Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: "As Luck Would Have It" by Alissa Johnson

As Luck Would Have It (Providence, #1)As Luck Would Have It by Alissa Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just found a new author to glom. :D

Sophie Everton is returning to London after 12 years away traveling the world with her father. On her journey home, she's approached by a Mr. Smith who tells her that her father's estate is in financial trouble and her father is basically broke (thanks to her idiot cousin, Lord Loudor, who was left in charge of running the estate 12 years ago). Mr. Smith, who's a government agent, is willing to pay her a hefty sum of money, that will save her father's estate, if she agrees to spy on her cousin and some of his unsavory friends who are suspects of treason. Sophie thinks hard... and agrees.

Alex Durmant, the Duke of Rockeforte, is approached by William Fletcher, the head of England's War Department, to do the same. But he isn't friends with Lord Loudor and his courtship, so William's plan is to have Alex to court Sophie in order to gain access to her cousin's inner circle of friends. Reluctantly, Alex agrees to the plan.

And so it begins this lovely story... Alex and Sophie meet, circle around each other without knowing they're working on the same mission, and fall in love in the process.

Oh, how I loved this book! Alex and Sophie were adorable, their banter was LOL funny and kept me entertained from beginning to end. I really enjoyed their conversations and how they spent time together and got to know each other before falling in love. There was no love at first sight, not even lust at first sight. There was only attraction at first sight and that was just right. That said, one might wonder what the book's steam level is... Let me just say that Alex's manhood didn't start throbbing and Sophie's thighs didn't get, er, moist every time they met, LOL.

Most of the secondary characters (especially Alex's friend Whit and Sophie's friend Mirabelle) were also wonderful - exception made to Lord Loudor and his friends, of course. I'm not saying they were found guilty of treason in the end - you'll have to read the book to find that out - but they were quite obnoxious.

As for the plot, I have to say that it was rather flimsy at times and the ending, while surprising, was unrealistic. But I didn't care, because I just had too much fun reading this book and decided to suspend disbelief all the way. :) A good writer can get away with anything if she gives me characters that I can't help but love and a story that makes me forget everything but the sheer enjoyment of reading the book.

In one sentence: this book was amazing!

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: "The Concubine" by Jade Lee

The Concubine (Blaze Historicals #2) (Harlequin Blaze #449)The Concubine (Blaze Historicals #2) by Jade Lee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For starters, here's "my" yummilicious Bo Tao:


I can't believe I'm going to say this, but this book would have been better if it was PG-rated. Serioulsy! I didn't know if I should have laughed or cried at the purple prose that filled the pages: dragon organ, root, jade stalk, jade stem, woman's petals, ... I know some readers enjoy that writing style, but it does nothing for me. Here's my "favorite" line: "She could feel his dragon organ push into her belly while her woman's petals grew moist." Really?!? Was that supposed to make me feel hot and bothered? Sorry, Ms. Lee, but that made me laugh. No sex talk and no lovemaking scenes would have made this book a winner.

Taking that aside, the story itself was very good and interesting. The premise reminded me of Zhang Yimou's "Raise the Red Lantern", one of my favorite movies, with the difference that The Concubine is focused on the proceedings of choosing the new Emperor's wife and concubines and the movie is focused on the solitary lives of the concubines after they marry the Emperor. Bo Tao and Ji Yue were great characters, trapped in a millenial culture that made their love forbidden and almost impossible. In real life, there would be no HEA for them, but this is Romancelandia... Need I say more? ;)

This was a great story with engaging characters. Too bad sex had to be included, "ruining" my overall enjoyment.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: "Coming Undone" by Stephanie Tyler

Coming Undone (SEAL, #1) (Harlequin Blaze #315)Coming Undone (SEAL, #1) by Stephanie Tyler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm so confused! I really don't know how I'm supposed to feel about this book...

Check out the book description:

Oh no! Surfer - make that ex-surfer - Carly Winters can't believe she accidentally faxed an erotic letter to... a secure military line? Now navy SEAL Jonathan "Hunt" Huntington is at her door, fax in hand, asking her how the fantasy ends.

Talk about fate... Because Carly's parents think Hunt is her new boyfriend, and Carly does need a wedding date ASAP. Hunt's ready to play - only on one condition: Carly's got to teach him to hang ten. Problem is it's been a while since Carly's career-ending accident and she's terrified of anything aqua. But with Hunt, letting go just may make her fantasy a reality!

Based on that, I was ready to enjoy a somewhat silly (in a good way) story with some naughty banter between the H/h, steamy love scenes and a touch of angst (provided by the heroine's traumatic accident). The first 1/4 of the book didn't prove me wrong, but something didn't feel quite right to me. I couldn't connect with Hunt and Carly, even though there was nothing I disliked about them. I just couldn't put my finger on what was "wrong" and why the story wasn't working for me, and that drove me insane was annoying. As I kept reading, I eventually realized what the "problem" was: there were too many things crammed into the story, making it impossible to develop any of them properly.

To sum it up, here's what this book is about: (a) Hunt and Carly's relationship, of course; (b) Carly's trauma and strugle to go back to surfing; (c) Carly's meddling family; (d) Hunt's need for control and fear of commitment; (e) Hunt's career as a Navy SEAL; (f) Hunt's relationship with his younger brother Ty; (g) Ty's returning cancer and indecision about the future; (h) Carly's friend Samantha's "epiphany"; (i) Ty and Samantha's relationship; (j) Hunt's SEAL teammate Cash, who's the hero in the next book in the series... Are you lost yet? :(

Individually or, at most, in pairs, all those storylines were enough to make a compelling story, especially when we take in consideration the restricted length of a Harlequin Blaze novel, but as it was, I found myself disconnected from the characters and their stories. With so much going on, I wasn't surprised by the rushed ending, but I was disappointed with the lack of closure. Don't get me wrong, Carly and Hunt got their HEA - after all, this is a romance book - and almost all the storylines (under)developed in the book were settled, but the one loose end that was left bothered me. By the end of the book, Ty's future is uncertain. I was okay with that when I thought his story was "to be continued" in the next book(s) in the series, but then I found out he isn't the hero in any of those books. WTF?!? Will I ever know what happens to him? What about his relationship with Samantha? Do I still want to read the next book(s) to see if that loose end is eventually tied up? Yes, because I found that particular storyline engaging and I really want it to get a nice pink bow in the end. Having said that, I'll be really mad if I go through those books and don't see any resolution to it.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Review: "Colt's Choice" by Patrice Michelle

Colt's ChoiceColt's Choice by Patrice Michelle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love cowboys in Romancelandia. I have yet to meet one in real life that lives up to his fictional counterparts, but I don't let that ruin my fantasy. :)

Colt Tanner loves and lives for the Lonestar Ranch and has always believed he'd eventually inherit his uncle's half of the ranch and become its sole owner. But when the time comes, he's surprised to find out that his uncle has left his half of the ranch to someone else - his widow - who in turn gives it to her niece, Elise Hamilton. Colt offers to buy Elise out, thinking that his ranch is the last place a spoiled "princess" used to a wealthy lifestyle like her should be, but she surprises him by refusing his offer and showing up on the ranch wanting to be an active co-owner.

Colt can't help feeling strongly attracted to Elise, but he doesn't believe she's really interested in staying at the ranch in the long run. He's sure she'll be back to her society life as soon as the novelty of living on a ranch wears off, so he holds back. Elise's decision to leave her comfortable (but empty) life in Virginia and move to Texas wasn't made on a whim, and she's determined to convince Colt she's there to stay. If only he wasn't so stubborn...

Hmmm, I kind of liked this story... The characters and the plot were formulaic, reminding me of a much hotter Silhouette Desire book. That in itself wasn't a bad thing, as I don't think there's anything wrong with using a formula that works. I really liked the first 2/3 of the book, but the last 1/3 felt "forced". Some events - like Colt's mother sudden reappearance and timely revelation - didn't ring true and were unnecessary. I mean, Colt finding out that his mother wasn't as coldhearted as he'd always believed would make him reevaluate his opinion about "city girls", but it would have been better to have him love and trust Elise despite his prejudice.

As for Colt and Elise, I liked them - but I didn't love them. Colt was the standard alpha cowboy: dominant, protective, gruff, jealous and oh-so-sexy, yay! Elise was strong and independent, but she agreed to Colt's proposal of a no-strings affair a bit too quickly. There was no sexual tension between them, which was a pity, but I can't complain about their love scenes. They were hot and plentiful! *fans herself*

Due to the need to guard his heart against Elise, Colt made sure to never sleep over at her place. He didn't really sneak out like a thief in the middle of the night, but this pic reminded me of him:


Even though I didn't enjoy this book as much as the previous ones in the series, Ms. Michelle is still one of my authors of interest. I wish she wrote Colt's brothers' books, but I won't hold my breath because it's been more than six years since Colt's Choice was published and there's been no hint about Cade's or Mace's book so far. Oh well.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: "The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty" by A.N. Roquelaure

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (Sleeping Beauty Series #1)The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by A.N. Roquelaure

Disclaimer: I read this book on a dare. I'm not a fan of pure erotica and I'm no expert in BDSM, so it was pretty much obvious from the start that I wouldn't enjoy this read. That's why I'm not rating this book, as it wouldn't be fair to lower its average rating "on purpose" - not that I think one (mine) rating would cause such "damage", but anyway...

So, how should I start this review ranting of mine? ;) Okay, how about the plot? Plot?!? Yes, dear friends, this book has a plot - an absurd and underdeveloped one, but a plot nonetheless. I don't feel like giving away any more of my damaged brain cells to this nightmare, so I'll just copy/paste the plot summary given at the beginning of the 2nd book, Beauty's Punishment:

After her century-long slumber, the Sleeping Beauty opened her eyes at the kiss of the Prince, to find her garments stripped away and her heart as well as her body under the rule of her deliverer. At once, Beauty was claimed as the Prince's naked pleasure slave to be taken to his Kingdom.

With the grateful consent of her parents, and dazed with desire for the Prince, Beauty was then brought to the Court of Queen Eleanor, the Prince's mother, to serve as one of hundreds of naked Princes and Princesses, all playthings of the Court until such time as they should be rewarded and sent home to their Kingdoms.

Dazzled by the rigors of the Training Hall, the Hall of Punishments, the ordeal of the Bridle Path, and her own mounting passion to please, Beauty remained the undisputed favorite of the Prince and the delight of her sometime Mistress, the lovely young Lady Juliana.

Yet she could not ignore her secret and forbidden infatuation with the Queen's exquisite slave, Prince Alexi, and finally the disobedient slave, Prince Tristan.

After glimpsing Prince Tristan among the disgraced of the castle, Beauty, in a moment of seemingly inexplicable rebellion, brings upon herself the very same punishment destined for Tristan: to be sent away from the voluptuous Court to the degradation of harsh labor in the nearby village.

That doesn't sound too bad, does it? Well, if you think so, just read my status updates to get a "tastier" insight into the extremely kinky, painful and humiliating sex antics Beauty and the other love slaves go through over the course of this book. I gasped, I frowned, I cringed and I gagged - oh boy! - but I also rolled my eyeballs and laughed hysterically at what was supposed to be erotic and thrilling. I "blame" Ms. Rice's juvenile writing for that: it was wordy and redundant, the story didn't flow effortlessly and all characters were one-dimensional and unlikable - in summary, this book became downright boring after the initial shock provided in the 1st chapters. I had to drink myself into almost oblivion to finish this read.

Now, how can an erotic story be boring? One word: repetition. Every other page, there was someone being spanked. Beauty and any other (un)fortunate love slave in sight got spanked for everything, over and over again. Oh, you bad girl, you need to be punished... Spanked! Very good, my girl... Spanked! I'm not amused. Spanked! You're so exquisitely beautiful!... Spanked! Are those tears of joy I see running down your face?... Spanked! I love you so much!... Spanked! Spanked! Spanked! Gaaaaah!

All things considered, I can't say I hated this book. I was irritated and coudn't wait to be done with it, but that wasn't out of utter disgust. It was out of sheer boredom. Even though this book is definitely out of my comfort zone, it could have kept my interested if Ms. Rice had filled its pages with all sorts of kinky stuff. Like I said above, I'm not familiar with the BDSM scenario and I could have been easily thrilled (in a good or bad way, it doesn't matter) by whatever "novelty" she wrote. Alas, all the excitment died after the 1st chapters and I didn't "learn" anything new... Disappointing!

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review: "Letters to a Secret Lover" by Toni Blake

Letters to a Secret LoverLetters to a Secret Lover by Toni Blake

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my only 1st book by Toni Blake, an author that almost all of my trusted reading friends love, and now I wonder why I'd waited so long. Maybe I was afraid of the high expectations raised by their praise, maybe I didn't want to find a new (to me) author to play havoc with my book budget, maybe I'm just too darn slow to catch up... ;)

What can I say? I adored this book! It made me smile, laugh, sigh and even shed some tears. Rob and Lindsey were amazing characters and I couldn't help loving them to pieces. They were both flawed and had to do a lot of learning and growing throughout the story, but I never got mad at their mistakes. In fact, I could relate to them, which made them much more real to me. And their love scenes... Boy, oh boy! Ms. Blake sure knows how to steam things up. Where can I find my own Rob? I'm already like Lindesy - I don't cook naked and don't wear animal-print clothes, but I can be self-centered and high-maintenance, I blabber when I'm nervous, I hiked in high heels once - don't ask, LOL! - and I wear jewel-encrusted flip-flops (mine are black, not white). I'm willing to cook naked and fill my closet with animal-print clothes and accessories, just tell me where I can find my Rob, LOL.

***** SPOILER ALERT *****

Confession time: Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned... I skimmed the last pages of the book before starting to read it. Why? Because I needed to know there was a true HEA waiting for me. I didn't want to invest my (not so precious) time rooting for Rob and Lindsey throughout the whole book, only to have him reunited with his "secret lover" and her having a HFN with some other unsuspected guy - or worse, getting back together with her idiot ex-fiancé - in the end. Once relieved and satisfied with the HEA, I went back and started to read the book properly. :)

***** END SPOILER *****

As I read what I wrote above to check for grammar/spelling errors, I noticed that this is one of the worst "reviews" I've written, as I couldn't stop gushing about Rob, Lindsey and myself (LOL) and didn't say anything about the story. Oh well, there are already tons of great reviews of this book, I'm feeling lazy and don't want to rewrite my "review". So there, this is my official review and I'm sticking to it, LOL.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: "Crazy Hot" by Tara Janzen

Crazy Hot (Steele Street, #1)Crazy Hot by Tara Janzen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hot hardasses in hot wheels + TSTL hot babes + one-dimensional villains + flimsy plot = fun, mindless summer reading.

I knew I had to suspend disbelief to enjoy this book and I was fully prepared to do so, but Ms. Janzen's writing didn't help me. It was easy to read, I give you that, but it wasn't engrossing enough to keep me captivated. Quinn Younger and Regan McKinney were supposedly the H/h, but there were so many characters and storylines going on at the same time that the story lost its focus. Exhibit A: the single sex scene between Quinn's friend Kid and Regan's sister Nikki was longer, more intense and more sensual than any of the sex scenes between Quinn and Regan. That's just wrong!

As this is the 1st book in the series, I understand the author's need to "set the stage" for future books, but I think Ms. Janzen took things too far. Every frickin' character that popped up in the story had their own 15 minutes (or more) of fame and the too frequent change of POV drove me insane. I wasn't confused with who was who and I had no problem following the story, I just didn't enjoy being "interrupted" in the middle of a scene with Quinn and Regan only to see whatever was happening in whoever's life. That prevented me from connecting with them - and when I can't connect with the H/h, the romance falls flat.

As for the plot, it was fun but had more holes than a Swiss cheese. Exhibit B: Quinn was a former Air Force pilot, a national hero who'd been featured on the cover of Time Magazine, Newsweek and the front page of every major newspaper in America. Incredibly, he managed to land a job working undercover among the bad guys. WTF? How come nobody recognized him? Were they blind? There were more jarring moments like that, but this is a spoiler-free review rant so I rest my case.

Based on what I wrote above, you must be wondering why I'm giving this book 3 stars - which isn't an altogether bad rating. Well, what can I say? Even with all its flaws, this was an OK book. It kept me entertained while I read it, but I didn't find myself glued to its pages and it won't stay with me now that I finished it.

Am I going to read the next book in the series? Maybe, when I'm in the mood for more mindless fun. :)

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: "The Education of Mrs. Brimley" by Donna MacMeans

The Education of Mrs. BrimleyThe Education of Mrs. Brimley by Donna MacMeans

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my 1st read by Ms. MacMeans and her debut book, and it was a great start for both of us. :)

Emma Heatherston is forced to escape from London after she overhears her sleezy uncle's plans for her: she's to be sold to the highest bidder - a rich husband or a brothel, it doesn't matter - to fund his expensive lifestyle. Pretending to be Mrs. Emma Brimley, a young widow in need of a new life, she manages to get a teaching job at the Pettibone School for Young Ladies. Upon arrival, she's informed that she's expected to teach more than literature and poetry: she's to teach her innocent students to prepare for the intimacies of marriage. Shock and despair don't begin to describe Emma's feelings, but she can't risk being fired and sent back to London so she agrees to teach the girls all she knows about "bedroom etiquette" - which happens to be nothing!

Emma's salvation comes in the form of Lord Nicholas Chambers, the notorious rake known as Lord Bedchambers who lives right next door to the Pettibone School. Women are seen going in and out of his house on a regular basis, so Emma is sure he's more than apt to give her the information she needs to keep her charade going. There's more to Nicholas than she expected, though. He certainly knows his way around the bedroom, but he isn't the rake everyone thinks. He's "just" an artist and lets the gossip go around because it gives him the privacy to paint without being disturbed. When Emma (boldly) arrives on his doorstep and asks him to educate her on the intimacies of marriage, he makes her a proposition: he will answer all her questions if she poses for him. Obviously, there's a catch: he wants to paint her as the Greek goddess Artemis - a naked Greek goddess Artemis, to be more specific. After some negotiation, they strike a deal: for each question he answers, she'll remove one article of clothing. And thus, the education of Mrs. Brimley begins...

Oh, this book was fun! Nicholas and Emma were very likable, their chemistry was great and he was the best sex ed tutor she could ask for. Even though Emmas's "education" is the main focus of this book, it doesn't take over the story. I mean, this isn't an erotica/romantica novel, so the book isn't filled with non-stop sex scenes. In fact, the sexual sensual tension was very well developed and I was almost panting when Nicholas and Emma finally did it. It's so much better when the H/h are in love when that happens, isn't it?

Now, the premise of the book... Yeah, it's very unrealistic and you have to suspend disbelief to immerse yourself in the story. I'm not sure, but I don't think sex ed classes were taught in Yorkshire back in 1876. Anyway, I enjoyed this read enough to let that go. Mrs. MacMeans' writing was engaging, the story was entertaining and the characters were interesting. At the end of the day, that's what matters. :)

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: "The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie" by Jennifer Ashley

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, #1)The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Almost everyone who's read this book loved it to pieces, so my expectations were pretty high when I started it. High expectations can be a blessing... or a curse. Now that I finished this read, I can't help wondering what is "wrong" with me because, I'm sorry to say, I don't understand what all the fuss is about.

I liked Ms. Ashley's writing - this was my 1st book by her - and I thought the premise - the hero is "mad" - was interesting and unique, but the romance didn't work for me. Lust was very well depicted and the sex scenes were steamy hot, but love was nowhere in sight, IMHO. How can you fall in love with someone you only meet between the sheets? Ian and Beth had barely exchanged a few conversations before they found themselves in love with each other, and that pattern didn't change after they got married. I had a hard time buying their love - especially because I was constantly reminded that Ian didn't understand what Beth said half the time. He became completely obsessed devoted to her from the moment they met and I can go along with that - hey, I have bought that scenario in several books before and I will keep doing that, no doubt about it - but I need to feel that special connection between the H/h. Sadly, I didn't feel that with Ian and Beth.

Halfway through the book, the story took a turn and the romance was left aside to give space to a convoluted murder mystery. I won't go into details here because I don't want to give any spoilers away, but the "investigation" conducted by Beth was silly. I can't understand how she just solved something that Hart (Ian's older brother) and the Scotland Yard itself had failed for 5 years! Super Woman, thy name is Beth.

That 2nd half of the story annoyed me and made me drop my rating to 3 stars. I still needed Ian and Beth to convince me they were in love, but I had to content myself with pages and pages of Beth digging into the Mackenzies' past and working on solving the murder mystery.

Another "problem" I had with this book is, it screamed "First Book in the Series". Ian's brothers - all future heroes in the series, I'm sure - and their problems were featured in detail, taking my attention away from Ian and Beth.

All in all, this wasn't an altogether bad read to me. I really enjoyed the 1st half of the story, when Ms. Ashely was still developing Ian and Beth's relationship. But then, wham! They were in love and I didn't know how that had happened. Oh well...

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: "Anything for You" by Sarah Mayberry

Anything for You (Harlequin Blaze, #278)Anything for You by Sarah Mayberry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 1/2 stars

This is a friends-to-lovers story, and that's all I need to say to summarize the plot. :) I like this kind of story, it's one of my comfort reads. I usually know what I'm getting and it's up to the author to deliver engaging characters, a pleasant pace to the story, some nice banter between the H/h and, why not, sexy love scenes.

This book was a hit in almost everything - Sam and Delaney were likable, their chemistry was great and their interactions (in and outside of the bedroom) were fun - but there was something off with the development of Sam's journey from "friend" to "lover". I liked him, but he seemed to be kind of imature for a 30-year-old man...

Sam in dreadlocks:


He spent the whole story completely clueless about his feelings - and Delaney's too, for that matter - and, a few pages before the end of the book, he had a sudden epiphany and realized he was in love with her... Yes, I've read books like that before and I enjoyed them shamelessly, but something in Ms. Mayberry's writing didn't sell that scenario to me this time. An epilogue would have helped me to believe Sam's change of heart, but alas, there wasn't one in the book.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Review: "Jane and the Sneaky Dom" by Hannah Murray

Jane and the Sneaky DomJane and the Sneaky Dom by Hannah Murray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title of this book is very misleading, as it makes most people think this is a BDSM story. Well, it is not. And now that I stated that clearly, I can't help wondering if the word "sneaky" in the title has a hidden meaning - like, was the publisher trying to trick BDSM readers into buying this book? Hmmm...

Jane Denning is a successful bookstore owner who's used to being in control - in her professional and personal life. Tired of the kind of man she's used to dating - successful in their professional lives but kind of pushovers in their personal (aka sex) lives - and encouraged by her friend Lacey, Jane decides to do a complete 180 and find herselft an alpha man to dominate her - only in the bedroom, of course - and show her that there's more to life than vanilla sex.

Unbeknownst to Jane and Lacey, their conversation is overheard by Ian MacInnes, a former military man and security consultant who's exactly what Jane is looking for: a take-charge man who likes to be in control in the bedroom. As he also happens to find Jane very attractive, he takes advantage of what he's heard and, subtly, plants himself on her path to find the "Dom" of her dreams.

Much to their mutual satisfaction, Jane finds herself attracted to Ian instantly - and the rest is history...

I really enjoyed this hot story. Ian and Jane were very likable and sexy, their interactions outside of the bedroom were fun and funny, and their interactions inside the bedroom were hot and kinky enough to justify the premise of the story - remember, it all started because Jane was tired of vanilla sex. ;)

Ms. Murray's writing was good and kept the story flowing effortlessly. She even surprised me a bit, when she didn't resort to the always annoying Big Misunderstanding to add unnecessary conflict to Ian and Jane's relationship. Well done, Ms. Murray!

There was only one thing that bothered me in this book: the implied association between "backdoor" loving and trust. Yes, I understand and agree that you have to really trust your partner if you're going to engage in "backdoor" loving. What I didn't like in this book was the fact that that particular sex act was used to reinforce Jane's trust on Ian. In the end, the scene made me laugh - not in mock but in a that-was-funny way - because Ian and Jane had a contagious sense of humor, but still.

Overall, this was a fun read and I recommend it to everyone who's looking for a short-ish (longer than a novella, shorter than a "normal" book), hot story with a touch of kink.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Review: "Believe" by Lauren Dane

BelieveBelieve by Lauren Dane

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This story felt like an epilogue to Second Chances, which I haven't read, and I don't think it stood on its own. Jude and Rori spend a lot of time dwelling on their history and I felt like an outsider, not knowing how I was supposed to feel about it. In addition, their love scenes were out of my comfort zone - I am not into crops and floggers! - and I found myself skimming through them. As a result, there was little else to read.

Note: This story is also available in Naughty and Nice anthology.

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Review: "Unwrapped" by Megan Hart

UnwrappedUnwrapped by Megan Hart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I knew beforehand that this story is kind of a sequel to Taking Care of Business and No Reservations, which I haven't read, but I decided to go ahead and read it anyway because I like stories featuring married couples.

The book description is good enough so I won't bother reinventing the wheel. Here it is:

Newlyweds Leah and Brandon Long are finally taking a honeymoon. But just a few days into their Christmas-in-Vail vacation, Leah takes a tumble on the slopes, severely spraining her ankle. Being stuck indoors isn't so bad though: the luxurious chalet boasts a hot tub and cozy fireplace. Besides, sitting with her feet up while Brandon serves her in every way a man can serve a woman is exactly how both of them like to spend their time.

Leah would be in heaven, if only Brandon didn't insist on playing with the dynamic of their relationship. With kinky sex and deep conversation the only things on the agenda, Leah can't avoid the discussion of how things might change. Will she be ready to take their marriage to the next level in the New Year?

This was a nice quick read, but I think I should have waited and read the previous books beforehand. I didn't feel lost and I understood the dynamics of Brandon and Leah's relationship without a problem, but I didn't connect with them. They were likable enough and their love scenes were hot - or would have been if I had formed a true connection with them - but that was it.

Brandon and Leah's standard bedroom play had a D/s dynamic, with Leah as dominant and Brandon as submissive, but a tentative experiment in role reversal proved to be just as interesting...


All in all, this was an okay read and it got me interested in reading the previous books. I'll probably revisit this story after I read them, and we shall see how I feel about it then.

Note: This story is also available in Naughty and Nice anthology.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: "Holiday Sparks" by Shannon Stacey

Holiday SparksHoliday Sparks by Shannon Stacey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know how much my enjoyment of this read was affected by the recent change in my reading time, which has been seriously reduced due to my going back to work full time, but the end result is what matters: I loved it! It was such a cute and sexy Christmas story!

Web designer Chloe Burke leaves the comfort of her condo in Boston to spend the Holidays in her small hometown in Maine so she can house-sit her childhood home while her parents are on vacation. Not every old house comes with ancient, round, screw-in things instead of a neat row of circuit breakers, but Chloe's parents' does. So when the microwave blows up and the lights go out, it's time to call a professional.

Scott Quinn, Chloe's parents's electrician, is more than happy to help her, despite the fact it's past regular business hours. They went to school together and he's never forgotten her, even though she doesn't really remember him. Back in high school, she was the beautiful and popular cheerleader with no shortage of hot guys to keep her distracted and he was the skinny guy with crooked bowl haircut and Coke-bottle glasses who had a crush on her but was too shy to even say "hi". Ten years later, she's still as cute and sexy as he remembers, but he's changed. Time at the gym and working for a living have given him some muscle tone and provided him with the money for a real barber, and Lasik surgery has rid him of the hated thick glasses that made him look bug-eyed.

Have a look at "my" Scott --

-- as he was in high school:

-- as he is now:

Scott has certainly improved over the years, hasn't he? No wonder Chloe can't stop fantasizing about him now. ;) As she's only in town temporarily and will go back to Boston after the Holidays, they agree on indulging in a no-strings, no-expectations affair. When they realize they enjoy each other's company out of bed just as much as on it, can they find a way to turn their holiday fling into the real thing?

I adored Scott and Chloe! They were funny - their thoughts made me LOL a couple of times - and had great chemistry together. Even though the time frame of this story is rather short (around three weeks), the development of their relationship didn't feel rushed and I had no problem believing they were in love when I closed the book. Why? Because their "fling" wasn't just about sex and they actually spend time enjoying each other's company and doing couple's stuff, even though they weren't aware of it at the time.

If I have one "complaint" about this book is that it was too short. Not because I felt there was something missing, but because I wanted to spend more time with Scott and Chloe. Overall, this was an excellent read and I highly recommend it.

Note: This story is also available in Naughty and Nice anthology.

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Review: "The Dom's Dungeon" by Cherise Sinclair

The Dom's Dungeon The Dom's Dungeon by Cherise Sinclair

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've always said that I'm not a big fan of BDSM books, but I might have to change my mind after reading this book. Wow! I loved the romance between Alex and MacKensie. His dominance didn't come with pain and humiliation for the sake of it, it was coated with protection and the need to give his submissive what she needed, even though that wasn't necessarily what she wanted. He made me wish for a Dom of my own... Well, kind of. I'd take the good parts and shove the bad parts down his throat, LOL.

Note: I'm still a wuss and one particular BDSM scene between Alex and MacKensie scared me, but it didn't make me dislike this book. Kudos to Ms. Sinclair for achieving that!

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Review: "Royal Betrayal" by Nina Bruhns

Royal Betrayal (Silhouette Intimate Moments)Royal Betrayal by Nina Bruhns

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From the publisher:


She was the king's private physician. Until the explosion tore through the royal palace, leaving Zara Smith with disturbing visions and no memory. A risky place to be in a sovereignty rife with intrigue and danger in the form of one roguishly sexy doctor with an irresistible bedside manner...

Famed medical consultant Walker Shaw was thrilled when his new patient turned out to be the passionate blue blood with whom he'd shared an unforgettable night seven years before. Walker was determined to reignite Lady Zara's memories of their connection and prove to his once and future lover that dreams could come true...

This was only an OK read to me. Walker and Zara were nice and likeable enough, but I didn't connect with them because I never fully understood why either stayed away from the other for 7 years. Pressing agendas? Sorry, I didn't buy it. Different goals in life? That was more like it, but that hadn't changed over the years. So why pursue a relationship now?

Also, I felt kind of lost in the story sometimes. I knew this book was part of a multi-author series, but I didn't think it would be necessary to read the previous books. Based on my experience, this kind of series doesn't usually require that. As it was, I can't say whether my "confusion" would have been cleared if I had read the previous books, or whether Ms. Bruhns's writing was lacking.

This isn't the last book in the series and the overall mystery that connects all the books was left unresolved, as expected. I'm not curious enough to keep reading the series to find out how it ends, though.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review: "Midnight Angel" by Lisa Marie Rice

Midnight Angel (Midnight, #3)Midnight Angel by Lisa Marie Rice

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Beauty and the Beast stories, and 'Midnight Angel' is a book that follows that kind of storyline. Knowing that, it was a sure bet I´d like this book. :)

This is the most emotional book of the Midnight series, but I sometimes felt that LMR could have "toned down" her charaterization of Douglas and Allegra. I mean, he was so wonderful, sweet and caring, it was like he was "the" ultimate romance hero (apart from his "ugliness", that is); and she was so nice, talented and beautiful... It was too much, IMHO.

Anyway, I really like this book - the whole series, actually - and LMR has become one of my favorite authors. I need to track down her backlist. Thankfully, she doesn´t have a huge one; otherwise, I´d be in deep trouble. :)

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Review: "Midnight Run" by Lisa Marie Rice

Midnight Run (Midnight, #2)Midnight Run by Lisa Marie Rice

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is only my 2nd book by LMR and it´s safe to say, it´s not going to be my last. :)

I really liked Bud, the hero in this book, but I had some problems with Claire, the heroine. I just couldn´t buy her reason for breaking up with him. Her life was in danger, he did everything he could to protect her life, and she was less than thankfull!?! Okay, he´d been acting in an overbearing way before, but did she have to choose the only time he was right to put a stop to it? Anyway, she made up for it in the end, so I kinda "forgave" her.

On a side note: I like the way the books in this series complement each other. When I read 'Midnight Man', I thought the end was kinda abrupt. Well, 'Midnight Run' provided the epilogue that was missing from that book, giving readers a glimpse on John and Suzanne´s life after their HEA. Nice!

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Review: "Midnight Man" by Lisa Marie Rice

Midnight Man (Midnight, #1)Midnight Man by Lisa Marie Rice

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I´ve been on the fence about reading erotica/romantica for a long time, because I always need more than a bunch of sex scenes thrown together in a book. I finally made the jump into reading 'Midnight Man' after seeing several recommendations on the Romance Forum at Amazon and, boy, let me tell you... I loved it! It was hot - of course! - but the story wasn´t just about two people having sex. The book had a plot, and a good one! I only wish the end wasn´t so abrupt - I love epilogues - but I was warned about it and, in the end (no pun intended), it didn´t bother me that much.

I´m definitely going to read the next books in the Midnight series!

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review: "The Promise of Jenny Jones" by Maggie Osborne

The Promise of Jenny JonesThe Promise of Jenny Jones by Maggie Osborne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm not a big fan of historical westerns, but this book might turn me into one. Yup, it was that good!

As the story opens, Jenny Jones is in jail, accused of killing a man. It was self defense, but no one believed a Mexican soldier, no matter how drunk he was, would try to force himself on a woman like her, rough and used to taking all kinds of unsavory jobs to earn a living. As Jenny is contemplating her impending death, Marguarita Barrancas, a wealthy Mexican woman who's clearly dying from consuption, enters her cell and offers her a deal: she will take Jenny's place in front of the firing squad tomorrow. As Jenny has requested to be wearing a hood when her time comes, the Mexican guards won't notice the exchange until the deed is done and Jenny is long gone. Naturally, Marguarita wants something in return from Jenny: Jenny's promise to take Marguarita's daughter Graciela safely to her (Graciela's) American father in California. The catch is, Graciela will become the sole heir to a large fortune when Marguarita dies and her cousins won't think twice to kill her in order to get their hands on the fortune. Jenny is a loner and hates kids, but Marguarita convinces her to accept the bargain. After all, the Mexican woman is dying anyway and even though Jenny thinks her (Jenny's) life isn't much to talk about, dying so soon isn't appealing. So the next day, Jenny finds herself saddled down with Graciela, a prissy, spoiled and snotty kid who hates her and blames her for the death of her mother.

Unbeknownst to Jenny, Graciela's estranged (and wimpy) father Robert Sanders has finally decided to fetch his wife and child. Not that he's grown cojones and stood up to his father after years of submission. No, no. The old man has just died and now Robert is free to acknowledge his Mexican wife and daughter. Obviously, he still isn't man enough to go get them himself, so he asks him brother Ty to do it. Humph! Can you tell how much I disliked Robert? :(

As expected, Jenny and Ty end up running into each other and, boy, that was fun. They are slightly attracted to each other, but mutual distrust keeps them apart. Only when Graciela's murderous cousins catch up with them and snatch the girl, Jenny and Ty decide to join forces to get her back. Not an easy task, considering they have to fight Graciela's belief that they are wrong and her cousins mean her no harm. Will Jenny be able to fulfill her promise to Marguarita and take Graciela safely to Robert? Will she get over her hankering for Ty? Or will she be heartbroken when all is said and done?

This book Jenny made me laugh and cry - not at the same time, of course. :) I just adored her. She was rough, hard, cussed all the time, drank and some cigars, and could beat the crap out of any man - including Ty - in a fight. She's the most unconventional heroine I've ever met and I didn't think I'd like her at first, but she won me over. The same way she won Ty and Graciela, I couldn't help admiring and loving her in the end.

I also loved Ty. He was equally tough and imperfect, with his prejudice against all things Mexican - including his niece Graciela. He was in Mexico to do a job, to take his sister-in-law (he didn't know she was dead when he accepted his brother's request) and his niece to their new home, and that was it. He didn't care for Graciela at first, but he was a fair man and it didn't take long for him to realize his prejudice was unjustified. If all cowboys are like him, I'm moving to Texas, LOL.

As for Graciela, what can I say? The girl drove me crazy and I fully understood Jenny's frustration and impatience with her. I don't care much for children in my romance books, but I have to say that Graciela was perfect. Not perfect in the sense that she was a little angel who could do no wrong. Quite the contrary. She was like a real child: one moment, you wanted to cuddle her; the next, you wanted to tell her to shut up and stop pestering you. She was smart, but not adult-smart. She spoke and acted like a 6-year-old, and that was refreshing.

I loved, loved, loved this book! It was funny, it was touching, it was... real. Ms. Osborne has pushed all my emotional buttons. Jenny's transformation from loner to caring mother was aptly written. Some authors would be tempted to turn Jenny into an unbelievably mushy, utter feminine woman, but Ms. Osborne avoided that trap and kept her true till the end. Ty's and Graciela's character growth was also very well portrayed and none had sudden epiphanies that turned them into someone else. Excellent writing all the way, Ms. Osborne!

I realize this review has become quite long, but I couldn't help it. I tend to go overboard when I really like something and, as you surely know by now, I more than liked this book. :) Okay, I'll stop now.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review: "Friendly Fire" by Megan Hart

Friendly FireFriendly Fire by Megan Hart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Welcome to my fantasy." Kendall breathed in the richly scented air as she paused at the top of the flight of stairs leading from the small private jet.


She gave the flight attendant a quick smile. "Where's Tattoo?"

The attendant, a young woman with a vapid smile, looked perplexed. "Sorry, who?"

Those are the first lines of this book, and I'm not ashamed to say that I know who Tattoo is and had a silly smile on my face when I read them. I even shouted, "The plane! The plane!" :)

Okay, let's stop this nonsense and move on to what matters - the review.

Agent Kendall Frasier’s partner has been shot in "friendly fire" during a drug bust and she's having a hard time trying to cope with it. As part of her psychological evaluation and therapy, she agrees to take a week's vacation at Corazon del Mar, a facility the agency has liberated from a minor drug lord who’s been busted. She isn't too happy when she finds out that Agent Zane Vincent, the man responsible for the shooting, is part of the group of agents undergoing therapy at the tropical island, but there's nothing she can do about it. Thankfully, they aren't required to socialize with each other so she decides to simply ignore him. But that's easier said than done, and Kendall can't help feeling a connection with Zane - especially after she realizes he feels worse about the shooting than she does. As they begin to spend time together and get to know each other, their mutual attraction becomes impossible to deny. But what will happen when their week's vacation/therapy is over and they're back in the real world?

I really liked the premise of this book and was looking forward to reading it, but I'm afraid I ended up sightly disappointed. Simply put, the story was too darn short: when things began to get interesting, it ended. I knew this was a novella so I wasn't expecting too much depth in Kendall's and Zane's characterization, but I still felt there was something missing. The story is written from the third person POV but we're only privy to Kendall's feelings, and that made it difficult to connect with Zane. When I thought I had him figured out, it was time to say goodbye and hope for the best in their future.

On the bright side, I enjoyed Ms. Hart's writing and the way Kendall and Zane's relationship was developed. Even though this is a short story, I didn't feel that their romance was rushed and I believed there was more than a mere sexual attraction between them by the end of the book. Having said that, I can't help wondering what future two DEA Agents can have. Quoting Kendall, "Dating someone in the same career was always a disaster because their shifts never coincided, and when they did, they were both usually too beat to even kiss, much less work themselves up to grand-scale lovemaking." Ack! What does Ms. Hart have against a good, old-fashioned HEA? I need my escapism!

Overall, this was a quick, nice read. I only wish it was longer, because Zane needed more pages to be fleshed out and the story could have used an epilogue to give closure to the HFN/HEA.

Now, because I'm shallow and like pretty things, I must share "my" Zane with you:


The guy on the cover might be hot, but he isn't Zane because he's clearly not multi-ethnic and doesn't have a close-shaved head like Zane. Yeah, I can tell that even though the guy's head is cut from the picture. I pay attention to the most insignificant details, LOL.

Note: I received this eARC from Carina Press via NetGalley. That had no influence on my review/rating.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: "Hard and Fast" by Lisa Renee Jones

Hard and FastHard and Fast by Lisa Renee Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first read by Lisa Renee Jones and, yay, it was excellent. How come I've never heard of her before? Why am I "complaining"? Do I really need to add more authors and books to my TBR? Hmmm, I guess I do! :)

Amanda Wright is finally living her dream. She's the new sports reporter for the Los Angeles Tribune, with her own semiweekly feature column in the sports section. On game days - and we're talking about the Major League Baseball and the Los Angeles Rays here - she gets space in the paper no matter what. She's hit the big time, and she's got to show her new boss she can deliver what it takes to keep her position. Getting involved with a Rays player is definitely not the way to do it, as it would damage her credibility as a reporter and ruin her career, but what if one particular player is too hard to resist?

Brad Rogers, the star pitcher for the Rays, has a reputation as a bad boy and has learned the hard way not to trust reporters. He's nice and friendly with them, aware that they're a "necessary evil", but he knows better than to let any of them close - especially now, with his contract up for renewal, his agent telling him to play it cool and stay out of trouble, and the big secret he's hiding... Getting involved with the Tribune's new reporter is everything he shouldn't do, yet the attraction might be too strong to resist.

With their careers at stake, his secret hovering over them and a scandal in the making that her boss pressures her to investigate, any relationship between Brad and Amanda is doomed to failure. Or is it?

That's the basic premise of this book, one of the best HQ Blaze stories I've ever read. I must say that the book description is a bit misleading, because Amanda was never torn between revealing Brad's secret and having an affair with him. That was settled pretty early in the story, when she let him know that she wasn't going to reveal that he'd been hiding an injury. She wasn't the kind of reporter who did everything to make a good story no matter whose career got hurt in the process. The conflict in their relationship was rooted in their individual and antagonistic careers, and that was harder to overcome than the "simple" revelation of a secret. Brad was a ballplayer and Amanda was a sports reporter assigned to cover his team, none of them was likely to change their career so how could there be any future for their relationship?

I absolutely adored Brad and Amanda. They were very well drawn, with realistic motivations and fears, and had great chemistry. I loved the fact that they didn't let lust take over their senses right off the bat, even though they acknowledged the mutual attraction. That was a great way to build up sexual tension and, bonus point, move along the plot, as Brad and Amanda had believable reasons to want to keep their relationship strictly professional. So when they finally got together, there was more than just sex on the table bed, and I could feel it.

Brad was the ultimate sports hero. He was 6'3", blond, blue-eyed and had a "deliciously muscular body, with sculpted pecs and nicely defined abs." Yum! Quoting Amanda, "The man was a walking sex god." Have a look:


(Brad doesn't have any tattoos, but I had to take some liberties with "his" pic because it's very hard to find to-die-for blond guys with blue eyes on the internet.)

He was also charming, fun, loyal, and very persuasive when he went after what he wanted. His decision to keep his injury a secret was perfectly understandable, and so was his wariness around Amanda. I got a little angry with him near the end of the book, when he momentarily took the coward's way out and hurt Amanda in the process, but even that was understandable under the circumstances. He did have a lot on the line there.

Career-driven women can be tough to portray in a sympathetic manner in Romancelandia, but Amanda had the right balance between professional ambition and ethics. She could have revealed Brad's secret and made her name known nationally, but that wasn't how she worked. She was smart, determined, and strong without being pushy. She could have made Brad grovel a little more when he apologized for his behavior near the end of the book, but I guess she was more forgiving that me. :)

All in all, I really loved this book and have no complaints about it. Great characters, interesting plot, sizzling love scenes and a sigh-worthy HEA. What else was missing? Absolutely nothing!

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review: "A Quick Bite" by Lynsay Sands

A Quick Bite (Argeneau, #1)A Quick Bite by Lynsay Sands

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This story is marketed as being funny, light and cute. I prefer my PNR books to be on the dark and dangerous side, but I needed to read a "Q" book to finish the RRRC's A-Z Book Challenge and A Quick Bite was the only one I had on my TBR - for years, I might add - so I decided to finally give it a chance.

Lissianna Argeneau is a 202-year-old vampire who happens to be, gasp!, hemaphobic. That's not a good thing considering what she is. Concerned about her future, her mother Marguerite decides to give Lissi "the best birthday gift ever": Dr. Greg Hewitt, a 35-year-old psychologist who specializes in phobias. Marguerite is sure he'll be able to cure Lissi's phobia so she can leave a "normal" vampire life.

From the awkward moment they meet, Greg and Lissi feel attracted to each other, but nothing good can come out of it because (1) she's a vampire, (2) he's a mere mortal and (3) he'll have his memory erased as soon as he cures her phobia. Naturally, nothing goes according to Marguerite's plan, and Greg and Lissi find themselves running for their lives. But who's after them? Her wacky family? An unsuspected vampire hunter?

That wasn't a bad setup, but I'm afraid Ms. Sands didn't make it work for me. I didn't laugh at any of the attempted jokes, I hated Lissi's silly cousins (to the point that I lost track of who was who), I didn't care for the numerous one-dimensional secondary characters and I didn't feel any sexual chemistry between Greg and Lissi. They were both nice enough - well, they weren't annoying - but I didn't feel any love between them. They had a strong connection, I grant you that, but it only veered into the friendship zone - at least, that's how I felt.

Simply put, there was no character development in this book. Lissi was unbelievably imature for her age. I don't care if she was considered extremely young in vampire years. Come on, she was 202 years old! She should have been way wiser than she was. I just don't get it. Unless... Do vampire brains develop at a slower rate than mere mortals'? Does vampire blood affect their learning curve so bad that 200-year-old vampires act and talk like teenagers? *groans*

Greg was another "problem", as I couldn't understand his actions. He was kidnapped, tied up and left without food or water for hours, and took it all in stride. Sure, he had a hissy fit at first, but then calmed down and became the most complacent kidnapped victim of all times. Puh-lease! And when he found out that those deranged people who had kidnapped him were vampires, did he freak out? Of course not! He simply sat down with Lissi - actually, he was tied up to the bed, but at that point, he couldn't care less - and listened attentively while she recited History of the Vampires: Origin & Evolution. Gah!

To be fair, I thought the explanation for the origin of the vampires devised by Ms. Sands was unexpected and interesting, but I didn't like the way she explored that concept. When all was said and done, I got the feeling that the Argeneau vampires were just like any regular mortal human with a few enhanced characteristics to make them different. For a PNR, this book was the most un-PNR I've ever read.

So, as you might have guessed by now, I didn't like this book. It had some good parts - mainly when Greg and Lissi were on their own and away from her wacky family - but those few and far in between moments weren't enough to make up for everything else. Overall, this was a very disappointing read to me.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review: "Jane's Warlord" by Angela Knight

Jane's Warlord Jane's Warlord by Angela Knight

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Based on the premise and some reviews I've read, I knew this book had a bit of "everything": romance, sci-fi, time travel, suspense and, of course, sizzling love scenes. With a combo like that, I was sure this would be at least a fun read - and I was right. :D

Baran Arvid is a 24th century Warlord(*) who's sent back to the 21st century in order to kill the time-traveling Jumpkiller Kalig Druas before he murders his next victim Jane Colby, the owner of a small town local newspaper and crime reporter.

(*) Warlords are genetically engineered humans, much stronger than the strongest "normal" human and unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat. A neuroweb combat computer woven through their brain gives them access to a vast data bank and information from sensor implants scattered throughout their bodies. In sum, Warlords are highly intelligent killing machines, with well-deserved and ugly reputations. Baran is no exception.

Baran knows that the only way to catch Druas and prevent the Jumpkiller from murdering Jane is to stick to her like glue. But first, he needs to explain her who he is and convince her he isn't an asylum escapee. That takes some time, but once Jane is convinced, she has practically no qualms about having Baran accompanying her everywhere - including the bathroom and, guess what, her bed - until his mission is completed and he travels back to the future.

Do I really have to say that they get down and dirty right on the 1st night he spends at her house, on her bed? I didn't think so, LOL. Despite all the sex they have - which was a lot, if I may say so - they don't forget that Druas is still out there and need to be stopped... At least, I guessed they didn't, because it was hard to tell with all the moaning and panting they did. As expected, Baran and Jane manage to fall in love with each other while tracking Druas, but there's no future for them because he'll be gone as soon as he eliminates Druas, right? Hmmm, time travel can be so confusing...

I had a great time reading this book. It was fun, fast-paced, with lots of steamy love scenes and very likable (but not exactly three-dimensional) characters. Ms. Knight could have dedicated more effort to develop her characters, IMHO. Baran was OK, but I felt like I never got to know Jane that well. Didn't she have any friends besides Tom Reynolds, the detective in charge of the murders commited by Druas? The few scenes she had at work didn't make me see any connection between her and her employees. What about her missing mother? Why drag that mystery all through the story, only to drop it with no explanation at the end? Druas' case was worst, as he was pretty much a one-dimensional villain who didn't seem that smart to me. Anyway, the fast pace of the story prevented me from dwelling on that too much.

My biggest issue with this book was the time travel theory developed by Ms. Knight. I spent a lot of time trying to understand it - and almost gave myself a headache in the process - but the truth is, it didn't make sense!

Exhibit A: If traveling back in time and changing past events creates a paradox that destroys the universe, why wasn't the universe destroyed when Druas traveled back the 1st time and committed those murders? Before he traveled back that 1st time, those murders had been non-existent.

Exhibit B: Considering that Druas was originally from the 24th century, he knew what happenned in the past. So why didn't he anticipate Baran's actions and avoid them? The same could be said about Baran, but Ms. Knight gave a flimsy excuse for Baran's being in the dark about what happened in the 21st century.

Oh well, time travel by itself is a hard concept to understand, so I cut Ms. Knight some slack. And once I stopped trying to understand it and accepted it in blind faith, I really enjoyed this read. This was fiction, not a Physics Essay. Sometimes I'm too smart for my own good, LOL.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: "As You Desire" by Connie Brockway

As You DesireAs You Desire by Connie Brockway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WOW! LOVED IT, LOVED IT, LOVED IT! That´s all I have to say. :)

And here's my favorite passage (excerpt available at CB's website, so this isn't a spoiler):

“And Blake.” Harry shook his head in disgust. “Such affectations.”

“You are calling someone affected?” she asked, raising her brows. “You, who employ two secretaries, one for your Arab dealings and one for your English? You, who are too high and mighty to write your own correspondence?”

Harry grinned. “That’s different. At least I don’t commit the sin of triteness. Calling you a ‘rose.’ An ‘English rose’ at that. You must forgive him the hackneyed compliment. Old Blake’s not much for originality, I’m afraid.”

“I thought him charming.”

Harry made an unconvinced sound.

“I did. I suppose you could do better?”

“Well were I to make the effort to extol a woman’s beauty, I could certainly do better than to drag out some tired old cliche about a rose.”

“You are the most monumentally egocentric man I know,” Desdemona said, trying to keep the trace of admiration out of her voice.

“You are unconvinced?” Harry asked, taking a sip of coffee and crossing his legs. “Allow me to demonstrate… and please bear in mind that I improvise.”

He spread jam over a piece of toast, studying her quizzically as he did so. She felt like a specimen, standing there under his scrutiny. She took the chair next to his and started buttering her own toast with supreme indifference. She was not a specimen.

“Let me see. Nothing floral. In fact, I think we’ll dispense with the vegetative allusions all together. Animal?” he asked rhetorically. “Perhaps a gazelle? No,” he dismissed the idea, chomping into his toast. “Too meek. Too inconsequential. This is difficult, Diz. To blandish a woman about her physical appearance is so limiting.”

“Yes,” she said dryly, burying a pinprick of hurt. He couldn’t think of anything to compliment her on.

“All right, then,” he finally said. “I’d begin with the way you stand.”

“Stand?” He’d caught her off guard. She blinked.

“Slender. Upright. Face lifted for the sun god’s caress,” he murmured slowly, musingly, as if to himself. He cocked his head, his eyes traveling lingeringly over her body, and she recognized the potent attraction other women must feel when Harry looked at them this way. As if she were the central point upon which all of his world turned. As if he lo—

“Why, look,” he asked in a hushed voice, some thing surprised and painful and pleased in his tone, “even Ra himself cannot resist you. Only see how he lathes your cheeks and brow with his heated tongue”— he reached out, brushing his fingers over her tanned cheek— “marking you with his golden kiss?”

His words were too graphic, too carnal, and she was too aware of his fingers skating along her cheekbone and over her jaw line. He’d never spoken to her this way before. Her heartbeat quickened, thrumming in her throat and in her wrists. She shivered. He smiled. His hand retreated.

“How can a mere mortal man stand a chance if even the gods are so enamored?” he whispered. “And how can one single image describe you? You are a country, a country of unexplored sensation and whim, veiled in dawn, shining, shedding light. See how the long fluid line of your throat flows to your breasts?” If he heard the intake of her breath, he ignored it. “Or how their blue-shadowed curves ripen above the smooth plain of your belly?”

She should stop him, he went too far, but his voice mesmerized her, like sweet, honeyed wine, warm and languorous.

“Your mouth.” He paused, and her lips felt suddenly sensitized, tingling as his gaze fixed on them. “Your mouth is a sweet well sealed against me, keeping me thirsting for the clarity of your kiss. Your flesh is like the desert sand, warmth and shifting strength beneath its golden color. Your palms open, fingers flexed, are minarets, delicate and elegant. And your body… it is the Nile itself— the camber of your back slipping so easily by the narrows of your waist and jettied hips to the lush delta below.”

He stopped. She heard the intake of his breath. “You are my country, Desdemona.” Yearning, harsh and poignant and she felt herself swaying toward him. “My Egypt. My hot, harrowing desert and my cool, verdant Nile, infinitely lovely and unfathomable and sustaining.”

She gasped.

His gaze fell, shielded by his lashes. An odd, half-mocking smile played about his lips. “You’ll never hear old Blake say something like that.”

She swallowed, unable to speak, her senses abraded by his stimulating words, her pulse hammering in anticipation? Trepidation?

“Remember my words next time he calls you a bloody English rose.”

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review: "Prelude to a Scandal" by Delilah Marvelle

Prelude to a ScandalPrelude to a Scandal by Delilah Marvelle

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was only my first read by Ms. Marvelle and I'm sorry to say it was a great disappointment. The premise was interesting, but I just couldn't get into the story or connect with the characters.

Desperate to have her father released from prison, where he's been thrown for publishing his observations on innate buggery in the Animal Kingdom and stating that homosexuality is allowed by God and therefore shouldn't be condemned, Lady Justine Palmer approaches his father's academic patron, the notorious Duke of Bradford (better known to the ton as The Rake Extraordinaire) and offers herself up to him in exchange for his help releasing her father. Braced for surrendering her virginity to a man who (seemingly) presents no wedding prospect, she's shocked when he refuses her offer and proposes marriage instead.

Unbeknownst to Justine, Radcliff Morton, the Duke of Bradford, is as desperate as her. Consumed by his addiction to sex, he's been in seclusion for the last eight months in an effort to reform himself. Convinced that Justine is his last hope of salvation, Radcliff does his best to control the sexual urges that torment his body, knowing that he needs to become a better man for their marriage to work.

That was the basic premise of this book, but there were so many other subjects crammed into the story that it lost its focus. Besides his sex addiction, Radcliff and Justine also had to deal with his "mommy issues", his villainous brother Carlton, his brother's abused mistress Matilda, a gay servant, and other minor problems. It was too much, and I just couldn't make myself care for any of them.

Radcliff had the potential to be a great tortured hero, but his character fizzled. He was described as being a sex addict, but I never saw him acting as one. I was told over and over again that he was a sex addict, but he was one of the most self-controlled heroes I've ever seen. He stopped himself from consummating his marriage with Justine on their wedding night because he was afraid of hurting her, even though he was fully aroused and hadn't had sex in eight months. Oh, and she was willing and asking him to continue! I'm not an expert on the subject, but I don't think a sex addict would be able to control himself like that.

As for Justine, she was a pain. Assuming that Radcliff was indeed a sex addict, I thought she was very insensitive about it and did nothing to help him. I don't know why he put up with her incongruous demands and let her steamroll him, because he got nothing out of it. Not even sex! Their relationship was so unbalanced and unhealthy that I found myself dreading the HEA. Radcliff and Justine did not belong together!

As I mentioned above, this was my one and only read by Ms. Marvelle so far. I usually give new-to-me authors three chances to win me, and this one has been wasted. I have the next two books in this series on my TBR so I'll be reading them soon. I hope they're better than this one. *keeps fingers crossed*

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: "Dangerous Secrets" by Katie Reus

Dangerous SecretsDangerous Secrets by Katie Reus

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had insomnia last night and this was the book I chose to read to pass the time. I can't say I stayed awake because the story was so riveting I couldn't stop, but it was good enough.

Isabelle "Izzy" Ballantine has moved from Savannah, GA to Coconut Bay, FL to get a reprieve from her overprotective, meddling father and she's quite happy working as a bartender and living on her own. Sure, money is tight now and then, but going back home to live under her wealthy father's shadow isn't an option that interests her - especially now that her boss has hired tall, dark and handsome Adam to work with her...

In order to cinch the multi-million-dollar Forester deal, security expert Adam Marcellus lets Izzy's father convince him to move to Coconut Bay and keep an eye on her - without her knowing his true identity, of course - for five weeks. It's icing on the cake if Adam can convince her to return to Savannah, but as long as he assures her father that she's safe, he will land the Forester deal. He manages to get a job at the same bar she works and is nicely surprised when he meets her and realizes that she isn't anything like the spoiled rich princess he thought she would be.

Adam is undeniably attracted to Izzy and vice versa, but he holds himself back because he knows they have no future. Not only he's been lying to her since they met, but he's also learned the hard way that a classy woman like her would never settle down with a straight blue-collar working man like him. When Izzy unwittingly crosses a sexual predator's path and becomes his next target, Adam finds himself reconsidering his decision to stay away from her and fighting to keep her alive. He only hopes she forgives him when she finds out the truth about him...

I liked this story - most of it, anyway. Adam and Izzy were very likable and had good chemistry together. Their relationship progressed a bit too fast, but not in a completely unbelievable way. Izzy's reaction when she finally finds out Adam's identity and the bargain he's made with her father was predictable and I couldn't help feeling somewhat disappointed because I'm not fond of that particular cliché. On the bright side, I really liked their love scenes. Skinny-dipping at the beach, anyone? ;) Check this out:


Haha! What did you want to see? Adam and Izzy did have sex in the ocean, but I'll leave that to your imagination, LOL.

As for the suspense, I was surprised when I realized that Adam wouldn't be playing an active role in investigating and catching the bad guy. His job was to protect Izzy, and it was up to the police to chase and get the man who was after her. It was refreshing to get the detectives' POV, as secondary characters rarely get to have that kind of attention, but their scenes were rather bland and I never got fully engaged in the progress of their investigation.

All in all, this was an okay read. And last but not least, it got a bonus point for the nice epilogue.

Note: I received this eARC from Carina Press via NetGalley. That had no influence on my review/rating.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Review: "Do You Trust Me?" by Desiree Holt

Do You Trust Me?Do You Trust Me? by Desiree Holt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

GASP! There's a nekkid butt on the cover of the book - and I only noticed that now!? I think I need to schedule an appointment with my eye doctor. ;)

Romance novelist Sabrina "Rina" Devargas' life is turned upside down when a frantic call from her brother John has her flying from San Antonio, TX to his townhouse in Tampa, FL in order to retrieve their deceased mother's locket. Bad phone connection prevents her from understanding everything he says, and all she grasps before the call is dropped is that he's been betrayed by someone from his own black ops team so she must trust no one. It doesn't take long for Rina to find out that John has hidden a microchip inside the locket. Given his profession, there's no doubt in her mind that the microchip contains highly classified information and it's up to her to give it to the right person, but she doesn't know whom she can trust.

Connor McCall, John's black ops partner, is assigned to protect Rina when they realize that the bad guys John was investigating are after her and any info she might have. Having once shared an unforgettable night of passion with her, McCall finds it impossible to resist temptation and keep his hands off her, even though he knows that getting involved with her will certainly interfere with his ability to keep his mind on the job. He also knows that she's hiding something - namely, the info her brother has gathered to catch the bad guys - but while he's earned her trust in the bedroom, he's getting nowhere outside of it. With the bad guys closing in on Rina, McCall needs to gain her trust and ferret out the traitor in his team before it's too late...

The premise of this book is a common one in romantic suspense novels, but I was okay with it because I think that a good story is defined by its "details", not necessarily by its "formula". Unfortunately, this book had many problematic "details":

1. The plot had more holes than swiss cheese... What kind of idiot (Rina) wants to go home - and stay there like a sitting duck - when there are bad guys after her and they know where she lives? Why did McCall (and all his team, for that matter) agree with that and everything else Rina demanded, regardless of how dangerous it was? What kind of horn-dog (McCall) goes out to buy condoms and sex toys when he should be focusing on the job he had at hand? I have to say that McCall seemed to be quite incompetent. :( As for the identity of the traitor inside McCall's team, I guessed who he was pretty easily. No surprise there, which was disappointing because this is a romantic suspense novel. Now, to have Rina's friend Laurel to be in cahoots with the bad guys was a surprise. The unexpected connection was too contrived, though. I felt like Ms. Holt was playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, with Rina replacing Mr. Bacon. To think that Rina would have been involved, even indirectly, in the same event her brother had given his life to prevent even if he hadn't left the microchip with her was too much of a coincidence.

2. I didn't like McCall. He was too cold for my taste, and dragging the revelation of the reason behind his fighting any emotional connection with Rina until the end of the book played against him. When his "secret" came out, I was past the point of caring.

3. I didn't like Rina. Simply put, she was TSTL (see item 1 above). The way she refused to cancel her previously scheduled and much advertised public appearances (book signings and interviews) made her look reckless, not brave. I'm not an expert on the subject, but I don't think that calling off a couple of book signings and rescheduling some interviews would ruin her career.

4. The romance between McCall and Rina didn't work for me. I never felt they were in love with each other. They were definitely in lust and had sex on their minds all the time, but they had almost no interaction outside the bedroom (because McCall needed to "keep his distance" in order to focus on the job) and that made me skeptic about their ILY in the end. As this is an erotica/romantica story, the sex scenes were plentiful and darn hot, but I must say that the first one was a bit cringe-worthy. On the funny side, McCall's volunteering to shave Rina - no, I'm not talking about her head - and his fixation on her "backdoor" could put some of Lora Leigh's heroes to shame. ;)

Ms. Holt's writing was good enough to keep me turning the pages without wanting to throw the Kindle against the wall - figuratively speaking, of course - and I read the whole book in two sittings, so not all was lost. Even though I didn't like this book, I'm not against giving her another try because I liked her writing style.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: "Zero at the Bone" by Jane Seville

Zero at the BoneZero at the Bone by Jane Seville

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has a great premise and based on the raving reviews I'd read, I was sure it would be a sure winner. Well, I'm sorry to say that I failed to see what all the fuss was about...

Dr. Jack Francisco has the misfortune of witnessing a mob murder and has his life turned upside down. These particular mob murderers have been escaping the law for years and they've managed to be acquitted from every crime charged against them, as witnesses of those "alleged" crimes always disappear mysteriously before they get the chance to be called to testify. The DA isn't going to take any chances this time, so Jack is put under the FBI's Witness Protection Program. Jack knows that his life as he knows it is over, but he's a good, law-abiding citizen and wants to do the right thing.

D is an assassin for hire - an "eccentric" one, some would say. He has his own moral code and only takes jobs where the targets are bad guys themselves. One can think of him as a vigilante, only that he doesn't kill people out of some twisted sense of justice. He does it for money, period. He's offered the job to kill Jack, but he refuses because Jack isn't one of the bad guys. However, D's "employer" doesn't take "no" for an answer and blackmails him into doing it. Even so, D can't make himself kill Jack and decides to take the unfortunate doctor under his protection, knowing that other hit men will be called to do the job as soon as his blackmailer finds out he didn't do it.

That's how Jack and D meet and begin their journey together, dodging bullets, hiding and trying to stay alive long enough to allow Jack to testify. Will they make it? Or will they take the easy way out and choose to hide forever, letting the mob murderers go free? What about the growing attraction between them? Jack is an openly gay man, but D is straight... or so he keeps saying to himself. And what about D's "profession"? How can a law-abiding citizen like Jack accept what D does for a living? It doesn't matter that D claims to kill "only" the bad guys. Who's he to decide who's good and who's bad?

This was an uneven read to me. I loved the beginning and the way Ms. Seville set the story up with a few pages. Her writing was concise and direct, conveying all the necessary information with precision. Each scene was tightly woven, the action was riveting and non-stop. Then, once Jack and D had to stop and hide for a while, the tone and the pace of the story changed abruptly. That's the point when Jack started to probe into D's feelings, forcing the cold-hearted hit man to open up. I believe those moments were supposed to be emotional and all that, but I didn't get it. Sorry, I didn't feel the connection there. And when they finally became intimate, it felt like an act out of desperation, not love.

The story picked up some pace again when Jack and D worked their way through the tentative relationship and the mushy stuff was out of the way... or so I thought. My reprieve was brief, because Ms. Seville inserted another twist in the story and I had to deal with the Long Separation plot device and a lot - I mean, a lot! - of pining and internal whining from Jack (mostly) and D. Oh boy, I did not needed that so close to the end of the book! At one point, I was ready to kill myself if I found another italicized sentence in the book.

Anyway, they managed to clear everything up and the story came to an end... or so I though, again. I was quite satisfied reading the last chapter's final paragraphs, thinking that that was a surprisingly beautiful (even though far-fetched) HEA. Then I started reading the epilogue... WTF?!? It was the most depressing epilogue I've ever read. It erased the HEA and I was left full of doubts. An epilogue is supposed to give readers the assurance that the H/h are indeed living HEA, but this book's epilogue turned a satisfying HEA into a doubtful HFN. :(

As for Jack and D, I liked them but I didn't love them. D was a very tortured hero, but not the kind I wanted to hug and never let go. I don't know, he didn't have that special something that makes me love a tortured hero. Jack was your average nice guy. He was way more open than D - duh! - but somehow I didn't get to know him as well as I got to know D. Over the course of the story, D's past is revealed piece by piece, allowing me to understand why and how he had become who he was. I got nothing from Jack. I knew he had a family, but not who they were. Were his parents still alive? Did he have any siblings? Aunts? Cousins? Did he care about them? I'm hard pressed to say no, seeing that he didn't spare a single thought to them throughout the story.

Overall, this was an OK read. The good parts were great, but the bad parts were blah. She's got some short stories (featuring Jack and D) available on her website and I plan to check them out. Maybe I can get a better feeling of closure reading them.

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