Saturday, May 29, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1) Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Oh, my. What a book. I am going to flub writing this review very badly, I think. I just plain loved this book. This book is so gorgeous in the writing, and like poetry, but more readable than poetry, because it's prose.

Do you like reading about soulmates? Then you will like this book. Sam and Grace are soulmates. It doesn't matter that Sam is a werewolf, and that Grace is a human girl. They connected years ago, and that connection bloomed over time. You see the pure, powerful love between them, and it is the cornerstone of this book. Their interactions have a fiery intensity, a soul-deep truth (I sound so stupid, but that's the best way I can express this).

Do you like poetic, loveable, fantastic, yet tortured heroes? You will probably go gaga over Sam. I did. Oh, Sam. You are so wonderful. You could give lessons about how to love a woman.

Are you a werewolf fiction fan? Have you read this book? If the answer is no, you need to rectify that. I am not one for bandwagons. I read the books that draw my interest. And this one did, before it was even released, and I heard about it. I was not disappointed. I was waiting for a really good werewolf young adult book, and this is it. The aspects of werewolves that draw me and fascinate me are depicted here. The concept of pack is such an integral part of this book. Sam hated being a werewolf, but he loved his pack. He loved the bond and the security of it. Poor Grace had indifferent parents who barely even spent time with her. She had Sam living in her room for many days, and they didn't even know it. That's neglect. I don't care how well fed, sheltered, and clothed a child is. If that child isn't loved or nurtured by her family, that's neglect to me. So, having Sam and that bond with him felt so right. To Grace, he was her home and her family. Her pack. I loved the descriptions of the instincts of the wolf, the smell, the primal nature. It was so well done. I loved the wolf that Sam was. I loved the young man that Sam was.

I am a cold-natured person. I love being cold. Winter is my favorite season. It was very interesting how cold was the enemy to Grace and Sam. I dreaded the drop in temperature in a way I never have. In real life, I rejoice when the seasons turn to late fall, and eventually into deep winter. My favorite times of the year. Ask my family, and they will tell you I am a polar bear. I sleep with my window open when it's thirty-something degrees outside. But, reading this book, I wished it was the middle of the hot, unforgiving summer. Because cold was the adversary for Grace and Sam's love. Ms. Stiefvater depicted this beautifully.

If you're looking for major external conflict and a big smackdown between good and evil, you won't find it here. This book is focused on the love relationship between Sam and Grace. It's focused on the character development of these two, and the people in their lives.

This is a love story. Not just a boy meets girl. But, it's a love letter for werewolf fans. Highly, highly recommended for people who love werewolf fiction, and people enjoy lyrical, gorgeous prose, and stories that go deep into the heart of the reader and leave a sad kind of joy behind. Bravo.

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Capelli's Captive Virgin by Sarah Morgan

Capelli's Captive Virgin (Harlequin Presents) Capelli's Captive Virgin by Sarah Morgan

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
I could not put this book down. It really drew me in and kept me on the hook--watching the sizzling interactions between this couple. Not only that--I was drawn in by the well-written dialogue between Lindsay and Alessio. Lindsay and Alessio actually talked most of this book, having very meaningful discussions. Although they were polar opposites when it came to their worldviews and outlooks on relationships, they came to realize that they had the same trust and relationship issues, deep down.

Alessio is one of those heroes that seem tailor-made for the shovel to head treatment. But, he wasn't. His arrogance and hard-hearted personality actually hid a man who had been hurt deeply through the actions of his mother against his father. He is a rake, through and through, but he discovers that he has a heart. In the process of trying to break down Lindsay's defenses and beliefs about true love and relationships, be comes to realize that he likes and appreciates who she is. That she is a good woman who has her reasons for why she behaves the way she does.

I really appreciated how Miss Morgan presented this couple, and how we see them grow. Lindsay learns to let go and to be less of a control freak. To open her heart to experiences and to love. Even though she does give in to Alessio's seduction, it's on her terms and with her eyes open. She's not whiny or weak. She's a strong woman who's rational and in control of her emotions. She's not a soft touch. But, she comes to realize that desire is something that she can feel, because that's part of who we are as humans, and because she's fallen in love with Alessio. Even though Alessio is hard at first, I could see why Lindsay fell for him. That he was a good guy deep down. He learns that he can give his heart to a woman and feel intimacy with her that is not about sex, but about an emotional connection. And I loved the end, how Alessio does make a gesture and show how he loved Lindsay.

I would recommend this book to the Harlequin Presents reader who wants a more modern kind of story that shows a relationship developing between two people who probably shouldn't be attracted to each other and fall in love--because they do have that connection that brings soulmates together. In the end, I did believe that Lindsay and Alessio were two halves of the same heart, helping each other to realize that they don't have to be slaves to their pasts, but that their past shapes them to be people who can love and find freedom to love in their lives.

Once again, I've loved and enjoyed one of Sarah Morgan's books. Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Pregnant by the Greek Tycoon by Kim Lawrence

Pregnant By The Greek Tycoon (Harlequin Presents) Pregnant By The Greek Tycoon by Kim Lawrence

I am so glad I read this book. I was really expecting not to like it, because of the storyline. I hate when the hero doubts that the heroine had his child. But.....I really liked this book. It was a 4.5 star read for me. Kim Lawrence is a very good writer. She does a great, emotional love story with sizzling sexual tension, and characters you can like and root for.

In the case of this story, I was surprised at how easily I forgave Angolos for walking out on his pregnant wife. He had a very good reason for it, at least in his mind. He believed he could not have sired her child, and he thought he had proof that she cheated on him. Plus, he felt guilty for marrying Georgie when she was so young. You see, Angolos had just found out he was in remission for cancer the day he met Georgie. He fell in love at first sight with her, but his emotions were in turmoil because of his guilt that he had greedily snatched her up. He thought she just felt hero worship, and that she fell out of love with him when he took her home and fell into his workaholic routine. How wrong he was.

Georgie is very likeable. She's strong and pretty mature for her age. I think she realized looking back that she was too willing to give on things she should have fought over. She was insecure and felt like she wasn't enough woman for Angolos, because of his ex-wife still being in the picture, and the fact that his mother didn't care for her. When Angolos goes cold and walks out on her when she tells him she's pregnant, she leaves him and goes back to her family. Georgie has issues because her mother walked out on her as a baby, to marry a Greek waiter she ran off with. Her father and grandmother played into her issues of insecurity and inadequacy. In her mind, she couldn't believe she was good enough for the beautiful, Greek god-like man who swept her up into a worldwind courtship and marriage.

One day (four years later), Angolos shows up, after his doctor friend tells him that her son has to be his, since he's the spitting image of Angolos. Of course, she thinks Angolos just wants her back because of his child. She still doesn't know he believed he was sterile. She realized she never stopped loving him, but she doesn't fall like putty back into his hands. Rightfully, she's wary and keeps her barriers up. But, she's not silly about it. I think that Georgie and Angolos were both mature and reasonable, wanting to do the right thing for their son, and both hopelessly in love.

I was prepared to hear about Angolos sleeping with other women during their separation, but get this: He's a man who believes in honoring his marriage vows, even with evidence that his wife didn't do the same. So, he didn't sleep with other women while they were separated! Yay! I loved him just for that.

As usual, Kim Lawrence writes an engaging love story that I could sink my teeth into and read with full enjoyment. Although there were a few issues that didn't get explained or resolved by the time this story ended, I definitely believed in Georgie and Angolos' love for each other. That it was built to last, and stronger for all that they had suffered. This wasn't quite a five star book, but darn close. Don't be afraid to read this one, if this theme normally turns you off. I think you'd enjoy it.

Recommended. Rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Blaze of Memory by Nalini Singh

Blaze of Memory (Psy-Changeling, #7) Blaze of Memory by Nalini Singh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Blaze of Memory was one of those books that exceeded my expectations significantly, although I know by now what a great author Nalini Singh is. I thought that Dev wouldn't be a very interesting hero (don't ask me why)--but I ended up loving him! He is my kind of hero: ruthless, dangerous, intensely masculine, possessive, powerful...I'll stop now. And, even better, he was capable of tenderness with wounded and fragile Katya. I liked how Nalini Singh showed the dilemma that Dev faced. He has taken on the tough role as the leader of the Shine Foundation, which was established to help the Forgotten, descendents of Psy who dropped out of the PsyNet to live their lives, embracing emotion. And things are not great for the Forgotten right now. The Psy Council has resorted to ruthless tactics to eliminate all the Forgotten. And the younger generation is showing new abilities that have the potential to be very dangerous, even if controlled. Dev carries a tremendous weight on his shoulders, and he does it well. He's a true alpha, in that he takes care of others, yet will fight for those in his care, and resort to being ruthless if necessary.

I was so glad that he found Katya. There was an instant bond between them. Dev had become more and more remote and icy in his dealings with people, as a way to keep control. His past had a horrible event that made him feel like control was absolutely necessary. But, even when he was ruthless, it was more than clear what a good man he was. No question about that. I thought his ability to manipulate metal and use that to control his emotions was very cool. Katya somehow negated this effect, making him into a passionate man and being his weakness in that sense (not really, though). I was really surprised at how possessive Dev was. That seemed more like a Changeling trait. But, I suppose that any man could feel that way about someone with whom he has a powerful connection; and it quickly became clear how connected Dev felt with Katya.

I loved Katya, too. She was emotionally and mentally broken, but somehow she was able to find the strength inside of herself to pick up the broken pieces left after being tortured by cardinal Psy Councilman Ming Le Bon, and made into a possible lethal time bomb weapon against the Forgotten. Poor Katya. How she suffered. She was soft and sweet, but strong at the same time. Her gentleness was the foil for Dev's strength. Yet, he didn't swallow her up or consume her identity.

I just love when a couple turns out to be perfect for each other in a romance. I definitely felt that way about Katya and Dev. They had a lot of chemistry, but there was a strong emotional bond there. To be honest, I wish the love scenes were longer, and in depth, but they were pretty hot the way they were. I loved all the touching and connection they had--Katya needed the stability of touch after her horrible torture, and Dev felt this need to be close to her, and give her with she needed in all ways. It gave me the warm and fuzzies.

This book has a lot of science fiction elements that I loved. I never thought I'd be so into psychic talents in paranormal romance. But I've found I love it, especially after reading this series and the Ghostwalker books by Christine Feehan. And Ms. Singh doesn't let those who like the Psy part of the equation down at all. It's funny. Despite being the shapeshifter lover that I am, I find that Psy-centered books in this series come out on top. I guess I like seeing the powerful abilities, and how the intrinsic human nature that the Psy try to suppress always wins out over intellect and logic. That's real life to me. It gives this very futuristic, cerebral concept a grounding in everyday reality of human existence that appeals to me.

At first, I wasn't too fond of the letter parts and the reports from the Sunshine Facility, but I see why Ms. Singh incorporated those. It really does tie into the story very well.

Can I say that the climax nearly broke my heart? I didn't think I could handle it. Oh, Dev's pain just about killed me, and seeing the suffering that Katya went through! But, Ms. Singh really pulled it off. The part with the kids, oh, I thought I was going to cry tears of joy. That was just perfect. And, you get to see a lot of the other beloved characters return and take part in this story. Judd, Sigh! Dorian, Big, Huge, Sigh! The list goes on.

I am so in love with this series. It really stands out amongst the various paranormal series. I think Ms. Singh has come up with such a brilliant concept here, and she executes it fabulously. I will definitely read every book she writes. And, I am so glad that she managed to give me such an unsuspectingly fantastic and delicious new hero to love in Dev Santos. I can't wait to see what surprises she comes up with for me next.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ruthless Russian, Lost Innocence by Chantelle Shaw

Ruthless Russian, Lost Innocence (Harlequin Presents, #2920) Ruthless Russian, Lost Innocence by Chantelle Shaw

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
This was a pretty good book. I had some issues with some of the choices for execution that Ms. Shaw made, and I'll discuss those.

Russian Hero: Major points there. However, I didn't like that his edgy, dangerousness was mainly due to his ruthless manner in which he would go through women. He was a serious womanizer who never got emotional with his bed-partners. His pursuit of Ella was pretty coldblooded, although there was serious sexual tension and attraction between them. I didn't like how he would think of her as nothing but a sex partner, and he said something pretty cruel to her, although it was in the heat of a moment in which he was grieving what he lost in his past. I have to say, I didn't really like him all that much. He was alright, and he came around. But not a favorite hero of mine. That's a shame, since I love my Russian heroes. I liked the depth that Ms. Shaw gave him, showing his point of view, and how he was tortured by the loss that he blamed on his own actions. I think it could have made him more sensitive to the heroine's needs. But, it didn't seem to do that.

Heroine who is unwilling to marry or make a commitment to a man: I liked this aspect, but Ella's actions seem to belie this. She had a father who was really cruel, cheating on her mother (who was physically frail and had a heart problem), and locking Ella up in a room that was known to be haunted. He squandered the family fortunes on gambling, booze, and women. In other words, the worst role model ever, definitely enough to make a girl sour on men. And yet, Ella fell for a man who had some of her father's traits (at least the cruel womanizer ones) really fast. She told herself that she was just going to have a no-strings sexual affair with him, but she showed emotional involvement very fast. Also, for a woman who prized her independence from a man, it didn't quite ring true that she would allow herself to become a man's mistress. She didn't like him using that term, but she allowed him to treat her as his mistress. I think she should have set more boundaries with him. Such as: not sleeping over, not allowing him to buy her clothes, and jewelry, and having more control over the time she spent with him. That would have rang more true with me, given her emotional scars.

So, I was not blown over by this book, although it had some really good steamy romance, emotional intensity, and was fast-moving. I just had trouble with some of the actions that the characters took, and I wasn't too fond of how things unfolded. One thing that frustrates me is when the heroine falls way too easily for the hero. Where's the conflict in that? I want to see the hero have to do some chasing, and dealing with his feelings for a woman he can't get out of his mind. It seemed as though all he had to do was kiss Ella, and she melted. I realize that the strong attraction is important to the storyline, but I'd like to see some backbone as the heroine fights the attraction. After all, we know the hero is fighting his feelings. Why not show the heroine doing more of the same? I would have preferred that Vadim had to spend more time actually wooing Ella, and showing his feelings evolve as he worked hard to get her. She seemed to be a fairly quick conquest. Too quick for me. It was almost as though her hormones got the best of her.

Overall, this was a good read. I'll probably keep it because of the Russian hero.

Rating: 3.5/5.0.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Born of Fire by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Born of Fire (The League, #2) Born of Fire by Sherrilyn Kenyon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Review Disclaimer: Danielle is not actually insane. She is fully aware that Syn is not a real person. (What a shame!)

Syn, would you please marry me? I would hold you to my breast, and soothe you. I would wipe away the tears you will not allow yourself to cry, that is after I kick your ex-wife's butt all the way to the next galaxy for being such a piece of work not to realize what the precious jewel she had in you. I would kiss you every day, and make sure you understood just how much I adore you. I could care less that your father was a psycho and the worst person in all the nine worlds. Each person is accountable for his own actions. And your actions fully show what a wonderful man you are. Can you please tell your friend Nyk, that I am sorry? Our love affair is over, because you have stolen my heart away from him. He has Kiara, and I'm sure he will get over me, now that I have found you. I know that Shahara is your dearest love, but she cannot possibly love you like I do. There is no way!

Okay, the madness is over, I think. Now I can talk about how much I loved this book, and how Syn has changed my life.

I cannot believe that the stupid publishers did not want to publish this book. Were they insane? Clearly. This was a fantastic story. I thought I loved Born of Night, and I still do, but ah, Syn's story, I love even more.

Syn is one of the most awesome heroes ever written. Okay, you might dispute that, but this is my review, so if you are reading it, I attest this to be my truth. He is so tortured. I cannot believe what this poor man suffered. I wanted to slap every person who ever hurt him. I definitely wanted to go buy a pair of boots (since I don't own any except for work galoshes) and kick his ex-wife's butt so far out of the known galaxies that it would require a search party to find it. How can you hold a man's parentage against him? A man is judged for who he is individually, and Syn never let me down. I could see why he had the shell around his heart, so many times was it broken. And what he suffered, as a boy. Imagine putting a young boy through that. Hard to even conceive of. It's incredible what he accomplished, and that alone showed that he was far beyond what his father and mother were. I just wanted Syn to be happy. I wanted to love him to pieces as I read this story. I still do. There is so much I love about Syn!

Okay, Shahara. I did have a couple of moments that I wanted to slap the taste out of your mouth. But only a couple. You turned out to be a good heroine, although you had me frothing at the mouth initially. But, I could see your issues after what you suffered. You are definitely Ms. Kenyon's most tortured heroine. And, I must admit, you proved yourself to be a worthy match for Syn. The way you made his heart feel to know that someone really loved him....I'll tolerate you just for that. But, it was also pretty cool how you went to bat for Syn, more than once, in this story. And, you are a badass. I do love badass heroines. (pardon my French). You know how to take care of yourself and your man. And, you're a pretty good sister, too. I wish you well with my man Syn, since he's not real, and I can't be with him in real life. You better take very good care of him, because I'm watching you, very closely!

I predict I will have a new addiction, books set in space and on other worlds. If you know of some good ones, please recommend them. Only, they must have fantastic heroes to die for, buttkicking action, lots of angst, and wisecracking galore to make up for the moments that break your heart. I don't know if too many books will meet the high standard that this story has set for me. It's too scary to contemplate. Did I tell you how much I love Syn? There are no words Thumbs way up for this book.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Devil's Kiss (Billi SanGreal, #1) The Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a powerful, gritty, very dark story. In fact, I am quite surprised that this was released as a young adult book, other than the age of the protagonist, Billi. Billi SanGreal lives a grim existence as the daughter of the leader of the very small remains of the once-powerful Knights Templar. They exist to fight the darkness and the demons that would destroy humanity. Only, Billi isn't so sure she wants to be a Templar. The cost has been too high. Her father barely treats her as his daughter, showing her no affection, only pushing her constantly to be the best warrior and to be utterly ruthless in her destruction of evil beings. She has already lost her mother to a horrendous attack by ghuls, demonic creatures who were once humans, but gave up their souls for power or possessions. Billi just wants a normal life. As if being a teen wasn't bad enough, she's considered weird because of her constant bruises and cuts, and the fact that her father was on trial for her mother's murder.

Her friend Kay finally comes back from Jerusalem where he was training to be an Oracle, or a seer for the Knights Templar. She's angry at him that he left her when she needed his friendship and support. She's also confused at the feelings she has for the handsome young man he's become.

And then, she meets gorgeous, mysterious Mike, who might be her first chance to have a boyfriend. But Mike isn't quite what he seems.

This was a very intense story. There were times I had to put this book down and take a breather. Billi's life truly is one battle after enough. Part of that is due to the struggle with her father for control of her life, and her yearning for him to show her the affection and approval she needs as his daughter. And then, there is the struggle with her feelings. She truly wants to be free from this life as a Templar that was forced her on by her father.

Mr. Chadda really knows how to pack a punch with his writing. Between the intra- and interpersonal angst and the battles between good and evil, the tension in this story never lets up. His worldbuilding is strong and compelling, and unrelentingly grim. This story has a seriousness that I appreciated, yet it challenged me to keep reading. At times, I was frustrated at Billi for her determination to rebel against her father. But it made sense. She wanted his love, and he didn't give her that very thing she needed so badly, and her rebellion was a way of letting up the pressure that she constantly lived under.

I thought the idea of a modern-day Knights Templar was fantastic. Although her father was pretty ruthless, and not very good at showing affection to Billi, I really liked and respected Arthur. He was a strong man with an unrelenting sense of duty. He was the kind of man who would fight evil to the end, regardless of the cost. He would hone his daughter into a powerful warrior who would do what was necessary in the battle against evil, if he had to make her hate him to do it. I admired him for that, although I wished that the relationship between Billi and her father was more loving.

The plot twists and turns until I really had no idea how things would end. The ending really brought things full-circle, but I won't pretend it didn't break my heart. Billi doesn't come out of this story without loss. She is like a weapon that has been tested and honed by the fires of combat and trial. And that includes painful loss.

Brutal and violent and unrelentingly dark, Devil's Kiss really involved me. I couldn't let go of this book, even though I had to put it down to regroup. I am very impressed with this author. His writing is vivid and stunning, painting a world that seems lost to the darkness. But it's not, for the Knight's Templars will continue to fight evil, until Kingdom Come. If you are looking for supernatural action with a strong heroine who has a compelling relationship between with her father, you will love this book. I certainly cannot wait to read the next book.

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Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife by Annie West

Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife (Innocent Wives) (Harlequin Presents Extra, #83) Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife by Annie West

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Dario and Alissa have both suffered in their lives. Dario lost all the family he ever had, and vowed to get back his family's property, which was swindled away from his family. His complete focus was on becoming a powerful, rich man who no one crossed, living up to the Parisi name. Alissa strived to be dependent to no man, and to see that her younger sister was happy and well. These personal vows lead them to be absolutely driven in their lives.
Their paths intersect through Alissa's grandfather, who wrote in his will that the only way that Dario could get back his property was by marrying
Alissa. After years under the cruel yoke of her strict, abusive Sicilian grandfather, the last thing Alissa wanted was to marry another controlling Sicilian. Dario sees Alissa as poison, a drug-abusing, party girl who has squandered her inheritance, and is standing in the way of his lifetime goal of getting his family's castle back. So, he has no problem being ruthless to get her right where he wants her. He fouls up her chances of having a platonic marriage with her friend to meet the qualifications of her grandfather's will: six months living as a man's wife, and she inherits the castle, which she can sell to get money to pay for treatment for her younger sister's life-threatening illness.
When she goes to the courthouse to meet her friend, she finds he has stood her up, and Dario is there to take his place. At this point, she has no further options but to agree to the marriage, even though they clearly hate and have no respect for each other. The six months of living together promises to be miserable. But, there is a powerful attraction between the enemies turned spouses. Dario believes the absolute worst about Alissa, yet he still wants her badly. Alissa counts herself as a fool to be attracted to the ruthless, powerful man she married. However, passion doesn't listen to logic.
This was a very good story. It was intense and angsty, perhaps a little too angsty when I read it. I wanted to see more tender moments between Dario and Alissa. It seemed like that didn't start until the book was halfway over. We slowly see the walls come down between this couple, and they both fight it fiercely.
I enjoyed this story, and I did feel the chemistry between Dario and Alissa. I would have liked it more if there was a quicker development of their love relationship, and a little less antagonism. But, if a reader wants a story where the couple really is enemies for most of the book, this would be a good book to read. As always, Miss West has delivered an enthralling story full of passion. So enthralling, that I ended up sleep-depriving myself the night before last to keep reading it. I was happy to see these two lonely, sad, heartsore people find their happy end together.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Greek's Forced Bride by Michelle Reid

The Greek's Forced Bride (Harlequin Presents) The Greek's Forced Bride by Michelle Reid

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was such a fun book. It had some elements that could have made it fairly angsty, but it was handled in such a way that I was able to sit back and enjoy the Harlequin Presents-style drama.

Natasha is the prim, buttoned up type. She hides her lush curves and good blond and blue-eyed looks behind proper suits and tied-up hair, but Leo has had his eye on her for a while. Too bad she's engaged to his step-brother. But Leo gets his chance with Natasha when they catch Rico in a compromising position in his office--with none other than Natasha's sister. Leo is there to pick up the pieces of Natasha's bruised heart (or at least her ego). Rico was never good enough for her, but she was flattered that he wanted her, and not her younger, slimmer, and more flashy pop star sister. But apparently, Rico only wanted her for the fact that his mother liked her.

Leo has been cleaning up messes after his step-brother for far too long, out of loyalty to his step-mother, whom his deceased father loved very much. But the straw that breaks the camel's back is when Rico steals money from the business, and then cheats on his fiancee with her sister.

Leo is trying to be noble when it comes to Natasha, but he steals a kiss, or a few. And he wants more. When he finds out that she colluded with his brother to steal his money, all bets are off. She can't get access to the money for six weeks, so she'll spend those six weeks as his mistress, so he can work her out of his system. He couldn't believe he fell for her Miss Prim act, when she was more like his traitorous ex-wife all the time. But it turns out that what he saw with Natasha is what he got. When he takes her virginity, Leo is honor bound to offer marriage (yeah, that was the only reason!). But, Natasha isn't about to trust her heart to a man who doesn't even trust or like her.

There is a battle of wits and passions between this couple that I found highly enjoyable. It was such a refresher. Something about this kind of Harlequin Presents drama that keeps me entertained and takes me out of the mundane world. Yes, Natasha has some emotional ups and downs, but her insecurities felt realistic to her, considering that she was adopted by her parents when they thought they couldn't have kids, and then shuffled to the background when their miracle natural daughter came five years later. Since then, she's watched out for her sister, and kept her out scrapes, managing her pop singing career, and getting no thanks for it. So, it made sense that she doubted Leo's feelings for her.

Michelle Reid is a great writer. She pours passion and emotion into her books, that keeps my eyes glued to the page. This one was a little lighter for her, but not lacking in substance for me. It was a quick, diverting read that I loved. For me, definitely a five star read.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

On Thin Ice by Debra Lee Brown

On Thin Ice (Silhouette Intimate Moments No. 1188) (Silhouette Intimate Moments) On Thin Ice by Debra Lee Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
On the heels of the last book I read, this one didn't quite measure up. Rather mean of me to say that. But, it's the truth. However, this was a decent read, and I enjoyed reading it. The best part of this book was the hero, Seth Adams. He was a dreamboat. A mix of strength and vulnerability. Half-native Inuit, he had an insecurity complex fueled by an Anglo father who never truly accepted his mixed son.

Seth is working undercover as a roughneck on the oil drilling site on a remote island in Alaska. In flies high-powered geologist, Lauren Fotheringay. Is she behind the corporate espionage he's there to investigate, or is she just stealing his heart? I wish I could steal this Alaska boy's heart. I'd never give it back. He was adorable.

Lauren, on the hand, annoyed me more than one time. She trusted her upper-crust moneyed fiance implicitly, although he was clearly too slick for comfort. She did everything she could to get herself killed more than once. Good thing that Seth was always there to protect her. I was about to write her off as a heroine, but she comes to her senses near the end of this book.

This actually was a pretty good book. The mystery was interesting. It has some good action and intrigue, and the Alaska setting was very appealing, if you like midnight-dark, bitterly cold, and nasty blizzards (which I do). I think I would have enjoyed it more if I could like Lauren more than I did. She wasn't the worst heroine ever, but she was pretty annoying, and unworthy of Seth, in my opinion.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, if you like yummy, half-Native American sexy cop heroes, and the winter/cold setting at its best, and you have a desire to spend a few hours reading a romance story set in Alaska. I wasn't going to keep this book initially, but Seth is too sweet to give away. :)

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Night Rescuer by Cindy Dees

Night Rescuer (Silhouette Intimate Moments, #1561) Night Rescuer by Cindy Dees

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book! I can't believe I am just now reading Cindy Dees. Action, sexy romance, to die for hero, awesome heroine, danger. Just too awesome.

The first paragraph is a catcher. This book starts with the hero getting ready commit suicide. It sounds like a book most people would run away from. But me, I wanted to know what could drive this man to want to kill himself. It was a hook for me. And the best thing is, Ms. Dees totally follows through.

Fans of military romance should read this book. If you are a fan of Christine Feehan's GhostWalkers books, and are craving a delicious, but tortured military hero to fall in love with in the wake of the GhostWalkers, I think you would be happy with John Hollister.

John is bent on completing his mission of taking Melina Montez to her rendezvous in the Peruvian arboreal forest. And then, he's going to finish what he started when she came into the courier business that's a front for the HOT Squad, a Special Forces unit that John is assigned to. But this fiesty, sensual, smart, sweet woman is constantly batting at his insistence on ending his life.

Yes, this book has insta-sex, but it totally fits in with this story. You have two people who think their lives are about to end. They want to indulge in their passion for each other, to feel alive, for the short time they have on this earth. I totally felt the chemistry, and why they would get together so quickly, as time ticked away towards their respective appointments with destiny. The love scenes are intense and passionate. Each one showing that bond that made their feelings for each other so special.

I thought the interactions between John and Melina were well written. They had an ease with each other, but they didn't mind getting blunt with each other, and ramming against the barriers each had to accepting that they had choices that involved continuing to fight and to want to live. Melina was so good for John. She helped him to deal with his trauma of being the only survivor from his unit who was ambushed in Afghanistan. It wasn't always comfortable, but she had to try to get through to him, pained that such a good, wonderful man was bent on ending his life.

There's not anything I didn't like about this book. It was fast-moving, entertaining, but emotionally-moving. I couldn't get too mad at John. As Melina said, he was wrapped up in his survivor's guilt, but he was so good about taking care of Melina and committing to keeping her safe. What a man! And Melina is a likeable heroine. She's very smart, very wise, and loving. She's committed to getting her family back, even at the cost of her own life. I loved that she was a scientist, with a doctorate, but she was down to earth, and comfortable in her own skin. Comfortable enough to do the propositioning their first night together.

Let me tell you, Cindy Dees is going on my list. I love these kinds of contemporary romances, high on action, tension, and with a couple that I love and root for to find their happy ending together. If you can find this book, definitely give it a read. It's completely worth it.

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The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

The Flame And The Flower The Flame And The Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It was nice to finally read this signature romance by a historical romance great. I quite enjoyed it. Initially, I was a bit worried, because Brandon came off as an arrogant, self-absorbed jerk. However, he really redeemed himself, showing a profound selflessness and dedication for his young wife. Yes, he did rape her. If you don't like rape in a romance, then you won't like this book, and I would not judge you. We all have our personal tastes and comfort zones. Rape is a plot device I can tolerate, depending on the execution. My issues with Brandon were due to his blase' reaction to raping a young woman. He was willing to gloss over his action, and to keep her as his mistress since the stallion had already gotten into the barn, so to speak. He didn't apologize to her. But, we come to see that over the course of this story, Brandon does acknowledge his wrongdoing to Heather, and takes measures to do better by her in the future. He's not perfect, but he was a good man and he really did show his love for Heather as this story progressed. In fact, some of his gentleness towards Heather reminded me of a Julie Garwood hero, particularly in the scene when Heather's water has broken and he's trying to get her changed. He was exasperated with her reasoning about him turning his back while she changed, and cleaning up the water from the floor, but he remained gentle and kind with her. So, yes he did redeem himself. He showed her a lot of patience and understanding about the 'big secret' she was hiding.

Brandon is in some ways a stalkerific hero. He's very possessive, obsessed with, and jealous about Heather. He doesn't want any man near her, and was about to go crazy when the men were fawning over her at the ball they held. I found it interesting that he didn't really get too angry at his brother Jeff, even though Jeff was flirting really heavily with Heather. But, I think his love for his brother made it clear to him that this was no real threat.

The things I loved about this story:
*The love bond that grows between Heather and Brandon becomes very profound and beautiful. They showed their love physically in many scenes, and most of them are non-sexual. With gentle touches and caresses, and how thoughtful they were to each other's wellbeing and needs. I loved that most of this book doesn't involve love scenes, because we get to see the relationship between Heather and Brandon develop in a good way, and to reset the tone of their first meeting in this story. I would recommend this book to a reader who wants a good romance book showing a couple who is married. When the love scenes occur later on in the book, they are the more vague, pretty language type, if that's not your thing.
*The beautifully descriptive and atmospheric writing. Ms. Woodiwiss was a very talented writer. Her writing is gorgeous and elegant. It invokes a period feel that I really immersed myself in. I felt like I was there during many of the scenes due to her vivid writing.
*The familial and friendly interactions between the characters. Jeff is quite the character. He is funny and insightful. I liked the humor in this story.
*Very good adventure moments and a decent mystery. The murders that occur in this book were surprisingly dark, although they all occur off-screen.
*Heather is a great character. She was such a sweet, kind, gentle, innocent heroine. But she isn't one of those heroines who made my eyes roll or got on my nerves. She is timid, but strong in some ways. Nowadays, it seems as though romance fans have made authors afraid to write heroines like her. But I quite enjoyed her. She reminds me of some of Julie Garwood's loveable heroines, although she doesn't show the sustained bizarre logic that they show ( which cracks me up). This girl was a real sweetie for me.
Things I wasn't Crazy About:
*Slavery is a huge issue for this reader. I respect that some readers aren't particularly bothered by romance novels set in slavery times, but I don't care for them. I hate the idea of slavery, even if it is true that some slave-owners were kind to, and often thought of their slaves as family-members. I think Ms. Woodiwiss wanted to have a story set in the American South, but wasn't too comfortable with the connotations of slavery. She seemed to shy away from showing the ugly aspects of slavery in the interactions of Brandon with his slaves. She never even called them slaves, referring to them as servants. I won't presume to tell an author how to write, but I didn't really care for the soft-shoeing here. I'd rather she called a spade a spade, and showed Brandon as a more kindly slaveowner. That would have been more realistic for me. The Disneyland depiction of the slave plantation is a bit insulting for me as a reader. As I said, this is my personal issue. I don't judge other readers who have no quarrel with it. Having said that, this was a book set in the slavery times that didn't bother me as much as some did (soft-shoeing may have served a role in this).
*I wasn't sure if I liked the almost caricature-like depiction of some of the Black characters. I almost felt as though Ms. Woodiwiss watched Gone With the Wind, and wrote Hatti based on Mammy from Gone With the Wind. The other Black characters had almost no personality. They were shadow-figures who fetched, cleaned, and carried. It made me wince, more than a few times.
*Physical beauty=good, External ugliness=bad. I didn't really like that underlying theme here. The villain was a very ugly man, and his heart was ugly. He could have easily been really gorgeous and evil. Louisa, Brandon's scheming ex-fiance was showed as a lacking contrast to Heather, not just in poor character, but because she was large-framed, and in her thirties, and not sexually innocent like Heather. Young and firm-fleshed isn't necessarily always better than mature and buxom. A woman's value isn't necessarily in her virginity or lack of sexual experience. Louisa was very promiscuous, and she wasn't a nice person, and I didn't like her, but I don't think she should have been rejected based on her getting older. Not that Woodiwiss was saying this, but there were contrasts drawn between the two that relied heavily on physical appearance. It made me uncomfortable.

I can honestly say that I really liked this story. It took forever to read (small print, and length), but it was very readable. I loved Brandon and Heather as a couple, despite their inauspicious start. If you would like to read classic, well-done, old-School romance, this is a good place to start. Recommended if you don't mind slavery in your romances.

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The French Tycoon's Pregnant Mistress by Abby Green

The French Tycoon's Pregnant Mistress (Harlequin Presents) The French Tycoon's Pregnant Mistress by Abby Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really liked the style of this book, with the French cultural aspects. That restaurant that they went to was such a great idea...and a great steamy moment there. It really added to the passionate atmosphere in this book. Speaking of steam, this book has quite a bit of it. Ms. Green's writing showed how powerful the attraction between this couple was, even if it was totally unexpected. Pascal was a very sexy hero. Both Pascal and Alana carried a lot of baggage. Surprisingly, Alana's load is heavier than Pascal's. If you like a commitment shy heroine, look no further. She almost jumped the shark with me, but when Alana 'woman-ed up,' I couldn't stay mad at her. It was very nice how she proposed to Pascal at the end of this book.

It's all a matter of personal tastes, but I just don't tend to go for books where the couple are having a short fling or affair. I liked that Pascal clearly wanted something more from Alana very early into their affair. Alana did have valid reasons for her fear of getting involved, so it made her relateable.

Despite the title, this story is not in the semi-traditional HP mode. Alana isn't really falling into the mistress role, and Pascal is not expecting that of her. I like that some of the dialogue seems to flaunt the conventions of this line of novels. Well done with that, Ms. Green.

Pascal is a standout hero for me. I liked him a lot. Yes, he's a playboy businesssman, but he had some depth that appealed to me. I liked how he really wanted to show that Alana meant a lot to him. And that he was there for her when she became aware of her pregnancy. Despite his parental issues, he was committed to being there for his child. And he was very droolworthy! I hope that we see more French heroes, because they really have an appeal, especially in a good writer's hands. There's just something about Frenchmen.

Abby Green is clearly a very talented author. Her books go to a deeper emotional level, and in this book, it's not always comfortable for the reader. I think that was why this wasn't a five star book, because I don't really go for the relationship angst all the time. It felt more like a painful chore to read about that, than enjoyment for pleasure reading, although it was very well-done on the part of the author. Having said that, There is a maturity to the inter-personal relationships that impressed me.

I can't complain about anything in this book. Other than personal reading tastes, this was a very good book. If I was more into the affair, traumatic relationship-angst books, I think this would be a five star read for me. For the atmosphere, sizzling sexual tension and love scenes, and the sexy, French hero, not to mention good quality writing, this is easily a four star book.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw (Penguin Popular Classics) The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Reading this story was a lot like standing in line opening weekend for a blockbuster you waited a year to see, and being underwhelmed. I was disappointed. I've heard about this story as being one of the best ghost stories ever written. I was so excited to read it. So excited was I, I had to download it to my Kindle to read right away, even though I have this story in one of my paperback collections. I love psychological horror, but I don't think a good psychological horror novel should leave the reader feeling as detached as I did with this story. I also felt that Mr. James spent so much time in writing a stylistically appealing story, using just the right turn of phrase to pretty up his narrative, that the story got lost in translation. I was surprised to realize that I had gotten to the end. I was like, "What?" After all the slow going, and slow build that never got anywhere, it was "wham!" Sigh! Not sure what to think of this one.

I will be honest and say I had trouble with this story. I had to work really hard to read it and not skim the words to move ahead. I really resist that when I'm reading. There is no point in reading a story if you don't understand the intent behind it. I like to read every word and take things in. On the downside, I like a pay off to my reading, especially if it's not a particularly easy story to read. But, this story was hard to decipher for hidden intent.

I saw some gems in it: the menace of two children who seemed like angels, but had a decidedly unangelic side. The governess who started to doubt her own reason and sanity, but was dead on in her understanding of what was going on. The apparitions that should have inspired dread in me, but somehow didn't. I spent time waiting to feel unease. It never got there.

Please don't misunderstand me. I love subtle horror. I prefer it. But the impact of the horror, the feel of the gothic has to be there. It has to be planted in one's mind so that the power of the threat, or its aftermath, is felt. I never felt the true impact with this story.

On the positive side, I felt that the psychological results of the 'demon children' on caregivers was translated pretty well. You could see the confusion and the distress that these beautiful, seemingly perfect children was having on the governess and the cook. It was interesting to see the governess have discussions with a child, that seemed incongruously adult. Discussions with an intellectual equal who will go for the jugular, so one has to be prepared for the worst. I felt that. At times, Miles did exude a menace that I wanted to feel. I felt the governess's anxiety at being in a situation that was beyond her control. Not sure that she was doing the right thing. And fearing for the safety of herself, those around her, and the children in her charge. But it was in a detached fashion. The power of horror is in bringing to light fears that we personally can identify with on some level, the more personal and visceral the better. If that barrier stays between the reader and the circumstance, then horror loses its ability to affect us.

I have to say that I will read my volume Ghost Stories by this author, and hope for the best. But, I won't be attempting any of his non-gothic works. Although he is a beautiful writer, there is not enough to engage on an emotional level, which is very important to me in my pleasure reading. My recommendation: If you are a person who is absolutely committed to a thorough immersion into gothic fiction/classic horror reading, you should read this. However, depending on your tastes in writing styles, if you are like myself in that you don't go for pretty writing with less substance, I wouldn't expect much from it. Although I wouldn't say I am the most sophisticated reader, I am sophisticated enough to realize that much enjoyment can be found in 19th century literature, but this story didn't deliver that for me.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Demon Angel by Meljean Brook

Demon Angel (The Guardians, #2) Demon Angel by Meljean Brook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I put off reading this book for years. Let's just say, when I thought the heroine was the Lilith (of Biblical infamy), I wasn't sure I could wrap my mind around her being a heroine in a romance novel. Well, I'm glad that I finally did read this book. It was a very good story. And, by the way, she isn't that Lilith.

I think Ms. Brook did a great job of writing this story about a love affair over eight hundred years in the making. Two people who should have been mortal enemies, who ended up falling in love and finding their soulmates in each other. The die-hard romantic in me couldn't help but be enthralled with this concept. And that pull between Lilith and Hugh kept me reading, although this is a story that requires the ability to wait for delayed gratification. That, in itself is not a bad thing. Instead, it was appealing to see the back and forth between Hugh and Lilith through the years. Watching their verbal foreplay, and the fact that although they often went head to head as opponents on opposite sides of a war, but didn't treat each other as the mortal adversaries that they were.

This is a very character-driven book. The good thing about it, is the character are very interesting. Although Lilith is correctly thought of as a 'bad girl,' she has aspects that show that she really isn't all bad. In contrast, Hugh is definitely the white knight type of character. But he has some gray areas too. I loved that they were each other's weaknesses. Hugh was a very chaste, righteous man, but Lilith was the one woman who had the power to utterly seduce him, and he had to work hard not to show it. Hugh made Lilith want to defy her father, Lucifer, even though it was a great personal cost to her. Ms. Brook did such a great job at laying the groundwork for this great love story, and the execution was very good.

Now, this is one of those books that I had trouble rating. The reason why is, well it's a very good book. However, it had a tendency to be quite slow-moving. It was character-driven, which is good, but I think the action sequences needed to be more vivid. There was great potential for rip-roaring, intense battle sequences, and that didn't come to fruition. I think there needed to be more showing and not telling in that arena. Since this is the first full book in the series, I suspect that the further books have expanded in this area, because this story has all kinds of potential. Another issue I had, was sometimes I got lost with some of the aspects of the worldbuilding. I didn't always get what the objective was of everything, with the nosferatu, and the inscribing of symbols, and the drinking of blood with the murders of Hugh's students. I will probably need to reread this book to gain a better understanding of all that.

On the positive, I was really impressed with this story: the guardians versus the demons. The eternal struggle between the forces of light and dark. The worldbuilding had a uniqueness that spoke to me. The scenes describing Hell sent shivers down my spine. I loved Sir Pup, Lilith's pet hellhound. I thought it was awesome how the guardians, nosferatu, and demons could store weapons and other items (even bodies and evidence) in what's called a 'cache,' which I interpreted to be a psychic storage area. That was very cool. What made me uneasy was the parts where Lilith called Lucifer father, and talked about obeying and serving him. I'm a devout Christian, which means he's the bad guy to me, so it was just really odd to have the main character in allegiance to him. But, I liked the interesting dynamic of it all; after all, Lilith knew she was playing for the wrong team.

The best thing about this story was the love story. Hugh and Lilith were made for each other. They had sizzling chemistry that made the slow-moving story worthwhile for staying tuned into. I really wanted things to work out for them. I loved all the love scenes, because they were sizzling hot, and the passion between them really burned. You definitely got the feeling that this was a fire that had been stoking for almost a millenium. Hugh is a sigh-worthy hero. I loved that he was such a good guy, a virgin, with strong principles. Yet, he was not a supercilious, self-righteous plaster saint. He was very much a man, with a man's flaws. He was determined to save Lilith, even when she didn't seem to want saving. He was even willing to sacrifice himself to do so. And Lilith was a great character. I love a complex heroine. She's dark, but has a strong sense of doing what is right to her. She put herself in jeopardy several times, out of love for Hugh, and didn't take the many opportunities she had to destroy him, and make a mockery of his principles. I liked her, and I wanted her to get her man, and for things to work out for her. Because of their strong bond, that made them both stronger and complete as people, and a powerful unit together, I was seriously rooting for their happy ending. And I liked how Ms. Brook pulled it off.

Demon Angel is a book that I was pleasantly surprised with. It has a fresh spin on the ancient battle between heaven and hell. It gave me something to ponder, but I didn't feel like I was compromising my personal beliefs in reading this book. The love story was rich and involving. I definitely want to continue this series, and see how this war between the Guardians, the nosferatu, and the demons unfolds.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

Wild Fire by Christine Feehan

Wild Fire (Leopard People, #4) Wild Fire by Christine Feehan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Okay, I'm not even going to front and give this book less than five stars. Is it perfect? No. Is anything in life perfect? No. Does that make life less enjoyable? No. So why shouldn't a less than perfect book get five stars if I thoroughly enjoyed it? So there. I loved this book, so that warrants a five star rating, even if I could state the obvious about Christine Feehan's writing style. Wordy and dense? Yes. Using words repetitively? Yes. Hot hero guaranteed to give the reader a fever? Yes. Incendiary chemistry and love between Conner and Isabeau? Oh, yes. Well, I get what I come for out of Christine Feehan's books, so I'm more than willing to put up with her writing quirks.

To be honest, I was a little worried when I saw the blurb for this book. I don't love reunited lovers stories. I do like stories where the hero and heroine met as part of a mission, and the hero had to seduce the heroine, and they have to deal with that to be able to sort out their relationship. So, I guess that balanced things out for me.

Conner is a great, great hero in this book. He's dark and dangerous, conflicted and tortured. He knows Isabeau is the woman for him, his only woman. There's no doubt in his mind. And that is not a factor in this book. The factor is that he believes she hates him because he betrayed her by seducing her to get to her father, and being part of the group that killed her father: hence his anguish. Also, there's the fact that his father was a complete jerk, abandoning his mate because she wasn't actually his true mate, and he couldn't stand the fact that he had bred Connor on a woman that wasn't his true mate. It makes no sense, does it? Well, Conner thinks he's completely bad and unworthy of his mate, although his cat tells him that she's his and doesn't want to let her go. I love the guys who are all twisted up inside, and that's Conner to a 'T'. I also loved what a good mate Conner was. Some really messed up stuff happens in this book between Isabeau and Conner, and he never blames it on her. It's all tied into the fact that Isabeau is coming into the Han Vol Dan, which is the first heat of the female leopard shifter, when they become able to shift. Something happens with one of the villains that causes this guy to stalk Isabeau, to potentially claim her as his mate. This guy is the lowest of the low, completely crazy, and he savages Isabeau. That was a horrible scene. Believe me. But the way Conner responded was so beautiful. I really liked him before that, and I totally fell in love with him at that point. A girl couldn't ask for a better mate.

Isabeau seems young and emotionally frazzled in this story. But then, she's dealing with a lot. Her father turned out to be a bad man, and Conner and his team were the good guys. But, he died violently, and she was there to see it. In her mind, this was all she could focus on, that and the fact that Conner had seduced her under an assumed name, and she fell for him. Her latent cat comes out and she scratches his face, marking him forever as her mate. But they end up parting, until Isabeau recruits Conner for a mission she thinks he's more than suited for, seducing a terrible female drug czar to infiltrate her compound, as he seduced her. Of course, Conner is not happy that his mate is expecting him to do this. But the alternative she gives him is that she seduce a guard to get in. And no way is he going to let any man near his mate. There's also the fact that children have been kidnapped and held for ransom by this evil woman. So Conner has no choice but to take the mission. And Isabeau is part of the group. This gives them the opportunity to spend time together, and to realize that although Conner lied about who he was, he didn't lie about his feelings for Isabeau. Isabeau has some insecurities about feeling she is what a dangerous, experienced man like Conner would want. But, there's no question about him wanting her.

I thought the Han Vol Dan plot, and how Isabeau was dealing with that, was fascinating. I couldn't imagine having this cat inside of me, who was a straight up hussy, flirting with all kinds of men, and wanting to 'get some' anyway she could, not to mention grumpy as all get out at times. It was an interesting dynamic, and it really helped to contribute to the complexity of this storyline. Isabeau showed a lot of growth over this book. She's not an alpha heroine, and that's okay. I liked her, because she did have a lot of inner strength, integrity, and depth of character. Her love truly helped Conner deal with his grief over his mother, who was killed by the rogue leopard shifter who wants Isabeau, and is working with Imelda Cortez. She doesn't belabor on her resentment about her father, and quickly comes to terms with the fact that her father was not a good man, even if he was a good father to her.

The love scenes were very steamy and well done. I did have a couple of WTH moments. I don't want to be graphic, but what's up with the 'piercing the cervix' part? Ouch!!! Is that supposed to be a cat thing? I could have done without that, thanks. Also, the whole, 'I'm dominant and I want you to do exactly what I tell you in bed' thing doesn't always float my boat. I didn't mind that so much, because Isabeau was fine with it, and Conner really cared about pleasing her, too. I guess it's just a personal taste thing when it comes to the D/s aspects. It wasn't over the top or anything.

I loved all the cat-shifting parts. I thought they were fantastic. I could vividly see the characters in their cat forms. I also loved the mating dance parts when Isabeau goes into her Han Vol Dan. The way Conner's leopard chases hers, and how they play together, and do other things. So well done.

This story is pretty violent. There are some dark and gritty aspects that might not work for a sensitive reader. Imelda Cortez is a really bad woman, and so are her colleagues. They are doing some awful stuff. This is not showed in detail, but you get an idea about how bad they are. And the showdown between Conner and Ottila, the leopard shifter who wants Isabeau? It had me on the edge of my seat. It was very violent and intense, but it absolutely worked for me.

There were also really good male-bonding moments in this book, which I think Ms. Feehan is so good at writing. Sexy Elijah (Rachael's brother who we met in Wild Rain) has a big role in this book, and we meet a new character, young shifter Jeremiah, who's out to prove himself. I think he will make quite the leading man in a later book in this series. Also, Rio from Wild Rain, plays a good-sized part in this book.

So, I've seen the lower ratings this book has gotten. I don't know if I just have lower standards, but I truly enjoyed this book. Although Burning Wild stands out about this book because of the iconic nature of Jake as a hero, I loved this book just as much, because of the relationship aspects between Conner and Isabeau, because of the fascinating and likeable characters, the darker storyline, and the phenomenal action scenes in this book. I have to admit, I like the whole drug cartel storyline--not sure why, but I did. This is really good shifter romance, in my opinion. I'm excited to read the following books in the series. Personally, I recommend this book. It might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it tremendously. Read this book if you are into cats!

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Stetsons, Spring & Wedding Rings by Jillian Hart, Judith Stacy, and Stacey Kayne

Stetsons, Spring and Wedding Rings (Includes: Bride, #3) Stetsons, Spring and Wedding Rings by Jillian Hart

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Goodness, this was a tough book to read, for a number of reasons.
First of all, this was one of the first books I read after my exhilirating experience of reading a book I'd been waiting for a long time and loved. Secondly, the first two stories weren't terribly exciting. I'll break down my review by each story.

Rocky Mountain Courtship by Jillian Hart:
This is actually a good, sweet story. Joseph and Clara are adorable. I like that Joseph fell in love at first sight, and he didn't care that Clara was just a maid. She was the woman for him, and he was going to claim her heart. Clara had misgivings because of her rough life, and having had her heart played with by another man. But love conquers all. And as a nice little bonus, the hero is a virgin! If I rate this story merely based on its quality, and not my mindset at the time (I'm a very moody reader), it's a four star story.

Courting Miss Perfect by Judith Stacy:
I really hate to have to do this, but I didn't care for this story. I tried, hard. I had to pick it up a few times. I'd have moments where I thought, I can like this story, but they got swallowed up by my annoyance of the foolish actions of the heroine. Brynn worked my nerves. She should have told Travis about the jewels that someone stashed in her bag. But, no, she had to lie about it. He was a freaking Pinkerton agent. He was there to help her, and going out of his way to do so. I realize that her past thoughtless actions had caused a social nightmare for her, leading to her being extra-cautious of her reputation, but that didn't warrant making such a bad decision in this case, to cover up for herself. She wasn't guilty. She should have just come clean. So, that's a major reason I didn't care for this story. I spent most of the time wanting to yell at her to tell him about the jewels. Also, I didn't like that they slept together, even though she was so careful about her reputation that she didn't even want to be alone with him for more than a few seconds, for most of the story. Completely inconsistent behavior. Also, Travis slept with a proper virgin and was about to put her on a train to back East. Yeah right. The climax just furthered my dislike for the book. You can know a man enough to have relations with him, but you don't want to marry him right away because you need to get to know each other. Okay, maybe that would work for a modern woman in the 21st Century, but not a woman in the 19th Century who was worried about her reputation, and went on tour with her aunt who wrote etiquette books. Sorry, I couldn't buy that. So, I'm sad to say this story got a rating of 1 star.

Courted by the Cowboy by Stacey Kayne:
I really liked this story. Ms. Kayne has such a way with words. I like how she managed to get quite a bit of western action in this short story, but it didn't get in the way of character development or a believable romance. I could understand Constance's insecurities after being badly burned, on top of a life as an orphan who had to go from place to place to make a living for herself. Oh, I loved Kyle. What a man. He was partly responsible for the fire that burned Constance, and did right by her, arranging for her to get the best care for her burns, and seeing her settled in a convent as she healed. Matchmaking relatives set things up so that she got hired to be the schoolteacher in the township that Kyle ran, and this couple met again. I was rooting for them to find their way together, and deal with a horrible man from their mutual pasts. This was too short, but it was really enjoyable. 4.5 stars.

I was so disappointed with the Judith Stacy story, although I normally like her books. And I had trouble reading the first story (I was too jittery), although it was very good. These factors kept this book from being highly rated. It just came along at a bad time for me, I guess. Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

Lover Mine by JR Ward

Lover Mine (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #8) Lover Mine by J.R. Ward

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book could have easily broken my heart. I've been waiting so long to see John Matthew and Xhex find their happy ending. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I adore this couple. If it's even possible, I probably love them twenty times more now.

The WARDen is so good at writing stories about human nature, all the weaknesses, the vulnerabilities, the strengths. How, at the end of the day, all of us just want to feel special, to feel loved. And when we don't feel that, how it has the power to destroy us.

John Matthew had the worst start in life possible. He was born in a bathroom stall in a bus station. He was born without the ability to talk. He was horribly assaulted at a young age. He had no one to love him. And just when life started turning around, he lost two people he loved very much. And then he met Xhex. From the beginning, she was the one for him. No one can explain what causes us to fall in love with someone. You can call it hormones, fate, destiny, attraction, random coincidence. There is no concrete way to rationalize it. I for one, felt that pull between them. I knew it was going to be big and life-changing for them both. JM fell apart, big time in Lover Avenged. It was very painful to read, and his actions made me so angry. But, I realized that he had been driven to his breaking point, and he was acting out of complete despair. So, it was really good to see him pull himself together so he could save Xhex. And boy, did he! Oh, could John be a more worthy male? I don't think so. He's so sweet, but so strong. He has a protective instinct, but at the same time, he embraced Xhex's strength, and didn't try to change what made her the woman he loved. He came from nothing, but is full of so much. The WARDen made me fall in love with JM all over again.

I was so glad that the WARDen took a big, huge chance with crafting a heroine like Xhex. There are a lot of Xhex haters out there in the Black Dagger Brotherhood fandom. They have said some really ugly things about her. It bothers me, because Xhex is such a great character in my opinion. She has so much going on inside of her. She is so strong, yet she has the things that define a woman in my opinion. Some people think she's too manly or not feminine enough. If she can be who she is and have a man like JM totally in love with her, I say sign me up for her version of manly. I say that in a half-serious manner. But with all seriousness, if Xhex had not been the strong woman, the fierce warrior that she is, she would not have survived what she's been through in her life. She lived in a dark, bleak world, with little to support her. She had to be a strong person, to build a fortress around her inner self, or she would have been decimated. And had she been any less fortified, Lash would have destroyed her. It's pretty clear that I adore Xhex. I think she's sexy, beautiful, loving, intense, intelligent, empathetic, formidable, intriguing, the list goes on. She is now my favorite heroine ever. I felt she was the perfect complement to John. It gratified me that Tohr could see it, from the beginning. I didn't need the backstory of Xhex to love her, but I love her even more now. I didn't need to see her as vulnerable and broken as she was in this book to respect and love her. But, seeing her that way, well it just made the happy ending that much better.

I couldn't have written the ending better. It's like JR Ward took my wish list for Xhex and JM's story and wrote this book based on it. Oh, there were some really hard moments, but I kept the faith that things would work out for them, and boy was I rewarded. I finished this book yesterday morning, and I had to go and reread some of my favorite scenes. The interaction between John and Xhex was so powerful, it turned my heart to mush. The steamy moments really made up for the hurtful interactions they had in Lover Avenged. How unfulfilling their intimate moments were in that book. Their love scenes set my book on fire and singed my hands. Boy, this couple has some chemistry. But, even better, their love for each other had the power to heal them both. Verily, this book makes me believe in true love, and that there is someone for everyone.

Even though I'd love this book enough to light up a solar system just based on the JM/Xhex story, the other aspects also made it a wonderful read for me. The Qhuinn/Blay story line has progressed in a very good fashion. I was so happy to get more of Blay's viewpoint. Blay is dear to my heart. I love that male. It tore me up to see how much his love for Qhuinn was hurting him. Qhuinn had his heart, but he didn't know what to do with it, so he kept throwing it back. And Blay seemed to have no way to get away from his feelings for Blay. So I was glad to see Saxton come into his life. Saxton is one fine male. I liked him from the beginning. He is just what Blay needs. I'm not sure how long they'll be together, but it's good for now. Qhuinn showed some aspects of his character that I needed to see. I have to admit that I did feel for him, and his low self-worth because of being rejected by his family, but I didn't like his lifestyle. I didn't like how he was acting like he was blind to Blay's love for him, and how it hurt Blay for him to sleep with everyone but Blay. I realize that Qhuinn thinks he's not good enough for Blay, but he seemed oblivious to the way he was hurting Blay. I was surprised at how much it hurt to see Qhuinn hurt because Blay had moved on with Saxton. I thought I'd be gratified because he'd know how Blay felt all the time. But, it was so sad for me to read about, because Qhuinn had the opportunity to have Blay, but he was afraid to take the step. And how that must break Qhuinn's heart. I have hopes that things will work out for them, but right now, it's a painful journey. I do think that Qhuinn is going to take a step in a better direction in the forthcoming books. And Blay will get some love and affection like he needs, although his heart will always belong to Qhuinn. I definitely feel for the Qhuinn/Blay fans right now.

I loved the parts in the past showing Darius and Tohr's relationship. It really explained why Tohr took on JM as a son, because Darius had done the same for him. Darius and Tohr are such fine males. You can see how they helped shape and form the foundation for the Brotherhood that we see today. Tohr always came off as an admirable, honorable man that I cared for, but I have grown to love him even more. My heart is broken for his loss. I can completely understand how it nearly destroyed him. I was so glad to see him on the mend, and to see him and John Matthew come to terms. That close bond that was ripped apart by Wellsie's death has evolved into something very wonderful, as JM comes to see exactly how Tohr felt, and Tohr is able to understand why Xhex is so important to JM. And it feels to good to know that Torh approves of Xhex for JM.

There were some really great Doc Jane moments. Her expertise as a doctor, but her understanding of people and how to help them deal with illness was a very important part of this book, as she interacted with Xhex in the aftermath of her captivity with Lash, and also with Xhex's fear of hospitals.

I won't even pretend like this BDB fan girl didn't have some joy-joy moments seeing the other characters. Wow, it was pretty interesting seeing how the backstory with Butch and Xhex, and Vishous' animosity towards Xhex was dealt with. And of course, my smooth criminal, Rehvenge, was in this book enough to encourage me to reread his story again. What a man! I love his relationship with Xhex. And the Shadow brothers, Trez and iAm, have some good moments in this story, as well.

Payne's role expands in this book, and I could see the WARDen setting the stage for her book. Part of me sort of feared that this book would be the penultimate culmination of my love for this series, and it would go downhill, but I have a feeling that WARDen is just getting started. Payne is one heck of an interesting character. And her story is sure to enthrall me, based on how things unfold in this book.

And, can I say that Murhder has this fan reaching for the cold drinks? I can tell he's going to rock my world. I hope to see a lot more of this male!

I cannot do this review without talking about Lash. There are some pretty good words to describe him, but I don't want to be a potty-mouth. He is a perfect contrast to JM in almost every way. He was born with everything and threw it away. His heart is completely rotten, whereas JM couldn't have more goodness in his heart. The fact that he takes and harms the person that JM loves most in the world seemed almost fated, as they come face to face in a conflict that started when they were both soldier trainees. I have to say that he turned out to be a very good villain. I wasn't sure what to think about how the storyline with Lash ended. It needed to go the way it did. But I can't help feeling that there is more to be told on that front. But then, that's one of the things that I love about this series. The way the WARDen plants seeds in my consciousness, and I have questions that make me want to delve deeper into these books. More things for this BDB addict to ponder. Sadly, these characters and this world is frighteningly real to me. Is there a twelve step program for Black Dagger Brotherhood addiction? But then, even if there is a cure, I'm not sure I want it!

This book, oh, this book. I can't say how much I loved this latest installment in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. You know someone needs help when they start tearing up as they write a review. I am freaking hopeless when it comes to this series and this book. It made my dreams come true, but it also took me to some dark places. It makes me ponder fate, and how the ties between others are so convoluted, yet tightly wound, bringing us together and challenging us in ways we don't ever get to understand. This review will be too long if I keep saying everything I want to say. There is just too much to put into words. But I will say four words to Ms. Ward: Thank you so much!!!! And I'll say it twice: Thank you so much!!!

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