Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Night With the Society Playboy by Ally Blake

A Night with the Society Playboy (Nights of Passion, #3) A Night with the Society Playboy (Nights of Passion, #3) by Ally Blake

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Confession time: I passed this book by based on the blurb. It didn't appeal. I am not super-fond of second chance at love stories, or playboy/womanizer heroes, and I didn't think I would care for this story. It sounded like a lot of the shallow and plastic (to me) romantic comedies out that I avoid like a plague. I am glad my GRs friend wrote such a sterling review that I pulled it off my shelf. It was a very good book.

What did I like:

* I liked how Ms. Blake took the time to show Caleb's viewpoint. I don't think this book would have worked nearly as well just through Ava's viewpoint. I absolutely needed to see his vulnerabilities, and first-hand how Ava had always been in his heart, even if he had erected the callous, carefree armor of a slick womanizer/high finance shark. His soft spots really endeared him to me, and that's saying a lot because I didn't think much of his values, and just merely being dumped wasn't enough to let him get out of jail free for being so slick and materialistic. I don't mean to be judgmental, but those qualities don't shout out to me in a hero. For all that, Caleb ultimately won me over, especially when he came to his senses at the end. I think deep in his heart, he was always in Ava's corner, and that endeared him to me.

* Let me say I loved that Ava was pursuing her doctorate in higher education. Danielle was mentally doing a fist pump. I am always campaigning for more HP heroines with higher educations and careers, and Ms. Blake gave me that! In a strange way, it worked for me that Ava was such a book-smart woman but kind of a screw-up in other ways. Her family baggage had set her on a path where she made mistake after mistake. It was realistic. Now, when I read romances, I prefer it to be about the hero and heroine meeting and falling in love with no other partners and no long years lost. Ten years is a huge time period to regret the one that got away. However, in this case, I feel that this time apart might have been necessary to shape Ava and Caleb to better appreciate life together. So, although this in not my ideal scenario, it worked for this book (although I have some pangs about it).

* I loved the interactions (non-sexual) between Ava and Caleb. The relationship re-builders such as their snarky back and forth, and their flirting and just hanging out, and how they were there for each other emotionally. Moreso from Caleb's side. But Ava also helped Caleb to see that getting in deep was okay, and feeling something more was the way life should be. Are you really living if you only play life fast and loose? I firmly believe that Ava and only Ava could have taught Caleb this.

*Although more time could have spent on showing Ava with her family, I am glad that the crucial make-up between Ava and her father did occur. I think Ava can heal in some essential ways now.

What I didn't love:

*Honestly, the love scenes were a bit of an afterthought for me. I wanted to know that they felt more and it wasn't just sex, and it was hard to feel that way with both scenes, to be honest. When I read romance, I hate to see sex treated casually. It might work for some, but it doesn't work for me. And when I see it in a romance book between the hero and heroine, it puts a bad taste in my mouth. Although the scene on Caleb's car might have seemed hot, deep down, it left me feeling emotionally unsatisfied, especially compared to the emotional and tender first time they made love ten years ago. However, the moments of connection outside of their sexual interactions were winners for me. Such as when they lay on the grass and caught up with each other. I wanted to knock some sense into Caleb at his actions when Ava lay her heart at his feet in his apartment, so that post-coital intimacy was ruined for me.

*As much as I liked this book, I felt kind of melancholy after reading it. I felt like so much time had been wasted, and maybe that's what made it a bit of a downer in some ways. I did like the end, so that sort of makes up for what was lost, but not completely. That's probably why I couldn't rate this higher than four stars, along with the love scenes not being as emotional as I liked.

Final Thoughts:

I enjoyed this book a lot. It's a good reunion romance and friends to lovers book. The heroine has a lot of emotional depths, and Caleb's soft heart beneath a callous exterior intrigued this reader. I loved his expanded viewpoint a lot. I would recommend this book with the above reservations.

View all my reviews

The Millionaire's Prospective Wife by Helen Brooks

The Millionaire's Prospective Wife (Modern Romance S.)The Millionaire's Prospective Wife by Helen Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very good book. At first I thought Nick was a jerk, the way he reacted to Cory's aunt's dog knocking him over. I didn't have hopes for him as a likable hero. However, I have to say that he made me eat my words. He showed a lot of consideration, patience, and caring for Cory, who wasn't an easy woman to love in some ways. I don't hold it against Cory. I can totally see why she was so reluctant to open her heart to Nick. She had some very deep emotional scars, layered on top of each other. First from neglectful parents, and then with a bad relationship. She truly believed she was unlovable. She probably should have gotten counseling, but how many of us are walking wounded from a lifetime of toxic relationships? With the full book behind me, I really appreciated Nick for his love for Cory that took him through some rough patches with her. However, I did get the feeling that Cory was worth it, and I was glad that she had someone who did love her unconditionally when she had suffered the lack of that from two people who should have given more of that then she could handle.

Maybe I am applying this to the book because I know Helen Brooks is a Christian, but it reminded me of Christ's love for me. That made me appreciate this book on a deeper level, because I can see that Christlike love in Nick (although he is a human male with human desires and emotions. However, the Apostle Paul does tell men to love their wives like Christ loves his church, so Nick isn't setting a unknown precedent here).

I can see why a Goodreads friend of mine appreciates Helen Brooks books so much. If Nick is an example of her heroes in how he treated Cory, then Helen does heroes well. He was both masculine and sexy, but also loving and gentlemanly. A very nice combination.

This was a good Harlequin Presents. It kept my interest, with sexy chemistry between Nick and Cory, paired with a deep, abiding, dare I say healing love. I look forward to reading more of her books.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Devil in the Details by KA Stewart

A Devil in the Details (Jesse James Dawson, #1)A Devil in the Details by K.A. Stewart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a good start to a new to me series. Although it does have that standard male UF feel (which is not a bad thing), there were a few things that nicely distinguish it from the others that I read and enjoy:

1. The lead--Jesse James Dawson (don't call him JJ) is pleasantly angst-free. I like angst as much as any other reader, and probably more, but it's nice when the character doesn't stoop over like a 90-year-old from the weight of sorrows on his back. I think a huge factor in this is my second point.

2. Jesse is a happily-married family man! It was so refreshing to have a hero who is not a loner who avoids women or just uses them to fulfill his male needs, or both, but is deeply in love with his wife. The moments of intimacy and married people exchanges caused many 'aww' moments or smiles as I read. It's clear that Jesse doesn't take his wife for granted. He respects her as an equal with formidable strengths that balance him out. He knows his wife doesn't take crap, and he doesn't shovel any her way. At the same time, he is protective of his family in a way that I think a guy should be with his family. I loved how much he values his wife and his little girl. I have a big soft spot for a hero who is a father or has a fatherly vibe to him, so I dug the scenes in which Jesse plays with/takes care of his daughter. I can see why Jesse has the empowerment to go out and fight the good fight like he does.

3. Jesse is a modern samurai. He follows the bushido code. Let me make it clear that I am a huge ninja/samurai/Asian martial arts fangirl. Although I lack the discipline for the Way of the Warrior, I had mad respect for Jesse's adherence to this philosophy. Although he is not a religious man, he has a code which directs his behavior, instead of drifting through life aimlessly. It rounds him out as a character in a solid, but not over the top way instead of this story being about his A)determination to get vengeance, B)leftover childhood issues, C)being a happy-go-lucky ne'er do well that merely stumbles into heroic situations.

4. The concept of Jesse working as a champion--fighting demons to win back people's bartered souls was very cool. I like that there was rules to be followed, and I admit that the demonic aspects were a bit chilling, although not in a macabre, in your face, way. It felt very real-world and entirely possible. A nice foundation for world-building in this series.

5. The conversational narrative was good. Jesse has enough snark to put me in the wise-cracking UF male mode that I like, but it's not forced or obvious. It was interesting seeing Jesse interact with his co-workers at It, a trendy store that I would equate to the real-life store Hot Topic. They are very much of the new generation, and Jesse is in his thirties and a grown man with grownup responsibilities. They call him Old Guy, which I found hilarious. It may not seem like a huge age difference, but as a woman in my thirties who has worked with people in their teens and early twenties, it can actually be a fairly large gap at times. Long story short, Jesse gets cred as a realistic character who I can buy into for a series. I liked spending time in his head and I would come back.

Final Thoughts:

This was a pleasant, relatively quick read. I think it's a great start for a new series, and there was enough hooks here to get me coming back for more. I liked the story, the characters, and the concept. The action parts were good and the humor had me laughing and nodding along. That makes this a thumbs up book for me. Four solid stars, and my recommendation to fans of male lead UF along the lines of Harry Dresden or Atticus O'Sullivan. In other words, both fun and meaty.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Texas Rain by Jodi Thomas

Texas Rain (Whispering Mountain, #1)Texas Rain by Jodi Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jodi Thomas has done it again for me. I love how she can write such a genuine story that draws me in each time. I didn't think she could top the Wife Lottery Series, but I have to say I will probably have to eat my words. There is only one Carter McKoy for me, but Travis, now he certainly earns a place on my hero shelf. I enjoyed the complexity to Rainey's character. She wasn't unrealistically goody-goody or innocent. She made some decisions that weren't always highly ethical or selfless, although she is definitely a person of both strong morals and generosity. She led Travis a merry chase, however I can see why. I loved that Travis understood Rainey's issues and gave her what she needed to feel safe as a wife. While I was shouting, "Marry him already!", I could also understand why she was afraid/reluctant to do so. I think that even to this day, women do have to think long and hard about who they choose to marry, and moreso back in this time period where women had little rights or independence in a world that seemed to be wired for men. I like the way Ms. Thomas deals with these issues, not in a preachy way, but very matter of fact. She writes about several women who are in different situations, but all have to operate in a world that is dominated and controlled by men. With Rainey, the reader is able to examine that dynamic of a woman juggling the love of a man with a need for her own independence and control over her life, and I was able to empathize with and respect Rainey and root for her to gain both things in her life.

Equally complex was Travis. He's that tough, capable western hero that I love to bits, but he also has vulnerabilities, not in the least as a man of mixed heritage, with an Apache heritage that is written on his features in a society where Indians are the enemy and hated and feared equally. Also, he faces a life-changing injury, which requires him to look seriously at what his identity is as a person. Will he be happy and productive if he can no longer work as a Ranger? What's left for him if that is gone? I liked that Travis fell hard for Rainey and he had to deal with his sense of awkwardness in how to pursue her and romance her as a man who never thought he'd marry and start a family. Would he be happy with a friendship with his 'fairy woman' or would he be satisfied with nothing less than her as his wife? He couldn't have been more appealing to me.

I also liked how Ms. Thomas handled the issue of slavery. When I saw that this was set in 1854, I sighed. I really, really hate dealing with the slavery issue in historical romances. I'm black, so when I read these books, I think about how it must have been for black people to be slaves in this part of American history, and when I think about this, it makes it harder to enjoy the romance part of the book. In this case, Ms. Thomas managed to keep my conscience happy with those aspects of the book, and was able to keep that from detracting from the story, and it was realistic how she dealt with Mamie's situation.

Can I say how much I adored little Duck? What a sweet little boy. I just wanted to hug him. And Travis was such a good adoptive father to the orphaned, traumatized little boy. Nothing more sigh-worthy to this reader than a tough hero who is good with kids! Travis' relationship with Duck brought another layer of fantastic to this book, which was already pretty darn fantastic to begin with.

What can I say? Jodi Thomas has it when it comes to writing romance. She doesn't rely on a lot of bells and whistles. She brings simple to an art form. She just has what's needed: intriguing, lovable, relatable characters, an interesting storyline, great dialogue, and excellent western world-building and action that makes this Western-lover a happy camper.

I can't give this book less than five stars. That just wouldn't be right! Highly recommended!

View all my reviews

Monday, March 19, 2012

Winter Bride by Iris Johansen

Winter Bride (Loveswept, No. 522)Winter Bride by Iris Johansen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Typical older Iris Johansen, which is nothing to sneeze about. I like her books. The tough hero and the vulnerable yet strong heroine. The intriguing connection between them. In this case, Jed is the son of the man who Ysabel was married to. Hey, don't get grossed out yet. It's all good. Ysabel is one of those virgin widow types. I wondered what drove Ysabel on to make such a desperate bargain with Jed, and Johansen sustains the suspense beautifully. When I found out, I was like, no wonder. Same with the reason why she was married to the Older Corbin.

The sensual parts are spicy as her books were for that time, and you feel the powerful tension between the Jed and Ysabel. So I can't really complain about anything.

Nothing spectacular, but I liked it a lot, so that's four stars.

View all my reviews

Snow Kisses by Diana Palmer

Snow KissesSnow Kisses by Diana Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't help but think I've read this one before. Yes, One can argue that many of Diana Palmer's books are similar, but I feel like I remember a few scenes almost exactly. Although this is a bit dated, the emotional aspects are timeless, and I love the pining angst. The usual push and pull between the hero and the heroine. The humor that makes her books pop. The hero that is awkward with women, and never got over the heroine. They both have something to lose in the high stakes game of love.

This one isn't a favorite, but it was still good enough for a fan of hers. I'd give it four stars.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Maverick by Diana Palmer

The Maverick (Long, Tall Texans) (Silhouette Desire #1982)The Maverick (Long, Tall Texans) by Diana Palmer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I haven't read any Diana Palmer for a while, and it was very nice to read one of her books again. She is a very funny lady! I like that she has normal kinds of people, and their values are traditional. It may seem hokey, but there are people like that still in the world. I felt like I was going home to visit with family and friends.

Harley came around to be a great hero. I liked that he was a sweet guy. I wasn't sure how she could pull him off as a hero, but he turned out great. I like that Alice is pretty outgoing and did some of the pursuing. Yes, normally I don't like that, but it was cute how she would always ask Harley when they were getting married. I think it helped to break the ice that she was doing some of the chasing. And with his history of being rejected by girls who were on the rebound, I guess he needed to be the one pursued.

If someone argued with my five star rating because the investigation takes too major a role, I couldn't dispute that it does, but it didn't ruin the book for me. It was great to see a heroine who was good at her job, and in a specialized field. And I liked the way the romance unfolded around the mystery, albeit unconventionally.

I was very satisfied with this book. It was a balm to my soul after having so many books that I had to read to read one I really wanted to read. Ms. Palmer remains one of my favorite authors.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Stolen Bride by Abby Green

The Stolen Bride (Harlequin Presents #3012)The Stolen Bride by Abby Green

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This was a very engrossing book. I got sucked in from page one with the intricate descriptions of Aneesa in her Indian wedding finery. And when Aneesa and Sebastian meet face to face. Wow! The chemistry between Aneesa and Sebastian is electric, like a taut band that will always draw them back to each other. Sebastian frustrated me at times, but in light of his very tragic family history, it makes sense. When he wasn't frustrating, I wanted to eat him up. He really was a sexy hero. There is something about heroes named Sebastian for this reader. We usually get along very well. I loved that Aneesa stayed genuine with him and true to herself. She was an adorable, very lovable woman that I wanted to hug. I liked how she acknowledged her immaturity and shallowness prior to the bombshell that changes her for the better when this book begins. She shows true maturity and emotional integrity as a woman.

It goes without saying how happy I am to read a Harlequin Presents with a heroine of color. I wish that instead of referring to Aneesa as olive-skinned, she would have just came out and call her brown-skinned. Even with that small issue, I was thrilled to bits with the tidbits about Aneesa's Indian heritage and the glimpses into her family life and culture.

I am loving this Notorious Wolfes series. Each book peels back the many layers into the fascinating emotional dynamics in this troubled family. Each Wolfe is distinct in my mind. I already adore Jacob. I think I will just float away like a happy cloud when I finally get to his book.

Abby Green hasn't disappointed me yet. This is another emotional, intense, very good romance by her that has all that I like about Harlequin Presents, but added depths that make me enjoy every minute of reading the book.

Definite recommend from this reader.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh

Archangel's Kiss (Guild Hunter, #2)Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Ms. Singh has created an incredible, yet dark world here with the Guild Hunters. There is a mix of the sublimely beautiful and awe-inspiring and the deeply chilling and sometimes revolting. Although I prefer the traditional biblical angelic storylines, she has taken most of what I find alluring about angels and paired it with a storyline that features a race of angels who are sensual, primal, dark, and dangerous.

Archangel's Kiss is definitely urban fantasy romance on the dark edge. Singh doesn't shy away from showing the savage acts of cruelty (even more disturbing by the casual manner in which they are committed) by these angels. I have to give it to her for that, because they are definitely not human by any stretch, and sometimes you read these PNR/UF books with paranormal creatures who are only paranormal on the surface, but all too human underneath. Not the case here, and anytime you think different, their ageless view of life, and the fact that those endless eons, and their unfathomable power gives them a view of right and wrong that feels decidedly amoral from a human viewpoint. Once again, I am put in the shoes of Elena, this time as a fledgling angel who is in over her head, when she used to be considered a very powerful human at one time. That is another level of authenticity of the world-building that captivated me. Singh is a master at painting the scenery with a careful choice of words that plants me right into a vivid, high definition landscape. I feel as though I am watching an awesome fantasy movie on the big screen with visions of incredible beauty paired with moments of chilling violence, and books that are written to stimulate my imagination to this degree always impress me.

Elena's character has a fortitude and a determination that makes for a satisfying heroine. Raphael is the combination of my favorite hero traits--possessive, dangerous, ruthless, and devoted--added to an allure of the otherworldly, unfathomably powerful that takes him over the top in the best ways. And yes, with wings, hard to resist. I can't do it, in fact. Throwing in the fact that he is the epitome of masculine beauty, he is the hero of my darkest dreams. Together, they are magic.

And yet, I found that I didn't get quite as enthralled with their romance as I was in the first book. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps there was too much going on, with the storyline about who was mutilating and harming angels and vampires, the threat of the archangel Lijuan, who has become frighteningly far from natural in her angelic evolution, and Elena's unresolved issues of her past. Don't get me wrong. I did enjoy the romance. How could I not. Just not to the degree that I expected, based on the first book. I found that the angelic world-building and the fascinating and intriguing cast of characters almost overshadowed that for me. I felt as though I hadn't attained much more in their relationship progression from the first book. Yes, I do know that Raphael loves Elena, and that he is violently possessive over her. That she gives him a human capacity for feeling he thought lost. That he'd give her the world. And I know that Elena loves Raphael more than she feels is safe, and that she worries about losing herself. I suppose I can see that she has made progress in the trust front, so that is good. And yet...I don't know, I guess I want more. Good news, there is another book with their story, so I have a feeling I will get what I want in Archangel's Consort.

Perhaps this would have been a five star book if I hadn't been so blown away by Angels' Blood. It makes me feel guilty not to give it five stars, but something in me can't be satisfied enough to give it that highest rating. However, it's definitely 4.5 stars. I can't give it any less. I'm enthralled by this world, and that's a very good sign. Nothing less than I would expect from a wordsmith like Nalini Singh.

My casting choices:

David Gandy as Raphael


Emilia Clarke as Elena Deveraux

View all my reviews