the 'Completely' series. I have found their work to be on the lighter side of romance. I have never found the work to be emotionally compelling or memorable but they are great reads for when you are looking for a beach book.

In this one we meet Alex Bradshaw who is a bit of a workaholic. To the point that it is making him ill. He has finally arranged to go away for a few weeks at the advice of his doctors as well as his family and friends. Before he leaves, though, he receives a tip from an ex-employee of his, recently acquired, condom factory, that there might be some wrong doing taking place in the small town.

Brooke Welch has a bad temper. Her fuse is so short some might consider it to be an innie (like in the bell buttons). Her parents where killed several years ago and left her to raise her 14 year old sister. This sister has just announced that she is pregnant and that the one that got her in that condition has been avoiding her calls. This sets Brooke into a rampage of unparallel proportions. She is determined that the cad that got her little sister pregnant marry her or pay dearly for ensnaring her sister in the romantic trap she finds herself in now. Her way of doing this is to kidnap him and make him face HER music!

The only glitch to this is that she kidnaps the wrong guy! That's right, poor Alex was just minding his own business when Brooke sweeps down on him and forces him into her car with what he thought was a gun but was really just a dildo.

After Alex realizes that Brooke would not actually harm him, he decides that she might actually be able to help him untangle the mess his condom factory appears to be in. With a little blackmail and alot of sexual tension, he convinces her to help him.

The book was just a smooth read but there was one thing that had me hung up from the very beginning. It was that Brooke was very attracted to Alex and actually found herslf kissing him twice, BEFORE she realized he was not her little sister's boyfriend. I found that very disturbing and for some reason, she never could redeem herself after that. It was always in the back burner and I had problems getting over that.

After finding Brooke flawed, I found that she was loud and difficult to really care for. Regardless of any sad tale that was spun, I really couldn't connect with her. If you don't care much about the sisterly betrayal, you will enjoy the book. It is witty and the characters are sharp.

Grade: C+

Servicing Lady Termayne by Emma Wilde

This ebook was a short read but it was very enjoyable. It had a bit of the unusual, a bit of suspense and then a lot of sensuality.

Daphne, The Countess Tremayne , was left a widow a few years ago. Although she cared for husband, Jeffrey, he was much older than her and she found herself fantasizing about the physician that attended him the last two years of his life. Although the thoughts had been there, she did not betray her husband and only after her mourning period ha past did she dare to call on Dr. Blake.

Thomas Blake is the 5th son to a viscount and without prospects he has made medicine his profession. When Lady Tremayne has him summoned to her home for a consult he never imagined that he would be asked to service her in another way.

I really must say that the author is quite good at writing a well rounded tale. From the moment that Daphne seduced Thomas until the expected HEA, it was all believable. There was adventurous liaisons in a brothel, as well as passionate loving at his office. There was also a villain that gave another twist to the story, and Wilde put it all in at 30 pages without missing a beat.

Don't expect a romance that will leave you breathless, or erotica that will curl your toes, but if you a looking for a sexually driven tale that does not cross the line into vulgar and yet leaves you smiling at the lightness of the story, don't miss this one.

Grade: B
Format: ebook

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Off World by Stephanie Vaughn

Stephanie Vaughn was introduced to me last year by a friend who suggested I read her m/m ebooks Jumping the Fence and Crossing the line. These two titles were just fabulous so when I saw Rosario had given her newest m/m ebook a good review I didn't hesitate to go out and pick it up. I was disappointed though.

I guess I had higher expectations and, even though I had been warned about the open ended, or better said abrupt, ending, I really expected more.

Your looking for more details?

Caleb Adams' best friend has been murdered in what appears to be a cover up for a string a murders that have taken place on earth. The blame for the murders has been put on Sarhaan's rogue military crew. The group of men are self made exiles and are wanted men. Cal doesn't believe this and with a small aircraft goes out to find the crew to enlist their help in finding the real culprit as well as clearing their names. He really was not expecting the crew to be so against his ideas.

Sarhaan,the leader - so to say, of the ex-military group, immediately find himself attracted to Cal but is unsure if he can be trusted. Funny thing is that it's okay to lock him in Sarhaan's room and lust after him, ultimately taking him as a lover, but not okay to trust him... hmmm, I can see that.

The scenes were definitely hot and exciting but the story that was taking place outside of the bedroom just was not coherent enough for me to enjoy this book to the fullest. There were too many unanswered questions that Vaughn maybe threw out there to make things a bit more mysterious and then forgot that they needed a closure?

Caleb appears to have been tortured at one point by a crew member but we don't know what actually happened since Caleb doesn't even remember it (he had been drugged). The resolution takes place behind the scenes, so to say, since it was more of an epilogue. We never really get to know who Sahaaran really is, just that he is decent.There was an incident in the crew's lives which led them to become rogues but we just get a glimpse here and there.

There were just so many angles that could have been flushed out and Vaughn left them all out there without a home. It was a messy story and I felt very disappointed that no one actually told Vaughn that her subplots needed tweaking. Anyway, there appears to be a sequel to this one, but I honestly am not sure if I want to go there. This one left me a sour taste in my mouth. The grade I gave this one was definitely influenced by the sensuality of the scenes and not so much for the story behind it.

Grade: C-
Format: ebook

The Assignment by Evangelina Anderson

I think I will add another goal in 2007 as to read at least one ebook each month. I had missed the darn things!
What I like about ebooks is that you don't find as many barriers as to the content. Its funny to think it in today's day and age, but it appears that mainstream publishing does censure it's content. In a way I do understand the reasoning behind it, since certain genres do cater to a particular audience. I still like the physical feel of a book when I'm reading but I really love certain genres that you can find more easily in ebook format. One of those genre is gay relationships. Male/Male pairings are very sexy and, when written well, very romantic.

I picked up this title after I saw the recap Rosario had on it in her blog.

The story revolves around Nick Valenti who is a detective and his partner, Sean O'Brian. They get assigned to a case that has them going undercover to a gay spa/resort. Nick has issues accepting his sexuality and his growing attraction to his partner. He recently divorced and has thought himself straight but his feelings for Sean are very strong and he does not believe Sean would EVER return his feelings.

During this trip/assignment Sean has had no problem falling into the role of Nick's boy toy and they find themselves pushing the limits as to what is acceptable to do to 'catch' the bad guy. The thing is that it is pretty obvious that Sean is definitely attracted to Nick but he is not sure if Nick is ready to accept his own feelings for Sean.

Scenes were hot, hot, hot! And if it wasn't for Nick's constant need to remind himself how Sean would NEVER accept a relationship with him, I would have given this one and A.

Format: ebook

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Anthology - Over the Moon

I picked up my first Anthology in the year mostly because I am so hooked on those Mageverse stories. I also was looking forward to the Wyndham Wolves story by Davidson. Although I have not yeat read all the books in that series, my daughter just loved Derik's Bane and I find myself looking for good reading material for her. With this first Anthology under my belt, I'm just 11 books away from reaching my reading goal for 2007!

Angela Knight – Moon Dance: More of the Mageverse world! Yeah me!! A little more on the Direwolf clans (first introduced in Master of the Moon, and then revisited in Master of the Wolves). Elena is part of the aristocracy of the Direwolves. Her father has elected the Direwolf that would be her mate more for the fact that Stephen will conserve the ways of the past, than the possibility that he will be good to his daughter. Elena refuses to give in and when her burning moon finds her on the way to being raped and impregnated by the bully of a man she seeks help from Lucas Rollings.
Lucas is one of the 'bitten'. He is young in terms of his time as a Direwolf but he has learned from the best. He is a Cop in a small town where Direwolf population is down to 1. When he sees Elena being smacked around by Stephen in the parking lot of the Police station he has to step in.
Knight definitely knows how to take a short story and put as much into it as she can. The story was well rounded, believable and very hot!! It's a must read for anyone following this series since it does explain the bureaucracy among the Direwolf and the separation of classes. I had to give this one an A

Virginia Kantra – Between the Mountain and The Moon: Kantra was a new author for me and I was impressed with the ability she demonstrated in writing a short story about love that developed in a few hours. This is a sequel to an earlier story of this author (In the Anthology Man of My Dreams) but the funny thing is that even though I enjoyed this tale I am not inclined to search out the first book. The first tale is about the parents of the heroine of this book and Kantra really didn't let me develop an affinity for them. Caitlin finds herself lost in the woods on the night of Beltane.
The Queen of the Sidhe has never forgiven Cat's father his abandonment so she ends her son to seduce the girl and bind her to him in an act of vengeance toward her parents. Rhys accepts his fate as the tool in his mother's revenge until he meets Caitlin and cannot stand aside while she pays the price for her father's sins. The mood in this story is dark and a bit unnerving, it gives the fae world a very sinister feel which is part of the charm of the story itself. B

Mary Janice Davidson – Driftwood: I found myself reluctant to dive into this one just because I have not caught up with the Undead series or with the Wyndham wolf series, so I was concerned this would spoil it for me be honestly I needn't have worried because I really just needed to know who the main characters of each series was to fall right into this one. No spoilers are given to any of the two series. The story started out very funny with Burke (a hermit werewolf) encountering Serena (a vamp) on the beach when she is stuck in a hole. Serena is a sassy thing and when Burke tries to help her out of the hole before he turns, it becomes a ping pong of words of comedic proportions.
The problem is that the story peaks at the start. After they discover who they are, her a vamp and him, a Were, there is not much happening. Yeah there is a mission that Serena needs to accomplish that Burke assists her with, gaining her respect/love but honestly, the story was just a tale about two lonely people that find each other. Could not see myself giving this more than a C.

Sunny – Mona Lisa Three: Last one in this anthology had me double checking the author because it was way too similar in content to Laura K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series. I really must say this one was the downfall of this anthology. It seems to take place between full length books. Most of the story was a recap of the series itself and by the time we get to the meat of the tale (which is just a quick physical healing that involved sex) the author had lost the reader's interest.
If you're familiar with the series, the story will still bore you because there is way too much recapping taking place; if you are not familiar with the series (like me), you will have lost interest in what is to come because there is so much politics involved in the recap you find yourself lost. As a Merry Gentry fan, I'll admit it did pull me in a bit, but not enough for me to look up the series or to connect enough with the character to really care who is left behind or not. This one really brought down the book itself and I had to give it a D (For the great sex scenes).

This brings the anthology to a close and I find it funny that the book lost it's steam as we kept reading each story. All of these tales are part of one series or another and I guess you would assimilate your appreciation of each story based on the background you might have on each author's work. Still, when I look at an Anthology I'm looking for stories that can be told in a short format, with a beginning, middle and end. All the characteristics of a story should be included, regardless of the length of the tale itself. Some of these stories did a great job at that, others failed miserably.

Grade: C+
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