Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tempt Me Not by Eve Byron

This book packed a wallop. It's full of angst in some ways. Not a major character dying or adultery of the main characters angst. But the angst of being the child of someone who doesn't know how to love, and having to learn what love is and how to open one's heart. And there are very complicated relationships between the major characters. People who think they are friends, turn out to have deeper relationships. Secrets are kept, and lives are destroyed. To say more would be giving away major plot points, so I won't do that. But I can say that this book shows the power of a loving heart, and the determination of a person who will not give up on the one the person loves. Jillian loves Max. She's loved him since she was a child. When her chance comes to have him, she takes it. And there are some consequences. But like most things that seem bad at the time, much good comes of it. Max is scarred by his indifferent father. And his father turns out to be the man who kept his good friend Bruce's married mother as his mistress for many years, but ignored his own wife and son. Max has been friends with Damien and Bruce for many years. Jillian is Damien's younger sister. As complicated as these relationships sound, they turn out to be even more complicated. To best enjoy this story, you should read Tempt Me Not first, then Love Me Not, and finally Decieve Me Not. This trio is very intertwined. I read Love Me Not first, and I had question marks about Max and Jillian. Reading this book last, I had some blanks filled in. This book is evidence that disproves the fallacy that romance is fluff. The emotions and situations in this book are deep and real life, and they hit home, but have the comfort of a loving relationship between the hero and heroine to soften the blow. I am glad I got the opportunity to read this book.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Romance of the Rose by Julie Beard

This was a fun, passionate book for lovers of the Elizabethan period. Of course Queen Elizabeth and the bard William Shakespeare make appearances. In fact, they are both heavily involved in the plot of this book. It's also a good book if you like unrequited love, and friends/enemies to lovers. Rosalind was a good heroine, and I admired her determination to live her own life, even if that meant remaining unwedded. Drake was complicated and had some motives that might have made him seem amoral, but Beard did a good job of making him sympathetic. I loved that he was helplessly in love with Rosalind, and had been since he was a child. Of course love denied turns to spite. Be even at his worst, he was not cruel to Rosalind. I enjoyed that both characters grew and had to made a determination about what was really important to them in their lives. The passion between them was fiery, yet the consummation came right on time. I enjoyed the look at the bawdy, intrigue-filled, and complicated lives that people led back in the 16th century. Not always pretty or pristine, but definitely interesting. This book is a keeper.”

Only A Duke Will Do by Sabrina Jeffries

Great way to spend a Saturday evening reading about Simon's determined pursuit of Louisa, and how the pursuer really was the pursued all the time. Simon has some issues from his cruel grandfather that take things to the next emotional level. I'm glad to see that things worked out for Simon and Louisa, and it's so refreshing to read a book with a hero who isn't sleeping with every woman he can prior to the heroine. Simon was a really hot hero, although he tried so hard to keep his emotions under control. I loved that Louisa was the only woman who could get under his skin, and how that fact drove him crazy. I loved that Louisa helped Simon to heal from his emotional wounds and taught him how to love. This one goes onto my favorites list.

Christmas Getaway

This was a fun, old-school type romance where chemistry and a love connection are emphasized over sex scenes. Anne Stuart's writing sparkles as always. Fitzgerald is so yummy you want to eat him for dinner. And I actually really liked the other two stories and I'm glad I read them. They all tie in together and form a nicely-done connection of stories designed to warm the heart and remind us that Christmas is about love and family, and that family isn't always just the traditional definition.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Western Winter Wonderland by Cheryl St. John, Jenna Kernan, and Pam Crooks

This book reminds me of how much I love westerns. All of the authors in this volume are dependable writers of good romance, and they don't fail you. Cheryl has the wonderful beta hero in Seth that she is so good at writing. You will fall for him, just as Marvel does. I also like the Marvel is not immune to issues of vanity or insecurity. She fears aging poorly because of having much older parents she had to take care of in their ill health. She is also about seven years older than Seth. But they are the perfect couple in many ways. Seth is such a sweetie and he deserves to have a woman he loves and truly wants to be with. Jenna also writes a powerful romance. Ford is a bounty hunter who specializes in bring back violent killers dead (not alive) after his family was savagely killed by a criminal. He accidentally shoots single mother Abby and takes personal responsiblity for nursing her back to health and caring for her son in the meantime. He falls deeply in love with them both, and has to choose between opening his heart to love and possible loss or living on the edge and waiting for his death. And lastly, Pam's story involves Sonja, who has a bad reputation in the small town because people don't understand why she keeps pigeons and often meets with the army. She is a good woman who is doing a dangerous job, but is being unjustly judged. She helps Beau by nursing a found fox kit back to health, and thus gets intertwined into the lives of Beau and his father Chet, whom she is deeply in love with. This story reminds me that the unsung heroes will be rewarded. As Sonja is with a real family who love her as much as she loves them. I am very glad I read this, because it's a nice, warm book to read for the holidays. It has family and children, the warmth of Christmas, but also the uncertainties and dangers of western life with a promise of a happy future. This is a great book to read at Christmastime for a genuine lover of western romance.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Home for the Holidays by Johanna Lindsey

This was an interesting and enjoyable read. Vincent is an intriguing hero who thinks he feels nothing, but clearly has never gotten over his childhood of emotional neglect. He does some pretty bad things because he is exacting revenge for his brother's suicide. However, he does have a turnaround and truly does repent as his love for Larissa changes his heart and melts the layer of ice that encloses the little-used member. It's a very good Christmas read that captures the elements of A Christmas Carol but also gives them a romantic aspect missing from the famous and well-loved Dickens tale. There is no magic here, well, other than the magic of love transforming a heart. Larissa is way too sweet, at least until her heart is broken. But even then, she manages to find the way to forgive Vincent, with a little help from her father. A good read to get you in the mood for Christmas.

Fire and Ice by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I adored this story. It has all the elements that make Sherrilyn Kenyon irresistible as a writer for me: imaginative story and setting, well-drawn, likeable characters, flawed hero who is deeply tortured both physically and spiritually, a deep, emotional connection between the hero and heroine, and the promise of redemption and a bright future. It took me about an hour plus to read this story, but the joy of reading it will last longer. You have what looks like a hopeless situation initially that becomes a catalyst for a wonderful love between Adron and Livia. Livia is being forced to marry a really old man by her father. In order to be suitable as his bride, she must be a virgin. In her culture, women are kept extremely innocent. Thus, she has not even been alone with a man who is not her relative, much less had physical contact. Together her and her maid come up with the idea to find a man and sleep with him so she is no longer a virgin. She goes to a bar and finds Adron, the most beautiful man she has ever seen. However he is deeply scarred both physically and emotionally. She seduces him with a kiss, and he decides to take her home. From there, their lives become intertwined in the most beautiful of ways. This story accurately portrays the challenge and the agony of being disabled (the hero was badly wounded and tortured as a League Assassin. Each day is excruciating pain and limitations due to the fact that his internal organs sustained massive injury). He wanted to die but his brother would not kill him. But at the same time, he won't kill himself because he knows how much his parents and family love him. My heart just went out to him for his situation. Knowing people who deal with disabilities every day, I could see that this was real life, although in a fictional story. That is why I loved the ending of this story so much. I read Fire and Ice in the Man of My Dreams anthology, and even though I don't plan to read the other stories, it was definitely a worthwhile purchase and a keeper for me.

Naughty or Nice by Melanie George

This book kept me up late this Saturday as I found I could not put it down without finishing it. How I feel about the book is complicated. It was a very good romance with elements of realism that added to its appeal. The hero was not a goody-two shoes titled hero with no dark past or issues other than chasing women, drinking, and gambling. He does indulge in those sports to various degrees, though. Instead he is self-made and comes from the lowest of the lower class. He had grown up extremely poor in the worst of conditions. His father was a terrible man who abused him, his siblings, and his mother. He gets into trouble with an Earl's wife and ends up being shanghaied off to India where he develops an addiction to opium. He never hears from his family again as they simply disappear. Despite all this, he manages to become a respected and admired military man. Lucian was a complex character who I did not always like. I have a strong aversion to substance abuse so I know that this was a major issue for me. However, I really do like flawed heroes, so that was also an advantage. I struggled with whether I felt his reasons for falling into opium addiction were valid. In the end, there is definitely some credence for him seeking solace in the drug, although it wasn't a wise decision for his life. He was a honorable man in many ways, but at the same time, he did not always do the right thing. I liked that he was irresistibly drawn to the heroine, Fancy, who he finds out later is his ward. Initially he thinks she is a thief and a working-class woman who is available to be his short-term mistress. The initial draw is lust, but soon he finds that she brings him peace. When he finds out late that she has been pretending to be someone other than his guardian, it makes things a lot harder for him, because he knows he must give her up. The reasons why Lucian is Fancy's guardian stems from his time in India serving as the commanding officer for her brother. Even that situation turns out to be very complicated. This book is a very complex one to read, but very readable at the same time. It deals with issues of addiction, poverty, guilt, forbidden love, and also delves into the wrongs of imperialism. Although you could pick it up to have a nice romance novel read, be prepared to have your intellect and your heart involved, as this book does delve deep as the hero finds his way out of the morass of drug addiction and a tortured past into a bright future with Fancy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lover Avenged Prep-Pack

Okay I know I haven't posted about how darn much I adore the Black Dagger Brotherhood books by JR Ward, but I do. I am chewing my nails waiting for Rhev's book, even though I haven't read Lover Enshrined and the Compendium book. He is sooo sexy and intriguing to me. I just picture this big, sexy, kinda scary guy who is dressed to the nines. His eyes are amethyst-colored. Yum! He's vulnerable but scary tough. He walks with a cane (plus there). He was so tender to Marissa and supportive. He was so adoring her. He's troubled by his heritage and tortured past. I love how he takes care of his mother and sister and accepted Zsadist as Bella's mate. I am dying here. Can't April get here sooner? So today on the BDB yahoo group, someone had posted what JR Ward says was the prep-pack for the books. Here is what we will need in advance to read this book that I will break down and buy a hardcover for (direct quotes for emphasis):

*Kleenex (everyone who's read him has cried except for two men- but they're not criers)
*Something of amythest color- candle, throw blanket, small stone (you know something to get in the right frame of mind)

*Neck brace (cuz long ass book... going to be there awhile)

*Sustenance (going to leave that to personal choice but suggest something crunchie, something sweet, and a lot of liquid)

*Fan (*blush* what don't look at me like that)

*Kleenex (back up)

*Phone/computer (for the OMG moments so you can reach out and touch others)

*Door (to shut out rest of real world)

*Window (to open and let in cold air in event fan doesn't go far enough)

Thanks to Betsy on the Black Dagger Brotherhood Yahoo group! Alas this has only made my relentless obsession worse. Rhev!!!!! Come to me, my darling!!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My Attempted Christmas Reads List

Okay I have to preface this by saying I never do a good job of reading according to a theme. Every year I get my Christmas books organized and read a few of them, but they pile up more and more each year. I am going to do my best to read a good number of them this time around.

Here is what I plan on reading:

  • A Bride for the Holidays by Renee Roszel (Harlequin Romance): I started this one

  • Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (Anthology of Christmas/Werewolf urban fantasy): I started this one

  • Naughty or Nice by Melanie George: I started this one

  • Home for the Holidays by Johanna Lindsey

  • A Western Winter Wonderland (collection of short stories) Harlequin Historicals

  • A Season of the Heart (collection of short stories) Harlequin Historicals

  • A Highlander for Christmas by Sandy Blair (paranormal/time-travel)

  • My Dashing Earl by Constance Hall

....and, if I can get it in time, Christmas Getaway short story collection with my favorite author, Anne Stuart.

We'll see how well I do on this....

Windfall by Emily Carmichael

I really enjoyed this older romance. It's a Victorian (takes place in 1899-1900) and also a western, at least for the last part of the book. It's got an across the pond romance (my phrase for a romance between an English person and an American). The heroine is half Blackfoot Native American and half Irish, and she is a doctor. The hero is a British baron. There are some issues that have to be dealt with because of what happened to the heroine when she was in Paris getting some post-doctoral training. I won't spoil you on that, since it takes a while for this to be revealed as the story continues.

I really enjoyed the way the relationship developed between Ellen and Jordan, and the evolution of the characters. Jordan seems really stuffy and priggish initially, but you realize that it is training that he has undergone as the heir to a Barony and the head of the family. I enjoyed seeing a heroine who is a professional and a career woman.

It's got some funny moments and some angsty moments. It's also got good love scenes, perhaps a little tame by today's standards but I liked them.

I recommend this one if you can get a hold of it. Unfortunately it's part of a series. The first book is Outcast, about Ellen's dad Gabriel and her stepmother, Olivia, who is a doctor as well. The second book is about Ellen's identical twin, Katy and her newspaperman hero Jonah.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

November Reads

1, CEO's Marriage Seduction. Anna De Palo. A (Baby wishes, enemies to lovers, marriage by agreement) Silhouette Desire. Eva, Griffin. A. 11/2/08.
2.Pregnant by the Italian Count. Christina Hollis. A-. (Wary hearts, widower, workaholics, pregnant). Harlequin Presents. Giovanni, Kate. 11/2/08.
3.Sale or Return Bride. Sarah Morgan. A+. (Vendetta, Greek, Feud, MOC, Baby). Harlequin Presents. Alesia, Sebastien. 11/4/08.
4.Ice Storm. Anne Stuart. A++. (Enemies to Lovers, Reunited, Spies, Covert Agency, In Disguise, Ice Series, Romantic Suspense). Isobel, Killian. 11/5/08.
5.Surrender. Pamela Clare. A++ (French-Indian Wars, Hero to Die For, Post Culloden, Scottish, Enemies, Warrior, Frontier America, McKinnon's Rangers Series). 11/7/08. Iain, Annie.
6.Dark Desires After Dusk. Kresley Cole. A++. (Demon, Fated to Be Mated, Immortals After Dark Series, Quest, Hidden Agenda, Paranormal Comtemporary). 11/8/08. Cadeon, Holly.
7.Red Skies at Night. Shara Azod. A+. (Novella, Interracial, Navy, Office Affair, E-Book). Brett, Teane. 11/8/08.
8.Hostage to Pleasure. Nalini Singh. A+. (Psy/Changeling Series, Broken/Less Than Perfect, Emotional Suffering, Fated to Be Mated, Evil Twin, Enemies to Lovers, Shapeshifter, Paranormal Contemporary). Dorian, Ashaya. 11/16/08.
9.Cordero's Forced Bride. Kate Walker. B. (Jilted, Abused, Businessman, In Sibling's Shadow). Harlequin Presents. Santos, Alexa. 11/16/08.
10.Desert Prince, Defiant Virgin. Kim Lawrence. A+ (Plain Jane, Misconception, Secret Sister, Seduction, Sheikh, Kidnapping). Harlequin Presents. Tair, Molly. 11/16/08.
11.The Sheikh's Ransomed Bride. Annie West. A+ (Sheikh, Rescued, Marriage of Convenience). Harlequin Presents. Belle, Rafiq. 11/23/08.
12.The Sheikh's Bartered Bride. Lucy Monroe. A (Deception, Seduction, Marriage of Convenience, Arranged Marriage, Low Self-Worth, Awkward). Harlequin Presents. Hakim, Catherine. 11/26/08.
13.The Stone Prince. Gena Showalter. A+ (Alien, Paranormal Romance, Amazonian Heroine, Battle Between the Sexes, Curse, Tortured Hero.) Katie, Jorlan. 11/27/08.
14. The Dream Hunter. Sherrilyn Kenyon. A+ (Greek Myths, Dreams, Bargain, Driven, In Disguise, Quest, Atlantis, Paranormal, Dream Hunter Series.) Arikos, Geary/Megeara. 11/29/08.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Pleasure Slave by Gena Showalter

I enjoyed this first book by Gena Showalter, with its fresh theme of a warrior imprisioned in stone. As characteristic of her writing, it shows a sweet, goodhearted approach to paranormal romance. The sensuality is well-developed but doesn't overwhelm the romantic aspects of the book. It has many laugh out loud moments, while balancing the heart-tugging moments equally well. Jorlan comes off as being a male chauvinist pig at first, who turns out to be just what self-sufficient tomboy Kate needs. Although he seems just like her macho brothers and father initially, she comes to see that he does respect her strengths and wants a woman who will walk at his side, and not behind him. The villian Percen is actually quite compelling and tortured and scarred in his own right, and you feel sorry for him and hope that there is a way for the book to end where he gets a happy ending too, which does happen. He ends up falling in love with a young woman who can equally meet him on the tortured playing field. I love reading Gena Showalter's books because they have a feel-good appeal to them, which is definitely why I read romances.

The Dream Hunter by Sherrilyn Kenyon

The Dream Hunter was a book that I got completely sucked into by page one. It takes the Dark Hunter series in a different direction, and shines the spotlight on yet another group of gods in the pantheon of Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter universe. I loved how SK integrated the dream world into this book. Dreams are so complex and so fantastical, how could they not be an excellent backdrop for an epic war between good and evil? SK gets that the Greek myths have characters that are not always completely good or evil, that the gods' motivations are often selfish and petty. We see that Arikos is not a bad guy. He's merely a person who has tired of being abused as used as a pawn by the higher gods. He wants happiness and joy just like all us humans want. The closest he has come is through the dreams of the human Megeara. When he is denied the closeness he craves with her through the dreams, he desperately makes a deal with Hades to be human for two weeks to spend time with this human he has become so captivated with. Unfortunately the deal involves giving her up to Hades after the two weeks ends. However, those of us who have studied the myths know that the gods don't make fair deals. Arik says yes before he realizes what the caveat is.The Dream Hunter introduces new intriguing characters and allows us to reconnect with some old favorites. The time line is about 10 years in the past, which is interesting, as we get to see the time before some pretty big events unfold. I love this world, and even if there's not much going on, I'd read SK's books just to experience her incredible imagination, and her fantastic writing ability. However, this book does have a lot going on, passion, pathos, vengeance, adventure, fun, and excitement. Also for those of you like me who has a thing for Atlantis, there is a quest to find the lost city that many don't want found, as well. You don't want to put it down because you want to know what happens next. I loved the direction that SK went with this book because it gives me some in depth on some of the Greek myths that always intrigued me. She brings these gods and heroes of the myths to life for me, but also adds her own unique spin that makes me laugh at some times, and cry at others.This is not a Dark Hunter book in the traditional sense, but it is definitely a great addition to the mythos, and if you are a fan of SK's books, I have trouble believing you won't love this book as well. Let me close by saying I hope that Solin gets his own book.