Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review: "The Last Hellion" by Loretta Chase

The Last Hellion (Scoundrels, #4)The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I was first introduced to Vere Mallory, the Duke of Ainswood, in 'Lord of Scoundrels', I was less than impressed with him and I couldn´t see him as the hero in any book. After reading 'The Last Hellion', I stand corrected. And it didn´t take long, he had me right at the Prologue. Loretta Chase did a wonderful job showing how much he was affected by the row of deaths that took away his family, up to his beloved 9-year-old cousin, and even before I read the rest of the book, I KNEW he was one of the "good guys" and his "hellish" behavior was just an act.

As for the heroine, Lydia Grenville, she was a real hoot. A 6-feet-tall, 28-year-old spinster (even though she was NEVER referred as that in the book, which I found very refreshing), intelligent, self-confident and in possession of a sharp tongue - and quick fists - that had Vere doomed from the start.

The story flew very smoothly, with a series of "harmless" antics that threw Vere and Lydia together and kept building the sexual tension between them, up to the point where neither of them could deny their mutual attraction anymore - no matter how "annoyed" they felt about it. I loved their dialogue and the way one tried to outmaneuver the other. I loved the nicknames he called her. I even liked Bertie Trent in this book, LOL.

What I didn´t like was the way Dain kept calling his son Dominick. "Demon Seed" and "Satan´s Spawn" are NOT endearing terms! I had this problem with Dain when I read 'Lord of Scoundrels' and I didn´t expect to see him still behaving like that in 'The Last Hellion'. That´s a minor complaint of mine that I could easily overlook, considering that this book was not about Dain.

In summary, I really loved this book and recommend it to everyone who loves a very funny and not too-angsty romance. I lost count of the times I laughed at the witty and snappy remarks exchanged between Vere and Lydia, and I admit I had a silly smile on my face when I read the last line of the book.

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Review: "Three Weddings and a Kiss" by Catherine Anderson, Loretta Chase, Lisa Kleypas, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

Three Weddings and a KissThree Weddings and a Kiss by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Straight to the point...

The first story, "Fancy Free" by Catherine Anderson, was funny, entertaining and, sometimes, rather silly, but it was OK.

The second story, "The Mad Earl's Bride" by Loretta Chase, was great and the best of this set of short stories. I loved the characters, the setting and the unusual and emotional plot. I dare say this story alone is worth buying the book.

The third story, "Promises" by Lisa Kleypas, was good but not up to par with her usual standard. I expected something a little more, I don't know, angsty from LK.

The last story, "The Kiss" by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, was not good all. The "plot" - if there was one, that is - was boring and the characters were less than interesting.

All in all, I'd say the first three stories were worth reading and you can just skip the last one.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: "My Dearest Enemy" by Connie Brockway

My Dearest EnemyMy Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was the first book by Connie Brockway I've read, and I was completely wowed. It was soooo goooood!

My Dearest Enemy has it all: it's funny and, at the same time, heartbreaking, Romantic - yes, with a capital "R"! - and has two of the most charming couples I've "met" in Romancelandia. Avery and Lily made me laugh with their initial witty banter, made me cry when their individual beliefs tore them apart, and made me sigh in happiness with their HEA.

There is NOTHING I can fault in this book. It's a keeper and I can see myself rereading it at least once a year in the future. :)

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: "Almost Heaven" by Judith McNaught

Almost HeavenAlmost Heaven by Judith McNaught

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely LOVE this book! This is what I posted at the RF (Amazon) when I read it for the 1st time, and I'm simply copying my post here on GR because I'm lazy and don't feel like writing a full review...

Well, I've just finished reading Almost Heaven and I'm glad to say that I'm in love with Ian, Elizabeth, and everyone and everything else in the book. :) I especially loved Ian for having no fear admitting to himself he was in love with Elizabeth without knowing if she felt the same, and I adored Elizabeth for standing her ground and not cowering when Ian tried to send her away.

I though the Big Misunderstanding issue would turn me off because I'm not a fan of this kind of plot device - and there were not only one, but two in this book -, but JM made it believable to me. Ian and Elizabeth were so much in love with each other that it rendered them defenseless, insecure and wary. The more you love someone, the more you're open to being hurt by them.

Quoting Elizabeth: "I've hurt you terribly, my love, and I'll hurt you again during the next fifty years. And you are going to hurt me, Ian - never, I hope, as much as you are hurting me now. But if that's the way it has to be, then I'll endure it, because the only alternative is to live without you, and that is no life at all." Oh my!

And I can't resist adding my favorite passage:

"If you would take one step forward, darling, you could cry in my arms. And while you do, I'll tell you how sorry I am for everything I've done -" Unable to wait, Ian caught her, pulling her tightly against him. "And when I'm finished," he whispered hoarsely as she wrapped her arms around him and wept brokenly, "you can help me find a way to forgive myself."

Tortured by her tears, he clasped her tighter and rubbed his jaw against her temple, his voice a ravaged whisper: "I'm sorry," he told her. He cupped her face between his palms, tipping it up and gazing into her eyes, his thumbs moving over her wet cheeks. "I'm sorry." Slowly, he bent his head, covering her mouth with his. "I'm so damned sorry."

OMG, I cried like a newborn baby when I read that! And I'm not ashamed to say, my eyes are "suspiciously bright" right now, while I'm typing this...

I'll stop now. Otherwise, I'll just end up posting every single line of dialogue exchanged between Ian and Elizabeth. :)

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

David Gandy - Away We Stay - W London Leicester Square Premiere

Starring Helena Christensen, David Gandy & W London.

W London lifts the figurative lense cap off of a fictitious guest Alex Worthington. Shot on location in Leicester Square "Away We Stay" written and directed by Edoardo Ponti, is a romantic tale of love, life and the choices we make in the middle...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: "Top Secret Bride" by Nina Bruhns

Top-Secret BrideTop-Secret Bride by Nina Bruhns

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my 1st book by Nina Bruhns, and it was a very good one. As a romantic suspense, it had the right balance between romance and suspense, with some fast paced thrilling scenes as a bonus, just the way I like it.

While working undercover at a jewelry boutique in Paris, SIS (British Secret Intelligence Service aka MI6) agent Marina Bond - no James Bond jokes, please - overhears a phone conversation about some kind of threat against the Lazlo Group, one of the most elite private investigation agencies in the world. Corbett Lazlo, the head of the Lazlo Group, is a friend of her father and saved her life once, so she feels obligated to return the "favor" and warn him about what she's heard. So she sets up a secret meeting with him in a seedy hotel in the Monmartre district so she can give him the heads-up. But it isn't Lazlo who shows up at her hotel room door...

DeWitt von Kreus is one of Lazlo's agents and was sent to the meeting in his boss' place because the man himself couldn't make it. But Marina has been in the spy business for too long to trust Witt blindly and, out of the blue, invokes the so-called "Denmark protocol", an old-school safety measure that requires Witt to strip naked to prove he's not wired. Obviously, Witt invokes the protocol in return. Uh-oh. Marina isn't shy and has nothing to hide, and neither does Witt. So strip naked they do... and the attraction between them is explosive and unmistakable.

Marina takes a deep breath - after all, she's a professional - and manages to control her libido long enough to give Witt the info she's gathered, all the while intending to leave as soon as possible before she gives in to temptation and jumps his bones. But he has other plans, and when she tries to leave the hotel room, they end up having wild, hot sex against the door. Wow, that was fast! ;) Witt wants to see her again but Marina doesn't do casual sex - what happened in the hotel room was just a fluke - and knows he isn't up to a long-term relationship, so she's ready to dismiss him the moment they step out of the hotel and get back to their separate jobs.

But then someone starts shooting at them, and Witt decides to stick to Marina like glue until they find out what's happening. Who's the shooter after, Witt or Marina? Is the attack related to the threats against the Lazlo Group? Or has it something to do with the undercover operation Marina's working at the moment? While they work together to try and solve these mysteries, the initial attraction between Witt and Marina grows and they soon find themselves falling in love.

This was a very entertaining and edgy read, full of action from beginning to end. Bullets started flying in the 1st Chapter and only stopped in the last. Witt was one very sexy hero, marriage-shy due to a traumatic event that happened when he was only a teenager growing up in South Africa, and he had more than a professional interest in bringing down the Angolan broker who worked for several African terrorist groups, trafficking illegal conflict diamonds in exchange for firearms. Marina didn't have a "tortured" past but she loved her job and, based on her parents' experience, she didn't think it would be possible to have a lasting relationship with anyone and keep her job at the same time. Witt and Marina had some rough spots along the way - he really had to work on his protective instinct and accept the fact that she was a competent agent and could take care of herself - but they were good to and with each other.

As mentioned before, this book had an "instant coupling" scenario. It takes a good writer to make me buy that, and I'm happy to say Ms. Bruhns made it work for me. She built the sexual tension in those 1st pages in a very believable way, so when Witt and Marina acted on their attraction so fast and furious, it was hot instead of icky. Plus, Ms. Bruhns didn't have Witt and Marina thinking they were in love with each other immediately after "the deed", so kudos to her.

The ending was a bit frustrating because not all the mysteries were solved. I should have expected that considering this book is part of a miniseries, but I only found that out after I finished it and was left hanging in the air. Anyway, I'm not holding it against the book, since that's how it was supposed to be. All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book.

Note: Top-Secret Bride is the 3rd installment in the multi-author miniseries Mission: Impassioned. I didn't know that beforehand, or I would have tried to find and read the previous books before reading this one. Anyway, I didn't feel lost in the story, so it's fair to say you don't have to read this series in order - except for the last one, I'm guessing. As a rule, I'm not a big fan of multi-author series because the stories can be a bit uneven and I don't necessarily like the writing style of all the authors engaged in the series, but I'll have to find and read the last book, Lazlo's Last Stand by Kathleen Creighton, if I want to know who the master villain of the overall story arc is. Oh well, I might as well try and find all the other books in the series since I enjoyed this one so much...

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Review: "The Tin Star" by J.L. Langley

The Tin Star (Ranch Series, #1)The Tin Star by J.L. Langley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a sweet read, with the right amount of angst (not too much, thankfully) to prevent it from being completely unrealistic.

Dark-haired, blue-eyed, 21-year-old cowboy Jamie Killian is tired of hiding his sexuality and decides to tell his father he's gay. Unexpectedly (to Jamie), his father not only gets the shock of his life but throws him out of the house. Confused and hurt, Jamie is pondering what to do next when Ethan Whitehall, his older brother John's best friend, offers him a place to stay and a job in his ranch, the Tin Star. Naturally, something is bound to happen between Jamie and Ethan soon enough because, unbeknownst to everyone but John and Julia (John and Jamie's sister), Ethan is gay too. A very closeted one, but gay nevertheless. At first, Ethan is wary of getting involved with Jamie, but there's no resisting the young man's charms. However, not everyone in town is happy with having an openly gay man around. Will Ethan come out of the closet and stand beside Jamie against the town's bigots? Will they be able to find their HEA in their hometown? Or will they have to leave and find it somewhere else?

I loved strong, protective and no-nonsense Ethan. I adored headstrong, impulsive and fun-loving Jamie. They were so sweet together! Not even the slightly big age gap between them - Ethan is 11 years older than Jamie - bothered me, because they fit each other. (Cliché, I know, but still true.) There was little conflict in their relationship, which doesn't mean that there was no conflict in the story. Those were caused by other people, namely Jamie's father and some of the town's homophobic troublemakers.

As for the plot, it had some holes. Some were easy to forgive and ignore, as I'm prone to do when I love the characters in the story, but there was one that bugged me big time:

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

When Jamie was born, his brother John was 11 years old and his sister Julia was 9 years old. I can't believe they didn't know Jamie wasn't their mother's son! How did they fail to notice that she was never pregnant in the months before Jamie's sudden "delivery"? If John and Julia had been younger, I could have bought that, but there's no way an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old were that gullible.

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

All things considered, I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading more from this author - especially the next book in the series, featuring Sheriff Hunter. Yum!

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: "Bed of Roses" by Nora Roberts

Bed of Roses (Bride Quartet, #2)Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 1/2 stars

After finding Vision in White a good but slightly disappointing read, I "knew" - as far as anyone can know such thing - that I'd enjoy Bed of Roses better. Something to do with this 2nd book being better received by most readers and my having lower expectations, I guess. No matter why, I did find Bed of Roses highly entertaining.

Emma was the main reason this book worked for me, with her utterly romantic nature. She was also the reason this book lost 1/2 star in the end, when she attacked Jack for no reason at all (IMHO). Worse, she refused to listen to him and just cut him loose. Argh!

Anyway, besides that small bump in the road, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Emma and Jack's friendship develop and grow into love. And dancing in the moonlight? Which woman could resist that? *sighs*

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review: "Run to Me" by Christy Reece

Run to Me (Last Chance Rescue, #3)Run to Me by Christy Reece

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The last book in the Last Chance Rescue series, Run to Me is the darkest of them. It dedicates a large (IMHO) amount of time depicting the more than creepy villain's thoughts and showing all kinds of torture. The things that not only Ethan and Shea, but another secondary character that shall remain nameless, go through are enough to give a weak mind nightmares. I can only believe that Ethan and Shea will live HEA because this is Romancelandia, as there's no way they would be still functional in real life.

So, did I like this book? Oh yes! Do I recommend it? Absolutely. Will I ever reread it? Hell no!

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Review: "Return to Me" by Christy Reece

Return to Me (Last Chance Rescue, #2)Return to Me by Christy Reece

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Still not in the mood to write full reviews, so straight to the point it is again...

Noah and Samara were introduced in Rescue Me, the 1st book in the series, and I was happy to see that I didn't have to wait "forever" to read their book. I was even happier to see that their book didn't disappoint me. Great writing with a good mix of romance and suspense, yummy hero with a past tortured enough to make me want to hug him and never let go, strong heroine who isn't afraid to fight for what she wants but also knows when to back off, surprising villain - yup, I didn't see that coming :) - and several tense, nail-biting and cringe-worthy scenes that kept me glued to my couch/bed/wherever I was. What's not to like? Granted, I had to suspend my disbelief a couple of times, but it wasn't enough to bother me. This is Romancelandia, not real life. As long as I'm connected to the H/h and I'm engaged in their story, I don't mind going along with whatever the author throws my way.

Note: This is the 2nd book in the series and, as much it pains me to say it, you don't have to read the 1st one to enjoy this one. However, why would you want to skip the 1st book? ;)

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: "Rescue Me" by Christy Reece

Rescue Me (Last Chance Rescue, #1)Rescue Me by Christy Reece

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not in the mood to write a full review, so I'll just go straight to the point...

I enjoyed this read: Ms. Reece's writing was good, the premise and the setup for the series were engaging, Noah McCall was a very interesting secondary character - why do I always fall for the manipulative and seemingly coldhearted bastard? - and the villains had a twisted ethic code that saved them from being jut slimy, one-dimensional characters. So why "only" 4 stars? Well, that was basically Jordan's and Devon/Eden's fault: I liked them and felt sorry for them, but their eagerness to jump into conclusions every single time made me wonder how good they were at their jobs. I mean, given the fact that they pretty much lived to lie in their line of work, shouldn't they be better at not taking anything at face value? *shakes head in frustration*

Anyway, I'm sold to this series because the good stuff surpasses my annoyance with Jordan and Devon/Eden. I rarely read series back to back, but I've already picked up the next book to read. It's Noah's story, how could I have resisted? ;)

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review: "Vision in White" by Nora Roberts

Vision in White (Bride Quartet, #1)Vision in White by Nora Roberts

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 1/2 stars

Nobody writes friendship like NR and I really enjoyed watching the interactions between Mac and her friends. Carter's slightly crazy friend Bob, with his "helpful" lists, was also fun to be with. In fact, everyone - besides the accidental stressed B, G, MOB, FOB, MOG, FOG, MOH, BM, FG and any other acronym the wedding business can come up with - was nice and fun. That lead to a lack of real conflict in the story, hence my lukewarm rating. I liked this book and its characters, since it was impossible to hate such nice people, and the story was very easy to read, but I can't say I loved it.

Will I be reading the rest of the series? Of course! I'm curious about Carter and Mac's friends and I'm pretty sure their stories will be at least as nice as this one.

P.S.: After rereading my review, I couldn't help noticing how many times I used the adjective "nice". Well, what can I say? This was a nice story, LOL.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: "Fair Game" by Josh Lanyon

Fair GameFair Game by Josh Lanyon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was only my second read by Josh Lanyon, but it was enough to earn him a spot in my (not so coveted, LOL) list of favorite authors. I just love his writing!

Elliot Mills is a former FBI agent who's trying to come to terms with his new life as a history teacher at Puget Sound University. After being seriously injured in the line of duty, he couldn't deal with the idea of a desk job so he chose to quit the Bureau - along with the man he loved, Tucker Lance - and leave his career in law enforcement behind. That was seventeen months ago - not that he's counting - and while Elliot likes teaching at PSU, he misses being a cop - and Tucker.

When PSU students start going missing on campus, Elliot finds himself involved in the investigation at the request of his father, who's friends with one of the missing students' mother, and his boss, PSU president Charlotte Oppenheimer. Imagine his surprise when he finds out that the FBI agent assigned to the case is none other than his former lover... Tucker doesn't seem to pleased to see Elliot again and begrudgingly accepts his help in the investigation, but when they start supecting there might be a serial killer behind the students' disappearances and Elliot might be his next target, they have to put their differences aside and work together to catch him before it's too late. Will they also be able to find a way to rekindle the love that has never been truly gone away?

This was a very good romantic suspense read, with an interesting mistery that kept me engaged throughout the whole book, a couple of thrilling action scenes, great character development and a nice romance. For those readers who prefer an even balance between romance and suspense in their romantic suspense reads, I must say that the romance takes a back seat to the suspense in this book. That doesn't mean that the romance isn't good - it is! - but the main storyline is focused on the missing students investigation. I love mysteries, so that wasn't an issue to me.

I really liked the whole cast of characters in this book. They were all well-developed, three-dimensional and added depth to the story. They weren't there just to fill otherwise empty spaces in the list of suspects. As I mentioned above, this was only my second read by Mr. Lanyon, but based on this book and the first one I've read, Icecapade, I think I can say that characterization is one of his strongest suits.

The entire story is told in third person, which I like, but the reader only gets Elliot's POV. While that worked very well in Icecapade, I can't say the same here. Considering how hurt Elliot was by Tucker's behavior when they ended things in the past, I needed to "hear" Tucker's thoughts to understand why he acted the way he did. I got the explanation near the end of the book, but it was a little too late to completely satisfy me.

As I'd been forewarned, Mr. Lanyon is rather (in)famous for the somewhat abrupt endings of his books. Fair Game is no exception to that rule, but I wasn't too bothered by that because the closure I got was good enough. Sure, a nice epilogue would have been great, but I'm not holding the lack of it against the book. Forewarned is forearmed! :)

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Review: "Lord of Scoundrels" by Loretta Chase

Lord of Scoundrels (Scoundrels, #3)Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having read this book praised all over the net, I confess I was a bit afraid of being disappointed. In the end, I WAS somewhat disappointed, because it didn´t wowed me as much as I expected. I really liked LOS, but it´s not my #1 all-time favorite book.

What I loved:

1- The hero and the heroine, Jessica and Dain, were not like the standard characters so common in historical romances, that is, the gorgeous hero and the naive heroine. From the beginning, I was captivated by characters who "broke the mold", so to speak. I particularly loved Jessica and her honest acceptance of her attraction to Dain.

2- The dialogue was amazing. Jessica and Dain´s interactions were very amusing and I found myself laughing several times.

3- LC´s writing style was paced with witty and funny remarks, that kept the story flowing seamlessly.

What I didn´t like (and prevented LOS from being a keeper):

1- To put it simply, I had some problems with Dain´s sometimes "childish" behavior towards Jessica (okay, it was funny at first, but enough is enough and it only made him look stupid in the end). His inital refusing to accept his bastard son wasn´t something to be admired either.

2- The secondary characters, especially that awful Beaumont and that silly Ainswood, were like "caricatures" and didn´t have much depth.

All things considered, it was a book worth reading and I had a pleasant time doing it. :)

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: "Destined to Last" by Alissa Johnson

Destined to Last (Providence, #4)Destined to Last by Alissa Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3 1/2 stars

I loved the 1st 3 books in this series, so I assumed that I would love this last installment too. Well, I liked it - but I didn't love it. It was nowhere near the previous books, but it was still a better than average read to me.

Lady Kate Cole is, "by most accounts, a young woman of exceptional beauty, extraordinary talent, and notable charm. She was also, by all accounts, a woman so remarkably prone to accidents that it was generally considered wise to back away if she happened to be standing next to a steep hill, a large body of water, an open window, or any sort of material that might cut, discolor, burn, spill, break... It was probably best if one simply kept a bit of distance from the girl whenever possible." Kate's mother, the dowager Countess of Thurston, dreams of seeing her happily married, but Kate's dreams are mainly focused on seeing her music published and hearing it played in a public venue.

Andrew Hunter is an agent from the War Department whose past is shady at best. He grew up on the streets of London, resorting to thievery and smuggling as he worked himself up to becoming one of the wealthiest men of England. He's decided to have Kate for a wife since he met her, but he's never done anything to catch her attention - except to loom, that is. Now that he's assigned to protect her at a house party at Lord Brentworth’s state, where the War Department believes a smuggling operation is based, Hunter seizes the opportunity to finally capture Kate.

Hunter's courtship begins with a few funny mishaps and a tentative friendship that eventually turns into something more meaningful and deeper. However, Hunter isn't interested in a love match with Kate. She's only supposed to be the symbol of his rise from pauper to prince, not the woman whose life is more important than his own, the keeper of his heart, the love of his life... He doesn't want a woman who loves him, does he? Hmmm...

I really liked Hunter and Kate, individually and as a couple. They were charming, funny and playful, making their banter fun to read. The chemistry between them was nice and strong, but the sexual tension was subdued. Don't get me wrong, the love scene - yes, singular - was hot, but it wasn't the highest point of their relationship.

As for the story, I had a big problem with its pacing. As much as I enjoyed Hunter's planned courtship and single-minded pursuit of Kate, I thought it moved too slow and it was bit repetitive. Thankfully, things got better and more exciting halfway through the book, when the smuggling business was brought up front and "forced" Hunter and Kate out of their musings about each other.

The secondary(?) storyline that started in the Prologue, when Kate was 5-years-old, was very predictable. It was nice because I was happy to see a beloved secondary character get her (sort of) HEA, but it was distracting: while I was reading the book, I found myself thinking when the "big secret" would be revealed when I should have been concentrating on Hunter and Kate.

Overall, this was a cute story. It was light (but not fluffy), with likable characters and an enjoyable (if unevenly paced) romance. If you've read and liked the previous books in the series, chances are you'll enjoy this one too - maybe not as much, but still... If you're new to this author, this isn't the place to start. Get her previous books, which were all winners to me.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Review: "Lipstick on His Collar" by Inez Kelley

Lipstick on His CollarLipstick on His Collar by Inez Kelley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I fell in love with Inez Kelley's writing in Sweet as Sin and I was anxious to read another one of her books. It took some time, but I finally did - and I'm glad to say it was oh-so-good! :)

Bram Winters is an Emergency Communications Specialist and the nature of his job keeps him constantly on the road. He travels from town to town on request, evaluating an area’s geography and equipment to formulate a package of communication equipment needed and present his company’s expertise and price. As he finds himself alone in one of the many small-town motels of the country on the eve of the 4th of July, he decides to relax a little and join the town's festival. And that's when he sees her...

"Alone, in the middle of a small dance area, oblivious to the couples around her, a woman swayed. A punch of pure sexual longing knocked the breath from his chest. The tiny little dress in deep blood-red skimmed her thighs and clung to curves that made him salivate. Her shoulders and hips moved to the tune, her eyes closed, lost to the music's caress. A dewy glow turned her skin to gleaming gold in the summertime evening sun."

The sexual attraction between Bram and Lady, the mysterious woman who doesn't want to share her name, is instant and combustible, leading to a night of hot, unforgettable passion. But when Bram wakes up in the morning, she's gone - and he doesn't know how to find her because he still doesn't know her name... But their story isn't over yet, and fate makes their paths cross again five months later. Will Bram finally find out who she is and why she ran away from him all those months ago?

This was basically a sex-between-strangers kind of story and I'm not a big fan of that premise, but I think Ms. Kelley has done a great job setting up Bram and Lady's one-night stand. Their love scenes were scorching hot, but I believed that there was more to them than simple lust. I wouldn't go as far as to say it was love, but I did feel the emotional pull between them. Bram was one sexy hero, of course, and he seemed to really care for Lady.

Now, I was more skeptical about Lady's reason for acting the way she did. Not because it was silly or stupid, but because not all her actions were in sync with it. I didn't feel she was truly scared of her ex. If she was, she wouldn't talk back to him when he threatened her and she would certainly not get down and dirty with Bram in the Laundromat knowing her ex was stalking her from across the street. But then, Bram could be hard to resist...


Anyway, her fear just didn't feel real to me.
I "blame" the short length of this story for that, as that particular aspect needed more pages to be better developed. Its off-screen resolution is a case in point. I wanted to be shown what happened, not to be told.

I liked the way Lady's name was kept a mystery throughout the story. It gave a special meaning to her revelation at the end of the book and I swear, I smiled like a ninny when she shared her name with Bram. It was such a sweet moment! *sighs*

Overall, I really enjoyed this story, and I recommend it to everyone looking for a steamy read with a sexy hero, an engaging heroine, and yowza-worthy love scenes. Sometimes, that's all we need!

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Review: "Completely Smitten" by Susan Mallery

Completely Smitten (Hometown Heartbreakers, #9) (Silhouette Special Editions, #1520)Completely Smitten (Hometown Heartbreakers, #9) by Susan Mallery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a sweet, lovely read! I'm completely smitten... LOL, you knew this pun was coming, right?

U.S. Marshall Kevin Harmon has just delivered a prisoner to the federal penitentiary in Kansas, and now all he wants is a beer, a burger and a bed, in that order. So there he is, in a seedy road side bar, getting the beer and the burger, when she walks in... For once he isn’t looking for trouble, so of course trouble, in the form of a pretty, wide-eyed blonde, comes looking for him. Kevin can see the nervousness in her eyes and the hesitation in her step, stating loud and clear that she doesn't belong in this - or any other - bar, and he's determined to stay out of the way, no matter what. But when she's accosted by 3 bullies who are interested in more than just a friendly chat, he can't not do anything, can he? So he dons his shining armor and goes to her rescue...

Haley Foster is a very sheltered, naïve minister's daughter who has run away from home in order to "experience life" for the 1st time. She was engaged to her father's associate pastor, but longtime lingering doubts made her question her decision to marry a man she doesn't love. So she's packed her bags, hit the road and there she is now, in a seedy road side bar in Kansas, being rescued by a handsome, in a rugged, cigarette-advertisement sort of way, man.

Reformed bad boy Kevin knows better than to get involved with innocent Haley, and tries his best to do "the right thing" and stay away from her. He's slime. Actually, he's the single-celled creatures that aspire to be slime. She deserves better than someone like him. But no matter how many times he repeats this mantra to himself, he can't help being pulled into her charming, adorable side. Fate intervenes and he finds himself in need of a ride to his mother's home in Possum Landing, TX, so she offers to drive him there. Does he want to spend the next few days this close to her? Oh yes! He's going to hell for sure. But he's going down with a smile...

This was an utterly adorable, "feel good" read! Kevin was oh-so-sweet, and I loved the way he kept thinking that lightning would strike him for lusting after virginal Haley. He was just perfect, always respectful and concerned about her wants and needs. Oh my, can I have more of him, please? ;) Haley was also lovely, and it was fun to watch her "experiencing life" and finding her independence. I've never met anyone so innocent in real life, but I didn't find her unbelievable at all considering the way she'd been raised. Things could have turned bad for her if she hadn't found Kevin so early in her self-discovery journey, but that didn't mean she wasn't a person of her own. As corny as it sounds, they really completed each other.

As for the plot, this was a straight contemporary novel about 2 people meeting and falling in love. There was no mystery to be solved and no secondary plot to divert my attention. This book is part of the Hometown Heartbreakers series and the connection that ties the characters in the series was part of the story, but it wasn't big enough to make it necessary to read the previous books to understand and enjoy this one. Nonetheless, I'm going to track them down because I want to read them. If they're as good as this one, I'm in for a treat. :)

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: "McAlistair's Fortune" by Alissa Johnson

McAlistair's Fortune  (Providence, #3)McAlistair's Fortune by Alissa Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Three books, three winners. It's official: Alissa Johnson has snatched a spot in my favorite authors list.

This story starts with a misunderstanding: 26-year-old spinster and women's rights advocate Evie Cole eavesdrops upon a scheme to find her a husband, but she doesn't overhear the whole conversation and therefore misses the fact that the "schemers" (her aunt, the dowager Lady Thurston, and two family friends, Mr. Fletcher and Mrs. Summers) give up on the plan in the end. So when she receives a letter threatening her life and some events unfold in an identical way to the husband-hunting plan she's overheard, she decides to play along just to see how far things would go. She's quite surprised to see how good actors her aunt and friends are, though. If she didn't know better, she'd believe they were actually concerned about her safety. But that would be absurd, since the whole charade was just a ruse... Or was it?

James McAlistair, a former soldier who's lived a solitary life in the past 10 years, gets involved in what Evie believes is a plan to get her married. Unfortunately (or fortunately), he believes the threat against her life is real and sticks to her like glue, vowing to protect her. McAlistair has been in love with Evie for 8 years, even though they've never really talked with each other. That was very far-fetched and I tried to accept it at face value, but I'm afraid I failed. Anyway, I decided to let it go as the story progressed, because I had no problem believing he fell in love with Evie - and vice versa - as they spent time together, and got to know and trust each other enough to share their most deep secrets.

McAlistair and Evie were great characters and I loved them. He was that kind of tortured hero I can't help loving, and it was a joy to see him opening up under Evie's not-so-gentle probing. He wasn't surly, just quiet. Knowing she wasn't meant for him, but unable to let her go once he realized he was meant for her. Perfect! *sighs*

Evie was the perfect match for McAlistair, of course. She was independent, strong and caring, without a TSTL bone in her body. She was stubborn, but she knew when to cave and obey - as long as she agreed with McAlistair's reasoning, LOL.

The plot in this book was stronger than the previous books' and the mystery surrounding the threat against Evie's life had a surprising resolution. I should've known better than to think that Ms. Johnson would follow the same template again. :) This book wasn't perfect, though. The pace was uneven and it dragged a bit around the middle of the story. I also missed the LOL funny banter between the H/h that was present in the previous books, even though I understand that tortured McAlistair would be the last person on earth to be caught bantering and joking with anyone.

All in all, I really enjoyed this read and can't wait to read the next (and final?) book in the series.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review: "Annabelle's Courtship" by Lucy Monroe

Annabelle's CourtshipAnnabelle's Courtship by Lucy Monroe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmmm, this was an OK read... I guess. I mean, I didn't love it but I didn't hate it either, and that's the best thing I can say about it.

Scottish Laird Ian Mackay, Earl of Graenfrae, needs to get married - to an Englishwoman, blast it all! - in order to claim his stepfather's inheritance. As he's been betrayed by love before - of course, what else is new here? - Ian decides to search for a suitable bride in a "rational" way and makes a list with the qualities he expects to find in his future wife: she must be plain looking (because beauty is deceiving), modestly dowered (because wealthy means spoiled), older (meaning she'll be biddable and accepting of his proposal) and practical (because he doesn't have time to cater to the romantic needs of a woman). So off he goes to London...

As soon as Ian sets his eyes on Lady Annabelle, he knows she's the one: plain looking, modestly dowered, a 24-year-old spinster on the shelf and seemingly practical. Annabelle is attracted to Ian at 1st sight and fancies herself finding love at last, but after hearing him list the reasons why he's chosen her to be his wife, she's rightly offended and refuses him on the spot. Obviously, Ian doesn't take no for an answer and hence begins his courtship of Annabelle...

The premise of this book isn't new in Romancelandia, so I wasn't expected anything out of this world. Whether I enjoyed it or not, it would all depend on the author's skills to make the battle of wills between Ian and Annabelle interesting and entertaining. Funny banter, witty remarks, sizzling sexual tension, lots could be done here. Unfortunately, I got almost nothing of that. Ian was sweet (in that overbearing way that's Scottish heroes' trademark), Annabelle was nice but had a penchant for putting herself in danger that bordered on TSTL territory, the villain was a one-dimensional loony that wouldn't scare a child and the other secondary characters were OK but not remarkable. The pace of the story was slow and no real conflict hampered Ian and Annabelle's relationship. I don't need angst to enjoy a book, but at least give me something to make my heart skip a beat!

That said, I must point out what I liked about this book. Despite his past, Ian never jumped to the wrong conclusions about Annabelle's faithfulness, even though he found her in a compromising situation more than once. On her part, Annabelle wasn't that secure, but I liked the way she didn't shy away from confronting Ian and letting him know how she felt. This is one couple I'm sure will never fall on the traps of a Big Misunderstanding, and that's a big win in Romancelandia.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A shot in the making: Dolce&Gabbana's men's SS10 campaign - Part 3

The final installment in the video series that show you how a campaign shot comes into life. In sharp Dolce&Gabbana suits with just the right amount of sparkle, models Adam Senn, David Gandy, Noah Mills and Sam Webb act out the most dramatic scene of the shoot. As a sign of respect, Sam Webb repeatedly kisses Adam Senn's hand in hopes the gesture comes to be accepted.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A shot in the making: Dolce&Gabbana's men's SS10 campaign - Part 2

Back with the second episode of the insightful video series that show how campaigns are born. Set outside the fictional Sicilian home. The boys, David Gandy, Noah Mills, Adam Senn and Sam Webb have some interesting encounters with water and grapes. The grape starts from being a delicacy to a weapon. In between takes, water is being poured, muscles are being flexed, and laughters are being contained.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A shot in the making: Dolce&Gabbana's men's SS10 campaign - Part 1

The first in an insightful video series that show how campaigns are born. Watch Domenico Dolce give last minute creative direction to model, Adam Senn. While Adam's trying not be defeated, fellow model counterparts Sam Webb, Noah Mills, and David Gandy encourage him not to give up. Adam Senn proves he can most definitely nail method acting with thanks to super-coach Susan Batson.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

David Gandy - Dolce&Gabbana's 2008 Underwear

I thought it would be fun to have a quick break from book reviews and enjoy some eye candy, so how about watching yummilicious David Gandy modeling D&G's 2008 underwear range?

The film, by Mariano Vivanco, was filmed on location in Milan and London. Absolutely purrfect, don't you agree? *sighs*

Review: "Riding the Storm" by Sydney Croft

Riding the Storm (ACRO, #1)Riding the Storm by Sydney Croft

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow! How many sex scenes can an author - or in this case, authors - cram into a book? A lot, apparently. I didn't keep track of them, but I'm willing to bet this book has more sex scenes than chapters. And that's why I'm shelving it as an "erotica-romantica" read even though it isn't officially labeled as that.

I don't know what to say here... I loved the concept of a sexed-up version of the X-Men (one of my favorite comics), but the final result disappointed me. Besides the too-much-sex factor I've already mentioned above, I didn't like the way the side stories - and there were 2 of them! - interrupted the flow of the main story between Remy and Haley. I had no problem following the 3 stories, but I didn't care for the way they were written. I thought they all would somehow come together and "connect the dots" in the end, but that didn't happen and I was left thinking that Remy and Haley had been shortchanged. As it was, they didn't have enough pages to convince me that there was more than amazing sexual chemistry between them.

I'll give the next book in the series a try because I really like the series' concept and I know that the 1st book in a series can be hampered by the authors' need to "set the stage", so to speak. I won't be running to do it, though.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Review: "Falling for Gracie" by Susan Mallery

Falling For GracieFalling For Gracie by Susan Mallery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Falling For Gracie is the perfect title for this book, as you can't help loving Gracie and rooting for her.

At the tender age of 14, Gracie Landon became famous - or rather infamous - in her hometown, Los Lobos, for her wild crush on her 18-year-old neighbor, Riley Whitefield. She "loved" him with all her heart and wasn't afraid to show it, stalking him everywhere and basically playing havoc with his and his girlfriends' lives. That took a special kind of courage, the folks of Los Lobos liked to say. That took a special kind of insanity, Riley and Gracie's mother thought. So when Riley found himself forced to marry Pam, his pregnant girlfriend, the whole town started to wonder what Gracie would do... besides lying down in front of his car and telling him she loved him too much to let him marry that sneaky Pam and if he was going to go ahead with the engagement, he should just run her over and put her out of her misery. Ah, nothing like teen drama to liven up things! But Gracie's mother couldn't take her daughter's antics anymore, and sent her away to live with her aunt and uncle.

It's 14 years later now, Gracie is a successfull wedding cake maker living in Los Angeles and has left her crazy years behind a long time ago. When her estranged mother asks her to help with the preparations for her (Gracie's) younger sister's wedding, Gracie agrees to move back to Los Lobos for 6 weeks in hopes of getting reacquainted with the family she's rarely seen in the last 14 years. But things don't go accordingly to her plan, because Riley is also back in town - single! - and everyone, including Gracie's mother and sisters, expects her to make a fool of herself over him all over again. No one seems to care that Gracie has grown up and gotten over her crush on Riley, and her crazy teen antics are rehashed on the newspaper. Can Gracie's humilitation get any worse? Of course it can! Thanks to Gracie's older sister, who should really learn how to talk with her husband instead of getting her sister in trouble after trouble, Gracie ends up tangled up in Riley's life again.

Riley has only returned to Los Lobos to fulfill a condition of his deceased uncle's will: in order to inherit his estranged uncle's millions, Riley must prove that he's become "respectable" by running for mayor and winning. An entanglement with his former stalker Gracie isn't wise, but he can't help being charmed by her. It doesn't take long until the attraction between them takes over and before he knows it, he starts falling for Gracie. But there's something amiss happening in town... Who's plotting against Riley and Gracie and taking "compromising" pictures of them? Who's trying to ruin Gracie's business? And what about Gracie's family? Will they ever get a clue and start respecting her?

This book was mainly about Gracie and I simpy loved her. She was sweet, witty, funny and delightfully adorable. I wanted her to be happy, not because that's what I usually want for the heroines in the romance books I read, but because I really cared for her. I wanted her to get her man, Riley, not because he was the hero, but because she loved him and she deserved it. I wanted to smack her mother and her sisters because they hurt her, and I wanted to throttle that deceitful Pam.

Riley was more "complicated" to me. Sure, he was likeable and overall nice, but I couldn't help thinking he wasn't the smartest cookie in the jar. I mean, he knew very well the terms of his uncle's will, so he should have guessed who was behind his demise and put a stop to it. I also thought that some of his actions concerning what would happen after his election were cold and uncaring, but at least he was honest about it with those who were close to him and that helped to "redeem" him in my eyes. Plus, his refusal to use his relationship with Gracie to save his campaign/election was perfect and I ended up liking him.

The ending was a bit uneven, with the predictable but OTT unmasking of the villains and Gracie's somewhat lackluster last antic - considering her past, I was expecting something bigger and bolder. Oh well, I should have stopped acting like the nice folks of Los Lobos, expecting Gracie to be the same crazy 14-year-old. After all, she had changed...

"What do you think?" Gracie asked, sounding more than a little nervous.

God, she looked great. "That you’re crazy."

"Good crazy or bad crazy?"

"There’s a difference?"

"Oh, sure. I was bad crazy before, when I stalked you. I like to think I’ve changed."

All in all, this was a very charming and enjoyable read. Almost perfect.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Review: "Beauty's Release" by A.N. Roquelaure

Beauty's Release (Sleeping Beauty, #3)Beauty's Release by A.N. Roquelaure

Disclaimer: I read the 1st book on a dare and the 2nd one out of curiosity - you can read my status updates and my reviews here and here, if you're interested. I have no plausible excuse for reading this last book. I just had to read it. After everything I had to endure during the previous books, I deserved to know Beauty's ultimate fate. Sure, I could have simply skipped ahead and read the last pages, but I made myself go through the whole enchilada - and that's why I said I had no plausible excuse to justify my reading it, LOL. Once again, I'm not rating this read for the same reasons I stated in my reviews on the previous books.

Since this is the last book in the series, I can't do what I did previously and copy/paste the plot summary usually given at the beginning of the next book. Considering that my poor brain cells are still pretty damaged, I'm taking the easy path (again) and copying/pasting/editing the plot summary I found on Wikipedia:

Beauty's Release begins with the captured royal slaves' journey on the ship to the Sultan's realm, where they are to become mute sex toys or living sculptures to decorate the Sultan's gardens, bedrooms, bathrooms, hallways, doors, etc. After their arrival at the exotic land of the Sultan, the slaves are examined by Lexius, the Sultan's steward, and separated.

Beauty is taken to the harem, where she meets the Sultan's wives and experiences a new level of sexual humiliation, pleasure and pain. She is then greeted by Innana, one of the Sultan's wives, with whom she quickly falls in love.

Laurent and Tristan are taken to the Sultan's garden where they are to be mounted on crosses and whipped. But Laurent defies Lexius and the Sultan's steward takes Laurent to his private rooms, intent on giving a lesson to the rebellious slave. However, Laurent overpowers him and rapes him. Both are surprised to discover how much they enjoyed the experience, but that doesn't change the
status quo... much. In public, Lexius is the powerful and unbending Master while Laurent is nothing but one of the Sultan's slaves. However, in private, Laurent and Tristan begin to train Lexius as their secret slave.

When Beauty, Tristan and Laurent start to feel comfortable and happy with their new lives, a rescue team led by the Captain of the Guard and Nicolas, Tristan's former Master and lover, arrives to take them back to the Queen's Court. Laurent convinces the Captain to take Lexius too, much to the Sultan's steward's delight. Near the end of their voyage, the Captain tells Beauty that she is to be released from the servitude because of her parents' demands and, to her great dismay, she is sent back home.

Back at the castle, the Queen agrees to take Lexius as her slave and sentences Laurent and Tristan to the Village stable, where they are made to live and work as ponies. With time, Laurent and Tristan find peace and happiness in the simple pony life, and Tristan falls in love with Nicolas again. However, Laurent's life takes another unexpected turn when his father dies: he is automatically released from the servitude and summoned back to his kingdom to become the new ruler. As every king needs to marry and produce heirs, Laurent goes in search of a princess to become his Queen. He wants a perfectly trained slave who will be more than happy to bow to her Master (aka him). Luckily for him, he just happens to know one that's available and eager: his precious Beauty. And as they ride off into the forest towards the future, they know they will live happily ever after - as the fairy tales say.

There! That's the whole plot, so you don't have to read the book anymore - unless you want to know in detail all the sexual antics that happens in this book, LOL.

Overall, I think this book was "better" than the previous in the series. The writing still sounded too simplistic and juvenile, which was odd considering the content of the book, but the characters were more intriguing. By "characters", I meant Laurent and Lexius, because Beauty was still a slutty moron and Tristan, who had caught my attention in Beauty's Punishment, was shoved into the background and had little to say. Laurent and Lexius' role reversal was interesting to follow, especially Laurent's easy ability to switch from Dom to sub and vice versa. He confused the crap out of me, but he was by far the most interesting character in the book. That doesn't mean that he was a fully-developed, 3-dimensional character, but he was one step above from being a cardboard figure.

As it happened in the previous books, secondary characters appeared and disappeared without notice and explanation. Princess Elena, Princess Rosalynd and Prince Dmitri, who were kidnapped along with Beauty, Tristan and Laurent, were sent to be and do only the gods know what as soon as they reached the Sultan's land and were quickly forgotten. What happened to them? Quite frankly, I didn't know and didn't care.

What about the sex scenes? I've got to address that, since this is an erotic book, right? Well, they were completely out of my comfort zone, but they weren't boring like the ones in The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. They were scarier than the ones in Beauty's Punishment, though. I don't feel like revisiting them in this review, so take a look at my status updates to know what I'm talking about. *shudders*

The HEA was unexpected and as random as the whole story. Laurent and Beauty had sex only once during the whole series! Considering the fact that they pretty much humped (and were humped by) everyone and everything in their vicinity, their "one-night stand" turning into everlasting love was a shock. True love comes when you least expect it, I guess.

Among all that "craziness", there were glimpses of a deeper insight into the characters' psych, but they were too few and far between to really amount to something. I wish they had been better explored, but that would have been too much to ask from an erotic book.

So, now that all is said and done, what's my final verdict? Did I enjoy reading this series? Hell no! Do I regret reading it? No. It was an experience and, as that, it was interesting. Am I interested in trying other erotic books? Not really.

And just to show that I haven't been psychologically damaged by this series, here's a nice pic to close my review:


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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: "Ravished by a Highlander" by Paula Quinn

Ravished by a Highlander (Children Of The Mist, #1)Ravished by a Highlander by Paula Quinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Are you tired of "wallpaper" historical romances where the only thing hinting at the stories' period setting is a date provided at the beginning of the book or some vague description of the characters' clothing? If you are, this book might be what you're looking for, as real characters and events play important roles in the story.

The year is 1685 and James of York has just ascended the throne of England as King James II, in a time when the fight for power between Protestants and Catholics is cause for big concern - and policital machinations. Lady Davina Montgomery is the Crown's most guarded secret, sent by her fearful parents to be raised as a Catholic by the sisters at St. Christopher's Abbey since her birth. She knows what she's to do when the time comes, but she must stay alive to fulfill her duty. Unfortunately, she's been betrayed by one of her most trusted friends and her enemies learn about her.

Luckily for Davina, Scottish highlander Robert MacGregor and his companions happen to be passing near St. Christopher's Abbey, on their way to England to attend the new King's coronation, when they notice the Abbey is under attack. They join the battle, but they soon realize that the siege has been going on for hours and there's nothing they can do to save the Abbey and the sisters. However, there's one single person left to save: Davina. A dying Captain Asher, leader of the English Army that's protected her for the last 4 years, asks Rob to take her to a new location where she will be safe again - or so he thinks.

Even though Rob doesn't know who Davina is and he's more than sure that she's got a lot of secrets that could harm him and his clan, his protective instinct - and something more, I might add :) - makes him take her under his care. As they travel north towards security, Rob and Davina begin to know each other better and, of course, fall in love with each other. Is there any chance of a HEA for them, though? Both of them have been raised to honor their responsibilities first and foremost. How can they cast that aside, choose a life together and risk endagering the lives of their families and friends?

I adored Rob and Davina! It was very refreshing to read about a couple who didn't shy away from their feelings and had no qualms admitting how much they loved each other. As much as I enjoy some H/h bantering - when it doesn't turn into bickering, of course - I loved seeing how Rob and Davina were so open and never doubtful about their emotions. The conflict in their relationship came from outside forces, never from mutual distrust or misunderstandings. How great is that? :)

The secondary characters were also very engaging. Rob's brothers and cousins were all fun to read about, and I'm sure they will be future heroes in this series. I especially liked fearless and bloodthirsty Colin, but he's still a tad too young and I don't think his book will be coming soon. I don't know how accurate King James's depiction was in this book, though. I've never met the man, LOL. Anyway, I could see why he didn't last long in the throne. I'm not implying he was weak, only that the opposing forces working against him were stronger and, well, better at scheming and manipulating.

All in all, I really enjoyed this read. Romantic, violent (Rob didn't hesitate to separate one of his enemies' head from the rest of his body), funny and highly entertaining. Plus, Rob and Davina have become one of my favorite couples in Romancelandia. I'll be perusing this author's backlist for more, I can tell you that.

Note: Even though this is oficially the 1st book in the Children of the Mist series, I felt I lost something by not having read Laird of the Mist (Rob's parents' story) and A Highlander Never Surrenders (Rob's father's friend Graham's story) first. Family connections were mentioned all the time in Ravished by a Highlander and it was a bit overwhelming. At one point, I had to stop reading and draw a chart to keep track of who was who.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Review: "Crossing Borders" by Z.A. Maxfield

Crossing Borders (Crossing Borders, #1)Crossing Borders by Z.A. Maxfield

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Awww, this was such a "feel good" book! Adorable H/H, likable secondary characters and a sweet story with a nice touch of drama, enough to prevent me from going into a sugar induced coma.

Tristan Phillips is a red-haired, freckled, 19-year-old college student who decides to listen to the inner voice that's been "harassing" him and find out if he's gay after being dumped by his last girlfriend. A girlfriend whose brother made him stand up to attention, I must say. So he devises the plan: go to the next Borders, pick some books in the gay lit section, park himself in the bookstore café and, using the books as bait, lure and trap some unwary and willing man to help him make up his mind about his sexuality. Tristan, Tristan, you really didn't know how things could have gone bad, did you? *shakes head*

Thankfully, even though Tristan doesn't think so, the 1st person who spots him in the café is Police Officer Michael Truaux. Officer Helmet, as Tristan calls him, is the bane of his existence since he was issued a 700+ dollars ticked for riding his skateboard without a helmet. The last thing Tristan wants is to have Officer Helmet hovering over him while he's tring to pick up his 1st guy. Alas, Michael decides to stick around once he finds out what kind of books Sparky, as Michael calls him, is reading pretending to read. Why? Just to tease Tristan? We all know that's not it, right? ;)

What follows next is the sweet development of Tristan and Michael's relationship. It doesn't take long until Tristan knows for sure that he's gay. It doesn't take long either until Tristan and Michael fall in love with each other, but there are some issues that will have to be dealt with before they can reach their HEA. Will they make it? Hey, this is Romancelandia!

Like I mentioned above, Tristan and Michael were utterly adorable. Compassionate, caring, protective, understanding, loving... and there's a slight problem: they were too perfect. Seriously, I couldn't find any fault in them. While it's nice to know people who make you wish to be your BFFs and deserve nothing but your unconditional love, that level of perfections becomes annoying after a while. Am I being too cynical here?

I also thought that the pace of the story was uneven. The 1st 2/3 of the book was all mushy, with Tristan and Michael professing their love for each other every other page. There was no conflict, not even when Tristan told his family he was gay. Okay, they weren't bigots and that was excellent, but I thought that some level of shock should have been shown there, considering Tristan had been "a pretty determined hetero" (aka "a guy who dated almost every girl in the neighborhood") before. Then, came the last 1/3 of the book: the mushiness was gone and the drama took over. That was very good, but too rushed. Those conflicts (Tristan being too young and Michael being a cop) could have been better developed, IMHO.

As for the author's writing, I really liked it. All the scenes were perfect examples of "show, don't tell". I got to know the characters by watching their behavior and interactions, not by being told who and what they were. Really good writing there, and I'll be in the lookout for this author's books from now on.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read, saved mostly by Tristan and Michael. The story had some problems, but they weren't bad enough to ruin the book. As a whole, I'd give it 3 1/2 stars, but I'm bumping my rating up to 4 stars because that Thanksgiving dinner scene was just fantastic and deserves a 1/2 star on its own.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review: "The Summer of You" by Kate Noble

The Summer of YouThe Summer of You by Kate Noble

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my 2nd book by this author and I can safely say I love her "informal" writing style. It's fun, charming, emotional and engaging, without being pretentious. When I'm reading her books, I feel like I'm hearing a dear friend telling me a highly entertaining story.

As the story opens, Lady Jane Cummings has just come out of mourning - her mother died one year ago - and is trying to rekindle the joy of being one of the most respected and sought-after members of the ton. But her life has vastly changed since her mother's death: her father, the Duke of Rayne, has begun to show clear signs of dementia and her brother Jason has run away to the Continent, ignoring all his duties and leaving Jane to deal with all the stress by herself. No wonder she doesn't welcome her brother with open arms when he finally returns to England. However, they have to find a way to make peace with each other in face of their father's worsening condition, and that's how they find themselves leaving London and moving to the family's cottage near Reston, in Lake District. Obviously, the fact that Jason is back home doesn't mean he's any help to Jane and she gets even more stressed that she was.

It's in that state of mind that she comes upon Byrne Worth one day - swimming naked in the lake near the cottage, oh yes! Jane and Byrne aren't exactly strangers but they aren't friends either. One could say they had friends in common, as his brother Marcus has just married her friend Phillippa. Byrne is a war hero who was badly injured serving the Crown - he has to walk with a cane now - and doesn't want anything to do with fame and fortune, having chosen to live like a hermit in the small house he's inherited from his great-aunt. His house happening to be on Jane's family's land and within walking distance from the cottage is just a bonus. ;)

Byrne and Jane are two lonely souls who need to find comfort in life. They're drawn to each other from the start and become friends as they spend time together working on a common goal - to catch the highwayman who's been striking around Reston. At first, Jane visits Byrne's house as an escape from her stressful life at the cottage caused by her father's deteriorating health and her brother Jason's irresponsible behavior, but she soon realizes that the happiness she finds with Byrne has deeper roots. On his part, Byrne is brought back to life by Jane's visits. She makes him feel again. She makes him smile, laugh and care for things that he's ceased to care a long time ago. As sappy as it sounds, they were meant to be together.

But what will happen when summer is over? Jane will have to go back to London with her family, as her father won't be able to stand autumn's and winter's cold weather in Reston. Byrne will never get back to living in London, among the ton's frivolities he can't stand. Not to mention, Jane is a Duke's daughter, Byrne is an untitled gentleman, and Jason hates his guts and will never approve a match between them. So, are Jane and Byrne destined to have only this summer?

This was such a delightful read! The beginning was a bit slow to me and I admit I wasn't completely sold on Jane, because she seemed rather spoiled and self-centered. Then, Ms. Noble began to work her magic and reveal what was deep inside Jane's mind and heart. That's when I understood her and when my heart went to her. I wanted Jane to find peace and happiness soooo bad! As for Byrne, I loved him from the start, when he offered Jane some jasmine tea out of the blue even though I could feel he wasn't comfortable with it. He was honorable, dependable and oh-so-lovable. I loved all the interactions between Jane and Byrne, from their friendly conversation to their romantic love scenes. (When I say "romantic scenes", I mean everything. From simply hugging, kissing, fooling around in the lake... There's only one lovemaking scene in the book, but I didn't miss anything more.)

Now, why the 4-star rating if I loved Jane, Byrne and their romance so much? Well, I didn't like how some secondary characters took much "screen time" sometimes. I really disliked Jason, but I understood the need to have him around. He was there to piss Jane (and me) off, and I was OK with that. I didn't get the need to have a secondary romance in the story, though. As much as Jane's friend Victoria was likable, I rushed through her scenes because I wanted to get back to reading about Jane and Byrne.

The mystery about the highwayman's identity was well done and it was interesting to see Byrne's mind at work. His detective skills were good, but I admit the resolution to the mystery was a bit complicated. Something simpler would have been better, IMHO.

Overall, this was another very good read by Ms. Noble, a relatively new author that has managed to make her way into my authors-to-watch-out-for list. Considering I've only read 2 books by her so far, that's something!

Note: AFAIK, Revealed and The Summer of You aren't officially part of a series, but the latter can be considered a sequel to the former (where Byrne and Jane were introduced). Anyway, I didn't read Revealed and I don't think I've missed anything, because The Summer of You stands proudly on its own.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Review: "Arabian Pearl" by Emma Wildes

Arabian Pearl (Brothers of the Absinthe Club, #1)Arabian Pearl by Emma Wildes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Was there a story in this book? I'm still a bit confused...

From what I've gathered, the Absinthe Club is composed of an exclusive group of gentlemen who get together periodically (once a month?) to drink, smoke and gossip chat. Boys will be boys, as we all know, so it's no surprise when one of the Brothers (I don't remember which one, not that it matters) comes up with a new "discussion" topic: the most unforgettable sexcapade each has experienced. Robert St. Claire, Earl of Grayson, is the first one to tell his titillating story...

The guest of a foreign prince, Robert St. Claire is given a beautiful slave for his pleasure. Unusual customs aside, he finds himself in a terrible dilemma. Not only is she English, but the daughter of a friend. In order to rescue her from captivity, he must use her like a harem girl in every way possible...

Lady Celia Davenport has been abducted, sold into slavery, and now finds herself in the bed of an Infidel lord. If she gives him erotic pleasure with subservient eagerness, there is a glimmer of hope in her future. Anxious to escape, she finds that perhaps sexual servitude isn't the prison she once imagined...

I admit that the book description caught my interest. The plot was far from being groundbreaking, but the setup was good enough to make me accept the H/h's insta-f*cking - and that's a big selling point when it comes to an erotica/romantica book. As expected, Robert and Celia didn't waste any time being coy and jumped into bed the moment they were introduced. By "introduced", I mean she was taken to his bedroom and told he was her new master. No names were mentioned, and she was not to ask or answer any personal questions. She was there to give him pleasure, and that's what she did. Night after night, for two weeks. They were like rabbits on ecstasy!

As a reward, Celia was gifted an exquisite Arabian pearl for each orgasm she gave Robert. On their first night together, she received four pearls. Atta girl!


Yes, I know there are five pearls in the pic above. Consider the "extra" pearl as a special bonus, because it takes a truly amazing virgin to pull that off. I guess Celia was a natural at sex. Just to give you an idea, here's a small glimpse of what she had after two weeks with Robert:


Just do the math. ;)

While the sex scenes worked, I'm sorry to say that the romance didn't. The problem is, Robert and Celia never saw each other during the day or, to be more accurate, out of bed. Even though he knew her father, he had never met her before she was gifted to him and couldn't claim to know the simplest thing about her. That "gap" was never filled during their two-week affair because she wasn't allowed to speak freely, so when the world "love" was mentioned for the first time in the book, I couldn't help snorting in disbelief.

All in all, this was an okay read. Robert was a nice and honorable hero, truly concerned about Celia's safety. Celia was less engaging and I didn't connect with her, but that wasn't bad enough to ruin the book for me. I liked the sex scenes, even though I was unable to think of them as love scenes, and the ending was sweet. Books that leave me with a smile on my face can never be bad. :)

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Review: "Tempting Fate" by Alissa Johnson

Tempting Fate (Providence, #2)Tempting Fate by Alissa Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My 2nd read by Ms. Johnson, her 2nd release (she's a relatively new author) and, yay, another winner. :)

Note on the series: You must read As Luck Would Have It before this one, because the 1st book has a plot twist that will be spoiled if you read these books out of order. The secret is out of the bag (for us readers, not the leading characters) in this 2nd book, but I won't mention it here and I'll write my review around it.

Whittaker Cole, Earl of Thurston, and Mirabelle Browning were introduced in the 1st book and it was clear from the start that they were meant to be together. Tempting Fate is their book, one that I grabbed imediately after I finished its predecessor.

When Mira was only 7 years old, her parents died in an outbreak of influenza and she was left in the guard of Lord Eppersly, an uncle she barely knew. It didn't take long until she realized that her guardian was a dissolute, debauched gentleman she should avoid at all cost. Luckily for her, Lady Thurston, one of her uncle's neighbors, decided to take Mira under her wings and basically raised her like she was one of her children. And that's how Mira became an honorary member of the Cole family... and a thorn on Whit's side.

No one knows exactly when Whit and Mira became "enemies for life" - and no one really cares, LOL - but their constant verbal sparring is a source of amusement for his family and friends. However, his mother asks them to put a stop to that - if not forever, at least temporarily. After some pondering, Whit and Mira agree... and, at first, don't know what to do with each other, since all they've done since they met is tease each other mercilessly. Obviously, they find new interesting things to do with each other soon enough... ;) But danger lurks around when William Fletcher, the head of England's War Department and a friend of the Cole family, tells Whit he suspects that Lord Eppersly is involved in forgery and asks him to spy on Mira's uncle. Eventually, Mira joins Whit on that mission and the more time they spend together, the more they realize there's more to their relationship than they thought.

This was a very fun, lovely read. Light but not fluffy, the strength of the story rests on the characters' charm. The witty banter and verbal sparring between Whit and Mira was delightful to read: it was clever, dynamic and humorous, without ever being mean or hurtful - not even when they still thought they "hated" each other. They gave as good as they get, with playfulness and no resentment. I loved them to pieces!

As the previous book in the series, the plot was far-fetched at times, but I was more than OK with it. These books are pure entertainment, and there's nothing wrong with that. Quite the contrary. :D

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