Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione

This book is utterly fascinating. What an interesting universe. I wish I had this author's imagination. For anyone who's read Lovecraft, I think this book is Lovecraft mythos meets romance novel. I can say that reading this book was a unique experience. Ms. Ione did a fantastic job developing this world within/around/under the regular world, where demons are the good guys. Sort of. Not all demons are good, but not all are bad. I can't say too much about that without spoiling a person who wants to read this book. Let's just say that it really turns around things for a person raised in the Christian tradition. I don't feel like a person who believes in Christianity shouldn't read this book, though.

This book is sexed up. However it makes sense if you consider the characters and their demonic type. I felt that the sex did fit in with the story very well.

The characters are well-developed and interesting. Their motivations are clear and their struggles play well into the storyline. I feel that Ione captures the tortured characters that I like very well. Although she follows a similar formula for the paranormal series, she claims this niche and makes it her own. Tayla is a likable heroine although she is not the unblemished, cleancut type of heroine. She's had a very rough life and seen and done things that would keep some people up at night. I admired her fortitude and her strength. She had to go through some pretty painful things in her life, and within the timeline of this story. Eidolon was also likeable and conflicted. He's born to be on the dark side, but has done his best to have morals and has dedicated his life to medicine. He is about to face a change in his body and mind that could drive him over the edge, and it does make this story compelling. It's hard to say too much because it would spoil a person, so I am eluding to these things. I would say that reading this book is like peeling away onion layers to find higher levels of understanding. It's an enjoyable process. As a fan of mythology and folklore, I think she made the demonic taxonomy, if you will, very credible for her universe. I wouldn't mind reading one of the demonic natural history books that Eidolon owned, in fact. She made up quite a few species and gave them characteristics that were interesting and creative, causing laughter at some moments, and dread at others.

One of the things I liked about this book was how she played with the reader's perception of right and wrong. You go from feeling bad for the humans, then to feeling bad for the demons, and then you come to realize that in this universe, neither group is always right or always wrong. They both commit atrocities that will make you wince, and it adds to the moral ambivalence of her universe. For that reason, you should approach this story with an open mind and with the understanding that it is a fictional world which does not have to have bearing on our consciousness of the real world.

The secondary characters are very intriguing, particularly Eidolon's brothers. You definitely want to read about their stories, and also Gem, who plays a very pivotal role in this story. I want to see how things play out with the human male Kynan, who she is in love with.

At times eye-raising, and always intriguing, I did enjoy this book. I felt that the ending was a bit rushed, but overall, the pacing was very good and the story flew by.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Turbulent Sea by Christine Feehan

I must admit that I loved the Ghostwalkers books much more than this one. I think it was because I am not enamored with fictional subjects about celebrity. The elements pertaining to Joley's world-wide stardom as a rock singer seemed to overshadow the narrative in this book. I wonder if Ms. Feehan has a favorite female singer who inspired her to write this story and to model Joley after. I wouldn't be surprised if the answer is yes.

It was a very good story. If I hadn't read and fell for the Ghostwalkers books first, I would probably have loved it more. But since they were my first exposure to Feehan's writing, I can't help but like this one less. I know it's wrong to judge this book based on another set of books, but the bar has been set very high.

Things I loved about this book:
1)Ilya. Ilya. Ilya. I am so in love with Russian heroes and he's a yummy one, the poster child for Hot Russian Hero. He is dangerous with a capital D. Very enigmatic and mysterious, and devastatingly gorgeous. I loved the fact that he saw Joley and had to have her. I thought it was so cool that he heard her singing at a really dark moment in his life, and bonded with her. He bought all her records, but then he had to see her in real life. It was over for him at this point. I know he kills without remorse, but he kills really bad people. Morally speaking, murder is wrong, but I think that there are circumstances where killing is justifiable. And the people he killed were the scum of the earth. I got glimpses into his past, but I wanted to know more about his training as a child. I hope that this is revealed in the next book. Anyway, I loved the hero so much in this book.

2)The close bond that Joley has with her sisters. I have a sister that I would die for. She is my best friend and we are very close. So I identified very closely with this.

3)Joley's warm, generous heart. She is a very kind, caring person. She went out of her way to help and to be there for others.

4)Joley's love of music and all of the musical motifs and themes in this book. I love music very much. I sing out loud and hear music in my head. I have very limited musical ability although I learned how to play the clarinet and the guitar. But all the same, I feel that music is in my soul. I really identified with that about Joley. It was so cool that people had different songs to Joley depending on their emotional state. Ilya was her soulmate in the sense that he also saw this in people.

5)The interaction between the characters. I feel that this is a strength of Ms. Feehan as a writer. In the seven books I have read by her, she is dead on in the portrayal interpersonal relationships. She has the intimacy that is present between good friends and loved ones. That is one of the things I loved about the Ghostwalker books and it is present in this one. I loved the connection between Ilya and Joley and the mark he put on her and how it was used.

6)I loved the seventh son/seventh daughter destiny thread. It was pretty cool and funny whne Joley found out the implications of it. Let me say I wouldn't mind being Joley if I could have Ilya. Although I have no desire to be a world-renowed singer. I like my privacy way too much.

7)Brian's situation. It was pretty neat to have that storyline. I enjoyed it a lot. I am sorry that things didn't go better, but in a way the tragedy of it was beautifully done.

8)The fact that the Drake sisters' abilities weren't played as a heavily pagan sort of thing. I don't know what religion they are, but it was more portrayed in this book as their legacy and not based on pagan beliefs. I don't have anyting against pagan beliefs, but I don't really enjoy when it is shoved down the readers' throats. In my opinion, this is just as preachy as Christianity being shoved down the throat of a reader who is non-religious.

What I didn't like: As I said earlier, I found the celebrity stuff tedious. I have been known to watch E Network and scan the tabloids, but I just don't care for it in a romance novel. It was an integral part of the plot, and it had to be since Joley is famous. But I'd rather see a more personal story or a story with the couples on the run and spending lots more private time together. Joley did have private time with Ilya, but not as much as I wanted. I also didn't like the depictions of the dark side of fame: the drugs, the illicit and improper sexual situations, the stalkers. Practically each band member had to deal with issues along these lines or suffered the consequences of it. I still didn't get what Logan's deal was. He didn't have to do what he did to his wife Tish. Something good came out of it, but I don't know if I am good enough like Tish was to forgive him. I'd love the baby though. I'd kick Logan to the curb and just keep Lissa. Good thing I'm not Tish.

All and all, this was an enjoyable book. I would like to read the other books, and I am looking foward to Elle's book in particular. This Jackson guy sounds way up my alley.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Veiled Truth by Vivi Anna

This was my favorite in the Valorian Chronicles series, probably because I thought that Lyra and Theron had a close connection that drove the book. I have found that these Nocturnes are just too short. There is not enough room to get anything accomplished, so the storyline can be a bit rushed. I didn't find it quite as noticable in this book, but I do feel like it could have delved deeper if the book could have been about 75-100 pages longer. But for a shorter book, it was very good. I like antiheroes, so Theron appealed to me. He had a dark side, a history of casting black magic spells that backfired on him. To be honest, it could have been worse, but for Lyra, who was a white witch, that could have kept them apart. Fortunately, Lyra went with her heart and believed in Theron despite the obvious fact that he was hiding part of himself from her. Lyra is an appealing protagonist. She's nice, intelligent, but is certainly no plaster saint. I liked her dialogue with her deceased grandmother who hovers over her as a spirit, and gives Lyra guidance whether Lyra wants it or not. It was also nice to revisit the CSU team, and catch up with Caine and Eve and Jace and Tala, from the first two books. Again, this was a good book and I enjoyed it. I just wish that it was longer and more in depth.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Enemy Lover by Bonnie Vanak

I really liked this book. I knew that I would just because of the storyline, as I love heroes in pursuit, and I love characters who are flawed and somewhat antiheroes. The heroine, Jamie, falls in that category. She had infected Damian with a disease in the first book, and was in cahoots with the badguys, the degenerate Morphs, in the first book. But in this book, you realize what her motivations are and can view her sympathetically. I enjoyed Damian's tenderness towards Jamie, and his realization that he mucked up things between them the first time around. I admired his determination to protect her and his refusal on giving up having her as his mate. The characters in this book are well-drawn and real. They have painful pasts and are deeply drawn to each other. That's always appealing to me. Jamie's trust issues are understandable considering the horrors she endured from her family in the past. I was glad she found Damian and became a part of his large, loving family. I liked Damian's adoptive family, Cajun werewolves, who happen to be bikers also. I guess because of my family issues, I am always drawn to stories where characters find a sense of belonging and family, even if they didn't always have this. I enjoyed the first book, although I was a bit uncertain about the mythology and worldbuilding. But I must say I really felt that Ms. Vanak found her stride in this world she created, and made me long to read more books set in the world of the Draicon, and read more books with the characters introduced in Enemy Lover, Damian's adoptive brothers.

The Earl's Dilemma by Emily May

I started out being a bit annoyed at the hero, James. He was very dismissive about Kate's looks and not loving her. He had decided to marry her because he needed a bride to keep his estates and his fortune. Unfortunately, Kate overhears his discussion with her brother, and she already has issues about being tall, red-headed and freckled. She's been in love with James, her brother's best friend, for over eleven years, but realizes he will never love her. She determines that she will help him find a bride he could love when he asks her to marry him.

So begins the bride hunt. And James manages to find something wrong with every suitable candidate as he realizes that Kate is perfect for him. As I said, I was leaning towards not liking James at all. But seeing the evolution in his thoughts about Kate, and seeing the secret pain he has about his experiences in the Napoleonic Wars, it was hard to dislike him. By the end of the book, I was thoroughly hoping that would be able to get Kate to marry him.

This was a quick read, and a good one, a book that you don't want to put down. Actually I went out to do some pruning and cleaning up in the garden, and when I came back, had to search very hard to find it. Thankfully I did, because it was very enjoyable. I felt for Kate as she so clearly loved James, and enough to make sure he had a bride he could love. I was glad that James did realize what a treasure she was, and that he did a great job at showing his love and devotion for her. It's nice to read a regency book that is so well-written and has a romance that develops and resolves so nicely.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Predatory Game by Christine Feehan

Another great Ghostwalkers book. This one had a more semi-normal tone. Boy and girl getting to know each other. Sort of, if you consider that girl is on the run from a secret agency who trained her to kill with her touch since she was a child, and boy is a super-soldier. It was sweet but at the same time, both Saber and Jess are two dangerous people you do not want to have as enemies. I thought that the direction that things went with Saber's ability was really cool. It reminded me of Rogue from the X-Men a little bit. She was such a likable heroine, and also really dangerous. I liked that she protected Jess and put her life at risk for him, even at times when she wasn't sure she could trust him. I liked how Jess fell in love with Saber early on and wanted to make a home for her and for her to feel comfortable enough to stay with him. He took things slow so that he didn't rush her. In that way, it was a sweet book. But when things start to escalate, this book is just as intense as the other Ghostwalkers book. It was great to see that things worked out for Jess, after reading about how he lost the use of his legs and how awful that was. It's funny how he played all sweet and harmless but you realize that he is far from that, even though he has to use a wheelchair. Again, not a guy I would want as an enemy. He is a powerful Ghostwalker with abilities that remind one of Charles Xavier and Jean Grey from the X-Men, which I thought was really cool. He's also a computer genius type as well. And he's hot. Did I mention he was a Navy SEAL? THUD! Where can I get one of him? It was nice to see Ken and Mari again, and to see that they are going well. And to see Lily give birth to the first of the second generation of Ghostwalkers. I am just as addicted as ever to this series, but since I only have one left, I am going to try to hold off on reading that one and read something else because I cannot imagine the void in my life with no Ghostwalker books to look forward to.

Deadly Game by Christine Feehan

Oh my goodness, I loved this book so much. It was so intense it was like spending hours on the edge of a cliff. The storyline is like a Gordian Knot, getting more and more intricate as we discover that the conspiracy and the tendrils of the Ghostwalker experimentation go deeper and farther than ever could be imagined. Ken went through hell, but he's not a man you could or would dare feel sorry for, although if you're like me, your heart will ache for him, and you'll just want to give him a hug. And he was given the perfect woman to meet his needs. Mari lived through hell as well, so she is the perfect mate for a man like Ken who can never feel or live a normal life again. Mari is a total and complete badass. I could hug the woman. She is a machine of death, but with a woman's heart and soul. She's just what a tortured man like Ken needs. No gentle princess for him. But she's capable of the tenderness that his aching soul is afraid to cry out for. And Ken also meets Mari's needs. He teaches her that a man's touch doesn't have to be disgusting or painful. And considering what Mari endured, that's just what the doctor ordered. I love dangerous heroes and Ken is Platinum American Express card-carrier in the the dangerous heroes club. Can't help loving them. I like reading stories about people who have surmounted tremendous odds but get their happy endings. This book is way up my alley in that sense. It's full of action, but the romance is the center focus. It was such a great mix of both, that I have this tremendous craving to re-read the book again, like now. But I have to move onto other books. At least I have my memories of this book until I get my tbr pile under some semblance of control and can revisit the rollercoaster ride that is Ken and Mari's romance.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Conspiracy Game by Christine Feehan

This book rocked my world. which is why I made myself put it down after four am to go to bed. When I woke up this morning, I immediately reached for it to pick up where I left off. Jack is a hero after my heart. I love the dangerous, gamma heroes, and I liked that he did worry that he was too dangerous and too intense to be with a woman. But when it came to Briony and his unborn babies, he's a marshmallow but will kill or die for them. The relationship between Jack and his twin Ken was really cool. I was glad that Briony and Ken got along so well. I liked Briony's brothers and how they protected her when danger came at her.

The plotline was pretty unique. I love pregnancy storylines anyway, but the pregnancy theme was used in such an unforgettable and creative way. Imagine a plot to pair you up with a warrior so you can breed second generation warrior offspring. Pretty interesting. Both Briony and Jack worried that the intense connection between them was just engineered. Maybe it started that way but they were definitely fated to be mated.

The action was incredible and there is no question that Jack and Ken are badasses, and so is Briony. She has tremendous inner strength to survive as an empath in a family that is full of loud people and as a performer in a circus. You can't help but admire her and you know that she was meant for Jack.

I can't help but fall more in love with Christine Feehan as an author. She knows how to write men that will keep your interest and keep you drooling. And the women are so perfect for them and admirable in their own right. This is one book that I didn't want to end. But at least I get to read Ken's book next. Yay!

Night Game by Christine Feehan

Another outstanding book for the Ghostwalker series. It was awesome and unputdownable. I loved Flame and I loved Gator. They had a special relationship, and were made for each other. The banter was wonderful. I loved how Flame totally fit into his family like a missing puzzle piece. Loved how Gator wanted to take care of Flame, but also respected that she was a tough woman and could take care of herself. Flame is an alpha heroine, but she was never annoying and didn't get herself into scrapes she couldn't get herself out of. The bayou was another character that seduced me. I don't think I'd like the humidity, but I'd love the animals and the tranquility of the swamps. Again, it was great to see the other Ghost Walkers and to enjoy the comeraderie between them. What Flame suffered ripped a hole in my heart but filled me with admiration. She was an incredibly strong woman, and I loved that Gator got that and never tried to change her or mold her. He was happy with her the way she was. The action was incredible and intense. I was happy on all fronts as I love action/adventure to accompany my beloved romance story. I am so in love with this series. Please keep writing many more, Ms. Feehan.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Summer of the Raven by Sara Craven

A good vintage Harlequin Presents with the downtrodden heroine who is under the evil stepmonster's thumb but still has some spunk and a smart mouth. The rather different aspect about this one is that the stepmonster has concinved Rowan to pretend to be a teenager when they go to stay with a distant cousin who is also the stepmom's love interest. Things get even more eye-raising when sparks fly between the hero, Carne who is is in his thirties, and Rowan who was supposed to be a sixteen year old. Nowaways, I don't think this author would have been able to get away with this plot device. And when Carne makes his move, you are still under the impression that he thinks Rowan is sixteen. I was sitting there reading and thinking, "Dude that girl is underaged as far as you know." I don't know if that would turn most readers off. I hope it doesn't make me a bad person that I kept reading, but I certainly didn't want to throw the book away without seeing how things would turn out.

The old-school HPs are a lot of fun because they heavily feature the lying evil wench who does everything to discredit the heroine to keep her and the hero apart. They don't rely on hot sex to fill in any plot holes, and can be a lot more creative. This one was no different. Again, maybe not for everyone with the rather questionable "is he really trying to seduce a sixteen year old moments." But I thought it was an enjoyable Saturday morning read.

Tempt the Devil by Anna Campbell

I stayed up until 3:30am reading this book on Friday. It was just that good. Certainly not a book that is light and fluffy, but so excellent that you feel as though you have eating a ten course meal instead of a sweet, tasty cupcake. Erith is not what I would call a nice guy. He's selfish and blunt and doesn't work too hard to observe social niceties. He lives for his own desires, and goes where he wants to go, always drifting, and leaving nothing behind that he regrets despite the many mistresses that he's cast aside. He's abandoned his children, out of grief when his wife died, but abandoned all the same for sixteen plus years. He's had more mistresses than he could count, and he doesn't have honorable intentions towards our heroine, Olivia. The interesting thing is that his behavior is consider more socially acceptable than Olivia. It's one of the hypocritical aspects of society that never fails to irritate me. A woman is no good when she is forced to take lovers to support herself. Yet a man can have as many lovers as he wants and no one blinks an eye, as long as he's semi-discreet and doesn't marry a woman who has a past.

I must admit it took me a long time to warm up to Erith. I felt he was a selfish man who didn't really understand what loving was, or he forgot when he lost his wife at a young age. He thought that his desire to give Olivia pleasure and trinkets was a act of generosity to be thanked for. He doesn't understand that his actions could make things even worse for Olivia when he decides he's had his fill of her. On the other hand, I loved Olivia from the beginning. I find it heartbreaking that a woman would have to sell her body for a living. The thought of it just sticks in my craw. But I would never hold that against a woman. Olivia was a strong, capable, likable person. She hated men, and she had a lot of reason to hate men. Yet you never get the impression that she's deliberately cruel or even thoughtless. What was done to her was pretty lousy, and it was done by a person who should have taken care of her and cherished her. And even Erith, who declared his love, had to almost lose her to do the right thing by her. That's why I just about washed my hands of him. But the truth is, we don't really get to choose who we love. We are ordained by fate to love people, more than we want to. That's what happens to Olivia and Erith. He didn't want to fall in love again after his wife died. He just wanted to exhaust his obsession and lust for Olivia, who he hears is the greatest courtesan of all time and who he must have because of her reputation, but he does end up falling for her. And that's not the end of his journey, for this man has to learn that love is about giving up one's self and putting another person's needs first. That's what true love is. It's not just giving when it's easy or when it costs little. Love is giving up things that a person considers most important for the person who is loved.

Dark and compelling, this is a book that isn't a fun read. But it's a wonderful story that will stay on the mind, challenge the reader to explore different kinds of characters whose motivations aren't pure or demure, and don't exist in the pretty ballrooms and sitting rooms of a Jane Austen novel. These characters live on the fringe of that same society, where the light is dimmer, and their choices are drearier. Perhaps Olivia could have been Emma, or Elinore, or Jane, or Lizzy, yet she doesn't get to live in protected circumstances or genteel poverty. Instead she's a woman who received a very poor hand of cards to play, and did the best she could under the circumstances. And Erith is no Darcy or Captain Brandon. But still, I am glad that Ms. Campbell told us their story.

The Ruthless Magnate's Virgin Mistress by Lynne Graham

It was refreshing to see a hero in a Harlequin Presents who was not Italian, Greek, or Latin for once. And since I am on a Russian kick, it was a double whammy for me. Nothing new was established with this one, but it was entertaining. Nikolai was a womanizer, which I am heartily sick of. I just wish there could be an alpha HP hero who was celibate before the heroine for once. If you know of one, please let me know. I liked that Abbey was pretty tough and didn't immediately fall into Nikolai's bed, well sort of. I liked this book because I find HP books entertaining, although I wouldn't say it rocked my world or anything. I look forward to reading the two other books in the series about Nikolai's sisters (Ophelia and Molly).

Infatuation by Charlotte Lamb

This was a really good oldy but goodie. There are some elements that are missing from the newer Harlequin Presents. For one, the heroine is not a lower status, lower education woman like a lot of the newer romance feature. Also, she is not drop dead gorgeous and model beautiful. And the hero is not Italian, Greek, Latin, or Middle Eastern. He's actually half American and half English. Although Judith does go to work for Lucas, she is a very valued employee with a keen knowledge of finance and the ability to run an empire for him. I really appreciated that. Lucas looks through her at first, but then falls in love with her mind, her humor, her capability, and her spirit. In essence, he sees the woman inside of her and his heart is lead into her hands. Lucas is engaged to Judith's friend Baba (short for Barbara) who is at first presented a sweet girl who would never hurt a fly. Time reveals that she is somewhat self-absorbed and manipulative, but she's not the evil other woman like we commonly see in this series of books. This books is one that you will like because she really appreciate Judith for her strengths and her integrity. She falls in love with Lucas, but her loyalty to her friend, even though she comes to see that Baba is not worthy of Lucas, is unassailable. You admire Lucas because he does have the good sense to see what a treasure Judith is, and you are happy that things work out without any back-stabbing or sneaking around occurring. Ah, I miss the old Harlequin Presents.

The Desert Lord's Baby by Olivia Gates

The Desert Lord's Baby is the first book in the Throne of Judar series, although it's the second book I read. This book is one that sucks you right in. The writing is so vivid and poignant. The characters are never lukewarm in their emotions. In fact the book seethes with violently intense emotions. Carmen and Farooq are a couple that never should have been parted from each other, but misunderstandings and fears crop up and come between them. I feel that if they had just made a commitment to each other early on instead of having what they called a three month affair, then their wouldn't have been that insecurity there, but what do I know. After the rejection she faced with her parents and her first husband, Carmen doesn't have much reason to believe that she could be loved for her self. Yes, paradoxically, she gives herself unselfishly and completely. This is clear from page one. Farooq is used to having his way and cannot believe that a woman would choose to leave him, not to mention a woman he was so deeply attracted to an in love with. He doesn't think to read between the lines when Carmen ends their affair with what has to be a pretty blatant lie if a person really thought about the person who uttered it. But something causes him to track her down, and he finds out she's had his child. He falls instantly in love with their baby, and the scenes of the little cutie make it easy to accept this. Mennah is described as a miracle baby and she is in more ways than one. She brings this couple back together and gives them both peace that they were needing desperately. Again I was captivated by the incredible emotional intensity of the storytelling, teamed with an exotic setting that I am a sucker for. Ms. Gates seems to have a definite appreciation for Arabic culture, and with her writing skills, the reader cannot help but be equally attracted to it. The love scenes are very steamy for a category romance but they belong in a story with such a fiery, intense relationship between two people. This one is a another recommended read for sheikh romance lovers.

The Desert King by Olivia Gates

This was my favorite of the Throne of Judar series because we see a hard, immovable man brought to his knees with the realization that he did wrong the woman he loved and who loved him. Not that I like to see a person suffer, but this hero does grovel and does make amends for the horrible way he treated the heroine when he should. He also makes a decision that a power-craving man would only make if he really loves a woman, although he is in no way manipulated or guilted into to doing so by Aliyah. He was told some things about Aliyah that were definitely lies, and his own misgivings and fears based on an event in his past made him push her away. Aliyah had some personal issues that affected her health and personality, and made it easier for Kamal to believe the lies he was told, and made his rejection even more devastating. I also loved that Aliyah was strong in her own right, and was an incredible queen and this was realized fully by Kamal and those around her. The first scene between Aliyah and Kamal was great. She didn't turn into a ball of mush because of his awesome masculinity. She told him off and didn't back down from his imperious manner. Bravo, I was thinking. At the same time, she made a choice to marry a man she thought she hated for the good of her country and his. That took some bravery and emotional strength. As characteristic of Ms. Gates' novels, the writing is deeply involving and emotional as you see and experience the love and anguish that her characters feel. There are also vivid descriptions of Judar and its customs and the beautiful surroundings that its characters inhabit. The wedding ceremony is one of the best I've ever read. It practically played like a scene from an exotic movie. The love scenes are scorching and passionate as well. If you are a fan of sheikh romances and want to read a romance with three-dimensional, characters who take an emotional journey from desolation and loneliness to a deep, abiding love, you should read this book.

Mind Game by Christine Feehan

I was so excited to read Nicolas' story when I met him in Shadow Game. And I was not disappointed. He was a great hero. I loved his ability to stay in control, but also the fact that one person, Dahlia made his ice cold blood turn molten. He can't seem to understand why this one little woman is the person who can turn his brain into mush and light his body on fire, when he is known for his ability to do what needs to be done without letting emotions get into the way. This is why he takes on the mission to bring in Dahlia when she is known to be a potentially dangerous loose cannon from Dr. Whitney's group of young girls he experimented on. I thought that the chemistry and the connection between Nicolas and Dahlia was classic. They are a perfect couple and the scenes of them interacting were memorable and delightful, and not just the love scenes, which were pretty incidiary, if you ask me. This book had a lot more action and intrigue than Shadow Game, and Dahlia is a lot more tortured than Lily was. I felt sorry for Dahlia to be so affected by other people's emotions that they made her sick or made her manifest the excess energy as fire. Her situation is a tough one, but Nicolas is there to help her and protect her every step of the way, and he stakes his claim early on and isn't about to let anything take her away from him. You start the book wondering how this couple can get the happy ending that you crave, but you don't end this book disappointed. I was quite impressed with Ms. Feehan's imagination. I have read and watched books with people who are psychically gifted, but the direction that she took with the subject matter was different and exciting. Mind Game was the kind of book that was hard to put down, and also makes you eager for more stories about the Ghostwalkers. Meeting all this delcious, dangerous men is like getting invited to an All Books One Cent sale (or chocolate, whatever your addiction is). And we get introduced to even more Ghostwalkers who are just as yummy, such as Jess Calhoun, and the Norton Twins. Can't wait to read their stories. Oh, wait, I do have other books I have to read that aren't Ghost Walkers books. But at least I can look forward to more Ghost Walker books with anticipation. Again I enjoyed the cameraderie between the Ghost Walkers and their gentle care and adoption of Dahlia, who has always felt like an outsider, and has lost the little family that she ever had. I really enjoyed this book, and finished it knowing that I am thoroughly addicted to the Ghost Walker series.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Earl's Untouched Bride by Annie Burrows

I read this book very quickly and enjoyed it very much, although some might get annoyed at all the misunderstandings between Charles and Heloise. I thought it was kind of endearing how they both wanted the regard of each other, but feared that it would be denied because of each person's emotional vulnerability. One of them would do or say something with the best intentions, and it would be interpreted in the wrong fashion. It was an interesting dynamic. Another atypical element was the fact that Heloise was very French. She tried very hard to be demure and composed because that was what she thought her very composed husband wanted, but she would tell him off or say what she was thinking when she felt like it needed saying, although it didn't seem to clear up their misunderstandings. Of course, my ears perked up when it was mentioned early on that Charles' brother was horribly scarred and wounded in the war because of my love for scarred/wounded/less than perfect heroes. It was really cool how Heloise immediately made a connection with Robert, and helped him to get back in the land of the living. This book doesn't have the intrigue/mystery component that is often used in regencies. The central conflict of this book is two people getting to know each other, and learning to not allow their emotional issues get in the way of having a happy marriage. Annie Burrows is a new author for me, but she has a refreshing voice that makes me want to read more of her books. I'd give this book 4.5 stars if I could. I can't give it a 5 because the misunderstandings got to be a bit tedious after a while.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Perfect Waltz by Anne Gracie

Okay Richard Armitage is so Sebastian Reyne in this book. I am like Hope. Sebastian is giving me the shivers. He is dark and brooding, and totally yummalicious. Why are so many of my favorite heroes named Sebastian? What a coinkidink!
This was a touching book. There are multiple scenes that made me tear up, and I don't typically do that while I'm reading. I just loved Sebastian. He was this big, brawny guy who was as soft as a marshmallow inside. His heart is so full of love, but he felt that he was condemned to loneliness because of the tragedy in his past. Hope was absolutely the right woman for him. She is full of light and joy, yet at the same time, she knew about the darker side of life, from the horrible abuse she endured from her evil, cruel grandfather. Although she is wary of large, powerful men, she instantly feels a connection to Sebastian and is unable to be afraid of him. Sebastian sees Hope and feels like he has seen his heart's desire. But he knows that he had to seek a wife who can be a good mother to his sister, and he thinks he's found her in older, plain, and practical Lady Elinore.
There is a social consciousness aspect of this book that I enjoyed. Sebastian in a mill-owner, but a conscientious one, since he had to work in the mills as a child to support his family. The book touches on child labor and abuse in the Regency England times, as well as the plight of orphaned children. But it is not done on a heavy-handed manner. Instead it is an integral part of the storyline, as Sebastian seeks a peaceful home for his sisters, and thus a wife, and we learn of their pasts as orphans. The woman he is courting, Lady Elinore, is a child crusader, so it plays heavily into the plot of the book.
It was nice to revisit the Merridew sisters and to see how life has progressed since Prudence's story The Perfect Rake. We also get to meet Sebastian's troubled younger sisters Cassie and Dorie, who have vivid and unique personalities of their own. My heart goes out to Sebastian and his sisters at the situation they faced, and Sebastian's anguish at his perceived inability to reach and to help his sisters. It's great that Hope is able to help them to grow closer together and to heal from their pasts. I really enjoyed the unlikely secondary romance between Lady Elinore, and Sebastian's outgoing, carefree friend Giles. I was rooting for them to end up together.
Once again, Anne Gracie has captivated me and touched me with another of her emotional, deeply-layered romances.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Second Sight by Amanda Quick

This was an entertaining book, but I think it could have been more enthralling. I felt a connection between Venetia and Gabriel, but I felt that it should have been more intense physically. The love scenes were way too abbreviated considering that Gabriel was a man of strong passions, although he was trying to keep those under control. I think too much focus was placed on the mystery and not enough on the romance. Had this been marketed as a mystery novel, I would have no complaints. But since it was a romance novel, I felt a bit cheated. It was well-written, and loved the Victorian setting with the paranormal elements. I loved the way Gabriel talked, it was very distinctive. I also liked the idea of Venetia being able to see auras and while she was in aura visual mode, how everying was in the negative. That was pretty unique and cool. I just wish that the romance had been better developed, along with the sensuality between Venetia and Gabriel.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Author Bashing

On some of my groups, and on romance forum, I have seen a common issue: author bashing. I don't want to be a hypocrit and act like I love every author I've ever read. That would be wrong. I have authors that just don't do it for me. So I don't read them. If asked, I will say, I'm not a fan of that author, or I don't read his/her books. But I have noticed that some people are just rude about it. They don't just say, I don't like the author or the book. They say things like this author sucks, or that the author can't write his/her way out of a paper bag. Truly, some of the comments I have heard made my feelings hurt for the author.

Let's face it. I think that there's a little bit of envy there. After all, this person has gotten a book published. At least a moderate amount of the disgruntled readers probably hasn't. That's neither here nor there, but my point is, I think that fundamentally, a writer should be respected, if just for this one thing: That person set down and put words on a page, and was brave enough to submit it for publication. That person was brave enough to submit their writing for the future ridicule of others. So as a reader, I do have to afford a modicum of respect to that author.

I say this as a person who truly loves the written word. I have been a reader since I was four years old. My relationship with books and reading has been the longest relationship I've had in my life (other than blood familial relationships). Reading has gotten me through some of the deepest, darkest moments of my life when I thought was going to lose my sanity, and possibly my life. I've been sick as a dog, but still mustered enough energy to open a book and read it. For that reason, I respect books, and thus I have to respect authors.

As such, I make a commitment not to say cruel things about an author's writing or lack of writing skills. Instead I will say why I don't like a book, or why it doesn't work for me, or that an author is not a favorite of mine and clearly elucidate why. We are all entitled to our opinions. That does not give us license to descend into levels of cruelty where we demean another person by putting down something they poured their effort into. Again, I am not trying to be a hypocrite. This is a commitment I will make to myself to think twice before I say something mean about an author or her/his book.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Taken by Storm by Marie Rochelle

This reads like an interracial romance for Diana Palmer fans (which I am). This book is a keeper for me because of the sheer pathos and angst within its pages. This book is a merry-go-round emotionally. Years of two people fighting their feelings for each other. Again, I say if you like the Diana Palmer-type "I Don't Want to Fall in Love" hero, Storm Hyde is your kind of hero. He does have motivation, having been raised by a seriously mysoginistic father who filled his head with junk about all women being whores and out for money. This dialogue keeps playing in Storm's head when he meets the woman he falls in love with, Syleena Webster,who is the roommate of his considerably younger sister. Storm is an affluent businessman/cowboy whose average relationship lasts about six months. He's definitely not the ideal man for inexperienced Syleena to fall in love with, but she falls hard and never recovers, even though Storm doesn't treat her well from the beginning (again, think Diana Palmer hero pushing away the woman he loves). One of the cool things about this story is, race is so not the issue. Storm is a White guy, and Syleena is a Black woman, which we know, but that's as far as the racial issues go. Instead the issue in this book is both characters' fear of trusting someone enough to give their hearts to them. Syleena does her best to overcome her past of having a mother who was a heartless, uncaring, promiscuous sometime-prostitute who treated her father like crap and goaded him into suicide. She has spent years paying off her mother to leave her alone, and her mother is a big secret that she tries to keep. This secret blows up in her face, when Storm realizes that she lied about both parents being dead. The diatribe against women echoes in his head, and conquers his determination to give his heart to Syleena. The way that he gets back at her is a scene that will linger in the reader's mind. I found it exceptionally well-written, and I must say that it is one of the cruellest things a hero has ever done to a heroine. (Nothing physical but very emotionally-wounding). So why did I keep reading the book? I wanted to find out how this couple could find happiness together. And Rochelle doesn't cheat the reader, as is done way too often. Storm has to work very hard to win back Syleena's love (thankfully). And Syleena ends up in a very bad place that really shows you how desolated and heartbroken she is by Storm's betrayal. Thankfully Storm is there to act as her self-appointed knight in shining armor, even though Syleena is far from ready to forgive and forget. There are some editing errors and a few areas where the writing was awkward, but they don't detract from this story. All you can do is keep reading to find out how things turn out. I probably would have finished this book sooner, but I am pretty lazy about reading ebooks. Had this been in paperback, I am sure I wouldn't have been able to put this book down until it is done. I definitely recommend this to the interracial reader who is tired of the race issue being the prominent conflict in the interracial romance they are reading. It's so not the case with this one. Also it's a breath of fresh air from the often oversexed interracial ebooks that an avid IR fan cannot help but come across. Yes there is sensuality and lovemaking scenes, but they are not overused, but definitely add to the romantic story unfolding. You should check this one out for a back to basics love story.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Seductive Revenge by Kim Lawrence

Imagine falling in love with the daughter of the man you hold responsible for your wife's untimely death when you seek her out for revenge. That's what happens in this book. Weirdo that I am, I love the revenge theme in romance novels. This one was done well, and luckily, the hero Josh came to his senses prior to when he and the heroine make love for the first time. Unfortunately he doesn't come clean with her until too late. It's made worse by the fact that Flora has trust issues from her father's downfall from drug addiction, the public exposure and the loss of her fiance when she refuses to turn her back on her father. From that point on, Josh has to win her love and trust again. For a short book, I think that it was well done watching Josh deal with this grief over losing his wife in childbirth, and coming to accept that it was just an accident. He has to deal with issues about having anoteher pregnant wife, for obvious reasons. And he has to convince Flora that he wants her for real, and also the baby that he gets her pregnant with. This book doesn't have as light a tone as most of Lawrence's books. Scenes involving Liam, Josh's little boy, and his twin brother and sister-in-law help to lighten up things. I am pretty sure that I read his brother Jake's story several years ago. Now I need to find another copy of it to read.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Marrying Marcus by Laurey Bright

This was a really good, quick read. Jenna thought she was in love with her best friend growing up, and thought Dean would ask her to marry him when he came back from the United States. When he comes back with a fiancee, she is devastated. Marcus, his older brother steps in to console Jenna and to act as a buffer. What she doesn't know that he has been deeply in love with her for years. When he asks her to marry him, she thinks it just a marriage based on friendship, family love, and passion. I liked this book a lot because of the fact that Marcus had been so much in love with her, but had kept it to himself because he saw that Jenna only had eyes for his brother, but he takes his chance to have her when he gets a chance. I also liked that although Jenna had been infatuated with Dean, once she is married, she puts those feelings aside and focuses on her marriage and her growing feelings for Marcus. She doesn't have any confusion about that once they get married, and she is faithful to him in heart and body. Marcus has to deal with his jealousy issues because he doesn't realize that Jenna loves him with a woman's love and not with a girlish infatuation like she did for Dean. It's a sweet but passionate story of how love can sneak up on you and come in a form that you weren't expecting.

Hot Desert Nights by Lucy Monroe, Louise Allen, and Kim Lawrence

I finished the Lucy Monroe story, Mistress to a Sheikh first, encouraged to read it because it is related to Hired: The Sheikh's Secretary Mistress, which I started first. It reads like a word to the wise about living together before marriage. It was good, but a bit angsty for me. There was a lot of emotional uncertainty in that relationship, but all's well that ends well. I think that Khalil really didn't show the respect for Jade that she deserved. He was selfish and wanted her so took her as his live-in girlfriend, knowing that this would make her unacceptable to his family. His excuse was he was living the now, and he knew he wanted Jade permenantly. But if that was the case, he should have done things the right way, and introduced her right off as his fiance and beloved. Jade put up with it far too long, and things didn't change until her behavior altered suddenly, and Khalil got a wakeup call. It really offended me on Jade's behalf. She loved and wanted him, so she thought that made it okay, but deep down, she wanted the acceptance of his family and a real relationship. Khalil never even said that he loved her, and he thought that his actions showed this. Women need the words, dude. Maybe that would have made the difference. So this story had angst that was unnecessary IMHO.
Desert Rake was the first story that I've read by Louise Allen. I really enjoyed it. She is a good writer with authentic historical detail and an exciting story. Her characters are vividly written and three-dimensional. I love stories set in exotic locations, with lots of adventure, and this one has that. It's set in 1817 and features a widow who decides to follow through on the plans made with her deceased husband to travel to Turkey. She had a happy marriage and misses the intimacy of making love. Although she thinks about taking a lover, she wouldn't have done it, had she not met Drew Fenton. The chemistry between the pair is immediate and culminates in a blazing encounter that ends with disappointment when Drew refuses to take Caroline on a journey into the interior. He doesn't let her down in a nice way, but gives her the impression that he doesn't think much of women other than being good sexual companions. Caroline has fallen in love and gotten her heart broken, but decides she will continue her travels without Drew's accompaniment. The good thing is that she does take lessons to make sure she is ready to travel to a dangerous area. When they reunite, it doesn't take very long before they are declaring their love and facing a future together. It was a short and sweet story. Louise Allen is a good writer, and I am glad that I have several of her novels in my to be read pile.
The Kim Lawrence story, Blackmailed by a Sheikh was more up my alley. It was my favorite in this collection. Prudence wasn't a doormat. She met Karim head on and although he did seduce her, he was going to act honoroably towards her. I liked that Prudence told his father the King that she had seduced him because she couldn't resist him. This was after she saved the King's life by taking a knife wound for him. That's my kind of heroine. I liked that Prudence was more self-sufficient and had healthy self-esteem, although she did consider herself spinsterish. She had made sacrifices for her bother so he could get to college. And Karim called her brother Ian who is a math nerd and on the self-absorbed side, on his selfishness and lack of care for his sister. This was early on when they had a more adversarial relationship, mind you. This story was enjoyable and had humor, even though there was serious issues in the background since Karim's father had heart surgery and he had lost his mother to breast cancer so was protective about his younger sister. I liked that Karim was more willing to be honest about his feelings, and to claim his woman in a manner that showed he admired her and found her worthy (despite the bedouin seduction). What can I say? I'm an old fogie in some ways. Kim Lawrence is a dependable Harlequin Presents author. I am surprised at how much she accomplishes in this short story. She really doesn't disappoint.
All in all this was a really good collection. I would have given it five stars but I didn't really like the unnecessary angst in the Lucy Monroe story.

Hired: The Sheikh's Secretary Mistress

Having read The Sheikh's Bartered Bride by Lucy Monroe, I was eager to read another sheikh book by her. I started this book and it kept mentioning an older brother who lived with his wife prior to marriage, and so I was thinking he must have a book also. So my gaze focused on the short story collection Hot Deserts Nights with a Lucy Monroe story, and sure enough, it was about Khalil and Jade called Mistress to a Sheikh. So I took a break and read this story first to get a frame of reference. Then I jumped back into Hired: The Sheikh's Secretary Mistress. I enjoyed this book, but I had a couple of issues with it. For one, I thought the heroine Grace was a little too self-deprecating. Yes, I know she was slender and shy and didn't think much of her looks, but I didn't like how high she put the hero Amir on a pedestal above her. I wish she had a little more self-worth. Don't get me wrong, I love the shy, unassuming, plain Jane heroines, but I like the ones with a little more spark and self-love. It is clear that she has always been shy and in the background, so I guess it makes sense that she would be so down on herself. But it bothered me. She was a very capable person and she wasn't ugly. But she had this opinion like she was worthless other than her skills as a PA. Even as a shy sibling in a large family, I am sure that Grace's parents showed her enough love to know that wasn't true. I was about to get disgusted when she goes to get a makeover to get Amir to see that she was a worthwhile bride candidate, when he had propositioned her in a prior scene. Obviously he liked her already. For some reason, makeovers in romances rub me the wrong way. I don't mind if the heroine never got to spend time on herself and does go and do that, but when she feels like she needs to change herself to make herself more acceptable, that bugs me. The only thing that saved it for me was that a) the hero said she looked great before and didn't all of a sudden notice her just because she got her hair fixed and wore more revealing clothes. I know men are that shallow in real life, but I don't like shallow heroes in the books I read. b) It was made clear that she had possessed inner beauty before and was just bringing out the real her. Okay, if you insist. The other thing that bugged me about this book was the hero's insistence on not allowing himself to care for Grace in a meaningful way. He had loads of girlfriends, and paraded them in front of Grace, getting her to shop for gifts for them. That was rather unfeeling of him, as he knew that she was attracted to him, if not in love with him. I think he should have tried to be more discreet in this case. And to compound matters, he asks Grace to make a list of suitable bride candidates for him. How callous is that? In his mind, he thought he was doing the right thing because he cared for Grace and loved her as a friend, but knew he couldn't allow himself to love his wife since he had loved and lost his first fiancee when she did. Okay, I understand your fiancee died, but you were eighteen years old. Get over it.And then he decides he's going to have a sexual relationship with Grace but still not marry her, knowing that she's a virgin, but not marry her. That's really lowdown. I admit that I am old fashioned. I like heroes who do care for the heroine and do have honorable intentions. I don't mind if they seduce the heroine into marriage, or seduce her with the intention of marrying her for certain. But I hate when the hero seduces a heroine just for a sexual relationship and has no intention of a permanent relationship (marriage). That's my issue and so I was annoyed at Amir's behavior. He confides his intentions to his older brother, Zahir, who is a confidant for him. Zahir seems to see that he has feelings for Grace that he isn't owning up to, and doesn't tell him that he's being a selfish jerk, probably because he thinks it will lead to him marrying Grace. And Grace just falls in with his plans, because she loves him. It bothers me in some of these romances that the heroine loves the hero so much she'll throw away her self-respect and negate her own self-love. Personally I don't want anyone to love me to this degree. You should love others as you love yourself, so obviously caring about yourself and having self-esteem is important.I guess I'm a masochist. I read these books because they inspire strong emotions in me. Well this one definitely did inspire strong emotions. So I will keep this book and possibly reread it, because it was well-written, but I can't help feeling aggravated with the heroine and the hero for their attitudes. Frankly I wish that Grace had told Amir to kiss her anatomy where the sun doesn't shine. Maybe he would have got a clue earlier. Hopefully Zahir will be a lot more gallant than his brothers and not act so dishonorably towards his woman like his brothers did.

January 2009 Reads

1. Blue Moon Rising. Simon R. Green. A++ (Fantasy, Reluctant Hero, Virgin Hero, Quest). Rupert, Julia (futures heroes of Hawk and Fisher series). 1/1/09.
2. Omnibus. Sheri L. McGathy. A. (Fantasy, Short Story Collection, Faery, Origin Stories, Elves, Beauty and the Beast, Dragons). 1/2/09.
3. The Wedding Journey. A++. (Beta Hero, Scottish hero, Military, Doctor, Unrequited Love, Marriage of Convenience, Napoleonic Wars, Journey, Knight in Shining Armor, Traditional Regency.) Jesse, Elinore "Nell." 1/5/09.
4. Never Romance a Rake. Liz Carlyle. A+ (Rake, Embittered, Tortured hero, Tortured heroine, Wager, Marriage of Convenience, Regency, French heroine, Part of a Series.) Kieran, Camille. 1/10/09.
5. No Friend of Mine. Lilian Peake. A. (Vintage Harlequin Presents, Adversarial Relationship, Friends to Lovers, Wallflower, Plain Jane.) Elise, Lester. 1/10/09.
6. Lover Enshrined. JR Ward. A+++ (Addiction, Tortured hero, Survival Guilt, Arranged Marriage, Black Dagger Brotherhood Series Book #6, Paranormal Romance). Phury, Cormia. 1/14/09.
7. In Lands That Never Were: Tales of Sword and Sorcery. A+ (Short Story Collection, Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery). 1/18/09.
8. To Have and to Hold. Patricia Gaffney. A++. (Redemption. Victorian, Book 2 of Wyckerley Series, Rake, Falsely Accused/Imprisoned, Mistress, Employer/Employee Romance, Seduction). Rachel, Sebastian. 1/21/09.
9. Shadow Game. Christine Feehan. A+. (Book 1 of Ghost Walkers Series, Fated to be Mated, Psychic/Superpowers, Nerd/Scientist Heroine, Warrior/Military Hero, Paranormal Romance). Lily, Ryland. 1/24/09.
10. Dangerous Touch from One Night With a Rogue. Anne Stuart A++. (Reread, Gunslinger, Widow, Abused, Dangerous Hero, Antihero). Billy, Sara. 1/25/09.
11. Kiss of a Demon King. Kresley Cole. A+++. (Deposed King, Other World/Lands, Demon, Sorceress, Bad Girl Heroine, Knight in Shining Armor Hero, Captive/Kidnapped, Quest/Journey, Paranormal, Fated to be Mated, Hero in Pursuit/Stalkerific hero, Book #7 in Immortals After Dark Series.) Rydstrom, Sabine. 1/29/09.
12. Last Wolf Hunting. Rhyannon Byrd. B-. (Reunited Lovers, Starcrossed Lovers, Werewolf, Witch/Healer, Love Wary. Book #2 in Blood Runners Series, Silhouette Nocturne, Paranormal Romance.) Jeremy, Jillian. 1/29/09.