Saturday, March 27, 2010

Murphy's Lore: Tales from Bulfiche's Pub

Murphy's Lore : Tales from Bulfinche's Pub Murphy's Lore : Tales from Bulfinche's Pub by Patrick Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've written this review in journal style, as I made my way through this collection of tales.

March 16:
This my second time reading a Murphy's Lore volume, and it's going well.

Rainbow's End

The first story was kind of sad. Murphy's down on his luck, mourning his recently-departed wife, and trying to pay off a debt to a loanshark (taken to pay for his wife's last round of chemotherapy) by finding a leprechaun's pot of gold. That search leads him to Bulfinche's Pub, a magical bar where gods and creatures of myth and lore hang out. Paddy, the leprechaun who invested his pot of gold in Bulfinche, helps Murphy settle his debt, and to find purpose after his wife's death. This is how Murphy became a bartender at Bulfinche's. That helped me to come to the realization that my first read in this series, Murphy's Lore: Through the Drinking Glass, was not the first book. Oh, well. Familar faces from Greek mythology include Hercules, Hermes (God of healing, messages, thieves), Dionysis (God of fornication, wine, partying), and Demeter (Goddess of nature and the seasons). Hercules is the bouncer at Bulfinche's, mind you. Great timing for St. Patty's Day, which is tomorrow. Loved this story! 4.5 stars.

Clown Tears

It took me a few tries to read this story. I kept getting distracted, but it's hard to read at work. Despite growing up on Bozo The Clown, I am not a clown fan. Maybe that's part of my lessened interest in this story. The parts with the abandoned kids watched over by the denizens of the bar were touching, and I admit that the ex-clown who became paralyzed in his last trapeze stunt and lost his mojo (only to regain it with the magic of friends and Bulfinche's Pub) did appeal to my admittedly sappy nature. The seltzer water and whipped cream fight was cute. 3.5 stars.

March 18

Safe Sox

A little bit on the horrific side. What if socks are cannibalistic to each other, and that's why you always come up missing one of a pair after you wash and dry them? That was one of numerous theories suggested. Perhaps it's true. The mysterious customer who comes in on a winter night without socks insists he's on the run from said cannibalistic socks. When the employees at Bulfinche's don't believe him, it has drastic consequences. Well, it certainly was a unique story. 4 stars.

2 VS. Love

Poor Hermes takes an epic journey with a busybody woman who's determined to make her daughter fall in love with her platonic friend, by means of a plea to Cupid for his assistance. Guess where Cupid can be found? Niagra Falls. Where else. This one was a bit dry, but it had some funny moments. I haven't read too much fiction with Cupid, so that was cool. Poor Cupid must take the form of a baby, diaper included, on February 14th to harness the power of belief to its fullest potential. Imagine that for an ancient god? 3.5 stars.

Faerie Tale

Faery-crazy lass that I am, of course I enjoyed this story about a Hunter sent to retrieve a Shapeling who refuses to return to Faerie. The Hunter runs into an old girfriend who happens to be the mother of the shapeling. What happens from there is something I will let you guess, until you read this one. 4.5 stars.

March 19

Black Eyes

The gang at Bulfinche's take on the Stormers, a street gang, who roughed up the children that they watch over. Paddy won't stand for it, so they deal with the gang in a way that's very apropos. I thought it was hilarious how Hermes used his super-speed to bring a recogning on the thuggish bullies. There is a god of an extinct Native American tribe that comes to Bulfinche to get some manna (magic) to prevent himself from fading from existence (since no one believes in him anymore), and who turns out to be involved with the street game. I didn't expect to like this story as much as I did. 4.5 stars

Blood Brother

This story was both creepy and sad. A vampire comes to Bulfinche, nearly fainting with hunger for blood. Murphy actually cuts his arm and gives him some of his own blood in a bizarre version of a Bloody Mary. Boy does Lucas have a sad story to tell. This tale actually gets kind of scary near the end. The end is heartbreaking, leading into then next story. This was riveting, with powerful lessons about tolerance. 5 stars.

The Eulogy

I was fighting tears as I read this story. A beloved member of the Bulfinche family is laid to rest. The kids ask Paddy to adopt them, so they can be his official children. Short but very moving. 4.5 stars.

March 25

Jinn & Tonic

Okay, apparently I'm a huge sap. This story gave me that squinty, I'm about to cry feeling. Edgar is a businessman who lost everything he worked for, and is wandering the streets. He finds a friend, one who lives in a bottle and has the power to grant three wishes. The manner in which Edgar used one of his wishes is what sent me over the border into full-on Sapville. But it's a good feeling. 4.5 stars.

Hello I Must Be Going

This is where we first meet Joseph, the Wandering Jew. He's been cursed to walk the earth for over 2000 years, until Jesus returns, because he mocked Jesus on the way to the Cross. I personally do not see Jesus as being vengeful or lacking in self-control enough to curse someone this way. But it was an interesting story, and the compromise found for Joseph didn't show Jesus as the bad guy. 4.25 stars

Sobering Visions

The most powerful psychic in the world is a man who has been a drunk since he was about seven years old. Drinking is the only way he can be at peace and still be able to benefit from the magical respite of Bulfinche's. It will take some strong suspension of disbelief to feel okay with inducing a seven year old to be a continual drunk, in order for this story to be enjoyed. If you can get past the wrongness of that, it's pretty good. He is able to help the Bulfinche squad to make plans to save most of New York's citizenry from a tidal wave sent by vengeful god Neptune in the future. 3 stars.

Silent Justice

Oh my goodness. This story ripped my heart out. Passover has come to Bulfinche's Pub, and the horrors of the Holocaust are relived by its survivors who come to the pub for the night. Two of which are being preyed on by Aryans, who have murdered Jews in their apartment complex already. We learn why Rebecca, a regular who lives on the streets, has chosen her life. Her past will make you want to bawl. The golem myth is showcased here in a beautiful way. This story was utterly heart-breaking, but managed to have a good ending. 5 stars.

March 26

Love and Judgement

Now this was an interesting story. What if the Antichrist and the Savior of the world (female and named Grace) fell in love. What if the Bulfinche's Pub gang was able to stop the Apocalyse through their actions and intervention in the standoff between the forces of Good and Evil? That's what this story is about. I liked this one, because I looked at it as pure fiction, although the underlying message of "Make Love, Not War," wasn't too shabby. 5 stars.

Blasphemous Hearts

This is the epilogue to Love and Judgement, about a seraphim named Mathew, and a succubus named Rythe, who fall in love. It was delicious. The ultimate opposites attract, star-crossed lovers story. Mathew is a sweet virgin (he's an angel), and Rythe was, well, she wasn't. Ms. Thomas has quite a way with romance. Boy was I rooting for this couple. And the Bulfinche gang is there to help this couple escape from their respective bosses and find a happy ending together. 5 stars.

A Wing and a Prayer

Mathew sees a woman praying for a sign from God. He goes to her house and finds out that her son is dying from a brain tumor. He enlists the help of the Greek god of healing, Hermes, to heal the boy. This was a very nice story. I like to believe that the answers to prayers come in unconventional ways, so it found favor with me. 4 stars.

Evening's Lady

A downtrodden young woman is brought to Bulfinche's for medical assistance. Her story is very sad, but the rainbow leads her right where she need to go to find a way out of her terrible situation. There is also a spy amongst the ranks. A member of the secret watchgroup of the Catholic church out to bring Father Ryann in for consorting with godless pagans and demons, and such. Well, it turns out Paddy is good friends with the Pope, so fear not. 4.25 stars (liked the part with the girl more than the part with the watchdog).

New Heights

I wasn't fond of this story. One of the regulars, who is a psychiatrist, helps a man get over his fear of heights, with some less than desirable results. It ends very abruptly. I think it was supposed to be wryly ironic. Not my cup of tea, really. 2 stars.

March 27


This story won't appeal to everyone. A werewolf falls in love with a plain old garden variety wolf, and she gives birth to his pups. But, those pups are likely to change to human form during the fool moon. So the Bulfinche's gang team up to spring his wolf family out of the Bronx Zoo. I really liked it. 5 stars.

Of Red Tape and Roses

A buttoned up, by-the-book lady from Social Services comes to investigate Bulfinche's Pub as a suitable home environment for the kids that Paddy is trying to adopt. As you can imagine, Bulfinche's is quite the crazy place, and she's about to put a wrench in the adoption. Until Dionysus, Greek god of fertility, is able to see into her heart, and what has been denied to her and made her bitter. This was a fun, and rather sexy story. 5 stars.

Hell's Covenant

A demon wreaks havoc on the Bulfinche's Pub gang. All the forces of good are marshalled to help to protect Toni's (Toni was the woman in Evening's Lady) baby from being claimed by the demon as the next Antichrist. This was a scary at times, delightfully adventurous, and creepy fun tale. 5 stars.

Be Not Proud

Murphy is determined to seek out his wife in whatever afterlife she has gone to since she died. Murphy's friends team up to help him on his Dante-esque quest to find his lost love. This was a very interesting view of the afterlives of various legends and lore. 5 stars.

Bulfinche's Mythology

What a great ending to this volume of stories. Everyone and anyone from myths and legends show up on The Day (what we call Halloween) to party. This is one party I would definitely attend. Loved it. 5 stars.

Overview/Final Thoughts

Although I didn't love all the stories in this collection, the preponderance of the tales were so good that I'd give this book a five star rating. As other reviews noted, there are quite a few errors in punctuation, and a few spelling errors. It didn't diminish my enjoyment of the book, so I can't downgrade for those. I highly recommend this to fans of folklore and mythology. Leave those preconceived notions at the door, because no belief system (except Scientology) has escaped the eye of this writer. But it's all in good fun, and delivered with respect. Watch out for the liberally thrown bad puns.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue

Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue by Hugh Howey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can say with no reservations that this was a fantastic book. Let me be honest and admit that I'm not a big science fiction reader. I'm not sure I will ever be a wholesale science fiction fan in every form. But this book, well, it has convinced me that I can enjoy a good 'pure' science fiction book.

While Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue is a young adult book, it really doesn't feel like one. What I mean by that is, the writing is such that you never felt things are being dummed down in the false belief that a younger reader cannot handle an intelligent storyline. I would never assume that young adult fiction should be any different, and I'm glad that Mr. Howey did not make that assumption, either. As I read this story, I was impressed with his ability to tell this story in such a manner that words flow smoothly, your interest is engaged, but you are neither lost in streaming lines of technobabble, or pseudointelligent pomposity, or left feeling bored. In some ways, he compared favorably to Mr. Ray Bradbury, who wrote science fantasy back when hardly anything was common knowledge of space. Using his incredible imagination, his focus was always on telling a story, and the words used always contributed to this goal. That's how I felt about Mr. Howey's efforts.

Science fiction is a genre I often shy away from, because I am not very good with technical jargon. I find it hard to visualize highly technological concepts in my head when I read. So I tend to get bored with books that are written with heavy emphasis on these things. I am a very visual person, so that's an integral part of reading for me. When I read a book, it plays like a movie in my head. And the best books, they are like really good movies. Such was the case with this book. It was like a very good, intelligent, but fun science fiction movie with a hefty dose of adventure.

What I really liked about this novel, was that Mr. Howey infused this story with elements of philosophy and an awareness of ethical issues. And there are some very weighty ones in this book. Yet, he managed not to overload the story until it became dull and pretentious. He never resorted to shoveling an agenda down my throat as I read. There were moments that caused me genuine emotional pain, as I experienced the anguish that Molly felt, seeing what she did, and what she inadvertently took part in, and how she struggled with her conscience over decisions that she made, and those that were taken out of her hands by necessity, or through the actions of others. I'm by no means a science fiction connoisseur, but it's my understanding that science fiction is a genre that does probe into the questions of how technology can be for the advancement of humanity, but at the same time, it can cause destruction when used inappropriately. That issue arises in this book with a civilization of beings that are so intelligent, that they have come close to wiping themselves out, and would do the same to the rest of the galaxies they encountered. My brain was able to take this in, and I could really see both sides of the issue. But this was done without me feeling like I was being lectured to, or getting bored. That is the hallmark of good fiction to me, that I read a good story, but it gives me something to think about. I'm grateful that Mr. Howey did so with this story.

Molly is a genuinely likeable heroine. There were no moments in this story where she annoyed me or lost credibility with me. She was very human, and she seemed like a sixteen year old girl on the cusp on womanhood. But she dealt with some situations that were truly harrowing, ones that truly required intense strength of character from her. There were moments where I feared she was put in the role of looking to her male supporting character, Cole, a young man that she attended Naval Flight School with, as the stronger, more capable person, and I was prepared to be disappointed about that, not comfortable about what kind of message that might send to young girls reading this novel. However, further reading revealed that this was not an attempt to undermine the capability of Molly, or show that she could not be independent and in charge of her destiny, but to show that at times even the strong need to lean on, and to follow others. That's real life to this reader.

As for the adventure quotient of this novel, it was very satisfactorily high. Yet, the action was paced so well, that the moments of introspection and character development could be savored equally well. And, as I said earlier, I could easily visualize most of the action sequences. Any question marks about the equipment that I might have had were cleared away either through my imagination, or by further reading.

The worldbuilding in this novel was excellent. I had no problem picturing a future Earth that wasn't overly different, and seeing the other worlds through the narrative. The depiction of the different alien civilizations was distinct, and was done with a respect that didn't pander to bigotry or racial insensitivities. Although the various alien civilizations had their particularities, it was clear that stereotypes were not being established or relied upon. As a person who is sensitive to the depiction of people in a way that isn't stereotypical or racially insensitive, that was very important to me.

The cast of secondary characters managed to become very important to me. Cole became my shelter, a shoulder to lean on, and a boon companion, as I read this story and saw him take this harrowing journey along with Molly. Along the way, they meet friend and foe, and you feel their anguish and fears when the realization is made that not everyone can be trusted. Although this was Molly's story, and you never doubt her importance, Cole is also an intregral part of this novel, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

This book is perfectly suitable for mid-to-older teens, but I would advise readers that there is quite a bit of violence, and some disturbing events do occur. However, Mr. Howey does an excellent job of showing the consequences of violence, and how it affects the participants. And the violent scenes are not done in any way that is offensive or gratuitous.

Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue took me on an incredible journey. It kept me in suspense, made me laugh, made me cry, and gave me a sense of wonder at the beauty of the universe. I was in awe that humans might be able to travel through galaxies and meet life on other planets. I felt a sense of excitement reading this story, that has yet to leave me. But it also gave me something to think about. Like Molly, we humans tend to dream big, and life will knock some of the idealism out of us. But that's not the end of the road. It's just another turn that we take.
I can't wait to read the next in this series.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Passion Unleashed by Larissa Ione

Passion Unleashed (Demonica, #3) Passion Unleashed by Larissa Ione

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of those reviews where I have to admit I'm wrong. I didn't like Wraith at all before I read this book. I thought my feelings would be unlikely to change, even though I love this series, and Larissa Ione's writing. Well, I was dead wrong. There. I said it. I ended up loving Wraith. And I have no regrets.

Wraith is one of those heroes who snuck up on me. I think it was the sign of the high caliber of Ms. Ione's writing. Wraith is very in-your-face with his often unlikeable, selfish nature. But Ms. Ione employed a careful subtlety in crafting his story. I went into it thinking that he was callous and uncaring. But I came to realize that he had a massive defense mechanism going on. There are few people that have the power to make or break another person. And parents are at the top of the list. If someone goes bad, the first instinct is to say that he wasn't raised right. Well, that's not always true. But, I think it's very true in Wraith's case. His mother treated him like he was an abomination. I'm not saying that she doesn't have a reason to feel some bitterness about Wraith being forced on her by his Seminus demon father. But to treat a child the way she did was just plain wrong. It's no wonder that Wraith was lacking in moral character. He cared about his brothers, and killing vampires. Not much else, after that. Sex was important because a Seminus demon will die without it. But I don't even think that sex was all that important to him. It was something that he did to stay alive. To him, seducing females was a biological imperative. When he found out he had to seduce a virgin human woman in order to survive the toxin he had been poisoned with, that's when things got complicated. Because of the tortures his mother afflicted on him, Wraith stays far away from human females. But, he has no choice. And he's almost ready to say no to doing it, until he finds out that the hospital that his brothers and he built will fail if he dies, there's no getting out of this particular seduction.

When Wraith and Serena meet, I could feel the chemistry, but Wraith is still in callous mode. I was still unconvinced of him as hero I could fall for. But slowly that starts to change as I saw how Wraith ended up loving Serena for who she was, how he protected her, and how he continually passed up on opportunities to do 'the deed'. And as I saw how tender his heart was, buried under many layers of scar tissue, I was seduced into softening my own heart to him. How he suffered as his body shut down, but wouldn't take Serena, knowing he'd cause her own demise. How he gave her pleasure without consummation, which contributed to his own agony. That was the mark of selfless love. By the end of this book, I was deeply in love with Wraith. In fact, he's my favorite brother up to this point.

Serena's character was well-drawn as well. She had lived her life knowing she can never be fully intimate with a man, or she'll die. But she's managed to live a full, adventurous life, regardless of that. I liked her passion and her spirit. And her good heart. She was just the woman for Wraith.

Another 'character' that took center stage was the awesome world-building and storytelling. Ms. Ione has this reader impressed. Her world is so rich and fascinating. The way she took this concept to the next level by incorporating fallen angels, one who longs to return to Heaven, and another who strives to bring Hell to Heaven and to rule over earth as a god. What a marked, fascinating conrast. The complexity of the demon species, and their interactions with each other. How very different they all are. In my mind, a demon is a demon. Not so in this series. In some ways this series has an intense, horrific vibe to it. Not that I'm complaining. I am a fan or horror, after all. She gets serious props with the way she's able to make me feel uneasy with some of the aspects of this story. And the action sequences were excellent, with smaller skirmishes and smack-downs, and full on epic battles. The characters get hurt, and sometimes mortally. The cost is higher than you can even imagine.

The tension in this book is sustained, as you wonder how things will work out. In this dicey situation, success can only occur at the expense of someone else. Who will live? Who will die? You don't find out until almost the very end of the book. And things aren't wrapped up in a neat package. A sacrifice has to be made. But at the same time, I came out of this book very satisfied.

It's hard to get everything into words, but I was thoroughly satisfied with this book. I was kept guessing what would happen, in a state of delightful suspense, as this book unfolds. I was completely entertained with the beautiful romance, fiery passion, the family dynamics, the incredibly interesting world-building and lore-spinning, and the grand adventure of it all. This was just a great book all-around.

I can't wait to read Lore's story. I'm already in love with him!

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Saints and Sinners by Olivia Rupprecht

SAINTS AND SINNERS (Loveswept No. 569) SAINTS AND SINNERS by Olivia Rupprecht

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Olivia Rupprecht is an author that's no longer writing that I know of. That's really unfortunate, because she's an awesome writer. Matthew was a deep, real character to me. I loved that she showed this Man of God as a real man, with all the good and bad points of any man. He was raised in the church, but had a falling out with his denomination, and his minister father. This resulted in him being kicked out of his church for heresy. After that he goes off to live a carnal life, riding with a motorcycle gang. But his faith and God's calling doesn't leave him. Now he's the minister in a different church.

When Dee (short for Delilah) moves to town with two kids she's not old enough to be a mother to, unless she started really young, rumors start flying. She's painted as a Jezebel by gossip, and rumored to be twice divorced. But Matthew tries to look past rumors and innuendo, and welcomes her with open arms. He does this as part of his ministry, but also because he feels that she's the woman he's been waiting for his whole life.

I loved this book. I got sucked in, although I didn't care for the idea of the heroine being seen as a scarlet woman. It's frustrating the way women get judged, although we're all guilty of doing it, I know. Dee is not as she seems. She is hiding some secrets that are quite dangerous. And there's the reluctant attraction to a minister who she should stay far away from. She's in awe of his good heart, and down to earth, warm, attractive nature.

It's really good to see a person of deep faith in a mainstream romance. Matthew is torn between his desire to be above his carnal nature, and his deep feelings for Dee. I liked that he did want to do the right thing by his faith and for Dee. I liked that he did believe that sex should follow a deep commitment of the heart leading to marriage. What I was torn about was that I felt that he should have waited until they were actually married to make love with Dee. I know he called her his wife in his heart, and made vows to her, and was working very hard to get a commitment with her. In his old church, he got in trouble for counseling couples that he thought it was okay for a strongly committed couple who plan to marry to have sex before marriage. That was what he believed. I can't say I agree with that, but at least he follows his beliefs. That was a bit of a hiccup for me, but otherwise, I really liked Matthew.

The love scenes were pretty steamy. You could see the strong connection between Dee and Matthew that was sensual, but also loving. Too bad they didn't have a marriage between them when it happened. That may not bother other readers. It's my personal thing, so I have to mention it when I post my thoughts on this book. But because it's such a strong book and I enjoyed it so much, I wouldn't downgrade this novel for that aspect.

Another wonderful book by Olivia Rupprecht. I'm glad I got a copy to add to my keeper shelf.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Sweet Wind, Wild Wind by Elizabeth Lowell

Sweet Wind Wild Wind Sweet Wind Wild Wind by Elizabeth Lowell

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
I enjoyed the emotional intensity of this book. At first, you really don't have a handle on Carson. He was very remote and calculating. I wanted Lara to walk out on him and never look back. Then, I was glad that she didn't get to leave him. Carson was a very sad person. I think about what his parents did to him, to each other, to Lara's mother, and to Lara's grandfather, and it makes me sad. I have a problematic family, but we love each other, for all the strife. Poor Carson never had anyone love him, until Lara. And he couldn't believe that she loved him at first, because love didn't exist. Because of the pain that had destroyed his ability to feel, he hurt Lara very badly. But he actually did the right thing walking away from her the time she was about to give herself to him. In fact, he showed a lot more honor than his adopted father did with Lara's mother. In fact, I think Larry's lucky that Lara's grandfather didn't grab his shotgun and turn the business end towards his sorry butt.

This book deals with choices. We always have them. If we make the wrong choice, we still get more. We can move on and do the right thing for ourselves the next time, or we can languish in our misery and feel sorry for ourselves, take our pain out on others. That's definitely what Carson's adopted mother and father did, and they hurt other people very much in the process. Very sad. I thought Lara was a pretty strong person, for all her gentleness. She tried to live her life the best way she could, despite being a known but not acknowledged illegitimate offspring of Carson's adopted father, and having a mother who was this man's adulterous mistress for thirteen years of her life. Her heart and her sensuality was damaged by Carson's rejection. However, she did try to move on with her life as much as she could. When she came back, she was determined to avoid Carson. But his gentle wooing, breaks down her defenses, and she gives her love freely to him. When his betrayal is revealed, she does react emotionally, at first. But she uses her analytical brain to sort through and to realize that Carson's love for her is true, despite his obvious betrayal. I did admire her for that.

I think that this was not a five star book for me because some of the descriptions were too drawn out, a bit too flowery. I really liked the intense emotions in the book. I felt the anguish, and the pain that Lara suffered, and Carson in his need/love for Lara. His fear that she would walk away if she found out that he lied to her. I felt really bad for Carson, because his parents set him up for an awful life. They were made miserable by the choices they made, and instead of being grownups, they made each other and their adopted son miserable, even after death. That was really sad to me. I don't let Carson off the hook, but I can see why he behaved the way he did. Truly, he had the choice to walk away from the ranch, but what else was there? In his mind, he has nothing but the ranch, because he doesn't think he can have it and Lara. Well, he eventually realizes that Lara is his home and what he needs.

This is an older book, so you have a lot of the older school elements in it. But one thing I love about the old school romances is here. They really bring on the emotional intensity. I was surprised at how sensual this book was. It's from 1987, and I was like, wow! It's not Blaze-level, but pretty sexy for what I think was a category romance.

If you are a fan of Elizabeth Lowell, Diana Palmer, or Susan Fox, or want to read something that's a little vintage, and really intense. Or if you like western-set contemporaries, you would probably enjoy this book.

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Dark Possession by Christine Feehan

Dark Possession (Carpathians, #18) Dark Possession by Christine Feehan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved it, loved it, loved it. I just want to grab Christine Feehan and give her a big kiss! I don't know why some people complained about MaryAnn. I thought she was awesome. She cracked me up with her fashion addiction and her girly-girlness. She was adorable. It helped to give her real life as a character. And her heart was so huge and loving. I think Christine did a great job writing a Black heroine. You can tell she did her research, especially with the hair thing. I think a lot of love went into crafting MaryAnn's character. I like that she met Manolito head on and didn't back down to him. She was so dedicated to him, and willing to suffer for him, his people, and to make sacrifices to be with him. This is now one of my favorite interracial romance books. I love that the race thing is not an issue, well not in the way you might think. It was more an issue about the species difference (Carpathian versus Human and something else). Pardon my french, but MaryAnn is a hell of a woman. I love all Feehan's heroines, and particularly MaryAnn, and not just because she's Black. She's just a neat character (even though I am so not a girly girl or a fashionista).

Manolito was hot with a capital H. I could see why MaryAnn had trouble resisting him. He was so sexy, and had the dominant alpha thing going on, but was really caring, and not afraid to say what he was feeling. He admitted his love for MaryAnn very early on. The love scenes were steamy! Very well done and spicy! And I love the De La Cruz brothers. Very macho, which usually doesn't work for me. But it certainly does with them!

I love the world that she has created. I am totally addicted to these Carpathians. Some might think these stories are formulaic. I don't. Each book is different, and another layer is exposed. We learn more about the Carpathians, and how complex their world is. And the other species that are part of human myths and legends. The parts with the Jaguar people and how they are being torn apart as a race from the inside out was very interesting. I am excited to read the rest of the books, and very intrigued with Solange, Zacarias, and Jasmine's stories. As usual, the vampires creep the heck out of me, and I love the action scenes.

The jungle scenes were so beautiful. I love nature (except for big bugs), and animals, and I felt like I was right there in this wild, primal place. I loved the shapeshifting parts and the werewolf aspects, very much. A great addition to the rich Carpathian/vampire elements of this series.

As usual, I am going in a different direction. I have to say this one of my favorites so far. I am so grateful that I started reading Christine Feehan, and one of my GR friends (you know who you are) kept suggesting I read the Carpathians, because I loved the GhostWalkers so much. Thanks again, Ms. Feehan, for brightening my life with one of your stories.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Her Torrid, Temporary Marriage by Sara Orwig

Her Torrid Temporary Marriage (Harlequin Desire, No 1125) Her Torrid Temporary Marriage by Sara Orwig

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
What's a man to do when he can't keep a nanny who doesn't want to seduce her way into his bed? Well, marry his neighbor, that's what. Josh is a grieving widower with a young daughter who needs stability, and he's got a ranch to run. He's pulling his hair out. And then he considers his steadfast, capable neighbor, Mattie. She's running her father's ranch and doing a fantastic job at it. How about approaching her with a marriage proposition, strictly platonic, and he'll pay off her father's debts, and pay for her to go to law school? She can leave after a year, or it will be even more lucrative if she stays five years. And this strong, determined man is not going to take no for an answer.

Mattie has been doing ranch work since she was a young girl, always at her father's side. She always felt unattractive because of her unusual height. Even her father thought she wouldn't marry. But deep down, she wants a life away from the ranch, and a career as a lawyer. Her sexy neighbor makes an offer she can't refuse. But what if she ends up falling in love with him? But sometimes, a girl has to take a chance, right?

This a very pleasant, fun read. I loved Josh and Mattie, and I was rooting for these special people to fall in love. Josh was buried in his grief for his wife, but he had to move on. He has a sweet little daughter to care for, and a ranch to run. He struggled with these emerging feelings for his new wife, a heady mix of desire and affection, rapidly turning into something more profound. How could he love her if he still loved his wife? But he underestimated how much room there is in the heart for loving. And Mattie and him have a connection he didn't share with his wife. He can talk to her about what's important to him, the ranch and being a simple man. Mattie can meet him on his level, and she is so good with little Elizabeth. Before Josh knows it, he's in deep for his convenient wife. Mattie's got problems of her own. She's very attracted to Josh, and falls in love with him, and Elizabeth, even though she cautioned herself against doing exactly that. She never thought she'd be mom material, but she finds that she loves taking care of Elizabeth.

Her Temporary, Torrid Marriage really captures what I love about category romance. A good one will give a good story where a man and a woman come together under circumstances that aren't necessarily about falling in love, but love finds them all the same, and I get to enjoy the journey down the path to happy ever after. This was a great book. Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars .

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Monday, March 08, 2010

The Innocent's Surrender by Sara Craven

The Innocent's Surrender (Harlequin Presents, #2903) The Innocent's Surrender by Sara Craven

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Let me just get it out there in the open right here and now, if you don't like forced sex, whether it's violent or otherwise, in your romance reading, don't read this book. If you can get past that, this is a worthwhile book to read.

It's really, really complicated. I had no idea just how complicated things would be when I started this book. I am a fan of Sara Craven, and I know she pushes the boundaries with her character interactions. I am not a person who would not read a book with that theme on principle. For me, depends on the execution.

In the case of The Innocent's Surrender, I read the 'scene' and didn't like Alex for doing that. I thought it was pretty cold-blooded what he did, and it made it harder for me to accept him as the hero of this book. As things continue, I found myself wondering what would motivate him to do what he did. And the answers come, but not until the end.

Ms. Craven did a clever job of writing this. We don't see much more of what Alex is thinking than Natasha. In essence, we experience the narrative as Natasha does. What motivates this cold-blooded man, who feels such fiery passion towards Natasha? He does some very sweet things for her, but at other times, he ignores her and dismisses her. You would think that is a good thing. After all, wouldn't you want to be a neglected mistress if you had to be a mistress to a man you disliked? Well, Natasha finds herself falling in love with the man she should hate. Maybe that's not realistic, but this is a fiction book, and I can buy something if the author does a good job of writing it. I think Ms. Craven did. I had this burning desire to find out what made Alex tick, what made him so cold and angry. How he could act as though he adored Natasha, when he seemed like he hated her and what she stood for.

And at the end, you find out just how convoluted their path to love is. A vendetta that is older than both of them, is the root of hatred between Natasha's adopted family and Alex. You find out just how awful Natasha's adopted father is, and what he did to make Alex hate so much. And you also find out that Alex fell in love with Natasha years ago, but couldn't have her because of that very vendetta. When Natasha was dangled in front of him by her low-life adopted brothers, and her spiteful adopted sister, he takes advantage of the opportunity to have her. Even though she's not the sweet innocent he fell in love with, or so he thinks because of a vile letter that was supposedly written from Natasha to him. But he doesn't spare her family the vengeance that they fully deserve in his eyes.

So, I have to say that I thought this was a good book. I know it's not for everyone. What Alex did was wrong, but since Natasha was able to love and forgive him, then I can accept what he did and still enjoy the book.

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Blackmailed Into Marriage by Lucy Monroe

Blackmailed Into Marriage (Harlequin Presents) Blackmailed Into Marriage by Lucy Monroe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lia suffers from a secret shame that has stolen her womanhood, and made her unable to enjoy sexual intimacy. It destroyed her marriage, because her husband couldn't stand not being able to make love to his wife. All Lia has left is her beloved daughter, whose heart condition, could shorten or end her life. She swallows her pride, and asks her grandfather, a proud, Spaniard noble, for the money to pay for her daughter's surgery. He gives her an ultimatum, she can marry the man he's selected for her, Damon Marquez.

Lia is inexplicably attracted to Damon, despite her sexual intimacy issue. When she finds out that she's been bartered to him by marriage, she has no choice but to go through with the marriage, sure that he'll walk away from her, as her first husband did. But she's underestimated Damon.

Damon has wanted Lia for a long time, since she was a young woman. When he gets his chance to have her, he grabs at it with both hands. She's so passionate and beautiful, how could he not take her in marriage. When Lia tells him that she cannot be intimate with her, he is determined to find away around her painful medical issue. Damon was a really good hero. He was so tender and patient with Lia, willing to put her needs first, and refusing to let her turn her back on her womanhood.

I thought Ms. Monroe did a good job of touching on a medical condition that most people probably have little knowledge of, vagnisimus. This condition causes painful tightening of the vagina, which makes sex difficult to impossible for those who suffer from it. Lia thought it was her fault, and her doctor and husband certainly didn't help her to feel differently. But Damon is able to help her to claim back her sexuality. In the process, he claims her love.

Blackmailed Into Marriage was an interesting story, with a great hero, and a heroine in need of healing, in more ways than one.

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Ruthlessly Bedded, Forcibly Wedded by Abby Green

Ruthlessly Bedded, Forcibly Wedded (Presents Extra) Ruthlessly Bedded, Forcibly Wedded by Abby Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Revenge as a plot in a romance has a powerful allure for me. It's built-in tension. And I love tension in my romances. Vincenzo has every reason to hate Cara. He believes that she's partly responsible for his sister's death, and he plans to make her pay. When he meets Cara, he is affected in a way that he's not comfortable with, by her beauty and her appeal, her genuine nature. She doesn't seem like the heartless jade he believes her to be. But he goes ahead with his revenge plan, taking her back to his hotel, sleeping with her, revealing his identity and his revenge the next day, and walking away from her.

Cara is devastated to learn that the man of her dreams was out for revenge. She thought he was an angel to came to take her away from her troubles and her anguish at her brother's death, and the sweet woman he was dating in a car accident that she walks away from without a scratch. She thinks he's a dream come true, but it turns out to be a nightmare.

Two months later, she's back in Ireland, penniless, and pregnant. She goes to Vincenzo's restaurant opening to tell him she's pregnant. He thinks this is just another scam, until she shows him the papers written by her doctor. There's only one thing to be done, marriage. Vincenzo marries Cara with full intentions on keeping her at arms length, except in bed, and with plans to send her on her way with a generous settlement after the baby's born. Because he knows she'll do exactly that. Like his mother coldheartedly walked away to join her lover. But he is thrown for a loop by the genuine sweetness and wealth of spirit and heart that Cara has. He is blown away that she doesn't seem to want his money, when women wanted little but his skills in bed and his money. He is determined to seduce her into his bed and to keep her there. To penetrate the steel cage around her heart that he helped build. But he wants to keep his heart intact in the process.

This book was so intense, so emotional. I couldn't help but love it. I expected a few hours of entertainment, and I got that, but I was also moved. Cara suffered terribly, and I felt her pain. I also felt Vincenzo's confusion at trying to sort through what his past experience told Cara was, and what his eyes, senses, and his heart were determined for him to see. I wanted these two to find each other and to trust in their love for each other. To find peace together.

I have read a couple of other books by Abby Green, but this book put her on the map for me. Her writing in this book packed an emotional punch that made this book a keeper and a Grade A read for me. I came for revenge and passion, and I left with a tender heart. Highly recommended.

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The Wrong Mirror by Emma Darcy

The Wrong Mirror (Harlequin Presents 1020) The Wrong Mirror by Emma Darcy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Oh, these vintage Harlequin Presents sure do have the power to tug on my heartstrings. The Wrong Mirror is no different. What a complicated situation to be the mirror image twin sister of a woman who denies a man the right to know his son. Karen has reason to hate Hal. She thinks that he told her sister to abort their child, which she adopts from her sister, Kirsty. Kirsty dies in a terrorist bombing that gravely wounds Hal, and Karen knows when it's happening, through her bond with her sister. When Hal's father appeals to her to allow Hal to see his son on what could be his deathbed, she is not able to say no. When they meet, there is a powerful confrontation, her angry at how he hurt her sister, and he angry at being denied his child. His desire for revenge empowers his recovery. And when he does recover and comes back to Australia, not much time goes by before he comes to her house, and gives her an ultimatum. She has to marry him, or lose custody of her son, since the adoption wasn't legal without his signature.

Karen marries Hal to keep her son, his son. But their marriage is full of passion from the beginning. Soon, Karen is in love with Hal, although she feels that she'll always be second best to him, since she's not Kirsty. How little does she know how complicated Hal's relationship with Kirsty was, and the torment that Hal has because of that relationship.

This was a powerful read. There is a lot of angst in this situation, with Karen losing her twin, Hal being there at her death, and his pain at being denied his son, and dealing with the emotional torment of being involved with Kirsty. I was very glad that this book came highly recommended by a friend on Goodreads, encouraging me to hunt down a copy of this book. The twin aspects were pretty interesting, and they tied heavily into this story. The title of this story is very crucial to the plot, and in a fascinating manner. The Wrong Mirror is an oldie but goodie, well worth seeking out.

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Miss Winthorpe's Elopement by Christine Merrill

Miss Winthorpe's Elopement (Harlequin Historical Series) Miss Winthorpe's Elopement by Christine Merrill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After I read a short story by Ms. Merrill, I knew she'd be an author I wanted to read more of. And Miss Winthorpe's Engagement has validated that decision.

I appreciate the bluestocking/spinster theme very much, and as a booklover, how could I not adore Penelope? All she wants is to enjoy her spinsterhood and indulge her love of books, and as a considerable heiress, she has plenty of funds to do so. Unfortunately, her brother has decided that she spends too much money on books, when she has plenty of them already. When he puts his foot down, stating that she will do as he says regarding her finances and how she spends her time, unless she has a husband to control them for her, what's a girl to do?

Being an intelligent person who is tired of being under her less intelligent brother's thumb, she decides she's going to find herself a husband. Serendipitously, Adam, Duke of Bellston, is about to end his life, so he can save the dukedom from ruination at his lately unfortunate hands. Fate decrees that he throw himself in front of Penelope's carriage. And Fate has determined that he won't die, but fall right into Penelope's husband-needing hands. Penelope realizes that he's the answer to her prayers. She continues to ply him with brandy as they elope to Gretna Green. They marry, and Adam wakes up the next morning to a blinding headache, and being told by Penelope's servant Jem, that he is married to Penelope, who is an enormous heiress, even though she's a tradesman's daughter. Although at first, Adam is shocked that he's now married far beneath him, and to a bluestocking, his honor decrees that he cannot just forget he married her and tear up the document they both signed to that effect. They make a deal to stay married, and Penelope will give him the money he needs to save his estate from ruin, and he'll let her go about her way, and leave her to her books. But they both realize that their comfortable marriage turns out to be have much more meaning for them both.

This book was so very good. It was entertaining and readable, but also filled with hidden depths of emotion. Penelope had retreated to her books to save herself from the hurt that a disastrous Season had brought her. She had never desired to feel a man's touch or to be the object of a man's desire and love. But Adam awakens that part of her, much to her pain, but ultimate pleasure. Adam is a brilliant politician, but pretty good at making messes of his personal life. He has to live with regrets about what his reckless actions wrought on his family home, his friendship, and his brother. And Adam finds himself falling deeply in love with his wife, and coming to admire and respect her for who she is.

The chemistry between Penelope and Adam was well done, building steadily to an intense fire that made their love scenes very good reading. And the emotional honesty between them really adds to the fulfillment of reading this book. Penelope has to find her way in Adam's treacherous world, where friends are more like frenemies, and a friend's wife is trying to get her claws back into Penelope's husband. Adam made a huge mistake, but the way this book is written, you can't hold it against him. He's suffered for it, and his remorse is very obvious. And he's more than willing to face the music, but can't stand the thought of losing the wife he's come to love very deeply. Although it's a bit hypocritical in light of what he did in the past, I thought his jealousy over his wife and how it spurred him on to make his marriage with Penelope real, rather endearing. It was a real pleasure to see this match of expedience turn into one that is full of love and devotion.

This book is a real gem. I am very glad that I did get the chance to read it, and I can't wait to read more from this talented author.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Leaving Lonely Town by Cait London

Leaving Lonely Town Leaving Lonely Town by Cait London

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Leaving Lonely Town is a story about taking chances and facing the past, even if that past has the power to hurt you.

Sable Barclay found out during a bloodtyping experiment in class, that her parents weren't biologically-related to her. Years later, her involvement as a forensic scientist in a case of a baby buried in a shallow grave reveals to her who her real mother might be. This trail leads to Shiloh, and the Langtrys. In It Happened at Midnight, we first meet the Langtrys, who suffer the burden of having the youngest child stolen away from them. It turns out that Sable is the long-lost Langtry child. She is full of confusion at finding out that she has a different family than she thought. She doesn't know if she can take the gift of their open hearts and arms, and offers to take her rightful place in their family. Culley Blackwolf lays down a dare for her to go spend time with her family and find out if she can do that, because he sees the way Faith Langtry's heart still bleeds for her lost child.

Culley grew up rough, and ended up going to prison for killing his mother's abusive boyfriend, although she turns her back on him after he serves his time. He spent most of his young adulthood in the beds of hardened woman and anonymous hotel rooms, until he lost his taste for that kind of life. He comes to Shiloh, Wyoming, looking for his real father, but ends up staying, and making a sort of life for himself as the Langtry's foreman. He doesn't believe that a family or the gentle love of a good woman can belong to him. But the Langtrys have his loyalty, and he'll do what he can to see Faith Langtry get some peace about her baby being stolen away twenty-eight years ago.

Sable turns out to be everything he ever wanted, but didn't think he could have. But she insists on staying at his house, filling it with womanly softness and domesticity, and laying her claim on his heart, although he insists Lonely Town is the best place for a man like him.

The painful emotions experienced by the characters in this book reached out and touched me as a reader. I loved the western setting, and the simple values of the characters. How Jacob Langtry would do just about anything to see his beloved wife Faith get some peace. I think Ms. London did an excellent job showing the aftermath of the tragedy of a loss of their child, and the ugly circumstances of that child's conception. The Langtrys suffered a serious rift in their family, but they survived and kept loving each other, continually hoping that their youngest would be returned to them. When she comes, they try so hard not to rush her or push their feelings onto her. But the warmth and love of their family wins over her wary heart.

Culley's loneliness touched me. How he thought he was a hard man and unworthy of love made me sad, especially in the light of how good a man he was. I liked that Sable was willing to take a gamble and pursue him when it became clear that he wasn't going to subject her to his unworthy presence. He was very wary, yet passionate. It was very endearing.

The secondary romance was just as good. Roark is the only son of the Langtrys, a widower who lost his wife and newborn son, and has lived in Lonely Town ever since. When Sable's best friend, Eden, a prickly, no-nonsense paleontologist, comes to town, he feels the desire to come out of his tomb and to claim her as his own. I liked seeing the courtship between Roark and Eden. Eden didn't think she had those kind of feelings towards a man, when her passion was dinosaur bones. But there was something about this persistent Western man, who wasn't going to take no for an answer. Who kisses her senseless in a bed of alfalfa between hay bales, and gives her gifts of daisies and his family's heirloom ruby ring.

This book has such a realness to the characters. Their emotions were authentic and compelling to me. The western setting is evocative, and rounds out this excellent book. There is an element of magical realism, as Cleopatra Langtry's spirit watches over her descendants, helping them to find their greatest needs and desires.

Cait London did a great job of showing how complicated families are, with the good and the bad. How a bad mother can manage to raise a good son, in the case of Culley, and how parents don't always love fairly, in the case of Eden, who's lived in her brother Piers's shadow, and in fear of him destroying what she loves. How adopted parents can love just as much, and mean just as much as birth parents, yet it's not necessary to chose one over the other. And most of all, how love and hope never die, when a child is taken from a mother and father.

This was a very touching read. Recommended.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Untouched by Anna Campbell

Untouched Untouched by Anna Campbell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Thank you for writing this book, Ms. Campbell. I loved it, from beginning to end. I am an unashamed lover of virgin heroes, and Matthew is going near the top of my list. Matthew truly was a hero to die for. His passion, his integrity, his intelligence, his innocence, his anguish. Oh, my goodness. I am so in love with this man. And reading his story, and how he meets Grace, was such a wonderful experience for me. Why we love books is so unique to each reader. There is no formula for a perfect book. But, in the right hands, and with the right elements, a story can earn a place on a reader's keeper shelf, and in her heart. This is what happened with this book.

Ms. Campbell proved to me that a virgin hero is a fantastic lead for a story. I have never felt that experience made a better lover. The best lover is the one who cares for your needs and wants to please and take care of you. That sees you as an individual and wants to make each moment with you special. That you are the only person in the world that he wants to be with. Matthew showed this so well. I liked that their first time together was realistic. I would expect no less. But after that, and before that, he makes up for it. I knew that he wanted nothing more than to please Grace and to show her how much he loved her in every way possible.

Matthew was so tortured, but he never came off as weak to me. He had the strong will and the strong nature of a survivor. His keen mind is continually used and enhanced, to become a formidable weapon that he uses to protect Grace, although he is at a physical disadvantage. In my mind, brute strength will fail the user. But a strong mind, a strong spirit, will always prevail. That was the case with Matthew. It's fairly obvious, but I loved this man!!!

Although I gush and sigh over heroes, and a great hero is a huge draw for me as a reader, a well-written heroine is equally crucial for this reader. I want to believe in the love that the couple finds together, and it requires strength of character in a heroine for me to do so. I found this in Grace. Grace is a woman who embodies the elements of womanhood that I find so powerful. She has suffered much in her life. She made mistakes, but she moved forward and accepted the consequences of her choices in life. She realized that she was spoiled and expected the world to bow to her, in her youth. But as she matured, she realized that she had to make lemonade out of lemons. Although she has a very passionate heart, she values herself not to give herself away lightly or to sell herself cheaply. She was well named, because I did see a lot of grace in her.

Grace was put in a truly harrowing position in this novel. She was threatened with death and brutal rape. But instead of curling up into a ball of misery, she kept searching for a solution to her problems. I loved that she saw the beauty in Matthew. She fell in love with him, and wasn't going to let him give up on a chance of freedom. She was willing to make some tough choices for him. And despite the fact that she raised to believe it was wrong to give herself to him sexually as his mistress, her love inspired her to make the choice of her heart. Despite her love for him, she was willing to let him go, to live his life and discover what life outside of the prison he had lived in for most of his adulthood, had to offer. In a nutshell, Grace was a wonderful heroine.

Anna Campbell knows how to write romance, in my book. She can write a love story that will break your heart, but also blister the pages with passion. And the depths of the storytelling are such that you feel so enriched by reading her books. I found this book so delightfully sensual and thrilling. Each scene between Grace and Matthew was full of the delightful anticipation of when their passion for each other would culminate. Ms. Campbell did a fantastic job of building the attraction between Grace and Matthew. It would be easy to say that Matthew would have felt a burning, relentless passion for just about any woman, as a healthy young man who had been sexually unawakened before Grace. Maybe I could say that for another book that was not as well-written as this book. But, in Untouched, there was no question that what Matthew felt for Grace was unique and special. The love scenes were fantastically written, and I still replay those interactions, and all the moments between Matthew and Grace in my head. I know this is a book I will pull off my shelf for rereads many times.

I thought that the transformation of Grace's feelings for Matthew was so well-done. She starts out in fear of him, trying her best to keep her distance. But gradually, his beauty, his appeal breaks down her defences. I got the impression that his soul was calling out to hers. Call me sappy, I care not. Yes, there is the great peril that she is in, should he not take her as his mistress. But the way Ms. Campbell wrote this, showed that her decision to become his lover evolved out of her passion for Matthew, not out of desperate calculation.

I thought that the romance so delectable in this story. It was full of strong, earthy passion, but there was also a purity to it. I felt as though Matthew and Grace were soulmates. They were alone and had suffered so much, until the evil machinations of Matthew's uncle led to their meeting and getting to know each other. The menace and the peril that Matthew and Grace dealt with was so apparent, that I held my breath in expectation of how things would end. I hoped that Grace and Matthew would find their happy ending they both deserved, and I was well-rewarded.

I can only speak for myself, but I was blown away by this book. It was such an enriching experience to read this story. This is my third book to read by this author, and I am convinced that historical romance is blessed by her presence. For the third time, I was captivated, and the world fell away. I didn't want to do anything but read the book. Even if that meant I was missing out on a meal or sleep, in the meantime. Simply put, Anna Campbell writes the kind of stories that take me away, and make me believe in the intense promise of love. And that is why I read romance. This book definitely goes on my keeper shelf.

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Secret Baby, Convenient Wife by Kim Lawrence

Secret Baby, Convenient Wife (Harlequin Presents) Secret Baby, Convenient Wife by Kim Lawrence

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a cute, quick read. Dervla and Gianfranco are married when the book starts, and their fast courtship is told in flashbacks. Dervla has the usual inferiority complex of the ordinary heroine who can't understand why the Italian God has fallen for her. Especially since she cannot conceive, although Gianfranco doesn't want any other kids anyway. She meets him when his son and he comes into the emergency room at the hospital where she works as a nurse. Initially, Gianfranco is arrogant and biting to her. But, under the worry for his son, is a strong attraction for the sweet, kind, redheaded nurse who cares for his son. He doesn't take long to sweep her up in his clutches, offering marriage when she refuses to be his mistress.

One year into the marriage, Dervla has read about a fertility treatment that might be able to help her to have kids. When she approaches Gianfranco, he says no. She thinks it's because he doesn't love her enough to want kids with her. That he doesn't love her at all. But the truth is, he feels guilt about persuading his first wife, who he impregnated as a naive nineteen year old, not to have an abortion and to marry him. When she dies due to diabetes complications as a result of her pregnancy, he decides that getting a woman pregnant is too much of a risk. He marries Dervla, making it clear that he doesn't want any other children.

Gianfranco is a typical HP hero, although his inability to understand how in love he is with his wife, is endearing, and inspires tender feelings in me as a reader. I wish he was able to communicate his feelings better, but Dervla could have used help with that as well. They both have some lessons to learn, as the miracle of their love brings them closer together and heals past wounds, along with some help from his matchmaking thirteen year old son.

Kim Lawrence is one of my favorite HP writers, because of the feel-good elements in her stories. This one definitely gave me that happy vibe. Recommended.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Daykeepers by Jessica Andersen

Nightkeepers (Final Prophecy, #1) Nightkeepers by Jessica Andersen

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Although Dr. Jessica Andersen has my admiration for undertaking such an ambitious series, I have to say I was disappointed with this book. It took me the better part of the month of February to read, and that's rather unusual for me. There were issues that I had with this book that made it hard to keep reading, quite frankly.

For one thing, I never really came to like the hero, Striking-Jaguar, or the heroine, Leah. I did come to respect them, eventually. But I was not in love with them, or their love story. Strike was in a tough situation, as the reluctant King of a dying race, the Nightkeepers, who were the only surviving members of the Maya culture. He did feel a connection with, Leah, a cop whose life he saved, but wasn't free to act on it. There should have been more drama in that, but it never really affected me to the degree that I hoped for. I didn't find their romance all that romantic. Although I'm not found of insta-sex in a romance, that wasn't even the problem. I just never felt a strong buildup or connection between them. At least not until the end. I thought at the end, well, that's cool that they love each other and will rule together. But that's about as excited as I got about this couple. At times, they both annoyed me with their personalities, and how they approached things. I found Leah to be a strong heroine, but she came off as abrasive, and foolishly stubborn in other moments. However, she played a very important role in helping Strike to come to terms with his identity, and in urging the Nightkeepers to form a bond as a team. I did admire her for that. Strike was in over his head, and he had to get out of his head to able to take on the role he was called for by his destiny.

The mythology was interesting, but at first, it was hugely baffling. There were a lot of terms thrown around to get used to. Now, I normally love a paranormal series that is built upon intricate worldbuilding. But there was something about the execution that left me cold. Frankly, all the auto-sacrifice aspects were, well, disturbing. Every other scene, someone was cutting their hand, stabbing themselves in the tongue, or cutting some body part. It was really hard to take at times. Having said that, I wondered how she would get past the sacrificial aspects of this culture, and this was a good compromise to having the heroes in a story sacrificing people and cutting out their hearts, to let blood for their magic rituals.

I felt that there was a lot of info-dumping in this story. It was a lot to wrap my mind around, and with all humbleness, I am a big fan of folklore and history. I guess I wanted to see the story unfold in a more natural way. The abrupt shifts in narrative, and characters being introduced, but then pushed to the side to cover other aspects of the story was rather frustrating for me to keep up with. However, I do admit that I am intrigued with a few characters I met: Lucius, Jade, Michael, and to a lesser extent, Anna, Sven, Nate, and Alexis. The Rabbit storyline was a source of annoyance to me. His teen angst is understandable, but it seemed like a plot point to me. I hope that his storyline comes to full frution in an enjoyable fashion in future books.

One big, huge pet peeve I had with this novel, was the hip tone that Dr. Andersen went for. It was fairly annoying. There were times where I would get sucked into this story, and then she'd start with the hip lingo, and I would grit my teeth. I think that colloquial language is like salt in a recipe: you need it there for the recipe to taste good. But too much, ruins it. That was what happened with me and this novel. I really didn't need that hip vibe to feel that these were modern characters. It just seemed contrived to me.

Another issue I had was the pairing up of characters sexually, but then their breaking up. I didn't mind so much with Strike and Leah, because you know they would end up together. And the same with Nate and Alexis (Book 2: Daykeepers). But what was the point of Jade and Michael getting together, and you know that they're going to be with other people in the following books? That was very undesirable to me. It just seemed tawdry to me. I'll be the first to admit that a tawdry, casual sex vibe is a huge turn-off for me.

I had another issue I won't get into, because it's a personal thing for me, and I don't know that it would bother the majority of the readers. I imagine it might bother a few who read paranormal romance and come from the same belief system as I do. Or maybe not. But I'll keep that out of this review.

And then there was the obligatory killing off of a character. Why kill that person off when you clearly didn't like him anyway, and made him as big a jerk as possible the whole book? His dying didn't add to the story, and it seemed like a compromise in writing: I have to kill off one character, why not the one that everyone hates? What sacrifice is that? Either kill off someone that I've come to love (which I really don't care for), or don't kill anyone off who's pivotal to the storyline. The point that I'm trying to make is, I don't think that this death really served anything. I guess we'll find out in the next book.

So, as much as it pains me to write a less than flattering review, I have to be honest. I did not love this book. I barely liked it. Well, I can't say I did like it. I didn't hate it. I will continue to read this series, because I'd like to see what she does with this concept, and I am curious to read about the other Nightkeepers. I hope that the issues that I had with this story will be less bothersome to me in the ongoing books. And I have a feeling, I will probably like the romance in the following books more.

I can't really recommend this book, unless you are really curious to read a book using mythology of the Americas. It's something different and interesting. Whether it's a good foundation for a paranormal romance, at this point, I can't say.

Overall rating: 2.5 out of 5.0 stars.

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